In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Marsilio Ficino

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Manuscripts
  • The Platonic Academy and the Medici
  • The Arts
  • Influence

Renaissance and Reformation Marsilio Ficino
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0080


Marsilio Ficino (b. 1433–d. 1499) is probably best known today for his translation of the works of Plato, which gave decisive direction to the Renaissance revival of interest in this part of the Greek philosophical tradition, and for his commentary to Plato’s Symposium, which shaped ideas about love in many parts of early modern culture. Also important, however, are his Platonic Theology, a Christian corrective to Proclus’s work of the same name, and his monumental De Christiana religione (On Christian religion), which united the various intellectual traditions that interested him (hermeticism, orphism, Pythagoreanism, Neoplatonism) in a grand synthetic effort to show that the “ancient theology” of the past, particularly in its Platonic iteration, was compatible with the Christian church he served. Considering himself a doctor of the body as well as of the soul, Ficino joined an interest in medicine and astrology to his philosophical and religious studies, not as an ivory tower academic, but as a scholar connected in varying degrees of intimacy with a succession of Medici rulers in Florence, from which his influence spread throughout Renaissance Europe and into many different disciplines.

General Overviews

Vasoli 1997–2006 offers an excellent introduction to the life and works of Ficino. The standard biography, rich and detailed, remains Marcel 1958, with Howlett 2016 offering a less nuanced account in English. Kristeller 1988 offers access to scholarship on Ficino, to be supplemented by Katinis’s Bibliografia ficiniana.

  • Howlett, Sophia. Marsilio Ficino and His World. Critical Political Theory and Radical Practice. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

    DOI: 10.1057/978-1-137-53946-5

    An overview aimed toward the general educated reader, focused on Ficino as the key figure who crafted a vision of a Platonic revival that would inaugurate a new Golden Age. Howlett acknowledges that Ficino did not succeed in his immediate mission, but she details how he developed a philosophy that made his version of the Platonic revival the one that dominated in the Renaissance.

  • Katinis, Teodoro. Bibliografia ficiniana: Studi ed edizioni delle opere di Marsilio Ficino dal. 1986 al 2000.

    An online bibliography of editions of Ficino’s works and of scholarship on him, to update Kristeller 1988 and extending through the year 2000. This bibliography is updated annually by Katinis and Stéphane Toussaint in the journal Accademia, published by the Société Marsil Ficin.

  • Kristeller, Paul Oskar. Il pensiero filosofico di Marsilio Ficino. Florence: Casa Editrice Le Lettere, 1988.

    Thorough, extensive bibliography, including works in press, by the foremost expert on Ficino in the 20th century. See pp. 441–476.

  • Marcel, Raymond. Marsile Ficin, 1433–1439. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1958.

    Now more than fifty years old, but at almost eight hundred pages not replaced as a source for basic information on Ficino’s life and intellectual development.

  • Vasoli, Cesare. “Marsile Ficin.” In Centuriae latinae: Cent une figures humanistes de la Renaissance aux Lumières offertes à Jacques Chomarat. 2 vols. Edited by Colette Nativel, 361–377. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 1997–2006.

    An excellent brief introduction to the life and works of Ficino, with extensive bibliography, by Italy’s great expert on the place of philosophy in Renaissance humanism.

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