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P

AUL 

R

ICHARD 

B

LUM

 

O



P

OPULAR 



P

LATONISM


:

 

G



IOVANNI 

P

ICO WITH 



E

LIA DEL


 

M

EDIGO AGAINST 



M

ARSILIO 


F

ICINO


 

Francesco Petrarca, in his invective On His Own Ignorance and that of Many 



Others, discusses at length the teachings of ancient philosophers, including 

Aristotle and Plato, relying heavily on Cicero's De natura deorum. At one 

point, he declares:

 

[Cicero] labored to compose things that I believe should never have been 



written. I wouldn't believe they should be read either, except that reading and 

understanding such trifles about the gods awaken our love for true divinity and 

the one God, and that, as we read, our contempt for foreign superstition awakes 

reverence for our religion in our minds.

1

 

What appears well in accord with his Augustinian Christian piety throughout 



his work can also be understood as an attempt at damage control made neces- 

sary by his own endeavor to propagate ancient wisdom. Befriending antiquity 

exposes the reader to pagan theologies and calls for a firm belief in Christian- 

ity. Little more than one hundred years later, the revival of ancient and non- 

Christian wisdom has brought humanists to a crisis, of which the controversy 

between Marsilio Ficino and Giovanni Pico, his complatonicus, is paramount. 

This crisis still deserves interpretation because it determines both our view on 

Renaissance Platonism and its impact on modern philosophy. Here, I want to 

present the Florentine quarrel about Platonic Love from Pico's perspective.

 

The year 1486 saw Giovanni Pico particularly busy. He had recently re- 



turned from Paris and was preparing his great council or disputation of 900 

theses in Rome; so he was writing his Oratio that would become his most fa- 

mous work, and he was, of course, collecting the material for his 900 theses. 

For this purpose, he met for further briefings with his teacher of Averroist 

Aristotelianism, Elia del Medigo. On his way to Rome in early May 1486, he 

found time and energy to kidnap Margherita, the wife of Giuliano Mariotto dei 

Medici. However, after the fight and his humiliating arrest that ensued, he re- 

membered his allegiance to the saintly Savonarola and concentrated all his 

vigor on studies of Hebrew, the Qur'an, and other reading.

2

 In addition to all 



this - as his editor and nephew Gianfrancesco Pico reported - "he also wrote 

something Platonic, in vernacular language, in which one finds much to clarify

 

 

1      



Francesco Petrarca, Invectives, ed. and transl. David Marsh, Cambridge/London 2003, p. 295: 

   On His Own Ignorance IV, § 83.

 

2



   This is how Garin represents Pico's conversion, Eugenio Garin, Giovanni Pico della Miran- 

    dola. Vita e dottrina, Florence: Le Monnier, 1937, p. 25-27.

 



422

 

 



 

the olden theology (priscorum Theologiam)i.e. much of the abstruse opin- 

ions of the sages strewn in enigmas and riddles (scirpis

3

)Perhaps - leisure 

permitting - I will try and translate this into Latin, in order that such a man's 

egregious teaching may not become available to some vulgar people."

4

 Gian- 


francesco is evidently referring to Giovanni's Commento sopra una canzona 

de amore. His remark is as ambivalent as Giovanni's work: On the one hand, 

he appreciates its purpose to set some of the pagan theology in order; on the 

other hand, he still deems it inappropriate for the masses and therefore regrets 

that it was composed in Italian.

 

Girolamo Benivieni, himself the author of the Canzona on which Pico 



commented, reports to have been reluctant to publish this book after Pico's 

death. The reasons he pondered were certainly the same that irritated the 

nephew, mainly the problem, whether Pico's text was compatible with Chris- 

tian doctrine. Such concern is plausible, for Girolamo Benivieni, his brother 

Domenico, and Giovanni Pico were all in some way involved with the Floren- 

tine religious reformer Girolamo Savonarola.

5

 Girolamo Benivieni's version of 



the origin of the poem and the comment is:

6

 Benivieni had "read with pleas- 



ure" (amenissima letione) the learned commentary on Plato's Symposium by 

Marsilio Ficino and thus felt invited to "condense in a few stanzas what Ficino 

had explained on many pages and in most elegant style". Readers interested in 

intertextuality will observe how Benivieni, by means of modesty, reduces his 

responsibility for the contents of his own poem. This Canzona inspired Pico to 

add his "learned and elegant as well as rich" commentary (non manco dotta et 



elegante, che copiosa interpretatione: i.e. he re-expands the condensed poetic 

doctrine). But doubts arose. Actually, both Pico and Benivieni reconsidered 

the poem, and they both believed that Pico jotted down his commentary not in 

the way the matter deserves but rather out of "tender and particular affection" 

(tenera et singular affetione) to the poet and that both - once "the spirit and 

fervor" in which they had written subsided - doubted it appropriate to treat 

heavenly love in the Platonic mood rather than as Christians. Consequently,

 

 



3

  Cf. Aulus Gellius, Noct. Att. 12, 6.

