« EdellinenJatka »
in silver, and mingled with goblets and vases of rich crystal, of a style which Benvenuto Cellini brought to perfection. Herr von Reumont publishes a curious document, drawn up in 1472 by the chronicler, Benedetto Dei, in reply to an injurious pamphlet concocted by some Venetians respecting Florence, in which the noble city, the daughter of Rome,' as she was called, was depreciated at the expense of the Queen of the Adriatic.
Notwithstanding, too, the indignant apostrophe of Dante at the growing luxury of Florence, citizen life continued there to be in the main of a modest and frugal character. Even up to a late period the remarkable description given by the historian Varchi of the people of Florence in his time, was true also for the days of Lorenzo :
* I cannot coincide in the opinion of those who deny to the Florentines all nobility of thought, and hold them for low and plebeian because they are merchants. Often have I wondered in silence how people who have been accustomed from childhood to drag about with them bales of wool and parcels of silk goods, or like slaves to spend each day and part of each night in tending the loom and the dyeing-vat, often on occasion show such great spirit and magnanimity of soul that they are as fair in speech as in deed. The atmosphere, which is a medium between the sharp air of Arezzo and the heavy air of Pisa, has certainly some influence in producing the phenomenon. He who observes the Florentines well in nature and habits will come to the conclusion that they are more fitted to be a ruling than a subject city.'
Such were the city and such the people in which, and over which, after a series of vicissitudes of dominion and of victories and defeats of parties, perhaps unequalled in history, the family of the Medici succeeded at length in establishing an hereditary supremacy of authority. The family of the Medici, as is well known, did not descend from the feudal nobility of the Florentine State, mostly of German origin, and deriving their importance from their castles and possessions in the country. They were among the families who passed by the name of the popolani grossi, and formed by themselves a sort of urban or plebeian aristocracy. Singularly enough, the first occasion on which the name of Medici figures in history was in the year 1201, when a certain Chiarissimo Medici was active in promoting a league between his native city and Siena, for the destruction of one of those feudal holds in the valley of the Elsa, which the Florentines, with the help of neighbouring cities, succeeded ultimately in utterly subduing,
The rise of the family of the Medici, indeed, proceeded pace by pace with the triumph of the Guelfic principles and the growth
of the Florentine popular spirit. What was the origin of the race, and what was the meaning of the palle or balls which formed the family device, is lost in obscurity. When the family became illustrious, the flattery of archeologists invented for them genealogies commencing with Charlemagne, and even with Perseus. The palle, the red balls on a golden field, were declared by some to represent the apples of the Hesperides ; by others to represent the iron balls which hung from the mace of a giant overcome by a knightly progenitor in single combat; while the most modest explanation of them is that they are suggestive of the pills or cupping glasses, which the founder of the family used in his medical profession.
Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici was elected Gonfaloniere of Florence in 1417. He had been the most energetic and prosperous among the enterprising and quick-witted Florentine merchants and bankers who, amid the vicissitudes and disorders of the affairs and government of their city, had extended that web of commercial relations throughout the whole civilised world. During the reign of the Ottimati Pisa and Leghorn had been added to the dominion of the little state, and Giovanni had known how to turn the aggrandisement of his country to the profit of his private fortune. One of the richest men of his native city, he was at the same time one of the most generous and most popular. His purse was ever ready to the calls of his friends and his city, and he spent much in works of public ornament and utility, and bore, among other things, a large share in the restoration aud enlargement of the Church of San Lorenzo.
Giovanni died in the year 1428, in his sixty-ninth year, leaving behind him a wife, Piccarda, daughter of Odoardo Bueri, who bore him two sons, Cosimo, styled . Pater Patrie,' the grandfather of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and Lorenzo, born in 1394, the ancestor of the Medici of that collateral branch who after the extinction of the descendants of Cosimo obtained the sovereignty of Tuscany.
Cosimo was about forty years of age at the death of his father. He immediately, says Machiavelli, engaged more earnestly in public affairs, and conducted himself with more zeal and liberty to his friends than his father had done; so that those who had rejoiced at Giovanni's death, finding what the son was likely to become, perceived they had no cause for exultation. Cosimo was one of the most prudent of men, of grave
and pleasant demeanour, extremely liberal and humane; he 'never attempted anything against a party or against the • state, but strove to be of help to all, and with his liberality
to make as many partisans as he could of his fellow-citizens.'
He was formally elected Gonfaloniere on January 1, 1435. The rule of the Medici may be said to date from this day, and the supremacy of Cosimo de' Medici lasted thirty years, that is, until his death. It was
It was a supremacy, however, which at times he craftily contrived should appear to be supplanted by the ambitious action of his own partisans, and in which all the successes of an astute and resolute spirit were called into action to preserve the interests of his country abroad, as well as to secure his own authority and safety at home.
Speaking of the domestic policy of Cosimo de' Medici after his return Herr von Reumont says
* He found in Florence a propitious soil. His partisans had well prepared the way for him. All the chiefs of hostile factions had been sent into exile; many had been put to death. 'It was easy for him in his memoirs to boast that during the time he was
Gonfaloniere no one had been banished, no one had suffered injury. This was not mercifulness in him, since he had no greater horror of violence and bloodshed than the majority of his contemporaries when political objects were in view, it was crafty calculation. He knew that he could leave it to others to make such an application of the laws of the State as would secure his position without rendering him liable to be taxed with a severe policy. He had managed this as well by the way in which he had made application of penal laws as by the way in which he had carried through his alteration of the constitution. At first he put forward Puccio Pucci for this purpose, who exhibited such zeal and acquired such authority that the Hotspurs of the party were called after him Puccini. When it was required to forward the ends of the party, even by the most sanguinary measures, Puccio, who was a capable man and had shown himself as such both in civil and diplomatic employments, knew no scruples. Cosimo made use of Luca Pitti still more than of him.'
