Beginning of Florence
First settlement on the banks of the Arno River was founded as a colony of the Etruscan city of Fiesole in about 200 BC when the Romans spanned the Arno River with a bridge. It was built on the foot of the hill of San Giorgio but destroyed in 82 BC during the Roman civil wars. The Roman colony was established in 59 BC. The inhabitants surrounded the town by first circle of walls and called it Florentia.
Speculations connected the name to the Latin for the Flowery meadow on which the town was built, or from the word florens, meaning to flourish. Or it may have derived from the Ludi Floreales, the spring games held to honor the goddess Flora. Later in the Middle ages it became Fiorenza (after Latin fiorente) and then Firenze. In 1001, the Margrave Ugo transferred the region?s capital from Lucca to Florence. In 1078 Countess Mathilda of Tuscia supervised the construction of new fortifications, and in the year of her death (1115) granted Florence the status of an independent city.
The florin, 1st minted in silver in 1325, and soon after in gold, was used as common currency across Europe.
The political rise of Cosimo de' Medici, later dubbed Cosimo il Vecchio ("the Old"), was to some extent due to his family's sympathies with the smaller guilds.
Legend claims that the Medici family were descended from Averado, a Carolingian knight. He killed a giant in a battle near Florence. During the fight his shield received 6 blows from the giant?s mace. Charlemagne allowed Averado to represent the dents as red balls on his coatt of arms. Others say the balls has been exalted origins ? they were cupping glasses recalling the family?s origins as doctors (medici). The Medici fortune had been made by the banking prowess of Cosimo's father, Giovanni Bicci de' Medici who became banker to the Pope, and Cosimo used the power conferred by wealth very well. Through his patronage of such figures as Brunelleschi and Donatello, Florence became the center of artistic activity in Italy.
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