Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECOND BOOK. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 1 (Life of Machiavelli, History of Florence)
Return to Title Page for The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 1 (Life of Machiavelli, History of Florence)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
SECOND BOOK. - Niccolo Machiavelli, The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 1 (Life of Machiavelli, History of Florence) 
The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings of Niccolo Machiavelli, tr. from the Italian, by Christian E. Detmold (Boston, J. R. Osgood and company, 1882). Vol. 1. History of Florence.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
1. Amongst other great and admirable institutions of the ancient republics and principalities that are now extinct, we must note the practice of constantly building new towns and cities. In fact, nothing is so worthy of a good prince, or of a well-organized republic, nor more useful to any province, than to build up new cities, where men may establish themselves with the conveniences for defence and habitation. It was easy for the ancients to do this, being accustomed to send new inhabitants to occupy conquered territories and vacant lands; such settlements were called colonies. This practice, besides causing new towns to be built up, rendered the conquered territory more secure to the conqueror, filled the vacant lands with inhabitants, and maintained the population well distributed in the provinces. Whence it came that, living more securely in a province, the people multiplied there more rapidly, and were more prompt in offence, and in defence more secure. The discontinuance of this practice, because of the vicious administration of republics and princes, has resulted in the ruin and weakness of the provinces; for it was the only system that insured an abundant population to the country and rendered empires more secure. This greater security is due to the fact that a colony which is established by a prince in a newly acquired country is like a fortress and garrison, which keeps the other inhabitants in allegiance. Moreover, without such a system, a province would not become fully inhabited, nor keep her population well distributed; for all the places in it are not equally fertile and salubrious. This causes a superabundance of inhabitants in one place, and an insufficiency in another. And if there be not some means for remedying this unequal distribution, the province will in a little while be ruined; for one portion of it will become deserted from want of inhabitants, whilst the other portion will be impoverished from having too many. And as nature cannot correct this defect, we have to resort to art to do it; for unwholesome countries are made salubrious by being settled at once by a large population, who by cultivation make the land fertile, and by fires purify the air; which nature unaided could not do. This is demonstrated by the city of Venice, situated in a marshy and unwholesome place; nevertheless, the large number of inhabitants that flocked there at once made it healthy. Pisa also, in consequence of its insalubrious air, never was fully inhabited until Genoa and its shores were ravaged by the Saracens, which caused those people who were thus driven from their homes to move at once in great numbers to Pisa, which thus became populous and powerful.
Without the system of sending out colonies, conquered territories are held with greater difficulty; vacant lands never become inhabited, and such as are overpopulated will not be relieved. Whence many parts of the world, and more especially portions of Italy, have become deserted as compared with ancient times. And all this comes from the fact that her princes are destitute of the love of true glory, and her republics lack institutions that are worthy of praise. In ancient times, then, the system of colonies often caused new cities to spring up, or such as had already a beginning were largely increased thereby. Of the latter was the city of Florence, which owed its origin to Fiesole, and its increase to colonies.
2. It is undoubtedly true, as has been shown by Dante and Villani, that the city of Fiesole, being situated on the summit of a mountain, and wishing to make its markets more frequented and accessible to those who desired to come there with their merchandise, established a place for this purpose in the plain between the foot of the mountain and the river Arno. This market, I judge, caused the first buildings to be erected at that place, owing to the desire of the merchants to have convenient places for receiving and delivering their goods, and these buildings in the course of time became permanent structures. Afterwards, when the Romans, by the conquest of the Carthaginians, had rendered Italy secure from foreign attacks, these buildings were multiplied in great numbers; for men do not select inconvenient places to dwell in, except from necessity; so that if the fear of attack constrains them to live in rude and inaccessible places, they will naturally be attracted to inhabit agreeable and convenient localities whenever that fear of attack ceases. Security, then, which sprang from the reputation of the Roman Republic, caused the increase of those habitations (which were already commenced in the manner above stated) in such numbers that they assumed the form of a settlement, which at first was called Villa Arnina. Afterwards civil wars arose in Rome, first between Marius and Sylla, subsequently between Cæsar and Pompey, and then between the murderers of Cæsar and those who wished to avenge his death. Sylla first, and after him those other three Roman citizens, who, after having avenged Cæsar, divided the Empire between them, sent colonies to Fiesole, and these established their dwellings, in whole or in part, in the plain, near the settlement which had already been commenced. And thus by this increase that place became filled with habitations and men, which by its civil organization could soon be counted amongst the cities of Italy. As to the origin of the name of Florentia, however, there are various opinions. Some claim that it was so called after Florino, one of the chiefs of the colony; others maintain that it was at first called, not Florentia, but Fluentia, from being situated near the river Arno, and they adduce the testimony of Pliny, who says: “The Fluentines dwell near the river Arno.” This opinion may, however, be erroneous; for the text quoted from Pliny tells where the Florentines dwelt, not how they were called. And most probably the word “Fluentines” is a corruption; for both Frontinus and Cornelius Tacitus, who wrote in the times of Pliny, call the place Florentia and the people Florentines. At the time of Tiberius, already (in the year 17 after Christ) the Florentines governed themselves, according to the custom of the other cities of Italy. And Cornelius Tacitus refers to the coming of Florentine ambassadors to the Emperor to request that the waters of the river Chiana might not be discharged into the Arno above their settlement. It is not reasonable to suppose that that city should in those days have had two names, and I am inclined to believe that it was always called Florentia, whatever the reason may have been why it was so named. And to whatever cause its origin may be due, it came into existence under the Roman Empire, and began to be mentioned by writers at the time of the first Emperors. When that Empire became a prey to the incursions of the Barbarians, Florence was also destroyed by Totilas, king of the Ostrogoths, and was rebuilt two hundred and fifty years afterwards by Charlemagne, from which time until the year of Christ 1215 it shared the fortunes of those who ruled over Italy. At that period, Italy was governed by the descendants of Charlemagne, afterwards by the Berengarii, and lastly by the German Emperors, as we have shown in our general remarks. During this interval, the Florentines, restrained by the power of their rulers, could neither increase nor do anything memorable. Nevertheless, in the year 1010, on the day of St. Romulus, a day of solemn festival for the Fiesolans, their city was captured and destroyed, either with the consent of the Emperor, or in the interval between the death of one Emperor and the creation of another, during which a general license prevailed. But afterwards, when the authority of the Popes increased in Italy, whilst that of the German Emperors had diminished, all the cities of that province governed themselves with less respect for their princes. Thus, in the year 1053, at the time of the Emperor Henry, Italy was openly divided between him and the Church; notwithstanding which the Florentines maintained themselves united until the year 1215, yielding obedience to the victorious party, and having no other ambition than their own security. But as the infirmities of our bodies are dangerous in proportion as their progress is slow, so Florence, being slower in following the factions of Italy, was also afterwards the more sorely afflicted by them. The cause of the first division is most noteworthy; and although having been mentioned by Dante and many other writers, it seems to me proper briefly to relate it here.
3. Amongst the other powerful families of Florence were the Buondelmonti and the Uberti; next to these were the Amidei and the Donati. In the latter family there was a rich widow having a most beautiful daughter, whom the mother in her own mind had designed to marry to Messer Buondelmonte, a young cavalier and head of the house of Buondelmonti. But as she had not made this design known to any one, either from neglect or perhaps because she thought it would always be time enough, it happened that Messer Buondelmonte engaged himself to marry a young lady of the Amidei family, which contravened the Lady Donati very much. And hoping that she might yet, ere the nuptials were actually celebrated, interrupt the engagement by the beauty of her daughter, and seeing Messer Buondelmonte coming alone towards her house, she descended to the lower floor, making her daughter follow her. And as the gentleman passed, she said: “I am truly glad that you have chosen a wife, although I had kept my daughter for you”; and, pushing open the door, she enabled him to see her. The gentleman, on beholding the beauty of the young lady, which was indeed remarkable, and considering that her family and dowry were not inferior to that of the one he had chosen, became so inflamed by the desire to have her, that, unmindful of his plighted faith and of the evils that might result from his breaking his engagement, he replied: “Since you have kept her for me, I should be an ingrate to refuse her, it being still time”; and without delay he solemnized his marriage with her. When this became known to the families of the Amidei and the Uberti, who were nearly related to them, it filled them with deep indignation; and having convened a number of the other relatives of the families they concluded that this insult could not be tolerated without shame, nor avenged except by the death of Messer Buondelmonte. And although some spoke of the evils that might result from this course, yet Mosca Lamberti said that “he who thought of too many things never did anything,” and quoted the old proverb, “A thing done must have a beginning.” The execution of the murder was therefore confided to Mosca, Stiatta Uberti, Lambertuccio Amidei, and Oderigo Fifanti. These met on Easter morning at the house of the Amidei, between the Ponte Vecchio and Santo Stefano; and as Messer Buondelmonte was crossing the bridge on a white horse, thinking it to be as easy to forget an insult as to renounce an alliance, they attacked and killed him at the foot of the bridge, by the statue of Mars. This homicide divided the whole city of Florence, — the one party supporting the Buondelmonti, and the other the Uberti. And as these families had strong houses and towers, with plenty of men, they fought for many years without the one being able to drive out the other. Their enmity, however, though not terminated by a formal peace, yet was at different times composed by truces, and in this way, according to new accidents, it was at one time quieted and then again rekindled.
4. Florence remained involved in these troubles until the time of Frederick II. (1246), who, being king of Naples, thought of strengthening himself against the Church; and, by way of establishing his power more firmly in Tuscany, he supported the Uberti and their followers, who with his aid drove the Buondelmonti out of the city. And thus Florence, the same as all Italy had been before, became divided into Guelfs and Ghibellines. And here it seems to me not superfluous to make a record of the families who adhered to the one and the other party. Those, then, who sided with the Guelfs were the Buondelmonti, Nerli, Rossi, Frescobaldi, Mozzi, Bardi, Pulci, Gherardini, Foraboschi, Bagnesi, Guidalotti, Sachetti, Manieri, Luccardesi, Chiaramontesi, Compiobessi, Cavalcanti, Giandonati, Gianfigliazzi, Scali, Gualterotti, Importuni, Bostichi, Tornaquinci, Vechietti, Tosinghi, Arrigucci, Agli, Sizi, Adimari, Visdomini, Donati, Pazzi, Della Bella, Ardinghi, Tebaldi, and Cerchi. To the Ghibelline party belonged the Uberti, Mannelli, Ubriachi, Fifanti, Amidei, Infangati, Malespini, Scolari, Guidi, Galli, Cappiardi, Lamberti, Soldanieri, Cipriani, Toschi, Amieri, Palermini, Migliorelli, Pigli, Barucci, Cattani, Agolanti, Brunelleschi, Caponsacchi, Elisei, Abati, Tedaldini, Giuochi, and the Galigai. Besides this, many of the people attached themselves to one or the other of these families, so that the whole city, as it were, was infected with this division. The Guelfs then, expelled from Florence, established themselves in the country above, in the Val d’ Arno, where they had most of their strongholds, so that they might the better defend themselves against their enemies. But after the death of Frederick the moderate men of Florence, who had most influence with the people, deemed it advisable to restore union amongst the inhabitants of the city, rather than to have it ruined by continued divisions. They therefore managed that the Guelfs, forgetting their former griefs, should return; and that the Ghibellines, laying aside their suspicions, should receive them (1250); and being thus reunited, the time seemed to them favorable for the adoption of a form of government that should insure them liberty and the means of defending themselves before the new Emperor should have acquired too much power.
5. They therefore divided the city into six wards, and elected twelve citizens, two for each ward, who should govern it: these were called Ancients, and were changed every year. And to remove all cause for enmities that might result from their judicial functions, two foreign judges were appointed, one of whom was called Captain of the People, and the other the Podesta, who were to decide all civil and criminal cases that should occur amongst the people. And inasmuch as no civil organization is stable unless its defence is provided for, they constituted twenty banners in the city and seventy-five in the country, under which all the young men were enrolled; and it was ordained that, whenever called by the Captain or the Ancients, every one was to appear promptly and well armed, under his banner. And they varied the devices of these banners according to the different arms, so that the crossbowmen had different ensigns from the shield-bearers. And every year, at Pentecost, they distributed with great pomp their ensigns to the new soldiers, and assigned new captains to all the companies. And to render their army more imposing, and to assign to each a rallying-point in case of being hard pressed in battle, whence they might make head anew against the enemy, they had a great car made, to be drawn by two oxen, all covered with scarlet, above which floated a white and red flag. And when they wanted to call the army out, this car was drawn to the New Market, and consigned with great pomp to the chiefs of the people. They had also, by way of giving more éclat to their military enterprises, a bell called Martinella, which was sounded continually during one month before they moved their troops out of the city, so as to afford the enemy time to prepare for defence. Such was the valor of those men, and such their magnanimity, that they deemed it shameful and wrong to attack an enemy unawares, whilst nowadays this is considered a proof of courage and of prudence. This bell was also carried into the field with their armies, and by means of it they communicated their commands to the guards and sentinels.
