The Languishing Legacy of the Medici

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I am trying to write a post everyday in August. Rather than report step counts, I decided to fill in an outline of political history. My goal is to show that the left/right originated from the same place. This is a work about the history of ideas so I will place it in The section on Galileo talks about the politicization of science; so I will add the #STEM tag.

My last post introduced the writings of Machiavelli. I chose this as a starting point because I think this is a good way to introduce the conflicts that ravaged Europe during the Middle Ages.

Florence established a Republic in the 1100s. The Republic flourished until the mid 1400s when a banking family called the Medici established a dynasty.

Machiavelli witnessed the collapse of Florentine Republic and the rise of the Medici Dynasty.

In this post I will look at pivotal events of the Medici's rule.

Florence had grown wealthy during the Renaissance. The town hosted the Council of Florence from 1431 to 1449. This was a premiere ecumenical council held by by the Catholic Church. The council formalized the doctrine of purgatory. Purgatory is considered to be an intermediate stage between death and the after life.

The Medici family had grown extremely powerful. The family bought its way into the papacy and Giovanni de' Medici became Pope Leo X in 1475.

Pope Leo X loved money and dreamed of adding new monuments to Rome; So, the first Medici Pope sent agents abroad to sell indulgences with the claim that indulgences could buy a sinner's soul out of purgatory.

In 1517 an Augustinian Monk named Monk named Martin Luther became so outraged by the selling of indulgences that he composed a disputation called "The Ninety-five Theses." Legend tells that he nailed the theses on the door of All Saints' Church and other churches in Wittenberg.

Pope Leo X responded to Martin Luther's theses with the Papal bull of 1520 which officially condemned Martin Luther and strengthened the cause of the Protestant Reformation.

In addition to buying ecclesiastic authority. The Medici bought their way into the aristocracy of France with the marriage of Catherine de' Medici to King Henry II of France.

Catherine de Medici became the leading figure in French politics when King Henry II died in 1559 after receiving wounds in a jousting match. Catherine's sons Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III were subsequently crowned as King.

Religious conflicts became violent and took an even darker turn in 1572 when supporters of the Medici marched through Paris killing Huguenots on St. Bartholomew's Day. Estimates of this massacre range from 5,000 to 30,000.

Wikipedia claims that the French Religious Wars of this period took the lives of three million people.

The Galileo Conflict

The Medici's had a knack or turning all disputes into major conflicts.

Before opening this discussion, I want to point out the large number of good scientists who were censored during the pandemic for simply mentioning possible connections between COVID19 and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The papacy passed through the hands of the Medici four times as powerful clans on the Italian peninsula vied for supremacy. There were numerous reformations and counter reformations during this period.

I used to believe the narrative that the life story of Galileo de Galilei was an open and shut case of small minded religious leaders suppressing broadminded scientists.

On my second reading of "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems" I noticed the work was dedicated to Galileo's patron: Ferdinando II de' Medici -- Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Galileo was funded by the Medici.

Sure enough, as I delved into a deeper study of the conflict, I realized that the conflict was not a simple case of science v. religion.

Galileo experienced the same political garbage that scholars of all generations experienced.

Galileo's work "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems" published in 1632 is presented as a Socratic dialog between a sage name Salviati and a half witted buffoon named Simplicio,

During the publication, people hinted that the half-witted buffoon was modeled on Pope Urban.

The Copernican model at this point stipulated that the planets revolved around the sun in circular orbits. The Ptolemaic system was based on centuries of astronomical observation. The Ptolemaic system described the position of the planets with a complex combinations of cycles and epicycles.

The Copernican model was more elegant. However, the Ptolemaic model still produced better results.

The way that science works is that people explore different models. One needs to give credence to the model that produces the best results.

The inquisition into Galileo's work charged Galileo with heresy.

This inquisition touches on an important question of who should determine the models that we use in our every day lives.

There was an important public good at stake during this debate ... the calendar.

Using a common calendar allows people to communicate.

The rotation of the earth is independent of its revolution around the sun. This means that the the year does not divide into an even number of days.

Because the ratio of days to years is an irrational figure, people need to periodically adjust the calendar. The adjustment can be made by observation through the years as was done with the Ptolemaic model.

It was not until Kepler worked out the elliptical orbits of the planets that the heliocentric model of the solar system began producing better results than the Ptolemaic model.

After the affair with Galileo, some parts of the Protestant world began to reject the calendar presented by the Catholic Church. This resulted in a weird state in which different countries had competing calendars.


The Medici clan created a banking monopoly during the Florentine Renaissance. They used their clout to establish themselves as feudal lords. This action led to the end of the Florentine Republic.

The Medici gained ecclesiastic power by installing four family members as pope. They gained political power by marrying into a French Royal dynasty. Millions of people died in the conflicts that occurred in the reign of Catherine de Medici.

The Medici was notably Machiavellian in its actions. Their method of engaging in public action seemed to create conflict and ruin.

The Medici had inherited the fantastic scientific discoveries of the Renaissance. Even the great scientific works of the age were turned into fodder for politics.

I contend that there is something clearly wrong with the Machiavellian Mindset. This mindset drives people to seek political power over the truth.

Unfortunately, it appears that the Machiavellian mindset is entrenched in our modern political system.

For the picture, I will simply show the cover of Galileo's "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems." as it provides an example of science that has been politicized.


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Thanks, very good article. I will read more of your posts.
The reign of Catherine de Medici had lots of military conflicts. How causal was her reign to these wars? How big a role do changes in technology or demographics play?