Giovanni Villani: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Giovanni Villani

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Giovanni Villani

Statue of Giovanni Villani in the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo.
Born c. 1276 or 1280
Died 1348 (1349)
Occupation Banker, Official, Diplomat, Chronicler

Giovanni Villani (c. 1276 or 1280–1348, Italian pronunciation: [dʒoˈvanni vilˈlaːni])[1][2] was an Italian banker, official, diplomat, and chronicler from Florence who wrote the Nuova Cronica (New Chronicles) on the history of Florence. He was a leading statesman of Florence but later gained an unsavory reputation and served time in prison due to the bankruptcy of a trading and banking company he worked for. His interest and elaboration in economic details, statistical information, and political and psychological insight signifies him as a more modern late medieval chronicler of Europe.[3] His Cronica is viewed as the first introduction of statistics as a positive element in history.[4] However, historian Kenneth R. Bartlett notes that "his reliance on such elements as Divine Providence links Villani closely with the medieval vernacular chronical tradition," that is to say, not linked closely with his Renaissance-era successors.[5] In recurring themes made implicit through significant events described in his Cronica, Villani also emphasized three assumptions about sin and morality that guided historical events, these being that excess brings disaster, forces of right and wrong are at constant struggle, and that events are directly related to the will of God.

Villani was inspired to write his Cronica after attending the jubilee celebration in Rome in 1300 and noting the venerable history of that city. He outlined the events in his Cronica year for year, following a strictly linear narrative format. He provided intricate details on many important historical events, such as construction projects, floods, fires, famines, and plagues of the city of Florence and the wider region of Tuscany.[6][7][8]

While continuing work on the Cronica and detailing the enormous loss of life during the Black Death in 1348, Villani died of the very same illness.[9] His work on the Cronica was continued by his brother and nephew. Villani's work has received both praise and criticism from modern historians. The criticism is mostly aimed at his emphasis of the supernatural in guiding events, his organizational style, as well as his glorification of the papacy and Florence.


Life and career

A painting by Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267–1337) in the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, within the chapel owned by the Peruzzi bankers

Giovanni Villani was born into the Florentine merchant middle class. He was the son of Villano di Stoldi di Bellincione, who came from an old and well-respected arti maggiori family of merchants.[10][11] Villani was a member of the Arte di Calimala (wool finishers) guild in Florence since the year 1300, serving on the mercanzia council of eight.[9] During that year he visited Rome during the jubilee celebration. After observing the well-known ancient monuments of Rome and acknowledging its renowned historical personages, he was inspired to write the Cronica, a universal history of Florence in a strictly linear, year-by-year format.[5] During the early years of the 14th century, he gained political perspective by travelling throughout Italy, Switzerland, France and Flanders for the Peruzzi bank, of which he was a shareholder from 1300 to 1308.[9][12] Traveling abroad as a factor for the company, Villani was paid a regular salary in addition to his shareholding profits.[13] On May 15, 1306, one of the first exchange contracts (cambium) to mention the city of Bruges involved two parties: Giovanni Villani, representing the Peruzzi Company, granting a loan to Tommaso Fini, representing the Gallerani Company of Siena.[14] Villani and his brother Matteo transferred most of their economic activities to the Buonaccorsi firm by 1322. Giovanni Villani was a co-director of Buonaccorsi in 1324.[9] The Buonaccorsi handled banking and commodity trade activities, spreading their influence throughout Italy, France, Flanders, England and several places in the Mediterranean.[9]

Villani returned to Florence in 1307 where he married and settled down for a life of city politics. He became one of the priors of Florence in 1316 and 1317. At the same time, he participated in the crafty diplomatic tactics that resulted in peace with Pisa and Lucca.[2] As head of the mint beginning in 1316, he collected its earlier records and created a register of all the coins struck in Florence.[2] In 1321, he was again chosen prior, and in 1324 was deputed to inspect the rebuilding of the city walls.[2] He went with the Florentine army to fight against Castruccio Castracani, lord of Lucca, and was present at Altopascio during Florence's defeat. In his Cronica, he gave a detailed account of why Florence was unable to acquire Lucca after the death of Castruccio Castracani.[15]

A famine spread across Tuscany in 1328. From 1329 to 1330 Villani was a commune appointed magistrate of provisioning protecting Florence from the famine's worst effects. In order to mitigate rising levels of starvation and assuage peasant discontent: grain was speedily imported from Sicily through Talamone, 60,000 gold florins were taken from the city purse by the Florentine commune to aid the relief effort, and all the city's bakers had their ovens requisitioned by the government so that loaves of bread could be sold at affordable prices to the riotous and starving poor.[16]

Villani was the superintendent of the construction of Andrea Pisano's bronze doors for the Florence Baptistry.

Villani was sent on another diplomatic mission in 1329, this time to Bologna to meet Cardinal Bertrand de Pouget.[9] From 1330-1331 he superintended the making of Andrea Pisano's bronze doors for the Baptistry.[2][9] At the same time, he served as the consul for his guild of the Arte di Calimala and watched over the raising of the campanile of the Badìa.[17] He was also sent with others as a hostage to Ferrara, to ensure that Florence made good on a debt; there he remained for some months in 1331.

