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Civic Humanism and the Rise of the Medici [*].

This article analyzes the intellectual content of civic humanism in the specific context of Medici power, asking the question: what ideological role did civic humanism play in Medicean Florence? It argues that there is no contradiction between the ideals of civic humanism and support for the Medici regime. On the contrary, civic humanism could he used to justify and legitimate Medici power. The article analyzes the writings of principal humanists such as Leonardo Bruni, Poggio Bracciolini, and Francesco Filelfo, showing that Hans Barons republican "civic humanism" was compatible with different constitutional forms and different distributions of power.

The most striking political development of the Florentine Quattrocento, a century with no shortage of dramatic conflicts and personalities, was the sudden and unexpected rise to power of the Medici family as unofficial lords of Florence. The most distinctive intellectual development was the genesis of what Hans Baron dubbed "civic humanism," a movement that influenced and shaped Italian philosophy throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and western European philosophy in subsequent centuries. [1] This article connects these two developments by assessing the personality and career of the first architect of Medicean political domination in Florence, Cosimo "il Vecchio" de' Medici, in light of some of the principles and assumptions held by the city's civic humanists.

Still today, after forty years of debate and revision, Baron's thesis continues to provide the backdrop for current reevaluations of civic humanism and its role in Florentine politics. [2] In The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance, Baron formulated one of this century's most influential and articulate arguments for the impact of politics on the intellectual life of the early Quattrocento. [3] Baron identified the territorial aggression of the tyrannical Milanese Visconti as a critical catalyst for the birth of Florentine civic humanism. To make sense of their lonely stand against the awesome power of Visconti Milan, Baron argued, Florentines were forced into a process of rigorous self-analysis that affirmed the values for which they were fighting: freedom of speech, free access to political office, equality of all citizens before the law, and self-government -- in short, the fundamentals of modern democracy. Only the unexpected death of Duke Giangaleazzo in 1402 saved the Florentine republic from becomi ng yet another addition to the growing territory of despotic Milan. Florentine humanists saw their salvation as a human triumph of freedom over tyranny, republicanism over despotism. Baron believed that the influential and intense republican philosophy of civic humanism grew out of this perception, thereby ensuring the transmission of democracy from antiquity to the modern era.

Baron's bold and extreme claims for the legacy of civic humanism and the democratic nature of Florentine politics generated instant controversy and debate. In the ensuing academic exchange on the validity of Baron's theories, almost every aspect of his argument, from his methodology to his assumptions about Florentine politics to the republican component of civic humanism itself, has come under close scrutiny, resulting in some cases in a demand for revision, qualification, or outright rejection. The literature on Baron and his thesis is too vast to summarize here, nor is it necessary to do so because this paper focuses on only one aspect of civic humanism -- its relationship to Florentine domestic politics. [4] Baron received cogent criticism for being insufficiently critical in his analysis of civic humanism's relationship to Florentine political reality. Current scholarship on this question is moving towards a consensus.

Recent interpretations now see civic humanism as evidence of the triumph of oligarchic and elitist republicanism. [5] John Najemy has provided the most sustained and explicit argument for this interpretation. He presents the history of political thought in Florence up to the Quattrocento as a struggle between rival republican ideologies. Republicanism of the communal era, the first and elder of the ideologies, was rooted in the guilds, favoring wide participation in government councils and defining political representation as a function of class and corporate identity. The younger ideology -- oligarchic republicanism of the post-Ciompi era (1378) -- undermined the legitimacy of communal corporate politics. As an elitist philosophy, it favored the politics of consensus and favored the participation of only a select few wealthy old families in the government. According to Najemy, Leonardo Bruni and his humanist contemporaries helped formalize and refine the victorious oligarchic republicanism by making it a ph ilosophy of "dutiful passivity," in which citizens, who had once received office according to the established rights of their class, could now only receive office as a reward for their personal virtue. Civic humanism becomes a consolation prize with which the supporters of the failed guild-based vision of politics rationalized their political acquiescence to a restricted oligarchy.

Now that the first signs of agreement that civic humanism provided an emergent oligarchy with a ruling ideology have appeared on the horizon, it seems an appropriate time to consider the more specific questions: how did the rise of the Medici affect civic humanism and did that ideology have a role to play in Medicean Florence? [6] Without answers to these questions, a thorough synthetic interpretation of civic humanism and Florentine politics in the Quattrocento remains impossible. Although new scholarship on Quattrocento Florentine politics and culture proceeds apace, no one study specifically or systematically addresses the relationship between civic humanism and the Medici. Therefore, the focus here will be to synthesize new research to answer the questions raised in this paragraph.

Sixty years of Medicean political hegemony in the Quattrocento posed an enormous problem for Baron's argument about the vitality of civic humanism and its close inter-relationship with political reality. Baron addressed this problem with the broad statement that from the "1460s onward, republicanism and civic Humanism were waning in Florence, and soon the philosophical and religious trends of Neoplatonism would take their place." [7] With the help of Eugenio Garin, this argument gained widespread currency. [8] Garin argued that Medicean political reality, with its electoral manipulation, patronage, and private character, deprived civic humanism of its practical and guiding purpose: the encouragement of citizens to participate actively and morally in the political life of the republic. The rise of contemplative and politically withdrawn Neoplatonism in the second half of the century reflects both the shrewd intellectual patronage of the Medici and the disillusionment and crushed republican morale of Florentin e humanists. For Baron and Garin, any relationship between civic humanism and the Medici had to be adversarial because Medici power had severed the treasured symbiosis between the active political life and culture. [9] Baron continued his analysis of humanism only after 1494 and the expulsion of the Medici, after which he could declare "democratic republicanism" to have flourished again.

Recent scholarship by Arthur Field and James Hankins, however, has considerably undermined the Neoplatonic argument advanced by Garin and his supporters. [10] They both argue that the roots of Neoplatonism were already solidly established by the time that Cosimo began to commission Platonic works from Ficino. Arthur Field has argued that Florentine Platonic humanists were far from politically withdrawn. They wrote, lectured, and preached in the city center, not in a rural villa, and they directed their ideas to the political community. Hankins has argued that the Medici did not support Platonism over Aristotelianism and has also thrown considerable doubt on the popular theory that the Medici founded a formal academy or institution dedicated to the study of Plato. Furthermore, the rebirth of speculative philosophy in Florence took place during the 1450s, a time when Cosimo could not possibly have organized the isolation of Florentine intellectuals outside the city because he was in the midst of a political crisis caused by the temporary fragmentation and collapse of his party .

These new arguments about civic humanism as an oligarchic ideology and the rise of Neoplatonism independent of Medicean patronage suggest that Baron and Garin misinterpreted the relationship between civic humanism and Medici ascendancy. If we accept Najemy's "philosophy of dutiful passivity" and that Florentine humanists turned to Neoplatonism for reasons largely outside the realm of politics, perhaps humanist contemporaries of the Medici saw no fundamental incompatibility between their ideas and Medici prominence. After all, we know that many humanists associated with and supported Cosimo de' Medici. [11] But must we assume that humanist support of the Medici belied their attachment and commitment to the ideology of civic humanism? [12]

As a political and moral ideology, civic humanism was sufficiently complex to represent different things to different people without sacrificing its essential identity. The seemingly republican commitment of Leonardo Bruni and Florentine humanists was not the one dominating ideological component of civic humanism. For Florentine ottimati patrons, one strain of humanist ideas buttressed the authority of their emergent oligarchy. For middle-rank Florentines, another strain helped to make acceptable the loss of their corporate political voice. For committed humanist scholars, civic humanism "aimed to bring scholarship and learning to bear on the task of building the virtues necessary to the preservation of civil society." [13] It was also a sufficiently rich ideology that a central strain of its ideas and arguments could be used by humanists and politicians alike to rationalize and even support Cosimo de' Medici's political ascendancy.

