1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Florence (Italy)
FLORENCE (Ital. Firenze, Lat. Florentia), formerly the capital of Tuscany, now the capital of a province of the kingdom of Italy, and the sixth largest city in the country. It is situated 43° 46′ N., 11° 14′ E., on both banks of the river Arno, which at this point flows through a broad fertile valley enclosed between spurs of the Apennines. The city is 165 ft. above sea-level, and occupies an area of 3 sq. m. (area of the commune, 161 sq. m.). The geological formation of the soil belongs to the Quaternary and Pliocene period in its upper strata, and to the Eocene and Cretaceous in the lower. Pietra forte of the Cretaceous period is quarried north and south of the city, and has been used for centuries as paving stone and for the buildings. Pietra serena or macigno, a stone of a firm texture also used for building purposes, is quarried at Monte Ceceri below Fiesole. The soil is very fertile; wheat, Indian corn, olives, vines, fruit trees of many kinds cover both the plain and the surrounding hills; the chief non-fruit-bearing trees are the stone pine, the cypress, the ilex and the poplar, while many other varieties are represented. The gardens and fields produce an abundance of flowers, which justify the city’s title of la città dei fiori.
Climate and Sanitary Conditions.—The climate of Florence is very variable, ranging from severe cold accompanied by high winds from the north in winter to great heat in the summer, while in spring-time sudden and rapid changes of temperature are frequent. At the same time the climate is usually very agreeable from the end of February to the beginning of July, and from the end of September to the middle of November. The average temperature throughout the year is about 57° Fahr.; the maximum heat is about 96.8°, and the minimum 36.5°, sometimes sinking to 21°. The longest day is 15 hours and 33 minutes, the shortest 8 hours and 50 minutes. The average rainfall is about 371 inches. Epidemic diseases are rare and children’s diseases mild; cholera has visited Florence several times, but the city has been free from it for many years. Diphtheria first appeared in 1868 and continued as a severe epidemic until 1872, since when it has only occurred at rare intervals and in isolated cases. Typhoid, pneumonia, tuberculosis, measles and scarlatina, and influenza are the commonest illnesses. The drainage system is still somewhat imperfect, but the water brought from the hills or from the Arno in pipes is fairly good, and the general sanitary conditions are satisfactory.
Public Buildings.—Of the very numerous Florentine churches the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore) is the largest and most important, founded in 1298 on the plans of Arnolfo di Cambio, completed by Brunelleschi, and consecrated in 1436; the façade, however, was not finished until the 19th Churches. century—it was begun in 1875 on the designs of de Fabris and unveiled in 1888. Close by the Duomo is the no less famous Campanile built by Giotto, begun in 1332, and adorned with exquisite bas-reliefs. Opposite is the Baptistery built by Arnolfo di Cambio in the 13th century on the site of an earlier church, and adorned with beautiful bronze doors by Ghiberti in the 15th century. The Badia, Santo Spirito, Santa Maria Novella, are a few among the many famous and beautiful churches of Florence. The existence of these works of art attracts students from all countries, and a German art school subsidized by the imperial government has been instituted.
The streets and piazze of the city are celebrated for their splendid palaces, formerly, and in many cases even to-day the residences of the noble families of Florence. Among others we may mention the Palazzo Vecchio, formerly the seat of the government of the Republic and now the town hall, the Palazzo Riccardi, the residence of the Medici and now the prefecture, the palaces of the Strozzi, Antinori (one of the most perfect specimens of Florentine quattrocento architecture), Corsini, Davanzati, Pitti (the royal palace), &c. The palace of the Arte della Lana or gild of wool merchants, tastefully and intelligently restored, is the headquarters of the Dante Society. The centre of Florence, which was becoming a danger from a hygienic point of view, was pulled down in 1880–1890, but, unfortunately, sufficient care was not taken to avoid destroying certain buildings of historic and artistic value which might have been spared without impairing the work of sanitation, while the new structures erected in their place, especially those in theVittorio Emanuele, are almost uniformly ugly and quite out of keeping with Florentine architecture. The question aroused many polemics at the time both in Italy and abroad. After the new centre was built, a society called the Società per la difesa di Firenze antica was formed by many prominent citizens to safeguard the ancient buildings and prevent them from destruction, and a spirit of intelligent conservatism seems now to prevail in this connexion. The city is growing in all directions, and a number of new quarters have sprung up where the houses are more sanitary than in the older parts, but unfortunately few of them evince much aesthetic feeling. The viali or boulevards form pleasant residential streets with gardens, and the system of building separate houses for each family (villini) instead of large blocks of flats is becoming more and more general.
Florence possesses four important libraries besides a number of smaller collections. The Biblioteca Nazionale, originally founded by Antonio Magliabecchi in 1747, enjoys the right, shared by the Vittorio Emanuele library of Rome, of receiving a copy of every work printed in Italy, since Libraries. 1870 (since 1848 it had enjoyed a similar privilege with regard to works printed in Tuscany). It contains some 500,000 printed volumes, 700,000 pamphlets, over 9000 prints and drawings (including 284 by Albert Dürer), nearly 20,000 MSS., and 40,000 letters. The number of readers in 1904 was over 50,000. Unfortunately, however, the confusion engendered by a defective organization has long been a byword among the people; there is no printed catalogue, quantities of books are buried in packing-cases and unavailable, the collection of foreign books is very poor, hardly any new works being purchased, and the building itself is quite inadequate and far from safe; but the site of a new one has now been purchased and the plans are agreed upon, so that eventually the whole collection will be transferred to more suitable quarters. The Biblioteca Marucelliana, founded in 1752, contains 150,000 books, including 620 incunabula, 17,000 engravings and 1500 MSS.; it is well managed and chiefly remarkable for its collection of illustrated works and art publications. The Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana, founded in 1571, has its origin in the library of Cosimo de’ Medici the Elder, and was enlarged by Piero, Giovanni and above all by Lorenzo the Magnificent. Various princes and private persons presented it with valuable gifts and legacies, among the most important of which was the collection of editiones principes given by Count d’Elci, in 1841, and the Ashburnham collection of MSS. purchased by the Italian Government in 1885. It contains nearly 10,000 MSS., including many magnificent illuminated missals and Bibles and a number of valuable Greek and Latin texts, 242 incunabula and 11,000 printed books, chiefly dealing with palaeography; it is in some ways the most important of the Florentine libraries. The Biblioteca Riccardiana, founded in the 16th century by Romolo Riccardi, contains nearly 4000 MSS., over 32,000 books and 650 incunabula, chiefly relating to Florentine history. The state archives are among the most complete in Italy, and contain over 450,000 filze and registri and 126,000 charters, covering the period from 726 to 1856.
Few cities are as rich as Florence in collections of works of artistic and historic interest, although the great majority of them belong to a comparatively limited period—from the 13th to the 16th century. The chief art galleries are the Uffizi, the Pitti and Accademia. The two Galleries of Fine Arts and Museums. former are among the finest in the world, and are filled with masterpieces by Raphael, Andrea del Sarto, Perugino, Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, the Lippi, and many other Florentine, Umbrian, Venetian, Dutch and Flemish artists, as well as numerous admirable examples of antique, medieval and Renaissance sculpture. The Pitti collection is in the royal palace (formerly the residence of the grand dukes), and a fine new stairway and vestibule have been constructed by royal munificence. In the Uffizi the pictures are arranged in strict chronological order. In the Accademia, which is rich in early Tuscan masters, the Botticelli and Perugino rooms deserve special mention. Other pictures are scattered about in the churches, monasteries and private palaces. Of the monasteries, that of St Mark should be mentioned, as containing many works of Fra Angelico, besides relics of Savonarola, while of the private collections the only one of importance is that of Prince Corsini. There is a splendid museum of medieval and Renaissance antiquities in the Bargello, the ancient palace of the Podestà, itself one of the finest buildings in the city; among its many treasures are works of Donatello, Ghiberti, Verrochio and other sculptors, and large collections of ivory, enamel and bronze ware. The Opera del Duomo contains models and pieces of sculpture connected with the cathedral; the Etruscan and Egyptian museum, the gallery of tapestries, the Michelangelo museum, the museum of natural history and other collections are all important in different ways.
The total population of Florence in 1905, comprising foreigners and a garrison of 5500 men, was 220,879. In 1861 it was 114,363; it increased largely when the capital of Italy was in Florence (1865–1872), but decreased or increased very slightly after the removal of the capital to Rome, and Population. increased at a greater rate from 1881 onwards. At present the rate of increase is about 22 per 1000, but it is due to immigration, as the birth rate was actually below the death rate down to 1903, since when there has been a slight increase of the former and a decrease of the latter.
Florence is the capital of a province of the same name, and the central government is represented by a prefect (prefetto), while local government is carried on by a mayor (sindaco) and an elective town council (consiglio comunale). The city is the seat of a court of cassation (for civil Administration. cases only), of a court of appeal, besides minor tribunals. It is the headquarters of an army corps, and an archiepiscopal see.