Villani often expressed an optimistic viewpoint in his writing; this changed with the short-lived regime of Walter VI of Brienne, a despot invited to Florence and granted signoria.[18] In fact, after experiencing his own financial troubles, a terminated career, the failure of Florence in international affairs, and witnessing a host of different natural calamities and the onset of the Black Death in Europe, he became convinced that the apocalypse and final judgement was near.[19] The bankruptcy of the Buonaccorsi Company led to Villani's conviction and imprisonment in 1346, as he was a main partner.[20][21] Other banking companies also went bankrupt, such as the Peruzzi in 1343 and the Compagnia dei Bardi in 1346 (they were allied in a joint venture by 1336); Villani calculated that before their bankruptcy the Peruzzi had lost some 600,000 florins and the Bardi had lost some 900,000 florins.[22] Although Villani attributed the losses to the companies' massive monetary loans to Edward III of England which were never repaid, historian Edwin S. Hunt suggests that the firms simply lacked the resources to have made such loans, which in all probability were much smaller and were not the key reasons for the companies' failures.[23] The Bardi and Peruzzi were just two of many European banks that Edward III accepted loans from, prominent members of the Bardi and other Florentine families were owed only 63,000 Florins by Edward in 1348, and even a mass of small lenders and investors in Florence could not have made the necessary loan to England.[24] The figure Villani asserted of 400,000 Florins owed to the Peruzzi by Edward alone equalled Villani's estimate for the entire payroll of 30,000 workers of the Florentine cloth industry in 1338.[25] Hunt asserts that the failures of the Florentine banks seems closely tied to the expansionist policy of Florence in Tuscany, hoping that newly-conquered territory would yield greater security for their trade in northern Europe, but instead resulted in costly campaigns and little profit.[26] In addition to the questionable figures Villani posed for the Peruzzi and Bardi companies, it is also known that several events described in his Cronica surrounding the Buonaccorsi's bankruptcy were written to deliberately obscure the truth about the company's fraudulent behavior; Miller writes that "this is one of the most convincing conclusions" of historian Michele Luzzati's Giovanni Villani e la Compagnia dei Buonaccorsi (1971).[27]

Coat of arms for the Arte di Calimala, the guild to which Giovanni Villani belonged

Villani and the Buonaccorsi had gained an unsavory reputation as early as 1331, when Villani was tried (and cleared) for barratry for his part in building the new third circuit of walls around Florence.[9] Charles, Duke of Calabria had granted the Buonaccorsi the right to tax three of the six districts of Florence, which did not help Villani's reputation amongst his fellow citizens.[9] In early June 1342, partners and agents of the Buonaccorsi suddenly fled Florence, Avignon, and Naples, following bankruptcy proceedings by creditors, nearly all of whom had deposits in the Buonaccorsi bank.[28] Like other Florentine bankers and companies having difficulty with bankruptcy at the time, in September 1342 they supported the move to invite Walter IV of Brienne to become the next signor of Florence. Walter later suspended all legal actions taken against the Buonaccorsi and other company partners for nearly a year.[28]

However, the legal case against the company was reopened and resumed in October 1343, after the violent overthrow of Walter VI.[28] It is unclear how long Villani served his prison sentence for alleged misconduct during the economic disaster of 1346. It is known that he was imprisoned in the Carceri delle Stinche.[29] After the overthrow of the Brienne regime and a subsequent but short-lived aristocratic signoria, the novi cives or new families—some even from the lesser guilds—rose up in late September of 1343 and established a government that provided them with much greater representation in officialdom.[30] Villani and other chroniclers disdained these rustic non-aristocrats suddenly risen to power, considering them brazen upstarts incapable of governance.[11][31] Villani's class was at a constitutional disadvantage, as twenty-one guilds representing twenty-one equal voices in government meant that the oligarchy of higher guildsmen was "helplessly outnumbered" as historian John M. Najemy states.[32] Yet by the 1350s the general attitude towards the novi cives had changed much, as even Villani's brother Matteo depicted them in a heroic light for being united in a coalition with the merchants and artisans to curb oligarchic power.[31][33] Villani was also a staunch supporter of what he deemed the liberties of the Church, while criticizing the new popular government of the novi cives since they protested against the many legal exemptions the Church enjoyed.[34] However, he did find civic pride in that the whole city—including the novi cives—had joined together in an uprising against Walter VI, whose sins of imposing tyranny were, to Villani, sufficient justification for the violence needed to overthrow him.[35]

Nuova Cronica

The Battle of Crécy in 1346, from Froissart's Chronicles; Giovanni Villani wrote an accurate description of the battle and other events.[36]

Villani's work is an Italian chronicle written from the perspective of the political class of Florence just as the city rose to a rich and powerful life of thought and action. Only scanty and partly legendary records had preceded his work, and there is little known of events before the death of Countess Matilda in 1115.[37] The Chronica de origine civitatis was composed sometime before 1231, but there is little comparison between this work and Villani's; mid 20th century historian Nicolai Rubinstein states that the legendary accounts in this earlier chronicle were "arbitrarily selected by a compiler whose learning and critical faculties were considerably below the standard of his age."[38] In contrast, Rubinstein states Villani provided "a mature expression" of Florentine history.[38] Yet Villani still relied upon the Chronica de origine civitatis as the prime source for Florence's early history in his narrative.[39]

In the 36th chapter of Book 8,[39] Villani states that the idea of writing the Cronica was suggested to him during the jubilee of Rome in 1300,[1] under the following circumstances after Pope Boniface VIII made in honor of Christ's nativity a great indulgence; Villani writes:

