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Giovanni di Cantibori's Notes on Florence

The following information on Florentine history and culture was researched by Giovanni di Cantibori and presented as a series of emails to the Florentine Embassy staff. They have been formatted but not otherwise edited, with some notes from Giovanni.
Introductory Notes March 17
Letters Aloud Explanation March 17
Gossip, Background March 2
Tidbits March 4
Ward Politics and Names March 12
Medici Bank Background March 12
Kings and Trade Background March 13
Florentine Government and Elections March 14
Corrections to recent history, and Kings March 14
Letter from Lorenzo to Florentine Embassy March 14
Major holidays in Florence March 14

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Introductory Notes

The rough edges show some of the haste as well as the volume and editing. I had hoped for finesse, but it occurred to me that few embassy people will have memories with an historian's clarity and we should not sound like historians but people who remembered the events themselves. Thus there was a focus on the past 20 years, 1465 -1485, one generation; and a less detailed recollection of the previous hundred years as we might have heard of it from our elders.

I felt I had succeeded in getting enough from my researches to develop the outlines of a mindset and familiarity with current events to approach a role as a merchant-diplomat. I of course have no confidence that that mindset is at all accurate, and it lacks much detail, immediacy, and feeling. The research route provides too much detachment from most such mindsets, and does not provide the attachments to family and city, guild and church, and religious beliefs. Florence was unusually rich in tensions among these because the habits of mind of traders and the new learning (and expose's of old claims and beliefs) show us there was some distance between individual and church, etc. These I did not write about -- the attachments -- and I would do that the next time.

Also, I'd write about the sense of threat and danger surrounding diplomatic ventures in a way to build it into the mindset (and practices, if I could get the information readily). Merchant diplomats were very aware of the dangers surrounding their beloved city, families and fortunes. Their neighbor Milan had been ruled by madmen for 6 generations, defensive wars could beggar the city, and internal strife could hand it over to their enemies.

In the event, the Florentine Embassy was too busy with music, stories, and demos to have a sustained discussion. A dinner party of 8 or 12 would have been a better setting for that, and is a possibility for the future.

A serious attempt to negotiate with another embassy was out of the question for this kind of event, although it took me a few days to get around to realizing that; but once thought of, it was obviously not possible. That is more like a live action role-playing game, with considerable pre-game study and preparation to make it satisfying (the Staple Game of 10-15 years ago comes to mind).

In addition, I had hoped to interview many people at the event about trade in their countries and times (I always go over the top in my hopes for these things, and after a fit of realism a few days before the event, try to carry out some of my hopes anyway). Few people did know much, many were busy when I saw them, but I did gather some information as a merchant at such a Faire might do -- higher level than the real thing, more on types of goods traded and zero on current tolls and road conditions. Exploring what Columbus might be up to (King Joa~o of Portugal turned him down "last year", 1484), I did find out that the Arabs had traditional sea routes down the *East* coast of Africa, and the Omani Arabs sailed to India, and that piracy was withing acceptable levels of risk. This was tantalizing, coupled with the knowledge that the Portuguese had gotten down to Cape Cross, 22 degrees S latitude (not reached the Cape of Good Hope yet), and wondering how we could invest in such expeditions securely, since Florence had little hope of getting out the Straits of Gibraltar on her own if Spain didn't want us to.

As part of this, I encountered Salamallah the Corpulent, showing games. He frightened me by pointing out the chess variants played by the Byzantines, Arabs and Indians, which had more complex rules than Western chess. He stressed that these games revealed different ways of thinking and strategizing, that were characteristic of their cultures. He backed this up with some examples from Byzantine military (not game) practice. I left thinking that I did not want to engage in intrigue with these peoples anytime soon, and that I would proceed in trade and banking dealings with the utmost caution. A very nice interview experience.

Other geopolitical questions raised in the notes, particularly "Kings", were not explored successfully.