6. By means of these civil and military institutions the Florentines established their liberty; and it is not easy to imagine how much power and influence Florence acquired in a short time, so that she became not only the chief city of Tuscany, but was counted amongst the first cities of Italy; and would have risen to almost any height had she not been afflicted by frequent new dissensions. The Florentines lived ten years under this government, during which period they constrained the Pistojans, the Aretines, and the Siennese to form a league with them. Returning with their army from Sienna they took Volterra, destroyed several castles, and carried their inhabitants to Florence. These enterprises were all conducted under the direction of the Guelfs, who had much more power with the people than the Ghibellines; either from the fact that the latter had made themselves odious by their haughty conduct when they ruled Florence at the time of Frederick, or because the former, being the party of the Church, were more beloved than the party of the Emperor; for with the help of the Church they hoped to preserve their liberty, which they feared to lose under the Emperor. The Ghibellines, however, seeing their authority diminish, could not remain quiet, and only awaited an opportunity to seize the state again; this they thought had arrived when Manfred, son of Frederick, had made himself master of the kingdom of Naples and had materially lowered the power of the Church (1257). They therefore engaged in secret intrigues with Manfred for the recovery of their power, but did not manage them with sufficient prudence to prevent their being discovered by the Ancients. Whereupon these cited the Uberti before them, who, however, not only did not obey the summons, but took to arms and fortified themselves in their houses. Whereat the people became indignant and armed themselves, and with the aid of the Guelfs forced them to leave Florence and go with the Ghibelline party to Sienna (1258). From there this faction called in the help of Manfred, king of Naples, whose troops, under the skilful direction of Messer Farinata of the Uberti, defeated the Guelfs on the river Arbia with such slaughter (1260) that those who escaped took refuge in Lucca, and not in Florence, fearing that their city would certainly be lost.
7. Manfred had sent to the Ghibellines the Count Giordano as commander of his troops, he being a man of high military reputation in those days. After the above victory Giordano went with the Ghibellines to Florence, and subjected that city entirely to Manfred, abolishing the magistrates and all the other institutions that gave any evidence of their former liberty. This outrage, committed with great want of prudence, excited the greatest indignation amongst the people of Florence; so that, from being regarded as friendly to the Ghibellines, they became their greatest enemy, which in time caused their total ruin. Count Giordano, having to return to Naples on account of the troubles in that kingdom, left the Count Guido Novello, lord of Casentino, as viceroy in Naples. He called a council of Ghibellines at Empoli, where it was unanimously resolved that to preserve the power of their party in Tuscany it would be necessary to destory Florence, which city, from its people being Guelfs, was alone able to restore the Church party to power. Not one citizen or friend objected to this cruel sentence against so noble a city, except Messer Farinata degli Uberti, who openly opposed it and defended the city regardless of consequences, saying, “that he had exposed himself to much fatigue and danger for no other purpose than to be able to inhabit his native city, and that he did not intend now to forego the object he had so earnestly sought, nor to refuse the favors of fortune, and that he would be no less the enemy of those who intended differently, than he had been of the Guelfs; and that if any one from fear of his country wished to destroy it, he yet hoped to defend it with the same valor with which he had driven the Guelfs from it.” Messer Farinata was a man of great courage, and excelling in the art of war; he was chief of the Ghibellines, and greatly esteemed by Manfred. His influence put the proposition to destroy Florence at rest, and the council thought of other means of preserving the control of the state to the Ghibellines.
8. The Guelfs who had taken refuge in Lucca, and who had been sent away from there by the people of that city because of the threats of the Church, went to Bologna. From there they were called by the Guelfs of Parma to aid them against the Ghibellines, and, having succeeded in defeating them, all their possessions were given to them. Having thus grown in riches and honor, and knowing that Pope Clement had called Charles of Anjou to take the kingdom of Naples from Manfred, they sent envoys to the Pope to offer him their forces (1266). The Pope not only received them as friends, but gave them his banner, which was ever after borne by the Guelfs in all their wars. After this Manfred was despoiled of his kingdom by Charles, and was killed. The Guelfs of Florence having aided in this, their party gained strength, whilst that of the Ghibellines became weaker. Whereupon those who governed Florence, together with the Count Guido Novello, judged that it would be well by some benefits to try and win over to their side the same people, whom before they had aggravated by every kind of wrong. And had they employed these means of conciliation before necessity forced them to it, they would have been of service to them; but now, being employed reluctantly and too late, they proved of no use, but actually hastened their ruin. They thought, nevertheless, that they would make the people their friends and partisans if they restored to them a share of the honors and authority of the government which they had taken from them; they therefore selected thirty-six citizens from the people, who, together with two nobles, whom they had caused to come from Bologna, should reform the government of the city. These, according to what had been previously agreed upon, divided the whole city into trades or guilds, and placed a magistrate over each guild, who should be the means of communication between the guilds and themselves. They moreover assigned to each guild a banner, under which to assemble in arms whenever the city might have need of them. At first there were twelve of such guilds, seven major and five minor ones; the latter were afterwards increased to fourteen; so that there were in all twenty-one, the same as at the present day. The thirty-six reformers introduced also other measures for the general benefit.
9. For the support of the army, the Count Guido ordered a tax to be laid upon the citizens, which, however, caused so much difficulty that he did not venture to have it collected by force. Seeing that he had lost the control of the government, he held a council with the chiefs of the Ghibellines, and they resolved together to take from the people by force what they had conceded to them with such want of prudence. And when the moment seemed to him to have come for taking to arms, the Thirty-six being assembled in council, the Count Guido and the Ghibellines raised a tumult, whereupon the Thirty-six retreated to their houses and gave the alarm; and promptly the banners of the guilds made their appearance, followed by many armed men. When these heard that the Count Guido and his party were at San Giovanni, they made a stand at the Santa Trinita, giving the command to Messer Giovanni Solderani. The Count, on the other hand, learning where the people were, started to meet them. Nor did the people shrink from the conflict, but, facing the enemy, they encountered him where now the Loggia of the Tornaquinci stands. The Count Guido was repulsed, with the loss and death of a number of his men; which so frightened him that he became afraid the enemy would again attack him in the night, and, finding his men beaten and disheartened, would kill him. And this fear obtained such mastery over him that, without thinking of any other remedy, he concluded to save himself by flight rather than fight; and, contrary to the advice of the Rectors of the party, he marched off with all his men to Prato. But so soon as he found himself in safety he perceived his error, and, wishing to make it good, in the morning, when day had come, he returned with his men to Florence, for the purpose of entering by force into the city, which he had abandoned from cowardice. But he did not succeed in his design; for the people, who would not have been able to drive him out without great difficulty, easily kept him out; so that he went off to Casentino filled with grief and shame, whilst the Ghibellines retreated to their villas.
The victorious citizens thereupon resolved, by the advice of those who had the good of the republic at heart, to reunite the city, and to recall all its citizens, Ghibellines as well as Guelfs, who might be in exile. Thereupon the Guelfs, who had been expelled six years before, returned, and the Ghibellines were pardoned their recent offences, and were also restored to their country (1276). They were nevertheless very odious to the people and to the Guelfs; for the latter could not forget their banishment, and the former remembered too well the tyranny they had endured under their government, which prevented both the one and the other from remaining quiet. Whilst this was the state of things in Florence, the report spread that Conradin, nephew of Manfred, was coming with an armed force from Germany to take possession of Naples. This filled the Ghibellines with hopes of being able to recover their power and authority; and the Guelfs began to think of the means to secure themselves against their enemies, and applied to King Charles for aid in defending themselves during the passage of Conradin. When therefore the troops of Charles came, it made the Guelfs insolent, and so alarmed the Ghibellines that they fled two days before their arrival, without being driven away.
10. The Ghibellines having departed, the Florentines reorganized the government of the city, and elected twelve chiefs, who should hold the magistracies for two months. These were not called Ancients, but Buonomini (Goodmen). Next to these came a council of eighty citizens, called the Credenza; after these there were one hundred and eighty of the people, thirty for every sixth, who, together with the Credenza and the twelve Buonomini, were called the Council General. They also established another council of one hundred and twenty citizens and nobles, which should give final force to all the acts resolved upon in the other councils, and whose duty it should also be to distribute the public offices. Having established this government, the Guelf party strengthened themselves also with magistrates and other institutions, so as to be able more effectually to defend themselves against the Ghibellines, whose possessions they divided into three parts; one of which they devoted to public uses, another was assigned to the magistrates of the party, called the Captains, and the third part was given to the Guelfs in compensation for the losses they had suffered. And, by way of keeping the Guelf faction dominant in Tuscany, the Pope appointed King Charles Imperial Vicar of Tuscany.
Whilst the Florentines, by virtue of this government, maintained their authority at home by laws and abroad by arms, the Pope died; and after a long dispute, which lasted two years, Gregory X. was chosen pontiff (1271). Gregory had resided a long time in Syria, and was still there at the time of his election, and was consequently a stranger to the intrigues and strife of the factions, to which he did not attach so much importance as his predecessor had done. When therefore he came to Florence for the purpose of going into France, he deemed it the duty of a good pastor to restore harmony to the city, and labored so effectually to that end that the Florentines agreed to receive the syndics of the Ghibellines in Florence to negotiate as to the mode of their return (1273). And although the negotiations were concluded, yet the Ghibellines were afraid to return. The Pope blamed the city of Florence for this, and in his indignation launched an interdict against her. She remained in this state of contumacy during the lifetime of the Pope; but after his death, the interdict was removed by his successor, Pope Innocent V. (1275). The Pontificate had now come to Nicholas III. of the house of Orsini; and as the Popes always feared any one who had attained great power in Italy, even though he had acquired it by the support of the Church, so they fought again to abate that power, which gave rise to frequent disturbances and consequent changes; for the fear of a powerful state or individual made the pontiffs raise up a weak one to keep the other in check; and when the one had become powerful in turn, they again feared him, and sought to put him down. It was this policy that caused the kingdom of Naples to be taken from Manfred, and to be given to Charles; and when the latter afterwards occasioned them apprehension, they sought to ruin him. Pope Nicholas, influenced by these considerations, labored so effectually that Charles was deprived of the government of Tuscany by means of the Emperor; and he sent Messer Latino as his Legate into that province in the name of the Emperor (1279).
11. The condition of Florence was at that time most deplorable; for the Guelf nobility had become insolent, and had lost all fear of the magistrates; so that almost daily murders and other acts of violence were committed, without their authors being punished, as they were protected by some one of the nobility. The chiefs of the people thought that the recall of the banished would be a good means for curbing this insolence; and this gave the Legate opportunity to restore union to the city. The Ghibellines returned to Florence (1280), and, instead of twelve chiefs, it was resolved to have fourteen, — seven for each party, — who should govern for one year, and should be chosen by the Pope. Florence continued under this system during two years, when Martin, a Frenchman, came to the Pontificate, who restored to Charles all the authority that had been taken from him by Nicholas. This immediately revived the parties in Tuscany. The Florentines armed against the imperial governor, and, by way of depriving the Ghibellines of the government and restraining the license of the nobles, they instituted a new form of government. This was in the year 1282. Since the bodies of the guilds had received the magistracies and the banners, they had become so influential that of their own authority they ordained that, in place of fourteen governors, there should be chosen three citizens, who should be called Priors, and should remain two months in the government of the republic, and might either be taken from amongst the nobles or the people, provided that they were merchants, or exercised some branch of industry. They then reduced the number of the first magistrates to six, so as to have one for each sixth of the city, which number was maintained until the year 1382; when the city was divided into four quarters, and the number of the priors increased to eight, although it happened several times that they made twelve priors. This organization of the government was the cause, as will be seen, of the ruin of the nobles; for they were, from various circumstances, excluded by the people from all participation in the government. At first the nobles submitted to this, owing to their divisions amongst themselves; for, being too eager to take the government from each other, they lost it entirely. To this new magistracy a palace was assigned for their residence; it having until then been customary for the magistrates and councils to hold their meetings in some of the churches. This palace was supplied with sergeants and other necessary officers. And although in the beginning these magistrates only called themselves priors, yet, by way of greater magnificence, they soon added to it the title of Signori (Lords). For some time the Florentines remained at peace amongst themselves, during which period they carried on the war against the Aretine, because these had expelled the Guelfs, and they achieved a complete victory over them at Campaldino (1289). As the city increased in population and wealth, it became necessary to extend the walls; and the circumference of Florence was enlarged, as it is seen at the present day, — the city having originally occupied only the space from the Ponte Vecchio to the church of San Lorenzo.
12. The wars abroad and the peace at home had pretty much extinguished the factions of the Guelfs and the Ghibellines; there remained only some jealousies between the nobles and the people, which is natural in every city; for the people desiring the observance of the laws, and the nobles wishing to command the people, it is not possible for a good understanding to exist between them. This ill feeling did not manifest itself so long as the Ghibellines inspired them with fear; but so soon as these were subdued it showed its strength, and every day some of the people were insulted, and the laws and the magistrates were insufficient to protect them; for each noble with his relatives and adherents defended himself against the forces of the priors and the captains. The chiefs of the guilds, nevertheless, desirous of remedying this state of things, provided that every Signoria, upon first assuming office, should appoint a Gonfalonier (Standard-bearer) of Justice, and who should be of the people, and to whom were given one thousand men, enrolled under twenty banners, and who with his standard and his armed force should promptly enforce justice, whenever he should be called upon by them or by the captains. The first one chosen to this office was Ubaldo Ruffoli (1293); he displayed his standard and pulled down the houses of the Galletti because one of that family had killed one of the Florentine people in France. It was easy for the guilds to establish such an institution, owing to the grave dissensions that prevailed amongst the nobles, who at first gave little heed to the provision thus made against them, until they saw the harshness of this execution against the Galletti. This caused them much consternation; but they soon resumed their former insolence, for, as some of the nobility always belonged to the Signoria, they could easily impede the Gonfalonier in the execution of his office. Besides, the accuser who had received an injury was obliged to have a witness, and none could be found willing to testify against the nobility. Thus Florence soon relapsed into the same disorders as before, and the people were again subjected to the same insults and injuries from the nobles; for the judgments were slow, and the sentences failed to be executed.
