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SIXTH 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. It has ever been the aim of those who make war to enrich themselves and to impoverish the enemy; and it is reasonable that it should be so, for victories and conquests are sought for no other object than to gain an increase of power and to weaken the enemy. Whence it follows that those who are impoverished by their own victories, or enfeebled by their conquests, have either gone beyond or fallen short of the object for which the war was made. That prince or republic is enriched by war which crushes the enemy and remains master of the booty and ransoms; and those are impoverished who, although victorious, yet are unable to destroy their adversaries, and have to leave the plunder and the ransoms to their soldiers. Such are unfortunate in defeat, and still more unfortunate in victory; for, losing, they have to submit to the injuries inflicted upon them by the enemy; and gaining, they have to bear those of their friends, which are less excusable and harder to be borne, seeing that it obliges them to afflict their subjects with fresh taxes and impositions. If then such government has any feelings of humanity, it cannot altogether rejoice at a victory by which all its citizens are afflicted.
The ancient and well-constituted republics were wont in victory to fill their treasuries with gold and silver, to distribute donations to the people, to remit taxes and tribute to their subjects, and to celebrate the victories with games and solemn festivities. But those of the period of which we write first exhausted the public treasury, and afterwards impoverished their people, without securing themselves against renewed aggressions of the enemy; all of which results from the disorderly and wretched manner in which their wars were conducted. For by merely despoiling the vanquished enemies, without keeping them prisoners or killing them, they caused these to defer a renewal of their attacks only until they could induce their employers to resupply them with arms and horses. Besides this, the booty and ransoms being left to the soldiers, the victorious prince or republic could not avail of them for the further expenses of the war, which had to be wrung out of the bowels of their people; and the only result of these victories for the people was that it made their rulers more eager and reckless in their new impositions. And to such a point had these soldiers carried the practice of war, that both victor and vanquished alike needed fresh supplies of money whenever they wanted to command their services; for the one had to re-equip them, and the other had to give them fresh bounties to induce them to serve; for as the soldiers of the former could not serve without being remounted, so the others would not fight without fresh rewards. Thus the conqueror derived but little advantage from his victory, and the conquered did not feel his defeat so much; for the vanquished had time to reorganize his forces, and the victor was not in condition to follow up his successes.
2. This irregular and perverse military system enabled Niccolo Piccinino to remount his men before his defeat became known in Italy, and to carry on the war more effectually than he had done before. It was this system that enabled him, after the rout at Terma (1440), to take Verona; it was this that permitted him, after having lost his army at Verona, to come with a strong force into Tuscany; and it was this that enabled him, after having been beaten at Anghiari and before reaching the Romagna, to reappear in the field stronger than he had been before, so as to inspire the Duke of Milan with the hope of being able to defend Lombardy; which, in consequence of his absence, was almost looked upon as lost by the Duke. For, whilst Niccolo spread consternation throughout Tuscany, Duke Filippo was reduced to that point that he feared the loss of his entire possessions before Niccolo, whom he had recalled, could come to his rescue and check the impetuous progress of the Count Sforza. For the purpose, therefore, of obtaining by a temporizing policy what he could not achieve by force, the Duke resorted to such means as had many times stood him in good stead in similar difficulties. He sent Niccolo da Este, Prince of Ferrara, to Peschiera, where Count Francesco then was, to persuade him to make peace on his own account, and to point out to him that the war was not to his advantage, because, if the Duke should be so weakened as no longer to be able to maintain his influence, the Count himself would be the first to suffer from it; for he would lose consideration both with the Venetians and the Florentines. And in proof of his good faith in desiring peace, the Duke offered to Count Francesco the conclusion of the marriage, and declared himself willing to send his daughter to Ferrara, and pledged himself to place her in Francesco’s hands upon the conclusion of peace. To all this Count Francesco replied, that, if the Duke really desired peace, he could easily have it, as it was equally wished for by the Venetians and the Florentines; but in truth he could hardly believe him, knowing that he never made peace except from necessity, which no sooner passed than his passion for war would again control him. Nor could he place any reliance upon his offer respecting the marriage, having been already so many times deceived by him. Nevertheless, upon the conclusion of peace, he would act in the matter of the marriage as his friends might advise him.
3. The Venetians, who were always suspicious of their generals, even in matters that offered no occasion for it, very naturally looked upon these negotiations with the greatest suspicion, to remove which Count Sforza resumed the war most actively. Nevertheless, ambition and the suspicions of the Venetians had in so far cooled his ardor that he attempted but little during the remainder of the season; so that, Niccolo Piccinino having returned into Lombardy, and winter having set in, both armies went into quarters, — the Count in Verona, the Duke in Cremona, the Florentine troops in Tuscany, and those of the Pope in the Romagna. After the victory at Anghiari, these latter had attacked Furli and Bologna, for the purpose of wresting them from the hands of Francesco Piccinino, who governed them in the name of his father. But they did not succeed in this attempt, owing to the gallant defence made by Francesco. Nevertheless, the approach of the papal forces so alarmed the people of Ravenna with the thought of being again brought under the dominion of the Church, that, with the consent of their lord, Ostasio di Polenta, they placed themselves under the protection of the Venetians, who in reward for the place and territory they had received, sent Ostasio, with his son, to die in Candia; so that he might not at any future time attempt to recover by force what from lack of prudence he had surrendered to them. As the Pope, notwithstanding the victory at Anghiari, lacked money for these various enterprises, he sold the castle of the Borgo San Sepolcro to the Florentines for the sum of twenty-five thousand ducats. Matters being in this condition, and each believing himself secure from attack, owing to the winter season, peace was no longer thought of, and least of all by the Duke of Milan, who had been reassured by the presence of Piccinino and the winter, and had therefore broken off all negotiations with the Count Francesco; and with the greatest diligence he remounted Niccolo’s forces and made every requisite provision for future military operations. When this became known to the Count Sforza, he went to Venice to confer with the Senate as to the operations during the next season. Niccolo, on the other hand, having now fully reorganized his forces, and seeing those of the enemy disordered, did not wait for the coming of spring, but passed the Adda at the coldest season (1441), and entered the Brescian territory, occupying the whole country excepting Adula and Acri, where he captured two thousand of Sforza’s horse, who did not expect such an attack. But what most displeased the Count and alarmed the Venetians was the defection of Ciarpellone, one of the Count’s principal captains. So soon as advised of this the Count Francesco left Venice, and having arrived at Brescia he found that Niccolo, after having done this mischief, had returned to his quarters; and finding active operations thus ended, he did not deem it advisable to renew them. But as the season and the enemy afforded him the opportunity of reorganizing his forces, he resolved to avail of it, so as to be in condition, at the opening of spring, to revenge himself for the injuries received. He therefore caused the Venetians to recall the troops that served under the Florentines in Tuscany, and to give the command to Michelotto Attendolo, instead of Gattamelata, who had died.
4. At the opening of spring Niccolo Piccinino was the first to take the field, and laid siege to Cignano, a castle some twelve miles distant from Brescia. The Count Francesco went to its relief, and the war was carried on in the usual fashion by these two generals. Sforza, fearing for the city of Bergamo, laid siege to Martinengo, a castle so situated that assistance could thence easily be rendered to Bergamo, which was closely pressed by Niccolo, who having foreseen that the enemy could interfere with him only from Martinengo, had supplied that castle with all the means of defence, so that the Count was obliged to employ all his forces for its capture. Niccolo thereupon took a position with his army that enabled him to cut off the Count’s supplies, and protected himself by intrenchments so that the Count could not attack him without manifest danger. And thus in the end it came to pass that the besiegers were in greater danger than those who were besieged in Martinengo; for the Count was no longer able to continue the siege for want of supplies, nor to raise it without imminent danger; and it became evident that the Duke would have a manifest victory, and the Venetians and the Count a decided defeat. But Fortune, who never lacks means to aid her favorites and injure their enemies, caused Niccolo, in consequence of his anticipated victory, to become so filled with ambition and insolence that, regardless of all respect due to the Duke of Milan or to himself, he sent word to the Duke, that, having fought under his banner for a long time without ever acquiring as much land as would serve him for burial, he wanted now to understand from him what reward he was to have for all his labors; that it was now in his power to deliver the Duke’s enemies into his hands, and make him undisputed master of Lombardy; but that he considered that a certain victory should also have a certain reward, and therefore he wanted the Duke to grant him the city of Piacenza, so that when tired by his long military service he might have some place where to repose himself. Nor was he ashamed, as a last resort, to threaten the Duke with abandoning the enterprise unless his demands were acceded to. This insolent and insulting message so offended Duke Filippo, that, rather than yield to Piccinino’s demands, he resolved to give up the whole enterprise. And thus the Duke, whom neither the many dangers nor the threats of enemies could induce to give way, was prompted to do so now by the insolence of his friend; and accordingly he resolved to make terms with the Count Francesco Sforza, and sent Antonio Guidobuono of Tortona to offer him his daughter and conditions of peace, which were eagerly accepted. And after a secret treaty of peace had been concluded between them, the Duke sent to order Niccolo to make a truce for one year with the Count Francesco, explaining to him that he was weary of the expenses of the war and would not forego a certain peace for a doubtful victory. Piccinino was astonished at this determination, and unable to comprehend the reasons that induced the Duke to forego so glorious a victory; for he could not believe that the Duke, for the sake of not rewarding his friend, should be willing to save his enemy. He therefore objected to the Duke’s instructions in the manner that seemed to him best, so that the Duke was constrained, by way of making him submit, to threaten that unless he obeyed he would hand him over as a prey to his soldiers and his enemies. Whereupon Niccolo conformed to his orders, but much with the same sort of feeling as one who is compelled to abandon his friends and his country, lamenting his unhappy fate because at one moment Fortune and at another the Duke deprived him of victory over his enemies.
The truce having been concluded, the nuptials of the Lady Bianca Visconti with the Count Francesco Sforza were celebrated, and as a dower her father the Duke gave her the city of Cremona. This done, peace was formally concluded in November, 1441, and was signed on the part of the Venetians by Francesco Barbarico and Pagolo Trono, and on the part of the Florentines by Agnolo Acciaiuoli; whereby the Venetians gained Peschiera, Asola, and Leonato, a castle belonging to the Marquis of Mantua.
5. Whilst the war in Lombardy had ceased, the disturbances in the kingdom of Naples continued; and as these could not be composed, they led to a resumption of arms in Lombardy. For whilst the war had been going on there King Regnier had been deprived by Alfonso of Aragon of his entire kingdom except the city of Naples. Alfonso, confident of victory, resolved, whilst besieging Naples, also to take from Count Francesco Sforza the town of Benevento, and other possessions which he had in the neighborhood, thinking that he could do so without risk, as the Count was occupied by the war in Lombardy. But when the news of the peace in Lombardy reached Alfonso he became afraid lest the Count Sforza should now intervene in favor of Regnier; which, in truth, the latter was hoping for, having already sent to solicit the Count to come to succor a friend and to revenge himself upon an enemy. On the other hand, Alfonso entreated Duke Filippo, by the friendship which he bore him, to harass the Count Francesco, so that, being occupied by more important matters, he would be compelled to give up all attempts at interfering with him. Filippo acceded to this request, not thinking that it would be an infraction of the peace that had been concluded but a short time before to his great disadvantage. And therefore he gave Pope Eugene to understand that now was the time to recover the places belonging to the Church, and of which Count Francesco held possession; and for this purpose he offered him the services of Niccolo Piccinino, who, since the conclusion of the peace, was with his men in the Romagna, and whom he offered to pay during such service. Pope Eugene eagerly accepted this suggestion, both from the hate he bore the Count Francesco and from the desire to get back his own. And although on a former occasion he had been deluded with the same hope by Niccolo Piccinino, yet now he thought, as the Duke himself had intervened, he need apprehend no disappointment; and having united his forces with those of Niccolo, he attacked La Marca. Count Sforza, surprised at so unexpected an attack, made head with his forces and went to encounter the enemy. In the midst of this King Alfonso took Naples (1442), so that the whole of the kingdom, Castelnuovo alone excepted, fell under his dominion. King Regnier, therefore, left a strong garrison in Castelnuovo and departed, and was received with great honors upon his arrival at Florence, where he remained a few days, and then, seeing that he could no longer carry on the war, he went off to Marseilles.