Cosimo's political domination of the city did not deprive civic humanism of its raison d'etre. On the contrary, many ideas in civic humanism complemented Cosimo's prominent position in Florence and could thereby be used to defend his authority and unrivaled social prestige. Humanist discussions about the ideal of the scholar-statesman, wealth, and the characteristics and effects of ideal government informed Quattrocento Florentine political thought. Because Cosimo's popular image represented these humanist principles, civic humanism provided a justification for Cosimo's authority in Florence that would have been impossible in the political culture of the Trecento.

The first half of this article highlights the relevant content of civic humanism, drawing on prominent humanist treatises as well as recent historiography. The second half examines the social context of Medici power, showing how civic humanism complemented Cosimo's popular image and helped to defend his social and political prestige.

At issue here are Quattrocento ideologies rather than realities. As recent revisions point out, civic humanism did not mirror Florentine political life as it actually was, but as it should be. [14] Civic humanism's inconsistencies with its genuine social and political context neither detracted from its influence nor hindered its purpose. Much the same can be said of the Medici. Cosimo de' Medici, in his capacity as a literary, architectural, artistic, and political patron, sought to create a personal ideology that emphasized his prudence, wisdom, learning, magnificence, and, when necessary, his humility. [15] Cosimo's genuine identity and personality may have fallen short of his idealized image, but that had little effect on the popularity of the ideal Cosimo. How much did these two ideologies have in common?


Civic humanists fused traditional Florentine republicanism with principles and values they felt reflected the culture of classical antiquity, in particular the Ciceronian exaltation of civic life. In addition to the vita activa politica, the ideology of civic humanism included the exaltation of the scholar-statesman and novel interpretations of wealth, history; and ideal government, all of which complemented Cosimo de' Medici's distinguished role in Florentine society and politics.

Humanist exaltation of the virtuous and wise scholar-statesman benefitted Cosimo. Civic humanists such as Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), Matteo Palmieri (1405-1475), and Giannozzo Manetti (1396-1459) argued that erudition and wisdom alone were no longer adequate credentials for the practicing philosopher; one had to apply knowledge in a constructive fashion to improve and benefit society. [16] Drawing upon Petrarch's discovery of Cicero's Epistolae ad Atticum and Salutati's discovery of the Epistolae Familiares, humanists praised Cicero as the ideal example of the union of the vita contemplativa and vita activa. [17]

In Cicero Novus (1415), Leonardo Bruni's biography of Cicero, Bruni praised Cicero's ability to pursue simultaneously political and intellectual pursuits. Acknowledging Cicero's considerable public service as consul and orator, Bruni also marveled that he "appeared to be the very light of education and of wisdom," due to his "vast erudition." Cicero earned Bruni's highest admiration because he buttressed the authority of the Roman state with the power of rhetoric.

If you read his books and works, you would never think he had the leisure for a public career. On the other hand, if you consider his deeds, his controversies, his occupations, his battles, in both the public and private area, you would think he could have had no time left for reading or writing.

Considering this feat, Bruni describes Cicero's "greatness of character" as almost "god-like." [8]

In Cicero, Bruni found the ideal union of the active political and philosophical life. But Cicero was not the only example. In response to the king of Aragon's urgent request that Bruni send him a copy of his recently translated Politics of Aristotle (ca. 1436), Bruni composed a letter that sang the praises of learned rulers in monarchical contexts. His list of dignified rulers made great by their learning included Philip, king of Macedon, Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, and Julius Caesar. [19] By the 1430s and 1440s, when Cosimo de' Medici was consolidating his political preeminence in Florence, Bruni and his fellow humanists had already fully articulated the belief that an ideal ruler in both a republican and monarchical context should be able to draw upon the deep and rich well of philosophy to ensure the sound governance of the state. [20]

Bruni's account of ancient Rome's cultural decline helped change the terms by which Florentine citizens evaluated the legitimacy of government. He dated the onset of Roman cultural decline to the rise of the Caesars and the transition from republican to imperial government. In the Panegyric to the City of Florence and the History of Florence, Bruni defended his interpretation of Rome's decline in two ways; the latter helped recast Quattrocento political analysis.

Bruni's first argument vilified the moral character and brutality of the Caesars; he decried the "savagery of Tiberius, the fury of Caligula and the insanity of Claudius, and the crimes of Nero." [2] The second was more subtle. Bruni held that virtue depended on the existence of political liberty. When Roman citizens gave up their liberty, their virtue also passed away. "Before the day of the Caesars, character was the route to honor, and positions such as consul, dictator, or other high public offices were open to men of magnanimous spirit, strength of character, and energy." [22] Drawing on Tacitus, Bruni wrote that the outstanding minds of Rome vanished after the Republic had been subjected to the power of a single ruler. [23]

In the Panegyric, History of Florence, and Oration for the Funeral of Nanni Strozzi, Bruni proposes the same relationship between culture and political freedom, that "virtue, nobility, and genius" can only flourish among politically free people. [24] The logic of this equation works both ways. One could infer that where virtue, nobility, and genius exist, political freedom must therefore also prevail. Bruni's humanist contemporaries affirmed sufficiently strongly the same relationship between freedom and intellectual vitality that it helped to transform Florentine political thought in the first half of the Quattrocento.

Widespread humanist belief in the symbiosis of virtue, culture, and political vitality; first put forth by Bruni (but by no means accepted only by "civic" or republican humanists),[25] recast the terms of political debate. Italian humanists writing in republican city-states as well as in despotic regimes now measured the legitimacy of political regimes by the cultural and intellectual vitality of their inhabitants. The Scipio-Caesar controversy provides the quintessential example of humanists from diverse areas of Italy evaluating representatives of imperial and republican government by cultural rather than political standards.

