In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Leone Ebreo

  • Introduction
  • Early General Overviews of Leone Ebreo’s Works and Life
  • Modern Editions of the Dialoghi d’amore with Studies and of Leone Ebreo’s Poetry
  • The Textual Problems of the Dialoghi d’amore
  • Modern Editions of Translations of the Dialoghi d’amore
  • Leone Ebreo’s Philosophy of Love
  • The Jewish Sources of Leone Ebreo’s Thought
  • Leone Ebreo as a Jewish Thinker
  • Classical Sources in Leone Ebreo
  • The Influence of Leone Ebreo in Renaissance Thought and Letters
  • Leone Ebreo and His Jewish Readers

Renaissance and Reformation Leone Ebreo
James William Nelson Novoa
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0401


Leone Ebreo, as he came to be known in Italy, was born Yehudah Abarbanel or Abravanel, it is believed, around 1460, and in Lisbon. The son of the philosopher, Biblical exegete, and financier Isaac Abarbanel (b. 1436?–d. 1508), he lived in Portugal in circles close to the court and to Fernando the Duke of Braganza (b. 1430–d. 1483) until 1483, when his father was accused of having been involved in a conspiracy against King John II (b. 1481–d. 1595) alongside the Duke of Braganza. The family fled to Spain, where his father was involved in tax farming for the crown, until he left Spain with his family after the expulsion decree of 1492 to settle in what was then the Aragonese Kingdom of Naples. There, Yehudah and his father became Neapolitan subjects in 1494 under Alfonso II (b. 1448–d. 1495). Upon the French invasion of 1495, he lived for a time in Genova and then went on to live in different localities on the Adriatic coast, becoming the physician to the Gran Capitan and returning to Naples in 1504. The last news we have of him is in Naples in 1521. His most important work, the Dialoghi d’amore, was published in its canonical form in three dialogues in 1535 in Rome. Apart from this, there are poems in Hebrew which were published in exegetical works of his father, and another work, On the Harmony of the Heavens, was attributed to him, allegedly penned at the request of Pico della Mirandola (b. 1463–d. 1494).

Early General Overviews of Leone Ebreo’s Works and Life

Leone Ebreo and his works have commanded the critical attention of scholars since the 19th century. At the outset, for the most part they were German Jewish thinkers, such as the authors of Zimmels 1886, Appel 1907, Pflaum 1926, and Sonne 1934, who situated him as a Jewish thinker of the Italian Renaissance. Literary critics and philosophers began to consider him in the context of Renaissance thought and letters and have brought together archival and library sources concerning him, such as Croce 1914 and Carvalho 1992, stressing his role and relevance as the author of an original system of Jewish thought imbued by the spirit and form of the Renaissance.

  • Appel, Ernst. Leone Medigos Lehre vom Weltall und ihr Verhältnis zu grieschischen zeitgenössischen Anschauungen. Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1907.

    An early attempt to identify some of the sources behind the Dialoghi.

  • Carvalho, Joaquim de. “Leão Hebreu, filósofo.” In Obra completa. Vol. 1, Filosofía e história da filosofía, 1916–1934. 2d ed. By Joaquim de Carvalho, 153–297. Lisbon, Portugal: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 1992.

    The author presents Leone Ebreo’s thought and its sources, especially stressing his status as an Iberian thinker.

  • Croce, Benedetto. “Un document su Leone Ebreo.” La Critica 12 (1914): 239–240.

    This short article considers a document which Croce transcribes regarding Leone Ebreo in Naples.

  • Nardi, Bruno. “Abarbanel, Giuda, detto Leone Ebreo.” In Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani. Vol. 1. 3–5. Rome: Istituto della Encyclopedia Italiana, 1960.

    The author presents the most important facts of Leone Ebreo’s life, considering him an Italian author.

  • Pflaum, Heinz. Die Idee der Liebe: Leone Ebreo Zwei Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der Philosophie in der Renaissance. Tübingen, Germany: Verlag von J.C.B. Mohr, 1926.

    The author provides a general overview of Leone Ebreo’s thought in the general context of Renaissance philosophy and letters.

  • Sonne, Isaiah. “Intorno alla vita di Leone Ebreo.” Quaderni di Critica 2 (1934): 5–35.

    The author presents the salient facts of Leone Ebreo’s life especially in the context of Jewish life in Italy at the time.

  • Zimmels, Bernard. Leo Hebreus ein Jüdischer Philosoph der Renaissance: Sein Leben, sein Werke und seine Lehren. Breslau: Wilhelm Koebner, 1886.

    The book considers Leone Ebreo as a Renaissance thinker, imbued with the Jewish philosophical tradition of the Middle Ages.

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