Meantime Alfonso had taken Castelnuovo; and Sforza, finding himself unable to cope with the Pope and Piccinino in La Marca, applied to the Venetians and Florentines for assistance in men and money, pointing out to them that, if they did not now make an effort to check the Pope and King Alfonso whilst he himself was still living, they would very soon after his death have to look to their own safety, for then Alfonso would unite with Duke Filippo, and then they would divide Italy between them. The Florentines and Venetians were for a time undecided, partly because they did not deem it well to meddle with the Pope and the king, and partly because they were occupied with the affairs of Bologna. Annibale Bentivogli had driven Francesco Piccinino from that city; and so as to be able to defend himself against Duke Filippo, who favored Francesco, he had asked for help from the Venetians and Florentines, which they agreed to furnish him; so that, being engaged in this affair, they could not decide to give the asked for aid to the Count Sforza. But as it happened that Annibale had defeated Francesco Piccinino, which it was supposed had settled the troubles of Bologna, the Florentines determined to support the Count Sforza. But, by way of securing themselves against Duke Filippo, they first renewed the league with him. Duke Filippo had been willing that war should be made against the Count Sforza so long as King Regnier was in the field with an army; but seeing him ruined and deprived of the whole of his kingdom, he did not like to have the Count also despoiled of all his possessions, and therefore he not only consented that aid should be given him, but he wrote to King Alfonso that he would be pleased to see him return to his kingdom and no longer make war against the Count Sforza. Alfonso very reluctantly, yet mindful of his obligations to the Duke, resolved to comply with his request, and retreated with his forces beyond the Tronto.
6. Whilst these events were transpiring in the Romagna, things were not quiet amongst the Florentines themselves. One of the most prominent men in the government of Florence was Neri di Gino Capponi, whose influence Cosimo de’ Medici feared more than that of any other man. For besides the great estimation in which he was held by the citizens, he had also great influence with the soldiery, which he had gained by his bravery and merit when at different times chief of the Florentine armies. Besides this, the memory of the victories gained by him and his father, Gino, who had taken Pisa, whilst he had defeated Niccolo Piccinino at Anghiari, made him much beloved by many, and feared by those who did not wish to share the government with any one else. Amongst the many generals of the Florentine army at that time was Baldaccio d’ Anghiari, a most distinguished soldier; for there was no one in all Italy in those days who excelled him in personal strength or courage; and such was his reputation with the infantry, which he had always commanded, that every man was ready to follow him blindly in any enterprise. Baldaccio was devoted in friendship to Neri, who loved him in return for his bravery, of which he had on every occasion given the most signal proofs. This mutual friendship excited the mistrust of other citizens, who, deeming it dangerous to dismiss Baldaccio, and equally perilous to keep him, resolved to destroy him; and fortune favored their intent. Messer Bartolommeo Orlandini was Gonfaloniere of Justice at that time. As we have related above, he had been sent to guard the castle of Marradi at the time when Piccinino invaded Tuscany, and had fled ignominiously on his approach, abandoning that pass, which by nature was almost impregnable. Such cowardice had disgusted Baldaccio, who publicly denounced, by insulting words and letters, this want of courage of Messer Bartolommeo, which caused the latter so much shame and anger that he eagerly desired to revenge himself upon Baldaccio, thinking to efface the infamy of his conduct by the death of his accuser.
7. As this resentment of Messer Bartolommeo was well known to the other citizens, they had no difficulty in persuading him to destroy Baldaccio, and thus at one blow revenge himself for the injuries received and rid the state of a man whom it was equally dangerous to retain or dismiss from their service. Orlandini therefore, having resolved to kill Baldaccio, concealed a number of armed men in his chamber, and when Baldaccio came to the Piazza, where he went daily to negotiate with the magistrates about the pay of his troops, the Gonfaloniere sent for him, and he obeyed the call without the least suspicion. Orlandini went to meet him, and walked up and down with him several times in the hall of the Signoria, discussing the subject of the pay of his troops; and when the right moment seemed to him to have come, being near the chamber where the armed men lay concealed, he gave a signal, upon which they rushed forth, and, Baldaccio being unarmed, they quickly despatched him and threw his dead body out of the window that looks towards the custom-house, whence it was dragged into the Piazza and the head cut off, which was exhibited during the whole day to the people (1443). Baldaccio left an only son, which his wife, Annalena, had borne him a few years previous, but he did not long survive his father. Annalena, thus deprived of her husband and son, and unwilling to unite herself again to another man, converted her house into a convent, within which she secluded herself, together with a number of other noble ladies who had joined her, and where she led a most holy life until her death. The convent which she founded, and which was named after her, will preserve her memory forever. This assassination of Baldaccio abated in a measure the power of Neri, depriving him of influence and friends, which, however, did not satisfy the citizens who held the government. For ten years having passed since their accession to power, and the authority of the Balia having expired, many of the people were encouraged to speak and act in a manner not acceptable to them; so that the chiefs of the state judged it necessary for the preservation of their power to adopt measures for renewing their authority by strengthening their friends and defeating their enemies. They therefore caused the councils to create a new Balia in 1444, which reformed the offices, gave authority to a few to form the Signoria, renewed the chancery of reform, taking it from Ser Filippo Peruzzi and placing at the head of it one who should administer it in accordance with the wishes of the nobles. They prolonged the term of banishment of the exiles, imprisoned Giovanni di Simone Vespucci, deprived the magistrates of the opposite party who were charged with the making up of the lists from which the Signoria was drawn of all the honors of public employment, and likewise the sons of Piero Baroncelli, all the Serragli, Bartolommeo Fortini, Messer Francesco Castellani, and many others. And by these means they restored their own authority and influence, and humbled the pride of their enemies, and of all whom they suspected of being unfriendly to themselves.
8. Having thus remodelled and confirmed their government within Florence, they turned their attention again to matters without. Niccolo Piccinino, as we have related above, had been abandoned by King Alfonso; whilst on the other hand the Count Francesco Sforza had recovered his strength through the assistance afforded him by the Florentines; so that he attacked Niccolo near Fermo, and routed him; so that having lost nearly all his men, Piccinino took refuge with the remaining few in Montecchio, where he fortified and defended himself so vigorously that he was able in a short while to gather his scattered forces again, and in such numbers that he could easily have defended himself against the Count Sforza, especially as winter was at hand, which obliged both generals to send their troops into quarters. Piccinino devoted himself all winter to reinforcing his army, in which he was aided by the Pope and King Alfonso; so that when spring came, and the two armies took the field, Niccolo proved so much the superior in force that Sforza was reduced to the greatest straits, and would have been beaten if Niccolo’s plans had not been thwarted by the Duke. Filippo had sent to request Niccolo to come to him immediately, as he wished to confer with him personally about some highly important matters; whereupon Niccolo, eager to hear what it was, gave up a certain victory for an uncertain advantage, and, leaving his son Francesco in command, went himself to meet the Duke at Milan. When the Count Sforza heard this he promptly resolved not to lose the opportunity of attacking Niccolo’s forces during his absence; and having engaged them near Castel di Monte Loro, he routed them and took Francesco Piccinino prisoner. When Niccolo arrived at Milan he found that he had been deceived by the Duke, and on hearing of the rout of his troops and the capture of his son he died of grief, in the year 1445, at the age of sixty-four, having been more able than fortunate as a commander. He left two sons, Francesco and Jacopo Piccinino, who were not less able than their father, but even more unfortunate. Thus ended, as it were, the army of the Braccios, whilst that of Sforza, being always favored by fortune, became more and more renowned.
The Pope, seeing the army of Piccinino defeated and himself dead, and not having much confidence in the help from the king of Aragon, sought to make peace with the Count Sforza, which was concluded through the mediation of the Florentines. By this treaty there were restored to the Pope the following places in La Marca, namely, Osimo, Fabriano, and Ricanati, whilst all the rest remained under the dominion of the Count Sforza.
9. After the peace of La Marca all Italy would have been tranquil, had it not been disturbed by the Bolognese. The two most powerful families of Bologna were the Canneschi and the Bentivogli; Annibale was the chief of the latter, and Battista of the former. By way of establishing a greater degree of mutual confidence they had contracted a family alliance between them. But it is much easier for men having the same ambitious aims to contract a relationship than a real friendship. After the expulsion of Niccolo Piccinino, Bologna formed a league with the Venetians and the Florentines through the agency of Annibale Bentivogli; but Battista Canneschi, knowing how desirous the Duke of Milan was to have the city of Bologna favorably disposed towards him, secretly intrigued with him for the murder of Annibale, and then to bring the city under the dominion of Duke Filippo. And having agreed as to the mode of proceeding, Battista attacked Annibale with a body of his armed followers on the 24th of June, 1445, and killed him, and then rushed through the town proclaiming the Duke’s name. The Venetian and Florentine commissaries, who were in Bologna at the time, retreated to their houses so soon as they heard the noise. But seeing afterwards that the people did not support the murderers, but rather lamented the death of Annibale, and had gathered armed and in great numbers in the Piazza, they took courage and joined them; and having made a stand they attacked the Canneschi, and in a few hours defeated them, killing a portion and driving the rest from the city. Battista not having been in time to make his escape, nor his enemies in time to kill him, concealed himself in a barn behind the house, used for the storage of grain. His enemies, having sought him in vain all day, yet knowing that he had not left the city, so terrified his servants with threats, that one of the boys from fear showed them his master’s place of concealment. Having been dragged from there still covered with his armor, Battista was killed, and his body dragged through the city, and then burnt. Thus the Duke of Milan’s authority had been enough to cause Battista to engage in this attempt, but his power could not intervene in time to save him.
10. The death of Battista and the flight of the Canneschi having put an end to these troubles, the Bolognese however still remained in great confusion, for there was none of the family of the Bentivogli fit to take the government, Annibale having left an only son called Giovanni, who was only six years old. It was feared, therefore, that divisions would arise amongst the friends of the Bentivogli, which would cause the return of the Canneschi, and with them the ruin of their country and party. Whilst in this state of uncertainty, Francesco, the former Count Poppi, who happened to be in Bologna, gave the principal men of the city to understand that, if they desired to be governed by one of the blood of the Bentivogli, he could tell them where to find one. And he related to them that about twenty years ago, Ercole Bentivogli, cousin of Annibale, being at Poppi, had to his knowledge an intimacy with a young girl of that castle, the result of which was the birth of a boy named Santi, whom Ercole had several times acknowledged as his child. Nor could it be denied, for whoever knew Ercole and the youth was struck by the remarkable resemblance between them. The citizens put faith in these representations, and promptly sent some of their number to see the youth, and they managed through Cosimo and Neri to have him given up to them. The putative father of Santi was dead, so that he lived under the guardianship of an uncle, called Antonio de Cascese, who was rich and without any son of his own, and at the same time a great friend of Neri’s. When the matter was made known to him, Neri advised him that it would not do either to decline or to accept the offer hastily; and suggested that Santi should speak with the Bolognese envoys in the presence of Cosimo. This was agreed upon, and Santi was not only honored, but almost worshipped by them, such was the power of party feeling in those days. Nothing definite, however, was concluded, except that Cosimo took Santi apart, and said to him: “No one can advise you in this matter so well as yourself, and you must take whatever course your own feelings incline you to. For if you are the son of Ercole Bentivogli you will naturally choose to engage in such enterprises as shall be worthy of your father and his lineage; but if you are the son of Agnolo da Cascese you will remain in Florence and pass your life humbly in some branch of the wool business.” These words moved the youth, who, although he had at first declined the proposition, yet now expressed himself ready to do whatever Cosimo and Neri might decide upon. These promptly arranged matters with the Bolognese envoys, and the young man was honorably provided with clothing, horses, and servants, and was soon after conducted to Bologna by a numerous escort; and the guardianship of the young son of Annibale and the government of the city were placed in his hands. He conducted himself with so much prudence that, although his ancestors had all been killed by their enemies, yet he passed his life in peace and tranquillity, and died greatly honored.
