Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XXIII. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 3 (Diplomatic Missions 1498-1505)
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LETTER XXIII. - Niccolo Machiavelli, The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 3 (Diplomatic Missions 1498-1505) 
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. 3.
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Magnificent Signori: —
The accompanying letters of yesterday and the day before will inform your Lordships of all that has occurred here since my last of the 18th, sent to you per express through the Pandolfini. I repeated the whole briefly in a letter which I have given to Messer Ennio, envoy of the Duke Valentino, who has sent him to your Lordships for the reasons given in mine of the 18th. I sent that letter by Messer Ennio, so that, in case he should arrive in Florence before the present letter, your Lordships may fully understand how matters are here, and may be able the better to decide the questions in relation to which he comes. Yesterday, at the twenty-second hour, I received your letter of the 17th, from which we learn that Faenza is at the last extremity. And not to fail of his duty, his Eminence of Volterra sent your letters to the Pope, who was greatly agitated by the intelligence, according to what the Secretary of his Holiness reports. So soon as day dawned this morning, the Pope sent for his Eminence; and, complaining to him of the conduct of the Venetians, asked what remedies he could suggest. His Eminence replied, that, seeing these evils steadily progressing, it seemed to him that the remedies contemplated by his Holiness were insufficient, and that it was necessary to resort to stronger measures; that he ought immediately to make the Legato della Marca move forward with his cavalry, and that he must appoint another Legate in Romagna, who ought to be a cardinal, and a man of good character and reputation, who has the honor of the Church at heart, and whose duty it should be to keep those in obedience who are faithful to the Church, and bring back to their obedience, by force if necessary, those who have strayed from it; and that then he ought to call together the ambassadors of all the nations, amongst whom there should be the Venetian envoy, and that in his presence he ought to complain of the wrongs done to the Church, and ask for counsel and assistance; and that, moreover, he ought to send briefs everywhere, conforming to the language he had held to the assembled ambassadors. His Eminence reminded his Holiness that Pope Clement V. had rescued Ferrara from the hands of the Venetians, who had seized that town; and that Pope Sixtus IV., his predecessor and father, had stirred up all Italy against them. He added, that, notwithstanding these new measures, he thought his Holiness should not neglect the old ones, and should start the Bishops of Tivoli and of Ragusa to hold and maintain the other towns, supposing that Faenza was lost.
The Pope approved the suggestions of his Eminence as good and true; nevertheless he would not decide to avail of them as yet, saying that the circumstances seemed to him not to warrant the employment of measures that would at once irritate the Venetians; and that he preferred to carry out his first idea of sending the Bishops of Tivoli and of Ragusa, to see whether the Venetians would not by agreement restore to his hands what they had taken from him by violence. His Holiness seemed not altogether far from believing that the Venetians would do so, and that there was good reason to hope for it; although it was only yesterday that he declared that he would call all the ambassadors together, and protest to them against the acts of the Venetians. Now his Holiness wants to wait for an answer from the deputies whom he has sent to Dionisio di Naldo, from whom as yet nothing has been heard. His Eminence could not induce the Pope to any other course; and whilst his Holiness seems to him, on the one hand, dissatisfied and disposed to remedy the evil when, in his opinion, the proper time shall have come, he finds him on the other hand more circumspect and lukewarm in the measures he proposes than what he ought to be; and therefore he could not induce him to come to any other conclusion.
Later, at the seventeenth hour, the Pope sent again for his Eminence, and told him that he had not been able to sleep on account of the state of things at Faenza and in Romagna, and that he had thought it might be well to sound the Duke Valentino again in regard to placing in the hands of his Holiness the castle of Furli and the other fortresses or places which he still held in Romagna, with the promise to restore them again to the Duke at a later moment, deeming it preferable that the Duke shouldoccupy them rather than the Venetians. He therefore begged his Eminence of Volterra to take the trouble of going as far as Ostia to see the Duke, and try to conclude such an arrangement with him. His Eminence agreed to do whatever might be agreeable to his Holiness, who in return promised to let him know if he should finally decide upon this course; charging him, meanwhile, to confer with the Cardinal d’Amboise, and to find out how he was disposed in this matter. This plan, that the Duke Valentino should hand these places over to the Pope, with the understanding that they shall be restored to him later, was proposed some days ago. The Duke consented to it, but then the Pope objected, saying that he did not want to break faith with any one; and being unwilling that any one should be master there, he refused to entertain the proposition. Now, however, he is willing to adopt this plan, unless he changes his mind again, being constrained by that necessity of which you are aware. He thinks that this is the most efficacious and excusable proceeding that he can adopt towards the Venetians, deeming it well not as yet to declare himself openly their enemy.
