Florence is often named as the birthplace of the Renaissance. The early writers and artists of the period sprung from this city in the northern hills of Italy. As a center for the European wool trade, the political power of the city rested primarily in the hands of the wealthy merchants who dominated the industry. These merchants built enormous gilded mansions in the city, villas in the country, and contributed to the construction of grand cathedrals, spawning the physical rebirth of the city. A spirit of competition developed between the rich merchants, who often competed with each other to see who could commission the grandest buildings and the finest works of art. Competition augmented the fervor with which the city entered into the Renaissance. The Medici family, which controlled Florence throughout much of the Renaissance, played a large part in the patronage of the arts and the political development of the city.
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Cosimo, Cosimo de Medici, democratic government. Cosimo