Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) directed the Platonic Academy in Florence, and it was the work of this Academy that gave the Renaissance in the 15th century its impulse and direction. During his childhood Ficino was selected by Cosimo de' Medici for an education in the humanities. Later Cosimo directed him to learn Greek and then to translate all the works of Plato into Latin. This enormous task he completed in about five years. He then wrote two important books, The Platonic Theology and The Christian Religion , showing how the Christian religion and Platonic philosophy were proclaiming the same message. The extraordinary influence the Platonic Academy came to exercise over the age arose from the fact that its leading spirits were already seeking fresh inspiration from the ideals of the civilizations of Greece and Rome and especially from the literary and philosophical sources of those ideals. Florence was the cultural and artistic centre of Europe at the time and leading men in so many fields were drawn to the Academy: Lorenzo de'Medici (Florence's ruler), Alberti (the architect) and Poliziano (the poet). Moreover Ficino bound together an enormous circle of correspondents throughout Europe, from the Pope in Rome to John Colet in London, from Reuchlin in Germany to de Ganay in France. Published during his lifetime, The Letters have not previously been translated into English. The sixth volume is set against the backdrop of war between the Italian states in the period 1481-84. The disruption and suffering caused by these wars is reflected in some of the letters, which contain some of Ficino's finest writing.