Scipio Mainenti of Ferrara initiated the debate in 1435 by asking the Florentine humanist Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459) to explain whether Scipio or Caesar was the greater Roman leader. Poggio exalted Scipio and condemned Caesar. Leonello d'Este, patron of Guarino da Verona (1371-1460) and Ferrarese prince, had been in Florence when Poggio penned his response. When Leonello returned to Ferrara, he informed Guarino of Poggio's argument. Guarino then wrote a letter to Poggio that defended Caesar from the Florentine's accusations. The debate esacalated rapidly with apologists for each side entering the fray; Cyriac of Ancona supported Guarino's defense of Caesar, while Pietro del Monte, a Venetian humanist and papal nuncio to England, defended Poggio's position by praising the tyrannicides Cassius and Brutus. [26] Towards its close, the Scipio-Caesar debate eventually drew in the Venetian humanist Francesco Barbaro, who was the recipient of Poggio's final rebuttal of Guarino. [27]

The key feature of the debate revolved around the relative quality and quantity of Roman liberal studies under Caesar's rule. Poggio adopted Bruni's interpretation of Roman history, that the era of republican freedom corresponded to the greatest flowering of Roman culture. Poggio wrote that Caesar was "the murderer of the patria, as well as of the Latin language and the fine arts. Together with liberty, Latin eloquence and the study of literature collapsed in ruin." [28] Poggio cited Cicero and Seneca, who had already sensed the decay of Roman culture in their day. Like Bruni, Poggio found the most authoritative condemnation of Caesar in Tacitus, who first argued that the "brilliant minds" of Rome disappeared after Caesar's usurpation of power. [29]

After establishing the cultural superiority of republican Rome, Poggio then exalted Scipio for his preservation of political freedom. Inspired by love of the patria, Scipio fought to defend the Roman state. After key military victories, Scipio demonstrated his respect for republican freedom by refusing the extraordinary honors offered by Senate and by refusing to accept the offices of Dictator and Consul in perpetuity. [30] As evidence of Scipio's great love for political freedom, Poggio cites his voluntary exile, as described by Seneca: "Further honors and dignities were offered to Scipio; Caesar stole them by force and corruption. Scipio went into exile of his own accord lest he obstruct the liberty of his country; Caesar banished outstanding citizens in order to take liberty away." [31]

For Poggio, Scipio's superiority derives principally from his advocacy of political liberty. But Poggio did not appreciate political liberty as an end in itself; his commitment to liberty derived from his conviction that liberal studies would flourish best in an environment of political freedom.

Guarino Guarini's defense of Caesar followed similar lines. Rather than emphasize the martial glories or stable government of imperial Rome, Guarino disputed the accusation that Caesar's rise to power caused the decay of Roman cultural vitality. Drawing on classical sources, Guarino first defended Caesar's personal learning. He cited Cicero, who, having corresponded with Caesar, complimented his excellent Latin style, and Fabius Quintilianus, [32] who wrote that there was in Caesar "such force, acumen, and passion, that he seemed to speak with the same spirit with which he fought." [33] Guarino then went on to praise the state of learning in Rome ruled by the Caesars. He listed poets such as Catullus, Ovid, Lucan, and Virgil and philosophers such as Seneca and Pliny. Guarino again cited Cicero, who lamented that in his day (republican Rome) the study of history was "far from excellent" and was not adequately represented in Latin literature. In contrast, the study of history blossomed under the Caesars, produ cing the work of Sallust, Tacitus, and Titus Livy. [34]

The core argument of both sides of this debate reinforced the idea that any government's legitimacy, whether it be monarchical, oligarchic, or popular, could be defended or undermined by examining the quality and quantity of its scholars and the presence or lack of intellectual vitality.

Humanist approval of material and private wealth also transformed Florentine political thought during Cosimo de' Medici's rise to power. [35] Bruni's Panegyric exalted the magnificence and luxury of Florentine citizens' lifestyles, likening the role of their wealth in the city to that of blood in the human body. [36] Writing in the 1430s, Leon Battista Alberti praised wealth as crucial for helping the needy and for assisting men to "great and noble deeds." Most importantly, he praised it because during state emergencies the republic could only defend itself by relying on the extreme wealth of private citizens. [37] Unlike the Trecento historian Filippo Villani, whose history of Florence listed Florentines famed for literature, art, and military performance, Gino Rinuccini's (ca. 1350-1417) and Cristoforo Landino's (1424-1504) discussions of Florence specifically praise the great Florentine merchants. [38]

In the 1420s, Poggio Bracciolini wrote On Avarice, a dialogue between Gencio Romano and Antonio Loschi that formally addressed the merits of wealth. [39] After listening to Romano's condemnation of avarice, Loschi delivers an oration in its defense, praising the social utility of greed. Loschi illustrates the virtues of avarice from several perspectives, many of which have become classic examples of the "civic" orientation of Florentine humanism. [40] In particular, Loschi defended avarice on the grounds of its fundamental importance for the political health and vitality of the republic.

Loschi argues that:

money is necessary as the sinews that maintain the state. Hence, where many are avaricious, they must be considered its basis and foundation. If sometimes the city requires a subsidy, shall we run to indigent day laborers or some despiser of wealth, or instead to the rich, that is, to the avaricious? Which type is it better to have populate the city? The rich, who with their means can protect themselves and others, or the poor, who can support neither themselves nor others. [41]

One ought to respect the avaricious not only because their wealth can benefit the state but also because they possess the wisdom, prudence, and authority that accompany wealth. Loschi reminds his audience that the state consults many avaricious men on policy and appoints them to positions of great authority because of their practical wisdom. [42]

Francesco Filelfo (1389-1481) also addressed the merits of wealth and poverty. In De Paupertate, the third book of his anti-Medicean Commentationes florentinae de exilio (ca. 1440), Filelfo wrote a dialogue between Leonardo Bruni, Palla Strozzi, Rinaldo degli Albizzi, and Poggio Bracciolini. Through Bruni, lecturer to the distinguished audience, Filelfo argued that wealth and poverty were neither inherently positive nor negative; rather, they were "indifferent," dependent on the uses to which they were put. As an example of the negative effects of wealth, Filelfo inveighs against Cosimo de' Medici, whose usurious wealth reflected only vain lust for possessions. As an example of the positive merits of wealth, Filelfo cites Vitaliano Borromeo, whose wealth served the "safety and dignity of the state." [43] In his discussion of the positive applications of wealth, Filelfo recalls Aristotle's statement that "poverty is the enemy of philosophy." [44] Although Filelfo's dialogue strongly criticized Cosimo de' Medi ci, the fundamental logic of his argument could easily have been applied to defend Cosimo's wealth. Any one of the numerous Florentine recipients of Cosimo's patronage would have had no difficulty arriving at a positive assessment of Cosimo's choice of expenditure.

Belief in the virtues of wealth for healthy civic life endured throughout the entire Quattrocento. The continued popularity of this idea can be seen in the Trattato del Reggimento degli Stati (1497) of the radical Dominican reformer Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498), in which he praises wealth in terms of civic utility; it pays for soldiers and officials and feeds the poor. Even Savonarola, the self-appointed champion of Florentine republican liberty and anti-Medicean propagandist after the family's expulsion from the city, states specifically in the same treatise that "riches are not the principal cause that a citizen should become a tyrant." [45]


In The Social World of the Florentine Humanists, Lauro Martines concluded that prior to 1434 the Florentine oligarchy prevented the ascendancy of a single family by vigilantly enforcing a balance of power. When one family threatened that balance, other families acted in concert to destroy the ascending clan. Accounting for the political hegemony of the Medici family after 1434, Martines argued that the patriciate too slowly recognized the danger posed by the Medici. The family had already consolidated its power by the 1440s; it was too late for the patriciate to strike. He attributed the patriciate's delayed reflexes to lack of self-confidence, the result of economic malaise. [46]

There is an additional reason for the patriciate's poor timing, rooted in an unexpected conflict between the political duties and the scholarly studies of the model citizen. Scholarly admiration for Cosimo as an embodiment of humanist convictions must have impeded the political assessment of Cosimo as a threat to the political status quo. As we know from Martines' study of the Florentine humanists, almost all the men associated with the humanist movement belonged to the ranks of the governing class. [47] Those citizens who had both the political potential and the necessary status to check the growth of the Medici at an early stage were the authors and supporters of civic humanism. [48] How would Florentines committed to the studia humanitatis have perceived the ascendant Cosimo de' Medici?

