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aT, G)^ r^faa^'^ ^ HIS is the first complete English version of 
my book on " Machiavelli and his Times," the 
original translation, in four volumes, produced 
between the years 1878-83, having been con- 
siderably shortened to suit the convenience 
of its publisher. Whereas the two first 
volumes were issued intact with all the docu- 
ments appertaining to them, the rest of the work was deprived 
of two entire chapters, and every document suppressed. One 
of the eliminated chapters treated of Art, and it was precisely 
in the Fine Arts that the Renaissance found its fullest and 
most distinctive expression. Niccolo Machiavelli, it is true, 
had no personal concern with the Arts, but they are so 
essential a feature of the national development of his period, 
and so closely connected with our literature, that it is 
impossible to understand either theme without considering 
the artistic life of the age. The second chapter omitted was 
of greater length, and even greater importance, being a careful 
account of all that has been written and thought regarding 
Machiavelli by critics of all countries at difierent times. It 
was therefore a necessary aid towards the due comprehension 
and appreciation of the man and his works. The political 
doctrines of the Florentine Secretary are not altogether 
individual creations of his own. To no small extent they 


were the product of his times, and exercised a noteworthy 
influence on the events of subsequent aL;,cs. It was requisite, 
therefore, to examine the nature of this constant, yet ever- 
varyiuLj influence on the deeds and thoughts of those who 
have pronounced very contradictory verdicts on Machiavelli. 
Without such examination, the reader's mind would be in- 
evitably perplexed by the crowd of connictini^ opinions. 

Hence, all will understand how gladly I accepted Mr. 
Fisher Unwin's proposal of bringing out a complete transla- 
tion of my book, accompanied by all the more important 
documents, and particularly by some newly discovered 
private correspondence, and other inedited letters, written 
by Machiavelli when Secretary to the Republic. The whole 
translation has been again revised and collated with the 
original text, while, on my part, I have been enabled to insert 
a few corrections in historical details. 

Strictly speaking, this is all that need be said. Neverthe- 
less, I venture to add a few brief remarks. 

So many books on the Renaissance have appeared of 
late, that it is only natural to regard the public as almost 
wearied of the theme, and on the point of refusing attention 
to anything connected with it. Therefore, I believe it may 
be useful to indicate what are the points of permanent 
value — not, assuredly, of my own work, but of its subject. 
I have shown elsewhere that I was impelled to study the 
Renaissance not only because we find in that period the 
primary source of many national qualities and defects, but 
because we may likewise discover therein the cause of 
many erroneous judgments passed on us by foreigners. 
Accordingly, the study of the Renaissance appeared to me 
to offer the best means of teaching us Italians to know 
ourselves, correct our faults, and tread the path of progress. 

The Renaissance, however, was not isolated to Italy ; it 
was also a period of much importance in the history of the 
rest of Europe. It was then that, by the revival of classic 
learning, reason was emancipated, and the modern individual 
first born and moulded into shape ; hence investigation into 
the circumstances of the modern man's birth teaches us how 
to comprehend his character. If this may be said of man- 
kind and civilization in general, it may be still more stoutly 
asserted with regard to tho conception and character of 


politics. The Middle Ages had no idea, of the modern 
State, of which the Renaissance laid the first stone ; no 
idea of the science of politics. Theoretically, the Middle 
Ages admitted no difference between the conduct of in- 
dividual and of public life, between private and political 
morality, although, practically, the difference was then more 
marked than at any other time. In those days men often 
wrote like anchorites, while fighting tooth and nail like 
savages. The Renaissance, on the contrary, recognized, and 
even exaggerated, this difference ; Machiavelli tried to for- 
mulate it scientifically, and, by force of his new method, 
founded political science. But, absorbed in pondering the 
divergences between public and private action, he pushed 
on relentlessly to extreme conclusions, without pausing to 
observe whether some link of connection might not be 
hidden beneath such divergence ; whether both public and 
private conduct might not proceed from a common and 
more elevated principle. It was this that gave birth to the 
innumerable disputes, which, even at this day, have not yet 
come to an end. Nor is it easy for them to come to an end, 
when we remember, while admitting, in real life, that public 
morality truly differs from private, that on the other hand, 
we are sufficiently ingenuous — not to say hypocritical — to 
maintain that the essential characteristic of modern politics 
consists in conducting public business with the same good 
faith and delicacy which we are bound to observe in private 
affairs. This, as every one knows, is always the theory, not 
always the practice. Yet, unless voluntarily inconsistent, we 
are forced by this theory to judge Machiavelli with increasing 
severity, and his memory, therefore, is still held accursed. 
Often, too, we find him most cruelly condemned in the 
words of those whose deeds are most accordant with his 
views. As the matter now rests, the Machiavelli question is 
reduced, for many minds, to the single inquiry whether he 
was an honest or a dishonest man. 

Hence, it was, first of all, necessary to separate the verdict 
to be passed on the man, accordingly as he should be proved 
honest or dishonest, from that to be pronounced on his 
doctrines ; since of these it is requisite instead to ascertain 
the truth or the falsity, and to what extent they are true or 
false. This question, as I have endeavoured to prove, has a 


practical, as well as a scioiUific \alue at the present clay. If 
in real life we reco;4nize a difference between public and 
private morality, then — since no one tloubts the duty of always 
bcin}^ honest — it becomes necessary to define the limits of 
this difference and invcstii^ate the true principles of political 
intei^rity. If, on the contrary, we deny this difference — 
which really exists — it follows that, in practice, everything 
must be left to chance. And this would be a triumph for 
tho^^e politicians who, while feiy;ning the highest and most 
immaculate virtue, succeed in perpetrating actions equally 
condemned by every rule of public and private morality. The 
consequences of all this were far less noticeable in the past, 
when all States, not excepting Republics, were governed by 
a limited political aristocracy. Tradition and education then 
served as substitutes for principles. But in modern society, 
where all men may rise to power from one moment to 
another, the more tradition and education are lacking, the 
more urgent the need for principles. Hence, the best way 
to reach a final solution, is to study the problem from its 
birth, tracing its course, and noting what modifications it 
underwent both in theory and practice. At any rate, it is 
impossible to form an accurate judgment of Machiavelli 
without first arriving at a sufficient!}^ clear conception of 
this problem. 

Also, in examining a question ot this kind, we are driven 
to investigate many others dating from the same period, and 
equally agitating to the modern conscience. It was during 
the Renaissance that unlimited faith in the omnipotence of 
reason first arose and led to the belief that society, human 
nature, history, and the mystery of life, could be success- 
fully explained without the slightest reference to religion, 
tradition, or conscience. Endeavours were made, in fact, to 
explain all those problems, while taking for granted that 
neither the eternal, the supernatural, nor the divine, need 
be even hypothetically admitted. Then, for the first 
time, was asserted the vain pretence that it was possible 
for us to construct and destroy human society at our 
own pleasure : the very theory afterwards put to so 
fatal a test by the French Revolution, and of which a no 
less fatal experience is offered to ourselves, by those who 
Still maintain that new states of society may be founded with 


the same ease with which new systems of philosophy are 
invented. And as all these ideas simultaneously flashed on 
the human mind, after the close of the Middle Ages, men 
rushed at once to the logical consequences deduced from 
them, and with the greater serenity, because incapable of 
foreseeing eventual results. By examining these doctrines 
in the age of their birth we are better enabled to judge them, 
since, besides witnessing their logical consequences, we also 
perceive what direct or indirect influences they speedily brought 
to bear upon practical life. For we see the spectacle of a great 
people who founded the grand institutions of the Universal 
Church and the Free Communes, struggled victoriously 
against the Empire, created Christian Art, poetry, the Divina 
Connnedia — and then note how that same people, changing 
its course, emancipated human reason, initiated a new science, 
a new literature, modern civilization, yet simultaneously 
destroyed its political institutions and its liberty, corrupted 
the Church, fell to the lowest depths of immorality, and 
became a prey to foreign conquest. 

For all these reasons the biography of Niccolo Machiavelli 
cannot be restricted to the treatment of his individual work. 
It must necessarily investigate the rise and development of a 
new doctrine, manifesting in no small degree the spirit of an 
age, and personified in a man. This it is that constitutes 
Machiavelli's historical importance. Hence, a complete com- 
prehension of the man is only to be obtained by clearly 
distinguishing that which was the product of his times from 
his personal achievement, even as it is necessary to dis- 
tinguish between his individual character and the worth 
of his doctrines. We shall then more plainly discern the 
reason of certain contradictions to be found in Machiavelli. 
The deductions of the thinker are sometimes in tragical 
conflict with the forecasts and aspirations of the patriot, 
and an impartial study of this conflict will throw a 
new light on the man, his age, and his doctrines. Only 
thus, it seems to me, is it possible to arrive at the truth, 
and estimate Machiavelli with the strict justice that is the 
chief purpose of history. To what extent I have succeeded 
or failed in this, my readers must decide. 

Pasquale Villari. 


N offering to the public a fresh biography of 
Niccolo MachiavelH, I feel that it is needful to 
state my reasons for adding another to the 
many works upon the same subject already 
before the world. 

Throughout a long series of years the Floren- 
tine Secretary was regarded as a species of 
Sphinx, of whom none could solve the enigma. 
By some he was depicted as a monster of perfidy ; by others as 
one of the noblest and purest of patriots. Some looked upon his 
writings as iniquitous precepts for the safe maintenance of tyranny ; 
others, on the contrary, maintained that the "Principe" was a 
sanguinary satire upon despots, intended to sharpen daggers against 
them, and incite peoples to rebellion. While one writer exalted 
the literary and scientific merits of his works, another would 
pronounce them a mass of erroneous and perilous doctrines, only 
fitted for the ruin and corruption of any society foolish enough to 
adopt them. And thus the very name of Machiavelli became, in 
popular parlance, a term of opprobrium. 

In course of time, and through the development of criticism, 
not a few of these exaggerations have disappeared, but it would 
be a great mistake to suppose that any unanimity of opinion has 
as yet been obtained on tiae points of highest importance. Many 
of my readers may remember the indignant outcry raised, es- 
pecially in France, against the Provisional Government of Tuscany, 


when it initiated tlic revolution of 1859, ^y decreeing a new and 
complete edition of Machiavelli's works. To the insults then 
hurled against Italians in general, and the Florentine Secretary in 
particular, others retorted by lautling his political genius and 
purity of mind. Only a few years have elapsed since the ap- 
pearance of a new " History of the Florentine Republic," written 
by one whose name is cherished and venerated throughout Italy. 
This work contains a very eloquent parallel, full of just and 
ingenious observations, between Guicciardini and Machiavelli. 
And the comparison concludes, not only to the advantage of the 
former writer, but also with the assertion that the latter was 
" malignant at heart, malignant of mind, his soul corrupted by 
despair of good.'' ' 

Nor was this a hasty judgment ; on the contrary, it was the 
fruit of careful study, of long meditation, and pronounced by 
one whose word had no slight weight in Italy. The two Tuscan 
scholars who, in 1873, commenced the publication of the newest 
edition of Machiavelli's works, frequently allude to the close 
and cordial friendship they suppose him to have felt for 
Caesar Borgia, even at the moment when the latter's hands 
were stained by the most atrocious crimes ; and they even 
publish some inedited documents, the better to confirm their 

On the other hand, more recent biographers, although not 
always agreeing upon other points, exalt the patriotism no less 
than the genius of iMachiavelli, while some of them, after careful 
study of his works and of inedited documents, even praise his 
generosity, nobility, and exquisite delicacy of mind, and go so far 
as to declare him an incomparable model of public and private 
virtue. It seems to me that this is a proof that we are still far 
removed from harmony, and that new researches and fresh studies 
may not be altogether superfluous. 

There were various reasons for this great and continual dissen- 
sion. The times in which Machiavelli lived are full of difficulties 
and contradictions for the historian, and these are embodied and 
multiplied in the person of the Secretary, after a fashion to really 
makes him sometimes appear to be a sphinx. It is naturally per- 
plexing to behold the same man who, in some pages, "sounds the 
praises of liberty and virtue in words of unapproachable eloquence, 
teaching elsewhere principles of treachery and deceit, how best 
to oppress a people and secure the impunity of tyrants. Nor are 
these doubts dissipated by first seeing him faithfully serving his 

' Gino Capponi, "Storia delle Repubblica di Fiienze," vol. ii. p. 368, Florence, 
Earbera (2 vols. 8vo), 1S75. 


Republic for fifteen years, then sustaining misery and persecution 
for his love of liberty, and afterwards begging to be employed in 
the service of the Medici, were it but " to turn a stone!''' Yet the 
contradictions of history and of human nature are manifold, and 
in the present case would have been much more easily explained, 
were it not that most writers have sought to be either accusers or 
defenders of Machiavelli, judges — too seldom impartial — of his 
morality and of his patriotism, rather than genuine biographers. 
To many — particularly in Italy — it appeared sufficient to have 
proved that he loved liberty, and his coimtry's unity and inde- 
pendence, in order to be lenient upon all other points ; therefore 
they praise both his doctrines and his morals, even previously 
submitting them to a diligent critical examination, almost as 
though patriotism were a sure evidence of political and literary 
capacity, and necessarily exempt from vice and crime in private 

This inevitably called forth opposite opinions, for Avhich the 
contradictions noted above furnished abundant food. So that 
little by little the whole question seemed limited to an endeavour 
to ascertain whether the "Principe" and the "Discorsi" had been 
written by an honest or a dishonest man, by a republican or by 
a courtier, whereas what it really concerned us to know was the 
measure of scientific value of the doctrines contained in them ; 
whether they were true or false, did or did not comprise novel 
truths, did or did not serve for the advancement of science ? None 
can deny that if those doctrines were false, no virtue of the writer 
could make them true ; if true, no vices of hii could make them 

Undoubtedly there has been no lack of influential writers who 
have undertaken an impartial and rational examination of Machia- 
velli's works, but those have almost always given us critical essays 
and dissertations rather than real and complete biographies. 
Absorbed in a philosophical examination of his theories, they 
either gave too little attention to the times and character of the 
author, or spoke of them as though every dispute might be 
settled by stating that Machiavelli represented the character of 
his age and faithfully depicted it in his own writings. But in a 
century there is space for many men, many ideas, many different 
vices and different virtues, nor do the times alone suffice to render 
clear to us all that is the work, the personal creation of genius. 
Nevertheless, it is, of course, necessary to study them in order to 
form a complete judgment of the doctrines of a writer who — as in 
Machiavelli's case — derives so much from them and yet puts so 
much of himself in his works. This is not, however, the place 


for entcriiiiT upon a:i examination of biographers anil critics, of 
whom it will bo my iluty to speak farther on, in making use of 
their writings and giving frequent quotations from them. My 
present object is simply to announce that I have no intention of 
being cither the apologist or the accuser of the Florentine 
Secretary. I have studied his life, his times, and his writings, in 
order to know and describe him as he really was, with all his 
merits and demerits, his vices and his virtues. 

This may probably appear to be a needless presumption, after 
the attempts already made by writers of greater authority than 
myself. But thanks to historical materials of recent accumulation, 
and others which, though still unexplored, arc now easily accessible, 
we have increased facilities for solving many of those doubts which 
previously seemed to present insurmountable difficulties. It is 
certain that publications such as the ten volumes of Guicciardini's 
inedited works,' the diplomatic correspondence of almost every 
province of Italy, an infinite number of other documents, not to 
mention the original works of Italian and foreign writers, have 
dissipated many obscurities and contradictions both in the literary 
and political history of the Italian Renaissance. Also the rapid 
progress of social science in our own days, naturally makes it 
much easier to determine the intrinsic value and historic necessity 
of that which many have called Machiavellism. And for all that 
relates to the Secretary personally, there arc the papers which 
passed at his death into the hands of the Ricci family, then to the 
Palatine Library in Florence — where for a long time they were very 
jealously kept — and now, in the National Library, are accessible to 
all, and even partly published. In the five volumes already 
issued by Signori Passerini and Milanesi of their new edition 
of JVIachiavelli's w'orks, many useful documents selected from 
Florentine archives and libraries are comprised. Nevertheless a 
very considerable mass of highly important papers still remained 
unexplored. For instance, to my certain knowledge, there are 
several thousands of Machiavelli's official letters still inedited, and 
— as far as I know — never before examined by any biographer. 
This being the case, it seemed to me that there would be no undue 
presumption in venturing upon another trial. 

Were all biographies necessarily planned upon the same model, 
then indeed I might be exposed to severe blame. But I have 
thought it right to choose the form best adapted to the nature of 
the subject. So httle is known of Machiavelli during the years 
in which he completed his studies and his character was in course 
of formation, that I have tried, in part at least, to fill the great 
* Guicciardini, " Opere Inedite." 


gap, by a somewhat prolonged study of the times. I have en- 
deavoured to examine the gradual rise in that century of what 
may be called the Machiavellian spirit, before he himself appeared 
upon the scene to give it the original imprint of his political 
genius, and to formulate it scientifically. Then, after having to a 
certain extent studied Machiavellism before Machiavelli, I drew 
near to him as soon as he became visible in history, seeking to 
learn his passions and his thoughts, as far as possible, from his 
own writings, and those of his most intimate friends and contem- 
poraries. For without neglecting the examination of modern 
authors, I have always preferred to depend upon the authority of 
those closer to the events which I had to relate. 

And this too has contributed in no slight degree to give a 
special form to this biography. Among the documents of most 
importance for the comprehension of Machiavelli's political life, 
the " Legations " must certainly be included, since these contain 
not only the faithful history of all his embassies, but likewise the 
earliest germs of his political doctrines. But although their value 
with this had been already noted — among others byGervinus — these 
" Legations" had never been much read, partly because they are, 
of necessity, full of repetitions, and partly because, in order to be 
generally liked and understood, they would require a running 
commentary upon the events to which they allude. Therefore, to 
enable the reader to perceive with his own eyes the way in which 
our author's ideas were formed, I have frequently had to give 
summaries of, and even verbatim extracts from many of his 
despatches. And this far oftener than I could have wished — • 
swiftness of narration in view of, but never oftener than I con- 
sidered necessary for a full knowledge of the subject. 

Then, too, the official letters written by Machiavelli in the 
Chancery form the indispensable complement of the "Legations." 
If the latter make us acquainted with his political life away from 
the Republic, the former teach us to know what it was at home. 
Many, of course, are of no value whatever, being simple orders 
given to this or that Commissary, and hastily repeating the same 
things over and over again. There are others, however, in which 
we find frequent flashes of the great writer's style, ideas, and 
originality. And the majority of these letters being — as we have 
shown — still unpublished, it was requisite to examine all with 
great care and attention. I therefore undertook this tedious and 
often ungrateful task, copying, or causing to be copied, some 
thousand letters, certain of which I have quoted in the foot-notes, 
from others given important extracts, while some few again I have 
transcribed verbatim in the Appendix, so that the reader might be 


able to have a clear idea of their general nature. This, toe. con- 
tributed to slacken the pace of the narrative, and try as I might, 
there was no remedy for it. It was impossible to leave unnien- 
tioned that which was, for so many years, Machiavelli's principal 
work ; nor was it possible to speak of so vast a mass of unpublished 
letters without often quotincf and insertin}; here and there a few 
sentences, especiallv since tlure is small hope that any one will 
undertake to jiublish them in full. It is useless to enumerate here 
all the other documents which I sought out and read ; they can 
casilv be ascertained from the notes and appendix. I will merely 
remark that during these researches I was enabled to give to the 
worUl three volumes of Giustinian's despatches, which were col- 
lected and examined by me, not only because of the fresh light 
they threw upon the times occupying my attention, but also 
because they enabled me to place in juxtaposition with the 
Florentine secretary and orator, one of the principal ambassadors 
of the Venetian Republic, and thus institute a comparison between 
them. When in 1512 the Medici were reinstated in Florence, 
liberty was extinguished, and Machiavelli being out of office, and 
fallen into the obscurity of private life, his biography then changes 
its aspect and is almost exclusively limited to the examination of 
his written works and the narration of the events in the midst of 
which they were composed. This, however, is the principal 
subject of the second volume, which, being still incomplete, cannot 
be placed before the public as soon as I should have desired. For 
my own part I should have preferred waiting until both volumes 
could have been published simultaneously. But in the long years 
during which my studies have been carried on, I have witnessed 
the publication of many fresh dissertations on, and biographies of 
Machiavelli, of documents, in many instances discovered and 
transcribed by myself ; and so many other works bearing on the 
same subject are already announced, that it appears best to publish 
this first volume without further delay. Besides, this method of 
publication is now so general that many excellent precedents 
justify my adoption of it. 

I must notify to my readers that in quoting from the works of 
Machiavelli, I have made use of the Italian edition, dated 1813, 
one of the best at present completed. I have, however, been 
careful to collate it with the more recent edition commenced at 
Florence in 1873, but still far from completion, and deprived, by 
the death of Count Passerini, of its most energetic promoter. 
In this, a very praiseworthy attempt has been made to give a 
faithful reproduction of Machiavelli's original orthography. But 
in the many quotations inserted by ine in the present work, I have 


occasionally thought it advisable to expunge certain conventional 
and well-known modes of speech which were out of place in a 
modern work. This, however, I have done with great caution 
and solely to avoid the inconvenience of changing too often or too 
rapidly the material form of diction. In the Appendix, on the 
contrary, I have scrupulously and entirely adhered to the original 
orthography. The reader will also see that I have been frequently 
forced to disagree with the two learned gentlemen who bestowed 
their labours on the new edition, especially with regard to the 
importance and significance they have sought to attribute to some 
of the documents which they have already published. But to 
this I shall refer elsewhere, merely remarking here that I have no 
intention of questioning their undoubted merit, nor their care and 
diligence in publishing the documents, seeing that these are of 
great value to the biographer, and have frequently been made use 
of by myself. 

To one erroneous notice it is imperative however to refer. In 
the Preface to the third volume, published in 1875, after deploring 
the loss of many of Machiavelli's letters, the editors go on to say : 
"It is a known fact that many volumes of his private letters, which 
were in the hands of the Vettori family, were for ever lost to 
Italy by being fraudulently sold by a priest to Lord Guildford, 
from whom they passed into the hands of a certain Mr. Philipps, 
who, during his life, preserved them and other precious things 
in his possession with such extreme jealousy, as to even refuse 
to let them be examined, much less copied, for the new edition of 
the Works of MachiavelH decreed in 1859 by the Tuscan Govern- 
ment, when a request to that effect was made to him by the 
Marquis of Lajatico, special ambassador to London. And although 
he (Philipps) is now dead and has legally bequeathed these letters 
and other things to the British Museum, we are still unable to make 
use of them, his creditors having come forward to prevent his will 
from being executed." Now it was impossible for me to write a bio- 
graphy of MachiavelH, without making every effort to gain a sight 
of the " many" volumes of private letters of which the existence was 
thus positively asserted. Setting inquiries on foot, I ascertained 
that Lord Guildford had really purchased in Florence three volumes 
of manuscript letters, the which were indicated in his printed cata- 
logue as inedited letters of MachiavelH, and further described as 
a literary treasure of inestimable value. These letters were after- 
wards purchased by the great English collector of manuscripts of 
all kinds. Sir Thomas Phillipps, and were by him bequeathed, 
with the rest of his Hbrary, to his daughter, the wife of the Rev. 
E. Fenwick, and now resident in the neighbourhood of Chelten- 

I A 


ham. To Clicltonham I accordingly went and at last held in my 
hands the three mysterious volumes. Tlie reader will readily 
appreciate my surprise, my disappointment, on discovering that in 
the whole three volumes there was only a single letter which could 
even be supposed to have been written by Machiavelli ! 

The volumes in question are in ancient handwriting, are marked 
in the Phillipps' catalogue, No. 8238, and are entitled : "Carteggio 
Originale di Niccolo Machiavelli, al tempo che fu segrctario della 
Repubblica fiorentina. Inedito." 

The first letter — which has no impcntance — bears date of the 
20th of October, 1508, is written in the name of the Ten, and at 
the bottom of the page has the name Nic° Maclavello, appended 
to it, according to the usual custom of the coadjutor who copied 
the registers of the Chancery. This is the sole letter of which the 
minute may possibly have been his, but we cannot be quite sure 
even of this. All the other letters — beginning with the second of 
the first volume — are dated from 1513, when he was already out 
of oflice, and the Medici reinstated in Florence, down to 1526. 
Always addressed to Francesco Vettori, now ambassador to Rome, 
now envoy elsewhere, always written in the name of the Otto di 
Pratica who succeeded to the Ten in 1512, the initials N. M. are 
to be found at the bottom of almost every page. Occasionally, 
however, we find the name of Niccol5 Michelozzi, sometimes 
abbreviated, sometimes in full, and it was Michelozzi who was 
Chancellor of the Otto di Pratica during that period. The first 
letter, therefore, extracted from some register of the Republic, 
was placed at the beginning of these volumes, for the sole purpose 
of deceiving the too credulous purchaser, who had he taken the 
trouble to look at the dates, must have understood that the others 
could not possibly be by Machiavelli. So, having examined the 
catalogue of the enormous Phillipps's library and taken a few 
notes from other Italian manuscripts contained in it, I went back 
to Florence with nothing gained save the certainty of the non- 
existence of the supposed correspondence. 

And now one last word only remains to be said. It frequently 
happens that authors are pushed by some secret idea to the 
choice of their subject. What chiefly urged me to mine was, that 
the Italian Renaissance, of which Machiavelli was undoubtedly 
one of the principal representatives, is the period in which our 
national spirit had its last really original manifestation. It was 
followed by a prolonged slumber from which we are only now 
awakening. Hence the study of this period of our history may, if I 
am not mistaken, prove doubly useful to us, not only by acquainting 
us with a very splendid portion of our old culture, but likewise by 


offering us more than one explanation of the vices against which 
we are still combating at the present day, and of the virtues which 
have assisted our regeneration. And the lesson will be all the 
more valuable, the better the historian remembers that his mission 
is not to preach precepts of morality and politics, but only to 
endeavour to revive the past, of which the present is born, and 
from which it derives continual light, continual teaching. This at 
least is the idea that has given me encouragement and comfort, 
by keeping alive in me the hope that, even far from the world 
and shut up with my books, I am not forgetful of the mighty 
debt, which now more than ever — in the measure of our strength 
— we all owe to our country. 



Preface to the New Edition 
Preface to First Edition . 


I. The Renaissance 
II. The Principal Italian States 






III. Literature 

1. Petrarch and the Revival of Learning 

2. Learned Men in Florence 

3. Learned Men in 

4. Milan and Francesco Filelfo 

5. Learned Men in Naples . 

6. The Minor Italian States . 

7. The Platonic Academy 

8. Revival of Italian Literature 

IV. Political Condition of Italy at the end of 
Century ... . . 

1. The Election of Pope Alexander VI. 

2. The Arrival of Charles VIII. in Italy 

3. The Borgia .... 

4. Savonarola and the Republic of Florence 



. 21 

. 21 

. 28 

. 36 

, 44 

• 55 
. 63 

• 63 

• 71 

• 93 
. no 

. 114 

. 116 

. 123 

. 136 


. 168 

. 168 

. 176 

. 190 

. 203 






CHAPTER I. (1469-1498.) 


l!irth and Early Studies of Niccolo Macliiavelli — His election as Secretary 

of the Ten .....,._ 217 

CHAPTER H. {1498-1499.) 

NiccoW Machiavelli begins to exercise the office of Secretary to the Ten 

His mission to Forii — Condemnation and Death of Paolo Vitelli 

" Discourse upon Pisan affairs " ...... 2^0 

CHAPTER HI. (1499-1500. 

Louis XH. in Italy — Defeat and imprisonment of the Moor — Niccold Machia- 
velli at the camp before Pisa — Eirst embassy to France , . , 247 

CHAPTER IV. (1501-1502.) 

Tumults in Pistoia, whither Machiavelli is sent — Valentinois in Tuscany ; the 
Condotta stipulated with the Florentines by him — New French armv in 
Italy — Fresh riots in Pistoia, and Machiavelli again sent there— The 
war with Pisa goes on— Rebellion of Arezzo, and the Val di Chiana— 
Machiavelli and Bishop Soderini despatched to Valentinois's Court at 
Urbino — The French come to assist in putting down disorders in Arezzo 
— " On the method of treating the rebellious population of the Val di 
Chiana" — Creation of a Gonfalonier for life . . . .261 

CHAPTER V. (1 502-1503.) 

Legation to the Duke of Valentinois in Romagna— The doings of the Pope 
in Rome at the same period — Machiavelli composes his " Descrizione " of 
events in Romagna • • • , . . 281 

CHAPTER VI. (1503.) 

Necessity for new taxes — "Discorso sulla provvisione del denaro" — Defensive 
measures against the Borgia — War with Pisa — New misdeeds of the 
Pope— Predominance of the Spaniards in the Neapolitan kingdom- 
Death of Alexander VI.— Election of Pius IH. and of Julius II.'' . 314 

CHAPTER VIL (1503-1504.) 

The Florentines show themselve's hostile to the Venetians — Legation to Rome 
— The Spaniards are victorious in Naples — Second Legation to France 
— Renewal of the war with Pisa — Fruitless attempts to turn the course 
of the Arno — First " Decennale " — A lost manuscript . . -32 


CHAPTER VIII. (1505-1507.) 


Sad conditions of Umbria — Legation to Perugia — War perils — New Legation 
to Sienna — Defeat of Alviano — The Florentines attack Pisa, and are re- 
pulsed — Legation to the Court of Julius II. — Institution of the Florentine 
Militia '......- ,354 


The age of Julius II. — Fine Arts — Leonardo da Vinci — Michel Angelo — 
Raffaello — The new literature — Ariosto — The early writings of Francesco 
Guicciardini > r . - . . 3S3 

CHAPTER X. {1506-1510.) 

Machiavelli superintends the drilling of the Militia — His journey to Sienna — - 
General condition of Europe — Maximilian makes preparations for coming 
into Italy, to assume the imperial crown — Machiavelli's mission to the 
Emperor — His writings on France and Germany - . . 420 

CHAPTER XL (150S-1509.) 

Fresh devastation of Pisan territory — Negotiations with France and Spain- 
Pisa is pressed on all sides — Machiavelli goes to Piombino to arrange 
terms of capitulation— Pisa surrenders, and is occupied by the Florentines 449 

CHAPTER XIL (150S-1510.) 

The League of Cambray and the battle of Agnadello— The humiliation of 
Venice — A Legation to Mantua — "The second Decennale" — Machia- 
velli's small vexations — The Pope as the ally of Venice and enemy of 
France — Renewal of the war — Third Legation to France . . 461 

CHAPTER XIII. (1510-1511.) 

Soderini's enemies take heart — Cardinal dei Medici gains favour— Soderini 
lenders an account of his administration — Conspiracy of Prinzivalle 
della Stufa — Taking of Mirandola — Council of Pisa — Mission to Pisa — 
Fourth Legation to France ..#... 479 


I. An Autograph Letter of Machiavelli, though not written in his name, 

without signature, date, or address, relating to family affairs . 495 

II. Letter of the Ten of Balia to Paolo Vitclh, urging him to take Pisa by 

storm. — 15th August, 1499 r . ; . • . 496 

JII. Letter of the Ten to the Florentine Commissaries at the Camp of 

Captain Paolo Vitelli.— 20th August, 1499 .... 497 








Another Leltcr of the Ten to the Florentine Commissaries witli Paolo 
Vitclli.- 25tli August, 1499, attributed to iMaciiia\elli . . 4y8 

Letter of the Ten to the Commissary Giacomini Tebalducci. — ist July, 
1502 (Machiavelli's autograph) ..... 499 

Letter of the Ten to the Commissary at Borgo la S. .Se potcro. — 
I4lh May, 1503 (Machiavelli's autograph) . , . . 500 

Letter of the Tm to the Commissaries at the Camp before Pisa. — 27ih 
May, 1503 (Machiavelli's autograph) .... 501 

Letter of the Ten to Antonio Giacomini. — 29th August, 1504 . 503 

Letter of the Ten to the Commissary T. Tosinghi. — 28th September, 
1504 (Machiavelli's autograph) ..... 504 

Letter of the Ten to the Commissary T. Tosinghi. — 30th September, 
1504 (Machiavelli's autograph) ". . . 506 

Letter of the Ten to the Captain of Leghorn. — loth Jrnunry, 1504 
(1505) (Machiavelli's autograph) ..... 507 

Machiavelli's Report on the Institution of the New Militia . 508 



niccolO machiavelli. 



T would be difficult to find any period in the 
history of modern Europe equal in importance 
with that distinguished in History under the 
name of the Renaissance. Standing midway 
between the decay of the Middle Ages and 
the rise of modern institutions, we may say 
that it was already dawning in the days of 
Dante Alighieri, whose immortal works while 
giving us the synthesis of a dying age herald the birth of a new 
era. This new era — the Renaissance — began with Petrarch and 
his learned contemporaries, and ended with Martin Luther and 
the Reformation, an event that not only produced signal changes 
in the history of nations which remained Catholic, but transported 
beyond the Alps the centre of gravity of European culture. 

During the period of which we treat, we behold a rapid 
social transformation in Italy, an enormous intellectual activity. 
On all sides old traditions, forms, and institutions were crumbhng 
and disappearing to make way for new. The Scholastic method 

VOL. I. 2 


violdcd tlic place to pliilosophy, the principle of aulliority kll 
before the advance of free reason and free exaiiiiiiatiun. 

Then the study of natural science began ; Leon Battista 
Alberti and Leonardo da Vinci hazarded the first steps in search 
of the experimental method ; commerce and industry advanced ; 
voyages were multiplied, and Christopher Columbus discovered 
America. The art of printing, invented in Germany, quickly 
became an Italian trade. Classical learning was everywhere dif- 
fused, and the use of the Latin tongue, — now more than ever the 
universal language of civilized people — placed Italy in close relation 
with the rcbt of Europe, as its accepted adviser and mistress 
of learning. Political science and the art of war were created ; 
chronicles gave way to the political histories of Guicciardini 
and Machiavelli ; ancient culture sprang into new life, and amid 
many other new forms of literary composition the romance of 
chivalry came into existence. Brunelleschi created a new archi- 
tecture, Donatcllo restored sculpture, Masaccio and a myriad of 
Tuscan and Umbrian painters prepared the way, by the study of 
nature, for Raphael and Michel Angelo. The world seemed 
renewed and rejuvenated by the splendid sun of Italian culture. 

But, in the midst of this vivid splendour, strange and inex- 
plicable contradictions were to be found. This rich, indus- 
trious, intelligent people, before whom all Europe stood, as it 
were, in an ecstasy of admiration — this people was rapidly 
becoming corrupt. Everywhere liberty was disappearing, tyrants 
were springing up, family ties seemed to be slackened, the domestic 
hearth was profaned : no man longer trusted to the good faith 
of Italians. Both politically and morally the nation had become 
too feeble to resist the onslaught of any foreign power ; the first 
army that passed the Alps traversed the peninsula almost without 
striking a blow, and was soon followed by others who devastated 
and trampled the country with equal impunity. 

Accustomed as we are now to hear daily that knowledge and 
culture constitute the greatness and prove the measure of a 
nation's strength, we are naturally led to inquire how Italy could 
become so weak, so corrupt, so decayed, in the midst of her 
intellectual and artistic pre-eminence I 

It is easy to say, that the fault lay with the Italians, who tore 
' each other to pieces instead of uniting for the common defence. 
But to assert their guilt does not explain it. Was not the Italy 
of the Middle Ages more divided and yet stronger ? were not 
the civil wars and reprisals of those days even blinder and more 
sanguinary ? Nor is it enough to say that the country had been 
exhausted by the struggles and dearly-bought grandeur of the 


Middle Ages. How can we call a nation exhausted at the very 
moment when its intelligence and activity are transforming the 
face of the world ? Instead of wearily trying to formulate general 
judgments, it is better to turn our attention to the observation and 
description of facts. And the principal fact of the fifteenth century 
is this : that Italian mediaeval institutions having engendered 
a new state of society and great civil progress, suddenly became 
not only insufficient, but dangerous. Hence a radical transforma- 
tion and revolution became unavoidable. And it was precisely 
at the moment when this social convulsion was going on in Italy, 
that foreign invaders fell upon the land and checked all internal 

The Middle Ages were ignorant of the political organism known 
to us as the State, which unites and co-ordinates social forces 
according to precise rules. Instead, society was then divided 
into Fiefs and Sub-fiefs, into great and little Communes, and 
the Commune was merely a truss of minor associations, badly 
bound together. Above this vast and disordered mass stood the 
Papacy and the Empire, which, although increasing the general 
confusion by their frequent wars against each other, still gave 
some rough unity to the civilized world: In the fifteenth century 
all this was entirely changed. On the one hand, great nations 
were gradually coming into shape ; on the other, the authority of 
the empire was restricted in Germany, in Italy little more than a 
memory of the past. The Pontiffs, occupied in constituting an 
actual and personal temporal power, although still at the head of 
the universal Church, could no longer pretend to the political 
dominion of the world, but aspired to be as other sovereigns. In 
this state of things, the Commune which had formed the past 
grandeur of Italy, entered on a substantially new phase of 
existence to which historians have attached too little importance. 

The Commune had now obtained its long-desired independence, 
and had only its own strength to rely upon : in all wars with its 
neighbours it could no longer hope nor fear the interposition of a 
superior authority. Hence it became necessary to enlarge its own 
territory and increase its strength, the more so, since in whatever 
direction it looked, it beheld great States and military monarchies 
in process of formation throughout Europe. But owing to the 
political constitution of the Commune, every extension of territory 
evoked dangers of so grave a nature as to imperil its very exis- 
tence. We may really say that a fatal hour had struck in which 
exactly what was most necessary to it, threatened the gravest 
danger. The Commune of the Middle Ages was ignorant of 
representative government, and only understood a government 


directed by its free citizens ; therefore, it was necessary to restrict 
these to a very small number, in order to avoid anarchy. For 
this reason the right of citizenship was a privilege conceded to 
only a few of those who dwelt within the circuit of the city walls. 
Florence, the most democratic republic in Italy, which in 1494 
attained to its most liberal constitution, numbered at that date 
about qo,ooo inhabitants, of whom only 3,200 were citizens 
jiroper.' Even the Ciompi, in their disorderly revolt, had not 
claimed citizenship for all. As to the territory outside the walls, 
it was considered enough to have abolished servitude ; no one 
contemplated giving it a share in the government. This state of 
things was based, not only on the statutes, laws, and existing cus- 
toms, but also in the profound and radical convictions of the most 
illustrious men. Dante Alighieri, who had taken no small part 
in the very democratic law of the Ordinamenti di Giusttzia 
(Rules of Justice) at the time of Giano della Bella, speaks with 
regret in his poem of the days when the territory of the Commune 
only extended a few paces beyond the walls, and the inhabitants 
of the neighbouring lands of Campi, Figline, and Signa had not 
begun to mix with those of Florence ; 

" Senipre la confusion delle persone 

rrincipio fu del mal della cittade."' 

And Petrarch, who dreamed of the ancient empire, and was so 
enthusiastic for Cola di Rienzo, advised that in reorganizing the 
Roman republic, its government should be confided to the citizens 
proper, excluding as foreigners the inhabitants of Latium, and 
even the Orsini and the Colonna, because these families, although 
Roman, were, in his opinion, of foreign descent. 

Accordingly, whenever the territory of one Commune became 
enlarged by the submission to it of another, this latter, however 
mildly governed, found itself completely shut out from political 
life, and its principal citizens driven forth into exile in foreign parts. 
The spectacle of a Pisan or a Pistoian in the Councils of the 
Florentine republic Avould have been as extraordinary as now-a- 
days that of a citizen of Paris or Berlin seated on the benches 
of the Italian Parliament. It was far preferable then to fall under 
a monarchy, since all subjects of a monarchy enjoyed equal 
privileges, and every inhabitant of every province was eligible for 
public offices. In fact, Guicciardini remarked to Machiavelli, 

' Villari, "The Histor}- of G. Savonarola," translated by L. Ilorner, London. 
Longmans, 1863. 
' " Paradiso," x'.-i. 66-8. See also the lines 42-72. 


when the latter was sketching the plan of a great Italian republic, 
that such a form of government would be to the advantage of a 
single city and the ruin of all others ; since a republic never grants 
the benefit of its freedom " to any but its own proper citizens," 
whereas monarchy " is more impartial to all." ' And no terror could 
equal that experienced by the Italian republics when Venice, — who 
yet granted greater freedom to her subjects than any other, — 
turned her attention to the mainland, and aspired to the dominion 
of the peninsula. They would have preferred, not monarchy 
alone, but even foreign monarchy, since then they might preserve 
some local independence, which in those days could not be hoped 
for in Italy under a republic. Guicciardini considered that Cosmo 
dei Medici, in aiding Francesco Sforza to become Lord of Milan, 
saved the liberty of all Italy, which would otherwise have fallen 
under Venetian domination.^ And Niccolo Machiavelli, who so 
frequently sighed for a republic, yet in all his official letters, in all 
his missions, always speaks of Venice as the chief enemy of Italian 

In this condition of things, with these convictions, it was impos- 
sible to hope that the Commune could unite Italy by the formation 
of a strong republic. One might hope in a confederation or in a 
monarchy ; but the first presupposed a central government diffe- 
rent from that of the Commimes, in which the city was no longer 
the state, and was in opposition with the Papacy and the kings of 
Naples. A monarchy instead, found arrayed against it, on the 
one hand that ancient love of liberty which had made Italy 
glorious, and on the other the Popes, who, placed in the centre of 
the Peninsula, too weak to be able to unite it, but strong enough 
to prevent others from doing so, from time to time called in 
foreigners who came to turn all things upside down. For all 
these reasons the Commune, once the strength and greatness of 
Italy, may be said to have outlived itself in presence of the novel 
social problems now arising on all sides, and among the 
thousand dangers welling up in its own bosom. The Commune 
had proclaimed liberty and equality. How then could the lower 
classes, who had fought and conquered feudalism side by side with 
the wealthy merchant class, be content to be excluded from the 
government ? 

Neither could the inhabitants of the territory without the walls, 

' Guicciardini, " Opere Inedite," puLlished by Counts Piero and Luigi Guicci- 
ardini, in FJorence, from 1857 to 1866, in ten vols. See in vol. i. (" Considera- 
zioni intorno dei Discorsi di Machiavelli ") the consideration on chap. xii. of the 
" Discourses." Guicciardini at this point styles kingdom what we call monarchy, 
and monarchy the union of many Communes in one republic. 

* "Opere Inedile," vol. iii. ; " Storia di Firenze," pp. 8, 9. 


who were bound to take arms in the defence of their country, 
be disposed to tolerate entire exclusion from every public office, 
from every right of citizenship. And as the territory extended, and 
new cities were vanquished, the number of the oppressed increased, 
and passions became inflamed as the disproportion between the 
small number of the governinjr and the great number of the 
governed continually augmented, and all equilibrium became 
impossible. Had a skilful tyrant then stepped forward, he would 
have been supported by an infinite multitude of malcontents, to 
whom he would have appeared in the light of a liberator, or at 
least in tlaat of an avenger. 

And if we turn our eyes from political conditions to social, we 
shall notice a transformation of equal gravity and equal danger. 
Looked at from afar, at first sight, the Communes of the Middle 
Ages appear to be small states in the modern sense of the word ; 
yet in reality they were merely agglomerations of a thousand 
different associations. Greater guilds (Arti), and lesser guilds, 
societies and leagues all arranged as so many republics with their 
assemblies, statutes, tribunals, and ambassadors. These were 
sometimes stronger than the central government of which they 
did the work when — as often happens in times of revolution 
— that government was entirely suspended. We might almost 
say that the strength of the Commune consisted entirely in the 
associations that divided and governed it. To these the citizens 
were so tenaciously attached that often they gave their lives in 
defence of the republic, merely because it shielded the existence 
of the association to which they belonged, and prevented it from 
falling a prey to others. 

Hence the Middle Ages have justly been called the ages of 
associations and castes. The great number and variety of these 
produced an infinite variety of characters and passions unknown 
to the ancient world ; but the modern individual, independence, 
was not yet created, every individual being then absorbed as it 
were, in the caste in which and for which he lived. In fact, 
during a very long period, Italian history seldom records the 
names of the politicians, soldiers, artists, and poets who were the 
founders and defenders of the Communes, the creators of Italian 
institutions, letters and arts. They were Guelphs and Ghibellines, 
major and minor arts or trades, wandering poets, master masons, 
always associations or parties, never individuals. Even the colossal 
figures of popes and emperors derive their importance, less from 
their personal characteristics and qualities, than from the system 
to which they belonged, or the institution they represented. 

All this rapidly disappeared in the fifteenth century. Dante's 


Titanic form stood out from the mediaeval background, in the 
midst of which he still lived, and he boasted with pride of having 
been his own party. The names of poets, painters, and party 
leaders were now frequently heard, and individual characters 
began to be seen in distinct prominence above the crowd. We 
behold a general transformation of Italian society, which, after 
having destroyed feudalism and proclaimed equality, found itself 
compelled to dissolve the associations that had helped to constitute 
it in its new form. And more than elsewhere this is most clearly 
seen in Florence where the Ordinamenti di Ghistizia (1293) 
abased the nobility and drove them from the government ; sup- 
pressed certain of the associations ; rendered cliques impossible ; 
and for the first time placed a Gonfalonier ^ at the head of the 
Commun;";. The necessity of beginning to constitute the unity of 
the modern state was a natural result of the increasing democratic 
form assumed by the Commune ; this was indeed the weighty 
problem Italy had to solve in the fifteenth century. But the 
period of change and transition was beset by a thousand dangers ; 
old institutions fell to pieces before ncAV arose, each individual, 
left to his own guidance, was solely ruled by personal interest 
and egotism ; hence moral corruption became inevitable. 

Morality, in the Middle Ages, had its chief basis in the closeness 
of family bonds and class ties. Of such bonds both law and 
custom were very jealous guardians : they kept up family 
inheritances, prevented their removal by marriage to another 
Commune ; and moreover rendered marriage extremely difficult 
between persons, not only of different Communes, but even of 
opposing parties in the same city. Hence in the bosom of each 
caste we find a great community of interests ; tenacious affection 
and great spirit of sacrifice ; much jealousy and frequent acts of 
hatred and revenge against neighbours. Little by little all this 
vanished, owing to the snapping of old ties by political reform, 
by increased equality, and by the increased application of the 
imperial Roman law rendering women less subject to the 
domination of their male relatives. And precisely as the Com- 
mune had been suddenly left to rely upon its own resources 
on the cessation of Imperial or Papal supremacy, so the 
citizen, released from all bonds, found himself in isolated depen- 
dence on his own strength. He could no longer feel the old 
interest in the fate of neighbours who no longer concerned them- 
selves with him ; his future, his worldly condition, now solely 

' I have treated this argument at length in an article entitled "La Rcpublica 
riorentina al tempo di Dante Alighieri," published in the " Nuova Antologia," 
vol. xi. pp. 443 and following (July, 1869). 


depended on his own individual qualities. I'lms at one and the 
satne time egotism became a power in society ami human individu- 
ality developed in ever Iresh and varying forms. Not only did 
individual names multiply and ambitious iaction-Icaders arise on 
all sides ; but the civil wars of the Connnunes seemed to be con- 
verted into personal feuds ; cities were divided by the names of 
their most powerful and turbulent citizens ; families split asunder 
and tore each other to pieces ; men no longer recognized the 
sanctity of any bond. The prejudices, traditions, virtues and 
vices of the Middle Ages all disappeared to make way for another 
state of society and other men. 

All who take into consideration the double transformation 
M-hich our Republics have undergone will perceive that while on 
the one hand they were weakened by the aggrandisement of their 
territories, and felt increasing need of a central government of 
greater strength, bearing more equally upon all, on the other 
hand in proportion to the loosening of the bonds of caste, the 
number increased of ambitious and audacious individuals whose 
only object was the acquisition of power. The outbreak of these 
ambitions at the very time in which the Communes were natu- 
rally tending towards monarchial forms, constituted a very serious 
danger ; and thus, as at one time Communes had sprung up all 
over Italy, so now the hour had struck for the uprising of 

But whatever his vices, the Italian tyrant had a certain indi- 
viduaHty of character, a real historical importance. It was not 
necessary for him to be of noble or powerful descent, nor even 
to be the first-born of his house. A tradesman, a bastard, an 
adventurer of any kind, might command an army, head a revo- 
lution, become a tyrant, provided that he had audacity and the 
talent of success. History records many strange tales of this 
sort, and the Italian novelists who so faithfully depicted the 
manners of their times, often cut jests about obscure persons who 
took it into their heads to try and become tyrants ; as, for 
instance of that shoemaker who, as Sacchetti tells us, " wished to 
possess himself of the lands of Alesser Ridolfo da Camerino." * 
The fifteenth century was rightly styled the age of adventurers 
and bastards. Borso d'Este at Ferrara, Sigismondo Malatesta at 
Kimini, Francesco Sforza at Milan, Ferdinand of Aragon at 
Naples, and many other lords and princes were bastards. No one 
was longer bound by any conventions or traditions ; everything 
depended on the personal qualities of those who dared to tempt 
fortune, on the friends and adherents whom they knew how to gain, 
* Novella XC. edit. Le Monnier, Florence, 1860-61. 


Compelled to snatch their power from the midst of a thousand 
risks and a thousand rivals, they lived in a state of perpetual war- 
fare and licence : no scruples forbade them the use of violence, 
treason, or bloodshed. For these men, wrong-doing had no limits 
save those imposed by expediency and personal needs ; they 
looked upon it as a means adapted to reach a desired end. 
To exceed those limits was regarded not as a crime but as a 
folly unworthy of a politician, since it brought no advantage. 
Their conscience ignored remorse, their reason calculated 
and measured everything ; but even when all difficulties were 
overcome, and success attained, their dangers were by no means 
at an end. It was necessary to struggle against the fierce dis- 
content of those who, by force of habit, couH not bear to live 
without taking part in the government ; against the savage dis- 
appointment of those rival aspirants to tyrannical power who had 
been forestalled or defeated. When a popular rising was put 
down by force, daggers were secretly pointed from every side, 
and plots were all the more cruel, since they bore the stamp of 
personal revenge ; were woven by friends, by members of the 
family : the nearest relations, — often brothers, — were seen con- 
tending for the throne with steel and poison. Thus the Italian 
tyrant was, as it were, condemned to reconquer his kingdom 
daily ; and to this end he considered any and every means 

In this miserable state of things, personal courage, military 
valour, and a remorseless conscience were not the only qualities 
required ; it was also needful to have great presence of mind, 
astute cunning, profound knowledge of men and things, and 
above all complete control of personal passions. it was 
necessary to study social, as we study natural phenomena, to 
have no illusions, to depend upon nothing but reality. It was 
imperative for every tyrant to thoroughly understand his own king- 
dom, and the men among whom he lived, in order to be able to 
dominate them, to discover a fitting form of government, to build 
up an administrative system, justice, police, public works, every- 
thing in short, on the ruins of the past. All substantial power was 
concentrated in the tyrant's hands, and the unity of the new state 
came into birth as his personal creation. And with him were 
born the science and the art of government ; but at the same 
time an opinion was diffused, that afterwards became a very 
general and fatal error — namely, that laws and institutions are 
inventions of the statesmen, rather than the natural results of the 
nation's history and social and civil development. During the 
IMiddle Ages, state and history were believed to be the work of 


Providence, in which human will and reason had no part ; 
during the Konaissance, on the contrary, everything was thought 
to be the work of man, who, if foiled in his intents, could blame 
none but himself and Fortune, which was held to have a large 
share in the ordering of human destinies. In a country so divided 
and subdivided as Italy, these vicissitudes were everywhere 
multiplied and repeated ; and it is easy to imagine how much 
and in how many different ways they contributed to the cor- 
ruption of the country. Tyrants sprang up among republics, 
popes, and Neapolitan kings, and all being jealous one of the 
other, sought the friendship of neighbours and foreigners, in 
order to weaken and divide their enemies. Thus plots and 
intrigues increased ad infinitum^ and at the same time a strange 
network of political interests was formed which multiplied the 
international relations of the different states, caused the first idea 
of political balance to arise in Italy, and endued our diplomacy 
with marvellous activity, intelligence, and wisdom. Those were 
days in which every Italian seemed a born diplomatist : the 
merchant, the man of letters, the captain of adventurers, 
knew how to address and discourse with kings and emperors, 
duly observing all conventional forms, and with an admirable 
display of acumen and penetration. The despatches of our 
ambassadors were among the chief historical and literary 
monuments of those times. The Venetians stood in the first 
rank for practical good sense and observation of facts, the 
Florentines for elegance of style and subtle perception of cha- 
racter, but they had worthy rivals in the ambassadors of other 
states. Thus, the art of speaking and writing became a for- 
midable weapon, and one that was highly prized by Italians. 
It was then that adventurers, immovable by threats, prayers, 
or pity, were seen to yield to the verses of a learned man. 
Lorenzo dei Medici went to Naples, and by force of argument 
persuaded Ferrante d'Aragona to put an end to the war and 
conclude an alliance with him. Alfonso the Magnanimous, a 
prisoner of Filippo Maria Visconti, and whom all believed dead, 
was instead honourably liberated because he had the skill to 
convince that gloomy and cruel tyrant that it would better serve 
his turn to have the Aragonese at Naples than the followers of 
Anjou, winding up his argument by saying : " Would'st thou 
rather satisfy thy appetite than secure thee thy State ? " ' 
In a revolution at Prato, got up by Bernardo Nardi, this leader, 
according to Machiavelli, had already thrown the halter round 

' Machiavelli, " Storie," vol. xi. lib. v. p. II. We generally quote the Vf-orks 
of this author from the edition of 1813. 


the neck of the Florentine Podesta when the latter 's fine reason- 
ing persuaded him to spare his life ; and thus nothing more 
went well with him.'' Such facts may sometimes be exaggerations 
or even wholly fictitious j but seeing them so constantly re- 
peated and believed, proves what were the ideas and temper of 
these men. 

Therefore it is not astonishing if even tyrants loved study and 
ardently encouraged art, literature, and culture in every shape. 
And they did this, not merely from a keen perception of the 
art of governing or as a means for turning the people's attention 
from politics ; it was likewise a necessity of their condition, a true 
and real intellectual need. A well-written diplomatic note, 
a skilful discourse, could resolve the gravest political questions. 
To what did the Italian tyrant owe his dominions, if not to 
his own intelligence ? How could he be indifferent to the arts 
which educated it and increased his importance ? His happiest 
hours of rest from state affairs were passed among books, literati, 
and artists. The museum and the library were to him that 
which the stable and the cellar were to many feudal lords of the 
north ; everything that could cultivate or refine the mind was 
a necessary element of his life : in his palace the perfect courtier 
was formed, the modern gentleman came into existence. 

There was, however, a strange contradiction in the men of that 
period, a contradiction that often appears to us an insoluble 
enigma. We can forgive the savage passions and crimes of the 
Middle Ages, or can at all events understand them, but to 
behold men who speak and think like ourselves, men who 
experience genuine delight before a Madonna by Fra Angelico 
or Luca della Robbia, before the aerial curves of Alberti's 
and Brunelleschi's architecture, men who show disgust at a coarse 
attitude, at a gesture that is not of the most finished elegance _; to 
behold these men abandon themselves to the most_ atrocious 
crimes, the most obscene vices ; to behold them using poison 
to dismiss from the world some dangerous rival or relative : this 
it is that we cannot comprehend. It was a transitional period in 
which it may be said that the passions and characteristics of two 
different ages had been grafted one upon the other, in order to 
form before our eyes a mysterious sphinx which excites our 
wonder and almost our fear. But we should be too severe 
towards it were we to forget that one age may not be judged by 
the creeds and rules of another. 

In whatever direction we turn our eyes, we behold the same 
facts reproduced under different forms. The miliUuy forces of 
» Machiavelli, " Storie," lib. vii. p. 1S4. 


the fifteenth century were no longer tliose of the Middle Ages, 
and, though widely dinVrcnt from, gave birth to the modern 
army. In the times of the Communes, wars were carried on by 
lightly armed foot-soldiers. Every spring the merchant, the 
artizan, buckled on their breastplates, marched outside the walls 
to the attack of baronial castles and neighbouring lands, and then 
went quietly back to their workshops. Very little importance 
was given to cavalry, which, for the most part, consisted of nobles. 
But as time went on all this entirely changed. Wars became 
much more complicated, and an army's main strength consisted 
in the heavy cavalry, or, as the phrase went, in the men-at-arms. 
Each one of these was followed by two or three horsemen, 
bearing the heavy armour, which he and his charger only donned 
in the hour of action, for its weight was so terrible, that if they 
fell to the ground with it, they could not rise again without help. 
And this species of iron-clad tower wielded a lance of enormous 
length, with which he could overthrow a foot-soldier before the 
latter could reach him with halberd or sword. One squadron of 
this cavalry was always enough to rout an army of infantry, until 
the invention of gunpowder and improvement of firearms again 
transformed the art of war. The Florentines learnt this to their 
cost, when on the field of Montaperti (1260) a handful of German 
cavalry, joined to the Ghibelline exiles, put to rout the strongest 
infantry force ever collected in Tuscany. And at Campaldino 
(1289) the Tuscan foot had to throw themselves under the horses 
of the men-at-arms and rip them up before they could win the 
battle. This uqw method of fighting had a fatal result for our 
republics. It required long training and continual practice to 
form a good man-at-arms ; how could artizans and merchants find 
time for that ? There were no standing armies in those days, 
and the aristocracy, which alone could have been trained to 
live under arms, had been destroyed in the Italian Communes. 
What then was to be done ? Recourse was had to foreigners, 
and the use of mercenary troops began. 

In other countries the aristocracy preserved its power ; and 
accordingly there were plenty of men who made fighting their trade. 
These were always nobles with a following of vassals. Every 
time that the Emperor descended vipon Italy, every time that the 
party of Anjou resumed their continual enterprises upon Naj^les, 
or the Spaniards made some new raid, there remained behind at 
the end of the campaign a number of soldiers and disbanded 
troops, who, eager of adventure, sought and took service under the 
different lords and Republics. The first arrivals always attracted 
others, for bountiful pay was given, and foreigners found us easy 


prey by reason of our lack or men-at-arms. Bands of adventurers 
began to be formed who sold their swords to the highest bidder. 
These soon became insolent bullies, dictating laws to friends 
and enemies alike. But httle by little the Italians began to enrol 
themseh^es under these banners, and fascinated by the new way of 
life, multiplied so rapidly and succeeded so well that they soon set 
about forming native companies. Certainly there was no lack of 
material among us for captains and soldiers. What better career for 
party leaders who had been defeated in their ambitious design by 
still more ambitious rivals ? They hurried to join the first band 
of adventurers they could find, and trained themselves to arms in 
order to command later a squadron or company of their own. By 
serving under a noted leader, or forming a band, the pettiest 
tvrants were enabled to defend and aggrandize their own State. 
When one Republic was conquered and subdued by another, the 
citizens who had ruled and then unsuccessfully defended it, some- 
times emigrated en masse to wander about as adventurers, and 
sought in warfare the liberty they had lost at home. Thus did 
the Pisans when their Republic fell into the hands of the Floren- 
tines, and thus did many others. Country districts gave a good 
number of soldiers, and certain provinces like Romagna, the 
Marshes, and Umbria — where anarchy was so great that men 
seemed to live by rapine, vengeance, and brigandage — were a 
nursery and mart of mercenary leaders and soldiers. 

These bands can neither be called a mediaeval nor a modern 
institution. Peculiar to a transitional period, they had a temporary 
character, being composed of fragments of all the recently 
destroyed old institutions, and were altogether disastrous ; but 
nevertheless they were imbued with the spirit of the new Italian 
Renaissance, and owed their importance to it. Our Italian 
companies soon began to gain the upper hand over the 
foreign — especially after Alberico da Barbiano had created his 
new art of war — and assumed a different form and character. 
For the foreign bands were commanded by a council of leaders, 
each one of whom had great authority over his own men, who 
were generally, at least in part, his private vassals, and were 
ready to follow him and separate from the others whenever 
required. In Italy, on the contrary, the importance and 
strength of the band depended entirely on the valour and 
military genius of the man who commanded and almost personi- 
fied it. The soldiers obeyed the supreme Avill of their head, 
without, however, being bound to him by any personal fealty 
or submission, and were ready to forsake him in favour of a more 
famous leader or higher pay. War became the work of a 


directing niiiul ; the army was held together by the name and 
courage of its commander ; every battle was, as it were, his own 
military creation. 

Thus was formed the school of Alberico da Barbiano, to be 
speedily followed by those of Braccio da Montone, the Sforza, 
the Piccinini, and many more, each learning his trade in 
another's ranks. The Italian captain created the science and 
art of war, as the prince created the science and art of 
government. Both in one and the other were the highest 
manifestations of talent and individuality ; in both the one and 
the other the moral strength was lacking which alone can give 
true stability to the works of man. The individual was nowhere 
more free from the conventional ties of the Middle Ages than in 
these bands ; his fame and power alike depended solely on his 
own courage, his own genius. 

Muzio Attendolo. Sforza, one of the most terrible captains of 
his time, and who became High Constable of the Kingdom of 
Naples, had originally been a field-labourer, and began his 
military career as a stable-boy. His natural son, Francesco, 
was Duke of Milan. Carmagnola, commander-in-chief of the 
Venetian's most formidable armies, and lord of many estates, 
began life as a herdsman. Niccolo Piccinini, before becoming 
a famous captain, was a member of the guild of butchers in 
Perugia. Nor did these things cause the smallest surprise to any 
one. The free company was an open field to individual activity ; 
strength, luck, and talent alone commanded in it ; there were no 
traditional nor moral trammels of any sort. The Free Companies 
made war without serving any principle or any fatherland, 
transferring their aid from friends to enemies for higher pay or 
finer promises. As for military honour, maintenance of oaths, 
fidelity to his own banner, all such things were unknown to the 
free captain, who would have deemed it puerile and ridiculous to 
alloAV such obstacles to s':op him on the road to fortune and 
power, — the sole objects of his life. 

In many respects his career and character resembled those of 
the Italian tyrant. At the head of a complicated and difficult 
administration, he had daily to collect new soldiers, in order to 
fill vacancies in his ranks, caused more frequently by desertion 
than by the sword of the enemy, and he had daily to find the 
money for paying his men in peace and war. He was in con- 
tinual relations with the Italian States, seeking employment and 
gaining money by threats or promises, and corresponding with 
those who made the highest bids to carry him off from their 
adversary. In fact, he resembled the lord of some city that 


moved from place to place, a circumstance that did not make it 
easier to govern ; even as the tyrant, he lived in perpetual 
danger, and more so when at peace than at war. He was 
constantly threatened by the jealousies of the other leaders of bands 
or companies ; by the ambition of his subordinates, who often 
plotted conspiracies against him ; also by fear of being left 
without an engagement, and having to disband his army for 
Avant of funds. Having no certainty of his good faith, the States 
he served always held him in suspicion, and from doubts passed 
readily to deeds, as was seen by the fate of Carmagnola and Paolo 
Vitelli, suddenly seized and beheaded, the one by the Venetians, 
the other by the Florentines, at the head of whose armies they 
fought. It was singular, too, to see these men — generally of low 
origin and devoid of culture — surrounded in their camps by 
ambassadors, poets, and learned men, who read to them Livy and 
Cicero, and original verses, in which they were compared tc 
Scipio and Hannibal, to Caesar and Alexander. When, as very 
often happened, they conquered some territory on their own. 
account, or received it in return for their services, they were 
really captains and princes at the same time. 

Thus, then, war became a kind of diplomatic and commercial 
operation for the Italian States ; he was the conqueror who could 
find most money, procure most friends, and best flatter and 
reward the celebrated captains whose fidelity was only to be kept 
alive by fresh money and fresh hopes. But soon the true military 
spirit began to perish among these soldiers, who fought to-day 
against their comrades of yesterday, with whom they might be 
again united in the next four-and-twenty hours. Their object 
was no longer victory, but spoil. Later the Free Com])aiiies 
disappeared altogether, to be replaced by the standing armies for 
whom they had prepared the way ; but they left behind them a 
load of heavy calamities, during which Italians gave proof of much 
talent and great courage ; founded the new art of war ; mani- 
fested an infinite variety of aptitudes, qualities, and military charac- 
teristics ; and yet became continually weaker, continually more 

In literature we see more clearly than elsewhere the genera' 
transformation that took place at this time. Our historians in 
general deplore, without seeming to understand why the Italiar.?, 
after having created a splendid national literature by the " Diviini 
Commedia," the " Decamerone," and the " Canzoniere," ' should 
have gone astray from the glorious path, by turning to tl^e 
imitation of ancient writers, almost despising their own tongue, 
' Tlie Sonnels of Pc'.ir.icli. 


and upholding the use of Latin. But on reading the works of 
Dante and Petrarch and Boccaccio, it is easy to perceive that 
these authors opened the path trodden by the fifteenth century. 
In the " Divina Conimedia " antiquity holds throughout a post 
of honour, and is alniost sanctified by a boundless admiration ; in 
the " Decameron " Latin periods already transform and transplacc 
Italian periods ; Petrarch is undoubtedly the first of the men of 

Whoever compares Italian writers of the thirteenth century 
with those appearing' at the end of the fifteenth and the 
beginning of the sixteenth centuries, will speedily see that the 
time spent vipon the classics during that interval had not been 
thrown away. In fact, in reading, I will not say the " Fioretti di 
San Francesco " and the " Vite " of Cavalca, but the " Monarchia " 
and the " Convito " of Dante, and even the " Divina Commedia," 
Ave must, as it were, transport ourselves into another world ; the 
author frequently reasons in the old scholastic style ; neither 
observes nor sees the world as Ave see it. If, on the other hand, 
Ave look at the Avorks of Guicciardini, Machiavelli, and their con- 
temporaries, we find men Avho, even Avith different opinions, think 
and reason like ourselves. The scholastic systems, mysticism, and 
allegories of the Middle Ages have so entirely disappeared that 
no memory of them seems any longer to exist. We are on this 
earth, in the midst of reality, with men Avho no longer look upon 
the Avorld through a fantastic A'eil of mystic illusion, but with 
their OAvn eyes, their own reason, unenslaved by any authority. 
And thus the question arises : in Avhat Avay did the scholars of 
the fifteenth century contrive to discover a new Avorld by means 
of classical studies, almost as Columbus discoA'ered America in 
seeking a fresh passage to the Indies ? 

The Middle Ages, in order to re-awaken a ncAv spiritual life 
m mankind, had despised earthly concerns and the needs of 
society, had subjected philosophy to theology, the State to the 
Church. The real was only considered useful as a symbol or 
allegory to express the ideal, the earthly city merely a preparation 
for the heavenly ; there Avas a reaction against all that had been 
the essence of Paganism, the inspiration of ancient art. Thus 
human reason remained shut up in scholastic syllogisms, in the 
clouds of mysticism, in the fantastic and complicated creations ot 
the romances of chivalry and minstrelsy of Provence. But Avhen 
Avith a sudden rush of neAV inspiration, Italian poetry and prose 
sprang up to describe the real passions and affections of mankind, 
sentence of death Avas passed on the Avorld of the Middle Ages.' 

' My excellent colleagtie and friend, Professojr A. Bartoli, in one of his 


The old vague and fantastic forms could not stand against these 
new and precise analyses, this splendid imagery, this style and 
language, through which thought shines as through the purest 
crystal. This literature, however, in giving a new direction to 
the human mind, soon gave birth to new needs, all of which it 
could not satisfy. It is true that a poetic language was now in 
existence, that incomparable forms had been found for the tale, 
the sonnet, the song, and the poem : but the new philosophical, 
epistolary, oratorical, and historical styles were still unborn. For 
this reason the writer of the thirteenth century very often 
resembled a man who, in spite of having strong limbs, travels 
a road so narrow and so beset with obstacles, that he cannot 
walk without help ; in order to keep his feet he is obliged from 
time to time to support himself on scholastic crutches. Who can 
help perceiving that Dante himself had still one foot in the 
Middle Ages, when in his " Monarchia " we find him disputing 
whether the Pope should be compared to the sun, the Emperor 
to the moon : whether the fact of Samuel deposing Saul, and 
the offerings of the Magi to the infant Saviour, can prove the 
dependency of the Empire on the Church ? In reading the 
" Cronaca " of Giovanni Villani, we find not merely a writer of 
much graphic power, but a most acute observer, whom nothing 
escapes, a man practised in the world and its affairs. He sees 
and notes everything ; battles, revolutions both political and 
social, forms of government, new buildings, pictures and literary 
works, the industry, commerce, taxes, expenditure, and revenues 
of the republic ; for he sees that human society is composed of 
all these things, and that from them is derived the power and 
prosperity of States. Yet never once does he hit upon the 
logical unity of historic narration that connects all these 
elements together, and makes the connecting bond visible ; his 
work never rises above the modest limits of a chronicle. And 
whenever the writer of the thirteenth century treats of philosophy 
or politics, whenever he tries to compose an oration or a letter, 
he seems condemned to resume the fetters he has snapped. 

It was necessary, therefore, to enlarge the limits of style ; to 
spread the language ; to render it more universal, more flexible ; 
to find out new literary forms which were still wanting, and 

"Memorie" among the " Pubblicazioni della Sezione di Filosofia e Filologia 
deir Instituto Superiore" (Florence, Le Monnier and Co., 1S75, vol.i. p. 351 follow- 
ing), has recently shown that the study of nature, as well as of the classics, had 
followers throughout the Middle Ages, and hence that the realism of the Renais- 
sance had a more ancient origin than is generally believed. We, however, only 
treat of this historical period after it had already assumed a definite and deter- 
mined form ; we do not explore its more remote origin. 
VOL. I. 3 


had now become necessary. And tliis want bcfran to be fell at 
the very moment wlien the young and vigorous growth of the 
national strength had been arrested by the political and social 
complications which we have already noted. Thus the spring of 
originality suddenlv failed which had already created our litera- 
tuie, and which alone could complete it, by leading it towards 
the new forms it sought. But as these forms are not changeable 
at pleasure, but determined by the laws of nature and of thought, 
and were first discovered by the Greeks and the Romans, in 
whose writings they still maintain all the vigour, splendour, and 
originality which works of art possess only at the moment of 
their first creation, a return towards the past presented itself as 
a natural means of progress, and the close relation of Italian 
culture to Latin made it seem like a new draught from the 
primal source, a return to the old national grandeur. The 
Greeks and the Latins offered to Italy a literature inspired by 
nature and reality, guided by reason alone, neither subject to any 
authority, nor veiled in the clouds of allegory or of mysticism ; 
to imitate this literature, then, was to break the last fetters of 
the Middle Ages. Thus in all things the impulse was towards 
the ancient world. It was there that painting and sculpture 
found perfected study of the human form and faultlessness of 
design ; it was there that architecture discovered a more solid 
mode of construction, and one better adapted to the various 
needs of social life ; it was there that the man of letters found 
the mastery of style of which he was in search, and the philo- 
sopher, independence of reason and observation of nature ; it 
was there, in the Roman world, that the politician beheld that 
State unity which not only science, but society itself, was then 
seeking as its necessary aim. 

Imitation of the antique became a species of mania that seized 
upon all men ; tyrants sought to copy Csesar and Augustus, 
republicans Brutus, free captains Scipio and Hannibal, philo- 
sophers Aristotle and Plato, men of letters Virgil and Cicero, 
even the names of persons and places were changed for Greek 
and Latin ones. 

Yet the Middle Ages had certainly not ignored all ancient 
writers, and held some of them in almost religious respect. 
But mediaeval classic learning was, with slight exception, very 
dififerent from that which now arose. It had been restricted to 
a small number of the more recent Latin writers, who having 
lived under the Empire which still seemed to dominate the world, 
and was deemed immutable and immortal, were less removed 
from Christian ideas, were read almost as contemporary authors ; 


and whose works were twisted and bent to support the tenets of 
Christianity. Virgil prophesied the coming of Christ ; Cicero's 
ethics must be identical with those of the Gospels ; and Aristotle, 
known only in Latin translations and garbled by his commen- 
tators, was made to maintain the immortality and spirituality of 
the soul in which he had no belief. The tastes and desires of the 
fifteenth century were widely different. There was no desire now 
to transform the Pagan into the Christian world ; this century 
wished to recur to the former and be thus led back from the city 
of God to that of men, from heaven to earth. Therefore a know- 
ledge of the more recent classic writers was no longer sufTicient ; 
it was necessary to read all and the more ancient with most 
ardour, since they demanded a greater mental effort, and rendered 
necessary a longer ideal journey. For that reason ancient manu- 
scripts were eagerly hunted for and commented upon, ancient 
monuments discussed with a feverish activity unexampled in 
history. It seemed as though the Italians wished not only to 
imitate the ancient world, but to raise it from the tomb and bring 
it to life again, since they felt that in it they learnt to know 
themselves, and entered, as it were, into a second life ; it was a 
true and genuine renaissance. Nor did they perceive that 
their imitations and reproductions were animated by a new spirit 
that went on gradually developing, at first in an invisible and 
hidden way, till at last it burst suddenly from its chrysalis, and 
shone forth in a national and modern shape. Thus it was by 
study of the ancients that the Italians were enabled to free them- 
selves and Europe from the fetters of the Middle Ages, and 
instead of interrupting, they continued and completed in a 
different form the work begun by the writers of the thirteenth 

The new literary and artistic productions were not, however, 
the result of a young and vigorous inspiration, born of a young 
and vigorous society, — such as that in which Dante lived, — full of 
ardour and faith, abounding in strong characters and _ stern 
passions. Produced at a period in which a feverish activity of 
the mind still continued, but the nobler aspirations of the human 
heart had ceased to exist, they showed the consequences of this 
state of things. Marvellous success is attained in all branches 
in which visible nature and the outer study of man and man's 
actions have the principal part. The fine arts, still plastic in 
their nature, lost the epic grandeur of Giotto and Orcagna, the 
religious inspiration of the old Christian cathedrals ; and assimi- 
lating classical forms — although unconsciously altering them — 
they were inspired by Grecian genius to imitate nature and 


reproduce it in new and spontaneous creations, surrounde*. 
by an ethereal veil, with colours of unequalled brilliancy and 
freshness. It was an art that, through the ingrafting" of Christian 
upon Pagan forms, acquired new spontaneousness and purity ; 
shed immortal glory on its age and nation, and was the most 
complete manifestation of the Renaissance from which it was 
derived and to which it communicated its own special character. 
The poetry of this period was also unrivalled in its descriptions 
and reproductions of the real which stood out clear and well 
defined, even amidst the most fantastic creations of the chivalric 
and tragi-comic poem. Political science, treating of human 
actions in their objective and exterior value, in their practical 
consequences, almost apart from the moral character they acquire 
in the human conscience, and the intentions by which they are 
inspired, not only flourished, but was the most original creation 
of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 

Men worked with irresistible energy ; they sought and found 
every possible form of literature ; they acquired immense truth and 
facility in prose and poetry ; they created the language and style 
of oratory, diplomacy, history, and philosophy, but the religious 
sentiment disappeared ; moral sensibility was weakened, and the 
cultivation of form often increased to the disadvantage of sub- 
stance, a defect which has endured for centuries in Italian 
literature, almost as a witness of the conditions under which it 
took its definite form. In considering this prodigious intellectual 
activity, that reappeared with increasing splendour in a thousand 
different shapes, yet always accompanied by moral decay, the his- 
torian of those times is struck with terrified amazement, recog- 
nizing the presence of a mysterious contradiction, prophetic of 
future ills. When the evil secretly corroding this nation came to 
the surface, a tremendous catastrophe was inevitable ; and its con- 
tinual advance side by side with so much intellectual progress, is 
precisely the history of the Renaissance. For the better com- 
prehension of this, it is needful to examine matters still more 



I. Milan. 

T Milan, for the first time, we find an Italian 
Commune transformed, through tyrann)^, into 
a modern State. Having become the centre 
of a vast agglomeration of republics and lord- 
ships, now united and now separated by dif- 
ferent interests and jealousies, there arose in 
its midst the power of the Visconti, who were 
divided among themselves by private and 
bloody dissensions. In 1378, Bernabo Visconti was in conflict 
v.'ith his nephew Giovan Galeazzo, better known by his title of 
Count of Virtu. Both equally ambitious and equally wicked, the 
first was a blind slave to his passions, and in consequence fell a 
victim to his nephew, Avho knew how to direct his own towards a 
given end. The latter succeeded in 1378 in throwing him and his 
children into a dungeon, which they never left alive ; and these 
obstacles removed, he began vigorously to re-organize the State 
and put down anarchy. 

Beset by a thousand enemies, Giovan Galeazzo had no army, 
and was even deficient in military courage ; but he joined to great 
cunning a profound knowledge of mankind, and real political 
genius. Shut up in his castle of Pavia, he took into his service 
the first captains in Italy, and the most renowned diplomatists, 
weaving, with the help of the latter, the threads of his dark 
policy all over the Peninsula, which he quickly filled with 
intrigues and wars ; he, the while, directing military operations in 
the solitude of his cabinet. 

Thanks to his sureness of eye and promptness of will, he suc- 
ceeded in making a complete hecatomb of the petty tyrants of 
Lombardy, allying himself with one to ruin another, and finally 
turning against those who had helped him, and assuming posses- 


sion of tlicir States. Thus he formed the Duchy of Milan, of 
which he received the investiture from the Emperor. He then 
extended his dominions to Genoa, Bologna, and Tuscan}?^, and 
lioped to place the crown of Italy upon his head, after defeating 
Florence, which he had already worn out by continual wars. But 
on the 3rd of December, 1402, death put an end to all his pro- 
jects. It is marvellous to observe how, in the privacy of his 
cabinet, he uridertook many skilfully conducted wars, and 
brought them to a successful close, while at the same time 
engaged in creating and ordering a new State. Although the 
chief object of his government was the imposition of taxes to pay 
for his incessant warfare, justice was generally well administered, 
the finances were well regulated, and general prosperity was on 
the increase. The free assemblies Avere converted into councils of 
administration and police, and every city had a Potcsta^ elected, no 
longer by the people, but by the Duke ; the Commune was no 
longer a State, but, as in modern times, an organ of administra- 
tion ; a collcgio^ or council of men of authority in the capital, 
already shadowed forth the modern cabinet. Surrounded by 
literati and artists— initiator of great public works, among which 
are the two noblest monuments in Lombardy — the Cathedral of 
Milan and the Certosa of Pavia, where, too, he gave new life and 
renown to the university — Gian Galeazzo Visconti is the first 
of modern princes. Under his rule mediaeval institutions entirely 
disappeared, and the luiity of the new State was established. 
This, however, being an altogether personal creation, with no 
object beyond the individual interest of the prince, after his death 
the State quickly lapsed into anarchy, torn by the contending 
ambitions of mercenary leaders. 

Later, Filippo Maria, son of Giovan Galeazzo, took in hand the 
reins of government, and followed in his father's footsteps. He 
had been compelled to share the State Avith his brother Giovanni 
Maria, a ferocious man, who threw his victims to be torn to pieces 
by the large pack of dogs he kept for that purpose ; but the 
daggers of conspirators came to Filippo's aid, and on the 12th of 
May, 141 2, Giovanni was stabbed in a church. Filippo was a 
degenerate copy of his father, cunning, false, traitorous, and 
cruel ; he did not possess Giovan Galeazzo's political faculty, but 
he imited perfect control over his passions to a wide knowledge of 
mankind. Timid even to cowardice, he had the strangest pas- 
sion for rushing into continual and dangerous wars. These, 
however, he conducted by means of the first captains in Italy, 
selected with admirable discrimination, and whom he contrived to 
make each in turn suspicious of the other, in order to secure his 

MILAN. 23 

own safety from their ambition. Surrounded by spies, shut up in 
his castle of Milan, which he never left, he duped everybody, 
always finding fresh opportunities of deceit ; he lived in perpetual 
conflict with other States, yet always escaped defeat by craft. The 
Florentines were routed by him at Zagonara in 1424 ; by the 
Venetians, whom he always opposed, he was defeated over and 
over again ; but after making peace — not always on honourable 
terms — he quickly collected more money and again declared war. 
He even threw himself into the Neapolitan struggle between 
the Angevins and the Aragonese, and succeeded in capturing 
Alphonso of Aragon, whom he afterwards liberated, in order to 
deprive the Angevins of complete victory. In the midst of the 
great tumult of events and enemies that he had provoked, he 
reconquered and ri':organized the paternal State, holding it securely 
by force of his diabolical cunning down to the day of his death in 

^447. . 

Having no legitimate heirs, and only one natural daughter, 
Bianca, had made his condition all the more perilous, since 
there were many who aspired to succeed him. Among them was 
one, recognized throughout Italy as the first captain of his time, 
to Avhose aid Visconti was continually obliged to recur, as he found 
himself perpetually at his mercy. Francesco Sforza was a lion 
who knew how to play the fox, and Filippo Maria was a fox who 
liked to don the lion's skin. They went on for many years, each 
lying in wait for the other, and each thoroughly aware of the 
other's secret designs. Often and often Sforza was on the brink 
of total ruin, ensnared in the plots of Visconti, who then came to 
his assistance. In 1441 Filippo gave him his daughter in mar- 
riage, thus nourishing his most ambitious hopes, the better to 
make use of him in war, yet always weaving fresh plots against 
him, from which, on his side, Sforza as often escaped without ever 
yielding to any Avish for revenge. And in this way, when, after a 
reign of nearly fifty years, Visconti died a natural death, Sforza 
had power enough to succeed in his long meditated design. 

