Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Age of Scientific Discovery, More’s Utopia and Machiavelli’s The Prince Essay, April 23, 2002

This is the twenty-fourth post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

I wrote this essay for Professor Robert Wood’s LCC 2104 Age of Scientific Discovery class at Georgia Tech. This was shortly after I was readmitted to the program after working in IT for several years. My citations are sloppy and incomplete and the writing is evidence of my writing’s early stages and on-going development. This is the third of three essays from Professor Wood’s class.

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Robert Wood

LCC 2104 Age of Discovery

April 23, 2002

Essay 3

The Utopians in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia handle foreign relations and implements of war in ways that can be critiqued in terms of Niccolo Machavelli’s The Prince. Three issues that can be examined are those involving foreign relations, the act of war, and the resolutions at the end of war.

One element which Machavelli deals with that shows up in More’s Utopia had to do with foreign relations. This included treaties and the word of a country’s leader. The Utopians have this view of treaties with other kingdoms and countries:

While other nations are constantly making treaties, breaking them, and renewing them, the Utopians never make any treaties at all. If nature, they say, doesn’t bind man adequately to his fellow man, will an alliance do so? If a man scorns nature herself, is there any reason to think he will care about mere words? They are confirmed in this view by the fact that in that part of the world, treaties and alliances between kings are not generally observed with much good faith (More 64).

The Utopians feel that one’s word is what binds them. Without holding that a man’s word is something to believe, then what more will writing on a paper do to hold a man to his word? This principle is born of relations outside Utopia. Each man that is a Utopian can believe and hold true to the word of another Utopian. But in their dealings with neighboring countries and kingdoms they have found that treaties are not worth the paper that they are written on. Machiavelli responds to this issue thus:

Everyone realizes how praiseworthy it is for a prince to honour his word and to be straightforward rather than crafty in his dealings; none the less contemporary experience shows that princes who have achieved great things have been those who have given their word lightly, who have known how to trick men with their cunning, and who in the end, have overcome those abiding by honest principles (Machiavelli 56).

The author of The Prince holds that he also realizes that men do not always honor their word, but that a ruler who wishes to “[achieve] great things” must be willing to “[give] their word lightly” and “[know] how to trick men with their cunning.” He goes on to write:

He should appear to be compassionate, faithful to his word, kind, guileless, and devout. An indeed he should be so. But his disposition should be such that, if he needs to be the opposite, he knows how (Machiavelli 57).

Machiavelli might concede that in a perfect world, the way of the Utopians, that you can believe the word of another, but Machiavelli’s world is far from perfect. He has seen and read about how people behave and he brought this accumulated knowledge together in writing The Prince. Essentially the world is a dark place where you either have to stab the other fellow in the back, or he might just try to stab you in the back. Machiavelli suggests that a ruler be good and just, but he must also be ready to play the other side of the coin. If he is not prepared to do so, then he might not be a ruler for very long.

The Utopians go to war only on certain precepts. More writes:

They go to war only for good reasons; among these are the protection of their own land, the protection of their friends from an invading army, and the liberation of an oppressed people from tyranny and servitude. Out of human sympathy, they not only protect their friends from present danger, but avenge previous injuries; they do this, however, only if they themselves have previously been consulted, have approved the cause, and have demanded restitution in vain. Then and only then they think themselves free to declare war. They take this final step not only when their friends have been plundered, but also when their friends’ merchants have been subjected to extortion in another country, either through laws unfair in themselves or through the perversion of good laws (More 66).

