Republic of Florence


The Republic of Florence, officially Florentine Republic (Italian: Repubblica Fiorentina) was a city-state established in the Italian city of Florence, Tuscany. The Republic was founded in 1115, when the Florentines or Florentines overthrew the Mark of Tuscany and formed a commune upon the death of the Marquise Matilda. The commune was governed by a council known as the Signoria, which was elected by the confaloniero (titular ruler of the city), who in turn was elected by members of the Florentine guilds.

The history of the republic is full of factional struggles. The Medici gained control of the city in 1434, following Cosimo de Medici”s coup d”état against the faction that had exiled him the previous year. The Medici would maintain control of the city until 1494, when they were briefly expelled by the radical friar Girolamo Savonarola, and after John de Medici (future Leo X) reconquered the city in 1512. The Medicean authority was repudiated a second time in 1527, during the War of the Cognac League, but they resumed power in 1531, after an eleven-month siege of Florence.

In 1532, Pope Clement VII appointed Alexander de Medici as Duke of the Florentine Republic.

In 1537, after the assassination of Alexander de Medici by order of Lorenzino de Medici, a distant cousin of the Duke, none of the most important families was in a position to claim the position of the Medici since it would mean opposing Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. At that moment, Cosimo I de Medici appeared, only 17 years old.

As soon as he was invested he issued a decree in which he excluded Lorenzino and his descendants from any right of succession, overruled the Council and assumed absolute authority in a tyrannical manner, causing the voluntary exile of several notables of the city. These, with the support of France, tried to overthrow him but failed at the Battle of Montemurlo on August 2. After this coup of authority in the region, Cosimo was recognized as Duke by Emperor Charles V in exchange for his help against the French.

This fact allowed him to carry out the expansion of Florence, conquering the Republic of Siena, after the Battle of Marciano in 1554 and controlling most of Tuscany. Although he had to cede to the Spanish Empire the Presidia.

However, Cosimo was not resigned to being a vassal of the Emperor and sought greater political independence. Thus, thirty-six years after the establishment of the state, in 1569, Pope Pius V elevated Cosimo de Medici as Grand Duke of Tuscany, putting an end to the Duchy of Florence, and henceforth the Grand Duke was crowned by the Pope in Rome. Considering that the right to establish a Grand Duchy was reserved to the Emperor, Spain and Austria refused to recognize it, while France and England waited to finally validate it; with the passage of time, all European states eventually recognized it. The Medici continued to rule until 1737, when Giovanni Gaston de” Medici died without descendants and was succeeded by Francesco I of the Holy Roman Empire.

In 1531, the Florentine Niccolo Machiavelli”s The Prince was published posthumously in Rome in the Republic of Florence.

Formation of a commune in Florence (11th century – early 12th century)

Elements of self-government in Tuscan towns appeared even during the time of Charlemagne”s empire, when colleges of crusts were formed, elected by the townspeople and involved in the administration of justice. With the collapse of the empire in the 10th century, the power of the Marquises of Tuscany increased sharply, becoming the most powerful feudal lords of the Italian kingdom. The main residence of the Margraves was Lucca, and the counts subordinate to them were appointed to other cities. As a result, a system of counties (contado, from the Italian Conte – Count) was created with centers in the cities of Tuscany. The largest county was the Florentine county. However, the central authority in Tuscany, as in other regions of Italy, was extremely weak: there was no real administration, and the local feudal families did not have significant territorial holdings and complete power over the cities. The bishops in Tuscany were also unable to control the counts and the cities, as was the case in Lombardy, and their conservatism in the context of the evolving Cluni reform did not contribute to the popularity of the bishops among the population.

The rapid growth of sea and land trade in Tuscany in the 11th century led to the acceleration of urban development and its transformation into a political force. During Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV”s struggle with Pope Gregory VII, the emperor, trying to weaken the Tuscan Marquise Matilda Matilda, an ally of the Pope, granted (1081) autonomy to Pisa and Lucca. Florence remained the only Tuscan city that remained on the Matilda”s side, for which it received a series of privileges. The last years of Marquise Matilda Matilda”s rule were marked by the weakening of central authority in Tuscany and the beginning of clashes between the townspeople and the feudal lords. As early as 1107, the Florentines destroyed the castle of Monte Galazzi, which belonged to one of the most influential noble families of the county of Florence. This was the beginning of the city”s struggle for independence against the local feudal lords. Matilda did not intervene in this struggle, and after her death (1115), power in Florence passed to the city”s commune, an autonomous political organization of citizens. The commune assumed control of the city”s internal affairs, solved commercial and craft problems, collected taxes and minted coins, and soon began to pursue its own foreign policy. The establishment of communal authority in Florence in 1115 is considered the beginning of the existence of an independent Florentine republic.

The highest representative body of the early commune in Florence was a general meeting of citizens convened four times a year, from which a Council with legislative functions was elected. The Council consisted of about 150 persons, representing mainly the wealthier residents of the city. The executive power belonged to a college of twelve consuls, elected for one year. Every two months, two of them became leaders of the commune. The ruling elite of the republic was the small and medium-sized urban cavalry: the Valvassores and the leading merchants, who formed a special social layer of the militarized patriciate of the city. As a result, the young republic acquired a pronounced oligarchic character. The internal structure of 12th century Florentine society was characterized by the fragmentation of society into large family-related groups. The most important urban families erected special fortress towers within Florence, around which so-called “tower unions” of two or three related families, consortia, were formed. In total, in Florence, there were more than 100 consortia that fought each other in a constant struggle. Another layer of social organization composed of merchants and craftsmen workshops, uniting representatives of a profession, regardless of their origin of family or social type, as well as the first house bank.

Conquest of the County and establishment of a sub-state (XIIth century)

After the death of the Marquise Matilda (1115), the central authority in Tuscany finally lost influence, although the office of Marquis was maintained throughout the 12th century. A long struggle began between the communes and the feudal lords for power and control over the territory. The first step on the road to Florentine expansion in Tuscany was the capture and destruction of the neighboring town of Fiesole (1125). Gradually, the Florentines seized all the castles of the aristocrats and subjugated the bishop of Florence. By the middle of the 12th century, the territory of the Florentine county was ruled by the commune, the largest aristocrats, the families of Guidi and Alberti, recognized the power of Florence. The feudal lords settled in the city and entered the municipal structures. In 1182, Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, during his visit to Tuscany, recognized the self-government of the urban communes, limiting the power of the Marquis to the collection of imperial taxes and the administration of justice. Florence received a letter from the emperor (1187), in which the privileges and independence of the Florentine commune were fixed.

