How a Ruler Ought to Govern His State

1 January 2017

Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374) was an Italian scholar, poet, and early humanist during the reformation of the Renaissance period. He was one of the greatest poets of the 14th-16th century, and is regarded as the father of the humanist movement. Petrarch was a prolific writer. Not only was he known for poetry in Italian and Latin, but also hundreds of letters, essays and histories. Like Dante, a generation before Petrarch wrote in a vernacular style to bring Italian a literary language. In this letter, Petrarch offers advice on how to rule as an effective leader.

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He uses various examples and sources to support his theories of how a good ruler should rule by laying out a good model. Petrarch emphasizes the first quality of a good leader should be friendly to the good citizens. He believed that nothing was worse for the state than to use fear and cruelty to maintain power. He used the case of the barbaric emperor by the name of Maxminus, claiming that it is far better for a lord to be loved than to be feared. He also advised the ruler to love the subjects like one’s own children. Next, Petrarch emphasized justice so that each person gets what is due, and no one is punished without a good reason.

He uses the Apostle Paul from the Bible and how the sword should only be used if necessarily and not foolishly. He stresses the strengths and gratitude that can be gained when one presents himself as friendly and not terrifying. The author goes on to use Caesar Augustus and Nero, two men that fell under the title “father of your country “even thou only Augustus can truly hold the title honestly, all the while Nero was both enemy of his country and his religion. The author also uses God, the Heavenly Judge and Eternal King of all.

He expresses how we all can have sin in our lives and are weakened by our own self-willingness and all are in need of mercy. Petrarch uses the Aristotle, a great philosopher, to give advice on how one should govern or rule his state with justice. Petrarch has a great relation to ancient authors of Roman such as Dante who used the vernacular writing to literalize Italian writing. Petrarch is a writer of great knowledge with a desire of theology and politics, as so many before him, while keeping the words and acts of humanism to be held sacred and gifts of our Heavenly Judge.

He was a teacher of knowledge, sobriety, and humbleness. With the aid from the philosophies of Aristotle, Petrarch wrote with finesse and poise, which Petrarch only new in the Latin language, his driven thoughts in relation to that of Cicero, a roman poet and politician that died years before Petrarch was born, Petrarch was considered to be one of these learned men as so many others. He was patronized by the wealthy due to his style and ability to write with such power and grace. He refers constantly other great poets such as Euripides and biblical characters, such as, Jeremiah.

All these display an attitude towards learning and kindness. The Renaissance man can be described as a modern scholar that acquires leaning and is knowledgeable in several areas of science, literature, art, and government, also one that maintain good standings, display good citizenship with his surroundings and others. Petrarch distributed all these in by way of his writings. In his piece of “Rules for the Ruler”, Petrarch described the attributes and the attitude needed for a good ruler should govern his country.

Through kindness, love, justice, and keeping in mind that we are mere mortals and that have all sinned and fell short of the Eternal King’s goodness, but we are not without his mercy. Petrarch displayed an eagerness to learn and empower those of the elite in how to govern from a peaceful mind and not pride. “And now the years and experience in government have so matured you that you are esteemed as an outstanding lord, not only by your own citizens but also by the lords of many other cities, who hold you and nurture envy for your subjects”. (p. 160) The world and attitudes expressed from people were broad and extended.

Their feeling of love whether public or private were of that desire to be ruled by such a great ruler. The people encompassed public order and peace that was felt by the citizen-body, which spread near and far. They were governed with pride, yet not prideful and had great pleasure in their ruler and his accomplishments. During the Renaissance period the role of the patron was to provide support, guidance, and encouragement for learned men. Not all men had this type of support from those of the elite. The author expressed in his writing how growing faithfully in knowledge and maintaining justice would be very useful to the state.

In having love and devotion to justice, if learned men would add these attributes to their studies and already learned knowledge, these citizens would not just be learned in law, but in justice as well. Petrarch gave example of one Augustus and how he patronized many learned in Rome. Augustus encouraged learned men to study hard and grow in understanding while remaining in Rome were they would be honored. But only those that could afford to be patronized could bless men with such and advanced lifestyle and not all men fell under this type of gift.

This affected things in that, whether a person was knowledgeable, able to read a book competently, or considered among the elite, one thing was for certain; and that was death was sure to all mankind. From the noblest down to the commoner, grief could entrap anyone at any time and it would take a good ruler to know how to have order over the displacement of emotions during a time of bereavement.

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