And now one dynasty is replaced by another, and the Italian 
prince is presented to us under a totally different aspect. The 
Visconti had been a great family, and by cunning, daring, and 
political genius, had become masters of the Duchy they had built 
up. The Sforza, on the contrary, were new men, of obscure 
origin, and fought their way with the sword. Muzio Attendolo, 
the father of Francesco Sforza, was born of a Romagnol family, 
living a life of semi-brigandage and hereditary vcndctte in Cotig- 
nola. It is said that the kitchen of their house looked like an 
arsenal : among dishes and smoky saucepans hung breastplates, 


sword?, and dacrpjcrs, Avhich the fainilv, men, women, and children, 
;dl used with equal courage. While yet a mere lad, Muzio was 
c rried off by a band of adventurers, and being shortly afterwards 
joined by his own people, he took the command of his company, 
and was knoAvn by the name of Sforza, which was given to him in 
the fieki. Possessed of indomitable courage, strength, and energy, 
he was less a general than a soldier who joined in the incite and 
killed his enemies with his own hands. Of a very impetuous dis- 
position, some of his actions were those of a brigand, as for 
instance when he ran his sword through Ottobuono III. of Parma, 
while parleying with the Marquis of Este. Yet by perpetually 
transferring his services from one master to another, carrying 
disorder and devastation wherever he went, he succeeded in 
becoming lord of many lands, which he kept for himself and his 
faithful followers. It was in the kingdom of Naples, while in the 
pay of the capricious queen, Joanna II., that he passed through 
his chief and strangest vicissitudes : first general, then prisoner, 
now High Constable of the kingdom, then once more in prison, 
he was on the point of perishing miserably, when at Tricarico his 
sister JNIargherita, sword in hand, and a helmet on her head, so 
thoroughly frightened the royal messengers that she obtained her 
brother's release. Pie was again given the command of the royal 
forces, and afterwards died near Aquila, drowned in the Pescara 
river, Avhile swimming across it to urge his men to follow him on 
to a victory that seemed already assured. And thus ended a life 
no less stormy than the sea in which his body found a grave 


Francesco, his natural son, a youth of twenty-three years, 
instantly took command of his father's troops, and led them on 
from victory to victory, giving proof of true military genius and 
great political acumen. Always master of himself, he never 
gave way to his passions, excepting when it was expedient to do 
so. He served the Visconti against the Venetians, the Venetians 
against the Visconti ; he first attacked the Pope, depriving him 
of Romagna, and giving his orders, invitis Petro et Paulo, and 
then defended him. Through his military genius he became the 
man whom all desired to have in their service, for it seemed as 
though no power in Italy could be victorious without him, 
although captains such as the Piccinini and Carmagnola were 
then flourishing. But amidst all these vicissitudes he kept his 
eye upon one fixed point, and on the death of Filippo Maria, it 
was quickly seen how a free captain could change into a statesman. 

A Republic had been proclaimed in Milan ; its subject cities 
had thrown off the yoke ; Venice was threatening, and internal 

HI LAN. 25 

dissensions had broken out. He offered the aid of his sword to 
the tottering city Avhich believed it had found in him an anchor 
of safety, and then gradually found itself besieged by its own 
captain, who, on the 25th of March, 1430, made his triumphal 
entry, with an already arranged court. His first act was to ask 
the people whether, to defend themselves against the Venetians, 
they would prefer to rebuild the fortress of Porta Giovio, or 
maintain a permanent army within the walls. They voted for 
the fortress, which soon became the strongest bulwark of tyranny 
against the people. Friends and enemies alike, if formidable, 
were quickly imprisoned, deprived of everything they possessed, 
and even put lo death Avithout hesitation. All the State terri- 
tories were reconquered, rebellion was suppressed, order, adminis- 
tration, and common justice were re-established with marvellous 
rapidity. And in all these acts Sforza proceeded with the calm- 
ness of a man who knows his own strength, and desires to 
gain a reputation for impartiality and justice. Yet, whenever it 
seemed opportune, no one knew better than he how to get rid of 
friends and enemies with perfidious cruelty. 

The Revolt of Piacenza was suffocated in the blood of his 
faithful captain, Brandolini. When the slaughter had reached 
its climax, and everything was pacified, Brandolini was thrown into 
prison, to the general amazement, as a suspected person, and was 
afterwards found with his throat cut and a blunted and bloody 
sword by his side. The populace said that the Duke had thus 
punished his captain's excessive cruelty; the keener witted 
declared that the Duke, after having used him to the utmost, 
had got rid of a useless instrument, so that on the latter alone 
the odium of the enormous bloodshed might fall. Born and 
reared in war, the Duke now wished to be a man of peace, and 
aimed only at the consolidation of his own State within its 
natural boundaries, totally abandoning the ambitious and perilous 
designs of the Visconti. And when, after an almost universal, 
but not very important war, the Italian potentates concluded a 
general peace in 1454, Sforza contrived to make himself implicitly 
recognized by all, and retained the territories of Bergamo, Ghiara 
d'Adda, and Brescia. Noted as one of the most audacious and 
turbulent free captains, he was in a position to know what heavy 
calamities they bring upon orderly and pacific States ; hence he 
was one of those who chiefly contributed, if not to put them 
down, at least to deprive them of much of their past importance, 
as indeed w^as already happening by the natural force of events. 
Jacopo Piccinini was now the sole survivor of the old school of 
mercenary leaders, and truly one who had only to raise bis 


standard to assemble a formidable army. He was liviiifr quietly 
in Milan, when he was seized by a desire to visit his lands in 
the kingdom of Naples, and was much encouraged in this by 
the Duke, although every one knew how sorely he was hated by 
Ferrante d'Aragona. No sooner did he reach Naples than he 
was received with open arms by the king, who took him to see 
the palace, and then threw him into a dungeon, where he soon 
died. Sforza protested loudly against this breach of faith ; but 
all men believed that by agreement with the king, he had thus 
freed himself of an inconvenient neighbour. 

Francesco Sforza was, as a modern historian ' happily expresses 
it, a man after the heart of the fifteenth century. A great 
captain and an acute politician, he knew how to play both the 
lion and the fox ; when bloodshed was necessary, he did not 
shrink from it, but at other times he sought to distribute im- 
partial justice, and even showed himself capable of generosity 
and pity. He founded a dynasty, conquered a dominion, which 
he left secure and well governed, and constructed great public 
works, such as the Martesana Canal and the chief hospital of Milan. 
Surrounded by Greek exiles and Italian scholars, the Court of the 
whilom adventurer speedily became one of the most splendid in 
all Italy, and his davighter Ippolita was renowned for her Latin 
discourses, which were universally extolled. The famous Cicco 
(Francesco) Siiyonetta, a most learned Calabrian, and a man of 
proved fidelity, was the Duke's secretary, his brother Giovanni 
was his historian, and Francesco Filelfo, the courtier poet, sang 
his praises in the " Sforziade." Thus, celebrated in prose and verse 
as the just, the great, the magnanimous, Francesco Sforza breathed 
his last on the 8th of March, 1466. He had attempted all things, 
succeeded in all things, therefore his contemporaries believed him 
the greatest man of the age. But of what nature was the State 
that he had actually constituted ? A society whose every element 
of strength was rapidly exhausted ; a people whom its sovereign 
believed he could mould into any form he would, as if they were 
plastic material in the hands of a new artist, whose sole merit 
consists in carrying out the ends he proposes, whatever those 
ends may be. Neither the Visconti nor Sforza ever conceived 
any truly great or fertile political idea, for they never identified 
themselves with the people, but only made it an instrument ot 

^ Burckhardt, "Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italian : " Basle, i860. Since 
then a second edition of this important work, with several changes and additions, 
lias appeared, and now a very faithful Italian translation has been published by 
Professor D. Valbusa, with many original additions and corrections by the 
author, "La Civilta del secolo del rinascimento in Italia cc." Florence, Sansoni, 

MILAN. 27 

their own interests. They were masters in the art of governing, 
but they never succeeded in founding a true government, for by 
their own tyranny they had destroyed its essential elements. The 
fatal consequences of their poHcy, which was too truly the 
Italian policy of the fifteenth century, were to be speedily made 
apparent throughout the Peninsula, just as on the Duke's death 
they began to be manifested in Milan. 

Sforza's dissolute and cruel son, Galeazzo Maria, had so depraved 
a disposition that he was even accused of having poisoned his 
own mother. In the belief that all was lawful and possible for 
a prince, he, in an age that might almost be called civihzed, 
caused several of his subjects to be buried alive, others, on the 
most frivolous pretexts, he condemned to death amid lingering 
tortures, and only spared those who could redeem their lives with 
gold. He dissipated treasures in his festivals at Milan, and 
his cavalcades all through Italy, spreading corruption wher- 
ever he went. Not content with seducing the daughters of the 
noblest Milanese houses, he himself exposed them to public con- 
tempt. Neither public institutions nor popular indignation 
imposed a check upon his unbridled licence, for the people no 
longer existed, and all institutions had become mere engines of 

At last an end was put to this state of things by one of the 
most singular and noteworthy of the many conspiracies for which 
this age was remarkable. 

Girolamo Olgiati and Giannandrea Lampugnani, pupils of 
Niccola Montano, who had trained them by classical studies to 
love, liberty, hate, and tyranny, being injured by the Duke, 
resolved on revenge, and found in Carlo Visconti a third com- 
panion moved by the same motives. They strengthened their 
zeal for the enterprise by the study of Sallust and Tacitus, they 
practised stabbing with the sheaths of daggers, and, having 
arranged everything for the 26th of December, 1476, Olgiati 
went to the church of St. Ambrose, threw himself at the Saint's 
feet, and prayed for success. On the morning of the chosen 
day the three conspirators attend divine service in the church 
of St. Stephen, and recited a Latin prayer expressly composed 
by Visconti : " If thou lovest justice and hatest iniquity," 
they besought the . Saint, " fashion our magnanimous enter- 
prise, and be not wrathful if we must presently stain thy altars 
with blood, in order to free the world of a monster." The 
Duke was killed, but Visconti and Lampugnani fell victims to 
the fury of the populace, who wished to revenge their own 
executioner. Olgiati sought safety in flight, but was soon 


captured and condemned to a cruel death. When shattered by 
torture, he called to his aid the shades of the Romans, and 
commended his soul to the Virgin Mary. Being urged to repent, 
he declared that had he to die ten times over amid those tortures, 
ten times would he cheerfully consecrate his blood to so heroic a 
deed. Up to his last moments he continued to compose Latin 
epigrams, congratulating himself when they were neatly turned ; 
and as the headsman drew near, his last words were : — " CoUige 
ti\ HieyoiiYinr, shjbi'i vctits mcinoria facti. Mors accrha fama 
pcrpctuny * Here we see that while all political feeling was 
extinguished in the people, there were a few individuals in whom 
Christian and profane sentiments, love of liberty, and ferocious 
personal hatred, heroic resignation and unquenchable thirst for 
blood, vengeance, and glory, were all mingled in the strangest 
way. Ruins of old systems and remains of various civilizations 
were confused together in the Italian mind, while the germ was 
budding of a new individual and social form, Avhich had as yet 
no well-defined outline. Later, Lodovico il Moro, the late Duke's 
brother, an ambitious, timid, restless man, usurped his nephew 
Galeazzo's dominions, and, to keep up his unjustly acquired 
power, threw all Italy into confusion, as we shall have occasion 
to notice, when, after examining the condition of the different 
States, we give a general glance at the whole Peninsula. 

2. Fhrcnce. 

The history of Florence shows us a condition of things widely 
different from that of Milan. At first sight it seems as though 
we were plunged in a huge chaos of confused events of 
which we can understand neither the reason nor the aim. But 
on closer examination Ave find a clue, and can perceive how 
the Florentine Republic, amid an infinite series of revolu- 
tionary changes, and every political institution known to the 
Middle Ages, steadily aimed at the triumph of the democracy, 
the total destruction of feudalism, and achieved these objects by 
means of Giano dclla Bella's Ordinamcnti dcUa Giiistizia in the 
year 1493. From that date Florence became exclusively a city 
of traders, was no longer divided between nobles and burghers, 

' Machiavelli snys instead : Mors acei-ba, fama pci pctiia, stahit vcfin men/on'a 
facti. "Storie," vol. ii. lib. vii. p. 203. Olgiati's confession is Wind in Corio. 
See also Rosmini's " Storia di Milano," vol. iii. p. 23 ; Gregorovius, " Geschichte 
der Stadt Rom" (zweite Auflage), vol. vii. p. 241 and fol. ; "Cola Montano, 
SUidii storici " di Gerolamo Lorenzi Milan, 1S75. 


but between Jat people and small people {popolo grasso and 
popolo minuto\ into major and minor arts or guilds. Of these, 
the former were engaged in wholesale commerce and the great 
business of exportation and importation, while the latter carried 
on the retail traffic and internal trade of the city. From this 
arose division and often collision of interests, and thence the for- 
mation of new political parties. Whenever it was a question or 
aggrandizing the territory of the Republic ; of making war upon 
Pisa to keep open the way to the sea, or upon Sienna to mono- 
polize trade with Rome ; or of repulsing the continual and 
threatening attacks of the Visconti of Milan, government 
invariably fell into the hands of the Arti Maggiori, who were 
richer, more enterprising and better able to comprehend and 
guard the important interests of the State beyond its boundaries. 
But, when war was at an end, and peace re-established, then im- 
mediately the Arti Minori, spurred on by the lowest populace, 
rose in rebellion against the new aristocracy of wealth which 
oppressed them with continual wars and taxes, and demanded 
increased liberty and more general equality. 

These continual alternations lasted more than a century, namely, 
down to the time when the territory of the Republic was consti- 
tuted, and the prolonged wars with Milan came to an end. Then 
the final triumph of the minor guilds became inevitable, and it 
was their inexperience and intemperance that smoothed the way 
for the establishment of the tyranny of the Medici. 

It would, however, be a mistake to imagine that the Medici rose 
to power by the same means and artifices employed by the Vis- 
conti and the Sforza. Had anyone arbitrarily attempted to torture 
the citizens of Florence, to bury any of them alive, or to have 
them torn to pieces by dogs, as did tne Lords of Milan, he would 
have been instantly swept away by the popular indignation, and by 
the union of the Greater and Lesser guilds. The importance and 
political speciality of the Medici consisted precisely in the fact that 
their victory was the result of traditional rules of conduct carried 
out by that family, for more than a century, with unrivalled con- 
stancy and acuteness, so that they contrived to consolidate their 
power without having recourse to violence. And to have succeeded 
in this in a city so acute, so restless, so jealous of its ancient liber- 
ties, was a proof of true political genius. As far back as 1378, 
during the disorderly revolt of the Ciompi, we find the hand of 
Salvestro di Medici, who, although belonging to the greater guilds, 
assisted and spurred on the lesser to overthrow their power, thus 
achieving great popularity. That tumult being suppressed, and 
war having again broken out — the greater guilds and the Albi/.zi 


family being therefore once more in power — we find Vicri dci 
Medici leading:; a quiet life, always devoted to money-making, lie 
never ceased, however, to show himself favourable to the popular 
party, in which he contrived to gain so much influence that 
Machiavclli said of liim : — "That, had he been more ambitious 
than good, he might, without hindrance, have made himself 
master of the city." ' 

But Vieri understood too well the temper of the times, and was 
content to wait and prepare the way for Giovanni di Bicci, who 
was the true political founder of his house. This latter clearly 
saw the impossibility of changing the government of Florence by 
violent means, and that no object w:is to be gained by holding 
power, even repeatedly, in a Republic which changed its chief 
magistrates every two months. There was but one method of 
obtaining real and assured predominance, namely, by marshalling 
under his orders a party of sufficient strength and prudence to 
guarantee the highest offices of the Republic to its own adherents 
in perpetuity. And the Albizzi had soon occasion to perceive that 
this design was prospering, for their adversaries — notwithstanding 
perpetual admonishments and sentences of exile — were always 
elected in increasing numbers. In vain the former attempted to 
countermine Giovanni dei Medici's work by inopportune proposals 
of laws intended to weaken the Lesser Guilds, for they could not 
get them passed in Council without their adversary's help, and 
this he openly refused them, thus continually increasing his power 
with the people (1426). It was Giovanni dei Medici who proposed 
and supported the law of Catasto^^ by which it was ordained that 
the amount of every citizen's possessions should be verified and 
registered, a law which prevented the powerful from levying taxes 
ad libititm to the oppression of the weak. The law was carried, 
the authority of the Medici was thereby much increased, and, 
while really making a rapid flight towards power, they seemed to 
be wholly intent on giving a more democratic form to the 
Republic. This, both then and afterwards, was their favourite 

Wl.en Cosimo dei Medici succeeded his father in 1429, he was 
forty ) ears of age, and being already a man of great authority and 
fortune on his own account, found his way clear before him. He 
had largely increased his paternal inheritance by commerce, and 
he used his means so generously, lending and giving on all sides, 
that there was hardly any man of weight in Florence who had 

* Machiavelli, " Storie," vol. i. lib. iii. p. 193. 

• Upon this point there has been much contioveisj. Vide '* Aichivio Stoiico- 
Ilalianu," series v. vol. i. p. 1S5. 


not sought and received help from him in moments of need. 
Thus, without ever laying aside, at all events in appearance, the 
modesty of the private citizen, every day saw the increase of his 
influence, which was employed by him to destroy the last remains 
of the power of the Albizzi and their friends. These, goaded to 
desperation, rose in rebellion, and drove him into exile, not daring 
to do worse (1433). But Cosimo still preserved his prudent calm. 
He went to Venice in the attitude of a benefactor repaid by in- 
gratitude, and was everywhere received like a prince. The follow- 
ing year a popular revolt, fomented by a countless number of those 
whom he had benefited — or who hoped for benefits on the fall of 
the Albizzi — recalled him to Florence. If powerful at his depar- 
ture, he was much more powerful on his return, and was, moreover, 
animated by a spirit of revenge. He now threw aside his former 
reserve in order to profit by the favourable moment. Without 
shedding too much blood, he thoroughly broke up the adverse 
party by means of persecution and exile, abasing the great and 
exalting men " of low and vile condition." ^ To those who 
accused him of excess, and of ruining too many citizens, he was 
accustomed to answer : that States could not be governed by 
paternosters, and that with a few ells of crimson cloth, new and 
worthy citizens could easily be manufactured.- 

Cosimo dei Medici was now de facto master of Florence, but he 
was still, de jurc^ a private citizen, whose power, based solely and 
wholly on his personal influence, might fail at any moment. 
Therefore, he set to work to consolidate it, by a method as novel 
as it was sagacious. He brought about the creation of a Bulla, 
empowered to elect chief magistrates for a term of five years. 
Composed of citizens devoted to himself, this Balia secured his 
position for a long time ; and by having it renewed every five 
years in the same way, he was able to solve the strange problem 
of being for all the rest of his life. Prince and absolute master of 
a Republic, without ever holding any public office, or discarding 
the semblance of a private citizen. This did not, however, pre- 
vent him from occasionally having recourse to bloodshed. When 
he beheld in the city the daily increasing power of Neri dei Gino 
Capponi, that sagacious politician and valiant soldier, who had the 
support of Baldaccio d'Anghiari, Captain of the infantry forces, 
Cosimo, not daring to attack him openly, determined to do 
so through his friends. Accordingly, no sooner was a personal 
enemy of Baldaccio elected Gonfaloniere, than, during a sudden 

' Giiicciardini, " .Storia di Firenze," p. 6. 

' He meant by this that given the clo^h necessary for robes of office, all men 
could be citizens. 

3 2 INTR on UCTJO.V. 

tumult, Baldaccio was thrown from a window of the palace of the 
Signoria ; and all men suspected, though none could prove, that 
Cosimo was the chief instigator of the crime.' But after this he 
continued to govern with what were then called modi civili\ or 
gentle means, and which were always the device of the Medici. 
Though possessed of but little culture, this sagacious merchant, 
nailed to his office desk, this unscrupulous politician, surrounded 
himself with artists and men of letters. Frugal to meanness in his 
personal expenditure, he lavished treasures in encouraging the fine 
arts, in constructing churches, libraries, and other public edifices : 
he passed the most delightful hours of his life in listening to and 
commenting on Plato's " Dialogues ; " he founded the Platonic 
Academy. Thus it is in great measure owing to him that 
Florence now became the principal centre of European culture. 
He had divined that in modern society, arts, letters, and science 
were becoming a power which every government ought to take 
into account. 

Nor was his foreign policy less sagacious. Having protected 
Nicholas and helped him with money when he was a Cardinal, he 
found him most friendly as Pope ; and thus the business affairs 
of the Curia w^ere entrusted to the Medici's bank in Rome, no 
little to their profit. Sooner than other men, Cosimo had fore- 
seen the future destiny of Francesco Sforza, and had gained his 
friendship : so that the latter on becoming Lord of Milan, proved 
a powerful and faithful ally. Then the continual wars with Milan 
came to an end, and Florence owed to Cosimo a long enduring 
peace. So it is not surprising if, after his death, the rule of the 
Medici still going on, he should be styled Pater patriae. Machia- 
velli declares that he was the most renowned citizen, " for a 
civilian " " d'uomo disarmato " that Florence, or any other city, 
ever possessed. In his opinion, no man ever equalled Cosimo in 
political insight, for he discerned evils from afar, and provided 
against them in time ; thus he was able to hold the State for 
thirty-one years, " through so great variety of fortune, in so rest- 
less a city, with citizens of so changeable a temper." (*' In tanta 
varieta di fortuna, in si varia citta, e volubile cittadinanza.") ^ 
Nor was the equally authoritative opinion of Guicciardini different 
from this. Yet under his course of policy all the old Florentine 
institutions were reduced to empty names, without one new one 

' Machiavelli, who in his "Storie Florentine" frequently tries to exculpale the 
Medici, considers the Gonfalonier Bartolommeo Orlandini sole author of the crime. 
Guicciardini, on the contrary, who in his " Storia di Firenze," judges the Medici 
much more impartially, attributes everything to Cosimo. 

= Machiavelli, " Storie," vol. ii. pp. 148-52. 



springing up ; thus continual vigilance and an inexhaustible series 
of ever fresh contrivances were required to carry on the machinery 
of the State. 

The last years of Cosimo's life passed very dismally for Flor- 
ence, since the adherents of the Medici, no longer restrained by 
the prudence of their chief, who was now overcome by the infirmi- 
ties of age, began to show their partizanship ; and to persecute 
and exile their enemies to excess. Nor were things changed 
during the short rule of Cosimo's son Piero. But at his death 
(1469), Lorenzo and Giuliano appeared upon the scene : and the 
first of these, though only twenty-one years old, was already 
a notable personage. Educated by the first men of letters ot 
the age, he had proved himself the equal of many of them 
in wit and learning ; in travelling through Italy to visit the 
different courts and gain experience of mankind, he had left 
everywhere a great opinion of his talents. He resolutely seized 
the reins of government, and foreseeing that the election of the 
new Balia would not be certain in the Council of the Hundred, 
he managed, with the help of his most trustworthy friends, and 
as if by surprise, to have the Signori in office and the old Balia 
empowered to elect the new. Having in this manner secured 
a five years' term of power, he was able to set to work without 

Lorenzo inherited his grandfather's political sagacity and far 
surpassed him in talent and literary culture. In many respects 
too he was a very different man. Cosimo never left his business 
oflRce ; Lorenzo neglected it, and had so little commercial aptitude 
that he was obliged to retire from business, in order to preserve 
his abundant patrimony. Cosimo was frugal in his personal 
expenses and lent freely to others : Lorenzo loved splendid living, 
and thus gained the title of the Magnificent ; he spent im- 
moderately for the advancement of literary men ; he gave himself 
up to dissipation which ruined his health and shortened his days. 
His manner of living reduced him to such straits, that he had to 
sell some of his possessions and obtain money from his friends. 
Nor did this suffice ; for he even meddled with the public money, 
a thing that had never happened in Cosimo's time. Very often, 
in his greed of unlawful gain, he had the Florentine armies paid 
by his own bank ; he also appropriated the sums collected in the 
Monte Comune or treasury of the public debt, and those in the 
Monte delle Fanciulle^ where marriage portions were accumulated 
by private savings — moneys hitherto held sacred by all. 

Stimulated by the same greed, he, in the year 1472, joined the 
Florentine contractors for the wealthy alum mines of Volterra, at 

VOL. I. 4 


the inomont in which that city was on the verge of rebellion in 
order to free itself from a contract which it deemed vmjust. And 
Lorenzo, with the weight of his authority, pushed matters to such 
a point that war broke out, soon to be followed by a most cruel 
sack of the unhappy city, a very unusual event in Tuscany." For 
all this he was universally blamed. But he was excessively 
haughty, and cared for no man : he would tolerate no equals, 
would be first in everything — even in games. He interfered in 
all matters, even in private concerns and in marriages : nothing 
could take place without his consent. In overthrowing the 
powerful and exalting men of low condition, he showed none of 
the care and precaution so uniformly observed by Cosimo. 

It is not then surprising if his enemies increased so fast as to 
lead to that formidable conspiracy of the Pazzi of the 26th of April, 
1478. In this plot, hatched in the Vatican itself where Sixtus IV. 
was Lorenzo's decided enemy, many of the mightiest Florentine 
families took part. In the cathedral, at the moment of the 
elevation of the Host, the conspirators' daggers were unsheathed. 
Giuliano dei Medici was stabbed to death, but Lorenzo defended 
himself wuth his sword and saved his own life. The tumult was 
so great that it seemed as though the walls of the church were 
shaken. The populace rose to the cry of Palle ! Palle ! the 
Medici watchword, and the enemies of the Medici were slaughtered 
in the streets or hung from the windows of the Palazzo Vecchio. 
There, among others, were seen the dangling corpses of Arch- 
bishop Salviati and of Francesco Pazzi, who, gripping each other 
with their teeth in their last struggle, retained that posture 
for a time. More than seventy persons perished that day, and 
Lorenzo, taking advantage of the opportunity, pushed matters 
to extremity by his confiscations, banishments, and sentences of 
death. Thereby his power would have been infinitely increased 
if Pope Sixtvis IV., blinded by rage, had not been induced to 
excommunicate Florence, and make war against it, in conjunction 
with Ferdinand of Aragon. On this Lorenzo, without losing a 
moment, went straight to Naples, and made the king understand 
how much better it would serve his interests for Florence to have 
but one ruler, instead of a republican government always liable 
to change and certainly never friendly to Naples. So he returned 
with peace re-established and boundless authority and popularity. 
Now indeed he might have called himself lord of the city, and 
it must have seemed easy to him to destroy the republican govern- 
ment altogether. With his pride and ambition it is certain that 

' Vide, among other Florentine historians of the time, the " Cronache Volter- 
rane," published by Tabarrini in the " Archivio Storico," vol. iii. p. 317 and fol. 


he had an intense desire to stand on the same level with the other 
princes and tyrants of Italy, the more so as at that moment 
success seemed entirely within his grasp. But Lorenzo showed 
that his political shrewdness was not to be blinded by pros- 
perity, and knowing Florence well, he remained firm to the 
traditional policy of his house, ?>., of dominating the Republic, 
while apparently respecting it. 

He was well determined to render his power solid and durable ; 
and to that end had recourse to a most ingenious reform, by 
means of which, without abandoning the old path, he thoroughly 
succeeded in his aim. 

In place of the usual five-yearly Balia, he instituted, in 1480, 
the Council of Seventy, which renewed itself and resembled a 
permanent Balia with still wider powers. This, composed of men 
entirely devoted to his cause, secured the government to him for 
ever. By this Council, say the chroniclers of the time, liberty 
was wholly buried and undone,' but certainly the most important 
affairs of the State were carried on in it by intelligent and culti- 
vated men, who largely promoted the general prosperity. Florence 
still called itself a republic, the old institutions were nominally 
still in existence, but all this seemed and was no more than an 
empty mockery. Lorenzo, absolute lord of all, might certainly 
be called a tyrant, surrounded by lackeys and courtiers — whom 
he often rewarded by entrusting them with the management of 
charitable funds ; — leading a life of scandalous immorality, keeping 
up continual and general espionnage ; interfering in the most 
private affairs ; forbidding marriages between persons of condition 
that were not to his taste, and bestowing the most important 
offices on the lowest men, who thus, as Guicciardini puts it, " had 
become rulers of the roast." ^ Yet he dazzled all men by the 
splendour of his rule, so that the same writer observes, that 
though Lorenzo was a tyrant, "it would be impossible to imagine 
a better and more pleasing tyrant." 

Industry, commerce, public works, had all received a mighty 
impulse. In no city in the world had the civil equality of modern 
States reached the degree to which it had attained not merely in 
Florence itself, but in its whole territory and throughout all 
Tuscany. Administration and secular justice proceeded regularly 
enough in ordinary cases, crime was diminished, and above all, 

' " Diarii di Alamanno Rinuccini," published by Ajaz/.i, Florence, 1840, pp. 
cx-xii. In the " Archivio Storico," vol. i. pp. 315 and fol., are the two J'ro- 
vifions that instituted the Council of Stventy, published and annotated by the 
Marchese Gino Capponi. 

'' " Storia Fioreiitina," chap. ix. p. 91. 


literary culture had become a substantial element of the new 
State. Learned men were employed in public offices, and from 
Florence spread a li£!,ht that illuminated the world. Lorenzo, 
with his varied and well-cultivated talents, his keen penetration 
and unerring judgment in all departments of knowledge, was no 
ordinary patron and Maecenas ; he stood among the first literati 
i)f his age, and took an active part in the labours he promoted, 
not only in the interests of his government, but also from real 
and undoubted intellectual taste. Nevertheless, in order to turn 
letters to political uses, he endeavoured by his festivals and his 
carnivalesque songs to enervate and corrupt the people, and 
succeeded only too well. Thus, without an army, without the 
lawful command of the State, he Avas master of Florence and of 
Tuscany, and moreover exercised immense influence over all the 
Italian potentates. His enemy, Sixtus IV., was dead. Pope 
Innocent VIII. was not only his friend, but married a relation 
into his family, bestowed a Cardinal's hat on his infant son 
Giovanni, and always turned to him for advice. The inex- 
tinguishable hatred that burned between Lodovico the Moor and 
Ferdinand of Aragon, a hatred which threatened to set all Italy 
ablaze, was held in bounds by Lorenzo — for that reason rightly 
called the balancing needle of Italy — and it was not till after his 
death that it led to fatal consequences. His political letters, 
frequently examples of political wisdom as well as elegance, were 
pronounced by the historian Guicciardini to be among the most 
eloquent of the age. 

But Lorenzo's policy could found nothing that was permanent. 
Unrivalled as a model of sagacity and prudence, it promoted 
in- Florence the development of all the new elements of which 
modern society was to be the outcome, without succeeding in 
fusing them together ; for his was a policy of equivocation and 
deceit, directed by a man of much genius, who had no higher 
aim than his own interest and that of his family, to which he 
never hesitated to sacrifice the interests of his people. 

3. Venice. 

The history of Venice stands in apparently direct contradiction 
with that of Florence. The latter, in fact, shows us a series of 
revolutions which, starting from an aristocratic government, 
reached the extreme point of democratic equality, only to fall 
later under the despotism of a single head ; while Venice, on the 
contrary, proceeded with order and firmness to the formation of 


an increasingly powerful aristocracy. Florence vainly sdiight i^ 
preserve liberty by too frequent changes of magistrates ; Venicis 
elected the Doge for life, rendered a seat in the Grand Counci'T 
an hereditary honour, firmly established the Republic, became a 
great power, and retained her liberty for many centuries. This 
enormous divergence, however, is not only easily explained, but 
is much reduced in our eyes when we examine the special con- 
ditions amid which the Venetian Republic grew into shape. 
Founded by Italian refugees, who settled in the lagoons to escape 
the tide of barbarian invasion, it was exposed but little, if at all, 
to the influence of Feudalism and the other Germanic laws and 
institutions which had so widely penetrated into many parts of 
Italy. Thus in Venice from the very beginning there were seen 
opposed to each other the people engaged in industry and com- 
merce and the old Italian families, who without the support of 
the empire, or the strength of the feudal order, were very easily 
overruled and conquered. 

An aristocracy of wealth was quickly formed, and these new 
nobles had no difficulty in taking possession of the government 
and holding it for ever. This triumph which, in Florence, was 
the slow result of many and frequent struggles, was in Venice 
as permanent as it was rapid. From the first, the prosperity of 
the lagoons was entirely dependent upon the distant expeditions 
and far-spreading commerce which everywhere formed the 
strength of the burghers or popolo grasso. Then, while on the 
one hand the energies of the people or popolo mimito were em- 
ployed for many months of the year in lengthy voyages, on the 
other the government of the colonies gave opportunities of com- 
mand to the more ambitious citizens, without any danger to the 

Thus the Venetian Constitution, in its first origin but little 
different from that of other Italian Communes, went on from 
change to change owing to the widely different conditions by 
which it was surrounded. From the beginning the Doge was 
elected for life, because the city being divided in many islands, 
all tending to render themselves independent of one another, the 
need of greater centralization was soon made manifest. But the 
Doge was surrounded by nine citizens who composed the St'giiorta^ 
and there were, as in other cities, two Councils, the Senate or 
Pregati\ and the Grand Council. On solemn occasions, an appeal 
was made to the people collected in a public assembly called 
Arrengo, answering to the Parliament of Florence. Had things 
stood still at this point, the Venetian Constitution, with the 
exception of the Doge for Hfe, would not have been radically 


diiTorcnt from that of Florence. But the far greater strength 
quickly acquired by the aristocracy of wealth, for the reasons 
above mentioned, gradually concentrated nearly all the power of 
the State in the Grand Council, which, on the abolition of the 
Arrengo and the narrowing of the Doge's authority, was the true 
so\ercign power, and became hereditary through a series of slow 
reforms between the years 1297 and 1319, leading to what was 
called the Serrata of the Grand Council. Thus the circle was 
closed, and government was in the hands of a powerful aristocracy 
that later on instituted a Golden Book. 

But although here, in Venice, there was no feudal principle to 
be fought against, these reforms were not carried without nuich 
opposition on the part of the old families, who, seeing themselves 
excluded from the government, sought and found adherents 
among the lowest classes. The conspiracy of Tiepolo Baiamonte 
(13 10) was formidable enough for a few davs to place the very 
existence of the republic in extremity of peril. But after a fierce 
conflict within and without the city, it was suffocated in blood- 
shed, and followed by the creation of the Council of Ten, a 
terrible tribunal which, by summary trials, but always in accord- 
ance with the laws, punished by death every attempt at revolt. 
Then, indeed, all danger was warded off from the aristocratic 
government, and it daily gained fresh strength. The solidity of 
Venetian institutions favoured the progress of Venetian commerce, 
and increased riches gave courage for new undertakings in the 
East, the field of Venetian glory and Venetian gain. 

In the East the republic had encountered two powerful 
rivals, Pisa and Genoa ; but the maritime power of the 
Pisans was shattered at the Meloria (1284) by the Genoese, 
who in their turn after a long and sanguinary striiggle 
were irreparably defeated by the Venetians at Chioggia in 
1380. And thus by the end of the fourteenth century Venice 
was free from all rivals, mistress of the seas, in the enjoyment 
of internal security, and most prosperous in commerce. Then 
she aspired to conquest on the mainland, and entered upon a 
second period of her history, during v/hich she found herself 
involved in all the intrigues of Italian politics, lost her primitive 
character of an exclusively maritime power, and began to be 
corrupt. Hence the weighty accusations brought against her 
by contemporaries and posterity alike, but it was irresistible 
necessity that had forced her into the new path. In fact, when 
great States were springing up on all sides, the dominion of the 
lagoons was no longer secure, and it was no longer enough to 
watch over her own commerce on the mainland. The Scaligeri, 


the Visconti, the Carrara, the Este, detested the thriving RepubHc. 
They threatened it and isolated it in its own lagoons precisely 
when it most needed new markets for its superior wares ; for its 
trade with the East which was only to be fed by that with thu 
West. And when the Turks advanced and began to check the 
conquests of the Republic and threaten its colonies for other 
reasons, this need became still more pressing. 

It is true that Venice was then attacked by a thousand dangers 
on both sides ; but these dangers were inevitable, and she met 
them, fighting by land and by sea, with heroic ardour, and at 
first with unexpected good fortune. Venice certainly was some- 
what unscrupulous in promoting her new interests ; often com- 
pelled in Italy to combat disloyal enemies, she too made use of 
violence and fraud. Yet it was never the personal caprice of an 
individual subjecting all things to his own will ; it was a patriotic 
aristocracy giving its blood for its country. In the fifteenth 
century the first to feel the claws of the lion of St. Mark were the 
Carrara, lords of Padua, who were strangled to death in 1403. 
After that, Venice sent to Padua a Rector for civil, and a Captain 
for military affairs, leaving intact all old laws and local institutions. 
The same took place, or had already taken place, in Friuli, Istria, 
Vicenza, Verona, Treviso. It was a very intelligent and liberal 
policy for those times ; but with their independence, the new 
subjects lost for ever all hope of liberty. The conquered terri- 
tories certainly derived great advantages from being under a 
strong and just government and sharing in the immense trade of 
Venice ; but although material well-being might make the mul- 
titude forget their love of liberty and independence, there remained 
in all the powerful families who had held or hoped to hold rule, 
an intense hatred for the new tyrant, who was envied for the 
stability and strength of her government, and considered the 
most formidable enemy of all the other Italian States. 

She proceeded on her course of conquest, and the fifteenth 
century, in which Italy began rapidly to decline, seemed on the 
contrary to open to Venice an era of increased prosperity. _ Her 
nobles had made men forget the irregularity of their origin, by 
the enormous sacrifices they had made for their country, and by 
the valour they had shown in the naval battles in which they 
commanded. Absorbed in political life, they freely left to the 
people all commerce and industry, which prospered miraculously 
under the shelter of a fixed government and victorious arms. 

Even the advance of the Turks, which later wrought such 
terrible harm on the republic, seemed at this period almost to 
turn to its advantage. In fact, many islands of the archipelago, 


and other States, finding themselves in great danger through the 
impotence of the Greek Empire to defend them from the terrible 
hurricane that was drawing near, invoked the protection of Venice 
and gave themselves into her hands. Thus her dominions were 
enlarged and fresh subjects acquired, ready to pour out their 
blood in combating the common enemy, who, in the earlier en- 
counters, suffered very heavy losses. All these things helped to 
rouse the spirit of the Venetians, who at this time believed them- 
selves destined to be the bulwark of Christendom and the 
dominant power in Italy. Throughout their political dealings, 
in the correspondence of their ambassadors, in their continual 
wars by sea and land, patriotic feeling over-ruled every other, and 
inspired a noble boldness of language in citizens who were ever 
ready to lay down their lives for their country. The honour, the 
glory of Venice, was always their dominant motive ; and in their 
struggle against the advancing Turks they gave continued proofs 
of heroism. When the Venetian fleet encountered its formidable 
enemy near Gallipoli, in May, 141 6, Pietro Loredano, its com- 
mander, wrote to his government : " Boldly did I, the captain, 
crash against the foremost of the enemy's galleys, full of Turks, 
who fought like dragons. Surrounded on all sides, wounded by 
an arrow which had passed throvigh my jaw beneath the eye, by 
another through my hand, as also by many more, I did not cease 
from fighting, nor would I have ceased till death. I captured the 
first galley and planted my flag upon it. The Turks who Avere on 
board were cut to pieces, the rest of the fleet routed." ' Venice 
alone, in the Italy of the fifteenth century, was capable of enter- 
prises so daring and language so frank. The little republic of the 
lagoons had become one of the greatest potentates of Europe. 
But the dangers closing in around her were immense and waxing 
greater on all sides. 

The Doge Tommaso IMocenigo foresaw these dangers, and on 
his death-bed, in April, 1423, prayed and entreated his friends not 
to be tempted to undertake wars and conquests, and above all not 
to elect as his successor Francesco Foscari, whose immoderate 
ambition would certainly drag them into the most audacious and 
perilous enterprises. But these prudent counsels w^ere uttered in 
vain. Filippo Maria Visconti was then threatening all Northern 
and Central Italy ; the Turks were on the advance. Francesco 
Foscari was duly elected, and he certainly was not the man to 
bring back into harbour a vessel already launched on the open 
sea. No sooner did the Florentines implore help against the 

' Romanin ("Storia documentata di Venezia," vol. iv. lib. x. chap. 3) quotes 
from Sanuto all this account, of which we have given a brief summary. 


Visconti, than he exclaimed in the Senate : — " Were I at the end 
of the world and saw a people in danger of losing its liberty, 1 
would hasten to its assistance." " Nu patiremo che Filippo tuoga 
la liberta ai Fiorentini ? Sto furibondo tiran scorrera per tulta 
Italia, la struggera e conquassera senza gastigo ? " ^ Thus, in 
1426, began the formidable struggle which, frequently interrupted 
and renewed, only ended with the death of Visconti in the year 

In these twenty-one years Foscari showed a truly Roman 
patriotism and energy, struggling against external and internal 
dangers of every kind. Each year the Visconti's treasures enabled 
him to bring fresh armies into the field, and the Venetian Republic 
was always ready to meet them. Carmagnola, who had come 
over to the Venetians, gave cause for suspicion immediately after 
his first victories, and was, without hesitation, brought to a regular 
trial and condemned to death. On the 5th of May, 1432, cum una 
sprangha in buchn^ et cum rnnnibiis ligatis de retro juxta soh'tiim,^ 
he was led between the columns of the Piazzetta and there be- 
headed. In 1430 there was an attempt against the Doge's life, and 
in 1433 a conspiracy against his government : the Ten brought 
swift and exemplary justice to bear upon the guilty parties. Later, 
at the instigation of the Visconti, the last of the Carrara tried to 
reconquer his lost dominions, and persuaded Ostasio da Polenta, 
lord of Ravenna, to throw off his allegiance to Venice. Carrara 
lost his head between the columns of the Piazzetta (1435), Polenta 
died in exile at Crete, and Ravenna was added to the Venetian 
territor}'. After Visconti's death, and shortly after the cessation 
of hostilities with Milan, there occurred the fall of Constantinople 
(1453), in which so many Italians, especially Venetians, lost their 
lives. This event, marking a new epoch in the history of Europe, 
was a mortal blow to Venice. Yet, in 1454, she succeeded in 
making a treaty, which ensured free trade to her subjects, and 
gave her time to prepare for new conflicts. 

But the chief danger to the Republic sprang from the fresh 
germs of corruption, now beginning to threaten it with internal 
discord. Foscari's enemies, not content with having plotted 
against his life and his government, now assailed him by bitter 
persecution of his last surviving son, Jacopo, a man of very 
frivolous character, but blindly beloved by his father. Exiled, in 
2445, for having accepted gifts, which the laws strictly forbade to 
the Doge's son, he, after having obtained pardon, was again con- 
demned to exile in Canea in 145 1, for supposed connivance in the 

» Romanin, " Storia documentata di Venezia," vol. iv. p. icS. 
" The words of the sentence as given by Konianin. 

4 2 A vr/v' O D ucTioy. 

assassination of one of his former judges. Recalled from liis place 
of exile in 1456, he was subjected to a fresh trial, for having; 
maintained a secret correspondence with the Duke of Milan, and 
condemned to a longer term of banishment. Entering the prison, 
the old Doge, unmoved by the sight of his son imploring pardon 
at his feet, exclaimed : — " Go, obey the will of thy country, and 
seek for nought else." But hardly had he tottered from the 
prison, leaning on his staff, than he fell into a swoon.' Shortly 
afterwards Jacopo Foscari died in exile (12th January, 1457), and 
the paternal heart of the man, who had sustained with an iron 
resolution, a gigantic struggle in defence of the Republic, broke 
down under the persecutions heaped upon his son. Aged, worn 
out, crushed, he had no longer the strength required to con- 
duct State affairs, and to defend himself from his enemies. On 
being invited to resign, and refusing to do so, he was formally 
deposed. His ring having been broken off, the ducal cap removed 
from his head, he calmly descended the same stairs by which he 
had mounted on his accession to the Dogeship, quietly conversing 
with those who were near, and without accepting any offered 
arm. His successor was elected on the 30th October, and he died 
of a broken heart on the ist of November, after a thirty-four years' 
reign. Francesco Foscari was certainly one of the greatest political 
characters of his time.^ With him, Venice attained the height of 
her power ; after him she soon began to decline, though remaining 
heroic even in decay. 

Forsaken by all the rest of Italy, she was left alone to confront 
the Turks, who were advancing with formidable forces. The 
sopra-comito (or admiral) Girolamo Longo wrote in 1468 that the 
Turkish fleet which he had to encounter was of four hundred sail, 
and six miles in length. " The sea seemed a forest. This may 
seem an incredible thing to hear, but it is a marvellous thing to 
behold ; . . . now see if by stratagem it be possible to gain an 
advantage. Men and not words are what is required." 3 These 
seem almost like accents of fear beside those words of Loredano, 
which we have already quoted. Times, in fact, were changed : 
the Republic continued to send forth fresh fleets, which fought 
heroically ; it organized the resistance of all Christian populations, 
who freely gave their blood for the cause ; it sent arms and money 
to the Persians, so that they too might aid to check the threaten- 

' " Diarii " di Marin Sanuto, and the " Cronaca " of Delfin. See the fragments 
cited by Romanin, vol. iv. p. 2S6, and foi. 

^ The following inscription was placed upon his tomb : "Post mare perdoinitiiin, 
post urbes inarte subactas, Florenlein palriain, longisviis pace reli(jui." 

3 This letter is in the Aniiali of Malipiero, and is also quoted by Romanin, 
vol. iv. pp. 335, 336. 


iiig march of Mahomet II. ; but all was in vain. Ncgroponte, 
CafFa, Scutari, other cities and possessions, fell one after another, 
in spite of their valiant defence. And at last Venice, weary of 
always standing alone to combat the enemy of Christianity, in 
January, 1479 made a peace, which guaranteed her own commerce, 
and which, seeing the sad state to which she was reduced, might 
be considered honourable. Then the rest of Italy joined in violent 
abuse of Venice, the more so when their alarm reached its climax 
in 1480 by the talcing of Otranto by the Turks. But shortly after, 
the death of Mahomet 11. , and the consequent disorders at home, 
recalled the Turkish invaders from our shores, and Italy thouglit 
no more upon the subject. 

From this time forward the horizon of the Republic grows 
narrower and narrower. Solely occupied by material interests, 
involved in the intrigues of Italian policy, it no longer assumes 
the guardianship of the Peninsula, and of all Christendom, against 
the Moslem, and every fresh event of the world's history seems to 
be to the injury of Venice. The discovery of America, and of the 
Cape of Good Hope, removed her from the principal highways of 
commerce. Reduced on all sides, she lost, together with her great 
gains, the historical importance which had been hers as the con- 
necting link between the East and the West. Now she was 
reduced to snatching this or that scrap of territory from her 
neighbours, and imposing on them her still great and powerful 
trade. Her dominions now extended on one side to the Adda, on 
the other she held Ravenna, Cervia, Rimini, Faenza, Cescna, and 
Imola in the Romagna : in the Trentino she held Roveredo and 
its dependencies ; she had carried her arms as far as the Adriatic 
coast of the Neapolitan kingdom, and held some lands there. But 
this very fact of her having taken something from all, had gained 
her the fear and hatred of all. 

Then again, this vast State was all under the rule of one city, 
in which but a small proportion of the citizens had a hereditary 
right to command. Not even in Venice, therefore, was it possible 
to hope for the wide and organic development of a modern State ; 
she remained rather as a survival of old republican institutions, 
outliving itself, and condemned to perish for want of nourishment. 
Meanwhile, it was still the strongest, most moral governinent in 
Italy ; but as its circle of activity diminished, so too diminished 
the magnanimous virtues, the heroic characters, born of the great 
perils they had had to struggle against, and of the continual 
sacrifices to which they were summoned. Instead of these, there 
ensued in the ruling class an enormous growth of egotism, luxury, 
and greed for gold. The jewel-loaded, satin-clad wives of the 


Venetian patricians, inhabited durinjr the fifteenth century abodes 
of c;reatcr richness than any that were to be found in the palaces 
of Itahan potentates. " Tlie men," says the Mihmese writer Pietro 
da Casola, " were more modest and austere ; they dressed hke so 
many doctors of the law, and those who dealt with them had to 
keep both eyes and ears wide open." ' But their policy, if less 
egotistical than that prevalent in the rest of Italy, was still that 
of a narrow local and class interest. They looked almost with 
pleasure on the ruin of Italy, hoping thus to insure their own 
power over it. And when foreign armies approached the Alps, 
they allowed them free passage, in the belief that they could later 
drive them back, and command in their place. The contrary 
ensued ; this selfishness of theirs, which helped no man and 
threatened all, led to the League of Cambray, in which nearly 
the whole of Europe arrayed itself against the little Republic, 
which, in spite of its gallant resistance, could not, as it had hoped, 
secure its own safety in the midst of the general ruin of the wlaole 

4. Rome, 

Amid the infinite variety of characters and institutions presented 
to us by Italy in the fifteenth century, the history of Rome forms 
almost a world apart. Chief centre of the interests of all Christian 
lands, the Eternal City was more sensitive than any other to the 
great transformations going on in Europe. The formation of 
great and independent States had broken up and rendered for 
ever impossible the universal unity of which the Middle Ages had 
had some prevision, and had even partially fulfilled. The Empire 
was becoming more and more restricted within the German fron- 
tiers, and the aim of the Emperor was to strengthen his position 
by settled and direct dominion within his own proper States. 
Therefore the Papacy, henceforward condemned to renounce its 
pretensions to universal sovereignty in the world, felt the urgent 
necessity of constituting a secure and genuine temporal kingdom. 
But the transfer of the Holy Seat to Avignon, and the long- 
enduring schism had thrown the States of the Church into 
disorder and anarchy. Rome was a free Commune, with a similar 
constitution to that of the other Italian Republics, but industry 
and commerce had not flourished there, nor had its political 
organism ever attained a vigorous development, chiefly in con- 
sequence of the exceptional supremacy exercised by the Pope, and 

* See the " Viaggio " of Brother Pietro da Casola, a IMilant-se, published by 
G. Porro, Milan, RipamoiUi, 1855. Ronianin, vol. iv. pp. 494, 495, quotes some 



the excessive power of the nobles who threw everything into 
confusion. The Orsini, the Colonna, the Prefetti di Vico, were 
sovereign rulers in their immense domains, in which they had 
stores of arms and armed men ; they nominated judges and 
notaries, and sometimes even coined money. Besides, there were 
also cities who were, or were continually trying to render themselves 
independent within the Roman territory, which extended from the 
Garigliano to the confines of Tuscany. 

Every one, too, can imagine to what condition the Papal sway 
was reduced in cities like Bologna, Urbino, Faenza, and Ancona, 
all independent Republics or Lordships. Therefore, in order to 
form a temporal kingdom, a war of conquest was necessary. This 
Innocent VI. (1352-62) had attempted to begin, by means of 
Cardinal d'Albornoz, who, by fire and sword, brought a great 
portion of the State into submission. But this boasted submission 
was in fact reduced to the construction, in all principal cities, of 
fortresses held in the Pope's name ; to transforming the tyrants 
into vicars of the Church, and compelling the Republics to take 
an oath of obedience, while their statutes were left intact. In 
this way the Este, the Montefeltro, the Malatesta, the Alidosi, the 
Manfredi, the Ordelaffi, were legitimate lords of Ferrara, Urbino, 
Imola, Rimini, Faenza, Forli ; while Bologna, Fermo, Ascoli, and 
other cities remained Republics. The political constitution of 
Rome then began to be changed into an administrative constitu- 
tion by the destruction of ancient liberties, and Popes Urban V. 
and Gregory XI. continued in the same path ; but the prolonged 
schism in the Church again plunged everything into anarchy, and 
prevented the formation of any strong government or any stable 

At last, in the year 141 7, the Council of Constance put an end 
to the schism, by deposing three Popes and electing Oddo Colonna, 
who took the name of Martin V. Thus the history of the Papacy 
enters on a new period which lasts until the beginning of the 
following century, and during this time the successors of St. Peter 
seem to put aside all thought of religion, and devote themselves 
exclusively to the construction of a temporal kingdom. Having 
become exactly similar to other Italian tyrants, they profited by 
the same arts of government. Still the great diversity of their 
station in the world, and the peculiar temper of the State they 
tried to rule, endued their proceedings with a special character. 
Generally elected at a very advanced age, the Popes suddenly 
found themselves in the midst of a riotous and powerful nobility, 
at the head of a disordered and loosened State, in a turbulent city 
where frequently they were without adherents, and not seldom 


complete ?trane;crs. Therefore to jnrain strcn£Tth, they favoured 
and enriched nephews who were often their own sons ; and tluis 
originated the great Church scandal, known as Nepotism, and 
which specially appertains to this century. Then having once 
been drawn into the tumultuous vortex of Italian politics, the 
Popes found themselves compelled to promote simultaneously 
two different interests, not unfrequently at variance the one with 
the other, z>., the political and the religious interest. Religion 
became an instrument for the advancement of their political 
ends, and thus, though only rulers of a small State, they were 
able to turn all Italy upside down, and without succeeding in 
bringing it into subjection, to keep it weak and divided until it 
fell a prey to the foreigners, whom they continually called to their 
aid. On the other hand, brute force and political authority were 
used to keep alive the religious prestige which had no longer any 
root in men's minds. Such a state of things confused all consci- 
entious feeling in these representatives of God upon earth, and 
made them gradually fall into so horrible a delirium of obscenity 
and crime, that all decency was forsaken, and the Vatican became 
the scene of every imaginable orgy and outrage, of plots and 
poisonings. It seemed as though the Papacy desired to extirpate 
all religious feeling from the mind of man, and overthrow for ever 
every basis of morality. 

The first germs of this fatal corruption of the Papacy origin- 
ated in the conditions in which it then was, and quickly bore 
fruit under Martin V., who was, however, the best Pope of that 
century. He arrived from Constance, — according to the expres- 
sion of a modern writer, — like a lord without lands, so that in 
Florence the street-boys followed him with jeering songs. Enter- 
ing Rome on the 28th of September, 1420, with the aid of Queen 
Giovanna of Naples, the Roman people, having by this time lost 
all their free institutions, presented themselves to him as a 
throng of beggars. War, pestilence, and famine had ravaged the 
eternal city for many years ; monuments, churches, and houses 
Avere alike in ruin ; the streets full of heaps of stones and boggy 
holes ; thieves robbing and pillaging by day as well as night. 
All agriculture had disappeared from the Campagna, and an im- 
mense extent of land had become a desert ; the cities of the 
Roman territory Avere at war with each other, and the nobles, shut 
up in their strongholds which were mere robbers' dens, despised all 
authority, would submit to no control, no law, and led the lives of 
brigands. Martin V. set to work with firmness, and first of all 
completed the destruction of Roman freedom, by changing the 
city into an administrative municipality. Then many rebel 

ROME. 47 

domains were subjected, many leaders of armed bands taken and 
hung ; order thus began to be re-established, and a form of 
regular government inaugurated. But this end was attained by 
the means we have alluded to above. The Pope, to gain adherents, 
threw himself entirely into the arms of his relatives, the Colonna, 
arranged wealthy marriages for them, conceded to them vast feuds 
in the States of the Church, or obtained the concession of others 
equally large in the kingdom of Naples. In this way he increased 
their already enormous power, and was the initiator of Nepotism. 
In order to keep up the asserted supremacy of the Popes in the 
kingdom of Naples, and get all possible advantages from it for 
his own friends, he gave his support, first to Giovanna II., who 
had assisted him to enter Rome ; then to Louis of Anjou, her 
adversary ; lastly, to Alfonso of Aragon, who triumphed over all. 
And this fatal system of policy, continued by his successors, Avas 
the principal cause of the almost utter destruction of the Nea- 
politan kingdom and of the ruin of Italy. Yet in Rome there 
was seen at last some show of order and of regular government. 
Streets, houses, and monuments were partially restored ; for the 
first time for many years it was possible to walk through the 
city and out for some miles into the Campagna, without fear of 
robbery and assassination. Therefore after the Pope's death (20th 
Feb., 143 1), his tomb bore these words : Temporum siiorinn 
felicitas ; and the inscription cannot be said to be altogether un- 
merited, especially when we consider how speedily all his sins 
were thrown into the shade, by the far greater crimes of his 

Eugene IV., who leant upon the Orsini, thereby making deadly 
enemies of the Colonna, was quickly driven out of Rome by a 
revolution, and pursued with volleys of stones as he fled down the 
Tiber, cowering in a boat (June, 1434). Arrived in Florence, he 
had to re-establish his government over again and sent to Rome 
the patriarch, afterwards Cardinal Vitelleschi, who, at the head of 
armed bands, carried on with fire and sword a real war of exter- 
mination. The family of the Prefetti di Vico was extinguished 
by the execution of its last representative Giovanni ; that of the 
Colonna was partly destroyed by the hardy prelate ; the Savelli 
underwent the same fate. Many castles were razed to the ground, 
many cities destroyed, and their inhabitants scattered hunger- 
stricken over the Campagna where they wandered about in misery, 
sometimes even ofiering to sell themselves for slaves. When at 
last Vitelleschi, at the head of a small army, made a- triumphal 
entry into the Eternal City, that trembled at his feet, the Pope, 
«eized with suspicion, sent Scarampo, another prelate of the same 


stamp, to supersede him. Vitclleschi, who attempted resistance, 
was surroumled, wdunded, taken prisoner, and confined in the 
c.istle of St. Ans^elo, where he died. Then Eugene IV. was able 
to return quietly and safely to Kome, and died three years after- 
wards in 1447. 

There was some singularity in the destiny of this Pope, who 
finally subjected the Eternal City. While Vitelleschi and 
Scarampo were shedding rivers of blood, he remained in Florence 
enjoying festivals and the society of learned scholars. Without 
having much culture or love of letters, he found it necessary, 
when attending the Council of Florence, to employ interpreters 
to discuss and treat with the representatives of the Greek Church, 
and was therefore obliged to admit into the Curia learned men 
who quickly overran it, not without certain noteworthy changes 
in the history of the Papacy. A solemn funeral oration in classic 
Latin was recited beside his bier by the celebrated scholar Tom- 
maso Parentucelli, w^ho was chosen as his successor, without being 
possessed of other merits than his erudition. He took the name 
of Nicholas V., and it was a general saying that, in his person, 
learning itself had ascended the chair of St. Peter. Finding the 
Papal power sufficiently firm, Nicholas, who although devoid of 
original talent, and also — gravest of defects in a scholar of the 
fifteenth century — ignorant of Greek, but nevertheless the 
greatest existing collector and arranger of ancient codices, carried 
this passion with him to the Apostolic Chair, and made it the sole 
object of his pontificate. 

His dream was to convert Rome into a vast centre of learning, 
into a great monumental city, with the finest library in the world. 
Had it been possible, he would have transported all Florence to the 
banks of the Tiber. He scattered agents all over Europe to collect 
and copy ancient codices ; scholars of all kinds were offered large 
salaries as translators, without any regard to their religious or 
political opinions. Valla, who had written most noisily against 
the temporal power, was one of the first to be summoned. 
Stefano Porcaro, who, like Cola dei Rienzo, had become, through 
his classical studies, infatuated for the Republic, was also over- 
whelmed with honours. However, after he had entered into a 
conspiracy for firing the Vatican, and restoring republican institu- 
tions, the Pope lost patience with him, and let him be condemned 
to death. But nothing could cool the ardour of Nicholas for 
learning ; he thought that all things might be remedied by a few 
Latin speeches, even the fall of Constantinople ; and he never 
ceased to collect manuscripts and summon men of learning to 
Rome. The Curia became an office for translators and copyists. 

ROME. 45 

and the Vatican library was rapidly collected and enriched by 
many splendidly bound volumes. At the same time w^w roads were 
opened, fortresses built, churches and monuments ot all kinds 
erected. There reigned a perfect fever of activity, for the Pope, 
with the assistance of the first architects in the world, among whorn 
was Leon Battista Alberti, had conceived a design, according to 
which Rome was to eclipse Florence. The leonine city was to be 
transformed into a great Papal fortress, in which St. Peter's and 
the Vatican were to be rebuilt from the very foundations. And 
although Nicholas V. did not succeed in completing this colossal 
enterprise, for which several generations would barely have 
sufficed, yet he initiated it with so much ardour, that during his 
reign the whole aspect of Rome was changed, and the immortal 
works executed in the times of Julius II. and Leo. X. were but 
the fulfilment of his own design. 

On the 24th of March, 1455, Nicholas V. died the death of a true 
scholar, that is, after having pronounced a Latin oration to his 
Cardinals and friends, and was succeeded by Calixtus III., a 
Spaniard, and able jurist, who had first found his way to Italy 
as a political adventurer in the suite of Alphonso of Aragon. 
Calixtus was already seventy-seven years of age ; he belonged to 
the corrupt Spanish clergy, not yet tamed and disciplined by the 
politic measures of Ferdinand and Isabella, and he bore the ill- 
omened name of Borgia ; his brief Papacy was, like a meteor, 
the herald of coming evils. He had no concern with codices and 
scholars. With a blind cupidity, unrestrained by any trace of 
decency or sha-me, he loaded with honours, land and gold those 
nephews, of whom one was destined later to assume the triple 
crown under the notorious name of Alexander VI. He filled the 
city with Spanish adventurers, entrusting them with all duties of 
administration and police, thereby causing an enormous increase 
of crime. Blood was shed on all sides ; anarchy again threatened 
to rule in Rome, when old Calixtus died (6th August, 1458), where- 
upon a sudden burst of popular indignation put the Spaniards to 
fiight, and the Pope's nephews themselves barely escaped with 

Another scholarly Pope now ascended the throne, Enea Silvio 
Piccolomini, of Sienna, a man of varied and versatile talent and 
character. His early life was passed in pleasure, then amid the 
controversies at Basle, where he upheld that Council's authority 
in opposition to the Pope's ; later, among the affairs of the im- 
perial chancery in Germany, where he was the first to propagate 
Italian learning, he recanted his bold doctrines, renounced his 
juvenile errors, and thus was able to rise step by step in ecclesias- 

VOL. I. 5 


lical rank until he reached tlic Papal Chair (19th August, I45<S), 
and assumed the name of Pius II. He still continued to study 
and compose works of merit, but he did not patronize learned 
men, as all had hoped, employing himself instead in bestowing 
otTices and jiatronage on his relations and his Sicnnesc friends. 
Rome had once more fallen a prey to anarchy, in consequence of 
the mad policy of Calixtus III., who, although a creature of the 
Aragonese, had favoured the Angevins ; but Pius II., with greater 
shrewdness, favoured the Aragonese, and thus, assisted by them, 
was able to conquer the rebels. This Pope's ruling idea was that 
of a general crusade against the Turks ; only as a man of his day, 
and a scholar, he was more stirred by rhetorical enthusiasm than by 
religious zeal. In Mantua, whither he invited all Christian princes 
to a solemn congress (1459), many Latin discourses were pro- 
nounced ; but in point of fact this great meeting was a mere 
literary display, with many high sounding promises never destined 
to be carried into effect. Notwithstanding all this, the Pope wrote 
a Latin letter to Sultan Mahomet II. expecting to convert him by 
that means. And when, on the contrary, fresh Greek exiles were 
perpetually arriving, flying before the Turks, who had invaded the 
Morea, and Thomas Paleologus was the bearer of the head of St. 
Andrew, all Rome was, as it were, turned into a temple to receive 
the sacred relic, which was accompanied by thirty-five thousand 
torches. The Pope seized this occasion to deliver another solemn 
discourse in favour of a crusade, to a sceptical people, many of 
whom only felt an interest in the relic because it was brought by 
persons who spoke the language of Homer. 

In 1462, Pius II. iiad collected a large sum of money through 
the unexpected discovery of rich alum mines at Tolfa, and again 
took up the idea of a crusade, inviting all Christian princes to 
straightway set out for the East. Old and suffering as he was, 
he caused himself to be carried in a litter to Ancona, where he 
expected to find armies and fleets, intending to go with them 
and bestow his blessing on their arms, like Moses when Israel 
fought against Amalek. But he found the port entirely empty ; 
and when at last a few Venetian galleys arrived, the Pope drew 
his last breath, gazing towards the East, and urging the pursuance 
of the crusade (15th August, 1464). His life, which to some 
may perhaps seem a worthy subject of romance, or even of epic 
narration, was in reality devoid of all true greatness. Pius II. 
was a scholar of considerable talent, who wished to do some 
heroic deed, without possessing in himself the heroic element. 
Although, doubtless, the most noteworthy pontiff of this century, 
he had no deep convictions ; he reflected the opinions and feeble 

ROME, 51 

desires of the men among whom he Hved, changing |3erpetuaiiy, 
accorduig to the times and conditions in which he was placed. 
His reign seemed to have a certain splendour, to hold out many 
hopes, but he left nothing durable behind him. After popes 
who had established the temporal power by force, and popes 
who had caused art and letters to flourish in Rome ; after Pius 
II. who had not only re-established order, but had even seemingly 
inaugurated a religious awakening, it might have been hoped 
that a better era of peaceful security was at hand. But it was 
now, on the contrary, that all passions ran riot, and the worst 
crimes, the most horrible obscenities of the Papacy, were near at 

Paul II., consecrated on the i6th of September, 1464, approached 
this period without beginning it, and we may say that he was 
better than his reputation. Yet he, too, careless of learning, was 
given up to the pleasures of hfe, and without being devoid of 
political qualities, considered it a part of the art of government 
to corrupt the people by festivities on which he squandered 
treasures. His name has come down to posterity with hatred, 
because he roughly expelled all the scholars of the Segreteria 
to make room for his own adherents. And when the learned 
Avorld raised its voice still louder, and in the Roman Academy 
of Pomponio Leto, speeches were made recalling those of Cola 
dei Rienzo and Stefano Porcaro, he broke up the academy and 
imprisoned its members. It was then that Platina, confined and 
tortured in the Castle of St. Angelo, swore to have revenge, 
and obtained it by depicting his persecutor as a monster of 
cruelty in his " Lives of the Popes," a very widely known work. 
But Paul II., Avithout being in the least a good Pope, was not 
without certain merits. He re-ordered justice, severely punishing 
the bravos who filled Rome with their crimes, he had a new com- 
pilation of Roman law drawn up, he fought energetically against 
the Malatesta of Rimini, and put down the arrogance of the 
Anguillara family, who owned a great part of the Campagna, 
and of the territory of St. Peter. Neither must his oflfences be 
too severely blamed when we remember the times and the men 
who came after him. 

The three following Popes, Sixtus IV., Innocent VIII., and 
Alexander VI., are those filling the most degraded periud 
in papal history, and proving to what a state Italy was then 
reduced. The first of these men Avas a Genoese friar, whc 
immediate after his election (9th August, 147 1) exhibited himscll 
as a violent despot, devoid of all scruples and all decency. He 
needed money, and therefore put up to sale offices, benefices, and 


indulgences* He showed a downright mania for the advancement 
ot his nephews, some of whom were, according to the general 
verdict, his own sons. One of these, Pietro Riario, was made 
Cardinal, with an income of sixty thousand crowns, and plunged 
so desperately into luxury, dissipation, and debauchery of all 
kinds, that he soon died, worn out by his vices, and overwhelmed 
with debts. The other brother, Girolamo, as zealously patronized, 
led the same sort of life. The Pope's whole policy was ruled by 
his greed of fresh acquisitions for his sons and nephews. It was 
solely because Lorenzo dci Medici hail crossed these designs that 
the conspiracy of the Pazzi was hatched in the Vatican, and that 
on its failure the Pope made war upon Florence, and launched 
a sentence of excommunication against that city. Later, he 
joined the Venetians in their expedition against Ferrara, always 
with the same object of snatching some province for his family. 
A general war was the result, in which even the Neapolitans 
took part, by making an attack upon Rome, where fresh feuds 
among the nobility quickly broke out. Roberto Malatesta, of 
Rimini, was summoned to the defence of the eternal city, and 
when he died of a low fever, contracted during the war, the 
Pope tried to recompense his services by despoiling his heir of his 
State. This design, however, the Florentines managed to defeat. 
The Pope, perceiving his danger, now changed his policy, 
and joined the Neapolitans against Ferrara and the Venetians, 
since these latter seemed disposed to conduct the war solely for 
their own advantage. He then began to revenge himself upon 
the nobles, especially the Colonna Girolamo Riario, the blood- 
thirsty, commanded the artillery, — which had been blessed by 
the Pope — gained possession of the Castle of Marino by promising 
to spare the life of his prisoner the Protonotary Lorenzo Colonna, 
and nevertheless caused his head to be cut off. During the 
funeral ceremony in the church of the Holy Apostles, the infuri- 
ated mother held her son's head up by the hair, and displaying 
it to the people, exclaimed, " Behold how the Pope keeps faith ! " 
But these scenes of bloodshed in no wise disturbed the mind i f 
Sixtus IV. When, however, he suddenly received intelligence 
that the Venetians whom he had abandoned, had, without con- 
sulting him or taking his concerns in account, concluded the 
peace of Bagnolo (7th August, 1484), he was seized with a violent 
attack of fever, and died (lath August, 1484), as men said, of the 
pains of peace. 

"Nulla vis saevum potuit extinguere .Sixtuin 
Audito tantum nomine pacis, obit."' 

' Guicciardini, " Storia Fiorentina," p. 70. 



The palaces of the Riario were being sacked, the Orsini and 
the Colonna in arms, when the Cardinals hurriedly assemblino- 
in conclave, succeeded in patching up a truce. Then began a 
most scandalous traffic in votes for election to the Papal chair, 
which was sold to the highest bidder. The fortunate purchaser 
was Cardinal Cibo, who was proclaimed Pope on 29th August, 
1484, under the name of Innocent VIII. Hostile to the Aragonese, 
he soon joined the conspiracy of the Neapolitan barons, promising 
men, arms, money, and the arrival of a new Angevin pretender. 
The city of Aquila began the rebellion by raising the standard 
of the Church (October, 1485) ; Florence and Milan declared for 
the Aragonese ; Venice and Genoa, on the other hand, declared 
for the Pope and the barons, who had the aid of the Colonna, 
while the Orsini, taking up arms in the Campagna, marched 
straight to the walls of Rome. Confusion was at its height ; the 
Pope despairing of succour, armed even the common felons ; the 
Cardinals Avere at variance, the people terror-stricken, and 
Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere alone paced the walls, and pre- 
pared for their defence. An attack was momentarily expected 
from the Duke of Calabria. But the Pope's invitation to Rene 
II. of Lorraine had the effect of bringing about a peace, compell- 
ing Ferrante to pay an annual tribute, and grant an amnesty 
to the barons, who, however, were put to death shortly after- 

During all this confusion, anarchy had again broken loose in 
Rome, nor was any way found to restrain it : no morning passed 
without corpses being found in the streets. Malefactors who 
could pay, obtained safe conducts ; those who could not were 
hung at Tor di Nona. Every crime had its price, and all sums 
over one hundred and fifty ducats went to Franceschetto Cibo, the 
Pope's son ; smaller amounts to the Chamber. Parricide, viola- 
tion, any sort of crime, could obtain absolution for money. The 
Vice-Chamberlain used to say laughing, " The Lord desireth not 
the death of the sinner, but his life and his purse." The houses 
of the Cardinals were crammed with weapons, and gave shelter 
to numerous assassins and malefactors. Nor was the state of 
things in the country very different from this. At Forli Girolamo 
Riario was assassinated (1484), men said, because the Pope wished 
to give that State to Franceschetto Cibo ; at Faenza, Galeotto 
Manfredi was murdered by his own wife. Dagger and poison 
were everywhere at work, the most diabolical passions were 
unchained in Italy, and Rome was the headquarters of crime. 

Meanwhile, Innocent VIII. passed his time in festivities. He 
was the first Pope who openly acknowledged his own children, 


and celebrated llieir weddinp; feasts. Franccschetto espoused 
Maddalena, daujuhlcr of Lorenzo dci Medici (1487), and by way 
of recompense, her brother Giovanni was made a Cardinal at the 
age of fourteen. In the midst of these and other sumptuous 
family rejoicings, a singular personage arrived who completed 
the strange spectacle ofl'cred by Rome in those days. This was 
Djem, or as he was called by the Italians, Gemme, who had 
been defeated and put to flight in struggling against his brother 
Bajazct for the succession to the throne of Mahomet II. At 
Rhodes the knights of that order had made him prisoner, extort- 
ing from Bajazet thirty-five thousand ducats a-year, on condition 
of preventing his escape. Later, Pope Innocent contrived to 
get this rich prey into his own hands, and obtained forty 
thousand ducats j'carly froin Bajazet, who offered to pay a much 
larger sum on receipt of his brother's corpse, but this last arrange- 
ment did not suit the Pope's purpose. So on the 13th of March, 
1489, Djem, seated motionless in his saddle, dressed in his native 
costume, and wrapped in his austere Oriental melancholy, made 
his solemn entrance into Rome, and was lodged in the Vatican, 
where he passed his time in studying music and poetry. 

The taking of Granada, the last stronghold of the Moors in 
Spain, the arrival of holy relics from the East, all gave occasion 
for festivals, processions, and bacchanalian orgies. There was a 
very imposing ceremony on the arrival of the youthful Cardinal, 
Giovanni dei Medici, then only seventeen years of age, and to 
whom his father, among other useful advice, wrote that he 
must bear in mind that he was about to inhabit the sink of all 
iniquity. And this Rome certainly Avas. The Pope's sons and 
nephews made the town ring with the scandal of their daily life. 
Franceschetto Cibo lost fourteen thousand florins in a single 
night at play with Cardinal Riario, whom he accused to the 
Pope of cheating at cards ; the money, however, had already 
disappeared. The Eternal City had become a great market of 
offices and posts, often only created in order to be sold. And not 
only ofTices, but false bulls, indulgences to sinners, impunity for 
assassins, could be had for money : a father, by payment of eight 
himdred ducats, obtained absolution for the murder of his two 
daughters. Every evening corpses found about the streets were 
thrown into the Tiber. 

In the midst of these diabolical orgies, the Pope every now and 
then fell into a lethargy that was mistaken for death, and then 
his relations and the cardinals hurried to secure their treasures 
and the precious hostage Djem, and all Rome was in a tumult. 
The Pope would awake from his trance, and thereupon the 



merry-makings went on as before, and assassination was the 
order of the day^ At last a fresh attack of the Pope's malady 
left little room for hope. Anxious relations crowded round the 
bed of the dying man, who could take nothing but woman's 
milk ; then, it was said, transfusion of blood was tried and three 
children sacrificed to the experiment. 

But all was in vain, and on the 25th of July, 1492 — the same year 
in which Lorenzo dei Medici had died — Innocent VIII. breathed 
his last at the age of sixty. At the death of Sixtus IV., Infessura 
had blessed the day that freed the world from so great a 
monster, and the following Pope was much worse than his 
predecessor. Nobody now believed that a worse than Innocent 
could be found, yet the infamy of the new Pope Alexander VI., 
caused that of his predecessors to be totally forgotten. Of this 
monster it will be time to speak in narrating the catastrophe, 
which, during his pontificate, and partly through his misdeeds, 
overwhelmed the whole of Italy. ^ 

5. Naples. 

The kingdom of Naples resembles a perpetually stormy sea, 
which becomes monotonous by the changeless uniformity of its 
motion. It is true that the Hohenstauffen period had been one 
of glory ; but it closed with Manfred's noble death and the tragic 
end of Corradino (29th October, 1268), a drama of which the 
lugubrious echo resounds throughout the Middle Ages. The 
triumph of the Angevins, summoned across the Alps by the 
Popes— always the bitterest enemies of the mighty Frederic II. 
and his successors — was the beginning of endless calamities. The 
bad government of Charles I. of Anjou soon drove the people 
to rebellion ; in order to subdue them it was necessary to lean 
upon the barons, who, becoming exceedingly powerful, split up 
into factions, tore the miserable country to pieces, and were a 
powerful weapon in the hands of the Popes, who always hastened 
to call in a new pretender whenever they beheld any one prince 
becoming formidable. In this way they sought to acquire 
territory for their nephews, and m.aintain their pretended 
supremacy in the kingdom, which they devastated and plunged 
into anarchy with infinite harm to all Italy. Nevertheless they 
also had to pay the penalty of this iniquitous system of policy, 

• For the liistory of Rome, besides older works see Gregorovius's " Geschichte 
dcr Stadt Rom," vol. vii., and Reumont's " Geschichte dcr Siadt Rom, ' vol. 
iii., parts I and 2. 


f'lir the tinman nobles havinjr cxlcnckd their dominions down into 
the south, ami being therefore subjects of two vSlates, became 
a lever usetl by turns to tlie hurt of one or the other, with fatal 
results for both. Accordingly the whole kingdom of Naples was 
subjected to a process of dissolution. New pretenders arose every 
day, the people were always oppressed, the barons always in 
revolt, no institutions could acquire stability or firmness, no 
individual character could long succeed in .dominating and 
gui ling the rest. 

Under Joanna I., who had four husbands, and was murdered by 
suffocation under a feather bed, the kingdom had fallen into com- 
plete anarchy, and the Court turned into an assemblage of dissolute 
adventurers. Later King Ladislaus seemed about to initiate a 
new era. He had subjugated the barons, conquered internal 
enemies, placed a garrison in Rome itself, and was advancing at 
the head of a powerful army, after inspiring all men with the 
belief that he was willing and able to make himself king 
of all Italy, when he died suddenly at Perugia, as all believed 
of poison, in 141 4. With Joanna II., the sister of Ladislaus, a 
fresh period of indecency and chaos began. A widow, elderly, 
dissolute, the mistress of her own steward, she allowed the State 
to fall a prey to the nobility, mercenary leaders, and courtiers of 
the lowest stamp. Martin V., who had had her crowned in 1419, 
sent the following year for Louis III. of Anjou to come and assert 
his claims to the throne. Joanna in her turn invited Alfonso of 
Aragon over from Spain and proclaimed him her successor, but 
shortly nominated in his stead Rene of Lorraine, who was 
supported by Pope Eugene IV. and the Duke of Milan. Then 
followed a long and ruinous war. which only came to an end 
when Alfonso of Aragon, after winning many battles, entered the 
capital by the aqueducts of the Capuan Gate on 2nd of June, 1442, 
and became at last master of the kingdom that he had con- 
quered at the price of so long a war and such enormous efforts. 
This was the foundation of the Aragonese dynasty. 

It is hardly necessary to say in what a miserable condition the 
State then was, and how universal was the desire for peace. 
Alfonso's triumph was hailed as the beginning of a new era. 
He had left Spain to come and carry on in our country an 
adventurous war, in which, after dangers and hardships of every 
description, he had conquered a vast kingdom, struggled with 
numerous foes, and defeated the first captains of the age. 
A stranger in Italy, he now ruled provinces which had been long 
harassed and domineered over by strangers. He had besides 
rapidly lost all foreign characteristics, and become in all things 



similar to our princes, with the addition of a warlike and 
chivalric spirit that they very seldom possessed. He went 
about unarmed and unattended among his people, saying that 
a father should have i^o fear of his own children. His Court 
was crowded with learned men, and a thousand anecdotes are 
related in proof of his extraordinary admiration of ancient 
writers. Happening to march with his army past a city, the 
birthplace of some Latin writer, he halted as before a sanctuary ; 
he never made a journey without having a copy of Livy or Ciesar 
with him. His panegyrist Panormita pretended to have cured 
him of an illness, by reading to him a few pages of Quintus 
Curtius ; Cosimo dei Medici had concluded a peace with him, by 
sending him one of Livy's codices. A warrior and a man of 
unprejudiced mind, he gave a Avelcome to all scholars who were 
persecuted elsewhere. This was the case with Valla when he 
had to fly from Rome on account of his pamphlet against the 
temporal power of the Popes ; the same with Panormita when 
his " Ermafrodito," although much lauded for the facile elegance 
of its versification, excited scandal by an obscenity which had not 
yet become familiar to men of learning, and was publicly anathe- 
matized from the pulpit. These and many other literati were 
cordially received at the Neapolitan Court, and splendidly re- 
warded with large salaries, houses and villas. 

Exalted to the skies by the learned, Alfonso gained the title of 
the Magnanimous through his generosity and knightly spirit. 
But as a statesman, as founder of a dynasty and pacificator of a 
kingdom, one cannot accord him much praise. After having 
ravaged the unfortunate southern provinces with war, he drained 
them by taxes levied to pay his soldiery and reward his adherents 
the nobles, whom he loaded with favours and rendered more 
tyrannical than they were before. Given up to the pleasures of 
life, he never succeeded, during the sixteen years of undisputed 
rule that remained to him, in founding anything durable, in 
doing anything to relieve the people from the depth of misery 
in which his wars had plunged them, or to secure his dynasty 
by the consolidation of the kingdom. Dying, 1458, at the 
age of sixty-three, he beqvieathed his hereditary states in Spain 
together with Sicily and Sardinia to his brother ; while the 
kingdom of Naples, fruit of his victories, he left to his natural 
son Ferdinand, whose maternal origin is involved in mystery. 

