The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library

De triplici vita, 1496

Illuminated initial

Marsilio Ficino—physician, priest, astrologer, and great humanist—was one of the prime figures who shaped the ethos of Renaissance. De triplici vita or De vita libri tres (Three books of life), one of the most influential medical astrology books of the late 15th century, dispenses advice for living a long and productive life and also elucidates his Neoplatonic ideas, which were hybrid of Platonic doctrine, eastern mysticism, and Christianity. Unlike others who saw astrology as a threat to Christianity (by assuming an ability to predict what God decides), Ficino managed to integrate various interests and philosophies, writing about and composing music, Pythagorean geometry and associated mysticism, and astrology. De vita libri tres comprises three books. The first, De vita sana ("On Healthy Life") provides health advice—including diet—for aspiring scholars, within an astrological context. The second book, De vita longa ("On Long Life"), similarly presents medical advice but geared to the elderly. The third book, De vita coelitus comparanda ("On Obtaining Life from the Heavens") offers the most substantive astrological discussion, including the controversial idea that celestial influences could animate objects. For this discussion, Ficino drew on Neoplatonic and Hermetic writings, the latter concerning the occult philosophy of Hermes Trismegistus, an ideologue of alchemical theory. The single page shown here with its elegant type and colored historiated letter "B" attests to the value accorded to this polymath philosopher.