And being on that blessed pilgrimage in the sacred city of Rome and seeing its great and ancient monuments and reading the great deeds of the Romans as described by Virgil, Sallust, Lucan, Livy, Valerius, Orosius, and other masters of history ... I took my prompting from them although I am a disciple unworthy of such an undertaking. But in view of the fact that our city of Florence, daughter and offspring of Rome, was mounting and pursuing great purposes, while Rome was in its decline, I thought it proper to trace in this chronicle the origins of the city of Florence, so far as I have been able to recover them, and to relate the city's further development at greater length, and at the same time to give a brief account of events throughout the world as long as it please God, in the hope of whose favor I undertook the said enterprise rather than in reliance on my own poor wits. And thus in the year 1300, on my return from Rome, I began to compile this book in the name of God and the blessed John the Baptist and in honor of our city of Florence.[5]

In his writing, Villani states that he considers Florence to be the "daughter and creation of Rome," but asserts Rome's decline and Florence's rise as a great city compelled him to lay out a detailed history of the city.[39] To emphasize the imperial greatness of Florentine history, Villani also asserted that the city was given a second founding when it was rebuilt by Charlemagne (r. 800–814 as Holy Roman Emperor)—which was absent from the Chronica de origine civitatis.[40] Historian J.K. Hyde writes that the idea of Florence being the daughter of Rome would have given the Florentines a sense of destiny, while the second founding by Charlemagne provided historical context for alliance with France, which Hyde calls "the touchstone of Guelphism".[41] Villani's reasoning for Rome's decline was the schisms of the Church and rebellion against the papal institution, while the ascension of Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor (r. 962–973) allowed for the conditions of Florence's rise against enemies of papal authority, such as Florentine-conquered Fiesole.[42] Villani was certain that the Republic of Florence had experienced a great setback on its path to glory with the defeat of the Guelphs by the Ghibellines at the Battle of Montaperti in 1260.[43] Despite this, Villani states that the paramount prosperity and tranquility of the city by 1293 was evidenced by the fact that its gates were no longer locked at night and that indirect taxes such as the gate fee (common in times of war) were not levied.[44] Historian Felicity Ratté states that the validity of this comment should be heavily scrutinized considering the Florence statutes of 1290 that designated employment for individuals in charge of locking the city gates.[44] Villani also contradicts himself by writing of a night attack on Florence in 1323 which clearly demonstrates the fact that the gates were locked at night.[45]

Villani wrote that the small cog type vessel with single mast, square sail, and stern-post rudder was introduced to the Genoese and Venetians in 1304 by pirates from Bayonne.[46]

In 1300 or shortly after, Villani began working on the Cronica, which was divided into twelve books; the first six deal with the largely legendary history of Florence, starting at conventionally Biblical times with the story of the Tower of Babel up to the year 1264.[47][48] The second phase, in six books, covered the history from 1264 until his own time, all the way up to 1346.[47] He outlined the events in his Cronica in year to year accounts; for this he has gained criticism over the years for writing in an episodic manner lacking a unifying theme or point of view.[15] He wrote his Cronica in the vernacular language rather than Latin, the language of the educated elite.[49] His chronicles are intercut with historical episodes reported just as he heard them, sometimes with little interpretation.[50] This often led to historical inaccuracies in his work,[50] especially in the biographies of historical or contemporary people living outside of Florence (even with well-known monarchs).[51]

Despite numerous mistakes, Villani often displayed an insider's knowledge on many subjects, as a result of his extensive travels and access to both official and private documents.[9] For example, De Vries states that he wrote one of the most accurate accounts of the Battle of Crécy during the Hundred Years' War, including information that the archers were placed precariously behind the English and Welsh infantry, not on the flanks as others asserted.[52] While describing detailed events unfolding within the city, Villani would name every individual street, square, bridge, family, and person involved, assuming his readers would have the same intimate knowledge of Florence as he did.[35]

Villani is perhaps unequalled for the value of the statistical data he has preserved.[50] For example, he recorded that in Florence there were 80 banks, 146 bakeries, 80 members in an association of city judges with 600 notaries, 60 physicians and surgical doctors, 100 shops and dealers of spices, 8,000 to 10,000 children attending primary school each year, 550 to 600 students attending 4 different schools for Scholastic knowledge, 13,200 bushels of grain consumed weekly by the city, and 70,000 to 80,000 pieces of cloth produced in the workshops of the Arte della Lana each year, the latter having a total value of 1,200,000 gold florins.[53][54]

Villani was a Guelph,[9] but his book is much more taken up with an inquiry into what is useful and true than with factional party considerations. In a departure from Guelph politics, he favored republicanism over monarchy,[9] praising the philosopher Brunetto Latini (c. 1220–1294) as "the master and initiator in refining the Florentines, in making them skilled in good speaking and in knowing how to guide and rule our republic according to political science."[55][56] However, Villani admitted in his writing that republicanism bred factional strife, that benevolent rulers like Robert of Naples were sometimes needed to keep order, and republicanism could become tyrannical if it came to represent only one class (such as exclusive favoring of aristocrats, merchants, or artisans).[9] When detailing the construction of the Florence Cathedral and the artist Giotto as the designer of the new bell tower, Villani called him "the most sovereign master of painting in his time."[57] Villani's Cronica also provides the first known biography of Dante Alighieri (1265–1321),[2][58] author of the Divine Comedy, who Villani described as haughty, disdainful, and reserved.[59] In his revised Cronica of 1322, Villani shortened Dante's biography and the amount of quotations taken from his Divine Comedy.[48] Villani's actions are explained by Richard H. Lansing and Teodolinda Barolini, who write: "Evidently two decades after the poet's death a conservative writer closely identified with the Florentine state still felt obliged to distance himself from the most outspoken critic of the basis of that state's prestige."[48]