11. After the death of Niccolo Piccinino and the peace of La Marca, Duke Filippo, being in search of a captain to command his troops, secretly negotiated with Ciarpellone, one of the best captains of the Count Francesco Sforza. An engagement having been agreed upon, Ciarpellone asked the Count Sforza for leave to go to Milan, for the purpose of taking possession of some castles that had been given to him in the late wars by the Duke of Milan. The Count, mistrusting the real motive of this journey, and with the view of thwarting the designs of the Duke, first had Ciarpellone imprisoned, and soon after put to death, alleging that he had discovered his plotting treason against him. Duke Filippo was much displeased and angered by this, whilst the Venetians and Florentines were gratified by it, for they feared nothing more than a union between Duke Filippo and the Count Sforza; but the Duke’s resentment gave occasion for fresh wars in La Marca. Gismondo Malatesti, lord of Rimini, and son-in-law to the Count Francesco Sforza, hoped on this account to obtain the lordship of Pesaro; but upon the taking of this town by the Count Sforza, he bestowed it upon his brother, Alessandro, which greatly irritated Gismondo. This feeling was increased still more when he saw his enemy, Federigo di Montefeltro, invested by the Count Sforza with the lordship of Urbino. All this caused Gismondo to throw himself into the ranks of the party of the Duke Filippo, and to solicit the Pope and the king of Naples to make war upon the Count Sforza. The latter, for the purpose of making Gismondo himself taste the first fruits of the war which he wished for, resolved to forestall him, and therefore suddenly attacked him. In consequence of this the Romagna and La Marca were quickly involved in confusion; for Duke Filippo, the king of Naples, and the Pope sent powerful aid to Gismondo, whilst the Florentines and Venetians provided the Count Sforza with money, if not with men. Filippo, not content with making war upon Sforza in the Romagna only, attempted also to take Cremona and Pontremoli from him; but Pontremoli was defended by the Florentines, and Cremona by the Venetians. Thus the war was also renewed in Lombardy, where, after general engagements in the Cremonese territory, Francesco Piccinino, general of the Duke of Milan’s forces, was defeated by Michelotto and the Venetian troops, at Casale, in 1446. This victory made the Venetians conceive the hope of being able to drive Duke Filippo from his states; they sent a commissary to Cremona, and attacked the Ghiaradadda, and took the whole of it excepting Crema. Afterwards they crossed the Adda, and scoured the country up to the very gates of Milan; in consequence of which the Duke had recourse to King Alfonso, begging him for assistance, and pointing out to him the danger to which the kingdom of Naples would be exposed if the Venetians should become masters of Lombardy. Alfonso promised to send him troops, which, however, could not pass into Lombardy except with great difficulty, unless with Count Sforza’s consent.
12. Duke Filippo thereupon entreated Sforza not to abandon his father-in-law, who was now old and blind; but the Count was offended with him for having provoked this war against him. On the other hand, he did not like the aggrandizement of the Venetians, and besides began to lack funds, which the league provided but sparingly; for the Florentines had no longer that fear of Filippo which had made them value the Count Sforza so highly, and the Venetians desired his ruin, believing him to be the only man that could take Lombardy from them. Nevertheless, whilst Duke Filippo sought to draw the Count into his pay, and offered him the command of all his troops provided he would leave the Venetians and restore La Marca to the Pope, the Venetians also sent messengers to him promising him the sovereignty of Milan if they should take it, and the command in perpetuity of their forces, provided he carried the war into La Marca and prevented Alfonso from sending assistance into Lombardy. The promises of the Venetians were large and tempting, and they had rendered important services to the Count in having gone to war to save him Cremona; and, on the other hand, the injuries received at the hands of the Duke were still fresh in his mind, whilst his promises were insignificant and not to be relied upon. With all this, the Count Sforza was in doubt as to which side he should take; for on the one hand he was influenced by his obligations to the league, his pledged faith, the recent benefits received, and the promises for the future. On the other hand were the entreaties of his father-in-law, and, above all, his suspicions that there was some secret poison concealed under the great promises of the Venetians; and judging that, even in case of victory, he would still be at their discretion, both as regarded the government of Milan and the other promises, — a position to which no prudent man should expose himself except in case of necessity. These difficulties in coming to a determination were removed by the ambition of the Venetians, who, from some secret intelligence they had obtained, were hopeful of taking Cremona, and had, under some other pretext, sent their troops into the neighborhood of that city. But the affair was discovered by those who guarded Cremona for the Count Sforza, who now, regardless of all other considerations, joined the Duke of Milan (1447).
13. Meantime Pope Eugenius had died, and Nicholas V. had been chosen his successor; and Sforza was already with his whole army at Cotignola, for the purpose of passing into Lombardy, when news came to him of the death of the Duke Filippo Visconti, on the last day of August, 1447. This intelligence filled the Count Sforza with consternation, for his troops did not seem to him in condition to proceed on account of their pay being in arrears; he feared the Venetians, who were armed, and were now his enemies, as he had so lately left them and gone over to the Duke; he was apprehensive of King Alfonso, who was his inveterate enemy, and he had nothing to hope from the Pope or the Florentines, the latter being allies of the Venetians, and the former hostile to him on account of his having seized the lands of the Church. With all this he resolved to face fortune, and to govern himself according to circumstances; for often valuable suggestions develop themselves in action that would otherwise not be thought of. He took much hope from the belief that, if the Milanese wished to defend themselves against the ambition of the Venetians, they could not look to any one but himself for armed assistance. He was therefore of good courage, and entered the Bolognese territory; and, passing by Modena and Reggio, he halted above the Lenza, and sent to Milan to offer his services. After the death of Duke Filippo a portion of the Milanese desired to live as a republic, and a portion under a prince; and of those who wanted a prince, some wanted the Count Sforza and others the King Alfonso. Therefore, those who wanted a republic, being more united, prevailed, and organized a government in their fashion, which, however, was not obeyed by many of the other cities of the duchy, who wanted to enjoy their independence the same as Milan; and such as did not aspire to independence were yet unwilling to submit to the rule of Milan. Lodi and Piacenza gave themselves to the Venetians, and Pavia and Parma declared themselves independent. When Count Sforza heard of these complications he went to Cremona, where it was agreed between the Milanese ambassadors and himself that he should be the general of the Milanese on the same terms and conditions as had been agreed upon between him and Duke Filippo before his death; and further, that Sforza should have Brescia, and in case of the capture of Verona he was to have that city in place of Brescia, which he was then to give up.
14. After the assumption of the pontificate, and before the death of the Duke, Pope Niccolo sought to restore peace amongst the Italian princes; and for this purpose he endeavored, together with the ambassadors whom the Florentines had sent to congratulate him on his accession, to have a Diet convened at Ferrara, for the negotiation of either a long truce or a lasting peace. Accordingly there assembled in that city the Legate of the Pope, the Venetian, the Milanese, and the Florentine ambassadors; those of King Alfonso did not attend. He himself was at Tivoli, with a large force of horse and foot, and was disposed to support the Duke; and it was generally believed that, after having drawn the Count Sforza over to their side, they intended openly to attack the Venetians and the Florentines; prolonging the negotiations for peace so as to afford time to Sforza’s troops to pass into Lombardy. King Alfonso had declared that, although his representatives were not present, yet he would ratify whatever Duke Filippo might conclude. The negotiations lasted some days, and after much debating it was resolved to have either a truce for five years or a definite peace, whichever might be approved of by the Duke Filippo. But when the ducal envoys returned to Milan to obtain his decision, they found the Duke dead. The Milanese wished, nevertheless, to carry out the agreement; but the Venetians were not willing, as they cherished the hope of becoming masters of Milan, particularly as they found that immediately after the Duke’s death Lodi and Piacenza had voluntarily placed themselves under their dominion. They expected, either by treaties or by force, to strip Milan of all her possessions, and then to press her so hard that she would surrender to them before any one could come to her assistance; and they were the more confident of succeeding in this from the fact that the Florentines had involved themselves in war with King Alfonso.
15. King Alfonso, who was at Tivoli at that time, was determined to carry out the project of attacking Tuscany which he had concerted with Duke Filippo, and thought that the war which had been rekindled in Lombardy would afford him a favorable opportunity. But before commencing open hostilities, he was anxious to secure himself a foothold upon the Florentine territory, and therefore opened negotiations with the castle of Cennina in the Val d’ Arno, and took possession of it. The Florentines, surprised by this unexpected attack, and seeing the king engaged in open hostilities against them, levied troops, created a Council of Ten on the war, and made all the other customary preparations. Meantime Alfonso had advanced with his army into the Siennese territory, and made every possible effort to draw that city over to his side; but the Siennese remained true to their friendship for the Florentines, and refused to admit the king into their city, or any of their other places. They, however, supplied the king well with provisions, for which they excused themselves on account of their own weakness and the strength of the enemy. Alfonso had at first contemplated entering the Florentine territory by way of the Val d’ Arno; but this seemed to him now undesirable, either because of his having lost Cennina again, or because he saw that the Florentines had already to some extent provided themselves with troops. And therefore he turned towards Volterra, and captured a number of castles in that territory. Thence he entered the Pisan territory, and with the aid of the Counts Arrigo and Fazio della Gherardesca he took some castles there. After that he attacked Campiglia, but did not succeed in taking it, as it was defended by the Florentines and the severity of the winter. Alfonso thereupon left garrisons in the places he had taken, both to defend them and to scour the country, and retired himself with the remainder of his army into quarters in the Siennese territory. The Florentines meantime, favored by the season, made great exertions to provide themselves with more troops; their generals were Federigo, lord of Urbino, and Gismondi Malatesti di Rimini; and although these generals differed upon some points, yet the good sense and prudence of the commissaries Neri di Gino and Bernardetto de’ Medici harmonized their differences sufficiently to enable them to take the field, although still midwinter, and to recover the places that had been lost in the Pisan and in the Volterran territories. And King Alfonso’s troops, which until then had scoured the low country, were so effectually checked that they could with difficulty maintain themselves in the places which they had been left to guard. With the first opening of spring, the commissaries took position with their whole force at Spedaletto, to the number of five thousand horse and two thousand foot; whilst King Alfonso with his forces, numbering fifteen thousand, established himself within three miles of Campiglia. It was supposed that he would lay siege to this place, but instead of that he threw himself suddenly upon Piombino, hoping to take it easily, as it was insufficiently supplied, and because he thought that its possession would prove most advantageous to him, and most damaging to the Florentines. For from there he could harass and exhaust the Florentines by a long war, whilst he was able to procure supplies of every kind for himself by sea, and at the same time keep the whole Pisan country disturbed. The Florentines, therefore, were greatly disquieted by this attack upon Piombino, and, having consulted as to the best course to pursue, they resolved to remain with their army encamped in the woods of Campiglia, hoping in that way to force the king to depart, or to run the risk of a disgraceful defeat. And for this reason they armed four small galleys which they had at Livorno, and by means of which they transported three hundred men to Piombino, establishing themselves at Caldane, where they could with difficulty be attacked; for it was deemed dangerous to remain encamped in the thickets of the plains.
16. The Florentine army depended for its provisions upon the surrounding country, which, being but sparsely inhabited, made the supply very difficult. The soldiers consequently suffered from want, and what they mainly lacked was wine, as the country did not produce any; and as it could not be obtained from a distance, it became impossible to supply the men. King Alfonso, on the other hand, although closely pressed by the Florentines, had abundance of everything, as he was able to obtain his supplies by sea. The Florentines, therefore, wished to try whether they could not also supply their troops by water, and for that purpose they loaded their galleys with provisions; but being met on the way by seven of the king’s galleys, these captured two and put the others to flight. This loss deprived the Florentine troops of all hopes of obtaining the needed provisions, so that two hundred or more foragers deserted to the king, mainly on account of the want of wine. The other troops complained that they could not remain in that extremely hot country without wine, as the water was not drinkable. The commissaries therefore resolved to abandon that position, and to endeavor to recover some of the castles that yet remained in the hands of the king. Alfonso, on the other hand, though not suffering from want of provisions, and superior in numbers, yet saw that he could not succeed, owing to the fact that a large part of his men were ill from the fevers that prevail in that swampy country during the warm season, so that many of them died, and nearly all were more or less affected. Negotiations for peace were therefore set on foot. The king demanded fifty thousand florins and the unconditional surrender of Piombino. This proposition was submitted to the government at Florence, and many who were anxious for peace were willing it should be accepted, affirming that they could not see how they were to succeed in so costly a war. But Neri Capponi, who had gone to Florence, dissuaded them with such arguments that all agreed that the proposed terms could not be accepted. And it was unanimously agreed to take the lord of Piombino under the protection of the republic, promising to sustain him in war and in peace, on condition that he should not surrender, but continue to defend himself, as he had done until then. When King Alfonso heard of this determination, seeing that he could not hope to take the place with an army so enfeebled by disease, he raised the siege, after having suffered all the disasters of a defeat, having lost over two thousand men; and with the remainder of his army he withdrew to the Siennese territory, and thence to his kingdom, furious against the Florentines, whom he threatened with a renewal of the war during the next season.
