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FIFTH 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.
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1. The general course of changes that occur in states is from a condition of order to one of disorder, and from the latter they pass again to one of order. For as it is not the fate of mundane affairs to remain stationary, so when they have attained their highest state of perfection, beyond which they cannot go, they of necessity decline. And thus again, when they have descended to the lowest, and by their disorders have reached the very depth of debasement, they must of necessity rise again, inasmuch as they cannot go lower. And thus they always decline from good to bad, and from bad they rise again to good. For virtue brings peace, and peace leisure, and leisure begets disorder, and this in turn brings ruin; and in like manner from ruin springs order, from order virtue, and from that glory and good fortune. Whence it has been observed by wise men that literature follows arms, and that in cities and in provinces leaders of armies precede philosophers. For when brave and well-disciplined armies have achieved victory, and victory has produced peace, the vigor of warlike spirits cannot be enervated by a more honorable indulgence than that of letters; nor can idleness enter any well-regulated communities under a more alluring and dangerous guise. This was perfectly well understood by Cato when the philosophers Diogenes and Carneades were sent as ambassadors from Athens to the Senate of Rome; for when he saw the Roman youth begin to follow them with admiration, Cato, well knowing the evil that would result to the country from this excusable idleness, ordered that no philosopher should thenceforth be received in Rome. For it is thus that countries gradually come to their ruin; and when they have become wise by misfortune, they return, as I have said, to order, unless they remain oppressed by some extraordinary power. These causes made Italy by turns now happy and now wretched, first under the ancient Tuscans, and afterwards under the Romans; and although no other state has since arisen from the ruins of Rome that could in any way redeem her former greatness, and which might well and gloriously have been achieved by any virtuous and able prince, yet in some of the new cities and states that have arisen out of the ruins of Rome there was sufficient virtue and bravery, so that, even if they did not dominate all the others, yet they succeeded by their union and good organization in liberating and defending Italy from the Barbarians.
Amongst these states, that of Florence, even if less in extent, yet was not less in power and influence than the others. Situated in the centre of Italy, rich and ever ready for attack, Florence not only successfully sustained all wars made upon her, but also gave victory to whomever she became allied. If then the courage and ability of these new states did not insure them any long-continued periods of peace, yet were they neither exposed to great dangers from the asperities of war. For that cannot be called peace when principalities assail each other; nor can that be called war where men do not kill each other, and the cities are not sacked, nor the principalities ruined. Their wars had so declined in vigor that they were begun without fear, conducted without danger, and terminated without damage; so that that virtue which in other countries is apt to become extinguished by long-continued periods of peace, was lost in the Italian provinces through cowardice, as will clearly appear from what we shall write of the period from 1434 to 1504, and wherein we shall show how, in the end, the way was opened again to the Barbarians, and how Italy sank to rest in slavery to them. And if the actions of our princes, both at home and abroad, do not inspire us with admiration for their virtue and greatness, like those of the ancients, yet will they perhaps be regarded with no less admiration for their other qualities, seeing how many noble peoples were restrained and controlled by such feeble and ill-constituted armies. And if in the account of the events of this corrupt age we may not have occasion to tell of bold deeds of soldiers, or of the ability of the commanders, or of the patriotism of the citizens, it will nevertheless show to what frauds and cunning devices the princes and soldiers and chiefs of republics resorted for the sake of maintaining an influence which they did not merit. This it will perhaps be not less useful to know than the events of antiquity; for if the latter kindle in generous hearts the desire to imitate them, the former will teach them to contemn and avoid similar baseness.
2. Italy had been brought by those who controlled her to the point, then, that when by the agreement of the states a peace was established it was quickly afterwards again disturbed by those who had arms in hand; so that there was neither glory won by war, nor quiet secured by peace. When, therefore, peace was concluded in 1433 between the Duke of Milan and the league, the hired soldiery, wishing to continue on a war footing, turned against the Church. There were at that time two bodies of mercenary troops in Italy, the Braccesca and the Sforzesca. Count Francesco, son of Sforza, was chief of the latter, and the commanders of the former were Niccolo Piccinino and Niccolo Fortebraccio. All the other Italian troops attached themselves, as it were, to these two principal companies. The Sforzesca troops were the most appreciated of the two, both on account of the valor and ability of the Count, as also because of the promise which the Duke of Milan had made him of the hand of his illegitimate daughter, the Lady Bianca; the prospect of which connection added greatly to the reputation of Count Francesco. After the peace of Lombardy, therefore, these two armed bodies assailed the Pope Eugenius. Niccolo Fortebraccio was influenced in this by the ancient enmity which Braccio had always entertained towards the Church; the Count Francesco was moved by ambition; thus Niccolo attacked Rome, whilst the Count made hinself master of La Marca. In consequence of this the Romans, who did not want war, drove Pope Eugenius from Rome, who, having escaped with difficulty and danger, made his way to Florence. Considering the danger to which he was exposed, being abandoned by the princes who had with so much satisfaction just laid down their arms, which they were unwilling to resume again for the sake of the Pope, Eugenius made terms with the Count Francesco and conceded to him the lordship of La Marca, although Francesco had added insult to the injury of having seized it; for in indicating the place whence he sent his letters to his agents, he wrote, “From our hawk’s nest of Fermo, in spite of Peter and Paul.” Nor was he content with having obtained possession of these places, but wanted to be made Gonfaloniere of the Church; all of which Pope Eugenius conceded to him, being more afraid of a hazardous war than of an ignominious peace. The Count Francesco, having in this wise become the friend of the Pope, attacked Niccolo Fortebraccio, and for many months they fought within the territory of the Church with varying successes, which resulted however altogether more to the injury of the Pope and his subjects than to those who were carrying on the war. Finally, through the intervention of the Duke of Milan, an agreement was concluded by way of a truce, whereby both remained in possession of the places they had taken within the territory of the Church.
3. This war, extinguished at Rome, was rekindled in the Romagna by Battista da Canneto, who killed several citizens of the family of Grifoni in Bologna, and drove the Pope’s governor, with others of his enemies, out of the city. And to enable him forcibly to hold that state, he applied for help to Duke Filippo, whilst the Pope by way of avenging the insult asked aid from the Venetians and Florentines. Both the one and the other obtained the desired assistance, so that in a very little while two considerable armies found themselves face to face in the Romagna.
Niccolo Piccinino commanded the forces of the Duke, and the Venetian and Florentine troops were under the command of Gattamelata and Niccolo da Tolentino. They came to battle near Imola, and the Venetians and Florentines were routed, and Niccolo da Tolentino was sent as prisoner to Milan, where he died within a few days, either by unfair means or from grief at his defeat. After this victory the Duke, either from having been weakened by the late wars, or because he believed that the league, having experienced this defeat, would disarm, did not follow up his success, and thus gave time to the Pope and his allies to gather their forces again. They appointed the Count Francesco their general, and attempted to drive Niccolo Fortebraccio from the states of the Church, and thus to terminate the war which had been begun only for the benefit of the pontiff. When the Romans saw the Pope take the field so bravely, they sought to make terms with him, and sent a messenger to him and received a commissioner from him in return. Amongst the other places which Niccolo Fortebraccio had taken, he held Tivoli, Montefiascone, Citta di Castello, and Ascesi. Unable to keep the field, he had taken refuge in the last-named place, where Count Francesco besieged him; and as the siege was becoming a protracted one in consequence of the vigorous defence of Niccolo, Duke Filippo thought it necessary either to prevent the league from obtaining the victory, or so to regulate his own movements that he might the better be able afterwards to defend his own estates. With the view therefore of making the Count raise the siege of Ascesi, he ordered Niccolo Piccinino to make a diversion into Tuscany through the Romagna; so that the league, deeming it more important to defend Tuscany than to possess Ascesi, might order the Count Francesco to dispute the passage of Niccolo, who was already with his army at Furli. Francesco, on the other hand, moved with his forces to Cesena, having left his brother Lione in charge of his states and of the war in La Marca. Whilst Piccinino sought to penetrate into Tuscany and Count Francesco strove to prevent his passage, Niccolo Fortebraccio attacked Lione, and after a glorious victory took him prisoner, and destroyed his army; and following up this success, he took possession with the same dash of many places in La Marca. This greatly afflicted the Count Francesco, who already imagined that all his states were lost; and leaving part of his army to confront Piccinino, he turned with the rest upon Fortebraccio, and fought and defeated him. Fortebraccio was wounded and taken prisoner in this rout, and soon after died of his wounds. This victory restored to the Pope all the places that had been taken from him by Niccolo Fortebraccio, and reduced the Duke of Milan to sue for peace, which was concluded through the intervention of Niccolo da Este, Marquis of Ferrara. By the conditions of this peace, also, the places occupied by the Duke in the Romagna were restored to the Church, and the troops of the Duke returned into Lombardy. And Battista da Canneto (like all usurpers who maintain themselves in any state by the force and valor of others), finding it impossible to hold his position in Bologna, took to flight; whereupon Messer Antonio Bentivogli, chief of the opposite party, returned.
4. All this took place during the time of Cosimo’s exile. After his return those who had brought about his restoration, and had themselves been so much wronged by the adverse party, resolved anyhow to get control of the government. The Signoria that succeeded to the magistracy for November and December, not content with what had been done by their predecessors for the party, prolonged and changed the place of banishment of many, and sent many other citizens into exile. And it was not so much the fact of belonging to the opposite party that proved dangerous to citizens, but their wealth, their relations, and their private friendships. If this wholesale proscription had been accompanied by bloodshed, it would have equalled those of Octavius or Sylla. In some instances it was tainted with blood, for Antonio di Bernardo Guadagni was beheaded, and likewise four other citizens, amongst whom were Zanobi de’ Belfratelli and Cosimo Barbadori, who, having gone beyond the limits of their banishment, and happening to be at Venice, the Venetians, valuing the friendship of Cosimo more than their own honor, sent them to Florence as prisoners, where they were basely put to death. All this greatly increased the power of the party of Cosimo, and struck terror into the hearts of his opponents, especially when they saw that so powerful a republic as Venice sacrificed its independence to the Florentines, which it was believed that they had done, not so much to benefit Cosimo as for the purpose of stimulating party feeling in Florence to a still higher pitch, and by bloodshed to make the dissensions in our city still more dangerous. For the Venetians regarded the union of the Florentines as the only obstacle to their own aggrandizement.
The city being thus cleared of enemies or suspected enemies of the government, the party in power began to bestow benefits upon new people for the purpose of strengthening their party, and restored to their country the Alberti family and other exiles. All the great nobles with very few exceptions were reduced from their rank to that of plebeians, and they divided and sold the possessions of the exiled amongst themselves at very low prices. After this they strengthened themselves by new laws and ordinances, and had new elections made, withdrawing the names of their enemies from the purses and filling them with those of their friends. Admonished, however, by the ruin of their adversaries, they concluded that even these packed elections would not suffice to enable them to keep the control of the government in their hands; and therefore they resolved that the magistrates who exercised the power of life and death should always be chosen from amongst the chiefs of their party, and that the officers who had charge of the imborsations for the new elections, together with the old Signoria, should have the power of appointing the new Signoria. They gave to the Eight of the guard power over life and death, and provided that the banished should not be able to return at the expiration of their term without having first obtained the consent of thirty-four out of the thirty-seven Signori and their colleagues. They prohibited all correspondence with the banished; and every word or sign or practice that in any way displeased those who held the government was severely punished. And if any suspected individual still remained in Florence who had not been reached by these repressive measures, he was oppressed by new impositions which they ordered for the express purpose; so that in a little while, having expelled and impoverished the whole of the adverse party, they secured themselves firmly in the government. And by way of insuring to themselves foreign assistance, and at the same time depriving those of it who might design to attack them, they formed defensive alliances with the Pope, the Venetians, and with the Duke of Milan.
