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The Medici family was possibly the richest family in Florence if not Italy and directed the destiny of Florence from the 15th century until 1737 They were the great Tuscan merchant princes and their famous emblem red balls on a field of gold was originally a pawnbrokers sign Canfield 3 The family began to gain its wealth in the thirteenth century and increased even more in the fourteenth century through banking and commerce and along with this wealth came political influence The Medici story covers nearly three and a half centuries from 1400 to 1748 Canfield 3 They rose from simple bourgeois bankers and merchants to become the dominant family of Europe until toward the end of their power a Medici was on the throne of many countries on the Continent The rise of this banking dynasty is closely tied to the intricate politics of Florence which it dominated for so long Canfield 3 The Medici family was part of the patrician class not the nobility and through much of its history the family was seen as the friends of the common people They did many incredible acts such as spending money on their city and making it the most powerful state in Italy as well as the worlds most beautiful city Florence became the cultural center of Europe and was known as an art center and cradle of New Humanism They also spent some of their wealth on having the largest library in Europe they brought in many Greek sources They founded the Platonic Academy and supported artists by feeding them educating them and providing them with the necessities Some of those artists were Donatello Michaelangelo and Raphael The family also did a lot of charitable acts such as cultivating literature and the arts Under the Medicis patronage the Renaissance flourished At the end of the thirteenth century Salvestro de Medici served as gonfaliere or standard bearer of a high ceremonial office
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