17. Whilst these events were taking place in Tuscany, Count Francesco Sforza, having become general of the Milanese forces, sought, before everything else, to win the friendship of Francesco Piccinino, who was also in the pay of the Milanese, so as to secure his support in his undertakings, or at least to make him less disposed to thwart them. He then took the field with his army; and the people of Pavia, believing themselves unable to resist him, and unwilling, on the other hand, to yield obedience to the Milanese, offered to give themselves to him on condition that he should not subject them to the government of Milan. Sforza greatly desired possession of this city, which he thought would serve him admirably as a means for covering his ulterior designs. And it was neither fear nor shame at breaking his faith that restrained him, for great men deem it a shame to lose, but not to gain, by fraud and perfidy; but he apprehended that his accepting Pavia would so irritate the Milanese as to cause them to transfer their allegiance to the Venetians. And, on the other hand, he feared that, if he did not take it, it would advance the interests of the Duke of Savoy, to whom many citizens wished to give the city. In either case, it seemed to him that he would lose the sovereignty of Lombardy. After much reflection, however, he concluded that there was less danger in accepting Pavia, than in allowing it to be taken by some one else; and therefore he resolved to accept the offer of the people of Pavia, trusting to be able afterwards to satisfy the Milanese by explaining to them how dangerous it would have been to their cause had he declined Pavia. For in that case the citizens would have given themselves to the Venetians or to the Duke of Savoy, and that in either case it would have been lost to them; and that they ought to be better satisfied to have him for a neighbor and friend than such a power as either of the others, which would be hostile to them. The Milanese were much perplexed by this matter, which seemed to them to disclose Sforza’s ambition, and the end at which he aimed. But they deemed it best not to make their suspicions known, as they did not know where else to turn, if they alienated the Count from them, except to the Venetians, whose pride, and the onerous conditions they were likely to impose, they feared greatly. They resolved, therefore, not to break with the Count Sforza, but for the present to avail of his aid in meeting the impending difficulties, hoping that, when they should be relieved of these, they would be able to rid themselves of the Count also. In fact, they were assailed not only by the Venetians, but also by the Genoese and by the Duke of Savoy, acting on behalf of Charles of Orleans, a son of Duke Filippo’s sister. Sforza, however, easily repulsed these latter enemies, so that the Milanese had only to fear the Venetians, who had raised a powerful army, and were trying to make themselves masters of all Lombardy, holding already Lodi and Piacenza. The Count Sforza besieged the latter city, and took and sacked it, after an obstinate defence. After this, winter having set in, he led his troops into quarters, and went himself to Cremona, where he passed the winter in repose with his wife.
18. With the first return of spring, both the Venetian and the Milanese armies took the field. The Milanese were desirous of taking Lodi, and then to make peace with the Venetians; for the expenses of the war became daily more onerous, and they seriously suspected their general, so that they became exceedingly anxious for peace, to enable them to enjoy some repose, and to make themselves secure against the Count Sforza. They resolved, therefore, to have their army attempt the capture of Caravaggio, hoping that when that castle should have been taken Lodi would surrender. Sforza obeyed the wishes of the Milanese, although his own intention had been to cross the Adda, and to attack the Brescian territory. Having, therefore, encamped before Caravaggio, he fortified himself with ditches and intrenchments, so that, if the Venetians should attempt to compel him to raise the siege, they would have to attack him at great disadvantage. The Venetians, on the other hand, advanced with their army, under command of Michelotto, to within two bowshot lengths of Sforza’s camp, where they remained several days, and had a number of skirmishes with the Count’s troops. Despite of this, Sforza continued to press the besieged very hard, and reduced them to that point that there was nothing left for them but to surrender. This caused the Venetians the greatest uneasiness, for they regarded the loss of Caravaggio as ruinous to their whole enterprise; and was the occasion of a violent dispute between their generals as to the best means of succoring it. They saw no other way than to seek the enemy behind his intrenchments, which was in the highest degree disadvantageous for them; but they looked upon the preservation of that castle as of such importance that the Venetian Senate, naturally timid and averse to every doubtful and hazardous course, were yet willing to risk all for the sake of saving Caravaggio, rather than by its loss to incur the failure of their whole enterprise. They resolved, therefore, to attack the Count anyhow; and having started one morning at a very early hour, they assailed him on the side where he was least protected; and at the first rush, as is often the case with sudden and unexpected assaults, the whole Sforzescan army was thrown into confusion. But the Count quickly restored order, so that the Venetians, after desperate efforts to pass the intrenchments, were not only repulsed, but put to flight, and so completely routed that of the whole army, which consisted of over twelve thousand horse, not one thousand were saved, and all the baggage and camp equipage was captured. Never did the Venetians experience a more complete and terrible defeat.
Amongst the booty and the prisoners taken was one of the Venetian commissaries, who before the fight, and in fact during the whole progress of the war, had spoken in the most abusive terms of the Count Sforza, calling him a coward and a bastard. But now, finding himself his prisoner after the defeat, and mindful of his previous conduct, he was very melancholy and depressed, for he feared that he would be dealt with according to his deserts. Having been brought before the Count all cowed and frightened, according to the nature of proud and pusillanimous men, who are insolent in prosperity and in adversity abject and humble, he threw himself upon his knees before Sforza, beseeching him with tears to forgive him the insults and injuries he had done him. The Count raised him up, took him by the arm, and bade him be of good cheer and hope for the best; and then he told him “that he wondered how a man of his prudence and gravity, or at least who wished to be considered as such, could fall into so great an error as to speak so abusively of one who did not deserve it. And as for the reproaches which he had cast upon him personally, he did not know how his father Sforza had conducted himself towards the lady Lucia, his mother, as he had not been present, and could not therefore be in any way held responsible for their proceedings; so that he did not think that he merited either praise or blame for whatever they might have done. But that he knew well that, in all matters which it had devolved upon him to do, he had conducted himself so that nobody could censure him; of which he himself and his Senate could give the latest and best testimony. And then counselled him in future to be more prudent in speaking of others, and more cautious in his enterprises.”
19. After this victory, the Count marched with his victorious army into the Brescian territory and took possession of the whole of it, and then pitched his camp within two miles of Brescia. The Venetians, on the other hand, having experienced defeat, and apprehending, as indeed it happened, that Brescia would be the first to be attacked, supplied it as quickly and as well as they could with a garrison and munitions; and then they set to work, with all diligence, to gather the fragments of their army and to collect more troops, and called upon the Florentines for assistance, according to the conditions of the treaty. The Florentines, being now relieved of the war with the King Alfonso, sent them fifteen thousand infantry and two thousand horse, — which accession of force gave the Venetians time to think of making terms. It was almost always the fate of the republic of Venice, at that time, to fail in war and to be successful in negotiations; so that what they lost in war was restored to them by peace many fold. The Venetians were not ignorant of the mistrust which the Milanese had of Count Sforza, and that the Count aimed, not at being their general, but their sovereign. And as they could at will make peace with either party, the one desiring it from ambitious motives and the other from fear, they elected to make it with the Count Sforza, and offered him their assistance in effecting the desired acquisition; persuading themselves that the Milanese, on finding themselves duped by Sforza, would from resentment subject themselves rather to any other authority than his, and that, being brought to the condition that they could neither defend themselves nor place any confidence in their general, the Count, they would be obliged, not knowing where else to go, to throw themselves into the arms of Venice. Having resolved upon this course they sounded the Count’s disposition, and found him greatly inclined to peace, being determined that the victory of Caravaggio should prove to his own advantage, and not to that of the Milanese. A treaty was therefore concluded between them, according to which the Venetians obligated themselves to pay the Count the sum of thirteen thousand florins per month, until he should have effected the acquisition of Milan, and moreover to furnish him during the war four thousand horse and two thousand infantry. Sforza, on the other hand, bound himself to restore to the Venetians the places, prisoners, and whatever else he might have taken from them during that war, and to remain satisfied with only those places which Duke Filippo held at the time of his death.
20. When the news of this treaty became known to the Milanese, they were more afflicted by it than they had before been rejoiced at the victory of Caravaggio. The rulers of the city lamented, the people complained, the women and children cried, and all united in calling the Count disloyal and a traitor. And although they did not believe that they could with prayers and promises induce him to abandon his unjust intentions, yet they sent ambassadors to him to see with what face and words he would attempt to carry out his villany; and having appeared before Sforza, one of them addressed him as follows: —
“It is usual for those who desire to obtain anything by concession to employ prayers, gifts, or menaces, so that by the influence of pity, the hope of gain, or by fear, they may obtain a compliance with their request. But as these means are of no avail with cruel and avaricious men, and such as are filled with the pride of their power, it is vain to attempt to soften them with prayers, or to win them by gifts, or alarm them with menaces. Knowing therefore now, although too late, your cruelty, ambition, and pride, we come not for the purpose of entreating you for anything, nor in the belief that we should obtain it even were we to ask for it; but to recall to your memory the benefits you have received at the hands of the people of Milan, and to show you with what ingratitude you have rewarded them; so that, amidst the great afflictions we are experiencing, we may at least have the small gratification of upbraiding you as being the cause of them. For you must not forget what your condition was after the death of Duke Filippo. Then you were at enmity with the Pope and the king of Naples; you had betrayed the Florentines and Venetians, who became your enemies from their recent and just resentment, and from having no longer any need of your services. You found yourself exhausted by the war with the Church, having but few troops, and without allies or money, and hopeless of being able to maintain your states and ancient reputation; all of which would easily have caused your overthrow had it not been for our confiding simplicity. For we received you in our homes because of the reverence we had for the happy memory of our Duke, with whom you had formed a relationship and recent friendship, believing that that friendship would be transferred to his heirs, and that if to the benefits you have received from him you were to add those which we have bestowed upon you, that friendship would not only be firm but unalterable; and therefore we added Verona or Brescia to the original stipulations of the convention. What more could we give or promise you? And what more, I say, could you at that time have had or have desired from us, or from any one else? The benefits which you have received at our hands were as unexpected by you as the evil which you have returned us therefor was unlooked for by us. Nor did you delay until now to manifest your iniquitous intentions towards us, for no sooner had you become the general of our armies than you accepted Pavia, contrary to all justice, which act ought to have revealed to us what your friendship would come to in the end. We bore this injury, thinking that this acquisition would satisfy your ravening ambition. But alas! those who aim at the whole will never be satisfied with only a part.
