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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

On The House of Medici

The Medici family were the founders of the largest bank in Italy. They produced four Popes and two queens of France. They had the hereditary title of Duke of Florence—eventually there was a territorial expansion and they became the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. They funded the construction of several landmark buildings. They patronized great artists, writers, and scientists like Leonardo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo. They took personal interest in the translation and distribution of several works of ancient philosophy and literature. In the highly divisive and dangerous world of Europe at the time of the Renaissance, they dominated politics, finance, religion, and art for almost 300 years—15th century to 18th century.

I am reading a book on the Medici family—it is Christopher Hibbert’s The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall. The book is fine but it does not tell the full story of the Medici family—there are several gaps in the narrative. Here’s an interesting excerpt:

“There had arrived in Florence a thin, sad‐faced young man of eccentric habits and unwholesome reputation, Lorenzaccio de' Medici, son of Pierfrancesco and cousin of Giovanni de le Bande Nere. He had spent much of the past few years in Rome, but his habit of slashing off the heads of antique statues when drunk had led to his being asked to leave and to his coming to Florence where he had become a constant companion of his kinsman, Alessandro, who was just three years older. Together they went out drinking and whoring; they indulged a mutual taste for disguising themselves as women; they galloped through the streets on the same horse, shouting insults to passers‐by; sometimes they shared the same bed. Alessandro was obviously fond of Lorenzaccio, though he seems not to have known what to make of him. Intrigued by his mysterious smile and subtle, ambivalent remarks, he nicknamed him ‘the philosopher.’ But it was equally clear that Lorenzaccio did not really like Alessandro, that he resented his power and rank, that he fancied himself in the role of hero, any role, in fact, that would bring him fame or even notoriety. The role in which he eventually decided to cast himself was that of tyrannicide.”

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