Petrarch on Cicero’s Father of History

To my knowledge, Petrarch only once mentioned Cicero referring to Herodotus as the Father of History. Petrarch did so in his Rerum memorandarum libri (Books on Things to Remember). After finding an online edition of Petrarch’s work, I have been able to confirm these two citations. For clarity, the specific line which Petrarch mention’s Cicero’s Father of History is in Book 4, part 26.4.[11]

Originally I had seen two variations of where the mention is located in this work. They were basically the same. Momigliano (1958) cited 4.25-26[1, p.2] and Evans (1968) cited 4.26[2, p.11]. I can confirm that Momigliano quoted Petrarch accurately.

Petrarch’s Quote

“De Herodoto autem, quem Cicero ipse “patrem historiae” vocat, quod superioris oraculi fictor extiterit, non tam facile crediderim.”[11]
– Petrarch’s Rerum memorandarum 4.26.4

Leo Tepper, an admin for the Learning Latin Facebook group, provided a translation for the above passage:

“About Herodotus, whom Cicero himself calls the father of history, because he showed himself as the creator of a most high oracle, I can’t believe this that easy.”
– Leo Tepper (5 Dec. 2020)

Tepper mentioned that Petrarch meant the “most high oracle” to be sarcastic.

Rerum memorandarum MSS

Ivo Delingpole from the Vintage, Rare, & Antique Facebook group shared with me the link to “Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des manuscrits. Latin 6069W” as a way of checking the information but it fell under the category of “unreadable” for me. That manuscript is dated to the 15th century. The reason for the dating is obscure and I haven’t found much information beyond the reference I linked below.[3] This MS is also the only MS I’m aware of that contains Petrarch’s RM.

Printed Editions

General Information

When was Petrarch’s Rerum memorandarum put into print? Basing my information solely on WorldCat, it looks to me like this didn’t occur until the 20th century. Editions were published between 1942 and 1965. Aside from the ones where the author was not specified, all of them were authored by Giuseppe Billanovich. It wasn’t until 2014 that another edition was published and this one was authored by Marco Petoletti.[4] However, due to my continued study into this topic, I feel as though WorldCat’s information is limited and might not represent the full picture.

It appears to me that Pranava Books printed an edition of Petrarch’s Rerum memorandarum in 2020. It claims to be a reprint from a 1485 edition but I haven’t found a mention anywhere else about a 1485 edition. Due to that, I’m skeptical about the validity of the claim about reprinting.[5] I sent an email to the seller that said, “What is the 1485 edition that was used for this reprint? Do you know where it is today? If so, where is it?”. They responded saying, “We have no idea where the original copy would be available of this book.”. I responded back to ask, “Do you have any idea who authored it or printed it?”. I’ll update this again when/if they respond.

Ernest H. Wilkins listed a Rerum memorandarum libri IV edition by Morghen in the 1926 Edizione nazionale delle opere di Francesco Petrarca. It was listed as volume 5 of a 19 volume series.[9] The collection does appear to exist but I haven’t been able to confirm yet that volume 5 contains an edition of Petrarch’s Rerum memorandarum libri by Morghen.[10]

Billanovich’s Editions

It appears to me that Billanovich’s editions are the fundamental academic references for Petrarch’s Rerum memorandarum. Here’s a timeline of references to Petrarch’s Rm alongside the citation provided in each article:

1965 – Jerrold E. Seigel cited “Rerum memorandarum libri, ed. G. Billanovich (Florence, 1945)…”[8]

1983 – Robert Coogan cited “G. Billanovich (Florence, 1943)”.[6]

2004 – Kristina M. Olsen cited “Petrarca, Francesco. Rerum memorandarum libri. Ed. Giuseppe Billanovich. Firenze: Sansoni Editore, 1943.”[7]

Closing Comments

The people that I named from Facebook gave me permission to use their names and the information they shared with me. I am incredibly thankful to them for their help because it allowed my study to progress faster than it would have if I had been on my own the whole time. There were also more people from Facebook who helped out and I’m thankful for them too.

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[1] – MOMIGLIANO, ARNALDO. “THE PLACE OF HERODOTUS IN THE HISTORY OF HISTORIOGRAPHY.” History, vol. 43, no. 147, 1958, pp. 1–13. JSTOR, Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

[2] – Evans, J. A. S. “Father of History or Father of Lies; The Reputation of Herodotus.” The Classical Journal, vol. 64, no. 1, 1968, pp. 11–17. JSTOR, Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

[3] – Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

[4] – Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

[5] – Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

[6] – COOGAN, ROBERT. “Petrarch’s Liber Sine Nomine and a Vision of Rome in the Reformation.” Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance Et Réforme, vol. 7, no. 1, 1983, pp. 1–12. JSTOR, Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

[7] – Olson, Kristina M. “‘Concivis Meus’: Petrarch’s ‘Rerum Memorandarum Libri 2.60’, Boccaccio’s ‘Decameron 6.9’, and the Specter of Dino Del Garbo.” Annali D’Italianistica, vol. 22, 2004, pp. 375–380. JSTOR, Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

[8] – Seigel, Jerrold E. “Ideals of Eloquence and Silence in Petrarch.” Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 26, no. 2, 1965, pp. 147–174. JSTOR, Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

[9] – Wilkins, Ernest H. Modern Philology, vol. 25, no. 1, 1927, pp. 113–116. JSTOR, Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

[10] – Edizione nazionale delle opere di Francesco Petrarca, Volume 5. Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

[11] – Petrarch’s “Rerum memorandarum libri” (Books on Things to Remember). Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

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