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Byzantines in the Florentine polis: Ideology, Statecraft and Ritual during the Council of Florence

Byzantines in the Florentine polis: Ideology, Statecraft and Ritual during the
Council of Florence

McManus, Stuart M. (University of Manchester)

Journal of the Oxford University History Society

Abstract

In 1439 Leonardo Bruni, the Chancellor of the Florentine Republic, wrote a treatise about the political system of his adopted homeland which has perplexed scholars. In it, he seems to deny the assumption upon which the majority of his previous political works is based: that Florence’s government had a popular basis. However, a few months before the presumed date of composition of the treatise, the elected rulers of the city went on foot to the gates of the city to meet an Emperor, a ritualistic act designed to underline their humble origins as representatives of a popular republic.

This seems to represent a discrepancy. Why would representatives of the same mercantile Republic present their polity at one point as ‘popular’ and anti-aristocratic, and soon after claim that this was not in fact the case? The beginnings of an answer may be found in the fact that both these events took place during the Council of Florence, an ecumenical council, which had been transferred from Basle to Ferrara, before finally arriving in Florence in 1439.

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