There are 22 public elementary schools for boys and 18 for girls (education being compulsory and gratuitous), with about 20,000 pupils, and 56 private schools with 5700 pupils. Secondary education is provided by one higher and four lower technical schools with 1375 pupils, three ginnasii or lower classical Education. schools, and three licei or higher classical schools, with 1000 pupils, and three training colleges with over 700 pupils. Higher education is imparted at the university (Istituto di studii superiori e di perfezionamento), with 600 to 650 students; although only comprising the faculties of literature, medicine and natural science, it is, as regards the first-named faculty, one of the most important institutions in Italy. The original Studio Fiorentino was founded in the 14th century, and acquired considerable fame as a centre of learning under the Medici, enhanced by the presence in Florence of many learned Greeks who had fled from Constantinople after its capture by the Turks (1453). Although in 1472 some of the faculties and several of the professors were transferred to Pisa, it still retained importance, and in the 17th and 18th centuries it originated a number of learned academies. In 1859 after the annexation of Tuscany to the Italian kingdom it was revived and reorganized; since then it has become to some extent a national centre of learning and culture, attracting students from other parts of Italy, partly on account of the fact that it is in Florence that the purest Italian is spoken. The revival of classical studies on scientific principles in modern Italy may be said to have begun in Florence, and great activity has also been displayed in reviving the study of Dante; Dante lectures being given regularly by scholars and men of letters from all parts of the country, above the church of Or San Michele as in the middle ages, under the auspices of the Società Dantesca. Palaeography, history and Romance languages are among the other subjects to which especial importance is given. Besides the Istituto di studii superiori there is the Istituto di scienze sociali “Cesare Alfieri,” founded by the marchese Alfieri di Sostegno for the education of aspirants to the diplomatic and consular services, and for students of economics and social sciences (about 50 students); an academy of fine arts, a conservatoire of music, a higher female training-college with 150 students, a number of professional and trade schools, and an academy of recitation. There are also many academies and learned societies of different kinds, of which one of the most important is the Accademia della Crusca for the study of the Italian language, which undertook the publication of a monumental dictionary.
Several of the Florence hospitals are of great antiquity, the most important being that of Santa Maria Nuova, which, founded by Folco Portinari, the father of Dante’s Beatrice, has been thoroughly renovated according to modern scientific principles. There are numerous other hospitals both Charities, etc. general and special, a foundling hospital dating from the 13th century (Santa Maria degli Innocenti), an institute for the blind, one for the deaf and dumb, &c. Most of the hospitals and other charitable institutions are endowed, but the endowments are supplemented by private contributions.
Florence is the centre of a large and fertile agricultural district, and does considerable business in wine, oil and grain, and supplies the neighbouring peasantry with goods of all kinds. There are no important industries, except a few flour-mills, some glass works, iron foundries, a motor car factory, straw Commerce and Industry. hat factories, and power-houses supplying electricity for lighting and for the numerous tramcars. There are, however, some artistic industries in and around the city, of which the most important is the Ginori-Richard porcelain works, and the Cantagalli majolica works. There are many other smaller establishments, and the Florentine artificer seems to possess an exceptional skill in all kinds of work in which art is combined with technical ability. Another very important source of revenue is the so-called “tourist industry,” which in late years has assumed immense proportions; the city contains a large number of hotels and boarding-houses which every year are filled to overflowing with strangers from all parts of the world. (L. V.*)
Florentia was founded considerably later than Faesulae (Fiesole), which lies on the hill above it; indeed, as its name indicates, it was built only in Roman times and probably in connexion with the construction by C. Flaminius in 187 B.C. of a road from Bononia to Arretium (which later on formed part of the Via Cassia) at the point where this road crossed the river Arnus. We hear very little of it in ancient times; it appears to have suffered at the end of the war between Marius and Sulla, and in A.D 15 (by which period it seems to have been already a colony) it successfully opposed the project of diverting part of the waters of the Clanis into the Arno (see Chiana). Tacitus mentions it, and Florus describes it as one of the municipia splendidissima. A bishop of Florence is mentioned in A.D 313. A group of Italic cremation tombs a pozzo of the Villanova period were found under the pavement of the medieval Vicolo del Campidoglio. This took its name from the Capitolium of Roman times, the remains of which were found under the Piazza Luna; the three cellae were clearly traceable. The capitals of the columns were Corinthian, about 4 ft. in diameter, and it became clear that this temple had supplied building materials for S. Giovanni and S. Miniato. Fragments of a fine octagonal altar, probably belonging to the temple, were found. Remains of baths have been found close by, while the ancient amphitheatre has been found near S. Croce outside the Roman town, which formed a rectangle of about 400 by 600 yds., with four gates, the Decumanus being represented by the Via Strozzi and Via del Corso, and the Cardo by the Via Calcinara, while the Mercato Vecchio occupied the site of the Forum.
See L. A. Milani, “Reliquie di Firenze antica,” in Monumenti dei Lincei, vi. (1896), 5 seq. (T. As.)
The first event of importance recorded is the siege of the city
by the Goths, A.D 405, and its deliverance by the Roman general
Stilicho. Totila besieged Florence in 542, but was repulsed by
the imperial garrison under Justin, and later it was occupied
by the Goths. We find the Longobards in Tuscany in 570, and
mention is made of one Gudibrandus Dux civitatis Florentinorum,
which suggests that Florence was the capital of a duchy (one of
the regular divisions of the Longobard empire). Charlemagne
was in Florence in 786 and conferred many favours on the city,
which continued to grow in importance owing to its situation
on the road from northern Italy to Rome. At the time of the
agitation against simony and the corruption of the clergy, the
head of the movement in Florence was San Giovanni Gualberto,
of the monastery of San Salvi. The simoniacal election of Pietro
Mezzabarba as bishop of Florence (1068) caused serious disturbances
and a long controversy with Rome, which ended in the
triumph, after a trial by fire, of the monk Petrus Igneus, champion
of the popular reform movement; this event indicates the
beginnings of a popular conscience among the Florentines.
Under the Carolingian emperors Tuscany was a March or
margraviate, and the marquises became so powerful as to be
even a danger to the Empire. Under the emperor Otto I. one
Ugo (d, 1001) was marquis, and the emperor Conrad II. (elected
in 1024) appointed Boniface of Canossa marquis of Tuscany,
a territory then extending from the Po to the borders of the
Roman state. Boniface died in 1052, and in the following year
The countess Matilda.
Guelphs and Ghibellines. the margraviate passed to his daughter, the famous countess Matilda, who ruled for forty years and played a prominent part in the history of Italy in that period. In the Wars of the Investitures Matilda was ever on the papal (afterwards called Guelph) side against the emperor and the faction afterwards known as Ghibelline, and she herself often led armies to battle. It is at this time that the people of Florence first began to acquire influence, and while the countess presided at the courts of justice in the name of the Empire, she was assisted by a group of great feudal nobles, judges, lawyers, &c., who formed, as elsewhere in Tuscany, the boni homines or sapientes. As the countess was frequently absent these boni homines gave judgment without her, thus paving the way for a free commune. The citizens found themselves in opposition to the nobility of the hills around the city, Teutonic feudatories of Ghibelline sympathies, who interfered with their commerce. Florence frequently waged war with these nobles and with other cities on its own account, although in the name of the countess, and the citizens began to form themselves into groups and associations which were the germs of the arti or gilds. After the death of Beginnings of the commune. Countess Matilda in 1115 the grandi or boni homines continued to rule and administer justice, but in the name of the people—a change hardly noticed at first, but which marks the foundation of the commune. After 1138 the boni homines began to be called consules, while the population was divided into the grandi or delle torri, i.e. the noble families who had towers, and the arti or trade and merchant gilds. At first the consules, of whom there seem to have been twelve, two for each sestiere or ward, were chosen by the men of the towers, and assisted by a council of 100 boni homines, in which the arti were predominant; the government thus came to be in the hands of a few powerful families. The republic now proceeded to extend its power. In 1125 Fiesole was sacked and destroyed, but the feudal nobles of the contado (surrounding country), protected by the imperial margraves, were still powerful. The early margraves had permitted the Florentines to wage war against the Alberti family, whose castles they destroyed. The emperor Lothair when in Italy forced Florence to submit to his authority, but at his death in 1137 things returned to their former state and the Florentines fought successfully against the powerful counts Guidi. Frederick Barbarossa, however, elected emperor in 1152, made his authority felt in Tuscany, and appointed one Welf of Bavaria as margrave. Florence and other cities were forced to supply troops to the emperor for his Lombard campaigns, and he began to establish a centralized imperial bureaucracy in Tuscany, appointing a potestas, who resided at San Miniato (whence the name of “San Miniato al Tedesco”), to represent him and exercise authority in the contado; this double authority of the consoli in the town and the potestas or podestà outside generated confusion. By 1176 the Florentines were masters of all the territory comprised in the dioceses of War with the nobles. Florence and Fiesole; but civil commotion within the city broke out between the consoli and the greater nobles, headed by the Alberti and strengthened by the many feudal families who had been forced to leave their castles and dwell in the city (1177–1180). In the end the Alberti, though not victorious, succeeded in getting occasionally admitted to the consulship. Florence now formed a league with the chief cities of Tuscany, made peace with the Guidi, and humbled the Alberti whose castle of Semifonte was destroyed (1202). Later The potestas. we find a potestas within the city, elected for a year and assisted by seven councillors and seven rectores super capitibus artium. This represented the triumph of the feudal party, which had gained the support of the arti minori or minor gilds. The potestates subsequently were foreigners, and in 1207 the dignity was conferred on Gualfredotto of Milan; a new council was formed, the consiglio del comune, while the older senate still survived. The Florentines now undertook to open the highways of commerce towards Rome, for their city was already an important industrial and banking centre.