A 16th century depiction of Philip IV of France, one of many victims of ill fate who Villani states fell from power and grace due to sin and immorality rather than fortune or circumstance

Historian Louis Green writes that the Cronica was written with three general assumptions about morality[60] which shaped the organization of the work, "[channeling] events into recurring patterns of significance."[60] These general assumptions were that excess brings disaster, that history is governed by a struggle between right and wrong, and that there is a direct connection between the events of the natural world and the overriding, supernatural and divine will of God who intercedes in these events.[60] For example, Villani described the story of Count Ugolini of Pisa, who at the height of attaining his ill-gotten wealth and power was overthrown and eventually starved to death along with his sons.[61] Green writes that this story in the Cronica bears a resemblance to the ancient Greek story of Polycrates and his ring in the work of Herodotus.[62] However, Green notes that Villani's "cautionary tales" disembarked from the Classical Greek tradition of the arrogant and haughty rich falling from fortune due to the Greek belief in equalizing forces determining one's unavoidable fate, which Green calls "excessive good fortune having to be balanced by an appropriate measure of sorrow."[62] Villani's adherence to Medieval Christianity allowed him to suggest retribution was delivered because of sin and insult to God.[62] He stressed that those who gained prestigious success would then come to engender pride; confident in one's position, pride would then lead one to sin, and sin would bring one into a stage of decline.[63] Villani wrote: seems that it happens in the lordships and states of earthly dignitaries, that as they are at their highest peak, so presently does their decline and ruin follow, and not without the providence of divine justice, in order to punish sins and so that no one should place his trust in fallacious good fortune.[62]

For Villani, this theory of sin and morality being tied directly with fate and fortune fit well with the ultimate fate of the Capetian dynasty of France.[63] The House of Capet was once the champion of the Church and ally of the papacy.[63] However, Villani correlated Philip the Fair's defiance of Pope Boniface VIII and seizure of the Templar's wealth with later Capetian misfortunes, such as Philip's death in a hunting accident, the adultery of the wives of his three sons, the death of his heirs, and even French defeats in the Hundred Years' War.[63] Green points out that in Villani's writing there are two significant earthly powers that seem to be exempt or immune from this theory of immorality leading to downfall: Florence and the papacy.[64] The interests of these two powers represent, as Green states, "the kingpin of Villani's scheme of historical interpretation."[64]

Besides Divine Providence, Villani acknowledged other events that he believed were explainable via the supernatural. He wrote of many instances where holy men offered prophetic statements that later proved true, such as Pope Clement IV's prophesy on the outcome for the Battle of Tagliacozzo.[65] He believed that certain events were really omens of what was to come. For instance, when a lion was sent to Florence as a gift by Boniface VIII, a donkey purportedly killed the lion.[65] He interpreted this as an omen that foretold the Pope's beating and untimely death shortly after fighting Philip IV at Anagni; Villani wrote: "when the tamed beast kills the King of Beasts, then the dissolution of the Church will begin."[65] He also believed in astrology and changes in the heavens as indication of political changes, the deaths of rulers and popes, and natural calamities.[66] However, he noted that the movement of the heavens would not always predetermine the actions of men and did not trump the divine plan of God.[66]

A scene in Paolo Uccello's Corpus Domini predella (c. 1465–1468), set in a Jewish pawnbroker's home. Blood in the background emanates from the Host, which the moneylender has attempted to cook, and seeps under the door.

Marilyn Aronberg Lavin states that Villani was most likely serving as a Peruzzi representative in Flanders when he heard the story of the French Jew who in 1290 tried to destroy Host bread (of the Eucharist) but was unsuccessful as the bread allegedly bled profusely as he stabbed it, and turned into flesh as he attempted to boil it in water.[67] In the original account by the Ghent monk Jean de Thilrode in 1294, the Jew was compelled to convert to Christianity, but Villani's account followed that of the later Chronicles of Saint-Denis (1285–1328) which told that the Jew was burned to death for his crime.[67] Villani's Cronica marks the first appearance in Italian literature of this legend, while "Villani's report includes details which establish an independent Italian branch of the tradition" according to Lavin.[68] St. Antoninus (1389–1459), archbishop of Florence, repeated the story of Villani in his Latin Chronicles, while Villani's illustrated Cronica featured a scene of this French Jew that later appeared in a painting by Paolo Uccello (1397–1475).[69]

Death and continuation of Villani's work

Map showing the spread of bubonic plague in Europe, a process Villani described in detail, noting that the death toll from the Black Death in Florence was not as great as other cities and regions he listed, such as Turkey, Pistoia, Prato, Bologna, Romagna, France, etc.[70]

Villani wrote during the Bubonic plague: "The priest who confessed the sick and those who nursed them so generally caught the infection that the victims were abandoned and deprived confession, sacrament, medicine, and nursing. . .And many lands and cities were made desolate. And this plague lasted till ________"; Villani left the "_______" in order to record the time in which the plague was to end.[70][71] Villani was unable to finish the line as he succumbed to the same plague.[71][72] He was buried in Florence in the Church of Santissima Annunziata.[9]

Villani's Cronica was considered an important work at the time, valuable enough for his brother and nephew to continue it.[9][47] Nothing is known of Villani's brother, Matteo, save that he was twice married, that he died of the plague in 1363, and that he continued work on the Cronica until his death.[5] Wordier and less acute as a human observer, Matteo is well informed in his facts and is one of the most important sources of Italian history. Filippo Villani, Matteo's son,[47] flourished in the latter half of the 14th century and ended the Cronica at 1364;[5] his portion includes details of the lives of many Florentine artists and musicians, including Giotto di Bondone and Francesco Landini. Filippo's chronicles were approved by the Chancellor of Florence, Coluccio Salutati (1331–1406), who made corrections to the work and added commentary.[73] The 15th century Florentine historian Domenico di Leonardo Buoninsegni also featured in the first two chapters of his Istoria Fiorentina a summary of Villani's Cronica.[74]

