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...It is not at all necessary for a prince to have all the good qualities which I have named, but it is necessary to seem to have them. I will even go so far as to say that to actually have these qualities and to be guided by them always is dangerous, but to appear to possess them is useful. Thus it is well to seem merciful, faithful, sincere, religious, and also to be so. But a prince must always be ready to embrace the opposite qualities if the occasion demands it. New princes particularly are unable to live by these fine qualities. They are often obliged, in order to maintain their position, to act against faith, against charity, against humanity, and against religion. A prince must be ready to shift with the wind as the ups and downs of fortune dictate. He should not deviate from what is good if he can avoid it, but he should be ready and able to do evil when it is necessary.
"I conclude, then, that if fortune varies and men remain fixed in their ways, they will be successful so long as these ways fit the circumstances of the moment, but when the times call for other tactics they will fail. I certainly think that it is better to be impetuous than cautious, for fortune 18 a woman, and it is necessary, if you wish to master her, to conquer her by force. It can be seen that she lets herself be overcome by the bold rather than by those who proceed coldly. And therefore, 11ke a woman, she is always a friend to the young, because they are less cautious, more fierce, and master her with greater audacity."
At the end of the Middle Ages a combination of economic, political and social changes brought about a great outburst of intellectual and artistic activity. Historians are unable to precisely identify this period of history which we call the Renaissance. Some aspects of renaissance life were clear by 1250; others did not emerge until the sixteenth century. Moreover, the emphasis in renaissance 11fe differed from one place to another. The Renaissance began in Italy where it was essentially secular and spread to northern Europe where religion played a more important role. Although the word renaissance means rebirth and refers to the revival of classical knowledge, there was much in it that was entirely new. Everywhere, however, the age of the Renaissance marked the beginning of the transition from a rural agrarian economy to an urban commercial society typical of the modern world. development of such a complicated historical period cannot be explained easily.
Major historical trends never result from only one cause. A number of events working together helped to bring about the triumph of Alexander the Great over the Greeks; another complex group of causes produced the fall of the Roman Empire. So it was with the Renaissance. A whole host of developments covering several centuries set the stage for the great outburst of intellec. tual and artistic activity which swept Italy. Major changes in the economy,
a new political system, the weakening position of the church, the rediscovery of the ancient world all these factors and many others were at work. The chart on the following page lists some of the more important events which contributed to the emergence of renaissance society. Study It carefully to discover the influences which helped to shape this new world. study the chart try to determine how these influences were related to each other.
During the Middle Ages economic activity revived most rapidly in the Italian city-states. This activity created the kind of dynamic urban 11fe which set the stage for the Renaissance. In fact, vigorous economic activity had never ceased in Italy. She had been the center of the Roman world and her cities, particularly Venice, remained the middlemen between Europe and the East throughout the Middle Ages. The Crusades increased the flow of people and trade through the Italian seaports; eventually Genoa, Pisa and Florence joined Venice as commercial centers. Sailors from those cities developed new ships, drew elaborate charts called portolani to guide them over the Mediterranean and perfected new navigational instruments. Their sails soon filled the seas which bordered southern Europe.
Manufacturing and banking developed in the wake of the trading vessels. Money became the medium of exchange. Italian merchants seeking for goods to exchange for the spices and luxuries of the East encouraged the development of industry including cloth making and shipbuilding. To keep track of their new transactions, merchants invented double entry bookkeeping, listing their assets and liabilities in parallel columns, an accounting technique essential to modern business practices. To handle this new wealth, some merchants eventually becane bankers. From all these new economic activities trade, manufacturing, and banking -- a new class of wealthy men no longer dependent on land ownership for their prosperity emerged.
Large scale manufacturing developed in the Italian city-states. Raw materials such as wool and leather were imported from abroad and the finished products filled the holds of the merchants' ships. For this reason the merchants gained control of the manufacture of such goods as leather and cloth. They hired workers and paid them wages. This development helped to destroy the hold of the guilds, organizations of independent craftsmen who owned their own tools and raw materials and worked in small shops with little or no hired labor.
Other outlets for capital developed in banking and money lending. By the middle of the thirteenth century, they had become an indispensable part of Italian economic life. Merchants wished to pursue their profit-making activities without interference from political leaders. cities such as Venice, Florence, Milan and Siena had grown large, wealthy and self-confident. In the thirteenth century they were a part of the Holy Roman Empire which was ruled by German kings. The fact that the Emperor lived in Germany and was involved in a struggle for power with the Pope gave the city-states an opportunity to play off emperor against Church in order to win their own political freedom. By the end of the fifteenth century, all Italy except
1462 Cosimo de Medici
41466 Donatello died
- 1488 Diaz pounds Cape of
1492-1503 Alexander VI
1503-1513 Julius II
1313-1521 Leo X
H510 Botticelli died
1527 Machiavelli died
1534-1549 Paul III,
1564 Michelaagelo died 1576 Titian died
the Kingdom of Naples in the south was controlled by independent territorial states. The map on the following page shows the major Italian city-states in the year 1490.
Most of these new city-states were ruled by despots. The Visconti and Sforzas of Milan and the Medici of Florence were examples. At first the cities were under the control of merchants and nobles. This rule was challenged in the thirteenth century by the merchants and bankers who because of their wealth were eager to direct the affairs of state. Guild masters, shop keepers and professional men usually supported them rather than either the aristocracy or the proletariat. The struggle among these various groups resulted in an ineffectual republican government which gave way to one-man rule. Each despot owed his power to wealth and popular support. Most of them became patrons of the arts and sciences. The varied interests and intense individualism of the "popular" despots was demonstrated in the works of art which they commissioned and in their concept of a many-sided personality.
The rapid development of the city-states destroyed the last traces of feudalism in Italy. The wealth and political power of merchants attracted feudal lords who allied themselves with the city-states rather than with the popes and emperors. Soon, the daughters of wealthy merchants began to marry the song of impoverished nobles, and the titled but less wealthy nobility acquired money. Because farming without capital was not profitable, land gradually passed into the hands of merchants and bankers who lived in the city. Because of this development the political authority of the town spread to the surrounding countryside. The cities were able to win control of rural areas partly because of their political and economic position and partly because the Church, whose power was declining, was no longer able to stand in the way.
The Church, which had been a very powerful organization in the Middle Ages, began to lose its hold at the same time that the strength of the Italian city-states was growing. During these very years the papal power was also threatened by the rise of national states, particularly in France and England. The decline of the Church's power and influence gave the Renaissance a chance to emerge. Here was a case where the decay of an institution gave dynamic forces an opportunity to thrust ahead.
For centuries the Papacy had functioned as the spiritual leader of Europe. During this period, in addition to their spiritual duties, the Popes had concerned themselves with codifying canon law, developing the theory of papal supremacy and launching the Crusades. When Boniface VIII tried to exert papal influence in 1300, however, he was opposed by the Italian city-states and the rising national states to the north. Both Boniface's actions and his words demonstrated the growing weakness of the Church. He pushed the claims of the papacy to extremes, provoking the rulers of France, England and the Holy Roman Empire to clash openly with him and his successors over questions of temporal and clerical power.