Discord among the great families broke out again, and the attempt to put an end to it by a marriage between Buondelmonte de’ Buondelmonti and a daughter of the Amidei, only led to further strife (1215), although the causes of these broils were deeper and wider, being derived from the general division between Guelphs and Ghibellines all over Italy. But the work of crushing the nobles of the contado and of asserting the city’s position among rival communes continued. In 1222 Florence waged war successfully on Pisa, Lucca and Pistoia, and during the next few years against the Sienese with varying results; although the emperor supported the latter as Ghibellines, on his departure for Germany in 1235 they were forced to accept peace on onerous terms. During the interregnum (1241–1243) following on the death of Pope Gregory IX. the Ghibelline cause revived in Tuscany and imperial authority was re-established. The tumults against the Paterine heretics (1244–1245), among whom were many Ghibelline nobles favoured by the podestà Pace di Pesamigola, indicate a successful Guelphic reaction; but Frederick II., having defeated his enemies both in Lombardy and in the Two Sicilies, appointed his natural son, Frederick of Antioch, imperial vicar in Tuscany, who, when civil war broke out, entered the city with 1600 German knights. The Ghibellines now triumphed completely, and in 1249 the Guelph leaders were driven into exile—the first of many instances in Florentine history of exile en masse of a defeated party. The attempt to seize Montevarchi and other castles where the Guelph exiles were congregated failed, and in 1250 the burghers elected thirty-six caporali di popolo, who formed the basis of the primo popolo or body of citizens independent of the nobles, headed by the capitano del popolo. The Ghibellines being unable to maintain their Comune and popolo. supremacy, the city came to be divided into two almost autonomous republics, the comune headed by the podestà, and the popolo headed by the capitano and militarily organized into twenty companies; the central power was represented by twelve anziani or elders. The podestà, who was always a foreigner, usually commanded the army, represented the city before foreign powers, and signed treaties. He was assisted by the consiglio speciale of 90 and the consiglio generale e speciale of 300, composed of nobles, while the capitano del popolo had also two councils composed of burghers, heads of the gilds, gonfalonieri of the companies, &c. The anziani had a council of 36 burghers, and then there was the parlamento or general assembly of the people, which met only on great occasions. At this time the podestà’s palace (the Bargello) was built, and the gold florin was first coined and soon came to be accepted as the standard gold piece throughout Europe. But, although greatly strengthened, the Guelphs, who now may be called the democrats as opposed to the Ghibelline aristocrats, were by no means wholly victorious, and in 1251 they had to defend themselves against a league of Ghibelline cities (Siena, Pisa and Pistoia) assisted by Florentine Ghibellines; the Florentine Uberti, who had been driven into exile after their plot of 1258, took refuge in Siena and encouraged that city in its hostility to Florence. Fresh disputes about the possession of Montepulciano and other places having arisen, the Florentines declared war once more. A Florentine army assisted by Guelphs of other towns was cunningly induced to believe that Siena would surrender at the first summons; but it was met by a Sienese army reinforced by Florentine exiles, including Farinata degli Uberti and other Ghibellines, and by the cavalry of Manfred Battle of Montaperti (1260). (q.v.) of Sicily, led by Count Giordano and the count of Arras, with the result that the Florentines were totally routed at Montaperti on the 4th of September 1260. Count Giordano entered Florence, appointed Count Guido Novello podestà, and began a series of persecutions against the Guelphs. The Ghibellines even proposed to raze the walls of the city, but Farinata degli Uberti strongly opposed the idea, saying that “he had fought to regain and not to ruin his fatherland.”
During this new Ghibelline predominance (1260–1266) the old liberties were abolished, and the popolo was deprived of all share in the administration. But when Charles I. (q.v.) of Anjou descended into Italy as champion of the papacy, and Manfred was defeated and killed New constitution. (1266), the popolo, who had acquired wealth in trade and industry, was ready to rise. After some disturbances Guido Novello and the Ghibellines were expelled, but it was not the popolo who triumphed; the pope and Charles were the real masters of the situation, and the Florentines found they had exchanged a foreign and Ghibelline protector for one who was foreign and Guelph. Nevertheless much of the old order was restored; the podestà who represented King Charles was assisted by 12 buoni uomini, and by the council of the 100 buoni uomini del popolo, “without the deliberation of whom,” says Villani, “no great matter nor expenditure could be undertaken.” Other bodies and magistrates were maintained, and the capitano del popolo, now called capitano della massa di parte Guelfa, tended to become a very important person. The property of the Ghibellines was confiscated, and a commission of six capitani di parte Guelfa appointed to administer it and in general to expend it for the persecution of the Ghibellines. The whole constitution of the republic, although of very democratic tendencies, seemed designed to promote civil strife and weaken the central power.
While the constitution was evolving in a manner which seemed to argue small political ability and no stability in the Florentines, the people had built up a wonderful commercial organization. Each of the seven arti maggiori or greater gilds was organized like a small state with its Florentine trade and the gilds. councils, statutes, assemblies, magistrates, &c., and in times of trouble constituted a citizen militia. Florentine cloth especially was known and sold all over Europe, and the Florentines were regarded as the first merchants of the age. If the life of the city went on uninterruptedly even during the many changes of government and the almost endemic civil war, it was owing to the solidity of the gilds, who could carry on the administration without a government.
After Charles’s victory over Conradin in 1268 the Florentines defeated the Sienese (1269) and made frequent raids into Pisan territory. As Charles perpetually interfered in their affairs, always favouring the grandi or Guelph nobles, some of the Ghibellines were recalled as a counterpoise, Cardinal Latino. which, however, only led to further civil strife. Rudolph of Habsburg, elected king of the Romans in 1273, having come to terms with Pope Nicholas III., Charles was obliged in 1278 to give up his title of imperial vicar in Tuscany, which he had held during the interregnum following on the death of Frederick II. In 1279 Pope Nicholas sent his nephew, the friar preacher Latino Frangipani Malabranca, whom he had created cardinal bishop of Ostia the same year, to reconcile the parties in Florence once more. Cardinal Latino to some extent succeeded, and was granted a kind of temporary dictatorship. He raised the 12 buoni uomini to 14 (8 Guelphs and 6 Ghibellines), to be changed every two months; and they were assisted by a council of 100. A force of 1000 men was placed at the disposal of the podestà and capitano (now both elected by the people) to keep order and oblige the grandi to respect the law. The Sicilian Vespers (q.v.) by weakening Charles strengthened the commune, which aimed at complete independence of emperors, kings and popes. After 1282 the signoria was composed of the 3 (afterwards 6) priori of the gilds, who ended by ousting the buoni uomini, while a defensor artificum et artium takes the place of the capitano; thus the republic became an essentially trading community, governed by the popolani grassi or rich merchants.
The republic now turned to the task of breaking the power of the Ghibelline cities of Pisa and Arezzo. In 1289 the Aretini were completely defeated by the Florentines at Campaldino, a battle made famous by the fact that Dante took part in it. War against the Pisans, who had been defeated by the Genoese in the naval battle of La Meloria in 1284, was Battle of Campaldino (1289). carried on in a desultory fashion, and in 1293 peace was made. But the grandi, who had largely contributed to the victory of Campaldino, especially men like Corso Donati and Vieri de’ Cerchi, were becoming more powerful, and Charles had increased their number by creating a great many knights; but their attempts to interfere with the administration of justice were severely repressed, and new laws were passed to reduce their influence. Among other internal reforms the abolition of the last traces of servitude in 1289, and the increase in the number of arti, first to 12 and then to 21 (7 maggiori and 14 minori) must be mentioned. This, however, was not enough for the Florentine democracy, who viewed with alarm the increasing power and arrogance of the grandi, who in spite of their exclusion from many offices were still influential and constituted independent clans within the state. The law obliged each member of the clan (consorteria) to sodare for all the other members, i.e. to give a pecuniary guarantee to ensure payment of fines for offences committed by any one of their number, a provision made necessary by the fact that the whole clan acted collectively. But as the laws were not always enforced new and severe ones Ordinamenti della Giustizia (1293). were enacted. These were the famous Ordinamenti della Giustizia of 1293, by which all who were not of the arti were definitely excluded from the signory. The priori were to remain in office two months and elected the gonfaloniere, also for two months; there were the capitudini or councils of the gilds, and two savi for each sestiere, with 1000 soldiers at their disposal; the number of the grandi families was fixed at 38 (later 72). Judgment in matters concerning the Ordinamenti was delivered in a summary fashion without appeal. The leading spirit of this reform was Giano della Bella, a noble who by engaging in trade had become a popolano; the grandi now tried to make him unpopular with the popolani grassi, hoping that without him the Ordinamenti would not be executed, and opened negotiations with Pope Boniface VIII. (elected 1294), who aimed at extending his authority in Tuscany. A signory adverse to Giano having been elected, he was driven into exile in 1295. The grandi regained some of their power by corrupting the podestà and by the favour of the popolo minuto or unorganized populace; but their quarrels among themselves prevented them from completely succeeding, while the arti were solid.