5. Whilst the affairs of Florence were in this condition, Joanna, queen of Naples, died, leaving by her will Regnier of Anjou heir to the kingdom. Alfonso, king of Aragon, happened to be at that time in Sicily, and, having friendly relations with many of the Neapolitan barons, he prepared to take possession of that kingdom. The Neapolitans and many of the barons favored Regnier; the Pope, on the other hand, wanted neither Regnier nor Alfonso to have the kingdom, but desired that it should be administered by a governor of his own. Meantime Alfonso came into the kingdom, and was received by the Duke of Sessa; he brought with him some princes whom he had taken into his pay, intending (as he already had Capua, which the Prince of Taranto held in his name) to compel the Neapolitans to acknowledge him as sovereign. Alfonso also sent his fleet to attack Gaeta, which was held by the Neapolitans. In consequence of this, the Neapolitans applied for assistance to the Duke Filippo, who persuaded the Genoese to take the enterprise in hand. These promptly armed a fleet for the purpose, not only of complying with the wishes of the Duke, their lord, but also to save their merchandise which they had in Naples and in Gaeta. Alfonso, on the other hand, hearing of this, increased his own fleet, and went in person with it to meet the Genoese; and having encountered them above the island of Ponzio, the Aragonese fleet was defeated, and Alfonso together with many other princes made prisoner, and delivered by the Genoese into the hands of Filippo. This victory alarmed all the other princes of Italy, who feared the power of Filippo; for they judged the opportunity favorable for him to make himself master of the whole country. But, so diverse are the minds of men, Filippo took exactly the opposite course. Alfonso was a man of uncommon sagacity, and so soon as he had an opportunity of speaking with Filippo, he demonstrated to him “that it was a great error on his part to support Regnier in opposition to himself. For,” argued he, “if Regnier should become king of Naples, he would make every effort to have Milan become the property of the king of France, so as to have friendly support near at hand, and not to be obliged in a moment of need to ask permission for the passage of his allies; and that Regnier could not secure this advantage for himself except by the ruin of Filippo in causing Milan to become French. But that, on the contrary, he, Alfonso, should he become king of Naples, would intervene in favor of Filippo; for having no other enemy to fear except the French, he would of necessity be obliged to love and be friends with — if not obey — him, who had it in his power to open the way to his enemies. And therefore, although the title of king would be Alfonso’s, yet the power and authority would really be Filippo’s. So that it really concerned him more than himself to reflect upon the danger of the one course and the advantage of the other, unless he preferred to gratify his own feelings rather than to assure the security of his state. For in the one case he would really be prince, and free; and in the other, being between two most powerful princes, he would either lose his state, or he would live in perpetual apprehension, and obey them like a slave.” These arguments had such an effect upon the mind of the Duke, that, having changed his purpose, he set Alfonso at liberty, and sent him honorably back to Genoa, and thence to the kingdom of Naples. Alfonso landed at Gaeta, which city, so soon as Alfonso’s liberation had become known, had been taken possession of by some of the princes who were his partisans.
6. The Genoese, seeing how the Duke without regard to them had liberated the king, and how he had gained all honor at their risk and expense, and how the credit of the liberation accured to Filippo, whilst the injury of the defeat and capture was theirs, became greatly exasperated against him. When the city of Genoa enjoyed her liberty, the chief of her government was elected by free suffrage; he was called the Doge, not because he was absolutely a prince, nor because he alone decided upon public measures, but merely proposed, as chief of the state, the measures which the magistrates and their counsellors should resolve upon. There are many noble families in this city, sufficiently powerful to make it difficult for the magistrates to enforce obedience from them; foremost amongst these are the families of the Fregosa and the Adorna. The frequent dissensions in the city, and consequent destruction of the civil institutions of the state, result from this. These families are constantly contending with each other for the government, not by legal means, but with arms in hand; whence it is that alternately one party is dominant and the other oppressed. And it ordinarily happens that that party which finds itself deprived of all share in the public offices and honors has recourse to foreign arms, and thus subjects the country, which they are not allowed to govern themselves, to the rule of a stranger. This is the reason why Genoa has so frequently been subject to the sovereigns of Lombardy, and was so at the time when Alfonso of Aragon was made prisoner.
Amongst the principal Genoese who were the cause of their country being subjected to Duke Filippo had been Francesco Spinola; who soon after having caused his country to be enslaved, as often happens in similar cases, became suspected by the Duke. Incensed by this he had chosen a sort of voluntary exile at Gaeta, where he happened to be at the time of the naval fight with Alfonso; and having rendered gallant services in this action, he thought that he had anew merited the confidence and favor of the Duke, and could therefore live with safety at Genoa. But he soon found that the Duke continued his suspicions of him, for he could not believe that any one who had betrayed his own country would be faithful to him. Spinola resolved therefore to tempt fortune anew, and with one blow to restore liberty to his country, and fame and security to himself. He felt that he had no other means of regaining the confidence of his fellow-citizens than by healing the wound which he had inflicted. Seeing, therefore, the universal indignation that had been excited against the Duke by his having set King Alfonso at liberty, Spinola deemed the occasion propitious for carrying his designs into effect; and communicated his views to some friends whom he knew to hold the same opinion with himself, and urged them to second him in his attempt.
7. On the day of the festival of San Giovanni Battista, the new governor, Arismino, who had been sent by Duke Filippo, was making his official entrance into Genoa. He had already entered the gates of the city accompanied by Opicino, the old governor, and many of the Genoese, when Spinola, thinking that it would not do to delay the execution of his design any longer, issued forth from his house, all armed, and accompanied by those whom he had drawn into his plans, and from the piazza in front of his house he raised the cry of “Liberty!” It was wonderful to see the eagerness with which the citizens rushed together at that cry; none of those who from interest or any other cause were attached to the Duke had time to arm, and were hardly able to think of the means of escape. The new governor, Arismino, and some Genoese who were with him, took refuge in the castle, which was guarded by some troops of the Duke. The old governor, Opicino, presuming that, if he should take refuge in the palace, where he had two thousand armed men under his command, he would be able to save himself or encourage his friends to defend themselves, turned into the road leading to the palace; but before reaching the piazza he was killed, and his body dragged through all Genoa and torn in pieces. And the Genoese, having placed the government in the hands of free magistrates, obtained possession in a few days of the castle and the other strongholds that were in the hands of the Duke’s forces, and thus freed themselves entirely from the yoke of Filippo, Duke of Milan.
8. All these events in the beginning alarmed the princes of Italy, making them fear that Duke Filippo would become too powerful. But seeing now how his power in Genoa had come to an end, they were encouraged to hope that they would be able to keep his ambition in check; and notwithstanding the recent treaty, the Florentines and Venetians formed an alliance with the Genoese (1436). Whereupon Messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi and the other chiefs of the banished Florentines, seeing the prospect of fresh perturbations, and the altered aspect of things, took hope of being able to induce Duke Filippo openly to declare war against Florence. Rinaldo therefore went to Milan, and spoke to the Duke as follows: —
“If we, formerly your enemies, come now confidently to supplicate your aid to enable us to return to our country, neither yourself nor any one else who observes the course of human events and the mutability of fortune should be surprised at it. Nor do we lack ample and manifest justification of our past and our present actions, or of our present conduct towards our country and our former conduct towards you. No good man will ever find fault with any one who seeks to defend his country, in whatever way he may deem it proper to do so. Our aim never was to injure you, but to protect our country from injury; and you can bear witness yourself that after the greatest victories of our league, when we knew you to be favorable to a real peace, we urged it even more than yourself; so that we really believe that we have never done a thing that could cause us to doubt our obtaining any reasonable favor from you. Nor can our country complain that we urge you now to take up those arms to assail her, against which we have before defended her with so much obstinacy; for only that country merits the affection of all her citizens which in return loves all citizens equally, and not that country which favors a very few at the expense of the many. Nor should any one who raises arms against his country be condemned under all circumstances; for cities, although they are complex bodies, yet very much resemble individual bodies. And as these are often afflicted with infirmities that can only be cured with fire and steel, so in the former likewise similar troubles frequently occur, which any good and devoted citizen would sin more by leaving uncured than by curing them, though it be with fire and steel. What greater malady, I ask, can there be for a republic than slavery? What remedy was it ever more necessary to employ than such as will relieve her of this evil? Those wars alone are just that are necessary, and those arms are merciful without which there is no hope. I know not what necessity can be greater than ours, nor what mercy can exceed that which saves our country from servitude. Assuredly then our cause is just and merciful, which fact should not be lost sight of by you or ourselves. Nor is justice lacking on your side, for the Florentines have not been ashamed, after concluding a peace with so much solemnity, to form an alliance with the Genoese, who are rebels from your authority; so that if pity for our cause does not move you, a just indignation at the insult thus offered you should move you, — the more so as the undertaking is an easy one. Do not allow yourself to be deterred by the past exhibitions of the power of the Florentine people, and of their obstinacy in defence; these qualities might reasonably inspire you with apprehensions if the Florentines still possessed them in the same degree as formerly. But you will now find the very reverse; for what power can a city have that has so lately driven out the best part of its wealth and industry? And how can you expect an obstinate defence from a people torn by such various and recent dissensions? The same dissensions prevent the wealth that still remains to them from being employed in the same way as formerly; for men will freely spend their fortunes when they see that it is for their own glory and for the honor and welfare of their country, because then they hope to recover in peace what the war has taken from them; but you cannot expect them to do the same when they find themselves equally oppressed in war and in peace, having in the one to bear the injuries of the enemy, and in the other the insolence of their rulers. For a people suffers more from the avarice of its magistrates than from the rapacity of an enemy; for of the latter you may sooner or later hope for an end, but of the former never. In your previous wars with Florence you had to contend against the entire republic, whilst now you would have to do so against only a very small portion. Then you came to take the government from a number of excellent citizens; now you would take it from the hands of only a few bad ones. Then you came to deprive the city of her liberty, but now you will go to restore it to her. It is not reasonable, therefore, to suppose that such different causes should produce the same effect; but rather should we look for certain success in this war, and how much that will add to the power of your own state you can readily judge. For Tuscany, having thus become your friend and ally, being bound to you by so many and such great obligations, will be worth more to you in your other undertakings than even Milan herself. And whilst at other times this acquisition would be regarded as the result of your ambition and violence, it will now be looked upon as an act of justice and humanity. Do not, therefore, allow this favorable opportunity to be lost, and bear in mind that, if your former wars against Florence have brought you nothing but difficulty, expense, and little credit, the present one will bring you with ease the greatest advantages and most honorable fame.”
9. It did not need so many words to persuade the Duke to make war against the Florentines, for he was disposed to it by an hereditary hatred and a blind ambition; and was urged to it, moreover, by the new offence of the alliance with the Genoese. But his former expenditures, the dangers he had run, and the recollection of recent losses, as well as the extravagant hopes of the Florentine exiles, made him hesitate. So soon as Duke Filippo had heard of the rebellion of the Genoese, he had sent Niccolo Piccinino with all his forces, and such infantry as he could collect in the country, to make an effort to recover Genoa before the citizens should have time to become settled and establish a new government, relying much upon the citadel, which was still held for him. Although Piccinino drove the Genoese over the mountains and took from them the valley of Pozzenere, where they had fortified themselves, and compelled them to take refuge behind the walls of the city, yet he found so much difficulty in advancing further, owing to the obstinate defence made by the citizens, that he was obliged to withdraw. Whereupon the Duke, at the persuasion of the Florentine exiles, ordered Piccinino to attack the eastern shore, and to push the war vigorously into the Genoese territory on the frontier of Pisa, judging that this device would leave him free to decide from time to time upon the best course to follow. Niccolo thereupon attacked and took Serezana, and after having done considerable damage he marched upon Lucca; and for the purpose of allaying the suspicions of the Florentines he started the report that he was going down to the kingdom of Naples to assist the king of Aragon. Upon the occurrence of these events Pope Eugenius left Florence and went to Bologna, where he negotiated a new arrangement between the Duke and the league. He represented to the Duke that, if he did not consent to this treaty, he should be obliged to transfer to the league the Count Francesco Sforza, who was formerly his ally, but was now in the military service of the Pope. Although the Pontiff exerted himself very much in this matter, yet it was all in vain; for the Duke would not make any terms until he should first have recovered Genoa, whilst the league wanted Genoa to remain entirely free; and thus each party, mistrusting peace, prepared for war.