At dinner-time his Eminence was again sent for by the Pope, who made him stay to dinner and detained him until near the twenty-fourth hour. His Eminence informed me that the Pope had sent to Ostia to ascertain whether the Duke had left, and if not, to make him delay his departure; as in that case the Cardinal will go early to-morrow to see him, and on the Cardinal’s return we shall know what conclusion has been arrived at. But if the Duke has left, then it would be useless to entertain the project any further. His Eminence told me also that they had talked of the mission of the Bishop of Ragusa, who has been named Governor of Bologna and of the entire Romagna, with instructions to do all he possibly can to rescue those places from the hands of the Venetians, and bring them back to their obedience to the Holy Church. This Bishop has orders to stop at Florence and thank your Lordships on behalf of the Pope for the efforts you have made thus far, and to confer with you as to whether it be best to go to Faenza or Furli, or to enter Romagna from some other direction. He is to act according to your suggestions, and to avail himself in all other respects of your Lordships’ good offices. He will leave to-morrow or next day.
“As to Citerna and the two hundred ducats, etc., about which I have written, your Lordships wish to know the grounds for such a payment, and the advantages that would result from it. In explanation of this I reply that these fortresses are distributed amongst the Cardinals by lot, and whoever receives one of them has to keep twenty men there as a garrison, for which he is paid by the treasury. But instead of twenty men they keep only ten, and the difference is their profit. These gains enable the Cardinals to find persons who purchase these fortresses from them; and as San Giorgio has found some one who offers him two hundred ducats for Citerna, he will not part with it for less to any one else, and I believe we shall have to pay him that sum if we wish to effect the proposed exchange. As to the advantages to be gained thereby, it seems to me necessary that, inasmuch as we claim to be the defenders of the Church, we should not prove ourselves her despoilers. Nor is there any other more suitable way; for if San Giorgio is content, the matter will remain quiet for at least one year, and within that period we shall find some other expedient. This is the plan proposed here, and we shall endeavor to carry it through, although San Giorgio has drawn back and will not explain himself. But I shall not cease to keep an eye on him, and beg your Lordships meantime to reply upon this point.”
Your Lordships desire further information as to how matters are going on here, and what the opinions and conjectures in relation to them are. I imagined that up to the present time I had written in such manner that, if your Lordships take my letters in hand, you will find in them a complete history of all that has taken place here. To recapitulate them briefly I must, as regards the Pope, refer again to what I have written about him in my letter of the 11th; for his Holiness seems to me still bound by the same obligations and considerations which I then communicated. As to the Duke Valentino, you will have seen what I wrote subsequently, and more especially what I said in my three letters on the subject of his affairs; from which your Lordships, with your habitual sagacity, will be able to judge how his affairs will probably terminate, and what his own end is likely to be. Respecting Romagna I cannot yet tell your Lordships more than I have already done in my previous letters as to what is generally said here on the subject. From these your Lordships will also have learnt the attitude of the Pope and of the Cardinal d’Amboise, and the doings of the Venetians, real as well as pretended; how fate prevents the French from being able to resent them, and how the Pope finds it convenient to feign to believe them. Thus your Lordships cannot in this state of things hope that either the French or the Pope will aid you against the Venetians with either men or money; and that you will have to rely upon anything else rather than upon the men and money of others.
As regards the Spanish and French armies, the latter have so entirely obtained the control of the Garigliano, that the Spaniards could not prevent their crossing the river, nor afterwards drive them from the positions which they hold there. As to their respective forces, I can but repeat what I have said before on that point, and what is generally admitted; namely, that the Spaniards, being inferior in numbers, cannot venture to give battle, and therefore withdraw behind difficult passes and strong places; as was seen first at San Germano and now on the Garigliano, where, having been driven from the river-bank, they have retreated about a mile, and by means of intrenchments and redoubts present fresh obstacles to the advance of the French. The bad weather also hinders the French from moving forward; for the country being low and swampy and the rain incessant, both French and Spaniards are obliged to confine their operations to guarding the redoubts which they have thrown up in front of each other, leaving the rest of their armies to disperse and seek shelter in the neighboring hamlets and places, being mutually protected against each other by the water and the weather. Yesterday the sky cleared a little, but to-day it rains again, and it is feared that the wet weather may continue for some time yet. Both armies suffer from want of forage and provisions; but the French suffer most, as the country around their camp is wasted to a greater degree. This exposes them to some disaster unless they can advance; on the other hand, the power of money, of which the French have abundance, may give them the best of the game, and may cause the Spaniards, who are short of money, to lose. It is believed that Bartolommeo d’ Alviano has joined the Spaniards, but only with a small force. The Cardinal d’Amboise, on the other hand, sent the Savelli and the troops of Giovan Giordano to the French army, who consider themselves as having been badly served by Gianpaolo Baglioni in not having moved with his cavalry when he was ordered, and when they urged him to march. Taking all things together, I am really at a loss what conclusion to come to as to the possible issue. Your Lordships can form your own conclusions better than any one else. I will only say this, that the general opinion is that, considering all things, the French have more money and better troops, but the Spaniards have more good fortune and a better commander.
I recommend myself to your Lordships.
Rome, 21 November, 1503.