In 1295 a signory favourable to the grandi enacted a law attenuating the Ordinamenti, but now the grandi split into two factions, one headed by the Donati, which hoped to abolish the Ordinamenti, and the other by the Cerchi, which had given up all hope of their abolition; afterwards The Bianchi and the Neri. these parties came to be called Neri (Blacks) and Bianchi (Whites). A plot of the Donati to establish their influence over Florence with the help of Boniface VIII. having been discovered (May 1300), serious riots broke out between the Neri and the Bianchi. The pope’s attempt to unite the grandi having failed, he summoned Charles of Valois to come to his assistance, promising him the imperial crown; in 1301 Charles entered Italy, and was created by the pope paciaro or peacemaker of Tuscany, with instructions to crush the Bianchi and the popolo and exalt the Neri. On the 1st of November Charles reached Florence, promising to respect its laws; but he permitted Corso Donati and his friends to attack the Bianchi, and the new podestà, Cante dei Gabrielli of Gubbio, who had come with Charles, punished many of that faction; among those whom he exiled was the poet Dante (1302). Corso Donati, who for some time was the most powerful man in Florence, made himself many enemies by his arrogance, and was obliged to rely on the popolo grasso, the irritation against him resulting in a rising in which he was killed (1308). In this same year Henry of Luxemburg was elected king of the Romans and with the pope’s favour he came to Italy in 1310; the Florentine exiles and all the Ghibellines of Italy regarded him as a saviour and regenerator of the country, while the Guelphs of Florence on the contrary opposed both him and the pope as dangerous to their own liberties and accepted the protection of King Robert of Naples, disregarding Henry’s summons to submission. In 1312 Henry was crowned emperor as Henry VII. in Rome, but instead of the universal ruler and pacifier which he tried to be, he was forced by circumstances into being merely a German kaiser who tried to subjugate free Italian communes. He besieged Florence without success, and died of disease in 1313.
The Pisans, fearing the vengeance of the Guelphs now that Henry was dead, had accepted the lordship of Uguccione della Fagginola, imperial vicar in Genoa. A brave general and an ambitious man, he captured Lucca and defeated the Florentines and their allies from Naples at Montecatini Uguccione della Fagginola and Castruccio Castracani. in 1315, but the following year he lost both Pisa and Lucca and had to fly from Tuscany. A new danger now threatened Florence in the person of Castruccio Castracani degli Antelminelli (q.v.), who made himself lord of Lucca and secured help from Matteo Visconti, lord of Milan, and other Ghibellines of northern Italy. Between 1320 and 1323 he harried the Florentines and defeated them several times, captured Pistoia, devastated their territory up to the walls of the city in spite of assistance from Naples under Raymundo de Cardona and the duke of Calabria (King Robert’s son); never before had Florence been so humiliated, but while Castruccio was preparing to attack Florence he died in 1328. Two months later the duke of Calabria, who had been appointed protector of the city in 1325, died, and further constitutional reforms were made. The former councils were replaced by the consiglio del popolo, consisting of 300 popolani and presided over by the capitano, and the consiglio del comune of 250 members, half of them nobles and half popolani, presided over by the podestà. The priori and other officers were drawn by lot from among the Guelphs over thirty years old who were declared fit for public office by a special board of 98 citizens (1329). The system worked well at first, but abuses soon crept in, and many persons were unjustly excluded from office; trouble being expected in 1335 a captain of the guard was created. But the first one appointed, Jacopo dei Gabrielli of Gubbio, used his dictatorial powers so ruthlessly that at the end of his year of office no successor was chosen.
The Florentines now turned their eyes towards Lucca; they
might have acquired the city immediately after Castruccio’s
death for 80,000 florins, but failed to do so owing to
differences of opinion in the signory; Martino della
Scala, lord of Verona, promised it to them in 1335, but
Attempt to capture Lucca.
broke his word, and although their finances were not
then very flourishing they allied themselves with Venice to make
war on him. They were successful at first, but Venice made a
truce with the Scala independently of the Florentines, and by
the peace of 1339 they only obtained a part of Lucchese territory.
At the same time they purchased from the Tarlati the protectorate
over Arezzo for ten years. But misfortunes fell on the city:
Edward III. of England repudiated the heavy debts contracted
for his wars in France with the Florentine banking houses of
Bardi and Peruzzi (1339), which eventually led to their failure
and to that of many smaller firms, and shook Florentine credit
all over the world; Philip VI. of France extorted large sums
from the Florentine merchants and bankers in his dominions
by accusing them of usury; in 1340 plague and famine wrought
terrible havoc in Florence, and riots again broke out between the
grandi and the popolo, partly on account of the late unsuccessful
wars and the unsatisfactory state of the finances. To put an
of Athens (1342–43). end to these disorders, Walter of Brienne, duke of Athens, was elected “conservator” and captain of the guard in 1342. An astute, dissolute and ambitious man, half French and half Levantine, he began his government by a policy of conciliation and impartial justice which won him great popularity. But as soon as he thought the ground was secure he succeeded in getting himself acclaimed by the populace lord of Florence for life, and on the 8th of September was carried in triumph to the Palazzo della Signoria. The podestà and the capitano assenting to this treachery, he dismissed the gonfaloniere, reduced the priori to a position of impotence, disarmed the citizens, and soon afterwards accepted the lordship of Arezzo, Volterra, Colle, San Gimignano and Pistoia. He increased his bodyguard to 800 men, all Frenchmen, who behaved with the greatest licence and brutality; by his oppressive taxes, and his ferocious cruelty towards all who opposed him, and the unsatisfactory treaties he concluded with Pisa, he accumulated bitter hatred against his rule. The grandi were disappointed because he had not crushed the popolo, and the latter because he had destroyed their liberties and interfered with the organization of the arti. Many unsuccessful plots against him were hatched, and having discovered one that was conducted by Antonio degli Adimari, the duke summoned the latter to the palace and detained him a prisoner. He also summoned 300 leading citizens on the pretext of wishing to consult them, but fearing treachery they refused to come. On the 26th of July 1343, the citizens rose in arms, demanded the duke’s abdication, and besieged him in the palace. Help came to the Florentines from neighbouring cities, the podestà was expelled, and a balìa or provisional government of 14 was elected. The duke was forced to set Adimari and his other prisoners free, and several of his men-at-arms were killed by the populace; three of his chief henchmen, whom he was obliged to surrender, were literally torn to pieces, and finally on the 1st of August he had to resign his lordship. He departed from Florence under a strong guard a few days later, and the Fourteen cancelled all his enactments.
The expulsion of the duke of Athens was followed by several measures to humble the grandi still further, while the popolo minuto or artisans began to show signs of discontent at the rule of the merchants, and the populace destroyed the houses of many nobles. As soon as order was New constitution. restored a balìa was appointed to reform the government, in which task it was assisted by the Sienese and Perugian ambassadors and by Simone da Battifolle. The priori were reduced to 8 (2 popolani grassi, 3 mediani and 3 artifici minuti), while the gonfaloniere was to be chosen in turn from each of those classes; the grandi were excluded from the administration, but they were still admitted to the consiglio del comune, the cinque di mercanzia, and other offices pertaining to the commune; the Ordinamenti were maintained but in a somewhat attenuated form, and certain grandi as a favour were declared to be of the popolo. Florence was now a thoroughly democratic and commercial republic, and its whole policy was mainly dominated by commercial considerations: its rivalry with Pisa was due to an ambition to gain secure access to the sea; its strong Guelphism was the outcome of its determination to secure the bank-business of the papacy; and its desire to extend its territory in Tuscany to the necessity for keeping open the land trade routes. Florentine democracy, however, was limited to the walls of the city, for no one of the contado nor any citizen of the subject towns enjoyed political rights, which were reserved for the inhabitants of Florence alone and not by any means for all of them.
Florence was in the 14th century a city of about 100,000 inhabitants, of whom 25,000 could bear arms; there were 110 churches, 39 religious houses; the shops of the arte della lana numbered over 200, producing cloth worth 1,200,000 florins; Florentine bankers and merchants were found Statistics. all over the world, often occupying responsible positions in the service of foreign governments; the revenues of the republic, derived chiefly from the city customs, amounted to some 300,000 florins, whereas its ordinary expenses, exclusive of military matters and public buildings, were barely 40,000. It was already a centre of art and letters and full of fine buildings, pictures and libraries. But now that the grandi were suppressed politically, the lowest classes came into prominence, “adventurers without sense or virtue and of no authority for the most part, who had usurped public offices by illicit and dishonest practices” (Matteo Villani, iv. 69); this paved the way for tyranny.
In 1347 Florence was again stricken with famine, followed
the next year by the most terrible plague it had ever experienced,
which carried off three-fifths of the population (according to
Villani). Yet in spite of these disasters the republic was
by no means crushed; it soon regained the suzerainty of
The Great Plague (1348).
War with Milan (1351). many cities which had broken off all connexion with it after the expulsion of the duke of Athens, and purchased the overlordship of Prato from Queen Joanna of Naples, who had inherited it from the duke of Calabria. In 1351 Giovanni Visconti, lord and archbishop of Milan, having purchased Bologna and allied himself with sundry Ghibelline houses of Tuscany with a view to dominating Florence, the city made war on him, and in violation of its Guelph traditions placed itself under the protection of the emperor Charles IV. (1355) for his lifetime. This move, however, was not popular, and it enabled the grandi, who, although excluded from the chief offices, still dominated the parte Guelfa, to reassert themselves. They had in 1347 succeeded in enacting a very stringent law against all who were in any way tainted with Ghibellinism, which, they themselves being above suspicion in that connexion, enabled them to drive from office many members of the popolo minuto. In 1358 the parte Guelfa made these enactments still more stringent, punishing with death or heavy fines all who being Ghibellines held office, and provided that if trustworthy witnesses were forthcoming condemnations might be passed for this offence without hearing the accused; even a non-proved charge or an ammonizione (warning not to accept office) might entail disfranchisement. Thus the parte, represented by its 6 (afterwards 9) captains, came to exercise a veritable reign of terror, and no one knew when an accusation might fall on him. The leader of the parte was Piero degli Albizzi, whose chief rivals were the Ricci family.
