Renaissance Student
Revision Lecture
Section A:
The City-States of the Italian
the Concept of the Renaissance,
Art and Patronage
Section B:
Florence Politics
presented by
Robyn Westwood, Centre for Adult Education,
The Exam: Friday 15th Nov. 2013
The exam is 2 hours long with 4 sections:
 Section A: City-states, Historians’ Views on the concept of the
Renaissance, Humanism, Art and Patronage
 Section B: Florence – Political structures
 Section C: Florence or Venice Social Life
 Section D: The Myth of Venice
 You should aim to spend 30 minutes on each section. Practise your timing in
your preparation for the exam. Write practice answers under strict time
 Do not use excess time on one question if that time should be devoted to
another question unless you have answered all sections and have time
remaining to go back to unfinished sections.
The Study Design: Section A
 The different types of city-states, their diverse physical, political and economic
 The wealth of the newly formed city-states resulted from trade and industry
 Interaction between city-states; exchange of goods and ideas
 The term ‘Renaissance’ is linked with the revival of classical learning; the rebirth of
many of the ideas and values of classical Greece and Rome; the application of these
ideas by the elitist groups to many facets of urban life
 To investigate the concept of the Renaissance and its impact on the visual arts,
humanism and education
 Cultural and artistic changes which developed across the Italian peninsula in
predominantly urban centres were closely linked to the financial success and the
political character of these communities
 The role of patronage, such as leading families, the Church, the State and corporations
like guilds and private patrons such as the Medici, on individual artists, architects and
humanists, contributing to the flowering of Renaissance culture.
The Study Design: Section A
Key knowledge:
 Knowledge and understanding of the growth and development of city-states in
the 14th and 15th centuries: geography and topography and how these
influenced economic, political and social structures
 Different types of city-states and how they interacted economically, politically
and culturally
 The economic background of Renaissance Italy: trade, industry, products,
banking and commercial centres
 The concept of the Renaissance
 the growth and importance of humanist studies
 Changes and developments in the Renaissance art … in the development of
Renaissance culture
Section A
In this section you will have 2 questions to answer and both must be answered.
The examiners have 5 sections from which to choose to base these 2 questions:
Explaining/defining types of city-states
How the economy was influenced by the geography and topography
Political structural differences/similarities
Comparison of city-states
Interaction between city-states
Historians’ views on the concept of the Renaissance
 Refer to at least five or six historians
 types of humanism, role of humanism, key people involved/leaders and their role
 Key developments in art, reference to specific artists, artworks/architecture (discuss at
least five or six)
 Types of patrons, role of patronage, particular examples of involvement of patrons
Humanism, Art and Patronage can be asked about individually or can be combined into a
single question.
As a result, you need to know each of the 5 sections.
 The different types of city-state in the 14th and 15th centuries:
 Republic: Venice, Florence, Genoa
 Principality (despotism or signori): Milan, Ferrara, Bologna, Urbino,
Mantua, Padua
 Kingdom: Naples
 Papal States: Rome and territories/states (ie Bologna, Ferrara)
 What are the features/characteristics of:
 a Republic
 A Principality
 A Kingdom
 The Papal States
 How do the Republics of Venice and Florence compare and contrast in
their political ideology and structures?
 Compare and contrast a Republic with another form of government in
the Italian Peninsula
The economies of the City-States and their relationship to geography/topography:
Florence: wool products; silk production; banking; some agriculture = Arno River runs
through centre of city; western foothills of Apennines; north central location; on land
trade routes; access via sea port to sea trade routes.
Venice: entrepot (import/export); fishing, salt, luxury goods (ie spices, silks, slaves
from the East via trade monopoly); glassmaking (Murano); lace-making (Burano) =
located top of Adriatic/sea access, ½ way between East/West.
Milan: mining/metallurgical products (ie weapons, armour); silk production; trade
route through Alps pass (taxes on goods, provides guides through Alps) = located on
the passes through the Alps; northern Italy; mountainous terrain.
Naples: agrarian/agricultural; economically poor = in the drier south of peninsula;
semi-fertile soils; no wealth-making resources, often foreign rulers lack interest; off
the main trade routes internal to peninsula.
