Renaissance began in Florence in the early 15th century. During this period, Florence was an independent city-state with its government. Florence state was strategically located and ideal for trade, easily accessible by sea or land. In this paper, I examine six main reasons which prompted the beginning of a renaissance in Florence with focus on the following aspects: political factors, patronage, commercial prosperity, the city-state and urban development, Italy's association with classical development, and the Italian genius. In conclusion, I highlight the main reasons why renaissance started in Florence.
The state of Florence had an independent republican government with a constitution that limited the power of the nobility and the common laborers. In that constitution, no one could dominate the political control of the state. As a result, Florence was the ideal city-state. A place where the rights and freedoms of the citizens were highly upheld. Many citizens of the state of Florence freely participated in the running and control of the government.
The rights and freedom of the Florentine citizens enabled them to free labor and accumulate wealth (L. Martines. et al. 96). The free form of government enhanced trade in the state and outside with the neighboring states. The political security provided an ample atmosphere where business could thrive. Moreover, the political stability of the state of Florence guaranteed the security of the investments in various businesses within the state.
The government of the Florentine state respected the rights and freedom of its people, a condition which gave the citizens the upper hand in the developmental matters. The people had the voice in the way the government operates. There was freedom of choice whereby, the citizens had the right to elect the leader who was suitable for them. The leader selected in this process was, therefore, result oriented, striving to please the people who elected him into power. As a result, there was much development in the various sectors of the government. The economy of the Florentine state rose steadily over the years, kindled by the radical freedom which reined in that time.
Furthermore, the state of Florence had an adequate political peace and tranquility unlike its neighboring Duchy of Milan. In the 1400s, however, the state of Florence had a political turmoil with the Duke of Milan, a struggle which threatened the respect and liberty of the Florentine citizens. Luckily for the state of Florence, in the year 1402, the Duke of Milan died of plague thereby, giving freedom to the citizens of the state of Florence to continue with their normal work.
Political victories by the state of Florence also contributed significantly to the renaissance in Florence state. Between the years 1408 and 1414, the King of Naples threatened the political peace of the Florentine state. However, the King of Naples died shortly after declaring war with Florence. Hence, the Florentine state remained stable and undisturbed. In 1423, the son of the Duke of Milan launched another military attack against the state of Florence. The war was a very significant threat to the healthy development, liberty, and respect for the people of Florence. Again, the Florentine state was fortunate to win that battle in 1425. According to the citizens of Florence, these military victories were as a result of Gods favor and protection to the state of Florence.
The patriotism of the citizens of Florence also contributed to the Renaissance. The citizens of Florence loved their state so much. They were very proud to have such a supportive form of government. In the 15th century, the Florentine government was formed and ruled by the people of Florence. Therefore, the Florentine state was run with respect for the people's opinions, views, and interests. During that time, individualism thrived among the citizens of Florence.
Florence and the Medici Patronage
The Medici family controlled Florence for the most of the Renaissance. He contributed a lot to the patronage for the political development and the arts in the Florence city. Giovani de Medici was a banker to the papal court. He established his headquarters in Florence in the year 1397. He was a very influential, rich man. During this time, he controlled most of Florence, holding almost all the political offices in Florence. Medici passed on in 1429, leaving behind an incredible legacy of patronage for the arts in Florence, a great fortune and an equally influential son called Cosimo de Medici. His son Cosimo was a well-educated man in the principles of humanism. After the death of his father, Cosimo took over the family banking business at his forty. It was a successful business which enabled him to establish commercial connections with other enterprises in entire Europe.
By 1434, Cosimo de Medici had successfully gained political dominance in Florence. He maintained the art of democracy. Despite hanging onto the position of a private citizen, it was obvious in all the city that Cosimo ruled Florence state from behind the scenes. Cosimo too supported the arts generously as his father did. He commissioned the construction of great cathedrals and contracted the finest artist of that time to decorate them. He funded education in the Florentine state and started the Platonic Academy for the study of the ancient artworks. Despite the unprecedented fortune succeeded by Cosimo from his father of only 180,000 gold florins, Cosimo spent more than 600,000 gold florins in funding the scholarly learning, architecture and other types of artworks. He died in 1464.
After the death of Cosimo in 1464, his son Piero took over the power and ruled the city for the next five years. He was later succeeded by his son Lorenzo de Medici who was also known as II Magnifico. He lived a more elegant lifestyle than his grandfather Cosimo and enjoyed a great deal of power (L. Martines. et al. 54).