Naturally, I am in love with this approach to developing an interior persona, a mindset and familiarity with recent experience, loyalties and habits, and recommend it to everyone, wholeheartedly and irresponsibly. I am only dimly aware that there are other approaches, as deeply held and practiced, and which produce equivalent or superior results.

In anima Societatis,

--John of Canterbury / Giovanni di Cantibori

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Letters Aloud Explanation

A letter was prepared with "instructions" to the Florentine Embassy staff to gather information on several topics. The email version was much more extensive than the written letter, which would be read aloud. The original idea was that the Florentine Embassy people would be familiar with the background and have the pleasant experience of getting the references in a brief letter. As it worked out, I read a sentence or two aloud to visitors and then explained the background to them, then read the next sentence, etc.

A second letter, containing gossip, was written and read aloud. Items included a matchmaking and a dowry, Niccolini (Medici adherent) and Albizzi (out of power, lost to Cosimo de' Medici 45 years earlier, slowly regaining high status). Explanation of a patrilineal, patrilocal society, wife's property and rights, dowry public knowledge), and brideprice (much more shadowy).

Guido Morelli's advice to his sons to marry within the gonfalon (ward) (Morelli is a famous writer of memoirs). Rivalry with the letter-writer, a secretary of Lorenzo's.

Diplomat's refusal to credit the belief that one can analyze a political situation, identify the appropriate principle and apply it to find the correct way to handle the situation (what Machiavelli will do in the Prince and other writings). Insistence that it all is a matter of experience and cannot be described further (Guicciardini's belief). Letter writer thinks he is being snubbed by diplomat. Reference to what the diplomat missed while he was in Greece (and buying 200 Greek books for Lorenzo, among other things). Rivalry with the letter-writer.

Bernardo Machiavelli, prominent in government, and his shy son Niccolo, age 16 (who will write The Prince in another 40 years). Slighting reference to "Chiovo" at a gathering (arrested 76 years ago for burglary), Bernardo calm, Niccolo embarrassed.

Ficino and two of his Platonic-Christian ideas at an evening gathering. Implied bragging by the letter-writer.

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Gossip, Background

Johannes Cantuariensis salutem dat.
Si vales, valeo.

I have some notes on the organization of Florentine government and our embassy, some notes on history, and a suggestion / question on organizing ourselves for 'gossiping' about Florence and drawing in visitors.

Our embassy will purport to conduct business: Handle inquiries, provide responses as short descriptions of Florentine government, business oportunities, currency and banking, travel and hospitality, security and health. I will find background on government, banking and trade, and notice items on the other topics.

We need to ask visitors very easy leading questions to get the ball rolling; expect little in the way of detail as answers. Models for this kind of activity are Con bid suites at a Science Fiction Convention; Tourism tables at Gov Center in Summer ("Ontario Invites You!" " Nova Scotia This Summer!" etc), minus the brochures.

I propose a simple way to draw people in: gossip. We can have informal chats, presented as if visitors are overhearing them, but clear enough to be intriguing to visitors. I / We need to practice: how does one conduct 'private' gossip in front of strangers? Simultaneously with 'business'?

This suggests shifts: 2 as Embassy staff, 2 as visitors, and 2 off-duty (visit other embassies, shopping*) -and rotate our people among the shifts.
I don't know how this would fit with the Schedule you have worked out. I like the "Letters Received" idea.

(*I'm told there is a good textile shop 1 block from the commuter rail station in Framingham.)

Support: I might prepare a closed book of gossip, as reminders.

Research: gossipy bits prepared on usual topics (see Table of Contents) from Gene Brucker's Florentine Society. in the Renaissance (FSR), excerpts of documents; the Dati and Pitti memoirs, excerpts (also edited by Gene Brucker); and recent scholarly articles edited by Findlen.

Did we agree on a particular year, or even date? I have a notion that we agreed on 1485, and I would then suppose the date is March 15. This would simplify research into current events. Has Bosworth occurred yet, I think not? - which puts 'paid' to Medici Bank London hopes of recovery of its loans to Edward IV (Lancaster); Henry VII (York, Tudor) is not a generous king.