 

4

  Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, De ente et uno, in De hominis dignitate, Heptaplus, De ente 



et uno e scritti vari, ed. Eugenio Garin, Florence: Vallecchi, 1942, p. 13 [cited as Pico, Scritti, 

1942]. Quoted from Gianfrancesco Pico's biography of Giovanni in Giovanni Pico della 

Mirandola, Opera omnia, Basel: Henricpetri, 1572, reprinted Turin: Bottega d'Erasmo, 1971, 

fol. *4r [cited as Pico, Opera]. Unless cited otherwise, translations are mine.

 

5

 Caterina 



Re, 

Girolamo Benivieni Firorentino, Città di Castello: Lapi, 1906, part 1, chapters 4- 

5. Lorenzo Poliziotto, "Domenico Benivieni and the Radicalization of the Savonarolan Move- 

ment", in Conal Condren and Roslyn Pesman Cooper (ed.s), Alto polo - a volume of Italian 

Renaissance studies, Sydney: University of Sydney, 1982, pp. 99-117, 100 f.. Cf. Gian Carlo 

Garfagnini, "Domenico Benivieni: Filosofia e spiritualità", in Paolo Viti (ed.), Il capitolo di 



San Lorenzo nel Quattrocento, Florence: Olschki, 206, pp. 273-292.

 

6



  Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Opera omnia, Basel: Henricpetri, 1572, reprinted Turin: Bot- 

tega d'Erasmo, 1971, p. 733.

 



 

 

423



 

they refrained from publishing the twin writings unless they could "reform" it 

from a Platonic into a Christian text.

7

 



A minor problem is hidden in this narrative, for Pico had explained his 

commentary to Domenico Benivieni with a letter, dated November 10, 1486, 

assuring that Girolamo was right in caring for Pico's health but not in praising 

that Commentary: it was "nothing to get excited about. I wrote it when I was 

bored [ociosi] and had nothing else to do, as a way of relaxing my mind, not 

of exciting it." However, Pico continues this apparent gesture of modesty by 

announcing: "It is only a prologue to the Commentary on Plato's Symposium 

which I am planning to write."

8

 Two biographical facts should be taken into 



consideration in this context. First, Domenico Benivieni was mentioned in the 

dedication of Pico's 1491 treatise De ente et uno, as one who had (probably) 

attended discussions about the compatibility of Plato and Aristotle, together 

with Lorenzo de'Medici and Angelo Poliziano - a debate that took Ficino's 

Platonism to task; second, Girolamo had attended discussions on the same 

subject at San Marco in Florence in the presence of Savonarola.

9

 In other 



words, with this canzone and its commentary the trio was plotting against 

Ficino - and this not only after the disaster of the failed disputation in Rome in 

early 1487, or at the time of De ente et uno, but already in 1486.

 

Benivieni's narrative justifies the publication of the comment with public 



pressure on releasing the book after Pico's premature death, Benivieni himself 

now relying upon the discretion and the sound Christianity of the readers. 

Benivieni explains his deliberations in a very long and convoluted sentence, in 

which he invokes Thomas Aquinas, whose authority should be able to restrain 

the errors of the Nobleman - "if one can speak of errors". Also, he adds as a 

disclaimer that the title of the commentary expressly indicates that "Canzona 

et commento" are written not according to the Catholic truth but rather in the 

mind and meaning of the Platonists. Finally, this text gives an important 

insight into the core of this great philosopher, as Benivieni promises, and with 

that he defers responsibility onto his late friend.

10

 

From these two accounts on Pico's Commento by the nephew and the 



friend, we gather quite a number of important clues to interpretation. In the 

Florentine environment, it was evidently more scandalous to write in Italian 

than in Latin when it came to the wisdom of the ancients. It was, generally,

 

 



7    

Ibid.: "... nacque nelli animi notri qualche ombra [d]i dubitatione se era conveniente a uomo 

    professore della legge di Christo, volendo lui trattar[e] di Amore massime celeste, et divino, 

    tratarne come Platonico, et non come Christiano pensamo che fussi bene sospendere la publi- 

    catione di tale opera, almeno sino ad tanto che noi vedessimo se lei per qualche reformatione 

    potessi di Platonica diventare Christiana."