During the regime of Lorenzo, the economy of Florence increased immensely. There was a greater feeling of protection than never before, especially by the lower class citizens. In his period, Lorenzo made Florence the most magnificent city all over Europe. The commerce increased, and the arts flourished. However, Lorenzo did all these great works at the expense of the family business which consequently collapsed. The family of Medici was therefore forced to flee from Florence two years after Lorenzo passed on.
Commercial Prosperity of Florence
Northern Italy was greatly favored by trade. Major developments occurred as a result of trade with the other European states which spurred great prosperity in the northern states of Italy. Florence was the richest state among all of them due to its woolen textile production established and properly managed by its dominant trade guild, the Arte della Lana. During that time, wool was purchased from northern Europe and later from Spain in the 16th century (F.W. Kent. 28). Together with the dyes from the east, they were used to manufacture textile of extremely high quality in Florence state. Florence was by then, the center of the whole financial industry, gold florin being used as the main currency for the international trade. Luxury goods such as silks, spices, and dyes were purchased from the Levant and imported into Italy before reselling to the other parts of Europe. The major Italian trade routes covered the Mediterranean and beyond served as the major highways for the rich culture and knowledge.
The City and Urban Development
The transformation of the medieval town of Florence into an independent city-state brought about a chain of activities which led to a renaissance. The following are the development chain which happened as a result of turning the town of Florence into a city-state.
First, the government of Florence city-state made a considerable investment in the built-up environment to develop a sense of civic and awe. The Medici family established an incredibly big bank in the Florence state making Florence the financial backbone for both the Florentine citizens as well as their neighboring states. The merchants in the Florentine state also commissioned properties of very great value in the Florentine state to express their wealth and influence in the society. The holy orders, in turn, constructed imposing churches and huge cathedrals to extend their influence.
The urban planning and architecture of the Florentine state offered a very significant path to both economic and political power. The development of Florence from a medieval town into a city-state played a very significant role in the renaissance.
Italy's Association with the Classical Development
The renaissance began in the 15th century in Florentine state when Italy was divided into the independent city-states each with the self-regulating economy. The city-states included Florence. Venice, Milan, and others. Some of these city-states were ruled by the republics and others, des[pots. However, generally. The division and independence of the various cities in Italy became the primary reason which fueled renaissance. Florence was under a republic leadership which set its people free and encouraged rapid development. The merchants commissioned great wealth influence. In addition to that, the Medici family also came up and established a great bank in Florence. The republic government of Florence fueled great economic growth and development. As a result, Florence became the beginning point of a renaissance in Italy.
The Italian Geniuses
Italy was blessed with many geniuses who greatly contributed to renaissance. The Medici family generously invested in these geniuses who later on came to make a very significant contribution to the renaissance (F.W. Kent. 77). The following people were of great importance.
Michelangelo was a great painter whose magnificent works still stand today at the major cathedrals in Italy. Another influential genius was Dante Alighieri. He was a statesman, political theorist. Language theorist and a major poet of the Italian contributed to the beginning of Renaissance. Dantes divine comedy is considered a powerful literary work in the Italian language.
Another influential genius was Francesco Petrarca, an Italian humanist, and poet of the Renaissance. He discovered Cicero's letters which are claimed to be the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy. He is a founder of the modern Italian language. He created a traditional model for the lyrical poetry.
Giovanni Boccaccio was yet another Italian influential humanist, writer, and a great poet. His work called The Decameron is a masterpiece of Italian and world prose. Leonardo da Vinci was a great renaissance man. He succeeded in numerous areas of both art and science such as geology, astronomy, science, music, painting, anatomy, botany, history, writing, engineering, sculpting, literature, and mathematics. His mural painting, The Last Supper, is famous worldwide.
Niccolo Machiavelli is yet another notable Italian genius. He was a philosopher, politician, a writer, historian and a diplomat. He became a senior official in the Republic of Florence. He wrote a very comprehensive historical account of Florence. Machiavellianism term is widely used to refer to the unscrupulous political leaders of the sort. His famous treatise, The Prince, is the foundation of the modern political science.
Brown, The Renaissance, Seminar Studies In History (Addison Wesley Longman,1988).
F.W. Kent And P. Simons, Patronage, Art And Society In Renaissance Italy (Oxford Universty Press, 1987).
L. Martines, Power, And Imagination: City-States In Renaissance Italy (Knopf,1979).
P. Burke, The Renaissance, Studies In The European History (Macmillan,1987).
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