At the congress in San Genesio (1197), the Tuscan cities (Florence, Pisa, Siena, Lucca, Arezzo, Volterra) formed an alliance among themselves, dividing the territory of the ancient Mark into spheres of influence. As a result, a civil war developed between the main communes, on the one hand, and the feudal lords and small rural settlements, on the other, culminating in the establishment in Tuscany of the power of several city-states. After conquering their county in the first quarter of the 13th century the cities came into conflict with each other. For Florence, the main enemy was the Republic of Siena, whose expansion developed in the direction of the Florentine county. The struggle of Siena and Florence for the two small towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino continued with various successes for several centuries. The Florentines managed to conclude an alliance (1171) with Pisa, the largest seaport in Tuscany, and ensured that Florentine goods were taxed on Pisan ships at the same rates as the Pisans. However, in the early 13th century the strengthening of Florence in central Tuscany led to the formation of two hostile blocs: Florence and Lucca against the alliance of Pisa and Siena. The latter traditionally centered on the emperor, who drove Florence into the pope”s camp. This marked the beginning of the Guelph and Ghibelline struggle in Tuscany.

During the period of conquest, important changes took place in the state system of Florence. The college of twelve consuls was replaced by the institution of the single secretary as head of state, a hired mayor who is elected for one year, usually from non-resident cities and is under the control of the communal authorities. The Podesta was the president of the collegial bodies of the republic and headed its militia. The first mention of a podesta in Florence dates back to 1193, and in the early 13th century it finally formed as the state system of Florence and other Tuscan cities. The establishment of a sub-state signified the fall of the influence of the old urban nobility and the transfer of power to the rich man. At that time, the city has already reached a fairly high level of prosperity, as evidenced, for example, by the fact that the new city walls, which included a number of former suburban lands, were built in just two years (1173-1175). Florence has become the largest settlement and commercial center of central Tuscany, the number of its inhabitants has reached 30 thousand people. The commercial relations of Florentine merchants extended to an important part of Western Europe.

The struggle between Guelphs and Ghibellines in Florence (1216-1260)

As early as the 1210s in Florence, a struggle began between supporters of the pope (Guelphs) and the emperor (Ghibellines). The republic split into two warring camps, using political preferences to fight for power in the commune. The victory of Emperor Frederick II in the battle of Cortenuovo (1237) drastically strengthened the Ghibelline party in northern and central Italy. Under pressure from Frederick II Florence recognized (1238), the sovereignty of the empire, and the post of Podesta some time later was appointed as the illegitimate son of Emperor Frederick of Antioch, who began the policy of centralizing the management and unification of Tuscany into a single state. The coming to power in the republic of the Ghibellines caused discontent among the majority of citizens. In 1248, the main Guelph families left Florence, which provoked a massive repression in the city against the opposition. However, almost all of Tuscany was involved in a rebellion against the emperor. In 1250, the power of the Ghibellines was overthrown, Frederick of Antioch and his supporters fled the city. In the republic “the first democracy” (in Italian, il Primo Popolo) was established (1250-1260).

During the period of the First Democracy, power passed to the half-hearted, and the social base of the political regime in Florence expanded significantly due to the broad layers of artisans and merchants. At the head of the republic was the captain of the people: the military leader and the head of the “small commune”. The Podesta, who represented the interests of a wealthy oligarchy, was removed from power. A new municipal authority was also created: the Council of Elders (Italian: Consiglio degli Anziani), which included two representatives from the six districts of the city. The Council of Elders concentrated in its hands the financial and fiscal management of the republic. Another support of the regime was the Council of Workshops: for the first time in the government of the republic appeared both wealthy merchants and representatives of the artisan circles of society. The consortiums were abolished and their towers destroyed.

The new town government continued the policy of territorial expansion: in 1251 the town established control over the small seaport of Talamone, as a result of which the republic received direct access to the sea. This led to the formation of the league of Tuscan Ghibelline communes (Pisa, Siena and Pistoia) against Florence and the outbreak of war between the Tuscan states. The Florentine army achieved significant success, defeating the troops of Siena and subjugating Pistoia in 1254. Siena was forced to make peace (1255), losing several border territories to Florence. At the same time, Volterra was annexed to Florence. Pisa, which was defeated by Genoa, agreed to grant Florentine merchants the right to free trade through its port. As a result, in 1255, Florentine hegemony was established in Tuscany.

The period of the First Democracy was marked by success not only in foreign policy, but also in economic development. The city reached its highest point, actively realized new construction (including the Palazzo del Popolo (ital.- “palace of the people”), the seat of the highest magistrates of the republic, founded in 1255), gold was released into circulation Florin (1252), which became the most popular currency in Europe, which testified to the transformation of Florence into a pan-European financial center. However, there remained an external threat: the coronation of Manfred of Sicily (1258) revived the hope of revenge among the Italian Ghibellines. They attempted a coup in Florence, but were defeated and expelled. The Ghibellines found refuge in Siena, where the center of the emperor”s supporters in central Italy began to form. In 1260, the Florentine army, which included detachments from other Tuscan Guelph communes, attacked Siena, but at the battle of Montaperti on September 4, 1260, the Florentines were completely defeated. A week later, Ghibelline troops entered Florence. The constitution of the Popolo was abolished, and the Ghibellines, supporters of King Manfred, assumed power.

The Guelph triumph and the establishment of the Priory (1260-1293)

After the Ghibellines came to power (1260), the Guelphs were expelled from the republic, their properties were confiscated, their houses and towers were destroyed. The exiles found refuge in Lucca, the only city in Tuscany where the Guelph government remained. At the head of the Florentine Republic was Count Guido Novello, appointed by Manfredo, the Sicilian Vicar General of all Tuscany. Count Guido immediately attacked Lucca and forced it to agree to expel the Guelphs (1264). As a result, all of Tuscany was in the hands of the Ghibelline group. However, the pope asked the French prince Charles of Anjou for help and gave him the crown of the Sicilian kingdom. In the battle of Benevento (1266), Manfredo was defeated and killed. The following year, the troops of Charles of Anjou invaded Tuscany. His expedition was largely financed by Florentine bankers who sympathized with the Guelphs. News of the approaching French troops caused Count Guido and the Ghibellines to flee. Power in the republic again passed to the Guelphs. Charles of Anjou was elected to the office of Podesta and held this office for the next thirteen years. By 1270, all of Tuscany was under the control of the Guelphs.

During the reign of Charles of Anjou, the internal autonomy of Florence continued despite the fact that the king took control of the entire foreign policy of the republic. The popolans were removed from control and power was concentrated in the hands of the magnates (nobles and large landowners), led by the Council of Six. The growing influence of King Charles and France provoked the discontent of Pope Gregory X, who tried (in 1273) to achieve reconciliation between the Florentine Guelphs and the Ghibellines, but was defeated because of the position of Charles and the radical Guelphs. Only in 1280 the papal legate Cardinal Latino dei Frangipani was it possible to reach an agreement between the Guelphs and the Florentine Ghibellines, who agreed to divide among themselves the municipal posts of the republic. The moderate Ghibellines returned to Florence, whereupon their properties were returned to them. However, in fact, the Guelphs remained in power: the emperor”s supporters in Florence were few and weak in economic terms. Charles of Anjou was later removed from the office of Podesta.