As many historians have pointed out in their explanations of Cosimo's rise to power in the 1430s, the importance of the power and wealth that the Medici bank conferred upon Cosimo cannot be overrated. The immense wealth of the Medici bank made possible all the acts of largesse for which Cosimo came to be known, it brought Cosimo into favorable contact with princes and popes, and most importantly, it made possible political and artistic patronage on a grand scale. Cosimo's carefully cultivated aura of magnificence, created by calculated and lavish expenditure, would have been difficult to achieve in the political climate of the Trecento, in which extraordinary private wealth was customarily regarded with suspicion. In the Quattrocento, however, as a result of the arguments about wealth put forward by humanists such as Bruni, Filelfo, and Poggio, Cosimo's liberality could be seen as a civic virtue.

Through his role as head of the Medici bank, Cosimo enjoyed influence with such important Italian political figures as Doge Francesco Foscari, Francesco Sforza, and Nicholas V. Influence with these contacts made Cosimo Florence's greatest patron, surpassing the abilities of old Florentine families such as the Soderini, Acciaiuoli, Rucellai, and Capponi, whose influence was often limited to their gonfalone or their area of the contado. For example, one way that Francesco Sforza signalled his thanks to Cosimo for the loans that had enabled him to seize Milan was to provide Medici clients in the Acciaiuoli and della Stufa families with highly paid positions in the Milanese provincial bureaucracy. [49] Dale Kent's study of the political struggles of the late 1420s and early 1430s revealed that the Medici built a political party primarily by the extension of patronage to smaller or new families, not solidly entrenched within the ruling group and therefore more dependent on Medici wealth than well-established fami lies. [50]

Cosimo's artistic and cultural patronage also had political importance. Cosimo lavishly patronized the arts with precisely the kind of spending humanists had intended when they spoke of the civic virtues of wealth. Cosimo paid for the books and book hunting expeditions of Niccolo Niccoli and Poggio Bracciolini, making available to them contacts at Medici banks throughout Milan, Pisa, Avignon, Lyon, Bruges, and London. [51] He provided stipends for Gemistos Plethon in 1439, John Argyropoulos in 1456, bought a farm for the young Ficino at Careggi, and financed the manuscript hunter Cyriac of Ancona, whose searches took him to Constantinople, Syria, Egypt, and Greece. [52] Humanists dedicated over forty translations and original works to Cosimo, making him one of Quarttocento Italy's foremost literary patrons, rivaled only by Nicholas V, Sixtus IV, and Alfonso of Aragon. [53]

Cosimo's patronage of architecture was his greatest expense and generated the most respect from the humanist community as civic improvement. [54] Historians of the Renaissance tend to exalt Cosimo's grandson, Lorenzo il magnifico, in his capacity as patron, bibliophile, and participant in the cult of antiquity, as the most culturally illustrious of the Medici. In the realm of building, however, Cosimo far surpassed Lorenzo. [55] Cosimo completed the rebuilding of the sacristy and chapel of San Lorenzo, commissioning the architect Brunelleschi to create the designs. [56] Cosimo contributed substantially to the construction and renovation at the Fiesolan Badia, SS. Annunziata, and S. Croce. Cosimo not only rebuilt the convent of San Marco, he commissioned Michelozzo to build the library and paid for every detail necessary for the daily operation of the convent: the furniture, sacred vessels, habits, food, and books for the sacristy choir. [57]

In his biography of Cosimo, the book-seller Vespasiano da Bisticci praised Cosimo for the practical contributions his generosity made towards civic life. He wrote that Cosimo, over his lifetime, spent more than 193,000 gold forms on building. He recounts an anecdote in which, having been informed that the builders of San Lorenzo completed their project more inexpensively than the builders of the Badia, Cosimo chided the San Lorenzo team for being inappropriately miserly. Vespasiano acknowledges that Cosimo's glory had certainly benefited from these architectural undertakings, but the city had benefited no less than Cosimo. The work employed many poor men in need of labor and also contributed a vital boost to the city's economy because the money spent on the buildings remained within Florence. [58]

Alamanno Rinuccini and Donato Acciaiuoli praised Cosimo for the architectural embellishment of the patria. [59] An anonymous Florentine wrote in 1463, "Cosimo himself, a most famous man, builds now private homes, now sacred buildings, now monasteries, inside and outside the city, at such expense that they seem equal to the magnificence of kings and emperors." [60] In a thinly veiled request for money, the abbot of the Badia, Timoteo Maffei, wrote In Magnificentiae Cosmi Medicei Florentini Detractores, a Latin dialogue defending Cosimo's largesse against his critics. In the dialogue, he argued that magnificent architectural undertakings have the taint of pride removed from them because they remain concrete and inspirational exempla inciting men to virtue. [61]

Humanist debates on the decline of Roman culture and the Scipio-Caesar controversy helped to legitimate Medicean rule after Cosimo's ascent to power. Recall the theory put forth by Bruni that Roman culture declined under the Caesars and the Scipio-Caesar dispute between Poggio and Guarino, whose arguments relied on quality and quantity of liberal studies. The humanist tendency to debate the merits of various forms of government in terms of cultural vitality provided a natural and persuasive justification of Cosimo's rule, for Florence under Cosimo commanded a leading position in the revival of antiquity and liberal studies.

With the help of Cosimo's guiding hand and generous purse, the first public library in the history of Europe was opened in the Florentine convent of San Marco in 1444. In addition to the illustrious circle of Florentine literati, the four hundred volume library boasted such humanist visitors as Federigo da Montefeltro and Pope Nicholas V. [62] Cosimo donated books to the canons of Fiesole, the Minorites of del Bosco in the Mugello, and the brethren of San Bartolomeo. [63] The perceived connection between Cosimo and the Florentine revival of learning could only have been made stronger by Cosimo's friendship with Niccolo Niccoli, the bibliophile whose personal collection formed the core of the San Marco library. Niccoli's fame and reputation among Quattrocento humanists can be seen in the number of dialogues in which he appeared as a principal interlocutor: Bruni's Ad Petrum Paulum Histrum, Poggio's An Seni Uxor Sit Ducenda, De Nobilitate, and De Infelicitate Principum, Lorenzo Valla's De Voluptate, and Giovan ni Aretino's De Medicinae et Legum Praestantia. [64]

Cosimo also garnered prestige from his association with Leonardo Bruni, who dedicated several works to Cosimo and who had been in regular correspondence with a junior member of the family, Nicola di Vieri de' Medici, as early as 1406. [65] Cosimo used his influence in the Signoria to ensure the appointments of Leonardo Bruni, Carlo Marsuppini, Poggio Bracciolini, and Bartolomeo Scala to the chancery, thereby continuing and strengthening Florence's tradition of humanist chancellors. [66] In official missives dispatched to foreign powers from the Florentine chancery, Bruni and Poggio vaunted Cosimo as an example of the present greatness of Florence. [67]

