Why Was Italy the Birthplace of the Renaissance?

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Italy was the birthplace of the Renaissance due to its proximity to the lost culture of ancient Rome and because of political, social and economic developments that sparked the spread of humanism. The Italian Renaissance began in Florence around 1350 to 1400 A.D. The majority of the great thinkers and artists of the Renaissance were Italian.

The philosophy underlying the artistic, scientific and literary endeavors of the Renaissance was that of humanism, a system of thought that values human life and strives to achieve human goodness. Humanism was highly based on Classical values; the Greeks and Romans had stressed the importance of developing wisdom, virtue, economic abundance and physical well-being. Because the Italian city states were the direct descendants of the Romans, they had greater access to the works and writings of their progenitors.

The fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century contributed to Italy’s humanistic progress. As Greek Christians from the Eastern Empire fled from the invading Muslims, they settled in Italy. They brought with them a knowledge of ancient Greece, thus allowing Italian scholars to read and translate the great writings of ancient Greece.

The very socio-political structure of Italy contributed to the Renaissance. While other European powers were still operating under the system of feudalism, several of the Italian city-states of the 14th century were republics. Republican government furthered the ideals of humanism. It also enabled economic growth for a greater portion of the population. As the people became wealthier, they were able to invest in works of science and the arts.