13. The people did not know what course to pursue in this state of things, when Giano della Bella, a noble of most ancient lineage, but at the same time also a true lover of the liberty of his city, encouraged the chiefs of the guilds to reform the government of the city. And by his advice it was ordained that the Gonfalonier should reside in the palace with the Priors, and should have four thousand men under his command. They also deprived the nobles of all right to sit in the Signoria, and subjected the abettors of any crime to the same penalty as the principal; and ordained that public report should suffice to warrant judgment. By these laws, which were called the Ordinances of Justice, the people gained much influence and Giano much odium; for he was in the worst possible odor with the nobles, who looked upon him as the destroyer of their power; and the wealthy citizens were jealous of him, thinking that he had too much influence. These feelings manifested themselves on the first occasion that presented itself. It so happened that one of the people was killed in a fight in which many nobles had intervened. Amongst these was Messer Corso Donati, who, being more audacious than the others, was charged with the murder. He was therefore arrested by the captain of the people, but whether it was that Messer Corso was not guilty, or that the captain was afraid to condemn him, he was entirely acquitted. This decision so displeased the people that they took to arms and rushed to the house of Giano della Bella to ask him to see to it that the laws which he had originated should be executed. Giano, who desired that Messer Corso should be punished, did not cause the people to disarm, as many thought he should have done, but he advised them to go to the Signoria to lay the case before them, and to ask them to take the matter in hand. The people thereupon, full of indignation, feeling themselves wronged by their captain and abandoned by Giano, went, not to the Signoria, but to the palace of the captain, took and sacked it. This act gave great offence to all the citizens, and those who desired Giano’s ruin charged him with being the cause of it. And some of his enemies being amongst the Signoria, he was accused by them before the captain as an instigator of the people; and whilst his case was being discussed, the people took to arms and rushed to his house, offering to defend him against the Signoria and his enemies. Giano wished neither to put this popular favor to the test, nor to commit his life to the hands of the magistrates, for he feared the malignity of the latter, and the instability of the former; and therefore, by way of depriving his enemies of the opportunity of injuring him, and his friends of the occasion to offend his country, he determined to go away to escape envy, and to relieve the citizens of the fear they had of him, and to leave the city which by his efforts and dangers he had freed from the tyranny of the nobles; and therefore he chose voluntary exile (1295).
14. After the departure of Giano the nobles hoped again to recover their power; and judging that their troubles were the result of their own discords, they united together and sent two of their number to the Signoria, whom they judged to be favorably disposed towards them, to request that they would in some measure temper the harshness of the laws against them. The people upon learning this demand became greatly excited, fearing lest the Signoria might concede it; and thus, what with the demands of the nobles and the suspicions of the people, they came to arms between them. The nobles made head in three places, at San Giovanni, the Mercato Nuovo, and the Piazza de’ Mozzi, and under three chiefs, Messer Forese Adimari, Messer Vanni de’ Mozzi, and Messer Geri Spini; and the people assembled in great numbers under their banners at the palace of the Signori, who lived at that time near the church of San Procolo. And as the people mistrusted this Signoria, they deputed six citizens who should govern with them. Whilst both parties were preparing for a conflict, some of them, both citizens and nobles, as also certain priests of good repute, set to work to pacify them, reminding the nobles “that it was their own haughtiness and bad government that had caused them to be deprived of certain dignities, and the enactment of the laws against them; and that their attempt now to recover by force of arms what they had allowed to be taken from them by their dissensions amongst themselves, and by their evil conduct, could only lead to the ruin of their country, and to an aggravation of their own condition; and that the people in regard to wealth, numbers, and violence of resentment were greatly their superiors; and that that nobility by which they considered themselves superior to others was but a vain word when it came to a conflict of arms, and would prove of little service in defending them against so many enemies.”
On the other hand, they reminded the people “that it was not wisdom always to desire the last victory, and that it was never prudent to drive men to desperation, for he who had no hope of good also had no fear of evil; and that they must bear in mind that it was the nobility who had brought honor to the city in war, and that therefore it was neither just nor well to persecute them with so much rancor; that the nobles bore very well their being deprived of a share in the supreme magistracies, but that they could not bear that it should be in the power of any one by means of these new ordinances to drive them from their country; and therefore it was well to mitigate these, and by such concessions to induce the nobles to lay aside their arms, and not to tempt the fortune of a fight by confiding too much in their numbers, for it had often been seen that the few have overcome the many.” The people differed in opinion; many wished it to come to a fight, to which it would have to come anyhow some day, and therefore it was better to have it now rather than wait until the enemy should become more powerful. And, said these, if it were believed that the nobles would remain content if the laws against them were mitigated, then it were well that this should be done; but they thought that the arrogance of the nobles was such that nothing but force would ever keep them quiet. Many others, who were more prudent and of less violent disposition, thought that a modification of the laws was a matter of little consequence, whilst it would be a very grave matter to come to a conflict of arms. And this opinion prevailed, so that it was provided that, in all accusations against nobles, witnesses should be required.
15. Although both parties laid aside their arms, yet they remained very mistrustful of each other, and fortified themselves by raising towers and providing arms. The people reorganized the government, and reduced the Signoria in numbers because they had been favorable to the nobles; and the chiefs of those that remained were the Mancini, Magalotti, Altoviti, Peruzzi, and Cerretani. The state being thus constituted, they built a palace, in 1298, for the purpose of lodging the Signori with greater magnificence and security; and adjoining to it they formed an open square or piazza by removing the houses that had formerly belonged to the Uberti. At the same time they began also to build the public prisons, and in a few years these edifices were completed. Our city, abounding in wealth and population and influence, never enjoyed a state of greater prosperity and contentment than at that time. The citizens capable of bearing arms numbered thirty thousand, and the country belonging to Florence was able to furnish seventy thousand more. All Tuscany recognized her authority, either as subjects or as allies. And although some angry feeling still remained between the nobles and the people, yet no ill effects resulted from it, and all lived in peace and union. This peace, had it not been disturbed by fresh intestine discords, would never have been troubled from without; for Florence had attained that condition that she feared neither the Empire nor those whom she had banished; and with her own forces she could have held her ground against all the other states of Italy. But the evil which no foreign power could have caused to the city was produced by her own inhabitants.
16. (1300.) Amongst the most powerful families of Florence, by their riches, their nobility, and the number of their followers, were the Cerchi and the Donati. Being neighbors in Florence as well as in the country, some differences had arisen between them, but not sufficiently grave to provoke a resort to arms, and which would perhaps never have had any serious consequences had not some fresh causes increased the ill feeling between them. The family of the Cancellieri was one of the principal families of Pistoja. It happened that Lore, son of Messer Guglielmo, and Geri, son of Messer Bertaccio, all of that family, whilst playing together, fell to disputing, and Geri was slightly wounded by Lore. Messer Guglielmo was greatly pained at this; but in the belief that humility would remove the offence, he thereby increased it. He ordered his son to go to the house of the father of the boy whom he had wounded, and ask his forgiveness. Lore obeyed his father; but this act of humiliation did not assuage the harsh, vindictive temper of Messer Bertaccio, who caused Lore to be seized by his servants by way of aggravating the insult, and had his hand cut off over a manger, saying to him: “Return to your father and tell him that wounds are cured with iron, and not with words.” The cruelty of this act so enraged Messer Guglielmo that he armed his followers for the purpose of avenging it; and Messer Bertaccio also armed himself for defence. This feud divided not only the family of the Cancellieri, but all Pistoja. And as this family were descended from a Messer Cancellieri who had had two wives, one of whom had borne the name of Bianca, the party who were descended from her adopted her name of “Bianchi”; and the other party, by way of having a name the very opposite of that of the others, called themselves the “Neri.” These two factions continued their warfare against each other for many years, causing the death of many men and the destruction of many families. Unable to restore peace amongst themselves, and weary of the evil, and determined either to put an end to their dissensions or to increase them by drawing others into their quarrel, they came to Florence. The Neri, from old relations of friendship with the Donati, were supported by Messer Corso, head of that family; whereupon the Bianchi, for the sake of also having a powerful support that would sustain them against the Donati, had recourse to Messer Veri de’ Cerchi, a man in all respects not the least inferior to Messer Corso.
17. This Pistoja quarrel increased the ancient hatred between the Cerchi and the Donati, and had already become so public that the Priors and other good citizens thought that they might at any moment come to an armed conflict, which might involve the whole city in the difficulty. And therefore they resorted to the Pope, praying him to employ his authority in putting an end to this quarrel, which they themselves had been unable to compose. The Pope sent for Messer Veri, and charged him to make peace with the Donati; at which Messer Veri professed to be astonished, saying that he had no enmity against them, and as the making of peace presupposed a state of war, which did not exist, he could not see the necessity of making peace. When Messer Veri returned from Rome without having accomplished anything, the quarrel increased to that degree that the most trifling accident might at any moment have provoked the factions to violent excesses, which in fact occurred. It was in the month of May, at the time when the public festivals are being celebrated in Florence, that some young gentlemen of the Donati, being on horseback with some of their friends, had stopped to see some women dance at the Santa Trinita. Some of the Cerchi, accompanied by a number of young nobles, came there also, and wished to see the dancing, and, not knowing the Donati who were before them, pushed their horses right in amongst them. Whereupon the Donati considered themselves insulted, and drew their swords, to which the Cerchi bravely responded; and after many on both sides were wounded, the parties separated. This encounter was the beginning of much evil; for the whole city became divided, the people as well as the nobles, and the parties took the names of Bianchi and Neri. The chiefs of the Bianchi party were the Cerchi, who had been joined by the Adimari, the Abati, a portion of the Tosinghi, of the Bardi, of the Rossi, of the Frescobaldi, of the Nerli, and of the Mannelli, and all the Mozzi, the Scali, the Gherardini, the Cavalcanti, the Malespini, Bostichi, Giandonati, Vecchietti, and the Arrigucci. These were joined by many families of the people, together with all the Ghibellines that were in Florence; so that within the great number of their adherents were comprised nearly the entire government of the city. On the other hand, the Donati were chiefs of the party of the Neri. With these were those portions of the abovenamed families who had not attached themselves to the Bianchi; and furthermore all the Pazzi, the Visdomini, the Manieri, the Bagnesi, the Tornaquinci, Spini, Buondelmonti, Gianfigliazzi, and the Brunelleschi. And not only was the whole city affected by this feud, but the whole country was also divided by it; so that the captains of the parties, and all the adherents of the Guelfs and lovers of the republic, began to be very apprehensive lest this new division would cause the ruin of the city and the resuscitation of the Ghibelline party. They therefore sent anew to Pope Boniface so that he might devise some remedy for this state of things, unless he desired to see the city of Florence, which had ever been the shield of the Church, become either ruined or Ghibelline. The Pope therefore sent Matteo d’ Acquasparta, a Portuguese cardinal, as his Legate, to Florence; but he found such difficulty with the Bianchi party, who, from supposing themselves to be the most powerful, were the most audacious, that he became indignant and departed, placing the city, however, under an interdict, so that she remained in still greater confusion than before his arrival.
18. It happened in the midst of this general fermentation, that a number of the Cerchi and the Donati met at a funeral and began to quarrel. From words they came to blows, although it caused for the moment only a slight disturbance. But when each had returned home, the Cerchi resolved to attack the Donati, and started with a number of men to find them. They were repulsed, however, by the bravery of Messer Corso, and a number of their men were wounded. All Florence was quickly in arms; the Signoria and the laws were overpowered by the nobles, and the best and wisest citizens were filled with fears and misgivings. The Donati and their party, being the weaker, were the most apprehensive; and by way of providing for their safety Messer Corso met with the other chiefs of the Neri and the leaders of the party, and agreed to ask the Pope for some one of royal blood to come to Florence and reorganize the government, hoping in that way to be able to put down the Cerchi. This meeting and resolution was made known to the Priors, and was represented by the opposite faction as a conspiracy against the liberty of the city. Both factions being in arms, the Signoria, of which Dante was a member at that time, encouraged by his advice and prudence, caused the people to arm; they were joined by many of the people of the country, and thus they forced the chiefs of the factions to lay down their arms; whereupon they banished Messer Corso Donati and many others of the Neri party. And to show that they had been impartial in that judgment, they banished also several of the Bianchi party, who, however, soon after were permitted, under color of good reasons, to return to their homes.
19. Messer Corso and his adherents, believing the Pope to be favorable to their side, went to Rome, and by their personal efforts persuaded him to do what they had already asked of him by letters. There happened to be at that moment at the papal court Charles de Valois, brother of the king of France, who had been called to Italy by the king of Naples to go to Sicily. Being very much urged thereto by the banished Florentines, the Pope concluded to send Charles to Florence so soon as the weather should be favorable for the voyage. Charles thereupon went to Florence, and although the Bianchi, who at that time held the government, mistrusted him, yet, as he was chief of the Guelfs and sent by the Pope, they did not venture to impede his coming; and by way of securing his good will they gave him authority to dispose of the city according to his pleasure. Having received this authority, Charles caused all his friends and partisans to arm themselves. This so filled the minds of the people with mistrust of him, that they all took up arms and remained in their houses, so as to be ready in case Charles should attempt any movement.
The Cerchi and the chiefs of the Bianchi party, from having been for some time at the head of the republic, and having borne themselves very proudly, had made themselves universally odious. This encouraged Messer Corso and the other banished Neri to come to Florence, well knowing that Charles and the captains of the party were favorably disposed towards them. And whilst the city, from mistrust of Charles, was in arms, Messer Corso, with all the banished, and many others who had followed him, entered Florence without hindrance from any one. Although Messer Veri de’ Cerchi was urged to move against them, yet he refused, saying that he wanted the people of Florence to chastise them, as it was against them that they had come. But the very contrary happened; for instead of being chastised by the people, Corso and his followers were well received by them, and Messer Veri was obliged to seek safety in flight. Corso, after having forced the gate of the Pinti, made a stand at the church of San Pietro Maggiore, a place near his own house; and having been joined by many of his friends and the people, who, eager for something new, had collected there, he first of all liberated from prison all who were confined either for reasons of state or private causes; and then he compelled the Signori to return to their own houses as private citizens, and elected others from the people and of the Neri party; and continued during five days to pillage the houses of the foremost of the Bianchi party. The Cerchi and the other chiefs of the faction, seeing that Charles was adverse to them and the people hostile, had left the city and withdrawn to their strongholds. And whereas formerly they were never willing to follow the counsels of the Pope, they found themselves now obliged to recur to him for help, showing him how Charles, instead of uniting, had only come to make the divisions of Florence greater. Whereupon the Pope again sent his Legate, Messer Matteo d’ Acquasparta, to Florence, who succeeded in bringing about a peace between the Cerchi and the Donati, and fortified it by fresh intermarriages amongst them. But wishing that the Bianchi should also participate in the public offices, the Neri who held the government refused their consent; so that the Legate departed no better satisfied nor less angry than he had been the first time, and left the city under an interdict for her disobedience.