10. When, therefore, Niccolo Piccinino came to Lucca, the Florentines became uneasy at his movements, and ordered Neri di Gino, with the cavalry, into the Pisan territory; and they obtained the Pope’s consent that the Count Francesco should unite with him; and they established themselves, with their army, at Santa Gonda. Piccinino, who was at Lucca, demanded free passage for himself and his troops through the territory of the republic to go on to Naples; and upon its being refused, he threatened to take it by force. The two armies were nearly equal in numbers and in the ability of their respective commanders, and therefore neither of them wished to expose themselves to the hazards of fortune, being, moreover, restrained by the cold season (being in the month of December); and thus they remained many days without either making any movement to attack the other. Niccolo Piccinino, however, was the first to move, it having been represented to him that, if he were to make a night attack upon Vico Pisano, he would easily take it. Niccolo made the attempt, but failed to take Vico; whereupon he wasted the surrounding country, and plundered and burned the Borgo San Giovanni alla Vena. This attempt (in great measure useless, even if it had been successful) yet encouraged Niccolo to advance further; and having ascertained that Count Francesco and Neri di Gino had not moved, he attacked Santa Maria in Castello and Filetto, and took them both. With all this, the Florentine troops did not move, not because the Count Francesco was afraid, but because the magistrates of Florence had not yet definitely resolved upon war, out of reverence for the Pope, who was still treating for peace. Niccolo, mistaking the prudence and consideration of the Florentines for fear, felt encouraged to still more fresh attempts, and resolved to attack Barga with all his forces. This new attack caused the Florentines to put aside all considerations, and not only to succor Barga, but also to attack the territory of Lucca. Francesco therefore, having gone to encounter Niccolo, engaged him in battle and defeated him; and having almost entirely dispersed his army, he raised the siege of Barga. The Venetians meantime, considering that Filippo Visconti had broken the peace, sent their general, Francesco da Gonzaga, to Ghiaradadda, where he ravaged the Duke’s territory to that degree that Filippo found it necessary to recall Niccolo Piccinino from Tuscany. This recall of Piccinino, together with the victory which the Count Francesco had gained over him, encouraged the Florentines to make an attempt upon Lucca, with the hope of taking it. In this attempt they were neither restrained by fear, nor any other consideration, seeing that Duke Filippo, the only power they had to fear, was attacked by the Venetians, and that the Lucchese, having received the enemies of Florence within their territory, and permitted them from there to attack her, had thereby deprived themselves of all right to complain.
11. In April, however, Count Francesco set the army in motion; but before invading the enemy’s territory the Florentines wished to recover their own, and recaptured Santa Maria in Castello, and the other places occupied by Piccinino. They then turned northward towards the Lucchese territory, and assailed Camajore; the inhabitants of which, though loyally attached to their lords, surrendered, for the fear of a present enemy had more power over them than their loyalty to a distant friend. With similar success, the Florentines took Massa and Serezana. Having accomplished this about the end of May, they moved towards Lucca, and destroyed all the grain and growing crops, burned the villages, cut down the vines and the trees, drove off the cattle, and left no injury undone that can be inflicted upon the bitterest enemy. The Lucchese, on the other hand, seeing themselves abandoned by the Duke, and despairing of being able to defend their country, abandoned it, and fortified the city with all the means in their power, confident of being able to defend it for some time, as they had plenty of soldiers within, and hoping that in the mean time something would occur to save them, as had been the case in the several previous attempts of the Florentines upon Lucca. The only thing they feared was the fickleness of the people, who, tired of the siege, might think more of their own dangers than of the liberty of others, and might thus force them to some disgraceful and injurious terms of capitulation. With the view, therefore, of stimulating them to the most energetic defence, they called the people together in the Piazza, and one of the oldest and wisest citizens addressed them as follows: —
“You know well that what is done from necessity merits neither praise nor censure. If, therefore, you accuse us of having provoked this war with the Florentines by having received the Duke’s troops in our territory, and allowed them thence to attack the Florentines, you will commit a very great error. You know well the ancient enmity of the people of Florence towards you, which has its origin not in injuries done them by us, nor in any fear they have of you, but rather from your weakness and their ambition; for the one gives them the hope of being able to subjugate you, and the other urges them on to do it. Nor must you believe that any service you could render them would remove that desire from their minds, any more than that any offence you might give them could still more excite their desire to injure you. They think of nothing but to rob you of your liberty, and you should think of nothing but to defend it; and whatever may be done by either party to further these objects may cause us regret, but should not surprise us. Certainly we are much grieved that they should attack us, that they seize our places, burn our houses, and lay waste our country; but which of us is foolish enough to be surprised at it? for if we could we would do the same to them, or even worse. They pretend that they have begun this war against us because we received Niccolo; but had we not done so, they would have found some other pretext, and if thus the evil had been deferred, it would probably have been the greater. Thus, the coming of Niccolo should not be charged with it, but rather your ill-fortune and the ambitious nature of the Florentines. Moreover, we could not have refused to receive the troops of the Duke of Milan; and having come as they did, it was not in our power to prevent them from attacking the Florentines. You know well that, without the support of some powerful ally, we could not save our city, and there is none that could have aided us more effectually and more in good faith than Duke Filippo. It was he who restored you your liberty; it is reasonable, therefore, that we should look to him to aid us in maintaining it, and our enemies have no more determined foe than he. If, then, we had irritated the Duke for the sake of not offending the Florentines, we should have lost a good friend, and strengthened our enemy and made him more prompt in attacking us; so that it was better for us to have incurred this war, and preserve the friendship of Duke Filippo, than for the sake of peace to have exposed ourselves to his enmity. We have the right, therefore, to hope that he will help us out of the danger to which he has subjected us, provided that we are true to ourselves. You well know with what fury the Florentines have several times attacked us, and how gloriously we have defended ourselves against them. And many a time we had no other hope than in God and time, and the one and the other have saved us; and why should we not succeed now, if we defend ourselves courageously? Then all Italy abandoned us to fall a prey to the Florentines; but now we have Duke Filippo of Milan with us, and have besides good reason for believing that the Venetians would hesitate to offend us, as it is not to their interest that the power of Florence should increase. On former occasions when the Florentines attacked us, they were more free from embarrassments and had more hope of assistance, and were of themselves stronger; whilst we were in all respects weaker. For then we combated for a tyrant, but now we are defending ourselves. Then the glory of the defence accrued to others; now it is ours only. Then our assailants were united; but now they are divided amongst themselves, having filled all Italy with their banished citizens.
“But even if we had not all these encouragements, necessity alone commands us to the most determined resistance. Every enemy is reasonably to be feared, for they all aim at your destruction and their own glory; but above all others should we fear the Florentines, for neither submission nor tribute nor the mastery over our city will satisfy them. They want our very persons and substance, so as to glut their cruelty and avarice with our blood and our possessions; and therefore are they to be feared in every way by each one of you. Be not troubled, therefore, at seeing your fields wasted, your villages burnt, and your lands seized by them; for if we save this city, we shall of necessity save all the rest. But if we lose Lucca, then it would be of little avail for us to save all the other things. If we maintain our liberty, the enemy will find it difficult to hold the rest, which we should strive in vain to save if our liberty were lost. To arms, then, fellow-citizens! and when you combat, think that the reward of your victory will be not only the safety of your country, but that of your homes and of your children.”
These last words were received by the people with the utmost enthusiasm, and with one voice they pledged themselves to die rather than to yield or to entertain the thought of any arrangement that would in the least stain their liberty; and then they set to work to make all necessary preparations for the defence of the city.
12. The Florentine army meantime was not idle, and after doing infinite damage to the country they took Monte Carlo by capitulation, and then went into camp before Uzano; so that the people of Lucca, hemmed in on all sides and deprived of all hopes of succor, should surrender under the pressure of hunger. The castle of Uzano, however, was strong and well garrisoned, so that its capture was not as easy as the rest of the country. The Lucchese, as was most natural, finding themselves so closely pressed, had recourse to the Duke of Milan, employing prayers and remonstrances in their application, and pointing out their own merits and the offences of the Florentines, and how much it would encourage his other allies if he came to their rescue, and how much they would be alarmed if he abandoned them; and that, if they were destined to lose their liberty and their lives, he on his part would lose not only useful allies, but also his honor, and the confidence of all those who hereafter might have occasion to expose themselves to every danger from their devotion to him. They added tears to their entreaties, so that, if Filippo should not be influenced by his sense of obligation, he might perhaps be moved by compassion. So that the Duke, adding to his inveterate hatred of the Florentines the new obligations he owed to the Lucchese, and being above all desirous that the Florentines should not aggrandize their power by so important a conquest, resolved to send a large force into Tuscany, or to make so vigorous an attack upon the Venetians that the Florentines would be compelled to desist from their attempt upon Lucca for the sake of going to the assistance of the Venetians.
13. This being determined upon, the Florentines were quickly informed that Duke Filippo was preparing to send a force into Tuscany. This made the Florentines begin to give up all hopes of taking Lucca; and to keep the Duke occupied in Lombardy they urged the Venetians to attack him with all their forces. But these were also alarmed because their commander, the Marquis of Mantua, had left them, and had entered the service of Duke Filippo. Finding themselves thus as it were disarmed, they replied to the Florentines, that, so far from being able to increase their efforts, they would hardly be able to continue the war unless the Florentines could send them the Count Francesco Sforza to command their army, and with the condition that he should obligate himself to pass the Po in person. Without this they would not adhere to their former treaty, according to which he was not obliged to pass the river. For they were not willing to carry on the war without a commander, and had no hope of any but the Count Francesco; but unless he bound himself to carry on the war wherever they might require it, he would be of no value to them. The Florentines considered it important that the war should be pushed with vigor in Lombardy; at the same time, they felt that their attack upon Lucca would prove in vain; and they knew perfectly well that the Venetians made this demand for Sforza, not so much because he was indispensable to them as for the purpose of preventing them from making so important a conquest as that of Lucca. The Count, on the other hand, was ready to go into Lombardy at the pleasure of the league, but was unwilling to change the terms of the original agreement with the Duke Filippo, as he did not wish to forego the hope of his alliance to the Duke’s daughter which he had promised him.
The Florentines were thus agitated by two different feelings; the one the desire to possess Lucca, and the other the fear of war with the Duke of Milan. The latter, however, prevailed, as is generally the case with fear; and they consented that, after the capture of Uzano, the Count Sforza should go into Lombardy. There remained, however, one difficulty, which, not being within the control of the Florentines, caused them more anxiety and apprehension than the first: the Count was not willing to cross the Po, and the Venetians would not accept him unless he did. There being no other way of coming to an agreement except by one party freely yielding the point to the other, the Florentines persuaded the Count Francesco to obligate himself by a private letter to the Signoria to pass the river, demonstrating to him that such a private promise would not be considered an infraction of a public treaty; and that he could manage afterwards to avoid passing the river, which would have this advantageous consequence, — that the Venetians would be obliged to continue the war after it had once been begun, and that thus the evil which the Florentines feared so much would be averted. On the other hand, they argued with the Venetians, that this private letter would be binding upon the Count, and that therefore they ought to be content with it; and that it was well to afford him the means of preserving the appearance of respect due to his future father-in-law; and that it would be of no advantage to them to expose him without manifest necessity. And thus the passage of the Count Sforza into Lombardy was resolved upon; who, having taken Uzano and thrown up some intrenchments around Lucca for the purpose of keeping the inhabitants closely pressed, placed the conduct of the war in the hands of the commissaries. He then passed the mountains and went to Reggio, where the Venetians, suspicious of his advance and wishing above all to assure themselves of his real intentions, requested him to pass the Po, and there join their other forces. The Count absolutely refused this; so that high words passed between him and the Venetian envoy, Andrea Mauroceno, each accusing the other of presumption and bad faith. And after much mutual recrimination, the one claiming not to be obliged to perform that service and the other threatening to withhold the stipulated payments, the Count Sforza returned to Tuscany and the other to Venice. The Count was thereupon ordered by the Florentines to encamp on the Pisan territory, hoping to induce him to resume the war against Lucca, to which, however, they found him indisposed; for the Duke Filippo, having heard that the Count Francesco had refused to pass the Po out of regard for him, hoped still by his means to save the Lucchese; and begged him to endeavor to bring about an amicable arrangement between the Lucchese and the Florentines, and if possible to include him also in the arrangement, giving Sforza the hope that the promised marriage with his daughter might then take place at his own pleasure. This hoped for marriage had great weight with Count Francesco; for inasmuch as Duke Filippo had no sons, he hoped thereby eventually to become himself the sovereign of Milan. For this reason he embarrassed the movements of the Florentines, and declared that he would not move with the army unless the Venetians paid the amount due him and continued him in command of the army. The payments alone, however, did not satisfy him; for wishing to be assured of the safety of his own states, he deemed it desirable to have other support besides the Florentines, and therefore shrewdly threatened that, if he were abandoned by the Venetians, he would be obliged to look to his own interests, and make terms with the Duke of Milan.