“You had promised us that whatever acquisitions you might make after that should inure to our benefit, for you knew well at the time that you could at one blow take from us what at different times you had conceded us. Such was your conduct after the victory at Caravaggio, which, having been achieved with our blood and treasure, was followed by our ruin. Alas! unhappy are those cities that have to defend their liberties against the ambition of a ruthless usurper! but twice unhappy are those that are obliged to rely for their defence upon mercenary and faithless arms like thine! May our example at least be of some value to posterity; although we ourselves were not benefited by that of Thebes and Philip of Macedon, who, after overcoming her enemies, became her captain, and finally her enemy and master. We cannot, however, be accused of any other fault than that of having confided too much in one whom we should have trusted but little; for your past life and your ambition, which no state or station could ever satisfy, ought to have served us as a warning. Nor ought we to have placed our hopes upon one who, having betrayed the lord of Lucca, wrung tribute from the Florentines and Venetians, treated our Duke with disrespect, and reviled the king of Naples, and, above all, one who so many times outraged God and the Church. Nor ought we ever to have supposed that the Milanese would have more power over the mind of Francesco Sforza than so many other potentates; or that he would have observed towards us that faith which to others he had so often violated. The want of prudence with which we are chargeable is, however, no excuse for your perfidy; nor will it purge you of that infamy with which our just complaints will brand you before the whole world. Nor will it assuage the just stings of thy conscience when the arms which we prepared for the purpose of attacking and alarming others shall be employed by you against us; for you will feel yourself that you have merited the punishment that is reserved for parricides. And though your own ambition may blind you, yet the whole world, witness to your iniquity, will make you open your eyes. Yes, God himself will open them for you, if it be true that perjuries, violated faith, and treason be hateful to him, unless he should continue forever as, for some occult reason, he seems to have been until now, the seeming friend of the evil-doers amongst men. Do not therefore anticipate a certain victory, which God in his just anger will prevent; for we are resolved to yield our liberty only with our lives; and even should we not be able to defend it, we would prefer to surrender it to any other prince rather than to you. And if from the excess of our sins we should, contrary to our will, fall into your hands, rest assured that a reign begun by you in fraud and iniquity will end with you or your children in infamy and ruin.”
21. Count Sforza, although stung by every word the Milanese had said, yet manifested neither by words nor gestures any extraordinary displeasure. He replied that “he was content to ascribe to their angry feelings all their grave charges and the imprudence of their words, to which he would reply more particularly if he were before any one who could be a judge of their differences; for then it would appear that he had not injured the Milanese, but had merely taken precautions that they should not injure him. For they well knew their own conduct after the victory of Caravaggio, when, instead of rewarding him with Brescia or Verona, they sought to make peace with the Venetians, so that he would have had nothing but the burden of the quarrel, whilst they would have had the fruits of victory and the satisfaction of peace. They could not therefore complain of his having concluded that peace which they themselves had been the first to try to make. And if he had delayed somewhat in taking this course, it was for him now to reproach them with that ingratitude with which they had upbraided him. And the truth or falsity of this would be made manifest at the end of the war by that God whom they invoked to avenge their wrongs, and who would also see who was most devoted to him, and which of the two had fought with most justice on their side.”
The ambassadors having left, the Count prepared to attack the Milanese, and they in turn to defend themselves; and for this purpose they appointed to the command of their forces Francesco and Jacopo Piccinino (whom the ancient hatred between the Braccesca and Sforzesca had kept faithful to the Milanese) to defend their liberties until they should have succeeded at least in detaching the Venetians from the Count Sforza, persuaded that these would not remain his faithful allies long. Sforza, on the other hand, being fully cognizant of all this, judged that it would be wise to bind the Venetians to him by interest, where the treaty obligations were insufficient to do so. And therefore in assigning to each their respective share of the enterprise he agreed that the Venetians should assail Crema, whilst he with his own troops would attack the other parts of the state. This arrangement caused the Venetians to adhere to their alliance with the Count Sforza sufficiently long to enable him to take possession of the whole Milanese territory; and to press them so close in the city that they could not obtain any supplies. So that, despairing of any other help, they sent messengers to the Venetians to beg them to have compassion upon their condition, and in accordance with the custom of republics to support them in the defence of their liberties, and not a tyrant whom, after he should have succeeded in making himself master of their city, they would be unable to resist in their turn. Nor was it likely, they added, that Sforza would remain satisfied with the conditions of the treaty, but would want to have the ancient limits of the state recognized. The Venetians had not yet made themselves masters of Crema, and, desiring to do so before changing sides, they replied publicly to the Milanese envoys, that according to their treaty with the Count they could not come to their assistance, but privately they encouraged them to give the Signori of Milan every hope of help from them.
22. Sforza was already so close upon Milan with his troops that they were fighting in the suburbs; whilst the Venetians, having now taken Crema, thought the time had come for their alliance with the Milanese, with whom they concluded a treaty, one of the first conditions of which was that they were to aid them in the defence of their liberty. This treaty made, they ordered such of their troops as were with the Count to leave his camp and retire into the Venetian territory. They also signified to the Count that they had made peace with the Milanese, and gave him twenty days’ time to accept it also. Sforza was not surprised at this action of the Venetians, which he had expected for some time and looked for any day. Nevertheless, when it actually took place he could not but regret it, experiencing the same annoyance which the Milanese felt when he deserted them. He asked for two days’ time to give his answer to the Venetian ambassadors, resolving, however, to deceive them, and not to desist from his enterprise. And therefore he declared publicly that he was willing to accept the peace, and sent ambassadors of his own to Venice with ample powers to ratify it; but privately he instructed them under no circumstances to do so, but to delay its conclusion by various objections and cavillings. And by way of making the Venetians believe the more that he was in earnest, he made a truce with the Milanese for one month, and withdrew from the city, distributing his troops in quarters in the surrounding places which he had taken. This course was the cause of his success and of the ruin of the Milanese; for the Venetians, confident of peace, became dilatory in making the necessary provisions for the war, and the Milanese, seeing the truce concluded and the enemy withdrawn, and having secured the alliance of the Venetians, fully believed that Sforza had given up the enterprise. This belief proved ruinous to them in two ways; one, because they neglected to make the necessary dispositions for their defence; and the other, because, it being seedtime, they planted the whole country not occupied by the enemy with grain, thus enabling Sforza the more easily to sustain himself and starve them. All these things, which proved so injurious to the Milanese, were highly advantageous to the Count, besides affording him time for the repose of his army, and to provide reinforcements.
23. In this war in Lombardy the Florentines had not declared themselves in favor of either of the belligerents, nor had they given any support to the Count Sforza, either when he defended the Milanese or afterwards; for not standing in need of it, the Count had not asked for it. The only thing the Florentines had done was after the defeat at Caravaggio to send assistance to the Venetians in virtue of the obligations of the league. But Sforza being now reduced to his own forces, and not knowing where to look for help, was obliged by necessity to ask for help from the Florentines in the most pressing manner. He addressed himself publicly to the government and privately to his friends, and especially to Cosimo de’ Medici, with whom he had always kept up an uninterrupted friendship, and who had in all his enterprises counselled him faithfully and aided him liberally. Nor did Cosimo forsake him now in his great strait, but aided him largely in his private capacity and urged him to persevere in his present enterprise. He endeavored also to make the city aid Sforza, in which, however, there was a difficulty. Neri di Gino Capponi was at this period very influential in Florence (1449), and he thought it would not be advantageous for Florence that Sforza should succeed in making himself master of Milan; believing it to be more for the benefit of all Italy that the Count should ratify the peace rather than continue the war. In the first instance he feared that the indignation of the Milanese against Sforza would induce them to give themselves entirely to the Venetians, which would be most dangerous to all; and next it seemed to him that, if the Count should succeed in taking Milan, the union of such large forces and such extensive possessions under one man would be most formidable, and that, if Sforza had been insupportable as Count, as Duke he would be wholly unbearable. He argued, therefore, that it would be better for the republic of Florence, and for all Italy, that Sforza should not increase his military power, and that Lombardy should be divided into two republics, which should never be allowed to combine for any attack upon others, whilst each by itself would be too feeble to attempt it. And to effect this Neri saw no better means than not to furnish aid to the Count, but strictly to maintain the old league with the Venetians. The friends of Cosimo did not accept this argument; for they feared that Neri had reasoned thus, not because he deemed it for the good of the republic, but because he did not wish Sforza, who was the friend of Cosimo, to become Duke of Milan, which in the opinion of Neri would strengthen the influence of Cosimo. On the other hand, Cosimo pointed out that aiding the Count would prove most beneficial to the republic, as well as to the whole of Italy; for it was not reasonable to suppose that the Milanese would be able to maintain their independence, because the character of the citizens generally, their mode of life, and the ancient factions in that city, were in all respects most unfavorable to a republican form of government; so that it was necessary either that Sforza should become Duke of Milan, or that the Milanese should throw themselves into the arms of the Venetians. And in that state of the case, Cosimo thought that none would be so foolish as to doubt which would be the best for Florence, either to have a powerful friend for neighbor, or a still more powerful enemy. Nor could he believe that there was any reason to apprehend that the Milanese, from their enmity to the Count, would yield themselves to the Venetians; for the Count had a party in Milan, whilst the Venetians had not; so that whenever the Milanese should no longer be able to defend their liberty, they would always be more apt to subject themselves to the Count Sforza than to the Venetians. This diversity of opinion kept Florence for some time in suspense; and finally it was resolved to send ambassadors to the Count Sforza to arrange a treaty with him, with instructions to conclude it promptly in case they found him strong and confident of victory; otherwise, to delay its conclusion on some pretext or other.
24. (1450.) The ambassadors had hardly reached Reggio, when they learned that Sforza had taken Milan; for upon the expiration of the truce the Count closed in upon the city with his forces, in the hope of making himself master of it in spite of the Venetians, inasmuch as they could render it no assistance except from the side of the Adda, which route he could easily block. And as it was winter time he was not afraid that the Venetians would press him very close; so that he hoped before the close of the winter to have secured the victory, especially as Francesco Piccinino had died, and his brother Jacopo remained the only general of the Milanese. The Venetians meantime sent an ambassador to Milan to exhort the inhabitants to a vigorous defence, and to promise them large and speedy succor. Some slight skirmishing occurred during the winter between the Venetians and the Count; but when the season became milder, the Venetian forces, under command of Pandolfo Malatesti established themselves above the Adda, where they resolved to attack the Count, and try the fortune of battle in aid of the Milanese. Pandolfo himself, however, advised against the attempt, well knowing the Count’s valor and that of his army, and believing that it would be more safe to conquer him without fighting, because the Count would be compelled to retire from want of provisions and forage. He therefore counselled the holding of that position, as they would thereby encourage the Milanese to hope for speedy succor, and prevent their surrendering to the Count. This plan was approved by the Venetians, partly because they considered it a safe one, and partly also because they had the hope that, by keeping the Milanese in this necessitous condition, these would be forced to place themselves under their government; for they had persuaded themselves that the Milanese would never give themselves to the Count because of the injuries they had received at his hands.
The Milanese were meantime reduced to the extremest misery; and as that city habitually abounds in poor, many of these died in the streets from starvation; so that the whole city was filled with lamentations and disturbances which greatly alarmed the magistrates, who, in consequence, took every precaution to prevent the people from assembling together. The multitude is always slow in being moved to evil, but, once so disposed, the slightest accident will start them to violence. Two men of low condition were conversing near the Porta Nuova about the calamities of the city and their own misery, and as to what means there were for their safety; a few others began to join them, so that it very soon became a numerous group. This gave rise to a report in Milan that the people at the Porta Nuova were in arms against the magistrates. Upon this all the lower classes, who were only awaiting an opportunity, seized their arms, and chose for their captain Gasparo da Vicomercato, and marched to where the magistrates were assembled. And this was done with such a rush that all who were not able to fly were killed; amongst these was Leonardo Veneto, the Venetian ambassador, whom the people looked upon as the cause of the famine and as rejoicing at their wretchedness, and therefore they killed him. Having thus in a manner become masters of the city, they consulted amongst themselves as to what should be done to relieve them from all their troubles and give them peace; and all agreed that, inasmuch as they were not able to preserve their liberty, it was best to take refuge under some prince who was competent to defend them. Some were for calling in the King Alfonso, some wanted the Duke of Savoy, and some the king of France, but no one mentioned the name of Sforza, so strong was still the feeling against him. But as the people could not agree upon any other, Gasparo Vicomercato was the first to suggest the name of Count Francesco Sforza, showing them plainly that, “if they wanted to get rid of the war, there was no other way but to call him; for the people of Milan had need of a certain and immediate peace, and not of the distant hope of future succor.” He excused the attempt of the Count, and blamed the Venetians and all the other princes of Italy, who, some from ambition and some from avarice, were not willing that they should enjoy independence and liberty. “And as after all they would have to give up their liberty, it was best to surrender it to some one who had the ability and skill to defend them; so that at least they might have peace as the result of their servitude, and not increased sufferings and perilous wars.” Gasparo was listened to with wonderful attention, and after he had finished speaking all cried out that Count Sforza should be called in, and they deputed Gasparo for that purpose. He went by command of the people to seek the Count, and made known to him the joyful and happy news, which Sforza accepted most gladly. He entered Milan as Prince on the 26th of February, 1450, and was received with the greatest and most wonderful rejoicings by the very men who but a short time before had loaded him with imprecations.
25. When the news of this revolution became known to the government of Florence, they instructed their ambassadors, who were on the way to the Count Sforza, instead of negotiating a treaty with him, to congratulate him as Duke of Milan upon his success. These ambassadors were received with greatest distinction by the Duke and bountifully honored; for he well knew that he could not in all Italy have more faithful or braver allies against the power of the Venetians than the Florentines. For being relieved now of the fear of the house of Visconti, they felt that they would have to contend against the combined forces of the Aragonese and the Venetians; for the Aragonese kings of Naples were their enemies on account of the friendship which the Florentine people had always borne to the house of France; and as to the Venetians, they were aware that their ancient fear of the Visconti had been transferred to themselves, and knowing with how much zeal the former had persecuted the Visconti, they feared similar persecutions now themselves, and therefore naturally sought their ruin. Such were the considerations that induced the new Duke so readily to form a friendship with the Florentines; whilst the Venetians and King Alfonso united against their common enemies, obligating themselves mutually to put their armies into the field simultaneously. King Alfonso was to attack the Florentines, and the Venetians the Duke Francesco of Milan, who, being but recently established in that state, was believed by them unable to sustain himself either by his own forces or by the aid of others. But as the league between the Florentines and the Venetians had not yet expired, and the King Alfonso, after the war of Piombino, had made peace with the latter, it did not seem well to them to break the peace unless they could first with some color of right justify the war (1451). And therefore they both sent ambassadors to Florence to explain that the league had not been made for the purpose of attacking any one, but only for the defence of their respective states. Afterwards the Venetian ambassador complained “that the Florentines had allowed Alessandro, the Duke’s brother, to pass with troops through Lunigiana into Lombardy; and moreover that they had been the authors and advisers of the treaty made between the Duke and the Marquis of Mantua; all of which acts, he affirmed, were adverse to their state and to the terms of the alliance existing between them; and therefore he reminded them amicably that he who offends wrongfully gives cause to the other party to be rightfully offended, and that he who breaks the peace must expect war.” The Signoria commissioned Cosimo to reply, who in a lengthy and judicious speech went over all the benefits conferred by his city upon the Venetian republic; he pointed out what extensive possessions they had gained by means of the money, troops, and counsel of the Florentines, and reminded them “that, since the friendship had originated with the Florentines, so they would never be the cause of enmity. And having ever been lovers of peace, they were well pleased with the treaty made between them, in so far as its object was peace, and not war. In truth, he wondered much at the complaints made, and that so great a republic should make so much account of such a slight and trivial cause. But even if it were a matter worthy of consideration, they wanted every one to understand that they intended their country to be free and open to everybody; and that the Duke’s character was such, that, to enable him to form an alliance with Mantua, he had no need of either their counsels or support. And therefore he thought that these complaints must have been caused by some other offence than what appeared on the surface. Be that, however, as it might, it would readily be seen by every one, that in proportion as the friendship of the Florentines was advantageous, so their enmity would prove dangerous.”
26. For the present the matter passed lightly over, and the ambassadors retired seemingly satisfied; but the alliance of the Venetians with the king of Naples, and their proceedings, caused the Duke and the Florentines to fear a renewal of the war, rather than to hope for a lasting peace. The Florentines, therefore, formed an alliance with the Duke, and soon after the hostile disposition of the Venetians began to manifest itself, for they allied themselves with the Siennese, and expelled all the Florentines and their dependents from their city and territory. King Alfonso very soon after did the same thing, wholly regardless of the peace concluded the preceding year, and without any just grounds or even color of pretext for such action. The Venetians also sought to obtain possession of Bologna, and, having armed the banished, they introduced them into the city one night through one of the sewers. Their entrance was not perceived until they themselves raised the cry. Santi Bentivogli, being aroused by it, was told that the entire city was in the hands of the rebels; and although he was urged by many to save himself by flight, as he could not possibly save the city by remaining, yet he resolved to face fortune; and having armed, he encouraged his followers, and, making head with a few friends, he attacked a portion of the rebels and routed them, killing many and driving the rest from the city. By this conduct Santi was said by every one to have given the best proof of being of the true blood of the Bentivogli. These events and demonstrations convinced the Florentines that other wars were near at hand. They therefore made their usual preparations for defence, appointed a Council of Ten, engaged new Condottieri, and sent envoys to Rome, Naples, Venice, Milan, and Sienna, to ask help of their friends, detect the suspicious, win over the doubtful, and to discover the designs of the enemy. From the Pope they received nothing but vague words, protestations of good will, and counsels of peace; from the king of Naples, vain excuses for having expelled the Florentines, and offering a safe conduct to whoever might ask for it; and although he sought in every way to conceal the fact that he had advised the renewal of the war, yet the ambassadors became convinced of his unfriendly disposition, and discovered many of his hostile preparations against their republic. The league with the Duke of Milan was strengthened by fresh mutual obligations, and through the Duke’s mediation an alliance was concluded with the Genoese, and all the old differences as to reprisals and other complaints were adjusted, although the Venetians sought in every possible way to disturb the settlement of these disputes, and even appealed to the Sultan of Turkey to expel the Florentines from his dominions. Such was the bitterness of feeling with which they resumed this war; and so powerful was this thirst for dominion with them, that, regardless of every consideration, they sought to destroy a people to whom they were indebted for so much of their greatness. The Sultan, however, gave no heed to their request. The Venetian Senate forbade the Florentine ambassadors from entering the territory of that republic, alleging that, being bound by alliance to the king of Naples, they could not listen to them without his participation. The Siennese received the ambassadors with kindly words, fearing lest they should be assailed and defeated before their allies could come to their defence. They preferred, therefore, to lull into inaction an enemy whom they would be unable to resist. The Venetians and the king of Naples, according to what was then conjectured, wanted to send ambassadors to Florence to justify the war; but the Venetian ambassador was not permitted to enter the Florentine dominions, and the king’s ambassador being unwilling to undertake the office by himself, that mission was left unaccomplished. And thus the Venetians learned that the Florentines showed them even less respect than they had shown the Florentines a few months before.
27. In the midst of the general uneasiness caused by these movements the Emperor Frederick III. came to Italy to be crowned. He entered Florence on the 30th of January, 1451, and was received with the utmost demonstrations of honor by the Signoria, and remained until the 6th of February, when he departed for Rome for his coronation. This having been duly solemnized, as also his nuptials with the Empress, who had come there by sea, he returned to Germany, passing again through Florence, where they paid him the same honors as at his coming. After his return he bestowed the cities of Modena and Reggio upon the Marquis of Ferrara, as a reward for services rendered. The Florentines meantime did not cease their preparations for the impending war; and by way of increasing their reputation and intimidating the enemy, they, in conjunction with the Duke of Milan, formed a league with the king of France for the mutual defence of their states, which treaty was published throughout Italy with great pomp and manifestations of gladness. With the opening of May, 1452, the Venetians concluded no longer to defer open hostilities against the Duke, and attacked him with six thousand infantry and sixteen thousand horse, in the direction of Lodi; and at the same time the Marquis of Monferrato, prompted either by his own ambition or by the Venetians, assailed him near Alessandria. The Duke, on the other hand, having collected eighteen thousand horse and three thousand infantry, and having garrisoned Lodi and Alessandria, as well as the other places where the enemy might annoy him, attacked the Brescian territory, where he damaged the Venetians seriously, ravaging the country in every direction and sacking the feeble towns. The Marquis of Monferrato having been defeated by the troops of the Duke, the latter was enabled to move with greater force against the Venetians, and to invade their territory.
28. Whilst the war was going on in Lombardy with varying and inconsiderable incidents little worthy of note, it had also broken out in Tuscany between the Florentines and King Alfonso, in which, however, there occurred no greater display of gallantry nor any greater danger than in the operations in Lombardy. Ferdinand, an illegitimate son of King Alfonso, had come into Tuscany with twelve thousand men, under the command of Federigo, lord of Urbino. His first attempt was upon Foiano in the Val di Chiana, for, being friends with the Siennese, they had entered the Florentine territory from that side. The castle was small, with feeble walls; and although having but few inhabitants, yet they were reputed, according to the times, as brave and faithful. The Signoria of Florence had sent, moreover, two hundred soldiers to garrison it. This castle, so provided, was besieged by Ferdinand; and whether it was the bravery of the men within, or the lack of it on the part of the Neapolitans, it took Ferdinand thirty-six days before he became master of it. This length of time afforded the republic the opportunity to provide for the defence of the other and more important places, by garrisoning them and making them in every way more capable of defence than before. After the taking of the castle of Foiano, the enemy went to Chianti, where they were unable to take two little villas owned by private individuals. Leaving these, therefore, they laid siege to Castellina, a castle near Chianti, ten miles from Sienna, feeble as regards artificial means of defence, and still more feeble as regards position. But the weakness of the assailants could not overcome the twofold weakness of the castle, for after forty-four days of siege they were obliged shamefully to give it up. Such was the terror of those armies, and so dangerous were those wars, that places which nowadays are abandoned as incapable of defence were in those days defended, being looked upon as impregnable. Whilst Ferdinand remained encamped near Chianti, he made many predatory incursions into the Florentine territory, coming within six miles of the city of Florence, to the great terror and damage of the Florentine subjects. The Florentine army, to the number of eight thousand, under Astorre da Faenza and Gismondo Malatesti, had been led towards the castle of Colli, so as to keep them at a distance from the enemy, for the purpose of avoiding an engagement. For they thought that, so long as they had not been defeated in a general battle, the war would result favorably to them. They had no uneasiness about the small castles they had lost, and which would be recovered at the re-establishment of peace; and they felt safe as to the larger cities, knowing that the enemy could not attack them. King Alfonso had also a fleet of about twenty sail, galleys and small craft, lying in the Pisan waters, and, whilst Ferdinand was carrying on the war by land, he attacked with this fleet the castle of Rocca di Vada, which the negligence of the castellan enabled him to take; and from there they began to harass the surrounding country. The Florentines, however, soon put a stop to this, by sending a few soldiers to Campiglia, who kept the enemy strictly confined to the seacoast.
29. The Pope took no part in these wars, other than to endeavor to restore harmony amongst the parties, although whilst avoiding foreign wars he experienced more dangerous troubles at home. There lived at that time in Rome a citizen called Messer Stefano Porcari, equally illustrious by his birth and his learning, but still more so by the excellence of his character. According to the nature of men who are eager for glory, he desired to do, or to attempt to do, something worthy of being remembered; and thus he concluded that he could do nothing better than to attempt to rescue his country from the hands of the prelates, and to restore the ancient laws and institutions, hoping, in the event of success, to be called a new founder and second father of the city of Rome. He was encouraged to hope for success in this attempt by the general corruption of the prelates, and the discontent of the barons and the Roman people; but what inflamed him still more was this passage from the ode of Petrarch which begins, “Spirto gentil che quelle membra reggi,” viz.: —
Messer Stefano knew that poets are filled with a divine and prophetic inspiration, and therefore thought that what Petrarch had prophesied was sure to happen, and that to him was reserved the distinction of carrying that glorious enterprise into execution; believing himself in eloquence, learning, influence, and the number of friends, superior to any other Roman. Deeply imbued with this idea, he could not control himself with sufficient caution not to betray his design by his speech, conduct, and mode of life. So that he became suspect to the Pope, who, for the purpose of depriving him of all opportunity of doing harm, banished Porcari to Bologna, and ordered the governor of that city to make Porcari report himself daily. Messer Stefano, however, was not discouraged from his purpose by this first check, but rather pursued his object with increased zeal; and by more cautious proceedings he kept up secret relations with his friends in Rome, and went to and fro between Bologna and Rome with such celerity as to be back always in time to present himself to the governor at the appointed periods. Having drawn a sufficient number of persons into his project, he resolved no longer to delay its execution, and directed his friends in Rome, on a given day, to prepare a splendid supper, where all the conspirators should meet, with the understanding that each was to bring with him his most trusty friends, and he promised to be there himself before supper should be served. Everything was done according to his directions, and Porcari himself had already arrived in the house where the feast was to take place. So soon as supper was served, Porcari appeared all arrayed in garments of cloth of gold, and with collars, orders, and other decorations, which gave him a majestic and commanding aspect; and having embraced each one of the company, he counselled them in a lengthy speech to take courage, and to dispose their minds to the glorious enterprise in hand. He then arranged the mode of proceeding, and ordered that one part of them should, on the following morning, seize the pontifical palace, and that the others should call the people of Rome to arms. But during the night the matter was communicated to the Pope; according to some, by treachery on the part of some of the conspirators; according to others, because the Pope knew of Porcari’s presence in Rome. Be this as it may, during the night of the supper the Pope had Porcari and the greater part of his associates seized, and, according to their crime, put to death. Such was the end of this attempt; and although some may praise Porcari’s intentions, yet every one will blame his judgment; for all such enterprises, even if they possess some shadow of glory in their conception, yet their execution almost invariably ends in ruin.