The collapse of Angevin power triggered a new round of struggle for influence among various social groups in Florence. The rapid development of trade, the privileges received by Florentine merchants in France, Naples and some other states, drastically strengthened the influence of the commercial stores. The Florentine merchant stores actually took power in the republic (1282) through the institution of their representatives, workshops, which put other municipal authorities out of control. The old constitution of the republic was abolished (1283) and a priory regime was established that ensured the dominance of the commercial elite (“fat people” – Italian: popolo grasso), combined in seven high-level workshops of Arti maggiori. From 1287, five “medium” workshops also gained access to power. Outside the ruling elite, there remained the “juvenile workshops” of Arti minori, in which the poorer layers of artisans (“skinny people” – Italian: popolo minuto) joined. Initially, the nobles retained the right to participate in management, as long as they joined one of the twelve government workshops.

The Guelph triumph in Florence was accompanied by an increase in Florentine expansion in Tuscany. The Ghibellines came to power in Arezzo (1287), which caused the invasion and victory of the Florentines. However, the outbreak of war (1288) was extremely unsuccessful for Florence, which provoked an antipatrician movement led by Jano della Bella, a supporter of a broader democracy. As a result, the “Establishments of Justice” (Italian: Ordinamenti di Giustizia) were adopted (1293), which closed the access of the magnates to the governing bodies of the Florentine Republic. A new political system was formed that for two centuries consolidated the democratic principles of state administration and popolan government. Each of the 21 workshops in Florence received a share in management, although the real power remained with the high-level workshops. A striking result of the democratization of the Florentine republic was the liberation of peasants from serfdom throughout the state (1289).

The struggle of the “white” and “black” Guelphs (end of the 13th century – beginning of the 14th century)

The constitutional reforms of Janus della Bella (1292-1293) abolished the power of the magnates, removed them from control and deprived them of their electoral rights. The “Second Democracy” (Italian. Il Secondo Popolo) was established, based on the broad layers of artisans and merchants in the guild. However, the harsh measures against the magnates and the rule of Jano della Bella, who relied on the unorganized masses, caused discontent in part of Florentine society. The trial against one of the magnates (1295) resulted in the defeat of the palace of the poorest. This provoked a response and the rise to power of the moderate popolans. Della Bella left Florence. The magnates, nominally included in the workshops, again received their right to suffrage. However, the tension between moderates and radicals persisted. The moderate “White Guelphs” ( Italian: Bianchi) were led by Vieri de Cherki, who represented the interests of the main commercial and artisan strata (“fat people”), prone to reconciliation with the Ghibellines, and the radical “Black Guelphs” (Italian: Negri) led by Corso Donati, did not trust the nobility and were ardent supporters of the pope. The “Black Guelphs” joined the “skinny people”, hostile to the commercial and artisan elite of the republic. The struggle between the “whites” and the “blacks” continued with varying successes until the end of the 13th century, until the troops of Charles of Valois (1301), invited by Pope Boniface VIII to support the “blacks”, captured Florence. The Franco-Papal army expelled the moderates (1302), including Dante Alighieri, and established a regime of terror against the “whites”: more than 600 residents of Florence were condemned to death. All posts in the republic were filled by Donati”s sympathizers.

The White Guelphs took refuge in the Ghibelline communes of Tuscany, mainly in Pisa, and sought help for Emperor Henry VII, who had entered Italy with his army. Although the emperor died while organizing a campaign against Florence (1313), the external threat remained acute: the Pisan dictator Uguccione della Faggiola opposed the republic, defeating the Florentine militia at the battle of Montecatini (1315), and then Signor Lucci Castraccini attacked Florence”s possessions. Florence was forced to ask for help from Roberto, king of Naples, providing him with the highest power in the republic and the right to appoint the other magistrates. The Neapolitan king”s sovereignty over Florence lasted until 1322. However, the capture of Castruccio Castraccani in Pistoia (1325) and the coming defeat of the Florentines at Altopasho again necessitated extraordinary measures: Florence switched to the practice of hiring armed detachments of foreign Condotieros to protect itself. Duke Charles of Calabria, son of King Robert, was elected Signor of the Republic with the right to appoint a priest and several other officials and a large monetary reward. Florence succeeded in liberating Pistoia, but with the death (1328) of Castruccio Castracani it no longer needed the rule of foreigners. As a result, the old republican constitution was restored.

Socioeconomic development of Florence in the mid-14th century

By the middle of the 14th century, Florence had become the main financial and industrial center of Europe. The banking houses of Florence were accredited by the major European states and the pope, lent money to England, France, Naples, received monopoly rights to export commodities (wool from England, grain from southern Italy). The products of the republic”s woolen and cloth workshops were exported all over Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, and raw materials for the production of such a valuable thin Florentine cloth were brought to the city from England, Flanders and France. Florence became one of the first states where capitalism began to develop, there was a layer of wage workers and manufacturing.

In the middle of the 14th century, the expansion of the Florentine Republic in Tuscany continued. Pistoia (1331), Arezzo (1351), Volterra (1361) finally joined. The attempt to capture Lucca was unsuccessful despite the alliance concluded with Venice (1336). Moreover, Lucca came under the domination of Pisa (1342), which forced Florence to turn again to foreigners for military aid. The Duke of Athens, Gautier de Brienne (1342), was elected captain and permanent protector of Florence, in whose hands administrative power, financial management and foreign affairs were concentrated. Gauthier de Brienne made peace with Pisa and began to fight the financial crisis by introducing a moratorium on the payment of debts. Relying on the nobility, on the one hand, and on the lower strata of the population, on the other, Gauthier de Brienne tried to destroy the republican system, and during the performance of the “bow” in support of the duke, the Palazzo Signoria was sacked and the flag of the people (gonfalon) was destroyed, a symbol of the republic. The priors were deprived of power. Attempts on the foundations of the constitutional system of the republic caused (1343) an uprising in Florence under the slogan of the restoration of freedom, which was led by the guild leadership and some nobles. Gauthier de Brienne was expelled, and the magnates and the “fat men” came to power. However, the magnates” attempt to regain their right to hold high positions in government failed: a new uprising of the popolans led to the expulsion of the magnates from Florence. A reform was carried out that ensured the division of power in the republic between the senior, middle and junior workshops, which meant a further democratization of the socio-political system.