Heir to a vast kingdom, conquered and pacified by his father, 
Ferdinand, or Ferrante as he Avas called, had a right to expect 
that he might quietly enjoj' its possession ; but, on the contrary, 
he was obliged to re-conquer it all again by force of arms, for the 


latent disorder now quickly broke out. The first spark of discord 
was lit by Pojie Calixtus, who owed everything to Alfonso, and 
had himself legitimizeil Ferrante's birth. But he now declared 
the Aragonese line extinct, and claimed the kingdom as a fief 
of the Church. The Angevin barons were in arms, Rene of 
Lorraine landed between the mouths of the Volturno and the 
Garigliano ; revolutions broke out in Calabria and elsewhere. 
Yet, with enemies on all sides, Ferrante, by 1464, had succeeded 
in again subjugating the whole kingdom ; and then, instead of 
establishing order, thought of nothing but revenging himself 
upon his foes. He was accustomed to destroy his enemies by 
treacherous means, and, with cynical cruelty, would embrace 
them, caress them, and entertain them gaily at dinner before 
sending them to their death. A man of remarkable ability, of 
great courage and political penetration, but full of vices and 
contradictions, he governed in a most ruinous manner, and even 
traded on his own account. He would collect a stock of mer- 
chandise and then forbid his subjects to sell theirs until he had 
disposed of his at his own price. All his transactions were based 
upon a false and artificial system, which ended by destroying the 
strength of the State, although the king had chosen very able 
men as ministers. Of these the best known are his secretary, 
Antonello Petrucci, and Pontano, who, besides being one of the 
finest scholars of his age, was also a very acute diplomatist, and 
Ferrante's prime minister ; it was he who conducted all affairs 
with the other Italian States, wrote all diplomatic despatches, 
and concluded all treaties. Francesco Coppola, the very rich and 
powerful Count of Sarno, carried on commercial operations in 
quest of money, unhampered by scruples of any sort. But these 
clever ministers were but the tools of the false policy of a crafty 
and ingenious tyrant, who looked upon his State and his people 
in the light of a property from which it was his duty to squeeze 
as much as possible during his life, and leave his heirs to take 
care of themselves. Then, too, his son Alfonso, Duke of 
Calabria, was provider, more cruel, and more tyrannical than his 
father, without possessing either his ability or courage, and 
disgusted all who approached him. When the Turks who were 
occupying Otranto, suddenly withdrew, on account of the death 
of Mahomet II., it appeared as though they were flying before 
Alfonso, the which so increased his pride and made him so much 
more unbearable, that Antonello Petrucci himself and the Count 
of Sarno, immeasurably disgusted, and foreseeing the evils that 
the character of the heir to the throne would bring about in the 
future, placed themselves at the head of the malcontents and 


determined to attempt a revolt. Pope Innocent fanned the 
flame, and the result was that great conspiracy of the barons 
which set the kingdom of Naples ablaze and threatened to cause 
a general war throughout Italy (1485). Ferrante's craft and 
courage sufficed to calm even this tempest ; he concluded a treaty 
of peace, and, as usual, succeeded in revenging himself upon his 
enemies. But his was a policy that could only be successful 
while it was a question of keeping under a turbulent and ex- 
hausted kingdom by still further exhausting it. When, however, 
dangers attacked it from abroad, matters were beyond remedy. 

And such a danger was now at hand, for Charles VIII. of 
France Avas making preparations for the fatal expedition that 
was to herald the renewal of foreign descents upon the Penin- 
sula. Ferrante, now an old man, quickly took alarm, and warned 
all the princes of Italy of the coming calamity, entreating them 
to unite for the common defence. The letters he wrote at 
that time have a painful tone, a passionate eloquence which 
seems to elevate and ennoble his mind, and an extraordinary 
political acumen that is almost prophetic.^ He perceived and 
described to admiration all the calamities Avhich awaited his 
country and the princes Avho, like himself, blinded by their own 
cunning, had rendered unavoidable the common misfortune. 
But it was already too late. Italy could not escape the abyss 
into which she was already falling. Ferrante had to go down to 
his grave with his conscience tortured beforehand by the fall of 
his kingdom and of his dynasty, a fall that was already seen to 
be inevitable when death closed his eyes on the 25th of January, 

The whole lengthy drama that we have so far described is but a 
preparation for the coming catastrophe. And if we were to turn 
our attention from the greater to the minor States into which 
the Peninsula is divided, we should find at Ferrara, Faenza, 
Rimini, Urbino, everywhere, the same series of crimes, the same 
corruption. Indeed, the petty princes, exactly because they were 
weaker and involved in greater dangers, often perpetrated more 
numerous and grosser acts of cruelty in order to save their 
threatened power. Still, they never neglected the encourage- 
ment of literary culture, of the fine arts, of the most exquisite 
refinements of civil life, thus bringing out still more forcibly the 
singular contrast, that is one of the special characteristics of the 
Italian Renaissance, and one of the greatest difficulties it offers 
to our comprehension. 

' Vide the " Codice Arat;oncse," piililishccl by Cav. Prof. F. Tiinclion, 
Superiiilendent of the Archivi Napolitani, in three vols., Naples, 1S66-74. 


Many Italian writers, animated by a si)irit of patriotism that is 
not always the most trustworthy guide in judginor of historical 
tacts, have tried to prove that the social and political condition 
of Italy in the fifteenth century was similar to that of the rest of 
Europe, and need, therefore, excite no astonishment. Louis 
XL, they remind us, was a monster of cruelty, and author 
of the most fraudulent intrigues ; the poisonings of Richard III. 
are not imknown ; Ferdinand the Catholic prided himself on 
having duped Louis XII. ten times ; the great Captain Consalvo 
was a notorious perjurer, &c., &c.' It is but too true that the 
formation of the greater European States was accomplished by 
destroying local governments and iistitutions by treachery and 
violence ; and, in these conditions of warfare, the blackest crimes 
and most atrocious acts of revenge everywhere took place ; and 
although such deeds seem almost natural in the general barbarity 
of the Middle Ages, they appear utterly monstrous and un- 
warrantable amid the mental culture of the Renaissance. And 
in Italy such crimes were certainly less excusable than elsewhere, 
since there culture had reached a higher pitch, and the contra- 
diction presented by this mixture of civilization and barbarism 
was more plainly evident. 

Nor must it be forgotten that monarchs such as Louis XL and 
Ferdinand the Catholic, notwithstanding their crimes, com- 
pleted a national work, making of France and Spain two great 
and powerful nations, while our thousand-and-one tyrants always 
kept the country divided with the sole and personal object of 
maintaining themselves on their sorry thrones. And if the 
policy of the fifteenth century was everywhere bad, it must be 
acknowledged that it originated in Italy, who taught it to other 
nations, and the number who pursued it in Italy was infinitely 
greater than in any other country. At every step we come upon 
tyrants, faction-leaders, conspirators, politicians, diplomatists ; 
indeed, every Italian seemed to be a politician and diplomatist 
even in his cradle. Thus corruption was more imiversal than 
elsewhere, spreading in wide circles from the government through 
society at large ; and so it happened that this Italian policy 
which brought into action such prodigious intellectual forces, and 
produced so great a variety of characters, ended here in Italy 
by building only upon sand. It is true that, looking lower 
down in the social scale, we find the ties of kindred still respected, 

* " Considerazioni siil lihro del Principe," added by Profes^^or A. Zanibelli lo 
the volume containing " II Principe i Discorsi tli N. Macliiavelli." Florence, Le 
Monnier, 1857. 

NAPLES. 6 1 

ancient customs still preserved, and a far better moral atmosphere, 
^nd if we turn away from regions where, as in the case of Naples, 
Rome, and the Romagna, a continued series of revolutions had 
upset and thrown everything into confusion, we find in Tuscany, 
in Venetia, and elsewhere, a population far more civilized, milder, 
and more cultivated than in the remainder of Europe, and far 
fewer crimes committed. Historians, especially foreign ones, have 
never taken this fact into account, and, judging the whole nation 
by the higher classes, who were also the more corrupt, they have 
formed mistaken conclusions as to the moral condition of Italy, 
who would have fallen to an even lower depth, and could never 
have come to life again, had she been altogether as bad as they 
have described. 

It must, however, be confessed that it was not merely because 
political life was reserved for the few in France, Spain, and 
Germany, that the corruption caused by it was less diffused. The 
reason lay deeper : in those countries there were institutions and 
traditions that still stood firm, opinions that were never discussed, 
authorities that were always respected. These naturally created 
a public strength and morality altogether wanting among our- 
selves, where all things were submitted to the minutest analysis 
by the restless Italian mind, which, in seeking the elements of a 
new Avorld, destroyed that in which it existed. The Venetian and 
Florentine ambassadors at the Court of Charles VIIL, or of Louis 
XII., appeared to turn everything into ridicule. They found the 
monarch without ability, the diplomatists untrained, adminis- 
tration confused, business conducted at hazard ; but they were 
amazed by observing the immense authority enjoyed by the king. 
" When His Majesty moves," said they, " all men follow him." 
And in this consisted the great strength of the French nation. 
Guicciardini, in his despatches from Spain, plainly shows his 
hatred and contempt for that country, yet he cannot abstain 
from noticing that the personal interests of Ferdinand the 
Catholic being in agreement with the general interests of the 
nation, the royal policy derived enormous strength and value 
from that fact. The customs of Germany and Switzerland 
appeared to Machiavelli similar to those of the ancient Romans 
whom he so heartily admired. Had the disorder and moral 
corruption of other nations been altogether identical with that 
which one found in Italy, how could we interpret these judgments 
of highly competent men ? How could it be explained that Italy 
was already decaying, even before being overrun by foreigners, 
while other nations were budding into new life? But, as we 
have before remarked, it is necessary to guard agamst all 



cxa,c;.ocra(ion, or it would be impossible to understand the great 
vitality that the Italian nation luuloubLcdly possessed, and, above 
all, its marvellous progress in art and letters. It is to this latter 
subject that we will now turn. 


I. Petrarch and the Revival of Learning.* 

^ ") great distance of time separates Dante Alighicri 
(1265-1321) from Francesco Petrarca (1304-. 
74), but whoever studies their hfe and writings 
might ahnost beheve them to belong to two 
different ages. Dante's immortal works are 
the opening of a new era, but Dante still 
stands with one foot in the Middle Ages. He 
has made himself " parte per se stesso," and has 
a supreme disdain for the bad and iniquitous company (" compagnia 
malvagia e scempia ") that surrounds him,^ but he is always a most 

' Regarding Petrarch as a man of learning, our best sources of information are 
his own letters, well edited and annotated by Fracassetti — " Epistolse de rebus 
familiaribus et varioe '• Florentia;, Typis Felicis Le Monnier, 1859-63,3 vols. ; 
" Lettere Familiari e Varie " (translation, with notes), 5 vols. : Florence, Le 
Monnier, 1863-64; and "Lettere Senili " : Le Monnier, 1869-70. Besides 
this, a valuable study upon Petrarch is to be found in Dr. Georg Voigt's 
" Die Wiederbelebung des classischen Alterthums, oder das erste Jahrhundert des 
Humanismus " : Berlin,, 1859. This work, and that of Burckhardt, _" Die 
Cultur der Renaissance in Italien/' are of the greatest importance for the history 
of Italian learning. Other interesting books on the same subject are : " Petrarque, 
Etude d'apres de nouveaux documents," par A. Mezieres : Paris, Didier, 1868 ; 
and the "Petrarka" of Ludvvig Geiger : Leipzig, Duncher und Ilumblot, 1874. 
Professor Mezieres make'^ much use of the letters published by Fracassetti, but 
hardly any of Voigt and Burckhardt's estimaVjle works. Geiger's work, on the other 
hand, is a synthesis of all that others had written before him, and was published 
on the occasion of the centenary celebrated in Arcjua, the i8th of July, 1S74, 
when two very interesting speeches, one by Carducci, the other by Aleardi, were 
also published. Of other recent works on Petrarch, such as that of De .Sanctis 
(" Critical Essay on Petrarch," Naples, 1S69), it is unnecessary to speak here, 
since they treat of the Italian poet, and not of the man of learning. 
" " Paradiso," canto xvii. 61-63, 67-69. 


ciKM\<i;ctic partisan, fighting sworJ in hand amid the Giiclph and 
Cihibellinc factions. The Empire that he desires and invokes 
is always the medieval Empire, and he defends it with arguments 
borrowed from the scholastic philosophy, which even penetrates 
into his " Divine Comedy." Thus Dante's image remains as 
though hewn in marble by Michael Angelo, in the midst of the 
tumultuous passions of his age, against which he fights, but out of 
which he has not yet found escape. Petrarch, on the contrary, 
is of weaker mould, of less original poetical genius, is neither 
Guclph nor Ghibelline ; he despises scholastic philosophy ; feels 
that literature is becoming a new power in the world, and that he 
owes all his force to his own genius ; he has almost forgotten 
the Middle Ages, and comes before us as the first modern writer. 
It is, however, singular to observe how together with all this he 
was an almost fanatical enthusiast for the Latin writers whom he 
studied and imitated all his life, neither imagining nor desiring 
anything better than the revival of their culture, their ideas, and 
even their policy. The explanation of how these same continual 
efforts to return to the ancient world led instead to the discovery 
of a new is, as we have already remarked, the problem that has 
to be solved by the historian of the revival of learning in the 
fifteenth century. The singular phenomenon is already clearly 
visible in Petrarch, for in him we find the germ of the whole 
following century, and the many men of learning who succeed 
him seem only to take, each one of them, some one portion of 
the multiple work which he embraced in its entirety, excepting the 
study of Greek that he could only encourage by his advice. From 
his early youth Petrarch forsook law and scholastic philosophy 
for Cicero and Virgil ; he travelled about the world, employed all 
his friends in obtaining ancient manuscripts for him, and formed 
a very valuable collection of them. He transcribed much with 
his owm hand, sought out unknown or forgotten authors ; but his 
special quest was for works of Cicero, who was his idol, of whom 
he discovered two orations at Liege, and some private letters 
at Verona.^ This was a great literary event, for the flowing and 
somewhat pompous eloquence of Cicero became the constant 

' It is known that Petrarch believed that he had once possessed Cicero's " De 
Gloria," and then lost it through lending it to his master, who, pressed by poverty, 
sold it, to Petrarch's life-long regret. Voigt, in his " Wiederbelebung," pp. 25, 
26, expresses his belief that Petrarch was mistaken upon this point. The volume 
he had lent contained many treatises ; it is possible, therefore, says Voigt, that 
the title " De Gloria " was given by the copyists, as often happened, to one or 
more chapters of some other work — the "Tusculane," for instance. This is the 
learned writer's hypothesis, and is founded on the observation that Petrarch lent 
the work when vciy young, at a time when he knew but little of Cicero's writing'^, 


model of Petrarch and other learned men, and his epistles were 
in especial favour as being the most diffuse form of literary com- 
position. The letters of Petrarch inaugurate the long series, they 
form his best biography, and are a literary and historical monu- 
ment of sovereign importance. They are addressed to his friends, 
to princes, to posterity, to the great writers of antiquity. Every 
affection, ev^ery thought, finds a place in them ; and the author 
exercises himself, under Cicero's faithful guidance, in every 
literary style. History, archaeology, philosophy, are all treated 
of in these letters, which thus, on the one hand, form an 
encyclopedic manual admirably fitted for the collection and 
diffusion of a new culture, too young to support as yet a more 
scientific treatment. On the other hand, the author displays his 
own intellect in these letters, gives free vent to his affections, 
describes people and princes, dilTcrent characters, and different 
lands. In Petrarch, the scholar and the practical observer of 
reality are united ; indeed, we can discern how one was born of 
the other, and how antiquity, leading the man of the Middle 
Ages by the hand, guides him from mysticism to reality, from the 
city of God to that of men, and helps him to acquire indepen- 
dence of mind. 

If, however, we examine the form of these epistles of Petrarch, 
we find that his Latinity is oftdti both inelegant and incorrect ; 
no one would dare to place it on a level with that of the classic 
writers, and it is inferior to that used later by Poliziano, Fra- 
castoro, and Sannazzaro. We must compare it with that of the 
Middle Ages to see the immense stride that he has made, and the 
superiority of his Latin even to that of Dante. But Petrarch's 
highest merit by no means consists in this new classic elegance ; 
it consists in the fact that he was the first to write freely of all 
things in the same way that a man speaks. He was the first to 
throw aside all scholastic crutches, and prove how much more 
swiftly a man could walk without leaning upon them. Sometimes 
a little too proud of this, he occasionally abuses his facility, falls 
into artifices that are mere tours de force, or allows himself to 
chatter like a child who, having made the discovery that his tongue 
can express his thoughts, goes on talking even when he has 
nothing more to say.* 

Petrarch, in short, broke through the mediaeval meshes, in 
which man's intellect was still entangled, and by means of his new 

and tliat later he was never alile to make any exact statements about that work. 
If ever really possessed by Petrarch, concludes Voigt, it is haidly credible that, 
even if missing for a lime, it should have been lost for ev^r. 
' Voigt makes this comparison. 
VOL. I. 6 


style showed I lie way \o treat of all subjects in a clear and spon- 
taneous manner. In reading his epistles, we arc often amazed by 
the fervour of his almost Pagan love of glory. It sometimes 
seems to be the principal motive of his actions, the scope of 
existence substituted by him for the ancient Christian ideal. 
Dante had already learned from Brunetto Latini how man may 
make himself eternal ; but although in his "Inferno" the con- 
demned think much of their earthly glory, in the " Furgatorio " 
there is far less anxiety about it ; we arc told that Oderisi da 
Gubbio was punished '■''per lo gran dcsi'o delP ecccllcnza^'' ' and it 
disappears entirely in the " Paradiso," where the things of earth 
are almost forgotten. The Middle Ages sought for eternity in 
another world, the Renaissance sought it in this, and Petrarch 
had already embraced this new order of ideas. In his opinion, 
it was the desire for glory that inspired all eloquence, all magna- 
nimous enterprises, all virtuous deeds ; and he was never weary 
of seeking glory, was never satiated with it, although no man 
ever attained to so much during his life. The rulers of the 
Florentine republic wrote to him " obsequiously and reverently '' 
{osseqneiili e rii'erenti)^ as to one " whose equal the past knew not, 
nor would future ages know." ^ Popes and cardinals, kings and 
princes, alike deemed it an honour to have him for their guest. ^ 
A tottering old man, deprived 'of sight, traversed the whole of 
Italy, leaning on one of his sons and one of his pupils, in order to 
embrace the knees of the immortal man and print a kiss upon the 
brow that had conceived so many sublime things ; and it is 
Petrarch himself who tells us this with great satisfaction. * The 
day on which he received the poet's crown on the Capitol (8tli 
April, 1341) was the most solemn and happiest of his life : "not 
so much on my own account," he says, "as an incitement to 
others to attain excellence." 

This sentiment becomes sometimes, as it were, the familiar 
spirit (or I)acmon) of the Renaissance. Cola dei Rienzo, Stefano 
Porcaro, Girolamo Olgiati, and many others, were less stirred by 
a veritable love of liberty than by a wish to emulate Brutus. At 
the scaffold's foot, it was no longer the faith in another world, but 
only the hope of glory in this, which gave them courage to meet 
death. And Machiavelli expresses the ideas of his age, when he 

' " For his great desire of excellence." 

* " Lettere Familiari," Italian edition. Vide note to the fifth letter of the 
eleventh book. Petrarch received the invitation on 6th April, 1351. Noia bene 
tiiat we always quote from Fracassetti's edition of Petrarch's letters. 

^ " Et iia cum quibiisdain fiii, ttt ipsi quodainmodo mecitm essenty' he himself 
says in his Letter ad Posteros. '" Fam. et Varioe," Latin edition, vol. i. p. 3. 

* '' Lettere Senili," bk. xvi. ep. 7, vol. ii. pp. 505-507, 


says that men, if unable to obtain glory by praiseworthy deeds, 
seek it by vile, since to make their names live after them is their 
sole desire.' 

All things tend to urge Petrarch, and after him, his contem- 
poraries and successors, towards the world of reality ; he has a 
great passion for travelling, on purpose to see, and describe what 
he sees : multa vt'clendi amor ac studiiim.'^ 

He goes to Paris, to ascertain the truth of the marvels told of 
that city ; at Naples he visits in detail the enchanting environs, 
with the ^neid as his guide. He seeks out the lakes of Avernus, 
Acheron, and Lucrinus, the Sybil's cavern, Baiae and Pozzuoli, and 
describes everything minutely, equally delighted with their natural 
beauties and classic memories. 3 Virgil had been Dante's guide in 
the three kingdoms of the unseen world ; Virgil is Petrarch's 
guide in the study of nature. A fearful storm breaks over the 
bay one night, and he leaps from his bed ; goes all over the city 
and down to the beach ; watches the shipwrecks ; observes the 
sea, the sky, and all the other phenomena ; strolls into the 
churches among the praying people, and then writes one of the 
most celebrated of his letters.^ All this has no longer any novelty 
for us, born amid modern realism ; but we must remember that 
Petrarch was the first to quit the mysticism of the Middle Ages, 
and in order to quit it, was obliged to don a Roman toga. 

Dante it is true sometimes describes nature with a few marvel- 
lous touches, but all such descriptive bits are used by him as 
comparisons and accessories the better to bring his ideas and his 
personages into relief ; Petrarch was the first writer to give to 
nature a value of her own, as in the pictures of the masters of the 
fifteenth century. In his descriptions of character there is a down- 
right realism that recalls the portraits painted in later years by 
Masaccio, Lippi, and Mino da Fiesole. We find him drawing and 
colouring the truth just as it is, and because of its truth, without 
any other object. He is told of a certain Maria of Pozzuoli, a 
woman of enormous strength, who lives always armed, and is 
carrying on a hereditary feud, and he makes a journey on purpose 
to see her, speak with her, and describe her. 5 

He gives a lively description of the dissolute licence of the 
Court of Joanna I., and of the sway exercised over it by the 
Franciscan friar Robert of Hungary — '' Of low stature, bald, red- 
faced ; with swollen legs ; rotten with vice ; leaning bent upon 

' " Opere," vol. i., proem to tlie " Stuiie," p. civ. 

=» " Epistola ad Posteros," at the beginning of the " Familiares." 

3 " Leltere Familiari," boolc v. ep. 4. ■♦ Ibid., book. v. ep. 5. 

5 Ibid., book v. ep. 4. 


his staff from hypocrisy rather than infirmity : dressed in a filthy 
frock, which leaves half his person uncovered, in order to icign 
poverty ; that man strides through the palace with an air of 
commanil, despising all men, trampling justice under foot, con- 
taminating all things. Almost like a new Tiphys or Palinurus, 
he steers through the tempest this vessel that must speedily sink." ' 

Elsewhere he brings before us with singular graphic power the 
stern figure of Stefano Colonna, saying, that, "although old age 
had somewhat cooled the spirit in his fierce breast, yet even when 
seeking peace, hi^ always finds war, since he would rather go tlown 
to the tomb fighting than bend his unconquered head." •^ These 
plain and speaking outlines, intermingled with continual quota- 
tions from the classics, ami almost with fragments of antiquity, 
gain even greater force by the contrast, and make us see with our 
own eyes, touch with our own hands^ the new world that is being 
born of the revival of the old. 

If, too, we seek in Petrarch no longer the man of letters but the 
individual, then we find that, in spite of his own goodness and 
sincere admiration for virtue in others, there was already apparent 
in him that weak changeableness of character, that excitable 
vanity, that attributing to words almost the same importance as to 
facts and actions, which subsequently formed the u^ual temper of 
the learned men of the fifteenth century. He is one of those who 
have most loudly extolled friendship, pouring out treasures of 
affection in his letters to his friends ; but it would not be easy to 
find in his life any example of a deep and ideal friendship, such 
as that, for instance, manifested in Dante's expressions about 
Guido Cavalcanti. A great deal of this expansive affection of his 
vented itself in the literary exercise to which it gave rise. Some 
may think that this was contradicted by Petrarch's constant passion 
for Madonna Laura, who inspired him with those immoral verses, 
which, in spite of his own contempt for them, form his greatest 
glory. It is certain that in his " Canzoniere," we find the truest, 
most refined analysis of the human heart, a diction free from 
all antiquated forms — even more modern than the language of 
many writers of the Cinquecento — and so transparent that the 
writer's thoughts shine through it, as through purest crystal. It 
is certainly impossible to doubt the existence of true and sincere 
passion ; but this Canon who proclaims his love to all the winds 
of heaven, publishes a sonnet for every sigh, tells all the world 
how great is his despair if his Laura will not look upon him, and all 

• " Lettere Familiari," linuk v. ep. 3. Fmca-sctti ^ives this leUer the date oi 
23vd November, 1343- 

* "Lettere Familiari," book viii. ep. I. 


the time is making love to another woman, to whom he addresses 
no sonnets, but by whom he has several children — how can he 
make men believe that his passion is really as he describes it, 
eternal, pure, and sole ruler of his thoughts ? ' 

And here again the noble figure of Dante shines before us with 
increased brightness ; Dante, who concealed himself lest other 
men should guess the secret of his love, and who only wrote when 
his passion, having mastered his strength, burst from his lips, in 
the shape of immortal verse. Yet Dante's Beatrice is ever wrapped 
in an ethereal veil of mysticism, and finally transfigured into 
theology, is removed even farther from us ; Petrarch's Laura, on 
the contrary, is always a real woman of flesh and blood ; we see 
her close to us, her voluptuous glances fascinate the poet, and even 
in his moments of greatest exaltation, he remains of the earth, 

In his political career too, Petrarch's mutability — to call it by 
no harsher name — is also plainly apparent. He was a friend of 
the Colonna, to whom he professed to owe everything, " body, 
soul, fortune," ^ and by whom he was beloved as a son, and 
received as a brother, yet after he had overwhelmed them with 
exaggerated praises, he forsook them in the moment of their 
peril. In lact, when Cola dei Rienzo began the extermination of 
that family in Rome, Petrarch, who entertained a boundless 
admiration for the classical Tribune, encouraged him to persevere 
in the destruction of the nobility : " Towards them every severity 

' Prof. Mezieres, in the foutth chapter of his work on Petrarch, relates how the 
poet began to love Laura in 1330, that she was the wife of Iluj^h de Sade since 
1325, and died in 1348, leaving a large family. In 1331, according to Mezieres, 
Petrarch's passion was very strong, and continued the same until after Latira's 
death. Then the French biographer, obliged to admit that Petrarch, Canon of 
Lombez, and Archdeacon of Parma, did not content himself with this species of 
affection, but at the same time loved another woman by whom he had a son in 
1337, and a daughter in 1343, makes the following remarks :— " Cc n'cst pas tine 
des paiiiatlari/es les vioinsairicnses de son amour pour Laure qu'au moment 011 
il eprouvait pour elle une passion si vivc, il fut capable de chercher ailleurs ces 
plaisirs des sens qu'elle lui refusait obstinement. C'est une histoire_ analogue i 
celle d'un grand ecrivain de n6tre siecle, qui au sortir du salon d'une femme 
celebre ou il etait reduit, malgre lui, a aimer platoniquement, se dedommagcait 
dans des amours plus faciles. des privations qu'il subissait anpres de sa maitrcsse " 
(p. 153). But it is by such particiihxrites curiettses that one judges a man's 
character ; and Prof. Mezieres, who wished to prove the seriousness and depth 
of Petrarch's love, and of his general character, would have done better to relram 
from alluding to Chateaubriand, whose character showed much frivolity and mcori- 

sistency. ^ .,••.•«. 1 

» "Lettere Senili," book xvi. cp. I. See also "Lettcre Famihari, book v. 
ep. 3; book vii. ep. 13; book xiii. ep. 6; " Epist. ad Posteros, and m tb'- 
Italian edition of the "Lettcre Faniiiiar> " llie two notes to lie 1st ^^nU J2tn 
epistles in book viii. 


is a religious duU', all pily an inluiinanily. Pursue them sword 
in hand, even cmild you only overtake iheni in hell itself." ' But 
this (lid not prevent him from writing, almost at the same 
moment, ponijious letters of condolence to Cardinal Colonna : 
"Though your house have lost a few of its columns, wliat matters 
it 1 ]t will ever have in thcc a solid foundation. Julius Ccesar 
was one man, yet sulTicient for all."" Later on he again con- 
sidered the Colonna as Massimi and Metelli ; 3 but he did not 
therefore refrain from calling the Tribune to account for his 
weakness in not having rid himself of his enemies when able to 
do so.* It is true that he tried to excuse himself by saying that 
he did not fail in gratitude ; scd carior Respiihlica^ carior Ronia^ 
cnn'or Italia^ But what prevented him from keeping .silence ? 
And yet this very republican, so ardent an admirer of the third 
Brutus, " who unites in himself, and surpasses the glory of his two 
predecessors," ^ shortly afterwards entreated the Emperor Charles 
IV. to come into Italy, saying that : "Italy invokes her spouse, 
her liberator, and waits impatiently to see his first footstep printed 
on her soil,' and who before had chosen even Robert of Naples as 
the subject of his praise, declaring that monarchy alone could .save 
Italy.^ It is also well known how many reproofs he addressed to 
the Popes for leaving Rome, which could not exist without them. 
We cannot judge Petrarch otherwise than leniently when we 
see that he himself was unaware of these contradictions, because 
in point of fact all these speeches of his were nothing but literary 
exercises, never the expression of a sincere and profound political 
passion desirous to translate itself into action. Given a subject, 
his pen ran most swiftly in Cicero's track, and followed the har- 
monious cadence of his periods. But — and here we again meet 
with Petrarch's most original characteristic — in treating of either 
republic, monarchy, or empire, he never speaks as a Florentine, 
always as an Italian. It is true that the Italy of his desire is often 
to be confounded with the ancient Rome that he yearns to 
revive, but for that very reason he is the first to see in his learned 

* "Epistolse de rebus famil. et vari?e,"vol. iii. ep. 48, pp. 422-32. This epistle 
is addressed to Cola dei Rienzo and the Roman people. 

" " Lettere Familiari," book viii. ep. I. 3 Ibid,, book viii. cp. i. 

4 Ibid., book xiii. ep. 6. S Ibid., book xi. ep. 16. 

* " Epistolje de rebus famil. et varias," vol. iii. ep. 48, pp. 422-32. 
' "Lettere Familiari," book xii. ep. i, 24th February, 1350. 

* " Epist. de rebus famil. et varice," book iii. ep. 7 : "Monarchiam esse opti- 
mam relegendis, reparandisque viriuas Italis, quas longus bsllorum civilium sparsit 
furor. Haec ut ego novi, fateorque regium manum nostris moribus necessarian!, 
etc." This was wiiuen in 1339 according to Iiacassctti. See his note in Uie 
Italian edition. 


dreams the unity of the State and of the country. Dante's Italy 
is always mediaeval ; Petrarch's, although majestically enfolded in 
the toga of the Scipios, and the Gracchi, is nevertheless a united 
and modern Italy. Thus in this, as in all else, we see that our 
author was even here a true representative of his times : in 
endeav'ouring to return to the past, he opened a new future. He 
seems always old, and is ever ncAv ; but we must never forget that 
the primary source of his inspiration is a literary one, otherwise 
we shall be led into continual mistakes and unjust judgments. 

Petrarch is a fierce assailant of jurisprudence, medicine, philo- 
sophy, of all the sciences of his day, because they do not fulfil 
their promises, but rather keep the mind enchained amid a 
thousand sophistries. His writings are often directed against 
scholastic philosophy, alchemy, astrology, and he is also the first 
who dared openly to revolt against the iinlimited authority of 
Aristotle, the idol of the Middle Ages. All this does the greatest 
honour to the good sense, that raised him above the prejudices 
of his day. But it would be a gross error to seek to find in him a 
daring scientific innovator. Petrarch does not fight in the name 
of a new principle or new method, but in the name of beauty of 
form and of true eloquence, which he cannot find in those sciences, 
and cannot discover in the ill-translated and mutilated Aristotle 
of his times. Scholastic philosophy and its barbarous phraseology 
were incorporated in all the knowledge of the Middle Ages, and 
this barbarous phraseology was the enemy Petrarch fought against 
in all branches of learning. The Italian Renaissance was a 
revolution brought about in the human mind, and in culture by 
the study of beauty of form inspired by the ancient classics. This 
revolution and all the perils occasioned by starting from form to 
arrive at .substance are clearly and strikingly manifested in the 
writings of Petrarch, the man of learning, who has therefore been 
styled by some, not merely the precursor, but the prophet of the 
following century. 

2. Learned Men in Florence.^ 

The work initiated by Petrarch speedily found a very large 
number of followers in Florence, and thence spread rapidly 
throughout Italy. In Florence, however, it was the natural out- 

» One of the most important works on the history of the learned men is the 
" Vite di uomini illustri del secolo," xv., written by Vespasiano Bisticci, published 
for the first time by Mai, and then by Professor Adolfo Bartoli, Florence, Barbera, 
1859. Bisticci, although a most valuable authority for the width and certainty of 

■J 2 iMKonucrioN. 

come ftf the pnlitical and social conditioiis of a pc(»])lc, in wliosc 
midst oven the Ifanicil of other j)roviiiccs came to perfect llicin- 
selves in their studies, ami p;ained, as it were, a second citizenship. 
In our histories of lileralurc, which arc frequently too full of 
hiograpliical anecdotes and external facts, the names of these 
scholars are given in a mass, so that they all seem to be first-rate 
men, to liave the same physiognomy and the same merits, and to 
hold the same object in view. To us, however, it is only impor- 
tant to know those who showed true originality amid the thousand 
others already fallen or now falling into deserved oblivion, who 
with feverish activity repeated the same things over and over 
again. Our object is not to give a catalogue of the learned men 
and their writings, but to study the literary and intellectual 
transformation that their work brought about in Italy. 

The first learned men who offer themselves to our notice arc 
friends, pupils, or copyists of Petrarch. Boccaccio was one of his 
most diligent assistants, as a collector -of numerous codices, an 
admirer and imitator of the Latin classics, and as promoter of the 
study of the Greek tongue, of which he was one of the first 
students. The woiks which were fruits of his learning are 
however lacking in true originality. His Latin writings on the 
"Genealogy of the Gods," on "Illustrious Women," on the 
" Nomenclature of Mountains, Forests, and Lakes," &c., are little 
else than a vast collection of antique fragments, without much 
philological or philosophical value. But his mind was saturated 
with the spirit of antiquity in so great a degree, that it shows 
itself in all his works, even in those written in Italian. In fact, 
his Italian prose shows too great an Imitation of the Ciceronian 
period, and seems to intimate that the triumph of Latin will soon 
be universal. 

After two men hke Petrarch and Boccaccio had once started 
upon this road, Florence appeared suddenly tranformed into 

his information, must, however, be examined with caution, on account of his 
excessive ingenuousness and want of critical faculty. His statistics are not trust- 
worthy, and he seldom troubles himself to give dates. Tirabosclii's " .Storia della 
Litteratura Italiana " (Florence, Molini, Landi and Co., 1805-13) contains a truly 
precious harvest of facts regarding the learned men. Voigt and Eurckhardt, 
frequently quoted, offer important remarks. Nothing, however, but an examination 
of the works of the learned men allow us to form an exact judgment of their 
respective value. Nisard's work, " Les Gladiateurs de la Republique des lettres 
aux, xv""^, xvi""^, xvii'"^ siecles" (Paris, Levy, i860), contains, notwithstanding the 
oddity of its title, very valuable observations. A vast miscellany of notices is to 
be found in the " Epistolse " of Ambrozio Traversari, published by Mehus, with 
a memoir of the author ; the numerous biographies written by Carlo de Rosniini 
are veiy useful also, not as criticisms, but for exactness of facts. Oiher special 
works will be mentioned in the proper place. 


a hive of learned men. Learned meetings and discussions were 
held on all sides, in palaces, convents, villas,' among wealthy 
people, tradesmen, statesmen : all wrote, travelled, sent mes- 
sengers about the world to discover, buy, or copy ancient matm- 
scripts. All this did not result as yet in any original work ; but 
an enormous mass of material was collected, and the necessary 
means prepared for a thorough revolution in the field of letters. 
The importance of this activity did not consist in the immediate 
results obtained, but in the energy and power in this wise 
employed and developed. The city of art and trade associations 
had now become the centre of literary associations. The first of 
these reunions was held in the convent of Santo Spirito, by Luigi 
Marsigli or Marsili, an Augustine friar and doctor of Theology, 
who lived in the second half of the fourteenth century. He had 
been the friend of Petrarch, was a man of mediocre ability, but to 
a great admiration for the ancients, he united an extraordinary 
memory, that gave him much aptitude for learned conversation ; 
and for a long period Florentine scholars mentioned in their 
letters the profit derived from those discussions. The commen- 
tary written by Marsigli on Petrarch's " Ode to Italy," shows that 
he had not yet quite cut himself loose from the literature of the 
thirteenth centur3^^ The two most noted frequenters of his cell,^ 
Coluccio Salutati and Niccolo Niccoli,-* had, however, already 
entered on the new path. Salutati, born in the Val di Nievole in 
the year 1330, was also the friend and admirer of Petrarch, an 
earnest promoter of erudition, and a great collector of codices. 
He w'as the author of numerous Latin orations, dissertations, and 
treatises, and in consequence received from Filippo Villani, as 
a title of honour, the name of " real aper of Cicero." But his 

' Many notices on this head are collectecl in the volume divided into two parts, 
which Alessandro Wesselofsky has added to his edition of the " Paradiso dcgli 
Alberti." Vide "II Paradiso degli Alberti, ritrovi e ragionamenti del 13^9, 
romanzo di Giovanni da Prato," edited by Alessandro Wesselofsky : Bologna, 
Romagnoli, 1867. These meetings took place now in the house of Coluccio 
Salutati, now at the Paradiso, a villa belonging to Antonio degli Alberti, outside 
the San Niccolo Gate. 

"^ " Comento a una canzone di Francesco Petrarca," by Luigi Marsili : Pologna, 
Romagnoli, 1863. Wesselofsky has been one of the first to remark that there was 
a period of transition between the " Trecentisti " and the learned men. 

3 Voigt, at p. 115, also mentions Gianozzo Manetti as one who frequented these 
reunions ; but it is a mistake. Luigi Marsigli was born about 1330, and died on 
ihe 2ist of August, l394(Tiraboschi, vol. v. p. 171: Florence, Molini, Landi and Co., 
1805-13). Manetti was born in 1396 (Tiraboschi, voL vi. p. 773), and belongs to 
a later generation. The origin of this mistake is, because after Marsigli's death, 
Vangelista da Pisa and Girolamo da Napoli taught at St. Spirito, and ^faneui 
studied under them. 

* Also known as Lino, Niccoluccio, Niccolino. 


inflalcd and incorrect style, ami his confused erudilion, would tiot 
liavc sufllced to hand his nanio down to ])oslcrity, had not liis 
moral qualities rjivcn even to his literary work an original stani[). 
Of exemplary character, and a lover of liberty, he was elected 
secretary of the Republic in 1375, and served it Avith the utmost 
zeal and ardour to the time of his death. Animated by patriotism 
and the love of letters, he freed the Fl<irenline official style of 
writing from all scholastic forms, trying instead to render it 
classical and Ciceronian, and thus he was the first to write 
diplomatic and business documents like works of art, and he 
wr'le them with singular success. Galeazzo Maria Visconti is 
saif! to have declared himself more afraid of one of Salutati's 
letters than of a thousand Florentine knights ; and it is an un- 
doubted fact that when the Republic was at war with the Pope, 
the letters written by Salutati, who, in a magniloquent style 
evoked the ancient memories of Rome, had the etTect of stirring 
to revolt, in the name of liberty, many territories belonging to 
the Church. Classic names, reminiscences and forms, had the 
power of arousing a truly wonderful enthusiasm in the Italian 

And Salutati's work had very notev/orthy consequences even in 
the future. The enlistment of literature in the service of politics, 
increasingly bound up the former with the public life of the 
Florentines, and prepared the way for a radical transformation 
in the latter. The old forms and conventionalities were gradually 
replaced by true and precise formulas, which, just as they had 
forced literary men to turn their eyes from heaven to earth, and 
from mysticism to reality, also induced statesmen to treat affairs 
from a natural point of view, and to rule men by studying their 
passions, without allowing themselves to be shackled by prejudice 
and traditional usage. This way led by gradual steps to the 
political science of Machiavelli and Guicciardini, that owes to 
learning not a few of its merits and defects. From this moment 
dates the introduction of that use and abuse of eloquence, logic, 
and subtlety, to forward certain political ends, which later became 
cunning and deceit. Salutati, however, never ceased to preserve 
his sincerity and open habit of mind.' 

Up to the last day of his life he continued to study and to 
encourage youth in his own love for the classics.' He was sixty- 

* Voigt has been the first to notice lliis point respecting Salutati. 

' Leonardo Aretino has recorded that he owed to Sahitati his knowledge ol 
Greek and thorough study of Latin. " Nemo unquam parens in unico diligendo 
filio tarn sedulus fuit quam ille in me." And Coluccio mentions this friendship 
with great delicacy and much nobility of language : "Continua et studiosa nobis 


five years old when a rumour that Etninanuel Crisolora, of 
Constantinople, -was about to come to Florence to teach Greek, 
intoxicated him with joy, and seemed to give him back his youth. 
In 1406 he died at the age of seventy-six, and was buried in the 
Cathedral with much solemnity, after his deeds had been cele- 
brated in a Latin oration, and his corpse crowned with the poet's 
laurel. From that time the Republic always chose celebrated 
men of letters for her secretaries. The long series beginning Avith 
Salutati, comprised Marcello Virgilio, Machiavelli, and Giannotti,' 
and all the Italian Courts followed the example of Florence. 

Niccolo Niccoli was a celebrated man in his day, although no 
author, and only an intelligent collector of manuscripts, which he 
often copied and corrected with his own pen. Yet, for the sake of 
classical studies, he put himself to infinite trouble and expense, 
and made many sacrifices. His researches after ancient manu- 

consuetudo fuit, ct cum de cunclls quae componcrem judex esset, et ego suavuni 
jeium versa vice, nos mutuo, sicut fenum ferio acuitur, exacueianius ; nee facile 
dixeiini ex hoc dulce et hoiiesto conlubeinio, uter nostrum plus profecerit. 
Uterque tamen eruditior evasit, fatcri oporteat mutuo nos fuisse vicissim discipulus 
et magister." These two fragments of letters are given in Moreni's preface, p. xi, 
of the " Invectiva Lini Cohiccii Salutati in Antonium Luscum Vicentinum," 
Florence, 1826. Loschi, or Lusco, as P. Bracciolini calls him, was learned in 
Latin and civil law, was chancellor to (iio. Galeazzo, then Secretary at Konie 
from the times of Gregory XII. to those of Nicholas V. Having spoken ill of 
Florence, Coluccio retorted with his " Invectiva," an example of the exaggeration 
and inflation sometimes reached by the learned style of writing. " Qu^ienam urbs, 
non in Italia solum, sed in universo terrarum orbe est moenibus tutior, superbior 
palatiis, templis ornatior, formosiora edificiis ; qu3e povticu clarior, platea specio- 
sior, viarum ampiitudine laetior : quce populo maior, civibusgloriosior,inexhaustior 
divitiis, cultior agris ; quse situ gratior, salubrior coelo, mundior caeno ; quee puteis 
crebior, aquis suavior?" &c., &c. And he goes on in this style for many pages 
(see p. 125 and fob). According to P. Bracciolini (see note top.xxviiof the preface 
to the " Invectiva "), Salutati had a collection of Soo codices, a very extraordinary 
number in those days. And this is how Leonardo Aretino speaks of the liberality 
with which Salutati gave copies of these to all his friends, after again repeating his 
praises of the disposition of his friend and master : " Ut omittam quod pater com- 
munis erat omnium, et amator bonorum . . . omnes in quibus conspiciebat lumen 
ingenii, non solum verbis incendebat ad virtutem, verum multo magis cum copiis, 
turn libris suis juvabat, quos ille pleno copia cornu non magis usui suo quam 
ceterorum esse volebqt." (See p. xxvii of the above-quoted preface.) Afterwards 
Salutati's library was dispersed, being sold by his sons (Hrd., pp. xxvii-viii). 
Shepherd, in his "Vita di Poggio Bracciolini," gives various notices of Salutati, 
a few of his letters, and a catalogue of his works. See the edition of Salutati's 
" Epistolse," prepared by Mehus, which is not, however, verj' correct. Many o( 
Salutati's writings still remain unedited in the public libraries of Florence. 

' After Coluccio Salutati, the following were successively among the sccrefaTics 
of the Republic: Leonardo Bruni, Carlo Marsuppini, Poggio Bracciolini, 
Benedetto Accolti, Cristoforo Landino, Bartolommeo Scala, Marcello Virgilio 
Adrian!, who was first secretary while Machiavelli was second, Donato Giannolli, 
and not a few others. 


scripls cxleiulcd to the East and the West, for he gave letters and 
commissions to all travelling Florentines and those resident in 
foreign countries. A frugal liver, he spent his whole fortune, and 
ran heavily into debt, in order to purchase books. His energy 
was so great that applications were made to him from all quarters 
respecting ancient codices, and it is chiefly owing to him that 
Florence then became the great book centre of the world, and 
possessed librarians as intelligent as Vespasiano Bisticci, who was 
also the biographer of all the learned men of his day. Niccoli was 
also most indefatigable in attracting the most reputed .scholars of 
Italy to Florence, in order to have them employed in the Floren- 
tine University,' or in other ways. It was through his efforts 
that Leonardo Bruni, Carlo Marsuppini, Poggio BraccioJini 
Traversari, Crisolora, Guarino, Filelfo, were summoned to 
Florence and given employment. But being of an irritable dis- 
position, his friendship easily changed to aversion, he then 
persecuted those whom he had previously protected, and as he 
enjoyed the favour of the Medici, his power of persecution was 
very great. To him and to Palla Strozzi is to be ascribed the 
reform of the Florentine University, and the encouragement of 
the study of Greek. So intense was his ardour for the propaga- 
tion of learning, that after the fashion of a religious missionary, 
he would stop rich young Florentines in the .street, exhorting 
them to devote themselves to virtue^ i.e.^ to Greek and Latin 
literature. Piero dei Pazzi, a youth who only lived, as he himself 
said, to enjoy himself (" per darsi bel tempo "), was one of his 
converts, and became a man of learning.^ 

Niccoli's house was a museum and ancient library, Niccoli 
himself, a living bibliographical encyclopedia. He had a collection 
of eight hundred codices, valued at six thousand florins. 3 In 
these days it is easy to realize the importance of a good library in 
an age when printing was unknown, and the price of a single 
manuscript was very often quite beyond the means of students, 
even when they knew where to seek it. Niccoli's library was 
thrown open to all, and all came to his house to study, to make 
researches, to copy, to ask help and counsel that was never with- 
held. Even at his frugal table he surrounded himself with objects 

* Then known as the .Studio Fiorentino. 

' Vide Vespasiano's " Vita dei Piero dei Pazzi." 

3 In his " Vita di N. Niccoli," 8th paragraph, Vespasiano gives the number oi 
volumes at eight hundred ; other writers state that they barely exceeded six hundred. 
Poggio Bracciolini (see preface to Salutati's " Invectiva," before cited, p. 27) 
also says that they were eight hundred. Neither can their precise value be 


of antiquity, and Vespasiano tells us, that '" it was a rare sight to 
see how ancient he made himself.'' ' The frivolous points of his 
character, and the somewhat ludicrous scandals of his private life, 
caused by a female servant who ruled him entirely, were passed 
over on account of his sincere, constant, and disinterested zeal for 
letters. When on his death-bed, at the age of seventy-three, in 
J 437, his only an.\iety was to guarantee to the public the free use 
of his books, which, in fact, formed the first public library in 
Europe. This was owing to the care of his executors and the 
munificence of Cosimodei Medici, who renoujiced his credit of five 
hundred florins, paid other of Niccoli's debts, and retaining a 
portion of the codices for himself, placed four hundred of them in 
S. Marco for the public use, and afterwards increased their number 
at his own expense.^ 

A third resort of learned men was the convent of the Angioli, 
the abode of Ambrogio Traversari, native of Portico, in Romagna, 

* Vespasiano. 

'^ Vide \'cspasiano, " Vita di N. Niccoli " ; Mehus, " Ambr. CamalJulensis 
Epist." prefalio, jip. 31, 63, 82; Tiiabuschi, vol. vii. p. 125, and fol. Cosinin 
dei Medici had tlie books placed in St. Mark's in the year 1444 in the grand hall 
built at his expense by the Architect Michelozzi, which was restored and enlarged 
alter the earthquake of 1433 (^- Marchese, " .Scritti Varii" : Firenze, Le Monnier, 
1S55, p. 135). Later, that is after the overthrow of Piero dei Medici, in 1494, the 
friars of St. Mark's bought the codices in the private library of the Medici, which 
were afterwards bought back by Cardinal Giovanni dei Medici, who later became 
I'ope Leo X. At his death, Cardinal Giulio dei Medici, afterwards Pope Clement 
VIL, his executor, carried them back to Florence, and commissioned Michael 
Angelo with the construction of the building in which they were to be placed, in 
the cloister of St. Lorenzo. The edifice was completed under Cosimo L, after the 
death of Clement \TL, and thus was founded the famous Laurentian library. 
According to Padre Marchese, Cosimo dei Medici, having paid Niccoli's debts, and 
added codices of his own to those of his deceased friend in St. Mark's, his sons 
and grandsons had a certain right over them, and, therefore, when they re- 
purchased from the brethren the private Medici collection, they included among 
them many of Niccoli's. Upon the history of these collections various notices are 
to be found in Vespasiano's "Vita di N. NiccoH " and "Vita di Cosimo di 
Medici"; Tiraboschi, vol. vi. p. 128, and fob; " Poggio Opp. " ; Basle, 153S, 
p. 270, and fol. ; Mehus, "Ambr. Camaldulensis Epist.," prefatio, p. Ixiii, ai.d 
fob, Ixxvi, and fol. ; P. Marchese, " Scritti Varii," p. 45, and fol. I have already 
published several documents in my " Storia di Frate G. Savonarola ed i suoi 
tempi." A short report — " Delle Biblioteca Mediceo, Laureziana di Firenze, ' 
Firenze, Tofani, i872--was published by the librarian, Cav. Ferrucci, and its 
author, Signor Anziani, under-librarian. But everything relating to the history 
of the private Medici collection has been narrated at length and illustrated by new 
and important documents by Professor E. I'iccolomini, in the " Archiviu Sturico," 
vol. xix., I, 2, and 3 N\)S. of 1874, and vol. xx. No. 4 of 1S74. This same 
work has also been published separately, and entitled— " Intorno alle condizioni 
ed alle vicende della libreria Medicta privala," by E. Piccolomini : Fiicn^e, 
Csllini and Co, 1875, 


born in I3''^6, and nominated General Head of the Canialdolesi 
in 1431. An able and ambitious man, he was a great favourite 
with the Medici who, together with NiccoH, Marsuppini, Bruni, 
and not a few others, were frequent visitors to his cell. He had 
the faculty of preserving the friendships of even the touchiest of 
the set ; he knew how to keep a discussion alive, but he had very 
little literary originality. He made translations from the Greek ; 
wrote a work entitled " Hodreporicon," containing various literary 
notices and descriptions of his travels ; but his " Epistolse " are 
his principal work, on account of his intimate relations with the 
scholars of his time, and form an important contribution to the 
history of that century. All this, however, is not enough to 
justify the great reputation that he then enjoyed, and that 
lasted after his death, for Melius, in the preface and biographical 
sketch attached to his edition of the " EpistoL'c," tried to con- 
centrate round them the literary history of that century. 

It would be an endless task to enumerate all the meeting-places 
of the learned ; but we must not forget to mention the house 
of the Medici, where all and every one of them found welcome, 
patronage, and employment. There, too, were to be found all 
artists and foreigners of any merit. Almost all the richer Floren- 
tines of the fifteenth century were patrons and cultivators of 
letters. Roberto dei Rossi, the Greek scholar, passed a celibate 
life in his study, and gave lessons to Cosimo dei Medici, Luca 
degli Albizzi, Alessandro degli Alessandri, Domenico Buoninsegni. 
The Nestor of these aristocratic scholars was Palla Strozzi — he 
who aided Niccoli in his reform of the Florentine Univ^ersity — 
who paid out of his own pocket a large portion of the sum 
required to tempt Crisolora to come and teach Greek in Florence, 
and Avho spent much gold in obtaining ancient codices from 
Constantinople. When most iniquitously driven into exile, at 
the age of sixty-two, by Cosimo dei Medici, he found courage to 
bear up under this misfortune, and the subsequent loss of his 
wife and all his children, by studying the ancient writers at Padua 
up to the age of ninety-two years, when he went to his grave.' 

And lastly, it is necessary to mention the University of Florence. 
In general, the Italian universities had been seats of medieeval 
and scholastic ciUture ; learning had commenced outside, and not 
seldom in opposition to them. But it was otherwise in Florence, 
the Studio almost rose and fell with the rise and fall of erudition. 
It did not come into existence until the December of 132 1, dragged 
on languidly enough, now closed, now reopened, until 1307, when 
Crisolora, by his teachings in the Greek tongue, made Florence 
' Vespasiano, " Vita di P. Strozzi." 


the centre of Hellenism in Italy. Later, the University again 
began to languish, but was renovated in 1414 by the elTorts of 
Niccoli and of Strozzi, who, taking advantage of an ancient law, 
decreeing that none of the teachers should be Florentines, invited 
the most celebrated men in Greece and Italy ; thus forwarding 
more than ever the union of Latin and Greek culture, and that 
of Florentine learning with Italian. In 1473, Lorenzo dei Medici 
transferred the Studio to Pisa ; but Florence was allowed to 
retain a few chairs of literature and philosophy, which were 
always filled by celebrated men.' The great literary movement, 
that we have been employed in examining, produced no man 
of commanding talent after Petrarch and Boccaccio. All was 
confined to collecting, copying, correcting codices ; materials were 
prepared for a fresh literary advance, which, however, had not 
yet begun. Italian composition had decayed, and Latin had as 
yet no original merits ; we find grammarians, bibliophiles, and 
bibliographers in the place of real writers. But by slow degrees 
a new generation of learned men sprung up, showing a genuine, 
and, up to that date, unusual originality. This fact was the 
result of a natural process of things ; writers who had at last 
thoroughly mastered the Latin tongue, began to express them- 
selves with an ease and spontaneity which gave rise to new 
literary qualities, even to a new literature. Grammatical ques- 
tions, when examined and discussed by men of the acute intellect 
and fine taste at that time possessed by Italians, were inevitably 
transformed into philosophical questions, thus laying the founda- 
tion of fresh progress in .science. 

But extraneous causes were also at work to hasten and provoke 
so notable a transformation, and foremost among these was the 
study of Greek. It was the means of bringing into contact, not 
merely two janguages, but two different literatures, philosophies, 
civilizations. Thus the horizon was suddenly enlarged, and 
besides the greater originality of Greek thought and language, 
the mere fact of their great diffennice from Latin thought and 
language was of immense importance. The Italian mind found 
itself constrained to higher effort, to a longer and more difficult 
mental flight, requiring and developing greater intellectual energ\-. 
During the Middle Ages the Greek language had been very little 
known in Italy, and the knowledge of it possessed by the monks 

' The decree was signed in 1472 — Prezzincr, " .Sloria del Puliblico Studio," lic. : 
Florence, 1812, in 2 vols. This work has not much historical value ; but notices 
concerning the Studio are to he found scattered among the writings of the learned 
men, and one can also consult the work entitled — " llistoria Acadeniice r.sanx," 
auciore Angelo Fabronio ; Pisis, 1791 -95, in 3 vols. 


of" St. Basilio, in Calabria, was much exaggerated by report. Two 
Calabrians, Rarlaain ami l.eonzio Pilato, had {)icl<ed up tlic 
language at Cmistantiiioplc ; and tlic former of these tauglit its 
rudiments to Petrarch, wlio, notwillistanding liis anient desire to 
learn it, could never understand the Homer that he kept spread 
open before hinr.' The second was Professor in Florence for 
three years, thanks to Boccaccio, who thus brought about the 
foundation of the first Greek chair in Italy. But from 1363 to 
1306 this instruction, in itself poor enough, failed entirely. 
Italians desiring to obtain it w'erc compelled, like Guarino 
and Filelfo, to seek it at Constantinople. And the first Greek 
refugees who came among us were of far less use than is 
commonly supposed ; for being ignorant of Italian, having only 
a smattering of Latin, and not being men of letters, they were 
quite incapable of satisfying a passion to which, however, their 
\ery presence was a lively stimulus. It was the election of '' 
Etnanuele Crisolora to a professorship in the Studio, in 1396, 
that really marked the beginning of a new era of Hellenism < 
in Italy. Previously a teacher at Constantinople, he was a true 
man of letters, he was capable of teaching scientifically, and he 
numbered among his pupils the first literati oi Florence. Roberto 
dei Rossi, Palla Strozzi, Poggio Bracciolini, Giannozzo Alanetti, 
and Carlo Marsuppini immediately came to attend his lessons. 
Leonardo Bruni, then engaged in legal studies, no sooner heard 
that it was at last possible to learn Homer's tongue, and drink 
of the first fountain of knowledge, than he forsook everything 
in order to become one of the best Hellenists and literati of 
his time.* From that moment, he who was ignorant of Greek 
was esteemed but half educated in Florence, for that study made 
rapid strides, and it was likewise greatly aided by the arrival of 
other refugees, generally of higher cultivation, an4 who found 
a better prepared soil.^ Another important aid was the Florentine 
Council of 1439, which, intended to reunite the Greek and Latin 
Churches, served instead to unite the literary spirit of Rome and 
Greece. The Pope had need of Italian interpreters to understand 
the representatives of Greece, and both parties, equally indifferent 
to religious questions, at the first meeting leapt from theology to 
philosophy, which was usually among the Greeks more widely 
cultivated than letters. Giorgio Gemisto Pletone, the most 

' Petrarca, " Lettere Senili," bk. iii. lett. 6; bk. v. lett. i ; bk. vi. lett. i, 2. 

" Leon. Eruni, " Reium suo tempore in Italia gestaruni, Commentarius," apud 
Murat. .Script., Tom. xix. p. 920. 

3 Tiraboschi, " Storia della Letteratura Italiana"; Gibbon, "Decline and 
Fall," &c. ; Yoigt, " Die Wiederbelebung," &c. 


learned of those who came at this time to Italy, and an 
enthusiastic admirer of Plato, succeeded in inspiring Cosimo dei 
Medici with the same admiration ; hence the origin of the 
Platonic Academy. An enormous enthusiasm, a prodigious 
literary activity then began in Florence, and at last we see the 
appearance of a new literary originality, and the beginning of 
a revival of philosophy.' 

The first scholar to prove himself an original writer was Pocro-io 
Bracciolini, born at Terranova, near Arezzo, in 1380. After 
studying Greek with Crisolora, he went with Pope John XXIII. 
to the Council of Constance as a member of the Curia, and 
wearing the ecclesiastical dress, without, however, being in holy 
orders. This was a common custom among the learned, who — 
if unmarried — could in this manner obtain many advantages 
reserved for the clergy, of whom, however, they generally spoke 
much evil. Soon wearying of religious controversies and disputes, 
Bracciolini set out upon a journey, and in one of his letters gave 
an admirable description of the Falls of the Rhine and of the 
Baden springs ; indeed, of these latter he gives a picture so vivid 
that to this day we can recognize its fidelity. ^ His Latin, though 
far more correct than that of his predecessors, is full of Italianisms 
and neologisms ; but it has the spontaneousness and vivacity of 
a living language ; instead of a mere reproduction, it is a real 
and genuine revival. Therefore it is in Poggio and some of his 
contemporaries that we must look for the flower of the Himiani- 
ties, not in those who, like Bembo and Casa, gave us an imitation 
which, if more faithful, is also more mechanical and material. 
Poggio, throwing aside dictionaries and grammars, feels the need 
of writing as he speaks ; is enthusiastic in the presence of Nature ; 
seeks truth, and laughs at authorities ; but still remains a man ot 
learning, and this fact must ever be kept in sight. In the year 
141b he was present at the trial and execution of Jerome of 
Prague, and described everything in full in one of his best known 
letters to Bruni. The independence of mind with which this 
learned member of the Papal Curia dared to admire the heroism 
of Luther's precursor, and proclaim him worthy of immortality, 
is truly remarkable. But what was it that he admired in him ? 
Not the martyr, not the reformer ; — on the contrary, he asserts 
that if Jerome had indeed said anything against the Catholic 
faith, he well deserved his punishment. \Vhat he admired in 

' Vide Voigt, Cililxm, and also my " Storia di G. Savonarola," vol. i. cliaj). iv. 

" tl. Shcphtrrd, " Vita di i'oggio Bracciolini," translated (roiii the Enj^Iish by 
T. Tonelli, with notes and additions. Florence : Ricci, 1S25, 2 vols. / ide vol. 
i. p. 65 and tol. the translation of the letter quoted from. 
VOL. 1. 7 

8 3 INlliOD UCTION. 

liiin was the ci^uragc of a Calo and of a Mutius Sca?vola ; lie 
txli>lloil "his clear, sweet, aiul sonorous voice; the nohihiy ot 
his gestures, so wdl ada])ted either to express iiuhgnalion or 
excite conipassion ; the eloquence and learning with which, at 
the foot of tlie pile, he quotetl Socrates, Anaxagoras, Plato, ami 
the Fathers." ■ 

Soon we find Poggio lea\ing Constance altogether, for the 
puipose of making long journeys. lie traversed Switzerland and 
CJerniany, hunting through monasteries in search of old manu- 
scripts, of which he was the most favoured discoverer in that 
century. To him we owe works of Ouintilian, Valerius h'laccus, 
Cicero, Silius Italicus, Amniianust Marcellinus, Lucretius, 'JVr- 
tuUian, Plautus, Petronius, &c. When the news of these dis- 
coveries reached Florence, the city was wild with joy, ami Bruni 
wrote to him, that above all, by the discovery of Ouintilian, he 
had made himself the second father of Roman eloquence. " All 
the people of Italy," wrote he, "should go forth to meet the 
great writer whom thou hast delivered from the hands of the 
barbarians." * Many others then followed his example in search- 
ing for manuscripts. It was said that Aurispa had brought from 
Constantinople no less than two hundred and thirty-eight codices; 
and the fable was spread that Guarino's hair turned suddenly 
Avhite through his having lost in a shipwreck many codices that 
he was bringing to Italy from the P2ast.3 But no one equalled 
Bracciolini in diligence and good fortune. 

In England, however, while with Cardinal Beaufort, he found 
himself isolated, in the company of wealthy uncultured nobles, 
who passed the chief part of their life in eating and drinking.'' 
During those diimers, which sometimes lasted four hours, he was 
obliged to rise from time to time and bathe his eyes with cold 
Avater, in order to keep himself awake. s Yet the country offered, 
by its novelty, a vast field of observation to Bracciolini, who had 
the acuteness to notice that even in those days it was a special 
characteristic of the Finglish aristocracy readily to admit within 
its ranks men who had raised themselves from the middle classes.^ 
But the novelty of the country and the variety of customs and 
characters, all of Avhich he noticed and which occupied his mind, 

* Poggii, " Opera," Basle edition, pp. 301-305. 

* L. Aietini, " Epist." bk. iv. ep. 5. 

3 Tiraboschi, " .Storia della Letteratura Italiana," vol. vi. p. 118; Rosmini, 
•' Vila e disciplina di Guarino Veronese," Hrescia, 1805-6. 

* /7(/(f his leUer to Niccoli, dated sgih October, 1420, published in the trans- 
lation of Shepherd's Work, vol. i. p. in, Note C. 

5 Vespasiano, " \'ita di Poggio Bracciolini," 5. i. 
*• Poggii, "Opera," p. 69. 


were not sufficient recompense for the slight account in which 
the learned were held there, and he, therefore, sighed for his 
native land. 

And in a short time we find him established in Rome as 
secretary to the Roman Curia during the reign of Martm V. 
There at last he was in his true element. He used to spend 
the long winter evenings with his colleagues, in a room of the 
Cancellei-ia, which went by the name of the place of lies [il 
hiigiale^ sive mendaciorum officina)^ because there they amused 
each other with anecdotes, both true and false, and more or less 
indecent, in which they ridiculed the Pope, the Cardinals, and 
even the dogmas of the religion in defence of which they wrote 
Briefs. In the morning he attended to the slight duties of his 
office, and composed literary works, among others his dialogues 
on avarice and hypocrisy — vices which he declared to be peculiar 
to the clergy— and, therefore, severely scourged. But no serious 
motive is to be found in these satires ; only the same biting and 
sceptical spirit shown by our comic writers and novelists, who, 
like Poggio, laughed at the faith which they professed. These 
latter sought to paint the manners of the day ; Poggio and the 
other men of learning chiefly desired to show the ease with 
which they could use the Latin tongue on all kinds of subjects, 
sacred or profane, serious, comic, or obscene. That was all. 

In fact Bracciolini, notwithstanding his onslaughts on the 
corrupt manners of the clergy, led a very intemperate life. And 
when Cardinal St. Angelo reproved him for having children, 
which was unfitting to an ecclesiastic, and still more for having 
them by a mistress, which was unfitting to a layman ; he replied 
without at all losing countenance : "1 have children, and that is 
fitting to a layman ; I have them by a mistress, and that is an old 
custom of the clergy." And farther on in the letter he tells the 
story of an Abbe who presented a son of his to Martin V., and 
receiving a reproof, answered, amid the laughter of the Curia, 
that he had four others also ready and willing to take up arms 
for His Holiness.' 

Coming to Florence Avith Pope Eugene IV., he was thrown 
among the learned men gathered together there, and drawn into 
very violent disputes with the restless Filclfo, who was then 
teaching in the University. This scholar, who had been to 
Constantinople and there married a Greek wife, was almost the 
only man in Italy Vvho could then speak and write the language 
of Plato and Aristotle. He worried every one by his boundless 
vanity and restlessness of character ; at last he made attacks 
' Vids Shepherd's Work, vol. i. pp. 184-85. 


against tlio ^fcl.lici, ami was coiiipclIcJ to leave Florence. Then 
he began to write satires aimed at the learned who had been his 
tricmls and cidleagues, and Braeeioiini replied to him in his 
" Invettive." It was a warlare ot indecent insults, in which tlie 
two scholars showed olT their strength in rhetoric and their 
masterly Latinity. Filelfo had the advantage of writing in verse, 
and therefore his insults were easier to retain in the memory ; 
but Braeeioiini, having greater talent and wit, was better able, 
by writing in prose, to express all that he wished to say. He 
repulsed the abuse which "Filelfo had vomited from the felid 
sewer of his mouth," and attributed his adversary's foulness of 
language to the education he had received from his mother, 
" whose trade it was to clean the entrails of beasts ; it was her 
stench therefore that now emanated from her son."' He accused 
him of having seduced the daughter of his master, in order to 
marry her and then make a traflic of her honour, and wound up 
by offering him a crown worthy of so much foulness.^ Not 
content with all this, they even accused each other of vices which 
modesty forbids us to mention in these days, but of which these 
learned scholars were accustomed to speak without reserve and 
almost in jest, after the manner of Greek and Roman writers. 

Our minds shrink from dwelling on the frightful moral depravity 
with w-hich all these things saturated the Italian spirit. And 
Poggio composed these much-praised invectives of his in a 
delightful villa, full of statues, busts, and ancient coins of which 
he made use to gain a closer knowledge of antiquity, thus 
inaugurating the study of archieology, as he had already done in 
Kome by describing its monuments and remains. He considertd 
this to be the fit paradise for a chosen spirit, for an encyclopaedic 
man of letters destined to immortality. At the age of fifty-iive, 
in order to marry a young lady of high birth, he abandoned the 
woman with whom he had lived up to that time, and who had 
made him the father of fourteen children, of whom four survivors, 
legitimized by him, were left destitute by this marriage. But he 
remedied this by writing a dialogue : An seni sit uxor ducciida, 
in which he defended his own cause. An elegant Latin composi- 

' " Verum nequaquam miium viJeri del)et, cum eius mater Arimini duduni in 
jiurganclis ventribus, et intestinis sordi deluendis qucestum fecerit, mateiriie artis 
Icetorem redolere. Haesit naribus filii sagacis inaterni exercilii atlractata putredi) 
et continui stercoris fceteris halitus " (Poggii, " Opera," p. 165). 

'■' " At stercorea corona ornalmntur fcetentes crines priapei vati " (t'oggii, 
" Opera," p. 167). It is impossible Xo give the most obscene fragments of Poggio's 
"Invettive" and Filelfo's ".Satire." Mens. Nisard in his " Gladiateurs," i\:c., 
attempted to give several in the appendices to his " \'ita del Filelfo edi I'oggio;" 
but he too found it impossible to continvie. 


tion was all that was needed to solve the hardest problems of 
existence, and soothe his own conscience. To a man of learning 
words were of greater value than facts ; to be eloquent in the 
praise of virtue was as good as being virtuous, and the greatest of 
inankind owed their immortality solely to the eloquence with 
which their lives had been narrated by first-rate writers. Where 
would be the fame of Hannibal or Scipio, of Alexander or 
Alcibiades, without Livy, without Plutarch ? He who could 
write Latin with eloquence, was not only sure of his own 
immortality, but could bestow it upon others at his own good 

From Tuscany Poggio returned to Rome, and during the 
pontificate of Nicholas V., profited by the wide liberty accorded 
to the learned, to publish attacks on priests and friars and the 
" Liber Facetiarum, in which he collected all the satires and 
indecencies that used to be related in the bugialc. In the preface 
to this book, he plainly stated that his object was to show how the 
Latiii tongue ought and might be made to express everything. 
Li vain the more rigorous blamed this old man of seventy for 
thus contaminating his white hairs : since Panormita had pub- 
lished his " Hermaphroditus," the Italian ear was shocked by 
nothing, and Poggio tranquilly passed his time in writing obsceni- 
ties and keeping up literary quarrels. About this time he had 
one with Trapezunzio that ended in blows ; another with 
Valla, and this gave rise to a new series of " Invectivae " on his 
part, and on his opponent's to an " Antidotus in Poggium." The 
question turned on the worth of the Latinityand the grammatical 
rules asserted in the " Elegantiie," of Valla, who, possessed of a 
superior critical faculty, came off victor in the fight. And in this 
quarrel also the disputants rivalled each other in scandalous 
indecency. Accused of every vice that was most horrible, 
\^alla gave as good as he got, without much concern for 
his own defence, and indeed often showing a remarkable 
amount of cynicism. Thus, when Poggio accused him of 
having seduced his own sister's maid, he replied merrily that 
he had wished to prove the falsity of his brother-in-law's 
assertion, namely, that his chastity did not proceed from 
virtue.' It would, however, be a great mistake to measure by the 
violence of these writers' insults the force of their passions. The 
" Invectivae " were almost always simple exercises of rhetoric ; the 
two disputants came down into the arena in the spirit of per- 
formers about to give a display of their dexterity and nudity. 

' " Volui itaque eis ostendere i'.l quod faccrem non vitium esse corporis, sed 
animi viitulem " ("Antidotus," p. 222). 


Rut even if the pabsimis were unreal, tliere was terrible reality in 
the moral liarin resulliuo; from these miserable shows. 

We gladly turn aside from these foul places, for we have as yet 
by no means fully described the prodigious activity of Poggio 
Braceiolini. Next to epistles, orations were the compositions most 
in favour with the learned. They crowded into these all possible 
reminiscences of antiquity, all possible figures of rhetoric. A 
good memory was frequently the only faculty necessary to secure 
certain success — " he had an endless memory, he quoted every one 
of the ancient writers" — was the eulogium Vespasiano used to 
make on the most celebrated of these orators, who seemed to have 
some thesaurus from which to draw ins|)irati()n for their own 
eloquence. Were a general mentioned, instantly a list of great 
battles was given : a poet, and forth came a torrent of precepts 
from Horace or Ouintilian. The real subject disappeared before 
the desire to turn everything into an opportunity of gaining 
greater familiarity with antiquity ; style was false, artifice con- 
tinual, exaggerations innumerable, and all funeral orations became 
apotheoses. Once Filelfo, wishing to attack one of his persecutors, 
took the chair and began in Italian ; " Who is the cause of .so 
many suspicions ? Who is the originator of so many insults ? 
Who is the author of so many outrages ? Who and what is this 
man ? Shall I name so great a monster ? Shall I designate such 
a Cerberus ? Shall I tell you who he is? Certainly I must tell 
you, I say it, I will say it, were it at the cost of my life. He is 
the accursed, the monstrous, the detestable, the abominable. . . . 
Ah ! Filelfo, hold thy peace, for heaven's sake utter not his name ! 
He who is incapable of controlling himself, is ill-fitted to blame 
the intolerance and inconstancy of another." ' This was w'hat 
was then considered a model of eloquence ; hence Pius II. was 
right in saying that a skilful orator could only stir hearers of small 
intelligence.^ A Frenchman of good taste, the Cardinal d'Estout- 
ville, when listening to an eulogy on St. Thomas o\ Aquinas, 
delivered by Valla, could not refrain from exclaiming : " But this 
man is stark mad ! "3 Yet these orations Avere then so much in 
vogue, that they were considered indispensable on all great occa- 
sions, whether a proclamation of peace, the presentation of an 
ambassador, or any other public or private solemnity. Every 
court, every government, sometimes even wealthy families, had 
their official orator. And precisely as now-a-days there are few 

' Rosmini, " Vila di Filelfo," vol. i. doc. ix. p. 125. 
» Platina, "Vita di I'ii II." 

3 Gasparo Veronese cjuoted by Voigt. Vide " Die Wiederbelebung," &c., 
P- 437- 


fetes wlLhout music, S() in those times a Latin discourse in verse 
or prose was the choicest diversion of every cultured company. 
Numbers of these discourses were printed, but these were the 
minority ; ItaUan hbraries contain hundreds still inedited. But 
in all this abundance no examples of real eloquence are to be 
found, with the exception of a few of the orations of Pius 11., 
whose utterances were not always mere literary exercises, but who 
often spoke with some definite aim, and did not then p(jur furth 
floods of rhetoric. 

Poggio Bracciolini was held to be one of the first masters of 
oratory, and seldom lost an opportunity of making an orati<in, 
particularly in praise of deceased literary friends. The ease of his 
style, though often sinking into prolix verbosity, his vivacity, dash 
and good sense, render him more readable than the others, but 
never eloquent. The last years of his life were passed in Florence, 
where, on the death of Carlo Marsuppini (April 24, 1453), he was 
made secretary of the Republic, and wrote his last work, a *' His- 
tory of Florence" from 1350 to 1455. In this work, following 
the example of Leonardo Bruni, he forsakes the manner of the 
Florentine chroniclers, to the loss of the graphic power and 
vivacity of which they had given such splendid examples. There 
is not a single anecdote or narrative drawn from life, not a trace 
of a personal knowledge of events in the midst of which the 
author had really lived and in which he had taken his part. 
He seems to be narrating deeds of the Greeks and Romans ; 
he never deigns to speak of the internal affairs of the Republic ; 
we hear only of great battles, and listen to long and solemn Latin 
speeches recited by Florentines always in the Roman dress. \\\ 
point of fact Poggio's great object Avas'the imitation of Livy's epic 
narrative, and although this made him lose the spontaneous quali- 
ties of the old chroniclers, it at least compelled him to try and 
link facts together in a literary if not a scientific way. And thus 
began the transformation of the chronicle into history. He and 
Bruni were the precursors of Machiavelli and Guicciardini, 
although in every respect very inferior to them. Of the two, 
Bruni is the better critic, while Bracciolini has an easier style, 
that, however, is frequently verbose. Sannazzaro accused the 
latter of overweening partiality for his own country ; ' but that 
consisted chiefly in the tone he assumed in always speaking of 
Florence as though it were the Republic of Rome. 

* Sannazxaio wrote : 

*• Dum patriam laiidat, damnat dum Pojrgius hostetn ; 
Ncc mains est civis, nee bonus hibluiieus-' 

88 ixtnoduction: 

Toggio Rracciolini, altliough (Ik- diicf, was not tlic only repre- 
sentative ot this seeonil period of Italian learning ; he was one of 
a numerous baiul of otlier scholars, and of these the most cele- 
brated was Leonardo Bruni, born in 1369, at Arezzo, and known 
therefore as the Aretino. We have already seen how, on the 
arrival of Crisolora in Florence, he threw aside his legal studies to 
devote himself entirely to Greek ; and so rapid was his progress 
that he was soon qualified to translate not only the principal his- 
torians and orators, but also the philosophers of Greece. He 
thereby rendered an immense service to literature, for his versions 
of the classic authors were the first from the original Greek, and 
were not only written in elegant Latin, but were faithful transla- 
tions, and appeared at a moment when the need for them was 
great and universal. His versions of the " Apologia " of Socrates, 
the " Phaedo," " Krito," " Gorgias," and "Phaedrus" of Plato, 
and those of the Economical and Political Ethics of Aristotle, 
were one of the great literary events of the age. On the one 
hand it was a revelation of the Platonic philosophy, till then 
almost unknown in Italy ; on the other, it was the first appear- 
ance of what was called the true Aristotle, unknown in the Middle 
Ages. The learned could noAv admire the eloquence which 
Petrarch had vainly sought in the travestied and almost barbarous 
Aristotle of his time ; they were no longer compelled to study 
the Greek schoolman instead of the Greek philosopher. 

Thus Bruni gave an immense impulse to philosophy and 
criticism. His, in fact, was a critical mind, as we see even by his 
Epistles, in which, for the first time, w^e find the opinion main- 
tained that Italian was derived from the spoken Latin, which 
differed from the written tongue, and this opinion he enforced by 
arguments which show this scholar of the fifteenth century to 
have been in some respects a true precursor of modern philology.' 
These qualities are still more noticeable in his historical works, 
first of which is his " Storia di Firenze," from its origin down to 
1 401. Of this M^e may repeat what we have already said of 
Bracciolini's history, which is its continuation. Here also the 
internal conditions of the Republic are neglected to make room 
for descriptions of great battles, speeches, and dissertations. Here, 
too, local colouring is wanting, and Florentines appear in a Roman 
dress. Bruni, as we have before remarked, is inferior to Braccio- 
lini in ease of style ; but he forestalled his friend in forsaking the 

' This letter is addressed to Flavio Biondo of Forli, and is also to be found in 
the first number of a work now in course of publication, entitled, " I due primi 
secoli delta Letteratura Italiana," by A. Bartoli : Milan, Vallardi. The author, 
like other men of learning, holds it in due consideration. 


track of the chroniclers, and as he did not write of contemporary 
events, had a freer scope for the display of his critical faculty. 
In fact it does-Aretino the greatest honour that he should have 
been the first who, rejecting at once all the fables current on the 
origin of Florence, sought out in the classical writers the primi- 
tive history of the Etruscans, and applied the same critical sagacity 
to that of the Middle Ages.' Elsewhere we shall have occasion 
to return to these historical works ; for the present it is enough 
to remark that criticism gradually became one of the principal 
occupations of this century, that was so eager in demolishing the 

Leonardo Aretino was a man of very great personal weight in 
Florence, where he filled many important offices, among others, 
during a long period, that of secretary to the Republic- Dying 
in 1444, he was succeeded by Carlo Marsuppini, of Arezzo, called 
therefore Carlo Aretino. This latter wrote little, and nothing of 
any importance ; he was, however, a renowned teacher, the for- 
tunate rival of Filelfo in the Florentine Studio, and enjoyed great 
fame, chiefly owing to the strength of his memory, which enabled 
him to make a distinguished figure in public discourses. His first 
lecture was lovidly applauded, because, as Vespasian tells us, " the 
Greeks and Latins had no writer left unquoted by Messer Carlo 
that morning." 3 He displayed a great contempt for Christianity, 
and a vast admiration for the Pagan religion.'' To him, as to 
Bruni, solemn funeral honours were decreed by the Republic. 
Both bore the poet's laurels on their bier ; both repose in Santa 
Croce, the one opposite the other, beneath monuments ecjually 
elegant, with inscriptions equally pompous, despite the great 
distance between the talent of the one and the other. Marsup- 
pini's funeral eulogy was read by one of his pupils, Matteo 
Palmieri ; that of Bruni, on the other hand, was read by another 
first-rate literary man, and was a solemn event. It was in the 
centre of the public square, standing beside the bier on which lay 
Bruni's body, with his volume of " Storia Fiorentina " on his 
breast, that Giannozzo Manetti, by many esteemed the first of 

" An elegant edition of this History, with Donate Accinoli's translation, was 
published at Florence, 1856-60, 3 vols. 8vo. Signor Cirillo Monzani published 
an accurate " Discorso " on Bruni in the " Aichivio Storico," new series, vol. v. 
part I, pp. 29-59 ; part 2, pp. 3-34. See also the remarks upon Rracciolini's ami 
IJruni's histories made by Gervinus in his work, " Florentinische Historiographisc," 
]nil)lishcd in the vol. entitled, " llistorische Schriften " : Frankfurt, a M., 

•= The first time in 1410 for a single ycnr ; the second from 1427 to 1444. 

3 Vespasiano, " Vita di Carlo d'Arezzo. " 

^ Ibid., Tiraboschi, " Storia della Letteratura Italiana." 


lixing /ifi'rit//\ prdnouiicod his dialinii in (he presence. of the chief 
magistrates of the Republic. 

