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Renaissance means rebirth. Beginning in Florence in about 1300 before spreading to Northern Europe, the Renaissance refers to the outgrowth of culture that marked a sharp break from the Medieval period.


What was the geopolitical makeup of Italy at the time of the Renaissance?

At the time of the Renaissance, Italy was a hodgepodge of small, independent states, usually centered around a single city, such as Florence, Rome, or Naples. A balance-of-power pattern emerged, as weaker states allied with stronger states to defend themselves against larger states.

That Italy was a collection of more than 15 countries is not odd, as most of the nation states of modern Europe were still fragmentary in 1400. 


What family ruled the Republic of Florence?

Although a titular republic, Florence was under the domination of the Medici family for decades. Cosimo de' Medici and his grandson Lorenzo "the Magnificent" de' Medici were both patrons of the arts.


The region of central Italy, directly under the control of the Catholic Church, was known as the _____ _____.

Papal States

The Papal States gave the Pope both temporal and spiritual power. Some Popes were even known to lead troops into the field themselves. For instance, Pope Julius II waged war in northern Italy in the early 1500s.


What was Italy's strongest naval power?

Venice, built on small islands along the coast, was Italy's strongest naval power, and one of the world's great naval powers. Venice was a republic with territory on both sides of the Adriatic Sea and a large trading network. In 1450, Venice's combined naval strength numbered some 4,500 ships.


Alone among the Italian states, the Kingdom of _____ had a king, rather than a prince, duke, marquise, or other ruler.


The Kingdom of Naples dominated most of southern Italy, but by 1500 would be firmly under Spanish control.


What 1454 treaty ended the near ceaseless wars which had dominated northern Italy for decades?

The Peace of Lodi ended military conflict between Milan, Venice, and Florence, and military conflict did not arise between the three powers until the 1490s.

The era of peace marked the pinnacle of the Italian Renaissance.


Who turned Italy into a battleground by inviting the French to enter the peninsula in 1494?

Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, invited the French to intervene in the affairs of his neighbor and hated rival, the Kingdom of Naples.

In response, the Papal States and Venice joined with Spain, which dispatched an army to halt the French conquests. A trend had begun, and for the next three centuries Italy would be a battleground for larger foreign powers. 


Why were the Italian city-states able to fund the Renaissance?

Italy was in a geographically advantageous position, and her cities served as Western markets for Eastern goods and her merchants invented modern banking. 

Through contact with the Middle East and Asia, wealthy Italians became aware of Asian and Arabic technology, goods, and ideas. As a consequence, many of the leading Italians earned vast fortunes, which they used to commission art, buildings, and literature.


Renaissance Man

A Renaissance Man was considered the ideal man in Italy during the Renaissance. A true Renaissance Man would study until he could do all things well; painting, singing, gymnastics, horseback riding, hunting, and the like.

Knowledge was also a part of the Renaissance Man's makeup. A true Renaissance Man knew Latin and Greek, and had read the classic Greco-Roman works.



Humanism is a school of thought which places primary importance on the individual, rather than on God.

During the Italian Renaissance, humanists turned away from medieval scholarship and towards the classic Greek and Roman authors, such as Homer, Livy, and Cicero.


What was the impact of the fall of Constantinople on the Italian Renaissance?

When Constantinople fell in 1453, many of its leading scholars fled west to the Italian city-states. They brought with them many of the classics of Greco-Roman literature.

More importantly, they possessed a knowledge of Greek, which enabled their students to read the works of ancient Greek authors, such as Homer, for the first time. 


Which Florentine is considered the father of modern political science?

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)

His three works, The Prince, The Discourses, and The History of Florence, provided the first modern analysis of political science and the habits of rulers.

Machiavelli was concerned with virtù, the habits he believed made a ruler successful. Virtù did not always relate to virtue, as Machiavelli's most remembered maxim, "The end justifies the means," demonstrates.


During the Renaissance, architecture blossomed in Italy. From what source did architects such as Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) and Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) draw their inspiration?

Brunelleschi, Alberti, and other Italian architects drew their inspiration from the Roman ruins that littered Italy. Arches, columns, capitals, and domes came into fashion once again, first in Florence and then throughout Italy.


What artistic development in the early Italian Renaissance allowed for the creation of more visually accurate paintings?

Florentine artists grasped the importance of linear perspective, which required making more distant objects smaller. Henceforth, painters would focus not on two-dimensional representations of objects, but on making their art appear three-dimensional.



Chiaroscuro refers to an artistic technique, developed during the Renaissance, that used darkness and light to create the illusion of depth.

Chiaroscuro painters typically bathed the faces of their painting's primary subject in light and paid a great deal of attention to emphasizing individualism, making each face unique.


How did the subject matter of Renaissance authors differ from the subject matter of authors of the late Medieval period?

Most late Medieval authors wrote on religious subjects, and even Dante's Divina Commedia is religious in subject matter, albeit with classical references such as Virgil.