Cosimo had other friends almost as valuable as these, especially Neri Capponi, Agnolo and Donato Acciaiuoli, Diotisalvi Neroni, Bernardo Giugni, and others.
A pitiful chapter might be written on the fate of the exiled adversaries of Cosimo, and their painful lives and those of their families. “Many families, once in good circumstances,
yea, even rich, fell into poverty ; fathers and sons wandered ' about among strangers, and their property was confiscated. Noble women had to beg for alms.? Rinaldo and Ormanno degli Albizzi, Messer Niccolò, and Baldassare Gianfigliazzi, Lodovico de' Rossi, Lamberto de' Lamberteschi, Bernardo Barbadoro, and Stefano Feruzzi, all men of high birth, were declared infamous, and their portraits, with abusive verses beneath them, were painted on the walls of the Palazzo del Podestà by Andrea Castagno, who thence gained the name of Andrea degli Impiccati. All these passed the rest of their lives in exile, and died miserably.
But Cosimo did not content himself with rendering his enemies harmless, he had also to provide against any of his own friends and supporters becoming too powerful; and this he contrived to effect until the last ten years of his life, when the violent and ambitious counsels of Luca Pitti, the builder of the famous palace so well known to all travellers, prevailed.
It was under the leadership of Cosimo de' Medici that the traditional hostility of Florence to Milan gave place to another policy on the extinction of the race of the Visconti. Filippo Maria Visconti was the last of a race which, more than any other, symbolised the energy and the splendour, but at the same time the caprice and cruelty, of these medieval tyrannies of Italy. Among the various rivals who stepped forward as claimants to the rich heritage which he left behind him, two, the Republic of Venice and Francesco Sforza, the son of the famous Romagnuolo peasant who had founded one of the great schools of condottieri in Italy, became soon pre-eminent. The treachery, violence, and military skill of Sforza, joined with the advantage which accrued to him as the husband of a natural daughter of the last Visconti, ultimately prevailed ; but without the aid of Florence and Cosimo de' Medici he would not have succeeded.
There is no ground for thinking that Cosimo felt any repug, nance in entering into that alliance with the faithless and merciless chief who had brought upon his city the enmity of her ancient ally the Republic of the Lagunes and of the Aragonese monarchs of Naples. Cosimo, it was clear, was governed by political considerations alone; yet these considerations, however profitable for the republic at the present, were pregnant with future evil not only to the Florentine State, but to all Italy, since a son of Francesco, animated by the same passion of ambition, and with the same disregard of all duties human and divine, after supplanting his nephew on the throne of Milan, invited the French into Italy, and opened that era of foreign invasions which perpetuated the divisions and ensured the slavery of Italy, and that general downfall of the liberty of Italian cities, among which Florence was to be the first victim.
In the beginning of 1464 it was evident Cosimo was approaching to his end. He had long been a sufferer from his hereditary complaint, the gout, which now beset him more severely and began to attack the nobler parts. He died on August 1 of the same year, at the age of seventy-five. • Friends and enemies,' says Machiavelli, alike lamented his
death. They had not much confidence in Piero his son, who, though a very good man, was of infirm health. . . . He 'not only surpassed all his contemporaries in wealth and authority, but also in generosity and prudence; and among the qualities which contributed to make him prince in his own country was his surpassing all others in magnificence and generosity.' Cosimo of Medici,' says Gibbon, 'was the • father of a line of princes whose name and age were al• most synonymous with the restoration of learning; his credit
was kindled into fame; his riches were dedicated to the ser• vice of mankind; he corresponded at once with Cairo and · London, and a cargo of Indian spices and Greek books was often imported in the same vessel.
It became a proverbial saying, which was addressed to people of munificent tastes, “So you think you are Cosimo de' * Medici.' He had inherited a good fortune from his father, which he increased unceasingly by activity, sure judgment, and good fortune. He ruled the money market not only in Italy but abroad. In all the countries of the West he had banks of his own established, and he superintended the management of them all himself. His earlier years,' says Machiavelli, 'were full of trouble, as his exile, captivity, and personal dan'gers fully testify. But after the age of forty he enjoyed the * greatest felicity, and not only those who assisted him in his 'public business, but his agents who conducted his commercial * speculations throughout Europe, participated in his pros
perity. Hence many enormous fortunes took their origin in • different families of Florence, as in that of the Tornabuoni, the Barri, the Portinari, and the Sachetti.'
No small part of the interest, however, which now attaches to Cosimo's name is due to his munificent protection of scholars, writers, and poets, his foundation of libraries, and his patronage of the arts of architecture, painting, and sculpture. To architecture he was especially devoted, and gave full employment to the activity of Michellozzo Michellozzi, and Filippo Brunelleschi. Besides the sacred edifices San Lorenzo, San Marco, Santa Verdiana, and others to which he so largely contributed, he built the regal palace in Florence now known as the Palazzo Riccardi, besides his villas at Careggi, Fiesoli, Caffagiuolo, and Trebbio, and, among other works, erected a hospital at Jerusalem for poor and infirm pilgrims.
In painting and sculpture Masaccio, Filippo Lippi, and Donatello owed much to his encouragement, and it was under his