Research: rough and incomplete, but timely. I hope to improve and extend.

Florentine Mission structure

We six or so are drawn from the uppermost class of Florentine society, the families of wealthy merchants and the major guilds. This does not mean that we all are personally wealthy -- we are not heads of our respective clans, for the most part? All are expected to serve in a number of civic positions throughout life, and this diplomatic mission is one such. It is a temporary task. There is talk that if there is enough of affairs to handle the mission could be come a permanent post, as other countries are beginning to do at this time (1480's 1490's).

The Foreign Affairs Office is called the Eight of Practice (Otto di pratica), and is a committee of merchants and members of the other major guilds, who serve for a year, usually. We receive our instructions from them. They receive their instructions from Lorenzo de' Medici after he and his able permanent secretaries, among them, have made basic policy and sent it by letter to the Eight of Practice. We are not likely to see a letter directly from Lorenzo.

I think we are offering the usual "do business with the Florentines" information, encouragement, and services. We might arrange banking with the Medici Bank or one of its allied Banks, like the Acciauouli, the Bardi... (more later). Other banks are the Peruzzi (much larger, more conservative, and did not fail when others will in the next several years), the Pitti.

The top level of government of Florence is Lorenzo de' Medici and his several circles of friends and advisors -- this seems to be a leader-in-committees system. It is not public. The next, public, level is a set of committees drawing their members for a year's service from the merchants and members of the other major guilds; service begins at staggered intervals to provide continuity. They include the Eight of Security (municipal watch and police), ... more later. Below them are civic functionaries, often drawn from junior branches of the extended familes of the major guilds, but often from other families. Appointments to quite modest positions were made for a year to assist an unfortunate but capable individual.

The populace is organized into city 'quarters' - 16? of them; each is subdivided into 'gonfalons' which correspond roughly to the parishes. The population of the city of Florence, within the walls, at this time is about 30,000?; but the population of the city and its surrounding countryside, including conquered cities and towns, the 'Commune of Florence', is about 750,000 people. This has grown since the plagues of 1346 and 1366, in which the area lost 60% of its population. There has been immigration from the contryside ('contada') for over a century. A country family will send one person, then another; the city family often maintains land ownership and a house or two in the original land, and may buy others elsewhere.

The family is a patriarchial patrilineal structure. A young woman marrying moves to her husband's house, usually in her father-in-law's house; her mother-in-law runs the household. If her husband should die before she does, she returns to her father's house, and if he is deceased, to her brother's house (which may be the same building that she grew up in). A 'casa' is a group bound by blood and marriage, often more people than live together under one roof. About 10-12 people (not counting servants) share the same roof. Marriages for the middle and lower classes usually are made within the 'gonfalon', then the larger 'quartiere', or less often beyond that. A very wealthy family will select from a wider range. All try to make the most advantageous marriage possible, with an eye toward permanence and compatibility. Wedding contracts frequently specify where the couple will live and how they will be supported, the dowry and its disposition in case of death. Dowry is greater when marrying up, less when marrying down. Dowry to marry in a family of one's peers is about 800 florins; down, 700 (which could be to someone with half the income of a peer); up, 900-1000. Dowry is in relatively clear terms and the amount of money becomes known. Less clear is the brideprice, the groom's family's contribution to the estate of the new couple. This includes money, often on account, a position and workplace and appropriate tools. It may include the use of a house and land, or the income from them.

The family needs people to serve as intermediaries in purchases of real estate, arranging sharing of expenses, and settling quarrels. These should not be family members, who would be seen as biased; they should be persons familiar with the family's affairs, and have good judgement. These 'amici' are drawn from in-laws, then from unrelated friends. An outer circle of neighbors ('vicini') are kept sweet with minor sharing of food and drink, but most are not candidates for marriage nor trust in affairs.