30. The war in Tuscany had lasted nearly a year, and the period had arrived, in 1453, for the armies to take the field, when the Florentines saw Alessandro Sforza, brother of the Duke Francesco, come to their aid with two thousand horse. The Florentine army having been thus reinforced, whilst that of the king was diminished, the Florentines deemed the occasion favorable for recovering the places that had been taken from them by the enemy, in which they succeeded with very little trouble. They then besieged Foiano, which was sacked in consequence of the negligence of the commissaries; so that the inhabitants became dispersed, and it was with difficulty afterwards that they were induced to return by promises of rewards and immunities from impositions. They also recovered Rocca di Vada; for the enemy, seeing that they could not hold it, burnt and abandoned it. Whilst these things were being accomplished by the Florentines, the Aragonese army, having no desire to approach that of the enemy, moved to the vicinity of Sienna, whence they made numerous incursions into the Florentine territory, committing robberies and disturbances, and spreading general alarm. Nor did King Alfonso cease his efforts to injure the enemy in other ways, to divide their forces, and to dishearten them by various annoyances and attacks.
Gherardo Gambacorti was lord of the Val di Bagno; his ancestors as well as himself had, either from friendship or from obligation, always been in the pay or under the protection of the Florentines. King Alfonso opened secret negotiations with him for the surrender of that district, in return for which he offered him another principality in the kingdom of Naples. When these negotiations became known at Florence the Signoria sent an envoy to Gherardo for the purpose of ascertaining his intentions, and to remind him of the obligations which he and his ancestors owed the Florentines, and to exhort him to continue loyal to that republic. Gherardo pretended to be astonished, and affirmed with solemn oaths that such villanous thoughts had never entered his mind, and that he would go in person to Florence to prove his good faith; but being indisposed and unable to go, he would send his son, whom he handed over to the ambassador to take with him to Florence as a hostage. These assurances and demonstrations made the Florentines believe in the sincerity of Gherardo, and that he had been basely slandered by his accusers, and therefore they felt reassured upon that point. Meantime Gherardo carried on the negotiations with the king with increased earnestness, and when they were concluded, the king sent Fra Puccio, a Knight of Jerusalem, with a considerable force, into the Val di Bagno to take possession of Gherardo’s castles and towns. But the people of the Val di Bagno, being devoted to the Florentines, most unwillingly promised obedience to the royal commissaries. Fra Puccio had nearly taken possession of the entire district, and all he lacked was to make himself master of the castle of Corzano. Whilst Gherardo was about to make the formal transfer of this castle, there was amongst his followers who surrounded him one Antonio Gualandi, a Pisan, young and bold, who did not like this treason of Gherardo’s. Considering the position of the castle, and judging from the expression of the countenances and gestures of the garrison that they were ill content with the proceeding, and seeing Gherardo standing at the gate for the purpose of admitting the Aragonese troops, Antonio went behind him and suddenly with both hands pushed Gherardo outside of the castle gate, which he ordered the guard to close upon such a villain, and to save the castle for the Florentine republic. When this became known in Bagno and the neighboring places, all the people took up arms against the Aragonese, and having raised the Florentine banner they successfully drove them out. When this intelligence reached Florence they imprisoned the son of Gherardo, who had been given to them as a hostage, and sent troops to Bagno to defend the country for the republic, and to reduce that province, which until then had been governed by its own prince, to a mere vicariate. Gherardo, traitor alike to his government and to his own son, escaped with much difficulty, leaving his wife and family and all his possessions in the power of the enemy. This occurrence was highly appreciated at Florence, for if King Alfonso had succeeded in making himself master of that part of the country, he could with little risk have made incursions into the Val di Tevere and the Casentino, whence he could have annoyed and harassed the republic to that degree that the Florentines, with all their forces, would have been unable to resist the Aragonese army, which was at Sienna.
31. Besides the preparations made in Italy for repelling the forces of the hostile league, the Florentines had sent Messer Agnolo Acciaiuoli as their ambassador to the king of France, to induce him to empower King Regnier of Anjou to come into Italy to aid his friends; and that then, once being in Italy, he might again attempt the conquest of the kingdom of Naples; and to this effect they promised him assistance of men and money. Thus, whilst the war was being carried on in Tuscany and Lombardy in the manner we have narrated, the ambassador concluded an arrangement with King Regnier to come into Italy during June with three thousand four hundred horse; and upon his arrival at Alessandria the allies were to pay him thirty thousand florins, and during the continuance of the war ten thousand florins per month. But when King Regnier in accordance with this arrangement wanted to pass into Italy, he was prevented by the Duke of Savoy and the Marquis of Monferrato; who, being friends of the Venetians, refused him passage through their possessions. King Regnier was thereupon advised by the Florentine ambassador to return to Provence, and to come thence by sea into Italy with some of his forces, and thereby to increase the preponderance of his friends. And that, on the other hand, he should induce the king of France to prevail upon the Duke of Savoy to allow the remainder of his troops to pass through his territory. This advice was accepted and acted upon successfully; for Regnier came by sea into Italy, and his troops were permitted, out of regard for the king of France, to pass through Savoy. King Regnier was most honorably received by Duke Francesco; and after uniting the French and Italian forces, they attacked the Venetians with such vehemence, that they recovered in a little while all the places which the Venetians had taken in the Cremonese territory. Not satisfied with this, they also occupied the whole of the Brescian territory; so that the Venetian army, feeling no longer secure in the open field, retreated close under the walls of Brescia. But upon the setting in of winter the Duke deemed it prudent to move his troops into quarters, and established King Regnier and his troops in Piacenza. Thus the winter of 1453 was passed without any movement being attempted; but when the warm season returned, and the Duke thought the time fit to take the field and to attempt to take their inland possessions from the Venetians, King Regnier notified the Duke that he was obliged to return to France. This unexpected determination surprised the Duke most unpleasantly; he went at once to dissuade King Regnier from leaving, but neither entreaties nor promises could move him from his resolve, and all he obtained from King Regnier was an agreement to leave a portion of his forces, and to send his son John to serve the league in his stead. The Florentines did not regret King Regnier’s departure, for having recovered their own places and castles they no longer feared the king of Naples, and on the other hand they did not wish that the Duke should recover anything more than his places in Lombardy. Regnier therefore departed, and according to promise he sent his son into Italy, who without stopping in Lombardy came direct to Florence, where he was received with the greatest honors.
32. King Regnier’s departure caused Sforza readily to entertain the idea of peace; and the Venetians, King Alfonso, and the Florentines, being all tired of war, were equally desirous of peace. The Pope likewise had manifested and still expressed the greatest anxiety for it; for it was in that very year that Sultan Mahomet had taken Constantinople, and had made himself master of all Greece. This conquest alarmed all Christendom, and more than all the rest the Venetians and the Pope, who both seemed already to hear the tramp of the infidel hosts on the soil of Italy. The Pope, therefore, invited all the Italian states to send ambassadors to him with plenary powers to establish a universal peace. They all complied with this request; but when the ambassadors met and came to discuss the merits of the question, they found great difficulty in the negotiations. The king of Naples wanted the Florentines to reimburse him the expenses of the war, whilst the Florentines made the same pretensions. The Venetians demanded Cremona from the Duke of Milan, whilst the Duke wanted Bergamo from them, as also Brescia and Crema; so that it really seemed impossible to solve these difficulties. And yet that which seemed so difficult to accomplish at Rome by so many ambassadors was easily effected by two negotiators at Milan and Venice; for whilst the negotiations were being protracted at Rome, the Duke of Milan and the Venetians concluded the terms of an agreement on the 9th of April, 1454, according to which each resumed the places which they had before the war, and it was conceded to the Duke that he might retake the places which the Dukes of Monferrato and of Savoy had taken from him; and the other Italian princes were allowed one month’s time to ratify this treaty. The Pope and the Florentines, and with them the Siennese and the other smaller powers, ratified it within the given time; and, moreover, a peace for twenty-five years was concluded between the Florentines, the Duke of Milan, and the Venetians. Of all the Italian princes, King Alfonso alone was dissatisfied with this peace, for it seemed to him that in the making of it but little regard was had to his dignity, he having been treated in the matter not as a principal, but as a mere secondary party; and therefore he remained a long while undecided without letting his intentions be known. But as the Pope and the other princes sent many solemn embassies to him, he allowed himself finally to be persuaded, mainly by the Pope, and joined the league with his son for thirty years. Thereupon King Alfonso and the Duke of Milan concluded a double alliance by giving their daughters reciprocally in marriage to each other’s sons. By way of preserving, however, the seeds of war in Italy, King Alfonso did not consent to make peace unless his allies first conceded to him full liberty to make war, without injury to them, against the Genoese, Gismondo Malatesti, and Astorre, lord of Faenza. After concluding this treaty, his son Ferdinand, who was at Sienna, returned to the kingdom of Naples, having lost a large portion of his forces by his expedition into Tuscany, and without having made any acquisition of territory.
33. A general peace having thus been established, the only fear was that it would be disturbed by King Alfonso from his enmity against the Genoese. But it happened otherwise; for the peace was not broken openly by Alfonso, but indirectly, as is generally the case, by the ambition of the mercenary soldiers. The Venetians, as was customary upon the establishment of peace, dismissed from their pay their Condottiere, Jacopo Piccinino, with whom some other Condottieri, equally without engagement, united, and passed into the Romagna, and thence into the Siennese territory. There Jacopo halted and commenced hostilities against the Siennese, by taking some of their castles. It was in the beginning of these movements, and in the early part of the year 1455, that Pope Nicholas died, and Calixtus III. was chosen his successor. This Pope, for the purpose of repressing this fresh war in his immediate vicinity, quickly collected what troops he could, and sent them under his general, Giovanni Ventimiglia, against Jacopo, together with the troops of the Florentines and those of the Duke of Milan, who had already united for the purpose of suppressing these disturbances. They came to an engagement near Bolsena, and although Ventimiglia was taken prisoner, yet Jacopo was defeated and obliged to retreat to Pescaia; and had he not been assisted with money by King Alfonso, he would have been entirely destroyed. This gave rise to the general belief that this attempt of Jacopo’s had been instigated by King Alfonso; so that, deeming himself discovered, Alfonso, for the purpose of conciliating his associates in the general peace, whom he had in a measure alienated by this feeble attempt at war, caused Jacopo to restore to the Siennese the places which he had taken from them, and they paid him twenty thousand florins; and after this arrangement, Alfonso received Jacopo Piccinino, together with his troops, into the kingdom. Notwithstanding that the Pope was thus engaged in repressing Jacopo Piccinino, he did not cease to do all he could to organize the means for averting the danger from Christendom of being oppressed by the Turks. And for this purpose he sent messengers and preachers throughout all Christian lands, to exhort the princes and the people to arm in defence of their faith, and to aid with their money and their persons the enterprise against the common enemy. Thus large collections of money were made in Florence; and many people assumed the emblem of the red cross, in evidence of their intention personally to take part in this war against the infidels. There were also solemn processions, and no lack of other demonstrations, both public and private, to aid the enterprise with their counsel and with money and men. But this zeal for the crusade was somewhat checked by the intelligence that the Sultan, in his attempt to take Belgrade, a fortress on the river Danube, in Hungary, had been defeated and wounded by the Hungarians. Thus the alarm which the taking of Constantinople had caused to the Pontiff and all Christians having subsided, they proceeded more coolly in the preparations for the war; and even in Hungary itself their zeal was chilled by the death of their Vaivode, John Corvinus, who had gained the victory at Belgrade.
