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Summary Article: Medici, Cosimo de'
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(kô'zēmō dā mĕ'dĭchē, Ital. mā'dēchē), 1389–1464, Italian merchant prince, first of the Medici family to rule Florence. He is often called Cosimo the Elder. After the death of his father, Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, Cosimo and his family were banished (1433) from Florence by a faction headed by the powerful Albizzi family. He returned a year later and, supported by the people, soon became the acknowledged leading citizen of the republic. An able financier, he vastly expanded the family's banking business. In spite of his lavish expenses for the state, for charities, and for the arts and learning, he doubled his fortune. He respected the republican institutions of the city, always sought popular support, and made his power as little felt as possible. Guiding Florentine foreign policy, he sought a balance of power among the Italian states. From the traditional alliance with Venice against Milan, he shifted to an alliance with the Sforza family, helping the Sforzas to gain control over Milan. Cosimo's claim to greatness, however, rests chiefly on his generosity toward artists and scholars. He founded the famous Medici Library and an academy for Greek studies (headed by Marsilio Ficino), built extensively in Florence, and protected such artists as Brunnelleschi, Donatello, Ghiberti, and Luca della Robbia. After his death Florence voted him the official title Pater Patriae. His son, Piero de' Medici, known as Il Gottoso [the gouty], succeeded as head of the family.

  • See biographies by K. D. Vernon (1899, repr. 1970) and K. S. Gutkind (1939).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

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