Medici, a distinguished family of not well authenticated origin, though traced by some genealogists to the days of Charlemagne, and appearing in Florentine history since the close of the 13th century. In 1351 Giovanni de' Medici, at the head of only 100 men, relieved the fortress of Scarperia by forcing his way through a Milanese army then besieging the place. A few years later Salvestro de' Medici acquired great reputation by his firm resistance to the tyranny of the nobles. In 1378 he was chosen chief magistrate, and effected important reforms in the government in spite of the commotions raised against him by the nobility. His son Yieri held also a high rank in the state, and was very popular with the common people. The family were largely engaged in commerce, and accumulated great wealth. The most successful merchant of them all was a second Giovanni de' Medici, who, after serving for many years as a member of the seigniory and of the council of ten, was in 1421 twice chosen gonfaloniere, or chief magistrate, the term of the office being then two months.
He died in 1429, leaving an immense estate to his two sons, Cosmo and Lorenzo. - Cosmo I., or Co-si.mo, called the Elder, was born in 1389, and even in the lifetime of his father had been deeply engaged in commerce, and had filled offices of state, having attained to a seat in the seigniory in 1410. The death of his father made him the head of the family, and he soon became the leading man in the state. His power and that of his immediate descendants consisted in a tacit influence acquiesced in by the people, and not in any definite authority. The government of the republic continued to be directed by a council of ten and a gonfaloniere; but the Medici generally either assumed these offices, or nominated their friends and partisans, while paying great deference to popular opinion, and avoiding all ostentation of power. Cosmo, however, was opposed at the outset by a powerful party, headed by the Albizzi family; and in 1433 Rinaldo de' Albizzi carried the elections against him, and procured a decree banishing Cosmo for ten years and his brother Lorenzo for five. At the end of a year the party of the Medici again prevailed, repealed the sentence of banishment, and exiled Rinaldo and his principal adherents.
The rest of Cosmo's life was passed in prosperity, and in the promotion of letters and arts and the management of foreign affairs. He continued to the last engaged in commerce, which he carried on through agents. His mercantile transactions seem to have been chiefly with the East through Alexandria, The banking houses which the Medici maintained in the chief cities of Europe were a source of vast profits; and a considerable revenue was drawn from their numerous farms and mines, especially the mines of alum, of which they possessed nearly the monopoly in Italy. Cosmo himself lived in a simple style, but spent vast sums in erecting splendid public edifices. His wealth and influence ranked him with the most powerful princes of Italy, any of whom would have been glad to intermarry with his family; but as such connections might have given rise to unfavorable comments, he selected wives for his sons among the Florentine nobles. Cosmo died Aug. 1, 1404. By a public decree shortly before his death ho received the title pater patrim, which was inscribed on his tomb. His son Giovanni died before him. - Pietro I., his successor, born in 1414, was almost constantly confined to his bed from ill health.
He was less popular than his father, and a powerful party, headed by Luca Pitti, the builder of the Pitti palace, and by other prominent nobles, was soon formed against him. Failing to overthrow the Medici by peaceful measures, they attempted in 1466 to assassinate Pietro, but were baffled by his son Lorenzo. The failure of this conspiracy strengthened the Medici, and their principal opponents were banished, with the exception of Pitti, who abandoned his own party and suddenly went over to that of the Medici, who now became the almost undisputed masters of the state. Pietro had conducted with skill and credit several important negotiations during his father's lifetime, and his subsequent direction of the affairs of state was marked by prudence and judgment. He was a munificent patron of letters and arts. He died Dec. 3, 1469, leaving two sons, Lorenzo and Giuliano. - Lorenzo, surnamed the Magnificent, was born Jan. 1, 1448. At an early age he displayed extraordinary talent, and the munificent disposition which afterward gave him a claim to the appellation of Magnificent, He had rendered himself conspicuous before he arrived at manhood by his poetical talents, and by his penetration, courage, and good souse.