However, in connection with the bankruptcies of the English and French kingdoms (1340), a serious financial crisis broke out in the country, which particularly affected the main banking houses of Bardi and Peruzzi. The crisis significantly undermined the position of the Florentine oligarchy and contributed to the democratization of the state system. The population of the city at this time had grown to 120 thousand people, and the proportion of unsalaried artisans and salaried workers had increased significantly. They did not have a representative office in the governing bodies and the right to join trade and craft corporations. This intensified the antagonism between the workshops and the unguilded population and led to hunger riots (1368) and the first workers” strikes in European history (strike (1345) of combers). In 1346, a law was passed that stripped the electoral rights of immigrants whose parents were not born in Florence. The government attempted to prohibit (1347) the occupation of government posts by Ghibellines, but this law was not passed due to resistance from the younger workshops, who feared electoral abuse. The plague epidemic (1348), which killed almost half of the population, briefly restricted the process of strengthening the aristocratic elements, however, already in 1351 the law on the Ghibellines was finally passed, and the right to determine the persons removed from office in the Signoria was granted. As a result, a significant number of citizens were deprived of suffrage.

After the restoration of the democratic constitution (1343), foreign policy lost its expansionist aspirations and was limited to defending the borders of the republic. The practice of hiring military detachments of foreign condottiere began to be used more widely to defend the borders and repel attempts of aggression against Florence by neighboring states. Only in 1362 did the republic become involved in large-scale military operations against Pisa, but the war ended (1364) because of the mutual exhaustion of the parties and the recognition of Florence”s right to free trade through the port of Pisa.

The Ciompi uprising and the rise to power of the oligarchy (end of the 14th – beginning of the 15th century)

The undivided domination of the Guelph party in Florence in the 1370s led to a serious political crisis: due to the protectionist policies of the pope and the predatory incursions of the papal condottiere into the territory of the republic, the Florentine war with Pope Gregory XI (War of the Eight Saints 1375-1378) broke out. Although the hostilities were not brutal and waged by mercenary forces, the war entailed enormous public expenditure, great losses for trade and crafts, and a moral crisis. After the glorious end of the war, one of the warring factions in the Guelfo party led by the Albizzi family attempted to seize power in the republic and change the constitution. This provoked a response from the members: on June 18, 1378, at the call of the gonfaloniere Salvestro de Medici, a popular rebellion broke out in Florence, expelling the leaders of the Guelfo party and transferring power to the younger workshops. But as early as July, the uprising was provoked by unorganized wage laborers from woolen workshops, Ciompi, who demanded that they be granted the right to set up workshops and participate in government. The rebels, led by Michele di Lando succeeded in seizing power and the organization of three new workshops: Tintori (dyers), Farsettai (tailors) and Ciompi (wool combers and other auxiliary workers), who were given the right to elect three of the previous nine republics. It was a radical change in the whole constitutional system and an attempt to include the lower classes in the political elite. But on August 31, 1378, the Ciompi detachments were defeated. The Ciompi workshop was abolished, but the other two new workshops were preserved. Power passed to the junior workshops, which attempted to carry out fiscal reforms and eliminate the financial crisis. However, the struggle on two fronts, against the Ciompi and against the Guelphs, the failure of the reforms and the absence of an authoritative leader among the “leaners” weakened the regime. In 1382, a revolt of magnates broke out, which removed the younger workshops from power, liquidated the new corporations of Tintori and Farsettai, and regained control of the high-level workshops over the state administration.

The Ciompi revolt revealed deep social and constitutional contradictions in the republic, however, in Florence, the main source of confrontation was the conflicts between families. The Florentine family was a very strong, if unstable, institution that was the basis of the constitutional system, whose kinship and territorial ties permeated the social strata and maintained a constant state of instability in society. In 1382, the narrow oligarchy of several families of magnates and “gordos popolanes” came to power, among which the leading role gradually passed to the Albizzi at the beginning of the 15th century. The oligarchs carried out a further reform of the system of public administration: the powers of the special commissions were drastically strengthened, the participation of the junior workshops in the administration was reduced to 1

The end of the 14th century – beginning of the 15th century was marked by a strong increase of the external threat. The expansion of the Duke of Milan Gian Galeazzo Visconti in the direction of Tuscany (from 1390) undermined the international position of the republic. Gian Galeazzo managed to add Perugia, Siena, Pisa and Bologna to his possessions. Florence, which was surrounded on all sides by Milanese possessions, actually had to fight a war for independence. Only the death of Gian Galeazzo (1402) saved the city. At the same time, the expansion of the republic resumed: control over Arezzo was regained (1384), and as a result of the 1405-1406 war, Pisa, the largest seaport in Tuscany, was annexed to Florence. Thanks to this, the position of the Florentines in the Mediterranean and Byzantium was strongly strengthened. In 1421, Livorno and an important part of the Tuscan coast were acquired from Genoa. Florence”s long war with Ladislaus, king of Naples, who subjugated an important part of the Papal region, led to the accession of Cortona. A long-term alliance treaty (1425) was concluded with Venice against Milan, according to which Tuscany and Romagna were recognized as Florence”s sphere of influence, however, after the end of the war against the Milanese (1428), Florence received no compensation.

In 1429, Florence attacked Lucca, but this war was unsuccessful. Siena and Milan came to Lucca”s aid, the war became a prolonged and extremely difficult financial situation. Just one adventurous attempt to flood Lucca by diverting the waters of the Serchio River (1430) cost the republic 40,000 gold florins. In 1433, the Florentine troops were defeated and the Milanese approached Florence. They had to make peace and abandon the claims in Lucca. The failed war undermined the government”s position and exacerbated internal contradictions. A long-standing feud between the ruling Albizzi clan and a wealthy and influential Medici family, poorly represented in the governing bodies of the republic, turned into an open confrontation. In 1433, Rinaldo Albizzi, having won the elections in the Signoria, arrested and expelled Cosimo Medici from Florence and confiscated his family”s properties.

The control systems of the Florentine republic

The Florentine Republic of the 14th century was characterized by an unusually wide participation of the population in public administration, suggesting a high degree of democratization of the socio-political system. By the end of the century, there were more than 3,000 government posts in the Republic for which elections were held annually, and a significant portion of the posts were filled by lot. The right to elect and be elected to government bodies affected all members of trade and craft corporations (who were disenfranchised). The level of participation of the population in power in Florence was unprecedented at the time. The volume of the administrative system, the narrow functional specialization of its bodies and the system of balance of power among the different magistrates ensured the maintenance of the republican system and prevented the usurpation of power in Florence by one person.

