The Medici

Power, Money, and Ambition in the Italian Renaissance
Narrated by: Derek Perkins
Length: 16 hrs and 21 mins
Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Art
4.5 out of 5 stars (810 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A dazzling history of the modest family that rose to become one of the most powerful in Europe, The Medici is a remarkably modern story of power, money, and ambition.

Against the background of an age that saw the rebirth of ancient and classical learning, Paul Strathern explores the intensely dramatic rise and fall of the Medici family in Florence as well as the Italian Renaissance, which they did so much to sponsor and encourage. Interwoven into the narrative are the lives of many of the great Renaissance artists with whom the Medici had dealings, including Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello as well as scientists like Galileo and Pico della Mirandola.

In his enthralling study, Strathern also follows the fortunes of those members of the Medici family who achieved success away from Florence, including the two Medici popes and Catherine de' Medici, who became queen of France and played a major role in that country through three turbulent reigns.

©2016 Paul Strathern (P)2016 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A fantastically comprehensive history covering the breadth of the great learning, art, politics, and religion of the period." ( Kirkus)
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

An Intriguing Lens on the Renaissance

The Medici are used in this book as an intriguing lens into Renaissance life and norms. Not only are the characteristics and personalities of the Medici family and their many relationships made the forefront of this book, but we also learn a great deal about the cultural origins Renaissance thought - and therefore in many ways of our own. The author seems generally fair, neither painting the Medici as total saints or total sinners (though he perhaps leans toward the latter viewpoint), although some of his personal feelings about the relative value of science and religion regularly seep into the book. Overall, I feel that I'm much better acquainted with Renaissance Europe because of this book, and the fact that it was an enjoyable and interesting read full of drama and intrigue makes it accessible outside of more academic circles - though it might be difficult to keep up with some elements of the book without a decent acquaintance with European history and geography.

18 people found this helpful

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A smart story, amazing in scope and detail

In a continuous braid of sharply etched characters and well-lit scenes, this book knit together all sort of pieces of things, from many disciplines, I knew something about, and made great sense of it all. The Renaissance was a sort of funnel through which the ancient and medieval worlds flowed toward ours. Its figures at last make a coherent sense to me, and link clearly to our world today, and the ancient and medieval worlds that came before. I have long been into art history, but here it all linked (as I never perceived it before) to the currents of thought and history and personality in which it happened. The movement between ideas and people in this telling is graceful and seamless. The Medici provide a central prism through which all this can be viewed and appraised, and in an entertaining fashion.
The most shocking elements of this tale for me were in the brutality, venality, and rife sin to be found in popes in this period, Medicis and others. But unexpectedly, with help from Machiavelli (so well explained here), I came to see a sort of sense in many of these lurid acts. This duplicity punctuated with ruthless violence, does make a sort of sense -- as a necessity of survival in the jaw-droppingly competitive crucible of the times. I'd rather watch from afar, though! I will, in any event, never look at the history of the Church of Rome and Christ's Vicar on Earth (as the story goes) quite the same way. There are characters noble and depraved in spirit, here, and some as squalid as one will ever encounter. This is a tremendous canvas that takes in a huge swath of Europe's history, culturally, militarily, and in art and thought. We meet, in ideas and often in personality, everyone from Aristotle to Da Vinci to Savonarola to Martin Luther to Galileo to countless bit part figures illuminating life in these times. The story moves on every level one might be curious about. It is time well spent.

12 people found this helpful

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Amazing book! Very interesting !

This book captures not only life of Medici, but developing art of Renaissance, Barocco, physics and math, it includes individuals like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci , Raphael, Galileo and others. Plus it has amazing history. I couldn't stop listening to it!

4 people found this helpful

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Captivating history

Extremely well researched and written. Some of the chronological skips might be difficult for some readers to follow.

Performance excellent

4 people found this helpful

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Nope.

I was disappointed. The book spent most of its time not talking about the Medici, but about the various Renaissance artists that the Medici supported, which wasn't what I wanted. If I wanted a halfhearted biography and a long discourse on the apparent sexuality of said artists, I would have gotten their biographies and not a Medici one. The author tried to tackle way too much and got lost in the muddle.

The author definitely plays favorites with his subjects, arguing multiple times that the stupid decisions made by one Medici or another were not that individual's fault. All credit for Lorenzo the Great's accomplishments go to Lorenzo, but the failures of his descendants were because of the mean old French or the Milanese.

The author was convinced that there was a multi-generational master plan (spanning multiple branches of the family) set forth by Piero and Lorenzo to consolidate Medici power. It was unconvincing, no matter how many times it was referenced.

The author's understanding of the Medieval period was very odd. He seemed insistent that there was a strong, almost sudden break between the Medieval and Renaissance periods and that the Renaissance itself had just sort of sprung up out of nowhere with the discovery of ancient texts. This disregard of the roots of the Renaissance harmed his understanding of the Medici world and undermined some of his arguments.

3 people found this helpful

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Overall good

It falls off a bit at the end but I don't know that it's the author's fault. The later Medici just didn't live as interesting or as inpactful of lives.

3 people found this helpful

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Stunning

Beautiful, interesting and in depth look at the family of the Medici and the dawn of the Renaissance. Absolutely awesome.

7 people found this helpful

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Fun Story Bad History

What disappointed you about The Medici?

This author has little to no basis in the actual history of the period. While the overall story may be *mostly* accurate he has little understanding of the surrounding times. As an example, he makes repeated references to the vast difference between the ignorant, religious Medieval period and the enlightened Renaissance. The view of the ignorant and backward Middle Ages has been out of favor for a long time. To the extent it is true, it stopped being true in the 13th century, a time of great scholarship and learning. That's not to say there were no great rediscoveries and achievements in the Italian Renaissance there obviously was. But there is no need to hang onto outdated and discredited dichotomies.

Holding onto outdated concepts is the norm. He states what a monster and brute Pope Alexander VI was without giving any reason or cause for thinking that (Alexander VI was subject to a lot of propaganda after his death and separating fact from fiction has been a huge task). He suggests Leo X was poisoned and says King Francis I did it based on absolutely nothing. Casually suggesting poison is common through out.

And some of his comments are just bizarre. He suggest Leonardo DiVinci's homosexuality might be due to the fact that he was doted on by women in his early life. What? I'm not offended just so confused. What out of date Freud knock offs is he reading? That doesn't even make sense. After discussing the homosexuality of some artists he goes onto assure as that one scholar's sexuality was entirely normal (i.e. straight).

40 people found this helpful

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Very detailed, but worth it overall

This is a really interesting look at the Medici and that time in "Italian" history; it has an overly detailed start, but got better as it went along. It did take me a long time to finish, though. Time well spent, though, and gave me some good understanding about Italian history before my trip there later this year.

2 people found this helpful

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Great listen!

I’m listening to this for the second time. There’s too much information for a one time listen. I wouldn’t recommend it to people who don’t have much knowledge of the Medici. I got this a while ago and returned it because I didn’t know anything about the history surrounding it. Once I had that I got it again. It’s a fantastic book about the beginning and the power of the Medici! It’s also superbly narrated!

2 people found this helpful