A man and his family were members of several communal organizations besides the family: the parish, the gonfalon, the guild, various special-purpose groups devoted to maintaining shrines, supporting a parade or show or float on various saints' days and civic occasions.

The economy of Florence is, besides subsistence, the luxury wool and silk trade, including wool treatment, dyeing, weaving and finishing. There are nearly 300 shops ('botteghe') caryying one one or more of these steps. The major guilds involved in this trade are the di Lana (of Wool) and the Calimati (cloth finishers) there may be others.

The Medici Bank is a major, though private concern. Recent history:

* Medici Bank London has lent very large amounts to King Edward IV, House of Lancaster, for the War of the Roses. Edward cannot repay. Somehow the Bank absorbs the loss.

* Medici Bank Bruges has lent very large amounts to Charles the Bold of Burgundy, who was trying to build a strong Burgundian State out of Northeastern France to its west and Flanders & Brabant to its east. Somehow the Bank absorbs the loss.

* Medici Bank Paris has lent very large amounts to Louis XI ("The Spider"), who is fighting with Charles the Bold of Burgundy. Somehow the Bank absorbs the loss.

--- More later.

John of Canterbury / Giovanni di Cantebou'ri (?)

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Dear Fellow Florentines,

I regret not making it to Great Council last night. I pulled my back and am laid up for about three days.

Minor bit:

1469: the Pope's collector generalis for France sent church collections to the tune of 19,500 florins to the Banca Pazzi, Rome branch, and 16,500 florins to the Banca Medici et sociorum, Rome branch. At least these were deposits not loans. (Pazzi Conspiracy is 1478?)

Many Florentine families had bank branches in Rome (I'm not certain that all of these were Floreintines, the text is a little obscure): Chigi, Ponzi, *Ricasoli* (rivals of Pitti in 1420), Ridolfi, Della Casa, Tournabuoni (Lorenzo de'Medici's mother was a Tournabuoni, from Florence; his wife on the other hand was an Orsini, from Rome, and "expensive" (Eithne of Canterbury).

more later,
John of Canterbury

Also, the Fugger Bank, of Austria, had a branch in Rome at this time.

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Ward Politics and Names

Buona sera, gentile emisari!

Background on ward organization in our beloved Florence of about 1435- 1485:

There are 4 quartiere, and a total of 16 gonfalone (wards) within them all. The gonfalon assumes responsibility to pay its allotment of city taxes to the Commune; its officers have the power to force tax collection, and to seize property of tax delinquents for sale at auction. It also has police and military responsibilities.

The leading families in each control nominations (not limited to those families) to the top offices in the gonfalon, which are the gonfaloniere di compagna and his 2-3 assistants, called pennonieri ('battle flag and pennons' - old military titles). Most offices are held for a year. Not all leading families are shown. These control about 20-30% of candiacies, except as noted.

So, some names to remember and to drop:

Quartiere Gonfalon Leading Family(ies)
Santo Spirito Scala Canigiani
Forza Ridolfi
Drago Soderini -- 57%
Santa Croce Carro Nardi -- 55%
Ruote Niccolini
Bue Cocchi Donati -- 35%
Lion Nero Morelli
S Maria Novella Unicorno Bartoli
Lion Bianco Ventura
Lion Rosso Rucellai
Vipera Acciaioli -- 44%
San Giovanni Drago Carnesecchi
Chiavi Pandolfini
Lion d' Oro Medici
Della Stufa --partners of Cosimo, ca. 1440
Vaio Pucci

(missing one gonfalon)

Most of the leading families were patrons, padrone, within their gonfalon and in the part of the countryside (contada) where they owned land, in 1437. By 1485 some had become far more influential. The Medici in 1437 had city-wide influence because Cosimo's bank provided so many more contacts, in high places all over Italy and Western Europe, than anyone else had. The patron was not an employer, primarily, nor ere those he helped his exclusively. A head of family might apply to 2-5 people for help, say with his tax assessment. The patron usually did not have the requested resources himself. He was a middleman for favors in exchange for services -- an unequal exchange favoring the middleman.

