Page images
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]


EDICI (COSMO DE), a celebrated citizen of Florence, born in that city in 1389, was the eldest son of John de Medici, the founder of his illustrious family. 6. The maxims,” says Mr. Roscoe, “which, uriformly pursued, raised the house of Medici to the splendour which it afterwards enjoyed, are to be found in the charge given by this venerable old man on his death-bed to his two sons: "I feel,' said John de Medici, that I have lived the time prescribed me. I die content; leaving you, my sons, in affluence and in health, and in such a station, that while you follow my example, you may live in your native place hovoured and respected. Nothing affords me more pleasure than the reflection that my conduct has not given offence to any one ; but that, on the contrary, I have endeavoured to serve all persons to the best of my abilities. I advise you to do the same. With respect to the honours of the state, if you would live with security, accept only such as are bestowed on you by the laws, and the favour of your fellow-citizens; for it is the exercise of that power which is obtained by violence, and not of that which is voluntarily conferred, that occasions hatred and violence." At the death of ihis venerable man, in 1428, Cosmo had already obtained distinction both, in the political and commercial world. In 1414, when the pope, John XXIII., was summoned to attend the council of Constance, he chose to be accompanied by Cosmo de Medici, among other meu of eminence, whose high characters might countenance his cause. On the death of his father, Cosmo succeeded to the influence possessed by him as head of that powerful family, which rendered him the first citizen of the state, VOL. XXII.


though without any superiority of rank or title, and his conduct being marked by urbanity and generosity to all ranks, he acquired numerous and zealous partizans. Such was the influence of his family, that while the citizens of Florence fancied they lived under a pure republic, the Medici generally assumed to themselves the first offices of the state, or nominated such persons as they esteemed fit for those employments. Cosmo exerted this influence with great prudence and moderation; yet, owing to the discontent of the Florentines, with the bad success of the war against Lucca, a party arose, led on by Rinaldo de' Albizi, which, in 1433, after filling the magistracies with their own adherents, seized the person of Cosmo, and committed him to prison, and he was afterwards banished to Padua for ten years, and several other members and friends of the Medici family underwent a similar punishment. He was received with marked respect by the Venetian govern- . ment, and took up his abode in tbe city of Venice. Within a year of his retreat, Rinaldo was himself obliged to quit Florence; and Cosmo being recalled, he returned amidst the acclamations of his fellow-subjects. Some victims were offered to his future security, and the gonfaloniere who had pronounced his sentence, with a few others of that party, were put to death. Measures were now taken to restrict the choice of magistrates to the partizans of the Medici, and alliances were formed with the neighbouring powers for the avowed purpose of supporting and perpetuating the system by which Florence was from that time to be governed. The manner in which Cosmo employed his authority, has conferred upon his memory the greatest honour. From this time his life was an almost uninterrupted series of prosperity. The tranquillity enjoyed by the republic, and the satisfaction and peace of mind which he experienced in the esteem and confidence of his fellow-citizens, enabled him to indulge his natural propensity to the promotion of science, and the patronage and encouragement of learned men. The richest private citizen in Europe, he surpassed almost all sovereign princes in the munificence with which he patronized literature and the fine arts.

He assembled around him some of the most learned men of the age, who had begun to cultivate the Grecian language and philosophy. He..established, at Florence, an academy expressly for the elucidation of the Platonic philosophy, at the head of which he placed the

celebrated Marsilius Ficinus. He collected from all

parts by means of foreign correspondences, manuscripts of the Greek, Latin, and Oriental languages, which formed the foundation of the Laurentian library; nor was he less liberal in the encouragement of the fine arts. During the retirement of his latter days, his happiest hours were devoted to the study of letters and philosophy, and the conversation of learned men. He also endowed numerous religious houses, and built an hospital at Jerusalem for the relief of distressed pilgrims. While the spirit of his government was moderate, he avoided every appearance of state which might excite the jealousy or discontent of the Florentines; and therefore, by way of increasing his interest among them, restricted the marriages of his children to Florentine families. By such wise measures, and the general urbanity of his behaviour to all orders of men, he attained the title of " Father of his country," which was inscribed on his tomb. He died Aug. 1, 1464, aged seventyfive years, deeply lamented by the citizens of Florence.'