According to the “Establishments of Justice” (1292), the highest executive body of the republic was a college of six priors representing the high-level workshops. The priors led the internal and external policy of the state and had the right to legislative initiative. The priors were elected for two months and during the exercise of their functions lived in the specially built Palazzo Signoria (in Italian, Palazzo della Signoria). The successors to the current priors were elected at a special meeting attended by the priors themselves, the heads of the twelve ruling workshops and the representatives of six districts of the city. In 1293, a new position was established: that of Confaloniere of justice, who received the functions of head of state and the right to enforce judicial decisions against officials of the republic. The Confaloniere was subordinated to the special guard of one thousand people. The six priors and the confaloniero formed the government of the Republic of Florence.

The formation of the college of priors did not destroy the old municipal institutions. There was still a post of pride, to which foreigners were usually elected for a one-year term. The Podestà served as supreme judge and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the republic. In his activities, the Podestà obeyed the prior. The structure of his administration included two councils: the Council of Elders, which included two representatives from each of Florence”s six districts, and the Council of One Hundred, which was an elected Senate. The Podestà and his council represented the interests of the commune of the city as a whole. There were also special magistrates for the popular part of the population: the captain of the people who led the guild militia, called to defend the constitutional system, and two councils subordinate to him, elected by all the stores of Florence.

The institution of direct democracy was the popular assembly, in which all citizens could participate. Although this institution existed almost throughout the history of an independent republic, it had no special rights and was convened in an extremely irregular manner to confirm certain decisions of the government or officials. These meetings sanctioned administrative or fiscal reforms, but could not discuss bills and had no judicial power.

After the elimination of the Anjou (1328), a new reform of the management system was carried out. The main innovations were the election of one public office per lot and the fixing of the right to power for the 21 workshops in Florence. In addition, the system of councils was reorganized: instead of numerous colleges under the highest authorities, three were created: the Council of the commune, with the judicial and legislative functions of 250 people elected by all the citizens of the commune, the Council of the people under the captain, representing the interests of the workshops and consisting of 300 people, and the Council of the hundred priors, who played the role of the Senate of the Republic. To the twelve elders (“good people”) were added sixteen other confalonieri of the armed police of the people, representatives of 16 districts of Florence, who together formed a special board: the Council of the Signoria, which approved the bills before their consideration in the councils. The Council of the People and the Council of the Commune were the legislative bodies of the republic. The new system of administrative organization severely limited the possibility of usurpation of power by one person, as happened in other Italian communes in the early 14th century, when tyranny and signoria, including hereditary ones, replaced the republican system.

In 1343 another step towards democratization was taken: the Signoria was enlarged to nine priors, of which two were elected from the high level workshops, three from the middle and three from the younger ones and the ninth was elected in turn. Thus, the younger workshops gained access to the government of the republic.

Voting rights in the republic were enjoyed by members of twenty-one Florentine workshops. Magnates, nobles, first-generation immigrants, non-guild artisans and salaried workers were denied the right to hold public office and participate in elections. According to the law (1351), the Signoria also received the right to determine which of the citizens was a “gibelino” and, therefore, to exclude those who were objectionable from participating in the elections. The elections were carried out by a special college of scrutineers, elected by the workshops, who in turn were drawn by lot based on a consolidated list of people from candidates from quarters, workshops and the Guelfo party. The former were elected for two months, the members of the legislative bodies – the Commune Council and the People”s Council – for six months. The lists of persons nominated for election to higher government positions were very extensive. Thus, for example, in the early fifteenth century, some 2,000 candidates were proposed for the drawing of lots in Signoria. An even larger number of citizens were on the lists for the election of lower magistrates. At the end of the 14th century, the ruling oligarchy, led by the Albizzi, established control over the electoral procedure, which ensured the preservation of its power for several decades.

From the second half of the fourteenth century of particular importance in the political system were the extraordinary commissions, the Bali, formed in times of internal or external crises, who received special powers in the republic for a limited time. The most important role was played by the Council of Eight, which directed military operations during the War of the Eight Saints (1375-1378), after its coming to power (1382) it acquired a permanent character. During the war with Lucca (1429) the Council of Ten was formed, which established control over the actions of the Signoria. Another bali dealt with the determination of persons to be expelled and the formation of lists of citizens to hold public office, and thus became an instrument of influence of the ruling oligarchy. However, the bali never attempted to usurp power in the state and completely crush the democratic constitution.

By the end of the 14th century, the role of the college of priors, as well as that of the commune and the inhabitants in political decision-making, diminished drastically. Under the Signoria, another advisory council was created, which included representatives of the major families, and in which the levers of government were concentrated while the old democratic system of councils and magistrates was maintained. The role of the junior and middle workshops in management was significantly limited. Sixty to 70 leading families of “gordos popolanes,” by manipulating elections and eliminating censurables from the voting lists, secured dominance in the state, and by the 1420s their influence no longer depended on the positions held in the state apparatus.

The core of the armed forces of the first Florentine republic was the militia of the common people. For its time, it was a fairly effective army, united by the common spirit of the struggle for the freedom of the commune. These forces succeeded in subjugating the rural district of Florence, defeating the feudal lords and destroying their castles. The militia was led, as a rule, by small urbanized knights, the Valvassores, who had passed into the service of the commune. However, after the Popolans came to power in Florence and the feudal lords were expelled, the military power of the city militia began to fall: taking control of the republic, the commercial and artisan circles lost interest in military service, and the skills and tactics of military operations were lost. The republic was forced to invite for their protection foreign rulers: Charles of Anjou, Gauthier of Brienne, Robert of Naples, – led their own armies of knights. The experience of the armed struggle of the townspeople for their freedom was transformed into territorial-familial paramilitary organizations united in the “banners” (Confalones, districts) of Florence, headed by the “captains of the people”. These formations ensured for several centuries the preservation of the republican constitution of Florence and did not allow the establishment of tyranny in the country.

With the decline in the importance of the militia, Florence began to resort to hiring military units to protect its territory and the annexation of new lands. As a result, by the 14th century, the armed forces of the republic consisted almost exclusively of foreign mercenaries, led by a condottieros, who recruited a detachment and signed a military service agreement with representatives of the republic. Already at the battle of Montaperti in 1260, 200 cavalry mercenaries from Romagna fought on the side of the republic. At different times, Florence served such prestigious condottiers as Raymondo of Cordona, John Hawkwood, Francesco Sforza, Erasmus of Narni. Although the professional armies of the condottiero were superior in fighting qualities to modern knightly militias, their reluctance to sacrifice themselves for the good of the state that hired them, as well as frequent transitions to serve with the enemy, which offered greater rewards, created significant difficulties for Florence in conducting foreign policy. The campaigns of the Republic during the War of the Eight Saints (1375-1378), or the war with Lucca 1429-1433 significantly weakened the international situation of the republic and led to acute state crises.

