Friday, 21 September 2012

Medici who?

This week I took on the challenge on finding out the 'Who' of the renowned Medici Family. After skimming the Swinburne Library without Joy, I took my search to the Meta search engine,

I searched using the very general key words, Medici Family tree. There were a million results, including this gentle school project uploaded by Stephanie, grade 8, from Riverdale Secondary School, which I was immediately impressed by. I'm sure Stephanie got top marks on that one. Schooling is so different to when I was a kid.

So, seeing that Mamma wasn't helping me a lot, I took my search to ye ol' goggle. I was after a decent picture of the said tree and so I searched 'Creative commons Medici Family tree'.  Only about a million results. The website I found with the most relevant and gently not so overwhelming information was via the Connexions database. Even though there were no physical pictures of the actual 'Tree' there was a lot of information about the key players of the Medici family.

The Medici family

The Medici family was a part of the patrician class and can be traced back to the 12th century Florence. Not of noble blood, throughout history the family was seen as friends to the common people. The family become quite wealthy through clever banking and by the 13th century had acquired great wealth. With this wealth came political influence and by the end of the 13th century a member of the Medici family served as Gonfaloniere of Florence.

Over the next century the family's wealth and political influence increased and with the rise of this influence, Salvestro de' Medici, who was Gonfaloniere at the time led the common people in a revolt against the ciompi (small Artisanate). Although, through this seemingly gallant act, Salvestro become an brutal dictator to the city and his downfall led to his banishment in 1382.

With the banishment came a fall in wealth and prestige until it was rebuilt within the next century by Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, who made the Medici family the wealthiest in Italy and maybe even Europe. Giovanni was made gonfaloniere in the year 1421.

Giovanni's son, Cosimo il Vecchio, came to be considered the real founder of the family's wealth through politics. Regardless of initially being banished during a political struggle with the Powerful Albizzi family, Cosimo was soon recalled to to power by the people and in 1434 he banished the Albizzi family in return. Cosimo occupied no political party but ruled the city as uncrowned king for the rest of his life and it was under this rule that fair Florence prospered.

Cosimo lived simply on his huge wealth and enacted many charitable acts, including the cultivation of literature and the arts. It is Cosimo who was responsible for amassing the largest library in Europe, including works of Plato.

During the rule of Cosimo and his sons and grandson, Florence was know as the cultural centre of Europe.

Cosimo il Vecchio(the elder) - Creative Commons(via Wikicommons)

Things were generally peaceful in Florence until Cosimo's grandsons, Lorenzo and Giuliano ruled as tyrants. In an attack in 1478, Giuliano was killed and Lorenso wounded.  Lorenzo was known as the Magnificent, saw the city surpassed all earlier cultural achievements. Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Botticelli and Michelangelo rose during this high point in the Florentine Renaissance. But the goodwill of the Florentine people was eroded by the tyrannical styles of Lorenzo.

For sometime after Lorenzo, various descendants ruled Florence in a generally ineffectual way and this was not changed until a new Cosimo, son of the original Cosmio il Vecchio's brother, ascended the throne in 1537. He known for transforming Tuscany into an absolutist nation state. Regardless of his political ruthlessness, Cosmo was cultured and promoted both the arts as well as the economy and military, as well as many other feats.

Over the next few century the family would become involved with Galileo, be ravaged by the plague, set up many prestigious and groundbreaking universities, academies and museums. The Medici managed to mix genes with most royal families in Europe.  Incompetence in ruling was not unknown and Florence was ravaged by wars and economic stagnancy.

The house of Medici died with the last male heir, Gian Gastone di Medici in 1737.

As you can see, their family history is full of ups and downs, cultivation of culture and the uprising of the common people.  There is a lot of information on the internet in relation to their exploits and I'm starting to realise what a great and influential family they really were and I am looking forward to finding out more about their family and their Library's too. 

I haven't really experienced much difficulty in finding information on the family, although trying to locate a decent but not too detailed Family Tree image has been a little difficult. Below is one I was able too locate, but it only shows a very small segment of the family.

Di Medici Family tree


Van Helden, Albert 2004, The Medici Family : A brief history of the Medici Family, Connexions, viewed 21 September 2012.

Cosimo il Vecchio(the elder) - Creative Commons(via Wikicommons)

Robert Terwilliger, Medici family tree,, viwed 21 September 2012.

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