The Italian Republics are overrated

Jun 2017
2,552
Connecticut
#11
Yeah, it's true that Athens is strong competition, though not in the case of Sparta. Sparta is actually kind of demonised. It gets praised militarily but is thought of as culturally backwards and morally repugnant. It only really gets praised for the Battle of Thermopylae, and Athens has equivalents to that like the Battle of Marathon and Battle of Salamis that are equally overpraised and overglorified.
Sparta is overrrated as well, in large due to their perception as stereotypical elite warriors in pop culture. Athens I feel is more overrated due to cultural achievements and being the creators of "democracy" than it's victories in war. Thermopylae IMO is more famous than Salamis because of the movie 300 and Marathon should be more famous, shocked we haven't seem a movie yet about that messenger who died from exhaustion yet(it will probably happen at some point).

But yeah think the Italian city's being overrated is because of the Renaissance which I find to not only be overrated but to be almost a semi imaginary historical construct and a very ill defined one at that. When does the Renaissance start, when does it end, what does it mean, how is it different and distinct from the "early modern period"? I have never received satisfying answers to these questions and the whole concept of the Renaissance seems tied to the faulty premise that after the Classical age everything went dark and then the Renaissance put the lights on again, despite the Renaissance taking place in city states, a trapping of the political decentralization of the dark ages not the centralization of the classical ages that were supposed to be revived.
 
Nov 2017
789
Commune
#12
Who over rates the Italian republics ? What do "they" say that you find is incorrect ? What scholars or authors take the same or close to the same view as you do ?

I would posit that Burckhardt (The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy) was among the first to write about the multi-dimensional aspects of the republics and he gives us the impression that the ideas of our modern world were started in the Renaissance.

To me, it is clear that the Italian Republics, especially Florence, jumpstarted the modern age and the concept of "civic humanism". I think we can say this without disregarding the tremendous contributions from other European areas. To be honest, I find at some level a false dichotomy in your presentation. IOW, the characterization you give us seems anachronistic and not at all how the Italian Renaissance (IR) is portrayed.

Do I need to list the major IR players who gave us major innovations in engineering, art, literature, architecture, politics and etc. ?
See for instance Will Durant, Stephen Greenblatt, and basically every standard educational textbook that portrays the Renaissance as if it was the Second Coming of Christ. And no, the contribution of Italian humanism is negligible. Our current political systems of presidentialism and parliamentarism for instance owe mostly to Northern European developments and very little to Italian republics.

In engineering, the Portuguese and Spaniards performed far superior feats of engineering that actually left lasting legacies (especially in shipmaking), whereas the same can't be said of the Italian republics. In literature, we get told Italian literature is good, but just like Shakespeare, there is nothing really unique about it and a lot of it is just imitation of Virgil and Ovid. Of course the same can be said of so much medieval literature, but the point is that I don't think Italian literature is uniquely great and has been overpraised undeservedly.



We have had, and have "superpower" states that have been nothing but tyrannical military dictatorships. I don't remember studying any scholar who took this form of state or nation-state as something to be proud of.

Except that nation-states wouldn't have existed without these superpowers in the first place. And it's almost as if you're forgetting the United States, the current leading superpower which has been obviously praised by historians.


Also, I would need you to flesh out what you mean by "modern science and technology" since, the Renaissance ended in the 17th cent. In some respects I may have some sympathy's with you based solely on the emergence of scientists like Copernicus (Poland) versus Galileo (Italy). However, I'm still confused how such a conversation would find the Renaissance overrated since I have always seen the non-Italian thinkers get plenty of respect. Furthermore, Copernicus, for example, had very close ties to Italy and spent years in Bologna. IIRC, studying theology on his first stay and astronomy on his second. Obviously, he spoke Italian and Latin and it is impossible to remove the influence that the IR had on his scholastic development.

The development of construction of tools and understanding of the world is technology and science. In this, the Portuguese and Spanish contribution to shipmaking, mining and gunpowder technology is far more important than any Italian technological development and far more tangible as well, while the Northern European contribution to astronomy of Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe is far superior to that of Galileo, who wasn't born in an Italian republic anyway but at a time when Florence was a ducal monarchy. In other areas of science like medicine, the Italian contribution is also negligible in comparison to the likes of Andreas Vesalius and Jean Nicot.
 
Dec 2011
1,875
#13
See for instance Will Durant, Stephen Greenblatt, and basically every standard educational textbook that portrays the Renaissance as if it was the Second Coming of Christ. And no, the contribution of Italian humanism is negligible. Our current political systems of presidentialism and parliamentarism for instance owe mostly to Northern European developments and very little to Italian republics.