Florentines had many reasons to associate the revival of antiquity with Cosimo. As banker to the papacy, Cosimo helped persuade Eugenius IV to bring the council with the Greek church to Florence in 1439. [68] Without loans from Cosimo, Eugenius would not have been able to convene the Council. Documents from the Apostolic Camera record that Eugenius borrowed from Cosimo at least ten thousand florins for "the expenses of the Greeks." [69] Perhaps the most tangible example of the living presence of the Greek cultural inheritance for Florentines was the presence of long-bearded Orthodox Greek clerics, described by Vespasiano da Bisticci as dressed in the same fashion they had worn for the past fifteen hundred years. [70] According to Alison Brown, the posthumous bestowal of the title Pater Patriae upon Cosimo, which, as an unprecedented event in Florentine history did much to contribute to the aura of dynasticism surrounding the Medici, was more a reflection of the desire of humanists to forge links between Quat trocento Florence and classical antiquity than it was a direct statement of admiration for Cosimo. [71]

The identification of Cosimo with the revival of antiquity can be most clearly seen in Alberto Avogadro's (died 1465) description of the Badia and its library in his De Religione et Magnificentia Cosmi Medicis. Avogadro compares entering Cosimo's library to stepping into the world of antiquity. The entrance is made of gilt marble, crowned by the figure of Apollo playing a lyre to a dance of the Muses. Frescoes on the wall depict Caliope dancing with Virgil, Ovid dancing with Thalia, and Melpomene attempting to persuade Seneca to join the festivities. Throughout the library, one finds marble statues of fauns and satyrs, Latona suckling Diana and Apollo, Jove drinking from the udder of a goat, Orpheus mourning the loss of Euridice, and Anon singing on the back of a dolphin. [72]

The close connection in the mind of the Florentine humanist between the political viability of a regime and the intellectual vitality of its citizenry can be seen in striking form in the career of Donato Acciaiuoli. Donato came from a family intermittently hostile to the Medici and as hungry as the Medici for political recognition and authority. A member of one of Florence's great ottimati families, Donato was raised by his maternal grandfather and Medici rival, Palla Strozzi. Later in the century, his cousin Agnolo helped lead the 1465 coup against Piero de' Medici. Donato himself wrote a letter expressing indignation at the Medicean Signoria's constant involvement in war, arguing that the real purpose of the regime's bellicosity was to suppress rival families through extraordinary wartime taxation. By the 1450s, however, Donato had grown tired of his consequent exclusion from Florentine politics and was forced to come to terms with Cosimo's commanding position in the city. Having been assisted by Cosimo in his efforts to bring John Argyropoulos to Florence, Donato rationalized his participation in Medicean politics by arguing that he was working with the Medici to improve the cultural life of Florence. To this end, he dedicated his commentary on Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics and Life of Alcibiades to Cosimo. [73]

Cosimo's political position as primus inter pares, combined with his learning, made him a perfect example of the ideal of the scholar-statesman held by Bruni and his peers. [74] As a young man, Cosimo planned to visit the Holy Land to seek Greek manuscripts, accompanied by Niccolo Niccoli and Francesco Barbaro. [75] A marble plaque in the library of San Marco reminded visitors that Cosimo's unique generosity had made the collection possible. The statement was not rhetorical; Cosimo's generosity far surpassed that of any subsequent benefactor. [76] Cosimo made available a considerable number of classical texts and commentaries: he encouraged Ambrogia Traversari to translate Diogenes Laertius' Lives of the Philosophers, received Bruni's translations of the Pseudo Aristotelian Economics and Plato's Letters, and sponsored Rinuccini's translation of P1utarch's Consolatio ad Apollonium. [77] By 1417, Cosimo owned sixty-two books, thirty-nine of which were by classical authors such as Titus Livy Caesar, Valerius Ma ximus, Sallust, and Tacitus. [78] De la Mare concluded from his study of Cosimo's impressive personal library that even as a young man Cosimo had set out to build a library in the "new mould": classical texts predominated, especially works by Cicero. [79]

Cosimo's contemporary biographer, Vespasiano da Bisticci, described him as a man with considerable intellectual training and appetite. Vespasiano claimed that Cosimo knew Latin well and could converse meaningfully on matters of theology with a theologian and on literature with a man of letters. According to the cartolaio, Cosimo knew equally well philosophy and astrology, which he had studied with Maestro Pagolo, a celebrated Florentine astrologer and friend of Bruni, Manetti, and Niccoli. When Cosimo went to Verona, fleeing the plague, he brought with him his humanist friends Carlo Marsuppini and Niccolo Niccoli rather than the more traditional entertainment entourage of buffoons and heralds. Vespasiano also noted that Cosimo frequented Argyropoulos and his circle of scholars to discuss Plato at the villa Cosimo had established for the Greek scholar. Vespasiano recorded that in Cosimo's latter days, afflicted by illness and contemplating his passage to another world, Cosimo had Bartolomeo Scala, future Flor entine chancellor, read Aristotle's Ethics to him. [80]

Civic humanists did not fuse certain ideas from classical antiquity with republicanism deliberately to assist Cosimo de' Medici in his bid for power; nor was Cosimo's association with those ideas a premeditated and calculated political gesture. Civic humanism was not the pivotal and causal force in Cosimo's political ascent. Civic humanism did, however, help to create and express new foci for the city's political culture in the Quattrocento. A central strain of ideas within this ideology could be used to provide an intellectual justification for Cosimo's political preeminence. Humanistic exaltation of the scholar-statesman and humanistic interpretations of wealth, history, and ideal government buttressed and extended the political implications of Cosimo's reputation for prudence, wisdom, generosity, and learning.

Civic humanism accommodated Medici power. Baron, in his insistence on civic humanism's faithful representation of the democratic reality of Florentine republicanism, could not or would not recognize this point. The argument presented here has several implications for current interpretations of Quattrocento Florentine politics and culture.

First, it extends our understanding of the Medici coup of 1434, showing that Cosimo's bid for power had a substantial ideological and intellectual component. The intellectual underpinning of Medici power has been amply demonstrated during Lorenzo's rule. [81] It remains less clear, however, during the early years of Cosimo's political career. Although the work of historians such as Alison Brown and James Hankins has amply illustrated the close and important collaboration between civic humanists and Cosimo de' Medici, general accounts of the Medici seizure of power rarely discuss its ideological aspect and instead emphasize subversion of electoral and political procedure, factional politics, and economics. [82] Civic humanism played a role in Cosimo's political ascent in Florence.

Second, the complement between civic humanism and Cosimo de' Medici corroborates (and refines for the Florentine case) the interpretation of civic humanism as an ideological support of ruling elites. Historians, principally John Najemy, have charted the decline of corporate republicanism, arguing that certain principles within civic humanism reflected the political assumptions of a recently triumphant, restricted, and elitist oligarchy. This political development contains a deep irony because, to use Najemy's apt expression, by attempting to fashion themselves as patres conscripti, the Florentine ottimati elite created a pater patriae. [83] This article has attempted to illustrate the specific intellectual process behind this ironic political outcome. One strain of ideas in civic humanism enabled former rivals of the Medici, such as Donato Acciaiuoli, to rationalize their participation in Medicean government.

