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The Renaissance was a great rebirth of Classical art, literature, and science. It began in the Italian city-state of Florence in the 14th century and it was characterized by the spread of humanism and the beginning of objective scientific inquiry. Wealthy Florentine merchants and bankers such as the powerful Medici family, saw themselves as the heirs of the great figures of the ancient Roman Empire. Many of these families became the lavish patrons of artists and scholars in order to increase their own prestige and secure political power.

The Low Renaissance of the 15th century is exemplified by the achievements of the sculptors Donatello and Ghiberti, and by the invention of linear perspective by Brunelleschi. The High Renaissance of the 16th century reached new creative heights and was dominated by the titanic talent of Michelangelo and the multifaceted scientific and artistic genius of Leonardo da Vinci. By the end of the 16th century, the Renaissance had spread widely throughout Europe, inspiring such geniuses as Shakespeare, Machiavelli, El Greco, Cervantes, Copernicus and Galileo.

Although the culture of the Renaissance was based largely on the imitation of antiquity, it marked a new direction for Europe and cleared the path for the intellectual developments of the modern age.


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