14. These cavillings and evasions displeased the Florentines greatly, for they saw themselves disappointed in their attempt upon Lucca, and began moreover to have some doubts as to the safety of their own state if ever the Duke of Milan and the Count Francesco should become allied. By way of inducing, therefore, the Venetians to keep Sforza in command, Cosimo de’ Medici went himself to Venice in the hope of being able to influence them by his reputation. He discussed the subject at length in their Senate, showing the condition of the Italian governments, the extent of the forces of the Duke of Milan, which armies were the most powerful and best reputed; and concluded that, if the Duke united with the Count Francesco, the Venetians might have to confine themselves again to the sea, whilst the Florentines would have to fight for their liberties. To this the Venetians replied: “That they knew their own strength, as well as that of the other Italian states, and believed themselves in every way competent to defend themselves; affirming at the same time that they were not in the habit of paying soldiers who served others, and that the Florentines had better pay the Count themselves, inasmuch as he had been employed in their service. And that they deemed it more necessary, if they wished to continue in the free enjoyment of their institutions, to humble the pride of the Count Sforza than to pay him; for there was no limit to men’s ambition; and if the Count were now paid, it would not be long before he made other unfair and dangerous demands. And therefore they deemed it well, once and for all, to check his insolence, instead of allowing it to grow until it became insupportable; and if the Florentines, either from fear or any other reason, wished to preserve the Count’s friendship, they might pay him themselves.”
And thus Cosimo had to return without any other conclusion. The Florentines, nevertheless, urged the Count not to separate himself from the league, to which he would willingly have adhered but for his desire to conclude his marriage with the daughter of Duke Filippo; this kept his mind in a state of doubt, so that the slightest incident, as indeed it happened, caused him to hesitate. Count Francesco had left his possessions in La Marca in charge of Furlano, one of his principal Condottieri, who was persuaded by the Duke of Milan to leave the service of the Count and to enter into his pay. In consequence of this, the Count, regardless of everything but his own safety, formed a compact with the Duke, one of the conditions of which was that the latter was not in any way to interfere in the affairs of the Romagna and of Tuscany. After making this arrangement with Duke Filippo, the Count earnestly persuaded the Florentines to make terms with the Lucchese; and pressed them in such manner, that, seeing they had no other alternative, they concluded a treaty with them in April, 1438, according to which the Lucchese preserved their independence, and the Florentines kept Monte Carlo and several other places. After that they filled all Italy with declarations of regret, saying that, since both God and man were opposed to their subjecting Lucca to their government, they had concluded to make peace with her. It seldom happens that any one regrets the loss of his own property so much as the Florentines regretted their failure to acquire that of others.
15. Although the Florentines were occupied at that time with such important enterprises, yet they did not omit to give attention to their neighbors, and to adorn and improve their own city. We have already related the death of Niccolo Fortebraccio, who had been married to a daughter of the Count Poppi, who at the time of the death of Niccolo held the Borgo of San Sepolcro and the fortress of that place, which he had commanded during the lifetime of his son-in-law in his name. After his death he claimed to hold them as the dowry of his daughter, and refused to yield them to the Pope, who demanded them as the property of the Church, and sent the Patriarch with his army to recover them. The Count Poppi, feeling himself unable to resist an attack, offered to turn these places over to the Florentines, who however declined to accept them. But when the Pope returned to Florence they interceded with him in behalf of the Count Poppi, but, failing to bring about an agreement, the Patriarch attacked Casentino, and took Prato Vecchio and Romena, which places he offered also to the Florentines. They declined to accept them, unless the Pope should first consent to their restoring them to the Count Poppi. After long resisting, the Pope finally agreed to it, but wanted the Florentines to promise to induce the Count to surrender to him the Borgo of San Sepolcro. The Pope being satisfied with this negotiation, the Florentines asked him personally to consecrate the cathedral of the city, called the Santa Reparata, the construction of which had been begun a long time previous, but which was now so far completed that they could celebrate divine service in it. The Pope readily consented; and for the greater magnificence of the city and the cathedral, as well as for the greater honor of the Pope, the Florentines had a platform constructed all the way from the Santa Maria Novella, where the Pope resided, to the church that was to be consecrated. This platform was eight feet wide and four feet high, and was covered all over with the most costly drapery, and was to serve only for the passage of the Pope with his court, and the magistrates of the city, together with such citizens as had been deputed to escort the pontiff, whilst the other citizens and the people lined the streets, the windows, and the church to witness so grand a spectacle. After the customary ceremonies, the Pope, by way of giving a still greater proof of his affection for the city, bestowed the honor of knighthood upon Giuliano Davanzate, a citizen of the highest repute, and who was at that time the Gonfaloniere of Justice; and the Signoria, not wishing to appear less gracious than the Pope, gave to Giuliano the government of Pisa for one year.
16. There were at this time (1439) some grave differences between the Roman and the Greek Churches, so that they did not agree upon any one point in the divine service. And as there had been much discussion upon this subject at the last Council of Basle by the prelates of the Western Church, it was resolved that an effort should be made to induce the Emperor and the Greek prelates to attend the council, and to try if possible to reconcile them to the Latin Church. Although this proposition was derogatory to the majesty of the Greek empire, and distasteful to the pride of its prelates, yet, being at the time closely pressed by the Turks, and deeming themselves alone insufficient for their defence, they resolved to yield to the invitation for the purpose of being able with the greater certainty to ask for assistance. And thus the Emperor, with the Patriarch and the other prelates and Greek barons, came to Venice in compliance with the resolution of the Council of Basle; but being alarmed by the plague which was then prevailing, they resolved that their differences should be settled at Florence. The Roman and Greek prelates having thereupon met for many days in succession in the cathedral of Florence, the Greeks yielded after repeated and protracted discussions, and the disputed points were agreed upon with the Roman Church and the pontiff.
17. Peace having now been restored between the people of Lucca and the Florentines, and an alliance formed between the Duke of Milan and Count Francesco Sforza, it was thought that the wars of Italy, and especially those that had so long plagued Lombardy and Tuscany, would now cease; although that which had originated in the kingdom of Naples between Regnier of Anjoy and Alfonso of Aragon was not likely to be settled except by the ruin of either the one or the other. And although the Pope was dissatisfied at the loss of so much of his territory, and although the restless ambition of the Duke of Milan and of the Venetians was notorious, yet it was supposed that the Pope from necessity and the others from exhaustion would have to remain quiet. But matters went differently; for neither the Duke nor the Venetians were content in repose. Arms were therefore again resumed, and Lombardy and Tuscany were once more overrun by warring armies. The proud spirit of Duke Filippo could not brook that the Venetians should possess Bergamo and Brescia; and he was greatly annoyed at seeing them in arms and constantly running over and disturbing many parts of his territory. Thinking that he would be able not only to keep the Venetians in check, but also to recover his possessions whenever they should be abandoned by the Pope, the Florentines, and the Count Francesco, Filippo resolved to take the Romagna from the Pope; judging that, when once he held that country, the Pope would not be able to molest him, and that the Florentines, seeing the fire so near, would either not move from fear, or would not be able readily to attack him. The Duke was aware also of the indignation which the Florentines felt against the Venetians on account of their disappointment in regard to Lucca, and judged that on that account they would be less disposed to take up arms in their behalf. As to the Count Francesco, Filippo believed that the newly established alliance between them, and the Count’s hope of marrying his daughter, would keep him quiet; and to avoid responsibility, and to afford no one any cause to attempt any movement, — particularly as under his agreement with the Count Francesco he could not attack the Romagna, — he directed Niccolo Piccinino to undertake it himself, as though he had been prompted to it by his own ambition. At the time of the agreement between Duke Filippo and Count Francesco, Niccolo happened to be in the Romagna; and by an understanding with the Duke he pretended being indignant at this alliance between the Duke and his inveterate enemy, the Count, and went with his troops to Camarata, a place between Furli and Ravenna, where he fortified himself as though he intended to remain there a long while, or until he should determine upon some other course. The report of Piccinino’s anger with the Duke having been very generally spread, Niccolo gave the Pope to understand how great his services to the Duke had been, and how great the Duke’s ingratitude; who, from having the two principal captains in his pay, conceived that he thereby in a measure controlled all the armies of Italy, and intended to make himself the master of it. But if his Holiness desired it, he would bring it about that, of the two captains whom the Duke believed he controlled, one should become his enemy, and the other should prove useless to him. For if his Holiness would supply him with money and agree to keep him in his pay, he would attack those portions of the possessions of the Count which he had taken from the Church; so that Count Francesco, having to look to the protection of his own property, would not be able to serve the ambition of Duke Filippo. The Pope, believing these representations, which seemed reasonable to him, sent five thousand ducats to Piccinino, and made him besides many promises of estates for himself and his children. And although the Pope was cautioned by several persons against this fraud, yet he would not believe it, and would listen to no one who contradicted him.
The city of Ravenna was governed at that time, in the name of the Holy See, by Ostasio da Palenta; and Niccolo, thinking that there was no time to be lost in the execution of his designs, — his son, Francesco Piccinino, having sacked Spoleto in utter disregard of the Pope, — resolved to attack Ravenna, either because he thought it an easy undertaking, or because he had a secret understanding with Ostasio. And in a few days after, he made the attack, and took Ravenna by capitulation; after which be took Bologna, Imola, and Furli. And what was truly astonishing was, that, of twenty castles in the Romagna that were held by papal troops for the Church, there remained not one that did not fall into the hands of Piccinino, who, not content with outraging the Pope by sudden invasion, added insult to injury, and wrote him that he deserved to have these places taken from him, because he had not been ashamed to attempt to break up the friendship that existed between the Duke of Milan and himself, and because he had filled Italy with letters falsely representing that Niccolo had betrayed the Duke and gone over to the Venetians.
18. Niccolo, having thus made himself master of the Romagna, left it in charge of his son, Francesco Piccinino, whilst he himself with the greater part of his troops went into Lombardy, where, having united with the Duke’s forces, he attacked the territory of Brescia, of which he made himself master in a few days, and then laid siege to the city itself. The Duke, who wanted the Venetians to be abandoned to him as a prey, disavowed the acts of Piccinino, and assured the Pope, the Florentines, and the Count, that, if the conduct of Niccolo was contrary to the treaties, it was equally so to his own wishes; and he gave them to understand by confidential messengers that he intended to make a signal demonstration against Niccolo for his disobedience whenever time and circumstances should permit it. The Count and the Florentines had no faith in these assurances, but believed, as in truth was the case, that these late military movements had been made merely to keep them quiet until the Duke should have subdued the Venetians, who, being filled with pride and believing themselves able alone to resist the Duke’s forces, disdained to ask help of any one, and carried on the war single-handed through their general, Gattamelata. The Count Sforza was desirous of going to the assistance of King Regnier with the consent of the Florentines, if the events in the Romagna and Lombardy had not detained him. And the Florentines would cheerfully have consented, on account of the ancient friendship which their city had always cherished for the house of France; but that in such event the Duke would have given his support to King Alfonso, from the friendship contracted with him in the time of his need. Both however, being occupied with the wars nearer home, abstained from more distant enterprises. In fact, the Florentines, seeing the Romagna invaded by the Duke’s forces and the Venetians beaten, like men who saw their own ruin in that of others, begged the Count Francesco to come into Tuscany, where they would devise what means might be necessary to oppose the forces of the Duke Filippo, which were now greater than they had ever been before; affirming at the same time that, if the Duke’s insolence were not restrained, every sovereign in Italy would soon suffer from it. Although the Count Francesco knew the apprehensions of the Florentines to be well founded, yet the desire to consummate his connection with the Duke by the promised marriage was supreme with him; and the Duke, well knowing this desire, gave him every encouragement, on condition that Sforza should not take up arms against him. And as the young lady was now of suitable age, things had several times been brought to that point that all the preparations for the marriage had been made, but the Duke upon one pretext or another had always set them aside. At the same time, by way of maintaining and increasing the Count’s confidence, he added deeds to his words, and sent him thirty thousand florins, which he was to give him according to the marriage contract.
