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From the 13th to the early 14th century, Italian city-states enjoyed increased wealth as they strengthened their control over trade with the east. As Italy became more cosmopolitan, scholars began to look outside the medieval canons for sources of knowledge. The recovery of Greek texts, in particular was a hallmark of the early Italian Renaissance. More fundamentally, increased trade created the wealth for investing in large public structures and a powerful merchant class eager to purchase the trappings of wealth. Many chose to use their newfound wealth to patronize artists, whose works we associate with the Renaissance. The Medici of Florence, who got their start as a banking family were the most famous patrons of the arts, financing many of the works of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, to name only two of the most famous examples. Politically, the rise of city-states created a competition for power that not only encouraged cities to try to outdo each other in terms of public structures, but also facilitated the rise of statecraft, another hallmark of the Renaissance most famously exemplified by Machiavelli. Other social causes of the Renaissance might be traced to, in no particular order, the decline of feudalism, the social and cultural unrest caused by the Black Death and famines of the fourteenth century, and widespread dissatisfaction with the Church, which was in the midst of the so-called "Babylonian Captivity." These changes created an atmosphere where individuals were more willing to embrace more secular outlooks.
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