20. Both parties then remained in Florence dissatisfied; the Neri, because, seeing the opposite party near them, they feared that they might ruin them and repossess themselves of the power they had lost; and the Bianchi, because they felt themselves deprived of all power and honors. To these natural aversions and suspicions new injuries supervened (1302). Messer Niccolo de’ Cerchi, being on his way to his estates accompanied by a number of his friends, and having arrived at the bridge over the Affrico, was assailed by Simone, son of Messer Corso Donati. The conflict was severe and ended unhappily for both parties; for Messer Niccolo was killed, and Simone so seriously wounded that he died the following night. This affair disturbed the whole city anew, and although the Neri party was chiefly to blame, yet it was defended by those in the government. And before any judgment had been rendered in this matter, a conspiracy was discovered of the Bianchi and Messer Piero Ferrante, one of the barons of Charles, with whom they were negotiating to be reinstated in the government. The discovery of this conspiracy was made from certain letters written by Cerchi to Ferrante. And although it was generally believed that these letters were forged, and suggested by the Donati for the purpose of covering up the infamy they had acquired by the murder of Messer Niccolo, yet the Cerchi, together with their adherents of the Bianchi party, amongst whom was the poet Dante, were banished, their property confiscated, and their houses pulled down. These, together with a number of Ghibellines who had joined them, scattered in many places, seeking by fresh labors to gain new fortunes. Charles, having accomplished the object for which he had come to Florence, returned to the Pope to follow out his enterprise against Sicily, in which he proved himself neither better nor wiser than he had done in Florence, so that he returned to France with the loss of reputation and of many of his men (1304).
21. After the departure of Charles things remained tolerably quiet in Florence. Only Messer Corso was restless, because he thought that he did not hold that rank in the city to which he considered himself entitled. The government being in the hands of the people, he saw the republic administered by men much inferior to himself. Influenced therefore by his restless and ambitious spirit, he sought to cloak his dishonest intentions with an honest pretext, and falsely charged a number of citizens who had administered the public funds with having misappropriated them to private purposes, and demanded their trial and punishment. This demand was supported by many whose desires were similar to his own; others, who in their ignorance believed Messer Corso to be actuated by patriotic feelings, also united with him. The calumniated citizens, on the other hand, who were supported by the people, defended themselves against this accusation. This difference increased to such a degree that, according to the customary fashion, the parties came to arms. On the one side were Messer Corso and Messer Lottieri, Bishop of Florence, with many nobles and some of the people; on the other were the Signori, with the greater part of the people; and the quarrel grew to that point that in many parts of the city they actually came to fighting. The Signori, seeing the great danger in which they were, sent to the people of Lucca for assistance; these quickly came to Florence, and by their intervention matters for the time were settled and the disturbances stopped, and the people of Florence retained their government and their liberties without otherwise punishing the authors of this trouble. The Pope, having heard of the disturbances in Florence, sent his Legate, Messer Niccolo da Prato, to put a stop to them, who, being a man of great repute by his office, his learning and exemplary mode of life, very soon obtained such influence with the people of Florence that they gave him authority to establish a government according to his own views. Being by birth a Ghibelline, Messer Niccolo contemplated the recall of the banished; but wished first to win the people entirely over to him, and for that purpose he re-established the old companies of the people, whereby the power of the people was greatly increased, whilst that of the nobles was diminished. When the Legate, therefore, thought that he had thoroughly secured the good will of the multitude, he attempted to carry out the recall of the banished. But he failed in his various efforts, and became thereby so mistrusted by those who governed the city that he was obliged to depart and return to Rome filled with anger, and leaving Florence in much confusion and under an interdict.
The city was perturbed not only by this, but also by many other troubles in consequence of the enmities between the people and the nobles, the Guelfs and the Ghibellines, and the Bianchi and the Neri. The whole city was therefore in arms, and conflicts were of daily occurrence; for many were greatly discontented at the departure of the Legate, being themselves desirous for the return of the banished. The first who started these troubles were the Medici and the Giugni, who had made themselves known to the Legate as being in favor of the rebels. There was fighting then in most parts of Florence, and to these troubles was added a great conflagration, which broke out first in the Orto San Michele and in the houses of the Abati, whence it spread to those of the Caponsachi, burning them, together with the houses of the Macci, the Amieri, Toschi, Cipriani, Lamberti, and Cavalcanti, and the entire Mercato Nuovo. Thence the fire passed to the Porta San Maria, burning the whole of it; then, turning from the Ponte Vecchio, it burned the houses of the Gherardini, Pulci, Amidei, Lucardesi, and many others; so that the number of houses destroyed amounted to over seventeen hundred. According to the opinion of many the fire originated by accident in the very midst of a fight; others affirmed that it had been kindled by Neri Abati, Prior of San Pietro Scheraggio, a dissolute and evil-minded man, who, seeing the people engaged in fighting, committed this villanous act, knowing that it could not be checked by the people who were occupied by the fight; and by way of insuring its success he set fire to the houses of his associates, where he had a better opportunity of doing it. It was in the month of July, of the year 1304, that Florence was thus visited by fire and sword. Messer Corso Donati was the only one who in the midst of all these tumults did not arm, for he judged it would be easier for him to become the arbiter between the two parties when, weary of fighting, they should wish to come to terms. The parties however deposed their arms more from satiety of evil than from a desire for union; and the only result was that the banished did not return, and that the party who favored them failed to gain control of the government.
22. The Legate, having returned to Rome, and hearing of the fresh disturbances that had taken place in Florence, persuaded the Pope that the only means of restoring peace and union to Florence would be for him to cause twelve of the first citizens of that city to come to him, and that thus by taking away the food of the evil he would be able to quench it. The Pope acted upon this advice; and the citizens whom he called obeyed and came to Rome, and Messer Corso Donati was one of them. No sooner had these left Florence than the Legate gave the banished to understand that now was the time for them to return, as the city was at that moment without any of its chiefs. The banished therefore made the attempt, and came to Florence and entered the walls, which had not been prepared for defence, and advanced as far as San Giovanni. It was a notable fact that the very men who a short time before had fought for the return of the banished, when these had begged unarmed to be allowed to return to their country, took up arms against them when they saw them come armed, with the intent to seize the city by force. So much more did these citizens esteem the public good than their private friendships; and having called all the people to their assistance, they forced the banished to return whence they had come. The failure of the banished in their attempt was caused by their having left a part of their men at Lastra, and by their not having waited for Messer Tolosetto Uberti, who was to have come with three hundred mounted men from Pistoja; they had vainly imagined that celerity of movement would more surely give them the victory than strength. And thus it often happens in such enterprises that celerity robs you of strength, whilst tardiness deprives you of the opportunity. The rebels having withdrawn, Florence relapsed into its old dissensions. The people, wishing to abate the power of the family of Cavalcanti, forcibly took from them the castle of Stinche, situated in the Val di Greve, and which had from time immemorial been their residence. And as those who were captured in it were the first to be confined in the new prisons that had been built in Florence, these were thenceforth called after the castle whence the prisoners had been taken, and to this day these prisons are called the Stinche (1307).
Those who were at the head of the government of the republic re-established the companies of the people, and gave them the banners under which the guilds had formerly assembled. The captains of these assumed the title of Gonfalonieri of the companies and colleagues of the Signori, and claimed the right to aid the Signori with their counsels in all armed conflicts or other disturbances. To the ancient Rectors they added an officer called Executor of Justice, whose duty it was to aid the Gonfalonieri in repressing the insolence of the nobles. In the midst of all this the Pope died, and Messer Corso and the other citizens returned from Rome; and all would have been tranquil if the turbulent spirit of Messer Corso had not disturbed Florence anew. For the purpose of gaining influence he opposed the nobles on every occasion, and to whatever side he saw the people inclined, to that he inclined also; so that he became the head and front of all differences and innovations, and all who wished to obtain anything extraordinary had recourse to him. Thus many of the best reputed citizens came to hate him, which increased to such a degree that the party of the Neri broke out into open division. Messer Corso relied upon his private power and influence, his adversaries upon that of the government; but such was his personal authority that everybody feared him. And therefore for the purpose of depriving him of this popular favor his opponents adopted a plan by which it was easily destroyed, for they spread the report that he wanted to seize the government and make himself tyrant of Florence. It was easy to make the people believe this, for his way of life exceeded all civil bounds, and his marriage with a daughter of Uguccione della Faggiuola, head of the Ghibellines and of the Bianchi party, and a man of greatest power in Tuscany, gave still greater consistency to this report.
23. So soon as this alliance became known, his adversaries took courage, and armed against him. The same considerations caused the people not to defend him, but the greater part rather joined his enemies. The principal of these were Messer Rosso della Tosa, Messer Pazzino de’ Pazzi, Messer Geri Spini, and Messer Berto Brunelleschi. These, with their followers and the greater part of the people, met, armed, at the palace of the Signoria, by whose order an accusation against Messer Corso had been placed in the hands of Messer Piero Branca, captain of the people, charging Messer Corso with an attempt, by the aid of Messer Uguccione, to make himself tyrant of the city. Thereupon he was cited to appear, and condemned for contumacy as a rebel (1308), — not more than two hours having been allowed to elapse between the accusation and the sentence. After this judgment, the Signori, with the companies of the people under their banners, went to seek Messer Corso. He, on the other hand, undaunted at seeing himself abandoned by many of his adherents, nor by the sentence pronounced against him, nor by the authority of the Signori or the multitude of his enemies, fortified himself in his palace, hoping to be able to defend himself until Uguccione, for whom he had sent, should come to his assistance. He barred his palace and the streets around it, which were occupied by his partisans, who defended them so well that the people, though very numerous, could not dislodge them. The combat, however, was very severe, and many were killed and wounded on both sides; and the people, seeing that they could not get at Messer Corso from the open streets, occupied the adjoining houses, and, breaking through the walls, they succeeded in entering his palace. Messer Corso, finding himself surrounded by enemies, and relying no longer upon the expected aid of Uguccione, resolved, after despairing of victory, to find a means of safety; and, together with Gherardo Bordoni and a number of his stoutest and stanchest friends, he charged so impetuously upon his enemies that they opened their ranks, and allowed him to pass through, fighting, and to escape from the city through the Porta alla Croce. They were, however, pursued by a number of their enemies, and Gherardo was killed on the Affrico by Boccaccio Cavicciuli. Messer Corso was also overtaken and captured at Rovezzano by some Catalan horsemen in the service of the Signoria. But on approaching Florence, he threw himself off his horse, so as to avoid meeting his enemies face to face and being torn in pieces by them; and, being down on the ground, one of the men charged with conducting him to Florence cut his throat. His body was picked up by the monks of San Salvi, and was buried without any honors. Such was the end of Messer Corso, who had done both much good and much evil to his country and to the party of the Neri; and his memory would have been more glorious if his spirit had been less turbulent. Nevertheless, he deserves to be numbered amongst the great citizens which Florence has produced. It is true that his turbulence caused his country and his party to forget the obligations they owed him, and in the end brought many ills upon both the one and the other, and death upon himself. Uguccione, whilst coming to the support of his son-in-law, heard, at Remole, how Messer Corso had been defeated by the people; and, seeing that he could be of no possible service to him, and not wishing uselessly to expose himself to harm, returned to his estates.
24. After the death of Messer Corso, which occurred in the year 1308, the disturbances ceased in Florence, and the people lived in peace until it became known that the Emperor Henry had passed into Italy, together with all the banished Florentines, whom he had promised to restore to their country. The chiefs of the government, judging it to be desirable to diminish the number of their enemies by diminishing that of the banished, resolved that these should all return, excepting those who had been specially forbidden by law to come back. The greater part of the Ghibellines were obliged, therefore, to remain in exile, as also some of the Bianchi party; amongst these were Dante Alighieri, the sons of Messer Veri de’ Cerchi, and those of Giano della Bella. They, moreover, sent to implore the assistance of Robert, king of Naples; and as they could not obtain this aid from him as an ally, they gave him the control over the city for five years, so that he might defend them as his subjects. The Emperor, in coming into Italy, took the road by way of Pisa, and passed through the low country (Maremme) on to Rome, where he was crowned in the year 1312. After that, having resolved to subjugate the Florentines, he went by way of Perugia and Arezzo to Florence, and encamped with his army at the monastery of San Salvi, within a mile of the city, where he remained fifty days without any results. Despairing of being able to disturb the government of that city, he marched to Pisa, where he agreed with Frederick, king of Sicily, to undertake the conquest of the kingdom of Naples. Having started with his army, confident of victory, whilst King Robert was already trembling with fear of losing his kingdom, death overtook Henry, at Buonconvento, in the year 1313.