In engineering, the Portuguese and Spaniards performed far superior feats of engineering that actually left lasting legacies (especially in shipmaking), whereas the same can't be said of the Italian republics. In literature, we get told Italian literature is good, but just like Shakespeare, there is nothing really unique about it and a lot of it is just imitation of Virgil and Ovid. Of course the same can be said of so much medieval literature, but the point is that I don't think Italian literature is uniquely great and has been overpraised undeservedly.






Except that nation-states wouldn't have existed without these superpowers in the first place. And it's almost as if you're forgetting the United States, the current leading superpower which has been obviously praised by historians.





The development of construction of tools and understanding of the world is technology and science. In this, the Portuguese and Spanish contribution to shipmaking, mining and gunpowder technology is far more important than any Italian technological development and far more tangible as well, while the Northern European contribution to astronomy of Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe is far superior to that of Galileo, who wasn't born in an Italian republic anyway but at a time when Florence was a ducal monarchy. In other areas of science like medicine, the Italian contribution is also negligible in comparison to the likes of Andreas Vesalius and Jean Nicot.

No.

Respectfully, you did not answer any of my questions.

Let me ask this again. What scholar or author supports your view ?

The idea of nation-states seems to be a pseudo-issue. I am unfamiliar with anyone claiming that some kind of over-rating is in play regarding the Italian Republics on that issue.

The general academic community reflects on the influence that the Italian Republic had. The general consensus is that it was significant. I agree. You even support that view in your response. I think the respect that Francis I had for Da Vinci is a clue as to the influence of the IR artists.

For example, Vesalius studied in Italy and Tycho Brahe studied Copernicus, who, as I have already mentioned, had links to Italian academic communities. Again, multiple ties to Italy even in your rebuttal as you try to distance yourself from the Italian Republics.

Again, the general disposition was the influence that the Italian republics had on art, science and etc. Not any kind of nation-state or state building programs.

Further, I don't know anyone who denies that there were many non-Italians who were great scientists and artists but that does not support the general claim that the IR was overrated.

I am still confused as to how nation-state building even enters into the equation.

All I can gather from your argument now, is that there were other great artists and scientists therefore the IR and the Italian Republics are overrated. To me this is a false dichotomy, and in regard to the Italian Republics, does not even make any sense to me.

Our current political systems of presidentialism and parliamentarism for instance owe mostly to Northern European developments and very little to Italian republics.
Who is saying that they did and how is anyone "over-rating" this component of your argument ?

See for instance Will Durant, Stephen Greenblatt, and basically every standard educational textbook that portrays the Renaissance as if it was the Second Coming of Christ. And no, the contribution of Italian humanism is negligible. Our current political systems of presidentialism and parliamentarism for instance owe mostly to Northern European developments and very little to Italian republics.
I expanded on the same quote I already posted to ask you why you included "Italian humanism" in the same paragraph.

Is not Italian, or more specifically, Renaissance humanism the study of the classical era ?

With Raphael's School of Athens in mind, what are you talking about ? Athens ? School ? What is going on in that fresco ?

How much were the American founding fathers influenced by classical philosophy ? Tacitus ?
 
Feb 2018
135
EU-Germany
#15
h.kamen(2014) 'Spain moreover had enjoyed the advantage of being able to rely on the resources of its partners in the monarchy – the naval expertise and military manpower of the Genoese and Neapolitans, the weaponry of Milan and of Flanders, the finances of Antwerp and Italy'

there is plenty of literature and all readily available on the maritime republics and their roles in finance, trade and navigation/cartography, there is a reason britain and portugal initially highered genoese/venetian navigators and cartographers; dont get the hype around the renaissance myself as the heydays and times of innovations were most during the high middle ages;

#5 Milan was never a republic apart from a few years in the 15th other than that always a fief of the HRE/habsburgs charlemagne>napoleon and #12(weapons) you do know that milan/lombardy was the main foundry and armory of the spanish habsburgs?
 
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Nov 2009
3,859
Outer world
#16
And Portugal as well, and it was far more important in Flanders and Portugal than in Italy since these became central territories of the Spanish Empire, when capitalism really comes to be into its first stage.
Capitalism implies to invest the newly acquired wealth, something which Spaniards evidently failed to do.
Secondly, the fact that by 1930s Spain was still a largely backwater agrarian country speaks volumes about the importance of Capitalism in the Spanish Empire.
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,453
#17
Spain was involved heavily both in Italy and the Low Countries so it is difficult to talk about either situation without talking about Spain. Similarly, the growth of companies, trade exchanges, institutional systems of lending that expanded investment, trade, and the flow of knowledge all starts in Italy though I agree most of the further development past proto stages occurred outside of Italy.

Saying Athens or the early Greek city states are important to the development of politics and democratic states does not mean Greeks developed all the modern things or even conceived of them but the systems of thought and methods of rhetoric and examination which were written down by some Greeks and carried through the ages left fingerprints all over the later developments of western civilization.
 
