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few women of the period, such as Isotta Nogarola, also trained as humanists. However, most scholars and all Catholic priests were male.
Many important thinkers of the time enthusiastically supported increased study of ancient Greek and Latin texts:
• Leonardo Bruni translated Greek and Latin works and wrote biographies of poets from the 1300s.
• Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472) wrote books in Italian so that a broad range of people would understand them. Like Petrarch, Alberti was strongly influenced by Cicero.
• Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) studied the works of the Roman historian Livy.
Challenges to the Catholic Church As popes became more concerned with their political and financial power and with secular Renaissance culture, they lost some of the spiritual authority they once held. This shift happenedat the same time many Christian humanists, especially in northern Europe, began to focus on texts of the early Catholic Church. These humanists advocated a return to a simpler and more humane form of Christianity. They criticized religious practices that they believed were not based on Scripture.
Revival of Civic Humanist Culture
In the 15th century, a single, unified country did not control the Italian peninsula. Instead, it was a collection of small regional kingdoms and self-governing communities called city-states. Large city-states, such as the northern Italian cities of Florence, Venice, and Milan, also controlled the surrounding regions. Some of the city-states were ruled by local dukes and others by powerful families. Invasions by French, Spanish, and Germanic forces only added to the political instability and rivalry among city-states.
Greek and Roman Political Institutions As humanists studied classical texts, they developed renewed admiration for Greek and Roman political institutions. For example, the city-state itself was the common form of government in classical Greece, with Athens and Sparta as the two best-known examples. Athens had been the site of the birth of democracy, government in which the people hold power either directly or by electing representatives. The Roman Republic was a representative government, or one elected by and representative of the people.
Roman politicians such as Cicero became secular models of active, engaged citizenship and eloquent leadership. Humanists saw in the classical examples a civic humanist culture that they sought to promote in their own era.
Baldassare Castiglione One secular model for individual behavior by the aristocratic class came from a writer in Milan. Baldassare Castiglione (1478–1529) wrote The Book of the Courtier (1528), which outlined how to act as a proper gentleman or lady. The book remained influential for centuries. According to Castiglione, the ideal courtier, or person who often spent time
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