 

8    


Ibid. p. 382; English translation taken from the Introduction in Giovanni Pico della Miran- 

   dola, Commentary on a Canzone of Benivieni, tranls. by Sears Jayne, New York: Lang, 1984, 

    p. 5.

 

9



   Pico, Scritti, 1942, p. 386. Roberto Ridolfi, Vita di Girolamo Savonarola, Florence: Sansoni, 

   1981, p. 146: Savonarola is said to have disdained both ancients. 

10

  Pico, Opera, p. 733.



 


424

 

 



dubious to treat such matters as divine love with strong reliance on pagan 

philosophy. Nevertheless, Pico's achievement in doing so was outstanding 

both as an elaboration of his thought and for the correct interpretation of the 

pagan mysteries. It is noteworthy that Gianfrancesco Pico continues his report 

with praising his uncle's merits in his "general method of commenting", 

mainly the Holy Scriptures.

11

 On a biographical note, we learn that Pico not 



only wrote his Commento during or after his chivalric adventure with Mar- 

gherita, he also was inspired by an erotic bond with Benivieni, a bond not 

much different from what Marsilio Ficino advocated in his commentary on the 

Symposium, which, incidentally, was to be reinterpreted in Pico's commen- 

tary. However, in the first place Benivieni cautions the reader that such a Pla- 

tonic treatment of divine love might be harmful to the Christian feelings of the 

readership, even more, that it elaborates on the contrast between these two ap- 

proaches, which becomes evident in the text. My contention is that in reality 

this is the main thrust of the Commento as a whole. This interpretation would 

mean that the year 1486, with the publication of the Oratio and the 900 The- 

ses, probably marked Pico's endeavor to correct, bend, or divert Florentine 

Platonism in a way that Christian truth would not suffer harm from ancient, 

pre-Christian, and unchristian philosophizing. Phrased otherwise, when 

Benivieni trusts that the readers will discern the spirit that drives Pico's expo- 

sition, he invites us to take a critical look at the Platonic interpretation of love 

and to judge to what extent it may be compatible with Christian theology, 

mainly of Thomistic branding.

 

What Benivieni does not say is that he himself had already "reformed" the 



commentary by erasing all invectives against Marsilio Ficino that occur 

throughout the text.

12

 Now, Ficino's De amore had been the work that had 



prompted the Canzona. Was the poet, then, protecting the late head of the 

Platonic Academy? Given the fact that he emphasized his condensing and 

shortening Ficino's theory and Pico's new elaboration of the poem, he cuts his 

own ties that once bound him to Ficino and endorses Pico's interpretation.

 

Thus, we are about to discover another riddle in addition to the many ques- 



tions that surround Pico's prolific writing in this time: His writing and plan- 

ning commentaries on Platonic love in vernacular and his competing with 

Ficino were part of the hazardous project to challenge all intellectuals of his 

time in Rome and to set up a new style of philosophizing and a new approach 

to Christian and non-Christian sources. Not only the Oratio and the 900 The- 

ses are involved, but also De ente et uno, because this short text was the most 

blatant attack on Ficinian Platonism, and also Heptaplus, because here many 

of the motives of the Oratio and of the Commento are repeated and developed 

further. Since the Commento has survived in rather sketchy prints and manu- 

scripts and since the style of writing sometimes sounds clumsy due to occa-

 

 



11

  Pico, Opera, fol. *4v.

 

12

   Pico, Scritti, 1942, pp. 13-15.



 


 

425


 

sional scholastic formulas and interspersed Latinisms, it has remained 

relatively neglected in Pico studies, but it might turn out to be a key to inter- 

preting the major intentions of the author.

 

Since Pico's teacher, Elia del Medigo, was also involved in his various 



projects, a letter of his, written in 1485, lends insight into some philosophical 

issues that troubled Pico at that time. After acknowledging having received 

from Pico scabies, but also a horse, Elia del Medigo discloses for the first 

time, as he says, his personal view on Cabala. Cabala, as we well know, was 

to be the major news in the Oratio and in the 900 Theses. Pico not only in- 

cluded it in his broad survey of global wisdom, he also seems to have put all 

his spiritual hope in this ancient mysticism because it claimed to be the true 

tradition of the Word of God into mankind, and it fostered an understanding of 

the human soul within the cosmos that most precisely expressed Pico's view 

of the dignity of man.