By the 16th century, more than one edition of the Cronica was available in printed form.[75] There was also an abundance of handwritten illuminated manuscripts, including one from Venice by Bartholomeo Zanetti Casterzagense in 1537 and one from Florence by Lorenzo Torrentino in 1554.[75]

Legacy and criticism

This painting of Dante Alighieri, painted by Giotto, hangs in the chapel of the Bargello palace in Florence. The Cronica has aided modern scholars in further studies of Villani's various contemporaries such as Dante.

Historian J.K. Hyde states that the Nuova Cronica of Villani is representative of the strong vernacular tradition in Florence, appealing to the people of the time as a narrative that was "easy to read, full of human interest and occasionally spiced with novella-type anecdotes."[41] Hyde also notes that Villani's criticisms of the commune politics in Florence promoted a trend of personal expression amongst later chroniclers that defied official conformity.[76] The Cronica is also an incredibly rich historical record; its greatest value to modern historians is its descriptions of the people, data, and events experienced by Villani during his lifetime.[37] Historian Mark Phillips states that all subsequent Florentine accounts of the tyrannical regime of Walter VI of Brienne—including those by Leonardo Bruni and Niccolò Machiavelli—were based upon the primary source of Villani's Cronica.[35] Villani's written work on Dante Alighieri and the age in which he lived has provided insight into Dante's work, reasoning, and psyche.[77] The reprinting of new editions of Villani's work in the early 20th century provided material for a resurgence in the study of Dante.[78] However, his descriptions of events which preceded him by centuries are riddled with inaccurate traditional accounts, popular legend, and hearsay.[37] In regards to his own time, he provides modern historians with valuable details on Florentine social and living habits, such as the growing trend and craze of wealthy Florentines in building large country homes far outside of the city.[79] However, the early 20th century historian Philip Wicksteed stated of Villani, "When dealing with his own times, and with events immediately connected with Florence, he is a trustworthy witness, but minute accuracy is never his strong point; and in dealing with distant times and places he is hopelessly unreliable."[37] For example, although Nicolai Rubinstein acknowledged that Villani's chronicles were much more matured and developed than earlier ones, Villani still relied on legend and hearsay to account for the origins of cities such as Fiesole.[80] On Villani's estimation that a third of Antwerp's population died off during the Great Famine of 1315-1317, the early 20th century historian Henry S. Lucas wrote, "not much faith can be placed in such statistics which are little better than guesses."[81] Louis Green notes Villani's limitation as a chronicler and not a full-fledged historian:

Recording as he did incidents in the order of their occurrence without any of the historian's pretensions to a thematic organization of his material, he could not feed back the lessons of a changing present into a reinterpreted past. Nor did his devotion to the justification and glorification of Florence permit him to see in the altered fortunes of his city a repetition of the pattern of decline he had illustrated in the histories of the great dynasties of his age.[19]

Louis Green asserts that Giovanni's Cronica expressed the outlook of the merchant community in Florence at the time, but also provided valuable indications of "how that outlook was modified in a direction away from characteristically medieval to embryonically modern attitudes."[49] Green writes that Villani's Cronica was one of three types of chronicles found in the 14th century, the type which was largely a universal history.[49] Other types would be chronicles of particular historic episodes such as Dino Compagni's account of the White Guelphs and Black Guelphs or the more domestic chronicle that focused on the fortunes and events of one family, as written by Donato Velluti or Giovanni Morelli.[82]

