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Petrarch, political science, classical antiquity


A discussion of Petrarch's politics must take into account the historicity of politics itself: political science, as distinct from other disciplines, is generally believed to originate with Machiavelli. It would therefore be anti-historical to attribute to Petrarch a systematic political vision (as it is understood today). The modern claim for the independence of political theory and practice is as alien to Petrarch as the possibility of a theologically integrated political vision: Petrarch could not and would not have written either Il Prinicpe or Dante's De Monarchia. Nevertheless, I will speak of Petrarch's politics not only because, at a very general level, his texts do not escape the basic political nature of rhetorical strategies, but also because the term rhetoric acquires, in the light of Petrarch's studies of classical antiquity, peculiarly political meanings.