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Medici Bank Background

Buona sera encore, gentile signori e signore!

The Medici Bank is important to our trade mission. There are about 80 banks in Florence, some such as the Peruzzi are much larger than the Medici. They mostly are organized along similar lines. They have a few members of the family as principals, but many are not part of the bank. This protects the bank from family misfortunes, such as being involved in a failed coup (Pitti, vs, Piero de' Medici, about 1465), and vice versa. Members of other families often are principals; so "Banca Medici et sociorum".

As you know, Cosimo started the Medici bank about 1440 with a little of everything -- money-changing on the street, merchant loans, and credit to people who might rise. He was astute; he backed a local Dominican prior who became Pope. He also conversed often with another who was the Apostolic official on usury. Cosimo convinced him that many uses of money were 'fruitful', creating value. By Lorenzo's time interest on merchant loans were not a problem, but thre was no interest on Chruch deposits, and Church overdrafts were paid for by overcharging the Church on goods sold to the Church through the merchant side of the Bank. Further, the Bank acted as 'tax' collector and was paid a fee for taking the risk, guaranteeing a certain return to the Church. it also handled the tax as deposits and could lend against them.

Cosimo parted from the conservative Bardi family (whose bank had been broken in the previous century, about 1350, by the default of Edward III, along with the Peruzzi and the Acciaiuoli) and allied with the Ricci and Della Stufa families, ambitious, able folk (both have chapels in San Lorenzo, the church of quartiere San Giovanni, gonfalon Lion d' Oro, as do the Medici). The Medici bank spread. By our time 1485 it had about 70 people in Florence, Rome, Venice, Milan, Genoa, Ascona, Lyon, London, Bruges,and a corespondent in Luebeck, Germany, on the Baltic (?) Sea. Cosimo kept tight control; the London agent could purchase up to 500 pounds sterling in wool, could not engage in insurance nor lend to royalty.

In Florence, banks lent money to landowners at harvest time. Apparently some harvest workers were hired, and there might be hired carts and storage. This is different from the feudal pattern of communal work for food.

Lorenzo's bank agents often were experts in fine arts and spotted things for him -- books, paintings, scupture, jewelry, etc. He would make the final choices. This was an extension of the committee system mentioned above.

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Kings and Trade Background

Buona sera encore, cari collegi dell' ambasciata fiorentina!

Our new year begins March 25, with the Feast of the Annunciation, so be sure to wish everyone "Auguri", Happy New Year!

Background on Heads of State and Trade

NEW for Thurs 3/13/03

These notes are rough. I hope they will serve as a background for our embassy. I think it would be interesting to act as an embassy and gather as much information as we can about trade conditions in the rest of the world from other people at the Crossroads Faire.

We are interested broadly in other cultures, their customs, what they value, and the possibilities of trade. Our own experience in Florentine culture and how it differs from the feudal traditions of France, England and Germany, and religious differences with the Ottoman Empire, have made us aware that an appreciation of others' cultures increases our opportunities to understand them as trading partners, and to enrich ourselves temporally and spiritually.

Broadly, we are interested in anything that changes our trading partners. Specifically, news of Italian states, trade and wars; changes within the Hanseatic League that we might improve our terms in the markets now controlled by monopoly of the north; changes in trade along the Silk Road; and further news of an ocean route to India, Cathaya, Java, or Cipangu. I have a purported copy of a map of Toscanelli's, which he made in 1474 and sent a copy of to Columbus in 1478.

International: Kings, Popes

Rome, Papal States: Pope Innocent VIII, just since 1484. Weak, indecisive, controlled by his cardinals, who are mostly not Florentines. A relief from the enemy Sixtus IV.

