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The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  2,969 ratings  ·  329 reviews
A dazzling history of the modest family which rose to become one of the most powerful in Europe, The Medici is a remarkably modern story of power, money and ambition. Against the background of an age which saw the rebirth of ancient and classical learning - of humanism which penetrated and explored the arts and sciences and the 'dark' knowledge of alchemy, astrology, and n ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published December 2nd 2004 by Pimlico (first published October 23rd 2003)
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 ·  2,969 ratings  ·  329 reviews

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Sean Gibson
I have this (probably wholly inaccurate) vision of what it would be like to kick it in Renaissance Florence—hyper-intelligent (albeit probably socially dysfunctional) dudes in brightly colored robes gallivanting and prancing about hither and thither, splashing paint on canvases, carving smoking hot (if occasionally armless) statues, throwing down mad poetry slams, sciencing like scienticians should (I’m not sure they were sciency enough to be called “scientists”), and just generally engaging in ...more
Aug 05, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book: compelling, but weirdly homophobic.

I never thought I'd have to write this in a review about a book on the Medici's, but every time I got into the flow of this book I'd be startled by the author's 2 cents on homosexuality. So many of the characters' negative personality traits were explained "likely because he was a homosexual". How do you cite that?! I listened to it as an audiobook, and I'm hoping there were explanatory footnotes left out or something, but never have I encountered a
Justin Evans
Nov 12, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-etc
This is a reasonable airplane history, but the book's virtues come mostly from its subject matter: it's hard to lack narrative oomph when your subjects are the rise and fall of the Medici and the rise and fall of Savonarola. If the little friar wasn't so vilified in the English speaking world, I imagine there'd be two or three Hollywood extravaganzas about him already.

That said, there are some things an author can control, and Strathern does not control them. The prose is reasonably easy to rea
Jun 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, biography

I’m grateful to author, Paul Strathern, for writing this book. The stripped down genealogical chart at the start is an example of how the book will cover centuries when each decade had outstanding people and events and social, artistic and political developments. For me, this is the perfect mix of research, interpretation (background, significance and what to leave in/take out) and character development for putting together the story of this family and its influence on western civilization.

Colin Hoad
Sep 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
I bought this book following a lovely trip to Florence. I devoured it very quickly, eager to learn more about the history of the city I had enjoyed visiting, and I have to say it is one of the most enjoyable "popular history" books I have read. Paul Strathern does a commendable job of making the history very accessible, not only charting the rise and fall of this powerful clan, but also incorporating plenty of related intellectual, artistic and literary history along the way. The result is an im ...more
Jennifer Sarha
Mar 02, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book provides some basic information about the history of the Medicis. However, the narrative seems to be formed around the author's personal views on various figures, rather than any historical data or approach, which makes for a distracting as well as an aggravating read. Leo X is described primarily through his chubbiness - every reference to this person contains a mention of his size. There are also several problematic statements about same-sex relations; Strathern tries to explain, or ...more
David Eppenstein
May 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
In reading books of European history one the most maddening difficulties is trying to make sense of the convoluted family trees of those aristocrats that are always the key players in those histories. Of course history buffs all know that European history is all about family, who inherits and who doesn't; who has to be kept from inheriting; and who has to be killed to advance one's agenda. Well this book has for the first time in my experience laid out a family lineage that was clear, definitive ...more
This is well researched and extremely readable. My only complaint is that the author is unable to keep his personal bias out of this research based body of work. The language used is jarring and disrespectful.
That said the history gives a really good overview of the politics, political characters/families and so many politics with so many varying European powers. Shew. You add in the 2 Popes and 2 Queens of France complex and yet smoothly handled.
Still the homophobia and sexism prevent a truly h
Oct 01, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, nonfiction
An enjoyable read focusing mostly on Savonarola and his rise to power in the 1490s in Florence. There's also quite a bit about Lorenzo the Magnificent and his children as they dealt with Savonarola (and the Medici family as a whole was subsequently thrown out during his reign). So if you've read Paul Strathern's Medici book (or any other book focusing on the Medici), this likely won't offer much of anything new. I've always listened to Strathern's books on audio and I think they work extremely w ...more
Nov 16, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am conflicted. I love the Medici, history of the renaissance, and schemes involving the Catholic Church, and this book serves all those. Strathern writes well, in an interesting fashion, presenting the family’s rise to glory and the following fall from it in a highly entertaining way, and I did enjoy learning so much.

But. There’s no avoiding the homophobia so evident throughout the book. It’s somewhat interesting how Strathern manages to do what more historians should, aka recognise that gay
May 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, europe
There have been a number of books on the Medici, unsurprising considering their lasting effect on the modern day worlds of finance and culture, but this is definitely one of the more accessible reads.

This is a particularly difficult story to tell as it spans several centuries, a huge range of characters from the Medici themselves to foreign royalty as well as all the great artists of the era and a fundamentalist preacher in Savonarola who would nearly bring them down.

