In adopting the Ordinances of Justice in 1293, the city of florence provided itself with a republican form of government that lasted at least formally for over two centuries. The outstanding political event of this period was the rise to power of the Medici family, which dominated political life in Florence throughout most of the 15th century. The Medici also ruled as grand dukes of Tuscany in an unbroken line from 1530 until 1737, when the duchy passed into the control of the House of Austria. The power of the family rested on its enormous wealth in the first phase of its prominence and upon personal family ties with ruling houses of Europe in the second.
Notable Members of the Family. Early in the 13th century individual Medici left their agrarian holdings at Cafaggiolo in the mountainous Mugello region north of Florence to make their way in the expanding commune. The name of Bonagiunta appears in an act of 1221. When the government of the priors was formed in 1282, the Medici were enrolled in the greater guilds as leading merchants. In 1291 Ardingo de' Medici served as a prior and in 1296, was elected gonfalonier, the highest office in the city. The family continued to grow in prestige during the subsequent century. Salvestro (1331–88) identified the family with popular causes by his role in the Ciompi revolt in 1378. Giovanni di Bicci (1360–1429), a shrewd and single-minded businessman, built up one of the greatest fortunes in Florence. He was absorbed in finances, was not politically ambitious, and failed to assume the role of advocate of the common people, but he nevertheless captured their sympathy by his liberality, constructing the church of S. Lorenzo, the Hospital of the Innocents, and the tomb of the antipope John XXIII, erected by Donatello and Michelozzo. The Albizzi oligarchy, which assumed power in 1382, was relatively permissive and allowed Giovanni to serve as prior repeatedly and as gonfalonier in 1421.
The break between the Albizzi and Medici developed under the rule of Rinaldo degli Albizzi and Giovanni's son Cosimo (1389–1464). Rinaldo undertook a popular war to subdue neighboring Lucca, failed to win, and on May 10, 1433 made an unsatisfactory peace. Civic sentiment swung in favor of Cosimo, who had been critical of Rinaldo's bungling. Rinaldo exiled Cosimo and his brother Lorenzo to Venice. On Sept. 1, 1434, a pro-Medici government took office and recalled Cosimo from exile. He then ruled the city by carefully controlling the public offices through a committee of ten electors, who appointed the members of the signory. Cosimo, in a rule of 30 years, allowed himself to be elected gonfalonier only three times, in 1435, 1439, and 1445, and for the rest of the time ruled indirectly. In directing the foreign policy of Florence, Cosimo's major aim was to achieve security and stability through the preservation of a balance of power and an emphasis on the common interests of the Italian city-states as opposed to the major powers of northern Europe. In order to prevent a Venetian hegemony to the north, he backed the sforzas of Milan with subsidies. In 1454 Venice and Milan signed the Peace of Lodi, which was accepted by Florence and Naples. The power configuration thenceforth rested on a combination of Milan, Florence, and Naples on one side, and Venice and the states of the church on the other.
Under Cosimo the family fortune expanded most rapidly. The Medici had one partnership in silk manufacturing and two in cloth manufacturing under a putting out or "wholesale handicraft" system. But the main source of their enormous wealth was their bank, one of the banchi grossi (great banks), which dealt in merchandise and exchange in all parts of the world. They combined foreign trade and dealing in bills of exchange, the trade being more significant than their banking operation as such. When Cosimo succeeded Giovanni in 1429 the house had branches in Venice and at the papal court. New branches were subsequently established in Pisa, Milan, Geneva (moved to Lyons in 1466), Avignon, Bruges, and London. The Medici bank was a decentralized combination of separate partnerships. Cosimo maintained a close vigil over the operation of all the branches, but his son Piero (1416–69) and grandson Lorenzo relaxed their grip on the managers. Lorenzo, preoccupied with politics, diplomacy, art, and letters, failed to give the business adequate attention and permitted disastrous loans to princes, so that under Lorenzo the Medici bank began a precipitous decline.
Cosimo's son Piero was in poor health and died five years after his father. He and his wife, Lucrezia Tornabuoni, a lady of great piety, had two sons, Lorenzo il Magnifico (1449–92) and Giuliano (1453–78). Lorenzo's good relations with Sixtus IV were strained when the pope's nephew Girolamo riario sought to build a territorial holding for himself in central Italy. In 1473 the Riario kept Florence from acquiring Imola, and in 1478 he connived in the pazzi revolt, which was triggered by the assassination of Giuliano during Mass in the cathedral on April 26. Lorenzo escaped to the vestry; he quickly
quashed the conspiracy. The war with the pope and King Ferrante of Naples that followed went badly for Florence, which was threatened by Venice in the North. Lorenzo then "risked his own life to restore peace to his country," as machiavelli put it later, by his dramatic journey to Naples to make a personal appeal to Ferrante for peace. Lorenzo's diplomacy was directed toward the same goal as Cosimo's had been, security and stability for the Italian city-states. As a great patron of the humanists and artists, he presided over the flowering of Renaissance culture in Florence, favoring the Neoplatonic philosophers, and writing sonnets, lyrics, eclogues, and other literary pieces in the vernacular.