Milan: Ludovico ("il Moro") Sforza. Lodovico Sforza, 3rd Duke of that name. Duke since his father Giangalleazzo died in 14__. Ludovico is intelligent, treacherous, vicious; he is very fearful and secretive, and at times truly insane. He is constantly involved in Italian intrigues and disorder all over Italy. Milan is in a war with Venice; Florence is on the sidelines, hoping not to be drawn in. A peace with Milan was signed about 3 years ago after a 2-3 year war; we are recovering from the enormous expense. This trade mission is important therefore.

Naples: Ferrante (Ferdinand) II, King of Sicily, King of Aragon, wed to Isabella Queen of Castile and Leon. Currently in armed quarrel with his barons. Florence wishes to remain neutral. Naples (and the South of Italy) is our major supply of grain. Pope Innocent VIII tries to mediate, and seeks our aid.

Venice: Doge (yearly) War with Venice, wich sought our ally Ferrara. concluded 1484; peace terms favorable to Florence but the war cost was enormous. We are very anxious to recover trade.

Genoa: Doge (yearly) Declining fortunes since the fall of Constantinople (1453). They call a Florentine when they need an excellent architect. Genoa is still dangerous; Genoa took Sarsana from us in 1478.

Rome: Pope Innocent VIII, following Sixtus IV (Della Rovere, near Ligorno).

Florence: A rebellion in our city of Volterra was suppressed when Lorenzo de' Medici sent Federigo da Montefeltro to punish it. There was a massacre, and many people were exiled. Volterra is important for its extremely valuable alum mines, essential in dyeing. Possible Venetian mischief: Alum is essential in dyeing, and Venice has a large dyeing establishment, and would be happy to eliminate Florence from the industry. Possible Papal mischief, but we doubt this. There are alum mines at Tolto, near Civitavecchia and Rome, which broke the Venetian monopoly on alum coming from the Byzantine Empire (since lost to us, Constantinople, 1453).

Holy Roman Empire: Frederick III. The Austrians occupy the Netherlands. The Fugger Bank, headquartered in Augsburg, serves the Holy Roman Empire; some agents are in Bruges, Lyon, Rome, and other cities where Italian banks and merchants operate.

Burgundy is now part of France; Charles the Good lost to Louis XI (Spider), 147_.

France: Charles VIII, a callow young man; since 1483, death of Louis XI (Spider).

Holland: occupied by the Austrians; at odds with the Hanseatic League; handle herring, French salt, Baltic grain (an alternative for Florence if Naples is short).

Flanders & Brabant: returned to French after defeat of Charles the Bold in 147(4?); Bruges is the compulsory Staple (port, tax, market, brokerage) of the Hanseatic League; Florence, Venice, Genoa and others trade there as outsiders.

England: Richard III, since 1483 . Lancaster has prevailed in troubled peace for several years; Henry Tudor of York is on the Continent, raising an army. He may cross this Spring. [Bosworth Field, August 1485]. The English war with Bruges ended 1474, relieving pressure on trade. We are hopeful for a return of fortunes. England supplies luxury quality wool, which is very lucrative to us and to the Hanseatic Staple port of Bruges. We watch the English and Bruges closely. Scotland: Alexander III.

Spain: Isabella of Castile & Leon (unified admin) and Ferdinand of Aragon (separate admin) pursue the war against the Moors.

Portugal: King Joa~o. Concerned to remain independent of Spain. Explorations down along the west coast of Africa, trading at Guinea there.

Sweden: Sten Sture (the Elder, as it will turn out) King since 1470 - Visby, on the island of Gotland near Stockholm, is a member of the Hanseatic League

Norway and Denmark: Hans, just Hans, King since 1483. Bergen, member of Hanseatic League: copper, iron, lumber, herring The Peace of Copenhagen, allowed Holland to retain certain trading rights with the Hanseatic League and its port at Bruges.

Poland: Kasimir Jagellon, King since 1447; dynastic family; Poland's nobility elects its Kings.

Bohemia: Ladislas, son of K. Kasimir Jagellon of Poland, since 1471. Religious unrest continues (since the previous century, with John Hus in power for a while, later executed); Hussites resist Catholic power, threw a Catholic mayor (of Prague?) out of a window to his death.