Utopia protects it’s own interests and the interests of its allies. Also it acts as a sort of regional police force to make sure that kingdoms around it are subjected to “tyranny and servitude.” For the most part the Utopians do try to avoid battles, particularly with their own people serving as soldiers. First, they will act to place a high bounty on the leaders of the opposing kingdom. If this does not work, they then try to break the enemy’s ranks or create internal turmoil among the nobility of the opposing kingdom. And as a final resort they will engage in battle. First with hired mercenaries, and then if that does not work, with their own citizens. More notes, “both men and women alike carry on vigorous military training, so they will be fit to fight should the need arise” (More 66). The Utopian’s goal in war is:

…to secure what would have prevented the declaration of war, if the enemy had conceded it before hand. Or if they cannot get that, they try to take such bitter revenge on those who have injured them that they will be afraid ever to do it again. These are their chief concerns, which they go after energetically, yet in such a way as to avoid danger, rather than to win fame and glory (More 67).

In order to prevent future conflict they enact a very strict punishment on their enemies if their goals were not met initially. For being a peaceful people, they are pragmatic in their waging of war. Their methods are practical for their purposes and the methods also serve to defeat an enemy completely if their goals are not met immediately. Machiavelli has these things to say in regards to warfare:

A prince also wins prestige for being a true friend or a true enemy, that is, for revealing himself without any reservation in favour of one side against another. This policy is always more advantageous than neutrality. For instance, if the powers neigbouring on you come to blows, either they are such that, if one of them conquers, you will be in danger, or they are not. In either case it will always be to your advantage to declare yourself and to wage a vigorous war; because in the first case, if you do not declare yourself you will always be at the mercy of the conqueror, much to the pleasure and satisfaction of the one who has been beaten, and you will have no justification nor any way to obtain protection or refuge. The conqueror does not want doubtful friends who do not help him when he is in difficulties; the loser repudiates you because you were unwilling to go, arms in hand, and throw in your lot with him (Machiavelli 72-73).

Machiavelli writes The Prince as a sort of guide book on how to rule and achieve as a ruler during his time. That being said, some of his remarks on warfare and engagement deal with a ruler fighting not only for a cause or for gains for his people, but also for gaining prestige for the ruler. More’s Utopians do not fight for this purpose, but to act for the success of their own kingdom as well as those kingdoms that are their friends or neighbors who might be subjected to tyrannical rule. Machiavelli does hold that one should not remain neutral during conflict. More holds that the Utopians are much of this same stock. Machiavelli applies here to the Utopians because of underlying reasons why the Utopians would engage their enemies. Why protect a neighboring kingdom’s subjects who have been repressed by a tyrannical leader? That tyrannical leader might prove to be a person wanting more lands and power which would eventually endanger Utopian interests abroad as well as on their home land. For them it is better to engage the menace now instead of waiting until the problem is more pronounced. Also, by the Utopians throwing in their lot with friends or repressed peoples, they clearly show who they are allied with. As Machiavelli writes it is better to state who you are with and reap the outcome instead of being neutral and being at the possible mercy of the winner of the war. In regards to mercenary soldiers Machiavelli has this to say:

I want to show more clearly what unhappy results follow the use of mercenaries. Mercenary commanders are either skilled in warfare or they are not: if they are, you cannot trust them, because they are anxious to advance their own greatness, either by coercing you, their employer, or by coercing others against your own wishes. If, however, the commander is lacking in prowess, in the normal way he brings about your ruin. If anyone argues that this is true of any other armed force, mercenary or not, I reply that armed forces must be under the control of either a prince or a republic: a prince should assume personal command and captain his troops himself; a republic must appoint its own citizens, and when a commander so appointed turns out incompetent, should change him, and if he is competent, it should limit his authority by statute. Experience has shown that only princes and armed republics achieve solid success, and that mercenaries bring nothing but loss; and a republic which has its own citizen army is far less likely to be subjugated by one of its own citizens than a republic whose forces are not its own (Machiavelli 40).