Beginning of the Renaissance in Florence

The early development of the commune in Florence, the formation of urban culture, the emergence of civil society and community patriotism, the democratization of the polity, as well as the interest in antiquity, led to the development in Florence in the 13th century of a humanist worldview with its interest in people and society. Florence was especially characterized by the early emergence of the idea of freedom as a great value of the Florentine state and a special pride in its republican system. It was Florence that became the first leader of the Italian humanist movement. The greatest figure of the nascent humanism was the Florentine Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), who laid the foundations of the Italian literary language and created a completely new humanist literature. His followers, Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374), the founder of lyric poetry, and Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), the founder of the novel genre, also came from Florence. The relationship between man and society and the problems of equality and patriotism are reflected in the works of the Florentine Leonardo Bruni (1375-1444). Historical literature has reached a high level in the works of Dino Compagni (1255-1324) and Giovanni Villani (1275-1348).

The humanist worldview contributed to the formation in Florence of one of the most important centers of European art. The city became the center of the Proto-Renaissance and early Renaissance in Italy. A complete Florentine school of art was formed, one of the main schools of the Italian Renaissance. Its forefather was Giotto di Bondone (1276-1337), departing from the canonical principles of medieval art and laying the foundations for Renaissance art. Among the most talented followers was Masaccio (1401-1428), one of the greatest Italian artists of the early Renaissance. The early 15th century began the flowering of Florentine sculpture and architecture. The works of Lorenzo Ghiberti (1381-1455), Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) and Donatello (1386-1466) reached unprecedented heights in expressiveness and realism. The main theme of their art was the heroization of the ideal of the human person. The buildings and monuments created by these masters became the main decoration of Florence and brought it worldwide fame.

The traditions established by the great Florentines of the late 14th-early 15th century were developed in the works of the High Renaissance masters, who flourished in the period of the Medici Signoria in Florence.

The formation of the Signoria de Medici (1434-1469)

The basis of the welfare of the Medici family was established by Giovanni de Medici (1360-1429), who founded a bank in Florence, which soon became one of the richest in Italy. At the beginning of the 15th century, the importance of the traditional branches of production (dressmaking, wool industry), which was reduced to the narrow framework of the regulation of stores and suffered from the competition of foreign craftsmen, declined in the republic and banking operations came to the fore in the economy. Florence became the largest financial center in Western Europe, and the Medici Bank, the largest European bank. Its branches were in Rome, Genoa, Naples, Venice, Avignon, Bruges and London, it received more than half of its income from Rome, becoming the main creditor of the papal curia and the Florentine republic itself, whose financial system was affected by the failed wars with Lucca and Milan. In Florence, Giovanni de Medici gained great popularity among the people (mainly among the residents of the county and dependent towns of Florence, as well as among the Popolan inhabitants of the San Giovanni quarter) due to his reputation, respect for the republican system and the financial support of his supporters. The influence of the Medici family aroused the discontent of the ruling oligarchy Albizzi and Strozzi, and in 1433 Cosimo de Medici, Giovanni”s son and heir, was expelled from the republic.

However, already in 1434, the supporters of the Medici won the elections to the government of Florence. Cosimo returned triumphant to his homeland. Rinaldo Albizzi”s attempt to carry out a coup d”état failed and the old oligarchy was forced to flee the country. A commission of Ten was formed, which was given the right to elect priors and select candidates for other high offices in Florence, thus abolishing the tradition of elections by lot. Although the republican constitution and all the governing bodies of the commune were retained, and Cosimo himself held no special office in the state, he became the de facto ruler of Florence. The Commission of Ten, of which Cosimo de” Medici had been a member since 1438, removed all the other higher bodies of the republic from management and concentrated the mechanisms of power in its hands. This made it possible to ensure stability in the state, but the institute of democratic elections was replaced by the system of personal power of the “Signora” of Florence. However, the policy of Cosimo and his successors was characterized by the demonstration and cultivation of the principle of conciliation and submission to the will of the state as a means of achieving the unity of civil society and strengthening their own power. The Medici became masters of compromise; by dialoguing with all social strata, they contributed to the adoption of the ideas of tolerance in the Florentine republic.

The foreign policy of Florence was totally controlled and directed by Cosimo de” Medici. The main threat to the republic was the duchy of Milan, ruled by Filippo Maria Visconti. Having entered into an alliance with Venice and hiring a large army of condotiers, the Florentine troops defeated the Milanese in 1440 at Aniari. This allowed the Visconti to be expelled from Tuscany and to annex the upper reaches of the Arno with the town of Poppi. In the ensuing struggle for the throne of Milan, Cosimo actively supported Francesco Sforza, who after his coronation as Duke of Milan in 1450 ensured the establishment of a lasting peace between the two states. The Florence-Milan Union met with an enemy in the Venetian-Napolitan bloc, but under the influence of Pope Nicholas V in 1454, the Peace of Lodi was signed, signed by all the largest states of the Italic Peninsula, which established a system of equilibrium in Italy and opened a long period of peaceful coexistence of the Italian states.

The establishment of peace and the celebration in Florence of the Ecumenical Council in 1439-1445 concluded in the union with the Orthodox Church, this significantly increased the prestige of the country. However, opposition to the Medici authorities in Florence continued to exist: in 1458, a conspiracy led by Luca Pitti with the idea of restoring democracy, led for some time Cosimo to restore elections by lot. Even after their secondary cancellation, the Medici were forced to take into account the opinion of the opposition and avoid open violation of the republican constitution. Cosimo”s widespread popularity continued throughout his rule. Under his rule, the first public library in Europe was opened in Florence, in 1439 the Platonic Academy was revived, and the city was beautified. Cosimo Medici became an active patron of the arts and gave orders to Donatello, Brunelleschi and Fra Angelico.

After Cosimo”s death in 1464, the opposition, led by Nicolo Soderini, succeeded in passing a law on the restoration of elections by lot and the election of a Confaloniere. However, attempts at democratic reform failed in the councils of the Medici supporters. In 1466, Pitti and Soderini discovered a new conspiracy. Venice supported the opposition, but in 1468 its forces were defeated by a coalition of Florence, Milan and Naples.

The Rise and Fall of the Signoria (1469-1494)

Florence reached its apogee during the rule of Lorenzo de Medici (1469-1492), nicknamed the Magnificent. A long period of peace contributed to the welfare and prosperity of the republic. The decline in the production of fabrics was compensated by the rapid development of the production of silk fabrics, in the export volume of which Florence occupied one of the first places in Europe. The growth of trade continued, mainly with Turkey, France and the Levant, as well as the international lending operations of the Florentine banking houses. Thanks to the patronage of Lorenzo Medici and the active promotion of the arts, the city became the main center of the Italian Renaissance. At this time, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Angelo Poliziano, Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo Buonarroti worked in the city. In Florence, new construction and improvement of the city took place.