25. Shortly after that, Uguccione della Faggiuola became lord of Pisa, and soon after also of Lucca, where he was placed by the Ghibelline party; and, with the aid of these cities, he did much serious damage to the neighboring country. To save themselves from this, the Florentines applied to King Robert for his brother Piero to take command of their armies. Uguccione, on the other hand, continued to strengthen himself, and had seized by force and by fraud a number of castles in the Val d’ Arno and in the Val di Nievole. He then went to besiege Monte Catini, which the Florentines deemed it necessary to succor, so as to put a stop to this conflagration, and prevent it from spreading over the whole country. Having assembled a large force, the Florentines went over into the Val di Nievole, where they encountered Uguccione, but were routed after a bloody battle. Piero, brother of King Robert, was killed, and his body never found; with him over two thousand men lost their lives. Nor was this victory a joyous one for Uguccione, for it cost the lives of one of his sons and of many other captains of his army. After this defeat, the Florentines fortified the places in the vicinity of their city, and King Robert sent them as captain of their forces Conte d’ Andria, called the Count Novello. Whether it was the bad conduct of this general, or whether it was owing to the natural disposition of the Florentines to get tired of every government, and to differ amongst themselves on every occasion, the city, notwithstanding the war with Uguccione, divided into two factions, the one friendly and the other hostile to the king. The leaders of the hostile faction were Messer Simone della Tosa and the Magalotti, with certain others of the people who had the preponderance in the government. These managed to induce the government to send to France and to Germany to obtain men and commanders, with whose aid they might drive out the Count governor of the king. But fortune would have it that they could not obtain any. They did not, however, give up the attempt; and, seeking for some one to whom they could look up, and unable to find such either in France or in Germany, they took one from Agobbio. Having first expelled the Count Novello, they made a certain Lando of Agobbio Executor, that is to say, Bargello, and gave him absolute power over all the citizens. This Lando was a cruel and rapacious man. He went through the city, followed by a number of armed men, and took the lives of this or the other one, according to the dictation of those who had elected him. And he carried his audacity to that point that he coined base money with the Florentine dies, without any one’s daring to oppose him (1316). To this condition had Florence been reduced by her discords! Truly great and wretched city! whom neither the memory of her past dissensions, nor the fear of Uguccione, nor the authority of a king, had been able to keep united and stable; so that she was brought to the most wretched state, being assailed from without by Uguccione, and plundered within by Lando d’ Agobbio.
The noble families, and the most considerable amongst the people, and all the Guelfs, supported the king and opposed Lando and his followers. But as the king’s adversaries had control of the government, the former could not openly declare themselves without great danger. Still, having resolved to rid themselves of this infamous tyranny, they sent secret letters to King Robert, requesting him to appoint the Count Guido da Battifolle his vicar in Florence. The king complied with this request, and the opposite party, notwithstanding that the Signori were hostile to the king, dared not oppose the Count, because of his excellent qualities. With all this, however, his authority was but limited, as the Signori and the Gonfalonieri favored Lando and his party. Whilst Florence was in this troubled condition, the daughter of King Albert of Bohemia passed through the city, on her way to join her husband, Charles, son of King Robert of Naples. She was received with great honors by the friends of the king, who complained to her of the condition of the city and of the tyranny of Lando and his followers. Her influence and efforts, together with that of the representatives of the king, restored union and peace amongst the citizens before she departed from Florence; and Lando was deprived of all authority, and sent back to Agobbio, laden with plunder and stained with blood.
In the reorganization of the government, the king’s lordship over Florence was extended for three years; and inasmuch as seven Signori had already been elected by the party of Lando, six were now chosen by the adherents of the king; so that there were several Signoria consisting of thirteen in number, although they were afterwards reduced again to seven, according to ancient custom.
26. At this time the lordship of Lucca and Pisa was taken from Uguccione, and Castruccio Castracani, a citizen of Lucca, was made lord of these cities in his stead (1322); and being an ardent and courageous youth, and fortunate in his undertakings, he became in a short time chief of the Ghibellines in Tuscany. The civil discords of Florence having been quieted for some years, the Florentines thought at first that they had nothing to fear from the power of Castruccio; but when it afterwards increased beyond their expectations, they began to consider as to the best means of protecting themselves against it. And to enable the Signori to deliberate with greater wisdom and execute their resolves with greater authority, they chose twelve citizens, whom they called Buonomini, and whose advice and concurrence should be required for every important act of the Signori.
In the midst of this the term of King Robert’s lordship over Florence expired, and the city, having thus regained its independence, restored the former organization of the government, with the customary rectors and magistrates; and the fear which Castruccio inspired kept them united. After several attempts against the lords of Lunigiana, Castruccio assailed Prato (1323); whereupon the Florentines, having resolved to succor that place, closed their shops and marched there in a body, being twenty thousand foot and fifteen hundred mounted men. And by way of diminishing the forces of Castruccio and increasing their own, the Signoria published a proclamation to the effect that every banished Guelf who came to the rescue of Prato should afterwards be reinstated in his country; which caused four thousand banished to flock to their standard. The bringing of so great a force so promptly to Prato alarmed Castruccio, so that he retired to Lucca, unwilling to tempt fortune in a battle. This occasioned a difference of opinion in the Florentine camp between the nobles and the people; the latter wishing to follow Castruccio and to engage him in battle and to destroy him, whilst the former wanted to return home, saying that it was enough to have exposed Florence to danger for the sake of relieving Prato, which was very well when necessity constrained them to it; but that now, such being no longer the case, and when the risk of loss was great and the chance of gain small, it would be tempting fortune to pursue Castruccio. And as they could not agree, the question was submitted to the Signori, who were as much divided in opinion as the people and the nobles had been. When this became known in the city, the people collected in great numbers in the Piazza, and used threatening language against the nobles, so that these yielded from fear. But the resolve being taken so late, and so unwillingly by a large portion, it afforded time to Castruccio to retreat in safety to Lucca.
27. This disappointment excited great indignation amongst the people against the nobles; so that the Signori refused to observe the promise which they had made to the four thousand banished, by the advice and order of the nobles. These rebels, anticipating this refusal, resolved to forestall it; and, leaving the camp in advance of the army, they presented themselves at the gates of Florence for the purpose of entering the city first. This movement, however, having been foreseen, did not succeed, and they were repulsed by those who had remained in the city. They thereupon attempted to obtain by negotiation what they had failed to obtain by force, and sent eight envoys to the Signori to remind them of the pledge given to them, and of the dangers to which they had exposed themselves in the hope of the promised reward. And although the nobles made great efforts in behalf of the banished, regarding the promise of the Signori as a sacred obligation, for the fulfilment of which they had made themselves responsible, yet they did not succeed, owing to the universal indignation against them in consequence of their failure in the attempt against Castruccio, in which they might have succeeded. This was a dishonor and a shame for the city, and caused great irritation amongst the nobles, some of whom in consequence endeavored to obtain by force what had been denied to their entreaties. They engaged the banished, therefore, to come armed to the city, whilst they would take up arms in their behalf within Florence. This plot, however, was discovered the day before that set for its execution, so that the banished found the citizens armed and prepared to repel those outside; whilst they filled the nobles within with alarm to that degree that they dared not take up arms. And thus the banished had to desist from their attempt without having obtained any result. After the withdrawal of the banished the Signori wanted to punish those who had invited them to come; and although every one knew who the guilty parties were, yet no one dared to name and accuse them. To get at the truth of the matter, therefore, regardless of any one, it was provided that in a general council each one should write a list of the names of the guilty parties, and that these written lists should be secretly presented to the captain of the people. Whereupon there appeared as accused Messer Amerigo Donati, Messer Thegiao Frescobaldi, and Messer Lotteringo Gherardini. But the judge was more lenient to them than what their offence merited, and they were condemned merely to a fine in money.
28. The disturbances created in Florence by the coming of the banished to the very gates of the city proved that a single chief did not suffice for the command of the companies of the people. And therefore it was ordained that in future every company should have three or four captains; and they gave to each Gonfalonier two or three adjuncts, who were called Pennonieri; so that in cases of necessity, where the whole company was not required to be present, a portion of them might act together under one head. And as it happens in all republics that after a disturbance of any kind some old laws are annulled and some new ones enacted, so it happened in this case. Instead of, as heretofore, creating a Signoria at stated intervals, the Signori and such of their colleagues as were then in charge, relying upon their strength, obtained from the people the authority themselves to choose the Signoria, who should in future hold this office for a term of forty months. The names of these were to be put into a bag or purse, whence they were to be drawn every two months. But before the period of forty months had expired, they recommenced placing the names in the purse, because many citizens suspected that their names had been omitted to be put in. This gave rise to the practice of placing in a purse, a long time in advance of the drawing, the names of all the magistrates within as well as without the city; whilst according to the former system, at the expiration of the term of a magistracy, the successors were elected by the councils. This method of drawing the names of the magistrates from purses (imborsations) was called the Squittini; and as it occurred only once in every three, or at most five years, the city was relieved of much trouble and disturbance that had previously accompanied the creation of magistrates, owing to the great number of competitors for the several offices. The Florentines adopted this system as the best means of correcting the troubles attending the old method; but they did not perceive the defects that were concealed under these unimportant advantages.
29. It was now the year 1325. Castruccio, having made himself master of Pistoja, became so powerful that the Florentines, fearing his greatness, resolved to attack him and to rescue that city from his rule before he should have fairly established his dominion over it. They raised from amongst their own citizens and allies twenty thousand infantry and three thousand mounted men, and with this force they took the field at Altopascio, intending to seize that city, and thus to prevent assistance being sent from there to Pistoja. They succeeded in taking the place; and from there they marched upon Lucca, wasting the country as they went. But owing to their want of prudence and the bad faith of their captain they made but little progress. The name of this captain was Raimondo di Cardona. Having seen how readily the Florentines had disposed of their liberties, yielding them first to the king of Naples, then to the Pope’s legates, and then again to others of lesser grade, he thought that, by involving them in some difficulties, it might easily happen that they would appoint him their prince. He did not fail repeatedly to suggest this, asking them to give him the same authority over their city as they had given him over their army, adding that without this he could not enforce the obedience essential to a general. And as the Florentines did not concede to him his demands, he went on losing time, of which Castruccio promptly took advantage. For the assistance which had been promised him by the Visconti and the other tyrants of Lombardy arrived, and, having been strengthened by this accession, Castruccio attacked Messer Raimondo, who, having in the first instance lost the victory from want of good faith, knew not how to save himself after defeat from want of prudence. For advancing slowly with his army he was met and attacked by Castruccio near Altopascio (1325), and after severe fighting was completely routed. In this battle many citizens were made prisoners, and many were slain; amongst the latter was Messer Raimondo himself, who thus received from fortune that punishment for his bad faith and evil counsels which he had deserved at the hands of the Florentines. The damage done by Castruccio to the Florentines after this victory, in the way of plunder, prisoners, destruction, and burnings, could not be told; for the Florentines having no troops to oppose him, he rode and roved over the country when and where he pleased during several months; and the Florentines after such an overwhelming defeat deemed themselves fortunate in being able to save their city.
30. And yet they were not so much disheartened but what they raised large sums of money for the payment of troops and to send to their allies for help. But all this did not suffice to keep their powerful enemy in check; so that they applied to Charles, Duke of Calabria, and son of King Robert of Naples, to come to their defence; but by way of inducing him to come they were obliged again to make him lord of the city; for being accustomed to rule in Florence, he preferred her subjection rather than her alliance. But as Charles was at that time occupied with the war against Sicily, and could not come in person to assume the sovereignty over Florence, he sent in his stead Gauthier, a Frenchman by birth and Duke of Athens, who as vicar of the sovereign took possession of the city and organized the government according to his own will. Nevertheless he made himself generally beloved by the modesty of his bearing, by which he concealed in a measure his real nature.
When Charles had terminated the war with Sicily, he came with one thousand horsemen to Florence, and made his entry in July, 1326. His arrival put a stop to Castruccio’s further devastations of the Florentine territory. But the reputation which Charles gained outside of the city he lost within, and the injuries which the enemy did not do had to be borne when done by friends; for the Signoria could do nothing without the concurrence of the Duke, who within the period of one year extorted from the city four hundred thousand florins, although according to the convention made with him he had no right to go beyond two hundred thousand florins. Such were the charges with which he or his father burdened the city daily. Fresh suspicions and enmities were added to these losses; for the Ghibellines of Lombardy took such umbrage at the coming of Charles into Tuscany, that Galeazzo Visconti and the other Lombard tyrants, by means of money and promises, caused Louis of Bavaria, who had been elected Emperor contrary to the will of the Pope, to come into Italy. Louis came into Lombardy and thence into Tuscany, and with the help of Castruccio made himself master of Pisa (1327), and, having been supplied with money there, he moved on towards Rome. This caused Charles to depart from Florence, as he had become apprehensive for the safety of the kingdom of Naples; he left Messer Filippo da Saginetto as his vicar in Florence. After the departure of the Emperor, Castruccio made himself master of Pisa; but the Florentines took Pistoja from him by means of secret intelligence with some of its inhabitants. Castruccio thereupon besieged it with such valor and obstinacy, that all the efforts of the Florentines to relieve Pistoja were fruitless. In vain did they attack his army and his possessions, but neither force nor perseverance on their part could drive him off, such was his determination to chastise the inhabitants, and to triumph over the Florentines. The Pistojans were obliged therefore to accept him as their lord; and although he achieved this with so much glory to himself, yet it also cost him such efforts and fatigue that he died from the effects of it on his return to Lucca, in 1328. And as fortune rarely fails to accompany any good or evil with another good or evil, so it happened in this case; for Charles, Duke of Calabria and lord of Florence, also died at Naples; so that the Florentines, without any effort of their own, were relieved from the fear of the one and the lordship of the other. Thus they remained free to remodel the government of their city; and they consequently annulled the organization of the old councils entirely, and created two others, the one composed of three hundred citizens of the people, and the other of two hundred and fifty nobles and citizens; the first being called the Council of the People, and the other the Council of the Commons.