19. Meantime the war in Lombardy continued, and the Venetians lost daily more territory, and the fleets which they had placed upon the rivers were taken by the ducal forces. The whole country of Verona and Brescia was occupied, and the two cities were so closely pressed that according to general opinion they could hold out but a little while longer. The Marquis of Mantua, who had for many years been general of the forces of the republic, had quite unexpectedly left their service and gone over to the Duke of Milan; so that fear compelled them during the progress of the war to do that which their pride would not allow them to do in the beginning. For satisfied now that their only remedy was the friendship of the Florentines and of the Count Francesco Sforza, the Venetians began to solicit it, although with shame and full of doubts; for they feared to receive from the Florentines the same answer which they had given to them at the time of the attempt of the Florentines upon Lucca, and in their affair with the Count.
But they found the Florentines more ready to comply than what they had hoped for, or than what they deserved for their former conduct. So much more were the Florentines influenced by their hatred of their ancient enemy, the Duke of Milan, than by resentment at the disregard by the Venetians of their old and habitual friendship. And having for some time previous anticipated the necessity to which the Venetians would be brought, they had pointed out to the Count Francesco “how their ruin would involve his own, and how much he deceived himself in supposing that Duke Filippo would value him more when fortunate than in misfortune; and that the only reason why he had promised him his daughter was the fear with which he had inspired him. And inasmuch as promises made under the pressure of necessity are performed only under a similar pressure, so the Duke would also have to be kept in that condition with regard to the promise of his daughter’s hand to Francesco, which could only be done by maintaining the power of the Venetians. He ought to bear in mind, therefore, that if the Venetians were to lose their inland possessions he would lose not only all the advantages which he had the right to expect from their alliance, but also those which he could hope for from the other Italian states, who were already alarmed by the disasters of Venice. And if he reflected well upon the condition of the different states of Italy, he would see that some were without means, and that others were hostile to him. Nor were the Florentines by themselves able to sustain him (as he had several times said himself), and therefore it was in every respect of the utmost importance for him to do all he could to maintain the Venetians powerful by land.”
These arguments, added to the hatred which the Count Francesco had conceived against Duke Filippo, by whom he believed himself to have been duped in the matter of the promised marriage, induced him to accede to a new agreement; but he would not yet obligate himself to pass the Po. This treaty was concluded in February, 1438; according to it the Venetians made themselves responsible for two thirds and the Florentines for one third of the expenses of the war; and both agreed jointly to bear the expense of defending the Count’s possessions in La Marca. The league were not satisfied with their forces, and added to them the lord of Faenza, the sons of Messer Pandolfo Malatesta da Rimini, and Pietro Giampaolo Orsini. They also sought to seduce the Marquis of Mantua by great promises to unite with them, but could not tempt him to abandon the friendship and service of the Duke of Milan. The lord of Faenza also, after having agreed with the league for his services, finding that he could make better terms for himself, went over to the Duke. This defection deprived the league of the hope of being speedily able to dispose of the affairs of the Romagna.
20. Lombardy was at this time in a critical situation; Brescia was besieged by the forces of the Duke, and it was doubtful whether she might not any day be obliged to surrender from want of provisions. Verona, likewise, was so closely pressed, that a similar fate was apprehended for her; and it was considered that, if either of these cities were lost, all further preparations for war, as well as the amount of money expended thus far, would be in vain. So that the league saw no other remedy than to send the Count Sforza into Lombardy. This course, however, presented three difficulties: the first was to dispose the Count to pass the river Po, and to carry on the war wherever they might direct; the second was that the Florentines could not disguise from themselves that the sending the Count Sforza so far away would leave them at the mercy of the Duke, who might easily withdraw to some of his strongholds, keeping the Count at bay with a portion of his forces, and with the rest bring back the Florentine exiles into Tuscany, of which the government in power at the time were greatly afraid; and the third difficulty was as to the route which the Count Sforza should take so as to get safely to Padua, where the Venetian forces were stationed. Of these three difficulties the second, which especially concerned the Florentines, was the most serious. They however, knowing the necessities of the case, and wearied by the Venetians, who clamored with the utmost importunity for the Count Francesco, declaring that without him all would be lost, subordinated their own apprehensions to the necessities of others. There still remained then the question as to the route, the safety of which it was resolved should be provided for by the Venetians. Neri di Gino Capponi having been deputed to treat with the Count upon this point, and to induce him to pass the river, the Signoria of Florence deemed it proper that Neri should also proceed to Venice in order to make this benefit the more acceptable to the Signoria of that city, and at the same time to arrange with them for the safety of the route and the passage of the river by the Count.
21. Neri thereupon departed from Cesena for Venice, where he was received by the Signoria with more honors than had ever been shown to any prince, for they believed that the safety of the state depended upon his coming, and upon the arrangements that were to be effected through his intervention. Neri, having been introduced to the Senate, addressed that body and the Doge in the following words:—
“Most illustrious Prince, the Signori of Florence have ever been of the opinion that the power of the Duke of Milan constituted the principal cause of danger to your republic and their own; and that the safety of the two states depended upon their respective greatness. Had your Signoria always been of the same opinion we should have been in better condition, and your state would have been secure from those dangers by which it is threatened at this time. But as you gave us neither your assistance nor your confidence at the time when you should have done so, we could not hasten to your relief in your troubles, and you could not ask it of us so promptly, having known us but slightly in your adversity and prosperity; for you did not know that it is our nature to love those always whom we have loved once, and to hate forever those whom we have hated once. You know yourselves the love we have borne to your most illustrious Signoria; for you have seen how on different occasions we have, for your assistance, sent our troops and our treasure into Lombardy. And the whole world knows the hatred we bear and ever shall bear to Duke Filippo and the house of Visconti; and certainly neither ancient love nor hatred can readily be effaced by new benefits or injuries. We have been and are still certain that we might have remained neutral in this war, to the great satisfaction of Duke Filippo, and with little risk to ourselves. For even if by your ruin he had made himself master of Lombardy, there were enough resources left to us in Italy to prevent our despairing of our safety; for with the increase of the Duke’s power and possessions, he would have also increased the number of his enemies and their jealousy of him, and this would have involved him in fresh wars and difficulties. We also know what heavy expenses and imminent dangers we should have escaped by avoiding this war, and how, in consequence of our taking part in it with you, it might be transferred from Lombardy into Tuscany. But all these considerations are counterbalanced by the ancient affection which we cherish for your state, and therefore we resolved to succor your government with the same alacrity that we should have employed in defence of our own if it had been assailed. My government, judging that before anything else Verona and Brescia should be relieved, which it supposed could not be done without the Count, sent me first to persuade him to pass over into Lombardy, and to carry on the war wherever directed; for you know that he was not obliged to pass the river Po. This I have done, employing the same arguments with him that have influenced us, and he, invincible as he is in arms, and unwilling to be outdone in courtesy, determined to exceed even the liberality which he had seen us extend to you. Fully aware of the danger to which his departure would expose Tuscany, but seeing that we had subordinated our dangers to your welfare, he resolved also to subordinate his considerations for us to the same object. I come, therefore, to offer to you the Count Francesco, with seven thousand cavalry and two thousand infantry, ready to go and meet the enemy anywhere, and I beg you most earnestly, and my Signoria likewise entreats you, that, inasmuch as the number of troops exceeds what by his agreement with us the Count is obliged to furnish, you will compensate him with your wonted liberality, so that he may have no cause to regret having placed himself at your service, nor we at having persuaded him to it.”
Neri’s address was listened to by the Senate as though he had been an oracle; and they were so excited by it that they did not wait for the Doge to reply, as is customary; but, rising to their feet, the greater part of the Senators, with uplifted hands, called out to thank the Florentines for this affectionate and friendly service, and to thank Neri for having executed it with so much zeal and promptness; promising at the same time that it should never be cancelled from their hearts or those of their descendants, and that their country should ever be a common one to themselves and the Florentines.
22. When this excitement had subsided they discussed the route which the Count Francesco should take, so that bridges, pioneers, and all other necessary things, might be provided. Four routes presented themselves: one by Ravenna, along the sea, which, however, being in great part confined between the sea and morasses, was not approved; the next was by the direct road, but this was obstructed by a fortress called the Uccellino which was held by the troops of the Duke, and would have to be taken before it could be passed, which it was difficult to do in so short a time without delaying the succor so promptly needed. The third route was by the forests of the lake, but as the Po had risen over its banks, it made that route, not difficult, but impossible. There remained then the fourth, by the Campagna of Bologna, crossing by the bridges of Puledrano, Cento, and Piene, and passing on to Ferrara between Finale and Bondeno; whence the army might be transferred by land and water into the Paduan territory, there to join the Venetian forces. This route, though very difficult and exposed to the attacks of the enemy, was chosen for want of a better; and so soon as it was made known to the Count, he started with the utmost promptness, and reached the Paduan territory on the 20th of June. The arrival of the Count Sforza in Lombardy filled all Venice with high hopes; and where at first the Venetians had despaired of their safety, they now began to indulge in hopes of new acquisitions. The first thing the Count did was to march to the relief of Verona; to prevent this, Niccolo Piccinino went with his army to Soave, a fortress between the territories of Vicenza and Verona, and which was protected by a ditch leading from the river Soave to the marshes of the Adige. Count Francesco, seeing the road through the plains impeded, judged that he might be able to pass around by the mountains and in that way reach Verona, thinking that Niccolo would not suspect his taking that route, which was steep and rugged; or if he did believe it, he would not be in time to prevent him. And having supplied himself with provisions for eight days, he passed the mountains with his forces and reached the plains below Soave. Although Niccolo had thrown up some intrenchments to embarrass Francesco on this road, yet he was not able to hold them. Niccolo thereupon, seeing that the enemy had passed where he had believed it impossible, and not wishing to come to an engagement with him at disadvantage, retreated, across the Adige, and Francesco entered Verona without opposition.
23. The first difficulty having been so happily overcome, and Verona relieved of the siege, there remained the second, namely, to succor Brescia. This city lies, as it were, upon the lake of Garda; so that, although besieged by land, it could always be provisioned from the side of the lake. For this reason Duke Filippo had intrenched himself with his forces along the lake, and at the beginning of his successes had occupied all the places that could afford aid to Brescia by means of the lake. The Venetians also had galleys upon the lake, but not enough to contend against the forces of the Duke. Count Francesco therefore deemed it necessary to support the Venetian fleet with his land forces, hoping easily to take those places that prevented Brescia from obtaining supplies. Accordingly, he laid siege to Bardolino, a fortress situated on the lake, hoping that, when he should have taken that, the other places would surrender. Fortune, however, did not favor Francesco in this attempt, for a considerable portion of his forces fell sick, so that he abandoned that enterprise and went to Zenio, a Veronese fortress, which was healthy and well supplied with provisions. Piccinino, seeing that the Count had withdrawn, and unwilling to lose an opportunity, which he thought presented itself, for making himself master of the lake, left his camp at Vesagio, and with some chosen troops went upon the lake and attacked the Venetian fleet with such vigor and fury that he captured nearly the whole of it. In consequence of this victory nearly all the strong places on the lake surrendered to Niccolo. The Venetians, alarmed by this loss and fearing lest the Brescians should capitulate in consequence, sent letters and messengers to Count Francesco, urging him to go to the relief of that city. The Count, seeing that all chance of relieving Brescia by way of the lake was lost, and that it was unapproachable by the plains because of the ditches, intrenchments, and other obstacles interposed by Niccolo, to attempt to pass which in the face of a hostile army would be going to certain defeat, resolved that, inasmuch as the road by the mountains had enabled him to save Verona, it should equally serve him to succor Brescia. Having formed this design Count Francesco left Zenio, and went by the Val d’ Acri to the lake of San Andrea, and came to Torboli and Peneda, above the lake of Garda. Thence he went to Terma, which he besieged, as Brescia could not be reached without that castle being taken first. Piccinino, hearing of the Count’s movements, led his army to Peschiera, and then went, together with the Marquis of Mantua and some of his choicest troops, to encounter Francesco. And having come to battle, Piccinino was defeated and his troops dispersed; some of them were taken prisoners, some made their way back to the main body of the army, and some took refuge on board of the fleet. Niccolo retreated to Terma, and, night having come on, he thought that if he waited in that place until day-light he would unavoidably fall into the hands of the enemy; and by way of escaping a certain danger he risked a doubtful one. Of all his forces Niccolo had but one servant with him, a German of remarkable strength, who had ever been most faithful to him. Niccolo persuaded him to put him into a sack, and to carry him on his shoulders to some safe place, as though he were carrying his master’s armor. The troops of Count Francesco were encamped around Terma, but in consequence of the victory of the day, the whole camp was in disorder and without any guards, so that it was an easy matter for the German to save his master; for having taken him on his shoulders concealed in a sack, he passed through the camp without any hindrance, and so soon as he was safe he conducted Niccolo to his troops.