During the Renaissance, for the first time writing became a profession rather than only a clerical pursuit. Writers focused on non-religious topics in addition to religious ones. 


Who do most scholars consider the first painter of the Italian Renaissance?

Giotto (1266-1337) is considered the first painter of the Italian Renaissance, and was a contemporary of Dante. One of Giotto's most famous works is his fresco in Padua's Arena Chapel. Giotto was renowned for drawing beautiful pictures representing accurate human forms.


What themes featured heavily in the work of Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510)?

A Florentine painter under Lorenzo de' Medici's patronage, most of Botticelli's works dealt with themes from classical mythology, rather than the religious themes which had characterized art before the Renaissance. Towards the end of his life, Botticelli did paint some religious imagery, but he is best known for his The Birth of Venus and Primavera


Which artists are considered the Trinity of Italian Renaissance art?

The title of the Trinity is bestowed upon Raphael (1483-1520), Michelangelo (1475-1564), and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), the three best-known artists of the Renaissance.

Raphael's best-known work is The School of Athens, depicting legendary Greek philosophers.

Michelangelo was a prominent sculptor, painter, architect, and even a poet, whose works conveyed an awe-inspiring grandeur.

A true Renaissance Man, Leonardo da Vinci was an inventor, scientist, and artist, whose famous works include The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa


_____ is considered the founding father of humanism, as well as the first modern writer.


Petrarch deliberately looked back to the Greco-Roman period with his Letters to the Ancient Dead, and was heavily influenced by the Roman orator Cicero.

Religion wasn't completely divorced from Petrarch's writing; after his famous ascent up Mount Ventoux (which he ascended merely for the pleasure of the view), Petrarch read from his copy of St. Augustine.


What author composed The Decameron, 100 stories detailing the comic sexual and economic improprieties of the clergy and nobles as well as other lighthearted stories?

A student of Petrarch, Boccaccio (1313-1375) composed The Decameron, a distinctly humorous and humanist book that took for its subject matter the secular world of 14th-century Italy. Like Dante before him, Boccaccio wrote in the vernacular.


What did Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) argue in his Oration on the Dignity of Man?

Pico contended that because God had endowed man with the ability to mold his own being, man could become closer to God by learning all that he could.

Pico's Oration is commonly referred to as the "Manifesto of the Renaissance" for its justification of the continued acquisition of knowledge.


What Florentine is considered the father of modern historical study?

Modern history's father is Leonardo Bruni (1370-1444), who composed The History of the Florentine People. Although he probably didn't mean to, Bruni was the first historian to secularize history by concentrating on human endeavors rather than theology.

He also was among the first to divide history into periods and to rely on primary source documents. It is from Bruni's writings that the term "humanism" originated; he called his study of human endeavors studia humanitatis.


What term is given to the efforts of Italian thinkers in the late Renaissance to meld religious scholarship with their rediscovery of Greek philosophers such as Plato?

After the fall of Constantinople, Italian thinkers attempted to create a synthesis between the writings of the ancient Greeks and the ideas of Christianity, a movement known as Neo-Platonism.

To further the movement, Cosimo de' Medici provided the funds to set up the Florentine Academy, a deliberate imitation of the Athenian Academy of classical Greece.


What author's Book of the Courtier, published in 1528, was a guidebook on how to be a Renaissance Man?

Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529) published The Book of the Courtier, which specified the qualities necessary to be a true Renaissance Man. Castiglione described the magnificence of the court in the small Duchy of Urbino and emphasized its members' intellectual and physical activities.

Of special importance was virtù, the quality of being excellent in a plethora of worthwhile pursuits.


What events contributed to the Renaissance's outgrowth from Italy to the countries of Western Europe?

The most important event was the invention of the printing press, which made it easier and cheaper to publish books. Printers began publishing the works of Renaissance writers throughout Western Europe in an effort to satisfy insatiable demand.

Other events included the French and Spanish invasions of Italy beginning in the 1490s, which contributed to an exposure and exchange of information between Italy and the West.


How did humanism in the Northern Renaissance differ from Italian humanism?

While Italian humanism looked to classical Greco-Roman texts for inspiration, the Northern Renaissance was influenced by the writings of Church Fathers, such as St. Augustine. Historians call this reconciled version "Christian Humanism."


_____ was a Dutch Renaissance humanist who wrote In Praise of Folly, which criticized the hypocrisy and immorality of the Catholic Church.

Erasmus (1466-1536)

In Praise of Folly was a best-seller of the 1500s. As a master of Greek literature, Erasmus published a translation of the New Testament and sought to reform the Catholic Church from inside.

During the Reformation, contemporaries said that Erasmus "laid the egg that Luther hatched."


Which Dutch Renaissance painter was the first to use oil paint successfully?

Jan van Eyck (1390-1441) was the first to take full advantage of the availability of oil paint, which allowed him to employ incredible amounts of detail in his work.

Van Eyck commonly employed symbolism in his work, a technique which was later used by artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, and which still excites debate among art historians.