Italy at this time began to be overrun by bands of soldiers of fortune. The first of these bands with whom Florence came into contact was the Great Company, commanded by the count of Lando, which twice entered Tuscany but was expelled both times by the The condottieri.Florentine troops (1358–1359).
In 1362 we find Florence at war with Pisa on account of commercial differences, and because the former had acquired the lordship of Volterra. The Florentines were successful until Pisa enlisted Sir John Hawkwood’s English company; the latter won several battles, but were at last defeated at Cascina, and peace was made in 1364, neither side having gained much advantage. A fresh danger threatened the republic in 1367 when Charles IV., who had allied himself with Pope Urban V., Queen Joanna of Naples, and various north Italian despots to humble the Visconti, demanded that the Florentines should join the league. This they refused to do and armed themselves for defence, but eventually satisfied the emperor with a money payment.
The tyranny of the parte Guelfa still continued unabated, and the capitani carried an enactment by which no measure affecting the parte should be even discussed by the signory unless previously approved of by them. This infamous law, however, aroused so much opposition The parte Guelfa. that some of the very men who had proposed it assembled in secret to discuss its abolition, and a quarrel between the Albizzi and the Ricci having weakened the parte, a balìa of 56 was agreed upon. Several of the Albizzi and the Ricci were excluded from office for five years, and a council called the Ten of Liberty was created to defend the laws and protect the weak against the strong. The parte Guelfa and the Albizzi still remained very influential and the attempts to abolish admonitions failed.
In 1375 Florence became involved in a war which showed
how the old party divisions of Italy had been obliterated. The
papal legate at Bologna, Cardinal Guillaume de Noellet
(d. 1394), although the church was then allied to
Florence, was meditating the annexation of the city to
the church (1375–78). the Holy See; he refused a request of the Florentines for grain from Romagna, and authorized Hawkwood to devastate their territory. Although a large part of the people disliked the idea of a conflict with the church, an alliance with Florence’s old enemy Bernabò Visconti was made, war declared, and a balìa of 8, the Otto della guerra (afterwards called the “Eight Saints” on account of their good management) was created to carry on the campaign. Treaties with Pisa, Siena, Arezzo and Cortona were concluded, and soon no less than 80 towns, including Bologna, had thrown off the papal yoke. Pope Gregory XI. placed Florence under an interdict, ordered the expulsion of all Florentines from foreign countries, and engaged a ferocious company of Bretons to invade the republic’s territory. The Eight levied heavy toll on church property and ordered the priests to disregard the interdict. They turned the tables on the pope by engaging Hawkwood, and although the Bretons by order of Cardinal Robert of Geneva (afterwards the anti-pope Clement VII.) committed frightful atrocities in Romagna, their captains were bribed by the republic not to molest its territory. By 1378 peace was made, partly through the mediation of St Catherine of Siena, and the interdict was removed in consideration of the republic’s paying a fine of 200,000 florins to the pope.
During the war the Eight had been practically rulers of the city, but now the parte Guelfa, led by Lapo da Castiglionchio and Piero degli Albizzi, attempted to reassert itself by illicit interference in the elections and by a liberal use of “admonitions” (ammonizioni). Salvestro de’ Salvestro de’ Medici. Medici, who had always opposed the parte, having been elected gonfaloniere in spite of its intrigues, proposed a law for the abolition of the admonitions, which was eventually passed (June 18, 1378), but the people had been aroused, and desired to break the power of the parte for good. Rioting occurred on the 21st of June, and the houses of the Albizzi and other nobles were burnt. The signory meanwhile created a balìa of 80 which repealed some of the laws promoted by the parte, and partly enfranchised the ammoniti. The people were still unsatisfied, the arti minori demanded further privileges, and the workmen insisted that their grievances against the arti maggiori, especially the wool trade by whom they were employed, The riot of the ciompi (1378). be redressed. A large body of ciompi (wool carders) gathered outside the city and conspired to subvert the signory and establish a popular government. Although the plot, in which Salvestro does not seem to have played a part, was revealed, a good deal of mob violence occurred, and on the 21st of July the populace seized the podestà’s palace, which they made their headquarters. They demanded a share in the government for the popolo minuto, but as soon as this was granted Tommaso Strozzi, as spokesman of the ciompi, obliged the signory to resign their powers to the Eight. Once the people were in possession of the palace, a ciompo named Michele di Lando took the lead and put a stop to disorder and pillage. He remained master of Florence for one day, during which he reformed the constitution, probably with the help of Salvestro de’ Medici. Three new gilds were created, and nine priors appointed, three from the arti maggiori, three from the minori, and three from the new ones, while each of these classes in turn was to choose the gonfaloniere of justice; the first to hold the office was Michele di Lando. This did not satisfy the ciompi, and the disorders provoked by them resulted in a new government which reformed the two councils so as to exclude the lower orders. But to satisfy the people several of the grandi, including Piero degli Albizzi, were put to death, on charges of conspiracy, and many others were exiled. There was perpetual rioting and anarchy, and interference in the affairs of the government by the working men, while at the same time poverty and unemployment increased owing to the timidity of capital and the disorders, until at last in 1382 a reaction set in, and order was restored by the gild companies. Again a new constitution was decreed by which the gonfaloniere and half the priori were to be chosen from the arti maggiori and the other half from the minori; on several other boards the former were to be in the majority, and the three new gilds were abolished. The demagogues were executed or forced to fly, and Michele di Lando with great ingratitude was exiled. Several subsequent risings of the ciompi, largely of an economic character, were put down, and the Guelph families gradually regained much of their lost power, of which they availed themselves to exile their opponents and revive the odious system of ammonizioni.
Meanwhile in foreign affairs the republic maintained its position, and in 1383 it regained Arezzo by purchase from the lieutenant of Charles of Durazzo. In 1390 Gian Galeazzo Visconti, having made himself master of a large part of northern Italy, intrigued to gain possession of Pisa and Siena. Florence, alone in resisting him, engaged Hawkwood, who with an army of 7000 men more than held his own against the powerful lord of Milan, and in 1392 a peace was concluded which the republic strengthened by an alliance with Pisa and several north Italian states. In 1393 Maso degli Albizzi was made gonfaloniere, and for many years remained almost master of Florence owing to his influential position in the Arte della Lana. A severe persecution was initiated against the Alberti and other families, who were disfranchised and exiled. Disorders and conspiracies against the merchant oligarchy continued, and although they were unsuccessful party passion was incredibly bitter, and the exiles caused the republic much trouble by intriguing against it in foreign states. In 1397–1398 Florence had two more wars with Gian Galeazzo Visconti, who, aspiring to the conquest of Tuscany, acquired the lordship of Pisa, Siena and Perugia. Hawkwood being dead, Florence purchased aid from the emperor Rupert. The Imperialists were beaten; but just as the Milanese were about to march on Florence, Visconti died. His territories were then divided between his sons and his condottieri, and Florence, ever keeping her eye on Pisa, now ruled by Gabriele Maria Visconti, made an alliance with Pope Boniface IX., who wished to regain Perugia and Bologna. War broke out once more, and the allies were successful, but as soon as Boniface had gained his ends he made peace, leaving the Florentines unsatisfied. In Attempts to acquire Pisa (1402–6). 1404 their attempt to capture Pisa single-handed failed, and Gabriele Maria placed himself under the protection of the French king. The Florentines then made overtures to France, who had supported the anti-popes all through the great schism, and suggested that they too would support the then anti-pope, Benedict XIII., in exchange for the sale of Pisa. This was agreed to, and in 1405 the city was sold to Florence for 260,000 florins; and Gino Capponi, the Florentine commissioner, took possession of the citadel, but a few days later the citizens arose in arms and recaptured it from the mercenaries. There was great consternation in Florence at the news, and every man in the city “determined that he would go naked rather than not conquer Pisa” (G. Capponi). The next year that city, then ruled by Giovanni Gambacorti, was besieged by the Florentines, who blockaded the mouth of the Arno. After a six months’ siege Pisa surrendered on terms (9th October 1406), and, although it was not sacked, many of the citizens were exiled and others forced to live in Florence, a depopulation from which it never recovered. Florence now acquired a great seaport and was at last able to develop a direct maritime trade.
Except in connexion with the Pisan question the republic had taken no definite side in the great schism which had divided the church since 1378, but in 1408 she appealed both to Pope Gregory XII. and the anti-pope Benedict XIII. as well as to various foreign governments in The council of Pisa (1408). favour of a settlement, and suggested a council within her own territory. Gregory refused, but after consulting a committee of theologians who declared him to be a heretic, the council promoted by Cardinal Cossa and other independent prelates met at Pisa. This nearly led to war with King Ladislas of Naples, because he had seized Rome, which he could only hold so long as the church was divided. The council deposed both popes and elected Pietro Filargi as Alexander V. (26th of June). But Ladislas still occupied the papal states, and Florence, alarmed at his growing power and ambition, formed a league with Siena, Bologna and Louis of Anjou who laid claim to the Neapolitan throne, to drive Ladislas from Rome. Cortona, Orvieto, Viterbo and other cities were recovered for Alexander, and in January 1410 Rome itself was captured by the Florentines under Malatesta dei Malatesti. Alexander having died in May before entering the Eternal City, Cardinal Cossa was elected as John XXIII.; Florence without offending him made peace with Ladislas, who had ceased to be dangerous, and purchased Cortona of the pope. In 1413 Ladislas attacked the papal states once more, driving John from Rome, and threatened Florence; but like Henry VII., Gian Galeazzo Visconti, and other enemies of the republic, he too died most opportunely (6th of August 1414). John having lost all authority after leaving Rome, a new council was held at Constance, which put an end to the schism in 1417 with the election of Martin V. The new pope came to Florence in 1419 as he had not yet regained Rome, which was held by Francesco Sforza for Queen Joanna II. of Naples, and remained there until the following year.