More’s Utopians use mercenaries to help fight their battles so as to spare their own people. Also it should be noted that the Utopians will not let mercenaries stay on their island at any time. “Because the Utopians give higher pay than anyone else, [the mercenaries] are ready to serve them against any enemy whatever” (More 69). To lead their army of mercenaries and indigenous peoples for whom they are fighting, “Last they add their own citizens, including some man of known bravery to command the entire army” (More 69). The Utopians lead their mercenary armies as Machiavelli suggests. But More does not note the issues with mercenary forces that Machavelli notes in saying, “Experience has shown that only princes and armed republics achieve solid success, and that mercenaries bring nothing but loss” (Machiavelli 40). The reasons for this is that a mercenary army, lead by a mercenary commander or by a commander for whom they represent, but if they win a territory or a war, what stops the mercenaries from deciding to lay claim to their winnings and not allow the kingdom they represent handle the subsequent winnings? Dealing with mercenaries is a difficult issue which More gives a naive treatment of according to Machavelli’s approach and counsel.

After the end of a war, there must be concessions and payment in some form made to the winner. In the conclusion of war, the Utopians deal with their enemy in this manner:

When the Utopians make a truce with the enemy, they observe it religiously, and will not break it even if provoked. They do not ravage the enemy’s territory or burn his crops; indeed, so far as possible, they avoid any trampling of the crops by men or horses, thinking they may need the grain later on…When cities are surrendered to them, they keep them intact; even when they have stormed a place, they do not plunder it, but put to death the men who prevented surrender, enslave the other defenders, and do no harm to the civilians. If they find any of the inhabitants who recommended surrender, they give them a share in the property of the condemned, and present their auxiliaries with the rest, for the Utopians themselves never take any booty.
After a war is ended, they collect the cost of it, not from the allies for whose sake they undertook it, but from the conquered. They take as indemnity not only money which they set aside to finance future wars, but also landed estates from which they may enjoy forever a generous annual income…As managers of these estates, they send abroad some of their own citizens, with the title of Financial Factors…
If any foreign prince takes up arms and prepares to invade their land, they immediately attack him in full force outside their own borders (More 72).

The Utopians do not exercise rule over those defeated. They take do a sort of redistribution of land to those who recommend surrender to the Utopians. Crops and fields are not destroyed because they might be considered useful later to the Utopians. Also, they take lands which they can demand an income for. These estates are managed by Utopian citizens who are dispatched there. Of note, they hold true to their truces with enemies, but if a foreign state decides to attack or prepare to attack Utopia, then the Utopians will attack that country with full force. Machiavelli sets out several ways of dealing with conquered lands. One of these meets closely to the way that the Utopians handle the spoils of war. He writes:

When states newly acquired as I said have been accustomed to living freely under their own laws, there are three ways to hold them securely: first, by devastating them; next, by going and living there in person; thirdly, by letting them keep their own laws, exacting tribute, and setting up an oligarchy which will keep the state friendly to you. In the last case, the government will know that it cannot endure without the friendship and power of the prince who created it, and so it has to exert itself to maintain his authority. A city used to freedom can be more easily ruled through its own citizens, provided you do not wish to destroy it, than in any other way (Machiavelli 16).

The Utopians are close to the third case that Machavelli states in The Prince. However, More does not spell out that the Utopians setup a friendly government in place of an unfriendly one. He does write, “they do not plunder it, but put to death the men who prevented surrender, enslave the other defenders, and do no harm to the civilians” (More 72). Perhaps their truces account for this, or they let the civilians form a new government. If this is the case, then Machavelli does go on to say that “A city used to freedom can be more easily ruled through its own citizens, provided you do not wish to destroy it, than in any other way” (Machiavelli 16).

The principles of Machiavelli’s The Prince apply to More’s Utopia. On some things the two do not agree completely, but this is not surprising since Machiavelli dealt with his observations and reading of the real world, while More’s work was of a fantasy land that wasn’t solidly established in the real world. The Utopians appear to be a composite of a country of almost perfect persons who hold to their word and act according to that word. Reality does not allow for this composite of a person to exist. Machavelli shows that there must be a sort of twin personality in dealing with foreign relations. Also, Machavelli’s approach to war and dealing with war’s aftermath is more practical than what the Utopians do. It seems the Utopians actions and works are like blocks of Lego that snap to form a whole, while Machavelli’s cases and alternatives are more like clay kneaded and sculpted to form a more organic whole.

 

Works Cited

Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. Trans. George Bull. New York, New York:

Penguin Books, 1999.

 

More, Sir Thomas. Utopia. Trans. Robert M. Adams. New York, New York:

W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1992.

 

Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Age of Scientific Discovery, Copernicus and Galileo Essay, March 19, 2002

This is the twenty-third post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

I wrote this essay for Professor Robert Wood’s LCC 2104 Age of Scientific Discovery class at Georgia Tech. This was shortly after I was readmitted to the program after working in IT for several years. My citations are sloppy and incomplete and the writing is evidence of my writing’s early stages and on-going development. This is the second of three essays from Professor Wood’s class.

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Robert Wood

LCC 2104 Age of Discovery

March 19, 2002

Essay 2

Copernicus and Galileo both had unique scientific methodologies that they applied to their work in astronomy. Copernicus shows a reliance on that of the past and he builds on the work of others. He is not merely making commentary, but transposing his own findings on that which came before. Galileo takes this a step further by understanding what has been said and relying on his observational work to be the interpretation of the heavens. He also extends his work into the world through letters and publishings to open discourse between himself and others. Thus creating a dynamic to possibly find faults in his findings or show fault in the findings of others.

The beginning of the revolution concerning understanding how the planets of our solar system are arranged started with the work of Copernicus with the work De revolutionibus. Copernicus conducts his observations and mathematical deductions on the precept in Hallyn that, “as the beneficiary for whom the world was made, man can attain true knowledge. In place of a universe whose beauty and rationality escape us, and which thereby calls us to humility, Copernicus substitutes a cosmos for which man is the final purpose and whose true plane he can reconstruct.” Additionally, Hallyn writes, “Copernicus was not content to admire an inaccessible wisdom “from afar”; he believed that science must permit man to penetrate the arcana of the divine plan and must be willing to submit to complete reform if necessary to achieve this anagogical goal.” Copernicus elevates the status of man and astronomer to one who is able to spy the truth in nature through observation and deductions based on those observations.

Work done by predecessors and particularly, the ancients, Copernicus valued a great deal. He viewed astronomy as building on itself with the work done by those who came before. In Hallyn, there is this passage and quote of Copernicus regarding acknowledging the prior works of others.

Copernicus takes care, moreover, to emphasize that the very theory he is proposing is based on an ancient hypothesis concerning the nature of the universe:

I undertook the task of rereading the works of all the philosophers which I could obtain to learn whether anyone had every proposed other motions of the universe’s spheres than those expounded by the teachers of astronomy in the schools. And in fact first I found in Cicero that Nicetas supposed the earth to move. Later I also discovered in Plutarch that certain others were of this opinion…Therefore, having obtained the opportunity from these sources, I too bean to consider the mobility of the earth. And even though the idea seemed absurd, nevertheless I knew that others before me had been granted the freedom to imagine any circles whatever for the purpose of explaining the heavenly phenomena. Hence I thought that I too would be readily permitted to ascertain whether explanations sounder than those of my predecessors could be found for the revolution of the celestial spheres on the assumption of some motion of the earth.

Hallyn writes, “the importance of this passage lies not only in the way it recalls certain precursors, but also in the weight it ascribes to a particular form of renovatio based on the liberty to think, which may in turn lead to innovatio.” Copernicus is learning about ideas that surfaced in the past. Some of those ideas might not have been popular or they might not have had the ability to prove them properly at that time. Now he decides to take some of these ideas and try them on his own. He makes them his hypotheses which he will test with observation and he will apply his knowledge of mathematics to what he finds. He understands that the technology and mathematics of his time in regard to astronomy is greater than that which they had in previous times. This affords him a certain ability to learn new truths and a liberty to investigate further than those before him. Thus the “renovatio,” the renovation of ideas leads to “innovatio,” innovation born of those ideas.

