347. Bonfire of the Vanities: Savonarola

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The prophetic preacher Girolamo Savonarola attacks pagan philosophy and puts forward his own political ideas, before coming to an untimely end.



Further Reading

• A. Borelli and M. Pastore Passaro (ed. and trans.), Selected Writings of Girolamo Savonarola: Religion and Politics, 1490-1498 (New Haven: 2006).

• M.M. Mulchahey (ed. and trans.), Savonarola: Apologetic Writings (Cambridge MA: 2015).


• S. Dall’Aglio, Savonarola and Savonarolism, trans. J. Gagné (Toronto: 2010).

• A. Edelheit, Ficino, Pico and Savonarola: the Evolution of Humanist Theology, 1461/2-1498 (Leiden: 2008).

• S. Fletcher and C. Shaw (eds), The World of Savonarola: Italian Elites and

Perceptions of Crisis (Aldershot: 2000).

• M. Jurdjevic, “Prophets and Politicians: Marsilio Ficino, Savonarola and the Valori Family,” Past and Present Society 183 (2004), 41-77.

• L. Martines, Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for the Soul of Renaissance Florence (Oxford: 2006).

• M. Mayer, Die politische Theologie Girolamo Savonarolas (Tübingen: 2001).

• D. Weinstein, Savonarola and Florence: Prophecy and Patriotism in the Renaissance (Princeton: 1970).

• D. Weinstein, Savonarola. The Rise and Fall of a Renaissance Prophet (New Haven: 2011).

• D. Weinstein and V. R. Hotchkiss (eds), Girolamo Savonarola: Piety, Prophecy, and Politics in Renaissance Florence (Dallas: 1994).


Baus on 19 April 2020

VERITAS acronym?

What are the 7 names whose initials spell VERITAS that represent the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit, mentioned by Savonarola?
Evidently, not the names of the gifts: sapientia, intellectus, consilium, fortitudo, cognitio, pietas, timor.


In reply to by Baus

Peter Adamson on 20 April 2020


Oh I'm afraid I have given the book back to the library but it wasn't something obvious like that, I believe it was just 7 proper names, and there is a kind of twist that it turns out their first initials spell veritas which isn't revealed until late in the work. If I'm remembering right.

Patrick on 21 April 2020

George Eliot and Savonarola

Thanks for another great episode, Peter! I really enjoy when this series covers figures who aren't traditionally "philosophical." 

Fans of these episodes on Renaissance Philosophy might enjoy George Eliot's novel "Romola," which takes place in 1490's Florence. Even though it's a work of fiction, Eliot took care to integrate as much historical research as possible. Podcast listeners will recognize characters like Machiavelli, Piero di Cosimo, Lorenzo de Medici, and Savonarola himself, who's at the heart of the book. It's not Eliot's most famous novel, but I think it's one of her best. 

Joyce Pijnenburg on 22 April 2020

Ficino and astrology


Hello Peter,

I discovered your podcast a few months ago and have recently been enjoying many episodes, often learning new things about subjects on which I considered myself near-expert. I am a historian of philosophy specializing in the history of “mysticism” or, in any case, of Platonism. While writing the last chapter of my dissertation on Giordano Bruno (a thesis which includes a lot of Ficino) and painting my new home, your episodes on medieval theories of substance, nominalism and motion have been very useful, especially in that they made me realize the enormous differences one finds in scholastic philosophy between presentors of Aristotle’s teachings, but also because of the overview of general problems in (the interpretation of) Aristotle they provided me with. Thank you!

With regard to this episode: Are you familiar with Ficino’s writings against judicial astrology? They have been assembled and published by O. Faracovi (Ficino, Scritti sull’astrologia). Again because of an unfinished new home, my books are not yet unpacked, and I cannot quote from it. Erminia Ardissino (Tasso, Plotino, Ficino, p. 74-75) characterizes his position on astrology as ambivalent (although it is perhaps the category of astrology which was actually somewhat ambivalent then), aptly summarizing that he argued against the possibility of predicting with the help of astrology (indeed most of the texts center on free will) but that he was all for employing the influence of the stars for human benefit (De vita). The latter practice is rather theurgy or natural magic; but of course - and this is where friction possibly surfaces - Ficino also considered personal horoscopes useful. 

I hope to have a look at the texts in the near future.

Kind regards, 


In reply to by Joyce Pijnenburg

Peter Adamson on 23 April 2020

Ficino on astrology

Excellent, glad that the podcast has been helpful to you and thanks for the references! I have looked at De Vita a little bit but have been saving discussion of Ficino on astrology for a later episode about magic and astrology more generally in the Italian Renaissance. Hopefully I won't make too many mistakes, perhaps you can let me know once it appears! Should be somewhere around episode 370 going by my tentative episode list, so it'll be a while until I get there.

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