He was tall and robust, with a dignified countenance and pleasing manners; but his sight was weak, his voice harsh, and he was totally devoid of the sense of smell. He was educated by the first scholars of the age; when his studies were completed he visited the various courts of Italy, and his correspondence with his father during his absence shows that the latter had already learned to repose great confidence in the judgment of his son in political matters. The share taken by Lorenzo in defeating the conspiracy headed' by Luca Pitti, and the magnanimity with which he treated the conspirators, extended his reputation throughout Italy. On June 4, 1469, he married Clarice Orsini, of the noble and powerful Roman family of that name. On the day after the death of his father in the same year, Lorenzo was waited upon by many eminent citizens of Florence, who requested that he would take upon himself the administration and care of the republic in the same manner as his father and grandfather had done. In 1471 he was sent to Rome at the head of a splendid embassy to congratulate Sixtus IV. on his elevation to the papacy, and was made treasurer of the holy see.
But Sixtus undertook in 1474 the conquest of Citta di Cas-tello, on the border of the territory of Florence; and as its ruler Niccolo Vitelle was a personal friend of Lorenzo, Florence lent somo assistance to its defence, which, though ultimately unsuccessful, was so vigorous and protracted as to cause the pope great expense and vexation, which he attributed chiefly to Lorenzo. He was also incensed by the alliance which Lorenzo effected between Florence, Venice, and Milan, for the purpose of checking the ambitious projects of the pope and protecting the independence of the minor states of Italy. Sixtus thenceforward strove to destroy the power of the Medici, and he is even accused by many historians of having instigated a conspiracy for the assassination of Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano. The attempt was made during divine service in the church of the Reparata, on Sunday, April 26, 1178. The signal agreed upon was the elevation of the host, at which moment Francesco de' Pazzi and another conspirator named Bandini stabbed and instantly killed Giuliano. Two priests at the same instant attacked Lorenzo, hut only succeeded in giving him a slight wound in the neck.
Ho defended himself with vigor, and was presently surrounded by his friends, who escorted him home after putting to death all the conspirators present except a few saved by the interposition of Lorenzo himself. Meantime an unsuccessful attempt had been made to seize the government palace by the archbishop of Pisa, who was taken prisoner by the magistrates, and summarily hanged from its windows, together with Francesco and several others of the Pazzi, of which family the only one who escaped the popular fury received shelter in the house of Lorenzo. Ban-diui took refuge in Constantinople; but the sultan ordered him to bo sent in chains to Florence, because of the respect which he had for Lorenzo. The pope issued a bull excom-raunicating Lorenzo and the magistrates, and suspending the entire Florentine clergy, on account of the execution of the archbishop. He also, in conjunction with the king of Naples, made open war upon the republic, offering, however, to conclude peace on condition that Lorenzo should be banished from Florence, or delivered into their hands.
As the resources of Florence were inadequate for a long contest with two such powerful enemies, Lorenzo, perceiving that the war was waged against him personally, took the extraordinary resolution of going to Naples, where through his personal iniiuence, in spite of the utmost efforts of the pope, in the course of three mouths he converted the king from an enemy to a warm friend, and returned to Florence, bringing with him a treaty of alliance with Naples. Peace with the pope soon followed. Lorenzo now began to take measures for securing the peace of Italy by establishing a balance of power in the peninsula, of which Florence was to be the political centre. He also persuaded the people to agree to the institution of a permanent senate, nominated by himself, to govern the republic, instead of the democratic councils to whom the supreme power had been previously intrusted. A second attempt to assassinate him was made in a church in 1481. The assassins were seized before they could execute their purpose, and henceforth Lorenzo surrounded himself with a body guard.
Sixtus IV. died in 1484, and was succeeded by Innocent VIII., who was friendly to Lorenzo, and in a short time made him his most intimate confidant, opening to the Medici the dignities and emoluments of the church, by which the family afterward so much profited. The alliance of the pontiff augmented still more the intiuence of Lorenzo in Italy, which was now in a more prosperous condition than it had been for centuries, while Florence itself had reached the highest pitch of power and opulence to which it ever attained. Lorenzo's attention to public affairs had obliged him to neglect his own, and he became so involved by expenditures for political purposes that in 1490 the republic granted him an allowance to pay his debts, so large that, according to Hallam, she "disgracefully screened the bankruptcy of the Medici by her own." At this time he abandoned commerce, which his family had pursued for so many generations. In the beginning of 1402 he was attacked by a strange species of fever which baffled the skill of the physicians, and of which he died, April 8. He left three sons: Pietro, the eldest; Giovanni, the second, who became a cardinal at the age of 13, and afterward pope as Leo X.; and vriuiiano, the youngest, who became duke of Nemours. Lorenzo was eminent not only as a statesman, but as a poet and scholar.