Papal State/Rome: Church tithes; donations/indulgences; vast landholding
throughout western Europe; pilgrimages = located in central Italy, west of Apennines;
access to sea port; centre of Catholic faith.
Ferrara: agriculture; trade; textile production: terracotta tiles, soap, leather, glass
manufacture; irrigation/drainage techniques = parallel latitude to Florence but on
eastern side of Apennines; on plains of Lombardy – very fertile; on River Po; swamps,
access to trade routes.
Finally, how do the various city-states interact with each
 Politically - treaties, negotiations, letters between leaders
for advice/support, politico-military alliances, wars, marriage
alliances, territorial alliances
 Economically – trade
 Culturally – humanists, artists and architects move physically
and ideologically between city-states and patrons; exchange
of ideas, techniques and knowledge
Historians’ Views: Concept of the
‘Concept of the Renaissance’ will require you to be able to discuss the various
views historians, past and present, have held about the Renaissance.
You should have learned at least 6 or more quotes from different historians
you can use to construct an evaluation of how views change over time or
display degrees of similarity or difference
It would be useful to start with Burckhardt as he set the agenda that later
historians developed their ideas, either in agreement or contrast.
Other important historians to use, as a base showing chronological evolution
of views, would be John Hale, Lauro Martines, Gene Brucker, Alison Brown
There are many other valuable historians your teacher will have introduced to
you that you should use
Middle Ages or Renaissance?
What are characteristics of the medieval world?
Europe dominated by the Roman Catholic Church: faith, education and politics
Feudalism firmly in place – societies comprised of mainly villages and few towns of any size existed
Fixed places in society and identities
Fixed geographical places – little movement of population (excepting aristocracies and armies)
Largely illiterate population, from aristocracy to commoners
c. 8th to 13th centuries
According to Burckhardt – the Medieval world was where a ‘consciousness lay dreaming or half awake’
(Robert Hole: Renaissance Italy)
Alison Brown: Burckhardt’s view is ‘embarrassing and out of date’
(Alison Brown, The Renaissance)
Lauro Martines: two stages to the Renaissance –
 Stage one = ‘social energies – economics, politics, a vibrant demography … produced the
shaping, long-term values’ = rise of towns (12th and 13th centuries) = Middle Ages?
 Stage two = ‘the lead went into cultural energies’ = rise of culture (14th to 16th centuries)
 ‘Quattrocento humanism would have been impossible without the civic ideals … that
rose out of the thirteenth century’
(Lauro Martines, Power and Imagination)
Martines’ Stages: Modelling the Renaissance
Stage 1: c. 1100 – 1250: A brave new world
Break up of the feudal system
Rise of towns
 Specialisation of trades
 Growth of industries
Rise of new class - middle classes/’new men’
Political ambitions of the new social group –
 Overthrowing of authority of traditional rulers - nobility
Rise of communes – autonomous rule by towns’ landowners (middle classes
Development of internationalism (trade between towns/countries)
A more complex system of mercantile exchange
Stage 2: c. 1250 – 1550: New society and progression to cultural changes
Changing needs to be met:
1. Educational
2. Political
Traditional ideas are no longer useful or sufficient
Complexities of trade required greater intellectualism for a broader spectrum of the
Rise of internationalism = a new concept of identity and personal/family ambition
Political changes = new dominant group and new style of government
New educational needs resulted = advancement in trade and politics
Examples of Historians’ Views
‘the Italian Renaissance came in two stages…[and] were joined inseparably: the first produced the shaping
long-term values from which the second took rise’
‘the cultural Renaissance had its direction in the needs and consciousness of the upper-class group’
‘man had escaped from the medieval thought-dungeon and the world, with its expanding physical and
mental horizons, became his oyster’
‘the concept of man as an individualist with hints of universality and paganism’ (according to Hole)
the Middle Ages as a time when human consciousness ‘lay dreaming or half-awake beneath a common
veil… of faith, illusion and childish prepossession’
‘the Renaissance was a dramatic break with the past, a new age on which man as an individual emerged…
a universal man’
‘the ability of Renaissance historians to distinguish ‘middle ages’ from classical antiquity and the present
meant they were eventually able to distance themselves from the past’
‘the Renaissance offered a coherent social ‘strategy’ for rising in the world’
‘the tendency to stress continuity, rather than change…has eroded the distance between the medieval and
modern periods’
‘it was an age of great achievement…more oriented toward secular goals and objectives’
‘it was essentially an urban or city phenomenon…the mercantile classes of the Italian cities developed a
social order which was quite different from the rural , tradition-bound society of medieval Europe…it was
more fluid and flexible’
‘Italy did not reject or ignore the Christian tradition; Christianity remained a vital and essential element of
Renaissance culture’
Their Sources of Inspiration
Ancient Rome
Classical Greece
Why the rise of humanism?