Third and finally, the overlap between Medici and humanist ideologies concurs with the recent arguments of Hankins, Field, and Kraye that Baron and Garin misrepresented the relationship between Medici power and the rise of Neoplatonism. In particular, it supports the argument that the Medici did not systematically commission Neoplatonic literature as a political tool. Medici ascendancy did not pose an ideological problem to the moral program advocated by humanists; it is therefore difficult to see why Medici power should have forced an intellectual shift away from civic humanism to the speculative philosophy of the later Quattrocento.


(*.) For thoughtful suggestions and criticisms of previous drafts of this paper, I am grateful to Profs. Paul Grendler, James Hankins, Dale Kent, Ronald Witt, and John Najemy, who, in addition to criticism, forwarded me and allowed me to cite his forthcoming article "Civic Humanism and Florentine Politics." Thanks also to Marcello Simonetta and Karl Appuhn.

(1.) Rabil, 1988b.

(2.) See the forthcoming essays by James Hankins, John Najemy, and Alison Brown, among others, in Hankins, 2000.

(3.) Baron, 1966; see also 1955, 1968, and 1988.

(4.) For valuable current critiques of Baron's thesis and comprehensive bibliographies, see Hankins, 1995; Rabil, 1988a; Witt, 1996; Najemy 1996; Gundersheimer; Kallendorf. There is little consensus on which aspects of The Crisis remain viable today and what, fundamentally, was Baron's most important contribution to Renaissance studies. Contrary to Riccardo Fubini's statement, 1992, that continuing discussion about the validity of Baron's thesis has contributed to "misdirecting Renaissance historical research," I agree wholeheartedly with the tentative 1958 prediction of Wallace K. Ferguson that Baron's most important contribution "will prove to be the stimulus his ideas will give to future research." Since the publication of The Crisis, historians have vastly expanded the social and political context of Florentine intellectual thought, often along lines proposed or in response to questions raised by Baron.

(5.) This argument can be found in the epilogue to Najemy, 1982, 301-17. See also Najemy, 1991 and 2000; Hankins, 1996; Fubini, 1990; Witt, 1996 and 1976; Brucker, 1979; and Dees. According to Najemy, 1996, another important supporter of civic humanism as a "strategically pursued legitimation of the hegemony of the ruling group" is Niccolo Machiavelli (126). All these historians fundamentally agree with Baron that civic humanism reflected a decisive transformation in the political ideology inherited from the Trecento. Black, 1998, 263-64 and 275-77, has made the more general argument that humanism throughout Italy served the interests of ruling elites; and Davies, 106-24, has shown that the Florentine studio began teaching the studia humanitatis after the administration had become increasingly dominated by Florentine families. Thanks to Christopher Celenza for pointing out these references.

[6.] There is almost no extensive discussion of the relationship between the ideas and arguments of civic humanism and the rise of the Medici. Alison Brown, 1992, has analyzed humanist eulogies of Cosimo, showing how their image of him and the purpose of their praise changed over time. However, because these eulogies were written with the definite expectation of quid pro quo, her study is about the relationship between Cosimo and the city's civic humanists rather than the more abstract ideas of civic humanism. Jerrold Seigel has also offered an explanation for the role of humanists in the Medicean government, arguing that they were professional rhetoricians, glorified civil servants paid to produce propaganda for the regime. In his interpretation, rhetorical humanists were unlikely to have any strong feelings about the regime for which they worked, indifferent as they were to any one particular ideology (3-24). Hankins argues that the primary commitment of civic humanism is the reform of civil society, espec ially the inculcation of virtue in the political class, and that it is not committed to republicanism as a precondition for achieving civic virtue. According to this argument, there is no reason to assume any incompatibility between Medici power and civic humanism. See Hankins, 1991a, and 1992, 81-90. Lauro Martines, Anthony Grafton, and Lisa Jardine make similar, though more general, arguments regarding civic humanism's ideological support of ruling elites. See Martines, 1979, 191-201; Grafton and Jardine, 24. Charles Trinkaus made the perceptive remark that the "crisis" caused by Milanese aggression was a chronic situation (1402, 1414, 1427-1428) that found resolution only after Medici diplomacy engineered an alliance with Milan (432).

(7.) Baron, 1966, 435.

(8.) Garin, 1965, 78-79; 1963, 3-29 and 55-117; Baron, 1966, 435-39; Brown, 1992, 215-46; Martines, 1963, 295-302.

(9.) Baron, 1958, did, however, briefly suggest that the relationship may have been more complex than outlined above when he acknowledged the need to examine the "precise role of civic humanism for Medicean Florence" (27).

(10.) See Hankins, 1996, 131-33; 1994, 15-54; 1994c, 3-17; 1994b, 330-31; 1991b; 1990. See also Field, 1-24. Jill Kraye, 1996, has drawn attention to the importance of academic politics for the revival of Plato. She argues that Renaissance humanists such as Ficino were drawn to the study of Plato because it was not central to the entrenched interests of professional university philosophers. Because Plato had made few inroads into the universities (unlike Aristotle), humanists were free to apply their philological techniques to Plato without opposition from university-based philosophers. In an analysis of a 1489 theological disputation hosted by Lorenzo, she has shown that Lorenzo's philosophical patronage was broad and pluralistic. For example, many of Lorenzo's appointees to the University of Pisa were scholastic Aristotelians (142-50). See also Kraye, 1996, 151-66. George Holmes, 1969, has argued that the ground for Neo-Platonism was already well-prepared by the time Ficino was translating Plato for the agi ng Cosimo. He claims that the impetus for the revival of Plato came from the intellectual exchange between Gemistos Plethon and other Greek emigre scholars, particularly Cardinal Bessarion, which took place prior to full Medici political ascendancy (242-66).

(11.) Some humanists, most famously Francesco Filelfo, became anti-Medicean polemicists in the employ of northern despots, which suggests that their opposition to the Medici had little to do with ideological distaste for one-man rule.

(12.) Garin, 1963, had difficulty reconciling Bruni's (and subsequent chancellors Marsuppini and della Scala's) republican rhetoric with his open collaboration with the Medici regime. As a result, Garin dated the "last heroic age of Florentine humanism" to the chancellorship of Coluccio Salutati, recognizing that Leonardo Bruni's support of Cosimo de' Medici made it difficult to identify Bruni as a hero of Baron's civic humanism (11).

(13.) This is from Hankins, 1995, a strong anti-Baronist and proponent of rhetorical humanism. He further argues that Baron "was correct in seeing that humanism, as a cultural program, sought more than the cultivation of the individual. It aimed to bring scholarship and learning to bear on the task of building the virtues necessary to the preservation of civil society" (330).

(14.) Najemy, 2000.

(15.) Fraser Jenkins, 162-70; Brown, 1992, 3-52 and 53-72; Hankins, 1992.

(16.) Field, 13.

(17.) Salutati and his disciple, Pier Paolo Vergerio, were the first humanists to praise the "civic" Cicero. See Baron, 1966, 123-29.

(18.) Bruni, 1987, 187-88.

(19.) Bruni, 1987, Letters on the "Politics" of Aristotle, 167-68.

(20.) Bruni, 1987, Cicero Novus, 187-88.

(21.) Bruni, 1978, 45-47.

(22.) Ibid., 46.

(23.) Bruni, 1968: "Nam posteaquam res publica in unius potestatem deducta est, preclara illa ingenia (Ut inquit Cornelius) abiere..." (247). Unless otherwise indicated, all translations and paraphrases are my own.