What we have in this book i
Good overview of the powerful family that created / ruled Florence, then Rome, etc. It's somewhere between "scholarly" and "popular". There are some weird (or perhaps old) tangents about homosexuality, and some wonderful tangents about food and art.
Clarification: The author says things like "Because he had a homosexual relationship, he was ...", as shorthand for "he bucked convention" or "he went against normal practices" or whatever. What it means to have a homosexual relationship at various po
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Italian Renaissance and the influence the Medici family had on it . It not only dwells into the inner workings of the family , it also paints a broad open view into an era in which knowledge was being regained and the changes that still affect us till now came up. It deals with greats such as Da Vinci, Donattelo , Raphael and Michelangelo .
Jim Swike
Apr 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having recently visited Italy, this was a very good read. The Medicis and how they influenced the masters of the Renaissance made it interesting throughout and would be a good reference book, enjoy!
Carole P. Roman
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In depth book about the Medici's and their impact on the world. Author Paul Strathern demystifies each one of them, writing of each member of the illustrious family. Of Lorenzo her writes, "HIs sallow features were undeniably ugly, framed by lank centre-parted hair that fell to his shoulders; below his beetled brow his eyes were heavy-lidded, like his father's. He had an over-emphatic chin with a protruding lower lip, while his nose was broad and squashed, so much so that he literary had nor sen ...more
Aug 24, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The most interesting aspect of this book for me was the connections it described between the Medici and Savonarola.
Al Bità
In hindsight, the second half of the 15th-c in Florence was pivotal for the political, social and intellectual movement we in the West have come to know as the Renaissance. In attempting to deal with the significance of the many events of the period, historians have a wealth of information to cope with. From Strathern’s point of view, two figures stand out: Lorenzo de’ Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent) from the ruling Medici family, and the diminutive, ascetic Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola. ...more
Jeff Wiebe
Strathern does an excellent job of writing a popular history in a way that is simultaneously engaging and informative. I feel like I have a much better understand of the Medici than I did previously. It is an excellent popular history to introduce centuries of a fascinating family.

That being said there are a few aspects to his writing that take it down a few stars from where it could have been.

First, the time spent on the significant Medici women was next to nothing. I feel like I barely know an
Tobias  den Haan
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Paul Strathern does a wonderful job of telling the story of this fascinating Italian family. From the first to the very last person in the Medici bloodline, Strathern describes their lives, dealings and characters, always placing them within a historical and cultural context. In reading this book, one does not only learn of this unique family. The history of Florence, and Italy more broadly, Renaissance art, architecture, philosophy, science, war and the geopolitical struggles of the time are al ...more
Jun 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, this is a fantastic retelling of the Medici dynasty and legacy. Local events and a thorough retelling of all the activities of the renaissance. We start with the growth of the family from Lorenzo the magnificent and how he started the family as a dynasty through banking and politics. We see his growth and interaction with the Papacy and European governments. The interactions with the HRE and Italy (Florence) are extensive. We meet Leonardo and explore his relationship with Michaelangelo ...more
Alan Zimmerman
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Basic, excellent history of this very influential family. They may have invented accounting and they produced popes and queens. This is really the definitive history of the Medici.
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, nonfiction
The Medici are one of the most fascinating families in history. Their name is synonymous with art, patronage, murder, and money. So any book about them will, by default, be pretty good. This one would have received five stars for the prologue that described the Pazzi conspiracy in exquisite detail alone. There were no blinders on, making sure that everything about Cosimo or Lorenzo the Magnificent was said in a good light. In truth, it was a well-balanced look at a group of people that were not ...more
Cian Morey
Jan 17, 2017 rated it liked it
"Ouch" - Giuliano de Medici, 26th April 1478

The Medici, surprise surprise, is the story of the Medici, the exceptionally cunning Florentine banking family who used all manner of intriguing methods to rise to fame and fortune on the world's stage, over a period of centuries, at the very height of the Renaissance. From rags to riches, from talent to treachery, from making friends to making enemies, this book charts a fascinatingly enigmatic family in all their enthralling dealings, and can make on
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I began reading this book before a planned trip to Florence. It had been recommended by one of my travel mates and I thank him for that. Having now been in many of the places cited in the book and learned more about the history of Florence, I enjoyed finishing it even more. In previous fiction I'd read concerning this period, Savonarola had not come off well, so it was pleasant getting a more balanced picture of him. There truly was a battle for Florence's soul which began between the Medici fam ...more
Completely changed my perception on the Medici family and their relation to Florence and artists such as Ghiberti, Fra Lippo Lippi, Brunneleschi, Botticelli, Poliziano, Pico, Da Vinci & Michelangelo.

Lorenzo Il Magnifico is arguably the greatest patron of art that has ever lived. This truly must have been an amazing personality on so many different levels with a circle of friends that even put Frederick The Great to shame. Never knew that many of these artists actually lived in the Palazzo de Me
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are times when the text plods along, but altogether this is a fascinating book.
Jul 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are interested in the history of Italy or just the history of Florence, this book will interest you. It appears to be scholarly, yet the text has a minimum of references, which appear in detailed sections at the back, so it is readable.

I found the prose crisp and enjoyable.

The book tells a gripping story.

I read this because we are going to Florence soon and it was one of the few things on Italian history (WW2 apart) that I could find.

And I think that when looking at Florence and at Botti
Sep 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The subject matter of this book could have been really tedious - with an enormous cast of characters, names, dates, battles and historical events. However, the author is one of those skilled historians who can create a highly entertaining read out of history. Not once did I lose track of who was who, as each important character was painted so well in terms of looks, personality and actions. The fascinating story of the rise of the Medici to power and then their slow, ignominious decline was so w ...more
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned a lot from this story of the rise and fall of the Medici--from petit bourgoise from the Tuscan countryside to leading international bankers to patrons of the Renaissance to haughty aristocrats and French royalty to dissipated and decrepit minor nobility, all in less than 400 years. Fascinating.
Daryl Thompson
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The was a great book in understanding Italian history. It enjoyed learning about the impact the Medici had on history and the renaissance. Before reading Paul Strathern's Medici book I knew very little about this time of history. Really enjoyed it. ...more
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Paul Strathern (born 1940) is a British writer and academic. He was born in London, and studied at Trinity College, Dublin, after which he served in the Merchant Navy over a period of two years. He then lived on a Greek island. In 1966 he travelled overland to India and the Himalayas. His novel A Season in Abyssinia won a Somerset Maugham Award in 1972.

Besides five novels, he has also written nume

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