Justification of wealth
• Justification of power
• Religious entity – role of man
• Civic duty
• Location – surrounded by ancient ruins
Why Rome before Greece?
 Geography:
• Roman ruins surrounding Italian cities
 Medieval education:
• Church conducted religious rituals in Latin
• Theological education was in Latin
• Ancient Romans used Latin as lingua franca
 Accessibility of texts:
• Monasteries and town archives held predominantly Ancient Roman
 Relevance:
• Ancient Rome was the last democracy (Republic) and could be used
as an example for new governments
The 3 Types of Humanism
Key Literary Humanists
Dante (1265 – 1321) –
Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso) – describing men and institutions of
his time and passing political and moral judgements, pointing the way to a truly
Christian society.
Petrarch (1304 – 74) –
Found copies of works by Cicero and Livy
Consummate operator who kept out of politics when political life was very
unstable yet formed close associations with all political leaders
Saw Italy as a whole, not actually a collection of city-states
Man of letters with no commitment to place or cause
Believed in the idea of loyalty to yourself, but also believed in the public dimension
of what the individual owes to society
Was always concerned about his interest with pagan antiquity and whether he was
a good enough Christian
Boccaccio (1313 – 75) –
Wrote the Decameron: collection of stories about people in a country house
expecting to die from the plague (‘eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’)
Wrote a commentary on the Inferno and biography of Dante
Drew attention to the writings of Tacitus
Key Civic Humanists
Salutati (1331 – 1406)  Chancellor of Florence (1376 – 1406)
 Strong supporter of the republic
 Saw a ‘political purpose in history writing, observing that a knowledge of the past
inspired princes and taught all men how to act in the present’
(Hole, Renaissance Italy)
Bruni (1370 – 1444) –
 Chancellor of Florence (1410 – 1411 &1427 - 1444)
 Fervent Republican and patriot
 Wrote Panegyric to the City of Florence, a History of the Florentine People, and
many other works
 Wrote ‘the careful study of the past enlarges our foresight in contemporary affairs
and affords to citizens and monarchs lessons of incitement or warning in the
ordering of public policy. From history we draw our share of examples of moral
De Studias et Literati, c. 1405
Chrysoloras (1355 – 1415) –
 provides the connection between civic and neo-platonic humanism
 Pre-eminent scholar of Greek philosophy and learning
 Invited to Florence from Constantinople by Salutati to train humanists (the study of
Greek is original, therefore promotes Florence as advanced culturally)
Key Neo-Platonic Humanists
Ficino –
o Set up the Platonic Academy under the directive from Cosimo de’
Medici (1462)
o Translated all known works of Plato for Cosimo de’ Medici (finally
published 1484)
o Wrote On the Soul of Man and many other works
Pico della Mirandola –
o Published 900 theses at the age of 23
o Precocious genius
o Some of his ideas were considered by the Church to be heretical, but
according to Hole ‘managed to stay on the right side of the Church’
The Advent of Literary Humanism
 When is literary humanism?
c. 1360 – 1440
 Influential civilisation?
Ancient Rome
 What was its role in society?
 To provide a secular education (as opposed to traditional theological
education), to broaden knowledge, to improve social standing and
business expertise
 Studias humanitatis – a secular education programme devised for the
needs of this new society.
 Subjects studied:
o Poetry, Grammar, Rhetoric, History, Moral philosophy (ethics)
o Languages – Latin and Greek
 Who were leaders in literary humanism?
Petrarch, Dante, Boccaccio
The Needs of Government:
Civic Humanism
 When is Civic Humanism?
c. 1360 – 1440
 Influential civilisation?
