LECTURE 3 OF A 3 LECTURE SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM J. NEIDINGER. The birth of Florence was, mildly put, inauspicious: a settlement of Roman veteran soldiers on the banks of an untamed river. The reason for the choice for the location of the veterans' colony: the land was available. But after centuries of obscurity, this small town rose suddenly to international prominence in banking, shipping, warfare, diplomacy, and the arts. Florentine merchants, scholars, ambassadors, soldiers, and artists were to be seen everywhere on three continents. Their ubiquitous presence prompted one Pope to call the Florentines "the fifth element." These lectures will trace the history of the city from its humble beginnings to its international Golden Age and to its retirement as one of the great cities of the European Grand Tour. Special emphasis will be given to the numerous surviving monuments of Florence's illustrious past. Dr. William Neidinger is an archaeologist and historian associated with the Texas Foundation For Archaeological & Historical Research (TFAHR). LECTURE 3 OF 3: FIRENZE: THE GRAND DOWAGER OF THE ARTS.