Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Acciaiuoli, Donato

Born: 15 March 1429, Florence
Died: 28 August 1478, Milan
  • Lorenzo Filippo BacchiniEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_705-1


Donato Acciaiuoli was one of the best known humanists, politicians, and orators in the age of Lorenzo de’ Medici. He frequented the most important humanists of the time and was part of the Accademia Fiorentina. His literary activity was primarily focused on commenting and translating into Latin the thoughts of Greek writers, especially philosophers and historians. He commented on the Ethics and the Politics of Aristotle, from Plutarch he drew the lives of Alcibiades, Demetrius, Hannibal, and Scipio, and he translated into Italian, as appointed by the Signoria of Florence, Leonardo Bruni’s Historiae Florentini populi. He was also personally involved in Florentine political life, contributing to the development of the Medici policy. He was Vicar of the Casentino and Poppi, Superintendent of the Florentine Studio, Ambassador, as well as Standard-Bearer of justice. At his death, the 28 August, 1478, Cristoforo Landino composed his funeral eulogy, and Angelo Poliziano wrote the text for his tombstone.

Alternate Names

Donato, Donatus, Donati; Acciaioli, Acciaiolo, Acciaiuoli, Acciajuoli, Acciajolus, Acciajoli, Acciaiolus, Acciaiolius, Acciaiuolus, Accievolo, Accievolus, Acciolus.


Donato Acciaioli was born in Florence, on 15 March 1429, to Neri di Donato Acciaiuoli, who died shortly after his birth, and Lena Palla Strozzi. Donato and his brother Piero grew up in Michele Felice Brancacci’s home, their adoptive father, who, however, was soon exiled for his political activity against the Medici family in 1434.

Donato devoted himself to the study of philosophy, grammar, and rhetoric early in life, having as humanist teachers like Jacopo Ammannati, Brother Angelo of Lecco, and Giannozzo Manetti. Around 1450, he began to study Greek with Francesco Castiglione and continued with Carlo Marsuppini. In 1454, with his brother Piero, Donato joined the Accademia Fiorentina, where he met and frequented Ottavio Rinuccini, Vespasiano of Bisticci, and Marco and Antonio Rossi and where he had teachers such as Poggio Bracciolini and especially John Argyropoulos, with whom Donato had very close relations and whose lessons he noted in the Expositio super libros Ethicorum. He married, in 1461, Maria Pazzi and had with her six children: Alessandro, born in 1466; Roberto, in 1467; Cassandra, Caterina, and Lorenzo, in 1472; and Pietro, in 1474 (see Bianchi 1990; da Bisticci 1892; D’Addario 1960; Della Torre 1902; Ferrari 1943; Garin 1950; Mazzuchelli 1753 – 1763; Segni 1841; Tiraboschi 1805).

Donato was an important humanist, politician, and orator, one of the best known in the age of Lorenzo de’ Medici. He endeavored to popularize classical culture, especially the Aristotelian philosophy, of which he was one of the last great scholars of the fifteenth century Florence. His literary activity was focused mainly on commenting and translating into Latin the thoughts of Greek writers, especially philosophers and historians. He produced commentaries, largely scholastic in both form and content, of Aristotle’s Ethics, Physics, and the De Anima, all drawn from Argyropoulos’ lessons, and, in 1467, he drew from Plutarch the lives of Alcibiades, Demetrius, Hannibal, and Scipio. Later, in 1471, he produced his own commentary of Aristotle’s Politics, commissioned by Federico of Montefeltro, and, in the same period, in 1472, he also completed the translation of Leonardo Bruni’s Historiae Florentini populi into Italian, as commissioned by the Signoria of Florence (see Bianchi 1990; Della Torre 1902; Field 1988; Gionta 1992; Lines 2002; Mazzuchelli 1753 – 1763; Santini 1922; Staico 1996; Tiraboschi 1805).

In his time, Donato was one of the most important experts of Aristotle and a reference point for the philosophical orientations of Florence during Cosimo’s regime and during the transition to the Laurentian regime: a time of great cultural, political, and philosophical changes. In fact, after an initial period devoted to the study of Aristotle’s Ethics under Argyropoulos’ guidance, Donato distanced himself from the master and returned to positions more similar to those of Bruni, as evidenced by the last period of his cultural production, which is characterized by the translation of Bruni’s Historiae and by the study dedicated to Aristotle’s Politics, at that time completely overshadowed by the Ethics, but which was one of the highest points of Bruni’s activity as a translator and which would later find a large following during the sixteenth century (see Field 1988; Ganz 1982, 1990; Lines 2002; Staico 1996).

Donato was also very involved in the public life of Florence, holding several political offices and actively contributing to the development of the Medici policy. The embassies, more than any other office, were opportunities for him to demonstrate his qualities as a humanist, orator, and skilled diplomat. In 1461, he participated in the embassy led by Piero Pazzi for Louis XI, to whom he presented a Life of Charlemagne in Latin, which was then published in Rome in 1470, in the appendix to the Latin edition of Plutarch’s Lives, and was rewarded by the King with the granting of the titles of Counselor and Maistre d’Hostel. In 1462, he was Vicar of Poppi and of the Casentino, and, in 1463, he was Prior. In 1464, he recited the prayer for the death of Cosimo de’ Medici, proposing that he be granted the title of “Father of the Country.” In 1467, he participated in the embassy led by Luca Pini for the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, and, in 1469, he was elected Captain of Volterra, a position he also held in 1477. The following year, he was appointed Podestà (Mayor) of Montepulciano and Ambassador at the court of Paul II. In 1471, Donato led the embassy to Sixtus IV to congratulate him on his election, giving Sixtus IV his perhaps most famous oration. Three years later, in 1474, he was Standard-Bearer of justice and, in 1476, was entrusted with other diplomatic missions in Rome, at Sixtus IV’s court, where he was in 1478, during the Pazzi conspiracy. He was suspected of complicity with the Pazzi, but given his consistent political militancy on behalf of the Medici family, the charges were dropped. Indeed, he was entrusted by Lorenzo on a delicate mission in France to probe Louis XI’s intentions regarding the Italian situation and to ask his aid on behalf of the Florentines against Pope Sixtus IV, involved in the Pazzi. He died in Milan, on the 28th of August, 1478, while on his way to Paris. His remains were brought back to Florence and buried in the Certosa. Cristoforo Landino composed his funeral eulogy and Angelo Poliziano wrote the text for his tombstone conspiracy (see D’Addario 1960; da Bisticci 1892; Della Torre 1902; Ganz 1982, 1990; Garin 1954; Mazzuchelli 1753 – 1763; Segni 1841).



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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of German and Roman Languages and LiteraturesJohn Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA