Francesco Patrizi
Prominent Istrians

Hrvatksi (different text)

rancesco Patrizi (in Italian) and Frane Petrić (in Croatian) signed his name as Francesco Patricio. The data on his life can be found in his autobiographical letter to Baccio Valori, written in Ferrara on January 12, 1587.(1

He is also known as Patritius, Patritio, Patricius, Patrici, Patrizzi, Patricijus, Franciscus de Petris, and even Petrišević which is a total corruption of his name. He was born on the island of Cres (Cherso) on  April 25, 1529 during the rule of the Venetian Empire.

philosopher and polihistor

born in Cherso

Patrizi was the son of the town judge Francesco and Maria Lupetina who was Matthias Flacius' cousin.(2). Francesco's father had been accused of subversive activities against the Venetian authorities and of supporting the Protestants for which he was sentenced to banishment and died in exile. Francesco, the son, used his inheritance to finance his studies, although - as son of a banned heretic - he had to litigate over it for most of his life.

After studying in his native city with Petruccio da Bologna, he quit school and left the island of Cres in 1538 as a crew-member on his uncle's ship. It is then that the tumultuos period of his life began. He went on many voyages (he served in the Venetian navy under the command of Andrea Doria and went in combat near Novigrad) and changed many jobs (book and cotton trade, publishing - he published G. C. Delminio's and B. Cotrugli's works). He went to trade school in Venice, and studied grammar under a priest, Andrea Fiorentino, who worked as a proofreader for the Giunti publishing company. As Flacius' protégé he went to Ingolstadt where he studied Greek. Petrić remained there until the war that Charles V led against the Protestants. He went on to study medicine in Padua in 1547, but soon left it for studies in philosophy and mathematics.

Patrizi studied the Classical philosophical and literary texts, especially Plato's and Aristotle's philosophy, the rich tradition of Peripateticism, the speculative profuseness and diversity of the most ancient traditions of thinking and syncretistic religions, the mystical, Chaldaic, Arab and Hebrew traditions, Hermetic writings (Patrizi claimed that there was more philosophy in a single Hermetic treatise than in entire body of works by Aristotle) and neo-Platonic philosophy (important for Francesco's concepts of light, the One, first principles, the first efficient cause). Petric' studied the works of the most interesting Neo-Platonic thinkers, such as M. Ficino, particularly his Theologia Platonica and his doctrine of the renewal of "prisca theologia / sapientia"(3), a philosophical project of renewal of Christianity, also important in Patrizi's philosophy, and Pico della Mirandola who was known as "princeps concordiae" and whose concept of philosophy of truth undoubtedly influenced the formation and development of Patrizi's model of thought.

After his father's death in 1551, Patrizi sold his books on medicine. He then went to Ancona and on short trips to Venice (where he became a member of the Accademia della Fama), Bologna, Verona, Vicenza, Mantova, Modena and Ferrara. In 1553 he published a collection of essays: Citta' felice, Dialogo dell'Honore, Il Bargnani, Discorso sulla diversita' dei furori poetici and Lettere sopra un sonetto di Petrarca. Two years later, perhaps following the example of Nicolo' Machiavelli (1469-1527), he addressed a completely different problem in his Milizia Romana di Polibio, di Tito Livio e di Dionigi di Alicarnasso.

While the work of Patrizi embraces literature, art, criticism, history, science, military science, and philosophy, he was also a poet, albeit an unsuccessful one. He tried to be innovative and in 1558 published Eridano, written in heroic verses of thirteen syllables. In 1560 appeared his ten dialogues, On History, followed in 1562 by an additional ten dialogues, On Rhetoric

In 1571 he was in Cyprus when the island fell to the assault of the Turks. He worked there as the supervisor of the estates of Count Contarini-Zaffo and the Cyprus archbishop F. Mocenigo. Petrić also worked on melioration projects. He traveled to Spain and sold a collection of seventy-five Greek philosophical, theological, scientific and musical codexes he had brought from Cyprus to the Spanish king Philip II for his Escorial library (twenty-seven survived, the rest were destroyed in a fire in 1671). 

In 1578 he was called to the University of Ferrara where he taught Plato's philosophy. He took up hydraulic works and presented a study for separating the waters of the Rhine from those of the Po. During the same time he enriched the study of music theory; Zenatti recognized him in his work Francesco Patrizi, Horace, Ariosto, and Torquato Tasso where, in respect to Greek music, he said that Patrizi wrote "better than Galileo, Gaffuri, or Valgurio".