See also


  1. ^ a b Bartlett (1992), 35.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Vauchez et al. (2000), 1517.
  3. ^ Bartlett (1992), 35–36.
  4. ^ Villani, Giovanni.Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from Encyclopædia Britannica 2006 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD
  5. ^ a b c d e Bartlett (1992), 36.
  6. ^ Bartlett (1992), 36–40.
  7. ^ Kleinhenz (2004), 1102.
  8. ^ Benedictow (2004), 286.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Kleinhenz (2004), 1144.
  10. ^ Kleinhenz (2004), 1147.
  11. ^ a b Baron (1960), 443.
  12. ^ "Villani, Giovanni." (2008). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.
  13. ^ De Roover (2007), 33.
  14. ^ De Roover (2007), 49.
  15. ^ a b Kleinhenz (2004), 1145.
  16. ^ Bartlett (1992), 39.
  17. ^ Franklin Toker (1976), 158, footnote 10.
  18. ^ Kleinhenz (2004), 1146.
  19. ^ a b Green (1967), 168.
  20. ^ Caesar (1989), 147–148.
  21. ^ Wolfgang (1960), 150.
  22. ^ Hunt (1990), 149 & 151.
  23. ^ Hunt (1990), 149–150.
  24. ^ Hunt (1990), 155–157.
  25. ^ Hunt (1990), 157.
  26. ^ Hunt (1990), 160.
  27. ^ Miller et al. (2002), 109, Footnote 10.
  28. ^ a b c Miller et al. (2002), 109.
  29. ^ Wolfgang (1960), 149–150.
  30. ^ Becker (1962), 360.
  31. ^ a b Becker (1962), 360–361.
  32. ^ Najemy (1979), 63.
  33. ^ Baron (1960), 443–444.
  34. ^ Becker (1959), 64–65.
  35. ^ a b c Phillips (1979), 89.
  36. ^ De Vries (2006), 162, 173, 175.
  37. ^ a b c d Wicksteed (1906), xxxi.
  38. ^ a b Rubinstein (1942), 199.
  39. ^ a b c Rubinstein (1942), 214.
  40. ^ Rubinstein (1942), 215–216.
  41. ^ a b Hyde (1979), 124.
  42. ^ Rubinstein (1942), 217.
  43. ^ Olson (1997), 289
  44. ^ a b Ratté (1999), 148.
  45. ^ Ratté (1999), 153.
  46. ^ Kleinhenz (2004), 1031.
  47. ^ a b c d Caesar (1989), 148.
  48. ^ a b c Lansing et al. (2000), 859.
  49. ^ a b c Green (1967), 161.
  50. ^ a b c Chisholm (1910), 903.
  51. ^ Wicksteed (1906), xxxi, xxxii, xxxiii.
  52. ^ De Vries (2006), 162.
  53. ^ Bartlett (1992), 41–42.
  54. ^ Lopez et al. (2001), 72.
  55. ^ Hyde (1979), 122.
  56. ^ Becker (1964), 201.
  57. ^ Bartlett (1992), 37.
  58. ^ Caesar (1989), xi.
  59. ^ Caesar (1989), 13, 457.
  60. ^ a b c Green (1967), 163.
  61. ^ Green (1967), 163–164.
  62. ^ a b c d Green (1967), 164.
  63. ^ a b c d Green (1967), 165.
  64. ^ a b Green (1967), 165–166.
  65. ^ a b c Green (1967), 166.
  66. ^ a b Green (1967), 167.
  67. ^ a b Lavin (1967), 3–4.
  68. ^ Lavin (1967), 4.
  69. ^ Lavin (1967), 4–5.
  70. ^ a b Bartlett (1992), 38.
  71. ^ a b Benedictow (2004), 69.
  72. ^ Bartlett (1992), 36, 38.
  73. ^ Selby (1958), 243.
  74. ^ Molho (1970), 259.
  75. ^ a b Rudolph (2006), 66.
  76. ^ Hyde (1979), 124–125.
  77. ^ Wicksteed (1906), xxv–xlvi
  78. ^ Caesar (1989), 58–59.
  79. ^ Goldthwaite (1980), 13, 22.
  80. ^ Rubinstein (1942), 209.
  81. ^ Lucas (1930), 366.
  82. ^ Green (1967), 161–162.


