Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

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Achillini, Alessandro

  • Leen SpruitEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_706-1


Alessandro Achillini (1463–1512) was a Bolognese philosopher and physician; he entertained a moderate form of Averroism, authored treatises on Aristotelian natural philosophy and commentaries, and also wrote a manual on physiognomics and chiromancy.


Alessandro Achillini was born in 1461 in Bologna as son of Claudio and brother of Giovanni Filoteo. He graduated in philosophy and medicine at the University of Bologna on September 7, 1484; he taught there logic till 1487 and natural philosophy from 1484 to 1494. From 1494 to 1497 he taught theoretical medicine, and from 1497 to 1506 he covered both chairs of philosophy and medicine. As he supported the Bentivoglio family, he left the city when Julius II entered the city in November 1506 and moved to Padua, where he held the chair of natural philosophy in concurrence with Pomponazzi (Riondato 1988). After 2 years he was forced to leave Padua, and in September 1508 he returned to Bologna, where he resumed his teaching of philosophy and medicine, till his death on August 2, 1512 (Münster 1933; Thorndike 1941; Nardi 1960; Baroncini 1977; Matsen 1975, 1994; Lohr 1988).

Achillini stuck to the Averroistic interpretation of Aristotle’s philosophy, in particular, as to the eternity of the world, but he contemporarily endorsed divine providence. He argued that the possible intellect was unique for the whole mankind, but he viewed it as the inherent and “informing” form of individual man. He identified the agent intellect with God and defined the conjunction of the human mind with this intellect as man’s ultimate happiness and beatitude. Therefore, Bruno Nardi qualified his psychology as “Sigerian” (Nardi 1945, 1958). He extensively discussed the “calculatory” doctrines and attempted to accommodate the Aristotelian rules on the proportionality of motion with the motor force and resistance.

In the Quaestio de subiecto physionomiae et chiromantiae (1503), also published as premiss to Bartolomeo Della Rocca’s Chyromantiae et physionomiae Anastatis (1504), Achillini discussed the methodological link between divination and Aristotelian natural philosophy and established that the predictions of physiognomics and chiromancy are not strictly scientific but based on a probable certainty. In Achillini’s view, divination is framed in a world ruled by astral influences, but celestial and physical influx determines the sensitive appetite and the organical soul only, not the rational soul and its free will. Also his Quaestio de subiecto medicinae (1504) pivots on a methodological issue, namely, the relationships of medicine and philosophy, and again he dwelled on the relation between body and soul (Thorndike 1941; Zambelli 1978).

Other published works include Quolibeta de intelligentiis (1494), De orbibus (1498), De universalibus (in a miscellaneous edition, 1501), De potestate syllogismi, and De elementis (1505), which were issued in a joint edition in Venice in 1508. Subsequently, he published Distinctiones (1510), a fragment of the commentary of the Physics (1512), and after his death appeared De proportionibus motuum (1515) and Anatomicae annotationes (1520). In 1545 his complete works were published in Venice by his student Panfilo Monti (Achillini 1545). His Anatomicae annotationes, reprinted several times with different titles, were probably notes for a systematic work on human anatomy (Lohr 1988).



Primary Literature

  1. Achillini, A. 1494. De intelligentiis quolibeta. in quibus quid commentator & Aristotiles senserint & in quo a veritate deuient continentur. Bononie: impensis Benedicti Hectoris Bononiensis.Google Scholar
  2. Achillini, A. 1498. De orbibus libri quattuor. Bononie: impensis Benedicti hectoris Bononiensis.Google Scholar
  3. Achillini, A. 1501. Aristotelis Secretum secretorum ad Alexandrum De regum regimine: De sanitatis conseruatione: De physionomia. Eiusdem de signis tempestatum uentorum & aquarum. Eiusdem de mineralibus. Alexandri aphrodisiei de intellectu. Auerrois de anime beatitudine. Alexandri Achillini bononiensis de Vniversalibus. Alexandri macedonis de mirabilibus Indiae ad Aristotelem. Bononiae: impensis Benedicti Hectoris.Google Scholar
  4. Achillini, A. 1503. De chyromantiae principiis et physionomiae. Bologna: ex arte et officina Ioannis Antonij de Benedictis ciuis Bononiensis.Google Scholar
  5. Achillini, A. 1504. De potestate syllogismi. De subiecto medicine. Bononie: typis Ioannis Antonij de Benedictis.Google Scholar
  6. Achillini, A. 1505. De elementis. Bononiae: impressus, per Ioannem Antonium de Benedictis.Google Scholar
  7. Achillini, A. 1510. Distinctiones. Bononie: per Ioannem Antonium de Benedictis.Google Scholar
  8. Achillini, A. 1512. Expositio primi physicorum. Bologna: impresse per Hieronymum de Benedictis.Google Scholar
  9. Achillini, A. 1515. De proportionibus motuum. Bononie: a Hieronymo de Benedictis.Google Scholar
  10. Achillini, A. 1520. Annotationes Anatomiae. Bononiae: per Hieronymum de Benedictis.Google Scholar
  11. Achillini, A. 1545. Opera omnia in unum collecta (…) Cum annotationibus excellentissimi Doctoribus Pamphili Montij Bononiensis scholae Patauinae publici professoris. Venetijs: apud Hieronymum Scotum.Google Scholar

Secondary Literature

  1. Baroncini, G. 1977. Forma e ruolo dell’esperienza nel sapere del medico e filosofo naturale dello Studio bolognese: A. Chilling (1465–1512). In In Il rinascimento nelle corti padane, 439–468. Bari: Società e cultura.Google Scholar
  2. Lohr, C. 1988. Latin Aristotle commentaries II: Renaissance authors, 5–6. Firenze: Leo Olschki editore.Google Scholar
  3. Matsen, H.S. 1975. Alessandro Achillini (1463–1512) and his doctrine of universals and transcendentals. Bucknell: Bucknell University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Matsen, H.S. 1994. Students’ ‘arts’ disputations at Bologna around 1500. Renaissance Quarterly 47: 533–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Münster, L. 1933. Alessandro Achillini anatomico e filosofo professore dello Studio di Bologna (1463–1512). Rivista di studi di scienze mediche e naturali 24: 7–22.Google Scholar
  6. Nardi, B. 1945. Sigieri di Brabante nel pensiero del Rinascimento italiano, 45–90. Roma: Edizioni italiane.Google Scholar
  7. Nardi, B. 1958. Saggi sull’aristotelismo padovano dal sec. XIV al XVI, 179–279. Firenze: Sansoni.Google Scholar
  8. Nardi, B. 1960. Achillini, Alessandro. In Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, vol. 1, 144–145. Roma.Google Scholar
  9. Riondato, E. 1988. E. Riondato, Giudizi di G. Zabarella su maestri dell’Ateneo bolognese: P. Pomponazzi, L. Boccadiferro, A. Achillini. In Rapporti tra le Università di Padova e Bologna, ed. L. Rossetti, 74–77. Trieste.Google Scholar
  10. Thorndike, L. 1941. A history of magic and experimental science, vol. V, 37–49. New York.Google Scholar
  11. Zambelli, P. 1978. «Aut diabolus aut Achillinus»: Fisionomia, astrologia e demonologia nel metodo di un aristotelico. In Rinascimento 18: 59–86.Google Scholar

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© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the History of Philosophy and ScienceRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

Section editors and affiliations

  • Luca Bianchi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly