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Comparative Analysis of the Governments in Renaissance Florence and Reformation Geneva

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In the United States today, people seem to forget the limitless opportunities made available to them because of freedom of speech and religion. However, throughout history, one can see how differently civilizations behaved and their methods of approaching how to run a state or country. For instance, the way Renaissance Florence and Reformation Geneva attacked certain issues were very different but the civilizations still had a great impact on history. To illustrate, the Renaissance in Florence led to incredible masterpieces by Michelangelo and a new way of thinking. Also, the Reformation in Geneva, sparked by Luther and the 95 theses, exposed the problems of the church and led to a new religion being formed. However, both of these important civilizations vastly contrasted. Thus, the religiously controlled society, cynical view of human nature, and theocratic government of Geneva during the Reformation greatly differed with the secular, humanistic, and optimistic republic of Florence during the Renaissance.

Religion in Florence was not as strict as it was in Geneva as Florentines were more open-minded while Geneva had little toleration for any religion except Protestantism. For instance, citizens in Florence stressed the need to express oneself and reach their full potential, also known as humanism. Thus, they believed that one should question authority, such as the church and decide for themselves what to believe in. Furthermore, a major theme in the Renaissance was secularism, causing people to be more concerned with the material world instead of the eternal world of spirit. This idea, however, was not present in Geneva, as Calvin set up many programs for religion. So, the Renaissance had a more tolerant approach to religion, while Geneva believed one should strictly read scriptures from the Bible. Additionally, Calvin believed that Protestantism was the only religion one should learn and was very anti-semitic towards Jews that chose not to convert. Therefore, this differs with the Renaissance ideal as they believed in free will and the choice to voice one’s own opinion. Moreover, Geneva, and Calvin specifically, believed in Predestination which limits one’s rights as it expresses how no one can control their fate but God. Thus, this violates the idea centered around most of the Renaissance: individualistic rights in humanism and free will.

Hence, religion controlled most of the citizen’s lives in Geneva while in Florence it was also present but did not dictate many aspects of their lives. Religious practices in Florence were more focused on reasoning, which notably compares to the strictly Protestantism life in Geneva. In addition, Geneva citizens led a more rigid and somber life than those lives in Florence. For example, The Medici’s, who worked behind the scenes in Florence, were strong supporters of the Patron of the Arts. Thus, this led to more celebration in human creativity and new discoveries being made. Furthermore, this gave animation to the citizens’ lives. However, in Geneva, Calvin made very stern rules as to how a society should behave such as no card playing, gambling, or dancing. Also, he concentrated on reading and memorizing scriptures which would have greatly displeased Leonardo da Vinci from the Renaissance as he believed memorizing facts wasn’t true knowledge. Thus, citizens had less of an ability to take risks and express themselves as they did in the Renaissance.

Additionally, the Renaissance had influencers such as Erasmus that expressed positive views on human nature and had an optimistic outlook on life. However, in Geneva, Calvin had a very cynical perspective on human nature. Especially since he believed in predestination, he thought that no matter how many good deeds one does in life, it would never be enough to go to heaven. This principle would cause people to lose motivation to achieve goals as their fate is already decided for them, leading to a more weary civilization. Thus, the perspectives the citizens had in each Florence and Geneva were very different as Florence had a more hopeful attitude while Geneva had a more dull mindset. The theocratic government in Geneva greatly differed with the republic in Florence. To illustrate, since Geneva was a theocracy, the government was strongly connected to the church. Sometimes called “a city that was a church”, the town was led by the law of the Bible, and Calvin made the Genevan Consistory to enforce the theocracy. Thus, this resulted in very strict punishments for simple mistakes such as family quarrels, absence from sermons and criticism of ministers. Therefore, the Genevan government kept a very strong hold on their citizens. This contrasts greatly with the bankers who controlled Florence from behind the scenes, The Medici family. The Medici’s didn’t force their citizens to believe in a certain religion, but instead mainly focused on politics by concerning themselves with the wool and banking business. The Medici family was more concerned with seeing the wealth of Florence increase as opposed to watching the citizens closely. Hence, there were more opportunities made available to Florentines than Genevians. Therefore, the theocracy of Geneva was much more controlling of the citizen’s lives as they had less freedom and more of a focus on religion compared to the republic in Florence, Italy.

Florence during the Renaissance and Geneva during the Reformation both had major effects and achievements in history. Although both of the civilizations had accomplishments, they had different strategies of approaching how to run the civilizations. In Florence, there was a more progressive outlook on life resulting in more human articulation while in Geneva there was a pessimistic view of human nature. To add, religion played an intricate role in Geneva as they were a theocracy, while in Florence religion played an important role, yet there were some secular views. Nevertheless, Geneva and Florence are both meaningful civilizations in history.

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