Leonardo Bruni’s Dialogi ad Petrum Paulum Histrum has long been studied as a manifesto of the humanist divergence from medieval culture. This article reconsiders the role of Bruni’s Dialogi in the development of Italian humanism and especially in the development of the humanists’ awareness of their cultural identity as a group. The essay argues that Bruni’s principal aim was not to distance himself from previous traditions, but rather to mark a distinction between two concurrent conceptions of humanism that prevailed in his own time. Through the Dialogi, Bruni criticizes Niccolò Niccoli’s cultural extremism and advances a moderate ideal of humanism that seeks to revise and incorporate nonhumanist traditions instead of rejecting them outright. In doing so, Bruni also intends to shield his ideal of humanism from the attack of the traditionalist sector of Renaissance culture.

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