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.
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.