13

 Elia remarks



14

:

 



Since you are so busy with "this blessed Cabala" (isto benicto Chabala), let me 

tell you that in my Hebrew commentary on [Averroes'] De substantia orbis 

spoke about the spiritual power (de virtute spirituali)And what I have to say is 

unknown to all who deal with it. (...) [The cabalists] believe that in this world 

there are beings of a lower degree (gradus) than the degree of the glorious God, 

who is called the Infinite, and these flow - that is: they are not made nor pro- 

duced (sunt fluxa, non dico facta vel producta ab illo) - from Him, who is, 

named the Infinite. These have various degrees. The higher grade of these is 

above the movers of the heavens and the visible bodies in heaven. The order in 

which the produced beings are produced and maintained within the order is this, 

namely by the Sephiroth, i.e. numberings. Thus they call these 'flowed from the 

Infinite'. For they believe that in the Infinite there is no thinking or apprehension, 

and also no terminus or determination, since it is an intellectual disposition. One 

cannot speak about will, intention or thinking in it and generally of no disposi- 

tion. So it is impossible that [thinking] is a thing that comes or flows (proveniens 

seu fluxa) out of it, i.e., the Infinite. The first that flowed from it (the Infinite) are 

the beings mentioned, according to the degrees which one calls Sephiroth, as I 

said, and these are agents by virtue of God, whom they call Infinite, and by the 

flux that they obtain from Him, and they are identical by His virtue, because 

they, the Sephiroth, depend on Him and have flown from Him, that is the Infi- 

nite. According to them, the order we find in the world is that of the Sephiroth. 

The First, however, that is called the Infinite, of this one can assert no disposi- 

tion or positive property; they even refrain from calling it intellect, as also 

Averroes observes in his Destructio destructionum 4, namely that Plato and the 

Platonists do not want to call God an intellect or maintain that He is an intellect.

 

This is a very interesting letter, first because its awkward wording conveys 



authenticity of an intellectual more familiar with Hebrew than with Latin ter-

 

 



13

  See Paul Richard Blum, "Pico, Theology, and the Church", in Michael V.Dougherty (ed.), 



    Pico della Mirandola.  New Essays, Cambridge: University Press, 2008 (forthcoming), 

    chapter 3. 

14

  Elia's letter to Pico in Pico, Scritti, 1942, pp. 68-71; the spelling is Elia's.



 


426

 

 



minology. He evidently struggles with transforming cabalistic stereotypes of 

expression into Latin, thus the repetitive insistence on 'the Infinite' as the 

name of God. If I am right, by "Infinite" he refers to the En Soph. But for any- 

one accustomed to humanist elegance, as Pico was, the insistence on the Infi- 

nite as a name must sound like an invitation to translate this epithet into 

whatever terminology one prefers, lest the ineffability be safeguarded.

 

Second, Elia intends to clarify, for the first time, what people dealing with 



Cabala tend to misunderstand. Even if Elia does not identify himself as a ca- 

balist, he cannot possibly have had his fellow Jews in mind, but he must mean 

to correct outsiders who, like Pico, try to come to grips with it. He gives a 

summary of the relation between the En Soph, the Sephiroth, and the visible 

World and concludes with an issue that Latin philosophers might know well 

enough, namely Averroes' take on Platonism in defining God. Thus Elia af- 

fords Pico with a fine hermeneutics of the Infinite and the World. The struc- 

ture of the World as such, expressed in the Sephiroth, and easily convertible 

into Pythagorean numbers, is not a product of the Divine Mind - as Christian 

Platonists tend to assume - but rather an efflux of God, who for want of 

differentiation (disposition) is by no means a mind.

 

Such is the interpretation available to a sound Christian familiar with Pla- 



tonism. And Elia's contention is that this God - truly invisible, super-essen- 

tial, undivided, independent - is the same in Averroes, Plato, and the Cabala. 

Whether this is a correct rendering of the Cabala, I cannot assess, but what is 

striking is that this very view is the main message in Pico and that this 

message is at odds with Ficino.

 

Let us remember, this letter came during Pico's preparation for the great 



revelation of cabalistic wisdom in his Roman disputation and while he was 

commenting on Benivieni's rendering of Ficinian love. It may, then, help 

reading Pico's polemics against Ficino in his Commentary on Benivieni.

