One of the conditions that helped usher in the Renaissance was the availability of previously inaccessible philosophical texts from the time of the ancient Romans and Greeks. These works were viewed as a moralistic foundation that could rescue society from the decadence brought on by the Roman Empire and the "dark ages" that followed its demise. The economic and political rise of the Italian city-states was another condition that helped move Italy away from the feudal system of the Middle Ages and towards a new form of society based on merchants, commerce and reawakened notions of liberty and artistic freedom.
One of the theories regarding the rise of the Renaissance is the effect of the Black Death, or bubonic plague, which swept across Europe during the mid-1300s. The devastating epidemic caused society's focus to shift toward a greater appreciation for worldly existence rather than the previous preoccupation with an afterlife that had existed during the Middle Ages. The aftermath of the plague also left many of the survivors in a better economic state than before because of inheritances left by deceased relatives. Additionally, the common folk found that their labor was more valued in a reduced workforce. The survivors of the plague discovered that they had more time and greater resources to devote to a reawakened awareness of personal liberty and worldly pursuits.
The focal point of the Renaissance was Florence, in which the works of two of the most well-known "Renaissance men," Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, came to prominence. The political, economic and cultural climate of Florence during the mid-1300s was uniquely conducive to the growth of the Renaissance worldview. Much of the impetus can be attributed to the patronage of the city's wealthy and dominant Medici family.