Ancient Rome
 What is its role in society?
 Political emphasis
 Education – international trade required better business practices, better
negotiation skills (rhetoric/persuasion),
 Models for communes and republics – how to govern?
• break down of the feudal system, expelling of aristocracy
• new ruling middle class had no knowledge of self-government
• Ancient Rome last working Republic
 Civic pride and patriotism – sense of belonging in a changing world, unity, belief
that your city was the most culturally advanced, wealthiest and best governed .
The Development of Neo-Platonic Humanism
When is Neo-Platonic humanism?
c.1440 – 1530
Influential civilisation?
Classical Greece
Why the change from civic humanism?
 Related to changes in the political structures (from increased importance of
patrician hegemony since its increasing dominance between 1380 and 1434)
 Medicean regime (initiated by Cosimo in 1434) consolidating its hold on Florentine
 Medicean hold non-elective
 Contrary to concepts of civic humanism of republicanism and democracy
 Rise of princely family dominance (ie Medici)
 No further need to learn how to govern/be a republic (role of civic humanism and
study of ancient Romans such as Cicero)
Predominant emphases?
Greek philosophical sources predominate (ie Plato)
More aesthetic
Identity of man; self control and how to be a better Christian
Not ideologically political
Common Characteristics of the Forms of
– Belief in antiquity
– ideas are contemporaneous (existing in the same time)
Nature of elite
– Active and reflective go together
– Only through reflection can you act virtuously and respectfully
– By mastering classical culture you can do anything (adaptable)
Look more critically at sources
Interchange of ideas
Universality of ideas
– Education in some sense becomes pan-elite (elite circle is expanded – anyone
can join)
Relationship of things and ideas
Influences of Humanism in Art
Rise of the new mercantile men =
 new views and interests
 The desire for realism and naturalism
 beauty
This led to a mix of old and new genres of art
Religious art (traditional)
Narrative (both religious and political)
And new styles and methods from classical Greece and ancient Rome
1. Proportion
2. Perspective
3. Harmony/balance
4. Naturalism/realism
5. Use of space
Also the use of chiaroscuro (shading)
Art and Humanism:
‘Madonna and child’
il Bronzino, ‘Eleanor of Toledo and her
son Giovanni dei Medici’
Masaccio ‘Madonna and child’ 1426
Art and Humanism:
Domenico Ghirlandaio,
Giovanna Tornabuoni, 1493
Leonardo da Vinci,
Mona Lisa, c. 1503
Art and Humanism:
Sandro Botticelli
Primavera, 1477-78
Art and Humanism
Giorgione, 1508
The Tempest
Art and Humanism:
Political narrative
Procession of the Magi, 1459-60
Adoration of the Magi, c.1475
Art and Humanism:
David, 1501-4
Pieta, 1501
 What are the types of patronage?
Guilds and confraternities
 Why do groups or individuals become patrons?
Piety ‘for love of God’
Prestige - personal/social
- political (advertising their success)
Pleasure (result of humanist education)
 What is the role of patronage?
 Support of artist – economic and social
 Commissioning of works
 Expansion/transmission of ideas
 How did patronage influence and drive the Renaissance?
Previous Exam Questions
There will be 2 questions, each worth 10 marks.
 2012
 2011
 2010
 2009
 2008
Explain the similarities and differences of the political structures of one republican and one
non-republican city-state.
Discuss two or three problems associated with the use of the term ‘Renaissance’. In your
response, you should refer to the different interpretations of the period by historians.
Explain how geographic features shaped economic activity in different types of city-states.
Refer to at least one republican and one non-republican city-state.
Explain the ways in which the investment of both public and private patrons contributed to
the growth and development of Renaissance art and architecture.
Explain how a principality and a republican city-state interacted economically or politically
during the Renaissance. (Students should provide a range of examples.)
Explain the growth of humanist studies that occurred during the 15th century. (Students
should refer to both humanism and education.)
Compare and contrast the political structures of a republic and one other different type of
city-state such as a principality, kingdom, papal state or duchy.