31. When the Emperor arrived at Rome he created an Antipope, ordered many things adverse to the Church, and attempted many other things unsuccessfully; so that in the end he departed with shame and went to Pisa (1329), where, either from disgust or from not having received their pay, eight hundred German cavaliers rebelled against him and fortified themselves at Montechiaro, above Ceruglio. After the Emperor had left Pisa to go into Lombardy, these seized Lucca and expelled Francesco Castracani, who had been left there in command by the Emperor. And thinking to derive some advantage from the capture of this city, they offered it to the Florentines for the sum of eighty thousand florins, which offer, however, was declined, by the advice of Messer Simone della Tosa. This course would have been most advantageous for the Florentines if they had remained of the same mind; but very soon after a number of them changed their views, which proved most injurious to the city. For whilst they declined it at the time when they might have had Lucca peaceably for so small a sum, they afterwards wanted it when they could no longer have it; although they now would willingly have paid a much larger price. This caused the Florentines to alter their government several times, to the great injury of their city. Lucca, having been refused by the Florentines, was purchased by Messer Gherardino Spinoli, a Genoese, for the sum of thirty thousand florins. And as men are apt to be less eager to take what they can get easily than they are in desiring what they cannot get, so the people of Florence, when they became cognizant of the sale of Lucca and the small price at which Messer Gherardino had obtained it, became seized with an eager desire to possess it, and blamed themselves and Messer Simone, who had advised them to decline the purchase. And in the hope of obtaining it by force, after having refused to purchase it, they sent their troops to ravage and plunder the Lucchese territory. Meantime the Emperor had left Italy, and the Pisans had sent the Antipope a prisoner to France.
From the death of Castruccio, in 1328, until the year 1340, Florence enjoyed internal tranquillity, and occupied herself wholly with the foreign relations of the state. She was involved in several wars; in Lombardy in consequence of the coming of King John of Bohemia, and in Tuscany on account of Lucca. The city was embellished with many new edifices: amongst others they built the Campanile (Bell Tower) of the Santa Reparata under the direction of Messer Giotto, a most celebrated painter in those days. In 1333 the waters of the Arno had risen throughout Florence more than twelve braccia, and by its overflow had destroyed some of the bridges and many buildings, all of which, however, were restored, with the greatest care and at much expense.
32. The year 1340, however, brought with it fresh causes for discord. The citizens holding power had two means of increasing and maintaining their control; the one was to restrict the number of names put into the purses for the election of magistrates, so that only their own names or those of their friends should be drawn; and the other was always to keep in their own hands the control of the election of the Rectors, so as to insure to themselves favorable judgments at their hands. And so highly did they value this second means, that on several occasions when the ordinary Rectors did not suffice them, they brought in a third one. It was in this extraordinary way that they had introduced Messer Jacopo Gabrielli of Agobbio, under the title of Captain of the Guard, giving him plenary authority over the people. He committed daily acts of injustice to oblige and please those who held the government; and amongst those whom he had thus wronged were Messer Piero de’ Bardi and Messer Bardo Frescobaldi. These, being nobles and naturally proud, could not bear that a stranger should thus wrong them to gratify a few men in power. To revenge themselves upon him and those who held the government, they formed a conspiracy, in which many noble families became engaged, and also some of the people who were dissatisfied with the tyranny of the chiefs of the government. The plan agreed upon amongst these conspirators was that they should collect a number of armed men in their houses, and on the morning of the feast of All Saints, when all the people were in the churches praying for their dead, they should all take up arms, kill the captain and the chiefs of the government; and that then they should reorganize the government by creating new Signori and by establishing an entirely new order of things.
But the more dangerous enterprises are reflected upon, the more reluctantly do men enter upon them; and thus it happens (almost always) that those conspiracies which fix upon a certain time in advance for their execution are generally discovered. Amongst the conspirators was Messer Andrea de’ Bardi; in thinking over the matter, the fear of punishment overcame in him the desire of revenge; and therefore he disclosed the whole plot to Jacopo Alberti, his brother-in-law, who made it known to the Priors, and these communicated it to the Signori. As the danger was pressing, All Saints’ day being near at hand, a number of people assembled in the palace; and deeming delay dangerous, they wanted the Signori to have the tocsin sounded, and the people called to arms. Taldo Valori was Gonfalonier at that time, and Francesco Salviati was one of the Signori; these, being relatives of the Bardi, objected to having the alarm sounded, alleging that it was not well to cause the people to arm for every slight cause, as power given to the multitude, and not controlled by any check, never resulted in good; that it was easy to start tumults, but difficult to check them; and therefore it would be better first to hear the truth of the matter, and then to punish it legally, rather than to chastise it in a tumultuary manner at the risk of the ruin of Florence and upon a simple denunciation. This advice was not listened to, but, with vile and insulting words and manner, the people forced the Signori to have the alarmbell sounded; and when this was heard, the whole people of Florence rushed armed to the Piazza. On the other hand, the Bardi and Frescobaldi, seeing their plot discovered, took to arms, resolved either to conquer with glory or to die without shame; and hoping to be able to defend that part of the city on the opposite side of the river where they had their palaces, they fortified the bridges, trusting in the aid which they expected from the nobles of the country and from their other friends. But their plans were thwarted by the people who inhabited the same side of the city, and who armed in support of the Signori; so that, finding themselves hemmed in, they abandoned the bridges and retreated to the street in which the Bardi lived, that being a stronger position than any other, and there they defended themselves most gallantly. Messer Jacopo, knowing that this conspiracy was aimed mainly against him, being afraid of death and stupefied with terror, placed himself in the midst of his armed men near the palace of the Signori. But the other Rectors, being less conscious of guilt, were more courageous, especially the Podesta, Messer Maffeo da Marradi. He showed himself fearlessly in the thickest of the fight; and having passed the bridge of Rubaconte, he rushed into the midst of the Bardi, and made signs to them for a parley. The respect which his conduct inspired, and his other well-known great qualities, put a stop to the fighting, and caused the conspirators quietly to listen to him. In a modest but grave manner he blamed the conspiracy, and pointed out the danger in which they were if they did not yield to the popular impulse, and held out to them the hope that they should afterwards be heard and judged with leniency, and promised to exert himself to have their reasonable dissatisfaction treated with proper consideration. He then returned to the Signori, and persuaded them not to desire a victory at the expense of the blood of their fellow-citizens, nor to condemn the conspirators without first giving them a fair hearing. His efforts succeeded, so that, by consent of the Signori, the Bardi and the Frescobaldi, with their friends, were permitted to leave the city, and retire unmolested to their castles. After their departure the people disarmed, and the Signori proceeded only against such of the families of the Bardi and Frescobaldi as were taken with arms in hand. And by way of depriving them of power they purchased from the Bardi the castles of Mangona and Vernia; and provided by law that thenceforth no citizen should be allowed to possess any castle within twenty miles of the city. A few months afterwards Stiatta Frescobaldi was beheaded, and many others of the family were exiled. It was not enough for those who governed to have overcome and subdued the Bardi and Frescobaldi, but as is always the case with men clothed with authority, that the more power they have the more they abuse it, so where previously there was but one captain of the guard who harassed the city, they appointed another for the country, giving him very extensive authority, so that those who incurred the suspicion of these captains could neither live within the city of Florence nor outside of it. And they irritated the nobles to that degree against themselves, that these were ready to sell the city and themselves for the sake of revenge. The opportunity they had waited for soon presented itself, and they made good use of it.
33. During all the troubles that had prevailed in Tuscany and Lombardy the city of Lucca fell under the control of Mastino della Scala, lord of Verona (1341). Although according to his engagements he should have handed that city over to the Florentines, yet he did not do so; for as lord of Parma he thought himself able to hold it regardless of his pledges. The Florentines therefore, by way of revenging themselves, united with the Venetians and attacked him so fiercely that he came near losing his whole state. They however derived no other advantage from all this than the small gratification to their pride of having defeated Mastino; for the Venetians, according to the fashion of all who ally themselves with others less powerful, after having won Trevisa and Vicenza, made terms with Mastino, regardless of the Florentines. But the Visconti, lords of Milan, having soon after taken Parma from Mastino, he judged that he would in consequence no longer be able to hold Lucca, and therefore he resolved to sell it. The Florentines and the Pisans were equally competitors for it; and the latter, whilst pressing the negotiations for it, perceiving that the Florentines, being the richer, were about to obtain it, resorted to force, and aided by Visconti they laid siege to the city. The Florentines, however, did not in consequence of this withdraw from the purchase, but concluded the bargain with Mastino, paying part of the money down and giving hostages for the payment of the other part; and sent Naddo Rucellai, Giovanni di Bernardino de’ Medici, and Rosso di Ricciardo de’ Ricci to take possession of Lucca. They entered the city by force, and it was handed over to them by the troops of Mastino. The Pisans nevertheless pursued their enterprise, and made every effort to make themselves masters of Lucca. The Florentines, on the other hand, endeavored to make the Pisans raise the siege; and after a long war the Florentines were driven off with loss of their money and their glory, and the Pisans became masters of Lucca. The loss of that city, as usually happens in such cases, made the people indignant against those who held the government, and they openly denounced them in all the public places and piazzas, charging them with avarice and blaming them for the evil counsels they had given. At the beginning of this war its conduct had been confided to twenty citizens, who had chosen Malatesta da Rimini as captain of the enterprise. He had conducted it with little courage and still less prudence, and therefore the Council of Twenty sent to ask the assistance of Robert, king of Naples, who sent to them Gauthier, Duke of Athens; who, according to the decrees of Heaven, whose hand always prepares the evils to come, arrived at Florence at the moment when the attempt upon Lucca had just failed so completely (1342). Whereupon the Twenty, seeing the people indignant, sought to inspire them with fresh hopes by appointing a new captain, and thereby either to check them or to deprive them of all further pretext for denouncing them. And to constrain them also by fear, aud to enable the Duke of Athens to defend them with more authority, they appointed him first as Conservator and afterwards as Commander of their armed forces.
The nobles — who for the reasons above given were malcontent, and many of them having known Gauthier at the time when he had on a previous occasion governed Florence in the name of Charles, Duke of Calabria — thought that the moment had come when they might, with the ruin of the city, avert their own destruction. They thought that there was no other means of subduing the people who had inflicted so many wrongs upon them than to subject themselves to a prince who, knowing the merits of the one party and the insolence of the other, might reward the one and curb the other. To these considerations was added the hope of advantages which they would derive from it, if by their efforts he should be made Prince of the city. They therefore had several secret conferences with Gauthier, and persuaded him to assume the sovereignty over all, offering him all the support in their power. Some of the burgher families united their influence to the authority and advice of the nobles. These were the Peruzzi, Acciaiuoli, Antellesi, and Buonaccorsi, who, being weighed down by debts which they were unable to pay with their own means, wished to acquit themselves of them with the property of others, and counted upon liberating themselves from the servitude to their creditors by the enslavement of their country. These persuasions fired the ambitious spirit of the Duke with the greatest desire of domination; and by way of obtaining the reputation of being severe and just, and thereby to gain the good will and support of the people, he prosecuted those who had conducted the war against Lucca, and inflicted the penalty of death upon Messer Giovanni de’ Medici, Naddo Rucellai, and Guglielmo Altoviti; many others he condemned to exile or to heavy pecuniary fines.
34. These executions greatly alarmed the middle class of citizens, and gave satisfaction only to the nobles and the populace; to the latter because it is their nature to rejoice in evil, and to the former because they saw themselves avenged of the many injuries received at the hands of the citizens. When the Duke passed through the streets, the people loudly praised his frankness of spirit, and he was urged on all sides to inquire into the frauds of the citizens and to punish them. The authority of the Twenty had declined, and the influence of the Duke had become great, and the fear of him still greater; and everybody by way of displaying their devotion to him had his arms painted over their doors; so that he really lacked nothing of being a prince except the title. Believing that he might now attempt anything with safety, he gave the Signori to understand that he deemed it necessary for the good of the state that they should freely concede to him the sovereignty over it, and that, inasmuch as the whole city seemingly consented to it, he desired that they also should give their concurrence. Although the Signori had for a long time foreseen the ruin of their country, yet they were greatly troubled by this demand; and though they well knew their danger, still, so as not to fail of their duty to their country, they refused his demand in a spirited manner. By way of making greater show of religion and humanity the Duke had chosen for his residence the convent of the Minorite Brothers of Santa Croce; and desiring to put his evil intentions into execution, he published a proclamation commanding all the people to assemble before him in the Piazza of Santa Croce. This proclamation frightened the Signori much more than the previous words of the Duke had done; and they united themselves closely with such of the citizens as were regarded as true lovers of their country and of liberty. And knowing the power of the Duke, they did not think of any other means of resistance than by petition; and to try, as their forces were insufficient, whether prayers and supplications would not make him renounce his attempt, or alleviate the yoke which he was about to impose upon them. A portion of the Signori therefore went to see him, and one of them addressed him as follows: —
“We have been induced, O Signor, to appear before you, first by your demand to have the lordship over our city conferred upon you, and next by your order for an assembly of the people; for it appears certain to us that you aim to obtain by extraordinary means that to which by ordinary means you have been unable to obtain our consent. It is not our intention to oppose your designs in any way by force, but only to point out to you the weight of the burden which you are about to take upon yourself, and the greatness of the danger of the course which you are pursuing, so that you may always remember our counsels, and those of the persons who advise you differently, for the gratification of their revenge, and not for your good. You seek to enslave a city that has always lived in the enjoyment of liberty; for the authority which on a former occasion we accorded to the king of Naples was an alliance, and not servitude. Have you considered the importance of this in a city like ours, and how powerful the mere name of Liberty is, which no force can subdue, nor time consume, and for which nothing else can compensate? Think, O Signor, what power would be requisite to keep such a city in subjection! The foreign troops which you may always keep there will not suffice, and those of the city you will not be able to trust; for those who are your friends to-day, and counsel you to your present attempt, will no sooner have profited by your power to defeat their own enemies, than they will seek your overthrow for the purpose of making themselves masters. The people, in whom you trust, will turn against you at the first mischance, however small; so that you may expect in a little while to have the whole city hostile to you, which would involve her ruin and your own. Nor can you hope to find a remedy for this evil, for those princes only can assure their sovereignty who have but few enemies, of whom they can easily rid themselves by death or by exile. But against a universal hatred there can never be any security, for you can never know where the evil has its origin; and he who fears every man can never make sure of any one. And if yet you attempt it, you will only aggravate your danger, for the hatred of those who remain will become more inflamed, and they will be the more ready for revenge. Nothing is more certain than that time will not efface the love of liberty; for we often hear of its being reasserted in cities by those who have never tasted its sweets, and who loved liberty only from the memory of it transmitted to them by their fathers. And once recovered they have defended it with the utmost obstinacy and through every danger. And even if the fathers left no record of the liberties they enjoyed, yet the public palaces, the dwellings of the magistrates, the banners of the free orders, all bear witness to them; and the memory of all these things is fondly cherished by the citizens. What acts of yours could you offer as an equivalent for the happiness of living in the enjoyment of liberty, or that could extinguish in men’s minds the desire for their present condition? In vain would you add all Tuscany to the possessions of the city! In vain would you return daily crowned with victory over our enemies, for that would not redound to the glory of Florence, but only to yours, and her citizens would thereby not gain subjects, but merely fellow-slaves, whereby their own servitude would be aggravated. And if your life were that of a saint, your manners benevolent, and your judgments just, all this would not suffice to secure their affection. And if you were to believe that it would suffice, you only deceive yourself; for every chain is heavy and every fetter irksome to him who has been accustomed to live unconstrained. A turbulent state and a benign prince are incompatible, for of necessity they must either become assimilated, or the one will quickly destroy the other. You must expect therefore either to hold this city by violence, for which the citadels and their garrisons and foreign allies are generally insufficient, or you must be content with the authority which we have conferred upon you, and to this we would advise you, reminding you that that dominion only is desirable which is borne willingly. Do not attempt then, under the promptings of your ambition to place yourself where you can neither remain nor rise higher, and whence you would of necessity fall, with equal injury to yourself and ourselves!”
