Marginalia, no.215

Cosmus Medices, that rich citizen of Florence, ingenuously confessed to a near friend of his, that would know of him why he built so many public and magnificent palaces, and bestowed so liberally on scholars, not that he loved learning more than others, ‘but to eternize his own name, to be immortal by the benefit of scholars…’

~ Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

Among those set to the task was Marsilio Ficino, appointed by Cosimo de Medici to head the Florentine Academy. Late in life Ficino was accused of being a wizard astrologer. In the choice phrasing of the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Ficino finally “succeeded in purging himself.” Of the charges, one hopes. We read in Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions (in a story lifted from Hermippus Redivivus), that de Medici himself as a young man had consulted an astrologer and been guaranteed immortal fame with a seat alongside Augustus Caesar and Co. Why all the exertion then? The lesson seems to be: hedge your bets with mortar and mortarboards.

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