How did patronage of the visual arts benefit both the patron and the artist? In your answer
consider a range of patrons such as families, private patrons, the Church, the State and
corporations like guilds. Your answer should also provide specific examples of
commissioned art.
Explain the economic background of one Italian city-state. This may include trade, industry,
products, banking and commerce.
Explain why humanism involved a renewed emphasis on the knowledge of Latin and an
appreciation of Latin texts and /or scholarship.
Summary of Previous Section A Exam
 2012:
City-states – comparison of political structures
Concept of Renaissance – historians’ views
 2011:
City-states – influence of geography on economy
Patronage in art/architecture
 2010:
City-states – interaction: politically or economically
 2009:
City-states – comparison of political structures
Patronage and art
 2008:
City-states – economic background
The Study Design: Section B
 The changes in political institutions and societal attitudes helped to shape urban
communities which had a sense of their own uniqueness
 The application of classical ideas by the elitist groups to the political facets of
urban life
 Florence as a walled urban environment featuring a diversity of occupations and
 Florence in the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries
 The desire for political involvement
 The need to retain republican institutions
 System of government based on councils with short-term offices
 Power struggles in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries by family groups and
power blocs to control the organisation, distribution and use of power and to
narrow the power base
The Study Design: Section B
Key knowledge
 Political institutions of Florence
 Changes and continuities in the organisation, distribution and use
of power in Renaissance Florence from 1293 – 1513
 Medicean Florence from 1434 – 1494
 Views of the Florentine political system expressed by contemporary
writers and historians, such as Bruni and Machiavelli
Section B
In this section you will be given anything between 2 and 4 excerpts from primary
and secondary documents to read.
You would be advised to read these a first time in the 15 minutes reading time
at the start of the exam, after you have looked through the entire exam
You will then be asked 3 to 5 questions of varying complexity relating both to the
documents and the topic overall.
The first 2 -3 questions will be of a basic comprehension nature with your
responses based solely on the documents provided
Later questions will require a mix of the use of the given documents and your
own knowledge of the wider topic
The final question will require you to extend your response beyond any of the
documents and to use your own knowledge to discuss an aspect of the topic in
an extended answer. You should not use the documents given for this answer
– the examiners have tested you sufficiently on them. They want to know what
else you know and how you can apply it to the question asked.
To Hold Power
For in the past, many sought to gain political power and office
for glory and fame; today no one seeks it except for private
advantage and profit … It is to be feared that if it is not checked,
civic dissension will lead to our ruin … Our only hope for safety
lies in concord; dissent must be suppressed, and the Signoria
should delegate some citizens to achieve this …’
(Berardo di Berardo, Consulte, 1413)
1293 - 95
Marks the change from commune to republic
Is a constitution
Uses Ancient Rome as the model of a republican system of government
Categorises Florence as a limited republican democracy; a guild regime
Defines the political/spatial layout of Florence: four quarters/districts divided into
gonfalones or wards: Santa Spirito, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce, San Giovanni
Clearly identifies the various bodies of government and terms of office: eg Priori (2 per
district/quarter), Standard-bearer of Justice (rotated electorally around the districts) =
Signoria; 16 Gonfalonieri, 12 Goodmen, Collegio, 8 of War, balia…; with terms between
2 – 6 months (or unlimited for some balia), depending on weight of power
Clearly identifies who is eligible to vote and be elected (age, financial liquidity…)
Clearly identifies who is not eligible to vote and be elected (bankruptcy, family
Podesta: 1343
Marks a low point in Florentine government where the system has descended into
Wealthy rival families (ottimati) have contested control of the power base
A balia meets and selects a podesta to re-install order
Walter of Brienne tries to re-install the system based on the Ordinances of Justice
and eliminate the social and economic injustices that have entered the political
This means wresting control from the dominance of the ottimati
Opposition (ottimati) against Walter of Brienne grows and he is variously reported
to be a) removed from office and expelled from Florence, or b) violently removed
from office and literally torn into pieces.
1378 - 82
The lowest economic and social group in Florence begin to speak out against what
they see as injustices.
They say they are unfairly taxed, pay unwarranted penalties and are not treated
equally under the law.
