(Italy Twitter)-Florence,Firenze, is a major historical city in Italy, distinguished as one of the most outstanding economical, cultural, political and artistic centres in the peninsula from the late Middle Ages to the Renaissance.
In the Quaternary Age the Florence-Prato-Pistoia plain was occupied by a great lake bounded by Monte Albano in the west, Mount Giovi in the North and the first hills of Chianti in the South. Even after most of the water had withdrawn, the plain, 50 metres above sea level, was strewn with ponds and marshes which remained until the process of reclamation which began in the 18th century. Most of the marshland was in the region of Campi Bisenzio, Signa and Bagno a Ripoli.
It is thought that there was already a Villanovan settlement at the confluence of the Mugnone with the Arno between the 10th and the 8th century BC. Between the 7th and 6th centuries BC Etruscans had discovered and used the ford of the Arno River near this confluence, closer to the hills to the North and South. A bridge or a ferry was probably constructed here, about ten metres away from the current Ponte Vecchio, but closer to the ford itself. The Etruscans, however, preferred not to build cities on the plain for reasons of defence and instead settled about six kilometres away on a hill. This settlement was a precursor of the fortified centre of Vipsul (today's Fiesole), which was later connected by road to all the major Etruscan centers of Emilia to the North of the Lazio.
Florence was founded in 59 (BCE) as a settlement for former soldiers, being named 'Florentia', allotted by Julius Caesar to his veterans in the rich farming valley of the Arno. The city was built in the style of a military camp with a castrorum in a chessboard pattern and the main streets, the cardo and the decumanus, intersecting at the present Piazza della Repubblica, which can still be seen in the city center. Florentia was situated at the Via Cassia, the main route between Rome and the North, which position enabled it to rapidly expand as a commercial center. Emperor Diocletianus made Florentia capital of the province of Tuscia in the 3rd century CE.
St Minias was Florence’s first martyr. He was beheaded at about 250 CE, during the anti-Christian persecutions of the Emperor Decius. The Basilica di San Miniato al Monte now stands near the spot.
Early Middle Ages
The seat of a bishopric from around the beginning of the 4th century CE, the city was alternatingly under Byzantine and Ostrogothic rule as the two powers fought each other for control of the city, taking it by siege only to lose it again later.
Margrave Hugo chose Florence as his residence instead of Lucca at about 1000 CE. This initiated the Golden Age of Florentine art. In 1013 the construction was begun of the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. The exterior of the baptistry was reworked in Romanesque style between 1059 and 1128.
Reviving from the 10th century and governed from 1115 by an autonomous medieval commune, the city was plunged into internal strife by the 13th-century struggle between the Ghibellines, supporters of the German emperor, and the pro-Papal Guelphs, after the murder of Buondelmonte from the Amidei for his missed promise to marry one from the Amidei family. In 1257 the city was ruled by a podestà, the Guelph Luca Grimaldi. The Guelphs had triumphed and soon split in turn into feuding "White" and "Black" factions led respectively by Vieri de' Cerchi and Corso Donati. These struggles eventually led to the exile of the White Guelphs, one of whom was Dante Alighieri. This factional strife was later recorded by Dino Compagni, a White Guelph, in his Chronicles of Florence.
Of a population estimated at 80,000 before the Black Death of 1348, about 25,000 are said to have been supported by the city's woolen industry: in 1345 Florence was the scene of an attempted strike by wool carders (ciompi), who in 1378 rose up in a brief revolt against oligarchic rule in the Revolt of the Ciompi. After their suppression, the city came under the sway (1382–1434) of the Albizzi family, bitter rivals of the Medici. Cosimo de' Medici was the first Medici family member to essentially control the city from behind the scenes. Although the city was technically a democracy of sorts, his power came from a vast patronage network along with his alliance to the new immigrants, the gente nuova. The fact that the Medici were bankers to the pope also contributed to their rise. Cosimo was succeeded by his son Piero di Cosimo de' Medici, who was shortly thereafter succeeded by Cosimo's grandson, Lorenzo in 1469. Lorenzo was a great patron of the arts, commissioning works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli.
After Lorenzo's death in 1492, his son Piero took the reigns of government, however his rule proved brief when in 1494 Charles VIII of France invaded Italy, entering Tuscany on his way to claim the throne of Naples. After Piero made a submissive treaty with Charles, the Florentines responded by forcing Piero into exile, and the first period of Medici rule ended with the restoration of a republican government. Anti-Medici sentiment was much influenced by the teachings of the radical Dominican prior Girolamo Savonarola. However, in due time, Savonarola lost support and was burned at the stake in 1498.
Citizen Government in Renaissance Florence
From 1328 until 1434, Florence was a city republic governed by a broad swath of citizens from the elite merchant and banking families. They used a method of sortition to draw candidates for public office. During the late 13th and 14th centuries, popular revolts led to periods when public office was also shared among citizens from the middle and lower artisan class.
In order to reconcile the warring factions and families, a complex electoral system was developed as mechanism for sharing power. Incumbent officers and appointees carried out a secret ballot every three or four years. They committed the names of all those elected into a series of bags, one for each sesto, or sixth, of the city. One name was drawn from each bag every two months to form the highest executive of the city, the Signoria. The selection scheme was controlled to ensure that no two members of the same family ended up in the same batch of six names.
In the 19th century the population of Florence doubled, and tripled in the 20th century with the growth of tourism, trade, financial services and the industry. A foreign community came to represent one-quarter of the population in the second half of the 19th century and this period was the romantic vision of the towns captured by writers such as James Irving and pre-Raphaelite artists and that he left bequeath to the numerous city villas of mainly English barons with their eclectic collections of art, which today are museums, Museum Horne, the Stibbert Museum, Villa La Pietra, etc.
In 2002, Florence was the seat of the first European Social Forum. There are also several new building and cultural projects, such as that of the Parco della musica e della cultura, which will be a vast musical and cultural complex which currently is being built in the "Parco della Cascine" (Cascine park). It will host a lyrical theatre containing 2,000 places, a concert hall for one thousand watchers, a hall with three thousand seats and an open-air amphitheatre with three thousand spaces. It will host numerous ballets, concerts, lyrical operas and numerous musical festivals. The theatre will be inaugurated on 28 April 2011, in honour of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Italian unification.