The stability of power was ensured by the reform of the state apparatus. With the preservation of the republican bodies in 1480, the Council of Seventy was established, which acquired the functions of government and expelled the old colleges, priors and Confaloniers from power. Under the Council, two standing committees were formed: the Council of Eight, responsible for foreign policy and the conduct of war, and the Council of Twelve, manager of financial and commercial policies and credit, as well as internal affairs and justice. The old legislative councils survived, but their powers were limited to approving the decisions of the Council of Seventy. In 1480, a tax reform was carried out and the property tax was increased considerably. An important point of Lorenzo Medici”s tax reform was that it did not affect the taxation of land rent. This encouraged the withdrawal of capital by the Florentine bourgeoisie from production and trade and its investment in land, and gave impetus to the processes of “domination” of the grand bourgeoisie of the republic. The regime of Lorenzo the Magnificent was also characterized by a well-established propaganda, promoting the cohesion of society under the guidance of the Medici house.

However, internal opposition to Medici rule remained quite significant. In 1471, Volterra revolted, but this rebellion was brutally suppressed in 1472. In 1478, Francesco de” Pazzi created a conspiracy, supported by the great banking houses of the republic and the pope. On April 26, 1478, during a religious service, the conspirators killed Juliano de” Medici, Lorenzo”s brother, and committed an attempt on Lorenzo himself. Although the townspeople supported the Medici and the conspirators were arrested, the opposition maintained serious positions in the government, including the Council of Seventy, and did not allow Lorenzo to liquidate the republican institutions.

Florence achieved the greatest success under the Medici on the international stage. Strict adherence to an alliance with Milan and Naples was combined with flexibility with respect to the papacy. This contributed to the transformation of the republic into the main guarantor of the Italian system of equilibrium, which ensured the relatively peaceful existence of the Italian states from 1454 to 1494. At the beginning of Lorenzo”s rule, relations between the republic and Pope Sixtus IV were quite good: papa supported the Pazzi conspiracy, imposed an interdict on Florence and in 1479 launched an invasion of the republic. But already in 1480 Signor Lorenzo managed to make peace with the pope, and in 1484, thanks to the intervention of Florence, it was possible to peacefully resolve the conflict between Rome and Ferrara. In 1487, Sarzana, an important bridgehead on the Ligurian coast, was acquired. However, the main achievement of the foreign policy of the Florentine Republic during the rule of Lorenzo the Magnificent was the successful dissuasion of France from interference in Italian affairs.

However, despite all the successes and relative prosperity, the Florentine Republic could not maintain the status of a great power. Increased taxes and unproductive state spending during Lorenzo”s rule, the splendor of his court, constant festivities and tournaments caused increasing discontent among the middle sectors of the population. The lack of a standing army made the republic vulnerable to a strong external adversary. The Italian system of equilibrium actually rested solely on the authority of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Therefore, when Lorenzo died in 1492, this system collapsed: a conflict broke out between Milan and Naples, in which Lorenzo”s son Peter sided with the latter. The Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza asked France for help. With the passivity of Florence, French troops under the command of Charles VIII invaded Italy in August 1494. This was the beginning of the Italian wars. As the French approached the borders of the republic, Peter signed the capitulation without resistance and transferred the fortresses of Sarzana, Pisa and Livorno to Charles VIII. As soon as the terms of the contract became known, an uprising broke out in Florence. The Medici were expelled and the republican constitution was restored in the country.

After the expulsion of the Medici, the old republican constitution was reestablished. The People”s Assembly elected a college of twelve accreditors to select candidates for high-level positions in the government. A new supreme legislative body was created: the Grand Council (inspired by the Grand Council of Venice) of 3,000 people (1

The main opponents of Savonarola were the leading Florentine families, supporters of a return to the oligarchy of the early 15th century, and followers of the Medici government. With the formation of the anti-French league of Italian states in 1496, the pressure on the republic intensified sharply. In 1497, the pope declared Savonarola”s sermons heretical, excommunicated him and demanded extradition. In March 1498, the majority in the government of the republic passed to Savonarola”s opponents. By order of the pope, the preacher was arrested and executed on May 23.

After the death of Savonarola, the government of the republic directed all its energy to the repression of the rebels in Pisa. However, the siege of Pisa turned into an embarrassing defeat for the army of condottiero employed by Florence. The situation intensified with the formation of Cesare Borgia”s strong state in Romagna. In 1501, Caesar attacked Florence. This provoked uprisings in Arezzo, Montepulciano and Pistoia. The republic was unable to provide effective resistance. Only the intervention of France forced Cesare Borgia to withdraw his troops from the Arno Valley. The foreign policy crisis aggravated the internal problems. The large and democratic Great Council and the frequent change of high officials of the republic prevented the strengthening of the state.

In 1502, a fundamental reform of the management system was carried out: the post of Confaloniere of justice was made for life. On November 1, 1502, Piero Soderini was elected Confaloniero of the republic, and Niccolo Machiavelli soon became his advisor. The government finally gained stability and authority, its financial condition improved somewhat, and after the death of Pope Alexander VI, the collapse of Cesare Borgia”s state and the conclusion of the Franco-Spanish world in 1505, Florence”s foreign policy also returned to normal. Under the influence of Machiavelli, a military reform was carried out: the republic refused to use hired detachments, so in 1506 the national army, the people”s militia, was created. The new troops from Florence besieged and in 1509 captured Pisa, thus restoring the territory of the state.

Overall, however, the Florentine Republic remained relatively weak: strong patrician opposition to a democratic constitution continued to exist in the country, there were insufficient financial and military forces to compete on equal terms with the great powers. Soderini”s pro-French course, given the unification of Italy against France, also posed a significant threat to the republic. As a result of the Holy League war in 1512, the French were expelled from Italy. Florence remained in complete political isolation. At the Congress of Mantua in 1515, the Holy League states recognized the right of the Medici in Florence. The Spanish army invaded the republic under the command of Ramon Folch de Cardona-Anglesola, who captured Prato and approached Florence. The city panicked, Soderini fled to Ragusa, the government was unable to resist. Florence soon surrendered, accepted the return of power to the Medici and the payment of indemnities amounting to 140 thousand ducats.

After the restoration of the Medici in 1512, the Florentine popular assembly elected a special committee of forty-five (later sixty-five) to reform the state system, most of whom belonged to the Medici supporters. Cardinal Giovanni Medici, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, became chairman of the committee. The Grand Council and the People”s Police were liquidated, and the bodies that existed under Lorenzo were restored. Formally, under the new state system, supreme power belonged to the Council of Seventy and the Signoria of eight Priors and the Confaloniero, but in reality the levers of control were concentrated in a special commission (bali), which became a permanent institution. The Bali appointed the members of the Signoria every two months and determined the internal and external policy of the state. In fact, power belonged solely to Cardinal Giovanni Medici, who directed the work of the Bali and other governing bodies.