They further and later add that they want to be politically represented by being
allowed to vote and have their own guilds
They riot through the streets and force the existing government to give way. New
Standard-bearer of Justice is wool carder: Michele di Lando.
Three new guilds are created – adding vastly to the voting populace. They
dominate the elections by sheer numbers.
The ottimati are not happy and manage to dominate the signoria and councils in
1382, when they are able to rescind the new guilds and restore the previous
electoral rolls.
1382 - 1433
• With the ousting of the Ciompi, the ottimati narrows the electoral system
• Key positions are shared between the wealthy leading families (the new
• Minor guilds are restricted in their access to power.
• Major guilds restrict who is eligible and desirable. Families like the Bardi,
Alberti, Strozzi and Albizzi take control and dominate the political system.
• None of these changes are official – the ottimati do not change the
• By the 1420s and early 1430s, the Albizzi are the dominant family in the
government (the Albizzi regime) after an earlier attempt in 1382 to control
Florence. They are trying to create a dynasty , but do not succeed. It is the
Medici who achieve this political ambition.
1434 - 1494
• There are four Medici:
– Cosimo (1434 – 1464)
– Piero the Gouty (1464 – 1469)
– Lorenzo the Magnificent (1469 – 1492)
– Piero the Fatuous ( 1492 – 1494)
• They are not elected leaders of the Republic
• They hold power unofficially, but with the apparent agreement of all levels
of society, but not all members of the ottimati.
• There are challenges to the dominance of Piero the Gouty (in 1466) and
Lorenzo (1478).
• Piero the Fatuous is expelled from Florence and dies in battle after a few
years. He never enters the city again.
Cosimo dei Medici
• Between 1410 and 1433, Medici money is supporting the Albizzi regime
with the result that Cosimo asks for a greater say in government. The
Albizzi refuse. They imprison him, try to seize his money, but fail
• Cosimo is exiled from Florence in 1433 by the Albizzi, where he uses his
money to destabilise the Albizzi regime from afar
• Is invited back in 1434 by the Signoria
• Exiles the Albizzi
• Is the puppet master
• Is at pains to appear ‘a private citizen’ with no more influence than any
other Florentine of his rank
• Uses his wealth to maintain power, in the same way as it was used to
attain power
• Changes the political system: introduction of Cento, manipulates the
accopiatori and the commission of scrutators and allows the previously
banned groups, magnates, back into the political system
• When he dies, Florence mourns and name him ‘The father of the country’.
• With his death, there is a danger of political instability.
Piero the Gouty
• Continues the Medicean regime when he takes control after
the death of his father, Cosimo.
• Is very ill and not expected to live long
• Has a number of sons; the two eldest being Lorenzo and
Giuliano, but both are in their early to mid teens
• Is trying to live long enough to allow Lorenzo to reach age of
political eligibility
• There is a move against his control by members of the
ottimati, but Piero negotiates with Luca Pitti and sees off the
• Piero dies, leaving no heirs of legal age to inherit control of
the Medici regime
Lorenzo the Magnificent
• Lorenzo is only 20 when his father dies. His brother Giuliano is younger
• Lorenzo is 10 years under the legal voting age
• He later writes that ‘principal men of the city’ came to his house and
begged him to take control.
• Lorenzo agrees, admitting ‘it is ill living in Florence for the rich unless
they rule’
• He begins his rule carefully, and possibly too gently, probably as a result
of being underage.
• He overcomes an insurrection from Volterra, under Florentine control
• Lorenzo also has his authority challenged by the Pazzi conspiracy in 1478
where he survives an assassination attempt, although Giuliano is killed.
• Lorenzo’s rule becomes much more ruthless after this.
• Makes further changes to the political system: narrows the Cento to
Seventy, creates two new councils: the Eight and the Twelve
• Later still he is challenged by the preacher, Savonarola.
Ringleader was Jacopo de’ Pazzi
Other conspirators included the Riario family, Archbishop Salviati of Florence, the
Archbishop of Pisa and the Pope
There had been a number of aborted plots before the final attempt to kill Lorenzo
and Giuliano, but various circumstances conspired against the conspirators
Desperation plan was for the assassination to occur in the Cathedral, which so
scared the paid assassin that he refused.