Yet no one can now read this oration without experiencing 
great amazement that so harocco a composition should have 
aroused such universal applause in an age of so much culture and 
devotion to the classics. Manetti begins by declaring that had it 
been possible for the immortal mmts {nninorfales MusiT^ diviiueqnc 
Ciitiiceiur), to make a Latin discourse and weep in public, they 
would hardly have left the task to him on so solenui an occasion. 
Then narrating Rruni's life, he seizes the occasion of his nomina- 
tion as secretary to the Republic, to run through the history of 
Florence. He touches on his works and then branches off into 
a dissertation on Greek and Latin authors, and jiarticularly on 
Cicero and I^ivy, placing Bruni above both, for the important 
reason that the former not only translated from the Greek like 
the one, but also wrote history like the other, thus uniting in him- 
self the merits of both. Then, the moment having arrived for 
placing the wreath on the head of his deceased friend, he speaks 
of the antiquity of this usage, and of the various wreaths, civica^ 
miiralis^ obsidwnah's^ castrcnsis, navalis, and continues his descrip- 
tions through five large and closely written pages. He asserts 
that Bruni had earned the wreath by his true poetic gifts, and 
then digresses into a series of empty phrases, in explanation of 
the signification of the Avord poet, and the nature of poetry ; 
winding up with a pompous apostrophe, and crowning " the 
happy and immortal .slumber of the marvellous star of the 
Latins." ' 

Manetti was born at Florence in 1306, and at the age of twenty- 
five, on his father's death, left his counter to give himself up to 
study with such exceeding ardour, that he only allowed himself 
five hours' sleep. His house had a door opening into the garden 
of Santo Spirito, where he used to study, and for nine years he 
never crossed the Arno into the centre of the town.' He acquired 
Latin, Greek, and Hebrew ; wrote with great ease, and had an 
"eternal, immortal" memory according to Vespasiano's usual 
phrase. But his chief excellence lay in his moral character. A 
practised man of business, religious, steadfast, and truly honest, the 
principal effect of his studies was to give him a lofty ideal of life, 
to which he was ever faithful in the various offices with which 
he was entrusted. Vicar and captain of the Republic in many 
cities distracted by hostile factions, he was able to inflict very 
severe sentences, and impose heavy taxes, without ever being 

• Vide this oration in the preface to Bruni's " Epistole." 
" Vespasiano, "Vita di G. Manetti," sec. ii. 


accused of partiality. He refused to accept the customary dona- 
tions, giving liberally from his own purse to all who were in need, 
and establishing peace and concord wherever he went. He passed 
his leisure hours in writing lives of Socrates and Seneca, De 
dignitate et exccllentia homines^ and the history of the cities which 
he successively inhabited. As a learned man he chiefly shone by 
his orations, deliv^ered in the various ambassadorial missions on 
which he was sent in consequence of his celebrity as an 
orator. In Rome, Naples, Genoa, and Venice, he was received 
with the honours of royalty ; and so high was his reputation, that 
by means of a Latin letter, he succeeded in regaining from the 
Condottiere Piccinirii eight horses that had been stoleir by some 
soldiers of his band. Being sent to congratulate Nicholas V. on 
his election, in the name of the republic of Florence, people 
crowded from the neighbouring cities to hear him, and tlie Pope 
listened to him with such absorbed attention, that a prelate beside 
him nudged his elbow several times thinking that his Holiness 
had fallen asleep. " When the oration was over, everybody shook 
liands with the Florentines as though Pisa and its territory were 
won," ' and the Venetian Cardinals wrote home to their govern- 
ment that the}'^ ought to send an orator equal to Manetti for the 
sake of the dignity of the State. At Naples King Alfonso sat 
like a statue on his throne all the time Manetti was speaking. 
Yet he was a speaker of no originality. His orations — of a false 
and inflated style — are mere medleys of facts, collections of Latin 
phrases, which was exactly what pleased best in those days, and 
gave free scope for the display of his vast reading, powerful 
memory, and prodigious facility for stringing together sonorous 
periods. He was the author of many histories and biographies, 
which had neither the vivacity of the old chroniclers, nor even 
the merits of Aretino and Bracciolini. His treatises on philosophy 
are empty dissertations ; his numerous translations from the Greek 
and Latin are inferior to those of his predecessor Aretino. His 
versions of the Psalter from the Hebrew and of the New Testa- 
ment from the Greek prove his dissatisfaction with the Vulgate, 
but do not support the theory of those who tried to attribute to 
him a religious daring of which he was incapable. The last years 
of his life were embittered by the envy that drove him from 
Florence ; but he found protection at Rome and Naples, and 
died in the latter city, where he v/as a pensioner of Alfonso of 
Aragon, on the 26th October, 1459. 

Although Manetti's great reputation has not survived, he 
merits an important place in the history of the fifteenth century, 
» Vespasiano, " Vita di G. Manetti," sec. xv. 


(ireeiscly btc.ui.^c his life is a pr.xif llial no profession or aj^c, 
however corrupt, need prevent; a man from preserving true nohihty 
of mind. The same Pagan learning that was to entail .so great 
moral ruin on Italy was used by him for the elevation of his whole 
nature. Indeed it is plainly an error, though a very common one, 
to condemn in one sweeping sentence the general character of the 
learned men. We have already found ourselves forced to admire 
Coluccio Salutati and Palla Sirozzi ; many other worthy charac- 
ters are to be found among the less known men. 'Phis is sufficiently 
proved by the biographies of Vcspasiano whose excessive ingenu- 
ousness may excite our blame, but can leave no doubt of the sin- 
cerity of his admiration for virtue. He tells us of Messer Zem- 
brino da Pistoia, who taught " not only letters, but morals," and 
abandoning every other employment to devote himself to philo- 
sophy, " lived a frugal and temperate life, giving all he had to the 
jioor, and contenting himself with hermit's fare. Also he was of 
"thoroughly sincere mind, generous, without fraud or malice, as 
all men ought to be." Speaking of Maestro Paolo, a Florentine, 
learned in Greek, Latin, the seven liberal arts, and also given to 
astronomy, he adds, that he never held intercourse with woman ; 
slept in his clothes upon a board beside his writing table ; lived 
on vegetables and fruit ; " was devoted to virtue, and had placed 
therein his every hope. . . , When not at study, he would 
go and take care of some friend."' All this notwithstanding, it 
cannot be denied that the greater number of these criiditi had 
no force of character, although ardently devoted to learning. 
The continued exercise of the intelligence on questions that were 
frequently of mere form ; the wandering life of courtiers com- 
pelled to gain their bread by the sale of eulogiums ; the perpetual 
rivalries ; the absence of all spirit of brotherhood or caste in the 
exercise of their common work or office, and their moral destruc- 
tiveness did not help to ennoble their characters. If, too, it be 
added, that all this was going on at a moment in which liberty was 
already extinguished, society decayed, religion scandalously pro- 
faned by the Popes ; it will be easily understood what profound 
moral corruption must have been rife in Italy, when the learned 
were the expositors of virtue, the apportioners of glory, the repre- 
sentatives of public opinion. But still we must not refuse to 
acknowledge the handful of righteous men who escaped from 
the general wreck. If we do not impartially take into account 
all the elements of culture and of the natures of men, we 
stand in danger of never being able to understand how the Italian 
genius then contrived, amid so many dangers, to find sufficient 
* See in Vespasiano the two " Vite di Zembrino Pistolese e di Maestro Pagolo.' 


strength in itself to promote an extraordinary intellectual advance, 
and avoid the total moral destruction, to which perhaps another 
nation might have succumbed under similar condition.-,. 

3. Learned Men in Rome. 

After Florence, Rome is certainly the city of highest standinr^ 
in letters. From the days of Petrarch, the Popes began to feel 
the need of having their Briefs composed by men of learning. 
And during the Pontificate of Martin, the learned members of the 
Curia already asserted the right of taking precedence at all public 
ceremonies over the consistorial advocates, of whom they spoke 
with much contempt.' P. Bracciolini was then the principal 
personage among them, and with him were others of lesser fame, 
such as Antonio Lusco, a writer of rhymed epistles and epigrams, 
who had extracted the rules of rhetoric from Cicero's orations, 
and composed a formulary for transacting the business of the Curia 
in classical language.^ But while in Florence men of learning 
enjoyed an important social standing and great independence, in 
Rome they merely formed a small clique, and were subordinate 
employes who, though generally well remunerated, could only 
aspire to the condition of favourea courciers. Still they daily in- 
creased in number, obtaining posts in the Abhrevuiiura, where 
there were as many as a hundred writers of Briefs, or in the Pope's 
private secretary's office, where the clerical dress had to be as- 
sumed without the obligation of taking orders. The post of Ab- 
breviatore or Brief writer was a permanent one ; that of secretar\' 
generally lasted only for the Pope's lifetime, but as besides mari\- 
perquisites, it implied hopes of possible favour and promotion : 
with these offices it fetched a high price (ever}'thing could be 
bought in Rome), although the first was the more sought after and 
the dearer of the two. 3 

The golden age for men of letters in Rome was the reign of 
Nicholas V., who, had it been possible, would have collected, 
within the walls of the Eternal City, all the manuscripts in the 
world, all the men of learning and all the monuments of Flor- 
ence. The savings he made, and the sums received at the jubilee 
in J 450, gave him the means to set to work upon his project. 

• Voigt, " Die Wiederbelelmng," &c., p. 279, note 3. 

"" .Sciipsil item exenipla qLut'daiii et veluti foniiulas, quibus Roinana Curia in 
scrihendo uteretur, qiut- etiani ah eruditissimis viris ia usuin lecepta sunt " (Kaciu^, 
" Ue Viris illustrilnis," p. 3). 

'\'oigt, " Enea Silvio dei I'iccolomini, als Papist I'ius dcr Zwcil<-," vol. iii. p 
S4S fol. 


riio Curia and the Scgrctcria were quickly filled with learned 
men, whom the Pope, who knew litlle or no Greek, employed in 
making; translations, lor which he paid them largely. Valla was 
entrusted with the translation of Thucydidcs, and on its comple- 
tion received li\'e hundred crowns and a commission for the trans- 
lation of Ilercnlotus ; Bracciolini was charged with that of 
Dioilorus Siculus ; (iuarino Veronese, who was at Ferrara, with 
that of Strabo and the promise of live hundred crowns for each 
part of the work : others received similar commissions. But 
Nicholas V. could find no one able to undertake a rendering of 
Homer into Latin verse, although he had sought everywhere, and 
made most generous ofl'ers to Filelfo. 

Theodore Gaza, George Trapezunzio, Bt-ssarion, and many 
other Greek exiles, also found their way to i^ome, many of them 
receiving similar otFices and similar commissions. The majority 
of them, however, were restless adventurers who had changed 
their religion in the hope of gain. Bessarion, one of the converts, 
was certainly a man of weight, learned, and a better Latin scholar 
than most of his compatriots ; he became a Cardinal, was 
wealthy, and a diligent collector of manuscripts.' He posed as a 
a Mcecenas, and Nicholas V. gave him the post of Legate at 
Bologna, probably in order not to have him as almost his own 
rival in Rome. 

All this great comj)any of translators and refugees, gathered 
together at' the Pope's expense, may be called a medley of hetero- 
geneous elements. They were undoubtedly useful in the diffusion 
of the resvdts of labour begun in Florence, but they were incapa- 
ble of an}'^ really original work ; they doubtless produced many 
useful translations, but M'e may observe that whereas those of 
Bruni, at Florence, had opened a new road to research, and were 
made by a man who had undertaken them of his own free choice, 
those purchased by Nicholas V. were, on the contrary, commis- 
sioned works, often executed by learned men, such as Poggio 
and Valla, whose principal merit scarcely consisted in know- 
ledge of Greek, or by Greek refugees who knew very little Latin. 
The most notable productions of this Roman company of scholars 
were works like the " Facezie " and the " Invettive " of Bracciolini 
or the " Antidoto " of Valla, in which, as we have seen, they hurled 
vile insults at each other's heads. The Pope might easily have im- 
posed a check on this unedif3dng spectacle, but, on the contrary, 

' His lihraiy, in thirty cases, containing six hundreil volumes, was left to Venice, 
and formed the fust nucleus of the Liljiary of St. Mark. Vespasiano, " Vita del 
Card. Niceno ; " Vnigt, '" Die Wiederbelebung," &c., Tiraboschi, " Storia della 
Letteratura Italiana. " 


he seemed to take pleasure in it. But it is necessary to observe 
that, under his pontificate, the learned men whom he protected 
also published works on serious subjects and of high importance ; 
these, however, were either not written in Rr^nc, or written, as 
we shall see, without his encouragement. 

It was natural that one who had formed so great a workshop 
of translators should also found a great library. And, in fact, 
although before his time Martin V. had begun to collect 
manuscripts, and later on Sixtus IV. opened to the public the 
famous Vatican library, its true founder, as we have elsewhere 
remarked, was Nicholas V. Enoch of Ascoli went all over the 
world ransacking monasteries for manuscripts, furnished with 
Briefs authorising him to transcribe or buy them.^ GiovauTii 
Tortello, author of a manual of orthography for copyists,^ was 
the librarian of this Pope, who, according to Vespasiano, collected 
five thousand volumes, had them sumptuously bound, and spent 
forty thousand crowns on them.3 He also began the restoration 
of the streets, bridges, and M'^alls of Rome ; he laid the foundations 
of a ncAV Vatican ; he fortified the Capitol and the castle of St. 
Angelo ; restored or rebuilt from the foundations a great many 
churches in Rome, Viterbo, Assisi, &c., and constructed new for- 
tresses in many cities of the State. In short, under Alberti's 
advice, and with the help of Bernardo and Antonio Rosselli, 
Nicholas V. was enabled to transform Rome into a great monu- 
mental city, thus rivalling not only the Medici, but even the 
greatest of the ancient emperors. ^ From all this it is easy to 
understand how, without having any special talent, Nicholas has 
succeeded in sending his name down to posterity. It must also 
be added that his reign was made illustrious by the presence of 
three men of singular ability, two of whom were in his employ. 
And although, as we have already noticed, their principal works 
were either written away from Rome or without exciting any 
attention on the part of the Pope ; yet they indirectly conferred 
on him an honour that was quite undeserved. The first of the 

' Tortellii, " Commentaviornm grammaticonim de Orfographia dictionum e 
Graecis traciaruin Opus," Vicentiae, 1479. 

" Vesimsiano, " Vite di Enoche d'Ascoli, di Niccolo V., di Giovanni Tor- 

3 So he saj-s in his "Vita di Niccolo V. ; " in that of " Tortello," s. I. he says 
instead: " Aveva fatto inventario di tutti i libri che aveva in quella libreria, e fu 
mirabile cosa la qiiantita ch 'egli diceva avere, ch 'crano da vohinii novemih." 
Others give other numbers ; it is difficult to asceitain the exact number. Voigt, 
" Die Wiederbelebung," &c., p. 364. 

* Vespasiano, " Vita di Niccolo V." G. Manetti, in his '' Vita Nicola! V.," gives 
minute details of this Pope's designs. See too Voigt, " Die Weiderbek bung," 
&c. ; Gregorovius and Reumont in their histories of Rome. 


learned trio was Lorenzo Valla, whom wc have seen among the 
Papal secretaries and translators, but who had previously led a 
very adventurous lite, (^t a Piacenza family, but born in Rome 
(1406), he boasted ot his Roman birth. Up to the age of twenty- 
four he remained in Rome, where he was the pu])il of Leonardo 
Rruni, and also, it would seem, of Giovanni Aurispa.' He then 
went as professor to Pavia, where his restlessness of character and 
originality of mind soon made \\\\\\ conspicuous. In that great 
centre of legal studies, he fiercely attacked the doctrine of the 
celebrated BartoK), on account of his barbarous and scholastic 
style. How, said he, could Bartolo, who was ignorant of the 
classic language of antiquity, in which Roman jurisprudence was 
and ought still to be written, and even ignorant of history, either 
understand the real significance of Roman law, or properly com- 
ment upon it. This audacity was considared rank, heresy, and 
made so much noise among the law students, that poor Valla 
to fly from Pavia and go to teach in other cities.^ 

Yet, it was amid these agitations that he brought out his first 
work, " De Voluptate et Vero Bono," 3 in which we find manifesta- 
tions of original thought, and perceive that learning had already 
given birth to the new spirit of the Renaissance. Comparing the 
doctrines of the Stoics with those of the Epicureans, Valla exalts 
the triumph of the senses, and protests against all mortification of 
the flesh. Life's objects, he says frankly, are pleasure and happi- 
ness, and these we ought to pursue according" to nature's 
command. Virtue itself, being derived from the will, not 
from the intellect, is a means for attaining beatitude, namely, 
true happiness, which is ever incomplete on this earth. It is 
impossible to explain all things by reason ; the dogmas of 
religion often remain a mystery, and philosophy only seeks, as 
far as may be, to expound them rationally ; it is not even possible 
to conciliate free will with divine prescience. Science is founded 
on reason, — which is in harmony with the reality of things, on 
nature, — which is God. Truth manifests itself in a true, precise, 
simple form ; logic and rhetoric are almost one and the same 
thing ; a confused and incorrect style is a sign of badly under- 

' The former was then a member of the Cuiia ; but of the latter, who is sup- 
posed to have iiistructed Valla in CJreek, it is not certain that he caTue to Rome 
iiefore 1440. It is difficult, therefore, to determine the dates. I'iJe Tiraboschi, 
" .Storia della Letteratura Italiana," vol. vi. p. 1029 and fol. 

^ Poggio and Fazio even accuse him of having given a false bond, and attribute 
to that his (light. They were, however, his enemies, and not, therefore, crediljle 
witnesses against him. 

J It is divided into three parts. Vide the pdiiion of N'alla's " Opere," pub- 
lished at Basle, 154.). 


stood truths, of a false or incomplete science. — x\nd for these 
reasons Valla fiercely attacked scholastic philosophy, Aristotle, 
and Boetius, continually appealing from authority to the healthy 
use of reason, to reality, to nature, which he exalted in a thousand 
ways. This need of reality, this redemption of the senses, and of 
nature, forms the new spirit that animates the whole book, con- 
stitutes the special characteristic of Valla's writings, is, in short, 
the actual spirit of the Renaissance of which he was the incarna- 
tion. There is here no question of a new system of philosophy , 
but one sees the triumph of nature and of good sense, and the 
independence of reason presents itself to us as a logical conse- 
quence of the revival of antiquity. 

This work would have been much more successful if Valla, 
in his restless, quarrelsome spirit, and frequent love of paradox, 
had not allowed himself to be too much carried away by his 
own pen. In taking up the defence of the senses, he declares 
that virginity is in opposition to nature, and makes Panormita 
declare, that if nature's laws are to be respected, courtesans are 
of more use than nuns to the human race. In expounding and 
defending the Epicurean doctrines against the Stoics, in condemn- 
ing and despising everything that implies contempt of the 
world, he lets slip many expressions contrary to the letter and 
spirit of Catholic doctrines. And while protesting his inten- 
tion of respecting the authority of the Church, his attacks 
against the clergy were exceedingly violent, and far more formid- 
able than those of Poggio and other learned men. Sarcasm was 
their principal weapon ; that of Valla criticism, which had a far 
deadlier effect. Therefore he had many bitter enemies, and 
was soon accused of being a heretic, an epicurean, and a blas- 
phemer of everything that was sacred. Nor was his assertion 
that for him divine beatitude consisted in true pleasure, true 
happiness, considered a valid defence, for the most insolent and 
daring phrases in his own work were cast in his teeth, and the 
most immoral actions of his life — which was certainly open to 
attack — were brought up against him. 

After teaching in various cities. Valla is found at the Court of 
Alfonso of Aragon, between the years 1435 and 1442, was 
appointed his secretary in 1437, and accompanied him in the 
military enterprises which afterwards established that prince on 
the Neapolitan throne.' In '43 he was in Rome, but had to fly 

' He says of this period : " Tot praelia vidi, in quibus de salute quoqiie mca 
agebatur." " Opera," Basle edition, 1543, p- 273. The learned men, however, 
were fond of boasting of the perils they encountered, whenever they accompanied 
a prince on any warlike expedition. 

VOL. I. 8 


that city, and once more take refuge in Naples, because of the 
persecution that threatened him on account of his as then 
unpublished work, " De falso credita et ementita Constantini 
ilonatione." ' \'alln maintained that the donation of Constantine 
was never made, coidd not be made, and tliat the original of 
the jiretended document had never been seen. Then by a critical 
examination of the terms of the document, he proved its falsity. 
After this he fiercely attacked the simony of the clergy, openly 
declaring that the Pope had no right to govern either the world 
or Rome ; that the temporal power had ruined the Church, and 
deprived the Roman people of liberty. He even incited them to 
rise against the tyranny of F.ugene IV., and against all Popes, 
who from shepherds had become robbers and wolves. " Even 
were the donation authentic," he said, in conclusion, "it would be 
null and void, for Constantine could have no power to make it, 
and in any case the crimes of the Papacy would have already 
annulled it." He hoped to live long enough to .see the popes 
constrained to be mere pastors, with only spiritual power. It is 
true that already during the Council of Basle, Cusano and 
Piccolomini had maintained the falsity of the donation by means 
of arguments which are also foimd in Valla. = But to him we 
owe the thorough demolition of the document, accomplished 
by pungent criticism, and with all the impetus of his Ciceronian 
eloquence. Besides, he did not confine himself to a literary and 
theoretical examination, but sought to totally overthrow the 
temporal power, by threatening to excite the population to revolt 
against the reigning pontiff. It was no longer a matter of a 
simple theological or historical dispute, but this was the first 
time that an already celebrated scholar, after having exhausted 
the critical view of the case, rendered it popular, and gave it a 
practical application. 3 

At that time x\lfonso of Aragon was at war with Eugene IV., 
and Valla, in taking up the cause of his protector, was able to 
give full vent to his eloquence. Attacked by priests and friars, 
he, safe in his vantage ground, returned to the charge in other 
writings. In these he maintained that the letter of Abgarus to 
Jesus Christ, published by Eusebius, was false ; that it was false 
that the Creed had been composed by the apostles, that in reality 

' See his "Opera." 

' Voigt, "Enea Silvio di Piccolomini, als Pabst Pius der Zweite," vol. ii. 
p. 313; "Die Wiederbelebung," &c., p. 224. See also an article by Professor 
Fcrri on Cusano in the " JS'uova Antologia," year 7, vol. xx., May, 1872, p. 109, 
and fol. 

3 "Lorenzo Valla, ein Vortrag," von Z. Vahlen. Berlin, F. Vahlen, 1S70, 
p. 26, and fol. 



it was the work of the Nicene Council. Even before this he had 
ah-eady discovered many errors in the Vulgate, and collected 
them in a book of annotations, which Erasnms of Rotterdam 
afterwards republished with an eulogistic letter of defence.' These 
writings and these disputes procured him a summons before the 
Inquisition in Naples, but, assured of the king's support, he 
defended himself partly by satires, and partly by declaring that 
he respected the dogmas of the Church, which had nothing to do 
with history, philosophy, or philology. As to the donation of 
Constantine, nothing was said about it, in order not to re-open 
so thorny a qtiestion. 

Freed from this danger, he continued his lessons at the 
university, and prosecuted literary disputes with Bartolommeo 
Fazio and Antonia Panormita, against whom he wrote four books 
of invectives.' But besides these works he published others, 
historical, philosophical, and philological, always dictated by 
the same critical and independent spirit, and of these the 
" Elegantiae " and the " Dialectica " are the most noteworthy. 
The first ^ speedily achieved great popularity, for in its pages 
V^alla displayed his mastery of classical Latin, which he wrote 
with as much elegance as vigour. He also showed a — for those 
times — very profound knowledge of grammatical theory, and, 
what is more surprising, slipped insensibly from philological to 
philosophical questions. Language, he said, was formed in 
accordance with the laws of thought, and for this reason grammar 
and rhetoric were based upon dialectics of which they are the 
complement and the application. Erasmus also occupied himself 
with this work, and prepared and published an abbreviation of 
it.4 In this, as well as in the " De Voluptatc et Vero Bono," we 
see all the author's originality and the movement of learning 
towards criticism and philosophy. His " Dialectica," an exclu- 
sively philosophical work, is of very inferior merit ; but this, 
t(jo, strikes the same chord, namely, that the true study ot 
thought must be prosecuted by study of language. s 

' In Novutn Testainentiiin e divcrsoruin utriusque liiigiiic codicum collalioiie 
annolationcs, &c., in Valla's " Opera." 

' " In Bartholomeum Facium ligiirem, Invectivarum sive Recriminalionum, 
libri iv." The cause of this dispute was a criticism by Fazio on Valla's " Life of 
the Father of King Alfonso."— L. Vallae, " Ilistoriarum Ferdinandi regis 
Aragonia, libri iii." Parisiis per Robertum Stephanum. In replying to Fazio, 
Valla also attacked Panormita. 

3 " Elegantiarum, libri vi.," in Valla's "Opere." , ^, 

* " Paraphrasis, seu potius Epitome in Elegantiarum libros Laur. \allae. 
Parisiis, 1548.— " Paraphrasis luculenia et brevis in Elegantias Vallae." Vtnet.'is, 

= Rittef, "Geschichte dcr ncuern Philosophic," part i, p. 253, notes m fact the 


Amid ?o many battles and so much literary activity, enjoying 
the protection of so magnificent a monarch as Alfonso, aiid resi- 
dent in a city that had always shown a singular aptitude for 
philosophical studies, Valla might have been content. Yet he 
always yearned for Rome, since that was the great literary, 
centre, and his present position was far from secure. The king 
might be reconciled with the Pope, might be succeeded by his 
son, and all things be suddenly changed. In fact, before long 
the Aragonese were once more in agreement with the Holy See, 
and Valla had to take care of himself. With the lightness that 
was special to the learned men, he then decided to retract all the 
perilous doctrines which he had hitherto maintained, especially 
those touching the donation of Constantine, which, in the judg- 
ment of his adversaries, were all the more dangerous, the less 
they were talked of. He began by writing letters to several 
Cardinals, stating that he had been moved by no hatred for the 
Papacy, but by lo\e of truth, religion, and glory. If his work 
was of man, it would fall of itself, if of God, no one could over- 
throw it. Furthermore — and this was the most important point 
— if it were true that with a pamphlet he had wrought great 
harm to the Church, they ought to recognize that he was able 
to work it equal good. But all this did not suffice to pacify 
Eugene IV., and Valla, who went to Rome in 1445, soon returned 
to Naples, whence he wrote an apology addressed to the Pope, 
to whom he promised a complete retractation.' In this he 
repelled the accusations of heresy, brought against him by the 
malice of his enemies, and ended by saying: "If I sinned not, 
restore my good fame to its pristine purity ; if I sinned, pardon 

But not even this submission obtained the wished-for result. 
Only on the election of Nicholas V. (1447), Valla was immediately 
sent for and employed in making translations from the Greek, of 
which he had no great knowledge. There in Rome, he spent his 
days amid lessons, translations, and literary quarrels with Trape- 

superiority attributed by Valla to "Rhetoric" over "Dialectics": " Noch viel 
reicher is die Redekunst, welche ein unerschbpfliches Gedachtniss, Kenntniss der 
Sachen und der Menschen voraussetz, alle Arten der Schliisse gcbraucht, nicht 
allein in ihrer einfachen Natur, wie sie dieDialektik lehrt, sonderu in den mannig- 
faltigsten Anwendiingen auf die verschiedensten Verhaltnisse der offentlichen 
Geschafte nach der Lage der Sachen, nach der Verschiedenheit der Horenden 
abgeandert. Dieser reichen Wissenschaft solle die philosophische Dialektik 
dienen ('Dial.,' diop. II, praefatio). Das meint Valla, wenn er die Philosophie 
unter der Oberbefehl der Rede stellen will." This is the idea he expounds in the 
" Dialectica," but in the " Eleganze " he goes still farther, and seeks to discover 
philosophy and logic in language. 

' "Ut si quid retractatione opus est, et quasi ablutione, en tibi me nudum 


zunzlo and Poggio, without at all concerning himself with religious 
questions. He was secretary to the Curia and even Canon of St. 
John Lateran, which was afterwards the burial-place of this 
pretended religious innovator, who had been a man of little 
principle, of immoral habits, and of very great literary, critical, 
and philosophical talent. He ceased to live on the ist of August, 


At this time there was another scholar of great ability in Rome, 
and this was Flavio Biondo, or Biondo Flavio, as some call him ; 
born at Forli in 1388 ; he was secretary to Eugene IV., Nicholas 
v., Calixtus in., and Pius U., was used by all and neglected by 
all to such an extent that from time to time he attempted to better 
his fortune elsewhere. Yet he had served Eugene IV. through 
good and evil fortune with unshaken fidelity, and had dedicated 
some of his principal works to him ; he had done the same to 
Nicholas V., the Maecenas of all learned men, and to Pius II., 
who made use of his works, and even epitomized one of them, 
to give it the elegance of style that it lacked. This in fact was 
Biondo's great defect, and that helped to keep him almost 
unknown amongst the Humanists, many of whom were not 
worthy of comparison with him. He did not know Greek, was 
not an elegant Latinist, was neither a flatterer, nor a writer of 
invectives ; he had but one dispute with Bruni, and that was 
wholly literary and scientific, on the origin of the Italian 
language, and was free from personalities. His epistles contain 
neither bon mots nor elegant phrases, therefore they were never 
collected, and no one wrote his biography. Yet his was one of 
the purest characters and noblest minds of that century, and his 
works have a keenness of historic criticism to be found in none 
of his contemporaries. 

Biondo's first work, dedicated to Eugene IV., and entitled 
" Roma Instaurata," is a description of Pagan and Christian 
Rome and its monuments. It is the first serious attempt we 
have of a complete topography of the Eternal City ; the author 
opens the way towards a scientific restoration of the monuments, 
and refers to classic authors with singular critical power. Also, 

offero." "Ad Eugenium IV., Pont. Apologia: Vallae Opp." The letters to 
Cardinals Scarampo and Landriani are to be found in the " Epistoloe Reguni et 
Principum," Argentina per Lazar. Zetzenerum A. 1595, pp. 336 and 341. 

' Tiraboschi, " S. L. I.," vol. vi. p. 1029 and fol. ; Voigt, "Die Wiederbelebung," 
&c., p. 294 and fol.; Voigt, " Pius II , und seine Zeit," vol. i. p. 237; Zumpt, 
" Leben und Verdienste des L. Valla," in vol. iv. of " Zeitschrift fiir Geschicht- 
swissenschaft," von A. Schmidt; Ritter, " Geschichte der neuern Philosophic," 
parti. Invernizzi, "II Risorgimento " (fifteenth and sixteenth centuries), chap. 
iii. ; this work forms part of the " .Storia d'ltalia " in course of publicatiou at 
Milan : Vallardi and Co. 


it is still more worthy of ikiIIcc that antitjuity hy no means 
makes him lorjrcttiil of Christian times : " 1 am not," he says, "of 
those who forget the Rome of St. Peter for the Kome of the 
Consuls." Thus his learning gained a wider and deeper basis, 
for it comprised the Middle Ages and his own time. His sce(MKl 
work was the " Italia lUustrata," written at the instance of 
Alfonso of Aragon, and dedicated to Nicholas V. In this he 
gave a description of ancient Italy, defined its difTerent regions 
and enumerating its principal cities, imestigated their moim- 
ments, their ancient and modern history, and their celebrated 
men. His third work, dedicated to Pius II., was " Konia 
Triumphans," in which he undertook to examine the con- 
stitution, customs, and religion of the ancient Romans, thus 
making the first manual of antiquity. Finally, not to mention 
his book " De Origine et Gestis Venetorum ; " he wrote a history 
of the decline of the Roman I-Cmpire, " Historiarum ab inclinatione 
Romanorum," &c., a work of vast bulk, of which, however, we 
have only the three first decades and the beginning of the fourth. 
The author's intention Avas to bring it down to his own times ; 
but even in its unfinished state, it is the first universal history of 
the Middle Ages worthy of the name. And Biondo has an admi- 
rable method of seeking out the fountain heads and distinguishing 
contemporaneous from posterior or anterior narrators, by carefully 
comparing them with each other. It was first in this work that 
history began to be a science, and historic criticism came into 
existence. We shall have occasion to refer to it again, when the 
moment comes for observing that Machiavelli made great use of 
it in the famous first book of his " Istorie," sometimes translating 
literally from it. And even Pius II. recognized the great import- 
ance of the work, by making a compendium of it in order to give 
it a classic mould. He also made frequent use of other of Biondo's 
works, while leaving the author to pass his last days in poverty 
and almost unknown (1463).' 

The third learned man whom it is requisite to mention is Enea 
Silvio dei Piccolomini, the same who succeeded Nicholas V. as Pius 
II. (1458-64). We have already had a glimpse of him at the 
Council of Basle, where he supported the election of the Anti- 
Pope Felix v., to whom he was secretary ; later, we saw him in 
the Imperial Chancery, where he remained many years and 

' Voigt, " Die Wiederbelebung," &c. ; Gregorovius, " Geschichte der Stadt 
Rom," vol. vii. p. 577 (2nd edition) ; Tiraboschi, " S. L. I.," vol. vi. p. 635 and 
fol. The " Roma Instaurata " and " Italia Illustrata" were printed for the first 
time " Romse in domo nob, v. Johannis de Lignamine, 1474," and reprinted with 
all Biondo's other works at Basle in 1559. They were afterwards translated into 


changed his opinions, becoming a supporter of the Papal autho- 
rity in opposition to the ideas of the Council, which he had 
previously upheld. In his youth he had given free play to his 
natural frivolity and versatility of talent, and had written verses, 
comedies, coarse tales, and letters, in which he spoke with sarcastic 
cynicism of the dissolute life that he led. As a scholar he was 
wanting in knowledge of Greek and the Grecian authors, of whom 
he had only read a few translations sent to him from Italy ; of 
the Latin authors, however, especially Cicero, he had made very 
prolonged study ; he aimed at ease and simplicity of style, and 
Poggio Bracciolini was his beau ideal. His writings had a spon- 
taneous dash, chiefly resulting from the practical nature of his 
intellect, from his knowledge of mankind, and of the world. 
He differed from all the other learned men in this, that in his 
writings he always tried to go straight to the practical and real 
point, without indulging in too many classic reminiscences. Even 
in his obscene works, instead of trying effects of style and citing 
examples from the ancients, he narrated real facts from his own 
life or that of his friends. His " Orations in Council " were certainly 
no specimens of great eloquence, but they had a clear intention, 
and sought to reach a definite end. In the " Epistole " he 
either treated of affairs or described the places he lived in ; and 
thus we often find the poor secretary of the Imperial Chancery in 
despair at being among Germans who drink beer from morning 
to night. The students (as now) SAvallowed enormous quantities 
of it ; a father awakened his children in the night in order to 
make them drink wine. 

But meanwhile Piccolomini was certainly the first to propagate 
Italian humanism in Germany, and for many years his letters 
formed the connecting link between the two countries, and hence 
have much historical importance. Piccolomini had neither the 
weight of an independent thinker, the erudition of a true 
Humanist, nor the patience of the collector ; but in him the 
vivacity, readiness, and spontaneity of the man of letters, who is 
at the same time a man of the world, reached so high a pitch 
that he may justly be called an original writer. _ He was no 
philosopher ; indeed, in this respect he was so imbued with 
antiquity as to vvish to confound the Greek and Roman with the 
Christian philosophy. In such matters he was out of his real 
element ; this is plainly seen when he turns to subjects^ relating 
to philosophy, but of more practical tendency, as, for instance 
education. Then he makes few quotations from Aristotle and 
Plato, but notes instead observations derived from his own 
experience. He never succeeded in composing any really scier- 

1 04 2NTR0D UCTJON. 

tific treatises, and their must a(trac(i\c parts are always his 
descriptions of scenery and manners. Thus when writing " De 
euriahum miseriis," ' the hest jiart of his book is that iii which he 
relates the unhajipv life which he himself led witli the subordi- 
nates of the luiperial Chancery ; their travels, tlieir lil'e in ccMumon, 
the badness of tlie inns, llie vile cookery, the absence of quiet. ^ \n 
other works of his we find descriptions of the countries through 
which he had travelled, of natural scenery, customs, institutions. 
These things in short are those that he saw most clearly and 
describes to us most grajjhicaliy. Although no traveller in search 
of unknown regions, nature is e\er fresh, ever admirable to 
him ; he can always hear its voice. Even after he was Pope, 
and was old and iniirm, he would have himself carried over the 
Jiills and valleys to Tivoli, Albano, and Tusculo, to enjoy the 
beauty of the scenery, which he so graphically describes in his 
*' Commentarii," that to this day they would make a good 
guide for visitors to those places. The character and the variety 
of the vegetation, the mountain and river systems, the philological 
derivation of their names, the different local customs ; nothing 
escapes him ; everything is harmoniously arranged. He also 
wrote descriptions of Genoa, Basle, London, and Scotland, noting 
the extent of the latter country, its climate, customs, food, manner 
of living, construction of the houses, and the political opinions of 
the inliabitants. There is a description by him of Vienita which is 
60 vivid that to this day fragments of it are given in the most 
recent guides to that city. 3 Its extent, the number of its inhabi- 
tants, the life led by its professors and students, its political and 
administrative constitution, its mode of life and street scandals, 
the condition of the nobles and burgesses, its justice, its police, 
everything seems to bear the same stamp as the Vienna of to-day. 4 
He does not write as a learned man ; he is a simple traveller 
impelled by his own curiosity to observe and describe all that he 
sees. Piccolomini is a man of his time, his qualities are in the 
very atmosphere he breathes, and his want of individual origi- 
nality makes him show them all the plainer. He lived, it is true, 
in the age of the men of learning, but that was also the age which 
gave birth to Christopher Columbus and moulded his genius. 

It is for these reasons that Piccolomini's historical and geogra- 
phical writings were his most important works, and that their 

' It is a treatise, in the form of u letter, to Giovanni Aich, dated 30th Novem- 
ber, 1444. 

•^ "Opera." Basle: Hiipper, 1551, vol. i. pp. 91-93. 

3 " Wiener Baedeker, Fiihrer durch Wien und Umgebungen," von. B. Euchei 
und K. Weiss. Zweite Auflage : Wien, Faesy und Frich, 1870, i>p. 43, 44. 

* '• Epist." 165, Basle edition, 1571. 


principal merit lies in tbj author's descriptions of things and men 
actually seen by him, and when History, Geography, and Ethno- 
graphy presented themselves to him as one science. He had only 
a fragmentary knowledge of Greek and Roman history ; lie treated 
but slightly of that of the Middle Ages, taking much from Biondo 
and others. Still he examined the writers of whom he made use, 
the epoch, value, and credibility of their Avorks, for criticism ran 
in the blood of the men of that time. But he never arrived at 
any true scientific severity or method ; he strung together his 
information in a confused way, from memory and from memoranda 
in which he had noted down what he saw, read, or heard. This 
mode of composition, joined to the mobility and mutability of his 
character, made him at different times express very different judg- 
ments upon the same subject ; for he always wrote under the 
impression of the moment. This, however, increases the spon- 
taneity of his writings, and allows us to read in the mutability of 
his opinions the history of his mind. 

He long meditated a species of " Cosmos," in which he intended 
to write of the geography of all then known countries, and their 
history from the beginning of the century to his own day. His 
" Europa " is a fragment of this colossal work, that was never 
completed, and in it he makes geography the substratum of 
history. He treated of the different nations without order, with- 
out proportion, often writing from memory, according to his 
custom. Later, he wrote the geography of Asia, making use of 
the traditions of the Grecian geographers, and of the travels of 
Conti, the Venetian, Avho had been twenty-five years in Persia, 
and of which Poggio's works contained a very minute narrative, 
taken from the traveller's own lips.» Piccolomini's last and most 
important work is the autobiography, written when he was already 
Pope, and which, in imitation of Julius Caesar, he styles his 
" Commentaries." These he was accustomed to dictate in inter- 
vals of leisure ; they are therefore made up of fragments loosely 
strung together, but perhaps for that very reason give a just idea 

* Poggli, " De varietate fortunoe," Parisils, 1723. This work begins with a 
long introduction, in which the author speaks of the ruined condition of the 
monuments of Rome. The first book describes tiie ruins, and then goes on to 
narrate the deeds of Tamerlane, and the misfortunes of Bajazet. In the second 
book, Antonio Lusco speaks of the vicissitudes of Europe, from 1377 to the death 
of Martin V. The third contains a compendium of the hislory of Italy under 
Eugene IV. The fourth, which is like a separate work, and has been frequently 
translated, contains an account of India and Persia, which Poggio derived from 
Conti, who had been beyond the Ganges. It is certainly one of the most im- 
portant works Poggio has left, and in it one finds a little of everything ; philosophy, 
de<cri[>tions of Italian policy in the fifteenth century, Eastern travels, \c. 


of the author's intellectual qualities, and show the many and ver- 
satile merits which are scattered through his other works. In 
this, we see hini in his varied aspects, as the scholar, the poet, 
the describer of ft>rei,c;n countries, the enthusiast for nature, the 
genre painter, and the mind imbued with a spirit of thoroughly 
modern realism.' Here are those descriptions of the Roman 
Campagna, Tivoli, the valley of the Anio, Ostia, Monte Amiata, 
the Alban Hills, which may still serve as travellers' guides, and 
almost make you feel the rush of mountain breezes ; here, too, if 
with little order, is the image of a whole century, faithfully re- 
flected in the miud o{ the writer, who just because he lacks indi- 
vidual character and personality, never gives a subjective tint to 
the things and men he describes. These " Commentaries " extend 
from the year 1405 to 1463, and were carried on by another hand 
down to 1464.^ 

All that we have related of Valla, Biondo, and Piccolomini will 
clearly show that, although the learned men of Rome had neither 
the importance nor special character of those of Florence, still 
the Eternal City was always a great centre, to which the learned 
thronged from all parts of Italy, and soon from all parts of Europe. 
After the death of the three scholars mentioned above, we find 
flourishing there Pomponio Leto, Platina, and the Roman 
Academy. The first of these was better known for eccen- 
tricity than for talent, and was generally believed to be a 
natural son of Prince Sanseverino of Salerno. A pupil of Valla, 
whom he succeeded as teacher, he left his family in order to come 
to Rome ; and it is said that when they summoned him home, he 
replied with his celebrated letter — " Pomponuis Icetus cognatis el 
propinqiiis stiis saliitem. Quod petitis^ fieri 7ion potest. Valete!''' 
Inflamed with an enthusiastic ardour for Roman antiquity, he led 
the life of a hermit, cultivating a vineyard he possessed, according 
to the precepts of Varro and Columella ; going before daybreak 
to the University, where an immense audience awaited him ; 
reading the classics, and passing long hours in contemplation of 
the monuments of old Rome, which often moved him to tears. 
He arranged i"epresentations of the comedies of Plavitus and 
Terence, and became the head of a large group of learned men, 

' Paolo Cortesesays: "In eo primura apparuit saeculi mutati signum " (" De 
Cardinalatu," p. 39, ediiion of 1510). 

° The " Commentarii " were revised and partly retouched by Giannantonio 
Campano, Bishop of Teramo. Giovanni Gobellino (Gobel or Gobel) continued 
'.hem from April '63 to April '64. .See Gregorovius, " Geschichte," d'c, vol. vii. 
p. 599, and fol. (second edition), ^'oigt has given a complete biography of this 
Pope in his work, " Enea Silvio dei Piccolomini als Papst Pius der Zweite und 
Seine Zeitalter." Berlin : G. Meyner, 1856-63, in 3 vuls. See vol. i. chap. 12 
< passim, vol. ii. book iii. chap. 6-1 1. 


whom he gathered into the Roman Academy, of which he was 
the founder. Every member of this Academy was rebaptized 
with a Pagan name, and on the recurrence of the Roman fasti 
especially on the anniversary of the foundation of Rome, they all 
met at a dinner, during which compositions in verse and prose 
were read aloud.' At these meetings republics and paganism 
were discussed ; and it was here that Platina, and many' other 
learned men, whom Paul II. had dismissed from the secretaries 
office,, came to vent their rage against the Pope. He was an 
energetic and impatient man and soon dissolved this academy; 
many of its members were imprisoned, a few even put to torture 
others sought safety in flight (1468). Pomponio Leto was in 
Venice, and was sent back to Rome, where he saved himself by 
making his submission and asking pardon.^ He was thus enabled 
to reopen his academy under Sixtus IV., and it lasted until the 
sack of Rome in 1527. He died in 1498 at the age of seventy, 
and was buried with great pomp. He published several editions 
of the classics, and some works on Roman antiquities ; but his 
chief importance consisted in his teaching, in the Pagan enthu- 
siasm that he had the power of communicating to others, and 
in his simple and exclusively studious life. 

Another member of the Academy, and one of greater ability, 
was Bartolommeo Sacchi, of Piadena, in the Cremonese territory, 
surnamed Platina. First imprisoned for protesting against the 
loss of his office, he was again shut up in St. Angelo, when the 
Academy was dissolved ; being put to torture, he not only yielded, 
but made a most abject submission to the Pope, promising to 
obey him in all things, to celebrate him with highest praise,^ to 
denounce to him whoever should speak ill of him. And all this 
he said while nourishing an intense desire for revenge. Freed 
from prison, and named Vatican librarian by Sixtus IV., with the 
obligation of collecting documents on the history of the temporal 
power,, he revenged himself in his '* Vite dei Papi," by describing 

' Jovii, " Elogia doctoium viroium," Tiraboschi, " S. L. I.," vol. vi. pp. 107, 
210, 644-49 ; Burckhardt ; Gregorovius, " Geschichte," &€., vol. vii. 
*^ " Faleor et me errasse, peccasse et ideo penas mereri. . . . Rursiis petor, 
veniam, ad pedes me Paul! Pont, clementissinii esse credatis, qui solita pietate et 
mibeiicordia omnibus parcit," (S:c. So runs the confession, of which Gregorovius 
could not find the original, but only a copy in the Vatican; "Geschichte der 
Stadt Rom " (second edition), p. 587, and fol. 

3 " Tibi polliceor, etiam si a praetervolantibus avibus aliquid contra nomeu 
salutemque tuani sit, audiero, id statim liteiis aut nuiiciis Sanctitati tuae indica- 
turum. Celel)rabinius et prosa et carmine Pauli nonien, et auream banc aetatem, 
quam tuus felicissimus pontiticatus eflicit." This letter, by Platina, to be found 
in Vairani, " Monum. Cremonensium," vol. i. p. 30 is quoted by Gregorovius, 
*' Geschichte," &c., vol. vii. p. 5S8 (second edition). 


Paul II. as llic most cruel of tyrants, whose delight it was to 
torment and torture the learned in the castle of St. Anj^clo, ot 
which he had made a true tower of Phalaris. As Plalina's 
biographies achieved great popularity, Paul II. descended to 
posterity as a monster, and the scholar attained his end. The 
book's* [)rincipal merit, and the cause of its .success, lay in the 
style, the author's historic criticism being poor enough. Yet he 
attempted a most diflicult undertaking, for which, in these days, 
the powers of no one man, however learned and gifted, would 
suffice, and he was the first to succeed in extracting from the 
fabulous chronicles of the Middle Ages, a manual of history of 
great clearness, comprising many specimens of the learned bio- 
graphy of the fifteenth century, the which are pleasant reading, 
because the author sincerely sought for historic truth, if he did 
not always succeed in finding it. As he approached his own 
times, the value and imj)ortancc of his biographies increase, 
always excepting when he is blinded by passion. His remaining 
historical works have less merit. He died in the year 1481 at the 
age of sixty-one.' 

As we have already noted, Rome was the resort, not only of 
Italians, but also of foreigners, particularly Germans, and among 
these latter are three youths deserving special mention. Conrad 
Schweinheim, Arnold Pannartz, and Ulrich Hahn, came from 
the workshops of Faust and SchofTer, and were the men who 
introduced the art of printing into Italy about the year 1464. 
They had to fight against starvation, and overcome immense 
difficulties, for in Italy so great was the passion for ancient manu- 
scripts, that many — among others the Duke of Urbino — preferred 
written to printed vohmies. Yet the new industry rapidly spread, 
and before the year 1490 printing presses were already at work in 
more than thirty of our cities. In 1469 the famous Cardinal 
Niccola di Cusa, also called the Cusano, died, and was buried in 
St. Piero in Vincoli : he was the son of a fisherman of the Moselle, 
had studied at Padua, and became one of the most illustrious 
thinkers of the age. He preceded Piccolomini and Valla in 
doubting the authenticity of the donation of Constantine, but he 
did not combat the temporal power of the Holy See. He after- 
wards somewhat modified his opinions, and was raised to the 
cardinalate, always, however, preserving great integrity of cha- 
racter. Opposed to the authority of Aristotle, he had a philo- 
sophic intellect of very great originality ; a pantheist and the true 
precursor of Giordano Bruno, he was a deep thinker as well as 

' Gregorovius, " Geschichte," &c. , vol. vii. \i. 603, and fol. (second edition); 
Tiiaboschi, " S. L, I.," vol. vi. p. 317, and ful. 


scholar.' In 146 1 another foreigner made his first appearance in 
Rome, Johann Miiller, better known as the famous Regiomontanus, 
a learned Greek scholar of highest eminence in the mathematics 
and astronomy of the time. Sixtus IV. entrusted him with the 
improvement of the calendar, and he died at Rome in 1475. In 
1482 came Johann Reuchlin, who afterwards caused Argiropulos, 
then professor in the Roman University, to exclaim that the 
Grecian Muses passed the Alps in order to emigrate to Germany .^ 
There in fact learning had been widely propagated and had already 
borne fruit. The sun of the new Italian culture, risen high above 
the horizon, now illumined the whole of Europe ; but its light 
still proceeded from Italy, the ancient cradle of knowledge. 

From the death of Paul 11. to that of Alexander VI., matters in 
Rome went from bad to worse, and the Popes had other things to 
think of than scholars, learning, or the fine arts. However, Sixtus 
IV. opened the Vatican to the public, and completed many impor- 
tant constructions in the city. Neither, for a long time, did the 
Roman people lose their admiration for all that was ancient, as an 
incident that happened during that period serves to show. In 
April, 1485, a rumour spread that some workmen, digging in the 
Appian Way, near the tomb of Cecilia Metella, had discovered a 
Roman sarcophagus, containing the remains of a beautiful and 
well-formed maiden, according to the epitaph, JuLi.\ kilia Claudi: 
" whose blond tresses were adorned with many and very rich pre- 
cious stones, and tied with gold and a ribbon of green silk." 3 The 
workmen carried off the jewels ; but an indescribable enthusiasm 
reigned throughout the city. It was .said that this corpse had the 
colour and freshness of life, that its eyes and mouth were still open. 

' Ritter, "Geschichte der neuern Thilosophie " ; Gregorovius, "Geschichte," 
&c., vol. vii. p. 592 (second edition); Ferri, "II Card Niccolo di Cusa e la 
Filosofiadella Reli.uione " i" Nuova Antologia," vol. xx., seventh year, May, 1872, 
p. 100 and fol.). in this article the author examines the philosophical system of 
Ciisano: "Its ruling idea," he says, "is the Absolute, conceivable, but incom- 
prehensible in its infinitude; mininuim and maximum, beginning and end of all 
existence ; from it arise the contradictions that it brings into harmony. The idea 
of Cusano is not the identity of thought and being, but is only an image of the 
absolute truth. The human intellect remains distinct from the divine, but Creation 
is a development of the world from God, not a Creation ex nihilo. The Dialectic 
of Cusano does not reach like Hegel's to the identity of thought and being, his 
system is not yet pure Pantheism, for it admits of two orders of existence, tlic 
finite and the infinite." Bruno went a step farther upon this road. 

^ Gregorovius, " Geschichte," A'c, p. 596. 

3 Matarazzo, " Cronaca di Perugia " in the " Archivio Storico," vol. xvi, part ii. 
p. 180. The MS. has a gap which prevented its editors from seeing the date of 
the year. See Nantiporto in .Mur.atori's " Scriptores," vol. ii. part 2, col. 109 ; 
see Infessura in Eccard, "Scriptores," vol. ii. col. 1951 ; Burckliardt, "Die 
Renaissance," p. 183 (ist edition). 


It was carried to the Capitol, ami forthwith a sort of rehgious 
pil>;riiuage bc^aii of people coinintj; to admire, describe, and 
ileliiioate it with pencil ami brush. It may perhaps have had a 
waxen mask, like those founil at Cumae and elsewhere ; but every 
one then believed that an ancient beauty must be infinitely 
superior to any living one. This was the idea and illusion of the 
age, yet already it began to seem like the echo of a world on the 
point of change. Harsh reality was preparing new and very bitter 
experiences ; under Innocent VIII. and Alexander VI. all things 
went to ruin in Italy. 

4. Milan a^jd Francesco Filelfo. 

The other cities of Italy are of much less importance than 
Florence and Rome in the history of letters. In Republics such as 
Genoa and Venice they began to flourish much later than in Tus^ 
cany. Naples had been too long in a state bordering upon 
anarchy, and at Milan there was little to be hoped under the rule 
of a monster such as Filippo Maria Visconti, a Condottiere such 
as Francesco Sforza, or of so dissolute and cruel a youth as his son, 
Galeazzo Maria. Yet such was then the state of the national 
spirit, that no one could or might keep entirely aloof from 
studious pursuits ; Visconti himself felt the need of reading 
Dante and Petrarch, and tried to collect a few learned men round 
him. It was, however, difficult to find any one willing to stay 
long with him. Panormita, though by no means a scrupulous 
man, could not be induced to remain, even by a salary of eight 
hundred zecchins, and departed to seek his fortunes elsewhere. 
The only man fitted for that Court was Francesco Filelfo of 
Tolentino, who there found a secure asylum whence to insult his 
enemies with impunity, and live by adulation and the traffic of his 
pen. This man believed himself and was generally believed to be 
one of the greatest intellects of the age : but on the contrary he 
was totally wanting in originality, and his acquirements were very 
confused and open to dispute. Having been sent by the Venetian 
Republic as ambassador to Constantinople, where he married the 
daughter of his Greek master, Emmanuele Crisolora, he came 
back to Italy in 1427, at the age of twenty-nine. He brought a 
good store of manuscripts, spoke and wrote Greek, had a great 
facility for the composition of Latin verses, and that was quite 
sufficient in those times to estabhsh his reputation as an extra- 
ordinary man. His enormous vanity and restless temperament 
did the rest. Sent for to teach in the Florentine Studio^ he speedily 
wrote to all of his great success ; " Even noble matrons." said he, 


*' give way to me in the streets." However, he was soon at war 
with everybody. He was a bitter enemy of the Medici, and 
advised the execution of Cosimo, at that time a prisoner in the 
Palazzo Vecchio ; " ' at last he had to take refuge in Sienna, where 
he ran the danger of being killed by one whom he believed to be 
an assassin in the pay of the Medici in that place. And meanwhile 
in Florence he was tried and condemned as a conspirator against 
the lives of Cosimo, Carlo Marsuppini, and others. 

At Sienna he wrote his obscene " Satire " against Foggio ; later 
we find him at Milan, where he received a stipend of seven hun- 
dred zecchins per year, and a house to live in, and wrote in 
exalted terms of the virtue, and particularly the liberality of 
his "divine prince," Filippo Maria Visconti, that tyrant almost 
unrivalled for perfidioixsness and crvieltv- On the death of Visconti 
and the proclamation of the Ambrosian Republic at Milan, he 
lauded the new Conscript Fathers, and then formed part of the 
deputation that bore the keys of Milan to Francesco Sforza, in 
whose honour he wrote his great poem, "The Sforziad." 

A fertile composer of biographies, satires, and epistles, his 
eloquence, as Giovio expressed it, resembled a river which over- 
flowed and muddied everything. Yet he looked upon himself as 
a dispenser of immortality, of fame or infamv, to whom he chose. 
When he had to write an Italian commentary on Petrarch, he 
deplored the degradation to which this reduced his epic muse ; 
nevertheless, he was always ready to sell his Latin verses and com- 
mendations to the highest bidder, without being troubled with any 
sense of shame. 

His principal works, besides the " Satires," were only two, and 
have remained unpublished, without much loss to letters. The 
first, entitled " De Jocis et Seriis," is a collection of epigrams, 
divided into ten books, each of a thousand verses, according to 
the author's always artificial rhetoric. Full of jests, and indecent 
and very prosaic insults, its only object seems to be an exhibition 
of the author's facility in verse-making, and gaining money by 
unworthy adulation, or still more unworthy abuse. Now, it is his 

' One of the Satires he wrote at this time, conchidcd thus : 

"... Vobis res coram publica sese 
Offert in medium, referens stragesque necesque 
Venturas, ubi forte minus pro lege vel aequo 
Supplicium fuerit de sonte nefando ; 
Aut etiam officium collatum munere civis 
Namque relegatus, si culpae nomine mulctam 
Pendent, ofticiet magnis vos cladibus onines." 

(Philelphi, SatinB quartae decadis hecatostica primn.) 


tlaughli-i who ha^ no dower, and wliosc clothe?; arc in tatters ; 
now the niiisc of Filelto is silent tor want of money, and he sup- 
pHcates half threateniiisiK , liaU hiunhly,that some maybe granted 
to him.' 

On the iSth of June, 1450, precisely while he was engaged on 
this work, he wrote to Cardinal Bessarion : " Being now free 
from fever, I can fulfil my duty towards yourself and the Holy 
Father Pius II., namely, that of writing verses in exchange for 
coin." ^ 

Nor was his conduct diderent while writing his other Avork — 
also unpublished — "The Sforziad," divided into twenty-four 
cantos, of which only ten are to be found in the libraries. It is 
an attempt at an epic poem, relating Sforza's enterprises, and 
starting from the death of p"ilippo Maria Visconti. In easy verses, 
sometimes in the Virgilian, but oftener in the Ovidian style, the 
author lauds to the sky every action of his hero, even the most 
perfidious. The gods of Olympus, occasionally even St. Ambrose 

' Rusmini in his "Vita di F. I'ilclfo " (Milan, Mussi, 180S, 3 vols.), has pub- 
lished some of these verses. 

Of Francesco Sforza, Filelfo s.iys : 

•' Nam cjiiia magnitici data non est copia niimmi 
Cogitur hinc uti carmine rancidiile. 
Quod neque mireris, voccm pretiosa canoram 

Esca dat, et polus excibat ingeniuni. 
Ingenium spurco sucvit languescere vino, 
Ilumida mugitum reddere rapa solct." 

RosMiNi, vol. ii. p. 28J, doc. vi. 

To Gentile Simonelta : 

*' Filia nam dotem petit altera et altera vestes 
Filiolique petiint illud et illud item." 

\'ol. ii. p. 2S7, doc. vi. 

To Bianca Maria Sforza : 

" I)lanca, dies natalis adest qui munera pacis 
Adlulit eternre regibus et populis, 
Dona milii qune, Bianca, tuo das debita vati, 

Cui bellum indi.xit horrida pauperies ? 
Fcenore mi pereunt vestes, pereuntque libelli, 
Hinc metuunt Musse, Phasbus et ipse timet. 

Non ingratus ero : nam me tua vate per omne 
Cognita Venturis gloria tempus erit." 

Vol. ii. p. 288, doc. vi. 

To Francesco Sforza : 

" Si, Francisce, meis rebus pro^pexeris unus, 
Unus ero, qui te semper ad astra feram." 

Vol. ii. p. 290, doc. vi. 
° C. de Roimini, " Vi>.a di F. FUelfo," vol. ii. p. 317, doc. xx. 


and other Christian saints, arc the real actors in this drama ; but 
(hey are never more than mere abstractions, and their sole effect 
is to deprive the hero of the poem of all personality. There is no 
atom of true poetry in it, and Filelfo was more in the right than 
he imagined, when declaring that gold was the only muse 
that gave him inspiration. Whenever he had to bring some fresh 
personage on to the stage, he immediately began to bargain. 
Woe to him who did not pay him I And in this way he managed 
to obtain money, food, horses, clothes, everything. He feigned to 
be poor and starving, while living in luxury with six servants and 
six horses. He deplored the misery to which, according to his 
own account, his immortal muse was reduced ; he was ashamed 
of needing money, but never of begging for it. And all paid 
court to him, because they stood in fear of his verses. Even 
Mahomet II. freed Filelfo's mother-in-law and sister-in-law from 
prison, on the poet's sending him a Greek ode and a letter, in which 
he said : "I am one of those whose eloquence celebrates illustrious 
deeds, and confers immortality on those who are by nature mortal, 
and I have undertaken to narrate your glorious feats, which by 
the fault of the Latins and the will of God, have giv^en victory to 
your arms." ' He maintained the same behaviour in writing the 
" Satires," of which there were one hundred, divided into ten 
decades ; and each satire containing one hundred verses was called 
by him a Hccatostica. 

Filelfo did not consider himself well treated by Rome. It is 
true that Nicholas V., after hearing him read his " Satires," 
awarded him a gift of five hundred golden ducats ; he was over- 
whelmed with courtesies, was commissioned to make a translation 
of Homer, with the offer of a generous stipend, gratuities, a 
house, and other things besides if he accepted. But having other 
views he refused all this. After the death of his first, and then 
of his second wife, he signified that he might be persuaded to 
settle in Rome, if a Cardinal's hat were bestowed upon him either 
at once or later. This request being neglected, he took a third 
wife, and declined every future invitation. But at Sforza's de?th 
his fortunes changed ; he fell into poverty, and had to supplicate the 
patronage of the hated Medici, who recalled him to the Florence 
University. He arrived there at the age of eighty-three, in 148 1, 
with worn-out strength and exhausted means, and died shortly 
afterwards. Filelfo was an example of what could be done in 
those days by a man of good memory, great facility for writing 

' C. de Rosmini, "Vita di F. Filelfo," vol. 'j. p. 90, and pp. 305 and 308, 
doc. X. 

VOL. I. 9 


jfiid speaking various language?, inordinate vanity and pride, no 
principles, no morality, and no originality.' 

He was not certainly the only learned man in Milan. As 
before noticed, we fmd there in the times of Francesco Sforza, 
Cicco Sim(~ineta, a very learned secretary ; his brother Giovaimi, 
Court historian, who narrates the Duke's life and deeds from 1423 
to I4b6, in a history that is not without merit, for it describes 
matters of which the author was an eye-witness ; and Guiniforte 
Barsizza, preceptor to the Duke's children Galeazzo Maria and 
Ippolita, who was afterwards celebrated for her Latin discourses.' 
Battista Sforza, daughter of Alessandro, Lord of Pesaro, and 
Francesco's brother, also famous for her Latin compositions,^ 
was likewise educated at this Court. Still this docs not suffice 
to give Milan any real value of its own in the history of learning. 

5. LtARNED Men IN Naples. 

Alfonso of Aragon, besides being a warrior, was also a man 
of no ordinary mind, and knew how to endow his Court 
with a higher importance. He laid aside his national charac- 
teristics with singular facility, and became thoroughly Italian, 
emulating our native princes as a patron of the fine arts, in the 
search for ancient manuscripts, in studying the classics, and in 
surrounding himself with literary men, on whom, according to 
Vespasiano, he spent some twenty thousand ducats amiually.'* 
Titus Livius was his idol, so much so, that it is related how 
Cosimo dei Medici, wi.shing to gain his friendship, sent him a 
precious manuscript of that historian's works. He wrote to beg 
the Venetians to obtain for him from Padua one of Livy's arm 
bones, as though it had been a sacred relic. On a march with 
his army one day, Sulmona, the birthplace of Ovid, was pointed 
out to him, whereupon he immediately made a halt, to give vent 

' On Filclfo, one can consult, besides his own works, the three vols, of 
l>iography published by Rosmini (who is, however, much too laudatory), with 
many documents, among which are fragments of Filelfos unpublished writings. 
Mr. .Shepherd, in his " Vita di P. Bracciolini," speaks at length of Filelfo. See 
also Nisard's " Gladiateurs," &c., vol. i. ; Guillaume Favrc, "Melanges d'Histoire 
Litteraire," Tome i., Geneve, 1S56 ; Tiraboschi, Vespasiano, and Voigt in their 
previously quoted works. 

* In 1465 she became the wife of Alfonso of Aragon, Duke of Calabria. 

3 Afterwards wife of Frederigo, Duke of Urbino. 

^ Vespasiano, " Vita d'Alfonso d'Aragona," vi. and xiv. Voigt, " Die 
AVicderbelebung," &c., p. 235, says one hundred and twenty thousand ducats ; 
but this is certainly a mistake, perhaps an error of the press. 



to exclamations of joy. He effected his state entry into Naples 
through a breach in the walls, carefully imitating all "the ceremotiial 
of a Roman triumph. 

Trapezunzio, Valla, Fazio, Beccadelli, and Porcellio dci Pandoin', 
resided long at his Court, and for a short time F'ilelfo, Gaza, 
Manetti, and Piccolomini were also there. All were treated with 
munificence and kindness. When Fazio had completed his 
" Historia Alphonsi," the king, who already paid him five 
hundred ducats a-year, made him a present of fifteen hundred 
more, saying, " This is not intended as payment for your work, 
which is above price." ' When he sent an invitation to Manetti, 
who was flying from his Florence, he said to him, " With you I 
will divide my last loaf." 

A man of unprejudiced mind, continually at war with the 
Papacy, he gave shelter and protection to all men of learning, 
whatever their opinions, and guaranteed them full freedom of 
speech, defending them against the Inquisition and every other 
danger. Thus Valla, who was the most important man of 
learning at the Neapolitan Court, was enabled to inveigh against 
Popes and priests, and freely his religious and philo- 
sophical opinions both in his writings and from his professorial 
chair. This bestowed on the learned society of Naples a distinct 
physiognomy and special importance. It was the same v/ith 
Antonio Beccadelli, surnamed the Panormita. Born at Palermo 
in 1394, he, after studying at Padua, had suddenly achieved a 
noisy celebrity by writing a book, that excited great scandal 
by an indecency that was not as yet very usual in learned 
writings. This work, bearing the title " Herm.aphroditus," is a 
collection of epigrams, that for shameless pungency and indecent 
flippancy surpasses anything before written in imitation of the 
Roman satirists. Not only vice in general, but obscenity and 
viciousness of every description, were the continual subject of 
his verses, which, possessing some elegance and mastery of many 
difficult points of style and language, obtained an extensive 
success. But very fierce attacks were also made upon the author. 
He, however, was in no wise disconcerted by them, and gloried 
in his book, because he had written it in imitation of the ancients, 
and proved that anything and everything could be expressed in 
Latin. He defended himself by quoting Tibullus, Catvillus, 
Propertius, Juvenal, and even Greek and Roman philosophers 
and politicians, who, although virtuous men, had written similar 
obscenities. He added that if his poems were open to the same 

' Vespasiano, " Vit.i d'Alfonso," § vii. 

1 1 6 2N7KOD UCTION. 

reproach, bis life was without stain.' Nevertheless, there was 
{;reat iipri^ar. Pogyio — certainly a man of few scruples — decidedly 
blamed bim ; the Minorite friars burled their thunders on him 
from the pullet, and accordintj to Valla, went the length oT 
burning bim in efllgy. But (niarino Veronese, a very celebrated 
scholar, an old man of sixty-three, the father of manv children, 
of the purest character, and quite incapable of imitating him, 
vet defended bim energetically, deriding his detractors, who, 
said he, " arc ignorant that life has one scope, poetry another." 
And such were, in point of fact, the ideas of the age. Sigismondo, 
king of the Romans, crowned Panormita poet laureate in 
Sienna, and the " Hermaphroditus " created a school : for from 
that time forward it was considered almost a merit for an Italian 
scholar to write Latin indecencies. 

Alfonso, being quite indifferent to the accusations launched 
against the poet, and firm in his wish to give refuge to all those 
who were persecuted by others, always held Panormita in great 
esteem. So the poet wrote the " Dicta et facta Alphonsi," for 
which he received a reward of a thousand ducats ; afterwards 
*' Alphonsi regis triumphus," and numerous works in the shape 
of letters, orations, and Latin verses, which prove him to be a 
facile writer of no especial merit. He read aloud, and commented 
to the king, Livy, Virgil, and Seneca ; he was made a noble, and 
presented with a villa and large -sums of money. Bartolommeo 
Fazio and others were men of even less weight. The only really 
original mind, therefore, at the Court of Naples was Valla, who 
contributed in no small degree to foster the critical and philo- 
sophical spirit for which Neapolitans have a natural aptitude. 
Another eminent man, Giovanni Gioviano Pontano, was also 
there, but he flourished later, and belongs to a subsequent period 
in the history of our letters. 

6. The Minor Statks. 

On turning our attention to the smaller cities and lesser States 
of Italy, we shall find society exposed to such continual and 
v^iolent shocks, and torn by so many bloody crimes, that it is 
impossible to conceive how arts and letters should ever have 
flourished at all in them. The petty tyrants were continually 
exposed to the attacks of their neighbours, or to conspiracies 

* " Crede velim nostra vitam distare papyro, 

Si mea charta procax, mens sine labe mea est." 
(Antcnii Panormitae, "Hermaphroditus." Primus in Germania edidit et Apo- 
phoreta adjicit F. C Forbergius : Coburgi, 1824. I'iJe " Epig.," ii. i.) 


dally breaking out in their own States. Where a city Uko Keirara 
or Bologna was in question, the strategical position of the former, 
and the territorial importance of the latter, afforded certain help 
in their continual vicissitudes. Where two princes were con- 
cerned as powerful as Alessandro Sforza of Pesaro, — who had 
the support of his brother of Milan — or as Federico d'Urbino — 
who was also a captain of adventurers — with an army at his 
back, then, even if dangers were unavoidable, it was at least 
comparatively easy to save the States. But where all such 
assistance was lacking, we find nothing but bloody chronicles 
such as those of the Baglioni in Perugia. These never succeeded 
in establishing an undisputed lordship over the city ; they were, 
it is true, the dominant family, but their chief was not always 
recognized by its members, and there was a strong adverse party, 
headed by the Oddi. The town was always filled with armed 
men and bravos, and violent tumults would break out at a 
moment's notice. 

Towards the end of the fifteenth century, bloody fights within 
and without Perugia were so frequent and so furious, that the 
houses in the country round were all knocked to pieces, the 
fields devastated, the peasants converted into assassins, the 
citizens enlisted in the free companies ; while wolves prowled 
about feeding on " Christian flesh." • Yet it was precisely at this 
period that the noblest, most ideal and delicate painting of the 
Umbrian school flourished at Perugia : another of the same 
strange contrasts then to be observed throughout the length and 
breadth of Italy. 

Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta of Rimini was another of the 
petty tyrants, and one of the most remarkable of them. A 
renowned captain of adventurers, without ever having held the 
command of large armies, he frequently showed himself a true 
monster of cruelty. He repudiated his first wife, after receiving 
her dowry ; out of jealousy or revenge he murdered his second 
and third ; but ardently loved his mistress Tsotta to the end of 
his life. Stained by a thousand crimes, he was extremely cynical 
and irreligious. On his tomb he desired the following inscription 
to be placed : — 

" Porto le coma ch'ogn'uno le vede, 
E tal le porta che noii se lo crede." 

He denied God, denied the immortality of the soul, and when 
the Pope pronounced sentence of excommunication against him, 

' " Archivio .Storico," vol. xv'. \i.\\\.s i aiul 2. The Chronicles of Graziani 
and Malarazzo. 

1 1 3 2NTR0D UCTION. 

he Inquired if the excotniiuinicateil still coiitiiiucLl to enjoy the 
flavour of gnod wine and good dinners. 0\\ the occasion of 
some great festival of the Churcli, he had the holy water pyx 
filled with ink, in order to enjoy seeing the faithful stain them- 
selves with it unawares.' Yet even this coarse tyrant was sur- 
rounded by literary men, to some of whom he gave estates, to 
others assigned salaries ; and in his castle, Arx Sismmidca, they 
sang the praises of the prince, and extolled his passion for the 
beautiful Isotta, to whom a monument, Divae Isottac sacrum^ 
was erected in the church of St. Francesco beside that of her 
lover. The church itself, upon which Leon Battista Albert i 
worked from 1445 to 1450, and one of the most elegant 
and purest edifices of the Renaissance bears on its fa9ade the 
name of Sigismund, and the initials S. and I. are introduced 
into the ornaments. In the two outer sides are niches intended 
for the tombs of the Court soldiers and men of learning. And 
there was no affectation in all this ; it was the expression of a 
real need of the cultured and artistic side of his character. Pius 
II., who was at fierce war with him, and burnt him in effigy, 
wrote that he (Malatesta) " was learned in history ; had great 
knowledge of philosophy, and seemed born for everything that 
he undertook."" 

At Ferrara, Mantova, Urbino, the capital cities of small but 
nevertheless important States, things wore a very difTerr-nt aspect. 
Without being great centres like Rome and Florence, they had 
a character and distinct importance of their own in the history 
of letters. Ferrara was the more celebrated. Its strategical 
position rendered it independent, since none of the great Italian 
States could allow another to take possession of it. The Lords 
of Este, who ruled and fortified it, were men of ability and also 
often of great military power. Yet the interior of the Ducal 
Palace witnessed many scenes of bloodshed. Parisina, wife of 
the bastard Niccolo III., being enamoured of a natural son of her 
husband, both she and her lover Avere beheaded (1425). And the 
same duke had afterwards to consolidate his power, combating 
the hostile nobility with every stratagem of v/ar and all manner 
of treachery. This bastard was succeeded by two natural sons, 
Lionello and Borso. In after years Ercole, legitimate son of 
Niccolo III., seized the dukedom by force of arms from the 
hands of Lionello's son, and did blood)' execution on his enemies 
And so matters went on even in the sixteenth century, when 

• G. Voigt, " Enea Silvio dei Piccolomini," &c. , vol. iii. p. 123. 
» Pii II. " Comni.," Ronice, 1584, lib. ii. p. 92. Euickhaidt, pp. 223,224, 
observes that the word hiitoria is here used to indicate a knowledge of antiquiiy. 


Cardinal Ippolito d'Este put out the eyes of his brother Giulio, 
another bastard, because they were jiraised by a lady whom both 
loved, and who alleged to the cardinal as the reason why she 
preferred his brother to himself, the irresistible beauty of the 
former's eyes. The operation was imperfectly performed, thereby 
causing fresh tragedies at the unhappy Court, for Giulio, to 
whom the sight of one eye remained, conspired with Don 
Ferrante against their common brother, Duke Alfonso I.,' 
husband of Lucrezia Borgia. The cardinal betrayed the plot 
(1506), and the two brothers were condemned to a perpetual 
imprisonment, in which Don Ferrante died, and from which 
Giulio was only liberated on the accession of Alfonso II. (1559). 

Yet this was the Court so celebrated for its artistic and literary 
splendour, even to the days of Bojardo, Ariosto, and Tasso, who 
shed over it the lustre of their names and of their immortal works. 
Having been, in the Middle Ages, a Lombard, feudal, and 
knightly city, it had not shared the great hterary movement that 
showed itself in Florence in the thirteenth and fourteenth cen- 
turies. But in the fifteenth century it was one of the most 
flourishing cities of Italy, and the disorders of the Court seldom 
seemed to spread beyond the walls of the Ducal Palace. Ferrara 
had been built after a pre-arranged design, was governed in an 
orderly way, and e.xiles from Florence and other Italian cities took 
refuge there and erected palaces. The houses and streets, which are 
now so deserted, barely sufficed for the needs of the population. 
Its dukes looked after everything, and invited learned men to 
settle in the city. Among these, the first place must be given 
to Guarino Veronese, who, in bringing learning to Ferrara where 
feudal and knightly traditions were in full force, promoted 
the revival of letters that afterwards gave us the " Orlando 
Inamorato," the " Orlando Furioso," and so many other works o{ 
imperishable fame.' 

Guarino, born in 1370, studied Greek at Constantinople, whence 
he returned to Italy with a rich store of manuscripts, and so 
tenderly did he value these, that there was a generally received 
table of his hair having suddenly turned white on the loss by 
shipwreck of a large portion of his treasure.3 He taught first in 
Florence, then at Venice, where one of his pupils was Vittoiino 

' The brothers were four: Alfonso I., Cardinal Ippolito, Don Ferrante, and 
Giulio the bastard, all sons of Ercole I. 

• Giosni Carducci, " Delle poesie latine edlte ed inedite di Ludovico Ariosto." 
Bologna, Zanichelli, 1S75, p. 21 and fol. 

5 C. de Rosmini, " Vita e disciplina di Guarino Verones'i ; " Brescia, 1805-6, 
vol. i. p. 6 ; Tiraboschi, " S. L. !.," vol. vi. p. 118. 


ila Fcllro, to whom he impaiti.\i liis learning and theories of 
(.ilucation. Called to I'Vriara in 1424 by Niccolo III., he became 
the instructor of Lionello aiul professor at the university, devoting 
himself with feverish ardour to his double oliice, l)esides writing a 
great number of works : translations or Plutarch, Plato, Strabo, 
and Lucian ; biographies, grammars, and more than fifty orations. 
But above all else, his principal merit consists in the nobility of 
his character and his method of instruction, in which there was 
great originalit}', and that produced very remarkable results. 
An excellent father of his family, of temperate and sober life, 
^>peaking ill of no man, he lived in the midst of liis scholars, of 
whom he had always a houseful. It was said that more learned 
men issued from his school than Greeks from the Trojan horse. 
And certainly more than thirty of his pupils were celebrated for 
their learning,' although Vittorino da Feltre was the only one 
who achieved a lasting reputation. But Guarino's labours may 
best be measured by the impulse he gave to letters in Ferrara, 
which, by his teachings and under the rule of his pupils Lionello 
and Borso d'Este, was transformed into a small Italian Athens. 
He continued his work with unremitting" zeal to the last day of 
his life, when, on the 4th of December, 1460, in the ninetieth year 
of his age, he expired in the bosom of his family, beloved and 
venerated by all. 

The Gonzaga of Mantova, some of whom were leaders of 
mighty armies, never committed any of the crimes which so 
deeply stained the history of the Estes. Their Court, it is true, 
had no splendour until the sixteenth century, in the times of 
Bembo, Bandello, Ariosto, and Tasso, and especially during the 
life of the good Marchioness Isabella. But in the fifteenth century 
Mantova was honoured by being the place of residence of Vittorino 
Rambaldoni da Feltre (born 1378, died 1446), the first of modern 
pedagogues, and who, as we has'e already seen, was Guarino's 
most illustrious pupil. Summoned to Mantova by Giovanni 
Francesco Gonzaga, he received a munificent stipend and a 
dwelling in which he founded his celebrated school, soon to be 
known by the name of Casa Gioiosa^ from the constant gaiety that 
prevailed among his well-cared-for pupils. His method of teaching 
was excellent, and he taught the classics with the aid of renowned 
Greeks, such as Gaza and Trapezunzio. To these and to other 
studies usual in schools of that time, were added music, dancing, 
drawing, gymnastics, and riding. The fundamental principle of 
Vittorino's school was : that for the formation of character, the 
education of the body should be coupled with that of the mind. 

* Kosniini in his " Life of Guarlno " gives us ample details of all these pupils. 


And Vittorino's success i;i so immoral an age, was entirely owing 
to the nobility and elevation of his mind, and the generosity 
with which he spent all his salary in pedagogic education ot 
the poor, who thus pursued their studies side by side with the 
Marquis of Mantua's sons and the young Federico da Montticltro, 
afterwards the celebrated Duke of Urbino. And this communit)' 
and equality in school of all orders of citizens, formed part of 
Vittorino's giving system, for he was the first to conduct instruc- 
tion and education upon scientific principles.' The excellent 
results of the Cas'i Gioiosa were plainly visible in Mantua and 
elsewhere, since for a long time Vittorino's pupils were distin- 
guished by a loyalty of character that was in strong contrast 
with the general corruption. 

It was mainly owing to this system of education that Urbinn 
became the model Court of Italy, and that the Duke Federico 
was good, loyal, and faithful in spite of being a Condottiere Cap- 
tain. Universally renowned for his strategy, for the discipline 
maintained by his soldiers, and for being the only leader of his 
time who never betrayed his word nor his oath, he was acquainted 
with Latin, philosophy, and history ; he read the classics, and had 
a pronounced taste for theological controversy. I'hese acquire- 
ments, united to those gained in the camp and the council 
chamber, gave him possession, or at least comprehension, of 
nearly all the knowledge of his day. His life was ordered Avith 
the regularity of a time-piece, and all his leisure moments were 
devoted to discussion and study. When riding to Tivoli with 
Pope Pius 11., beneath a burning sun, amid the dust raised by the 
hoofs of the cavalry, the glitter of helmets and swords, he chatted 
with the Pope on the arms of the ancients, on the Trojan war, 
and could not quite agree with him on the subject of the confines 
of Asia Minor.^ The money earned by. the rich' pay of a free- 
captain he spent during peace in beautifying the city and Court 
of Urbino. It almost seemed as though he wished to make his 
State a work of art. The palace built by him was one of the 
most celebrated in Italy, not for its richness, but for its exquisite 
taste. It housed many hundreds of persons, to each of whom a 
definite office was entrusted, with a fixed time-table and written 
instructions. It resembled a great military school, to which many 
nobles sent their sons, in order that they might be trained in 
soldierly discipline, and exercises, and in elegance of manners. His 
greatest treasure was the extensive library, on which he spent 

• C. de Rosmini, " Idea dell' ottlmo precettore nella Vita e disciplina di 
Vittoiino da Feltie e dei suoi discepoli." Bassano, " Remondiniana " Piess, It^oi. 
'' Pii II., "Coiiim.," p. 131. 


30,000 ducats,' and ^ave cMiipIoynicnt tor fourteen years to thirty 
or forty coj)yists in Urbino, FlortMice, and other places." lie had 
it arraiigoil with the nicest order, foUowint; in part the system of 
ParentULclli,3 but trying to embrace the whole circle of ancient 
and m-.)dern lore.* Thus he succeeded in obtaining something 
unique in the world. Surrounded by Italian and foreign artists, 
and also by soldiers, he had few learned men at his Court, but 
many were in correspondence with him, and dedicated to him 
their works. He went about unarmed among his people, dined 
frugally in the open air, listening to readings from Livy or other 
anc'cnt authors. Towards evening he attended the military and 
gymnastic exercises performed by his youths and pages in the field 
of St. Francesco. The people loved their duke, and his successors 
followed in his footsteps. s It would be too much to assert that 
Urbino gave any extraordinary impulse to literary culture in 
Italy ; but we may say that it was like a shining jewel amid the 
Apennines ; a model city, the birth-place of many great men, the 
greatest of whom was Raphael. 

' Professor E. Piccolomini, in his work " Sulla lilneria privata dei Medici," 
Ijcfore quoted by us, gives, at p. 25, the instructions given to the librarian, which 
clearly prove the great precision and order exacted by the Duke. 

^ This library, afterwards stolen by Duke Valentino, and later bought by Pope 
Alexander VIII., is now to be found in the Vatican. Castiglioni, in his 
" Cortegiano," mentions it briefly, but Vespasiano speaks of it at length, and 
describes it with ecstasy. " This Duke alone has had a mind to do that which no 
one has undertaken for more than a thousand years, and to collect a library, the 
worthiest ever made in all these ages. . . . And he has taken the road that needs 
must be taken by whomsoever wishes to make a worthy and famous librar}' such as 
this is. . . . What letters! what books! what goodly books! collected without 
regard for expense." ("Vita di Federico, Duca d'Urbino," sec. xxviii.) . . . 
" In that library all the books are superlatively beautiful, all written with the pen, 
and not a single printed one, for the Duke would have taken shame to himself 
f'lr it; all most elegantly illuminated, and ni)iie that is not written upon kid. 
But its principal merit was the order with whicli it was arranged, containing the 
principal ancient and modern authors in every branch of knowledge, and not 
many specimens of the same author, one copy of each, neither is there a single 
sheet of their works that is not complete" (Ibidem, sec. xxxi.). 

^ Professor Piccolomini, at p. Ill and fol. of his above-quoted work, gives the 
bibliographical canon composed by Parentucelli, afterwards Pope Nicholas V., 
and one can see how incomplete it is, and therefore how exaggerated the praises 
v^hich it obtained. 

