Italians and Old Ideas
Their location along important trade routes brought the peoples of the Italian Peninsula into close contact with many cultures throughout the world. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire became the most powerful nation in the region. Byzantine scholars had preserved much of the technology and culture of both the Romans as well as the Greeks.
During the Middle Ages, many people in Europe lived in terrible conditions. They believed that life was supposed to be difficult, and that they should not expect to have any comforts. As the Italians learned about the old Roman and Greek ways, they began to believe, as the ancients had, that life should be rich and as comfortable as possible. They believed that a person should seek talents and skills, and that they should work to increase their standard of living, and the standards of living around them.
The practice of studying ancient works by the Romans and Greeks became known as humanism. Those who studied these classical works became known as humanists. These humanists became popular throughout Italy in the mid 1300s A.D.