The Italian Almanac


Lorenzo de' Medici

More about the Medici family


Lorenzo de' Medici

Lorenzo (the Magnificent) de' Medici
(1449-92)

Lorenzo the Magnificent became the virtual head of the Florentine state in 1469. In 1478 the conspiracy of the Pazzi nearly succeeded in overthrowing the Medici. Lorenzo's brother Giuliano was slain and he himself barely escaped. The result of the conspiracy was to give Lorenzo a firmer hold upon the state.
He pursued with signal success the policy of his family, which was to win the favor of the lower classes and thereby make absolute their own power. He encouraged literature and the arts, employed learned men to collect choice books and antiquities for him from every part of the known world, established printing presses in his dominions, founded academies for the study of classical learning, and filled his gardens with collections of the remains of ancient art.
When, however, his munificence and conciliatory manners had gained for him the affection of the higher and the devotion of the lower classes, he lost no time in breaking down the forms of constitutional independence that he and his predecessors had hitherto suffered to exist.
Some few Florentines, alarmed at the progress of the voluptuous refinement, which was smothering every spark of personal independence, tried to stem the current of corruption by an ascetic severity of morals, which gained for them the name of piagnoni, or weepers. Foremost among them was the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola, whose eloquent appeals to the people in favor of a popular and democratic form of government and a life of asceticism threatened for a time the overthrow of the Medici.
Lorenzo achieved some reputation in belles-lettres. We have from him poems of many kinds, lyric, moral, dramatic, and descriptive. His love poetry is the best of all that he produced, and the most distinctive characteristic in it is the note of melancholy.