35. The obdurate soul of the Duke was in no way moved by this address. He replied, “that it was not his intention to deprive Florence of her liberty, but rather to restore it to her; that cities were enslaved only by discord, whilst union insured them freedom; and if Florence by her factions, ambitions, and enmities deprived herself of liberty, and he restored her to union, he could not be charged with an attempt to enslave her. And as he had been induced to take this task upon himself, not from any ambition of his own, but at the urgent instance of many citizens, it would be well for them to be content with what would satisfy the others. And, as for the dangers to which he would expose himself by this step, he did not regard them, for it was not the practice of a good man to be deterred by fear from doing a good act, and only a coward desisted from a glorious enterprise because its issue was involved in doubt. And that he believed his conduct would be such that in a short time they would find out that they had trusted him too little and feared him too much.”
The Signori, seeing therefore that they could effect no good, agreed that the people should assemble the following morning, and with their concurrence to give the Duke the sovereignty over Florence for one year, with the same conditions as those given on a former occasion to Charles, Duke of Calabria. It was on the 8th of September, of the year 1342, that the Duke, accompanied by Messer Giovanni della Tosa and all his adherents, and many other citizens, came into the Piazza, and together with the Signoria mounted the Ringhiera, as the people of Florence called those steps which were at the foot of the palace of the Signoria. From there the terms of agreement were read to the people that had been concluded between the Signoria and the Duke; and when they came to that passage by which they accorded to the Duke the lordship over Florence for one year, there arose cries from the people, “For life!” And when Messer Francesco Rustichelli, one of the Signori, arose to speak for the purpose of allaying the tumult, he was interrupted by cries; so that the Duke was elected by the people sovereign of Florence, not for one year, but in perpetuity; and he was taken and carried by the people around the Piazza, who shouted his name aloud. It was customary for the captain of the guard of the palace, in the absence of the Signoria, to keep the gates of the palace locked inside. This office was held at the time by Rinieri de Giotto, who, having been bribed by the friends of the Duke, admitted him inside of the palace without awaiting any attempt at force. The Signori, frightened and covered with shame, retired to their own houses; the palace was sacked by the Duke’s adherents, the gonfalon of the people was torn down, and the Duke’s standard raised instead. All of which caused immeasurable grief and regret to all the good citizens, and much joy to those who had consented to it from malice or ignorance.
36. No sooner had the Duke obtained the sovereignty of Florence than, for the purpose of depriving those of power who had been the customary defenders of liberty, he prohibited the Signori from assembling in the palace, and assigned to them a private house. He took the standards from the Gonfalonieri of the companies of the people, suspended the ordinances of justice against the nobles, liberated the prisoners, recalled the Bardi and the Frescobaldi from exile, and forbade everybody from bearing arms. And, by way of being the better able to defend himself against those within Florence, he formed alliances with those outside of the city. He favored and bestowed great advantages upon the people of Arezzo, and upon all others that were subject to the Florentines, and made peace with the Pisans, although one of the conditions on which he was placed at the head of the state was that he should make war upon Pisa. He withheld the interest from those merchants who had loaned money to the city during the war with Lucca, increased the old taxes and laid new ones, and deprived the Signori of all authority. His Rectors were Baglione da Perugia and Messer Guglielmo d’ Ascesi; with these, and Messer Cerettieri Bisdomini, he consulted. The taxes which he imposed upon the citizens were heavy, and his judgments unjust. He threw off the cloak of religion and of humanity, which he had assumed, and abandoned himself to pride and cruelty. Many noble and prominent citizens were condemned to heavy fines or death, or subjected to all sorts of newly contrived torments. And so that his government outside of the city should not be better than that within, he created six Rectors for the country, who plundered and maltreated the inhabitants. Although the nobles had supported and aided him in obtaining the sovereignty, and he had recalled many from exile, yet he held them in suspicion; for he could not believe that the generous spirit that belongs to true nobility could be content to live under his rule. He therefore turned to favor and conciliate the common people, thinking that with their support, and with foreign troops, he would be able to maintain his tyranny. When, however, the month of May had come, at which time the people are accustomed to hold their festivals, he had the common people and the small citizens formed into several companies, on whom he bestowed splendid titles, and gave them banners and money; and whilst a part of these went through the city with festive rejoicings, the others received them with the greatest pomp.
As the fame of the new sovereignty of the Duke spread, many Frenchmen flocked to him, and he gave employment to them all as men worthy of all trust; so that, in a short time, Florence became subject, not only to Frenchmen, but also to their manners and customs and fashions in dress; for all men and women imitated them, regardless of all decencies of life and without shame. But what gave the greatest offence were the outrages committed by the Duke and his followers upon the women, regardless of everything. The citizens, therefore, were filled with indignation at seeing the majesty of their state ruined, all order disregarded, the laws annulled, all honesty corrupted, and all modesty extinguished; for those who were not accustomed to see royal pomp could not meet the Duke, surrounded by armed satellites on foot and on horseback, without being deeply pained. And they were made to feel their shame more keenly by being obliged to do honor to him whom they hated most. All this was aggravated still more by the apprehension caused by the many deaths and heavy taxes with which he exhausted and impoverished the city. The Duke was aware of this general feeling of hatred and apprehension, and he feared it, although he tried to make it appear that he was beloved by everybody.
Thus it happened that when Matteo di Morozzo, either for the purpose of ingratiating himself or to save himself from danger, revealed to the Duke that the family of the Medici and some others were conspiring against him, he not only caused no investigation of the matter, but had the informer miserably put to death. By this course the Duke discouraged those who desired to advise him for his safety, and encouraged those who sought his destruction. He also subjected Bettone Cini to the cruel torture of having his tongue cut out, causing his death thereby, for having dared to speak against the taxes imposed upon the citizens (1343). This act incensed the citizens still more, and increased their hatred of the Duke; for the city, which had been accustomed in all matters to act and speak with the utmost degree of freedom, could no longer endure to have her hands fettered and her mouth gagged. This indignation and hatred, therefore, increased to such a point, that it would have stirred not only the Florentines, who were alike incapable of maintaining their liberty or of supporting their servitude, but any other enslaved people, to make an effort for the recovery of their liberty. Accordingly, many citizens of all conditions resolved either to sacrifice their lives or to recover their liberty. They formed three separate conspiracies, composed of three different classes of citizens, — nobles, people, and artificers, — who, besides the general causes of discontent, were influenced thereto by the opinion that, although the people had lost the control of the government, yet the nobles had not gained it; and that the artificers were deprived of their customary gains. Messer Agnolo Acciaiuoli was Archbishop of Florence at that time. In his preaching he had magnified the doings of the Duke, and had won for him great favor with the people. But when he afterwards saw him as lord of Florence, and perceived his tyrannical conduct, he became convinced that he had misled his country; and to make good the error which he had committed, he could think of no other remedy than that the same hand that had inflicted the wound should also heal it; and therefore he placed himself at the head of the first and most powerful conspiracy, in which there were also the Bardi, the Rossi, the Frescobaldi, Scali, Altoviti, Magalotti, Strozzi, and the Mancini. One of the other conspiracies was headed by Manno and Corso Donati, and with them the Pazzi, Cavicciulli, Cerchi, and the Albizzi. The chiefs of the third conspiracy were Antonio Adimari, and with him the Medici, Bordoni, Rucellai, and Aldobrandini. They resolved upon killing the Duke in the house of the Albizzi, where they supposed he would go on the day of San Giovanni to see the horses run. But as he did not go there, they could not carry out that plan. They then thought of attacking him as he made his promenade through the city; but they saw that that would be difficult, as he went always accompanied and well armed, and always varied his promenade, so that they could not with any certainty lie in wait for him in any particular place. They also talked about killing him in the council chamber, but feared that, even if they succeeded, they would be at the mercy of the Duke’s guard. Whilst the conspirators were discussing these different plans, Antonio Adimari communicated the matter to some of his Siennese friends, for the purpose of obtaining their assistance. He made known to them a part of the conspirators, and assured them that the whole city was ready to strike for liberty. One of these mentioned the subject to Messer Francesco Brunelleschi, not by way of denouncing it, but merely to ascertain whether he too was one of the conspirators. Messer Francesco, either from fear for himself or from hatred of the other conspirators, revealed the whole to the Duke, who immediately had Pagolo della Mazzacca and Simone de Monterappoli arrested; and when the Duke learned from them the character and extent of the conspiracy, he became frightened, and was advised to have the conspirators summoned for examination, rather than arrested as prisoners, because, if they should escape by flight, he could easily and without any disturbance rid himself of them by declaring them exiles. The Duke therefore had Antonio Adimari summoned, who, confiding in his companions, promptly appeared. He was kept prisoner, and the Duke was advised by Messer Francesco Brunelleschi and Messer Uguccione Buondelmonti to have the country scoured, and to have all the conspirators that were captured put to death. But the Duke did not consider himself strong enough to act according to this advice in the midst of so many enemies; he therefore adopted a different plan, by which, if it had succeeded, he would have made sure of his enemies and provided new forces for himself. The Duke was in the habit of convoking some of the citizens for the purpose of consulting with them upon cases that occurred. Having thereupon taken the precaution to send outside of the city for troops, the Duke prepared a list of three hundred citizens, and had them summoned by his sergeants under pretence that he wished to consult with them; it being his intention when they were assembled to have them either killed or imprisoned. The imprisonment of Antonio Adimari and the sending for troops, which could not be done secretly, frightened the citizens, and especially those implicated in the conspiracy, so that the most daring refused to obey the summons of the Duke. And, as every one had read the list, they met and encouraged each other to take up arms, and to resolve rather to die like men than to be led like calves to the shambles. Thus in a few hours all the conspirators became known to each other; and resolved on the following day, which was the 26th of July, 1343, to cause a tumult in the old market, and then to arm themselves and call upon the people to arise and assert their liberty.
37. On the following morning, therefore, according to the order agreed upon, at the hour of nine, the conspirators took up arms, and at the cry of “Liberty,” the people armed themselves and threw up barricades, and raised the banner that had been secretly provided by the conspirators. All the heads of families, nobles as well as citizens, united and swore to defend themselves and to kill the Duke; the only exceptions were some of the Buondelmonti and Cavalcanti, and those four families of the people who had aided the Duke in making himself sovereign of the city; these, together with the butchers and others of the lowest class of the people, came together armed in the Piazza, in support of the Duke. At this disturbance the Duke armed the palace, and his people who were lodged in various parts of the city mounted their horses to go into the Piazza; but on the way they were attacked in several places, and many of them killed. Nevertheless some three hundred horsemen reached the Piazza. The Duke was in doubt whether to go to encounter his enemies, or to defend himself within the palace. On the other hand, the Medici, Cavicciulli, Rucellai, and other families who had been most wronged by him, doubted lest, in case the Duke should come out, many who had taken up arms against him might not declare in his favor; desirous therefore to prevent his coming out of the palace and increasing his forces, they made head and assailed the Piazza. Upon their arrival those families of the people who had declared for the Duke, seeing themselves boldly attacked, changed their resolve as the Duke’s fortune had changed, and all joined the citizens, excepting Messer Uguccione Buondelmonte, who went into the palace, and Messer Gianozzo Cavalcanti, who retreated with a portion of his companions to the New Market; there he mounted upon a bench and entreated the people who were going armed to the Piazza to go there in support of the Duke. And for the purpose of alarming them he magnified the forces of the Duke, and threatened the people that they would all be killed if they persisted obstinately in their attempt against their lord. Finding not a man to follow him, nor any one to chastise him for his insolence, and seeing that he was exerting himself in vain, he resolved to tempt fortune no more and retired to his own house. Meantime the fight between the people and the Duke’s forces was hotly contested, and although the Duke aided them from the palace yet his men were beaten; a part of them surrendered to the people, and a part, abandoning their horses, took refuge in the palace. Whilst the fighting was going on in the Piazza, Corso and Messer Amerigo Donati with a portion of the people broke open the prison of the Stinche, burned the papers of the Podesta and of the chancelry, sacked the houses of the Rectors, and killed all the officers of the Duke they could get hold of. The Duke, on the other hand, seeing that he had lost the Piazza and that the whole city was against him, and himself without help of any kind, made an attempt to win the people over to his side by some act of signal humanity; and having the prisoners brought before him, he liberated them with kind and condescending words, and made Antonio Adimari a noble against his own wishes. He removed his own standards from the palace, and had them replaced by the gonfalons of the people. But all these things being done too late and out of season, being evidently done unwillingly and by constraint, proved of no advantage to him. He remained therefore, ill content, besieged in the palace, and saw how from having attempted to grasp too much he had lost all; and began to fear that in a few days he would have to die either from hunger or the sword. The citizens went to Santa Reparata to reorganize the government, and chose fourteen citizens, half nobles and half of the people, who together with the Bishop should be invested with full powers to remodel the government of Florence. They also elected six others who should exercise the powers of the Podesta until one could be chosen for that post.
