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• Renaissance: a rebirth of ancient Greek and Roman
– A new culture emerges in southern Europe, starts in
• Italy was largely an urban society with powerful
– Intellectuals and artists believed they were part of a
new Golden Age
• They wanted to separate themselves from
“backwardness” of the Middle Ages, or Dark Ages
• Economic growth laid the material basis for the
– The Italian city-states were involved in trade due to
their geography and served as the economic center
of Europe
The Italian City-States
• Italy was divided into several large city-states in
the north and various kingdoms in the south
– Florence, Venice, Milan, and the Papal States
were some of the strongest city-states
• Florence was controlled by the rich
de’Medici family and the Renaissance
started in this city-state
• Rome became the center of the High
Renaissance when it declined in Florence
Politics and War
• Maintaining the balance of power
– If one city-state seems to get too powerful, the
others ally together against the major threat
– Try to create an alliance against foreign powers, but
the breakdown of the alliance will lead to the
domination of Italy by foreign powers
• Invasion of Italy by Charles VIII of France
– Attracted by the riches of Italy, Charles leads an army
of 30,000 men into Italy in 1494
– For the next 30 years, France and Spain make Italy
their battle ground
– 1527 – thousands of Spanish troops along with
mercenaries (hired soldiers) arrive at Rome to
protect it
• They had not been paid for months and demand
• The leader lets them sack Rome as their payment
– The sacking of Rome ends the wars and leaves Spain
a dominant force in Italy
• It will also bring an end to the High Renaissance
Characteristics of the Renaissance
• Secular society
– People were becoming more concerned with the
material world, had more of a worldly focus
– Still deeply religious, however they concentrated on
the here and now, not on life after death
• Individualism
– People sought to receive personal credit for their
• Personal quest for glory – people want money and
• This went against the medieval ideal of all glory
going to God and contrasted with Church
teachings that individuality and achievement were
– The Renaissance Man – a person who could do many
things well
• The ideal Renaissance man = Leonardo da Vinci
• Humanism
– “new learning” – interest in and study of the Latin
classics to learn what they reveal about human
– Petrarch is considered to be the father of humanism
– Civic humanists = used their humanist education to
serve the city governments
• Also revived the Greek language
Renaissance Intellectuals
• Machiavelli
– Wrote The Prince, which is the most widely read and
studied Renaissance book
– The subject is about how a ruler should gain,
maintain, and increase political power
• Concludes that humans are “ungrateful, fickle,
liars, and deceivers”
• Decides that it is better for a ruler to be feared
than loved
Renaissance Art
• The Renaissance made its greatest impact in the area of
• New artistic styles: use of oil painting, free-standing
sculptures, portraits, nudity, and single-point
• Many people sponsored the arts to glorify themselves
and their families
• Two major periods:
– Early Renaissance – takes place in Florence
– High Renaissance – takes place in Rome
• Four major artists of the Renaissance:
• Four major artists of the Renaissance:
– Michelangelo – painted the Sistene Chapel, sculptural
masterpiece = David
– Leonardo da Vinci – Mona Lisa and the Last Supper
– Raphael – famous for his madonnas (images of Jesus
and Mary)
– Donatello – sculptor, lived during the Early Renaissance
The Northern Renaissance
• Christian Humanism
– Christian humanists believed they could achieve this
higher understanding by studying early Christian
works along with the Latin classics
– Often criticized the Church
• Erasmus
– Criticized the Church and wanted to reform it, but
not leave it
The Elizabethan Renaissance
• The greatest achievement in the arts in northern Europe
took place in England
– Most of what is referred to as the Elizabethan
Renaissance actually occurred during the reign of
James I
• Geoffrey Chaucer
– The Canterbury Tales consists of a collection of
stories told by a group of 29 pilgrims journeying to
the tomb of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury
• William Shakespeare
– Wrote many plays that reveal an unsurpassed
understanding of the human psyche