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A Brief Comparison of Florence and Venice

Uploaded by Nategrey on Aug 05, 2005

A Brief Comparison of Florence and Venice
Florence and Venice were the economic powerhouses of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. While there are vast differences between the two great cities, there are also some striking similarities, the most outstanding being their devotion to commerce. To both the Florentines and the Venetians, riches had an extraordinary significance. To be rich was to be honorable and to be poor was a disgrace (Hibbert Medici 32). The Florentines had a saying that “no one poor would ever find it easy to acquire honor and fame by means of his virtue; poverty throws virtue into the shadows and subjects it to a hidden and obscure misery.” This idea was equally true in Venice. Wealth and poverty were not only personal traits of esteem or distain; they were thought to reflect on the Republics as a whole. Rich men were an honor and a glory to the entire Republic and it was a citizen’s patriotic duty, along with serving in the military when called, and serving in the government, to gain as much wealth as possible (Hibbert Venice 53). This civic attachment to wealth is the central likeness between the two city-states.
“[Florence] was a city of squares and towers, of busy, narrow, twisting streets, of fortress-like palaces … convents, nunneries, [and] crowded tenements, all enclosed by a high brick and stone crenellated wall.” (Hibbert Medici 20). By the 14th century, over 50,000 people lived within the city’s ramparts; less than in Paris or Venice, but more than in most other European cities, including London. For administrative purposes, Florence was divided into four districts called, quartieri, which were in turn divided into four wards. Every quartieri had it’s own distinct character and was generally distinguished by the trades that were carried on there (20-21). The city itself was a city of industry, and raw products flooded in from all over Europe to be finished, polished and dyed. Also, foreign governments routinely deposited large sums of money in Florence’s immense banks, and many rulers and great Lords were known to be indebted to Florentine bankers (Hibbert Florence 29).

Theoretically, every member of the city’s twenty-one guilds had a say in the city government. In truth, a few very powerful families exercised a great deal of influence in determining the views...

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Uploaded by:   Nategrey

Date:   08/05/2005

Category:   European History

Length:   9 pages (2,054 words)

Views:   4856

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