Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

2011 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund

Mirrors for Princes

  • Roberto Lambertini
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9729-4_338

Abstract

“Mirrors for Princes” designates a literary genre in which political ideas are expressed in the form of advice to a ruler. This genre has its roots in Antiquity and especially in Late Antiquity. The first medieval flourishing of works of this kind dates back to the so-called Carolingian Renaissance, when the image of the ideal ruler is strongly influenced by the monastic background of most authors writing on this topic. After a long decline, John of Salisbury gave a renewed impulse to the genre, exerting a long-lasting influence with his Policraticus. In the cultural context of the twelfth century, Mirrors for Princes opened not only to the patristic heritage, but also to classical authors. Many mirrors date back to the second half of the twelfth and to the first half of the thirteenth century, when they mostly took the form of compilations. In the following period, great thinkers such as Aquinas and Giles of Rome tried to insert the newly rediscovered Aristotelian ethical and political language into the mirrors tradition. Giles’ De regimine principum was the most successful and influential result of such effort. The rise of De potestate papae treatises in the first half of the fourteenth century reduced the role of Mirrors for Princes as carriers of political ideas but could not completely supersede them. On the contrary, when the heyday of De potestate papae was over, mirrors regained at least in part their function. The present article does not cover the Quattrocento: it is well known, however, that the tradition of the Mirrors continued in the Renaissance and in the following centuries.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberto Lambertini
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze Storiche, Documentarie, Artistiche e del TerritorioUniversità di MacerataMacerataItaly