A good many strangers had come to Florence to aid the people in their struggle, amongst others some citizens of Pisa together with six ambassadors, men who were held in high honor in their own city. These attempted to negotiate an arrangement between the Duke and the people; but the people refused any agreement unless Messer Guglielmo d’ Ascesi and his son, together with Messer Cerettieri Bisdomini should first be delivered into their hands. The Duke would not consent to this, yet, on being threatened by the people who were shut up with him in the palace, he allowed himself to be forced to it. Certainly the resentments seem fiercer and the wounds more deadly when a people struggle to recover their liberty than when they defend it. Messer Guglielmo and his son were given up to the thousands of their enemies, although the son was not yet eighteen years of age. But neither his tender years nor graceful form, nor his innocence, could save him from the fury of the multitude; and those who could not wound him whilst alive, did so after his death. Nor did it satisfy them to hack him with their swords, but they tore him with their hands and teeth. And so that all senses should be satisfied by revenge, having first heard his lamentations, and seen his wounds, and touched his torn and palpitating flesh, they wanted also to have their palates taste it; so that after having satisfied all their outer senses, they might also glut those within. The more these unhappy victims were subjected to this rabid frenzy, the better was it for Messer Cerettieri; for the multitude, tired by their cruelty upon the two Ascesi, did not think of Messer Cerettieri, who, not being otherwise demanded, remained in the palace, whence he was taken and carried away during the night by some of his friends and relatives. When the multitude had assuaged their fury upon the blood of the two Ascesi, an agreement was concluded by which the Duke was to renounce all the claims he had upon Florence, and be allowed to depart in safety with all his people and his goods; and according to which he was to ratify this renunciation at Casentino, outside of the Florentine dominions. After signing the agreement the Duke departed from Florence accompanied by many citizens; and on arriving at Casentino he ratified his renunciation, though most reluctantly; nor would he have kept his faith had he not been threatened by the Count Simone to carry him back to Florence. The Duke, as is proved by his conduct, was cruel and avaricious, difficult of access, and haughty in his demeanor. He wanted the servility of the people, and not their good will; and for that reason he desired more to be feared than to be loved. Nor was his appearance less odious than his conduct; for he was of low stature and swarthy, with a long and coarse beard. He was equally hated by all parties, so that within a period of ten months he lost by his own bad conduct that sovereignty which the evil counsels of others had bestowed on him.
38. These events in the city of Florence encouraged all the other places that were subject to the Florentines also to assert their liberties; so that Arezzo, Castiglione, Pistoja, Volterra, Colle, and San Gimignano revolted. Thus Florence at one blow got rid of her tyrant and lost her dominions; and in recovering her own liberty she taught her subject cities how they could recover their own. After the expulsion of the Duke and the loss of the subject cities, the fourteen citizens and the Bishop thought it better to placate their subjects by peace than to make them enemies by war, and to prove to them that they were willing that they should enjoy their liberties the same as the Florentines did their own. They therefore sent ambassadors to Arezzo to renounce the sovereignty which they held over that city, and to conclude a treaty with her citizens to the effect that, since they could not hold them as subjects, they would value them as allies. With the other places they also agreed as best they could to keep them as friends, so that they might aid them in maintaining the independence of Florence. This course, so wisely taken, had the happiest results; for a few years after Arezzo returned voluntarily under the government of Florence; and the other places also came back within a few months to their former obedience. And thus the things we desire are often obtained with more ease and less danger by seemingly renouncing them, than by pursuing them with the greatest energy and perseverance.
39. Having settled outside matters the Florentines now turned their attention to those within the city; and after some disputes between the nobles and the people, it was agreed to concede to the nobles one third of the Signoria, and one half of the other public offices. The city, as stated above, was divided into sixths, whence there were always six Signori, that is one for each sixth; except that on several special occasions twelve or thirteen Signori were created; though the number was soon after again reduced to six. Still some reform seemed necessary in this respect; whether it was that the sixths were badly distributed, or whether it was that they wished to give a greater part to the nobles, it was deemed advisable to increase the number of the Signori. The city was therefore divided into fourths, and for each fourth they created three Signori. They left the Gonfalonier of Justice and those of the companies of the people; and in place of the twelve Buonomini they created eight Counsellors, four nobles and four citizens. Having established the government with this organization, the city would have been quiet, if the nobles had been content to live with that degree of modesty which is suitable for a republic. But their conduct was just the reverse; for in private life they wanted no equals, and in the magistracies they wanted to be masters, and every day gave birth to some fresh display of their insolence and pride. This displeased the people, who complained that in place of one tyrant, whom they had crushed, a thousand others had sprung up. The insolence on the one hand, and the dissatisfaction on the other, increased to that degree that the chiefs of the people complained to the Bishop of the shameless conduct of the nobles, and of the bad fellowship which they manifested towards them, and persuaded him to bring it about that the nobles should content themselves with having a share of only the other offices, and leave the magistracy of the Signoria exclusively to the people. The Bishop was naturally good, but easily swayed first in one direction and then in another. It was this weakness which had caused him, at the instance of his associates, first to give his support to the Duke of Athens, and afterwards to conspire against him by the advice of some of the citizens. In the reorganization of the state he had favored the nobles, and now he seemed to favor the people; and for that reason the chiefs of the people addressed themselves to him with their request. Believing that he would find in others as little stability of purpose as he himself possessed, he hoped to carry the matter through by agreement, and convoked the Fourteen, who still held their authority; and with the best words he knew how to employ, he advised them to consent to yield the office of the Signoria wholly to the people, promising them that in that case the city should remain quiet, but otherwise they might expect disorder and their own destruction. These words greatly excited the nobles, and Messer Ridolfo dei Bardi replied sharply, calling the Bishop a man of little faith, and reproving his friendship for the Duke as inconsiderate, and the Duke’s expulsion as treason; and concluded by telling him that they would defend at all hazards the honors they had acquired at their own peril. And having departed with the others indignant at the Bishop, they communicated the matter to their associates and all the noble families. The representatives of the people also made their views known to the people. And as the nobles organized themselves with such aid as they could get for the defence of their Signori, the people thought best not to wait until the nobles should be prepared, but rushed armed to the palace, crying that they wanted the nobles to resign from the magistracy. The noise and tumult were great. The Signori saw themselves abandoned; for the nobles, seeing the people armed, dared not take to arms themselves, and all remained in their houses. The Signori of the people, having first endeavored to quiet the people by assuring them that their associates were good and modest men, and having failed in that, as the least objectionable course, sent the Signori of the nobles home to their houses, whither they were safely conducted with much difficulty. The nobles having thus left the palace, the four Counsellors were also deprived of their offices, and instead of them twelve of the people were appointed; and to the eight Signori that remained they gave one Gonfalonier of Justice and sixteen Gonfaloniers of the companies of the people, and they reorganized the councils so that the whole government depended upon the will of the people.
40. At the time when these events occurred there was a great scarcity in the city, so that the nobles as well as the small people were both ill content; the latter from hunger, and the former from having lost their offices and dignities. This encouraged Messer Andrea Strozzi to think that he might make himself master of the liberties of the city. He therefore sold his grain at a less price than others, in consequence of which many people used to collect at his palace. Thereupon he ventured one morning to mount his horse, and with a few followers to call the people to arms. In a few hours he gathered more than four thousand men, with whom he proceeded to the palace of the Signoria, and demanded to have the palace opened to them. But the Signori drove them from the Piazza by threats and force of arms, and afterwards frightened them so much with the ban, that little by little they all returned to their homes; so that Messer Andrea, finding himself left alone, could only save himself with difficulty from the hands of the magistrates. This attempt, though reckless, and ending as such attempts are apt to do, yet gave hopes to the nobles that they might still compel the people to terms, seeing that the lower class was in discord with the better classes. And so as not to lose this opportunity they resolved to arm and recover by force that which by force had been taken from them. And their confidence of success increased to that point that they provided themselves openly with arms, fortified their houses, and sent to their friends and into Lombardy for assistance. The people and the Signori, on the other hand, provided themselves with arms, and called upon the people of Sienna and Perugia for assistance. Help for both parties had already appeared, and the whole city was in arms. The nobles made head in three places on this side of the Arno; at the houses of the Cavicciulli near San Giovanni, at the houses of the Pazzi and the Donati at San Pier Maggiore, and at those of the Cavalcanti in the New Market. Those on the other side of the Arno had fortified themselves at the bridges and in the streets near their houses; the Nerli at the Ponte alla Carraja, the Frescobaldi at the Santa Trinita, and the Rossi and Bardi defended the Ponte Vecchio and that of the Rubaconte. The people, on the other hand, gathered under the Gonfalonier of Justice and under the banners of the companies of the people.
41. Matters being thus, the people thought best not to defer the contest. The first that moved were the Medici and the Rondinelli, who attacked the Cavicciulli from the street that leads towards their houses by the Piazza di San Giovanni. Here the fighting was severe, for the people were struck by stones thrown from the towers, and wounded by crossbows from below. The battle here had lasted three hours, and the number of the people steadily increased; so that the Cavicciulli, seeing themselves overpowered by the multitude and receiving no assistance, became frightened and surrendered to the people, who spared their houses and goods, only taking from them their arms, and ordering them to distribute themselves and their relations and friends amongst the houses of the people. The first attack having been victorious, the Donati and the Pazzi were also easily overcome, being less powerful than the others. There only remained on this side of the Arno the Cavalcanti, who were strong in numbers and in position; but on seeing all the banners coming against themselves, whilst only three had sufficed to overcome the others, they surrendered without making much resistance. Three parts of the city were already in the hands of the people, and only one remained in possession of the nobles; but this was the most difficult, both on account of the strength of its defenders as well as from its position, being protected by the river Arno, so that it was necessary to take the bridges, which were guarded in the manner above stated. The Ponte Vecchio was therefore the first to be attacked. This was gallantly defended, for the towers were armed, the streets barricaded, and the barricades were held by the most desperate men, so that the people were repulsed with great loss. Finding their exertions here to be in vain, they tried to pass the Rubaconte bridge, and meeting there the same desperate resistance, they left four companies to guard these two bridges, and all the others went to assail the Ponte alla Carraja. And although the Neri defended it most manfully, yet they could not resist the furious onslaught of the people, partly because this bridge was less strong, not having any towers for defence, and partly because the Capponi and other families of the people also assailed them. Being thus attacked on all sides, they abandoned the barricades, and gave way to the people, who after this also overcame the Rossi and the Frescobaldi, for all the people on the other side of the Arno joined the victors. There were therefore only the Bardi left, who were neither daunted by the defeat of the others, nor by the union of all the people against them, nor by the hopelessness of all succor; preferring rather to die fighting and to see their houses sacked and burnt, than to yield voluntarily to the power of their enemies. They defended themselves therefore so well that the people were unsuccessful in their several attempts to drive them either from the Ponte Vecchio or the Ponte dal Rubaconte, being each time repulsed, with the loss of many killed and wounded. In olden times there had been a road made by which one could pass from the Via Romana, between the houses of the Pitti, to the walls above the hill of San Giorgio. The people sent six companies by this road, with orders to attack the houses of the Bardi from the rear. This caused the Bardi to lose courage, and insured the victory to the people; for when those who guarded the barricades became aware that their houses were being attacked, they abandoned the fight, and ran to protect their homes. This enabled the people to take the barricade of the Ponte Vecchio, whilst the Bardi, who were everywhere put to flight, were sheltered by the Quaratesi, Panzanesi, and the Mozzi. The people thereupon, — that is, the lowest and most ignoble of them, — thirsting for booty, plundered and sacked all their houses, pulled down their palaces and towers, and burnt them with such fury that everybody, even the most cruel enemy of the Florentine name, would have been ashamed at such wanton destruction.
42. The nobles being vanquished, the people reorganized the government so as to be composed of three classes of the people, — the rich, the middle, and the lower class. It was ordained that the rich should have two Signori, and the middle and lower classes each three, and that the Gonfalonier should alternately be taken from each class. Furthermore, all the old ordinances against the nobles were re-established, and, by way of weakening them still more, many of them were reduced from their rank and mixed with the people. The ruin of the nobles was so great, and so overwhelmed their party, that they never again ventured to take up arms against the people, and thus they became continually more humble and abject; and thus Florence deprived herself not only of all military valor, but also of all sentiment of generosity. After this destruction of the nobles, Florence enjoyed tranquillity until the year 1353; in the course of which period occurred that memorable pestilence, described by Messer Giovanni Boccaccio with so much eloquence, and by which Florence lost ninety-six thousand inhabitants (1348). The Florentines also made war for the first time against the Visconti, in consequence of the ambition of the Archbishop, then Prince of Milan. So soon as this war was terminated, the factions within the city revived; and, although the nobility was destroyed, yet fortune soon found new ways of causing fresh troubles to arise from fresh dissensions.