His work in De revolutionibus is analogous to his search for truth. It is a transformation of old ideas into the next level. He is not merely commenting on previous work, but he is taking what he has learned from others, particularly, Ptolemy, and from his mathematical treatments on that work to develop the next plateau of understanding. Debus writes, “in short, the Ptolemaic system was recast.” The sun was placed at the mathematical center of the universe. This was surrounded by the planets, each set in their crystalline spheres. Outside this was the sphere of fixed stars. The Copernican system retained a good deal of complexity found in the Ptolemaic system, but he had simplified some things. Copernicus had eliminated equant circles and epicycles that explained retrograde motion were almost completely resolved (if he had accepted elipical orbits this would have been fully resolved). Additionally his system allowed for relative distances of the planets from the sun to be calculated using trigonometry.

It cannot be too lightly stressed that Copernicus has a great respect and reliance on Ptolemy. Copernicus even notes concern regarding his belief in the basis of the Ptolemic system when he says in Hallyn, “not to disorient the diligent reader by straying too far from Ptolemy.” He takes Ptolemy’s work, internalizes it and then rebuilds it with the additional information and knowledge that he has. For Copernicus astronomy is an interpretive and transformative process. It is interpretive because new ways of explaining data may be found. it is transformative because an earlier concept or work is elaborated on and changed into a new system based on the old.

The methodology used by Galileo is slightly different than that used by Copernicus. Galileo relies on a system closer to that which we see today in the sciences. The telescope is better refined and it’s power much better than that used by Copernicus. Thus Galileo uses this for more accurate observations. Also he relies on diligent and regular observational data. One cannot observe occasionally and expect to get data that show trends or behavior over time accurately. Building on this concept he puts forth the idea that if someone follows his procedures for observation, using a similar apparatus, the observation can be reproducible from different locations. This means someone in Rome can make the same observation of sun spots that someone in Florence can make.

Standards in observation were something he adherently held to in order to build data that can be accurately interpreted and used by different persons. In his observations on sunspots Galileo notes how he makes these observations so that they are accurate. On pages 115-116 of Drake, Galileo notes the method he uses that was developed by his pupil Benedetto Castelli. His description is very precise and descriptive. If someone wanted to begin observing sunspots they could easily use this method that Galileo describes to do so.

The structure of the “Letters on Sunspots” in Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo also serve to show the desire Galileo had for discourse in the science of astronomy. He believed that a well reasoned argument with supporting evidence should sway any dissenting voice to the truth of his argument. The “Letters on Sunspots” show him answering, by way of letter, questions and counter-arguments from his dissenters. He is exact in explaining his point of view and he follows up by pointing out how the argument from a dissenter might be mistaken or incorrect. During this time the Aristotelians still were a dominant force in the academia. An important point that Galileo makes is that even Aristotle would arrive at similar conclusions as himself if he had had the apparatus that was available during Galileo’s time.

Galileo differs from Copernicus in that instead of relying and giving a great deal of credit to the work done before him, he relies much more heavily on the accumulation of observational data and of reasoning through that data. Through Galileo’s work he was able to prove that the Copernican system was essentially true.

One of the most important distinctions that Galileo presses is that of naming. Prior to and during Galileo’s time, many astronomers would refer to objects or lights in the heavens as “stars.” Planets, supernovae, comets, and everything else were grouped together in this manner and referred to as “stars.” When you are attempting to explain something and how it is different from something else, nomenclature is very important. In his work, “The Starry Messenger,” Galileo goes to great lengths to describe and illustrate the differences between things in the heavens. This is necessary for him to describe the moons of Jupiter, or as he called them, the Medicean planets. In his illustrations on pages 52-65 of Drake, he not only shows regular depictions of the location of the Medicean planets, but also their relative size or brightness. Through the course of the illustrations one can see the nature of rotation they make around Jupiter.