Two years after Lorenzo's death his licentious son Piero (1471–1503) was driven out by the people when the French under Charles VIII invaded Italy. After the savonarola episode and republican interval, Piero's son Lorenzo (1492–1519) restored Medici rule. He was the father of catherine de mÉdicis, who became queen of France. In 1527 the Medici were driven out again, but in 1530 Alessandro, Lorenzo's natural son, was made hereditary ruler of Florence by Emperor charles v. In 1537 Lorenzino de' Medici (1514–47) murdered Alessandro. The able and utterly ruthless condottiere Cosimo I (1519–74), a great-great-grandson of Lorenzo, Cosimo the Elder's brother, with the help of imperial troops made himself ruler. In 1570 Pius V crowned him grand duke of Tuscany, a position that his descendants held until Gian Gastone de' Medici's death in 1737, when the Hapsburgs took possession of their territories. The family through the centuries contributed to the Church many high clergymen, notably Popes leo x (giovanni), clement vii (giulio), and leo xi (alessandro ottaviano).
Bibliography: g. a. brucker, Florentine Politics and Society, 1343–1378 (Princeton 1962), on Salvestro and early Medicis. f. schevill, History of Florence (New York 1936); The Medici (New York 1949). r. a. de roover, The Medici Bank (New York 1948). k. d. e. vernon, Cosimo de' Medici (New York 1899). k.s. gutkind, Cosimo de' Medici (Oxford 1938). e. armstrong, Lorenzo de' Medici (New York 1896). e. l. s. horsburgh, Lorenzo the Magnificent and Florence in her Golden Age (London 1908). g. spini, Cosimo I de' Medici e la indipendenza del principato mediceo (Florence 1945). h. m. m. acton, The Last Medici (rev. ed. New York 1959). d. v. kent, The Rise of the Medici (New York 1978). n. rubinstein, The Government of Florence under the Medici (1434–1494) (Oxford 1966).
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Medici (Italian family)
Medici (mĕ´dĬchē, Ital. mā´dēchē), Italian family that directed the destinies of Florence from the 15th cent. until 1737. Of obscure origin, they rose to immense wealth as merchants and bankers, became affiliated through marriage with the major houses of Europe, and, besides acquiring (1569) the title grand duke of Tuscany, produced three popes (Leo X, Clement VII, and Leo XI), two queens of France (Catherine de' Medici and Marie de' Medici), and several cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. They also ruled for a brief period (1516–21) the duchy of Urbino.
The rise of the Medici in Florence coincided with the triumph of the capitalist class over the guild merchants and artisans. Until 1532 the democratic constitution of Florence was outwardly upheld, but the Medici exerted actual control over the government without holding any permanent official position. They were driven from power and expelled from Florence in 1433–34, from 1494 to 1512, and from 1527 to 1530. However, the attempts (such as the Pazzi conspiracy, 1478) of the Florentine republicans to restore the former liberties failed ultimately because of the Medici's wealth and powerful connections.
When their influence began, in the early 15th cent., much of the glorious period of the Renaissance in Florence lay already in the past; however, the magnificence and liberality of many of the members of the house, who were passionate patrons of the arts, literature, and learning, led to Florence's becoming the richest repository of European culture since the Athens of Pericles. Florence as it is today is largely the accomplishment of the Medici. This cultural flowering was accompanied by tremendous economic prosperity and expansion and also by territorial aggrandizement (see Tuscany) that reached its climax in the 16th cent. The rule of the Medici, though denounced by their enemies as tyrannical, was at first generally tolerant and wise, but became stultifying and bigoted in the 17th and 18th cent.
The genealogy of the family is complicated by numerous illegitimate offspring and by the tendency of some of the members to dispose of each other by assassination. The first important member was Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici (1360–1429). His elder son, Cosimo, founded the senior line, which included Piero (1416–69); Lorenzo (Lorenzo il Magnifico); Piero (1471–1503); Pope Leo X; Giuliano, duke of Nemours; Lorenzo, duke of Urbino; Catherine de' Medici, queen of France; Ippolito de' Medici; Alessandro de' Medici; and Pope Clement VII. Giovanni di Bicci's younger son, Lorenzo (d.1440), founded the younger line, which included Lorenzino; Giovanni (delle Bande Nere); and the grand dukes of Tuscany—Cosimo I, Francesco (whose daughter was Marie de' Medici), Ferdinand I, Cosimo II, Ferdinand II, Cosimo III, and Gian Gastone, last of the line.
See separate articles on the most important members of the family.
See L. Collison-Morley, The Early Medici (1936); H. M. M. Acton, The Last Medici (rev. ed. 1958, repr. 1980); M. Brion, The Medici (tr. 1969); C. Hibbert, The House of Medici: Its Rise & Fall (1980); T. Parks, Medici Money (2005). See also bibliographies under Florence and Renaissance.
Medici, Ippolito de'
Ippolito de' Medici (ēp-pô´lētō dā mĕ´dĬchē, Ital. mā´dēchē), 1511–35, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church; an illegitimate son of Giuliano de' Medici, duke of Nemours. Pope Clement VII, head of the Medici family, ruled Florence through Ippolito, Ippolito's cousin, Alessandro de' Medici, and Cardinal Silvio Passerini. Clement increasingly favored Alessandro, and in 1531 he made him head of the republic. At the same time he made Ippolito a cardinal and sent him on a temporary mission to Hungary to remove him from the scene. In 1535, the Florentines deputed Ippolito to bring their grievances against Alessandro before Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. He died on his way, probably of malaria, although he may have been poisoned at Alessandro's command.
Medicean designating any of the four largest moons of Jupiter (Io, Europa, Ganymede, or Callisto), named by their discoverer Galileo in honour of his patron Cosimo II de' Medici.