‘Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, – no, nor the human race, as I believe, – and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.’ Republic, Book V, 473D
With these words Plato expressed his ideal form of government. Often dismissed as unrealisable, they have appealed down the ages to men of goodwill. Having trans-lated all of the Dialogues from Greek into Latin, at the request of his Medici patrons, Ficino was asked to prepare summaries by Lorenzo de’ Medici, the de facto ruler of the republic of Florence, who aspired to be the kind of enlightened ruler Plato described.
Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) was one of the most influential thinkers of the Renaissance. He put before society a new ideal of human nature, emphasising its divine potential. As head of the Platonic Academy in Florence, and as teacher and guide to a remark-able circle of men, he made a vital contribution to the changes that were taking place in European thought.
With the collapse of the global economy calling the wisdom of our political leaders into question, When Philosophers Rule is a timely reminder of those principles which have formed the basis of good government and inspired statesmen down the ages.
When complete, this four-volume series, including Gardens of Philosophy, 2006, Evermore Shall Be So 2007 and All Things Natural (9780856832581) in 2010, will contain all Ficino’s commentaries not previously translated into English.
As Carol Kaske of Cornell University wrote when reviewing Gardens of Philosophy in Renaissance Quarterly, these translations fill ‘a need. Even those Anglophone scholars who know Latin still need a translation in order to read quickly through a large body of material’
Arthur Farndell is one of the world’s leading translators of Renaissance philosophy, having worked for many years on the translations of The Letters of Marsilio Ficino, nine volumes of which have been published by Shepheard-Walwyn to date.