Despotism: Political Philosophy and 14th Century

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The Renaissance developed a new and unique form of politics referred to as Despotism. Despotism is a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. The single ruling entity may be an individual, as in an autocracy, or it may be a group, as in an oligarchy. The great Renaissance historian John Addington Symonds refers to the 14th and 15th Centuries in Italy as the “Age of the Despots.” It was under the tyrannies, in the midst of all the wars and revolutions, that the Italians were given the chance to develop their peculiar individuality. This individuality determined the qualities of the Renaissance and affected Europe as a whole. Italy, due to their unique form of politics, was able to lead the way in the education of Western races, and was the first to distinguish Classical and Medieval life. The conditions that led to this new form of Political government were distinctive to Italian urban life. By the 14th Century, Italy was divided into many principalities surrounding city-States. The cities were an integral part of life in Italy due to commerce, and Italians were the first to reap the benefits of new and increasing trade due to their favorable geographic position in the Mediterranean Sea. Because there was a constant political and class struggle in the cities, Italy lacked a central authority of power. In cities such as Florence, Pisa, and Milan, the age-old rival between Pope and Emperor played itself out. The Guelph party supported the Pope, while the Ghibbiline party supported the Emperor. Civil wars were fought in the cities and ended with a despotism system of ruling, either with an oligarchy or an autocracy. The forming of these authorities was crucial, because peace is essential for trade, and the surplus wealth from commerce is what led to the growth or art and literature, which began the Renaissance. The despots, who were the powerful rulers during despotism, were not from traditional dynasties, and therefore they reached...
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