34. But to return to the affairs of Italy. In the course of the year 1456, when the disturbances caused by Jacopo Piccinino were quelled, and men had in consequence laid down their arms, it seemed as though the Almighty himself took them up in turn; for there occurred a most frightful tempest in Tuscany, causing the most marvellous and unheard of effects. At one o’clock in the morning on the 24th of August there arose a whirlwind from the sea above Ancona, passing across Italy, and re-entering the sea below Pisa, driving before it a huge mass of dense clouds, which occupied a space of nearly two miles in width, and, impelled by a superior force, natural or supernatural, was broken up into many parts that seemed to be contending amongst themselves. And these broken clouds, now mounting towards heaven, now descending to the earth, rushed against each other violently, now moving in circles with incredible velocity, stirring up before them a tempest of inconceivable violence, and throwing out frequent vivid flashes of lightning of the utmost intensity. From these seemingly broken and confused clouds, and these furious winds and frequent flashes, there arose a noise exceeding anything that had ever been heard from either thunder or earthquake, and which excited such alarm that every one thought the end of the world had come, and that the earth and the water and the heavens and the whole world were about to return to their original chaos. This frightful tornado caused unheard of and wonderful effects wherever it passed, but more notably than elsewhere around the castle of San Casciano. This castle is situated within eight miles of Florence, on the hill that separates the valleys of Pisa and Grieve. The most violent portion of this furious tempest passed between the Borgo and the castle of San Andrea, situated on the same hill, not, however, reaching San Andrea, and just grazing San Casciano; so that only a few of the battlements of the castle and some chimneys of houses were thrown down. But within the space comprised between these two places many houses were levelled with the ground. The roofs of the churches of San Martino a Bagnuolo and Santa Maria della Pace were carried off entire to a distance of more than a mile. A teamster and his mules were found dead in a valley near the road. All the largest oaks and the strongest trees that did not yield to the fury of the hurricane were not only stripped of their branches, but torn up by the roots and carried to a great distance. When the tempest had passed and daylight came, the people remained stupefied; for they saw their fields desolated and wasted, they heard the lamentations of those who had their homes and possessions destroyed and had left their relatives and their cattle buried under the ruins; and all who saw and heard this were filled with pity and extreme terror. No doubt the Almighty wanted rather to threaten than to chastise Tuscany; for if so furious a tempest had passed over a city with many houses and inhabitants, as it had passed amongst the oaks and the other trees and the few scattered dwellings, beyond all doubt the ruin and chastisement would have been far greater than the mind can conceive. But the Almighty wanted rather that these few instances should suffice to remind men of his power.
35. But to resume where I left off, King Alfonso, as I have said above, was not satisfied with this peace; and, seeing that the war which Niccolo Piccinino, at his instigation, had begun against the Siennese without any reasonable cause had not had the success he had hoped for, Alfonso resolved to see what advantage he could gain from a war which he was authorized to begin according to the articles of the treaty. And therefore he attacked the Genoese by sea and by land, in the year 1456, resolved to restore the government of Genoa to the Adorni, and take it from the Fregosi, who held it at the time; and, on the other hand, he made Jacopo Piccinino pass the Tronto against Gismondo Malatesti. Gismondo had thoroughly garrisoned all his castles, and therefore cared little for Jacopo’s attack; so that in this direction the king’s attempt proved entirely futile. But that upon Genoa involved Alfonso and his realm in more wars than he had foreseen or could have wished. Pietro Fregoso, at that time Doge of Genoa, fearing not to be able to resist the attacks of Alfonso, resolved at least to yield what he could not hold himself to some one else, who could defend it from his enemies, and who at some future time might make him a just compensation for so important a gift. He therefore sent an ambassador to Charles VII., king of France, and offered him the sovereignty of Genoa. Charles accepted the offer, and sent John of Anjou, the son of King Regnier, to take possession of that place (1458), John having a short time before left Florence and returned to France. King Charles believed that John, who had adopted some Italian customs, was better qualified to govern Genoa than any one else. He thought also that John might proceed from there with an attempt to recover the kingdom of Naples, of which his father, Regnier, had been dispossessed by Alfonso. John therefore departed for Genoa, where he was received as a sovereign, and all the forces of the city and the state placed at his disposal.
36. This occurrence disquieted Alfonso, for he felt that he had drawn upon himself too powerful an enemy. But so far from being intimidated by it, he pursued his enterprise against Genoa with unhesitating courage, and had already sent the fleet under Villamarina to Portofino, when he was suddenly taken ill and died. This death relieved John and the Genoese from the war that threatened them, and filled Ferdinand, who succeeded his father, Alfonso, on the throne of Naples, with apprehensions at having so considerable an enemy in Italy as John of Anjou; besides, he mistrusted the fidelity of many of his barons, lest love of change should cause them to desert him and go over to the French. He also feared the Pope, whose ambition he knew, and who, taking advantage of his having but so recently succeeded to the crown, might attempt to wrest it from him. Ferdinand’s only hope was in the Duke of Milan, who felt no less solicitous about the kingdom than Ferdinand himself; for he feared that the French, once masters of Naples, would attempt also to get possession of Milan, which he knew they might demand as legitimately belonging to them. The Duke Francesco, therefore, immediately upon the death of Alfonso, sent letters and troops to Ferdinand; the latter to aid him and to add to his consideration, and the former to counsel him to be of good cheer, promising that he would under no circumstances abandon him. The Pope, after the death of Alfonso, resolved to bestow the crown of Naples upon his nephew, Pietro Lodovico Borgia; and, by way of covering this attempt with the appearance of honesty, and to secure the concurrence of the other princes of Italy, he pretended publicly that he wanted to make the kingdom a province of the Holy See. He therefore urged the Duke of Milan not to afford any support to Ferdinand, offering Sforza to leave him the places which he already possessed in the kingdom. But in the midst of these schemes and labors Calixtus died, and was succeeded in the pontificate by Pius II., of the family of the Piccolomini of Sienna, and who bore the name of Æneas Sylvius. This Pope, wholly occupied with the advancement of Christianity and the honor of the Church, and disregarding all private considerations, yielded to the instances of the Duke of Milan, and crowned Ferdinand king of Naples. Pius II. judged that he would sooner be able to restore peace in Italy by sustaining him who was in possession of the kingdom, than by favoring the attempt of the French to obtain it, or, like Calixtus, attempting to take it for himself. Nevertheless Ferdinand, in return for this benefit, created Antonio, a nephew of the Pope’s, Prince of Malfi, and gave him one of his illegitimate daughters for his wife; and, moreover, restored Benevento and Terracina to the Church.
37. Thus it seemed that peace was restored to Italy, whilst the pontiff was occupying himself to move all Christendom against the Turks, in accordance with the beginning previously made by Calixtus; when dissensions arose between the Fregosi and John of Anjou, lord of Genoa, which rekindled greater and more important wars than those of the past. Pietrino Fregoso had retired to one of his castles on the coast of Genoa, when it occurred to him that he had not been sufficiently remunerated by John of Anjou according to the merits of himself and his family, who had been mainly instrumental in making John sovereign of that city; and this led to an open rupture between them. Ferdinand rejoiced at this, for he saw in it his only remedy and means of salvation; and therefore he supplied Pietrino liberally with men and money, hoping by his means to see John driven from Genoa. When this became known to John he sent to France for reinforcements, with which he marched against Pietrino, who was however very strong in consequence of the extensive aid that had been sent him by Ferdinand. John of Anjou confined himself therefore merely to the guarding of the city of Genoa; Pietrino succeeded one night in entering the city and making himself master of some positions in it, but when daylight came he was attacked by the troops of John of Anjou and killed, and all his men were either slain or made prisoners. This victory encouraged John to attempt an invasion of the kingdom of Naples; and in October, 1459, he sailed with a powerful fleet from Genoa for that purpose, and landed at Baia, whence he marched to Sessa, where he was favorably received by the Duke of that name. John was joined by the Prince of Taranto, the Aquilani, and many other princes and towns, so that the loss of the whole kingdom seemed almost inevitable. Seeing this, Ferdinand had recourse for assistance to the Pope and the Duke of Milan, and by way of diminishing the number of his enemies he made terms with Gismondo Malatesti (1460). This, however, irritated Jacopo Piccinino, who was the natural enemy of Gismondo, to that degree that he left the service of Ferdinand and went over to John of Anjou. Ferdinand also sent money to Federigo, lord of Urbino, who as quickly as possible gathered what, according to the times, was considered a respectable army, with which he met the enemy above the river Sarni; and having brought on an engagement, King Ferdinand was routed, and many of his principal officers were taken prisoners. After this disaster the city of Naples alone, with a few princes and places, remained faithful to Ferdinand. Jacopo Piccinino urged that on the strength of this victory John should march upon Naples and make himself master of the capital of the kingdom; but John refused this advice, saying that he wanted first to deprive Ferdinand of all his territory and then to assail Naples, thinking that, after having taken all the smaller places, the conquest of the capital would be more easy. This determination, however, caused John to lose all the fruits of his victories; for he did not know how much more readily the members follow the head than the head the members.
38. After his defeat Ferdinand had taken refuge in Naples, where he was joined by the fugitives from the provinces; he raised some money by the least oppressive means, and formed the nucleus of a little army. He sent again for assistance to the Pope and the Duke of Milan, which was rendered by both with the greatest alacrity, and more abundantly than before, for they were in great apprehension lest Ferdinand should lose the kingdom. After Ferdinand had gained some strength he issued from Naples, and, once having begun to re-establish his reputation, he recovered a number of the places he had lost. But whilst this war was progressing in the kingdom an occurrence took place which deprived John of Anjou of his preponderance, and of all chance of success in his attempt. The Genoese were tired of the proud and grasping government of the French, so that they rose in arms against the royal governor, obliging him to take refuge in the Castelletto. In this movement the Fregosi and the Adorni acted together, and were aided by the Duke of Milan with men and money, for the purpose both of recovering and preserving the state. King Regnier, who came with a fleet to succor his son, in the hope of recovering Genoa by means of the Castelletto, was so completely beaten at the very landing of his troops that he was compelled ignominiously to return to Provence. When this news reached the kingdom of Naples, John of Anjou became greatly alarmed; nevertheless, he did not abandon his enterprise, but sustained the war for some time, aided by those barons who in consequence of their rebellion had nothing good to expect from Ferdinand. After many and various incidents the two royal armies came to an engagement, in which John was defeated, near Troia, in the year 1463. But he was less hurt by this defeat than by the defection of Jacopo Piccinino, who went over to Ferdinand. Thus deprived of his forces, John retreated to Ischia, whence he soon after returned to France. This war had lasted four years, and was lost by the negligence of him who by the courage of his soldiers had many times achieved victory. The Florentines took no ostensible part in this war; it is true that they were requested by the ambassador of King John of Aragon, who had come to the throne of that kingdom by the death of Alfonso, to support the cause of his nephew Ferdinand, according to their obligations under the treaty but lately formed with his father, Alfonso. To which the Florentines replied, “that they were under no obligations to Ferdinand, and that they were not going to assist the son in a war begun by his father; and as it had been commenced without their knowledge or advice, so Ferdinand must get out of it and finish it without their assistance.” The ambassador protested on behalf of his sovereign, the king of Aragon, and claimed the penalty of the obligations, and compensation for damages; and then departed indignant against the republic. Thus the Florentines remained during the whole of that war at peace so far as external affairs were concerned; but matters were by no means tranquil within, as will be shown more particularly in the following Books.
[* ]“On the Tarpeian Mount, O Muse, thou ’lt see a knight honored by all Italy, and more devoted to the interests of others than his own.”