No important changes in the constitution took place during this period except the appointment of two new councils in 1411 to decide on questions of peace and war. The aristocratic faction headed by Maso degli Albizzi, a wise and popular statesman, had remained predominant, and at Maso’s death in 1417 he was succeeded in the leadership of the party by Niccolò da Uzzano. In 1421 Giovanni de’ Medici was elected gonfaloniere of justice, an event which marks the beginning of that wealthy family’s power. The same year the republic purchased Leghorn from the Genoese for 100,000 florins, and established a body of “Consuls of the Sea” to superintend maritime trade. Although 11,000,000 florins had been spent on recent wars Florence continued prosperous and its trade increased.
In 1421 Filippo Maria Visconti, who had succeeded in reconquering most of Lombardy, seized Forlì; this induced the Florentines to declare war on him, as they regarded his approach as a menace to their territory in spite of the opposition of the peace party led by Giovanni de’ New war with the Visconti (1421–27). Medici. The campaign was anything but successful, and the Florentines were defeated several times, with the result that their credit was shaken and several important firms failed. The pope too was against them, but when they induced the Venetians to intervene the tide of fortune changed, and Visconti was finally defeated and forced to accept peace on onerous terms (1427).
The old systems of raising revenue no longer corresponded to the needs of the republic, and as early as 1336 the various loans made to the state were consolidated into one national debt (monte). Subsequently all extraordinary expenditure was met by forced loans (prestanze), but the Fiscal reforms (1427). method of distribution aroused discontent among the lower classes, and in 1427 a general catasto or assessment of all the wealth of the citizens was formed, and measures were devised to distribute the obligations according to each man’s capacity, so as to avoid pressing too hardly on the poor. The catasto was largely the work of Giovanni de’ Medici, who greatly increased his popularity thereby. He died in 1429.
An attempt to capture Lucca led Florence, in alliance with Venice, into another costly war with Milan (1432–1433). The mismanagement of the campaign brought about a quarrel between the aristocratic party, led by Rinaldo degli Albizzi, and the popular party, led by Giovanni Exile and return of Cosimo de’ Medici (1433–34). de’ Medici’s son Cosimo (1389–1464), although both had agreed to the war before it began. Rinaldo was determined to break the Medici party, and succeeded in getting Cosimo exiled. The Albizzi tried to strengthen their position by conferring exceptional powers on the capitano del popolo and by juggling with the election bags, but the Medici still had a great hold on the populace. Rinaldo’s proposal for a coup d’état met with no response from his own party, and he failed to prevent the election of a pro-Medici signory in 1434. He and other leaders of the party were summoned to the palace to answer a charge of plotting against the state, to which he replied by collecting 800 armed followers. A revolution was only averted through the intervention of Pope Eugenius IV., who was then in Florence. A parlamento was summoned, and the balìa appointed decreed the return of Cosimo and the exile of Rinaldo degli Albizzi, Rodolfo Peruzzi, Niccolò Barbadori, and others, in spite of the feeble attempt of Eugenius to protect them. On the 6th of October 1434 Cosimo returned to Florence, and for the next three centuries the history of the city is identified with that of the house of Medici.
Cosimo succeeded in dominating the republic while remaining nominally a private citizen. He exiled those who opposed him, and governed by means of the balìe, which, re-elected every five years, appointed all the magistrates and acted according to his orders. In 1437 Florence and Cosimo’s rule. Venice were again at war with the Visconti, whose chief captain, Niccolò Piccinino (q.v.), on entering Tuscany with many Florentine exiles in his train, was signally defeated at Anghiari by the Florentines under Francesco Sforza (1440); peace was made the following year. The system of the catasto, which led to abuses, was abolished, and a progressive income-tax (decima scalata) was introduced with the object of lightening the burdens of the poor, who were as a rule Medicean, at the expense of the rich; but as it was frequently increased the whole community came to be oppressed by it in the end. Cosimo increased his own authority and that of the republic by aiding Francesco Sforza to become duke of Milan (1450), and he sided with him in the war against Venice (1452–1454). In 1452 the emperor Frederick III. passed through Florence on his way to be crowned in Rome, and was received as a friend. During the last years of Cosimo’s life, affairs were less under his control, and the gonfaloniere Luca Pitti, a vain and ambitious man, introduced many changes, such as the abasement of the authority of the podestà and of the capitano, which Cosimo desired but was glad to attribute to others.
In 1464 Cosimo died and was succeeded, not without some
opposition, by his son Piero, who was very infirm and gouty.
Various plots against him were hatched, the anti-Medicean
faction being called the Del Poggio party
because the house of its leader Luca Pitti was on a hill,
Piero de’ Medici (the Gouty).
Lorenzo the Magnificent. while the Mediceans were called the Del Piano party because Piero’s house was in the town below; the other opposition leaders were Dietisalvi Neroni and Agnolo Acciaiuoli. But Piero’s unexpected energy upset the schemes of his enemies. The death of Sforza led to a war for the succession of Milan, and the Venetians, instigated by Florentine exiles, invaded Tuscany. The war ended, after many indecisive engagements, in 1468, through the intervention of Pope Paul II. Piero died in 1469, leaving two sons, Lorenzo (1449–1492) and Giuliano (1453–1478). The former at once assumed the reins of government and became ruler of Florence in a way neither Cosimo nor Piero had ever attempted; he established his domination by means of balìe consisting of the signory, the accoppiatori, and 240 other members, all Mediceans, to be renewed every five years (1471). In 1472 a quarrel having arisen with Volterra on account of a dispute concerning the alum mines, Lorenzo sent an expedition against the city, which was sacked and many of the inhabitants massacred. Owing to a variety of causes an enmity arose between Lorenzo and Pope Sixtus IV., and the latter, if not an accomplice, at all events had knowledge of the Pazzi conspiracy against the Medici (1478). The result of the plot was that, although Giuliano was murdered, Lorenzo strengthened his position, and put to death or exiled numbers of his enemies. He was excommunicated by Sixtus, who, together with King Ferdinand of Naples, waged war against him; no great successes were registered on either side at first, but eventually the Florentines were defeated at Poggio Imperiale (near Poggibonsi) and the city itself was in danger. Lorenzo’s position was critical, but by his boldness in going to Naples he succeeded in concluding a peace with the king, which led to a reconciliation with the pope (1479–1480). He was received with enthusiasm on returning to Florence and became absolute master of the situation. In April 1480 a balìa was formed, and its most important act was the creation at Lorenzo’s instance of the Council of Seventy; it was constituted for five years, but it became permanent, and all its members were Lorenzo’s friends. From that time until his death the city was free from party strife under a de facto despotism, but after the Rinuccini conspiracy of that year the Council of Seventy passed a law declaring attempts on Lorenzo’s life to be high treason. Owing to his political activity Lorenzo had neglected the business interests of his firm, and in order to make good certain heavy losses he seems to have appropriated public funds. His foreign policy, which was magnificent but expensive, rendered further forced loans necessary, and he also laid hands on the Monte delle Doti, an insurance institution to provide dowries for girls.
An attempt by the Venetians to seize Ferrara led to a general Italian war, in which Florence also took part on the side hostile to Venice, and when peace was made in 1484 the republic gained some advantages. The following year a revolt of the Neapolitan barons against King Ferdinand broke out, actively supported by Pope Innocent VIII.; Lorenzo remained neutral at first, but true to his policy of maintaining the balance of power and not wishing to see Ferdinand completely crushed, he ended by giving him assistance in spite of the king’s unpopularity in Florence. Peace was made when the pope agreed to come to terms in 1486, and in 1487 Lorenzo regained Sarzana, which Genoa had taken from Florence nine years previously. The general disorders and ceaseless intrigues all over Italy required Lorenzo’s constant attention, and he succeeded in making Florence “the Savonarola. needle of the balance of power in Italy.” At this time the Dominican Fra Girolamo Savonarola (q.v.) was in Florence and aroused the whole city by his denunciations of ecclesiastical corruption and also of that of the Florentines. He opposed Lorenzo’s government as the source of the immorality of the people, and to some extent influenced public opinion against him. Ill-health now gained on Lorenzo, and Savonarola, whom he had summoned to his bedside, refused to give absolution to the destroyer of Florentine liberties. Lorenzo, during whose rule Florence had become one of the greatest centres of art and literature in Europe, died in 1492.