24. If this victory had been employed with as much wisdom as it was achieved with good fortune, Brescia would have been relieved, and the affairs of Venice would have been greatly benefited. But being badly availed of, the joy of the Venetians soon disappeared and Brescia remained in the same difficulties. For Niccolo, having returned to his troops, resolved to cancel the disgrace of his defeat by some new victory, and thus to deprive the Venetians of the chance of relieving Brescia. He knew the position of the citadel of Verona, and had learnt from prisoners taken during the war how insufficiently it was guarded, and the facility with which it might be taken. It seemed to him, therefore, that fortune had placed the means in his hands for recovering his honor, and of converting into grief the joy which the enemy had derived from the recent victory. The city of Verona is situated in Lombardy at the foot of the Alps that separate Italy from Germany; so that it is placed partly on the mountain slope and partly in the plain. The river Adige issues from the valley of Trent, and on entering Italy, instead of spreading itself through the level country, turns sharply to the left along the mountains and runs through the city of Verona, not dividing it, however, into two equal parts, but leaving the part on the side of the plain much larger than that which lies on the slope of the mountain. Above this there are two forts, the one called San Pietro and the other San Felice, and which from their situation have the appearance of much greater strength than they really have; but being so high, they dominate the whole city. In the plain on the opposite side of the Adige, and within the city walls, are two other forts about one thousand paces distant from each other. One of these is called the old, and the other the new citadel; they are connected by a wall which forms as it were the chord of the arc which the regular city wall describes, and which goes from one citadel to the other. The whole space within these two walls is thickly inhabited, and is called the Borgo di San Zeno. It was these citadels and the Borgo which Niccolo Piccinino intended to seize, thinking that he would readily succeed, either because of the ordinary negligence of the garrison, or from their greater negligence in consequence of the recent victory; and knowing that in war no enterprise is so likely to succeed as that which the enemy thinks you incapable of accomplishing. Having thereupon made a selection of his best men, Niccolo went at night together with the Marquis of Mantua to Verona, and without being heard he escaladed and captured the new citadel. From there his troops descended into the place and burst open the gate of San Antonio, by which they let in all the cavalry. The garrison that held the old citadel for the Venetians, hearing the noise only after the guard of the new citadel had been killed, and concluding that it must be the enemy, began to shout and ring the bells to call the people to arms. The citizens being aroused were all in confusion; the most courageous of them seized their arms, and rushed to the Piazza dei Rettori. Meantime the troops of Niccolo had pillaged the Borgo di San Zeno, and as they were advancing further the citizens recognized that the ducal troops were within the city. And seeing no means of defending themselves, they advised the Venetian Rectors to take refuge in the fortress so as to save their persons and the place; representing to them that it was better for Venice that they should save their lives and so rich a city for a better fate, than, by attempting to avoid the present one, to expose themselves to the danger of death and their city to destruction. And thus the Rectors and all the other Venetians took refuge in the fortress of San Felice. After this some of the first citizens went to meet Niccolo and the Marquis of Mantua, and supplicated them to prefer a rich city, which they might possess with honor to themselves, to one that was devastated, and which would only bring shame upon them; especially as the fact of their having defended themselves entitled them neither to the thanks of their former masters nor to the vengeance of the present ones. They were comforted by Niccolo and the Marquis of Mantua, who restrained as far as they could the license of the soldiery and protected the city from being sacked. And being convinced that the Count Francesco would endeavor to recover possession of Verona, they made every effort to get the fortresses into their hands; and those which they could not take they isolated by means of ditches and barricades, so as to make it difficult for the enemy to enter them.
25. The Count Francesco was at Terma with his forces, and when he heard the news of the capture of Verona he at first discredited it; but when he became assured of its correctness, he wanted with immediate haste to make good the first neglect. All the captains of his army advised against this attempt upon Verona and Brescia and in favor of going to Vicenza, so as not to expose himself to being besieged by the enemy in his present position; but the Count would not listen to them, and persisted in tempting fortune by his effort to recover Verona. And turning in the midst of the discussion to the Venetian commissaries and to Bernardetto de’ Medici, the Florentine commissary, he promised them the certain recovery of the city, provided that one of the forts held out until he came. Having thereupon organized his men, he moved with the utmost rapidity upon Verona. When Niccolo saw him coming, he believed him at first to be going to Vicenza, as he had been advised by his captains; but when he afterwards saw the troops turn to go to the fort of San Felice, he hastily attempted to organize its defence. But it was too late; for no barricades had been made, and Niccolo’s soldiers were scattered in the eager pursuit of plunder and contributions, so that he could not collect them in time to prevent Count Francesco’s men from entering the fort; whence they made a descent upon the city, and happily took it, to the discredit of Niccolo, and great damage to his men, who together with the Marquis of Mantua fled first to the citadel, and then through the open country to Mantua, where they joined the other fragments of their forces that had escaped, and then went to unite with those who were engaged in the siege of Brescia. Thus was Verona won and lost by the ducal army within the short space of four days. Winter having now set in and the cold being very severe, the Count Francesco, after having first with great difficulty sent provisions into Brescia, went into quarters in Verona; and ordered some galleys to be built during the winter at Torboli, so as to be well prepared by spring for the relief of Brescia.
26. Duke Filippo, seeing the war stopped for the time, and himself deprived of all hope of taking Verona and Brescia, which he attributed entirely to the money and the counsels of the Florentines, who could neither be alienated from their alliance with the Venetians by the injuries they had received at their hands, nor gained over to him by the promises which he himself had made them, resolved to attack Tuscany, so as to make the Florentines taste the fruit of the seed which they had sown themselves. He was, moreover, urged to this resolution by the banished Florentines and by Niccolo Piccinino. The latter was influenced by his desire to acquire the estates of Braccio, and to drive the Count out of La Marca; and the former by their longing to return to their country, from which they had been exiled; and both urged the Duke with opportune reasons in conformity with their own desires. Niccolo pointed out to him how he might send him into Tuscany, and yet continue the siege of Brescia, as he was master of the lake and held all the strong places on land, which were amply supplied with everything, and had men and competent captains to resist the Count Francesco should he attempt any fresh enterprise, which, however, he would hardly do without first relieving Brescia, and that was impossible; and therefore he might carry the war into Tuscany, without giving up his operations in Lombardy. He also argued that the Florentines would be obliged, so soon as he entered Tuscany, to recall the Count Francesco, or be destroyed, and that, whatever course he might take, victory would be the certain result. The Florentine exiles affirmed that, if Niccolo with his army were to approach Florence, it would be impossible for the people not to take up arms against the nobles, being weary of their insolence, and of the burdens that had been imposed upon them. They showed him that it was easy to approach Florence, and assured him that the way by Casentino would be open to him, owing to the friendship existing between Messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi and the Count Poppi. Thus the Duke Filippo, who was of his own accord inclined to go, was confirmed by these persuasions in his resolve to engage in this enterprise. The Venetians, on the other hand, notwithstanding the severity of the winter, urged the Count most earnestly to go to the relief of Brescia with all his forces. This the Count Francesco declined, as being impossible at that season, and advised them to wait until spring, and in the mean time to put their fleet in order, so as to be able to aid Brescia at the same time both by land and by water. This refusal greatly dissatisfied the Venetians, so that they became dilatory in supplying provisions, which caused a great many desertions from the army.
27. When the Florentines were informed of these movements, they became greatly alarmed at seeing the war coming upon them, whilst they had derived so little advantage from the operations in Lombardy. They were no less disquieted by the army of the Holy See; not that the Pope himself was hostile to them, but because they saw his troops show more obedience to the Patriarch, their mortal enemy, than to the Pope himself. Giovanni Vitelleschi of Corneto, at first apostolic notary, became afterwards Bishop of Recannati, and then Patriarch of Alessandria; and having finally been made Cardinal, he was called the Florentine Cardinal. He was courageous and astute, and therefore knew how to win the confidence and affection of the Pope, and to have himself appointed commander-in-chief of the armies of the Church; and thus he obtained the direction of all the wars in which the Pope became involved in Tuscany, the Romagna, in the kingdom of Naples, and in Rome. In this way he acquired such authority over the troops, and even over the pontiff himself, that the latter feared to give him any orders, and the troops would obey no one else. The Cardinal Vitelleschi happened to be in Rome with his forces when the report came that Niccolo Piccinino intended to invade Tuscany. This increased the alarm of the Florentines; for the Cardinal, ever since the banishment of Messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi, had been extremely hostile to their government, because the agreements made by his intervention between the parties had not been observed, and had been used rather to the prejudice of Messer Rinaldo, in having caused him to lay down his arms, whereby he gave his enemies the opportunity of driving him from Florence. The chiefs of the government of Florence thought, therefore, that the time had come for recalling and indemnifying Messer Rinaldo, lest he should join Niccolo in the event of his coming into Tuscany. And they were the more apprehensive on this point because it seemed to them ominous that Niccolo should have left Lombardy, at a moment when his enterprise there was all but successful, to engage in another that was altogether doubtful; and which they could not believe he would have done unless he was acting upon some special intelligence, or was meditating some covert treachery. They informed the Pope of their apprehensions, who had already discovered his error in having endowed another with too much authority. But whilst the Florentines were in this state of suspense, fortune showed them the way in which they could secure themselves against the Patriarch. The government exercised at that time a strict surveillance over all correspondence, so as to discover whether any one was plotting against the state; and thus it happened that letters were intercepted at Montepulciano which the Patriarch had written to Niccolo Piccinino without the concurrence of the Pope. These were immediately communicated to the pontiff by the magistrates charged with the direction of the war; and although these letters were written in unusual characters, and their sense so involved as to make it difficult to extract from them any distinct meaning, yet that very obscurity and this dealing with the enemy so excited the suspicions of the Pope that he resolved to assure himself of the reality, and charged Antonio Rido of Padua with the task. Antonio was at the time in command of the garrison of the Castel San Angelo in Rome, and, immediately upon receiving this commission, prepared himself for its execution, and quickly had an opportunity for carrying it into effect. The Patriarch having resolved to go into Tuscany, and wishing to leave Rome the following day, notified the castellan to meet him upon the drawbridge of the castle in the morning when he should pass, as he desired to converse with him upon some matters. This seemed to Antonio the very opportunity wished for. He accordingly instructed some of his men what to do, and awaited the Patriarch upon the drawbridge at the appointed time; and when the Patriarch was fairly upon the bridge, he engaged him in conversation, and then gave the appointed signal to his men to hoist the draw of the bridge; and thus the Patriarch, from being a commander of armies, in one instant became the prisoner of the castellan. The Patriarch’s followers at the first moment were disposed to make a disturbance, but became quiet when told that it had been done by order of the Pope himself. To the castellan’s assurances and kind words that all would yet be well, the Patriarch replied, “Great men do not take prisoners to let them go again, nor is it well to set those free who have been underservedly imprisoned.” He died soon afterwards in his captivity. The Pope appointed in his stead Lodovico, the Patriarch of Aquileia, to the command of his troops; and although he had never before been willing to involve himself in the wars of the league with the Duke of Milan, yet now he agreed to take part in them, and pledged himself to furnish four thousand mounted men and two thousand infantry for the defence of Tuscany.
28. The Florentines, although relieved of this apprehension, were still afraid of Niccolo, and of the confusion of things in Lombardy, resulting from the difference in the views of the Venetians and the Count Francesco; and for the purpose of having a better understanding of these, they sent Neri di Gino Capponi and Messer Giuliano Davanzate to Venice, with instructions to arrange the conduct of the war for the following season. They charged Neri, after he should have ascertained the views of the Venetians, to go to the Count and learn his views, and to persuade him to such a course as the welfare of the league might seem to require. Before reaching Ferrara these ambassadors heard that Niccolo Piccinino had crossed the Po with six thousand horse, which made them hasten their journey; and having arrived at Venice, they found that the Signoria wanted that, above all, immediate succor should be given to Brescia, as that city could not hold out until spring, or until the new fleet should be ready, and, unless promptly relieved, would have to surrender to the enemy; and that this would insure the Duke’s success everywhere, and expose them to the loss of all their inland possessions. Neri, therefore, went to Verona to hear what the Count might have to say to the contrary, who demonstrated to him, with ample reasons, that it would be useless at that time to move upon Brescia, and would also endanger their future movements. For considering the season, and the position of Brescia, it could be of no possible benefit to her, and would only disorganize and fatigue their own forces; so that when afterwards the season came suitable for active operations, they would be obliged to return to Verona with their army, for the purpose of resupplying themselves with what had been consumed in the winter, as well as to provide for the coming summer, so that the very time best adapted to warlike operations would be consumed in going and returning. The Venetians had sent Messer Orsatto Justiniani and Messer Giovanni Pisani to Verona to treat with Sforza upon these matters; and after much discussion, it was agreed between them that the Venetians should pay him for the coming year the sum of eighty thousand ducats, and to his troops forty ducats per lance; and that the Count should be obliged, with his whole force, to attack the Duke, so as to compel him to recall Niccolo into Lombardy, from fear for his own safety. After concluding this arrangement, they returned to Venice, and, on account of the large sum of money to be paid the Venetians, were very dilatory in providing all the other things.
29. Niccolo Piccinino meantime followed his route, and had already reached the Romagna. He prevailed over the sons of Messer Pandolpho Malatesta to leave the Venetians and go over to the Duke, which displeased the Venetians greatly, and the Florentines even more, for they had counted upon being able to resist the advance of Niccolo by that route. But seeing the defection of the Malatesti they became alarmed, and feared particularly lest their general, Pietro Giampaolo Orsini, who was in the territory of the Malatesti, should be waylaid and plundered, and they should be left as it were disarmed. The Count was equally troubled by this intelligence, for he was afraid that Niccolo’s going into Tuscany would cause him the loss of La Marca; and being desirous to go to the relief of his own home, he went to Venice, and upon being presented to the Doge he pointed out to him that “his going into Tuscany would prove of greatest advantage to the league; inasmuch as the war should be carried wherever the enemy’s army and commander might be, and not against his strong places and garrisons. For the defeat of the enemy’s army would end the war; but if only his fortresses were taken and the army left entire, it would only have the effect of making the war go on with increased activity. At the same time Count Francesco affirmed that Tuscany and La Marca would be lost unless the most vigorous resistance were made to Niccolo; and these once lost, there would be no help for Lombardy. But that so long as there was the least chance of saving them he did not intend to abandon his subjects and his allies; and that he had come into Lombardy as a sovereign, and did not mean to leave it as a mere condottiere.” To all which the Doge replied: “That it was manifest that, if Francesco left Lombardy and recrossed the Po with his army, the whole of their inland possessions would be lost to the Venetians; and that in fact they were resolved not to incur any further expenditures in their defence, for it was not wise to defend anything that under any circumstances would be lost, and there was less disgrace and harm in losing one’s states only than in losing one’s states and money at the same time. And if the loss of their inland possessions really resulted from Francesco’s leaving Lombardy, it would then be seen how important the influence of the Venetians was for the preservation of Tuscany and the Romagna. And therefore they were entirely opposed to his views, for they believed that, if he were victorious in Lombardy, he would be equally so everywhere else. And that victory would be easy for him there, because the departure of Niccolo had weakened the Duke so that he could crush him before he had time to recall Niccolo or provide himself with other means of defence. And that if Francesco would carefully consider the whole subject, he would see that the Duke had sent Piccinino into Tuscany for no other purpose than to withdraw the Count from his present enterprise, so as to transfer the war from his own door to some other place. So that if the Count were now to follow Niccolo, unless from some extreme necessity, the Duke would have the satisfaction of seeing his design successful. But that if the Count kept his troops in Lombardy, leaving Tuscany to take care of herself as best she could, the Duke would discover too late that by his unwise course he had lost Lombardy without having gained anything in Tuscany.” After each had given his views, it was concluded to wait a few days to see what result the agreement between Niccolo and the Malatesti might produce; and whether the Florentines could depend upon Pierogiampaolo; and whether the Pope would act in good faith with the league, according to his promise. A few days after having come to this conclusion it was ascertained that the Malatesti had entered into the agreement with Niccolo more from fear than from any evil intention, and that Pierogiampaolo had moved with his troops towards Tuscany, and that the Pope was even more willing than before to aid the league. This information gave fresh courage to the Count Francesco, who consented to remain in Lombardy, and that Neri Capponi should return to Florence with one thousand horse of his own, and five hundred of those of the others. And if nevertheless matters in Tuscany should take such a turn as to make the Count’s presence necessary there, that then he should depart regardless of all other considerations. Neri reached Florence with his troops in the month of April, and joined Giampaolo on the same day.
30. Niccolo Piccinino meanwhile, having settled the affairs of the Romagna, intended making a descent into Tuscany; and wishing to cross the mountains by the pass of San Benedetto and the valley of Montone, he found these places so well defended by the courage of Niccolo da Pisa that he deemed it useless to make any further attempts in that direction. The Florentines, illy prepared for so sudden an attack, both as regards men and officers, had sent a number of their citizens with some hastily organized infantry to guard these mountain passes. Amongst these was Messer Bartolommeo Orlandini, a cavalier, who was placed in charge of the castle of Marradi and the pass over the mountain there. Piccinino, having found it impossible to get over the San Benedetto pass because of the gallantry of its defenders, thought he might succeed in getting over the pass of Marradi through the cowardice of those charged with its defence. The castle of Marradi is situated at the foot of the mountains that separate Tuscany from the Romagna; although unprotected by walls on the side that looks to the Romagna and the head of the valley of Lamona, yet the river and the mountains, and the courageous character of the inhabitants, made it very strong; for the men are loyal and accustomed to bear arms; and the river has so eaten into the rock, as it were, and has such precipitous banks, that it is impossible to approach it by the valley, so long as a small bridge that crosses the stream is defended; and the mountain sides are so steep and rugged that it makes the place perfectly secure. But the cowardice of Messer Bartolommeo made the men under his command also cowards, and changed the natural strength of the place into weakness. For no sooner did he hear of the approach of the enemy than he abandoned everything and fled with all his men, never stopping until he reached the Borgo San Lorenzo. Niccolo entered the abandoned place, amazed at its not being defended, and rejoiced at being in possession of it, descended to Mugello, where he took some castles, and then halted his troops at Puliciano, whence he scoured the whole country as far as the mountains of Fiesole, and had even the audacity to cross the Arno and to pillage the country within three miles of Florence, carrying off everything movable.
31. The Florentines, on the other hand, were not dismayed; and before anything else they saw to giving stability to the government, of which they had, however, no reason to doubt, owing to the good will of the people towards Cosimo, and the fact that they had confided the principal offices to a few of the most powerful citizens, who administered them with firmness and severity; and there had been no indications of any discontent or desire for change on the part of the people. They also knew, from the agreements made in Lombardy, the extent of the forces with which Neri would return, and moreover expected the troops of the Pope. This hope sustained them until the return of Neri, who, on finding the city in this state of disorder and apprehension, resolved to take the field at once for the purpose of checking Niccolo, and to put an end to his pillaging the country. With what cavalry he had, and some infantry raised entirely from the people, Neri issued from the city and took Remole from the enemy; and having established his camp there, he prevented Niccolo from making further depredations, and encouraged the Florentines to hope for speedy relief from the proximity of the enemy. Niccolo, finding that the tranquillity of the city had not been disturbed, although Florence was entirely bare of troops, concluded that it would be idle for him to waste his time there, and determined to attempt some other enterprise, so that the Florentines might be induced to send their troops after him, and thus afford him the opportunity of engaging them in battle; and if successful in that, he hoped to be equally prosperous in his other operations.
In Niccolo’s army was the Count Francesco di Poppi, who had been an ally of the Florentines, but abandoned them when the enemy came to Mugello. The Florentines had in the beginning been doubtful of him, and for the purpose of insuring his fidelity by benefits they increased his emoluments and made him commissary over all the places in his neighborhood. Yet so powerful is the devotion to party with some men that neither benefits nor fear could make the Count Poppi forget his attachment to Messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi and to the others who had constituted the late government of Florence. So soon, therefore, as he heard of the approach of Niccolo, he went to join him, and urged him with the greatest solicitude to leave there and move to the Casentino, pointing out to him the strength of the country, and how he might from there in perfect security harass the enemy. Niccolo acted upon his advice, and having arrived in the territory of Casentino he seized Romena and Bibbiena, and then laid siege to Castel San Niccolo. This castle is situated at the foot of the mountains that separate the Casentino from the Val d’ Arno; its elevated position and ample garrison made its capture very difficult, although Niccolo assailed it with catapults and other engines of war. The siege had lasted twenty days, during which the Florentines had gathered their troops, having already collected three thousand horse under several Condottieri, commanded by Pierogiampaolo as general, and Neri Capponi and Bernardo de’ Medici as commissaries. The garrison of the Castel San Niccolo sent four messengers to these commissaries to entreat them to come to their rescue. Having examined the situation of the place, they found that no assistance could be rendered except by way of the mountains from the direction of the Val d’ Arno. But as the crest of these mountains could be occupied sooner by the enemy, who had less distance to go, and as they would not be able to conceal their movements from the enemy, so that if they were to attempt it unsuccessfully it might cause the destruction of their troops, the commissaries could only commend the fidelity of the garrison, and advise them to surrender when defence was no longer possible. Niccolo thereupon took the castle, after a siege of thirty-two days; and this waste of time without any adequate result was in great part the cause of the failure of this expedition. For had Niccolo remained with his troops in the vicinity of Florence, it would have prevented the government from raising money from its citizens, and would have embarrassed them in collecting troops and making other provisions, from having the enemy so near them instead of at a distance. And in that case the Florentines would have been much more disposed to make terms with Niccolo, seeing that the war would be a protracted one. But the desire of the Count Poppi to revenge himself upon those castellans who had so long been his enemies, caused him to advise Niccolo to the course which he followed merely for the purpose of satisfying the Count Poppi.
Following up his success, Niccolo took also Rassina and Chiusi, where the Count Poppi advised him to halt, pointing out to him how he might there spread his forces between Chiusi and Caprese and the Piene, and thus make himself master of the Apennines, whence he might then descend at pleasure into the Casentino, the Val d’ Arno, the Val di Chiana, and the Val di Tevere, and be prepared for every movement the enemy might make. But Niccolo, seeing the roughness of the country, said to him “that his horses could not eat stones,” and went off to the Borgo San Sepolcro, where he met with a friendly reception; and from here he made overtures to the people of Citta di Castello, who however would not listen to him, being friends of the Florentines. Being desirous also to secure the good will of the people of Perugia, of which place he was a citizen, Niccolo went there with forty horse, and was kindly received. But in a few days he became suspect, and having in vain made great efforts to bring over the Legate and the Perugians, he accepted eight thousand ducats from them and returned to his army. He then attempted to seduce Cortona from the Florentines, but, the matter being discovered in time, his efforts proved fruitless. One of the most prominent citizens of Cortona was Bartolommeo di Senso, who, being about to go in the evening by order of the captain to guard one of the gates, was met by a countryman friend of his, who advised him not to go unless he wished to be killed. Bartolommeo, determined to probe this matter to the bottom, found out the arrangement that had been secretly made with Niccolo, and which Bartolommeo made promptly known to the captain; who, after securing the chiefs of the conspiracy, doubled the guards at the gates, and then awaited the coming of Niccolo, according to the agreement; so that when Niccolo came at the appointed hour of night, and found his plans discovered, he returned to his quarters.
