A combined economic and social system that defined the Middle Ages. Under
feudalism, societal classes were hierarchically divided based on their position
in the prevailing agrarian economy. The system produced a large number of
scattered, self-sufficient feudal units throughout Europe, made up of a lord and
his subservient vassals. These feudal lords constantly battled during the early
middle ages, their armies of peasants facing off to win land for their lords.
Humanism was the philosophical backbone of the Renaissance, emphasizing the
potential for individual achievement and stipulating that humans were rational
beings capable of truth and goodness. In keeping with the principles of
humanism, Renaissance scholars celebrated the works of the ancient Greeks and
Romans for their own sake, rather than for their relevance to Church doctrine.
Neoplatonism sought to reconcile humanism with Christianity, to blend the
teachings of Plato
and other ancient philosophers with
the teachings of the Church. Neoplatonism flourished throughout Italy as the
primary philosophy by which artists rationalized their more secular works.
The term 'nephew' (nipote, in Italian) was applied to the children, which though
claimed as those of the pope's siblings, were understood to be the pope's own
illegitimate children. The fathering of illegitimate children was common
practice throughout the history of the Papacy, but during the Renaissance,
especially under corrupt popes such as Pope Sixtus IV, the position of the
papal nephew rose to new heights, as nephews were given influential positions
and high salaries. This practice of nepotism was one way in which the Church
became morally discredited during the Renaissance.
Written by Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
was a guidebook for the
ruler Machiavelli hoped would eventually unite Italy to drive out foreign
threats. The Prince
argues that it is better for a ruler to be feared
than loved, and has served as a handbook by European leaders for centuries since
its publishing in 1513. SparkNote on the Prince
The Golden Age refers to the period from 1503, when Pope Julius II ascended to
the papal throne, to the sack of Rome in 1527, during which both the Papacy and
the city of Rome prospered greatly. Pope Julius II and his successor, Pope Leo
X, renewed faith in the morality of the Papacy and oversaw the most successful
period of the rebuilding of Rome, during which artists flocked to the city in
hope of a papal commission.
Sack of Rome
Because of Pope Clement VII's inept negotiating, the angry imperial army
surrounded Rome on May 5, 1527 demanding that the Pope pay a ransom. When he
refused, and called the citizens of Rome to arms, the army besieged the city. By
one o'clock p.m. on May 6, the mercenary soldiers had taken the city. The sack
of Rome led to the subjugation of all of Italy to Imperial-Spanish control, and
the end of the Renaissance.