Lorenzo Valla

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Lorenzo Valla

Lorenzo Valla (also Lorenzo della Valle , Latin Laurentius Valla ; * between 1405 and 1407 in Rome ; † August 1, 1457 ibid) was an Italian humanist and canon . He is considered the founder of modern text criticism .


Valla's personal corrections in a manuscript of Herodotus Histories . Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. Gr. 122, fol. 41r and 122r
Lorenzo Valla, Gesta Ferdinandi regis , autograph . Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Lat. 6174, fol. 33v
The beginning of Valla's preface to his Latin translation of the history of Thucydides in the dedication copy for Pope Nicholas V. Manuscript Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. Lat. 1801, fol. 1r

Lorenzo Valla was born in Rome between 1405 and 1407. As the son of the curial consistorial advocate Luca della Valla, he was of aristocratic origin. He received his training from Leonardo Bruni and the curia secretaries Rinuccio da Castiglione and Giovanni Aurispa , who were among the best philologists of his time. He studied the writings of Aristotle , Cicero , Quintilian , Boethius and the Church Fathers , but also the scholastic literature, and became an excellent expert on the works of Thomas Aquinas .

Valla was denied employment in the Vatican on the grounds that he was young. He left Rome and moved to Piacenza . First drafts of his dialogues De voluptate and De libero arbitrio emerged.

In 1431 Valla tried again unsuccessfully for a job with Pope Eugene IV . In autumn he followed Gasparino Barzizza to the chair for rhetoric in Pavia, where he had close contact with various humanists, including Maffeo Vegio . Disputes with the local lawyers over his first publications ( Quaestiones dialecticae ; De libero arbitrio ; De elegantiis Latini sermonis ) forced Valla to leave Pavia in 1433. He caused offense in particular by his criticism of the Middle Latin, which was common at the time, in De elegantiis Latini sermonis . He demanded that the scholars base their prose on the model of classical Latin, such as Cicero had written. Valla then stayed in various northern Italian cities, including Milan.

In 1435 Valla went to the court of the humanist-friendly King Alfonso V of Aragón , who waged war over Naples . Valla collated New Testament manuscripts, edited works in ancient languages, revised De voluptate , completed the Elegantiarum linguae Latinae libri sex and Dialectica ; Almost at the same time and independently of Nikolaus von Kues and Reginald Pecock , he demonstrated in Declamatio de falso credita et ementita donatione Constantini the inauthenticity of the Constantine donation . This is his best-known achievement in the area of ​​canon law.

His publications exposed him to suspicion of heresy in 1444 ; A case was initiated against him before the Inquisition , which however did not convict him due to his skilful defense and royal intervention. Valla was not rehabilitated either.

Under the pontificate of the "humanist pope " Nicholas V, Valla moved to Rome in 1448 and entered the papal service as scriptor litterarum apostolicarum . There he continued his philological activity with the translation of Thucydides . In 1455 he became secretary of the curia. In the last years of his life he taught again as a professor of rhetoric and held a. a. Lectures on Virgil and Cicero.

Valla died on August 1, 1457 as apostolic secretary and canon and was buried with great honors in the Lateran .


Some of Valla's works were extremely popular and were translated into several languages ​​as early as the 15th and 16th centuries.

In modern research, Valla is recognized as one of the formative personalities of Italian humanism in the 15th century, and the radicality of his new approaches is particularly emphasized. Ernesto Grassi sees Valla's philosophical work as "a principle settlement with traditional metaphysics and with Christian thought, insofar as it is anchored in Platonism and Aristotelianism ". Valla had not succeeded in arriving at a new Christian way of thinking through his criticism of stoicism and platonism. Paul Richard Blum states that Valla, with his disrespectful interpretations of theological doctrinal material and with his anthropocentric perspective, contributed to the theology losing its position as a leading science in modern times. Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz sees Valla's main achievement in his unusually sharp and principled criticism of the Aristotelian-scholastic philosophy and in his alternative draft of a new philosophy based on a new linguistic-philosophical thought, of which he was the pioneer.

Text editions and translations

Complete edition

  • Opera omnia. I-II; ed. by E. Garin; Turin 1962.