32. Whilst these events were taking place in Tuscany with little advantage to the forces of Duke Filippo, affairs in Lombardy went on in an equally unpropitious manner for him. For so soon as the season permitted, the Count Francesco took the field with his army; and as the Venetians had re-established their fleet upon the lake, the Count wanted first of all to make himself master on the water and drive the Duke from the lake, judging that when this was done all the rest would be easy. He therefore attacked the Duke’s fleet with that of the Venetians, and succeeded in scattering it, and then with his land forces he took the castles that were subject to the Duke. When the other ducal troops that invested Brescia by land heard of these losses they also withdrew, and thus Brescia, after having been besieged for three years, was finally relieved. After this victory the Count went in search of the enemy, who had retreated to Soncino, a castle situated on the river Oglio, dislodged him from his position, and forced him to retreat to Cremona, where the Duke made head and defended his states from that point. But being daily pressed closer and closer by the Count Francesco, and fearing to lose either the whole or a great part of his territory, the Duke discovered the error he had made in sending Piccinino into Tuscany. To retrieve this mistake he wrote to Niccolo telling him the straits in which he found himself, and how unfortunately his expedition had resulted, whereupon Niccolo left Tuscany as quickly as possible, and returned to Lombardy. The Florentines under their commissaries had meantime united their forces with those of the Pope, and took position at Anghiari, a castle situated at the foot of the mountains that divide the Val di Tevere from the Val di Chiana, and four miles distant from the Borgo San Sepolcro by a good road and a country well suited to the movements of cavalry and military operations. And as they had been informed of the victories of the Count Francesco, and of the recall of Niccolo Piccinino by the Duke, they considered that they had succeeded in this war without unsheathing their swords or burning powder, and wrote to the commissaries to avoid any engagement, as Niccolo would not be able to remain many days longer in Tuscany, These instructions came to the knowledge of Niccolo, who, aware of the necessity of leaving, and yet anxious to leave nothing untried, resolved to bring on an engagement, in the belief that he would find the enemy unprepared and far from expecting a battle. He was encouraged in this determination by Messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi and the Count Poppi, and the other Florentine exiles, who foresaw the certainty of their own destruction if Niccolo should leave; whilst in case of a battle they might yet succeed in their enterprise, or be honorably defeated. Having thus resolved, they moved the army from its position between Citta di Castello and the Borgo, and having arrived at the Borgo without the enemy being aware of it, they raised two thousand men from that country, who, trusting in the courage and skill of the general and in his promises, and eager for plunder, followed him.
33. Niccolo thence directed his march upon Anghiari, with his troops in battle array, and was already within less than two miles of it when Michelotto Attendolo observed a great cloud of dust, and, discovering it to be the enemy, gave the alarm. The confusion in the Florentine camp was extreme, for their army generally observed but little discipline when in camp, and now, believing the enemy far off, and more disposed to flight than to fight, they were more than ordinarily negligent; so that they were nearly all unarmed and away from their quarters, and scattered in every direction, wherever their inclination or the desire to escape the great heat of the day had led them. The commissaries and captain, however, acted with such promptness and energy that, before the arrival of the enemy, they got their men to horse and in position to resist the shock of the enemy’s charge. Michelotto, who had been the first to discover the enemy, was also the first to encounter him, and rushed with his men upon the bridge over the stream that crosses the road not far from Anghiari. Before the appearance of the enemy, Pierogiampaolo Orsini had caused the ditches on each side of the road between the bridge and Anghiari to be filled up. Michelotto being now posted at the head of the bridge, Simoncino, the Condottiere of the Church, together with the Legate, took position on his right, and on his left the Florentine commissaries with their captain, Pierogiampaolo Orsini, the infantry being stationed all along on the upper side of the river. There was, therefore, no way left open for the enemy to make an attack except straight over the bridge, which consequently was the only point which the Florentines had to defend. And they had ordered their infantry, in case the enemy should attempt to leave the road for the purpose of attacking them in the flank, to assail him with their crossbows, so as to prevent his wounding their horses in the flank when they should pass the bridge. Michelotto bravely sustained the charge of the first of the enemy, and would have repulsed them but that Astorre and Francesco Piccinino came up with a body of picked men, and threw themselves with such fury upon Michelotto that they took the bridge from him, and drove him back to the heights that rise at the Borgo of Anghiari. They were, however, afterwards repulsed by those who attacked them in the flank. This struggle lasted two hours, the bridge being alternately held now by Niccolo and now by the Florentine troops. And although the contest upon the bridge was equal, yet on either side Niccolo fought to great disadvantage; for when his troops got across the bridge, they found the enemy numerous, and able to manœuvre upon the level ground where the ditches had been filled up, so that those who were exhausted could at once be replaced by fresh men. But when the Florentines took the bridge, so that their men could pass over, Niccolo was not able, in like manner, to reinforce his men, being hemmed in by the ditches and banks on either side of the road. And thus it happened that, although Niccolo’s men took the bridge several times, yet were they driven back each time by the fresh troops of the enemy. But when the Florentines took the bridge, and their men passed over into the road, Niccolo could not, on account of the fury of the onset and the inconvenience of the ground, reinforce his men; so that the front ranks got mixed up with the rear, thus throwing one another into confusion, and obliging the whole to turn back, whereupon they all, regardless of one another, fled to the Borgo. Then the Florentines looked after the booty, which was very large, consisting of prisoners, accoutrements, and horses; so that only about one thousand horse made their escape with Niccolo. The men of the Borgo, who had followed Niccolo for the sake of plunder, became themselves booty, for they were all taken, and were obliged to be ransomed. The banners and wagons also were taken. This victory proved much more advantageous for Tuscany than injurious to Duke Filippo; for if the Florentines had lost the battle, Tuscany would have been his; but the Duke losing it cost him only the horses and accoutrements of his army, which could be replaced without any serious outlay of money. Nor was there ever a time when a war waged in the territory of others was less dangerous for the invader than the present; and in so complete a rout and so long a combat, which lasted nearly twenty-four hours, there was only one man killed, and he was not wounded nor struck down by a valiant blow, but fell from his horse and was trampled to death. Men fought in those days with so much security, being mounted and protected by armor, that they were safe against death; and although they often surrendered, yet that was no reason why they should die. Whilst fighting, they were protected by their armor, and when they could no longer fight, they surrendered.
34. This battle, from the circumstances that attended and followed it, furnishes a striking illustration of the wretched military discipline that prevailed during those wars; for after the enemy was beaten, and Niccolo driven into the Borgo, the Florentine commissaries wished to follow and besiege him there, so as to make the victory complete. But neither the Condottieri nor the soldiers were willing to obey, alleging that they wanted first to secure their plunder and attend to the wounded. And what is most notable is, that the following day at noon, without leave, and regardless of commissaries and captains, the soldiers went off to Arezzo, and having deposited their plunder there, they returned to Anghiari; a proceeding so contrary to all good order and discipline that any mere remnant of a well-disciplined army could easily and deservedly have deprived them of that victory which they had achieved without merit. Besides this, the commissaries wanted to keep the men-at-arms that had been taken prisoners, so as to prevent the enemy from reorganizing his forces; but they were all set at liberty, contrary to the express wish of the commissaries. It is wonderful that so ill-disciplined an army should have had valor enough to gain a victory, and that there should have been such cowardice in the enemy as to allow himself to be beaten by such an undisciplined force.
During the going to and returning of the Florentine soldiers from Arezzo, Niccolo had time to get away with his men from the Borgo, and to move towards the Romagna. The Florentine exiles also fled with him, and, seeing all hope of returning to Florence lost, they scattered in various directions, within and beyond Italy, according to the convenience of each. Of these, Messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi chose his abode at Ancona; and, by way of gaining the heavenly fatherland after losing his terrestrial one, he made a pilgrimage to the sepulchre of Christ. On his return from there, and whilst celebrating the nuptials of his daughter, he died suddenly at table, fortunate in this, that his death occurred at the least unhappy moment of his exile. Equally honored in good and in ill fortune, Messer Rinaldo would have even received a higher consideration had it been his fate to live in a city not torn by factions; for many of his qualities, which proved injurious to him in a city divided by the fury of parties, would have been a cause of high advancement for him in a tranquil and undivided republic.
After the return of the men from Arezzo, and the departure of Niccolo, the commissaries presented themselves before the Borgo, the inhabitants of which were willing to yield themselves to the Florentines, but these declined the offer; and whilst these negotiations were going on, the Pope’s Legate became suspicious of the Florentine commissaries, lest they should wish to take this place from the Church. This led to high words between them; so that difficulties would have arisen between the Florentines and the ecclesiastics if the misunderstanding had continued much longer; but as it was finally settled according to the Legate’s wishes, matters were amicably arranged.
35. Whilst these things were taking place at the Borgo San Sepolcro, word came that Niccolo Piccinino had gone towards Rome, whilst other intelligence represented that he had gone towards La Marca; whence the Legate and the Count Francesco’s troops deemed it best to go towards Perugia, so as to be in position to afford assistance either to Rome or La Marca, to whichever of the two Niccolo might have gone. With them went Bernardo de’ Medici, whilst Neri Capponi went off with the Florentine troops to recover the Casentino. This having been resolved upon, Neri went to Rassina, which he took, as also Bibbiena, Prato Vecchio, and Romena; and afterwards he besieged the castle of Poppi, and invested it on two sides, the one towards the plains of Certomondo, the other by the hill that stretches towards Fronzola. The Count Poppi, imagining himself abandoned by God and men, had shut himself up in this castle, not because he hoped for any help, but for the sake if possible of making better terms of surrender. When therefore closely pressed by Neri, he asked for terms, and was granted as favorable conditions as he could have hoped for under the circumstances; namely, safety for himself and his sons, and all they could carry away with them, but yielding the place and its government to the Florentines. And whilst capitulating he descended on to the bridge over the Arno, which river flows by the foot of the place, and said to Neri, full of sorrow and affliction: “Had I justly measured my fortune and your power, I should now have to rejoice with you as a friend at your victory, instead of being now obliged as an enemy to supplicate that my ruin may be less complete. But present fate, which brings to you glory and happiness, brings to me only sorrow and misery. I had horses, arms, subjects, state, and riches; what wonder, then, if I give them up reluctantly? But as you are able and determined to command all Tuscany, we others of necessity have to obey. Had I not committed an error misfortune would not have befallen me, nor would you have had the opportunity of displaying your liberality; if then you preserve me from entire ruin, you will give to the world an eternal example of clemency. Let your benevolence, therefore, exceed my fault, and leave at least this one house to the descendant of those from whom your ancestors have received innumerable benefits.” To which Neri replied, “that relying too much upon those who were able to do but little had in great measure been the cause of his erring against the republic of Florence; and taking into view the present condition of the times made it necessary that he should surrender all his possessions, and cede those places to Florence as an enemy which he had been unwilling to hold as a friend. For by his conduct he had set such an example as could not be tolerated, and which under all circumstances would have proved injurious to the republic, and that it was not himself, but his possessions, that made him feared by the Florentines. But if he could obtain a principality and reside in Germany, it would be entirely satisfactory to the city of Florence, and out of regard for those ancestors to which he had alluded, they would favor his doing so.” To which the Count replied, in great anger, that “he would like to see the Florentines at a much greater distance.” And thus breaking off all further friendly discussion, the Count Poppi, seeing no help for it, ceded his castle, lands, and jurisdiction to the Florentines, and departed with his wife and sons, and with all his chattels, lamenting and complaining that he had lost a state which his ancestors had possessed for four hundred years.
The news of these victories was received by the chiefs of the government as well as by the people of Florence with the greatest demonstrations of joy, and as Bernardetto de’ Medici found the report of Niccolo Piccinino’s having gone either to Rome or La Marca to be incorrect, he returned with his troops to join Neri; and having afterwards gone together to Florence, all the highest honors were decreed to them that it was the custom of the city to bestow upon her most distinguished citizens; and they were received by the Signoria and the captains of the sections, and afterwards by the whole city, in a triumphal manner.