THE MEDICEAN RESTORATION
A) Guicciardini and the Lesser Ottimati, 1512–1516
IT HAS BEEN THE ARGUMENT of this study so far that late medieval thought was limited by an epistemology of the particular event, decision, institution, or tradition, which defined the means which men at that time believed themselves to possess of rendering intelligible secular phenomena as they existed in time. So sharply limited were these means that it was possible to feel that the temporal flux evaded men's conceptual control: that it was under the dominion of an inscrutable power, which manifested itself as providence to men of faith and as fortune to men of none. After the advent of civic humanism, it was possible in addition for the individual to feel that only as citizen, as political animal involved in a vivere civile with his fellows, could he fulfill his nature, achieve virtue, and find his world rational; while at the same time it might be that his conceptual means of understanding the particular and controlling the temporal, on which his ability to function as a citizen depended, had not increased to a degree commensurate with the new demands made upon them. The secret of Savonarola—scholastic, prophet, and citizen in that order—seems to be that he felt that the civic life involved a degree of virtue which could only be given by grace, and consequently that it could be achieved only in an eschatological context of prophecies fulfilled and the world renewed. His failure therefore administered a traumatic shock to the ideological structure of Florentine life, one felt by both the simple and the sophisticated.
I was present when this protocol was read [wrote the diarist Landucci of the confession to false prophecy extorted from Savonarola in 1498] and I marvelled, feeling utterly dumbfounded with surprise. My heart was grieved to see such an edifice fall to the ground on account of having been founded on a lie. Florence had been expecting a new Jerusalem, from which would issue just laws and splendour and an example of righteous life, and to see the renovation of the church, the conversion of unbelievers and the consola