He was succeeded by his son Piero, who had none of his father’s
capacity and made a number of political blunders. When
Charles VIII. of France came to Italy to conquer Naples
Piero decided to assist the latter kingdom, although the
traditional sympathies of the people were for the French
Piero de’ Medici.
king, and when Charles entered Florentine territory and captured
Sarzana, Piero went to his camp and asked pardon for opposing
him. The king demanded the cession of Pisa, Leghorn and
other towns, which Piero granted, but on returning to Florence
on the 8th of November 1494 he found the opposition greatly
strengthened and his popularity forfeited, especially when the
news of his disgraceful cessions to Charles became known. He
was refused admittance to the palace, and the people began to
shout “Popolo e libertà!” in opposition to the Medicean cry of
“Palle, Palle!” (from the Medici arms). With a small escort
he fled from the city, followed soon after by his brother Giovanni.
Expulsion of the Medici (1494).
Charles VIII. in Florence. That same day Pisa rose in revolt against the Florentines, and was occupied by Charles. The expulsion of the Medici produced some disorder, but Piero Capponi (q.v.) and other prominent citizens succeeded in keeping the peace. Ambassadors, one of whom was Savonarola, were sent to treat with the French king, but no agreement was arrived at until Charles entered Florence on the 17th of November at the head of 12,000 men. In spite of their French sympathies the citizens were indignant at the seizure of Sarzana, and while they gave the king a splendid welcome, they did not like his attitude of conqueror. Charles was impressed with the wealth and refinement of the citizens, and above all with the solid fortress-like appearance of their palaces. The signory appointed Piero Capponi, a man of great ability and patriotism, and experienced in diplomacy, the gonfaloniere Francesco Valori, the Dominican Giorgio Vespucci, and the jurisconsult and diplomatist Domenico Bonsi, syndics to conduct the negotiations with the French king. Charles’s demands by no means pleased the citizens, and the arrogance and violence of his soldiers led to riots in which they were assailed with stones in the narrow streets. When the king began to hint at the recall of Piero de’ Medici, whose envoys had gained his ear, the signory ordered the citizens to be ready to fly to arms. The proposal was dropped, but Charles demanded an immense sum of money before he would leave the city; long discussions followed, and when at last he presented an insolent ultimatum the syndics refused to accept it. The king said in Piero Capponi. a threatening tone, “Then we shall sound our trumpets,” whereupon Capponi tore up the document in his face and replied, “And we shall ring our bells.” The king, realizing what street fighting in Florence would mean, at once came to terms; he contented himself with 120,000 florins, agreeing to assume the title of “Protector and Restorer of the liberty of Florence,” and to give up the fortresses he had taken within two years, unless his expedition to Naples should be concluded sooner; the Medici were to remain banished, but the price on their heads was withdrawn. But Charles would not depart, a fact which caused perpetual disturbance in the city, and it was not until the 28th of November, after an exhortation by Savonarola whom he greatly respected, that he left Florence.
It was now intended to re-establish the government on the
basis of the old republican institutions, but it was found that
sixty years of Medici rule had reduced them to mere
shadows, and the condition of the government, largely
controlled by a balìa of 20 accoppiatori and frequently
The revived republic.
Savonarola as a statesman. disturbed by the summoning of the parlamento, was utterly chaotic. Consequently men talked of nothing save of changing the constitution, but unfortunately there was no longer an upper class accustomed to public affairs, while the lower class was thoroughly demoralized. Many proposals were made, none of them of practical value, until Savonarola, who had already made a reputation as a moral reformer, began his famous series of political sermons. In the prevailing confusion the people turned to him as their only hope, and gradually a new government was evolved, each law being enacted as the result of his exhortations. A Greater Council empowered to appoint magistrates and pass laws was formed, to which all citizens netti di specchio (who had paid their taxes) and beneficiati (i.e. who had sat in one of the higher magistracies or whose fathers, grandfathers, or great-grandfathers had done so) were eligible together with certain others. There were 3200 such citizens, and they sat one-third at a time for six months. The Greater Council was to elect another council of 80 citizens over forty years old, also to be changed every six months; this body, which the signory must consult once a week, together with the colleges and the signory itself, was to appoint ambassadors and commissaries of war, and deal with other confidential matters. The system of forced loans was abolished and a 10% tax on real property introduced in its stead, and a law of amnesty for political offenders enacted. Savonarola also proposed a court of appeal for criminal and political crimes tried by the Otto di guardia e balìa; this too was agreed to, but the right of appeal was to be, not to a court as Savonarola suggested, but to the Greater Council, a fact which led to grave abuses, as judicial appeals became subject to party passions. The parlamenti were abolished and a monte di pietà to advance money at reasonable interest was created. But in spite of Savonarola’s popularity there was a party called the Bigi (greys) who intrigued secretly in favour of the return of the Medici, while the men of wealth, called the Arrabbiati, although they hated the Medici, were even more openly opposed to the actual régime and desired to set up an aristocratic oligarchy. The adherents of Savonarola were called the Piagnoni, or snivellers, while the Neutrali changed sides frequently.
A league between the pope, the emperor, Venice and Spain having been made against Charles VIII., the latter was forced to return to France. On his way back he passed through Florence, and; although the republic had refused to join the league, it believed itself in danger, as Piero de’ Medici was in the League against Charles VIII. king’s train. Savonarola was again sent to the French camp, and his eloquence turned the king from any idea he may have had of reinstating the Medici. At the same time Charles violated his promise by giving aid to the Pisans in their revolt against Florence, and did not restore the other fortresses. After the French had abandoned Italy, Piero de’ Medici, encouraged by the league, enlisted a number of mercenaries and marched on Florence, but the citizens, fired by Savonarola’s enthusiasm, flew to arms and prepared for an energetic resistance; owing to Piero’s incapacity and the exhaustion of his funds the expedition came to nothing. At the same time the conditions of the city were not prosperous; its resources were strained by the sums paid to Charles and by the war; its credit was shaken, its trade paralysed, famine and plague visited the city, and the war to subjugate Pisa was proceeding unsatisfactorily. Worse still was the death in 1496 of one of its ablest and most disinterested statesmen, Piero Capponi. The league now attacked Florence, for Pope Alexander VI. Alexander VI. against Florence. hated Savonarola and was determined to destroy the republic, so as to reinstate the Medici temporarily and prepare the way for his own sons; the Venetians and Imperialists besieged Leghorn, and there was great misery in Florence. All this decreased Savonarola’s popularity to some extent, but the enemy having been beaten at Leghorn and the league being apparently on the point of breaking up, the Florentines took courage and the friar’s party was once more in the ascendant. Numerous processions were held, Savonarola’s sermons against corruption and vice seemed to have temporarily transformed the citizens, and the carnival of 1497 remained famous for the burning of the “vanities” (i.e. indecent books and pictures and carnival masks and costumes). The friar’s sermons against ecclesiastical corruption, and especially against the pope, resulted in his excommunication by the latter, in consequence of which he lost much of his influence and immorality spread once more. That same year Piero made another unsuccessful attempt on Florence. New Medici plots having been discovered, Bernardo del Nero and other prominent citizens were tried and put to death; but the party hostile to Savonarola gained ground and had the support of the Franciscans, who were hostile to the Dominican order. Pulpit warfare was waged between Savonarola and his opponents, and the matter ended in his being forbidden to preach and in a proposed ordeal by fire, which, however, never came off. The pope again and again demanded that the friar be surrendered to him, but without success, in spite of his threats of an interdict against the city. The Piagnoni were out of power, and a signory of Arrabbiati having been elected in 1498, a mob of Savonarola’s opponents attacked the convent of St Mark where he resided, and he himself was arrested and imprisoned. The commission appointed to try him on charges of heresy and treason was composed Trial and execution of Savonarola (1498). of his enemies, including Doffo Spini, who had previously attempted to murder him; many irregularities were committed during the three trials, and the prisoner was repeatedly tortured. The outgoing signory secured the election of another which was of their way of thinking, and on the 22nd of May 1498 Savonarola was condemned to death and executed the following day.
The pope having been satisfied, the situation in Florence was less critical for the moment. The war against Pisa was renewed, and in 1499 the city might have been taken but for the dilatory tactics of the Florentine commander Paolo Vitelli, who was consequently arrested on a charge of treason and put to death. Louis XII. of France, who now sent an army into Italy to conquer the Milanese, obtained the support of the Florentines. Cesare Borgia, who had seized many cities in Romagna, suddenly demanded the reinstatement of the Medici in Florence, and the danger was only warded off by appointing him captain-general of the Florentine forces at a large salary (1501). The weakness of the government becoming every day more apparent, several constitutional changes were made, and many old institutions, such as that of the podestà and capitano del popolo, were abolished; finally in 1502, in order to give more stability to the government, the office of gonfaloniere, with the right of proposing laws to the signory, was made a life appointment. The election fell on Piero Soderini (1448–1522), Piero Soderini. an honest public-spirited man of no particular party, but lacking in strength of character. One useful measure which he took was the institution of a national militia at the suggestion of Niccolò Machiavelli (1505). In the meanwhile the Pisan war dragged on without much headway being made. In 1503 both Piero de’ Medici and Alexander VI. had died, eliminating two dangers to the republic. Spain, who was at war with France over the partition of Naples, helped the Pisans as the enemies of Florence, France’s ally (1501–1504), but when the war was over the Florentines were able to lay siege to Pisa (1507), and in 1509 the city was driven by famine to surrender and became a dependency of Florence once more.
