The Medici Family
The Medici family - controlled Florence throughout much of the Renaissance The Medici are the first princely dynasty to win their status not by warfare, marriage or inheritance but through commerce. They come to Florence in the 12th century from the nearby countryside. Their ancestral home is in the Mugello valley. During the next two centuries the family, amassing a fortune through banking and trade, begins also to play a prominent part in Florence's political life. As yet the Medici are merely one among several similarly influential families. Their special status derives from the activities in the early 15th century of Giovanni - known as Giovanni di Bicci. Giovanni di Bicci increases the Medici wealth to unprecedented levels. He also uses it discreetly for political purposes in a manner which will be perfected by his son, Cosimo. Cosimo de' Medici earns for himself the posthumous title pater patriae ('father of the fatherland'). It acknowledges his great contribution to the enhanced status of Florence. But it also contains, to modern ears, a hint of the method behind his power - with its echo of a mafia godfather. Cosimo never occupies an official position as head of state. He remains a private citizen, running affairs by a network of behind-the-scenes alliances which benefit his own faction and ruin his enemies.
Pater patriae: 1434-1464
From 1434 Cosimo de' Medici is unmistakably the most powerful man in Florence, even though his family's cause has suffered a severe setback in the previous year. In 1433 he is arrested by a rival faction. Bribes and well-placed friends save him from death. He is exiled for ten years, but from Venice he controls a Florentine party working for his return. It is only a year before they succeed. Cosimo is invited back, and his rivals are banished - more effectively - for life. Within the city this control is discreet. Outside, in relations with other powers, it is generally acknowledged that Cosimo is...
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