Marcus Aurelius played an important role in the Roman Empire. A Stoic philosopher, Marcus was part of the Five Good Emperors and the last emperor of the Pax Romana—a 200-year-long period of relative peace in the Roman Empire. Also a writer, his work Meditations is regarded by many as one of the greatest works of philosophy.
Dante Alighieri was an Italian writer, poet, and philosopher. His work Divine Comedy is widely regarded as the greatest literary work ever produced in the Italian language and the most prominent poem of the Middle Ages. Often referred to as the father of the Italian language, Dante Alighieri played a crucial role in establishing the Italian literature.
Italian novelist Umberto Eco is best remembered for his novels The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum. He also taught at the University of Bologna and had released quite a few children’s books and translations. He was also known for his work on semiotics and medieval studies.
Antonio Gramsci was an Italian politician, journalist, philosopher, linguist, and writer. A founding member of the Communist Party of Italy, Gramsci went on to serve as the leader of the party before he was arrested by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime. Since his death, Antonio Gramsci has been the subject of several plays and films.
Giordano Bruno was an Italian philosopher, friar, mathematician, cosmological theorist, poet, and Hermetic occultist. Best remembered for his cosmological theories, Bruno insisted that the universe could have no center as it is infinite. In 2004, Herbert Steffen founded the Giordano Bruno Foundation in Bruno's honor.
Owing to his quality classical education, Anselm of Canterbury became one of the finest Latinists of his time. As Archbishop of Canterbury, he resisted the English kings and was exiled. He is now remembered as a significant figure in the Investiture Controversy, which pitted the king against the pope.
Julius Evola was an Italian poet, philosopher, painter, esotericist, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, and occultist. Evola is extremely popular in fringe circles due to his supernatural, magical, and metaphysical beliefs. Due to his traditionalist views on gender, which advocated a purely patriarchal society, Evola is regarded as one of Italy’s most influential fascist racists of all time.
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius was a Roman senator, consul, and philosopher of the early 6th century. He worked under the Ostrogothic King Theodoric the Great, who later imprisoned and killed him. In jail, Boethius wrote his Consolation of Philosophy, which is considered a seminal treatise on death, fortune, and other issues. He also translated the works of Plato and Aristotle.
A qualified civil engineer, Vilfredo Pareto had initially worked for the railways and the ironworks. However, he gradually deviated to philosophy, sociology, and politics and gained fame for his application of math to economic issues and his introduction of Pareto efficiency. Mind and Society remains his best-known work.
Cesare Beccaria was an 18th-century Italian criminologist, philosopher, jurist, and politician. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment. He is still remembered for his treatise On Crimes and Punishments (1764), a pioneering work in the field of penology. He is considered the father of modern criminal law.
Bonaventure was an Italian philosopher, scholastic theologian, and Franciscan. A prominent philosopher, Bonaventure wrote on various subjects and his writings are considered substantial. Bonaventure, who served as the Cardinal Bishop of Albano, was canonized by Pope Sixtus IV on 14 April 1482.
Giacomo Leopardi was one of the greatest lyric poets of the 19th century. Born into a noble family, he mastered several languages and wrote many works by 16, in spite of suffering from a cerebrospinal ailment. Remembered for his iconic works such as A Silvia, he died during a cholera epidemic.
Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico is regarded as a pioneer of what is now known as cultural anthropology, or ethnology. He brought together history and the social sciences in his work Scienza nuova. A poor bookseller’s son, he studied by candlelight but grew up to be a major Counter-Enlightenment figure.
Italian philosopher Antonio Negri has donned many hats, from teaching law at the University of Padua to being part of the Italian parliament. An Autonomism leader, he was accused of being part of the left-wing militant organization Red Brigades and later fled to Paris. Empire is one of his best works.
Italian mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi, daughter of an affluent silk trader, was well-versed in a number of languages as a child. Most of her work was regarding algebra, calculus, and the Witch of Agnesi. She was also the first female academic to write a math book and to teach math.
Nicholas of Cusa was a German mathematician, astronomer, jurist, theologian, and philosopher. One of the first supporters of Renaissance humanism in Germany, Nicholas of Cusa made significant political and spiritual contributions in European history. He is remembered for his efforts to reform the universal and Roman Church.
Daniele Bolelli is an Italian writer, academic, martial artist, and podcaster. Born into a family of writers, he studied history at CSULB and Cardiff University before embarking on an academic career. He is known for taking a "renaissance man approach” as a lecturer. He is the author of several books on philosophy and martial arts.
Tommaso Campanella was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, astrologer, and poet. His heterodox views often brought him into conflict with the authorities, and he was imprisoned for several years. In prison, he wrote The City of the Sun, a utopia describing an egalitarian theocratic society. He also defended astronomer Galileo Galilei in his first trial.
Known as one of the EU’s founding fathers, Italian politician Altiero Spinelli was a communist who had spent 16 years in confinement for opposing fascist powers. While in prison, he co-wrote the Ventotene Manifesto. He later represented Central Italy in the European Parliament and was part of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
Thomist school theologian and philosopher Thomas Cajetan began his spiritual career with the Dominican order. Initially a professor of metaphysics, he criticized Scotism. He is best remembered for his commentary on St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica. He also penned critical works and commentaries on Aristotle and others.
Euhemerus was a Greek mythographer who served at the court of the Macedonian king, Cassander. Euhemerus is renowned for his efforts to rationalize mythology in historical terms and commonize mythological characters as historical personages. This historical interpretation of mythology came to be known as Euhemerism, although many people before Euhemerus have made attempts to rationalize mythology in historical terms.
Gian-Carlo Rota went down in history as the first and the only professor of applied mathematics and philosophy at MIT. His illustrious scientific career revolved around research on subjects such as combinatorics, probability, and functional analysis. He had also led the American Mathematical Society as its vice president.
Legal and political philosopher Norberto Bobbio was initially part of the liberal socialist Partito d'Azione but later left politics to focus on academics. He later taught at various institutes and eventually chaired the faculty of political science at Turin. He also won honors such as the Balzan Prize.
Augustinian philosopher and theologian Giles of Rome, known to be a disciple of St. Thomas Aquinas, was a major figure of St. Augustine’s Order of the Hermit Friars. Named Doctor Fundatissimus, which is Latin for the Best-Grounded Teacher, by Pope Benedict XIV, he is also remembered for his commentaries on Aristotle’s Organon.
Ferdinando Galiani had initially been trained to enter church services but later deviated to economics. He is best remembered for his work on value theory. A major figure of the Enlightenment, the economist and diplomat wrote in both Italian and French. His notable works include Della moneta.
Author of numerous literary, historical, and economic works, Pietro Verri was a leader of Milanese academy and moving force behind Società dei Pugni. Also a distinguished public administrator and political economist employed with the Milanese government, he has been credited with abolition of tax farming. Some of his important works are Riflessioni sulle leggi vincolanti and Meditazioni sull’ economia politica.