Pope Julius II., after having formed the league of Cambrai
with France and Spain against Venice, retired from it in 1510,
and raised the cry of “Fuori i Barbari” (out with the
barbarians), with a view to expelling the French from
Italy. King Louis thereupon proposed an oecumenical
Schismatic council of Pisa (1510).
council so as to create a schism in the Church, and
demanded that it be held in Florentine territory. After
some hesitation the republic agreed to the demand, and the council
was opened at Pisa, whereupon the pope immediately placed
Florence under an interdict. At the request of the Florentines
the council removed to Milan, but this did not save them from
the pope’s wrath. A Spanish army under Raymundo de Cardona
and accompanied by Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici and his brother
Giuliano entered the republic’s territory and demanded 100,000
florins, the dismissal of Soderini, and the readmission of the
Medici. Soderini offered to resign, but the Greater Council
supported him and preparations for defence were made. In
August the Spaniards took Prato by storm and committed
hideous atrocities on the inhabitants; Florence was in a panic,
a group of the Ottimati, or nobles, forced Soderini to resign and
leave the city, and Cardona’s new terms were accepted, viz.
the readmission of the Medici, a fine of 150,000 florins, and an
Return of the Medici (1512).
alliance with Spain. On the 1st of September 1512
Giuliano and Giovanni de’ Medici, and their nephew
Lorenzo, entered Florence with the Spanish troops;
a parlamento was summoned, and a packed balìa
formed which abolished the Greater Council and created a constitution
similar to that of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Giuliano
became de facto head of the government, but he did not pursue
the usual vindictive policy of his house, although he resorted
to the Laurentian method of amusing the citizens with splendid
festivities. In 1513, on the death of Julius II., Giovanni de’
Medici was elected pope as Leo X., an event which greatly enhanced
the importance of the house. In March 1514 Giuliano
died, and was succeeded by Lorenzo, who was also created duke
of Urbino. At his death in 1519 Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici (son
of the Giuliano murdered in the Pazzi conspiracy) took charge
of the government; he met with some opposition and had to
play off the Ottimati against the Piagnoni, but he did not rule
badly and maintained at all events the outward forms of freedom.
In 1523 he was created pope as Clement VII. and sent his relatives
Ippolito and Alessandro, both minors and bastards, to Florence
under the tutorship of Cardinal Silvio Passerini. Ippolito was
styled the Magnifico and destined to be ruler of the republic,
but Cardinal Passerini’s regency proved most unpopular, and the
city was soon seething with discontent. Revolts broke out and
Passerini showed himself quite unequal to coping with the
situation. The Ottimati were mostly anti-Medicean, and by 1527
the position was untenable. When Filippo Strozzi, and above
of the Medici (1527). all his wife, threw their influence in the scales against the Medici, and the magistrates declared for their expulsion from power, Passerini, Ippolito and Alessandro left Florence (17th of May 1527). A Consiglio degli Scelti was summoned, and a constitution similar to that of Savonarola’s time was established. The Greater Council was revived and Niccolò Capponi created gonfaloniere for a year. But Florence was torn by factions—the Ottimati who desired an oligarchy, the Palleschi or Mediceans who generally supported them, the Adirati who opposed Capponi for his moderation, the Arrabbiati who were strongly anti-Medicean, and the Popolani who opposed the Ottimati. “It is almost impossible that a state so disorganized and corrupt as Florence then was should produce men of parts and character, but if by chance any such should arise they would be hated and persecuted, their dispositions would be soured by indignation, or they would be hunted from their country or die of grief” (Benedette Varchi). Capponi did his best to reform the city and save the situation, and while adopting Savonarola’s tone in internal affairs, he saw the dangers in the foreign situation, realizing that a reconciliation between the pope and the emperor Charles V. would prove disastrous for Florence, for Clement would certainly seize the opportunity to reinstate his family in power. Having been re-elected gonfaloniere in spite of much opposition in 1528, Capponi tried to make peace with the pope, but his correspondence with the Vatican resulted in a quite unjustified charge of high treason, and although acquitted he had to resign office and leave the city for six months. Francesco Carducci was elected gonfaloniere in his place, and on the 29th of June 1529 the pope and the emperor concluded a treaty by which the latter agreed to re-establish the Medici in Florence. Carducci made preparations for a siege, but a large part of the people were against him, either from Medicean sympathies or fear, although the Frateschi, as the believers in Savonarola’s views were called, supported him strongly. A body called the Nove della Milizia, of whom Michelangelo Buonarroti was a member, was charged with the defence of the city, and Michelangelo (q.v.) himself superintended the strengthening of the fortifications. A most unfortunate choice for the chief command of the army was the appointment of Malatesta Baglioni. In August an imperial army under Philibert, prince of Orange, advanced on the city. In September Malatesta surrendered Perugia, and other cities fell before the Imperialists. All attempts to come to terms with the pope were The siege
of Florence. unsuccessful, and by October the siege had begun. Although alone against papacy and empire, the citizens showed the greatest spirit and devotion, and were successful in many sorties. The finest figure produced by these events was that of Francesco Ferruccio (q.v.); by his defence of Empoli he showed himself a first-class soldier, and was appointed commissioner-general. He executed many rapid marches and counter-marches, assaulting isolated bodies of the enemy unexpectedly, and harassing them continually. But Malatesta was a traitor at heart and hindered the defence of the city in every way. Ferruccio, who had recaptured Volterra, marched to Gavinana above Pistoia to attack the Imperialists in the rear. A battle took place at that spot on the 3rd of August, but in spite of Ferruccio’s heroism he was defeated and killed; the prince of Orange also fell in that desperate engagement. Malatesta contributed to the defeat by preventing a simultaneous attack by the besieged. The sufferings from famine within the city were now very great, and an increasingly large part of the people favoured surrender. The signory, at last realizing that Malatesta was a traitor, dismissed him; but it was too late, and he now behaved as though he were governor of Florence; when the troops attempted to enforce the dismissal he turned his guns on them. On the 9th of August the signory saw that Surrender
of Florence (1530). all hope was lost and entered into negotiations with Don Ferrante Gonzaga, the new imperial commander. On the 12th the capitulation was signed: Florence was to pay an indemnity of 80,000 florins, the Medici were to be recalled, the emperor was to establish the new government, “it being understood that liberty is to be preserved.” Baccio Valori, a Medicean who had been in the imperialist camp, now took charge, and the city was occupied by foreign troops. A parlamento was summoned, the usual packed balìa created, and all opposition silenced. The city was given over to Pope Clement, who, disregarding the terms of the capitulation, had Carducci and Girolami (the last gonfaloniere) hanged, and established Alessandro de’ Medici, the natural son of Lorenzo, duke of Urbino, as head of the republic on the 5th of July 1531. The next year the signory was abolished, Alessandro created gonfaloniere for life, and his lordship made hereditary in his family by imperial patent. Thus Florence lost her liberty, and came to be the capital of the duchy (afterwards grand-duchy) of Tuscany (see Tuscany).
The Medici dynasty ruled in Tuscany until the death of Gian Gastone in 1737, when the grand-duchy was assigned to Francis, duke of Lorraine. But it was governed by a regency until 1753, when it was conferred by the empress Maria Theresa on his son Peter Leopold. During the The Grand-Duchy of Tuscany. Napoleonic wars the grand-duke Ferdinand III. of Habsburg-Lorraine was driven from the throne, and Tuscany was annexed to the French empire in 1808. In 1809 Florence was made capital of the kingdom of Etruria, but after the fall of Napoleon in 1814 Ferdinand was reinstated. He died in 1833, and was succeeded by Leopold II. In 1848 there was a liberal revolutionary movement in Florence, and Leopold granted a constitution. But civil disorders followed, and in 1849 the grand-duke returned under an Austrian escort. In 1859, after the Franco-Italian victories over the Austrians in Lombardy, by a bloodless revolution in Florence Leopold was expelled and Tuscany annexed to the Sardinian kingdom.
In 1865 Florence became the capital of the kingdom of Italy, but after the occupation of Rome in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war, the capital was transferred to the Eternal City (1871).
Bibliography.—The best complete history of Florence is Gino Capponi’s Storia della Repubblica di Firenze (2 vols., Florence, 1875), which although defective as regards the earliest times is a standard work based on original authorities; also F. T. Perrens, Histoire de Florence (9 vols., Paris, 1877–1890). For the early period see Pasquale Villari’s I Primi Due Secoli della storia di Firenze (Eng. ed., London, 1894), and R. Davidsohn’s Geschichte der Stadt Florenz (Berlin, 1896); P. Villari’s Savonarola (English ed., London, 1896) is invaluable for the period during which the friar’s personality dominated Florence, and his Machiavelli (English ed., London, 1892) must be also consulted, especially for the development of political theories. Among the English histories of Florence, Napier’s Florentine History (6 vols., London, 1846–1847) and A. Trollope’s History of the Commonwealth of Florence (4 vols., London, 1865) are not without value although out of date. Francis Hyett’s Florence (London, 1903) is more recent and compendious; the author is somewhat Medicean in his views, and frequently inaccurate. For the later history, A. von Reumont’s Geschichte von Toscana (Gotha, 1876–1877) is one of the best works. There is a large number of small treatises and compendia of Florentine history of the guide-book description. See also the bibliographies in Medici, Machiavelli, Savonarola, Tuscany, &c. (L. V.*)
- The historian, not to be confounded with the modern historian and statesman of the same name (q.v.).
- The history of Florence from 1434 to 1737 will be found in greater detail in the article Medici, save for the periods from 1494 to 1512 and from 1527 to 1530, during which the republic was restored. For the period from 1530 to 1860 see also under Tuscany.