Galileo and Copernicus each have a particular way about which they discovered truth about the way in which the solar system operates. Copernicus built on the knowledge of others augmenting and modifying that with his own intuition, observation, and mathematical ability. Galileo took this a step farther by incorporating a more detached view of the heavens by relying on observational data to prove his points. The methods of Galileo show a strong resemblance to that of scientific observation today: observation, deduction, reporting, peer review and discussion.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Debus, Allen G. Man and Nature in the Renaissance. New York, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

 

Drake, Stillman, ed. Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo. Trans. Stillman Drake. New York, New York: Anchor Books, 1957.

 

Hallyn, Fernand. The Poetic Structure of the World: Copernicus and Kepler. Trans. Donald M. Leslie. New York, New York: Zone Books, 1987.

 

Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Age of Scientific Discovery, Leonardo da Vinci Essay, Feb 14, 2002

This is the twenty-second post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

I wrote this essay for Professor Robert Wood’s LCC 2104 Age of Scientific Discovery class at Georgia Tech. This was shortly after I was readmitted to the program after working in IT for several years.  My citations are sloppy and incomplete and the writing is evidence of my writing’s early stages and on-going development. This is the first of three essays from Professor Wood’s class.

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Robert Wood

LCC 2104 Age of Discovery

February 14, 2002

Essay 1

Florence has established itself as a focus of a great many good things that have come about in such a short time. What follows is a listing of works which I have seen originating in Florence in this “new age.” My attention will first look at the arts and the innovations that took place in perspective and the use of space, as well as the newer sculptures that capture lifelike qualities so exquisitely. Then I will look at the marvel of architecture that dominates the city of Florence and I suspect will continue to do so for many years to come. Then I will look at machines and engineering feats that came about during this time as well.

Artwork has had a blossoming in recent years. Just prior to my birth artists began to investigate spaces and perspective. This work has led to a greater representation of the actuality of how things appear to the eye. What we see around us can thus be reproduced to great accuracy and it provides a more faithful representation of the world. I once saw a pen drawing of a chalice i perspective by Paolo Uccello. It appeared as a network of lines which comprised it’s inner and outer construction. It is a most unique work that delves deeply into the artistic representation of perspective. Uccello used special techniques in his works to represent how things appear. For example in his work, “The Battle of San Romano,” there is a terrific battle scene with fallen men and horses. Riders are attacking one another with their lances drawn. He skillfully laid broken lances on the ground to indicate the lines of perspective, and the horses are drawn with foreshortening. Uccello reconstructs a bloody scene of battle, but he does it in a representative way of reality as it would appear to the eye. Another wonderful example of perspective is Fra Angelico’s altarpiece at San Marco which he completed in 1440. It is much like you are standing off at a distance from the scene where the lines of perspective created by tile work on the floor and the arrangement of two rows of angels and saints leading up to the central focus of the work, the Madonna and Child seated on a classical throne. A work that is seen by everyone in Florence is the Baptistry doors. These were completed by Lorenzo Ghiberti in 1452. It is known as the “Gates of Paradise.” In these panels there is a clear representation of space, and the people and buildings within that space are proportional to one another. He employed a unique handling of the telling of narrative in the panels. One would assume at first looking at a panel that it was several events all happening at the same time, but in fact those separate events are sequential and they take place one at a time. Thus in a small space he is able to tell a story that might take other artists several panels to compose. Other works of art that are notable are those of sculpture in stone and bronze. The beginning of great artistry in sculpture took place when statues were needed to fill niches around Orsanmichele in Florence. Notable sculptures contributing to this project were Donatello, Nanni Di Banco, and Lorenzo Ghiberti. Ghiberti’s bronze statue of St. John the Baptist is a powerful representation. Donatello’s “St. Mark,” which he carved from marble appears more like a real man than Lorenzo’s “St. John the Baptist.” Donatello reveals St. Mark’s arms and legs beneath the robe by the way in which he stands. The division between flesh and stone seems not too great on St. Mark. It is as if he could walk out of the niche in which he stands. Di Banco represents the “Four Crowned Saints” in a niche, standings in a semicircle with one another. His representation is very true to historical accuracy with the depth of investigation and knowledge he applied to this work. The figures are clad in togas and the heads are said to be based on “several Roman portrait types.” Also it is interesting how at the bottom of this work he did another carving representative of a workshop busily in execution of works such as a putto and a small architectural column. A master sculptor who went beyond the work of the before mentioned sculptors is Michelangelo. Two masterful examples of his work is the “Pieta” which he completed in 1499, and “David” which he completed in 1504. The “Pieta” rests in St. Peter’s Basillica in Rome. It is a representation of Christ being held by his young Mother. I have said that sculpture is not as high an art as that of painting, but in this work Michelangelo has created something as far reaching as a work of painting. His “David” again reflects a mastery of the human form. He must have done extensive study of muscles and the body to build this representation.