Assassination was delegated to two priests who both stabbed Giuliano whilst a
wounded Lorenzo sought safety in the Sacristy
Jacopo de’ Pazzi fled crying “People and Liberty” in attempt to enlist the popolo.
Within hours the Archbishop of Pisa and other leaders were killed and their
hanging bodies bedecked the windows of the Palazzo della Signoria.
All conspirators were hunted down to be executed
Machiavelli warned that if an assassination attempt failed, which they invariably
did, the all sympathy would go to the victim, not the assassin, wherein lay the
This is what happened: the Pazzi were reviled and the Medici reaped public
Piero the Fatuous
• Piero is in control of Florence for barely two years.
• He tends to ignore the Signoria, something his predecessors
were careful not to do
• When Italy was invaded by the French King, Piero tried to
prevent Florence being invaded and ransacked by riding out and
offer the keys of the city to the King (without the Signoria’s
• The Signoria and the rest of Florence are furious, turn on Piero
and he and his family barely manage to escape Florence with
their lives. He never returns.
Means by which the Medici Kept Control
Methods of attaining and maintaining power:
Church observance/piety
Social work – confraternities
Social networks
friends, marriage
associations with powerful families
use as an entrée to socio-political levels
humanism – culture: art/learning
spectacles and public displays
Destabilise the existing government
false accusations – corruption, incompetence
dissenting populace – build dissatisfaction
foreign power networks
Change the political system
Fear/public punishments
wealthy guildsmen
middle class guildsmen (commoners)
popolo – miserabili (non-guildsmen)
1494 - 1498
• Savonarola is a Dominican monk who is not a native of Florence.
• He is invited in initially by Lorenzo
• Savonarola preaches against the excesses of the Medicean regime
• When the Medicis are expelled, Savonarola acts as guide and advisor to
the new government of ottimati
• Venerated as a prophet
• Medicean changes to the political system are dismantled and electoral
rolls are revised
• Savonarola seems to grow too arrogant, and challenges the Pope’s
• He is excommunicated and in 1498 he is burned as a heretic in the Piazza
de Signoria
Piero Soderini
1498 - 1512
• After Savonarola there is an attempted return to the a similar form of
the patrician hegemony of the last century
• The popolo do manage to wrest more control and there is a degree of
instability in Florence as the two groups – Ottimati and popolo vie for
• Any existing Medicean ‘reforms’ are further dismantled and electoral
rolls continue to be revised
• Eventually in 1502 Piero Soderini is elected as a lifetime head of state,
in the style of Venice’s Doge, but with much more political power.
• In 1512, Soderini is deposed.
• The Medici have their first return and finally return as permanent
Princes of Tuscany in 1530.
Previous Exam Questions
2012 (5 questions)
• Focus – liberty/democracy/Medicean years
 Final question – To what extent did ideas of liberty and equality
remain important under the Medicean regime (with reference to
the rule of at least two Medicean leaders, using primary and
secondary sources.
(10 marks)
2011 (5 questions)
• Focus – Ordinances of Justice/distribution of power
 Final question – To what extent was 15th century Florence still a
guild-based republic under Lorenzo de Medici (using primary and
secondary sources)?
(10 marks)
Previous Exam Questions
2010 (3 questions)
• Focus – public displays of political power
 Final question – To what extent did the Medici use unofficial means
to dominate the city? (using primary and secondary sources)
(10 marks)
2009 (3 questions)
• Focus – Ciompi Revolt
 Final question- Evaluate the extent to which the Ciompi Revolt
brought about change in the organisation, distribution and use of
political power from 1378 – 1433 (using primary and secondary
(10 marks)
Previous Exam Questions
2008 (3 questions)
• Focus – liberty/democracy
 Final question- In his panegyric, Bruni praises Florence’s
‘internal order… and harmonious cooperation’ yet there had
been, and were to be, challenges to political power such as
the Ciompi Revolt (1378), the Albizzi challenge (1382), Cosimo
de Medici’s return from exile (1434), the Pitti challenge to
Piero di Cosimo (1466), and the Pazzi conspiracy (1478).
From the above list, discuss one challenge to the organisation
and distribution of power, and the response of the ruling
(10 marks)

Student Renaissance lecture