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The Renaissance

The great intellectual, cultural, and artistic revival known as the Renaissance began in Italy in the 1300s and spread to include all of Western Europe by the 1500s;a "self aware" age, recognizing their era as a significant departure from the values and outlook of the Middle Ages

Renaissance thinkers' stereotypes of the Middle Ages

"the Dark Ages"—a period of cultural decline—and as the "Age of Faith"—a period when the values of religion and a focus on heaven replaced the "classical" values of individualism and engagement with the world.

Italy's division the Renaissance

During the Renaissance, Italy was not the unified country we know today. At that time the boot-shaped peninsula was divided into many small independent states

The Kingdom of Naples

(in the south) was ruled by a series of kings

Popes of the Roman Catholic Church

ruled the Papal States in the center

Florence, Milan, and Venice.

(the north) different families controlled these large and wealthy city-states

Why the Renaissance began in Italy first

the city-states of Italy survived the 1300 and 1400s better than the larger states of northern Europe;Peasant revolts, a cooling of the climate that shortened growing seasons, and the Hundred Years' War slowed the recovery of northern Europe; Italy's strategic location in the central Mediterranean Sea between East and West positioned Italy as a crossroads for new ideas and influences; Italy's lucrative trade with the East gave the city states enormous economic advantages;Italian merchants quickly mastered many business skills; Italian cities had become the bankers of much of Europe;the presence of Rome and the papacy in the heart of Italy meant that Italian Renaissance culture benefited from the enormous wealth and patronage of the Roman Catholic Church;competitive Italian city-states provided an ideal climate for an unprecedented flowering of thought and culture; great wealth to be patrons of the arts

Italian business skills

organization, bookkeeping, and scouting new markets

The Medici Family

dominated Florence the ability to become patrons of the arts. The result of such patronage was a cultural Renaissance in Italian cities unmatched elsewhere in Europe

Meaning of the term Renaissance

"rebirth" and the thinkers of the Renaissance meant a rebirth of the Classical heritage of Greece and Rome

Focus on the classical past

seen in the art and architecture of the era, but it also shaped the literature, values, and outlook of Renaissance people. This is particularly true about the Renaissance view of the individual


The values of Greece and Rome inspired the development of this philosophy that came to characterize the Renaissance

Renaissance definitions of humanism

give us clues about the way the Renaissance viewed the individual

Classical humanism

an outlook inspired by Greek and Roman models that stressed the importance of individualism and the almost unlimited potential of all individuals;The aim of education and life was for the individual to realize his full potential

Sophocles' account that reflects Classical humanism

Antigone: "Wonders are many, but the greatest of these is mankind"

Civic humanism

valued a sense of civic responsibility and active engagement with the world

Pericles' account that reflects Civic humanism

Funeral Oration: "We Athenians, unlike any other nation, regard those who take no part in public duties, not simply as unambitious, but as useless."

Renaissance education

broadly based, focused on the classics, including history, philosophy, "natural philosophy" (science), mathematics, and classical literature, was meant to produce well-rounded, multi-talented people who took an active part in their world

Renaissance man

the well-rounded, multi-talented individual

First humanists

orators and poets;wrote original literature, in both the classical and the vernacular languages, inspired by and modeled on the newly discovered works of the Greeks and Romans

Francesco Petrarch

(d. 1374) is often called the father of Italian humanism. Celebrated ancient Rome in his Letters to the Ancient Dead, imaginary letters to Cicero, Virgil, and Horace. His most famous contemporary work was a collection of highly introspective love poems to a married woman whom he romantically admired from a safe distance, his famous Sonnets to Laura. His contempt for the "useless" learning of medieval scholars, indeed his contempt for most of the culture of the Middle Ages which he called "gothic," were features that many later humanists shared. Classical and Christian values coexist, not always harmoniously, in his work, and this uneasy coexistence is true, too, of many later humanists.


played a powerful role in transplanting Renaissance Humanist ideas throughout Europe

Johann Gutenberg

thanks to his development of printing in Mainz Germany around 1450, it became possible for Humanists to communicate their reform ideals and educational program to a broad audience. Printing gave new power and influence to writers who now could popularize their viewpoints freely and widely.


made it possible to produce more copies in a few weeks than formerly could have been produced in a lifetime by hand.

Technological revolution of printing

demonstrates the significance of a "technology complex." Not a single but rather multiple innovations contributed to the so-called "print revolution." Print was a very old process and "block printing" first developed in China. Europeans added new innovations to this old method, adding the use of metal movable type, the press mechanism itself, and a process of cheap paper manufacturing. Separately-cast metal letters allowed printers to "set" a page of text, print thousands of copies, then reassemble the movable type for the next page of text. The press was developed from the presses farmers used to make olive oil and wine. The first printing press used a heavy screw to force a printing block against the paper below. And finally, cheaper paper replaced the more expensive animals skins used for hand-written manuscripts in the Middle Ages.

Technology and social changes

brought printed materials and a more educated population together as part of the print revolution

Nations established global power

by competitive voyages to the Far East exploration opened. Permanent colonies were established in the Americas, and opening up for the northern European exploring states, economic opportunities were closing for the Italian city-states

the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453

the shrinkage of Italy's once unlimited trading empire began. Economic problems were coupled with political crisis as the city-states faced successive waves of invasion by the armies of France and Spain between 1490 and 1530. It is within this period, that Italy's great Renaissance peaked

Niccolo Machiavelli

(d. 1527), the Florentine diplomat and political scientist, watched as armies of France, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire invade Italy

What Machiavelli was convinces of

Italian political unity and independence were ends that justified any means

Machiavelli's virtue

This humanist and careful student of Rome, was impressed by the way Roman rulers and citizens had then defended their fatherland. They possessed, in his view, civic virtue, the ability to act decisively and heroically for the good of their country

What Machiavelli wanted among Italian city-states

wanted an end to the self-destructive feuding among Italian states so that a reunited Italy could drive all foreign armies out

The Prince

(1513) he advised rulers to discover the advantages of ruthlessness, at least as a temporary means to the higher end of a unified Italy. If Italy was to unite and defend itself against the rising nation-states of Europe, it needed a leader who understood power—how to get it, how to use it, and how to keep it by whatever means necessary

Machiavelli's wide misinterpretation

his coldly practical view of the relationship between morality and politics, he has been widely misinterpreted


has become a synonym for ruthlessness and deceitfulness in the pursuit of power

Machiavelli as an idealist

held deep republican ideals, which he did not want to see vanish from Italy

The Discourses

(1521), Machiavelli turned from the world of hard-headed realistic politics to the world as he felt it should be. Here he argued that power should not be in the hands of a single prince, but in the hands of the people. He reached this conclusion from his study of the histories of Rome and Greece: I say that the people are more prudent and stable, and have better judgment than a prince. . . We furthermore see the cities where the people are masters make the greatest progress in the least possible time. . . and this can be attributed to no other cause than that the governments of the people are better than those of princes.

Ideal government of The Discourses

impossible, and the strong rule of the determined, unscrupulous prince was a necessity. He apparently hoped to see a strong ruler emerge from the Medici family, which had captured the papacy in 1513 when Leo X (1513-1521) became pope. At the same time, the Medici family retained control over the powerful territorial state of Florence. The Prince was dedicated to Lorenzo de Medici.

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