The Italian Renaissance was called the beginning of the modern age. The word Renaissance itself is derived from the Latin word rinascere, which means to be reborn. The Renaissance was a rebirth of culture, to put it simply. Many dramatic changes occurred during this time in the fields of philosophy, art, politics, and literature. New emphasis was placed on enjoying life and the world around you. Talented individuals sought self gratification through art, literature, and architecture, and their achievements would influence future generations for centuries to come. This great new movement was originated and centered in Italy, and without Italian contribution would never have launched European society into the dawning of a new era.
At the beginning of the Renaissance, Italy was divided into some 250 self governing city-states, ranging from small towns of 2,000 individuals to some of the largest cities in Europe during that time, such as Florence, Milan, and Venice which all had about 100,000 citizens each. These city-states were loosely organized under the Pope, ruling out of Rome, although he had no real political control over the divided Italy.
During the mid-1300's and early 1400's, many large Italian cities came under the control of one family, such as the Visconti and later the Sforza families in Milan. The form of government established by the ruling families of the various Italian cities came to be known as signoria, with the chief official being called the signore. Soon elaborate court systems, controlled by the ruling families, began to spring up in each city-state. At these courts leading artists, intellectuals, and politicians gathered under the sponsorship of the signore and families.
Other city-states had a form of republicanism, Florence and Venice being two examples. In these cities, a group of upper class families controlled the government, and often looked down upon the common residents of the town, considering them to be inferior.