* Vespasiano, '' Vita di Federico, Duca d'Urbino," sec. xxxi. 

* Ibid., "Vita' di Federico, Duca d'Urbino"; Ugolini, " Storia dei Conti 
e Duchi d'Urbino," two vols. : Firenze, 1859 ; Dennistoun, " Memoiis of the 
Dukes of Urbino" : London, Longmans and Co., 1851 ; Burckhardt, " Die Cultur 
d'il Heoaisj-ince," pp. 44 46; Voigt, "Die V.'iedcibelebung," ^c, p. 263. 


7. Thr Platonic AcAnRMv. 

The writers hitherto noticed lived, as we have already said, 
amid a multitude of others, whose names, though famous in their 
own day, gradually fell into oblivion. No century in fact has 
contributed to history so great a hecatomb of supposed cele- 
brities as the fifteenth century. And this is easily explained by 
the double work that age carried on. In its efforts to revive 
antiquity, it set in motion, on the one hand, an often mechanical 
imitation and reproduction of the past, in which those who have 
since been forgotten took part ; on the other, new and unexpected 
results were obtained, which were the work of a much smaller 
number of scholars, whose names deserve historical mention. And 
this double order of facts and individuals is to be met with 
in nearly all the culture of the Renaissance — in philosophy no 
less than in letters. Philosophy had apparently a great and 
general importance among the learned ; but the greater number 
of these merely extracted from the ancient writers a dictionary of 
phrases on glory, friendship, contempt of death, the siimimivt 
honiim^ happiness and virtue, which they continually repeated, 
without conforming to them either their deeds or their convic- 
tions. We constantly find in these phrases a strange mixture ol 
Paganism and Christianity, in odd contradiction one with the 
other ; a point which was quite indifferent to the writer. Soon, 
however, the need was felt of finding someunrevealed but rational 
basis of human life to explain at once Pagan and Christian virtue, 
and to harmonize their too apparent contradiction. Then, work 
that was more or less original began, first started by the Neo- 
Platonists and the Academy, they had founded in Florence. 

The Greek exiles did not contribute much to the diffusion 
among us of their language (which had already begun to be 
studied in Italy), and still less to the learning which already 
flourished before their arrival, but they greatly helped to direct 
learning itself to the study of the ancient philosophers. The first 
origin of Platonism, or rather of Neo-Platonism, in Italy, is in fact 
owed to Giorgio Gemistos, surnamed Plethon on account of his 
professed admiration for Plato. Born in the Peloponnesus accord- 
ing to some, only a refugee there from Constantinople according 
to others, he was the most learned and influential of the many 
Greeks gathered together at the Council of Florence, And so 
earnest and enthusiastic was his devotion to Platonism, that he 
even hoped from it a revival of religion. This caused his detrac- 
tors to assert that he desired the revival of Paganism ; but judging 


by his writings, by those ot his tulKnvcrs, and the positive results 
ot his doctrines, we may satelv ailirni that he was convinced that 
Christianity would derive fresh continuation from the Platonic 
philosophy, and mit;ht tlurefore be revi\ed under another, and 
in his opinion, more rational form. In a pamphlet, that became 
very celebrated,' he examined the points of diversity between the 
Platonic and Aristotelian philosophies, and giving preference, ot 
course, to the former system, reduced everything to a single 
question. The two great philosophers, said he, admit that nature 
works, not by chance, but for a given purpose. Aristotle, how- 
ever, maintains that this purpose is achieved unconsciously iion 
coiisnlto ; Plato, on the contrary, asserts with more justice that 
nature is rational, is conscious, coiisnlto agi't ; its art is divine, 
since it is God Himself who works in it.' A most burning dispute 
arose upon this question, which, unimportant as it may seem to 
us, was of immense consequence at that time. For it opened the 
way to Pantheism ; and the conception of the personal (iod, of 
the Omnipotent Jeliovah of the Jews, of the Father Almighty of 
the Christians, was here transformed into the conception of the 
philosophical absolute. 3 The Greek and Italian men of learning, 
though with no clear undcr>tanding <jf what they were doing, 
still foresaw the great importance of the question at issue, and 
therefore dwelt upon it with insistency. 

Giorgio Scolarius and Thedore Gaza, both Greeks and both 
Aristotelians, fiercely attacked Plethon in the gross language 
customary to learned men in those days. Cardinal Bcssarion, in 
endeavouring to make peace, allowed it to escape him that he 
considered Thedore Gaza more learned than Giorgio Trape- 
zuntios, whereupon the latter attacked every one, including Plato 

* " De t'latonicK atque Aristotelics pIillosoijliicK cliffeicntia." Basile.v, 1574- 
"^ In my " Storia di G. Savonarola," &:c., I have gone into this subject mure 
minutely. See vol. i. book I, chap iv. 

3 " Unser heutiger monotheistischer C'lottesbegiiff hat zwei seiten, die der 
Absolutheit und die der Personlichkeit, die zwar in ihni vereinigt sind, doch so, 
\sie bisweilen in einem Menschen zwei Eigenschaften, davon die eine ihni nach- 
^vei^lich von den v'aterlichen die andre von den miilterlichen Seite konimt ; das 
eine Moment ist die judisch-christliche, das andre die griechisch philosophische 
Mitgift iinseres Gottesbegriffs. Das alte Testament konnen wir sagen hat uns den 
llerrn-Gott, das neue den Gott-Vater, die griechische Philosophic aber hat uns 
die Gottheit oder das Alisolute vererbt " (Strauss, "Der alte und der neue 
Glaube," Bonn, 1873, fifth edition, p. 107). The same author observes in the 
preceding page : '' In Alexandria war es, wo der jiidische .Stanim-und National- 
gott uiit dem Welt-und Menschheitsgotte zusannnenfloss und bald zusainmen 
wuchs den die griechische I'hilosophie aus der olympischen Gottermenge 
ihrer Volksreligion heraus entwickelt hatte " (p. 106). From Alexandria these 
ideas came to Italy, spread throughout Europe, and became the bone and sub 
stance of modern culture. 


himself, with gi eater fury than before. Then Bessarion pub- 
lished a voluminous work, " In Calumniatorem Platonis," in 
which, while repulsing Trapezuntios' assaults, he tried with 
an easy and most diflfuse Latin eloquence, barren of all 
literary or philosophical originality, to conciliate all opposing 
opinions. According to him, Aristotle and Plato both said in 
substance the same things. This contest waged among the 
Greeks, had no genuine philosophical importance, and remained 
where it was left by G. G. Plethon ; but it served to attract 
Italian minds to a branch of erudition, which they had hitherto 
neglected, their study of the Greek philosophers having been 
chiefly literary. Meanwhile G. G. Plethon, without wasting time 
in replying to abuse, succeeded, before returning to his own country, 
in infusing so much admiration for the Platonic doctrines in 
Cosimo dei Medici's mind, that he left him decided to use every 
means for their propagation in Italy, and to re-establish the old 

To attain this object, Cosimo's practical common sense, showed 
him that first of all he must find a suitable man. And such an 
one he believed that he had found in a young man of Figlinc, a 
doctor's son, aged eighteen, who was devoting himself with much 
ardour to his father's profession. "Thy son," said Cosimo, "is 
born to minister to minds, not bodies ; " and he took him to live 
in his own palace, intending him to be the future champion of 
Platonism. This youth was Marsilio Ficino (born 1433), who, 
setting to work with fervent zeal, produced after five years' study 
a work on the Platonic philosophy, that was based, however, 
solely on translations. And from that time to his life's end, 
Ficino studied nothing but Plato and the Neoplatonists, writing a 
great number of translations and original tractates, besides giving 
instruction to the sons and grandsons of Cosimo, and afterwards 
io a large class in the Florentine Studio. 

To describe Ficino's works is to give the history of Platonism 
in Italy ; to narrate his life is to give the history of the Platonic 
academy. His followers contented themselves with repeating 
their master's ideas, and the academy was born and died with him. 
It was in reality a mere assembly of friends and disciples who 
gathered round him, under the protection of the Medici, for the 
discussion of Platonic philosophy. It resembled the reunions 
formerly held in the cell of Marsigli or of Traversari ; excepting 
that the Medici, especially Lorenzo, oftencr joined in these, pro- 
moted them with more ardour, and the philosophical matters 
discussed in them had a much louder echo throughout Italy. 
During the summer some of these meetings were held in the 


forest of Canialiloli ; ollu'is iiidre solemn weie held every year In 
Florence, and in the Medici villa at Careugi on the 7th November, 
which, according; to the Alexandrine tradition, was the anniversary 
of Plato's birth and death.' The custom of solemnly celebrating; 
it, observed down to the limes of Plotinus and Porphirius, was, 
after twelve hundred years, according to Ficino, now resumed.' 
The festival began with a banquet, followed by a philosophical 
discussion, generallv ending with an apotheosis, which was almost 
a sacred hymn to the great Master. Less solemn meetings and 
discussions were held on many different occasions, but always in 
the same easy and friendly manner. 

The title of Academy was only taken from the doctrines enter- 
tained by its members, since as far as we can ascertain, it had no 
peculiar statutes or regulations. It was held together by Ficino's 
teachings and per.sonality, and by the fervour of his friends and 
disciples.^ And if, on the one hand, this reduces it to insignifi 
( ancc as an institution, on the other, it increases its historical 
importance, since it proves it to be a natural and spontaneous 
outcome of the social conditions which gave it birth. In fact, no 
sooner were these social and intellectual conditions changed, than 
it became impossible to keep it alive. It went on very regularly 
down to 1478 ; when the bloody conspiracy of the Fazzi having 
broken out, and persecution commenced, men's minds were dis- 
turbed ; there was an end to the tranquillity requisite for philo- 
sophic contemplation, and the meetings, already sadly thinned, 
ceased altogether with Ficino's death. Those afterwards held in 
the Oricellarii Gardens, and at which Machiavelli was often 
present, had very little to do with Platonism, as is clearly seen by 
Machiavelli's dialogues, " Delle Arte della Guerra," and by the 
plots that were hatched there. We might almost say that the 
title of Platonic still given to these meetings was sometimes a 
mask to hide their real purport. The attempts made by Leopoldo 
dei Medici in the seventeenth century to bring the Academy to 
life again, belong to another age, have another signification, and 
are of very sHght importance in the history of science. ■♦ 

' A similar tradition was also current respecting Pythagoras and ApoUonius, 
arising perhaps from the old custom of the primitive Christians, wlio often styled 
the day on which martyrs passed to a better life their birthday. 

^ Ficino states this in his Commentary on Plato's "Symposium." 

3 Ficino in his letters divides his Platonists into disciples and friends, saying, 
that from the latter he often learned much. One of them was Poliziano, who 
wrote to him : " Thou seekest the truth and I seek the beautiful in the writings of 
the ancients ; our works complete each other, being like two halves of one and the 
same whole." 

* Respecting these attempts, one may refer to the notices collected by Professor 


Almost all those who have written on the Platonic Academy 
and on Ficino have contented themselv-es with carefully collecting 
biographical and literary anecdotes, which are things of very 
secondary value.' What chiefly concerns us is to know the intrinsic 
merit of these doctrines, the reason of their immense popularity in 
the fifteenth century, and what was the talent of those who dis- 
covered and propagated them. Certainly when we consider the 
numerous group of Platonists collected round Ficino, it astonishes 
us to find that two only merit some respect as writers of philo- 
sophical works. One of these is Cristoforo Landino, the cele- 
brated commentator of Dante and of Petrarch, an Hellenist 
of good repute, professor at the vStudio and author of the " Dispu- 
tationes Canialdulenses," ^ in which he gives long and minute 
reports of the Platonic discussions. The other is Leon Battista 
Alberti, a first-rate artist, poet, prose writer, scholar, scientist, a 
universal man, and a precursor of Leonardo da "V^inci in the pro- 
digious variety of his intellectual gifts. To these two were added 
the lesser lights : Donato Acciajoli, Antonio Carrigiani, Naldo 
Naldi, Peregrino Agli, Alamanno Rinuccini, Giovanni Cavalcanti, 

A. Alfaui, in his work, "Delia Vita, a degli Scritti di O- R. Ruccellai," Firenze, 
Barbera, 1372. This author, however, endeavours to give Ruccellai a philosophic 
importance, which, in our opinion, he does not possess. 

* We must make one exception in favour of a very brief but learned work by K. 
Sieveking, "Die Geschichte der Platonischen Akademie zu Florenz," Hamburg, 
Druck und Lithographie des Rauhen Hauses zu Horn, 1S44, This fine mono- 
giaph was published without the author's name, as an appendix to a valuable short 
history of Florence by the same writer. Most of his information regarding the 
Platonic Academy and Ficino is drawn from Ficino's own works. Of the Academy 
he makes special mention in his Epistle.s, and the Introduction or Commentary 
to his version of Plato's "Symposium." Many notices are also to be found in 
Tiraboschi, in the " Life of M. Ficino," written in Latin by Corsi ; and in that of 
Lorenzo dei Medici, written l)y Roscoe and by Reumont : in A. M. Bandini's 
"Specimen Litteratur?e Florentinre," sec. xv. &c. : Florentia, i747- This work is 
chiefly a biography of Cristoforo Landino, a follower of Ficino, and member of the 
Academy. Many notices too were collected by Leopoldo Galetti, in liis "Saggio 
intorno aha Vita ed agli Scritti di Marsilio Ficino," published in the"Archivio 
Storico Italiano," new series, tome ix. second issue, and tome x. first issue. For 
an exposition of Ficino's doctrines, see Ritter's " Geschichte der neuern Philo- 
sophie," part I, book 2, chap, iv., and for the philosophy of those times in 
general, see also F. Schultze's " Geschichte der Philosophic der Renaissance" (Jenn, 

^ Of a Pratovecchio family, but born in Florence in 1424, learned in Greek and 
Latin, he was appointed teacher in the Studio in 1427- He was chancellor to the 
Guelph party ; afterwards one of the secretaries of the Republic, an office which he 
held until 1497. Then on account of his age he retired to Pratovecchio, continu- 
ing to enjoy his stipend of one hundred florins per annum until 1504, when he died 
at the age of eighty, in a villa bestowed upon him by the Republic in recompense 
or his •• Comento su Dante," Tiraboschi, " S. L. L," vol. vi. p. 1065 ; Bandini, 
*' Specimen," itc. 


I^icino's most intimate fririul, ami many ollicrs. Yet ainonfj all 
these, witlKHit c.\ce[itiMS even T^andiivi and Albcrti, not a sin<fle 
true philosoplicr is to be found ; they all repeat the same ideas, 
and these ideas are Fieino's. It may certainly be remembered 
that Angelo roliziano and Lorenzo dei Medici, both intellects of 
undoubted cmir.cnce, were also members of the Platonic Academy ; 
but their writings all show them to be men of letters and not 
jihilosophers. Pico della Mirandola only appeared later as a 
propagator of Fieino's ideas, and neither had he any philosophical 
originality. But, few or many, of what matters did they speak, 
what and of what value were these doctrines which found so many 
and so ardent champions ? 

And the nearer we approach to them the more does our 
astonishment increase. In the summer of 1468' we find them 
in the pleasant convent of Camaldoli, whither they had gone to 
enjoy the country air, and hold the famous Camaldolensian 
disputes. There were I>orenzo dei Medici, Giuliano dei Medici, 
Cristoforo Landino and his brother, Alamanno Rinuccini, Leon 
Battista Alberti — then just come from Rome — and Marsilio 
Ficino. After hearing mass they went to i^it in the shade 
of the forest trees, and there passed the first day in disputing 
on the contemplative and the active life. Alberti declared in 
favour of the former, supporting his preference by very common- 
place arguments ; while Lorenzo dei Medici held that both kinds 
of life were equally necessary. On the second day they spoke of 
the " Summum Bonum," and we have a series of empty phrases 
and classical quotations. On the third and fovirth days Alberti 
demonstrated his Platonic wisdom by a long commentary upon 
Virgil, endeavouring by means of the strangest allegories to prove 
that in the ^neid are to be found concealed the whole Platonic 
doctrine, and the whole Christian doctrine, which, in his opinion, 
are at bottom one and the same thing. And these allegories, which 
moved Angelo Maria Bandini to say in reporting them that the 
Platonists often seemed to have lost their wits,= are exactly what 
they lav most stress upon, almost as though these formed a sub- 
stantial part of their philosophy. 

We will now glance at the speeches pronounced at one of the 

' Bandini says that these meetings were held in 1460 : but Roscoe observes that 
Lorenzo dei Medici was only twelve years old at that lime, and gives instead the 
date of 1468. " The Life of Lorenzo dei Medici," &c., chap. ri. 

* " Hoc pronunciare lilieri possum, opiniones eoruni tenebricosis allegoriarum 
involucris et dicendi, genere plusquam poetico, qui omnium fere academicorum 
mos erat, fuisse absconditas." After which he goes on to quote expressions which, 
as he justly observes, no man of sound mind would think of using. — "Specimen," 
vol. xi. page 58. 


grandest banquets of the Academy, given by order of Lorenzo il 
Magnifico in the villa at Careggi, under the presidency of Messer 
Francesco Bandini. Here it is no less a personage than Ficino 
himself who gives a minute report of the proceedings/ The 
number of the guests was nine, in honour of the nine muses. 
Francesco Bandini, Antonio Agli, Bishop of Fiesole, Marsilio 
Ficino and his father, C. Landino, Bernardo Nuzzi, Giovanni 
Calvacanti, Carlo and Cristoforo Marsuppini. The dinner over, 
Plato's "Symposium" was read aloud, and the discourses held in 
the house of Agathon were strangely expounded by the guests at 
Careggi. Phaedrus says in the " Symposium," that love inspires 
heroism, was born directly after Chaos, and before the other gods, 
and is admired by all admirers of beauty. And this is Cavalcanti's 
commentary upon that passage : God, beginning and end of all 
the worlds, creates the angels, who in their turn, form the third 
essences out of the universal soul created by God. These essences 
are the souls of all things, and therefore also of the different 
worlds to which they give life, because the body is formed from 
the soul. When Chaos begins to assume shape, it feels a desire 
for beaut}^, which is love ; and it is for this reason, according to 
Plato, that love precedes the other gods, who are identical with 
the angels. And hereupon Cavalcanti begins to show how the 
angels are identical with the ancient deities, and how the third 

' See the '' Commentarium Marsilii Ficini, in Convivium Platonis de Amore," 
which is added to his Latin translation of Plato. The banquets of the Platonic 
Academy seem to have been held in the villa at Careggi, generally presided over 
by Lorenzo the Magnificent, and in Florence under the presidency of Francesco 
Bandini. So says Ang. Maria Bandini (" Specimen," vol. i. pp. 60-61), and so 
Ficino himself says in a letter to Jacopo Bracciolini, publslied in Bandini's 
"Specimen," vol. i. pp. 62-63. " Flatonici veteres urbana Platonis natalilia 
quotannis instaurabant ; novi autem Platonici, Braccioline, et urbana et suburbana 
nostris temporibus celebrarunt ; suburbana quidem apud Mag. Laurentium Medicem 
in agro Caregio. Cuncta in libro nostro de amore narrantur. Urbana vero 
Florentiae sumtu regio celebravit Franc. Bandinus vir ingenio, magnificentia 
excellens. . . ." At the town meeting, of which he here makes mention, the sub- 
ject of discussion was the immortality of the soul. But the Careggi banquet of 
which Ficino gives such very minute details in his " Commentarium," was by order 
of Lorenzo, who was then in Florence, presided over by Franc. Bandini. In fact, 
at the beginning of the first chapter he says : " Plato philosophorum pater, annos 
unura et octoginta aetatis, natus septimo, novembris die, quo ortus fuerat, discum- 
bens in convivio, remotis dapibus, expiravit. PIoc autem convivium, quo et 
natalitia et anniversaria Platonis pariter continentur, prisci omnes Platonici usque 
ad Plotini et Porphyrli tempora quotannis instaurabant. Post vero Porphyrium 
mille ac ducentos annos, solennes hae dapes praetermissae fuerunt._ Tandem 
nostris temporibus, vir clarissimus Laurentius Medicesplatonicum convivium inno- 
vaturus, Franciscum Bandinum Architriclinum constiluit. Cum igitur seotimum 
Novembris diem colere Bandinus instituisset, regis apparatu in agro Caregio 
novem platonicps accepit convivas." 

VOL. 1. 10 


essences arc at the same time the ideas (if Plato and the forms 01 
Aristotle. But not content with this, he further asserts that the 
third essences, created by the angels, become in their turn identical 
with the ancient gods ; nor is this sufficient, for such a confusion 
of ideas follows that we can no longer follow the author. Jove is 
heaven, Saturn and \''enus are the two planets thus named ; but 
they are likewise the third essences, or the souls of heaven, and of 
the two planets ; they are the three divinities of the ancients, and 
also three angels ; they are finally the soul of the world, inasmuch 
as it informs, moves, and generates.' What is chiefly clear in all 
this confusion is, that in the opinion of the Academicians, 
Christianity and Paganism ought to form one and the same thing 
with Platonism. Allegory is the key-stone of this edifice, or 
rather artifice, in which things do not mean what the}' are, but 
become symbols and emblems of other things, and as all this is 
arbitrar)'^, so they can be twisted to any signification one chooses 
to give them. 

Aristophanes, one of the speakers in the " Symposium," says 
that, in the beginning, there were three sexes, male, female, and 
promiscuous, that is to say, individuals who were men and women, 
at the same time, with two heads, four hands, &c. These beings 
tried to struggle against the gods, and were therefore divided into 
two halves, one of which is always seeking the other, hence it is 
only when united that lovers can be happy. If mortals, however, 
persist in their pride, they will be punished by a new division ; it 
will then be curious, adds Aristophanes, to see them going about 
the world with only half a head, one eye, one hand, one foot, 
Landino, who had to comment vipon this strange discourse, seeks 
neither the origin of the legend, nor its mythological explana- 
tion. The soul, he sa3-s, was created whole by God, furnished 
with divine light with which to look upon the higher things, with 
natural light, inborn, with which to look upon the lower. But 
man sinned by pride, wished to make himself equal with God, 
thinking that his natural, inborn light was sufficient tor him ; 
whereupon his thoughts were directed to corporeal things alone, 
and the original unity was broken. If he persists in his pride, 
trusting entirely to his natural light, he will be punished anew by 
losing that also.^ This was the easy explanation of everything. 

The last to speak is Cristoforo Marsuppini, who concludes by 
commenting on the very beautiful speech of Alcibiades, and the 
Avords which he, at the end of the " Symposium," addresses to 
Socrates. The orator makes his commentary by expounding the 

' See Cavalcanti's two speeches in the " Coiinr-';ntaiiuin." 
• " Conimentarium," Oiatio iv. 


ideas of Guido Cavalcanti upon love, and speaking of the divine 
fnry, by means of which man, rising above his own nature, in 
Deiiin transit. By this God draws the soul, sunk in inferior 
things, once more upwards to the higher. And all terminates 
with an eulogium of Socratic love, and a hymn to the divine love 
or Holy Spirit, that has inspired the discussion, and illumined 
the Platonic orators.* 

These philosophers, in trying to reconcile Paganism with 
Christianity, spirit with matter, the divine with the human, God 
with the world, and unable to discover the rational unity of all 
those things, reduced everything to symbols. Yet the great 
popularity and immense influence of this philosophy upon the 
literature and culture of the age, cannot be placed in doubt by 
any one ; and it is impossible to deny its great historical impor- 
tance. This philosophy, in fact, was the result of a new way 
of regarding the world, that emerges clearly enough, even from 
amid the clouds of the wildest allegories. For the Platonists the 
world had become the great physical and moral cosmos, created 
by divine love, in the image of the God who dwells therein, and 
whom they regarded no longer as a living personality, but as the 
supreme unity of all, the universal spirit, the absolute. And 
owing to their labours this conception penetrates and permeates 
the literature of the second half of the fifteenth century, and 
serves to determine its character. Hence it is plain that Italian 
Platonism, without having much scientific value, is yet a highly 
important element of modern culture. 

But fully to understand this, we must also fix our attention 
upon the works of the man who best knew how to formulate and 
teach it. Marsilio Ficino had a boundless admiration for all the 
philosophy of the ancients ; he studied and tried to assimilate 
Plato, Aristotle, the Neo-Platonists, and every fragment he could 
find of quotations from Confucius, Zoroaster, &c. All that which 
they say is sacred to him, merely because it is ancient ; and thus 
his writings become a huge congeries of different elements, without 
his ever discovering a true dominant and organic principle, upon 
which to- build up a system, and earn a right to the title of an 
original philosopher. 

The Neoplatonic allegories imported among us by G. Plethon 
and other Greeks formed the only means by which he could 
harmonize the different elements. Yet Ficino's proposed aim was 
a highly remarkable one, and affords us a glimpse of his philo- 
sophic importance. Amid the triumph of Pagan antiquity, he 

' " Commentarium," &c., Oratio vii. chap. xvii. " Quomodo agendae sunt 
gratiae Spiritu Sanclo, qui nos ad banc disputationeni illuminavit atqiie accendit." 


sees that Christianity cannot fall ; but he also sees that the mere 
authority of the prophets, of the Bible, and of revelation, no 
longer suffices to maintain it and keep it alive in men's minds. 
Hence it was necessary to have recourse to reason, to true 
philosophy, i.e.y to ancient philosophy ; and among the diverse 
systems, that which best lent itself to his object, was certainly the 
Platonian. Thus, as he himself declares, arose in his mind the 
notion of founding Christianity upon the Platonic doctrine, and 
even of proving that they were one and the same thing, that the 
one was the logical consequence of the other. At that time this 
appeared to be a new revelation, and therefore he burnt candles 
before Plato, and adored him as a saint. In fact, in his book, 
"Delia Rcligione Cristiana," the most solid arguments that he can 
find in its favour are the answers of the Sibyls and the prophecies 
of the coming of Jesus Christ, to be found in Virgil, Plato, 
Plotinus, and Porphyrius. 

To him the life of Socrates is a continual symbol of the life of 
Jesus, the doctrines of the one are identical with those of the 
other. Thus antiquity received the benediction of Christianity, 
which in its turn was proved to be true by antiquity. What fact 
could be of higher concern to the learned of the fifteenth 
century ? Ficino was so full of these ideas, so enthusiastic about 
them, that he sometimes seemed to look upon himself as the 
founder of a new religion rather than the inventor of a new 

He wrote a large number of epistles, translations, and tractates 
in Latin ; but the greatest and most solid monument to his fame 
was the first and, for a long time, the onlv good translation of 
Plato's works. At this he laboured unremittingly for a great 
part of his life, while meditating another work which was to be 
a systematic summary of the mass of his doctrines. Touching 
this, he tells us that he was long in uncertainty as to whether 
this work should be a philosophical exposition of the ancient 
Pagan religion, or a demonstration of Christianity, made with the 
assistance of ancient philosophy. The latter idea prevailed : 
nevertheless his new book was entitled " Platonic Theology," which 
plainly shows the author's groove of thought. It is a vast and 
ill-arranged encyclopedia of learning, written in a confused and 
colourless style, a defect observable in all his works, since, 
although he had consumed his whole life over the classics, the 
uncertainty of his ideas made it impossible for him to acquire any 
real originality or vigour of style. After careful examination of 
the "Theologia Platonica," we might almost say that the 
materials accumulated in it are, as it were, beginning to ferment. 


and that consequently certain assimilations take place, of which 
the author is unaware. In fact, there is something in it that 
may be called a result of the thought of the age, an impersonal 
progress in science, of which Ficino himself appears to be rather 
the instrument than the author. The question of the consnlto or 
non-constdto agit in nature is, that around which from the com- 
mencement all the others are grouped, and it is solved in the 
same manner as by Gemistos Plethon. He finds in the world 
two different categories of souls. The first consists of intellectual, 
universal souls ; the other of sensitive, mortal, but also reasoning 
souls. These, which he calls the third essences of things, are to 
be found throughout nature, which they animate. The earth, 
light, air, the planets, have each their third essence, and that 
explains why the earth produces plants, the water fish, &c. The 
third essences are also divided into twelve orders, according to the 
twelve constellations of the zodiac ; but these are united, and are 
mingled together to form souls or third essences of a more 
general character. Thus in our own planet, water, earth, and air 
has each its own third essence ; but this planet has also its special, 
more general, third essence which embraces all the others. 

Then, too, man has two souls, one rational and sensitive, the 
third essence of the body, which dies ; the other intellectual, 
immortal, emanating directly from God. By means of this, the 
creature finds himself in relation with the Creator and with the 
possibility of coming into contact with Him ; in this are mirrored 
all the others, which breathe life into the universe. Thus man is 
a microcosm ; he can descend to the animals, to inanimate nature, 
and rise to the angels, to God who speaks to him and guides him. 
Then, too, stars, planets, and even the stones have, by their third 
essences, direct influence over man's passions, man's destiny. 
And thus is demonstrated the truth of the occult sciences, in 
which Ficino had an almost childish belief. His continual 
melancholy was attributed by him to the influence of Saturn ; 
and every day he was careful to change the amulets which he 
always wore upon his person. He wrote a treatise on all these 
things, entitled : " De vita coelitus comparenda," ' which must be 
read in order to understand the point reached by. the superstitious 
prejudices of a very learned man, and of a very advanced age. 
The faith in occult sciences cherished by the most remarkable 
men of the Renaissance, is another of the numerous contradictions 
we find in that period. Yet, on carefully considering the 
question, we perceive that this faith was fed by the need of re- 
placing supernatural by natural e.Kplanations, even when science 

' Lugdiini, 1567. 

1 3 4 IN TROD UCriON, 

was impotent to find thcni. If we now glance at this philosophy 
of Ficino's in its entirety, there clearly stands out an irresistible 
tendency to such an universal and rational soul, which, in his 
writings, seems in fact to be confounded with the world and with 
God Himself. His third essences are identical with the ideas of 
Plato in an Aristotelian shape, which are afterwards united in 
more general souls, and how was it possible that they should not 
all be united in one soul ? Is not the world, according to Ficino's 
own words, a great living animal ? Has not nature a rational 
soul that consulto agit ? Only in presence of these natural, 
inevitable consequences of his own premisses, our author stops 
himself, as it were, in affright, because he must accept and explain 
creation from the void, and cannot renounce the personal God of 

When, however, he begins to give a philosophical explanation 
of creation, he always recurs to the same ideas, and again 
approaches the consequences from which he rebels. God 
conceives (and in the Divine mind conception is equivalent to 
creation) the sensitive soul of things, and the angelic immortal 
soul. With this He forms the angels, and by their means creates 
the third essences which are too far beneath Him for Him to 
condescend to directly create them. But in man, besides the 
third essences, or soul of the body, there is also an immortal one 
directly infused by God, and by means of which the creature 
comes in contact with the Creator. In short, Ficino's creation is 
an emanation ; his God is the soul and the unity of the world, 
indeed, the only definition he can give of it is the absolute unity 
of all things. Pantheism, the logical consequence of this system, 
was, in the very atmosphere of the fifteenth century, which found 
no other way of reconciling God and nature, the Divine and the 
human. Already scientifically sketched out by Cusano, and 
rendered popular by Ficino, it was afterwards lucidly formulated 
and maintained by Bruno. Cusano and Bruno, however, were 
real thinkers and philosophers, while Ficino was merely a learned 
man who wrote on philosophy without much originality. The 
Pantheistic idea showed itself in his works in an indistinct, 
confused, almost unconscious manner ; but it was precisely this 
that proved it to be an outcome of the general need of the time, 
caused its instant popularity, and made it penetrate deeply into 
literature. In the verses of Lorenzo the Magnificent, of Poliziano, 
of Alberti, in many even of the contemporaneous prose writers, 
we see the personal God changed into the absolute, the world is 
the great cosmos which it inhabits and animates ; nature herself, 
no longer despised, becomes almost divine. And this transforma- 


tion, as we have already said, was the work of Ficino and the 
Platonic Academy. Both vanished without establishing a new- 
system, but they left instead a new method of looking upon the 
world, and a new conception of the Deity. 

Ficino's enthusiastic ardour in expounding the new doctrines 
found a wide echo both in Italy and abroad. Students came from 
all parts of the world to attend the lectures he gave at the Studio. 
Many Englishmen carried Italian Hellenism to their own coun- 
try ; Reuchlin himself, in passing through Florence, was more 
than ever converted to the new ideas, which met with great 
favour in Germany, where Reformation began with the individual 
interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, and by placing the believer 
in direct communication with his Creator, without the need of any 
mediator. In Italy, on the contrary, the results of learning always 
remained merely literary and scientific. 

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, so celebrated throughout 
Europe, was known among us by the name of the intellectual 
Phoenix, on account of the knowledge attributed to him of 
twenty-two languages, of his great learning and extraordinary 
memory. To these gifts he united much goodness of character 
and an amiable and attractive appearance, and although of 
princely family, he had abandoned everything for his studies. 
Excited by the praises showered upon him, and by a philosophy 
which pretended to embrace the whole universe in its allegories, 
he proposed a strange species of scientific tournament, that was 
to be held in Rome. He had summed up all knowledge in 
nine hundred conclusions, on each of which he declared himself 
prepared to make a reply to scholars from all parts, whom he 
invited to discuss with him, promising to pay the travelling 
expenses of all those who were poor. The experiment was 
prevented from taking place by the difficulties raised by the Pope, 
to whose authority Giovanni Pico was always most submissive. 
But notwithstanding his great reputation, this scholar's intellect 
was substantially but little different from that of Ficino's other 
followers. His acquirements, though extensive, were superficial, 
his judgments dictated rather by enthusiasm than critical faculty. 
He considered the poems of Lorenzo dei Medici superior to those 
of Dante and Petrarch. Of the majority of the twenty-two 
languages he was supposed to have studied, he knew little more 
than the alphabet and the elements of grammar. He was, how- 
ever, one of the first promoters of Oriental studies, as well as one 
among the best of Greek and Latin scholars. But neither his 
Italian and Latin writings, much less his philosophy, show any 
marks of originality. He tried to reconcile Avcrhocs and 


Avicciina, Scotus and St. Thomas, Plato and Aristotle, in order 
to combat the enemies of the Church. This, of necessity, brouglit 
about his union with F'icino, who desired to fight " the religion of 
ignorance and the philosophy of unbelief." At first a friend of 
the Medici, he ended by becoming an enthusiastic admirer of 
Savonarola, and was buried in the Cliurch of St. Mark, shrouded, 
according to his last wish, in the frock of the Dominican friars.' 
He ceased to live in 1494, a memorable year in the history of 
Italy, and of all Europe. Platonists and the learned men now 
disappeared very rapidly from the scene, and the national litera- 
ture, so long in course of preparation, began to shine forth in all 
Its new brilliancy. 

8. Rkvival of Italian Literature. 

In the fifteenth century our vulgar tongue had much decayed, 
chiefly by fault of the men of learning, who either wrote in Latin 
or twisted Italian into an artificial imitation of that tongue. In 
the year 1441, on the occasion of the stay of Pope Eugene IV. in 
Florence, a grand literary meeting took place in the Cathedral 
under the name of Acadcmia Coronnria^ because a silver crown 
was offered to him who should recite the best Italian verses upon 
friendship. And after all the prize could not be adjudged to any 
of the competitors, and so wretched were these verses that to this 
day no one can read them without amazement at their corrupt 
taste and puerile artifice. Still it would be a mistake to suppose 
that all had given up writing in the vulgar tongue. Italian songs 
composed by writers of little note, but many in number, were 
sung by the people both in town and country, and many familiar 
letters, tales, romances, and chronicles were also written in Italian. 
It was a literature chiefly made for the people, and in which the 
people took part in many ways, although it cannot be called 
popular in the strict sense of the word. And throughout the 
fifteenth century it continued to increase in importance, until the 
men of learning also forsook Latin, and recurring to Italian, thus 
initiated a second epoch in the history of our letters. The 
Platonists may be included among those who first returned to the 
vulgar tongue. Cristoforo Landino had materially assisted in 
this, promoting by his commentaries the study of Dante and 
Petrarch. But to Leon Battista Alberti must be awarded a still 
more honourable post. Born in 1404 at Venice, whither his 
family had been exiled, he soon proved himself a most remarkable 
man. Of very rare strength and beauty, he succeeded no less 
' See my "Storia di G. Savonarola," &c., book i. chnp. v. 


admirably in all bodily exercises than in mental labour. Accom- 
plished in music, singing, and the arts of design, he was versed in 
letters and had studied the moral, as well as the mathematical or 
natural sciences, in which many discoveries are attributed to 
him.' Landino, Poliziano,^ and others exalt not only the uni- 
versality of his genius, but also, which is more noteworthy, his 
singular merit in promoting the study and ur.e of Italian. This, 
too, is plainly shown in his works, although many disputes have 
arisen concerning them. Some of Alberti's verses have certainly 
a singular freshness and spontaneity 3 which would excite surprise, 
had not Poliziano and Lorenzo dei Medici already warned us that 
the Italian muse was now awaking, animated by a new spirit, and 
almost born again to a second youth. His prose is still very 
artificial in its imitation of Latin ; yet one work entitled "La cura 
della famiglia " merits special mention, particvdarly its third book, 
" L'Economico " or " II Padre di famiglia," in which a good 
father of a family and the best way of ruling a household is 
carefully described. This is almost a separate work, and in a 
preface to it, Alberti takes the defence of the Italian language 
which he declares to be in no wise inferior to the Latin,* and 
promises to try and make use of a " bare and simple style " (" stile 
nudo e semplice.") Certainly, in this book his prose is far more 
spontaneous and familiar than usual ; the author seems to wish to 
return to the golden simplicity of the Trecento. 

" L'Economico " is generally known in the much freer and 
more popular form given to it by Agnolo Pandolfini under the 
title of " Del Governo della famiglia," and in this form it is one 
of the finest monuments of our national literature. It is main- 
tained by some that Pandolfini copied and improved on Alberti, 
but this is denied by others. What is certain is that the former 
writes in familiar Italian, in a rich and graphic style, not always 

' See the " Commentario alia Vita di L. B. Alberti," in the fourth volume of 
Vassari, Le Monnier edition, Tiral)Oschi, " S. L. I.," vol. vi. p. 414 and fol. ; the 
edition of L. B. Alberti's " Opere," edited by Bonucci and published in Florence 
(Tip. Galileiana) in 1843 and following years. This edition includes a Life of 
Alberti by an anonymous author. See also the " Elogi di L. B. Alberti " in the 
works of G. B. Nicolini, Le Monnier edition, 1843, ^'ol- iii- P- 401 and fol. ; the 
" Elogio " written by Pozzetti, published in Florence in 1789, and finally '' Gli 
Alberti di Firenze, Genealogia," &c., recently brought out by Cav. L. Passerini in 
two large and elegant volumes, by commission of the Due de Lugnes. Florence, 
Cellini, 1870. 

^ See Bandini's " Specimen," vol, i. p. 164 ; Tiraboschi's " S. L. I.," vol. vi. 
p. 420, in which a letter by Poliziano is given. 

3 See the " Opere" of Alberti and Trucchi's " Poesie Italiane inedite." Prato, 
1846-47, vol. ii. p. 335. 

■* Alberti, " Opere," vol. ii. p. 221 and fol. 


free from frrainnialical errors, while Albcrti in correcting these 
errors, obscures the <;i>klen sinipHcily of him who appears to be 
his precursor. In his language one perceives the mixture of the 
popular and learned styles, but the two elements are not always 
well combined. If Alberti decided on imitatino- and almost copy- 
ing the work, of another, this is only additional proof that the 
book expressed the feelings and opinions of the period, and this 
gives it importance not only in the history of our language and 
literature, but also in that of Italian society." 

The " Governo della famiglia " is the work of a man who lived 
between the end of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth 
century, and, after taking part in political struggles, had retired 
disgusted to the country to devote himself to composition. Thus 
we have a faithful description of the social, moral, and intellectual 
condition of Italians in the fifteenth century, such as we search for 
in vain in the pages of history. In particular, we find a profound 
disgust of political life, " that life of insults, envy, passions, and 
suspicions." ' The Italian spirit already feels condemned to fall 
back upon itself, without finding in its own conscience the com- 
fort of religious life. Virtue seems to be nothing but the result 
of an almost artistic well being, " it is all gaiety and grace." 3 All 
that is desired is to have the mind undisturbed by any cupidity, 
repentance, or grief ; •♦ honesty is woman's finest ornament ; vice 
makes her vulgar and ugly.s In this book the new tendencies 
infused by Platonism in the Italian mind are very apparent. 
Virtue, in fact, proceeds from a necessary law of our nature, not 
from the command of any superior authority. When the head of 
the family marries, he leads his wife before the household shrine 
of the Madonna, and there kneeling down together, they pray, 
not to the virgin nor the saints, but to the Most High. Neither 
do they supplicate for happiness in the other world, but only that 
it may be given to them to enjoy the goods of this life. The wife 
must know how to govern her household with tact and gentleness, 

* This book, generally held to be the work of Pandolfini, was afterwards 
attributed to Alberti, especially by Signer F. Palermo, who took up the question 
so hotly and exaggerated so much in his " Prolegommi " added to the "Padre 
di famiglia" (Florence, tipografia Cenniniana scientifica, 1872) as to entirely 
forget the method and limits of scientific criticism. Pandolfini died before 
Alberti, and it is hard to imagine that he would have copied from learned prose 
and not only turned it into familiar spoken Italian, but introduced idioms 
and ungrammatical expressions where none existed before. Albcrti, however, ex- 
pressly declared himself to be the author. The question has been recently dis- 
cussed by Cortesi, Scipioni, and Pellegrini. The first sustains the priority of 
Pandolfini, the other two with some strong arguments take a contrary view. 

^ Pandolfini, "Trattato del governo della famiglia," p. 21 ; Venice, Gondoliere 
Printing Press, 1841. 3 Ibid., p. 5. ■♦ Iljid., p. 14. s ibid., p. 262. 


in order to maintain general harmony, and ensure general well 
being. Reading these things is like looking upon one of Masaccio's 
or Lippi's pictures. There is no effort towards the Infinite, there 
is a quiet, self-contented harmony, resembling the universal prin- 
ciple of life as it was then understood by Italians. Every little 
detail of the picture brings before our eyes the democracy of 
Florence, with its refinement and civil equality. Whereas in 
almost all the rest of Europe the peasant was still the slave of 
the soil, here he had already become his master's torment. He 
wants an ox, a cow, or sheep to be bought for him ; wants to have 
his debts paid ; asks for a dowry for his daughter ; to have a house 
built and the furniture provided ; and withal, is never contented.' 

But the founts of the new literature are many in number ; and 
while speaking only of prose, we must mention the political and 
diplomatic correspondences which became, in this century, one of 
the most notable branches of our literature. These were no 
displa3's of rhetoric, but written for the purpose of conducting 
affairs to a given end ; therefore they soon attained remarkable 
simplicity, spontaneity, and lucidity. 

In the recently published " Commissioni " of Rinaldo degli 
Albizzi,=^ we notice the writer's efforts to graft the uncultivated 
language of the people upon the Latin periods of the learned. 
But in the letters of Lorenzo dei Medici, these efforts are at an end, 
and the new political prose has triumphed over every difficulty 
without however concealing its two original elements. Of these 
letters, Guicciardini himself speaks in the highest praise.3 They 
show on the one hand the admirable prudence with which Lorenzo 
sought to maintain the political balance of Italy, the great 
authority exercised by him over all the States of the Peninsula, 
and on the other, the popular ease with which this disciple of 
Ficino and Poliziano knew how to write. When Ferdinand of 
Naples wished to form a special alHance with the Pope, Lorenzo 
immediately sets to work to prevent " this spark of change in 
Italy," * and a general peace is concluded instead. When his 
daughter Maddalena marries Francesco Cibo, the Pope's natural 
son, he instantly gives notice that he does not intend to form any 
compacts to the hurt of the general peace of Italy, nor to make 

' Pandolfini, " Trattato del governo della famiglia," p. 42. 

= These have been published in three vols, by the Societi di Storia Patria : 
Florence, Cellini, 1867-69, and go from the year 1399 down to 1433. 

3 In his " Storia Fiorentina." 

^ A. Desjardins, " Negociations diplomatiques de la France avec la Toscane" 
(3 vols. 4to) : Paris, 1859-65, Iniprimerie Imperiale, vol. i. p. 214. It is only 
just to mention that the clJief part of these documents were discovered by an 
Italian, G. Canestrini. 


far-sl retching plans for the fiiluie, ^iiice it is better "to think day 
by da)-, and dance in time to the music that one hears." ' When 
the Pope wished to call the Duke of Lorraine into Italy, Lorenzo 
uses every effort to prevent it, alleging the many dangers it woukl 
bring about, and reminding his Holiness " that human hands can- 
not hold the reins of fortune." " The Duke of Milan, Lodovico il 
Moro, always uncertain, changeable, and ambitious, who hourly 
caused fresh complications, must be treated, says Lorenzo, as suits 
his nature, namely, by giving way to him as long as is possible 
without danger ; but in such a way "as to remain in the saddle 
even if he should try to fling out." Therefore is it all the more 
necessary to keep on friendly terms with the Venetians, " so as 
always to have some anchors in the sea." 3 

And when his son Giovanni, who at the age of seventeen years 
had been for some time a Cardinal, is starting for Rome, Lorenzo 
warns him of the dangers to which he will be exposed in that very 
corrupt city, and reminds him that union with the Church is use- 
ful to Florence, and that " the interest of our family goes with 
that of the city, so that you ought to be a good link in the matter ; 
and at all events there should not fail you the means of saving 
both the goat and the cabbages, as the saying goes." * This easy, 
familiar, vigorous style of prose soon became very general in Tus- 
cany, and Lorenzo dei Medici was one of the first to make use of 
it, as he was also one of the first to write verses in the vulgar 
tongue. In the fourteenth century, two different styles of poetry 
had been grafted one upon the other, which to this day can be 
easily distinguished in the sonnets and canzonets of that time, and 
even in the " Divina Commedia " itself. 

The one was simple, clear, natural — an inspiration which, if not 
wholly popular, was certainly much nearer to the people than the 
other poetry, which was artificial, allegorical, scholastic, courtly, 
of the French or Provencal school. Out of this union of different 
elements, the national genius, even then assisted by classical 
studies, had extracted a new literature. And this easily penetrated 
among the people, who, fascinated and carried away by an art 
beyond their own power, and yet entirely to their taste, and fitted 
to their comprehension, had little longer need of other songs, and 
other tales. But towards the end of the fourteenth century, 
literary men wrote in Latin, and the people, who, amid their 

* Fabroni, " Vita Laurentii Medicis," Pisis, 1784, vol. ii. p. 312, note 179. 
' Ibid., vol. ii. p. 359, note 206. 
^ Ibid., vol. ii. p. 363. 

4 Fabroni calls this letter the song of the swan, tanquam cycnea fttit, because 
Lorenzo died soon afterwards (vol. ii. p. 308, note 178). 


struggles for liberty, had made much progress in civilization, had 
once more to provide for themselves. Throughout the Tuscan 
land were then heard new songs, new rispeiti\ new roundelays,^ 
while in the towns there was a prodigious crop of novels, tales, 
and knightly adventures, which had travelled to us from France, 
besides sacred representations or mysteries. And all these were 
naturally m the vulgar tongue. 

A few Rispetti, a few Strambotti, and a certain number of songs 
really issued from the heart of the people. To this day they are 
still to be heard in the villages of Tuscany, where, as "D'Ancona 
observes,- they seem echoes of the last creative efforts of a nation 
on the point of losing its liberty.^' But there are many others, 
besides tales of chivalry, and sacred and profane plays, which 
cannot be called popular creations, since they were generally the 
compositions of public storytellers, who, although belonging to 
the class for which they wrote, possessed a certain amount of 
rough and imperfect culture. In these, many classical reminiscences 
and tricks of rhetoric are to be found, but very seldom the true 
impulsiveness of the popular vein. Still these works have a 
certain simplicity, and even a certain ingenious delicacy of feeling, 
which attest their semi-popular origin, and reca:H the fact that in 
those times the higher classes and men of cultivation were much 
more corrupt than the people. While the learned men Avere 
employed upon works like the " Ermafrodito," 3 the "Invettive," 
and obscenities of every description, the story-tellers narrated the 
fantastic feats of knights-errant, the unhappy loves of Hippolitus 
and Dianora, and their heroic self-devotion ; 4 the sorrows of 
Ginevra degli Almieri, who, coming out of the tomb in v/hich she 
has been buried alive, is not recognized either by her hvxsband or 
her own mother, who both refuse her shelter. Her first lover, 

' We have already seen in Pandolfini, that the Itahan peasantry, and more 
especially the Tuscan, who are here in question, were in the fifteenth century 
superior in culture and prosperity to those of the rest of Europe. The novel 
writers, like Sacchetti, for instance (see Novelle 88 and 202), frecjuently speak of 
shrewd, well-to-do peasants. In the " Beca di Dicomano," in which the author, 
Pulci, describes peasant life, a peasant says to his sweetheart: — "Thou knowest 
that I am ignorant and worthy— and I have cattle, and houses, and land. If thou 
wouldst take me, I would take thee." — See also Burckhardt, " Die Cultur der 
Renaissance," first edition, p. 356. 

' A. D'Ancona, " La Poesie Popolare Fiorentina nel Secolo," xv. 

3 This work was published in the " Rivista Contemporanea " of Turin, vol. xxx. 
No. 106, September, 1S62. See also Carducci's remarks in his prefiice to the 
volume," Le Rime, le Stanze e rOrfeo"of A. Poliziano : Florence, Barbcra, 1863. 
These two writers are those who have gone most thoroughly into the subject of 
ancient popular Italian poetry. 

♦ This legend is also to be found in the works of Leon Battista Alberti. 


tVom whom she had been forcibly torn, is the only one who sees 
that she is really flesh and blooil, and who now joyfully gives her 

•' Miscliiando l,i Iclizia col ilulore."' 

Italian poetry of the fifteenth century was chiefly based by the 
liter aii on what was generally, if somewhat incorrectly known as 
popular poetry. Among us undoubtedly the songs of men of 
letters and those of the people are so much intermingled, and 
exercise so much reciprocal influence, that even for the most acute 
and intelligent critics it is often extremely difficult to disentangle 
the one from the other. But in any case, one of the first, not 
merely to protect, but to promote and cultivate the new poetry, 
was Lorenzo dei Medici. To one who founded a tyranny by 
leaning on the people in opposition to the nobility, it was highly 
convenient to make himself also a popular poet, particularly in a 
city like Florence, where intellectual dominion was the firmest 
basis of political power. In fact the woodcuts of the period repre- 
sent Lorenzo singing verses to the populace. 

In order to do justice to Lorenzo's literary merit, it is by no 
means necessary tt) join in the extravagant flights of Roscoe and 
Ruth, who try to prove him a genius.^ In his poetry, as in 
everything else, he displayed great knowledge of human nature 
and a fine taste, without, however, having sufficient elevation of 
mind to reach the heights of art. This too is shown by his own 
account of his earliest inspirations. On the death of the beautiful 
Simonetta, the beloved of Giuliano dei Medici, many poets, among 
them Poliziano,3 wrote verses in her honour. Lorenzo, in order 
to do something of the same kind, feigned to have Jost his lady 
love, but then sought for a living one, whom he found in Lucrezia 
Donati,'' a beautiful and spirited young girl, and immediately 
applied himself to the composition of love songs. But this did 
not prevent him from making arrangements in Rome for his 

' Republished by A. D'Ancona (Pisa, Nistri, 1863). See, too, the three 
vohimes of "Sacre Rappresentazioni dei Secoli," xiv., xv., and xvi., by the same 
author : Florence, Le Monnier, 1872. 

' Far juster is the judgment of Gino Capponi in his " Storia della Repubblica 
Fiorentina," and of Baron de Reaumont in his work, *' Lorenzo dei Medici," 
Leipsic, 1873. Carducci has frequently written with great originality of Lorenzo's 
poetic faculty and temperament, but in our opinion he praises him rather too 

3 " Dum pulchra effertur nigro Simonetta ferctro Blandus et examini spiral in ore 
lepos," &c. 

■* "Comento di Lorenzo di Medici sopra alcuni dei suoi Sonetti, nel fine delle 
sue poesie volgari " (edition of 1554). See also Roscoe, "Life of Lo.cnzo dei 
Medici," chap. 11. 


marriage with Clarice Orsini. His mother Lucrczia Tornabuoni, 
writing at this time to her husband, Piero dei Medici, speaks of the 
bride in the following terms : *' She is of seemly stature and of 
fair complexion, and has sweet manners, if less gracious than ours ; 
she has great modesty, and so will soon fall in with our customs. 
Her hair is not fair, for there is no such thing here ; her tresses 
incline to red, and she has great abundance of them. Her visage 
inclines to be rather round, but it does not displease me. Her 
throat is well turned, but seems to me somewhat thin. Her 
bosom we cannot see, for it is here the fashion to wear it covered 
up, but it appears to be of good quality. Her hand is long and 
slender, and altogether we rate the maiden much above the 
common." '^ But after this minute description of the bride's 
physique, she has not a word to say of her mind, talents, or 
character. Lorenzo, who became betrothed to this young girl 
at the age of twenty-one, wrote these words in his Ricordi,^ 
June 4, 1469 : "I have taken a wife, or rather she was given 
to me " (Tolsi donna . . . ovvero mi fu data), and his verses show 
him to be the true son of his mother. At the age of seventeen, 
he described the lips, eyes, and hair of his mistress, praised the 
mountains, the flowery meadow, the river, the rustic solitudes, in 
which he could gaze upon her image far from the noise of tov/ns. 
Even at that time we find fine taste and ease in his verses, which 
are written in a spontaneous, and sometimes too familiar a manner : 
he describes nature and the actual world with the graphic power 
of a keen observer. These qualities were afterwards still more 
conspicuous in Lorenzo's various compositions, for he had a 
genuine admiration for the beautiful, loved country life, and was 
a true artist and painter of the outer world. To his descriptive 
power he unites in his " Beoni " a mordant and satiric spirit ; but 
the special characteristics of his poetry are chiefly apparent in his 
" Canzoni a ballo " taken from popular sources and given in their 
real form, and in his " Canti Carnascialeschi " of which barely the 
germ existed, and to which he gave a place in literature, thus 
becoming the creator of that description of verse. 

The ruling idea in these poems is : enjoy your life to-day, give 
yourselves up to pleasure, and take no thought for the morrow. 
Young men, be not timid with women, and as for you ladies— : 

' "Tre lettere di Lucrezia Tornabuoni a Piero dei Medici, ed altrelettere di yari 
concernerti al matrimonio di Lorenzo il Magnifico cou Clarici Orsini." Marriage 
album collected by Cesare Guasti. Florence: Le Monnier, 1859. 

' Reprinted by Roscoe, in the Appendix to his " Life of Lorenzo," Doc. xiu 


" Aricndctevi, belle, 
A'vostri innamorati, 
Koiulcte e' cuor fiirali, 
Non fate gucrra a matjgio." ' 

The crafty politician who sought to stupefy his pco|)le in the gross 
scnsuahty in which he himself indulged, here shows his nature 
openly, with great impulsiveness of style and freshness of form. 
But here, too, we see that his is an art of corruption carrying its 
own condemnation on its face. If in his " Canzoni a hallo" (songs 
for dancing), he contents himself with the pleasures of idleness 
and of a life of sensuality, in the " Canti Carnascialeschi," he goes 
much further. Some of these bring before us with much gaiety, 
mythological figures that are full of life ; others again describe 
indecencies too horrible to be mentioned in these days, and which 
were then openly sung in the public thoroughfares, the acknow- 
ledged works of a prince who had gained the admiration of the 
whole civilized world. He was accustomed to direct the carnival 
festivities and masquerades, calling sculptors and painters ^ to his 
assistance to enhance their brilliancy, and using elegance of taste 
as an engine for the corruption of manners. He had music com- 
posed on purpose to accompany his obscene songs. He associated 
with the literati^ artists, and populace, and was the soul and 
leader of the bacchanalian revels. Still it must be confessed that 
Lorenzo, by taking up the different kinds of poetry he found 
diffused among the people, and endowing them with artistic 
dignity, made himself the promoter of a literary revolution, in 
which, although surpassed by some of his contemporaries, he 
nevertheless took a very high place.3 

But the principal reviver of Italian poetry in the fifteenth 
century was Angelo Ambrogini of Monte Pulciano, called Poli- 
ziano. Born the 14th of July, 1454, he was, up to 1474, a student 
in the Florentine Studio, where he followed the teachings of 
Ficino, Andronicus, Argiropulos, and Landino. At the age of 
sixteen he had already begun a translation of Homer, which 

' The Canzone begins thus : — 

" Ben venga maggio 
E '1 gonfalon selvaggio." 

' Vasari, in his "Vita di Piero di Cosimo," tells us of the care with which these 
fetes, which long continued in Florence, were arranged, and declares them to be 
things to sharpen vien's wits. " Canti Carnascialeschi " by different authors were 
afterwards collected in two volumes by Lasca : Fiorenza, 1559. 

3 See the remarks of Carducci in his fine " Prefazione alle Poesie di Lozenzo." 
Florence : BarLera. 


made Ficino accord him the title of the Homeric child, and 
secured to him the lasting protection of Lorenzo, who receiving 
the youth in his own palace, made him tutor to his son Piero.' 
At twenty-nine years he was professor of Greek and Latin elo- 
quence in the Studio, and his lessons were attended not only by 
Italians like Pico della Mirandola and the Medici themselves, but 
by foreigners of all nations. Soon after, in i486, he was named 
canon of the cathedral. In a short time his fame filled all Italy, 
and even crossed the Alps. He showed very great critical acumen 
in his " Miscellanea," particularly in his collations of old texts. 
Afterwards, too, in collating the edition of the " Pandects," pub- 
lished at Venice in 1450, with the Laurentian Codex known as 
the " Pandects of Amalfi," he made certain observations which, 
although overpraised, showed the great aid philosophy could render 
to jurisprudence.^ Poliziano's best productions are undoubtedly 
his poems, and often the finest introductory addresses which he 
delivered in the chair were nothing but Latin verses, in the 
composition of which he was unrivalled, even during early youth. 
At the age of eighteen he had earned praise by his Greek verses ; 
but had taken the world by storm with his Latin elegy on the 
death of Albiera degli Albizzi. In this the pagan feeling for 
beauty of form, and the ethereal grace of the painters of the 
Quattrocento seem to be blended together ; the Italian language 
fused with the Latin, which, in spite of being a dead tongue, has 
here the freshness of a living and spoken language. It would 
seem as though the breath of popular Italian song inspired new 
life into the man of learning, and enabled him to endow his 
Latin with the primitive spontaneity of the Greek. In this elegy 
we find the same unapproachable elegance, the same wealth of 
description, the same somewhat artificial diction as in his immortal 
Italian stanzas. Very beautiful are the last words of the dying 
woman to her husband, who, with terror-stricken eyes is watching 
the ever-increasing pallor stealing over the countenance of the 
loved one who 

*' Illius aspectu moricntia lumina pascit," 

• Isidoro del Liingo, " L'no scolare dello Studio Fiorentino," a memoir pub- 
lished in the •' Nuova Antologia of Florence," vol. x. p. 215, .-ind fol. By the 
same author see " La Patria e gli antenati di Angelo Poliziano " in the " Archivio 
Storico Italiano," Series III., vol. xi. p. 9 and fol. 

^ Professor Bonamici of Pisa has examined the notes on the Pandects of his 
work "II Poliziano Giureconsulto" (Pisa), Nistri, 1863, and has endeavoured to 
reduce the author's merit within its just limits. 

VOL. I. H 


and already feels herself being borne away to another life J 

". . . . lieu I noslro torpet in ore somis ; 
Hcu rapior 1 Tu vive mihi, tibi niortua vivam. 
Caligant oculi iam mihi inorte graves." 

ThcbC f][ifts, which Poliziano possessed from the first, grew ever 
riper, as may bo seen by many of his later poems, especially in 
that on the death of the fair Simonetta, and the very fine one 
upon violets.' In reading these lines, more classical than any 
before written by the men of learning, the reader, sometimes 
almost carried away, may fancy he sees the Latin transforming 
itself into the new and lovely flower of Italian poetry, which in 
truth is budding to life again before his eyes. For now, in fact, 
the Italian chrysalis breaks though the Latin shell in which it 
had so long been hidden, and at last comes forth into the sun- 

Poliziano has earned immortality in the history of our literature, 
by the " Stanze " written by him for the Joust of Giuliano dei 
Medici, and which signalize the commencement of the second and 
no less splendid period of Italian poetry. They form the beginning 
of a poem that breaks off at the forty-sixth octave of the second 
book, interrupted, very probably, by the murder of Giuliano in 
the Pazzi plot.^ The work, however, is not of a nature to lose 

* " Molles o violae, Veneris munuscula nostrae, 

Dulce quibus tanti pignus amoris inest ; 

Quae vos, quae genuit tellus ? quo nectare odoras 

Sparserunt Zephyri mollis et aura comas ? 

Vos ne in acidaliis aluit Venus aurea campis ? 

Vos ne sub Idalio pavit Am^r neniore? 

His ego crediderim citharas ornare corollis, 

Perniessi in roseo margine Pieridas. 

Hoc flora ambrosios incingitur Hora capillos. 

Hoc tegit indociles Gratia blanda sinus, 

Hoc Aurora suae nectit redimicula fronti, 

Cum roseum verno pandit ab axe diem," &c. 
■ It is generally believed that these " Stanze " were written in 1469, that is, when 
Poliziano was only fifteen years of age. The mistake arose through confounding 
the Joust of Lorenzo with that of Giuliano. The former was really given in 1469, 
and was described by Luca Pulci, say some, by his brother Luigi, say others. In 
any case, it is a work of little merit and very artificial. The poet says to Lorenzo : 
" Thy victory (in the tilting match) has naught to envy of the victories of /Emilius, 
Marcellus, Scipio ; thou hast well earned the honour : 

" ' Di riportar te stesso in su la chioma,' 

i.e., laurels upon Lauro's head." The Joust of Giuliano was instead given 
January 28, 1475, and was described by Poliziano, who was then twenty-one. It 
is, indeed, possible that the " Otta ve " were written in 1478, and that they 


much by being left unfinished, as it is totally wanting in unity 
and epic matter, so that it is very hard to divine how the poet 
would have continued or finished it. Its great merit consists in 
its limpid, elegant style, which has an incomparable freshness. 
Carducci justly observes that the octave verse, that was diffuse 
in Boccaccio, diluted in Pulci, harsh and unequal in Lorenzo 
dei Medici, acquires in Poliziano's poetry the unity, harmony, 
colour, variety, and character which it has ever since preserved. 
Placed between the original primitive literature of the Trecento, 
and the more varied, refined, yet still imitative literature that 
flourished in the Cinquecento, it unites the vigour of the one 
with the grace of the other, thus resembling those masters of the 
Quattrocento, who improved upon the painting of Giotto, and per- 
fected the technicalities of their art without falling into the con- 
ventionalities which so quickly arose in the Cinquecento. But we 
must remember that all this is only true as regards form, since, as 
to svibstance, Poliziano certainly has neither the elevation nor 
vigour of Dante, nor the imagination of Ariosto. But it is a form 
which may be called poetry itself, since it always depicts nature 
with unapproachable eloquence. Poliziano's women are neither 
so mystic and ethereal as Dante's, nor so sensuous as Ariosto's ; 
they have, however, a delicious delicacy and sweetness ; they 
recall the pictured forms of Lippi and Ghirlandaio. The fair 
Simonetta stands out in the " Stanze " a real and visible woman, 
yet she does not lack ideal beauty ; 

" Ridegli attorno tutta la foresta, 

L'aer d'intorno si fa tutto ameno, 
Ovunque gira le liici amorose.'' * 

The poet only seeks reality, but it is always an elegant and 
gracious reality. His images, freed from mediaeval mysticism, 
seem to make use of the mythological garb in which they are 
often enfolded, to cover without hiding the forms of the body 
from which they are never separated. Their nudity appears from 
time to time adorned with classic enamel of a Pagan freshness 
that is specially characteristic of the Renaissance. 

Who, after reading in the "Vita Nuova" or the " Divina 
Commedia," the descriptions of Beatrice, ever on the point of 

described another Joust, which took place in the early part of that year. All this 
has been brought to light by Professor Del Lungo. See his own words given in 
Carducci's preface to Poliziano's Poems, p. xxix. 
* " Stanze," book i. pp. 43, 44. 


transtormation iiitrt llicolo^Vi turns to the ballad writlon by 
(Jliinpio ot Sassoicnato and notes these lines : 

" La hiunettina mia 

Con I'acfiiia ilella fonte 
Si lava il di la fionte 

E il scrcn iielto," &c. , 

will imtncdiatcly perceive the distance trav^crscd, and appreciate 
the change that has taken jilace. 

Poliziano raised the popular Kispetti and Stranibotti to a new 
dignity, and with so much taste and elegance, '* that for the first 
lime perhaps in poetry," says Carducci, " he gave an Attic stamp 
to Florentine idioms, and artistic finish to familiar expressions." ' 
The ballad, too, which already in the Trecento had received a 
literary form, and thus embellished retained popularity, serving 
as a model for the many sacred Laudi composed during the 
fifteenth century, and even for the songs of Lorenzo dei Medici 
who endowed them with a new literary garb, was now raised by 
Poliziano almost to the dignity of the Ode, without losing any of 
its primitive simplicity.^ Although in these lyrics we meet with 
sensual allusions which remind us of Lorenzo's companion, the 
poet never forsakes decency in the same fashion as his Maecenas. 

In his " Orfeo " he also made an attempt at drama ; but his 
dialogue is sometimes lyric, without ever rising to a true display 
of the passions. Dramatic poetry is born late in the life of a 
nation, that is, only when the national spirit and national tongue 
have reached a healthy and vigorous maturity. Italy had barely 
touched this point when she fell a prey to foreign invaders, who 
destroyed her institutions and prevented her from finding, in this 
essentially national kind of poetry, a way of escape from the 
Latin travesty, whose fetters she had so often before shaken off. 

And Poliziano, in spite of a fineness of taste, that was almost 
Greek, could never have had the power to attain to real dra- 
matic elevation, or create the theatre required by us. We 
have only to remember his career as a courtier, to understand 
why his genius could take no lofty flights. Often our indig- 
nation is excited by seeing the author of so many beautiful 

' See the Prefazione to Poliziano's poems, p. cxvli. D'Ancona is of opinion that 
the " Rispetti " still sung among the hills in Tuscany are, at least in tlieir general 
characteristics, the same that the Medician school took from the people, in order 
to give them back dressed in a more literary shape. And thus by force of custom 
the people have gone on singing them to this day. — " Rivista Conteniporanea " 
quoted above. 

' Carducci, " Prefazione," &c., p. cxxv. 


verses condescending to write others full of the most fawnina 
adulation. This it is impossible to pardon him, even when we 
remember the depth and sincerity of his affection for his patron. 
He was standing by Lorenzo's side when the conspiracy of the 
Pazzi broke out ; he was the first to close the door of the sacristy 
as soon as his master was safely within it ; on Lorenzo's return 
from his perilous Neapolitan journey, he welcomed him with very 
beautiful Latin verses, such as might be addressed by a lover to 
his mistress ; and on Lorenzo's death he lamented him in words 
of intense grief, and quickly followed him to the tomb. But all 
this cannot prevent us from feeling deep and contemptuous com- 
passion for a poet who humiliates himself to his patron, even to 
the extent of begging for his old clothes, and it is easy to under- 
stand that the summit of art can never be reached in that way. 

The literature of the Trecento may be considered as exclusively 
Tuscan ; that of the Renaissance quickly became national. In 
fact, as we have seen, men of learning flourished in all parts of the 
Peninsula, and now writers in the vulgar tongue began to spring 
up contemporaneously and with the same characteristics in diffe- 
rent provinces. Thus from Poliziano and Florence, we may 
travel towards the south where we shall find Giovanni Gioviano 
Pontano. Born at Cerreto in Umbria (1426), he soon made his 
way to Naples, and became the minister and ambassador of Ferdi- 
nand of Aragon ; he accompanied him everywhere ; advised him 
in the weightiest affairs of the State, in which he always took a 
prominent part, and was tutor to Alfonso IL Little by little he 
became a thorough Neapolitan, and we may say that he was the 
best representative of the state of culture of that Court and of that 
time. A man of business, an acute diplomatist, and one of the 
most celebrated of the learned men, he instituted the Academia 
Pontaniana by the reorganization of that already founded by 
Antonio Panormita under the name of the Portions Antom'ana. 
He wrote — always in Latin — an infinite number of philosoi)hical, 
scientific, astrological, political, and historical works. But in all 
these works the approaching decline of learning was already fore- 
shadowed. His tractates " Delia Fortezza," " Delia Liberalita," 
" Delia Beneficenza," &c., as also that " Del Principe," are mere 
dissertations without any originality, diffuse collections of moral 
sentences. His various astrological works include all the prejudices 
of the time, without any attempt to build them upon any pretended 
philosophical theory, after the manner of Ficino, The sun, the 
heart of heaven and of the universe, is the generative principle of 
all things. The constellation of Cancer, which influences cold 
bodies, is called the house of thq moon, because when that planet, 


by nature damp atul ct)Kl, is in this con^tLllation, it acquires 
greater elTicaey. Even his history of the Giicrra Nnpolitana 
between Cxiovauni d'Anjou and Ferdinand of Aragon, althougli 
of some interest as the work of a contemporary writer, is full 
of useless digressions, wanders into astrological considerations, 
and lacks all critical power.' To really know Pontano and under- 
stand the value of his writings, a purely literary value, we must 
read his " Dialoghi " and Latin poems, especially those that are 

These are marked by the same qualities found in Poliziano : 
an extremely fine classical taste, and a lucid, graphic style, as 
vigorous as that of one using a living language, for in this case 
also, the freshness of the Latin springs from its intermixture with 
the language spoken by the author, which, however, is not Floren- 
tine but Neapolitan Italian. Hence, notwithstanding Pontano's 
great poetical talent, his works show an undeniable inferiority of 
form compared with those of Poliziano ; Tuscan atticism lends to 
the Latinity of the latter a Grecian elegance that does not exist to 
the same extent in that of Pontano. Nevertheless he certainly 
succeeds admirably in binding the Latin to modern ideas, and 
where it fails him, he Latinizes Italian or Neapolitan words, and 
rushes onwards with the speed of one speaking a language learnt from 
the cradle. In his dialogues " Charonte," " Antonio," " Asino," 
which are all works of imagination in elegant Latin prose, and 
intermingled with beautiful poems, there are pictures of Neapoli- 
tan manners, popular festivals, rustic love scenes, and a series of 
anecdotes so full of verve as to remind the reader of Boccaccio's 
finest pages. The fete of the Porcello at Naples, the temper of 
Italian cities, the corruption of the Roman priesthood, the ridicu- 
lous disputes of the pedants, and the fury with which they fall 
upon those who dare to use some particle or ablative in a manner 
opposed to their own, often, fallacious rules, all these things are 
given with a descriptive power, a freshness and vis comica suffi- 
cing to place Pontano among men of true literary genius. He 
writes in Latin, it is true, but his spirit and his intellect are 
modern, and his works are therefore real gems of Italian literature. 
In his Antonms, we see Neapolitans sitting in the shade and 

' P"or Pontano's Life see Tiraboschi, " S. L. I.," vol. vi. p. 950; Professor C. 
M. Tallarigo, " Giovanni Pontano e i suoi tempi," 2 vols. (Naples, Morano, 1874). 
This monograph contains many chosen specimens of Pontano's best Latin poems, 
with translations by Professor Ardito, and the whole of the Latin dialogue 
(Charon). Settembrini, in his " Storia delta Letteratura Italiana" (Naples, 
1866-72, 3 vols.), speaks of Pontano with a truth and eloquence (vol. i. pp. 
281-83), which incited Professor Tallarigo to the composition of the above-quoted 
monograph. See also the Basle edition of Pontano's works. 


cutting jokes on passers-by ; Pontano himself alive and speaking ; 
his son, who recounts family quarrels ; a poet who, preceded by 
a trumpeter, according to the Neapolitan custom of the day, mounts 
a hill to recite the description of a battle, and halts from time to 
time to take a pull at his wine flask. Then we read the Ode of 
Galatea pursued by Polyphemus, which is one of his best 
poems ; — 

"Dulce dum ludit Galatea in unda, 
Et movet nudos agilis lacertos, 
Dum latus versat, fluitantque nudae 

Aequore mamniea, " c-c. 

and in all we find an exquisite taste, a spirit that even in old 
age was intoxicated with sensual and artistic pleasure, and a pro- 
found scepticism that turns everything into ridicule. 

In the lyrics, the author's literary genius rises to its highest 
pitch, and shows us even better than those of Poliziano the 
image of the Renaissance. His women, says Carducci, laughingly 
bare all their charms to the sun and to love. " And with his 
tranquil sense of voluptuousness and genuine enjoyment of life, 
Pontano, though writing in Latin, is the most modern and truest 
poet of his age and of his country." * Assuredly, in reading his 
Odes, it is admirable to see the ease and agility of his movements 
in Latin attire ; he resembles a swimmer floating down with 
the current. His Neapolitan Italian seems to infuse new life into 
the old idiom, even when it changes it too much ; — 

" Amabo mea chara Fanniella, 
Ocellus Veneris, decusque amoris, 
Jube istbaec tibi basiem labella 
Succiplena, tenelia, mollicella, 
Amabo, mea vita, suaviumque, 
Face istam mihi gratiam petenti." " 

He laughs and jests, sings lullabies, steeps himself in voluptuous 
beauty, between the soft arms of the nymphs who, surrounded by 
flowers, await him on the seashore, in the presence of nature. 
This is his world, the world of the Renaissance. All the cities, 
villas, and islands in the neighbourhood of Naples, the streets, 
and the fountains, personified in fantastic beings, move and dance 
around the poet. The nymphs Posilipo, Mergellina, Afragola, 

* Carducci, " Studi letterarii," Livorno, 1874, p. 97. 

• Among the verses reprinted by Tallarigo, op. cit., vol. ii. p. 627. 

1 5 2 JNTK on UCTION. 

Acura, /'tuiicoolis sfiidiosa Jiipini\ and Mnriaiiclla, who sings in 
accompanying Capodimonle, 

" ct cognita buccllalis 
Ulinia, ft intnrlis tantum laurlata tnralli';," ' 

are all moving and living beings in his " Lcpidina." ' Vesuvius, 
in the form of an old man, descends the mountain on an ass to 
come to the fete, and the women all crowd round him. To one 
he gives a thimble, to another a spindle, to a third a jest, and all 
push to get nearer to him and his donkey, greeting both with loud 
and joyous cries, 

" riebs plaudit, varioque asinuni claniorc salutant, 
Brasiculisque apioquc feruin nucibiisque coronanl." 

The same merits are to be observed in the two books of his 
" Amori," in his " Endecasillabi," in his " Buccolica," and in his 
dydaschylic poem " L'Urania," in which there are admirable 
descriptions of nature. And we always find a strange mixture of 
two languages, one living, the other dead, in which both seem to 
acquire fresh life ; and this rich and varied medley of classical 
imagery, fantastic whimsies, splendid descriptions of scenery, and 
modern feeling, all mingled and all fermenting in the fancy of this 
man of learning changed into a poet, show us how the new 
literature was born of the ancient, and how, in the midst of the 
classical world so carefully conjured up, it was possible for the 
chivalric poem, apparently so unsuited to the age of learning, to 
spring into existence. 

At this point we ought perhaps to mention the political letters 
of Ferrante d'Aragona, which also bear the signature of his 
prime minister Pontano, who certainly had no small part in their 
compilation. But, besides the difficulty of precisely determining 
what this part was, we shall have occasion to return to the subject 
at a more fitting moment. For the present it is enough to say 
that these letters are of rare merit, so perspicuous and eloquent, 
that they might bear comparison with some of our best prose, 
were not their Italian style too often adulterated with Neapolitan 
dialect, which, although it may add strength and spontaneity, 
naturally detracts from the unity and elegance of the language. 

Besides Pontano, there was another Neapolitan writer, who died 
in the second half of the fifteenth century, and left a volume of 

* Taralli are cakes very common in Naples to this day. 

• See Tallarigo, op. at., vol. ii. p. 619 and fol. 


tales, which are worthy of notice, especially if we remember, that 
after Sacchetti, that style of composition was almost entirely for- 
saken. A man of the world and destitute of learning, though 
living in the company of the learned, Masuccio Salernitano tells 
us, that it Avas his endeavour to imitate " the ancient satirist 
Juvenal, and the much esteemed idiom and style of the well-famed 
poet Boccaccio." ' He frequently invokes the immortal Deities, 
and the most eloquent god Mercury speaks to him of the deceits 
practised by women " upon our great father Jove, the radiant 
Apollo, ourselves and other gods." ^ He, like Sacchetti, declares 
that he will narrate tales " approved as authentic histories, and 
certain modern, and other not very ancient facts." 3 His language 
is very artificial, from his imitation of Latin and of the 
Decameron ; and a great admixture of the Neapolitan and 
Salernitan dialects, while lending much vivacity to Masuccio's 
style, impairs both his Italian and his grammar. His freshness 
and graphic power are so considerable, that were his style less 
incorrect, he would be one of our standard authors. Even as it 
is, the " Novellino " gives us a faithful representation of the times 
and of the Neapolitan Court. With a wide knowledge of men 
and things, with an intelligence that appears to be keen and good, 
the author knows how to give life to his characters, and can 
narrate with the ease and cheerful ingenuity of a true writer of 
the Renaissance. His dominant feeling is a profound hatred for 
the immorality of the priesthood, whom he scourges pitilessly, 
without, however, showing any hostility to religion. In the 
Exordium to the third tale dedicated to Pontano, he lauds his 
virtues, while lamenting that they should be contaminated by his 
constant intercourse with priests, friars, and nuns, " since with 
such persons only usurers, fornicators, and men of bad life are 
seen to converse." All this is not very surprising in a writer 
resident at the Aragonese Court, which was in continual warfare 
with the papacy, and had taken under its protection Antonio 
Panormita and Lorenzo Valla. But it is a surprising sign of the 
times, to find dedicated to Ippolita, the daughter of Francesco 

' " II Novellino di Masuccio Salernitano, restituito alia sua anlica lezione," by 
Luigi Settembiini : Naples, Morano, 1874. See the prologue to the third part. 
There are fifty tales divided into five parts. Each part begins with a prologue, 
and the first of them is addressed to Ippolita d'Aragona, to whom the book is 
dedicated. Each tale has an Exordium, dedicating it to some illustrious 
Neapolitan personage ; the tale itself follows, and then comes a conclu-ion 
always entitled " Jlasuccio," because in it the author sets forth his reflections. The 
little we know of Masuccio is to be found in the Discourse, with which Settcmbrini 
has prefaced the volume. 

^ Trologue to the third part, 3 First prologue. 


Sforza, and the voulhful bride of Alfonso 11. of Aragon, a book 
of tales, Tiiaiiy of which are very obscene, and certain of which 
bear Sjxxial dedications to this or that noble laily. 

From the Dialogues of Pontano and the Tales of Masuccio, no 
great leap is required to pass on to the poems of knight-errantry, 
another species of literature peculiar to the age. Truly these 
had their birth in France, and may appear totally opposed to the 
national genius of Italy. Chivalry, in fact, was hardly at all 
dilTused among us ; feudahsm had been opposed and in a great 
measure destroyed ; in the Crusades we had only played a 
secondary part ; Charlemagne, the national hero of France, was 
for us merely a foreign prince and a conqueror. Yet these subjects 
were substantial elements of the poems of chivalry. The religious 
scepticism, that early arose in Italy, was also opposed to the 
temper of poems chiefly founded on the wars of the Christians 
against the infidels. Neither Avas the marvellous, Avhich is the 
very essence of these poems, adapted to the temper of Italians, 
with their constant admiration for classical beauty. Having 
passed at one stride from a state of decay to a new form ot 
civilization, they had never known the savage and robust youth, 
in which had been created that world of heroes, with their im- 
possible adv-entures and fantastic, ever-changing natures. Never- 
theless, these French poems so rapidly diffused throughout all 
feudal Europe, found their way to us also, and were much more 
widely propagated than might have been expected. 

Even before the rise of our literature, and when in the north 
of Italy many wTote in Provencal or French, we had a series of 
knightly poems, compiled by Italians, in an Italianized French, or 
Frenchified Italian. In the South these tales were brought to us 
by the Normans, and in the centre of the Peninsula were spread 
by means of Italian writings and wandering minstrels. But those 
knightly heroes, the growth of a mist of fantasy, that was 
thoroughly outlandish, fell upon barren soil here, particularly in 
Central Italy, and had almost vanished from our literature to take 
refuge in mountain cottages and the hovels of the poor, when the 
sun of Dante's verse rose above the horizon. In many of Boc- 
caccio's works, in Petrarch's " Trionfi," even in the " Divina 
Commedia," we often meet with reminiscences showing that the 
romances of chivalry had been always well known among the 
people. Paolo and Francesca in the " Inferno " remind each 
other hoAv, in happy times, they had read together of the 
loves of Launcelot ; and Sacchetti telling of the smith who 
spoilt Dante's verses in reciting them, and the harshness with 
which the poet reproved him, adds that the smith would have 


done better to keep to the songs of Tristan and Launcelot ; an 
evident sign that even in Florence these songs were considered 
more adapted to the popular fancy. Then, when the learned 
began to write in Latin, the romances of chivalry seemed to 
awake from a temporary trance, and together with the " Rispetti," 
*' Strambotti," " Laudi," and " Mysteries," formed part of what, 
as we have seen, was the literature of the people. In fact, so 
widely and deeply were they diffused, that, to this day, the 
Neapolitan story-teller {cautastorte) relates the feats of Orlando 
and Rinaldo to an enchanted audience, and in the rural districts of 
Tuscany the Maggt, or May plays, performed among the peasantry 
in the spring, take their subjects from the same poems. Some of 
these Maggi and romantic tales are of recent composition, but not 
a few of them date from the fifteenth century. At that time they 
were produced in enormous numbers, and read with the same 
avidity as novels are now-a-days. The Italians neither created 
new poems nor exactly reproduced the old, but made compilations 
in verse or prose, generally the latter, in which they often fused 
many into one, thus forming a huge repertory of fantastic tales. 
These, the story-tellers, who were generally authors themselves, 
went about reading to the people in town and country, and 
were everywhere listened to with the most eager attention. The 
so-called Chronicle of Turpin, and the cycle of Charlemagne in 
general furnish the groundwork of the Italian fables ; but the 
cycle of King Arthur and the Round Table have also great part 
in them. The chief of these compilers, and who will suffice to 
give us an idea of the rest, lived in the second half of the four- 
teenth and beginning of the fifteenth century. This was Andrea 
dei Mangabotti of Barberino in the Val d' Elsa, who calls Florence 
my city\ because he lived and was educated there. Of unrivalled 
industry, he not only wrote the famous " Reali di Francia " in six 
books, but also " Aspromonte," in three books, " Storia di 
Rinaldo," in seven, " Spagna," in one, the " Seconda Spagna," 
in one, the " Storie Narbonesi," in seven, " Aiolfo," in one very 
stout book, " Ugone d'Avernia," in three, and, finally, " Guerino 
il Meschino," which although a continuation of the events nar- 
rated in the "Aspromonte," forms a separate work, the popularity 
of which, little inferior to that of the " Reali," endures to the 
present day. All these works are in prose, excepting certain por- 
tions of " Ugone d'Avernia." 