Individual works

  • De voluptate , De vero falsoque bono , De vero bono
    • Maristella de Panizza Lorch (ed.): Lorenzo Valla: De vero falsoque bono. Adriatica, Bari 1970 (critical edition)
    • Peter Michael Schenkel (Ed.): From pleasure or from the real good. De voluptate sive De vero bono. Fink, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-7705-3701-7 (Latin text and translation)
    • Of the true and false good. a. by Michael Erler, ed. by Otto and Eva Schönberger, Würzburg 2004.
    • De voluptate. On pleasure. Edited by A. Kent Hieatt / Maristella Lorch, New York 1977 (Latin and English)
  • De libero arbitrio
    • About free will. / De libero arbitrio. Ed., Trans. and a. by Eckhard Keßler, Munich 1987 (humanistic library, row 2: texts 16)
    • Dialogue sur le libre-arbitre. ed. and over. by Jacques Chomarat, Paris 1983.
    • De libero arbitrio. In: Giorgio Radetti (ed.), Lorenzo Valla: Scritti filosofici e religiosi. Florence 1953, pp. 283-375.
  • Repastinatio dialectice et philosophie
    • Gianni Zippel (Ed.): Laurentii Valle repastinatio dialectice et philosophie. 2 volumes. Antenore, Padova 1982
    • Brian P. Copenhaver, Lodi Nauta (Eds.): Lorenzo Valla: Dialectical Disputations. 2 volumes. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2012, ISBN 978-0-674-05576-6 for Volume 1, ISBN 978-0-674-06140-8 for Volume 2 (Latin text and English translation)
  • Elegantiarum linguae Latinae libri sex , Elegantia
    • Elegantiarum linguae Latinae libri sex. (Latin-Italian partial excerpt.), In: Eugenio Garin (ed.), Prosatori latini del Quattrocento. Milan / Naples 1952, pp. 594-631 online .
    • Santiago López Moreda (ed.): De linguae Latinae elegantia ad Ionnem Tortellium Aretinum. Cáceres 1999 (text of the 1471 edition with Spanish translation)
    • Elisabet Sandström (Ed.): De reciprocatione "sui" et "suus". Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, Göteborg 1998, ISBN 91-7346-326-4 (critical edition of a supplement by Valla to the Elegantiae with an introduction and a French translation)
  • Antidote in Facium
    • Antidote in Facium. ed. by Mariangela Regoliosi, Padua 1981.
  • Antidote primum
    • Ari Wesseling (Ed.): Antidotum primum. La prima apologia contro Poggio Bracciolini. Van Gorcum, Assen / Amsterdam 1978, ISBN 90-232-1597-4 (critical edition)
  • Quintilian annotations
    • Lucia Cesarini Martinelli, Alessandro Perosa (eds.): Le postille all '"Institutio oratoria" di Quintiliano. Antenore, Padua 1996 (critical edition)
  • Gesta regis Ferdinandi
    • Gesta Ferdinandi Regis Aragonum. ed. by Ottavio Besomi, Padua 1973.
  • De falso credita et ementita Constantini donatione
    • The profession of the religious and The falsely-believed and forged donation of Constantine. ed. and translated by Olga Zorzi Pugliese, Ottawa 1985.
    • Wolfram Setz (ed.): Lorenzo Valla: De falso credita et ementita Constantini donatione (= Monumenta Germaniae Historica, sources on the intellectual history of the Middle Ages. Volume 10). Böhlau, Weimar 1976 (reprint 1986)
    • Glen Bowersock (Ed.): Lorenzo Valla: On the Donation of Constantine . Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2007, ISBN 0-674-02533-4 (Latin text and English translation)
    • Wolfram Setz (ed.): The noble Roman Laurentii Vallensis clagrede against the fictitious and false talent of the Keyser Constantino of the Roman churches is said to have happened. A German translation of Lorenzo Valla's work “De falso credita et ementita Constantini donatione” from the Reformation period. Basel / Frankfurt am Main 1981.
  • Collatio Novi Testamenti
    • Collatio Novi Testamenti , ed. by Alessandro Perosa, Florence 1970
  • Ars grammatica
    • Paola Casciano (Ed.): Lorenzo Valla: L'arte della grammatica. Fondazione Lorenzo Valla, Milano 1990, ISBN 88-04-32946-7 (critical edition with Italian translation and commentary)
  • Letters
    • Brendan Cook (Ed.): Lorenzo Valla: Correspondence. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2013, ISBN 978-0-674-72467-9 (Latin text and English translation)
  • Aesopian Fables (translation)
    • Maria Pasqualina Pillolla (Ed.): Laurentius Vallensis: Fabulae Aesopicae. Dipartimento di archeologia, filologia classica e loro tradizioni, Genova 2003 (critical edition)


