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Dr. Demetrios K.Giannakopoulos,
Executive of Education, Historian

The city-state of Florence in crisis (1343-1434). ‘Republicanism’ and urban realities prior to the Medicis

This paper focuses on a perennial crisis that follows the evolution of the post medieval city of Florence. This crisis could be interpreted as an attempt by the urban elite to combine the representative character of the regime, staffed by the popolo grasso and controlled by the members of the arti maggiori (who were promoting their own interests through the govermental mechanisms), with the universal ambition of the community of Florence to subject the whole of Tuscany to its dominion.
It was about a deterministically unsuccessful attempt, but also an irreparable affection of the republican structures which caused the Medicean hegemony. They could be mentioned as essential points, the amoral use of the republican ideals, the seeming devotion to them and the degeneration and dishonest exploitation of the representative and collective procedures, so that state services and individuals impose their self-interest political power. The plebe and the contadini were those groups who finally paid the financial cost the “republic” of Florence and they rebelled because of it, against whom the Community used violent means.
Given that this situation strongly contrasted with the sounding declarations of the pure faith to the republican ideals and beliefs expressed by the chroniclers, the historians and the statesmen of Florence, questions arise, whether the latter and the elite had any conscience of this crisis and how they reacted to it. Were the corresponding practices simply reflexive or did they set up specific strategies of enforcement to the popolo? Which are the positions of traditional and modern historiography towards them?
On the other hand, it has been suggested in a “Weberian” way that medieval Florence would be considered as a precursor of the modern urban state organization, because the city of Florence seemed to accept basic principles of the latter (with clear intention to implement them), such as bureaucratic structures of public administration, funding and serving of a public debt and corresponding tax system, quite specialized and rationalized by the contemporary terms (distincta officia, distincti magistratus, distincta iudicia). It, also, includes a wide urban body commercially professing within a monetary economy and dynamically involving in the common affairs by boards and commissions. If we accept the appliance of the previously analyzed features in Florence, as an archetype of the subsequent urban democracy (even in an indirect way), is it possible to accept this as an archetype of its decadence, as well?

© EPLO 2017