The object proposed by the author was the collection and 
arrangement of the great multitude of tales forming part of the 
cycle oi Charlemagne. And thus in the "Reali," his principal 
work, he compiled the history of the great emperor's race 


witliout, however, making either a true history or a genuine 
romance of ehisalrv. He tries to introduce connection and 
precision in the midst of a deplorable chaos ; he makes geo- 
graphical corrections ; arranges genealogies ; but in so doing, 
sacrifices ingenuousness and poetic originality. It seems as 
though the Italian realism, so much admired in those stories, 
which are the most characteristic and national outcome of our 
literature, predominates even here, and spoils the romance, 
making it, despite certain merits, a hybrid work. 

It is, in truth, neither popular nor literary poetry ; but 
rather epic matter in course of transformation, seeking a new 
shape which it has not yet found. The spoken language is inter- 
mingled with classical reminiscences, then familiar to all Italians ; 
narrative has a quiet solemnity, almost in the style of I.ivy, and 
the author tries to fuse together within the limits of an ideal 
and well defined machinery, a myriad of tales which had 
originally sprouted up with the exuberant and disorderly fertility 
of a virgin forest.' These qualities of Mangabotti's writings are 
common to those of numerous other compilers of prose and verse. 

From all that we have said, it is plain that when our men of 
letters began once more to write in Italian, and drew nearer to 
the people, sated with the pompous rhetoric of poems like the 
Sforziade and the Berseide, they found together with the 
" Rispetti " and the "Ballate," many diffuse narratives like the 
'* Reali di Francia," in verse and in prose. Upon these they 
exercised their powers, endeavouring to convert them into true 
Avorks of art. They left intact the general machinery of the tale, 
the division into cantos, the recapitulations at the beginning of 
each, addressed to "friends and good people," by the popular 
poet, who was, as it were obliged to make an independent work 
of every canto. And these new writers also were accustomed 
to read their tales in fragments, not, it is true, in the public 

* Among the works giving precise details of this part of our literary history, we 
should first quote the memoir read in the Berlin Academy of L. Rankc, " Zur 
Geschichte der iialienischen Poesie," Berlin, 1837. This short composition is one 
of those that first opened a new path in the history of the Romance of chivalry ; 
although it is no longer on a level with the present state of our knowledge. 
More ample and with many new investigations in the history of literature, 
particularly that of France, but in some degree also that of Italy, is the work of 
Mons. G. Paris, " Histoire Poetique di Charles Magne," Paris, A. Franck, 1865. 
As regards our literature, the most recent and complete work is that of Professor 
P. Raina, *' Ricerche intorno ai Reali di Francia," Bologna, Romagnoli, 1872 
(in the collection published by the Commission for testi di lingua). In this book 
and in other writings published in the " Propugnatore," Professor Raina shows a 
profound knowledge of his subject, often obtained from fresh sources discovered 
by himself. See also Carducci'5 "Scritti letterarii," Leghorn, 1874. 


squares, but at Court, at the dinners of the nobility, to cultivated 
persons, who, however, desired entertainment, and were weary 
of the empty solemnity of the learned men. Frequently the 
changes made in rewriting these popular poems, as we may now 
call them, were confined to a few touches, the addition of new 
episodes, fresh descriptions, sometimes of entire cantos. But the 
art of infusing life where none was before, consisted precisely in 
these re-touches, which opened the way to new and original 

The personages of these tales and poems began to stand out 
from the still fantastic and nebulous background with which they 
had hitherto been confused, and to assume life and consistency ; 
the descriptions of nature were fragrant as it were with the 
breath of spring, and that which still remained of their primitive 
form, helped to enhance the truth, and we might say, the youth- 
fulness of all that was now presented in a new shape. It was 
almost an improvised rebellion against all conventional rhetoric, 
all artificial trammels ; the Italian spirit was as a man who 
again breathes the fresh air of fields and mountains after long 
confinement in an unwholesome atmosphere. To seek for depth 
of feeling, logical development of character, or a general and 
philosophic design in these poems, would be to expect the im- 
probable and impossible. On the contrary, the author of those 
days often purposely disarranges the monotonous narration of the 
romances which he finds already compiled, mingles and re-orders 
at his own caprice the intricate threads of the vast woof, in order 
the better to keep alive the curiosity of his readers. The 
important point for him is to be the master of his heroes, so that 
they may always stand out vividly at the moment when he sum- 
mons them on the stage. The ideal he pursues is different from 
ours, he has no desire to sound the depths of the human heart ; 
his object is to depict the changeful reality of all passing events 
and things. 

If again and again he dismisses his personages into the obscurity 
of the fantastic background he has given to his picture, it is only 
to complete our illusion, and make us better appreciate truth and 
reality when once more he brings them near to us, presenting 
them almost like those baby boys of Correggio, who thrust forth 
their heads between flower-laden branches, or like those on the 
walls of the Vatican who seem to move amid a labyrinth of 
graceful arabesques. Thus, although the author is continually 
telling us of monsters, fairies, enchantments, and magic philters, 
his narrative has so much life, that we seem to be reading a 
history of real events. Still, as is very natural, a perpetual smile 


plays round the author's ]ip>^, for lie is himself exhilarated by the 
spell of illusion under which he holds his readers, and appears to 
laugh at them, the better to dominate and stir their hearts. It 
is a great mistake to imagine that any satire or profound 
irony exists in these romances. But as the poet himself cannot 
believe seriously in his personages, he is content to make his tale 
a vehicle for expressing all the various turns of life, all the con- 
tradictions existing in his own mind, in an age so full of different 
and antagonistic elements, content to delight and be delighted 
by his own creations. Still it needs an artistic temperament 
thoroughly to appreciate the value of these poems, v/hich are 
most enjoyable when read in bits, as the story-tellers used to read 
them to the people, as Pulci, Boiardo, and Ariosto read them to 
an audience of friends and patrons. 

The first of these poems, worthy to be called a work of art, 
is the " Morgante Maggiore " of Luigi Pulci (born at Florence 
in 143 1). This work is a compound of other older ones. The 
first twenty-three cantos reproduce, with more or less fidelity, 
one of these poems which the story-tellers used to read to the 
people, narrating the adventures of Orlando. The last five tell 
the tale of the rout of Roncesvalle instead, and are made up of 
two other popular compilations, entitled " La Spagna." An 
interval of twenty-five or thirty years passes between one part of 
the Morgante and the other ; so that the characters who were 
young in the first are old in the second, a circumstance of little 
weight with the author.^ Nor does he hesitate, specially in the 
first part, to follow his model so closely — merely correcting or 
modifying some of the stanzas — as to appear a positive plagiarist. '^ 

' See Professor P. Rajna's two very important works upon tliis subject : " La 
materia del Morgante Maggiore in un ignoto poema cavalleresco del secolo," xv. 
(" Propugnatore," iii. year, 5th and 6th Nos. ; iv. year, ist, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 
5th Nos.) 

* I quote at hazard a few stanzas of the many given by Rajna (" Propugnatore," 
ii. year, 1st, No., pp. 31-33) : 

" Quando piu fiso la notte dormia 
Una brigata s' armo di pagani, 
E un di quegli la camera apria, 
E poi entraron ne' luoghi lontani, 
E un di lor ch'e pien di gagliardia 
Al conte Orlando legava le mani 
Con buon legami per tanta virtute, 
Ch'atar non si puo dalle genti argute." 

("Orlando," foglio 92.) 

•' Quando piu fiso la notte dormia 
I'na brigata s'armar di pagani, 


Yet it is these slight and simple touches of a master hand, which 
change a vulgar work into a work of art, give life and relief to 
the characters, and lead us away from tricks of rhetoric into the 
presence of nature. Now and then, however, the poet forgets 
his original, and then we have, for instance, the 275 stanzas 
narrating the episode of Morgante and Margutte, resplendent 
with all the careless scepticism, rich fancy, and pungent irony for 
which Pulci ' was renowned. This poem, which at every step 
breaks the leading thread of the narrative, seems only to acquire 
unity from the clear, definite, and graphic precision of its ever- 
changing and inexhaustible string of episodes. It is a strange 
hurly-burly of incidents : of pathetic, ridiculous, marvellous and 
jovial scenes. The elements constituting the culture of that age. 
Paganism and Christianity, scepticism and superstition, irony and 
artistic enthusiasm for the beauties of nature, here co-exist, and 
without the need of any effort at agreement seem to harmonize 
with one another, exactly because the poet's sole object is to 
reproduce the restless changes of natural events and the realities 
of life. Pulci is an unrivalled tale-teller ; his irony is directed, like 
that of the novelists, against priests and friars, occasionally against 
religion itself,^ but always in a manner to imply that he intends 

E un di questi la camera apria : 
Corsongli addosso come lupi o cani ; 
Orlando a tempo non si risentia, 
Che finalmente gli legar le mani ; 
E fu menato subito in prigione, 
Senza ascoltarlo o dirgli la cagione." 

("Morgante," xii. 8S.) 

*' Tu sei colei che tutte 1' altra avanza, 
Tu se' d' ogni belta ricco tesoro ; 
Tu se' colei che mi togli baldanza, 
Tu se' la luce e specchio del niio cuore," &c. 
(" Orlando," foglio 114.) 

**Tu se' colei ch 'ogni altra bella avanza, 
Tu se' di nobilta ricco tesoro, 
Tu se' colei che mi dai tal baldanza, 
Tu se' la luce dello eterno coro," <S:c. 
(" Morgante," xiv. 47.) 
' This episode was afterwards printed separately with the title of " IVrorgante 
Minore," whence the addition of " Maggiore " to the title of the entire poem 
which the author had simply styled " II Morgante." 

= The following well-known verses give a good idea of Pulci's pungent, laugh 
able and sceptical style : 

" Rispose allor Margutte : A dirtel tosto, 
lo non credo piii al nero che all' azzurro. 


no disrespect. lie is familiar with aiUicjuity, aiul his work is im- 
pregnated with its spirit, althouj^li there is nothing of it in the 
writer wlioin he lakes as his motlel ; ne\ertheless his muse is 
essentially pojuilar : 

" Infino a qui 1' aiutn del Paniaso 
Non ho chicsto ne cliicggo .... 
lo mi staro tra faggi c tra bifulci, 
Che nou clispregiii Ic muse ck-1 I'ulci." 

So popular in fact is his style, that it frequently lacks finish, and 
when weak is rather vulgar than rhetorical. More than all else it 
is this quality of spontaneousness that established the success of 
the "Morgante," composed at the request of Lucrezia Tornabuoni, 
Lorenzo dei Medici's mother, at whose table it was read aloud, 
during the flying hours of festive banquets. 

Yet the ever-laughing Pulci was condemned to many days of 
sadness by the failure of his brother Luca, in which he also was 
involved. Nor Avas the friendship of Lorenzo, Avith whom he was 
a great favourite, of much use to him, since, although upon terms 
of the greatest familiarity, he was never more than a favoured 
courtier. His best help lav in the unconquerable gaiety of his 
temperament. Obliged to fly far from Florence to escape falling 
into the hands of creditors to whom he owed nothing personally, 
he complains in his letters to I^orenzo of the unlucky star that 
made it his fate to be always the prey of others. *' Yet in my 
time many rebels, thieves, assassins, I have seen come here, obtain 
a hearing, and gain some reprieve from death. To me alone is 
all denied, nothing conceded. If they continue to harass me in 
this wise, without hearkening to my reasons, I will come there (to 
Florence) to be unbaptised in the very font in which, in a cursed 
hour, was I unworthilv baptised, since it is certain that I was better 
fitted for the turban than the cowl." * And he promised that on 

Ma nel cappone, o lesso, o vuogli arrosto, 
E credo alcuna volta anche nel burro ; 
Nella cervogia, e quando io n' ho, nel mosto, 
E molto piii nell' aspro che il mangurro ; 
Ma sopra tutto nel buon vino ho fede, 
E credo che sia salvo clii gli crede. 

E credo nella torta e nel tortello, 

L' uno e la madre, e I'altro e sil suo figliuolo ; 

II vero paternostro e il fegatello, 

E possono esser tre, e due, ed un solo, 

E diriva dal fegato almen quello." 

(" Morgante Maggiore," xviii. 115, 116.) 
* Letter iv. in the " Lettere di Luigi Pulci a Lorenzo il Magnitico." Lucca, 
Cuioti, 1868. For this fine publication we are indebted to Cavaliere Salvatore 
Bongi of the Lucca Archives. 


reaching Mecca, he would send Lorenzo verses in the Moorish 
tongue, and many others from hell itself by means of some 
familiar spirit.'^ Then he goes on to say, " Do not, in the height 
of your felicity, allow your friends to be driven and worried like 
dogs. Much I fear that when I do not send thee verses, all I write 
to thee in prose is unwillingly read, and hastily cast aside. ^ Lorenzo 
was always the same, he patronized all, but had no real affection 
for any one, not even for those who like Pulci had been the com- 
panions of his childhood, and loved him as a brother. Later, 
however, the author of the Morgante was commissioned by him 
to arrange affairs of some gravity at various Italian Courts, and 
even in these circumstances his letters always show the bent of 
his genius, often appearing like fragments of his poem turned into 

The 20th of May, 1472, he wrote from Fuligno that he had been 
to Rome, " to visit the daughter of the despot of the Maremma, 
that is to say of the Morea. ... I will therefore briefly describe 
this mountain of grease that we visited, the like of which I did 
not think could have existed in all Germany, much less in Sar- 
dinia. We came to a room where this pudding {bcrlingaca'o), was 
set up in a chair, and she had whereAvithal to sit, that I can tell 
you. Two Turkish kettledrums for her bosom, a double chin, a 
broad, shining face, a pair of hog's chaps, a throat sunk between 
the drums. Two eyes, big enough for four, with so much flesh, 
and fat, and grease around, that the Po itself has smaller banks. "3 
In Pulci's poems this extremely familiar style becomes much more 
elegant, without losing its spontaneity, as is also to be seen by his 
sonnets, which correct the too common, often low, manner of the 
poor barber Burchiello, in whose shop according to his own 
phrase — 

" Poetry with the razor fights." 

Pulci at that time wrote in emulation of Mattco Franco, with 
whom he exchanged all kinds of pleasantries, obscenities, and in- 
solence, as a simple pastime, turning his sonnets into a species of 
rhymed dialogue, full of the spontaneous simplicity, which was 
now the chief aim of the nev/ literature.* 

One year earlier than Luigi Pulci, Matteo Maria Boiardo was 
born, and three cities contested the honour of being his birth- 

' Letter iii. ' Letter iv. 3 Letter xxi. 

* " Sonetti " of Matteo Franco and LuJgi Pulci published in 1759- Franco has 
much dash and spontaneousness ; but Pulci is the better poet an 1 has more 
VOL. I. 12 * 


place. Probably this dispute arose from his being of a Reggio 
family, bi^rn at Scamliano, educated at Fcrrara.' A learned writer 
of Latin eclogues, and translations from the Greek, he was both 
of noble birth and noble character ; he lived in the society of 
the Estc family-, but had no liking for Court life, inasmuch as he 
wrote ; 

" Ogni scrvir di cortigiano 

La sera e grato e la mattina e vatKi." 

He was first Governor of Modena, and then of Regglo — Emilia ; 
he also filled other important offices ; but while honourably fulfil- 
ling every duty, his mind turned more willingly to meditation upon 
heroes and romances of chivalry than to political and administra- 
tive details. It is related of him, that one day as he wandered in 
the fields, racking his brains to find a name for one of his heroes, 
it suddenly occurred to him to call him Rodomonte, and so great 
was his delight, that he ran back to Scandiano as fast as he could, 
and ordered all the bells to be set ringing. He had a sincere belief 
in chivalry, and hoped to see it revived in Italy. For the framework 
of his poem he made use of tales belonging to different cycles. A 
fervent admirer of the Round Table, he mingled Arthur's heroes 
with those of Charlemagne, for in his opinion the former monarch 
was the grander of the two, since, unlike Charles, his heart was not 
closed to that source of all greatness, the passion of love. In fact 

gaiety. Among the tornier's Sonnets is one giving a good idea of its author, 
beginning : 

" Costor, che fan si gran disputazione 

Deir anima, ond' ell' entri o ond 'ell 'esca, 
O come il nocciol si stia nella pesca, 
Hanno studiato in su n' un gran mellone," iS:c. 
(Sonetto cxlv. p. 145.) 
The viii. Sonnet — 

" Ah, ah, ah, ah sa' di quel ch' io rido ; " 
The Iv.— 

•' Don, don, che diavol fia ? A parlaracnto ; " 
The Ixi.— 

" Chiarissimo maggior dite su presto," 

and many others are by Franco, and afford good proof how he strove to rival Pulci 
in the attainment of ease and skill. In the same volume at p. 151 we have 
Luigi Pulci's " Confessione a Maria Vergine." In this the ungrateful sinner con- 
fesses his sins, and acknowledges past errors — 

*' Pero qui le mie colpe scrivo e 'ncarno 
Con le lacrime miste con 1' inchiostro ; " 

naturally this was no obstacle to his committing still worse sins the following day. 
' This is likewise the opinion of Professor Ulisse Poggi in his short " Elogio di 
Matteo Ilaria Boiardo," published in the Supplement to No. 35 of the " Italia 
Centrale " of Reggio (Emjlia), March 23, 187 1. 


his Orlando is a hero whose virtue finds in love its first origin and 
its final reward. Many episodes are from beginning to end of 
Boiardo's own creation, for he lived and breathed in the world 
evolved from his own fancy, with an ingenuousness which is at 
once his chief merit and his chief fault. It renders him more 
touching, more sincere ; but naturally the fact of his relating im- 
possible adventures in all seriousness, and without any shade of 
irony, renders him far less modern than Pulci. The latter brings 
out better the individuality of his personages ; while Boiardo is 
more successful is describing the general tumult of fantastic events, 
in which, however, his heroes are often involved to a degree that 
clouds the precision of their outline. Too often is love renewed 
or extinguished by enchanted beverages ; victory or death given 
by enchanted weapons. Pulci seeks psychological truth even amid 
the spells of magic ; Boiardo even amidst reality invokes the 
fantastic and the supernatural. But to recompense us for this, 
there is always something noble and generous in his heroes, and 
throughout his poem, that is lacking in other authors. He 
praises and sincerely admires virtue, exalting the consolations 
which friendship affords to noble minds : 

" Potendo palesar 1' un 1' altro il core, 
E ogni dubbio che accada raro o spesso 
Poterlo ad altrui dir come a se stesso. " * 

It is true that there is some amount of coarseness and indecent 
jesting in the " Orlando " ; but these things are to be found in the 
poem, because we find them in life. And there is always a back- 
ground of moral seriousness, which gives singular elevation to 
Boiardo's noble diction, especially when compared with that con- 
tinual ridicule of all things which predominates in the other writers 
of the time. Here we have a world full of variety, of imagination, 
of affection, and it is in this world that the poet lives wrapt in 
illusion. But this illusion was destined to be of short duration. 

It is in vain that he tells us : — 


I " E torna il mondo di virtii fiorito ; " 

while all things were hastening to ruin. Too soon he himself is 
driven to acknowledge it ; and at the end of the second book his 
melancholy breaks out : — 

" Sentendo Italia di lamenti piena, 

Non cheora canti, ma sospiro appena." 

He again took up his work, and reached the point, in which, by the 

' Boiardo, " Orlando Inamorato," book iii. canto vii. 


an i\al of Orlaiulo, the French prevent the Saracens from entering 
Paris. Then shortly before his death, which took place on the nip,ht 
of the December 20, 1404, he beheld the French pass the Alps, 
and his pen dropped from his hand for ever, leaving the thread of 
his poem interrupted by that celebrated stanza beginning : — 

" Mcntrc cli' io canto, oh Dio redcntore ! 
Veilo la Italia tutta, a fiamma, a foco, 
Per questi tialli clie con gran fiiiorc 
Vengon per iliscrlar iion so die loco . . ." 

Although the merits of the ''Orlando Inamorato" arc so many 
and so great, that Berni set to work to re-cast it in another shape, 
and Ariosto continued it in his "Orlando Furioso ;" yet its want of 
polish, and the incorrectness of its diction, often degraded into the 
Ferrarese dialect, prevented it from becoming really popular, or 
acquiring the fame so well deserved by the intellect and character 
of its author, notwithstanding his lack of Tuscan atticism. He 
too was a classic scholar, but so thoroughly immersed in his fan- 
tastic world, that whenever the images and heroes of antiquity 
presented themselves to his mind, he always compared them to 
those of chivalry, with which he was more familiar. 

Ariosto, also a native of Ferrara, was the first who was able to 
conquer the obstacle of a non-Tuscan birth, and it was in his 
writings that our tongue finally became Italian. Gifted with the 
true genius of style and the faculty of the patient labour of the file ; 
by means of art he attained to a marvellous spontaneity, and 
opened the way for future followers. Much less learned than 
Boiardo, and ignorant of Greek, he had nevertheless a far more 
lively sense of classic beauty. Contrary to his precedessor's 
custom, he prefers to compare his heroes of chivalry with the 
personages of the Pagan world. His knights-errant have the 
wisdom of Nestor, the cunning of Ulysses, the courage of Achilles ; 
his women are as beautiful as though chiselled by Phidias, they 
have the seductions of Venus combined with the wusdom of 
Minerva. Ariosto is always returning to his Virgil and his Ovid ; 
but as Ranke has observed, he seems to recur to them in order by 
force of imagination to lead them back to the primitive Homer. 
And with more resemblance to Pulci than to Boiardo, he gives 
little attention to plot, ensemble or unity of incident ; but rather 
seeks to depict the fugitive moments of changeful reality, and 
describe individual passions. The events of his own life and times 
are introduced into the poem in a sufficiently transparent fashion, 
and they sometimes seem to exist even where they are not, so 
great is the poet's graphic power. Therefore, although the 


"Orlando Furioso" continues the histor}- of "Orlando Inamorato " 
it has more literary connection with the " Morgante " of Pulci, 
Avho, much as he availed himself of preceding writers, may be 
called the creator of this description of poem. But Ariosto ex- 
tends beyond the period to which we have hitherto dedicated our 
attention, so we can say no more. Nevertheless we may observe 
in conclusion, that even from the days of the " Divine Comedy " and 
the " Decameron," Italian literature had begun to arouse the human 
mind from the mists of the Middle Ages, and lead it back towards 
reality. Alike in poetry and prose, it had always sought for nature 
and mankind. Arrested in its course by the political disorder 
and social decay which subverted all things in the middle of the 
fourteenth century, it sought the aid of antiquity, in order to 
continue the same path. And thus after the middle of the 
fifteenth century we behold the same realism come still more 
clearly to the surface, not only in letters, but in science, in society, 
in mankind. It was indeed the impulse to study and know the 
world, free from all bonds of authority or prejudice, which created 
the new literature, the new science, initiated the experimental 
method, spurred men to the most daring voyages, and reanimated, 
as with a second life, the whole mind of Italy. And what renders 
this marvellous is the fact that it happened during a thorough 
upheaval of society, which, in the midst of corruption and decay, 
gave birth to the grand elements of modern culture. 

At that time all distinctions of caste, of class, nay even of sex, 
seemed to hav^e utterly vanished. Maecenas and his proteges^ in 
conversing on letters or science, treated one another on terms of 
equality, and addressed one another with the familiar thee and 
thou ; women studied Latin, Greek and philosophy, sometimes 
governed states, and clad in armour, followed Condottieri to the 
field. To us it causes an astonishment almost amounting to 
disgust and horror to hear indecent talk carried on in the presence, 
not only of refined matrons, but of innocent girls ; to hear politics 
treated as though no such thing as conscience were known. The 
man of the Renaissance considered that all that he dared to do 
might be freely talked of, discussed and described without the 
slightest scruple. And this was a necessity of his observant and 
inquiring mind, not always in consequence of his corruption, often, 
on the contrary, in consequence of his realism. He appeared to 
live in an Olympian calm, always master of himseh, always 
wearing an ironical smile ; but it was a deceptive calm. He 
suffered from the want of harmony and balance between the 
emptiness of his heart and the feverish activity of his brain, which 
often raved as in an unconscious delirium. The ruins of th(^ 

1 66 INiywn UCTION. 

iiKiliajval \v(mU1 that he liad destroyed, and those of the 
antiquity whieh he had exhumed, were talhng around him on all 
sides, before he could discover the generati\-e principle of a new 
world, or could convert into genuine organic material all the 
remains of the past. 

Whether it be that the Italians, after having created the grand 
entities of Pagan Rome and Catholic Kome, had lost all capacity 
for forming a new order of society, founded solely on the free 
modern individualism, for which they had not only opened the 
wav, but which they had even initiated by their labours ; whether 
it be that foreign invasions had arrested their progress on this 
road, certain it is that they often appear as if bewildered and un- 
certain of themselves. While daringly denying God, they believe 
in fate and fortune ; ' while despising all religion, they study the 
occult sciences with ardour. Almost every republic, every prince, 
every Condottiere owned an astrologer, without whose counsel no 
treaty was signed, no war commenced. Cristoforo Landino and 
Battista Mantovano drew the horoscopes of religions ; Guicciar- 
dini and Machiavelli believed in spirits of the air ; Lodovico il 
Moro, notwithstanding his unbounded belief in his own sagacity, 
took no step without previous consultation with his astrologer. 
Reason, in trying to explain all things, found itself confronted by 
its own impotence. 

The feeling for the beautiful seemed to be the only and surest 
guide of human life which sought to identify itself with art. In 
Castiglione's " Cortegiano " we are shown to how high a point of 
refinement and culture the gentleman of the sixteenth century 
could attain ; but we are also shown the weak foundation of his 
moral conscience. Virtue, if not the natural result of a happy 
temperament, is only to be prized because it is in itself pleasant, 
gracious and elegant, to use the phrase of Pandolfini. Great 
indeed must have been the intellectual and even the moral 
qualities of Italians, if in so tremendous a confusion they not only 
escaped total ruin, but gave a powerful impulse to art, science and 
the social conditions of life. Besides, this was a period of transi- 
tion and restless mutability, of which it is hard to form an accurate 
judgment, unless we consider it as a consequence of the past, and 
a necessary preparation for the future. Suddenly foreign inva- 
sions strangled our whole political life, and thus the Italian 

• This faith in fortune is sometimes shown in a singular manner. In the books 
of the " Provvisioni " of the Florentine Republic, there is one dated February 20th 
(Old Style) beginning with the usual formula : In Dei nomine : Arneit, and within 
the large capital I are written the following words : Fortuna in onini re dominat. 
Florentine Archives, " Consigli Maggiori, Provvisioni," Register 190, sheet I22t. 



Renaissance, with all its uncertainties, all its contradictions, is, 
as it were, instantaneously turned into stone before our eyes. And 
possibly this is exactly the reason of its eminent instructiveness. 
In it we see the anatomy of the past bared before us, we behold 
the origin of modern society, and even discover the earliest germs- 
of many of our national defects. 




I, The Election of Pope Alexander VI. 

HE nearer the fifteenth century approached to 
its end, the more inevitable became the cata- 
strophe already foreseen for many years. 
When Galeazzo Maria Visconti was assassin- 
ated at Milan (1476), his son, Giovan Galeazzo, 
was only eight years of age, and his mother. Bona 
di Savoia, therefore assumed the regency. But 
the brothers of her deceased husband conspired 
against her, and finally Lodovico il Moro, Duke of Ban, the most 
able and ambitious one among them, took, possession of the 
government. His first act was to separate the Duchess from her 
faithful counsellor, Cicco Simonetta, who was put to death ; ' he 
then separated her from her child, at that time only twelve years 
of age, and persuaded the latter to sign a deed, choosing himself, 
the usurper, for his guardian (1480). The Duchess left the Court, 
and Lodovico remained de facto lord of Milan, but, having no 
legal right to his position, was continually environed by a thou- 
sand dangers. In 1485 he had a narrow escape from a conspiracy. 
In 1489 Giovan Galeazzo, then twenty-one years old, married 

' He was then seventy years of age, and the following verses were inscribed to 
him : — 

" Dum fidus servare volo patriamque Ducemque, 
Multorum insidiis proditus interii. 
Ille sed immensa celebrari laude merelur 
(^ui mavult vita quam caruisse fide." 


Isabella of Aragon, daughter of Alfonso, Duke of Calabria, and 
thus, partly in consequence of his manhood, partly from the im- 
patience of his wife, who sought and hoped for the aid of her 
grandfather in Naples, the state of affairs became dangerous. 

In 1491 Lodovico il Moro married Beatrice d'Este, and feminine 
impatience and jealousies still further embittered men's minds, 
and fostered discontent. Tormented by continual fears, the rest- 
less spirit of the man, who was ever ready to turn all Italy upside 
down, rather than renounce his ill-acquired power, was always 
brooding over new schemes. At present his favourite design was 
that of calling the French to aid him against the Neapolitan king, 
since, by this means, he hoped to stir up a general war, in the 
midst of which his subtlety, in which he had unlimited trust, 
would enable him to arrange his own concerns at the expense of 
both friends and enemies. It Avas very doubtful whether he 
would be successful in this ; but it was easy enough to bring about 
a general war, and a foreign invasion. In fact, it was only the 
great sagacity and tenaciovisness of Lorenzo dei Medici that could 
preserve the general equilibrium and prevent the sudden outbreak 
of the catastrophe. For these reasons the year 1492 was fatal for 
Italy. Lorenzo died on the 8th of April, and was succeeded by 
his son Piero, a man of vain, presumptuous, frivolous character, 
who passed his time playing at football and the game of pallone, 
and was totally incapable of governing Tviscany, much less of 
exercising any influence over Italy. Nor did this misfortime come 
alone, for on the 25th of July, Innocent VIII. died, and was suc- 
ceeded by the worst Pontiff who ever filled the chair of St. Peter — 
a man whose crimes were sufficient to convulse any human society. 

No sooner did the Conclave meet on the 6th of August than 
one might have imagined it assembled for a game of speculation 
rather than for the election of a Pope, so plain was the corruption 
exercised on the voters. From all parts of Europe money poured 
into the hands of Roman bankers, in favour of this man or that 
of the three candidates engaged in the race. France supported 
Giuliano della Rovere, Lodovico il Moro his brother Ascanio, and 
these two seemed to have the best chances of success. But 
Roderigo Borgia, by means of his great wealth and lavish 
promises, was enabled to add to the votes he had already v;cn, 
all those promised to Ascanio, as soon as the chances began to 
turn against the latter ; and in this way he gained his election. 
On the night of the loth of August he exclaimed in a frenzy of 
joy : — " I am Pope, Pontiff, Vicar of Christ ! " and Cardinal 
Giovanni dei Medici whispered in the ear of his neighbour. 
Cardinal Cibo : — " We are in the jaws of the Avolf, and he will 

1 70 INTROn UCTlOiY. 

devour us if w'c do not escape in time." The day after the 
election, all Koine rejieated that four mules laden with j^old had 
been seen carrying to the house of Ascanio Sforza the price of his 
vote. At all events it is certain that on the very day of his 
consecration (26th of August), under the name of Alexander VI., 
the new Pope nominated Sforza Vice-Chancellor of the Church — 
a verv lucrative office — and also gave him his own palace, now 
the Sforza Cesarini, with all that it contained. Estates, offices, 
and generous incomes were lavished upon the other Cardinals ; 
since, with five exceptions, every vote in the Conclave had been 
obtained by purchase. 

Alexander VI. is so prominent a figure in Italian history, the 
name of Borgia arouses so much horror, recalls so many tragedies, 
and is so often involved with the main subject of these volumes, 
that it is necessary to speak both of the Pope and of his children. 
At this period the offspring of a Pope were no longer styled his 
nephews. Roderigo Borgia, born the ist of January, 1431, at 
Xativa near Valencia, was the nephew of Calixtus III. who had 
raised him to the rank of bishop, cardinal and Vice-Chancellor of 
the Church, with an allowance of 8,000 florins per annum. He 
had studied law at Bologna, was well-practised in affairs, and 
although not always able to keep his passions under control, and 
apt to let people see what he thought, could become, on emer- 
gencies, a perfect dissembler. He was neither a man of much 
energy, nor of determined will ; both by nature and habit he 
was doubled-faced and double-minded, and the ambassadors of 
the Italian States frequently allude to him as " of a mean nature," 
" di natura vile^ ' 

The firmness and energy wanting to his character were, how- 
ever, often replaced by the constancy of his evil passions, by 
which he was almost blinded. Always smiling and tranquil, 
with an air of ingenuous expansiveness, he liked to lead a merry 
life, was temperate, even frugal at table, and perhaps for that 
reason, remained very fresh and robust even in his old age. 
Extremely covetous of gold, he sought to obtain it by every 
means, and spent it with lavish profusion. His ruling passion 
was lust for women ; he ardently loved the children he had by 
them, and neglected no means for augmenting their wealth and 

* Giiidantonio Vespucci and Piero Capponi wrote from Lyons the 6th of June, 
1494, to Piero dei Medici who had sent them on an embassy to France : " Our 
Lord, His Holiness, who has a vile nature and is conscitcs criminis sui" &c., 
Desjardins, " Negociations diploniatiques de la France avec la Toscane," vol. i. 
p, 399. Ferrante d'Aragona, in a letter of the 17th January, 1494, which will be 
quoted farther on, speaks of the Pope as a man of " acute and timid nature." 


position. And this was the chief cause of his crimes, all of 
which he committed with a quiet conscience, without scruple, 
without remorse, almost indeed boasting of them, and never 
for an hour losing his equanimity or the power of enjoying life. 
He was, though very young, already a cardinal, Hving at Sienna, 
when Pius II. thought it necessary to send him a very severe 
letter, reproving him for passing his nights in festivity and 
dancing with ladies as though he were a layman or worse. But 
this had no effect, for he neither could nor would alter his way 
of life.^ 

Among the Cardinal's many passions, one of the most lasting 
was his love for a certain Giovanna or Vannozza dei Cattani [tie 
Cataneis)^ who, born in 1442, became his mistress in 1470, and 
bore him many children. To cover this scandal, Borgia gave 
her several husbands, and to the husbands gave offices and coin. 
The last of those was a learned man, Carlo Canale, of Mantua, 
to whom Poliziano dedicated his " Orfeo." = Yet Borgia made 
no mystery of the parentage of these children, and openly ack- 
nowledged them as his own. There is no doubt that Giovanni, 
afterwards Duke of Gandia (born 1474) ; Cesare, afterwards Duke 
of Valentino (born 1476) ; Lucrezia (born 1480) ; Goflfredo or 
Giuffre (born 148 1 or 82) 3 were all his children by this Vannozza. 
Besides these he had also three elder children, Girolamo, Isabella, 
and Pier Luigi, of whom but little is known, and all that can 
be said is that very probably the last of these was also by 
Vannozza. However that may be, after the birth of Giuflfre, 
namely shortly before Borgia's elevation to the Papacy, his 
passion for Vannozza, Avho was now over forty years of age, 
sensibly slackened, although he showed her consideration as the 

' All this portion of Alexander's life is minutely related by F. Gregorovius and 
by A. di Reumont in their Histories of Rome. Gregorovius is specially dis- 
tinguished for his researches regarding the Borgias. 

" Gregorovius, " Lucrezia Borgia nach Urkunden und Correspondenzen ihrer 
elgenen Zeit": Stuttgart, Cotta, 1874, 'vol. i. pp. 21, 22. This work of the 
illustrious author contains many important documents. It has been translated 
into Italian by Sig. R. Mariano, and has gone through three editions in Germany. 

3 The latest and most precise notices on the genealogy of the Borgias are to be 
found in the " Lucrezia Borgia " of F. Gregorovius. But the reader may also 
consult the two above-mentioned Histories of Rome, the "Saggio di Albero 
genealogico e di memorie sulla famiglia Borgia" of L. N. Cittadelia : Turin, 
1872 ; the " Rassegna bibliografica " upon this work of Cittadella's (not free from 
errors), published by Baron A. di Reumont in the " Archivio Storico," series iii. 
vol. xvii. 2nd No. of 1873, p. 318 and fob; and "La Genealogia dei Borgia, 
Nota," by Reumont to his own article, 3rd No. p. 509. Mr. Vriarte has thrown 
some fresh light on the subject in his book, " Cesar Borgia, sa vie, sa tapiivile, sa 
rnort," vol. ii. (Paris, Rothschild, 1889). 


mother of liis children, upcMi whom he lieaped enormous sums 
ot money and every khid of benefit. Thus Vannozza remained 
in the backcrround, and had no share in the tragic events so 
soon to take place. Borgia had entrusted his favourite daughter 
Lucrezia to the care of a relation, Adriana De Mila,' who was 
also the closest confidant of his scandalous intrigues. The widow 
of I^odovico Orsiui since 148Q, she had about the same time 
married her son, Orsino Orsini, to the famous Giulia Farnese, 
who, fair as Lucrezia, was by reason of her great beauty known 
as the beautiful Giulia. This young lady was barely fifteen 
years old when she had already attracted the admiration of the 
Cardinal, who became her declared lover, on his desertion of 
V^annozza. Even in this intrigue he was assisted by Adriana. 

Such was the state of things when Borgia became Pope. His 
consecration was celebrated with unusual festivities on the 26th of 
August, and the Eternal City overflowed with flowers, draperies 
and triumphal arches, allegorical and mythological statues, and 
inscriptions, one of which ran as follows : 

" Caesare magna fuit, nunc Roma est maxima, Scxtus 
Regnat Alexander, ille vir, iste Deus."* 

This election aroused no alarm in any one excepting those 
Avho knew Borgia well, like Cardinal Medici and Ferrante 
d'Aragona, a keen-witted prince, who remembered the ingratitude 
of Calixtus III. towards the house of Aragon ; 3 the rest of the 
world was disposed to hope rather than fear. The scandalous 
life of the new Pope was not unknown ; but what prelates were 
then without mistresses and children ? At first all went 
smoothly ; salaries were regularly paid, administration was carried 
on in an orderly fashion, necessities of life diminished in price ; 

' His second cousin. 

• Gregorovius, " Lucrezia Borgia," vol. i. pp. 22, 23, 36, 37. 

3 Guicciardini, who was a biuer enemy of the Korgia, tells us in his " Stnria 
d Italia," that Ferrante's alarm at this election, caused him to shed tears, in him 
a most unusual demonstration. Gregorovius, on the contrary, asserts that the 
official letters of congratulation prove that none of the Italian states was at first 
displeased with the election. But perhaps in tliis, as in many other cases, there 
is some truth in either theory, and Reumont is of the same opinion {vide his article 
on the " Codice Aragonese," in the "Archivio Storico," 3rd series, vol. xiv. 
pp. 375-421). It is undoubted that the king of Naples opposed the election of 
Alexander VI. In the November of 92, the Florentine Ambassador, Piero 
Alamanni, wrote to Piero dei Medici from Naples, that the Pope was aware how 
much the king had tried to prevent his election ; " and the Pope being the man 
he is, the king does not persuade himself that this will be easily forgotten by 
him." ]'ide Desjardins, " Negociations," vol. i. 


even justice was administered with a rigour of which there was 
the greatest need, for in the short interval between the fatal 
ilhiess of Innocent VIII. , and the coronation of Alexander VL, 
two hundred and twenty murders had taken place. 

Very soon, however, the tiger began to unsheath his claws. 
The Pope's passion for aggrandizing his relations, especially his 
children, some of whom he loved to distraction, grew to a blind 
frenzy, capable of leading him to every excess. At the first 
consistory held by him (ist September), his nephew Giovanni 
Borgia, bishop of Monreale, was made Cardinal of Santa Susanna. 
His favourite son Caesar, a youth of sixteen, who was studying 
at Pisa, and had already appeared in Rome, was on the same 
day consecrated Archbishop of Valencia. As for Giovanni, Duke 
of Gandia, and GiuflFre, the youngest of all, the Pope had con- 
ceived vast schemes for their benefit in the kingdom of Naples, 
and wished to bestoAV upon the former the fiefs of Cervetri and 
Anguillara. But this brought about serious complications which 
greatly exasperated Alexander VI. 

No sooner had Innocent VIII. breathed his last, than his son 
Franceschetto Cibo, conscious of his altered position, had fled to 
Florence to seek the protection of his brother-in-law Piero dei 
Medici, and had sold for the sum of 40,000 ducats these same 
fiefs of Cervetri and Anguillara to Gentil Virginio Orsini, head 
of that family, who, arrogant as he was powerful, had once 
threatened to throw Innocent VIII. into the Tiber. It was 
asserted at the time that Ferrante d' Aragona had advanced the 
money for the purchase. Hence the fierce and inextinguishable 
hatred of the Pope towards Ferrante, and even more towards 
Orsini. In the midst of these disorders, Lodovico the Moor, 
the better to distinguish his friends from his enemies, proposed 
that his ambassadors should go to congratulate the new Pontiff", 
together with those of Naples, Florence, and Venice. The 
proposal was not accepted, since Piero dei Medici, in order to 
enjoy the honour of sending an embassy in his own name, 
induced Ferrante to invent some pretext for refusal. There- 
upon Lodovico, believing himself isolated in Italy, took the 
desperate resolution of appeaUng to the French. 

While the already gloomy horizon was becoming darker and 
darker, the Holy Father took no decided part, but wavered 
between this side and that, waiting to see which would be most 
advantageous to himself and his children. And meanwhile, 
old as he was, he profited by the interval to plunge into dissipa- 
tion. The Vannozza was kept away from the Vatican, and he 
abandoned himself more and more to his intrigue, first begun in 


I4qi, with Giulia Bella, who was then seventeen years <^lcl. ITis 
daughter Lucrezia, some four years younger, continued to live 
with Adriana, and received her first education in this atmosphere 
of cinruption. It mav easily be imagined, that it was impossible 
for her to have the culture attributed to her by some writers on 
the strength of her fluency in many languages.' It is true that 
besides Italian, French, and Spanish, which latter was the family 
language of tJie Borgia, she also understood Latin and had 
some superficial knowledge of Greek, probably learnt from the 
Greek exiles who frequented the Vatican. But among those of 
her letters which have been preserved, very few are of any 
importance, and these give no evidence of her boasted culture. 
As to the mystery of her character, it is better to wait and judge 
it from known facts. So far the air she breathed was as poisonous 
as the blood that ran in her veins. 

In 1 49 1, when only eleven years old, she was officially betrothed 
to a Spaniard, and soon after, that contract being dissolved, w^as 
engaged at the same time to two other Spaniards, to one of whom, 
Don Gasparo, Count of Aversa, she was regularly married. But 
when Alexander ascended the throne of St. Peter, the Pope's 
daughter could not be satisfied with a similar alliance, the 
husband was bought off, the bond dissolved, and on the 2nd 
of February, 1493, I^ucrezia Borgia, ^7';xo incorriipta cetatis jam 
iiiibilts extstcns^ was married to Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pesaro.^ 
The wedding was celebrated in the Vatican ; the bride, who had 
a dowry of 3 1 ,000 ducats, received many rich gifts ; there was a 

' In describing the character of Lucrezia Borgia, many writers have been led 
away by iUusions, and often for very futile reasons. They have drawn singular 
conclusions from the expressions used by contemporary historians, such as 
" Lucrezia was wise and learned," &c. But these same expressions are used 
regarding Giulia Bella and even Valentino. It was a phrase in general use, 
especially with reference to those who had good manners and managed matters 
so as to avoid much open scandal. Burckhardt, in relating in his diary, one of 
Valentino's orgies, the notorious courtezans' supper, begins thus: "In serofecenmt 
cccnam cum Duce Valentinense in camera sua, in Palatio Apostolico, quinquaginta 
meretrices honestae cortesanas nuncupat^e," &c. Less unreasonably, Lucrezia 
Borgia's general conduct at Ferrara, and the praises showered upon her by Ariosto 
and others, have been alleged in her delence. We cannot go into the matter 
here, but will content ourselves with remarking, that even in the biography by 
F. Gregorovius, there are certain particulars touching her life at Ferrara, much 
resembling other particulars of her Roman life. Certainly they are few, but 
Lucrezia had now to do with a husband who bade her remember the fate of 
Parisina ; nor had she any longer the protection of her father. As to Aviosto"s 
praises, he was accustomed to lavish them on many who were undeserving of 

- Natural son of Costanzo, who was the son of Ale.vander, brother of Francesco 


splendid festival, to which one hundred and fifty ladies were 
invited, and the Pope gave a supper to the bridal couple, at which 
Ascanio Sforza, many other Cardinals, and a few ladies were pre- 
sent. The ambassador of Ferrara tells us that among them, 
" Madonna Giulia Farnese de qua est ianttis sermo,'^ . . . and 
Madonna Adriana Ursina, who is the mother-in-law of the said 
Madonna Giulia," were the most prominent. They passed the 
whole night in dancing, acting plays with songs and instrumental 
music, and all receiv^ed rich presents. The Pope, concludes the 
ambassador, took part in everything, and it would take too long 
to describe all that passed." Totam noctem consiimpsimiis, iudicet 
modo Exc. Dominatio Vestra si bene inale.^ 

The Duke of Gandia was preparing to go to Spain to contract 
a wealthy marriage. The Pope's other son, Caesar, who, young 
as he was, held a bishopric with a yearly revenue of 16,000 ducats, 
was nevertheless very impatient of ecclesiastical life ; he went out 
shooting in the dress of a layman, was violent and unbridled in 
his passions, and exercised an extraordinary ascendency over his 
father's mind. As to GiufiFre, new marriage schemes were always 
being formed for him. 5 Meanwhile Rome swarmed with assassins, 
priests, Spaniards, and light women ; crimes of all kinds abounded. 
Each day witnessed the arrival of Mussulmans and Jews driven 
from Spain, and who found here an easy welcome, since the Pope, 
by the imposition of heavy taxes, made them pay freely for his 
Christian tolerance. He himself appeared at the chase and the 
promenade surrounded by armed men, with Djem on one side, 
and the Duke of Gandia on the other, both clad in Turkish cos- 
tume. Sometimes he was even seen among his women in 
Spanish dress, with high boots, a dagger, and an elegant velvet 
cap. 4 

The Popes of the Renaissance had long led a worldly life, and 
given themselves up to vice ; but Borgia was the only one to cast 
aside all show of decency and display his vices with open cynicism. 
Neither before nor after was religion ever so publicly profaned 
by derisive mirth and the most shameless debauchery. 

' Infessura, who also gives a description of this marriage, speaks of Giulia 
openly as the Pope's mistress, ejus concubina, and adds that he will not repeat 
all that was related of that supper, " because it was either not true, or if true, 

^ This letter, dated 13th of June, 1493, addressed to the Duke of Ferrara by his 
ambassador, Giov. Andrea Boccaccio, ep tnutinensis, is to be found in the 
*' Lucrezia Borgia" of Gregorovius, Document x. 

3 Gregorovius, " Geschichte," vol. viii. p. 327, second edition. 

< Despatch of Giacomo Trotti, Milan, 21st of December, 1494, quoted by Gre- 
gorovius in his " Lucrezia Biirgia," vol. i. p. 83. 


2. Tin: Akkivai, ok Chaki.i:s V'lII. in Italy. 

Charles VIII., educated in the study of romance, of chivalry, 
and histories of the Crusades, his head crammed with fantastic 
schemes, and without any steadiness of character, was entirely 
under the influence of two ambitious men, who were always at his 
side. The first of these, Etienne dei Vesc, had been raised from 
the position of oentleman-in-waiting to that of Chamberlain and 
Seneschal of Beaucaire, and thus enriched, was ever greedy for 
fresh gains ; the other, Guillaume Bric^onnet, a rich gentleman of 
Touraine, having lost his wife, had been nominated Bishop of St. 
Malo in 14Q3 ; he aspired to a cardinal's hat, and meanwhile con- 
trolled the chief affairs of the State. By means of promises and 
gold, Lodovico il Moro had gained over both these men. After 
the marriage of Lucrezia Borgia to the Lord of Pesaro, one of the 
Sforza family, the Duke knew that his power in Rome was 
increased by the presence there of his brother. Cardinal Ascanio. 
He was now treating simultaneously with all the Italian poten- 
tates, for his secret intention was — after having called the French 
into Italy — to form a league for their expulsion, hoping by that 
means to become the sole arbiter of the destinies of all. The 
Italian exiles, and in particular the Neapolitans, seconded him in 
this design, using all their efforts to induce King Charles to set 
out ; but the chief statesmen and most reputed military leaders in 
France highly disapproved of the enterprise. No one was sure of 
what the next day might bring forth, and all men's minds were 
stirred by strange fears. 

During this stage of affairs, the ambassadors of all the Italian 
States were travelling about the Peninsula and the whole of 
Europe. So great an activity had never yet been seen m the 
world : all Italy's literary labour was suspended to make way for 
diplomatic work, and the infinite number of despatches penned at 
that time have become a literary and historical monument of 
capital importance, which brings clearly before us the true state 
of things in those fatal years. Now, as ever, the Venetian ambas- 
sadors took the lead for practical good sense and political prudence ; 
the Florentine for strength of psychological analysis, study of 
character and the passions, power of description, incomparable 
elegance and ease of style. These same gifts were to be found 
more or less in all, and this was the moment that gave birth to 
the new political education of the Italian people, and created the 
modern science of statesmanship. 

Since the year 1493 the Venetian ambassador, Zaccaria Con- 


tarini, had supplied his government with very minute reports of 
the commercial, political, and administrative condition of France. 
In his opinion it was impossible that the countrv should ever 
decide upon an expedition to Italy, encompassed as it was by 
dangers and enemies, and with a monarch who, according to him, 
was fit for little either mental or bodily.' But in that same year 
the king pacified England by gold, Spain by the surrender of 
Roussillon and other lands on the Pyrenean frontier, and 
Maximilian by a treaty guaranteeing other important cessions.^ 
Lodovico il Moro bound himself to give arms and money, and free 
passage to the Italian army. Also, at the same time he continued 
his secret negotiations with several Italian States, and promised 
the hand of his daughter Bianca and a rich dowry to Maximilian, 
in exchange for the investiture of Milan. 3 Nevertheless matters 
had not yet reached a definite conclusion. The Florentine ambas- 
sador wrote from Naples : " The Duke of Bari " (thus to his great 
annoyance Lodovico il Moro was always entitled) " has much 
delight in keeping things unsettled, and forms a thousand projects 
at present only successful in his own imagination. Therefore it is 
necessary to be upon our guard." 4 

Casa, the Florentine orator, at the French Court, in June, 1493, 
still considered the enterprise impossible, on account of the general 
disorder and the weakness of the king, who allowed himself to be 
pulled this side and that, and was so incapable as to be ashamed 
to give his own opinion. s But later, seeing that the king had 
decided against the judgment of the most influential men, and 
that preparations went on in spite of every opposition, he became 
almost doubtful of his own judgment, and wrote : " To understand 
things here, it were needful to be a magiciai^or prophet ; to be 
prudent does not suffice. This affair may turn out any way." ^ 
And Gentile Becchi, another orator who arrived in September, 
wrote to Piero dei Medici, "that matters had gone so far that it 
was impossible to hope that those bronze-headed Frenchmen 

' Albcri, " Relazioni degli Ambasciatori Veneti." Series i. vol. iv. p. i6 and 

* C. de Chenier, " Histoire de Charles VIII. roi de Fiance," 2 vols., Paris, 
Didier, 1868, vol. i. p. 235. This valuable work must be read with caution, 
since it is not free from mistakes ; and the author has not availed himself of all 
the materials within his reach, neither has he always consulted the best authorities. 

3 C. de Cherrier, " Histoire de Charles VIII. roi de France," vol. i. p. 242. 

*■ Letter from Piero Alamanni to Piero dei Medici, written from Naples the 2nd 
of January, 1493. Vide Dcsjardins, " Nt'gociations diplomatiqvies dc la France 
avec la Toscane," vol. i. p. 442. 

5 Desjardins, same work, vol. i. p. 227. 

* Ibid. vol. i. p. 256 : letter of i8th of September, 1.193. 
VOL. I. 13 


could bo tunicil asklo from their purpose." ' " This sniikc has its 
tail ill Italy. The Italians are urging things on with all their 
might ; Lodovico would like to overthrow Naples only, and 
remain winner of the game ; but his rage has led him into tlie 
trap prepared for others." ' " The best plan therefore was to swing 
at anchor between Naples and Milan ; let those scratch themselves 
who have the itch." 3 "To stop all this it would be necessary to 
spend more money than Lodovico ; so now the expedition will be 
undertaken, and if the king wins, actum est de omne Italia^ every- 
thing will be topsy-turvy ; if he loses he will revenge himself 
upon the Italian merchants in France, especially upon yours." •♦ 
Piero dei Medici still hoped to win over Loilovico, and Bccchi, 
who had known him from the cradle, almost scolded him, writing: 
" Attend to your own affairs, for you have a world of trouble 
before you. Do you think that Lodovico docs not know the peril 
to which he is exposing himself and others ? With your counsels 
you will only make him more obstinate." s New ambassadors 
were sent, among them Piero Capponi, who at that time appeared 
to be a friend of Piero dei Medici ; and all wrote decidedly that 
nothing could be done but prepare for defence. 

Meanwhile the Florentine ambassadors at Milan could get very 
little information from Lodovico. Agnolo Pandolfini, who was 
there in 1492 and 1493, found him employed in weaving plots and 
consulting astrologers, in whom he had the profoundest faith. He 
said that he wished to bridle the mouth of Ferrantc, who was too 
fond of novelty. In 1494 the die was cast, but even then the 
Ambassador Piero Alamanni could learn nothing from him. " You 
always speak to me of this Italy, whose countenance I have never 
beheld. No man has ever given thought to my affairs, therefore 
I have had to assure them as best I might." ^ And when the 
ambassador pointed out to him the danger in which he had placed 
himself, he replied that he saw it clearly ; but that the worst 
danger was " to be held a fool." Then, almost laughing at him, 
he added : " Speak then ; what would the Florentines suggest ? 
Be not enraged, but help me to think." ^ Nor could anything 
more be extracted from him. From Venice the ambassadors 
wrote that the Venetians maintained an extreme reserve, and 

' Desj.irdins, same work, vol. i. p. 237 : letter of 20th of September, 1493. 
' Ibid. vol. i. pp. 330, 331 : letters of 28th and 29th of September, 1493. 
3 Iliid. vol. i. p. 350 : letter of 21st of November, 1493. 

" Ibid. vol. i. p. 35S : letter of 17th of January, 1494. See also at pp. 350 and 
352 the letters of the 29th of November and 9th of December, 1493. 
s Ibid. vol. i. p. 359 : letter of 22nd and 23rd of January, 1494. 
* Letter of 31st of March, 1494. See Appendix, Doc. p. i. 
' Desjardins, vol. i. p. 555 : letter of 7th of June, 1494. 


changed the conversation whenever the French were mentioned. 
" They beHeve that it will best serve their turn to remain at peace 
themselves, and let the other Italian powers spend and suffer." ' 
"They distrust all the world, and are persuaded that they are rich 
enough to hire at any moment as many men at arms as they may 
need, and thus always have it in their power to make things go 
the way they will." =• 

The King of Naples, meanwhile, was a prey to the utmost 
agitation, and with the aid of Pontano, wrote letters that were 
sometimes almost prophetic of the evils about to overwhelm 
Naples and the whole of Italy. The Pope could not forgive him 
for having opposed his election, and for having seconded the sale 
of Cervetri and Anguillara to the Or.sini. His niece, Isabella, the 
wife of Galeazzo Sforza, was kept as a prisoner by Lodovico, 
who was convulsing all Italy by his dark designs ; his daughter, 
Eleonora, wife of Ercole d'Este, and the only person who had any 
soothing influence over the Moor, had died in 1493 ; his other 
daughter, Beatrice, had been repudiated by the King of Hungary, 
and the Pope favoured the dissolution of the marriage.3 Mean- 
while, all men spoke of the speedy arrival of the French ! At 

' Desjardins, vol. i. p. 504 : letter of 12th of August, 1494. 

" Ibid. vol. i. p. 514: letter of 20th of September, 1494. These letters are 
nearly all from Paolo Anionio Soderini to Piero dei Medici. When shortly after- 
wards the latter was driven to take refuge in Venice, Soderini, who had already 
declared for the new Government, hardly looked at him. Speaking of this, De 
Commines, who had changed his flag so many times, says that Soderini " estoit 
des saiges hommes qui fussent en Italic." Ph. de Commines, " Memoires," vol. 
xi. p. 359, Dupont edition. See also : " Lettres et Negociations de Ph. de Com- 
mines," by Baron Kervyn de Lettenhove (3 vols.) Brussels, 1S67-74. This is a 
very valuable work. Piero Capponi, who tore the contract in Charles VII I. "s 
face, and so greatly contributed to the expulsion of the Medici, had been, while in 
Paris, the conhdant of Piero. Commines, however, is scandalized this time, and 
styles him a traitor (" Memoires," vol. xi. p. 340) ; but he had personal motives 
for disapproving Capponi. When together with Etienne de Vesc and Briconnet 
he tried to hatch intrigues in Piero dei Medici's favour, it was Capponi who replied 
to him " co/niiie par inocqtierie.'" Lettenhove, vol. xi. pp. 98, 144. It must, how- 
ever, be remembered that when Capponi received from the bishop of St. Malo 
proposals adverse to the Medici, he wrote to Piero on the subject saying, " I am 
sure that you have no one who treats your affairs with more zeal than myself." 
Desjardins, " Negociations," &c., vol. i. p. 393 and fol. It is true that his con- 
duct was not very open ; but we cannot rely upon De Commines' judgment of 
him, for he was then intriguing on his own account. In his opinion Lodovico 
had given too little money to the king's ministers : " Si argent ils devoient 
prendre, ils en devoient demander plus." (Commines as quoted by Lettenhove, 
vol. xi. p. 97.) 

3 Beatrice had married Mathias Corvinus, King of Hungary, on the 25lh of 
June, 1475. After his death, she espoused Ludovic, King of Hungary, the 23rd 
of July, 1493. This marriage being dissolved, she returned to Naples in 1501, and 
died in 1508. 


one nioiiicnt iIktc was a gliiiiincr of liojic wlicii the Pope pro- 
posed to marry otic of his sons to a natural daughter oi the king ; 
but his HoHncss afterwards drew back as though he had only been 
mocking him. Ferrante then wrote to his ambassador in Kome, 
with bitter complaints of the Pope's conduct at the moment when 
they were about to mingle their blood. *' Keep in mind," he 
said in conclusion, "that we are no longer young, nor mean to let 
him lead us by the nose." ' 

Alexander Vl. cared little for all this, and continued his nego- 
tiations with Venice and INlilan ; whereupon the king wrote : 
"From whom does he wish to defend himself, when no one is 
attacking him ? It seems to be our fate that the i)opes should 
leave no one in peace, but try to ruin all Italy. We are now 
forced to take arms ; but the Duke of Pari should think of what 
may be the consequences of the tumult he is fomenting. He 
who arouses this storm will not be able to quell it at his own 
pleasure. Let him think well of the past, and he will see that 
whenever internal dissensions have brought foreign powers into 
Italy, they have oppressed and tyrannized over the land in a way 
that has left its traces to the present day." * And shortly after- 
wards he wrote to his ambassador in Spain, in the tone of a man 
driven to desperation : "This Pope plainly intends to overturn all 
Italy. In order to gain money, he is about to create at one stroke 
thirteen cardinals, from whom he will extract no less than 300,000 
ducats. He found all tranquil, and immediately began to make 
plots and create tumults." " He leads a life that is the abomina- 
tion of all men, without respect for the chair which he occupies, nor 
care of aught but of exalting his children by hook or by crook, 
and this is his sole desire ; and it seems to him a thousand years 
before he can go to war, for, from the beginning of his pontificate, 
nothing else has he done, save troubling himself and molesting all 
men, now in one way, now in another. . . . And Rome is more 
full of soldiers than of priests ; and when he goes about Rome, 
it is Avith squadrons of men-at-arms before him, with helmets on 
their heads and lances by their sides, for all his mind is given to 
war, and to our harm, nor does he omit anything that he can 
machinate against us, not only stirring up in France the Prince of 
Salerno, and some other of our rebels, but in Italy encouraging 
every desperate character whom he deems adverse to us : and in 
all things he proceeds with fraud and dissimulation, according to 

* " Codice Aragonese," published by Commendatore Trinchera, head director 
of the Neapolitan Archives, in 3 vols. Naples, 1866-74. The letter we quote is 
dated lith of April, 1493, and is in vol. xi. part i. p. 355. 

^ Ibid., vol. xi. part i. p. 394 : Letter of 24th April, 1493. 


his nature, and to make money, he sells every smallest office and 
benefice." ' 

Yet, in August, Virginio Orsini bound himself to pay to the 
Pope, in return for free possession of the disputed estates, the sum 
of 25,000 ducats, under the guarantee of Ferrante and Piero dei 
Medici ; = and on the same day, a contract of marriage was finally 
signed between Giuffre Borgia, aged twelve, the Pope's son, and 
Dona Sancia, daughter of Alfonso of Aragon. She was repre- 
sented by Don Federigo,3 her uncle, who, as her proxy, received 
the nuptial ring amid the laughter of the guests, and especially of 
the Pope, who took him to his arms.4 Ferrante was beside him- 
self with joy at this marriage, which was to be kept secret until 
Christmas. He was now so full of hope, that on the 5th of 
December he proposed an Italian league to the Pope.s But 
before Christmas, Alexander had already changed his mind, and 
had allied himself to Lodovico. " We and our father," now wrote 
the king to his ambassador, " have always obeyed the popes, yet 
there has not been one who has not sought to work us the 
greatest ill in his power. And with this pope, albeit he be of our 
own country, it has been impossible to have a single day's peace. 
Truly we know not why he tries to trouble us in this wise, unless 
it be by the influence of the heavens, and to follow the example 
of the others, for it seems our fate that all popes should torment 
us." " He seeks to keep us in continual suspense, while we have 

' "Codice Aragonese," vol. xi. part xi. p. 41 and fol. : Letter of 7th June, 


- Piero dei Medici always gave his support to Ferrante. See the letters written 
by him to his ambassador at Naples, in July, 1493. They are to be found in the 
Archives at Florence, cl. x. dist. i, No. i, doc. 6. 

3 Prince of Altamura, Alfonso's brother, and King Ferrante's second son. 

* Gregorovius, " Geschichte," &c., vol. vii. p. 332 (2nd edition). See also in 
the " Codice Aragonese," the letters of 3rd August, and 29th August, 1493, 
pp. 198, 200, and 223. But in these letters apparently some of the dates are 
misprinted. The Florentine ambassador, A. Guidotti, in a letter of 17th August, 
1493, directed to the Eight (Archivio Fiorentino, cl. x. dist. 2, No. 18, doc. 21), 
gives minute details of the agreement with the Orsini and of the marriage con- 
tract, in which was inscribed, how " the Pope came into affinity with the most 
serene King Ferdinand, and how in the stead and name of their excellent Majes- 
ties, Don Federigo promised to give to wife to the most illustrious Don Geffre, His 
Holmess's son, Madonna Xances, daughter of the Duke of Calabria. . . . Such 
contract being stipulated and consented to by the parties, then per verba de 
irescnii, Don Geffre contracted matrimony with Madonna Xances in the person 
of Don Federigo, her proxy, to whom 171 signtim viatrinionii, he gave and his 
Excellency received the ring, nor did this act of standing in the place of a woman, 
and as a woman receiving the ring, pass without much laughter and merriment, 
an 1 lastly with great gaiety Don Federigo was embraced as a relative by the 
Pope, and by all the relations of His Holiness." 

" Codice Aragonese," vol. ii. part ii. p. 322 : letter of 5th December, 1493. 


not a liair upon us llial has ever tliouglit of giving him tlic least 
cau^c tor it." ' 

The king now saw tliat the inexitablc catastrophe was at hand, 
he felt tliat his strength was faihng, that death was near, and that 
his kingiloni would be shattered to pieces. His anguish was ap- 
parent in every line of the letters in which he continually harped 
upon the same theme, now with bursts of hot wrath, now with 
forebodings of humiliation. On the 17th of January, 1494, he 
wrote what may be considered his last letter. " Lodovico counsels 
the Pope to keep up appearances with us, so that if the French 
should not come, he may still be able to come to an arrangement 
with us, although as Lodovico says, we do not desire him for our 
chaplain, much less for our relative. If after all the French come, 
then he will be freed from all fear of us, or of the Orsini and the 
other barons, whose lands he may then bestow upon his children ; 
and thus the Pontiffs will in future be able to rule their States, 
rod in hand. In this way Lodovico continues to set Italy ablaze, 
as he himself allows ; but' he adds that the Pope must not think 
too much of the ills of Italy, because to avoid perpetual fever, one 
must put up with tertian ague. And the Pope being both keen and 
timid, lets himself be entirely dominated by Ascanio and guided 
by Lodovico ; so that in vain we seek to persuade him to enjoy 
his papacy in peace, without mixing himself up in party intrigues 
like some mercenary leader, as the Duke of Bari would have him 
do. The latter asserts that we only make a show of warlike pre- 
parations, and that in any great emergency we would even have 
recourse to Turkish aid. But we are prepared to defend ourselves, 
and we shall be ready for the most desperate resolves, if others 
will respect neither faith, country, nor religion. We remember 
that Pope Innocent himself wrote : — 

"ricctcie si ncquco Supcros, Aclieronta movebo." 

Finally, as though he already beheld the dreaded enemy before 
him, he concluded with these almost prophetic words : " Never 
did Frenchmen come into Italy, without bringing it to ruin, and 
this coming of theirs is of a sort, if one well considers it, that 
must bring universal ruin, although they threaten us alone." ^ 

And Ferrante, his mind distracted by these tormenting 
thoughts, finally ceased to breathe after a three days' illness, 

*"Codice Aragoncse," vol. i. part ii. p. 34S and fol. : letter of iSlh DeceniUer, 

'493- . 

' Ibid., vol. ii. part ii. p. 421. ATter this come only a few very biief letters of 


on the 25th of January, 1494.* He was succeeded by Alfonso, 
who, more impetuous, more cruel, and of less capacity than his 
father, now perceived the desperate condition of his kingdom, 
and sought for aid from the Pope, from Lodovico, from the Turk, 
and from all in vain, for now the coming of the French was 
inevitable — inevitable, therefore, the fall of the Aragonese in 

Meanwhile, Piero del IMedici in Florence was indifferent to 
everything : his inclinations were in favour of the Aragonese, 
but his chief occupation lay in tilting matches ; = the Venetians 
looked on quietly ; Ferrara declared herself friendly to France ; 
Bologna made an alliance with Lodovico ; the Pope, always true 
to his character, alarmed by the threat of a council that Charles 
VIII. talked of assembling, declared that he should give him a 
friendly reception in Rome, 3 while at the same time he despatched 
one of his nephews to iS^aples to place the crown on King 
Alfonso's head. Confusion was at its height, and the Italian 
exiles pushed on the French expedition with greater urgency than 
ever, each one hoping in this way to revenge his own particular 
wrongs upon existing governments. 

On the 1st of March, Charles VIII. made his state entry into 
Lyons, to assume the command of the expedition ; an advanced 
guard under the Scotchman d'Aubigny, was already pushing 
towards the Neapolitan frontier, and the Duke of Orleans was 
at Genoa. The Neapolitans on their side sent the Prince of 
Altamura with thirty galleys towards Genoa, while the Duke of 
Calabria, an inexperienced youth, entered the Pontifical States, 
under the guidance of tried generals, among whom was G. G. 
Trivulzio, a valiant Milanese exile. The Pope seemed to have 
lost his head, and no longer knew what course to adopt. Yet, 
taking advantage of the emergency, he asked the Sultan to 
anticipate the yearly payment of the 40,000 ducats due to him 
for the custody of Djem, and in order to frighten the Turk, he 
added that the French were coming to liberate that prince, in 
order with his help to carry the war into the East. And the 

» "Cronaca di Notar Giacomo," Naples, 184S, p. 178. Guicciardini and 
Machiavelli pretend that King Ferrante at the last wished to throw himself into 
Lodovico's hands, and Machiavelli adds that he desired to take his daughter from 
Gian Galeazzo and give her to the Moor, evidently forgetting that she was the 
mother of three children and that Lodovico had a wife. 

* Vide his letters dated 5th and 23rd of January, 1494, among the documents 
published by A. Cappelli, under the title: " Fra Girolamo Savonarola and 
Notices of his Times," Modena, 1869. 

3 Brief of the 1st of Februarj', 1494, in the "Archivio Storico" ("Annali"by 
Malipiero), vol. vii. p. 404. 


Pope would have oblaiiicd lliis nioiicN', had not the ambassador 
who brought it, been seized and robbeii at vSinigagha, in the 
month of September by the Prefect (Giovanni della Revere, 
bnuhcr of the Cardinal of San Piero in Vincoli.* 

Charles the \'III. having passed the Monginevra, entered Asti 
in the first days of September. He soon received intelligence 
that Don Federico and the Neapolitan fleet had been repulsed 
with heavy losses before Porto Venere, and that the Duke of 
Orleans and his Swiss had entered Kapallo, sacked the place, and 
put all the inhabitants, even the sick in the hospital, to the 
sword, thereby striking terror into the Italians, who were un- 
accustomed to carry on war in so sanguinary a fashion. On 
reaching Piacenza, the king learnt that Gio. Galeazzo, whom he 
had recently seen at Pavia, had just died there, poisoned, as all 
men said, by the Moor, who after celebrating his obsequies at 
Milan, had entered St. Ambrogio, at the hour indicated by his 
astrologer, to consecrate the investiture already granted to him 
by Maximilian, King of the Komans. All this filled the minds of 
the French Avith suspicion, almost with terror ; they were begin- 
ning to understand the nature of their closest ally's good faith. 
In fact, while Lodovico with one hand collected men and money 
for their cause, with the other he wove the threads of a league 
intended to drive them from Italy, when the moment should 
arrive. In 1493, Perrone dei Baschi, a man of Italian origin, 
had come to visit the Courts of the Peninsula, carrying hack 
ivind for his pains, as Piero dei Medici wrote.^ Next came 
Philip de Commines, a man of much acuteness and talent, 
though of no integrity of character, and well acquainted with 
Italy, where he had already been several times before, but he 
found at no Court any hope of assured friendship, much less of 

' On the person of the Ambassador Eozardo, besides the 40,000 ducats, a letter 
from the Sultan to the Pope was found, offering 300,000 ducats more for Djem's 
dead body, and concluding thus : " In this way, the worthy father of the Catholic 
Church could purchase states for his children and our brother Djem would find 
repose in the other life." Both the letter and that of the Pope to the Sultan are 
to be found in Burckhardt's Diary and in Sanudo's " De adventu Karoli regis 
Francorum in Italiam," a work still in great part unpublished, and of which the 
original MS. is in the National Library in Paris. A copy which I caused to be 
made of it, with the assistance of our Ministry of Pullic Instruction, is in the 
Library of St. Mark at Venice, and Professor Fulin has commenced its publication 
in the " Archivio Veneto." It may be considered as the 1st vol. of the " Diarii," 
by the same author, since they begin where this leaves off. See Cherrier, op. cit., 
vol. i. p. 415; Gregorovius, " Geschichte," &c. (2nd edition), vol. vii. p. 350, 
note (l). 

* See the previously quoted incdited letters of Piero dei Medici, and those 
published by Desjardins. 


material assistance, although many looked forward to the arrival 
of the French as a means of promoting their own designs. He 
who in his "Memoirs" said of the men of his own time : "Nous 
sommes afFoiblis de toute foy et loyaulte, les uns envers les 
aultres, et ne scauroye dire par quel lieu on se pouisse asseurer 
les uns des aultres," ' experienced in Italy, the truth of his 
observations, and discovered that he was among a people still 
keener and more cunning than himself.^ 

Nevertheless the fortunes of the French prospered rapidly. 
The Duke of Calabria, having entered Romagna, withdrew across 
the Neapolitan frontier at the first glimpse of D'Aubigny's forces ; 
and the bulk of the French army, commanded by the King in 
person, marched through the Lunigiana without encountering 
obstacles of any kind. After taking Fivizzano, sacking it, and 
putting to the sword the hundred soldiers who defended it, and 
part of the inhabitants, they pushed on towards Sarzana, through 
a barren district, between the mountains and the sea, where the 
slightest resistance might have proved fatal to them. But the 
small castles, intended for the defence of these valleys, yielded 
one after the other, without any attempt to resist the invaders ; 
and hardly had the siege of Sarzana commenced than Piero dei 
Medici arrived, frightened out of his senses, surrendered at 
discretion, and even promised to pay 200,000 ducats. 

But on Piero's return to Florence on the 8th of November, he 
found that the city had risen in revolt, and sent ambassadors to 
the French king on its own account to offer him an honourable 
reception ; but that at the same time it was making preparations 
for defence in case of need. So great was the public indignation 
that Piero took flight to Venice, where his own ambassador, 
Soderini, hardly deigned to look at him, having meanwhile 
declared for the republican government just proclaimed in 
Florence, where everything had been rapidly changed. The 
houses of the Medici, and their garden at St. Mark had been 
pillaged, exiles had been recalled and acquitted ; a price put on 
Piero's head and that of his brother, the Cardinal. At the same 
time, however, Pisa had risen in rebellion under the eyes of 
King Charles, and cast the Marzocco 3 into the sea : Arezzo and 
Montepulciano, too, had followed Pisa's example. The fabric, so 
long and so carefully built up by the Medici, was now suddenly 
crumbling into dust. 

On the 17th of November, Charles VIII., at the head of his 

' " Memoires," vol. i. p. 156. 

= Lettenhove, op. cit., vol. i. p. 194 ; vol. ii. pp. 108 and 123, 

3 The lion with the lily, ensign of the Florentine Republic. 


formidable army, rode into Florence with his laucc in rest, 
believing that that fact sufficed to make him master of the city. 
But the Florentines were armed, they had collected six thousand 
soldiers within the walls, and they knew perfectly well that from 
the vantage posts of towers and houses, they could easily worst 
an army scattered through the streets. They therefore repulsed 
the King's insolent proposals, and when he threatened to sound 
his trumpets, Piero Capi)oni, tearing up the ofTered treaty, replied 
that the Florentines were more ready to ring their bells. 
Through this firmness equitable terms were arranged. The 
Republic was to pay 120,000 florins in three quotas; the for- 
tresses, however, wer" to be speedily restored to her. On the 
28th of November the French left the city, but not without 
stealing all that remained of the collection of antiquities in the 
Medici Palace. Commines tells us that all did the best they 
could for themselves, and that the highest ofBcers stole most. 
Nevertheless the citizens were thanMul to be finally delivered 
alike from old tyrants and new invaders. 

Having reached Rome, Charles VIIL, in order to have done 
with the Pope,' who now seemed inclined for resistance, pointed 
his guns against the Castle of St. Angelo, and thus matters were 
soon settled. On the 17th of June, 1495, Briconnet was nomi- 
nated Cardinal of St. Malo, and the King attended a grand mass 
celebrated by the Pope in person, who was so little accustomed 
to perform any religious ceremonies, that he was only enabled to 
go through it by the help of Cardinal di Napoli, who filled the 
office of prompter. 

In accordance with the treaty signed in Rome, Charles VIII. 
continued his journey towards Naples, accompanied by the 
Cardinal of Valencia as hostage, together with the Prince Djem. 
On their arrival at Velletri, however, the Cardinal had vanished ; 
his plate-chests had already stopped half-way ; the trunks con- 
taining his baggage, with which seventeen mules were loaded, 
were discovered to be empty ; Djem fell so gravely ill upon the 
way that he died directly he reached Naples. Everybody said 
that he had been poisoned by the Borgia ; but the Venetians, 
who always had accurate intelligence from their ambassadors, 
asserted on the contrary that he had died a natural death.^ The 

* At this juncture a circumstance occurred which caused much mirth to all Italy. 
The Beautiful Giulia, her sister, and Madonna Adriana had fallen into the hands 
of the French. At this the Pope was in despair, and knew no peace until his 
Giulia and her companions were liberated on payment of the sum of 3,000 ducats. 
Gregorovius, " Lucrezia Borgia," vol. i. p. 81. 

' Cherrier, op. cit., vol. ii. p. 137, gives a translation of the lelfer, in which 


King was highly indignant at the Cardinal's escape, and ex- 
claimed : " Perfidious Lombard, and more perfidious Pope ! " ^ 
His attempts to recapture the Cardinal were all in vain. 
Scarcely encountering any obstacles, Charles led his army on to 
Naples. Alfonso of Aragon renounced the throne, and fled to 
Sicily ; Ferdinand II., or Ferrandino, as he was called, after 
vainly seeking aid from all, even from the Turk, made a fruitless 
stand at Monte San Giovanni, which was taken, destroyed, and all 
its population put to the sword." Gian Giacomo Trivulzio 
deserted the Aragonese, and passed over to the enemy ; Virginio 
Orsini prepared to do the same ; Naples rebelled in favour of the 
French, who marched in on the 22nd of February. The following 
day Ferrandino fled to Ischia, then to Messina. And shortly the 
ambassadors of the Italian States appeared to offer congratulations 
to the conqueror. 

Now at last the Venetians were aroused, and having sent their 
envoys to Milan to know if Lodovico were disposed to take up 
arms to drive out the French, they found him not only ready to 
do so, but full of indignation. " The king has no head," he said, 
" he is in the hands of persons who only think of getting money, 
and would not make half a wise man." He recalled the haughti- 
ness with which he had been treated by the French, and declared 
himself resolved to join in any league in order to drive them from 
the country. He advised that money should be sent to Spain 
and to Maximilian, to induce them to attack France ; but added 
that care must be taken not to call them into Italy, " since having 
already one fever here, we should then have two." 3 

A league was in fact concluded between the Venetians, 
Lodovico, the Pope, Spain and Maximilian. And Philip de 

the Ten mention this event. And in fact the Borgia, by Djem's decease, lost 
the annual payment of 40,000 ducats, without obtaining the 300,000 promised to 
them on receipt of his corpse. Sanudo recounts the rise and progress of Djem's 
malady. It was a feverish cold, which the doctors treated with bloodletting and 
other energetic remedies. At Aversa he was already so much worse, that he had 
to be carried on a bier ("De adventu Karoli regis," p. 212 of the copy in 
the Library of St. Mark). This author, according to his wont, refers to the 
letters of the Venetian ambassador who was present, and who observes that 
Djem's death had been hurtful to Italy, " and especially to the Pope, who was 
thus deprived of the 40,000 golden ducats, yearly paid to him by his brother (the 
Sultan) for keeping Djem in safe custody." Following the Venetian orthography, 
we write Sanudo ; some authors call him Sanuto. 

' Sanudo, " De adventu," &c., p. 230. 

' " II ne sembloit point aux notres, que les Italiens fussent liommcs," wrote de 
Gomniines a propos of French cruelties. 

3 This letter is to be found in Komanin, " Storia documentata di Venezia,' 
vol. V. p. 50. See also Cherrier, " Ilistoire de Charles VIII.," vol. ii. p. 97. 


Coniniincs, who was ambassador to Venice, and who at tlic news 
t^f liis kino's entry into Naples had beheld the Senators so cast 
down, that, as he says, the Romans after the defeat at Cannae 
could not have been " plus esbahis ne plus espouvantes," ' now 
found them full of courage and indignation. The Neapolitans, 
soon wearied of bad government, had risen in revolt, and Charles 
VI 11. after a stay of only fifty days in Naples had to make his 
departure with excessive haste, before every avenue of retreat 
should be cut off, leaving hardly more than 6,ooo men in the 
kingdom, and taking with him a numerous army, which however 
only numbered io,ooo real combatants. On the 6th of July a 
pitched battle took place at Fornuovo near the river Taro. The 
allies had assembled about 30,000 men, three-fourths of whom 
were Venetians, the rest composed of Lodovico's soldiers and a 
few Germans sent by Maximilian. At the moment of attack they 
had in fighting array double the number of the French force ; 
but half of them remained unused owing to a blunder of Rodolfo 
Gonzaga, while the enemy were in good order, with their van- 
guard under the command of G. G. Trivulzio, Avho, notwithstand- 
ing that he was in arms against his own countrymen, displayed 
great valour and military genius. The battle was bloody, and 
it was a disputed question which side obtained the victory ; but 
although the Italians were not repulsed, remaining indeed masters 
of the field, the French succeeded in cutting their way through, 
which was the chief object they had in view. The King made 
a halt at Asti and received the Florentine ambassadors, to whom 
he again promised to deliver up the strongholds held by his 
forces — the city of Pisa included — and received 30,000 ducats in 
lieu of the 120,000 promised in Florence, but gave in pledge 
jewels of an equal value, to be restored to him as soon as the 
fortresses should be giv-en up. Besides this the Florentines pro- 
mised 250 men-at-arms to help the King's cause in Naples, as 
well as a loan of 70,000 ducats, which, however, they never gave, 
as they did not receive the fortresses.'' Lodovico, taking advan- 
tage of the situation, soon made an agreement with the French 
on his own account, without concerning himself about the 
Venetians ; he believed that in this wise he had freed himself 
from both, but in reality he had earned the hatred of both, as he 
was soon driven to confess. 

