Costumed Words: Humanists, Diplomacy, and the Cultural Gift in Fifteenth-Century Florence

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This project argues that displays of humanist learning in diplomacy served to demonstrate the extraordinary good will of the Florentine regime towards a host ruler. I call this act of surpassing previous oratorical gestures a "cultural gift". Although the singular goal of humanism in diplomacy remained offering cultural gifts in the ritual marking the entrance of diplomats into a host space, the techniques that diplomats used towards this end changed over time and from person to person. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, basic displays of humanist rhetoric by humanist dilettantes were more than the usual oratorical display. As humanist performances became increasingly common, humanist authors increasingly lent their pens and voices to ensure successful diplomatic orations. At first, the low familial status of most of these figures prevented their direct involvement in diplomacy, forcing famous humanists like Leonardo Bruni to write orations for other diplomats. Over time, the challenges of continually offering extraordinary oratorical performances led to the involvement of figures that lacked prominent familial histories but possessed extraordinary literary reputations.

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  • 09/06/2018
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