A city-state is a region that is independently ruled by a major city. At the time of the Renaissance, Italy wasn't one unified country, but a number of small independent city-states. Some of these cities were run by elected leaders and others by ruling families. Often cities fought one another.
The wealth of the Italian city-state played an important role in the Renaissance. This wealth allowed prominent families to support artists, scientists, and philosophers, giving rise to new ideas and artistic movements.
The Renaissance began in Florence, which was ruled by the powerful Medici Family. They supported artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Florence was known for textile production as well as a banking center.
In the early 1400s Milan was still focused on conquering Florence. When the Sforza family took over in 1450, they brought peace to the region, paving the way for new ideas and art of the Renaissance. Milan was famous for its metalwork, including suits of armor.
The island city of Venice had become a powerful city-state through trade with the Far East. It imported products such as spices and silk. Venice controlled the seas around the east coast of Italy and was famous for its artistic glassware.
The pope ruled both the Catholic Church and the city-state of Rome. Rome became a patron of the arts and supported the Renaissance through commissions to artists such as Raphael and Michelangelo. Michelangelo worked as an architect on St. Peter's Basilica and painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
The city-state of Naples ruled much of southern Italy during the Renaissance. Alfonso I supported Renaissance artists, writers, and philosophers. Naples also became known for its music, including the invention of the mandolin. Naples was captured by Spain in 1504.
The city-state of Urbino was known for its library as well as its beautiful ceramics.
A social class of craftsmen and merchants grew during the Renaissance. Guilds were powerful institutions in the city-states. In some city-states you had to be a member of a guild to run for public office.
Milan, Naples, and Florence signed a peace treaty called the Peace of Lodi in 1454. This helped to establish boundaries and peace for around 30 years.
Source: Italian City-States
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