The fortunes of the French now declined rapidly in Italy, and 
all the more speedily owing to their bad government ia the 

' Commines, op. cit., vol. ii. p. 168 ; Cherrier, op. cit., vol. ii. p. 151. 
* This treaty is to be found in Desjaidins, op. cit-, vol. i. p. 630. See also 
Cherrier, op. cit., vol. ii. p. 293. 


Neapolitan kingdom, and most abominable behaviour towards the 
new friends who had remained faithful to them. In fact, Captain 
d'Entrangues, in direct violation of all his sovereign's promises, 
gave up the citadel of Pisa, on receipt of a bribe, to the inhabi- 
tants of that city, who took possession of it on the ist of January, 
1496, to the bitter mortification of the Florentines. Later, for 
more money, he surrendered Pietrasanta to the Lucchesi ; other 
captains in imitation of his example, yielded Sarzana and 
Sarzanello.^ Meanwhile Ferdinand II., with the aid of the 
Spaniards under Consalvo di Cordova, advanced triumphantly 
through Calabria and entered Naples on the 7th of July, 1496. 
In a short time all the Neapolitan fortresses capitulated, and the 
French who had held them returned to their own country, more 
than decimated and in an altogether deplorable condition. On 
the 6th of October Ferdinand II. breathed his last, worn out by 
the agitation and fatigues of the war, and Avas succeeded by his 
uncle Don Federico,^ the fifth king Avho had ascended the 
Neapolitan throne within the last five years. He was crowned by 
the Cardinal of Valencia. 

Once more Italy beheld herself freed from foreigners. It is 
true that the same year witnessed a brief invasion by Maximilian, 
who at Lodovico's instigation, came to help Pisa and prevent her 
from falling into the hands of either the Florentines or Venetians ; 
but he came with a small following, found no supporters, and 
went away without having accomplished anything. In fact, 
Naples was now in the absolute power of the Spaniards, who 
were already maturing their iniquitous designs upon the king- 
dom ; these, however, were only discovered at a later period. 
Charles VIII. declared himself a penitent man, talked of changing 
his mode of life, of punishing the Pope, and renewing the Italian 
expedition ; but meanwhile he remained in France and abandoned 
himself to excesses. Thus, at least in appearance, all was tranquil. 
But on the 7th of April, 1498, the King died of apoplexy ; with 
his death the line of the Valois became extinct, and he was 
succeeded by the Duke of Orleans under the title of Louis XII. 
In consequence of his relationship with the Visconti, this potentate 
had always asserted rights upon the Duchy of Milan. Now in 
assuming the French crown, he could lay claim to other rights in 
Italy, and had also the power to assert them openly. And in 
fact, his reign initiated the long series of fresh invasions which 
heaped so many calamities upon our land. 

' Cherrier, op. cit., vol. ii. p. 33S. 

■ Ferdinand I., Alfonso II., Charles VIIL, Ferdinand II., Federico. 

1 90 IN TROD UCriON, 

3. The Bokgia, 

While, however, the apparent peace lasted, general attention 
Avas.'tixed upon the events occurring in Rome and the Roman 
territory. Alexander VI. had profited by the ill-fortune of the 
French, to confiscate the possession of the Orsini, who had 
deserted the Aragonese to go over to Charles VIII., and after 
abandoning him, as soon as they saw his luck beginning to turn, 
had joined his party once more. In this way, Virginio Orsini had 
been taken prisoner by the Spaniards when they came to replace 
Ferdinand II. on the Neapolitan throne. According to the 
terms of the treaty, they ought to have sent him across the 
frontier, but the Pope opposed the idea fiercely, even with threats 
of excommunicatidn, for his object was the extermination of the 
Orsini family. Upon this Virginio was shut up in the Castcl 
dell Uovo at Naples, and there died. His followers were in the 
meantime stripped of everything in the Abruzzi ; where also 
Alviano and Giovan Giordano Orsini were made prisoners. This 
was the moment chosen by the Pope to declare war against these, 
his perpetual enemies, who were still both numerous and power- 
ful. On the 27th of October, his troops under the command of 
the Duke of Urbino and Fabrizio Colonna, took the field against 
the Orsini who had withdrawn to Bracciano. Although the 
principal members of the family were in captivity, and many 
cruel blows had been that year inflicted upon all their race ; yet 
they were still strong enough to measure their forces with his. 
Their hopes rose high, when Bartolommeo d'Alviano,' having 
escaped from prison, arrived at Bracciano with a handful of his 
men. Very shortly the conflict began in earnest, and not only 
Alviano, but also his wife, the sister of Virginio Orsini, distin- 
guished themselves by their valour. In the first skirmishes the 
Papal troops were continually worsted. Afterwards, Carlo 
Orsini and Vitellozzo Vitelli arrived from France ; but the 
Pope's army receiving reinforcements at the same time, on the 
23rd of January, 1497, a real battle took place, which terminated 
in a signal victory for the Orsini. In the previous encounters, 
the Cardinal of Valencia had been hotly pursued up to the 
very walls of Rome ; now the Duke of Gandia was wounded, 
the Duke of Urbino a prisoner, and the flight of Cardinal Lunate 
was so headlong, that he died from its effects. The enemies of 
the Borgia were in a state of exviltation, and the Orsini were once 
more masters of the Campagna. The Pope, beside himself with 

* Bartolommeo d'Alviano di Todi, husband of Bartjlommea Orsini. 


raQ;e, made fresh preparations for war, and had even appealed for 
aid to Consalvo de Cordova, when the Venetians came forward 
as mediators, and peace was made. The Orsini paid a sum of 
50,000 ducats, but were reinstated in their own lands, and all 
those who were still prisoners in the Neapolitan kingdom, were 
liberated, excepting Virginio, who had expired before the news of 
the victory arrived. The Duke of Urbino, for whom they 
demanded a ransom of 40,000 ducats, was handed over to the 
Pope on account of the sum they owed him, and the Holy 
Father refused to set him at liberty, although his own Captain, 
until he paid the sum imposed by his enemies. The Duke, who 
was the son of the celebrated Federico, had no family, and the 
Borgia made use of him as their defender, first despoiling him 
of his wealth and then, still more shamelessly, of his state. 

Notwithstanding the hard terms of the peace, the Orsini were 
possessed of immense power ; the Pope, detested by all men, 
could depend upon none excepting his 3,000 Spaniards, and on the 
friendship shown to him by Consalvo de Cordova, who recaptured 
the Castle of Ostia for his benefit. As the Borgia could no longer 
undertake fresh warlike enterprises, some demoniac impulse 
seemed to compel them to turn their weapons against themselves, 
and exterminate their own relations, tinder circumstances of 
incredible iniquity. On the night of the 14th of June, 1497, the 
Duke of Gandia never returned to his house. The day after, his 
groom was found wounded, without being able to give any account 
of his master ; the mule ridden by the Duke was caught running 
about the streets with only one stirrup left, the other having been 
cut off. The mystery thickened. It appeared that on the pre- 
ceding evening, the Duke had supped with his brother the Cardinal 
of Valencia, at the house of their mother Vannozza. They rode 
away together, but presently separated, the Duke being followed 
by a man in a mask, who for a long time had gone everywhere 
with him, and by the groom whom he left in the Piazza dei 
Giudei, This was all that could be ascertained. At first, the 
Pope took the matter lightly, thinking that his son was probably 
in hiding with some woman. ^ But when on the following night 
he was still missing, the Pope became violently alarmed, and 
showed the greatest agitation. Suddenly — no one knew how — a 
rumour spread through the city, that the Duke had been thrown 
into the Tiber. 

One of the Sclavonian charcoal-mongers on the Ripetta, being 

' " Ipsum ducem alicubi cum puella intendere liixui sibi persuadens, et ob earn 
causam puelloe domum exire ipsi duci non licere " (Hurchardi, " Diarium," in the 
National Libraiy of Florence, cod. ii. 150, fol. 21). 


sumtnoncil and iiitorio<;att.'i.l, replied that while resting in his boat 
on the ni<;ht of the I4lh, he had seen a gentleman ride up, carrying; 
a corpse behind him, and accompanied by two men on foot ; and 
that all three disappeared as soon as they had thrown the body 
into the river. Being asked why he had not mentioned this fact 
sooner, he replied that he had seen the same sort of thing occur 
at the same place hundreds of times, night after night, without 
anv one making any stir about it.^ Numerous sailors were sent to 
drag the river, and the Pope's son was found with his boots, spurs, 
and mantle still on. His hands were tied ; he had nine wounds 
about the head, arms, and body, — one, and that mortal, in his 
throat ; there were thirty ducats in his purse, = an evident proof 
that robbery was not the object of the murder. 3 The corpse was 
solemnly interred in the church of Sta Maria del Popolo. Most 
people rejoiced at this assassination, though the Spaniards uttered 
curses and lamentations ; and the Pope, w"hen he learnt that his 
son had been cast into the Tiber like other rubbish from the 
Ripetta, abandoned himself to a grief of which no one had deemed 
him capable.'* He shut himself up in the castle of St. Angclo, 
haunted, said many, by the Duke's spectre, and wept bitterly. 
For many days he refused food, and his cries could be heard from 
afar. On the 19th of June, he held a consistory, at which he 
declared that never had he experienced so heavy a sorrow : " If we 
had seven Papacies, we would give them all to bring the Duke to 
life." 5 He showed an apparently sincere repentance for his past 
life, and announced to all the potentates that he had entrusted the 
reform of the Church to six cardinals : that this henceforward 
would be the sole aim of his existence. 

These pious designs, however, speedily evaporated. Who was 
the author of the assassination ? What had been his motives ? 
The Orsini ^ were suspected ; Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, who had 

' " Respondit ille ; se vidisse suis diebus centum in diversis noctibus in flumen 
proiici per locum praedictum, et nunquam aliqua eorum ratio est habita ; propterea 
de casu huiusmodi existimationem aliquam non fecisse " (Burchardi, "Diarium," 
cod. ii. fol. 43. National Library, Florence). 

^ Burchardi, Malipiero, Sanudo, &c. 

3 The Duke of Gandia was twenty-four years of age, and through his descen- 
dants the line of the Borgia was carried down to the eighteenth century. A 
nephew of his was the third general of the Jesuits. 

* " Pontifex, intellecto ducem interfectum, in flumen ut stercus proiectum, com- 
putum esse, commota sunt omnia viscera eius " (Burchardi, " Diarium," cod. ii. 
fol. 23t). 

5 This speech of the Pope, reported by the Venetian ambassador, is to be found 
in Sanudo, and is quoted by Reumont, " Geschichte der Stadt Rom," vol. iii. 
part ii. p. 338. 

^ Sanudo in his " Diarii," of which the original is in the Library of St. Mark, 


recently had some differences with the Duke, was also accused, 
and the suspicions against him were so strong, that the Cardinal, 
even after receiving an explicit declaration from the Pope that he 
had never given credence to such rumours, thought fit to present 
himself to his Holiness, with an escort of faithful friends carrying 
hidden Aveapons.' Numberless researches were begun and then 
suddenly suspended ; ^ and a generally credited rumour was spread 
that the Duke's assassin was no other than his own brother. Car- 
dinal Caesar Borgia. " And certainly," wrote the Florentine 
ambassador from the beginning, " whoever arranged the deed had 
both plenty of wits and courage ; and however one may look at 
it, 'twas a master's stroke." 3 Gradually rumours ceased as to the 
author of the assassination ; and people only made surmises as to 
his probable reasons for so abominable a crime. 

Men spoke of the jealousy existing between the Cardinal and 
the Duke regarding Donna Sancia, Don Giuffre's wife, who led a 
notoriously scandalous life. Worse things still were said, and 
people publicl}^ talked of rivalry between the two brothers, saying 
that they disputed with their father the favours of their sister 
Lucrezia.-t And these revolting rumours were noted and believed 
by grave historians ; recalled by illustrious poets. Yet although 
every one repeated these things in public, and all looked upon 
Cardinal Caesar Borgia as the author of the assassination ; pre- 

cites various letters in proof that the Orsini were among the suspected. Manfredi, 
the Duke of Ferrara's ambassador to P'lorence, in the letters published by A. 
Cappelli, from which we have before quoted, gives one of the 12th of August, 
and another of the 22nd of December, 1497, in the first of which it is mentioned 
that suspicion had fallen upon the Orsini, and in the second, upon Bartolommeo 
d'Alviano. Cappelli, " Fra Girolamo Savonarola e notizie intorno al suo tempo, ' 

' The Florentine ambassador, Alessandro Bracci, gives details of this affair in 
his letters, which are to be found in MS. in the Florentine Archives, and are of 
considerable importance. That, however, of the l6th of June, giving an account 
of the murder of the Duke of Gandia, is unfortunately missing from the file. 
Archivio Fiorentino, " Lettre dei Dieci di Balia da Maggio a Dicembre, 1497," 
cl. X. dist. 4, No. 54, sheet 53. 

* Letter of A. Bracci, dated the 4th of July, 1497, MS. above quoted, sheet 78. 
3 Ibid., dated the 17th of June, 1497. 

* The death of the Duke of Gandia is related in detail by all contemporary his- 
torians. Gregorovius, in his " Storia di Roma," cites many original documents, 
among them a very remarkable letter from Ascanio Sforza to Lodovico the Moor, 
dated the i6th of June, 1497 (vol. vii. p. 399, note i). Burchardi gives in his 
*' Diario " a minute and tragic report of the event ; Matarazzo, Malipiero, all con- 
temporary writers, and the letters of private individuals and of the ambassadors 
resident in Rome, make mention of it. Sanudo quotes much from all these, and 
we perceive the extraordinary impression the deed had made in Rome, where men's 
imaginations were greatly excited. In a letter of the i6th of June (Sanudo, vol. 
i. sheet 310), he says : *' Ma.xima demonum caterva in basilica beati Petri audita 

VOL. I. ^4 


cisely for that reason he bccajiie the most powerful man in Rome, 
and likewise the most dreaded, for even the Pope seemed to cower 
beneath the mysterious fascination of his own son. Caesar had now 
decided on forsakincj the ecclesiastical career, and already there was 
some talk of makinaj his brother, Don GiufTrC:, Cardinal in his 
stead, who, for that end, was to be separated fn^n his wife, so that 
she might marry Cit;sar as soon as he should have become a 

Meanwhile Alexander VI. continued his intrigues with the beau- 
tiful Giulia and several Spanish women. According to public 
rumour, he had had another son by a Roman woman, whose hus- 
band revenged himself by killing her father, for having sold her 
to the Pope.' Lucrezia, who in the June of 1497, namely, at the 
time that the Duke of Gandia was murdered by his brother, had 
been shut up in a convent, without any one knowing for what 
reason, was, in December, by command of her father, separated 
from her husband Giovanni Sforza, now declared to be impotent.3 
In March, 1498, according to accounts reported even by the 
ambassadors, she gave birth to an illegitimate child, whose 
parentage was involved in much mystery. On the one hand, we 
find no further mention of him ; on the other, some years after- 
wards a Giovanni Borgia appears, who by his age must have been 
born somewhere about 1498.'* By a Brief of September i, 1501, 

e visa fuit per plures, ct ibidem tot et tanta luminaria, ut ipsa basilica penitus a 
funrlamentis supra ardere et combuii videretur : ecce quanta prodigia ! " Letters 
of the 17th of December, 1497 (vol. i. sheet 391), and other later ones quoted by 
the same (vol. i. sheet 40S), repeat things of the same kind. We have still the 
letters in which the Pope announces the deed and his grief to the different powers, 
but from these nothing new is to be learnt. In a speech made at a Consistory, the 
Pope explicitly scouted the suspicions weighing upon Ascanio Sforza, the Prince of 
Squillace, and the Lord of Pesaro, which proves that such suspicions had been 
entertained. Vide Reumont, " Geschichte," &c., and Sanudo, " Ragguagli storici," 
published by Rawdon Brown (Venice, 1837-38, vol. i. p. 74). 

' Sanudo mentions this at length in his " Diarii," vol. i. sheet 556 and 559. 
Rawdon Brown gives some fragments of these in his before-quoted work, vol. i. 
p. 212. ^ Gregorovius, " Lucrezia Borgia," vol. i. p. 48. 

3 On the 19th of July, the Florentine ambassador, A. Bracci, wrote that a divorce 
was being arranged between the Lord of Pesaro and Donna Lucrezia, " whom his 
Holiness recalled to the palace three days after the Duke of Gandia's death, and 
who still remains there." In separating from the Lord of Pesaro, Lucrezia declared 
herself prepared to take her oath that she had never had any relation with her 
husband, and was therefore still a virgin. On this head, adds Matarazzo, at p. 

72 : " Etiam advenga ad die che fusse stata e fusse allor la piu gran p die 

fusse in Roma." 

* Reumont in his " Storia di Roma " first believed him to be a son of Lucrezia ; 
then a son of the Pope by an unknown mother (" Archivio Storico," Series iii. 
vol. vii. dispensa 2nd, 1873, P- 329)- The documents published by Gregorovius 
in his " Lucrezia Borgia " (vol. i. p. 159 and fol.) throw a sinister light upoa this 


the Pope legitimatized him as one of Caesar's natural sons, calling 
him about three yell's old.' By a second Brief, dated the same 
day, he recognized him for his own son instead, with the proviso 
that, notwithstanding this,^ the preceding act of legitimacy must 
be held good. And in fact this was done in order that the 
mysterious child might be able to legally inherit property. All 
the documents relating to this matter are to be found among 
Lucrezia's private archives at Modena. Also at one period we find 
that she had with her in Ferrara this very Giovanni, of whom we 
can only say, that most certainly it was the fact of his existence 
that gave rise to all the disgusting rumours regarding the rela- 
tions of the Pope with his own daughter. These rumours were 
chiefly propagated by her husband, Sforza, who at Milan plainly 
said that this was the reason why the Pope had insisted on 
separating him from his own wife. 3 

In the July of 1497, Cassar Borgia went to Naples to the 
coronation of King Federico, and petitioned for money, privileges, 
and land, with so great an importunity that the Florentine am- 
bassador wrote : " It would not be astonishing if the poor king 
had recourse to the Turk in his despair, were it only to free him- 
self from these annoyances." * On the 4th of September he was 
again in Rome, where it was remarked that when he kissed the 
Pope neither of them uttered a syllable : Caesar in those days 
spoke but little, and put all men in fear.s He was in want of 
money to replace the revenues he lost in resigning his cardinal's 
hat, and to carry out his new and extended designs. Therefore 
the Pope Avho yielded to him in all things, set about finding new 
victims. His secretary Florido was accused of the composition of 
false Briefs, and instantly his house was pillaged, and all the 
money, hangings and plate it contained, conveyed to the Vatican. 

' "De dilecto filio nobili viro Cesare Borgia • . . et soluta (muliere)." The 
Brief also states that Giovanni was three years old, vel circa. Gregorovius, 
" Liicrezia Borgia," doc. 27. 

^ " Cum autem tu defectum predictum (natalinm) non de prefato duce sed de 
nobis et de dicta muliere soluta patiaris, quod bono 7-espectu in letteris predictis 
specifice exprimere noluimus," &c. And it concludes saying that the preceding 
legitimization holds good, and the power to inherit. And according to Gregorovius 
Alexander did all this, because, although unable to legitimatize the child as his own, 
he wished to prevent Valentino from being able to annul the act of legitimacy, on 
the score of false grounds. Gregorovius, " Lucrezia Borgia," doc. 28. 

3 See the despatch of the ambassador of Ferrara quoted by Gregorovius, 
" Lucrezia Borgia," vol. i. p. loi. 

^ Letter of the Florentine ambassador A. Bracci (of the 19th July, 1497), who 
says that he has these details from a person who is "a worthy prelate an inmate of 
the Vatican" (Archivio Florentino). 

5 " Et bene non dixit verbum Papae Valentinus, nee Papa sibi, scd eo deosculato 
dcscendit de solio " (Burchardi, " Diarium," cod. ciL, sheet 39). 


Tlic imliappy prelate was condemned to perpetual imprisonment, 
and shut up in a dungeon with some bread and water aiid a 
lantern. From time to time the Pope sent otlier jjrelates to visit 
him, in order that while playing at chess with him they might 
extract confessions that would implicate fresh victims. This went 
on till July, 1498, when the wretched man ceased to live.' 

Meanwhile negotiations were being carried on with the King of 
Naples for the marriage of his daughter Carlotta with Qcsar who 
was still a cardinal. The king was sorely harassed by many 
vexations, and was heard to declare that he would rather lose his 
kingdom than bestow his legitimate daughter upon " a priest, the 
bastard of a priest." " Nevertheless to save himself from the 
Pope's heavy threats, and notwithstanding the abominable 
rumours referred to above, and which were already in circulation, 
he was compelled to compromise matters by consenting to the 
marriage of Lucrezia Borgia with Don Alfonso, 3 Duke of Bisceglie, 
a youth barely seventeen, and a natural son of Alfonso II. The 
wedding was celebrated on the 20th of June, 1498, " and the 
Pope," wrote the Venetian ambassador, " sat up till morning at 
the feast, adco behaving like a young man." * 

On the 13th of August, 1498, Ccesar made a declaration in the 
Consistory, to the effect that he had only accepted the Cardinalate 
to please the Pope ; but that the ecclesiastical life did not suit 
him, and that he wished to forsake it. The Cardinals gave their 
consent, Alexander VI. cynically declared that he also consented 
for the good of C?esar's soul, pro salute animce siice ; s and the 
latter, as soon as he had thrown aside his frock, was sent as envoy 
to France, bearer of a Bull of divorce to Louis XII., who wished 
to be separated from his wife, and married to the widow of 
Charles VIII. , bringing him Brittany as her dower. The King 

' Burchaidi, " Diarium," fol. 39. See also a letter of the ambassador A. Bracci, 
dated 27th September, 1497, cod, cit., fol. 144. 

^ According to Sanudo, the King had said : "Mi para el fiol del papa, ch'^ 
Cardinal, non sia in grado di darli mia fia per moglie, licet sia fio del papa." 
" Dir.rii," vol. i. part ii. p. 75. (See note i to following page.) The King 
wrote to his ambasador in France : " The unbearable anxiety we have suffered in 
order to prevent the marriage .... between our legitimate daughter and the 
Cardinal of Valencia, a thing most unsuitaljle and contrary to all reason, is already 
well known to you. Rather would we have consented to lose our kingdom, our 
children and our life " (" Archivio Storico," vol. xv. p. 235). 

3 " Not to exasi^erate the Pope, who plainly threatened him " (" Archivio 
Storico," vol. XV. p. 235). 

* Sanudo, " Diarii," vol. i., part ii. p. 164. This second part of the ist vol. is 
missing in the original MS. at St. Mark's Library, and is only to be found in the 
copy at the Imperial Library of Vic-nna. 

5 Brief of 3rd September, 149S, in Gregorovius, *' Geschichte," &c., vol, vii. 
P- 423- 

THE BORGIA. , 197 

had already promised Caesar the Duchy of Valentinois and a 
certain number of soldiers, who, under the French flag, would be 
of great assistance to him in his enterprise on Romagna. In order 
to procure the large sums of money necessary for this French 
journey, which was to be on the most magnificent scale, many 
offices were sold, and no less than three hundred individuals 
accused of infidelity, and then allowed to purchase their pardon. 
On the same pretext the Pope's Maggiordomo was thrown into 
prif.on, and robbed of 20,000 ducats, which he had in his own 
house and in different banks.' The ist of October, 1498, Caesar 
started for France with the Bull of divorce, a Cardinal's hat 
for Monseigneur d'Amboise, and a letter, in which the Pope told 
the King : " destinamus Maiestati tuae cor nostrtim^ videlicet 
dilectum filmm ducem Valentinensem quo nihil cariushabemus." ^ 

The ostentatious splendour of Caesar and his train certainly 
dazzled the French ; the costume of the new Duke of Valentinois 
was studded with jewels, and he scattered money broadcast in the 
streets. Yet he was unsuccessful in the fresh attempts he now 
made to obtain the hand 01 Carlotta d'Aragona, who was then at 
the French Court, It was in vain that the Cardinal of San 
Pietro in Vincoli — at one time the Pope's enemy — used his best 
efforts in his favour. 3 The Duke ardently desired this marriage, 
in the hope that it might one day be the means of giving him 
possession of the kingdom of Naples ; but the Princess, fully 
sharing her father's feelings, had a positive loathing for him. 

Therefore Caesar, having gained the Duchy of Valentinois and 
a hundred French spearmen, was obliged to content himself with 
espousing Carlotta, sister of Jean d'Albret, King of Navarre, and 
related to Louis XII. The latter monarch promised the Duke 
further aid, as soon as France should have conquered Milan, for 
which purpose he was gathering an army, and had already made 
an alliance with Venice (15th April, 1499), to which the Pope, 
always ready to change sides, had also given his adherence. On 
that account a most lively altercation arose between the Pontiff 

' In Sanudo's " Diarii," vol. i. part ii. p. 44, there is a letter dated August, 
1498, ending with these words, " In conckision, he is a veiy bad Pope, and shrinks 
from no evil to swell his children's substance." 

^ This letter is in Molini's "Documenti di Storia Italiana," Florence, 1S36-37, 
vol. i. p. 28. 

3 Sanudo frequently mentions the reconciliation which had taken place between 
the Pope and Cardinal Delia Rovere. The Prefect of Rome, often called Prefect 
of Sinigaglia, his place of abode, was the Cardinal's brother, and was not included 
in the reconciliation, for having (as before related) shared in the robbery of the 
Turkish ambassador ; but he was afterwards pardoned by a Brief of the iSth 
November, 1499. See Gregorovius, " Geschichte," &c., vol. vii. pp. 425-29. 


and the Spanish ambassador. The latter threatened to prove 
that Alexander was not the true Pope, and Alexander in his turn 
threatened to have the ambassador cast into the Tiber, and to 
proclaim that the Queen Isabella was not, after all, " so chaste a 
woman as the world believed." * Nevertheless the Holy Father 
was considerably frightened, for although he had gone over to 
h'rance, he still cherished many hopes concerning the kingdom of 
Naples, Avhich could only be realized with the help of Spain. 
It is true that he was now fond of saying ami repeating, that he 
wished to make Italy " all of one piece ; " ^ but the Venetian am- 
bassadors, who clearly saw through him, always maintained that 
this false and dissimulating man — still at the age of sixty-nine, of 
most robust health, and always given up to dissipation — daily 
changed his policy, and got up discussions with the sole intent of 
obtaining the kingdom of Naples for his son ; having meanwhile 
*' converted Rome into the cloaca of the world." 3 

On the 6th October, 1499, Louis XII. entered Milan at the head 
of his army, which was under the command of G. G. Trivulzio ; 
and Lodovico the Moor, who had prepared for defence, now seeing 
that he had both French and Venetians against him, and that his 
own people were forsaking him, thought it best to make his 
escape and go to Germany in search of aid. Meanwhile the am- 
bassadors of the Italian States hastened to Milan to present their 
respects to the King, and with them also came Valentinois in 
person, with a small suite, and bearing the French flag. He 
assured himself of the friendliness of the victorious monarch, 
earned the promise of fresh help in the conduct of his sanguinary 
enterprises, contracted in Milan a debt of 45,000 ducats, and he 
then went back again to Rome, where the Pope was collecting 
money for the same purpose in any and every wav, honest or 
dishonest, and even by fresh assassinations. The Protonotary, 
Caetani, was thrown into prison, died, and his goods w-ere confis- 
cated ; his nephew, Bernardino, was murdered by Valentinois's 
bravos near Sermoneta, of which estate the Borgia immediately 
took possession.* Meanwhile Valentinois was nominated Gonfa- 
lonier of the Church, and he set out for Imola, after proclaiming 
the ejectment of the Lords of Romagna and the Marches, under 
the pretence of their having failed to pay the sums they owed to 

« .Sanudo, "Diarii," vol. ii. fol. 156. 

• Ibid., vol. ii. fol. 274. Further on in folio 393 there ij a description of the 
Pope's changeable nature. 

3 Ibid., vol. ii. folio 326: the ambassador says that the Pope "wants the 
kingdom (of Naples) for his son." 

4 Afterwards this estate was restored to the Caetani by Julius II., who declared 
that they had been unjustly despoiled of it. 


the Popes. To that place he had already forwarded his own men, 
who, together with his thousand Swiss, under the command of 
the Bailli oi Dijon, made up an army of about 8,000 men. On 
the 1st of December Imola was taken, and afterwards Forli, 
where, however, Caterina Sforza, who commanded the defence, 
held the fortress with determined valour up to the 12th January, 
1500, only 5delding to the onslaught of the French. These, in 
admiration of her manly courage, saved her both from Valentinois' 
soldiery, and from the revenge of the Pope, who desired her 
immediate murder, because, in his opinion, " the Sforza family were 
the spawn of hell serpents." ' Thus Caterina was allowed to 
finish her days in Florence, in the convent of the Murate. 

After Forli, C?esar captured Cesena, where he was obliged to 
pause. Louis XII. had returned to France, and General Trivulzio, 
whom he had left behind as governor, so greatly exasperated 
Milan and Lombardy by his tyrannous rule, that Lodovico, 
backed by a Swiss army, and favoured by the population, was 
able to repossess himself of his State, and entered his capital in 
triumph on the 5th of February. For this reason, Duke Valen- 
tinois's French troops were hastily recalled to join their com- 
panions already on the retreat, and he was compelled to suspend 
the Avar. He then determined to go to Rome, where the jubilee 
had begun to bring in large pecuniary supplies, which were as 
usual greedily seized and applied to the usual ends. Robed in 
black velvet, with a gold chain round his neck, and wearing a 
solemn and tragic aspect, Csesar made a grand, triumphal entry 
at the head of his army into the Eternal City, where he was 
received by the Cardinals bareheaded. Proceeding a Httle 
further, he threw himself at the feet of the Pope, who, after 
exchanging a few words in Spanish with him lacrimavit et rixii 
a un trato? And now, as it was carnival time, great festivities 
were arranged. A figure representing Victoria Jiilii CesartSj 
mounted upon a car constructed for the purpose, made the 
round of Piazza Navona, where servatce sunt fatnitatcs Romano- 
rtim more so/i'to.^ And the festivities multiplied, when news 
arrived of the return of Louis XII. into Italy at the head of a 
fresh army ; and that Lodovico, betrayed and abandoned by his 
Swiss, had, on the loth of April, fallen into the hands of the 
French, together with his brother Ascanio. The latter was 
confined in the tower of Bourges in Berry, and was afterwards 

' Sanudo, " Diarii," vol. ii. folio 329. , ^^ 

■ The Ambassador V. Capello, in Samido, quoted by GreTOrovIus, "Gcscliiclito, 
&c., vol. viii. p. 441. 

^ Burchardi, " JJiarium," coJ. cit., folio lo5. 


liberated ; but Lodovico died in the castle of Lochcs, after ten 
years' iinjirisonment. 

At the first announcenunt of this fortunate news, the Duke of 
\'alentinois, certain of now being able to pursue his bloody enter- 
prise in Koniagna, found it impossible to restrain his joy. Close 
to St. Peter's, a grand bull fight was given, in which C.xsar, 
" mounted on his Spanish jennet, distinguished himself by killing 
six fierce bulls, cutting oft the head of one of them at a single 
stroke, which appeared a mighty feat to all Rome."' 

Meanwhile, pilgrims to the Jubilee continued to arrive in great 
numbers ; there were more religious ceremonies than ever, and 
indulgences and receipts were proportionately swelled. The 
corpses of persons murdered during the night were found every 
morning in the streets of Rome, and not seldom the victims 
were prelates. One day (27th of May) eighteen bodies were to 
be seen strung up on the Bridge of St. Angelo. These were 
thieves executed by order of the Pope, among them the doctor 
to the hospital of St. John Lateran, who was accustomed to spend 
his early mornings in robberies and assassinations.^ No sooner 
did the confessor of the sick learn that any one of them had 
money, than he revealed it to the doctor, qiii dabat ci recipCy 
and they then divided the booty between them. 3 This example 
of prompt and severe justice was only given because thirteen of 
the men hung had robbed the French ambassador, with whom 
{:b,e Pope wished to keep upon friendly terms.* 

|n rhe July of the same year another of the tragedies peculiar 
to the Borgia occurred. The Duke of Bisceglie, Lucrezia's 
husband, noticing that the friendship of the French had suddenly 
deprived him of the good-will both of the Pope and of Valentinois, 
no longer considered himself in safety. In 1499 he had witnessed 
the exile of his sister Donna Sancia^ and seen how the Holy 
Father had threatened to drive her from her house by force, if 
she would not go quietiy.s These and other signs awakened his 
suspicions, and after some hesitation, he suddenly fled to the 
Colonna at Gennazzano, intending afterwards to cross the Neapo- 

* The narrative of P. Cappello, Venetian ambassador, published by Alberi in 
Viis " Relazioni," &c., Series II. vol. ii. p. 10. 

^ " Singulis diebus bono mane exibat in habitu brevi hospitale cum balista, et 
interficiebat quos poterat commode, et pecunias corum auferebat " (Burchardi, 
1'- Piarium," cod. cit., folio 209). 3 Burchardi, " Diarium," ibid. 

•» Sanudo, " Diarii," vol. iii. folio 141. The letters here given, dated 4th 01 
June, 1500, speak of the pleasure of the King of France at this execution, and 
add that further, within ten days, all the Corsicans were driven away, who had. 
been some of the worst assassins in Rome. 

s She returned, however, after a sliort absence. 


Htan border, and leaving his wife Liicrezia, who was in delicate 
health, in real or feigned sorrow. But in Avigust he returned 
at her entreaty, and joined her at Spoleto, of which town she 
had been nominated regent. Thence they returned together to 

On the evening of the 15th of July, 1500, the Duke of Bisceglie 
coming down the steps of St. Peter's was suddenly attacked by 
assassins, who wounded him about the head and arms, and then 
took flight. He ran into the Vatican, and related how and by 
whom he had been wounded to the Pope, who, as usual, was 
sitting with Lucrezia. She first fainted away, and then led her 
husband to a chamber in the Vatican and attended to his wounds. 
For fear of poison, doctors were sent for from Naples. The sick 
man was nursed by his wife and his sister Donna Sancia, who 
" cooked for him in a pipkin," since there was no one to be 
trusted. But Valentinois said, " that which could not be done 
at dinner shall be done at supper ; " and he kept his word. In 
fact, finding that the unhappy Duke was likely to recover in spite 
of the very severe wound in his head, he came suddenly into the 
room one evening, and having sent away the two ladies, who 
unresistingly obeyed, he had the Duke strangled in his bed by 
Don Micheletto.^ Nor this time was much mystery made of the 
business. The Pope himself, after the first attempt, quietly 
remarked to the Venetian ambassador, Paolo Cappello — " The 

* About this time, and before the affair of the Duke of Bisceglie, the Pope had 
been in danger through the fall of a roof in the Vatican. The Venetian Ambassa- 
dor, paying him a visit on the 3rd of July, found with His Holiness " Madonna 
Lucrezia, the princess, and her husband, and one of Madonna Lucrezia'sdamozels, 
who is a favourite with the Pope " (Sanudo, "Diarii," vol. iii. folio 172). 

' "Cumnon vellet ex huiusmodi vulneribus sibi datis mori, in lecto sue fuit 
strangolatus circa horam iQw, et in sero circa primam horam noctis portatum fuit 
cadaver ad basilicam Sancti Petri." Burchardi, "Diarium." This is another of 
the facts related by nearly all contemporary historians and ambassadors, among 
whom we must specially mention the Venetian ambassador Paolo Cappello, then 
in Rome, and who, in his above-quoted " Relazione," minutely accounts all the 
particulars which we have given. His narrative agrees with that of Burchardi and 
of Sanudo, the latter nearly always transcribing Cappello's Roman despatches 
either in full or in abridgement. After relating the deed, Sanudo ("Diarii," 
vol. iii. folio 201) adds that the author of the crime was the same who had caused 
the murder of the Duke of Gandia. Further on (folio 263 retro), he gives the 
orator's letters of the iSth and 20th of July, stating that the Duke of Bisceglie 
had been murdered "because he had been trying to kill the Duke (Valentinois), 
and the Duke has had it done by some bowmen, and has had him cut to pieces in 
his own room." In the " Relazione," written afterwards, when perhaps he had 
closer information, Cappello says instead, that Caesar had had him strangled by 
Don Micheletto. Further on, Sanudo (folio 273) quotes letters of the 23rd and 
24th of August, in which it is narrated how the Pope made excuses for Caesar, 
alleging that the Duke of Bisceglie wished to kill him. 


nuke (Valciitindis) says tliat he did not strike him ; but if he 
had struck him it was Diily what he deserved." Valciilinois, on 
the contrary, merely excused himself by savinjJJ tliat he had 
committed the crime because the Duke of Bisceghe meant to 
kill him. 

C:csar was now twenty-seven years of age, in the flower of his 
health and strength ; he felt himself master of Rome, and of the 
Pope himself, who had so great a fear of him, that he did not 
dare to utter a syllable the day on which his confidential servant, 
Pictro Caldes, or Pierotto, was murdered in his arms, and the 
man's blood spurted in his face. But Alexander was little 
disturbed by all this, and suffered no loss of rest.^ " He is 
seventy years of age," wrote the ambassador Cappello ; *' he 
grows younger every day ; his anxieties never last through a 
night ; he has a cheerful nature and does whatever is most 
useful to him." 

On the 28th of September, as a means of obtaining money, he 
made twelve fresh cardinals at once, six of whom were Spaniards, 
thus gaining 120,000 ducats, which were at once given to 
Valentinois. With this money, the receipts of the jubilee, and 
the aid given by the French in addition to his own forces under 
the Orsini, Savelli, Baglioni, and Vitelli, he made himself master 
of Pesaro, driving out (October, 1500) his former brother-in-law, 
Giovanni Sforza ; he next dispossessed Pandolfo Malatesta of 
Rimini ; and finally, laid siege to Faenza, whose lord, Astorre 
Manfredi, a boy of sixteen, was so much beloved by his people, 
that the town stood out valiantly, until at last driven by famine 
to capitulate on the 25th of April, 1501. It did not surrender 
until Caesar Borgia had sworn to spare the townsfolk and save 
Manfredi's life ; as usual, he broke his word, imprisoned Manfredi 
in the castle of St. Angelo ; and after subjecting him to the 
most loathsome outrages, caused him to be strangled and thrown 
into the Tiber on the 9th of June, 1502." 

* r. Cappello, the before-quoted " Relazione." Sanudo, on the contrary, quotes 
letters from Rome, dated 20th of February, 1498, in which it is related that 
I'ierotto, the waiting man, was found drowned in the Tiber with a faithful 
girl, a cieatttre of the Pope! "And the reason of this is not known." The 
following are Cappello's words iu his '' Relazione " : " And another time he 
(Valentinois) killed Messer Pierotto with his own hand, and under the Pope's 
own mantle, so that the blood splashed in the Pope's face." The letter of Silvio 
Savelli, quoted by Gregorovius (" Geschichte," &c., vol. vii. p. 447), says : "Ponti- 
ficis cubicularius Perottus in ejus gremis trucidatus." Burchardi says that he was 
drowned in the Tiber. Possibly he was thrown in already murdered. 

" At the time of his death, Manfredi was eighteen years of age. Nardi, always 
a temperate writer, speaks of this deed with the utmost horror. {" Storia di 
Fireuze": Firenze, 1842, vol. i. pp. 237-3S.) Guicciardini and many others 


The Pope next gave Caesar the title of Duke of Romagna, — 
Imola, Faenza, Forli, Rimini, Pesaro, and Fano were ah'eady in- 
cluded in his dominions, of which Bologna was to be the capital, 
and which was afterwards to be extended towards Sinigaglia and 
Urbino, in the hope of later annexing Tuscany as well. But for 
the present, France placed her veto upon any attempt against 
Bologna or Tuscany, which, on their side, were actively pre- 
paring for defence. Meanwhile, secret negotiations were going 
on between Spain and France, for the division of the kingdom of 
Naples between them, and the Pope entered into the arrange- 
ments, hoping, with his accustomed greed, to be able to extend 
his son's power in that direction likewise. 

4. Savonarola and the Republic of Florence. 

While these events were happening in Rome, the Borgia had 
planned another tragedy in Florence, where very grave changes 
had taken place, of which it is now needful to speak.' 

From the time of Charles VIII.'s Italian expedition, a Domini- 
can friar, prior of St. Mark's convent, and a very remarkable man, 
had become almost master of the city. Everything indeed that 
was now done was dictated by the counsels he gave from the 
pulpit. A native of Ferrara, and coming to Florence during the 
ruje of the Medici, he had preached against the general de- 
pravity of manners, and the corruption of the Church, always 
attacking Pope Alexander more or less covertly, and proving 
himself to be the champion of liberty. In many respects, he 
neither was nor seemed to be a man of his time. Having no 
true classical culture, he detested the Pagan spirit with which all 
things were then impregnated. Learned in the Bible, the Holy 
Fathers, and scholastic philosophy, he was animated by the 
liveliest religious enthusiasm. Steeped in doctrines, at that time 
held in slight esteem, he wrote verses which, if not particularly 
well turned, at least were full of Christian ardour. Endowed witli 
great independence of mind and character, and much good sense, 
yet he often spoke as one who was inspired, for he really believed 

also mention it. Burchardi's " Diaiio " tells us that in June the body of Astorre 
Manfredi was found in the Tiber with those of two youths, a woman, and several 
others. There is a notice of Manfredi's death in a despatch of 6th June, 1502, 
from the Venetian ambassador, Antonio Giustinian. (" Dispacci di Antonio 
Giustinian," published by P. Villari : riorence, successors Le Monnier, 1876, in 
3 vols.) 

' See my ** Storia di Girolamo Savonarola e dei suoi tempi,' in 2 vols. : 
Florence, F. le Monnier, 1S59-61. Having already treated this subject at length, 
I may be allowed to make but brief mention of it here. 


liinisolf a proplict, sent by Goil Almi,i;lity to reform the Church 
and redeem Italy. The mere fact of beiiij; so dincrcnt from other 
men, and of not havinj; the quahties and gifts then universal in 
men who lacked precisely those which he possessed, gave this friar 
a prodigious ascendency not only over the crowd, but even over 
the most cultured minds. Lorenzo dei Medici summoned him to 
his death-bed, beseeching for absolution from his sins ; and this 
absolution Savonarola refused to grant to his country's tyrant. 
Angelo Poliziano, and Pico della Mirandola, both followers of 
that Pagan learning which Savonarola condemned, desired to be 
buried in St. Mark's church, shrouded in the Dominican habit. 
Many other literary men, and numerous artists, listened spell- 
bound to the friar's utterances. 

Carried away by his imagination, and also by a singular 
presentiment, that often seemed to endow him with the gift of 
reading the future, not only did he predict the future evils of 
Italy in general terms, but he positively prophesied the coming of 
foreign armies, led by a new Cyrus. And this prophecy appeared 
to be miraculously fulfilled in 1494, by the descent of Charles 
VIII. ; whereupon the friar became altogether the chief man in 
Florence, all citizens relying upon him in the most critical 
moments. Thus with Piero Capponi, and others, he was sent as 
ambassador to the king, after Piero dei Medici had vilely yielded 
up everything ; and the king, who had shown great roughness to 
all others, humbled himself before him who threatened him with 
the divine wrath. When, too, all the terms of the agreement had 
been signed in Florence, and the army lodged within the walls 
remained stationary, to the great danger of the city, Savonarola 
was the only man who dared to present himself before the king, 
sternly bidding him depart. And his order was obeyed. There- 
fore it is not surprising if, when he set to work to form a new 
government, all men turned to the friar, and nothing was any 
longer done in Florence, save by the counsel of one, who had not 
only given signal proofs of disinterested love for the public 
welfare, but, fortunately, also of marvellous political common 

On the 2nd of December the bell of the Palazzo Vecchio rang 
out the summons to a general parliament, and the people hastened 
to its call in regular order, led by the Gonfaloniers of the different 
Companies. Twenty Accoppiatori were instantly elected for the 
nomination of Magistrates, and the arrangement of necessary pro- 
posals of reform. Thus, in a short time, the Republic was 
established upon a new basis, bringing to life old institutions, not, 
however, without considerably modifying them. The Gonfalonier, 


with the eight Priori forming the Signory, to be renewed every 
two months, were preserved ; and so also the Magistracy of the 
Eight, which charged with the maintenance of order within the 
city, was a tribunal for common offences, and more especially for 
those against the State. The old Magistracy of the Ten for 
war affairs was likewise preserved. The Gonfaloniers of the 
Companies and the twelve Worthies, a remnant of old institu- 
tions composing the so-called Colleges which gave their assistance 
to the Signory, without having any real importance, were also 
maintained. But serious disputes arose regarding the Councils or 
assemblies of the Republic. The Council of Seventy, organ of the 
Medicean despotism, was promptly abolished ; but it was found 
impossible to reconstitute those of the people and the Commune, 
because, under the old Republic, these answered to a state of 
things, to a division of the citizens which no longer existed, and 
which it was impossible to renew. Discussions therefore began. 
A few persons, at whose head was Paolo Antonio Soderini, just 
returned from Venice, positively proposed a Great Council, open 
to every citizen, and a less numerous council of Oitimatiy 
precisely after the pattern of the Great Council, and of the 
Pregadi of Venice. But this proposal was combated by those 
who, headed by Guidantonio Vespucci, desired a more restricted 
form of government ; they opposed the institution of the Great 
Council, which they said might be useful in Venice, where there 
was an aristocracy which alone composed it, but would be most 
dangerous to Florence, where, failing the aristocracy, it would be 
necessary to admit citizens of all ranks. Even, according to 
Guicciardini, the danger of this great divergence of opinion 
consisted in this, that should a narrow form of government 
prevail instead of a moderately liberal one, there would ensue, as 
a necessary reaction, a government of too democratic a form, 
which would endanger the Republic. And it was for that reason 
that this great historian and acute politician took the part of 
Savonarola,' who, precisely at that time, took up the question 
and rescued everything, by preaching in favour of a universal 
government^ with a Great Council on the Venetian plan, but 
adapted to Florentine needs and customs. The weight of his 
words speedily brought about the victory of Soderini's proposal, 
and the friar in consequence obtained so great an ascendency over 
the people, that from that moment the discussions in the palace 
and the laws passed frequently seem to be mere copies of his 

' As much in his " Storia Fiorentina," as in bis treatise, "Del Ucggimento di 
Firenze," published in the " Opera Inedite.' 


On the 2 2iul ami i^rd December a decree was issued for tlic 
Coiisiglio Maggiore, to which all citizens were bidden who were 
twenty-nine years of age, and were hcnefictati\ that is to say, who 
enjovcd the benefit of the Statc^ or, according to the old laws of 
the Republic, had the right to govern. Should these exceed the 
number of 1,500, then a third of them only, in alternation with 
the other thirds, would form a council from six months to six 
months.' The city had at that time about 90,000 inhabitants ; 
the beneficed {bcncfici'ati) citizens of the age of twenty-nine 
numbered 3,200 ; so that the Great Council was in fact composed 
of little more than a thousand members.^ Also every three years 
sixty non-beneficcd citizens and twenty-four young men aged 
twenty-four, were chosen to take part in the Council, " in order to 
give encouragement to the young and incite them to virtue." 
The chief function of the Council was the election of magistrates 
— in which the best guarantee of liberty then consisted — and in 
voting laws, though without discussing them. Besides this, it was 
to elect immediately eighty citizens of at least forty years of age, 
to form the Council of Eighty, a species of Senate to be renewed 
every six months, and of which the membership belonged of right 
to some of the principal magistrates. This sat once a week to 
deliberate, in conjunction with the Signory, on all grave and 
delicate questions Avhich could not be communicated to the larger 
assembly. The Collegi joined these sittings whenever it was a 
question of nominating ambassadors and captains, or making 
arrangements with mercenary leaders. 

It was in this manner that the new Republic was constituted. 
Division of power being then unknown, the attributes of the 
magistrates were considerably confused. Nevertheless, when 
a new law required sanction, the following was the usual mode of 
procedure : the proposal was made by the Signoria, who could — if 
the matter required it — first call together a so-called Pratica, 
composed of the colleges, the principal magistrates and the 
Arroti, z'.e., citizens selected for that special purpose. When this 
measure was considered unnecessary, application was made at 
once to the Eighty, and then to the Great Council without 
farther delay. In the Pratica some discussion of questions took 
place, but at the Councils members gave their votes without 
preliminary debate. The same course was pursued with regard 

* All this is much more minutely detailed in my *' Storia di Girolamo 
Savonarola," to which I must again refer the reader. 

* According to the law, the minimum was fixed at 500, so that if the bcncficiati 
amounted to fewer than 1,500, they were not divided into thirds, hut formed the 
Council altogether. For this reason the Council Hall, then built by Cronaca in 
the palace of the Signoria, was named the Hall of the Five Hundred. 


to matters of weightier import than the passing of laws — declara- 
tions of war, for instance, or the conclusion of some treaty 
pregnant with the gravest results. 

This novel machinery of government soon began to work 
regularly, and Savonarola, as one of its principal authors, 
powerfully promoted other important reforms by means of his 
preachings from the pulpit. The irregular and arbitrary taxes 
upon real property were replaced by tithes (Decima). Parliament 
was abolished, for that assembly, having always approved every 
measure proposed by the Signoria, had frequently been made the 
docile tool of tyranny and change. The Monte di Pieta was 
established. A new law was also passed, granting — in State trials 
— a right of appeal from the Eight to the Great Council ; this 
was, it must be confessed, a highly imprudent act, inasmuch as 
it entrusted the administration of justice to popular feeling. 
Savonarola himself was in favour of a more restricted right of 
appeal, but on this point he was powerless to restrain the people, 
urged on as they were by his personal enemies. These latter 
hoped, by means of excesses, to put the Republic in danger, or at 
least — as they phrased it — to deliver it from the hands of the 
Friar. After-events proved the inexpediency of the law. 

Nevertheless at first public business was carried on with suffi- 
cient regularity, nor did other disturbances arise, save those 
brought about by the war with Pisa, which indeed, not having as yet 
assumed a very serious character, served to keep the Florentines 
from quarrelling among themselves. It is true that the allies sum- 
moned Maximilian, King of the Romans, to the aid of the Pisans ; 
but when they beheld him arrive without an army, they would 
give him neither money nor men ; so that he had to return the 
way he came, without having achieved anything. But Florence 
already held the seeds of a very grave danger, destined to be the 
cause of fatal results. With ever-increasing fervour, Savonarola 
was urging reformation of manners, and the defence of freedom ; 
he suggested many useful measures, and painted the evils of 
tyranny in the liveliest colours. But he did not stop here. 

He also urged the necessity of reforming the Church, which, as 
all men knew and saw, had lapsed into the most abject corruption. 
Dogma and even the principle of Papal authority he left un- 
touched, for in fact he never ceased to be a Roman Catholic ; but 
at last he pointed out the need of a Council, and made allusions 
to Pope Alexander's scandalous mode of life. Thereupon the 
Pope began to feel serious disquietude at a state of things so novel 
for Italy, and dangerous for himself, who, as Piero Capponi had 
previously described him, was of a cowardly nature and conscius 


crivu'nis sui'} First of all he sent vSavoiiarola a very graciously 
wi)rilcil iiuMlation to Rome, which ihe Friar (lecliiied to accept. 
On this the Pope interdicted him from preaching ; but the Ten 
wrote so vngently in his defence, that — for fear of worse con- 
sequences — the brief was revoked. Once more the Pope resorted 
to flattery, and even the possibility of a Cardinal's hat was sug- 
gested ; but again the Prior of San Marco refused, and during the 
Lent of 1496 thundered louder than ever from his pulpit. He 
predicted future calamities, recurred to the question of church 
reform, and insisted that Florence must firmly consolidate her 
popular government, in order to promote both at home and 
abroad the renovation and triumph of religion cleansed of all 

The matter by this time had assumed such grave proportions, 
that, stirred by conflicting psssions, the eyes of all Italy were 
turned upon the courageous Friar. All men were convinced of 
the frightful corruption of the Church, and all understood that 
notwithstanding the universal and radical religious scepticism of 
the Italians, things could not long go on as they were. The precur- 
sory symptoms of reform already manifest at Constance, at Basle, 
and elsewhere, were too significant to be forgotten. The enthusi- 
astic, earnest attention with which flippant, sceptical Florence was 
now listening to Savonarola, inspired in many a contused alarm, 
and aroused the fierce rage of Alexander VI. He, who had so 
easily dismissed prelates and cardinals from the world, now saw 
himself personally attacked by a simple friar, without having the 
power to punish him. 

Still the Pope did not despair of turning aside the threatened 
danger. Savonarola, it is true, was a powerful if rough orator ; 
he was a man of prodigious activity ; he wrote an immense num- 
ber of works, of pamphlets, of letters ; he gave himself no rest ; 
daily and several times a-day, he delivered sermons in different 
churches ; his zeal for good was great, his religious enthusiasm 
most ardent, his power immense. Yet, as we have already re- 
marked, he was not altogether a man of his day ; his culture was 
in part scholastic, his enthusiasm frequently verged upon fanati- 
cism ; he beheld visions and believed himself a prophet ; some- 
times he imagined that the Almighty would make use of him to 
perform miracles. He was an ardent lover of liberty ; but with 
the true monastic spirit, he yearned for it as a means of promo- 
ting religious reform. At times, indeed, he seemed determined to 
turn all Florence into a conventual establishment, which to many 

» Vide letters before quoted from Capponi to Piero dci Medici, published l:>y 
Desjardins, "Negociations,"&c., vol. i. p. 393, and fol. 


must have appeared an almost childish illusion. He was sur- 
rounded by artists and men of learning, over whom, as over botli 
people and politicians, he exercised an extraordinary ascendency. 
But while loving culture and encouraging the arts, he was a most 
bitter enemy of the pagan spirit that then impregnated and cor- 
rupted all things. Among his friars, as among his followers out- 
side the convent, were men of lofty character and commanding 
energy ; but there were also not a few weak and superstitious 
spirits, to exaggerate the ideas of their master, who was not entirely 
free from exaggeration himself. The immense power which he 
had acquired in Florence through the wisdom of his political advice, 
the nobility of his mind, his irresistible eloquence, were more 
strengthened by the wonder awakened by the singularity of his 
character, than by his success in arousing in Florence a veritable 
rehgious fervour. And it was upon this point that Savonarola 
greatly deceived himself, and failed therefore to see that he was in 
fact building upon sand ; he desired a free government to promote 
religious reform, and the Florentines accepted religious reform, 
only for the better consolidation of a free government. Hence 
the base of his power was less solid than it seemed, and the Pope 
could not fail to find ways to create new parties and foment strife. 

A considerable number of young men, lovers of the gay living 
so much in favour under the Medici, and now held in such bitter 
reprobation, banded together under the name of the Compagnacci 
(Bad. Fellows) for the purpose of ridiculing the Friar and his 
friends whom they styled Piagnoni (Snivellers), Frateschi, &c., 
and of combating them by every means in their power. So in 
1497, it came about that while this party made an attempt to 
revive the old Medicean carnival with its bacchanalian revels and 
indecencies, on the other hand the exhortations of Savonarola and 
his followers inspired bands of children to scour the streets and 
houses of Florence in search of vanities^ namely, books, writings, 
drawings, and sculpture of a licentious character ; all carnival 
dresses and masks. The 7th of February and last day of carnival, 
was celebrated by a solemn procession, that terminated with the 
famous burning of the vanities^ Avhich were collected together in 
the Piazza of the Signoria, and heaped up on the stages of a great 
wooden pyramid constructed for the purpose. As was very 
natural, this affair gave rise, to numerous accusations and much 
ridicule on the part of the Compagnacci, although this singular 
solemnity not only had the sanction of the chief authorities, but 
was almost directed by them, in order that it might be conducted 
with dignity and decorum. Indeed the Campagnacci loudly 
blamed the government for taking part in monkish shows. With 

VOL. 1. x=; 


this party sided the Arrabbiati, who desired a more restricted 
lorm of government, that is, one restricted to Ottimati and the 
}?igi (Greys), so called, because they did not venture to show their 
--ecret object, which was no less than the pure and simple restora- 
tion of the Medici. 

As yet none of these intrigues endangered cither the Republic 
or Savonarola. The Compagnacci were not a political party ; the 
Ottimati had few followers in Florence, which had always been a 
democratic city ; the Bigi, though with powerful adherents both 
at home and abroad, had in Piero dei Medici a leader at once too 
hated and despised, to be desired by many. The first attempt he 
made to re-enter Florence, where he expected a most favourable 
reception, ended in his having the city gate contemptuously closed 
in his face. A conspiracy for the same object got up by Bernardo 
del Nero and others, ended in their death. All this, however, 
produced a state of things, in which it Avas easy for Alexander VI. 
to find an opportunity for the revenge, that he had so long and 
so ardently sought. 

Savonarola daily hurled fresh bolts against Roman licence, daily 
he insisted more openly on the necessity of calling together a 
council, and daily made allusions from the pulpit to the crimes 
and vices of the Pope. Frequently ordered to be silent, he raised 
his voice louder and louder. Finally sentence of excommunica- 
tion was pronounced against him, and this he declared to be null 
and void, adding that he spoke in the name of the Almighty, and 
was ready to maintain his own innocence against the whole 
world ; that, however, he despaired of convincing Alexander VI., 
who, having been elected simoniacally, and stained with so many 
crimes and scandals, could not be considered as the true Pope. 
This was at the time of the murder of the Duke of Gandia, of 
the rumour of the Pope's incest with his daughter Lucrezia ; and 
Savonarola was worked up to a frenzy which he neither would nor 
could moderate. He addressed letters to the powers of Europe, 
urging them to assemble a Council for the salvation of the Church, 
which, as he would publicly demonstrate, had no true and legiti- 
mate head. One of these letters unfortunately fell into the hands 
of Alexander VI. Still more unfortunately, Charles VIII., who 
seemed to have repented of his sins and decided to put his hand 
to the reforms urged by Savonarola, by whom he was regarded as 
his strongest support, died suddenly in the early part of 1498. 
And although all this was not known in Italy, still it was already 
plain that all things were conspiring to the hurt of the poor friar. 
It was at this moment that an unexpected opportunity occurred 
which the Pope unhesitatingly seized. 


The Signorythen in office was hostile to Savonarola ; continued 
encouragement from abroad had increased the audacity of the 
Arrabbiati and the Compagnacci, the Bigi were always ready for 
anything that meant harm to tlie Republic, some even of the 
Piagnoni were disturbed by the fierceness of the conflict with the 
Pope, when a singular occurrence took place, of which no one 
could foresee the tremendous results. Francesco di Puglia, a 
Franciscan monk, in the course of a furious sermon against Savon- 
arola in the Church of Santa Croce, declared himself ready to go 
through the ordeal of fire with him and thereby prove the falsity 
of the Friar's doctrines. 

To Savonarola the affair appeared so strange and unseemly, 
that he disregarded it ; but not so his disciple Brother 
Domenico Buonvicini of Pescia. This friar, a man of small wits, 
but earnest, energetic and possessed with a burning zeal, accepted 
the challenge and unhesitatingly declared his readiness to go 
through the trial by fire in order to prove the truth of his master's 
doctrines. Francesco di Puglia replied that he had challenged 
Sav^onarola, and with him alone would he enter the fire ; Fra 
Domenico must be content to make the trial with Giuliano 
Rondinelli another Franciscan. The matter unfortunately went 
on notwithstanding Savonarola's attempts to put a stop to it ; Fra 
Domenico had fallen readily into the trap set for him, and Savon- 
arola himself \vas not entirely disinclined to believe in the success 
of the experiment, convinced as he was of holding a mission from 
God and of being inspired by him to preach the doctrines which 
were now disputed. The Arrabbiati and the Compagnacci pushed 
the matter on with all their might, for the;y hoped to crush the 
Piagnoni by ridicule, and to accomplish the murder of Savonarola 
in the tumult for which they were making preparations. They 
were helped in this by the Signoria, now in secret agreement with 

Accordingly this extraordinary experiment or ordeal — an evident 
anachronism in the fifteenth century — was fixed for the 7th ot 
April, 1498. At the hour arranged, the monks came in procession 
to the Piazza in front of the Palace, where everything had been 
ordered by the Signoria, and where an immense crowd had 
gathered, impatient to witness a spectacle that recalled the Middle 
Ages. Savonarola, finally persuaded that Fra Domenico's fiery 
zeal, against which he had vainly combated, was a veritable in- 
spiration from on high, had consented to lead his brethren. How- 
ever, when all was ready on their side, and Fra Domenico of 
Pescia awaited the signal to enter the fire, the Franciscans, whose 
only object was to lay a trap for their adversaries, began to hesitate, 


aiul it was plain tliat Rdndinclli had no wish to tacc the ordeal. 
'I'hey did cvcrylhiii<; in their power to exeitc the wished-for dis- 
lurbanee, but without success, for Fril Donicnico stood boldly 
forward, eager for the proof, and his attitude discomfited every 
adversary. But with their numberless objections and disputes the 
Franciscans contrived to waste the whole day, and at last a violent 
thunder-shower furnished the Signoria with an excuse for declaring 
that the ordeal could no longer take place. 

According to all reason tliis should have completed the defeat 
of Savonarola's enemies ; but instead it had the contrary effc^ct. 
The crowd was weary and furious at the loss of the longed-for 
spectacle ; and many laid the blame on Savonarola, saying that 
had he really been convinced of his divine mission, he would, 
without arguments, have entered the fire alone, and thus have 
silenced his adversaries for ever. His followers consisted chiefly 
either of devoted fanatics, or politicians who only regarded him as 
the champion of free government. The first regretted that the 
trial had not been made, the second deplored Savonarola's consent 
to it ; thus there was universal discontent. In this way it became 
possible for the Arrabbiati and the Compagnacci, seconded by the 
Bigi and favoured by the Signoria, to excite the people against the 
Piagnoni, some of whom were killed or wounded in the streets, 
and others insulted on all sides. And now the reaction had set in. 
A furious mob attacked the convent of St Mark, which in spite of 
the valiant resistance of some of the brethren, assisted by a small 
band of friends, was stormed and taken. Savonarola, his faithful 
companion Fra Domenico, and Fra Salvestro Maruffi, one of his 
most noted followers, but a mere visionary of the feeblest character, 
were carried to prison to await their trial. 

The Pope would have paid any price to get the Friar into his 
hands, and made the most liberal offers ; but the Signoria, although 
composed of Arrabbiati most ready to agree to his death, could 
not reconcile it with the dignity of the Republic that the trial 
should take place elsewhere. In Florence, however, it was carried 
on in obedience to the orders and instructions received from Rome, 
torture was repeatedly employed, and confessions extorted from 
the delirium of pain. While on the rack Savonarola could no 
longer command his nerves, and had not the strength to maintain 
that his doctrines and his works had been inspired by God, yet he 
steadfastly denied ever having been moved by any personal motives 
or of acting in bad faith ; on the contrary, he maintained that all 
that he had done had been solely and wholly for the public good. 
To this we may add that although the weak, unstable Fra Sil- 
vestro gave way at once, denied his master, and said everything 


that his judges wished him to say, Fra Domenico, on the contrary, 
uticonquered either by threats or torture, remained nobly con- 
sistent, unshrinkingly proclaiming his steadfast faith in his beloved 
master. Recourse was accordingly had to the common and easy 
expedient of altering as much as possible the very confessions 
extorted in the torture chamber, without however being able even 
in this way to find reasonable grounds for condemnation. 

Meanwhile the Pope was sending furious letters demanding 
either that the Friars should be sent to Rome where he would 
know how to deal Avith them, or that they should be put to death 
without further delay. In fact the Signoria had neither will nor 
power to abandon its cruel purpose. As, however, two months 
had already passed, and it was time, according to the Florentine 
laws, for a new Signoria to come into office, the present one 
employed itself solely in providing that the new elections should 
be favourable to the Arrabbiati ; and this was easily contrived. 
The freshly elected magistrates speedily agreed with the Pope, that 
he should send two Apostolic Commissioners to Florence to bring 
the trial to a satisfactory conclusion ; finding grounds that is, for 
capital punishment, more especially as regarded the accusal of 
heresy. Savonarola in the meantime, during this interval of quiet 
in his prison, had written several religious pamphlets, in which, 
while re-asserting all his doctrines he once more declared himself 
to be in all things, as he had ever been, a most faithful and un- 
shaken believer in the Roman Catholic faith. But that mattered 
nothing ; his death had been resolved upon. 

On the 19th of May the Apostolic Commissioners arrived with 
the order that were he another St. John the Bapttst'hQ must be 
condemned to death. They began the mock trial again, torturing 
Savonarola even more cruelly than at first. And although, not- 
withstanding his bodily weakness, he now endured the agony 
better than before, and no good reason could be found for con- 
demning him, yet without delay the Commissioners sentenced him 
and his companions to death, and handed them over to the secular 
arm, showing no mercy even to Maruffi, who had vilely slandered 
and denied his master, making every admission that was suggested 
to him. A friar more or less mattered little, they said. And 
certainly there would have been little prudence in sparing the 
life of so weak and shallow a man, who later might have revealed, 
even unwittingly, the shameless falsification of the trials. Accor- 
dingly, on the 23rd of May, 1498, a great platform was erected in 
the piazza of the Signoria, with a cross at one end on which the 
three friars were hung ; Savonarola in the middle, between the 
Other two. The instant they had breathed thpir last, their corpses 


ncic burnt, ami their ashes thrown into the Arno, in the presence 
of an applauding rabble of boys. 

Throughout this drama there was a strange mixture of ele- 
ments ; of the really heroic with the merely ephemeral. The 
faith of Savonarola, his zeal for the general good, his self-abnega- 
tion, were simply heroic ; mighty was his eloquence, wonderful 
his political wisdom ; merely ephemeral, on the other hand, the 
religious ardour which he believed that he had aroused in the 
Florentine people. In point of fact they had only been stirred to 
a love of liberty, and had listened with enthusiasm to the religious 
teachings of the Friar as long as these continued to give strength 
to the popular government. But as soon as they beheld in him 
a source of danger to the Republic, they had little hesitation in 
giving him up to the Pope. And certainly, no sooner had the 
unhappy Friar ceased to breathe, than all the dangers which had 
from all sides recently threatened the government which he had 
founded, seemed suddenly to melt away. The allies spoke no 
more of re-instating Piero dei Medici ; the Pope, in high good 
humour, sent praises and held out hopes ; Valentinois seemed to 
have renounced all idea of invading Tuscany, and Florence hoped 
to be able to turn all her attention to the war against Pisa, 
without having to think of other matters. 

It was not long before she saw the vanity of these hopes, and 
that much more was needed to satiate the unquenchable avidity 
of the Borgia. But there was no longer any remedy. She could 
only repent having stifled the one voice that was ever raised in 
defence of her liberty ; of having unjustly, iniquitously destroyed 
a man who had done so much good, and would have done so 
much more to the cause of Florence, of liberty, of religion. To 
many his death rendered him a saint and a martyr, and for more 
than a century his memory was admired and worshipped by numbers 
in Florence, who, during subsequent perils of their country, 
showed themselves worthy followers of their master, and shed the 
glow of their heroism over the last moments of the Republic. 
However, that was in the future ; in the May of 1498 the 
Arrabbiati were triumphant, although they did not dare to change 
the form of government planned iDy Savonarola. On the con- 
trary, it was consolidated. Still the Piagnoni continued to be 
persecuted, and many of them were driven out of \vhatever offices 
they held to make room for their declared adversaries and new 
men. At this moment a personage appeared upon the scene, and 
obtained official employ, who was certainly greater than Savona- 
rola, if of a very different order of greatness. To him we must 
now turn our undivided attention. 





Birth and Early Studies of Niccolo Machiavelli — His election as Secretary 
of the Ten. 


ICCOLO MACHIAVELLI makes his first ap- 
pearance in history in the year 1498, the 
twenty-ninth of his age. At that period the 
storm was already gathering which a few 
months later brought Savonarola to the scaf- 
fold. The Signoria was hostile to the Friar ; 
the sentence of excommunication against him 
had already reached Florence. For the pre- 
vention of scandal, he had ordered his faithful disciple, Fra Domenico 
of Pcscia, to preach in San Lorenzo to the women, while he himself 
had left the Duomo, and retired to San Marco, where he delivered 
his sermons to male hearers only. It was there that Machiavelli 
came to hear two sermons, of which he sent details to a friend in 
Rome, in a letter dated the 8th of March of the same year. In 
this we already find certain noteworthy characteristics of an intel- 
lect not merely different from, but opposed to, that of Savonarola. 
He could not understand that there was anything great or noble 
in the Friar. He listened with a smile of irony and scorn to the 
strange words of the man whom he afterwards described as the 
weaponless prophet. He heard him slashing at "your books, oh 
priests, and treating you in a way that even dogs would not sub- 
mit to ; '' he heard him say of the Pope " everything that can be 
said of any great villain ; " as it appeared to him " this Friar is 


colouriiig liis lies to suit the times ;" ' but licfaileil to coniprchcnd 
how he hml gained so great a power in Florence, nor how the 
alTair would end, wherefore he besought his friend to enlighten 
him upon the subject if possible. What manner of man, then, 
was this who remained a cold inquirer in the midst of these 
seething popular passions ? Remembering the no inconsiderable 
part that he played in after-years in the affairs of his Republic, 
and his very considerable part in the history of modern thought, 
the smallest particulars of his youth and his studies would be very 
]irecious. But the early years of Machiavelli remain, perhaps 
always will remain, involved in obscurity. He is seldom men- 
tioned by his contemporaries, and after his death none of his 
friends or acquaintances thought of writing his life. And he, con- 
tinually occupied in the observation of contemporary men and 
events, never refers to himself, never alludes to his own past. As 
a man, as an individual character, he docs not appear to have 
exercised much influence upon those about him ; his actions were 
either of little importance or excited little remark. Even his 
prodigious business activity was chiefly of the pen ; it may be said 
that his life was nearly all in his writings, although he went 
through many and varied experiences. In this he is very different 
from Guicciardini, whom he resembles in many other respects. 
The latter, in fact, having attained to an elevated office, made his 
power and personal authority very clearly felt. Assailed by many 
contemporaries, he defended himself in his " Apologia," in his 
"Ricordi Biografici," and in other writings, in which he often 
speaks at length of himself. However, we shall now try to put 
together all the information we have been able to collect relating 
to IMachiavelli's family and early life. Unfortunately it is ex- 
tremely scanty. 

Machiavelli came of a very old Tuscan family, originally of 
IMontespertoli, a small commune, situated between the Val d'Elsa 
and the Val di Pesa, at a short distance from Florence. In their 
family records — "Oitaderno di ricordanze," some of which are still 
to be found in the libraries of Florence — we read that the Machia- 
velli were allies of the lords of Montespertoli, and positively 
descended from the same stock. According to these ricordanze^ 
abjut the year 1 120 a certain Buoninsegna, son of Dono dei 

* This letter, the second in every edition of Machiavelli's Works, bears the 
date of the 8th of March, 1497. It is, however, well known that, down to the 
middle of the last century, the Florentines dated the year ab incai-iiatione^ that is, 
l)e<;inning it on the 25th of March. The first letter, to which we shall refer later, 
is followed in the " Opere " by a Latin fragment, not generally numbered. In all 
quotations from the "Opere," the reader will understand that we refer to the 
Italian edition of 1813, unless another be specially indicated. 


Machiavelli, was the father of two sons, Castcllano and Dono. 
From the former were descended the Castellani, lords of ]\Ionte- 
spertoH ; from the latter those who bore the name of Machiavelli. 
A spread eagle, field azure, was the arms of the first ; that of the 
second a cross azure, field argent, with four nails, likewise azure, at 
the four corners of the cross. In' 1393 Ciango del Castellani of 
Montespertoli bequeathed to Buoninsegna and Lorenzo, children 
of Filippo Machiavelli, the celebrated author's great-great-grand- 
father, the castle of Montespertoli, with rights of patronage over 
many churches. This inheritance, though of little value — feudal 
rights being then abolished — brought the Machiavelli certain 
privileges, as, for instance, the monopoly of the public scales and 
measures, a yearly offering of wax candles, and the permission to 
affix their arms to the well on the market-place which now bears 
their name. The property itself was of no great value, and was 
divided among the many branches of the numerous family. Very 
little, therefore, came into the hands of Niccolo Machiavelli's 
father, whose own lands Avere in the neighbouring commune of 
San Casciano. But he still preserved certain barren rights upon 
the castle, and rights of patronage over various churches, belong- 
ing in part to the Montespertoli inheritance.* The Machiavelli 
also possessed houses in the quarter of Sto. Spirito, near Santa 
Felicita and the Fonte Vecchio in Florence, where they had long 
been established, and were among the most notable of the popo- 
lani? Indeed, we find them among those who had to go into 

' The house in which Machiavelli lived and died is the present No. l6, Via 
Guicciardini, Florence. 

^ In the Marucelliana Library in Florence (Cod. 229, A. 10), is the " Qua- 
deriio," or Book of Records of Ristoro, son of Lorenzo, who was the son of 
Niccolo Machiavelli. This Niccolo, who was the son of Alessandro, was several 
times member of the Signoria and of the Ten, and was a contemporaiy of the 
great writer, but of another branch of the family. The two have occasionally 
been confused with each other, and thereby many mistakes have arisen. Ristoro's 
Book of Records begins on the ist of September, 1538, and contains, besides 
family accounts, several important notices, part of which are copied from the most 
ancient of the family records. Thus, there are notes written by Lorenzo Machia- 
velli, and others still older, extracted from a "Record" by Bernardo, son of 
Niccolo Machiavelli, written in the year 1460. And it is in this Record that the 
father of our Machiavelli, nine years before the birth of his son, notes down the 
family genealogy. Part of these records are corroborated by Giuliano dei Ricci in 
his "Priorista," a manuscript in which he frequently speaks of the Machiavelli 
family, to whom he was related. ( Vide in the National Library of Florence the 
" Priorista," by Giuliano dei Ricci : Quartiere Santo Spirito, Sesto d'Oltrarno, 

The branch to which our Machiavelli belonged was extinguished in the be- 
ginning of the seventeenth century by the death of Ippolita, daughter of Alessandro, 
who was the son of Bernardo, Niccolo's third son. Married in 1608 to Pier 
Francesco dei Ricci, she died in 1613. Bacchia, the daughter of Niccolo Machia' 


exile ill 1260,' after the defeat at ISIontaperto. But they soon 
returned to Florence with the other Guelphs, and arc frequently 
mentioned in the history of the Republic, in whose goverinnent 
they shared, being able to boast of a large number of priors and 

Bernardo, son of Niccol6 Machiavelli, born in 1428, was a juris- 
consult, and filled for some time the oflice of treasurer in the 
I\farca,3 in 1450 he inherited the property of his uncle Totto, son 
of Buoninsegna Machiavelli.'* In 1458 he married Bartolommea, 
widow of Niccolo Bennizzi, and daughter of Stefano dei Nelli, of 
old Florentine family. It cannot be supposed that this marriage 
increased his personal property, for in those days women brought 
very scanty dowers. However that may be, in the Catasto of 
1498, his income — all of which, as we shall see later, passed to his 
son Niccolo in 1 51 1, according to a stipulated agreement — was 
valued at 1 10 broad florins and 14 pence, s so that, if not a wealthy, 

velli, had married Giovanni dei Ricci, and thus was mother of Giuliano dei Ricci, 
author of the " I'riorista," and collector of many memorials and papers concerning 
his illustrious ancestor. [Vide Baldelli, "Elogio di Niccolo Machiavelli," London, 
1794, pp. 86, 87.) Another branch of the Machiavelli was extinguished in 
Florence, in the year 1727, by the death of Francesco Maria dei Machiavelli. 
The inheritance passed to the Rangoni of Modena, who for that reason bore the 
name of Rangoni-Machiavelli. 

Count Passerini, first in his notes to Ademollo's romance, "Marietta dei Ricci," 
and then in the essay prefixed to the new edition of Machiavelli's " Opere" (vol. 
i. : P'lorence, Cenniniana Press, 1S73), asserts that Machiavelli's consanguinity with 
the lords of Montespertoli was a fable invented in the days of the Principality, in 
order to flatter the ambition of the Machiavelli, who were then powerful. But, as 
is clear, the circumstance is of much older origin. 

See also the " Monografia storica e statistica del Commune di Montespertoli, 
compilata dall Aw. Marcello Nardi-Dei," Florence, Co-operative Press, 1873. 
Among other notices, at p. 21, a document is quoted proving that on the extinc- 
tion, towards the end of the fourteenth century, of the scigneurial family of the 
lords of Montespertoli, by the decease of Ciango d'Agnolo, he named as his heirs 
pro indiviso I^orenzo and Buoninsegna, children of Filippo Machiavelli. 

' Giovanni Villani (" Cronica," vol. i. book viii. chap. 80, Florence, Coen, 
1847), in giving the list of those then sent into exile, places the Machiavelli 
" among the popolani of the said Sesto (Oltrarno), notable houses." The same 
notice is to be found in Ammirato, " Delle famiglie nobili fiorentine " (Florence, 
1615), at p. 12, " Famiglia Soderini." 

=" G. Baldelli, " Elogio," &c., in note 6, at pp. 86, 87, tells us that the Machia- 
velli had twelve gonfaloniers and fifty priors. Ricci, in his " Piiorista," enume- 
rates fifty-seven priors ; but it must be observed that here several names are found 
repeated over and over again, even in the same year. 

3 Vide Baldelli, "Elogio," &c., and the "Life" prefixed to Machiavelli's 
Works in the Florence edition of 1782. 

^ Vide the " Libro di Ricordanze," by Ristoro Machiavelli, from which we 
have already quoted. 

s Equal to 132 sealed ^ox\n%, 16 soldi, and 10 denari, the which sum paid a tax 
or decima of u fiorins, l soldo, 5 denari. Vide the two documents published by 


neither was he a poor man. It is impossible to make a perfectly 
exact calculation ; but considering the much higher value of gold 
in those days, we may venture, without being far from the truth, 
to estimate this income as about equal to four or five thousand 
francs'' of our present currency. Bernardo was a studious man, 
and Bartolommea a pious woman, evidently of some culture, since 
she composed certain religious verses and hymns to the Blessed 
Virgin, dedicated, as we find it asserted, to her son Niccolo.'^ 
Four children were the issue of this marriage : Totto, Niccolo, 
Primerana, and Ginevra. The elder daughter was married to 
Messer Francesco Vernacci, the second to Messer Bernardo 
Minerbetti. It is not known if the elder son Totto, born in 1463, 
ever married, and he soon fell into obscurity. Niccolo, on the 
contrary, born the 3rd of May, 1469, speedily, as we shall see, 
became the most influential member of the family, by reason of 
his acquirements, as well as of his natural ability. The death of 
Machiavelli's mother took place on the nth of October, 1496, 
yet, not even touching this— one of the most serious events in a 
man's life — do we find a single word to enlighten us as to what he 
felt on the occasion. All is entirely hidden from us. At that 
time he was already twenty-six years of age, yet up to that period 
we have not a single line from his pen, nor a single word from 
other writers, giving any information about him. 3 

The very first words we have from his pen consist of one letter 
in Italian, and a fragment of another in Latin, both written in the 

Passerini in the first volume of the " Opere di M. Machiavelli," quoted above, 
pp. Iviii and Ix. This edition was commenced by Sigri. Passerini and Fanfani 
in 1863. Signor Fanfani having withdrawn, Signor Gaetano Milanesi replaced 
iiim, and with Passerini's collal)oration has already brought out five volumes. 
Henceforth, for the sake of brevity, we shall quote this edition as follows — 
"Opere" (P. M.). 

' The florin of ordinary gold, somewhat smaller than the broad florin, had the 
same value and same amount of alloy as the more modern zecchin. Estimating 
this at 12 Italian livres, and admitting that gold at that time had four times its 
present value, a much higher figure would be reached. This, however, is almost 
a chance calculation, since it is well known how much even the most careful 
writers differ as to the relative value of gold in our lime and in the fifteenth 

^ " Discorso del Senatore G. E. Nelli, con la vita del medesimo," Florence, 
Paperini and Co., 1753, p. 8. The Nelli library seems to have been divided among 
the heirs. 

3 There is a small fragment from Machiavelli's pen of a very free translation of 
the " Historia persecutionis vandalicae " of Vittore Vitense. Passerini, without 
giving any proofs, states that it was written before 1494 ; but nothing being known 
about it, it may be attributed to any year, and, from its style, may be believed to 
be a youthful production. The Ricci manuscript, to which we shall refer later, 
and which comprises many writings by, and relating to, Machiavelli, contains a 

2 2 2 If A cm A VEL T.I *S UFR AND TIMES. 

December of 1407,' both upon tlic same subiect. From the days 
of Pope John XXIir., the Machiavelli had had in their gift the 
hving of Santa Maria dclla Fajj^na, in the Mugello. The Pazzi 
were now trying to usurp this right, and therefore the MachiavclH 
family, aUhough Bernardo was still living, comtnissioned his son 
Niccolo to petition for their common rights. Thus we have the 
two letters " /o a Roman prelate ^^ who was probably Cardinal of 
Perugia, since it was to him that the Republican Government 
wrote urgently upon the same subject." In these letters, Machia- 
velli, with much acumen, much flattery, and many promises tothe 
prelate, asserts in grandiloquent language the just rights which the 
Macia7'clloniin familia had charged him to defend, and which, in 
fact, were ultimately triumphant. 