Nov 2013
676
Texas
#18
Brahe vs. Galileo

I take issue with you you giving Brahe so much credit. There is so much notable astronomy from all over the world that Brahe just seems to another one; not even in the same league as Kepler.


If I were to take issue with rating Renaisance science too highly, Brahe would top the list. He just seem to be the western (and possibly less signifanct) equivalent of the Ottoman astronomer Taqi ad din.



Galileo is famed principally as a physicist; yet he seems to to have done more to re-affirm and popularise Copernicus theories than Brahe (Such as when he observed the motion of Jupiter's moons) . Perhaps a good point about the dual monarchy though.










The development of construction of tools and understanding of the world is technology and science. In this, the Portuguese and Spanish contribution to shipmaking, mining and gunpowder technology is far more important than any Italian technological development and far more tangible as well, while the Northern European contribution to astronomy of Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe is far superior to that of Galileo, who wasn't born in an Italian republic anyway but at a time when Florence was a ducal monarchy. In other areas of science like medicine, the Italian contribution is also negligible in comparison to the likes of Andreas Vesalius and Jean Nicot.
 
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Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,048
#19
See for instance Will Durant, Stephen Greenblatt, and basically every standard educational textbook that portrays the Renaissance as if it was the Second Coming of Christ. And no, the contribution of Italian humanism is negligible. Our current political systems of presidentialism and parliamentarism for instance owe mostly to Northern European developments and very little to Italian republics. 
Still, the Italian cities were republics at a time when most European countries were ruled by monarchies. The exact details might not have been derived from tne Northern Italian city states, but they still had a great deal of influence

And you are flat out wrong about humanism. The Italians very much contributed to humanism:

a. The Italians pioneered our modern use of perspective in the arts.

b. The Italians revived the ancient Greek vibrant skill in sculpture.

c. The Italian pioneered the recovery of ancient Roman and Greek plays. There is a reason that so many of Shakespeares plays are set in Italy - Merchant of Venice, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Taming of tne Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing to name some.



In engineering, the Portuguese and Spaniards performed far superior feats of engineering that actually left lasting legacies (especially in shipmaking), whereas the same can't be said of the Italian republics. 
What engineering feats are you referring with regard to the Portuguese and Spanish? In construction, the dome of tne Florence Cathedral finally surpassed the Pantheon, and St. Peter's Basilica is an impressive engineeing achievement. But in generate, the Renaissance engineering was largely derived from medieval predecessors. Venice pioneered mass production ship building in their Arsenal, and frame first ship construction (although tne Byzantines were the first to use it.), but that might have been medieval rather than Renaissance, as was the Italians invention of mariner's compass, portlan charts, eye glasses, and hourglass.

The modern double entry book keeping was pioneered in Italy, as were modern merchant banks, and the Italians were among the first to use the modern business corportation



In literature, we get told Italian literature is good, but just like Shakespeare, there is nothing really unique about it and a lot of it is just imitation of Virgil and Ovid. Of course the same can be said of so much medieval literature, but the point is that I don't think Italian literature is uniquely great and has been overpraised undeservedly. 
Dante's Divine Comedy is one of the greatest works of literature ever. One of the first great post Roman works written not in Latin but in the vernacular.




The development of construction of tools and understanding of the world is technology and science. In this, the Portuguese and Spanish contribution to shipmaking, mining and gunpowder technology is far more important than any Italian technological development and far more tangible as well, while the Northern European contribution to astronomy of Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe is far superior to that of Galileo, who wasn't born in an Italian republic anyway but at a time when Florence was a ducal monarchy. In other areas of science like medicine, the Italian contribution is also negligible in comparison to the likes of Andreas Vesalius and Jean Nicot.
Brahe opposed the Copernicus theory and while he made careful observation, he did not come up with innovated ideas like Galileo. Galilieo came with the idea of the pendulum clock, showed all bodies fall at the same rate (not by dropping 2 balls, but far more cleverly rolling objects of different materials along inclined plain. Galileo invented a thermometer.. Italian business and lending practice were important to the development of the modern world, and the Italians who pioneered framd first ship construction in Western Europe. Important tools such as mariner compass, Portlan charts weree Italina, also reading glasses and lenses, first practical telescope (Galileo).
 
Jan 2010
4,130
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#20
See for instance Will Durant, Stephen Greenblatt, and basically every standard educational textbook that portrays the Renaissance as if it was the Second Coming of Christ. And no, the contribution of Italian humanism is negligible. Our current political systems of presidentialism and parliamentarism for instance owe mostly to Northern European developments and very little to Italian republics. . . .
If you really believe that, you might learn something from closely reading those authors. You might also take a look at Fernand Braudel's three volume Civilization and Capitalism 15th to 18th Century

Conversely, you could give us the sources supporting the conclusions you've drawn, as some of the earlier commenters have requested.