Hungary: Matthias Hunyadi "Corvinus" (crow), King since 1458, a strong enlightened ruler; Budapest is very rich on Eastern trade with Minsk [White Russia], Kiev [Ukraine]

Russia: Ivan III; extending his power by attacking Novgorod, eastern end of the Hanseatic League; reducing its trade this year. The Italian Black Sea trade has been closed by the Turks since the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

May we do our work well, and Florence prosper!

--Giovanni di Cantibori

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Florentine Government and Elections

Buona sera, tutti dell' abaciata Fiorentina!

Florentine government:

In addition to Kale's description of Florentine government in his webpage Florence Carolingia, and my note of earlier this week, I add the following:

The population of the city is 30,000 to 50,000 people. Citizens are members of guilds; about 6000 of them, out of about 14,500 males over 25 years of age. They are eligible for election at 30; election is by lot.

The central government of the Commune di Fiorenza (City and its countryside, about 3/4 of a million people) consists of a Signoria of the eight Priors and the Podesta`. They are advised by two 'Colleges', the 16 Gonfaloniere of the Companies (one from each gonfalon (ward), and the 12 buon' uomini ("good men"). The head of government is the Podesta`, a foreigner skilled in military matters and government, who rules for a year at the pleasure of the Council.

Once the Signoria and the Colleges are in office they elect two legislative assemblies, the Council of the People (300 citizens, including the Signoria, the Councils, and some other officials) and the Council of the Commune (200). They sit for four-month terms. A new Signoria is elected every two months. A proposed law is introduced by the Signoria, and becomes law when it passes both Councils by two-thirds majorities. Beans are used as tokens: A white bean for 'no', a black bean for 'yes'.

Corrections to misgovernment were made by sounding an alarm bell; the gonfalons would assemble and march to the Piazza della Signoria. A commision (balia) would be formed which would made decisions and edicts to correct the situation.

The elections are controlled by the prominent families in each gonfalon; selected names are put into a bag and kept in the church of the gonfalon. The bags are brought to the Signoria, where the Coucil for Elections, the Accoppiati, review the names and reject those who are currently ineligible by reason of being in arrears on taxes, or recent service in government, or close relative to someone currently serving, or, well, not being a Medici adherent. Since party strife in Florence frequently took the forms of riots, assassinations, property seizures an condemnation to exile or death, this last condition is not so absolutely intolerable. No violent party strife under Medici rule, except for the occasional assassination attempt. Typically, out of 250 names in the bags they will approve about 30 for the "election" process. The election is random selection from the bag, not a vote.

Some offices are for two months only. There is overlapping service, which provides some continuity, but government changes too rapidly for long adherence to a policy.

This is simple in comparison to the Venetian constitution.

-- Giovanni di Cantubouri

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Corrections to recent history, and Kings

Buona sera, encore, gentili!

Corrections and additions

Recent history:

Not only was a Visconti (Giovanni Maria) assassinated, in 1447 , but also Giangaleazzo Sforza, father of the current despot, in 1476, two years before the Pazzi Conspiracy, engineered by Pope Sixtus IV, Francesco Della Rovere of Liguria ( an area near Genoa and troubled by Florence) and his nephew Rafaello Riario, with the Pazzi of Florence as their tools. The assassin of Giuliano de' Medici was Bernardo Bertini, who escaped to Istanbul. Lorenzo de' Medici had enough influence with the Sultan to have Bertini returned to Florence, where he was tried and executed. His epitaph, "Here am I a traitor and a murderer in church" written by Lorenzo de' Medici.


Ottoman Empire:

Beyazid II, since 1479; controls Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Bosnia, Herzegovinia, Serbia, Wallachia (defeated Vlad the Impaler), Romania, Bulgaria. He does NOT control Syria, Iraq, Persia, Lebanon, Palestine, or North Africa.

