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Florence was an old Etruscan city and later a Roman colony which thrived in times of Adrian. After a quiet period the city began to expand again on gaining its independence from Imperial rule in 1115. It became one of the first banking centres in Tuscany and was very prosperous as a result of the cloth trade. There was a period of fighting between Guelfs and Ghibellines during the aristocracy's government of the city but in 1250 a new constitution gave power to the middle-classes. This date marks the start of Florence's spectacular population growth, which rose to nearly 100,000 inhabitants in the 13th century. After a slight period of decline as a result of the Plague in 1348, Florence enjoyed its period of greatest splendour in the 14th and 15th centuries. It was not only an important time for international commerce, the cloth industry and banking activities, but also for art, where its tremendous energy made it an important centre for Humanism and the [Italian Renaissance#ESTILOS#1]. One of the city's most important banking and governing families was the Medici family. Many of the Medici were great patrons of the arts, supporting the likes of Raphael and Michelangelo. Obviously economic prosperity had a positive influence on the arts as it favoured the building of palaces and churches and the execution of sculptures and paintings. Examples of these can be found all over the city, such as the cathedral, the palazzo de la Signoria, the Medici palace and the palazzo Vecchio to name but a few. In this city, illustrious painters like Fra Filippo Lippi, Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo did their best works. In the second half of the 16th century, Florence went into decline and was only briefly illuminated by its status as capital of the new Italian kingdom between 1865 and 1870.

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