Soderini, Piero

   Florentine political leader, elected to a life term as gonfaloniere della giustizia (head of the Signoria, the central policy-making body of the republic) in 1502. Previously, the gonfaloniere, like the other eight members of the Signoria, had been selected by lot to serve a two-month term. The heads of the anti-Medicean political factions who gained control of the government af-ter the expulsion of the Medici in 1494 and the execution of Savonarola in 1498 concluded that in such dangerous times, the city must have a stronger executive authority, someone like the doge in Italy's other great republic, Venice. While they did not want a dicta-tor, they realized that having the whole membership of the Signoria turn over every two months had created a dangerous lack of continu-ity. The reformers' solution was to grant the leader of the Signoria a life term. Soderini seemed the ideal person to hold this position. He belonged to a wealthy aristocratic family, yet his reputation for mod-eration and his good personal character made him acceptable to the less aristocratic members of the population.
   As gonfaloniere Soderini did prove to be a capable administrator who stabilized the government's shaky financial situation. Since Flo-rence lacked strong military resources, his foreign policy relied on the city's traditional alliance with France and on careful neutrality in the wars stirred up in Italy by Pope Julius II, who was allied at var-ious times with the Spanish and the Venetians. The greatest triumph of his foreign policy was the reconquest of the port city of Pisa, which had thrown off Florentine rule in 1494 when the Medici regime collapsed. Soderini benefitted from the services of the most brilliant civil servant that Florence ever had, Niccolo Machiavelli. Unfortunately for Soderini, his cautious neutrality and reliance on French political and military support became a liability after an al-liance between the pope, the Venetians, and the king of Spain in 1512 forced King Louis XII to withdraw his troops from Italy. The victo-rious allies then decided to punish Florence for its pro-French neu-trality by sending an army to re-establish the Medici family's control of the city. Soderini was forced to resign and go into exile. The life-time office that he had held was abolished.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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