During his stay in Padua, Patrizi became a member of the Dalmatian Students Club, and its senator for two terms.(4). He was also a member of the "Congregation of St. Jerome" as well as a member of many academies, Accademia della Crusca among others. In 1581, he published Discussini peripatetiche, then in 1585 An Opinion in Defense of Ludovico Ariosto, and the following year he returned to poetry, publishing Della Poetica - La Deca historiale and Della Poetica - La Deca disputata.

Statue of Patrizi in the town of Cres (Cherso).

He explored all of the paths of knowledge, eager to examine the ones less well known. He sought to reform philosophy and mathematics, poetry and history, botany, physics, and the art of war. He made important contributions to the study of natural phenomena and he was credited with having made his observations with a penetrating originality. He is considered an innovator in the study of light, in the ebb and flow of water, in the theory of the movement of the earth, and in the research of the reproductive systems of plants. 

His most significant philosophical work, Nova de Universis Philosophia (1591) was written to combat Aristotelianism and scholasticism and to affirm Platonism in all its fullness. When it was published, Nova was hailed as the work of a genius but was condemned by the Church. This work, with its grandiose architecture, tormented and idiosyncratic, is divided into four parts: Panaugia (Of Light), Panarchia (Of the Beginning of Matter), Pampsychia (Of the Soul), and Pancosmia (Of the World). 

In 1592, he was invited to Rome by Cardinal Aldobrandini (who later became Pope Clement VIII) to assume the chair of philosophy at La Sapienza. Two years later he published another of his mportant works, the Military Parallels (1594). 

Francesco died in Rome on February 7 (or 6?), 1597 and was buried in the church of Sant'Onofrio in the same tomb as Torquato Tasso. 


  1. A. Solerti, Autobiografia dell Patrizi, in: Archivio storico per Trieste, l'Istria e il Trentino, vol. III, fasc. 3-4, 1886.
  2. On various opinions about the issue of Petrić's origin, birthplace and forms of his last name, see the first comprehensive historical bio-bibliographic study: Vladimir Premec, Franciskus Patricijus, Beograd 1968. Petrić's claim about his royal origins has not been verified.
  3. Petrić, furthermore, had been considering to write a biography of Ficino, as he remarked in a letter to B. Valori, written in Rome in 1595, but had to abandon the idea because of other commitments; see Francesco Patrizi da Cherso, Lettere ed opusculi inediti, critical edition by Danilo Aguzzi Barbagli, Firenze 1975.
  4. N. C. Papadopoli, Hystoria gymnasii patavini, Venetiis 1726, vols. I, II.



  • Artis historiae penus. Octodecim scriptorum tam veterim quam recentiorum monumentis. Basileae, Ex officinia Petri Paterna, 1579.
  • Della Historia dieci dialoghi.  Venetia:  Appresso Andrea Arrivabene. 1560.  [Reprinted in Theoretiker humanistischer Geschichtsschreibung. Nachdr. exemplar. Texte aus d. 16 Jh. Kessler, Eckhard, comp. München, Fink, 1971.]
    De historia dialogi X. Con Artis historicae penus. Basel. 1579.
  • De rerum natura libri ii. priores. Aliter de spacio physico;aliter de spacio mathematico.  Ferrara:  Victorius Baldinus 1587.
  • De spacio physico et mathematico. Ed. Helene Vedrine.  Paris: Libr. philosophique J. Vrin, 1996.
  • Discussionum Peripateticarum tomi iv, quibus Aristotelicae philosophiae universa Historia atque Dogmata cum Veterum Placitis collata, eleganter et erudite declarantur. Basileae. 1581
  • Nova de Universis philosophia. (Ad calcem adiecta sunt Zoroastri oracula cccxx. ex Platonicis collecta, etc. Ferrara. 1591, Venice 1593.
  • Apologia ad censuram (Obrana pred cenzurom , u rukopisu). [No details]


  • L'amorosa filosofia. Firenze, F.Le Monnier, 1963.
  • Della historia dieci dialogi. Venice. 1560.
  • Della nvova geometria di Franc. Patrici libri XV. Ne' quali con mirabile ordine, e con dimostrazioni à marauiglia più facili, e più forti delle usate si vede che la matematiche per uia regia, e più piana che da gli antichi fatto n? si è, si possono trattare ...  Ferrara, Vittorio Baldini 1587 [bound in the same vol. Quattro Libri Geometrici di Silvio Belli Vencntino!. Venice. 1595.] 
  • Della poetica. ed. critica a cura di D. A. Barbali. Bologna, Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento, vol. 1-3 1969-1971.
  • Della deca disputata. Ferrara. 1586
  • Della deca istoriale. Ferrara. 1586.
  • Della retorica dieci dialoghi... nelli quali si favella dell'arte oratoria con ragioni repugnanti all'opinione, che intorno a quella hebbero gli antichi scrittori. Venetia: Appresso Francesco Senese, 1562.
  • Difesa di Francesco Patrizi; dalle cento accuse dategli dal signor Iacopo Mazzoni. [in Discorso intorno all Risposta dal. sig. F. Patricio] Ferrara. 1587
  • La Città felice. Venice : Griffio, 1553.
1553. In Utopisti e Riformatori sociali del cinquecento. Bologna. N. Zanichelli. 1941.