MEDICI (LORENZO, or LAWRENCE DE), grandson of the preceding, was born Jan. 1, 1448. From his earliest years he gave proofs of a vigorous mind, which was carefully cultivated, and exhibited many traits of that princely and liberal spirit which afterwards procured him the title of “Magnificent." In polite literature he cultivated

poetry, and gave some proofs of his talents in various composi, tions. At the death of Cosmo, on account of the infirmities of his father Peter de Medici, he was immediately initiated into political life, although then only in his six

He was accordingly sent to visit the principal courts in Italy, and acquire a personal knowledge of their politics and their rulers. In 1469 his father died, leaving his two sons Lorenzo and Julian heirs of his power and property; but it was Lorenzo who succeeded him as head of the republic. . Upon the accession of Sixtys IV, to the papal throne, he, went, with some other citizens, to congratulate the new pope, and was invested with the office of treasurer of the holy see, and while at Rome took every opportunity to add to the remains of ancient art which his family had, collected, One of the first public occurrences after he conducted the helm of government, was a revolt of the inhabitants of Volterra, on account of i Roscoe's Life of Lorenzo.-Rees's Cyclopædia.

teenth year.

a dispute with the Florentine republic ; by the recommendation of Lorenzo, means of force were adopted, which ended in the sack of the unfortunate city, an event that gave him much concern. In 1472, he re-established the academy of Pisa, to which he removed in order to complete the work, exerted bimself in selecting the most eminent professors, and contributed to it a large sum from his private fortune, in addition to that granted by the state of Florence. Zealously attached to the Platonic philosophy, he took an active part in the establishment of an academy for its promotion, and instituted an annual festival in honour of the memory of Plato, which was conducted with singular literary splendour. While he was thus advancing in a career of prosperity and reputation, a tragical incident was very near depriving his country of his future services. This was the conspiracy of the Pazzi, a numerous and distinguished family in Florence, of which the object was the assassination of Lorenzo and his brother. In the latter they were successful; but Lorenzo was saved, and the people attached to the Medici collecting in crowds, put to death or apprehended the assassins, whose designs were thus entirely frustrated, and summary justice was inflicted on the criminals. Salviati, archbishop of Pisa, was hanged out of the palace window in bis sacerdotal robes ; and Jacob de Pazzi, with one of his nephews, shared the same fate. The name and arms of the Pazzi family were suppressed, its members were banished, and Lorenzo rose still higher in the esteem and affection of his fellow-citizens. The pope, Sixtus IV. who was deep in this foul conspiracy, inflamed almost tó madness by the defeat of his schemes, excommunicated Lorenzo and the magistrates of Florence, laid an interdict upon the whole territory, and, forming a league with the king of Naples, prepared to invade the Florentine duminions.

Lorenzo appealed to all the surrounding potentates for the justice of his cause; and he was affectionately supported by his fellow-citizens. Hostilities began, and were carried on with various success through two campaigns. At the close of 1479, Lorenzo took the bold resolution of paying a visit to the king of Naples, and, without any previous security, trusted his liberty and his life to the mercy of a declared enemy. The monarch was struck with this heroic act of confidence, and a treaty of mutual defence and friendship was agreed upon between them, and Sixtus afterwards


consented to a peace. At length the death of Sixtus IV. freed him from an adversary who never ceased to bear him ill-will; and he was able to secure himself a friend in his successor Innocent VIII. He conducted the republic of Florence to a degree of tranquillity and prosperity which it had scarcely ever known before; and by procuring the institution of a deliberative body, of the nature of a senate, he corrected the democratical part of his constitution.

Lorenzo distinguished himself beyond any of his predecessors in the encouragement of literature and the arts : and his own productions are distinguished by a vigour of imagination, an accuracy of judgment, and an elegance of style, which afforded the first great example of improvement, and entitle him, almost exclusively, to the honour. able appellation of the “ restorer of Italian literature." His compositions are sonnets, canzoni, and other lyric pieces, some longer works in stanzas, some comic satires, and jocose carnival songs, and various sacred poems, the latter as serious as many of the former are licentious. Some of these pieces, especially those of the lighter kind, in which he imitated the rustic dialect, became extremely popular. His regard to literature, in general, was testified by the extraordinary attention which he paid to the augmentation of the Laurentian library. Although the ancestors of Lorenzo laid the foundation of the immense collection of MSS. contained in this library, he may claim the honour of baving raised the superstructure. If there was any pursuit in which he engaged more ardently and persevered in more diligently than the rest, it was that of enlarging his collection of books and antiquities : for this purpose he employed the services of learned inen, in different parts of Italy, and especially of his intimate friend and companion Politian, who took several journeys in order to discover and purchase the valuable remains of antiquity. “I wish,” said Lorenzo to him as he was proceeding on one of these expeditions, “that the diligence of Picus and yourself would afford me such opportunities of purchasing books that I should be obliged even to pledge my furniture to possess them.” Two journeys, undertaken at the instance of Lorenzo, into the east, by John Lascar, produced a great number of rare and valuable works. On his return from his second expedition, he brought with bim two hundred copies, many of which he had procured

« PreviousContinue »