  • Hanna-Barbara Gerl : Rhetoric as Philosophy. Lorenzo Valla (= Humanistic Library. Series 1, Volume 13). Fink, Munich 1974, DNB 740365398 .
  • Wolfram Setz : Lorenzo Valla's writing against the Constantinian donation “De falso credita et ementita Constantini donatione”. For interpretation and history of effects. Tübingen 1975, ISBN 3-484-80063-1 .
  • Maristella de Panizza Lorch: A Defense of Life. Lorenzo Valla's Theory of Pleasure (= Humanist Library , Series 1, Volume 36). Wilhelm Fink, Munich 1985, ISBN 3-7705-2193-3 .
  • Paul Oskar Kristeller: Eight Philosophers of the Italian Renaissance. VCH, Weinheim 1986, ISBN 3-527-17505-9 .
  • John Monfasani: Lorenzo Valla and Rudolph Agricola. In: Journal of the History of Ideas. 28: 247-276 (1990).
  • Peter Mack: Renaissance Argument. Valla and Agricola in the Traditions of Rhetoric and Dialectic. Leiden 1993, ISBN 90-04-09879-8 .
  • Klaus-Gunther WesselingLorenzo Valla. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 12, Bautz, Herzberg 1997, ISBN 3-88309-068-9 , Sp. 1096-1113.
  • Marco Laffranchi: Dialettica e filosofia in Lorenzo Valla. Milan 1999, ISBN 88-343-0193-5 .
  • Paul Richard Blum: Lorenzo Valla - Humanism as Philosophy . In: ders. (Ed.): Philosophers of the Renaissance . Darmstadt 1999, pp. 33-40.
  • John Monfasani: The theology of Lorenzo Valla. In: Jill Kraye, Martin W. Stone: Humanism and Early Modern Philosophy. London 2000, ISBN 0-203-27259-5 , pp. 1-23.
  • Wolfram Ax : Lorenzo Valla, Elegantiarum linguae Latinae libri sex (1449). In: ders. (Ed.): Of elegance and barbarism. Latin grammar and style in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. (= Wolfenbütteler Research , 95). Wiesbaden 2001, ISBN 3-447-04493-4 , pp. 29-57.
  • John Monfasani: Disputationes Vallianae. In: Fosca Mariani Zini (ed.): Penser entre les lignes. Philologie et philosophie au Quattrocento. Villeneuve d'Asq 2001, pp. 229-250.
  • Salvatore I. Camporeale: Lorenzo Valla: umanesimo, riforma e controriforma; studi e testi (= Studi e testi del Rinascimento Europeo , 12) Roma 2002, ISBN 88-8498-026-7 .
  • Lodi Nauta: Lorenzo Valla's Critique of Aristotelian Psychology. In: Vivarium . 41 (2003), pp. 120-143.
  • Frank Bezner: Lorenzo Valla. In: Wolfram Ax (ed.): Latin teachers in Europe. Fifteen portraits from Varro to Erasmus of Rotterdam. Böhlau, Cologne 2005, ISBN 3-412-14505-X , pp. 353-389
  • Hartmut Westermann: How do you dispute about the good? Lorenzo Vallas De vero bono as a debate about the right debate. In: Yearbook Rhetoric. 25 (2006), ISSN  0720-5775 , pp. 30-54.
  • Hartmut Westermann: Lorenzo Valla (1407-1457), De libero arbitrio: The freedom of man in the face of God. In: Rolf Groeschner, Stephan Kirste , Oliver Lembcke (eds.): The human dignity - discovered and invented in the humanism of the Italian Renaissance. (= Politika. 1). Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2008, ISBN 978-3-16-149696-7 , pp. 113-139.

Web links


  1. Ernesto Grassi: Introduction to Humanistic Philosophy. 2nd Edition. Darmstadt 1991, pp. 102, 117.
  2. ^ Paul Richard Blum: Lorenzo Valla. In: Paul Richard Blum (ed.): Philosophers of the Renaissance. Darmstadt 1999, p. 39.
  3. ^ Hanna-Barbara Gerl: Introduction to the Philosophy of the Renaissance. 2nd Edition. Darmstadt 1995, pp. 98f.