(24.) Hankins, 1996, has written that Bruni, in his history of Florence, "worked out an entire theory of historical development which identified the highest moments of human culture with its moments of greatest political freedom: Periclean Athens, late republican Rome and the modern Florentine republic" (131).

(25.) Pier Candido Decembrio, court humanist of the Milanese Visconti, penned a response to Bruni, in the similar form of a laudatio to Milan.

(26.) Garin, 1952, 216.

(27.) Baron, 1966, saw this debate as an ideological conflict between partisans of competing political organisms: republicanism and despotism. In this context, Poggio's condemnation of the tyrant Caesar becomes yet another example of Florentine republican conviction born of Visconti aggression (66 and 407). John Oppel, 1974, placed the debate within a modified ideological framework, arguing that Poggio is better understood as a Medici partisan than as an idealistic civic humanist. In Oppel's interpretation, Poggio's preference of Scipio to Caesar is a thinly veiled exaltation of Cosimo de' Medici over his recently vanquished foe, Rinaldo degli Albizzi (221). The most recent commentator on this debate, Giuliana Crevatin, rejects the view that political considerations of any variety inspired Poggio's letter. Struck by the lack of nuance in Poggio's one-dimensional portrait of Caesar (unlike other humanist portraits of Caesar, even those of his detractors, such as Bruni), Crevatin argued that Poggio's treatise is primarily a rhetorical work, styled upon Cicero and intended to inspire moral virtues (285 and 290-91).

(28.) Poggio, 1:365: "Adde quod nomen Caesaris docti omnes viri execrari & odio habere deberent, non enim magis patrie quam latinae linguae & bonarum artium extitit parricida. Una enim cum libertate corruit latina eloquentia & studia literarum, quae in ipso fore prius fere quam inciperent extincta sunt."

(29.) Baron, 1966, 66-67.

(30.) Poggio, 1:363: "Nam cum ob eius in patriam atque in singulos cives merita singularia ad eum ornandum exquisiti honores quaererentur ... cum continuum consulatum, perpetuam Dictaturam offerent... Magna vir sapientia, in virtute ipsa & parta laude satis praemii, satis honore esse existimavit. Majore vero prudentia, qui id egit exemplo suo, ne similium return cupiditas & licentia ad deteriores postmodum cives perveniret."

(31.) Ibid., 1:365: "Scipioni honores & dignitates ultro offerebantur, Caesar per vim & ambitum auferebat...Scipio ne libertati patrie officeret sponte in exilium feccessit, Caesar ut libertatem eriperet praestantissimos dyes exulare coegit." I am grateful to James Hankins for the translation of this passage.

(32.) Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (born Ca. A.D. 30) was a teacher of rhetoric at Rome. He became unusually wealthy and famous for hit profession and was the first rhetorician to receive a salary from the fiscus, the personal funds of the Emperor. The younger Pliny was among his pupils. See Hammond and Scullard, 907.

(33.) Guarino, in Garin, 1952, 316-17:" ...Ut Tullius testatur 'illum omnium fete otatorum latine loqui degantissime' praedicant; illis testibus Caesar ad Ciceronem 'de ratione latine loquendi accurarissime scripsit'... Quantus is apud Fabium Quintilianum praedicetur scis:`... Tanta in eo vis est, id acumen, ea concitatio, ut illum eodem animo dixisse quo bellavit appareat.'"

(34.) Ibid., 22: "Nam Cicerone teste constat quantum cius aetate ab summo abesset hisroria quamque genus hoc scriptionis nondum satis esset latinis litteris illustratum. Exortisunt Asconius, Lucceius, Salustius, L. Florus, Trogus, lustinus, Curtius, Cornelius Tacitus er, ut in uno cunctorum laudes amplectar, T Livius ille gravis et lacteus."

(35.) Skinner, 1:74, asserts that the positive attitudes towards wealth were peculiar to the fifteenth century. Prior to the Quattrocento, writers such as Albertino Mussato and Brunetto Latini wrote that the growth of private wealth was a corrupting force in private life. In the Cinquecento, the same ideas were reiterated by writers such as Machiavelli and Guicciardini.

(36.) Bruni, 1968, 237: "Nam velur sanguis per universum corpus, sic ornamenta delitieque per universam urbem diffuse sunt."

(37.) "Alberti, 1969, 171-72: "Puossi colic richezze conseguire fama e autorita adoperandole in cose amplissime e nobilissime con molta larghezza e magnificenza. E sono negli ultimi casi e bisogni alla patria le richezze de' privati cittadini... Non si pub sempre nutrite chi coll'arme e sangue difenda la liberta dignita della patria solo con stipendii del publico erario."

(38.) Baron, 1966, 95.

(39.) "There is some debate over Poggio's intended meaning in this treatise. Most scholars (Eugenio Garin, Christian Bec, Reto Roedel, and Giuseppe Saitta) interpret the treatise as an outspoken apology for the urban merchant mentality but others argue that Poggio condemned avaricious commercialism through the extreme statements of Loschi. See Kohl, in Witt & Kohl, 234. John Oppel, 1977, 564-87, asserts that the identification of Poggio with Loschi's character is "superficial and cannot be maintained." However, he does not see Poggio, an extremely wealthy man, as a stringent critic of avarice. He presents the dialogue as a part of a battle between curial humanists and mendicant friars, each attempting to assert the viability of their careers and lifestyles in an age of clerical reform, initiated by the return of the papacy to Rome. I have interpreted Loschi's speech as Poggio's opinion because Loschi is the dramatic focus of the dialogue.

(40.) Examples of some traditional "civic" arguments for the virtue of wealth: without the economic surplus generated by avarice, how would the poor be fed and clothed? How would churches and homes be built? What would become of the mercantile professions that make civic life possible? Baron has outlined the significance of humanist attitudes towards wealth in three articles: "Franciscan Poverty and Civic Wealth in the Shaping of Trecento Humanistic Thought: The Role of Petrarch," "Franciscan Poverty and Civic Wealth in the Shaping of Trecento Humanistic Thought: The Role of Florence," "Civic Wealth and the New Values of the Renaissance: The Spirit of the Quattrocento," all in Baron, 1988, 1:159-257.

(41.) Poggio, 1:15: "Necessaria est enim pecunia veluti nervi quidam quibus sustinetur respublica, cuius cum copiosi existant avari, tanquam basis & fundamentum iudicandi sunt. Etenim si quando egebit subsidio civitas, ad inopes ne mercennarios, ac istos nescio quos divitiarum contemptores, an ad divites, hoc est avaros (nam haec raro absque avaritia cumulari possunt) con fugiemus? Utris praestar refertam esse civitatem? opulentis ne, qui se aliosque opibus tutantur, an egenis, qui nec aliis nec sibi subvenire possunt." Translation by Kohl and Welles, in Witt & Kohl, 263.

(42.) Ibid.: "Non solum autem divitiis nobis assunt, sed amplius consilio, prudentia, patrocinio, autoritate. Vidimus ipsi quidem permultos, qui cum avari haberentur, tamen & recte consulerent reipublicae, & in ea plurimum autoritate pollerent, quorum consilia profuere."