In 1513 Giovanni de” Medici was elected pope under the name of Leo X. As a result, Florence became an appendage of the papal state. The entire foreign policy of the republic was completely subordinated to the interests of Rome. Leo X”s brother Julian de Medici, Duke of Nemour, was nominally declared ruler of Florence, and after his death in 1516, Peter de Medici”s son, Lorenzo de Medici, Duke of Urbino. In fact, however, the internal government of the republic remained in the hands of Pope Leo X. At this time, Florence”s orientation towards France increased considerably: Lorenzo II married the princess of the French royal house and his daughter Catherine later became queen of France. After Lorenzo”s death in 1519, the Florentine Republic was transferred under the control of Cardinal Julius de Medici, illegitimate son of Julian de Medici, a brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent who was assassinated during the Pazzi conspiracy. Under Cardinal Julius, Florence was relatively calm, the state system and the financial situation stabilized. His domestic policy continued the Medici tradition of dialogue with all social strata of society and an extravagant commitment to democratic and republican values.

The Medici restoration coincided with the beginning of the general decline of the economy of Italy in general and of Florence in particular. The domestic market remained weak due to the protectionist policies of the individual Italian states and numerous customs restrictions. The omnipotence of Florentine commercial and financial circles hindered the development of industry in other cities of the republic, and the rural district was exploited exclusively in the interests of Florence. Foreign countries remained the main market for the republic”s industry, however, from the end of the 15th century, Florentines began to be expelled from England, France and other countries. In addition, English cloth began to gain competition in the European and Italian markets from Florence, while imports of wool from England and dyes from the Levant declined drastically. This led to a drop in production in Florence”s main industries. Compared to the beginning of the 15th century, cloth production in the 1520s decreased almost 4 times. A slight increase in the production of silk fabrics and luxury goods did not compensate for the decline in other areas of production. The Discovery of America and the shift of trade routes from Europe to the Atlantic also hit Florentine trade hard. The decline affected banking operations: Florentine banking houses lost their leading positions in Europe and their influence in the courts of England, France and other countries, displaced by local financial circles.

The decline of industry, commerce and banking in Florence led to the fact that the Florentine bourgeoisie began to withdraw their capital from circulation and invest it in land acquisition. A new land aristocracy began to form, focused on obtaining land rent by leasing their holdings to peasants, which began to approach the old feudal nobility. On the other hand, after losing their jobs in the city, many wage laborers returned to the villages, thus expanding the number of peasants. The lack of land contributed to the approval of a small lease under rather difficult conditions in Florentine villages: half of the peasant”s agricultural products were confiscated in favor of the landowner. This led to a partial restriction of the peasants” personal freedom and the formation of semi-feudal relations in the agricultural sector.

In 1523, Cardinal Julius became Pope Clement VII. Florence returned to the direct control of the papacy. The formal rulers of the republics were the younger Hippolytus and Alexander de Medici, the illegitimate sons of Julian and Pope Clement, but the levers of power remained with the pope, who appointed representatives of the clergy to the republic. The long subordination of Florence to the interests of the papacy and the offensive against the republican traditions of its officials, together with the deteriorating economic situation and the growth of unemployment, caused a gradual increase in opposition to the Medici government among the general population. The news of the capture and sack of Rome by German soldiers in 1527 and the flight of Pope Clement VII provoked an uprising in Florence and the new exile of the Medici.

After the expulsion of the Medici from Florence, the republican constitution was again restored. The Grand Council of two hundred citizens of the republic elected by the ancient democratic system became the supreme authority. The competence of the Great Council included the formation of the government: Signoria of eight former and Confaloniero of justice, as well as the approval of the laws of the republic. The signoria supervised domestic and foreign policy and drafted laws submitted to the Grand Council. Special powers were granted to the Council of Ten responsible for military affairs. The Confaloniere served as head of state and was elected for one year, with the right of re-election an unlimited number of times.

On May 31, 1527, Nicolo Capponi, representing the interests of the moderate republicans, was elected Confaloniere of Florence. However, a sharp struggle began immediately in the country between various political groups: Fratheski (moderate, mainly small merchants), Pleslesles (supporters of the Medici), Ottimati (aristocracy) and Arrabiati (radical democrats, ardent opponents of the Medici). The struggle ended with the victory of the radicals, mainly small artisans and merchants, who were joined by the lower social strata. Under their pressure, in the summer of 1527, Florence announced its adherence to the League of Cognac and supported the French in their invasion of Italy. However, the initial successes of the French army soon turned into defeat at Landriano. On August 5, 1529, France signed the separate Peace of Cambrai with the king of Spain and German emperor Charles V, abandoning claims to the Italian territories. Soon the pope came out of the war: by signing the Treaty of Barcelona (1529), Clement VII undertook to crown Charles V as emperor and recognized the Spanish hegemony in Italy, for which he received the promise of imperial help to restore the power of the Medici in Florence.

After the treaties of Cambrai and the coronation of Charles in Bologna in 1530, resistance to the imperial and Spanish forces in the Italian peninsula was continued only by Florence. The popular militia was recreated in the republic, detachments of professional mercenaries were hired and, under the leadership of Michelangelo Buonarroti, began the creation of strong fortifications for the defense of the city. Nicolo Capponi, who was trying to initiate peace negotiations with Papa, was removed from his position as Confaloniere. The radicals, led by the new Confaloniero Francesco Carducci, came to power. However, in September 1529, imperial troops invaded the territory of the republic and captured Firenzuola causing panic in the capital and the flight of many aristocrats and great merchants. By October 24, the army of the Prince of Orange approached Florence. Against the imperial army of 40,000 men, the republic could not raise more than 13,000 soldiers. However, the heroic defense of Empoli and Volterra by the Florentine army allowed Francesco Ferrucci to hold off the attack of the imperial troops for a time and inflict significant damage on them. But on August 3, 1530, the Florentines were defeated in the fierce Battle of Gavinana, in which the Prince of Orange and Francesco Ferucci fell. Despite the heroism of the defenders of Florence, the city was doomed. After eleven months of defense, negotiations with the pope began. On August 12, 1530, Florence surrendered and accepted the return of the Medici and the reform of the state system of the republic.

The entry of the papal-imperial troops into the city was accompanied by massive repressions, executions and the expulsion of the republicans. In 1531, their new ruler, Alexander de Medici, grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent, arrived in Florence. The democratic constitution was abolished, and in 1532 Alexander was proclaimed Duke of Florence. This meant the end of the Florentine Republic and its transformation into a hereditary monarchy under the rule of the house of Medici. After the annexation of Siena, a French ally in the Italian War in 1557, the new state received the name of Grand Duchy of Tuscany from 1569.


  1. República de Florencia
  2. Republic of Florence