  • Wikisource-logo.svg Balzani, Ugo (1911). "Villani, Giovanni". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.).  
  • Baron, Hans. "The Social Background of Political Liberty in the Early Italian Renaissance," Comparative Studies in Society and History (Volume 2, Number 4, 1960): 440–451.
  • Bartlett, Kenneth R. (1992). The Civilization of the Italian Renaissance. Toronto: D.C. Heath and Company. ISBN 0-669-20900-7 (Paperback).
  • Becker, Marvin B. "Florentine Politics and the Diffusion of Heresy in the Trecento: A Socioeconomic Inquiry," Speculum (Volume 34, Number 1, 1959): 60–75.
  • Becker, Marvin B. "Florentine Popular Government (1343-1348)," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (Volume 106, Number 4, 1962): 360–382.
  • Becker, Marvin B. "Notes from the Florentine Archives," Renaissance News (Volume 17, Number 3, 1964): 201–206.
  • Benedictow, Ole Jørgen (2004). The Black Death, 1346-1353: The Complete History. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-943-5.
  • Caesar, Michael. (1989). Dante, the Critical Heritage, 1314(?)-1870. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-02822-1.
  • Chisholm, Hugh. (1910). The Encyclopædia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • De Roover, Raymond. (2007). Money, Banking, and Credit in Medieval Bruges: Italian Merchant-Bankers, Lombards, and Money-Changers, A Study in the Origins of Banking. Cambridge: The Medieval Academy of America.
  • De Vries, Kelly. (2006). Infantry Warfare in the Early Fourteenth Century: Discipline, Tactics, and Technology. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press. ISBN 978-0-85115-571-5.
  • Goldthwaite, Richard A. (1980). The Building of Renaissance Florence: An Economic and Social History. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-2342-0.
  • Green, Louis. "Historical Interpretation in Fourteenth-Century Florentine Chronicles," Journal of the History of Ideas (Volume 28, Number 2, 1967): 161–178.
  • Hunt, Edwin S. "A New Look at the Dealings of the Bardi and Peruzzi with Edward III," The Journal of Economic History (Volume 50, Number 1, 1990): 149–162.
  • Hyde, J.K. "Some Uses of Literacy in Venice and Florence in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (5th series, Volume 29, 1979): 109–128.
  • Kleinhenz, Christopher. (2004). Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-93929-1.
  • Lansing, Richard H. and Teodolinda Barolini, Joan M. Ferrante, Amilcare A. Iannucci, Christopher Kleinhenz. (2000). The Dante Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., a member of the Taylor and Francis Group. ISBN 0815316593.
  • Lavin, Marilyn Aronberg. "The Altar of Corpus Domini in Urbino: Paolo Uccello, Joos Van Ghent, Piero della Francesca," The Art Bulletin (Volume 49, Number 2, March 1967): 1–24.
  • Lopez, Robert S. and Irving W. Raymond. (2001). Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12356-6.
  • Lucas, Henry S. "The Great European Famine of 1315, 1316, and 1317," Speculum (Volume 5, Number 4, 1930): 343–377.
  • Miller, Edward (2002). Progress and Problems in Medieval England: Essays in Honour of Edward Miller. Edited by Richard Britnell and John Hatcher. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-52273-0.
  • Molho, Anthony. "Domenico di Leonardo Buoninsegni's Istoria Fiorentina," Renaissance Quarterly (Volume 23, Number 3, 1970): 256–266.
  • Najemy, John M. "Guild Republicanism in Trecento Florence: The Successes and Ultimate Failure of Corporate Politics," The American Historical Review (Volume 84, Number 1, 1979): 53–71.
  • Olson, Roberta J.M. "An Early Drawing by Luigi Sabatelli Rediscovered," Master Drawings (Volume 35, Number 3, 1997): 289–292.
  • Phillips, Mark. "Machiavelli, Guicciardini, and the Tradition of Vernacular Historiography in Florence," The American Historical Review (Volume 84, Number 1, 1979): 86–105.
  • Ratté, Felicity. "Architectural Invitations: Images of City Gates in Medieval Italian Painting," Gesta (Volume 38, Number 2, 1999): 142–153.
  • Rubinstein, Nicolai. "The Beginnings of Political Thought in Florence. A Study in Mediaeval Historiography," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (Volume 5, 1942): 198–227.
  • Rudolph, Julia. (2006). History and Nation. Danvers: Rosemont Printing & Publishing Corp; Cranbury: Associated University Presses. ISBN 978-0-8387-5640-9.
  • Selby, Talbot R. "Filippo Villani and his Vita of Guido Bonatti," Renaissance News (Volume 11, Number 4, 1958): 243–248.
  • Toker, Franklin. "A Baptistery below the Baptistery of Florence," The Art Bulletin (Volume 58, Number 2, 1976): 157–167.
  • Vauchez, André, Richard Barrie Dobson and Michael Lapidge. (2000). Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. ISBN 1-57958-282-6.
  • Wicksteed, Philip H. (1906). Villani's Chronicle: Being Selections from the First Nine Books of the Croniche Fiorentine of Giovanni Villani. Translated by Rose E. Selfe. London: Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd.
  • Wolfgang, Marvin E. "A Florentine Prison: Le Carceri delle Stinche," Studies in the Renaissance (Volume 7, 1960): 148–166.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GIOVANNI VILLANI (c. 1275-1348), Italian chronicler, was the son of Villano di Stoldo, and was born at Florence in the second half of the 13th century; the precise year is unknown. He was of good burgher extraction, and, following the traditions of his family, applied himself to commerce. During the early years of the 14th century he travelled in Italy, France and the Netherlands, seeing men and things with the sagacity alike of the man of business and of the historian. Before leaving Florence, or rather in the interval between one journey and another, he had at least taken some part in that troubled period of civil contentions which Dino Compagni has described and which swept Dante Alighieri into banishment. In 1301 Villani saw Charles, count of Valois, ruining his country under the false name of peacemaker, and was witness of all the misery which immediately followed. Somewhat later he left Italy, and in September 1304 he visited Flanders. It is not well ascertained when he returned to his native city. He was certainly living there shortly after the emperor Henry VII. visited Italy in 1312, and probably he had been there for some time before. While still continuing to occupy himself with commerce, be now began to take a prominent part in public affairs. In 1316 and 1317 he was one of the priors, and shared in the crafty tactics whereby Pisa and Lucca were induced to conclude a peace with Florence, to which they were previously averse. In 1317 he also had charge of the mint, and during his administration of this office he collected its earlier records and had a register made of all the coins struck in Florence. In 1321 he was again chosen prior; and, the Florentines having just then undertaken the rebuilding of the city walls, he and some other citizens were deputed to look after the work. They were afterwards accused of having diverted the public money to private ends, but Villani clearly established his innocence. He was next sent with the army against Castruccio Castracani, lord of Lucca, and was present at its defeat at Altopascio. In 1328 a terrible famine visited many provinces of Italy, including Tuscany, and Villani was appointed to guard Florence from the worst effects of that distressing period. He has left a record of what was done in a chapter of his Chronicle, which shows the economic wisdom in which the medieval Florentines were often so greatly in advance of their age. In 1339, some time after the death of Castruccio, some rich Florentine merchants, and among them Villani, treated for the acquisition of Lucca by Florence for 80,000 florins, offering to supply the larger part of that sum out of their own private means; but the negotiations fell through, owing to the discords and jealousies then existing in the government (Chron. x. 143). The following year Villani superintended the making of Andrea Pisano's bronze doors for the baptistery. In the same year he watched over the raising of the campanile of the Badia, erected by Cardinal Giovanni Orsini (Chron. x. 177). In 1341 the acquisition of Lucca was again under treaty, this time with Martino della Scala, for 250,000 florins. Villani was sent with others as a hostage to Ferrara, where he remained for some months. He was present in Florence during the unhappy period that elapsed between the entry of Walter of Brienne, duke of Athens, and his expulsion by the Florentines (1342-43). Involved through no fault of his own in the failure of the commercial company of the Bonaccorsi, which in its turn had been drawn into the failure of the company of the Bardi, Villani, towards the end of his life, suffered much privation and for some time was kept in prison. In 1348 he fell a victim to the plague described by Boccaccio.

