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, Italian family
Medici (mĕˈdĭchē, Ital. māˈdēchē), Italian family that directed the destinies of Florence from the 15th cent. until 1737. Of obscure origin, they rose to immense wealth as merchants and bankers, became affiliated through marriage with the major houses of Europe, and, besides acquiring (1569) the title grand duke of Tuscany, produced three popes (Leo X, Clement VII, and Leo XI), two queens of France (Catherine de' Medici and Marie de' Medici), and several cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. They also ruled for a brief period (1516–21) the duchy of Urbino.


The rise of the Medici in Florence coincided with the triumph of the capitalist class over the guild merchants and artisans. Until 1532 the democratic constitution of Florence was outwardly upheld, but the Medici exerted actual control over the government without holding any permanent official position. They were driven from power and expelled from Florence in 1433–34, from 1494 to 1512, and from 1527 to 1530. However, the attempts (such as the Pazzi conspiracy, 1478) of the Florentine republicans to restore the former liberties failed ultimately because of the Medici's wealth and powerful connections.

When their influence began, in the early 15th cent., much of the glorious period of the Renaissance in Florence lay already in the past; however, the magnificence and liberality of many of the members of the house, who were passionate patrons of the arts, literature, and learning, led to Florence's becoming the richest repository of European culture since the Athens of Pericles. Florence as it is today is largely the accomplishment of the Medici. This cultural flowering was accompanied by tremendous economic prosperity and expansion and also by territorial aggrandizement (see Tuscany) that reached its climax in the 16th cent. The rule of the Medici, though denounced by their enemies as tyrannical, was at first generally tolerant and wise, but became stultifying and bigoted in the 17th and 18th cent.

Family Members

The genealogy of the family is complicated by numerous illegitimate offspring and by the tendency of some of the members to dispose of each other by assassination. The first important member was Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici (1360–1429). His elder son, Cosimo de' Medici, founded the senior line, which included Piero de' Medici (1416–69); Lorenzo de' Medici (Lorenzo il Magnifico); Piero de' Medici (1471–1503); Pope Leo X; Giuliano de' Medici, duke of Nemours; Lorenzo de' Medici, duke of Urbino; Catherine de' Medici, queen of France; Ippolito de' Medici; Alessandro de' Medici; and Pope Clement VII. Giovanni di Bicci's younger son, Lorenzo de' Medici (d.1440), founded the younger line, which included Lorenzino de' Medici; Giovanni de' Medici (delle Bande Nere); and the grand dukes of Tuscany—Cosimo I de' Medici, Francesco de' Medici (whose daughter was Marie de' Medici), Ferdinand I de' Medici, Cosimo II de' Medici, Ferdinand II de' Medici, Cosimo III de' Medici, and Gian Gastone de' Medici, last of the line.

The genealogy of the family is complicated by numerous illegitimate offspring and by the tendency of some of the members to dispose of each other by assassination. The first important member was Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici (1360–1429). His elder son, Cosimo, founded the senior line, which included Piero (1416–69); Lorenzo (Lorenzo il Magnifico); Piero (1471–1503); Pope Leo X; Giuliano, duke of Nemours; Lorenzo, duke of Urbino; Catherine de' Medici, queen of France; Ippolito de' Medici; Alessandro de' Medici; and Pope Clement VII. Giovanni di Bicci's younger son, Lorenzo (d.1440), founded the younger line, which included Lorenzino; Giovanni (delle Bande Nere); and the grand dukes of Tuscany—Cosimo I, Francesco (whose daughter was Marie de' Medici), Ferdinand I, Cosimo II, Ferdinand II, Cosimo III, and Gian Gastone, last of the line.

See separate articles on the most important members of the family.


See L. Collison-Morley, The Early Medici (1936); H. M. M. Acton, The Last Medici (rev. ed. 1958, repr. 1980); M. Brion, The Medici (tr. 1969); C. Hibbert, The House of Medici: Its Rise & Fall (1980); T. Parks, Medici Money (2005). See also bibliographies under Florence and Renaissance.

Medici, Ippolito de'

Medici, Ippolito de' (ēp-pôˈlētō) (dā mĕˈdĭchē, Ital. māˈdēchē), 1511–35, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church; an illegitimate son of Giuliano de' Medici, duke of Nemours. Pope Clement VII, head of the Medici family, ruled Florence through Ippolito, Ippolito's cousin, Alessandro de' Medici, and Cardinal Silvio Passerini. Clement increasingly favored Alessandro, and in 1531 he made him head of the republic. At the same time he made Ippolito a cardinal and sent him on a temporary mission to Hungary to remove him from the scene. In 1535, the Florentines deputed Ippolito to bring their grievances against Alessandro before Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. He died on his way, probably of malaria, although he may have been poisoned at Alessandro's command.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a Florentine family that played an important role in the political and economic life of medieval Italy.

