De viris illustribus is an unfinished collection of biographies, written in Latin, by the 14th century Italian author Francesco Petrarca. These biographies are a set of Lives similar in idea to Plutarchs Parallel Lives, 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 day, April 8,1341, one being from the Paris University. It is composed of two books, Liber I includes 24 to 36 moral biographies of heroes of Greek and Roman antiquity, Liber II includes 12 moral biographies of Biblical and mythical figures. There is as yet no English translation, however Harvard University has it under contract to appear in the I Tatti Renaissance Library sometime in the future and these are 36 biographies of Petrarchs subjects starting with Romulus, the mythological founder of Rome, and going through Trajan. All of these are mentioned in Petrarchs epic poem Africa and he revised the list many times over the years in different plans. Some Illustrious Romans ended with Titus, another plan of Illustrious Romans added Julius Caesar as the twenty-fourth biography. Listed among these are Titus, Pompey, Scipio Africanus and Julius Caesar and these are the subjects of Petrarchs 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. The Africa was conceived as a parallel of De Viris Illustribus. Petrarch conceived his first plan for De viris illustribus of biographies of men of Jewish, oriental, Greek. He wrote up his list of Illustrious Men from Adam to Hercules, Petrarchs earliest reference to writing a series of biographies of Lives can be found in the third book of his work Secretum which was originally written up around 1337. St. Augustine speaks to Petrarch Petrarch went from these Lives of Illustrious Men into his work on the Africa using the research of De viris illustribus as the bases. Petrarch was preoccupied with this idea of a series of biographies of Lives of ancient heroes of generals, there were several plans of De viris illustribus. In 1348-49 Petrarch made a version of Lives. This is known to scholars as an all-ages plan, Petrarch added the bio of Julius Caesar, De gestis Cesaris, later as the twenty-fourth and last character of the Roman version finished about 1364 as an afterthought to his original Famous Men. He wanted to depict events that were controlled by the Roman leaders and he wanted to be a critical historian and convey these illustrious men in dignity. For these reasons he is considered the first historian of the Renaissance, Petrarch worked on various plans and versions of De viris illustribus
De viris illustribus, 1476
1476 table of contents of Petrarch's Illustrious Romans, beginning with Romulus and ending with Trajan.