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COSIMO DE' MEDICI:  PATER PATRIAE OR PADRINO? 65 3 Cosimo de' Medici: Pater Patriae or Padrino? Anthony Molho Cosimo de' Medici's political biography, at least in its basic outlines, has been well known for centuries.' The son of Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, himself the founder of his family's famous bank, Cosimo was born in 1389 and was first drawn into politics during the 1410s. In the following decade he became the leader of a political faction, which, during the years of the war against Lucca (1429-33), clashed with older factions, led by Rinaldo degli Albizzi, NiccolO da Uzzano, and other patricians whose families had become politically entrenched after 1382. Cosimo's increasing power, based as it was on his great financial resources, his as- tuteness, and the successful organization of his relatives, friends, and clients (parenti ed amid) into an effective political force, led to his banishment from the city in 1433, shortly after the ignominious conclusion of the first Florentine war against Lucca. But, as most historians know, not quite one year later his opponents were themselves forced into exile and Cosimo was recalled from Venice. Thus was initiated the long era of Medicean domination which, except for two relatively short intervals totalling twenty-one years, lasted nearly three centuries. Cosimo, the founder of his family's extraordinary fortunes, savoured his success for thirty years until his death in 1464. During that period not only 1 Angelo Fabroni, Magni Cosmi Medicei Vita, 2 Vols. (Pisa, 1789); Curt Gutkind, Cosimo de' Medici it Vecchio (Florence, 1940); E. F. Gombrich, The Early Medici as Patrons of Art," in E. F. Jacob, ed., Italian Renaissance Studies — A tribute to Cecilia M. Ady (London, 1960), pp. 279-311; Alison M. Brown, The Humanist Portrait of Cosimo de' Medici, Pater Patriae," Journal of the Warburg and Cour- tauld Institutes, 24, Nos. 3-4 (1961), 186-221; Raymond de Roover, The Rise and Decline of the Medici Bank (Cambridge, Mass., 1963); Nicolai Rubinstein, The Government of Florence under the Medici (1434-1494) (Oxford, 1966); Dale Kent, The Rise of the Medici-Faction in Florence 1426-1434 (Oxford—New York, 1978). did he consolidate his family's primacy in Florence and administer his bank's affairs, but he also dis- tinguished himself as the prime Florentine patron of the arts. In the interval, he brought about a volte-face in the conduct of Florentine diplomacy by abandoning the Florentine—Venetian alliance, tra- ditionally directed against the proverbial Florentine enemy, Milan, and helping to install at the helm of the Milanese state an old and trusted friend of his, the mercenary Francesco Sforza. Architect of the Lega Italica of 1454, friend and associate of popes, princes, and signori, so universal was the esteem in which he was held, so great his success that, shortly after his death, the Florentine government be- stowed upon him the title pater patriae, father of the fatherland. If, indeed, enough facts are known about Cosimo with which to write a reasonably detailed chronicle of
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