If solitude can be conceived as having a history, Francesco Petrarca can be said to have experienced this state in a way no thinker had done before him. In classical and late antiquity, it was a commonplace that the wise man (and he was always a man) was never less alone than when alone. Because the wise man reads books and perhaps corresponds with other writers of his day, he feels himself to be in the company of those whose works he is studying. In the Renaissance, however, the humanist feels alienated from the time period in which he is living, and he reads to place himself mentally in a time period where he will not feel so alienated. It is in this spirit that Petrarch writes his letters to Cicero and other classical authors, expressing his longing to live in the time of these kindred spirits. For Friedrich Nietzsche, it is precisely because someone like Petrarch felt himself to be so ill at ease in his own era that he was able to transform that era, reviving a culture with which he felt greater affinity. With Nietzsche, the philosopher has become the untimely man, defined by his solitude.

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