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Petty Tyrants and Princes: The Fabled Families of Italy

In the context of the current rise of authoritarianism and the assault on democratic government in several Western countries, it is instructive to study why the more inclusive governments of early Renaissance Italian communes gave way to one-man rule. We will uncover the politics, influence, imagination, and intrigues of such families as Florence’s Medici, who were bankers and patrons extraordinaire; the unscrupulous Borgias, who tried to enlarge the Papal States to make them hereditary fiefs; the Montefeltro of Urbino; the Sforza of Milan; and the Gonzaga of Mantua. These powerful signori—some aristocratic, others bourgeois—shaped Italy’s outstanding culture. Learn how their families solidified control, extended their importance abroad through alliances and arranged marriages, and ruled in their sumptuous courts. We will read Machiavelli’s The Prince and The Discourses, Castiglione’s Courtier, and Vasari’s Lives of the Artists.

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You'll Walk Away with

  • Knowledge of Italian culture and history, including important early Renaissance ruling families
  • Increased familiarity with Italy

Ideal for

  • History buffs
  • All members of the community—working, retired, and in between
NO open sections available for this course at the moment. Please check back next semester.