Daniele Conti

Daniele Conti

Ahmanson Fellow
"Old Stars, New World: The Scientific and Astrological Background of the Renaissance 'Querelle' of the Ancients and the Moderns"


Daniele Conti received his PhD in History and Palaeography from the Scuola Normale Superiore. In 2016-18, he was a fellow at the Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Storici in Naples, where he carried out research on the humanist Marcello Virgilio Adriani and the history of the early sixteenth-century Florentine Studium. His research focuses on Florentine Humanism, Neoplatonism, and the religious and cultural history of Quattrocento Italy and early modern Europe. His publications include the critical editions of Marsilio Ficino’s Praedicationes (Aragno, 2014) and Commentarium in Epistolas Pauli (Aragno, 2018).

Project Summary

In his Discourses on Livy, Machiavelli pondered the reasons why his contemporaries read ancient Roman histories for pleasure without ever daring to think it could be possible to imitate them, “as if heaven, the sun, the elements, and men should have changed the order of their motions and power, from what they were anciently.” This project aims to offer a deeper understanding of the Renaissance debate on imitatio in light of the role played by medical and astrological discussions on the question of the ‘world grown old’ (senectus mundi). What is often understood as a rhetorical topos inherited from ancient and medieval literature actually emerged, towards the end of the Middle Ages, as a scientific theory. The concept of the ‘world grown old’ was not just a rhetorical device, nor simply an ‘idea,’ but rather a cosmological theory that, in the fifteenth century, became a key component of the debate on imitation. The goal of the research is to map the reception in fifteenth-century Florence of those texts that claimed to offer scientific proof that modern scholars were unable to imitate their ancient forebears, showing how theories on the imitation of antiquity’s cultural, civic, and military models had to face a new cosmological view, which claimed the progressive aging of the celestial bodies and the decay of the sublunary world.