The next subject I will turn to is that of architecture. The achievement that stands above all others in Florence is the vaulting of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. With a span of 143 feet it is the largest dome in the world. The cathedral which the dome rests on was under construction for more than a century. When the time had come to build the dome a competition was announced for designs to be submitted. Filippo Brunelleschi submitted the most brazen of all the designs. He proposed building the dome without the traditional centering which was believed necessary to build a domed structure. After a great deal of debate Brunelleschi’s design was accepted and building commenced. I witnessed part of the work being done on the dome when I was younger. I was an apprentice of Andrea del Verrocchio. The dome is an octagonal design which employs two shells interlaced within by ribs and what is called the “sandstone chain” to give it the support necessary to allow it to hold itself up. The idea for the dome was a great insight into the nature of materials and their construction together to form the whole that we see. In 1436 the dome was completed. All that remained was the lantern that would sit on top of the dome. From the lantern all of Florence can easily be seen. Also, from that height one can make wonderful observations of the heavens. It is of note that a friend of Brunelleschi, Paolo Toscanelli made a great deal of observations from the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore prior to sending a set of maps to Columbus prior to his sailing and discovery of the new world.

In the building of the dome and lantern new innovations were made in the construction of cranes and hoists. The first such invention was the ox-hoist by Brunelleschi. What sets this hoist apart from any before it was that it had a reverse gear. What this means is that the hoist would be driven by a single ox which would walk round in a circle bound to a drive which fed into the gears of the hoist. This walking of the ox would raise material to the top of the cathedral, and then for lowering material into place, the gearing mechanism would be adjusted onto a different gear which would change the direction of the work done by the ox. Thus the ox could continue to walk in the same direction but the work produced by it could be altered simply by the mechanism which it was attached to. This reverse gearing system saved a good deal of time and work for the construction of the dome. Had Brunelleschi not created this new hoist we might well be waiting for the completion of the dome now as I write this! When I was the apprentice of Andrea del Verrocchio I made sketches of a newer hoist and crane that Brunelleschi built for working on the dome and placing the stones where they would be in the construction. This crane was called the castello and it was very durable for the strain which it was placed under. It was still in employ when my master built the the eight foot high bronze sphere which is on top of the lantern of the dome. The castello was a hoist, but it also had a arm which could swing to allow the exact placement of a stone in the construction of the dome. Again Brunelleschi showed his mechanical expertise in the construction of the of castello.

I have been fortunate to live in a time such as this and in a place with such imaginative and practical works. Florence has many good people employed to build the status of the city and the works which gain renown far and wide. I feel that this is the beginning of a great many things that may have began with Florence but will carry on in cooperation with a great many people in many varied places.

Works Cited

King, Ross. Brunelleschi’s Dome. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 2000.

Richter, Irma A., ed. Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, The. Oxford, Great Britain: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Turner, A. Richard. Renaissance Florence. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, 1997.