 

One interesting example for Pico's disagreement is the interpretation of 



Caelus-Saturnus-Jupiter.

15

 According to Pico, Saturnus's castrating Caelus 



symbolizes that, indeed, the Highest God is inactive in as much as his testicles 

fall into the water thus giving birth to Venus, i.e. fertilizing the world. In one 

remark against Ficino only recently discovered, Pico argues that it is incoher- 

ent to understand such emasculation as a diminishing of perfection: First, that 

is not the meaning of castration; then, not Caelus but his influence would have 

been castrated; and third, one would have to say that also Jupiter castrates 

Saturnus.

16

 



Pico is criticizing the fact that in the Ficinian model, emanation may be un- 

derstood as a gradual decay of power and dignity. Keeping in mind Elia's ren- 

dering of the Sephiroth as those that guarantee the integrity of God and still

 

 



15

  Commento II 20, in Pico, Scritti, 1942, p. 511 f.; transl. Jayne: II 21, pp. 115-117.

 

16

 Franco Bacchelli, 



Giovanni Pico e Pier Leone da Spoleto. Tra filosofia dell'amore e tradi- 

zione cabalistica, Florence: Olschki, 2001, p. 118, framm. 9.

 



 

427


 

derive their being and the being of the material world from God without ad- 

mitting the thought of decay, it is obvious that Pico follows the same strategy: 

creation does not exhaust the creator. Pico even warns that the misunder- 

standing by "a certain Platonist" is equivalent to Manicheism.

17

 He renders the 



castration with Elia's term "influxo"

18

, i.e., the influx of the plenitude of ideas: 



"... everything which Uranus [Caelus] communicates to Saturn, that is the 

plenitude of the Ideas, which descends from God into the Angelic Mind, is 

represented by the testicles of Uranus."

19

 



One may use the agreement between Pico's critique of Neoplatonist ema- 

nation and Elia's critique of misrepresented cabalism as proof that Pico was 

essentially an Averroist (provided that Elia was a faithful commentator on 

Averroes) - but that's not the point. The thrust of both arguments is directed 

against downsizing the mystery of creation.

 

Elia's critique implies yet another assumption that bears on the meaning of 



Christian Platonism: As the Cabalistic view is so to say tripartite, God-Sephi- 

roth-World, so has the Platonic world to consist of at least three levels, parallel 

to Caelus-Saturn-Giove: God creates one and only one creature, which is 

merely intellectual or spiritual and that creates all other finite beings. The rea- 

soning behind this model seems to be clear: Only if the finite world is created, 

or structured, by something eternal, which contains the structure (ideas) of this 

world, only then God is not affected by the finiteness of His creature, and - 

even more importantly - only then the world is not pervaded by God. This in- 

termediate level - name it Sephiroth, Angelic Mind, First Created - keeps 

world and God apart and together. It is the ultimate theism without pantheism. 

The trouble is that this doctrine is not in all respects compatible with Christian 

theology. The Ptolemaic cosmos that depicted a Primum Mobile as the first 

sphere below the coelum empireum (also defined as habitaculum Dei) was 

well consistent with this thought. But Christian psychology insisted that the 

human soul is not the offspring of a universal intellect but, rather, every indi- 

vidual soul is immediately created by God.

 

Pico notes this contradiction by referring from the Saturn-Caelus debate 



back to an earlier chapter that discussed God as the creator of spiritual sub- 

stance. There he blamed Ficino of having erroneously ascribed the true Chris- 

tian doctrine to Plato.

20

 As Pico sees it, Plotinus, Aristotle, and his Arab 



commentators maintained that God created "immediately" one, and only one, 

perfect intellectual being: the first Mind, from which, then, may stem other

 

 

17



   Pico, Scritti, 1942, p. 512: "... parole in quel luogo male intese e a qualche platonico e a tutti 

    e' Manichei ..."; transl. Jayne, p. 116.

 

18

  Bacchelli, p. 118.



 

19

 Pico, 



Scritti, 1942, p. 512; transl. Jayne, p. 116.

 

20



  Commento I 4, ibid. p. 466: "Però mi maraviglio di Marsilio che tenga secondo Platone 

    l'anima nostra essere immediatamente da Dio produtta; il che non meno alla setta di Proclo 

    che a quella di Porfirio repugna."

 



428

 

 



 

spirits.


