Florence in Transition - Vol. 1

Florence in Transition - Vol. 1

Florence in Transition - Vol. 1

Florence in Transition - Vol. 1

Excerpt

This inquiry begins with a discussion of Florentine paideia in the late Middle Ages. The use of the term "paideia" owes much to the writings of Werner Jaeger, especially his first volume, Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture (New York, 1945). Although the term cannot be translated literally or even very meaningfully by a single English equivalent, I have used it to mean a consciously pursued ideal, not an anthropological concept. Thus paideia encompasses the personal and collective goals of education, including therefore the ideals of the society. It is also employed to suggest the relationship between these aspirations and ideals on the one hand and political styles of ruling and being ruled on the other.

In the text I have used such expressions as "casual paideia" and "gentle paideia" to indicate the easy-going laissez-faire rule of a secure urban patriciate, as well as to describe the hortatory, admonitory quality pervading much of the literature and art of the communal polis until the early 1340's. The era was characterized by the confidence or at least the hope that men could be persuaded by example and rhetoric to follow the dictates of reason in their quest for the highest good. It was through appeals to the better nature of the patrician citizen and not by coercion of law that justice was to prevail. Only in time of crisis would the consistent implementation of legal norms be championed. The most frequent problem for the political man of the early trecento was how to minimize citizen sacrifice and leave personal, ecclesiastical, and corporate immunities and liberties intact.

By contrast, "stern paideia" saw the polis exercising tight controls over the countryside during the late trecento so that additional revenues might be extracted. In the early 1380's "extraordinary" imposts were levied on rural property which very soon became a regular feature of the Florentine tributary system. Tax rates that in the early trecento averaged . . .

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