CHAPTER IV

The Golden Age

1464–92

I. PIERO “IL GOTTOSO”

COSIMO’S son Piero, aged fifty, succeeded to his wealth, his authority, and his gout. Even from boyhood this disease of the prosperous had afflicted Piero, so that his contemporaries, to distinguish him from other Peters, called him Il Gottoso. He was a man of fair ability and good morals; he had performed reasonably well some diplomatic missions entrusted to him by his father; he was generous to his friends, to literature, religion, and art; but he lacked Cosimo’s intelligence, geniality, and tact. To cement political support Cosimo had lent large sums to influential citizens; Piero now suddenly called in these loans. Several debtors, fearing bankruptcy, proclaimed a revolution under “the name of liberty, which,” says Machiavelli, “they adopted as their ensign to give their purpose a graceful covering.”1 For a brief interval they controlled the government; but the Medicean party soon recaptured it; and Piero continued a troubled reign until his death (1469).

He left two sons, Lorenzo aged twenty, Giuliano sixteen. Florence could not believe that such youths could successfully direct the business of their family, much less the affairs of the state. Some citizens demanded the restoration of the Republic in fact as well as form; and many feared a generation of chaos and civil war. Lorenzo surprised them.

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