Members of the Medici family founded a trading-banking company that was one of the largest in 15th-century Europe. From 1434 to 1737 (with interruptions from 1494 to 1512 and from 1527 to 1530), they ruled Florence. In the 14th century the Medici, who belonged to the popolo grasso (upper class), waged a vigorous struggle against the feudal nobility. The first prominent member of the family was Salvestro de’ Medici (1331-88), who helped provoke and then used the 1378 uprising of the ciompi (artisans of the lowest class) to consolidate his family’s political and economic position. Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici (1360-1429) carried out extensive trading-banking operations, becoming papal banker and opening branches of his company in Bruges, London, Paris, and other cities.

The main line. Cosimo the Elder (1389-1464), son of Giovanni di Bicci, was Florence’s wealthiest man and expanded the scale of operations of the Medici bank. He carried on a struggle against the Albizzi family and in 1434 became to all intents and purposes sole ruler (signor) of Florence (which retained republican institutions in form). Patron of scholars and artists, he contributed to the development of Renaissance culture. Piero the Gouty (1416-69), son of Cosimo, ruled from 1464. Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449-92), son of Piero, ruled from 1469. Virtually ending the system of republican government, he became sole tyrant of Florence. He maintained his authority through terror, harshly suppressing the 1478 conspiracy directed by members of the Pazzi family against Medici tyranny. Lorenzo was a poet and philosopher. Under his rule the Florentine political regime was “aristocratized.”

Piero (1472-1503), Lorenzo’s son, was expelled in 1494 from Florence by the insurgent people under Savonarola. Giovanni (1475-1521), Piero’s brother, became pope (Leo X) in 1513. After restoration of Medici tyranny in Florence in 1512, he became to all intents and purposes its ruler, although in 1512-13 the nominal ruler was his younger brother, Giuliano (1479-1516), who was granted the title duke of Nemours by the French king in 1515, and from 1513 to 1519 the nominal ruler was Lorenzo (1492-1519), Piero’s son. Catherine de’ Medici (1519-89), Lorenzo’s daughter, by marrying Henry II became queen of France. Giulio (1477 or 1478 to 1534), nephew of Lorenzo the Magnificent, was pope (Clement VII) from 1523 to 1534. Ippolito (1510-35), Giuliano’s son and nominal ruler of Florence from 1524, was expelled from the city in 1527. Alessandro (1510-37) ruled from 1530, after Medici tyranny was restored in Florence. In 1532 the Florentine state became a duchy, and Alessandro accordingly became duke. His murder brought the main line of the Medici to an end. Members of the family’s collateral line became rulers of Florence.

The collateral line. Cosimo I (1519-74), duke of Florence from 1537, subjugated Siena, united all Tuscany, and received in 1569 the title of grand duke of Tuscany. His grandson, Cosimo II (1590-1621), grand duke of Tuscany from 1609, was completely subordinate to the Spanish Hapsburgs (as were all subsequent dukes of Tuscany from the Medici family). Gian Gastone (1671-1737), great-grandson of Cosimo II, was the last grand duke of Tuscany from the Medici family; he had no children. Extinction of the family line came with the death of Gian Gastone’s sister, Anna Maria Ludovica (1667-1743). A French queen, Marie de Medicis (1573-1642), the wife of Henry IV and granddaughter of Cosimo I, belonged to a collateral line of the family.


Gukovskii, M. A. “Zametki i materialy po istorii roda Medichi.” Uch. zap. LGU: Ser. istoricheskikh nauk, 1939, no. 39, issue 4; 1941, no. 86, issue 12.
Young, G. F. The Medici, 2nd ed. New York, 1930.
Andrieux, M. Les Médicis. Paris, 1958.
Roover, R. de. The Rise and Decline of the Medici Bank. Cambridge (Mass.), 1963.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. an Italian family of bankers, merchants, and rulers of Florence and Tuscany, prominent in Italian political and cultural history in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, including
2. Cosimo I , known as Cosimo the Great. 1519--74, duke of Florence and first grand duke of Tuscany (1569--74)
3. Cosimo de', known as Cosimo the Elder. 1389--1464, Italian banker, statesman, and patron of arts, who established the political power of the family in Florence (1434)
4. Lorenzo de' , known as Lorenzo the Magnificent. 1449--92, Italian statesman, poet, and scholar; ruler of Florence (1469--92) and first patron of Michelangelo
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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