Among his intimate friends were the poets Poliziano and Pulci. He was a munificent patron of authors and artists, and spent vast sums in erecting public ediiices and establishing schools and libraries. He reestablished the university of Pisa, and greatly enlarged the famous Lau-rentian library at Florence, which derives its name from him, and which was founded by his grandfather Cosmo. - The Opere di Lorenzo de Medici, detto il Magniftco, were published under the auspices of Leopold II., grand duke of Tuscany (4 vols., Florence, 1826). See Ros-coe, "Life of Lorenzo de'Medici " (2 vols. 4to, London, 1796; best ed. in "Bolm's Standard Library," 1851), and Alfred von Reumont, Lorenzo de' Medici, il Magnifico, und seine Zeit (2 vols., Leipsic, 1874). - Pietro II, his son and successor, born Feb. 15, 1471, had much of the talent without the prudence of his father. His ambition and temerity involved Florence in war with Charles VIII. of France, and led to his own expulsion from the city in 1494, and to the occupation of Florence by the French army shortly afterward.
After an exile of ten years, during which he made repeated though futile attempts to regain his authority, he entered the service of France, and perished at the great defeat of the French army by Gonsalvo de Cordova on the banks of the Garigliano, Dec. 29, 1503, being drowned in the river. By his death his second brother, Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, became the head of the family. In 1512, partly by policy, partly by force, he effected the restoration of the Medici to Florence, and shortly afterward was himself elected pope. (See Leo X.) He intrusted the direction of Florentine affairs to his younger brother Giuliano, who, having more taste and capacity for literature than for politics, soon resigned his authority into the hands of his nephew Lorenzo, the son of the Pietro who perished in the Garigliano, and retiring to Rome became commander-in-chief of the papal troops. Having married Filiberta of Savoy, of the house of Bourbon, he was made duke of Nemours by Francis I. of France. He died in Florence, March 17, 1516. - Giuliano left a natural son, Ippolito, born in 1511, who was expelled with the whole house of Medici from Florence (1527), on the discomfiture of the holy league formed by Pope Clement VII. against Charles V. He became a cardinal, and his immense revenue enabled him, without territories and without subjects, to maintain at Bologna a court far more splendid than that of any Italian potentate.
He was, says Roscoe, "at once the patron, the companion, and the rival of all the poets, the musicians, and the wits of his time. His associates and attendants, all of whom could boast of some peculiar merit or distinction which had entitled them to his notice, generally formed a body of 300 persons." He was poisoned by a domestic, Aug. 3, 1535. - Lorenzo II, born Sept. 13, 1492, after the resignation of Giuliano, governed Florence for some time under the orders of Leo X. He made himself by force of arms duke of Urbino in 1516, and' in 1518 married Madeleine de la Tour, of the royal house of France. He died April 28, 1519, a few days after the birth of his famous daughter Catharine de' Medici. Prior to his marriage the duke of Urbino had an illegitimate son named Alessandro, whose mother was an African slave. The paternity of Alessandro has also been attributed to Pope Clement V1I, who was himself an illegitimate son of Giulia-no, the brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent. It is certain that Alessandro was in high favor with the pontiff, who, on the death of Lorenzo II. without legitimate male heir, and the consequent failure of the descendants of Cosmo the Great, brought him forward in order to prevent the power of the family from passing into the hands of a collateral branch descended from a brother of Cosmo. He accordingly availed himself of the dissensions of the Florentines, and in 1532, with the assistance of the emperor and the king of France, he compelled the republic to receive Alessandro as its ruler, with the title of duke.
He proved, however, to be a licentious tyrant, and was assassinated on Jan. 6, 1537, by Lorenzino, a member of the collateral branch of the familv. The citizens assembled on this event, and invested Cosmo de' Medici, surnamed the Great, the cousin of Lorenzino, with the sovereignty under the title of chief of the republic, which he afterward exchanged for that of grand duke. He became the progenitor of a line of grand dukes, six in number, who ruled Tuscany till 1737, when the main line of the Medici family became extinct. (See Tuscany).