The Ottoman empire has a long border with Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire. He is facing conflicts the Mamluk Empire in Egypt and Syria; he needs peace with the West. Beyazid II has ratified the treaty of 1479 with Venice and a five-year peace with Hungary (both in 1483). He has withdrawn from Otranto on the heel of Italy, but still holds Scutari in the Adriatic, formerly Venetian.

30 years of war and expansion by his father Mehmet II has strained the finances (heavy taxes, debased currency), the polity (seized private property) and the army (it refused to fight on his next to last campaign).

1451 -- 1479: Mehmet II, conqueror of Constantinople (now Istanbul). The Ottoman Empire expanded from Turkey to its present borders.

-- Giovanni di Cantibuori

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Letter from Lorenzo to Florentine Embassy

Flor Embassy Letters

A brief version of this will arrive at the Embassy; this is the background version.

Al' ambasciata di Fiorenze, Crossroads Faire, nella Ciampagnia, Francia

In addition to your excellent attention to all matters concerning the Commune di Firenze, please attend to news about these matters.

Recently The King of Hungary Matthias Hunyadi "Corvinus" attacked the Austrians. This affects trade, since Austria occupies Holland (which is outside the Hanseatic League but strong enough to gain concessions from the League). Any information how these developments affect trade and banking would be appreciated. HRE Frederich III will certainly draw on the Fugger Bank for this war. Ascertain the willingness of the Fugger Bank to invest in trade generally, but not our wool nor silk, in order to ascertain its strength.

Last year, the King of Portugal Joa~o II declined to fund Cristoforo Columbo on his project of ships provisioned for a year to sail West in search of the Indies. He continues to seek funding. The settling of various wars, such as England and Bruges, England and France, may free investment for such a project. With the expansion of Milan, Florence's opportunities for trade in spices, silks, and gems from the East are threatened. The possibility of joint investment in such a venture should be explored cautiously (after the recent war we are not in a position ot fully outfit such a venture, nor to keep the advantage it would confer from the power of Portugal, Spain, or Naples, or perhaps the Ottoman. But other involvements with European trade might keep certain potential partners. Information about Westward navigation and geography is wanted. Also, advance knowledge of sea routes beyond Africa are important; the Portuguese are leading in this. Arab powers have traveled the *East* coast of Africa for generations, and possibly to India. What news?

The consolidation of France and Burgundy may occupy Charles VIII's ministers, and the English war his nobles and bankers (-- pray we are not among them!). Yet he may begin to tax merchants, especially foreigners. This Faire and the cycle of Faires, the ports of the south, Strasbourg, Marseilles are of interest. What changes?

North Africa and the Ottoman concern us. Although the new Sultan, Beyazid II has not followed the policy of his father Mehmet II (thirty years of war and expansion, which weakened the Empire's finances and political structure), and although he has made a treaty of five years' peace with Hungary, and ratified the treaty of peace with Venice, a likely clash with the Mamluks of Egypt and Syria coupled with growing Ottoman sea power increases our risk and limits our trade. What changes, perhaps due to the plans of Beyazid II for defense or opportunity, do we hear of?

Will Spain consolidate into one government under Ferdinand and Isabella? After the war with the Moors, will they project power into middle and Northern Italy from Ferdinand's Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, as HRE Frederick II tried, 200 years ago?

With the very best wishes for your health and safety,

and with the greatest of hopes for a successful and profitable Ambasciata,

I remain,


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Major holidays in Florence

Buona sera, tutti!

New Years' Day is March 25, Feast of the Annunciation

Easter, a movable feast, March-April

St John Baptist (San Giovanni Battista), Feast of: June 24 huge processions, floats and shos by guilds

Feast of San Lorenzo, August 10 -- well, you know, Lorenzo di' Medici, what a guy! City-wide celebration.

Christmas, Dec. 25
Feast of St. Stephen, Dec 26 (give to the poor)

Saints' days, weekly; your saint's name day (instead of your birthday)

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