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7. THE COMMERCIAL BOOM AT ITS HEIGHT

Giovanni Villani’s Florence.

Since we have described the income and expenditure of the commune of Florence during this period [ca. 1338], it seems fitting to mention other important features of our city so that our successors in later times can be aware of any rise or decline in the condition and power of our city, and so that the wise and worthy citizens who rule in future times can advance its condition and power through the record and example of this chronicle. Careful investigation has established that at that time there were in Florence approximately 25,000 men capable of bearing arms, ages fifteen to seventy, all citizens, of which 1,500 were noble and powerful citizens required as Grandi to post the customary guarantees. There were then around seventy-five fully-equipped knights. We find of course that before the government of the “second people,” which is still in power, there were more than 250 knights, but after the people began its rule the Grandi had neither the status nor the authority they formerly enjoyed.

We learn from the taxes collected at the gates that around 5,900,000 gallons of wine entered Florence yearly, and in times of abundance there would be around 1,120,000 gallons more.

The city required approximately 4,000 oxen and calves, 60,000 sheep, 20,000 goats and 30,000 pigs annually.

During the month of July 4,000 loads of melons came through the San Friano gate and were distributed throughout the city.

During this period the following offices in Florence, each of which administered justice and had the right to torture, were held by foreigners: The podestà; the captain and defender of the people and the guilds; the executor of the ordinances of justice; the captain of the guard or conservator of the people, who had more power than the others (though all four of the offices just mentioned could administer punishment); the judge handling civil justice and appeals; the judge in charge of taxes; the official concerned with female ornamentation; the official concerned with the merchants; the official concerned with the Lana guild; the ecclesiastical officials; the court of the bishop of Florence; the court of the bishop of Fiesole; the inquisitor; and other dignitaries of our city which should not be left unmentioned if those who come after us are to be properly informed. Within the walls, Florence was laid out and built up well, with many lovely houses. At that time construction went on continually and techniques were improved in order to make the buildings comfortable and luxurious. Examples of every sort of improvement were imported from abroad. Cathedrals, churches for friars of every order, and magnificent monasteries were built.

Beyond this, there was no citizen, Popolano or Grande, who had not built or was not building a large and rich estate in the countryside, with an expensive mansion and other buildings even better than those in the city. Each one of them was sinning in this respect, and they were considered mad for their inordinate expenditure. It was such a marvelous thing to see that most foreigners unfamiliar with Florence thought, when they came from abroad, that the sumptuous buildings and beautiful palaces occupying a three-mile area around the city were a part of the city itself, in the manner of Rome, to say nothing of the sumptuous palaces, towers, courts and walled gardens farther from the city, which would have been called castles in any other territory. In short, it was determined that, within a six-mile radius of Florence, there were more than twice the number of sumptuous and noble mansions found in Florence itself. And with this we have said enough about the situation in Florence.

Translation by David Burr.

Source:

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/villani.html