Sretan grad = The happy town, transl. Andrija Mutnjakovic. Zagreb : A. Mutnjakovic, 1993. Text in Croatian and English; text of 1553 original in Croatian and Italian; facsimile of original text in Italian.

  • L'Eridano. In nuovo verso heroico...Con i sostentamenti del detto verso. Ferrara. Appresso Francesco de Rossi da Valenza 1557.
  • Parere del s. Francesco Patrici, in difesa di Lodovico Ariosto. All'Illustr. Sig. Giovanni Bardi di Vernio, Ferrara 1583.
  • Risposta di Francesco Patrizi; a due opposizioni fattegli dal sign. Giacopo Mazzoni [in Della difesa della Comedia di Dante] Ferrara. Vitt. Baldini 1587


  • Le rime di messer Luca Contile...con discussioni e argomenti di M. Francesco Patritio. Venezia. F. Sansovino 1560.
  • Al molto magico et magnanimo m. Giacomo Ragazzoni. In Giacomo Ragazzoni. Della Mercatura. Venice. 1573. In Chronica Magni Arueoli Cassiodori senatoris atque Patricii prefatio. Sta in Speisshaimer, Iohan. Ioannis Consulibus. Basel 1553.
  • La negazione delle sfere d l'astrobiologia di Francesco Patrizi. In Rossi, Paolo. Immagini delle scienze. Roma. 1977


  • La militia Romana di Polibio, di Tito Linio, e di Dionigi Alicarnaseo. Ferrara. 1583.
  • Paralleli millitari. Roma. 1594,95
  • Zoroaster et eius CCCXX oracula Chaldaica, eius opera e tenebris eruta et Latine reddita.  Ferrara.  Ex Typographia Benedicti Mammarelli.  1591. 
  • Magia philosophica hoc est F. Patricij Zoroaster et eius 320 oracula Chaldaica. Asclepii dialogus, et philosophia magna: Hermetis Trismegisti. Iam lat. reddita. Hamburg. 1593


  • Le imprese illustri con espositioni, et discorsi del sor. Ieromimo Ruscelli. Con la giunta di altre imprese: tutto riordinato et corretto da Franco. Patritio. In Venetia: Appresso Comin da Trino di Monferrato, 1572


  • Della nuova geometria libri XV... Ferrara, Vittorio Baldini, 1587
4to (195 x 145 mm), pp [viii] 227 [5, including blank leaf F3], with woodcut printer's device on title, woodcut device of an obelisk on colophon, and several woodcut diagrams in text; small portion of blank margin of title repaired, at one time resewn and recased in old vellum (possibly its original binding but impossible to determine). £5000

First edition of this highly original work on the foundations of geometry and the concept of space, and considered by Sommerville a precursor of non-Euclidean geometry.

'Patrizi's importance in the history of science rests primarily on his highly original views concerning the nature of space, which have striking similarities to those later developed by Henry More and Isaac Newton... Rejecting the Aristotelian doctrines of horror vacui and determinate "place", Patrizi argued that the physical existence of a void is possible and that space is a necessary precondition to all that exists in it. Space, for Patrizi, was "merely the simple capacity (aptitudo) for receiving bodies, and nothing else." It was no longer a category, as it was for Aristotle, but an indeterminate receptacle of infinite extent. His distinction between "mathematical" and "physical" space points the way toward later philosophical and scientific theories.

'The primacy of space (spazio) in Patrizi's system is seen in his Della nuova geometria... In it, Patrizi attempted to found a system of geometry in which space was a fundamental, undefined concept that entered into the basic definitions (point, line, angle) of the system. The full impact of Patrizi's works on later thought has yet to be evaluated.' (DSB).

Riccardi I 254; Sommerville p 3; NUC: CU MoSU NcU; OCLC adds University of Chicago



  • Frane Petrić by Ljerka Schiffler -
  • W. P. Watson Antiquarian Books -
  • Francesco Patrizi Bibliografia -

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Created: Sunday, May 25, 2003, Updated Tuesday, November 06, 2012
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