What Factors Contributed to the Birth of the Renaissance in Italy?

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The cities of Italy prospered during the late Middle Ages, serving as trading posts connecting Europe to the Byzantine Empire and the Moslem world via the Mediterranean Sea. Commerce enriched and empowered regions in which the feudal system had not taken a strong hold, especially in northern Italy. The most prosperous of these cities--Florence, Venice, and Milan--became powerful city-states, ruling the regions surrounding them. Further south, the Papal States, centered in Rome, gradually grew to rival the wealth of the northern cities, and as the seat of the papacy, exerted a tremendous influence over Italian life and politics. Along with a few other minor centers of wealth and power, including Urbino, Mantua, and Ferrara, these four regions became the cradle of the Renaissance, beginning in the fourteenth century to undergo political, economic, and artistic changes. The beginning of the Renaissance in the mid-fourteenth century was marked by a turn from medieval life and values ... more
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