Medici Familys Influence Throughout Tuscan Cities History Essay
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
The Medici was one of, if not the most significant family branches within Italy throughout the 13th until the 15th century respectively. This essay focuses on the Medici family’s stranglehold on Florence through political influence, bank and merchant trading operations as well as influential patronage to the arts and an aspiring renaissance. Their “system” of working behind the scenes as well as elaborate displays of patronage allowed the Medici family to maintain a stranglehold over Florence whilst being simultaneously loved by Florentines and acknowledged as influential figures through social, cultural, political and economic development within renaissance Italy.
The product of the Medici family’s influence can be seen throughout a majority of Tuscan cities, with the prominent being Florence, which the Medici eventually obtained a stranglehold for two decades through bank and trade operations as part of their “system”. The Medici originated as patrician merchants from Mugello where Giovanni Bicci (1360-1429) in 1397 moved to Florence in order to establish a branch of Medici banking which had introduced the successful method of proportional taxing which was praised and approved by the Florentine public  . Giovanni di Bicci became banker to the papacy and began to accumulate family wealth which was to continue significantly through Cosimo (1389-1464) and Lorenzo Medici (1449-1492) up until the families’ decline in the 1494 revolt  . Despite Bicci becoming gonfaliere in 1421 and eventual access to the papacy, essentially, the Medici could maintain their power over Florence and still be loved by the Florentines as their political network which dictated their power was supported by their own wealth and not that of the public “Ultimately the Medici brought the city under their influence, without, however, disturbing the appearances of the formal structures of government which had been in place for two centuries”  . Whilst no member of the Medici family had been in direct political power, they were still able to control polling methods and results, as well as names within the elections. They ruled through their vast number of supporters and dependants (particularly Cosimo) and were able to get rid of threatening enemies and rivals to their control such as the Pazzi family through banishment or excessive taxes  .
The Medici family’s rise to prominent wealth out of the banking and textile industries was inevitable, and along with a considerable amount of wealth came significant political influence throughout Florence, thus allowing the Medici to maintain a stronghold over the Florentine public. The Medici family’s renowned banking reputation made them extremely wealthy with, by the beginning of the 13th century, a fortune compromising of land, priceless art and gold  . This wealth allowed them to socialise (and marry) with nobility and personnel within positions of power and become part of the political sphere, which despite no Medici being in a position of power, allowed for them to place their influence within Florence from “behind the scenes”. “The Medici surrounded themselves with visual images denoting rulership; although they steadfastly maintained that they were ordinary citizens within the republic”  . An example of this control without being in a direct position of power can be seen during the time of Cosimo and after his return to Florence through banishment. At this point, the Medici were considered potentially the wealthiest families in Florence and indeed Italy, and Cosimo used this wealth to purchase significant places such as the Livorno port, support the Florentine army within their conquests of other states and created allegiances with other powerful states such as Milan  . “Cosimo is interested in maintaining a balance of power between the Italian states, enabling commerce and the arts of peace to flourish in Florence and through this policy he is remarkably successful”  .
Support and admiration from the Florentine public due to patronage also allowed for the Medici family to manage their stronghold over Florence during the centuries that they “reigned”. Both Cosimo and Lorenzo both operated with humanist values and tended to favour and support classical elements within the arts, architecture artists and sculptors alike. It was more so Lorenzo, who, as opposed to Cosimo who gained and maintained power through economical means, maintained a stranglehold over Florence and the Florentines through art. Also acknowledged as “Il Magnifico”, Lorenzo Medici was an Italian statesman, a diplomat and de facto ruler of the Florentine republic during the renaissance in which through patronage supported scholars, writers, sciences and artists. His life coincided with the high point of the early Italian Renaissance and his death signified the end of the Golden Age within Florence  . The peace he helped maintain between the various Italian states also collapsed once he had died, which suggests how admired he was by the public for his involvement and passion in the very thing that makes Florence artistically and culturally renowned  . Popular support and a love for the Medici family could have been because they supported and patronized something which made Florence stand apart from other city states, and at possibly this point, the world. The Medici established many significant monuments and churches of today, as well as funded some of the most renowned artists of the time such as Michelangelo. The vast and extensive library of Cosimo was also a major contribution to the arts and education which allowed the popularity of the Medici to grow continuously up until their decline in the 15th -16th centuries.
In conclusion, the Medici family’s “system” or ability to work and control aspects of the public behind the political scene allowed the Medici family to maintain a significant and influential stranglehold over Florence and the people alike. By working behind the scenes and not directly, they were able to maintain a positive relationship with the Florentine public as they did not operate against the public, but rather with the public which in turn, gave them support. Their system of combining wealth, commercial trade (banking) establishing important relationships and obtaining humanist qualities and patronage, allowed the Medici family throughout the course of two centuries establish a reign unique and unlike any other within Europe.
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