In the 15th century, the leading families of Florence decided they needed a strong person in charge to lead them against the growing threat of rival cities. They chose Cosimo de Medici, a wealthy banker, to take control of the government. Cosimo maintained the appearance of republican government, but he appointed his relatives and people he could control to important positions. When Cosimo died in 1464, his son and grandson continued his policies. The Medici maintained control by exiling people who disagreed with them and encouraging other Italian cities to form alliances with Florence.
The best known of the Medicis was Cosimo’s grandson, Lorenzo, who was known as “Lorenzo the Magnificent.” Lorenzo was not only a shrewd banker and clever politician; he was also a scholar and a poet. Under Lorenzo’s leadership, Florence became one of the most beautiful and prosperous cities in Italy, as well as a center of the Renaissance.
A portrait of Cosimo de' Medici by Agnolo Bronzino
A portrait of Lorenzo de' Medici
by Agnolo Bronzino