(1220 - 1295) Italy
Politician, and man of letters
Brunetto Latini was a gay philosopher and statesman, born at Florence, the son of Buonaccorso Latini.
A notary by profession, Brunetto shared in the revolution of 1250, by which the Ghibelline power in Florence was overthrown, and a Guelph democratic government established In 1260, he was sent by the Commune as ambassador to Alfonso X of Castile, to implore his aid against King Manfred and the Ghibellines, and he has left us in his Tesoretto, a dramatic account of how, on his return journey, he met a scholar from Bologna who told him that the Guelphs had been defeated at Montaperti and expelled from Florence.
Brunetto took refuge at Paris, where a generous fellow-countryman enabled him to pursue his studies while carrying on his profession of notary. To this unnamed friend he now dedicated his Li Livres dou Trésor (The Thesaurus Book). After the Guelph triumph of 1266 and the establishment of a new democratic constitution, Brunetto returned to Florence, where he held various offices, including that of secretary to the Commune, took an active and honoured part in Florentine politics, and was influential in the counsels of the Republic.
Himself a man of great eloquence, he introduced the art of oratory and the systematic study of political science into Florentine public life. He was buried in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. Among the individuals who had come under his influence was the young Dante Alighieri. Although Dante thought well of his teacher, in his Divine Comedy he "condemned" Latini to the third round of the seventh circle of Hell, the place reserved for sodomites.
Brunetto's chief work, Li Livres dou Trésor (The Thesaurus Book) is a kind of encyclopedia in which he "treats of all things that pertain to mortals". It was written in French prose during his exile. He later wrote the Tesoretto (Small Thesaurus) the first encyclopedia in Europe not written in latin. He wrote a love poem to a man, Bondie Diotaiuti, who wrote a verse response to him.
It has recently been shown that the Tesoretto was probably dedicated to Guido Guerra, the Florentine soldier and politician who shares Brunetto's terrible fate in Dante's Inferno as a sodomite. Brunetto also wrote the Favolello, a pleasant letter in Italian verse to Rustico di Filippo, on friends and friendship.