FILELFO, FRANCESCO or PHILELPHUS (1398 1481), Italian humanist, was born on July 25, 1398, at Tolentino, in the March of Ancona. He studied at Padua and in 1417 was invited to teach eloquence and moral philosophy at Venice. In 1419 he became secretary to the Venetian consul-general (baylo) in Constantinople. This appointment gave him the opportunity of acquiring the Greek language and of collecting Greek mss. He studied under John Chrysoloras, whose daughter he married, and on whose recommendation he was employed in several diplo matic missions by the emperor John Palaeologus. In 1427 he returned to Venice, to find that the city had almost been emptied by the plague, and that his scholars would be few. He removed to Bologna, and then to Florence. There he lectured to large audiences of young and old on the principal Greek and Latin authors, and on Sundays he explained Dante to the people in the Duomo. He also translated portions of Aristotle, Plutarch, Xeno phon and Lysias from the Greek. His temper was arrogant, and when Cosimo de' Medici was exiled by the Albizzi party in he urged the signoria of Florence to pronounce upon him the sentence of death. On Cosimo's return to Florence, Filelfo's position in that city was no longer tenable, and he moved to Siena, and finally (144o) to Milan, where he found a patron in the duke, Filippo Maria Visconti.
On the death of Visconti, Filelfo, after a short hesitation, transferred his allegiance to Francesco Sforza, the new duke of Milan ; and in order to curry favour with this parvenu, he began his ponderous epic, the Sforziad, of which 12,800 lines were written, but which was never published. When Francesco Sforza died, Filelfo turned his thoughts towards Rome. He was now an old man of 77, recognized as the greatest of Italian human ists. He reached Rome in 1475, but within a year fell into disgrace with pope Sixtus IV., and returned to Milan. Lorenzo de' Medici invited him to teach Greek at Florence. He died two weeks after his arrival, on July 31, 1481.
Filelfo deserves commemoration among the greatest humanists of the Italian Renaissance, for his energy and untiring activity. He had a large share in amassing and cataloguing the fragments rescued from the wrecks of Greece and Rome. In the work of collection and instruction Filelfo excelled, passing rapidly from place to place, stirring up the zeal for learning by the passion of his own enthusiastic temperament, and acting as a pioneer for men like Poliziano and Erasmus.
See Carlo de' Rosmini, Vita di Filelfo (3 vols., Milan, 1808) ; Benaducci, Contributo alla biographia di Francesco Filelfo (1902) J. A. Symonds, Renaissance in Italy (1877). A complete edition of Filelfo's Greek letters (based on the Codex Trevulzianus) was pub lished for the first time, with French translation, notes and com mentaries, by E. Legrand in 1892 at Paris (C. xii. of Publications de l'ecole des Zang. orient.) . For further references, especially to mono graphs, etc., on Filelfo's life and work, see Ulysse Chevalier, Repertoire des sources hist., bio-bibliographie (19os), s.v. Philelphe, Francois.