21

 The implication is, that according to the ancient schools God does not 

create, without intermediate creation, the human soul directly, which contra- 

dicts the Christian doctrine of the individual soul. With this assertion Pico 

opens the question of how far one can go in Christianizing Plato, as Ficino 

does. The strategy Pico follows seems to be: First, he claims to expose only 

the true interpretation of Platonic philosophy, which - of course - entitles him 

to criticize some who claim to be Platonists but lack consistency. Then, he 

shows that the most important tenets of Platonism, correctly interpreted, are 

incompatible with Christian theology - or, rather, that it takes an additional 

hermeneutic effort to interpret Platonism in a Christian way.

 

From this perspective, the first chapter of the Commento acquires meaning 



beyond the occasion for which it was written. Obviously inspired by Elia's in- 

struction as quoted before, Pico opens his treatise by reminding that, in Pla- 

tonic terms, "God is not Himself being but the cause of all being," so that it is 

tenable to say that God is not intellect but, rather "the source and cause of all 

intellect." This, he says with a wink, "can give a modem Platonist a good deal 

of trouble".

22

 Ficino's trouble must have been that his entire strategy of Christi- 



anizing philosophy, and specifically of proving the immortality of the individ- 

ual soul, depended on the philosophical theology of God as supreme 

intellect,

23

 whereas Pico already here attacks this kind of Platonism by under- 



scoring the metaphysical gap between the created human mind and God. In the 

long chapter 5 of De ente et uno he came back to this fundamental difference. 

On the second of four levels of approaching the 'darkness' of God, he states 

that "God is neither life, nor intellect, nor intelligible, but better and more ex- 

cellent than that."

24

 In order to make his statement plausible, Pico marshals 



Augustine and Dionysius the Areopagite.

 

His philosophical aim is to show that Platonism is not conducive to ration- 



alize Christian faith; but if it is used this way, it endangers both a correct in- 

terpretation of Platonism and the foundations of faith. Pico's famous Oration 



on the Dignity of Man should be read as an appeal to spiritual conversion to 

which knowledge of all sorts of wisdom contributes if properly applied. It 

should also be read as part of Pico's larger project to keep paganism in check, 

of which the Commento and De ente et uno were parts. A Neoplatonic phi-

 

 

21



  Ibid. pp. 465 f.: "... dico che Iddio ab aeterno produsse una creatura di natura incorporea ed

 

intellettuale ... E però oltra lei niente altro produsse ... secondo e' Platonici da Dio immedia- 



tamente non proviene altra creatura che questa prima mente ..."

 

22



  Commento I 1, ibid. p. 462: "... e' Platonici ... diranno che Dio, non est ens, ma è causa 

    omnium entium. Similmente che Iddio non è intelletto, ma che lui è fonte e principio d'ogni 

    intelletto; e' quali detti, per non essere inteso il fondamento loro, a' moderni Platonici danno 

    gran noia." Transl. Jayne, p. 77. 

23

  Cf. Jayne, p. 180, note 10.



 

24

  De ente et uno 5, Pico, Scritti, 1942, p. 416: "Deum scilicet nee esse vitam nec intellectum 

   neque intelligibile, sed melius aliquid atque praestantius omnibus his." For futher references 

   see note 66 in Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Über das Seiende und das Eine, ed. Paul 

   Richard Blum, Gregor Damschen et al., Hamburg: Meiner, 2006, p. 87.

 



 

429


 

losophy in which human intellect is contiguous with the divine mind is frivo- 

lous in the eyes of Pico and his friends. Perhaps it was the Italian language 

that was perceived as dangerous, for Ficino's commentary on the Symposium, 

Benivieni's poetic condensation of it, and Pico's expansion of it circulated in 

the vernacular. More dangerous was probably the fact that ancient philosophy 

and mythology was interpreted there according to their internal logic. Pet- 

rarch's hope that the study of ancient mythology might enhance reverence for 

Christian truth was shared both by Ficino and Pico. Yet, Pico's sense of 

Christianity had changed towards some kind of piety.

25

 Hence, although the 



Commento originally contained a sufficient number of hints against popular- 

izing pagan Platonism, Girolamo Benivieni and Gianfrancesco Pico already 

deemed it politically incorrect to serve the market with philosophical trifles. 

__ 


 

 

 



 

 

 



 

 

 



 

 

 



 

__________________ 



25

 This did not spare Pico suspicion of heresy, but that is another facet of his work.



 


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