The idea of writing the Chronicle was suggested to Villani under the following circumstances: "In the year of Christ 1300 Pope Boniface VIII. made in honour of Christ's nativity a special and great indulgence. And I, finding myself in that blessed pilgrimage in the holy city of Rome, seeing her great and ancient remains, and reading the histories and great deeds of the Romans as written by Virgil, Sallust, Lucan, Livy, Valerius, Paulus Orosius and other masters of history who wrote the exploits and deeds, both great and small, of the Romans and also of strangers, in the whole world. considering that our city of Florence, the daughter and offspring of Rome, is on the increase and destined to do great things, as Rome is in her decline, it appeared to me fitting to set down in this volume and new chronicle all the facts and beginnings of the city of Florence, in as far as it has been possible to me to collect and discover them, and to follow the doings of the Florentines at length ... and so in the year 1300, on my return from Rome, I began to compile this book, in honour of God and of the blessed John, and in praise of our city of Florence." Villani's work, written in Italian, makes its appearance, so to speak, unexpectedly in the historical literature of Italy, just as the history of Florence, the moment it emerges from the humble and uncertain origin assigned to it by legend, rises suddenly into a rich and powerful life of thought and action. Nothing but scanty and partly legendary records had preceded Villani's work, which rests in part on them. The Gesta Florentinorum of Sanzanome, starting from these vague origins, begins to be more definite about 1125, at the time of the union of Fiesole with Florence. The Chronica de Origine Civitatis seems to be a compilation, made by various hands and at various times, in which the different legends regarding the city's origin have been gradually collected. The Annales Florentini Primi (1110-1173) and the Annales Florentini Secundi (1107-1247), together with a list of the consuls and podestas from 1197 to 1267, and another chronicle, formerly attributed, but apparently without good reason, to Brunetto Latini, complete the series of ancient Florentine records. To these must, however, be added a certain quantity of facts which were to be found in various manuscripts, being used and quoted by the older Florentine and Tuscan writers under the general name of Gesta Florentinorum. Another work, formerly reckoned among the sources of Villani, is the Chronicle of the Malespini; but grave doubts are now entertained as to its authenticity, and many hold that at best it is merely a remodelling, posterior to Villani's time, of old records from which several chroniclers may have drawn, either without citing them at all or only doing so in a vague manner.

The Historie Fiorentine, or Cronica universale, of Villani begins with Biblical times and comes down to 1348. The universality of the narrative, especially in the times near Villani's own, while it bears witness to the author's extensive travels and to the comprehensiveness of his mind, makes one also feel that the book was inspired within the walls of the universal city. Whereas Dino Compagni 's Chronicle is confined within definite limits of time and place, this of Villani is a general chronicle extending over the whole of Europe. Dino Compagni feels and lives in the facts of his history; Villani looks at them and relates them calmly and fairly, with a serenity which makes him seem an outsider, even when he is mixed up in them. While very important for Italian history in the 14th century, this work is the cornerstone of the early medieval history of Florence. Of contemporary events Villani has a very exact knowledge. Having been a sharer in the public affairs and in the intellectual and economic life of his native city, at a time when in both it had no rival in Europe, he depicts what he saw with the vividness natural to a clear mind accustomed to business and to the observation of mankind. He was Guelph, but without passion; and his book is much more taken up with an inquiry into what is useful and true than with party considerations. He is really a chronicler, not an historian, and has but little method in his narrative, often reporting the things which occurred long ago just as he heard them and without criticism. Every now and then he falls into some inaccuracy; but such defects as he has are largely compensated for by his valuable qualities. He was for half a century eyewitness of his history, and he provides abundant information on the constitution of Florence, its customs, industries, commerce and arts; and among the chroniclers throughout Europe he is perhaps unequalled for the value of the statistical data he has preserved. As a writer Villani is clear and acute; and, though his prose has not the force and colouring of Compagni's, it has the advantage of greater simplicity, so that, taking his work as a whole, he may be regarded as the greatest chronicler who has written in Italian. The many difficulties connected with the publication of this important text have hitherto prevented the preparation of a perfect edition. However, the Chronicle has been printed by L. A. Muratori in tome xiii. of the Rerum Italicarum Scriptores (Milan, 1728), and has been edited by I. Moutier and F. G. Dragomanni (Florence, 1844). Among other editions is one published at Trieste in 1857 and another at Turin in 1879. Selections have been translated into English by R. E. Selfe (1896).

Villani's Chronicle was continued by two other members of his family. (I) Matted Villani, his brother, of whom nothing is known save that he was twice married and that he died of the plague in 1363, continued it down to the year of his death. Matteo's work, though inferior to Giovanni's, is nevertheless very valuable. A more prolix writer than his brother and a less acute observer, Matteo is well informed in his facts, and for the years of which he writes is one of the most important sources of Italian history. (2) Filippo Villani, the son of Matteo, flourished in the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century. In his continuation which goes down to 1364, though showing greater literary ability, he is very inferior as an historian to his predecessors. His most valuable work was a collection of lives of illustrious Florentines. Twice, in 1401 and 1404, he was chosen to explain in public the Divina Commedia. The year of his death is unknown.

See P. Scheffer-Boichorst, Florentiner Studien (Leipzig, 18 74); G. Gervinus, "Geschichte der Florentiner Historiographie" in his Historische Schriften (1833); U. Balzani, Le cronache Italiane nel medio evo (Milan, 1884); A. Gaspary, Geschichte der italienischen Literatur (Berlin, 1885); O. Knoll, Beitrcige zur italienischen Historiographie im 14. Jahrhundert (Göttingen 1876), and O. Hartwig, "G. Villani and die Leggenda di Messer Gianni di Procida" in Band xxv. of H. von Sybel's Historische Zeitschrift. (U. B.)

<< Villanelle

Villanova >>

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address