(43.) Filelfo, 510: "Nam sine ullo discrimine his singulis et recte licet et prave uti. Id autem illustretur exemplis. Grandis est pecunia Cosmi Medicis. Grandis Vitaliani Borrhomaei... Hic noster ad avaritiam refert omnia; ille ad liberalitatem ac beneficentiam. Hic habet primam venalem; ille se splendidissimo suo principi venalem praestat ad incolumitatem dignitatemque rei publicae."

(44.) Ibid., 503: "Praeterea si paupertas est inimica philosopho, ut videtur Aristoteli, duci divitias in amicis manifestum est." Although this work was never formally published, Filelfo circulated excerpts from it. By the 1450s, however, circumstances had required Filelfo to change his attitude towards the Medici. Hoping to return to Florence as an academic or secretary, Filelfo dedicated an emended version of the Sforziad to Piero de' Medici and wrote a letter to another of Cosimo's children, Giovanni de' Medici, explaining that he had never felt any ill-will towards the Medici. See Field, 84-85. Matteo Palmieri, 118-21, in the third book of Della vita civile, also adopted the relativist attitude apparent in Dc Paupertate.

(45.) Savonarola, 18-19: "Cresceria ancora per questo ben vivere il Regno in ricchezze, perche non spendendo superfluamente, congregariano nell' erario publico infinito tesoro, per il quale pagheriano li soldati ed officiali, e pasceriano li poveri ... e massime che intendendo il loro buon governo i mercantati, ed altri uomini ricchi, volentieri concorreriano alla citta ...," and "pero diciamo, che le ricchezze non sono la causa principale, che un cittadino si faccia Tiranno."

(46.) "Martines, 1963, 287.

(47.) Ibid., 267.

(48.) This argument assumes that the views of civic humanists gained rapid and widespread currency among the political population of Florence, a controversial assumption for which Baron himself received some criticism. Subsequent studies have supported Baron on this point. In addition to Martines' persuasive counter-argument to the charge that humanist thought did not effectively enter the political community, Gene Brucker, 1977, 300-03, found that, less than a decade after the publication of the Laudatio, Florentine politicians were discussing policy in terms similar to Bruni's.

(49.) Molho, 29-31. On Cosimo's relationship with Francesco Sforza, see Ilardi.

(50.) Kent, 28.

(51.) Goldthwaite, 8.

(52.) Hale, 26.

(53.) Hankins, 1992, 77.

(54.) In addition to arguments in favor of wealth, Leon Battista Alberti repeatedly stressed the utility of the architect and his creations. See Martines, 1963, 280.

(55.) de Roover, 477; Gombrich, 1992, 1-3.

(56.) Gombrich, 1960, 282-3.

(57.) Ullman & Stadter, 5 and 20.

(58.) Vespasiano, 2:182-90: "Andando questo suo fatore allui credendo isbigotirlo gli disse: voi avete ispeso questo anno alla Badia fiorini sette mila et a Sancto Lorenzo cinque mila ... Cosimo gli fece una risposta degna di lui, che fu: io intendo quello die tu dl; quegli di Sancto Lorenzo meritano grandissima riprensione, che e non hanno lavorato; et quegli della Badia meritano grandissima comendatione, che e segno egli hanno lavorato pits che quelli di Sancto Lorenzo... Dava in queste fabriche grandissimo susidio a' poveri uomini, tanti ch'erano infiniti quegli che vi si adoperavno... Non fu anno che none spendesse in muraglie quindeci o sedeci migliaia di fiorini, che tutti rimanevano nello universale della citta."

(59.) Brown, 12-13.

(60.) As quoted in Hale, 31.

(61.) Fraser Jenkins, 165.

(62.) Ullman & Stadter, 14.

(63.) Gurkind, 231.

(64.) Gombrich, 1967, 72. The full title of Giovanni Aretino's treatise is Trattato di Giovanni Aretino Medico, intorno alla nobilta delle leggi e della medicina, all' egregio giovane Lorenzo de' Medici. It can be found in Garin, 1947, 37-101.

(65.) Hankins, l991a, 59. Hankins, 1992, 80-81, has also made the point that Cosimo's close association with Bruni must have won him thousands of admirers in the ever-growing body of notaries and grammarians because Bruni's position of chancellor made him the effective head of the notarial profession in Tuscany and the dispenser of a vast network of patronage.

(66.) Hankins, 1992, 78. On the humanist domination of the Florentine chancery, see Garin, 1963, 2-39; Witt, 1983; Brown, 1979; and Black, 1985.

(67.) Brown, 29.

(68.) Holmes, 1968, 379; and Partner, 1968, 397.

(69.) Gill, 175.

(70.) Vespasiano, 2:19: "E' Greci, in anni mille cinquecento o piu non hanno mai mutato abito, quello medesimo abito avevano eglino in quello tempo, ch' eglino avevano avuto nel tempo detto, come si vede ancora in Grecia net luogo si chiama I campi Filippi, dove sono molte stone di marmo, drentovi uomini vestiti a la greca, nel modo erano alora."

(71.) Brown, 14-17.

(72.) Gombrich, 1962, 218-20.

(73.) Ganz, 33-47.

(74.) Field has suggested that Cosimo's learning was meager at best, speculating that because of his lack of formal training Cosimo "saw intellectual changes only in their dimmest outlines" (10). Hankins has argued that humanists tended to praise Cosimo's prudence and virtue because they were reluctant to praise his Latin or Greek; Cosimo could read and write Latin, however, though not with the elegance befitting a humanist. Hankins, 1990, 146-48; idem, 1992. In his study of Cosimo's personal library, de la Mare concluded that Cosimo read his books more than superficially and was a true enthusiast (138-39). It is difficult to establish how Cosimo's learning was perceived by intellectuals around him, in part because so many of the sources are eulogies intended to flatter and exaggerate. However, it is clear from Brown's study of the humanist portrait of Cosimo that many humanists expounded on Cosimo's wisdom and studiousness, including Donato Acciaiuoli, Bartolomeo Scala, and even Alamanno Rinuccini (the auth or of an anti-Medicean dialogue). In a letter to Federigo of Urbino, Rinuccini included Cosimo in a list of men in his time who were "so excellent in the different kinds of arts and disciplines that they can be compared with the ancients" (Brown, 13). In his discussion of Cosimo's faith and learning, Curt Gutkind has concluded that Cosimo was guided in his collection of codices by "motives of pure delight in culture and an inherent desire for knowledge, for direct personal mental contact, and for intellectual improvement" (233).

(75.) Gutkind, 225.

(76.) Ullman & Stadter, 12 and 27.

(77.) Hankins, 1992, 147.

(78.) Pintor, 1960, 197-99. Even if Cosimo could nor read the works in Latin, the size of such a collection would have sufficed to leave an impression on visitors.

(79.) de la Mare, 139.

(80.) See Vespasiano, 2:73-76 for Maestro Pagolo, and 2:193-211 for Cosimo's learning.

(81.) See the articles on Lorenzo's Florence by Brown, 1992; Bullard; Mallett; Garfagnini, 1994, 1992a, 1992b; and Toscani.

(82.) Kent; Molho; Rubinstein; Martines, 1963.

(83.) Najemy, 2000.


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Title Annotation:Medici family, political leaders in Florence, Italy during the Renaissance
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Dec 22, 1999
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