Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Elizabeth McCahill

Second Advisor

Olivia Weisser

Third Advisor

Randall Colaizzi


This thesis explores the relationship between Leonardo Bruni, his civic humanism, and Cosimo de' Medici. It argues that Leonardo Bruni utilized civic humanism to teach ancient philosophy, and political and behavioral models first to a failing Florentine oligarchy and then to Cosimo in order to assist his rise to power in Florence. Many of Bruni's writings contain ancient sources that provide valuable models and vocabulary that he repurposes to present Cosimo as princeps in an intellectual effort to ameliorate the Florentine oligarchy of the early Quattrocento and usher in a version of mixed government that came to be in 1434.

This work examines three distinct periods of Bruni's literary repertoire. The first period, which covers the years from 1403-1413, suggests that Bruni was dissatisfied with the Florentine oligarchy and shows that he was searching for remedies for its corruption in his study of the ancients. The second period, from 1420-1428, displays Bruni's attempts to teach Cosimo ancient ways to demonstrate preeminence and reveals that Bruni held Cosimo in a very positive light. The third period consists of works published in 1439. These works show Bruni's satisfaction with the new Medici regime and they stand as evidence of his attempts to refine its public image. Taken together, the evidence presented in this thesis suggests that Bruni was not an advocate for republicanism or oligarchy only. Rather, Bruni was a Renaissance reformer who used civic humanism as a vector for the importation of ancient political and behavioral models in order to resurrect the ancient world in Quattrocento Florence in the spheres of government, the arts, and scholarship through Cosimo de' Medici, "Pater Patriae."


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