The Renaissance is historically notorious for its violent, divisive and often treacherous brand of politics. This was especially the case in Italy, where city-states were often ruled by powerful families or political factions, rather than by all-powerful kings. One of the most important tracts of political theory ever written, Machiavelli's "The Prince," has forever immortalized this intrigue.Continue Reading
Italy grew as a center of the Renaissance primarily due to trade. According to Open University, it was Italy and the Low Countries which acted as "hubs of international trade and commodities." City-states, like Florence, Venice and Genoa, thus became fabulously wealthy, and soon powerful families emerged that controlled commerce and banking and often had small mercenary armies at their disposal. Among the most infamous families of the period are the Medici of Florence and the Borgias of Rome. The Borgias, in particular, became so powerful that they installed one of their own as pope.
At times, party factionalism grew so furious that members of the losing side experienced exile, torture or even death. For example, the famous poet, Dante, found himself supporting the wrong faction and was banished from his beloved Florence for life. Machiavelli was accused of favoring Republican forces against the Medici and was eventually tortured and exiled, only to be allowed to return later in a minor capacity.
If any text exemplifies the nature of Renaissance politics, it is Machiavelli's "The Prince." In a telling passage from Constitution.org, he says that “It is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them...to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able to know how to change to the opposite.” In this wording, Machiavelli captures the duplicity, calculation and attention to appearances that defined a successful man of Renaissance politics.Learn more about Renaissance & Reformation
Although historians disagree about the precise beginnings of the Renaissance, most trace its origins to the competition between artists and great thinkers in north-central Italy, particularly around the city of Florence. From there, the intellectual and artistic movement spread throughout the country and later throughout Europe.Full Answer >
Donatello was important to the Renaissance movement as he was the first artist to introduce large sculptures. In addition to capturing history, these sculptures influenced the works of future Renaissance artists, including Michelangelo.Full Answer >
Michelangelo is important to the Renaissance because he changed the way the world viewed art and artists. His contributions to the era inspired others to see art and artists as valuable assets to the community.Full Answer >
The commonly accepted dates for the Renaissance are the 14th through the 17th centuries. It is not uncommon, however, for historians to cite much earlier dates as the start of the Renaissance.Full Answer >