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De viris illustribus ("On Illustrious Men") is an unfinished collection of short biographies, written in Latin, by the 14th century Italianmarker author Francesco Petrarca. The works were unfinished however he was famous enough for these and other works to receive two invitations to be crowned poet laureate. He received these invitations on exactly the same day, April 8, 1341, one being from the Paris University and the other from the Roman Senate. He accepted the Roman invitation. Jerome also has a listing On Illustrious Men.

It is composed of two books:

  • Liber II includes 12 moral biographies of Biblical and mythical figures (much like that found in Hebrew Bible, Greek mythology, Islamic prophets).

There is as yet no English translation, however Harvard Universitymarker has it under contract to appear in the I Tatti Renaissance Library sometime in 2007.

Liber I

These are the subjects of Petrarch's 24 biographies starting with Romulus, the mythological founder of Romemarker. Most of these are mentioned in Petrarch's epic poem Africa, for which he received the crown of poet laureate in 1341. Petrarch was the first to be given this title in about 1000 years from the time of Theodosius I.

Subjects of De Viris Illustribus appearing in Africa Subjects of De Viris Illustribus - Page references in Africa
Romulus 19, 20, 80, 116, 144, 232, 253, 270
Numa Pompilius 244
Tullus Hostilius 245
Ancus Marcius 245
Lucius Junius Brutus 66, 67, 68, 254, 269
Horatius Cocles 214, 269
Cincinnatus 253
Marcus Furius Camillus 213, 246, 247, 259
Titus Manlius Torquatus 248
Marcus Valerius Corvus 253
Publius Decius Mus 253
Lucius Papirius Cursor 253
Curius Dentatus 253
Gaius Fabricius Luscinus 253, 270
Alexander III of Macedon 27, 185, 187, 252, 266, 267, 271
Pyrrhus of Epirus 152, 185, 190, 253, 264
Hannibal of Carthage 123-129, 131-134, 142-145, 149-154
Fabius Maximus Cunctator 14, 15, 144, 217, 244, 255, 263
Marcus Claudius Marcellus 14, 130, 147, 244, 253, 261
Gaius Claudius Nero 200-204, 246, 260, 268
Marcus Livius Salinator 135
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus 134-138, 163-164, 182, 189, 204
Cato the Elder 28, 59, 246, 253
Scipio Aemilianus Africanus 204, 246, 249, 269

Liber II

These are the subjects of Petrarch's 12 biographies starting with the first person of the Bible. Petrarch influenced Giovanni Boccaccio Lives On Famous Women of 106 biographies which starts with the first woman of the Bible. Below is the first person of the Bible and above in Liber I is the first mythical figures that started Rome.


  1. Petrarch's Africa translated in English by T.G. Bergin and A.S. Wilson 1977; New Haven and London, Yale University Press; ISBN 0-300-02062-7


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