In this way two things are clearly proved to us — ist, that 
Niccolo then knew and wrote the Latin tongue, a fact which some 
had considered doubtful ; 2nd, that all the Machiavelli held him 
in high esteem since they chose him for their representative and 
defender. Among the scanty and often contradictory notices 
which have come down to us, it is quite necessary to dwell upon 
those which are undoubtedly authentic. It is certainly no matter 
for astonishment that a man, so singularly gifted by nature, should 
have already possessed a satisfactory amount of literary instruction ; 
especially, too, when we remember that he came of a family 
deficient neither in means nor in culture ; that he had passed his 
youth under the rule of Lorenzo the Magnificent, when schools 
and public university lectures abounded, when Italian and Latin 
literature could be learnt almost unconsciously, even in daily con- 
versation, and reminiscences of antiquity were in the very air 
which men breathed. It would have been strange indeed if, as 
some have pretended, on the faith of Giovio's little trustworthy 
assertions, Machiavelli had been at that time utterly wanting in 
culture, only acquiring later from Marcello Virgilio Adrian! all 

" kisposta fatta ad uno ambasciatore pel re di Francia," dated 1495, and hy some 
attribuled, with no reason, to Machiavelli. Machiavelli was in the habit of 
collecting dociments of all kinds for his studies, especially for his " Storie," and 
Ricci copied and preserved them. Hence one must be cautious of attributing all 
these to Machiavelli. 

' They are the first of INIachiavelli's published letters. Among the " Machia- 
velli Papers," preserved in the Florence National Library in six cases, there is a 
letter speaking of z.r\oih.tx pat ronato of the family, but unsigned, and, although in 
Niccolo's hand, speaking of him as of a third person, ^ide Appendix, docu- 
ment i. 

* This is proved by a document quoted by Nitti, " Machiavelli nella vita e nelle 
opere " : Naples, 1876, vol. i. p. 39. This Cardinal of Perugia must have been 
(jiovanni Lope?, a Spaniard. 


that he introduced into his works of Greek or Latin authors. 
But, on the other hand, although MachiavelH was already a fair 
scholar in his youth, and, as time went on, made much progress 
in the classics, and gained not a little by his intimacy with Mar- 
ccllo Virgilio, we cannot believe the assertions of those who 
credit him with profound learning and Grecian scholarship.'' 
Whether he knew or did not know the elements of Greek, can 
neither be affirmed nor denied, and it is a point of no importance. 
It is certain that he diligently studied translations of Greek authors, 
and made use of them in his writings ; but of his ability to read 
them in the original — a point which it would certainly be very 
desirable to know — we have no satisfactory proofs whatever. 
Amid his numerous Latin quotations, we never meet with one in 
Greek ; we have some translations of his from the Latin, but not 
a single page purporting to be translated from the Greek, nor does 
he ever mention having read a single author in that tongue. 
Besides, it is certain that his contemporaries did not rank him 
among the men of learning ; Varchi indeed speaks of him as one 
" rather not without letters, than lettered." 3 Giuliano dei Ricci 
a descendant of Niccol6 on his mother's side, and who collected all 
obtainable information about him, combated Giovio's assertion by 
proving that his illustrious ancestor was really acquainted with 
Latin, without, however, saying a word as to Greek. ■♦ In short, 
from all that we know Avith certainty, it may be concluded that 
Niccolo Machiavelli received in his youth the ordinary literary 

' Giovio's brief " Elogio " begins thus — " Quis non miretur in hoc Macciavello 
tantiim valuisse naturaui, tit in nulla vel certe niediocri latinarum lilerarinn 
r(3§7z///(?«^, ad justam recte scribendi facultatem pervenire potuerit . . .?" And 
further on—" Constat eum, sicuti ipse nobis fatebatur, a Marcello Virgilio, cuius 
et notarius et assecla publici muneris fiiit, graecae atque latinae linguae flores 
accepisse quos scriptis suis insereret." (" Elogia doctorum virorum," auctore Paulo 
Jovio : Antuerpiae, IS57iPP- 192-93.) These very inexact assertions, too common 
in Giovio, were the origin of those afterwards repeated by many other writers. 

' " He knew Greek and Latin perfectly," says Passerini at p. xi of the 
" Discorso," prefixed to the " Opere " (P. M.) ; but he makes the assertion with- 
out proving it, and without alluding to the disjiutes of noted authors on the 

3 " Storia di Firenze" : Florence, Pazzi, 1851, vol. i. p. 266. 

■• Giuliano dei Ricci, in the manuscript already quoted (and of which there are 
two copies in the Florence National Librai7), observes that there is no foundation 
for Giovio's remarks ; that Machiavelli was never the notary of Marcello Virgilio, 
but secretary to the Ten ; that the fragment of the Latin letter written by him in 
December, 1497, proves his knowledge of Latin. That fragment, Ricci tells us, 
is only the eighth part of the whole, the rest having been lost through the tearing 
of the sheet. At that period Niccolo Machiavelli " had hardly begun to know, 
much less to be intimate with Virgilio." Vide the MS. marked No. 692, among 
the Palatine M.SS., pp. 8-IO. Both copies of this ALS- seem to be by tie same 
hand. At the end of one of them is written, "The present volume has been 


education of his day, by no means that of a man of learning, and 
that his wide knowledge of Greek authors was gained from trans- 
lations ; neither would it appear that he had gone very far in the 
study of law, of which, however, he had evidently some knowledge.' 

copied by mc, Marco Martini, in this year 1726, from the copy of the Abbe Corso 
del Kicci. The whole copy was made by Cliidinno dii l^icci from tlie orif;inal 
papers of Niccolo Machiavclli, and this copy by Kosso Antonio ^bartin^ has been 
collated with the above-mentioned copy of Cjiuliano dei Ricci." The same words 
are to be seen in the other copy, but partially scratched out. 

* Thus much at least may be presumed from his relations having entrusted him 
with the defence of their rights concerning Santa Maria della I-'agna, and from 
some other business of a similar nature which he took in hand long afterwards. 
His father might have early initiated him in these studies, concerning which, how- 
ever, no mention is to be found in Machiavclli's works. 

Gervinus, in his work, " Florentinische Historiographie," before quoted by us, 
indulges in long and somewhat exaggerated reflections on the injury to Machia- 
velli's studies and even to his genius, resulting, in his opinion, from the great writer's 
ignorance of the Greek language and literature. On the other hand, Professor 
TriantafiUis, first in his work entitled '' Niccolo Machiavelli and the Greek Authors " 
(Venice, 1875), and shortly after in another on Machiavclli's " Vita di Custruccio 
Castracani," published in the " Archivio Veneto," believes to have triumphantly 
proved that Machiavelli understood Greek, and studied Greek authors in the 
original. These two works certainly show that the Florentine Secretary made 
great use of those writers ; but, in our opinion, are not sufficient proof that his 
Greek studies were carried on in the original language instead of in translations. 
The error of Professor TriantafiUis lay in believing it sufficient to consult Hoff- 
mann's " Lexicon Bibliographicum," and when in this he finds no mention of a 
translation of some author known to have existed in Machiavclli's time, and of 
which the latter availed himself, he t ikes it for granted that no such translation 
existed, and that the author was studied in the original. It is clear that no certain 
results can be obtained by this method, since in that century numerous translations 
were made, which were unpublished and even unknown. In fact, of some of the 
authors of which TriantafiUis believes no translations to have been made at that 
peiiod, several exist in the Florence libraries, and nothing forbids us to think that 
Machiavelli may have made use of these and of others unknown to us. Professor 
TriantafiUis also endeavours to prove at length ihat the dialogue " Dell'ira o dei 
modi di curarla " is almost a translation from Plutarch, without at all endeavouring 
to ascertain if there be any foundation for the opinion of those writers who affirmed 
that the work was not by Machiavelli. Neither does he seem to be aware that 
there is in the Laurentian Library an ancient translation of this very pamphlet of 
Plutarch's, attributed to CoUuccio Salutati, and of which Machiavelli might have 
availed himself. 

Therefore, Professor TriantafiUis' two works, however praiseworthy in other 
respects, in nowise alter the state of the question, and do not change our own 
opinion, which is also that most generally approved. We may add that Ricci in 
his " Priorista " tells us that Machiavelli composed a treatise in the form of a 
comedy entitled " Le Maschere," which was afterwards lost. In this, continues 
Ricci, the author, incited by M. Virgilio, imitated "The Clouds" and other 
comedies of Aristophanes, and made it a vehicle for bitter satire on many of his 
contemporaries. This fact might be adduced in favour of the opposite argument 
to that maintained by us ; but even this would 1 e a very weak argument, since it 
would refer to a generical imitation, which might have been grounded on the 
spoken or written commentaries of M. Virgilio himself or some other professor of 
the university, 


He acquired all else later in life by private reading, by medita- 
tion, and above all by practical experience and knowledge of 
mankind. His comparatively restricted culture must doubtless 
have been a drawback to him ; but it also had the inestimable 
advantage of preserving the spontaneous originality of his genius 
and his style, and preventing them from being suffocated, as 
frequently happened at that period, beneath a dead weight of 

And even his ardent enthusiasm for the ancients, and especially 
for the Romans, rather reminds us of that of Cola di Rienzo and 
Stefano Porcaro, than of that of a man of learning, pure and 
simple. Living too in that age of letters, fine arts, conspiracies, 
papal scandals, and foreign invasions, he did not dwell alone with 
his books, but in continual conversation and meditation on the 
events going on so swiftly around him. And among these events, 
it is certain that the coming of the French in 1494 must have 
made a very deep and painful impression upon him, an impression 
mitigated only partially by the expulsion of the Medici, and the 
proclamation of the Republic in Florence. For, with his pagan 
reminiscences and sympathies, and his most profound aversion for 
everything savouring of priesthood or monkery, he could not 
reconcile himself to the circumstance of the Republic being ruled 
by the eloquence of a friar, and his inclinations bent towards the 
friar's executioners. Later in his writings we meet with some 
expressions of admiration for Savonarola, but these expressions 
are not entirely free from irony. When the friar's ashes were cast 
into the Arno, and the Piagnoni were objects of persecution, 
matters were more congenial to his ideas. Then, as was natural, 
many changes took place in the public offices, and Machiavelli, 
who at twenty nine was still without a profession and without an 
income of his own, set about seeking for an occupation that would 
bring him fair remuneration for his work. He cannot have had 
much difficulty, since his views were not too ambitious, and^ the 
Republic had long been accustomed to employ men of letters in 
salaried posts, especially as secretaries. 

The chief secretary's office was that of the Signory, at the head 
of which was the official properly known as the Secretary, or 
Chancellor of the Republic. This was a very honourable office, 
entrusted to men like Poggio Bracciolini, Leonardo Aretino, and 
so on. Then came the second Chancery, that of the Ten, which 
although having an importance of its own, was dependent to a 
certain extent upon the first. The Ten combined the functions of 
a War Office, and in part of Ministr}^ for Home affairs, and conse- 
quently had an enormous amount of business to transact. It was 

VOL. I. 16 

2 2 6 ^f.■l cm. ivr.r.Li 's l tfe and times. 

also tlioir duty to dcspalch ambassadors to foreign countries, and 
to keep up a corrcspomlcncc with them ; but in these matters 
tliey worked in conjunction with or rather subordinated to tlie 
Signory. Thus the secontl Cliancory was often at the orders of the 
first, and when, as frequently happened, the Ten were not elected, 
then the two chanceries wore almost fused together under the 
direction of the first secretary.* 

Towards the end of 1497 the death occurred of Bartolommeo 
Scala, a celebrated man of learning, long secretary of the 
Republic, and Marcello Virgilio Adriani was nominated in his 
stead in the February of 1498, with a yearly stipend of 330 
florins.' Shortly afterwards, Alcssandro Braccesi, another secre- 
tary of the Signoria, but placed in the second Chancery, was 
dismissed from office, and it was then that four names were put 
to the vote, first in the Council of Eighty, and four days later — 
that is on the 19th June — in the great Council. Among these 
names we find that of Niccol5, son of Bernardo Machiavelli ; he 
it was who gained the greater number of votes, and was elected 

' This much is ascertained from the examination of the registers of the Republic 
in the Florentine Archives. The missions and instructions to ambassadors from 
1499 to 1512 are sometimes in the name of the Signory, sometimes of the Ten, or 
even occasionally of both (Florence Archives, class x. department i. No. 105). 
The Ten were often delegated to reply to letters addressed to the Signoria. 
According to the statute of 1415 (printed in 1781, and dated from Fribourg, vol. 
ii. p. 25, and fob), the Ten have the power of nominating syndics, procurators, 
ambassadors, secretaries, &c. They have, however, no power to appoint ambassa- 
dors to the Pope or emperor, or to a king or queen, without the consent of the 
priors and colleges. 

" " Bartolomei Scalae Collensis, Vita," auctore Dominico Maria Mannio : 
Florentine, 1768. 

Passerini in his " Discorso " at page xii, " Opere " (P. M. ), affirms that 
Machiavelli, "desiring of entering into his country's service, placed himself, 
about 1494, under the direction of Marcello Virgilio Adriani, in the second 
Chancery of the Commune." But we do not know where he could have dis- 
covered that Machiavelli and Marcello Virgilio were already in office before 149S, 
and neither does he quote any authority. 

It is true that by a deliberation of 28th December, I494 ("Deliberazione dei 
Signori," reg. 86, a. c, 120), it would seem that then, on the formation of a new 
government, Bartolommeo Scala and others received their dismissal. But on the 
31st December the priors " attciita capsatione facta perdictos Dominos de domino 
Bait. Sch., et attenta necessitate Palatii et negotiis eiusdem," re-elect him chan- 
cellor of the first Chancery, together with Pietro Beccanugi, who had replaced 
him. And thus he remained in office until 1497, as Manni too affirms in his 
" Life" of him. And in the reforms of the Chancery, passed in the Great Council 
on the 13th February, 1498 (new style), it is decreed that the first chancellor, the 
post held by Bartolommeo Schale, " should have a salary of 330 florins, and a 
little further on the decree mentions the secretaries of the Signoria, and alludes 
to the secretaryship," in which .\lessandro Braccesi has served. " Braccesi in 
fact had just then been dismissed." (" Provvisioni," reg. 187, sheets 56-58.) 


with the yearly stipend of 192 florins.* On the 14th of July in 
the same year, his nomination was confirmed by the Signory, and 
he was transferred to the second Chancery, at the head of which 
he remained until the downfall of the Republican Government in 
1 512. This promotion must have increased his stipend to 200 
florins, that being the fixed salary of the second Chancellor.^ 
But it is necessary to remark that, according to the law, these 
florins were only worth four livres each, and not seven like the 
ordinary florins of that time ; there was furthermore a deduction 
of nine denari from every livre ; so that Machiavelli's stipend 
did not really amount to much more than one hundred gold 
florins. 3 Machiavelli was about thirty years of age when estab- 
lished as secretary in the company of Marcello Virgilio, who, 
although he may have been his very learned friend, was certainly 
not his preceptor. 

Marcello Virgilio, born in 1464, was only five years older than 
Machiavelli. He had been the pupil of Landino and Poliziano ; 
he knew Greek and Latin, medicine, and the natural sciences ; 
he had a great facility for improvisation, even in Latin. These 
oratorical gifts were assisted by the nobility of his appearance ; 
he was tall, had a dignified bearing, a spacious forehead, and an 
open countenance. Being nominated Professor of Letters at 
the Studio in 1497, he continued to give lessons until the year 
1502. His literary remains consist of many Latin orations, of 
which the greater number are still impublished ; a translation of 
Dioscorides, which, although neither the first nor a very correct 
version, gained him the title of the Tuscan Dioscorides. In 
short he was a learned man of what might then have been 

' The act of Machiavelli's nomination has frequently been published, but 
always with some omissions. Recently it has been republished by Passerini, in 
the volume before quoted, page lix ; but here two documents have been turned 
into one, through the omission, at the beginning of the second paragraph, of the 
date, Die xviiii. viensis jmtii, by which it appears that the deliberation of the 
Great Council was taken four days after that of the Council of Eighty. {Floren- 
tine Archives, cl. ii. No. 154, sheet 104.) The two decrees are written on the 
margin of the sheet indicated. This filza, or file, also bears the more modern 
indication of " Signori e Collegi, Deliberazioni," reg. duplicate 169. 

* This deliberation also has been frequently published. In none of the decrees 
of nomination is the salary mentioned. But in the reform of the chanceries 
carried out in 149S before quoted, it is settled that the post which had been held 
by Alessandro Bracccsi should have the yearly stipend of 192 florins, and that of 
Chancellor to the Second Chancery, namely that held by Antonio di Maria Nuti, 
should be of 200 florins per year. Machiavelli was really first secretary or Chan- 
cellor of the Second Chancery. 

3 These facts are extracted from the before-quoted Reform of the 28th December, 
1494, and are further confirmed by the orders of payment, one of which can be 
seen in the Florence Archives, cl. xiii. dist. 2, No. 69, a. c. 142. 


called the old school, and notwillistanding the duties of his 
(^nicc, never abandoned the classical studies which were the 
constant theme of his conversation and correspondence with his 

\^ery dilTerent was MachiavcUi. Of middle heifrht, slender 
fio^ure, with sparkling eyes, dark hair, rather a small head, a 
sliohtly aquiline nose, a tightly closed mouth : all about him 
bore the impress of a very acute observer and thinker, but not 
that of one able to wield much influence over others. =» He could 

» Angelo Maria Bnndini, " Collectio vetcrum aliquot monumentorum :" Aretii, 
1752. In the preface he speaks of Marcello Virgilio, of whom a eulogimn also 
may be foiiml in vol. iii. of the " Klogi storici clegli Uomini illustri Toscani : " 
Florence, I766-73. 

In the above-mentioned preface Bandini says: "Id vero in Maicello niirimi 
fuit c]iiod etsi pubiici florentinam iuventutem humanioriluis literis erudiict, nomine 
lamen reipublicae literas scribendi munus nunquam interniiserit." This preface 
is followed by letters addressed to Marcello by Calcondila (1496), and by Roberto 
Acciaioli, by Aldo Manuzio (1499), and by Cardinal Soderini (150S), all on the 
subject of classical research, discoveries of ancient monuments, &c. Vide too 
I'rezziner's " Storia del pubblico Studio," &c., vol. i. pp. 181, 187, and 190; 
Fabroni's "Ilistoria Academioe Pisanns," vol. i. pp. 95, 375, and 377. By an 
unpublished letter from Marcello Virgilio to MachiavcUi, to be quoted further on, 
it is plainly to be seen that even in 1502 when the latter was with Cccsar Borgia, 
I lie former was at the head of the first secretary's office, and was continuing to 
give lectures. 

In 1515 Adriani had a fall from his horse, and sufTered much in consequence, 
not only his eyes, but his speech also remaining affected to the end of his life. 
This is mentioned by Valeriani, " De literatorum infelicitate ; " Venetiis, 1630, 
p. 71, and by Bandini at p. xix of his before-quoted preface. Regarding this 
scholar's works, see the printed catalogue of the Laurentian Library in Florence, 
compiled and illustrated by Bandini and Moreni, " Bibliografia toscana." 

Marcello died in 1521 at the age of 56 years, and was buried in the family 
tomb at the Franciscan church at San Miniato al Monte, which Michael Angelo 
styled La Bella villaiiella. Here is his monument and bust beneath which is 
written : 

" Suprema nomen hoc solo 

Tantum voluntas iusserat 

Poni, sed hanc statuam prius 

Erexit hreres, nescius 

Famae futurum et glorine 

Aut nomen aut nihil satis." 

It is possible that the concluding words may have suggested the beautiful in- 
scription afterwards placed on Machiavelli's tomb in the church of Santa Croce. 
Marcello Virgilio's son, Gio. Battista, the historian, and his grandson filled the 
same chair as their father and grandfather. So little is generally known about 
Marcello Virgilio, that I have tried here to put together a few notices concerning 

' In the gallery of the Uffizi there is preserved a plaster cast, which is said to 
have been executed on Machiavelli's corpse, solely on the ground of its having 
been discovered during the present century, in the house of Machiavelli, in Via 
Guicciardini. It is also asserted that Bartolini made use of this cast, whilst 


not easily rid himself of the sarcastic expression continually 
playing round his mouth and flashing from his eyes, which gave 
him the air of a cold and impassable calculator ; while neverthe- 
less he was frequently ruled by his powerful imagination ; some- 
times suddenly led away by it to an extent befitting the most 
fantastic of visionaries. He applied himself to the faithful service 
of the Republic, with all the ardour of an ancient Republican, 
inspired by reminiscences of Rome, pagan, and republican. If 
not altogether satisfied with the present form of government, he 
was well content that the Medicean tyranny and the dominion 
of a monk were both at an end. Doubtless his intercourse with 
Marcello Virgilio was beneficial to his studies, and it is possible 
that he still attended some of the lectures given by his superior 
in office, but he could not have had many leisure hours, being 
occupied from morning to evening in writing official letters, of 
which to this day many thousands are preserved in the Florentine 
archives. Besides this employment he was continually sent by 
the Ten on state errands, throughout the territories of the 
Republic, and before long he was also entrusted with important 
missions beyond the frontiers. He entered zealously into all 
these affairs, for they suited his tastes and the feverish activity 
of his nature. His leisure was devoted to reading, conversation, 
and the usual pleasures of life. Being of a cheerful temper, he 
was on good terms with his colleagues in the Chancery, and if 
intimate with his superior, Marcello Virgilio, was far more so 
with Biagio Buonaccorsi, who, although in an inferior position 
and but a mediocre scholar, was a worthy man and a firm friend. 
He it was, who when Machiavelli was at a distance used to write 
him long and affectionate letters in a tone of real friendship, and 
from these we learn that the first secretary of the Ten was much 
given to gay living, and to various irregular love affairs, of 
which the two wrote to each other in a style that is far from 

engaged at his statue of Machiavelli, which is erected under the Uffizi. We, 
however, found in Bartolini's studio the cast (of which we have a reproduction) 
of another bust, and this bears much more resemblance to the statue. It is 
almost identical with a bust in stucco, probably of the times, which belonged to 
the Ricci family, the heirs of Machiavelli, and afterwards passed to Marchese 
Bentivaglio d'Aragona. An ancient portrait bust in terra cotta, apparently taken 
from the corpse, was once to be seen in Florence, but its owner, Baron Seymour 
Kirkupp, took it with him to Leghorn, and we do not know where it is now. 
Bartolini and other sculptors who had seen it had high opinion of it. In con- 
clusion we must mention the engraving, frontispiece of the old edition of Machia- 
velli's works, dated 1550, which is known as the " Testina," on account of this 
very portrait. Tliere is a certain resemblance in all these different portraits, with 
the exception, perhaps, of the mask found in Machiavelli's house. 


Niccolo Machiavelli begins to exercise the office of Secretary to the Ten — His 
mission t<i Forli — Condeninalion and Death of Paolo Viielli — Discourse upon 
Pisan Aflairs. 


HE principal undertaking in which the Republic 
was now engaged was the war with Pisa, and 
it seemed as though at last she would be 
granted fair play without interference from 
any quarter, in this trial of strength with her 
old adversary. In fact the Pope and the 
allies declared themselves satisfied with Flor- 
ence in consequence of the execution of Savona- 
rola, and demanded no other concessions ; while the friendship 
which she had always kept up with France seemed sufficient to curb 
the other Italian potentates. It is true that Louis XII., on his acces- 
sion to the French throne, had likewise assumed the titles of King 
of Jerusalem and Sicily, and Duke of Milan ; thus in addition to the 
old pretensions upon Naples, also asserting those which he boasted 
over Lombardy, in right of descent from his grandmothei, 
Valentina Visconti ; it is true that this was prophetic of fresh 
troubles to Italy, and had indeed already spread general conster- 
nation in Milan and Naples ; but on the other hand all this 
procured the Florentines the friendship and secret assistance of 
the Moor, and encouraged their hopes. Still the Venetians con- 
tinued openly to favour the Pisans ; the Lucchese, being weaker, 
limited themselves to giving secret help, and Pisa, with stern 
resolve and marvellous energy, was always upon the defensive. 
Not only did all the Pisan citizens carry arms, but even the 
inhabitants of the out-lying territory were rendered practised 


combatants by the continually occurring skirmishes. Venice had 
sent them 300 Stradiote or Albanian cavalry, lightly armed and 
very effective in raids and skirmishes ; while a small number of 
French had remained in Pisa ever since the expedition of Charles 
VIII., and helped to defend the walls. It must also be noted 
that of late, in consequence of internal dissensions, the Floren- 
tines had greatly neglected military matters, and their Captain 
General Count Rinuccio da Marciano, together with their com- 
missary Guglielmo dei Pazzi, had suffered so disastrous a defeat 
in an encounter of some importance, that they had barely escaped 
with life.^ And this was the moment chosen by Venice to threaten 
an advance into the Casentino, in order to divert the besieging 
army in that direction. Fresh and more energetic measures were 
therefore pressingly required. 

First of all urgent letters were sent to the French king, 
begging him to prevent his allies, the Venetians, from marching 
on the Casentino ; a considerable loan of money was asked and 
obtained from the Moor ; it was decided to recall from France, 
with the king's consent, Paolo and Vitellozzo Vitelli, and to 
Paolo, who had great military renown, the chief command of 
the army was offered.* His arrival in Florence, in the beginning 
of June, 1498, was the signal for a solemn festival. There was an 
assemblage of the people and of the magistrates of the Republic 
in front of the palace ; Marcello Virgilio read a Latin oration, 3 in 
which, lauding the prowess and excellences of the new Captain, 
then present, he compared them to those of the greatest men of 
antiquity. And while this was going on, the astrologer, whom 
Vitelli had brought with him, remained with those of the Signoria 
in the palace courtyard, taking observations and " awaiting the 
arrival of the fortunate moment." No sooner Avas the signal agreed 
upon made, than trumpets sounded, the oration was interrupted, 
and the Gonfalonier hastened to present the baton of command, 
with wishes for success in the field. After which all went to hear 
mass in the cathedral, and on the 6th of June, 1498, the celebrated 
captain set out for the camp. Then the Ten began to push on 

' Nardi, " Storia di Firenze," vol. i. p. 174. 

* Nardi says that the engagement of Paolo and Vitellozzo, advised by the Moor, 
was made in agreement with the King of France, and at the joint expense of the 
said monarch and the Florentine people. " Storia di Firenze," vol. i. p. 173. 

3 This Oration is in the Laurentian Library, Plut. Ixxxx., cod. xxix.: " Oratio 
pro eligendo imperatore exercitus Paullo Vilellio, et dandis illi militaribiis impera- 
toriis signis." In it the orator alludes to perils which he had recently incurred, 
perhaps in the Savonarola riots : " Scitis enim omnes quantis vitse periculis his 
diebus iactatus sim, quantoque metu coactus siiu fugere presentem ubique niorleai, 
quam nescius ipse mecum forte trahebam." 

232 .)rACI//AVrjJJ\'^ LIFE AND TIMES. 

tlic war with ^vc:ii aclivilv, aiul made use ot Machiavclli's services 
in numerous important allairs. 

It is almost incredible what an immense amount of trouble, 
vexation, and danger this miniature war brought upon the Re- 
public. First of all, the jealousy between the old captain and the 
new, made it necessary to give Count Rinuccio the same pay as 
Vitelli, and to allow him to retain the title of governor, while the 
new captain was entrusted with the chief direction of the war. 
The campaign began prosperously enough with the capture of 
several places, then news came of the Venetians being already on 
the march towards the Casentino. It was necessary, therefore, to 
hire fresh troops and new leadqrs, and to slacken the war in the 
Pisan territory, in order to bring a larger force against the 
Venetians, who, in September, passed the Val di Lamone, and 
captured Marradi. Here, however, they were checked by the 
Florentine troops, commanded by Count Rinuccio, and strengthened 
by a reinforcement from Duke Lodovico. Before these they re- 
treated, but then marched towards the Casentino, taking the 
Abbey of Camaldoli on the way ; after which they crossed Monte 
Alvernia, and took Bibbiena by surprise. These events compelled 
the Florentines to suspend altogether the war with Pisa, and, 
leaving a small force to defend the more important places in that 
territory, to despatch Vitelli with the whole army against the new 
enemy. In the meantime, Don Basilio, the Abbot of Camaldoli, 
was scouring the country, raising the peasantry of the mountain 
districts, with which he was so well acquainted, and by this means 
succeeded in arresting the march of the Venetians, and harassed 
them severely.* At this juncture the Duke of Urbino, who 
commanded in the enemies' camp, chancing to fall ill, asked a 
safe conduct from Vitelli for himself and his troops, which was 
immediately granted to him. This roused the anger and sus- 
picions of the Florentines, especially when they learnt at the 
same time that their general had been speaking in public with 
Piero and Giuliano dei Medici, who were following the hostile army. 
Winter had now set in, and although neither side was willing 
to retire, it was becoming difficult to carry on the war among the 
mountains, when Duke Ercole of Ferrara offered to arrange a 
peace between Florence, Pisa, and Venice. His arbitration being 
accepted, he pronounced his verdict at the beginning of 1499. By 
the 24th April the Venetians were to withdraw from the Casentino, 

» Speaking of this Don Basilio, Abbot of San Felice in Piazza, and afterwards 
Vicar General of Camaldoli, Machiavelli says in his "Historical Fragments": 
•' Cuius fuit summa manus in bello, et amor et fides in patriam" ("Opere," vol. ii. 
p. 366). 


and from Pisan territory ; the Florentines were to pay them the sum 
of 100,000 ducats within twelve years ; the Pisans, while remaining 
masters of their fortress, and preserving their trade rights, Avere 
again to be subject to Florence. All parties were dissatisfied 
with these terms ; yet the Florentines accepted them, and the 
Venetians withdrew their troops, but the Pisans, on the oilier hand, 
made preparations for war with greater fury than ever.^ The 
secret of all this was, that new and startling events were expected 
elsewhere, Louis XII. having pledged himself to the Pope and 
Venetians that he would come to Italy to attack the Moor. Every 
one therefore withdrew his troops from Tuscany, and Florence 
and Pisa were at last left to face each other alone. 

During these events Machiavelli had had a great deal to do, for 
all the work of the Chancery of the Ten was transacted by him. 
He wrote an immense nm"nber of letters, despatched orders, for- 
warded money and arms, and sometimes had to go to confer in 
person with the captains. Thus on the 24th of March, 1499, he was 
sent to Pontedera on a mission to Jacopo IV. of Appiano, lord of 
Piombino, Avho being in the service of the Republic, demanded a 
larger number of men, and pay equal to that received by Count 
Rinuccio. He succeeded in persuading him to be content with 
increased forces ; ^ but the other captains were more pertinacious, 
and there was no end to their claims and complaints. Paolo 
VitelH, disliking to be on an equality with Count Rinuccio, 
demanded and obtained increased pay, and this instantly aroused 
the jealousy of the Count, who in his turn began to make com- 
plaints. All these things had augmented the expenses of the war, 
and consequently the taxes, to such an extent, that the latter 
had become unbearable. The books of the decrees issued by the 
Republic during these years exhibit nothing but a series of new 
and ingenious contrivances for extorting money from the citizens. 
The popular discontent was increased on seeing that the Ten, for 
that reason nicknamed the " ten expenders," had squandered 

' See the " Storie di Firenze " of Nardi and Guicciardini. Regarding the sum 
which the Florentines were to pay to the Venetians, Nardi tells us that it was 
100,000 ducats in twelve years, Guicciardini, 150,000 in fifteen years. There is a 
lireak in Baonaccorsi's Diary at this point, and the original manuscript in the 
Kiccardiana Library contains a note stating that the author had to interrupt his 
work, owing to a six months' absence from Florence. We may observe that that 
is in itself sufficient to disprove tl e opinion of some who wished to attribute the 
Diary to Machiavelli, who certainly was not absent for six months at that period. 
But of this more will be said later. 

* The letter of the Ten giving the commission to Machiavelli in date of the 24th 
March, 1498 (Florentine style), is to be found among the " Legazioni," and in the 
I)ublished " Opere," is generally preceded, erroneously, by another of November, 
1498, delegating not Niccolo Machiavelli, but Niccolo Mannelli. 


large sums, not merely from carelessness, but in granting unlaivful 
favours to personal friends, giving them useless commissions and 
commanderships ;' and there was a threatening of almost open 
rebellion. Thus when in May the time came for the new 
elections, there was a popular cry of — Down with the Ten and 
the taxes (;/6^ Died m (hinari non fmino pd nostri pari)^ and the 
people unanimously refrained from voting.^ The Signoria there- 
fore had to condescend to assume the direction of the war, with 
the aid of certain of the more influential citizens. The accusa- 
tions brought against the Ten had no reference either direct or 
indirect to Machiavelli, their secretary, who indeed had already 
gained considerable authority and renown. The second Chancery 
of which he was at the head, was now attached to the Signoria as 
well as the first ; but this made little or no change in his position, 
and only brought him some additional occupation. 

' According to the Reform of the 2ncl December, 1494, the Ten were to hold 
oOice for six months (Florentine Archives, " Provvisioni, reg. 186, sheet 4). By 
the decision of the Council of Eighty (lith May, 1495) the elections were to be 
ni.ide in the Great Council. 

By the Reform of the 27th of April, 1496 ("Provvisioni," reg. 188, sheet 16 and 
fob), it was decided that " both general and special Commissioners throughout the 
dominions were to be elected by the Council of Eighty at the instance of the Ten 
who were to give ten names to be balloted for." The Ten, however, had the power 
of extending the term of office of those elected, to six months. Also, in emer- 
gencies, they had the right of sending a commissioner to the camp for fifteen days 
upon their own authority, and afterwards proceed to a regular election, which con- 
firmed the powers of the delegate of the Ten. This was the origin of many abuses, 
since, to oblige friends, they appointed commissioners (/'wri,w/3rt, when no urgency 
existed, they kept them on from fortnight to fortnight, and finally sought to have 
them elected. Besides nominations of " commissarii e rettori dei luoghi," the Ten 
engaged the military leaders, and had the control of the war expenses ; all things 
which opened the door to many abuses. 

* See Guicciardini's " Storia Fiorentina," p. 202 and fob, and Nardi's op. ctt., vol. 
i. pp. 189-91. This latter writer at p. 184, in speaking of the straits to which 
the Republic was reduced, mentions a certain Lorenzo Catucci, who offered a free 
gift of a thousand florins and a loan of five thousand for five years, on condition 
" of having the benefit {benefin'o) of the state for the lesser trades." His offer was 
refused, but on the day on which the benefin'o could be legally granted, Catucci's 
name was put to the vote by the major trades, and he thus obtained gratis more than 
that which he had asked in return for his money. This shows us that some 
Republican virtues still remained in Florence at this date. 

A measure of the 31st May 1499 (Florentine Archives, " Consigli Maggiori, 
Provvisioni," reg. 191, a. c. 10) established new rules for the election of magistrates, 
since it often being necessary at that time to call repeated meetings of the Great 
Council, in order to obtain the legal majority of votes, many wearied of it all and 
left off attending the meetings. It was therefore decided that all names obtaining 
the half of the beans and one extra, should be entitled to be put to the ballot. As 
regarded the Ten, however, all decisions were susjiended until the Eighty should 
declare, by a majority of tv/o-thirds of the votes, whether they desired that magistra- 
ture to be continued or not. 


On the 1 2th of July, 1449, he received his first important com- 
mission, being sent with a despatch from the Signory, signed 
by Marcello Virgilio, to Caterina Sforza, Countess of Imola and 
Forli. The friendship of this small State was carefully cultivated 
by the Republic, for not only was it situated on the high road 
from Upper to Lower Italy, but also on that leading into Tuscany 
by the Val di Lamone. From this side the Venetians had 
advanced, from this side the Duke of Valentinois had made 
threatening demonstrations. That part of the country too was 
warlike, and furnished mercenaries to all who asked them of the 
Countess, who made almost a trade of it. Her first-born son, 
Ottaviano Riario, though a mere youth, was always ready to earn 
money by taking a command {condotta). In 1498, he had obtained 
one worth fifteen thousand ducats, from the Florentines, who were 
anxious to keep upon friendly terms with his mother. His 
engagement was to expire at the end of June, but might be 
renewed at the pleasure of the Signori for another year. But at 
the end of the first period Riario was very discontented. He said 
that the Florentines had not observed their part of the bargain, 
and that he objected to renew it. The Countess, however, being 
a much more prudent person, seeing that the Florentines desired 
her friendship, and knowing that Valentinois still had designs 
upon Romagna, showed herself disposed to ratify the beneplacito^ 
adding that her uncle the Moor had sent her a request for men- 
at-arms, and that she would therefore be glad of a speedy reply 
in order to know what she should do. For this reason Machia- 
velli was sent as Envoy to her Court. 

The Countess Caterina was an extraordinary woman, and quite 
capable of holding her own against the secretary. Born in 1462, 
an illegitimate daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza,' by Lucrezia, 
wife of a certain Sandriani of Milan, she was a woman of hand- 
some, regular features, of great bodily strength, and of more than 
masculine intellect. She had gone through many and singular 
adventures. At a very early age she was married to the dissolute 
son of Sixtus IV., Girolamo Riario, who, owing to the violent 
tyranny of his rule, was in continual danger of assassination by 
conspirators. In 1487 when far advanced in pregnancy, she was 
nursing her husband in an illness at Imola, when news arrived 
that the Castle of Forli had been seized by Codronchi, master of 
the palace, who had murdered the governor. Whereupon Caterina 
started the same night, entered the castle, and leaving Tommaso 

* It is an odd fact that Nardi, the contemporary and usually faithful historian 
(pp. cit., vol. i. p. 34), speaks of her as the sister of Lodovico, when she herself in 
her letters to the Florentines calls him il nostra baiha, our Uncle. 


Feo in charge of it, brought Codronchi back with her to Tmola, 
whore she gave birth to a child on the following day. On the 
14th of April, 1848, a conspiracy broke out in ForH, Girolanio 
Riario was stabbed, and she, left a widow at the age of twenty- 
six, and with six chiMren, found herself a prisoner in the hands 
of the Orsi, ringleaders of the revolt. But not even then did 
her courage fail her. The castle still held out for her, and she 
was allowed to enter it, in the hope that she would order its 
surrender to the people, in whose hands she had left her chiklren 
as hostages. But she had already sent messengers to ask for aid 
from Milan, and now that she was in safety, she prepared to 
defend the castle until succour should arrive. To those who 
sought to subdue her, by threatening the murder of her children, 
she replied that she was able to give birth to more. The city 
was recaptured, and the rebellion put down with bloodshed. 
Afterwards the faithful Castellan who had saved her life, was 
suddenly disarmed and dismissed, and his post given to his 
brother, Giacomo Feo, a handsome youth whom the Countess 
soon married. 

This second husband also died by assassination in 1495, while 
driving home with the Countess from the chase. She instantly 
mounted a horse and galloped into Forli, where she took a 
sanguinary revenge. Forty persons were put to death, and fifty 
imprisoned or otherwise persecuted. Yet it was asserted by many 
that she herself had hired the assassins of her husband, and was 
now making his death a pretext for ridding herself of her 
enemies. She answered the accusation by saying, that thanks 
to the Lord, neither she, nor any other member of the Sforza 
house had ever found it necessary to make use of common 
assassins, when they wished to get rid of any man. In 1497 she 
married for the third time, and became the wife of Giovanni, son 
of Pier Francesco, one of the younger branch of the Medici, who 
had come to her Court as ambassador of the Florentine Republic' 
On this occasion she was made citizen of Florence, partly because 
it was wished to flatter and keep on good terms with her ; partly 
because the old laws prohibiting the marriage of citizens, particu- 
larly of powerful citizens, with foreigners, had been revived since 
the intermarriage of the Medici with the Orsini of Rome had so 

' This Giovanni del Medici (1467-9S) was, as we have said, son of Pier Fran- 
cesco, who was the son of Lorenzo, second brother of Cosimo, pater patrice. As 
all know, the father of Cosimo and Lorenzo was Giovanni dei Medici, the real 
founder of the family. The elder branch, namely that directly descended from 
Cosimo, was extinguished in 1537 by the death of Alessandro, murdered by 
Lorenzino dei Medici. The Grand Dukes of Tuscany were descended from the 
second branch. 


greatly swelled the pride of that family. In the April of 1498 
Caterina gave birth to another son, afterwards renowned as 
Giovanni delle Bande Nere, father to Cosimo, first Grand Duke 
of Tuscany ; and towards the end of the same year her third 
husband also breathed his last. She was therefore at thirty-six 
years of age, a Avidow for the third time, the mother of many 
children, absolute mistress of her little State, and noted as a 
woman of excellent prudence and courage, when Niccolo Machia- 
velli presented himself at her Court.^ 

The Florentines were disposed to confirm their heneplactto to 
Count Ottaviano, but not to grant him a command exceeding 
the value of ten thousand ducats, their only object being that 
of gaining the Countess's good-will. They also commissioned 
Machiavelli to purchase of her as much powder, saltpetre, and 
ammunition as she could spare, since perpetual supplies were 
needed for the camp before Pisa.^ After a necessary halt at 
Castrocaro, whence he sent information to the Signory of the 
factions which divided that place, he reached Forli on the i6th 
day of July, and presented himself straightway to the Countess. 
He found with her the agent of Lodovico, and in his presence set 
forth the object of his mission, the intentions of his Republic, 
and its desire to be on friendly terms with her. The Countess 
listened to him with great attention, said that the words of the 
Florentines " had always satisfied her, whereas their deeds had 
always much displeased her," 3 and that she must have time for 

She afterwards let him know that she had been offered better 
terms by Milan, and then negotiations began. She had neither 
powder nor ammunition for sale, not having sufficient for her own 
needs. On the other hand she had an abundance of soldiers whom 
she passed daily in review and sent on to Milan. Machiavelli, at 
the instance of Marcello Virgilio, tried to obtain some of these to 
send to Pisa, but could not come to terms with the Countess 
either for the price to be paid, or as to when he could have them.* 

' See the " Vita di Caterina Sforza," by Abate Antonio Burriel, 3 vols, in 4to ; 
Bologna, 1795. See also, "A Decade of Italian Women," by T. A. Trollope ; 
],ondon, 1859, 2 vols. 

^ See the " Istruzione" given to Machiavelli, decreed on the 12th of July, 1499, 
in vol. vi. p. 7, of the " Opere." 

3 Letter of the 17th of July, in the " Legazione a Caterina Sforza." 

* The Florentines required them at once, " for the Captain begs, worries and 
presses for them daily and hourly." Letter of the iSth of July, signed by Marcello 
\ irgilio. These and other letters from the same, which are however of little or 
no importance, are in the National Library of Florence (" Carte del Machiavelli," 
case 11), and were published by I'asserini, together with the "Legazione" to 
Caterina Sforza of Forli, in vol. iii. of the " Opere " (P. M.). 


Oil tlic 22nd of Julv lie thought that lie liad coiithi(K(i tlio 
bargain, having raised his ofTer to twelve thousaiid ducats ; yet 
he added thai he was not certain, because the Countess "had 
always stooil ujion her dignity," so tliat he could never clearly 
determine whether she incHned towards Florence or Milan. "I 
see on the one hand," he wrote, "that the Court is crowded with 
Florentines, who appear to manage all the concerns of the State ; 
also, and what is still nmre important, the Countess beholds the 
Duke of Milan attacked, without knowing whether she may rely 
upon his aid or not ; but on the other hand the Moor's agent 
seems to have authority, and foot soldiers are continually leaving 
for Milan." 

In fact, although by the 23rd of July everything appeared to 
be concluded, and it was settled that the agreement should be 
signed the following day, when Machiavelli presented himself to 
ask for her signature, the Countess received him as usual in the 
presence of the Milanese agent, and told him that, " having 
thought the matter over in the night, it seemed to her better not 
to fulfil the terms, unless the Florentines would pledge themselves 
to defend her State. That although she had sent him a message 
of a different nature the previous day, he ought not to be surprised 
at the change, since the more things are talked over, the better 
they arc understood." ' But the Florentine Government had 
expressly told Machiavelli that it was decided not to undertake 
any such obligation, therefore there was nothing for him to do 
but return to Florence, which he accordingly did.^ 

The failure of this mission seems to show that the Countess 
was more cunning than Machiavelli, who allowed himself to be 
outwitted by a woman. Nor can that be very astonishing 
when we remember that Caterina Sforza was a woman of mascu- 
line intellect, long sole ruler of her State and of great business 
experience, whereas the Florentine secretary, notwithstanding his 
wonderful abilities, was only a man of letters making his first 
campaign in diplomacy. But at bottom the Florentines had no 
motive for discontent. Their real object was not the arrangement 
of the condotta^ but rather that of winning the Countess's friend- 
ship without any expense ; and in this their success was complete, 

' See the " Legazione" to Caterina Sforza, coming first in every edition. There 
are seven letters from Machiavelli. " Opere," vol. vi. pp. 11-31. 

- For this mission Machiavelli received, in consequence of the decree of 31st of 
August, 1499, nineteen broad florins in gold, " to cover his expenses going, stopping 
and returning in nineteen days, counting from the 13th of July up to the 1st of 
the present month inclusive." This document is in the Florence Archives, 
" Signori, Stanziamenli del" l.;99, sheet II. It was published in the " Opere " 
(P. .M.}, vol. iii. p. 32, note 2. 


for the nef^otiations were not broken off, a confidential agent 
from Forli being sent to continue them.* To Machiavelli himself 
the mission had been most useful, for his letters had been highly 
praised by all in the Palace. His ever-faithful friend and colleague, 
Biagio Buonaccorsi, a Republican admirer of Savonarola, of 
Benivieni, of Pico della Mirandola, wrote to him continually and 
kept him an fait of everything. He was a lover of learning, 
although but a mediocre writer, author of some poems and of a 
Diary which gives a very accurate account of Florentine events 
from 1498 to 1 5 12. "In my opinion," he said in a letter of 19th 
of July, " you have acquitted yourself so far with much honour 
of the mission imposed upon you, in the which thing I have 
taken and am still taking great delight ; go on as you have 
begun, for hitherto you have done us much honour.'' He 
repeats the same in other letters, in one of which he asks for a 
portrait of the Coii^tess, and begs that it may be forwarded *' in 
a roll, to avoid its being spoiled by folding." And he also 
earnestly begs Machiavelli to return at once, because in his 
absence there was great disorder in the Chancery, and envy and 
jealousy were very rife ; wherefore " remaining away is not 
*' good for you, and here there is a deluge of work such as never 
" was." =* 

' " The respectable Messrs. Joanni, my auditor." See the Countess's letter, 
dated 3rd of August 1499, in the " Opere," vol. vi. p. 31. 

^ Three of the letters written by IJuonaccorsi in July are to be found in the 
National Library of Florence, namely two dated the 19th, one the 27th, " Carte 
di Machiavelli," case li, Nos. i, 77, 78. Biagio Buonaccorsi was faithful to 
Machiavelli, even when the latter fell into misfortune, and was exposed to 
many attacks for the publication of the "Principe"; he was born in 1472, 
and married a niece of Marsilio Ficino, who was afterwards the friend of 
Machiavelli's wife. He was the author of several poems which still remain 
unpublished in the Florence libraries, and have not much literary merit. He 
also wrote the "Impresa fatta dai Signori Florentini I'anno 1500, con le genti 
Francesi, per e>pugnare la citta di Pisa, capitano Monsignor di Belmonte." This 
little work which is of slight literary value, but useful on account of its historical 
accuracy, was published by F. L. Polidori in the " Archivio Storico," vol. v. 
part II. It consists of nineteen pages, to which Polidori added a preface of his 
own, giving many details regarding the author. During his life Buonaccorsi 
published nothing but a species of epistle dedicated to Girolamo Benivieni 
regarding Pico della Mirandola's commentary on Benivieni's own composition, 
"Canzone dell amor divino." See "Opere di Girolamo Benivieni": Florence, 
Giunti, 1519' But Buonaccorsi's principal work is his "Diary" of events 
happening in Italy and especially in Florence from 1498 to 1512, during which 
period Machiavelli and he were together in the second Chancery of the Republic, 
and quilted office at the same time, when the Government was changed. The 
" Diary " was published in Florence by Giunti in 1519 ; and though without much 
literary merit, has great historical importance, being based upon official letters. 
The style in which it is written forbids all comparison with the works of Machia- 
velli ; yet strange to say, it was frequently attribuied to his pen. 


Before setting out on his mission to Foill, Macliiavclli was en- 
gaged, as we have ahcady noted, in penning letters to calm the 
jealousies of the captains using ever}' argument to inspire them with 
a love for the Republic which none of them felt, and induce them 
to prosecute the war on good terms with one other. Vitelli had 
made a proposal to attack. Cascina, and this being agreed to, he 
took it by assault on the 26th of June, thereby raising the spirits 
anil hopes of the Florentines, who immediately conceived a high 
opinion of his valour. But from that moment everything came 
to a standstill, while all expenses increased enormously, so that 
Machiavelli, on his return from Forli, found the Signory in con- 
sternation, the people irritated, and the captains demanding 
remittances which were not to be had. Early in August he had 
letters despatched to them in the name of the Signory, stating 
that there were the greatest difficulties in the way of getting the 
Councils to vote funds for fresh expenditure ; and that if matters 
went on long in this fashion " it would be impossible for half 
Italy to furnish supplies for all this artillery." " 

Ammiiato, in his " Fauiifilie nobili Il.iliane," at page 103, alludes lo a very 
small note book, written by Machiavelli, "perhaps to put him in the way of the 
history which he never continued." And in the " Elogi di Uomini illustri 
Toscani " (Florence, 1766-73, vol. iv. p. 37) we find that a man of letters had 
discovered that the " Diary " was not by Buonaccorsi, but by Machiavelli, founding 
this theory on Ammirato's observation, and on the circumstance that the " Diary " 
begins almost at the point where the "Historical Fragments," the continuation of 
Machiavelli's " Histories," come to an end. Morcni, in his " Bibliografia della 
Toscana," repeated tliis assertion without disputing it. Yet it would have been 
easy to observe that Ammirato quotes a fragment of the qualermucio alluded to, 
and this fragment is the description of Niccolo Valori, written by Machiavelli 
and published among his "Nature d' Uomini illustri fiorentini," which might 
have been comprised in a quadernticcio or quire, whereas the "Diary" is a 
volume of respectable bulk. Thus the strange assertion might easily have been 
refuted. All the old MSS. of the " Diary " bear Buonaccorsi's name, the auto- 
graph one preserved in the Kiccardiana Library of Florence (codex 1920) also has 
a note, as we before mentioned, recording the author's absence from Florence 
during six months, when Machiavelli was almost always in the Chancery. Some 
have tried to maintain that the handwriting of the autograph " Diary " might be 
confounded with that of Machiavelli ; but comparisons of the two is sufficient to 
disjirove the assertion. Hence it were useless to dwell too long upon these 
unfounded doubts. 

It is necessary to mention that almost the whole of this " Diary " has been in- 
corporated in the " Storia di Firenze " by Jacopo Nardi, who has, however, made 
many corrections in the style. 

' Florentine Archives, " Lettere deiDicci di Balia," 1499, cl. x. dist. 3, No. 91. 
According to the new arrangement of the archives, the sameyf/sa or file is labelled 
Si^nori, missiie. No 21. Both labels are preserved, in order to facilitate research. 
The letter quoted above is of the 5th of August, and is to be found at sheet 64. 

\/e now begin to avail ourselves of Machiavelli's official letters, of which a large 
number still remain inedited in the Florence Archives. Of original letters only 
there are more than 4100. Among them, however, are included the 264 publisbe4 


And a little later he added "that having expended up to this 
date about 64,000 ducats for this expedition, everybody has been 
drained ; and to make up the present sum which we now send 
(2,000 ducats), every strong box has been emptied. . . ." If you 
do not act quickly, " we shall surely be stranded, for were other 
6,000 ducats required, we should have to renounce all hope of 
victory." ' 

After this, however, came a moment of joyful encouragement : 
news arrived that the tower of Stampace had been captured and a 
wide breach effected in the walls of Pisa, so that hour by hour the 
Florentines expected to hear that their troops had entered the city. 
They learnt instead that on the loth there had been a pitched 
battle ; that the Church of San Paolo had been reached, but that 
just when the whole army, and especially the youthful Florentines 
who had joined the camp as volunteers, were carrying all before 
them by their indomitable ardour, they were suddenly ordered to 
retreat. And Paolo Vitelli, seeing the unwillingness of the 
soldiers to obey, rushed among them with his brother Vitellozzo 
and drove them back with blows. ^ 

This news raised to the highest pitch the indignation of the 
Florentines, and awakened grave suspicions of treachery on the 
part of Vitelli. All remembered the safe conduct granted by 
him in Casentino to the Duke of Urbino, at the time when he had 
also allowed himself to be seen in conversation with Piero and 
Giuliano dei Medici. Shortly before the capture of Cascina he 
had taken a certain Ranieri della Sassetta prisoner, who, after 
having been in the pay of the Florentines, had gone over to the 
Pisans, and taken part in numberless intrigues against the 
Republic. The Signory had ordered that he should be instantly 
sent to Florence for trial, but Vitelli allowed him to escape, saying 
that " he would not become the jailor of a valiant and worthy 
soldier." 3 And now he checked his army exactly when victory 
was assured and Pisa itself on the point of being taken, saying 

by Canestrini in his volume, " Scritti Inediti " of Niccolo Machiavelli, and also 
some of the legations. To these we shall refer later on. 

These letters were written by Machiavelli himself in the minutes or protocols, 
and then copied into the registers by the clerks of the Chancery. Naturally all 
the minutes are not in his hand, but his autograph is easily distinguished. We 
have not been able to find the minutes of the letters he wrote in August, but only 
the register or the copies ; therefore the few letters we quote as having been 
written by him in that month, are judged to be his on the strength of their style. 
Of all the letters which we quote, dating from the 1st September, 1499, we have 
seen the autograph originals, excepting when the contrary is stated. 

' Letter on the 7th August, at sheet 68 of the before-quoted Register, 

■ Nardi, " Storia di Firenze," vol. i. p. 196 and fol. 

' Guicciardini, "Storia Fiorentiaa," p. 204. 

VOL. I. 17 


that ho was sure of getting it to surrender on conditions. All 
this was more than enough to make the I*'lorentines lose patienee. 
The Signory openly declared that they woulil no longer be " leil 
in the dark ; " ' and on the 20th of August Machiavclli was 
ordered to write as follows to the Commissaries at the camp : — 
" We have granted the captain all that which he desired, yet we 
behold" "all our trouble put to nought through his various 
shufflings and deceit."" For the which reason, had our laws 
permitted of it, two of our number would have come in person 
to try and discover the cause of this double dealing, "since it 
appears that you either will not write to us of the matter or are 
ignorant of it." 3 But all was in vain. Fever was making great 
havoc in the army, which daily diminished, whereas the Pisans 
were receiving reinforcements. The two Commissaries were 
seized with fever, and one of them died. In writing to the new 
ones who quickly replaced them, Machiavelli said, in the name of 
the Signory : " We should have preferred defeat to inaction at so 
decisive a moment." " We neither know what to say, nor with 
what reasons to excuse ourselves before all this people, who will 
deem that we have fed them with lies, in holding out to them 
day by day vain promises of certain victory." * 

Some decision had to be taken, and no money being available, 
the only thing now to be done, after Vitelli's strange conduct and 
the serious suspicions to which it had given rise, was to send him 
immediate orders to break up the camp, leaving only a few of the 
more important places in a state of defence. But even then all 
Avent badly ; since, among other things, ten boats loaded with 
ammunition and artillery were sunk in the Arno, and some of 
these fell into the hands of the Pisans, who fished them up.s But 

* Letter of the 14th August, at sheet 74 of the Register before mentioned. 

- At this point, we find on the margin of the Register, the following note, in 
the writing of the period : " Quantus moeror." 

3 We give in the Appendix this letter of the 20th August together with another 
of the 15th, Documents ii. and iii. 

* This letter also of the 25th August is given in the Appendix, Document iv. 

5 See in the " Scritti inediti di Niccolo Machiavelli," illustrated by G. 
Canestrini (Florence, Barbera, Bianchi & Co., 1857), the letters dated the 8th, 
loth, and 13th September, and that of the 27th October, 1499, at pp. 81, 82, 85, 
and 118. 

In this volume Canestrini has reprinted the letters written by Machiavelli, when 
he had the ordering of the militia in Florence, and which he had already published 
in the " Archivio Storico." He has also added many other inedited letters. They 
are 264 in all, and all treat of the affairs of the Republic. Excepting those con- 
cerning the militia, they may be said to be chosen haphazard, without a purpose, 
without any proper chronological arrangement or distribution of subjects. He 
jumps from one letter to another, leaves out portions longer than those which he 
gives, without assigning any reason, and even without warning the reader. Evi- 


Vitelli could not extricate himself from the consequences of this 
affair. Besides what had already occurred, and when every one in 
Florence believed him to be a traitor, a rumour was also spread 
that, in the flight of Lodovico from Milan, papers had fallen into 
the hands of the French, proving beyond doubt that he (Vitelli) 
had made secret arrangements for prolonging the war.' Braccio 
Martelli and Antonio Canigiani had already been despatched as 
war commissioners, apparently for the purpose of furnishing the 
necessary funds for breaking up the camp, but in reality to seize 
the persons of Paolo and Vitellozzo Vitelli, the latter of whom 
had made an attempt to escape, by asking for a leave of absence, 
that was refused him. 

Letters written by Machiavelli at this period show that the secret 
of the business was in his hands, and that, convinced of Vitelli's 
bad faith and treachery, he laboured with exceeding zeal and 
ardour to achieve the desired object. On the 27th of September 
the denotie7iient of the drama was close at hand, and he urged the 
commissioners to proceed with energy against " rebels and enemies 
of the Republic," since it was a question of saving the Florentine 
honour, and also of showing France that Florence had the courage 
to provide for her own safety, and claimed equal respect with all 
other Italian potentates. In conclusion, he recommended that to 
vigorous action should be joined so much circumspection and 
prudence, " that you may not be misled, by over-zeal or over- 
caution, to accelerate matters more than is necessary on the one 
hand, or more than opportunity permits on the other." ^ 

The two commissaries fulfilled their orders with prudence. 
Vitelli was quartered about a mile beyond Cascina, to which place 
the field artillery was being withdrawn. They invited him to 
come thither on the 28th under colour of wishing to consult with 
him on the conduct of the war ; but, after dining together, they 
led him into a secret chamber, and kept him confined there. At 
the same time they had sent in search of Vitellozzo, who was ill 
in bed ; he, however, suspecting a trap, asked for time to dress 
himself, and contrived to make his escape towards Pisa.3 Paolo, 
being conveyed to Florence, was examined on the last day of 

dently, too, he was ignorant of the greater part of Machiavelli's official letters, 
since he publishes many of no value and leaves out a large number of those of 

* Nardi, "Storiadi Firenze," vol. i. pp. 199, 200. 

'^ " Scritti Inediti," as before at p. 95. See also the letter of the 29th 
September at p. 96, and those following on the same subject. 

3 Nardi, " Storie di Firenze," vol. i. pp. 201 and 202. That same day, the 2Sth 
September, Paolo Vitelli wrote from Cascina, after being made a prisoner, a letter 
to a certain Cerbone da Castello, which is to be found among the " Carte del 


September, ami, aUhou,i;li he liad confessed to nothing, was 
beheaded within toui-aml-lwenly hours. 'J'his event made miieh 
noise both in tlie city and abroad, VitelH being a renowned leader, 
and one who also enjoyed the friendship of France. Guicciardini 
considers that he was innocent of treachery, attributing his inex- 
plicable conduct to the nature and habits of mercenary captains ; 
Nardi, on the contrary, declares that he was guilty and well 
deserved his fate ; Buonaccorsi, who was in the Chancery, relates 
the matter without comment, concluding with these words : "and 
this was the end of Pagolo Vitegli, a very excellent man." As to 
Machiavelli, although he liad no opportunity of mentioning the 
affair in his " Storie " or in the " Frammcnti," which do not go 
beyond the middle of '99, yet his opinion is manifested in the 
*' Decennali," ' by the letters which he wrote, and the ardour he 
displayed in the conduct of the affair. 

We do not know that any decisive proof of Vitelli's treason 
was discovered at the time, but from the deliberations of the 
Venetian Council of Ten, it is clearly shown that Vitelli was really 
a traitor ; that he had promised to reinstate Piero del Medici 
in Florence ; and that negotiations to that effect had gone so far 
that the Venetians had promised to reward him with a Condotta 
of the value of forty thousand ducats, or of an even larger sum, 
should he insist upon it." At any rate, it was known to the 
Florentines that Vitelli did not intend to conquer Pisa before 
seeing the result of the war between the French and Lodovico 
the Moor, with whom the Republic had never come to an open 
rupture. 3 

The victory of the French being assured, it seems that he had 

Machiavelli," case li, No. 75. Nardi in fact tells us (^/. cit., vol. i. p. 204) 
that this Cerbone was seized and questioned, and that letters and papers concerning 
Vitelli were found on his person. 

' " Opere," vol. v. p. 364. 

' Archivio dei Frari, " Misti," c. x. vol. n 275, carte 2131. Ilerr M. Brosch 
was the first to call attention to these documents in the pages of Sybil's 
" Historische Zeitschrift." 

3 From the information sent by Machiavelli between April and July, 1499, to 
Francesco Tosinghi, commissary at the camp before Pisa, it is very clear that the 
Florentines pressed on the one side by the French, on the other by the Moor, would 
not declare themselves openly, " and temporizing with one party and the other, 
were making a benefit of delay." See the " Opere," vol. viii. letter v., in date of 
the 6th July, 1499, and the two preceding. In the letter of the 27lh September, 
edited by Canestrini, and quoted by us above, the Florentines, while urging the 
immediate seizure of Vitelli, said that they desired to act with severity, to make it 
understood, " especially by His Most Chi istian Majesty, that they knew how to 
take care of themselves, and meant to be respected." This serves to confirm the 
suspicion that Vitelli, as a friend of France, was dragging out the campaign in order 
to wait for the result of the war in Lombardy. 


changed his mind and decided,^ so at least Nardi tells us — to 
do his part in earnest ; but he had then lost his reputation, and 
it was too late.' 

Another proof, were any necessary, of the prominent part taken 
by Machiavelli in all affairs relating to the war, and of the esteem 
in which his labours were held, is to be found in his short 
" Discorso fatto al Magistrato de' Dieci sopra le cose di Pisa," 
which, though undated, bears internal evidence of having been 
written in this year.3 It was one of the many compositions 
which his office made it necessary for him to write, and in it, 
after proving by a series of just arguments the folly of hoping 
to reduce Pisa otherwise than by force, he gives details of the 

» Nardi, " Storia di Firenze," vol. i. p. 210. 

" Many were the reports spread about this Vitelli affair. Signer Nitti [op. cit. 
vol. i. pp. 67 and fol.) publishes a letter found among the "Carle del Machiavelli" 
(case I, No. 49) without address, date or signature, which likewise mentions these 
reports, and this he gives as a letter by Machiavelli, on account of the hand- 
writing ; but the hand is certainly not that of Machiavelli, nor does the style appear 
to be his. For greater certainty, we have also submitted the manuscript to the 
examination of competent friends. 

In the June of 1 501, a certain Piero Gambacorti, who had been in the service of 
the Pisans, was seized and questioned. An account of his trial, written in 
Machiavelli's own hand, exists in the Florentine Archives. Being interrogated as 
to the affair of Stampace, he said that the Pisans thought that all was lost : "all 
abandoned the idea of resistance, and throughout Saturday and half Sunday Pisa 
was yours." He had gone away thinking the town was lost ; many soldiers and 
constables prepared to depart; "but seeing that your troops did not follow up 
their victory, they returned to the bastions and the wall." Being asked if he con- 
sidered that Paolo Vitelli was a traitor, he replied that, without being positive of 
his treachery, he could affirm that for a day and a half Pisa was in his hands. 
That he had said as much to Vitellozzo at Faenza, who had answered that, at 
that time they were ignorant to what condition the Pisans were reduced ; that they 
thought to have done enough in taking Stampace, and that they meant to fortify 

in order to take the city afterwards ; also that it was Paolo's nature " to 
spare his men, and avoid exposing them to peril." This almost insignificant trial 
was published by Passerini in the " Opere" (P. M.). vol. iii.p. 78. We certainly 
should not give it a place in the " Opere" of Machiavelli, since little or nothing 
of his could be in it, besides, it is well to remember, that owing to the duties 
of his office, and to collect necessary materials for his " Storie," he copied and 
preserved many writings which were not his own. 

3 "Opere," vol. ii. p. 380. As to the year in which this "Discorso" was 
written, some doubts may arise from its being addressed to the Dieci, who in 1499 
were not elected. Yet, on reading it, it is very difficult to assign it to another 
year, since it alludes to the recent example of the Venetians who had abandoned 
the Pisans, who indeed found themselves " not accepted by Milan, and repulsed 
by Genoa." Now, the Venetian event happened at the end of 1498, and towards the 
end of 1499 the French had already entered Milan. Still the title may have been 
written at a latter date, and may not have been written by Machiavelli. Besides 
which, although the Ten were not elected in 1499, their office was not suppressed, 
their Chancery remained, carried on the affairs of the war, and the series of their 
protocols and registers went on as before. 



various opinions expressed by the captains about the mctliod of 
dividing llic Florentine troops into two or three camps, and the 
war operations tliat were proposed. He narrated and expounded 
these opinions and proposals with an exactness and precision 
clearly proving that, even at that period, his intellect and his 
studies were not only dedicated to State alTairs, but likewise to 
military matters. Or, to put it more jilainly still, it is evident 
that he already recognized that a knowledge of the art of war was 
an essential element of statesmanship. 


Louis XII. in Italy — Defeat and imprisonment of the Moor^Niccolo Machiavclli 
at the camp before Pisa — First embassy to France. 


NE of the Florentines' special reasons for the 
hurried trial of Vitelli, Avas their fear lest the 
new and important successes of the French in 
Lombardy should prevent the execution of the 
sentence. These events, in fact, caused no 
slight changes in the affairs of Tuscany, and 
therefore it is necessary to speak of them. 
After the battle of Fornuovo, Lodovico 
seemed actually to have realized his old desire of holding complete 
sway over Italian affairs. In the streets of Florence, people sang : 

" Cristo in cielo e il Moro in terra 
Solo sa il fine di questa guerra." * 

He himself had caused a silver medal to be coined, Avith a vessel of 
water on the obverse, and fire on the reverse, symbolic of his 
power as master of peace and war. Also, upon one of the inner 
walls of his palace, he had had the map of Italy painted with a 
number of cocks, hens, and chickens and a Moor, broom in hand, 
sweeping them all away. When, however, he asked the- Floren- 
tine Ambassador, Francesco Gualterotti, for his opinion of the 
picture, the latter replied that it was a pretty fancy, but that it 

* Which may be rendered in English doggerel : 

*' The Lord above and the Moor below 
Alone can tell how the war will go." 


appeared to liiin tliat the Moor, in tryinfr to sweep the cocks out 
ot" Italy, was being smothered by the dust ; ' and such was in reality 
the case. 

Louis XII., who had always claimed a right to the Duchy of 
Milan, no sooner ascended the throne of France, than he began to 
provide for the internal security of the State. He reduced the 
ta.xes ; arranged the administration of justice, and nominated as 
chief minister, Georges d' Amboise, archbishop of Rouen. He 
respected the constituted authorities, and took no deliberations 
without their advice ; he maintained the independence of the 
courts of justice ; he encouraged Gallican liberties ; he was 
economical. When, by means of these wise provisions, he had 
assured the order of the State, and gained much favour with his 
people, he turned his attention to the Italian war, which was no 
longer unpopular in France, by reason of the increased confidence 
in the sovereign, and the general desire to revenge past humilia- 
tions. On the 9th of February, 1499, Louis concluded with the 
Venetians a treaty offensive and defensive for the conquest of the 
Duchy of Milan, pledging himself to yield a portion of it to them. 
Thus the Moor found himself between two fires, with no one to 
look to for help ; since the Florentines had always been the 
friends of France, and -the Pope, after the promises of aid to the 
Valentinois, also gave his approval. The French army, under 
the command of the Milanese G. G. Trivulzio — who, since the 
battle of Fornuovo, had become very famous — of other captains 
of renown, and strengthened by a large body of Swiss, advanced 
with singular rapidity. Some of Lodovico's captains were 
treacherous, others incapable, and the people rose against him ; 
so that he had to arrange for his flight before he had recovered 
from his first reverses. He first sent away his two sons in the 
care of his brother, Cardinal Ascanio, to whom he entrusted the 
sum of 240,000 ducats. On the 2nd of September he followed 
them himself into Germany. 

On the nth of that month the French army marched into 
Milan, where, shortly afterwards, Louis XII. made his solemn 
entry. When the ambassadors of the different Italian States 
presented themselves before him, those of Florence were the most 
favourably received, for, notwithstanding some occasional vacilla- 
tion, that Republic had ever remained faithful to France alike in 
prosperity and ill fortune. 

The Florentines, nevertheless, had many reasons for discon- 
tent with the French captains who had remained behind in 
Tuscany, to whom they attributed the resistance of the 

* Nardi, " Storin di Firenze," vol. i. pp. 209, 210. 


Pisans, and, in part, the unfortunate result of the siege that 
had just compelled them to raise the camp and put to death 
Paolo Vitelli. But, instead of venting their anger in useless 
complaints, they concluded a fresh treaty with the king in 
Milan (19th October, 1499). By this he was bound to assist them 
by every means in the conquest of Pisa ; they, on their side, 
were to be prepared to send 400 men-at-arms and 3,000 foot- 
soldiers to Milan, and were to aid the Neapolitan expedition with 
500 men-at-arms and 50,000 crowns. The surrender of Pisa was 
to take place before the French went to Naples, and the Floren- 
tines meanwhile were to restore to the king the sums of money 
lent them by the Moor, according to an estimate to be made 
by G, G. Trivulzio, after examination of the papers found at 
Milan. ^ And likewise they were to take into their pay the 
Prefect Giovanni della Rovere, brother of the Cardinal of San 
Piero in Vincoli, whom the French wished to oblige.^ 

All these proceedings were suspended by new events. The 
French, and more especially their general Trivulzio, who had been 
made governor of Milan, had so greatly excited the discontent of 
the people, that when the Moor presented himself at the head of 
8,000 recently-hired Swiss, and 500 men-at-arms, he was joyfully 
received by the very men, who, a short time before, had expelled 
him, and on the 5th of February he re-entered Milan. Trivulzio 
had already quitted the city, but leaving a strong body of men to 
guard the fortress ; he stationed 400 more at Novara, and then 
advanced towards Mortara, where he stayed to wait for reinforce- 
ments, while many even of his Swiss deserted to the Moor, who 
gave higher pay. However, in April, 10,000 Swiss mercenaries, 
under the command of La Tremouille, marched into Italy to assist 
the French expedition. The hostile armies were already facing 
each other in order of battle, when Lodovico's Swiss troops 
declared that, having been hired as individuals they could not fight 
against the Helvetian flag borne by their compatriots whom Louis 
Xn. had taken into his employ by special agreement with the 
Confederation itself. Thus they betrayed him in presence of the 
enemy, and, under various pretexts, demanded their arrears of 
pay upon the spot, without even waiting till he could receive 
Italian reinforcements. All that the wretched duke could obtain 
from them was permission to hide himself in their ranks, dis- 

' In the Florence Archives are certain letters sending Niccolo MachiavelH to 
Trivulzio, in order to fix these sums. But afterwards this idea was abandoned, the 
letters were not despatched, and he did not go. 

" MoHni, " Documenti di Storia Italiana," Firenze, 1836-37, vol. i. pp. 32-36. 
Desjardins gives a summary of the convention, extracted from the Florence 
Archives. See " Nc'gociations," &c., vol. ii. p. 26, note I. 


guisccl as a monk. Rut, wlulhcr by liis own fear, or some fresh 
treachery of the soldiers, lie was recognized and taken prisoner on 
the loth of April, 1500. The sainefate befell several of his captains, 
and his brother Ascanio, who, having fled from Milan, was be- 
trayed by a friend to the Venetians, w ho in their turn gave him 
up to the French. Thus, as Gualterotti had prophesied, the Moor 
was indeed "smothered by his own sweepings," and his fortunate 
career was for ever at an end. When brought into Lyons as a 
prisoner, so great a multitude thronged to gaze upon him, that 
force was required for his protection. Confined in the Castle 
of Loches in Touraine, he died there after ten years of severe 
imprisonment. Cardinal Ascanio w^as placed in the tower of 
Bourges ; but regained his liberty after a time. 

The king, whose past experience liad taught him caution, sent 
Georges d'Amboise — now a Cardinal — as governor to Milan, and 
Cardinal de Rouen was summoned into Italy. He, thinking it 
was " better to fine than to sack," condemned Milan to contribute 
300,000 ducats towards the expenses of the war, and levied pro- 
portionate fines on the other cities, in this Avay exciting far less 
discontent than Trivulzio. After this he made his entry into the 
Lombard capital. The king soon followed, and was speedily 
joined by the Florentine Ambassador, Tommaso Soderini, who 
came to offer his congratulations, and to arrange about the 
number of soldiers to be sent to Pisa according to the terms 
already agreed upon. The number considered sufficient was 500 
spearmen, 4,000 Swiss, and 2,000 Gascons, the former at the 
expense of the French, the others with the artillery and waggons 
to be paid for by the Florentines, at the rate of 24,000 ducats the 
month.' These terms were extremely onerous to the Republic, 
■which had already assumed so many other obligations towards 
France ; yet it submitted to everything in the hope that, with the 
aid of a strong army, it might be able to bring the enterprise to a 
successful termination, at the cost of only two or three months' 

p^y- ... 

But now the Florentines were to gain cruel experience from 
their dealings wath the French. The Cardinal de Rouen, who 
was at the head of all things, tried to keep up the French army at 
others' expense, and accordingly demanded that payment should 
commence in May, that is long before the troops were in Tuscany, 
and also that their return journey should be paid. And to this it 
was necessary to consent. It was only on the 22nd of June that 

* Buonaccorsi (" Diario," p. 30) is very confused in fixing this sum, but we 
believe that we have interpreted him accurately; Nardi ("Storiadi Firenze," 
vol. i. p. 223) copies Buonaccorsi's account word for word. 


the Swiss and Gascons set out from Piacenza with twenty-two 
falconets and six guns, commanded, at the request of the Floren- 
tines, by Beaumont, instead of by Ives d'Alegre, whom the king 
wished to appoint. This Beaumont, or Behnonte as he was 
called, was the only one of the French leaders left in Tuscany, 
who had kept faith. When governor of Leghorn, he had, accord- 
ing to the stipulated terms, given it up to the Florentines, who, 
for that reason, had confidence in him alone. The new Swiss and 
Gascon mercenaries advanced very slowly, fining and pillaging all 
the places upon the road, for their own benefit, or that of their 
king, although they had already received their pay. When the 
roll-call was counted at Piacenza, it was found that there were 
twelve hundred more than had been agreed for, and these extra 
troops also had to be paid.' The conduct of these people would 
be inexplicable, did we not know what mercenaries were in those 
days, and if we had not already stated that Cardinal de Rouen, in 
order to spare the purse of his economical sovereign, tried all 
means of extorting money both from friends and enemies. They 
halted at Bologna to levy a requisition upon Bentivoglio ; in 
Lunigiana — to the entire disapproval of the Florentines — they 
despoiled Alberigo Malaspina of part of his own state, at the insti- 
gation of his brother Gabriello, to whom they surrendered it. 
They took Pietrasanta, but did not fulfil their contract of handing 
it over to the Florentines. Besides this, the riots, tumults, and 
threatening demonstrations got up by them, in order to obtain 
provisions, with which, however, they were never content, Avere 
something incredible. 

The Republic had sent Giovanni Battista Bartolini as Com- 
missary to the Camp, with orders to prepare everything, but 
warned of the violent insolence of foreign troops, it also sent two 
special commissioners, Luca degli Albizzi and Giovan Battista 
Ridolfi, with Niccolo Machiavelli as their secretary. The mission 
entrusted to them was extremely arduous, for they had to accom- 
pany the army on the march, and satisfy the insatiable appetite of 
these famished hordes, who, at the end of a meal, were hungrier 
than at the beginning Their route was to Pistoia and Pescia, 
and with brief despatches they kept the Signory informed of their 
movements. On the i8th of June they met the army at Camaiore, 
and accompanied it to Cascina where they arrived on the 23rd. 

' Buonaccorsi, in his " Diario," tells us that the number of the Swiss was fixed 
at 5,000, but that there were 2,000 more to whom it was necessaiy to give two 
months' pay. In the " Impresa contro Pisa, ec " (" Archivio Stoiico," vol. iv. 
part ii. p. 404), it is stated instead that 4,000 Swiss and 2,000 Gascons was the 
stipulated number ; but that, there being 1,200 more, it was necessary to give 
them a month's pay, in order to make them go back to their own country. 


Here threatening complaints were soon heard respecting a pre- 
tondcd scarcity of provisions, and especially of wine' Giovan 
Battista Ritlolfi, who Iiad always been opposed to asking or 
accepting aid of the French, from whom no good was to be 
expected, hurried away from the camp at the first outbreak 
of disorder, with the pretext of laying before the Signory the 
true state of the matter and procuring speedy remedies. But 
Luca dcgli Albizzi, a man of almost foolhardy courage, remained 
behind with Machiavclli among the mutinous troops without once 
losing his presence of mind. To some one who advised him to 
lodge at a little distance from the camp, he replied — " He who is 
afraid may go back to Florence," = and marched on with the army. 
When envoys from Pisa arrived, ofTcringto give up the city to the 
French, provided they would hold it twenty-five or thirty days 
before surrendering it to the Florentines, Beaumont wished to 
accept ; but Albizzi refused in the name of the Signoria, saying, 
that in a month many changes might take place, and that now, 
being prepared for Avar, warlike means must be employed.3 

At last on the 29th of June the army arrived before the walls of 
Pisa, numbering 8,000 men, who were still threatening mutiny 
because of the scarcity of provisions ; nevertheless they planted 
their tents at night, and placed their guns in position. Albizzi, 
who was always among them, did all that he could to see that 
everything necessary was furnished, and did not lose heart, 
although seeing very clearly that from one moment to another 
he might find himself in the greatest peril. " If it be possible to 

* One of Albizzi's letters, written on the 24th of June, was dated : " Ex terri- 
bilihus Gallortim castris" which shows that then the disorder was very great. 
This letter, which has never been published, is in the Florence Archives, and like 
the greater part of those sent by the Commissioners, is in Machiavelli's handwriting. 
It is of little interest. 

" Among the "Carte del Machiavclli" (case I, No. 83) is a narrative of the events 
occurring at this time, written by Biagio Buonaccorsi and Agostino Vespucci, who 
were both in the Chancery, and compiled for the uses of their office. At one point 
Buonaccorsi states, that Albizzi was unwilling to allow Ridolfi to go, not wishing 
to remain alone in the camp, and on the margin we find this note in another hand, 
Mentiris Blasi. And when the writer says that Albizzi's presence of mind was 
shown in all his actions, the same hand has written ©n the margin, Iiumo feme- 
rarie. And Buonaccorsi, in his "Impresa contro Pisa," has rendered the amplest 
testimony of praise to Albizzi's well-known courage. We cannot agree with 
Passerini in attributing to Machiavclli the two marginal notes. Moved by that 
idea, he has published a fragment of the narrative in the 3rd volume of the 
"Opere"(P. M.). 

3 At a later period Machiavclli in his"Discorsi sopra la prima Deca di Tito 
Livio " (bk. i. chap, xxxviii.), blamed this proceeding of the Florentines ; but this 
is not the place to turn our attention to that point. We will merely observe that 
in those that may be called his theoretical writings, he often quotes historical facts 
in his own way, and for some special reason or aim, as we shall see hereafter. 


send us some bread, you will restore our soul to our body," wrote 
he on the 30th of June to the Commissary Bartolini, who was 
then in Cascina.' That same day they began to fire on the town, 
and continued firing till late in the afternoon, by which time some 
thirty yards of Avail had been thrown down. This was the 
moment to give the assault and finish the affair, but it was then 
seen that the Pisanshad dug a trench behind the wall, and thrown 
up works on the other side, from whence they returned the 
fire ; so that it was impossible to proceed further. And thus once 
more, at the very moment when the city seemed on the point of 
being taken, the enterprise ended in smoke. The besieging army 
lost courage, and began to retire again, rioting about the scarcity 
or bad quality of the rations ; and so great was the confusion in 
the ranks, that Beaumont informed Albizzi that he could no 
longer answer for the success of the campaign, and threw the 
blame of everything on the bad arrangements of the Florentines. 
And no protestations nor assurances sufficed to change his 

On the 7th of July the Gascon soldiers deserted en masse^ upon 
which Albizzi wrote to BartoUni that they were to be treated as 
enemies. And on the following day he wrote to the Signory, that 
the Swiss had forced their way into his room, clamouring for 
money and threatening to pay themselves with his blood. " The 
French appear frightened, they make excuses and calm themselves 
with cold water ; the Commander Beaumont himself has lost his 
head, but always insists upon having his pay. I have refrained 
hitherto from worrying your Excellencies in vain ; but now it is 
absolutely necessary to decide what is to be done with these people 
and take measures accordingly. It might also be well to think 
whether it is desired that my life should be saved." " Let not 
your Excellencies think that cowardice moves me in this, since by 
no means would I flee from any peril, that should be deemed 
indispensable by my city." 3 

Albizzi's presentiments were realized on the following day. 
Machiavelli. b}- whose pen the greater part of these letters were 
written, wrote from the camp in his own name, that towards 
three o'clock a hundred Swiss had presented themselves to demand 

' This letter, to be mentioned hereafter, is in the Florence Archives. 

" Buonaccorsi, " Diario," p. 32 and fol. See also the " Inipresa contro Pisa," 
by the same, p. 413 and fol. Jacopo Nardi, who copies from the " Diario," adds 
that the French went so far as to hide the bread and wine, in order to have pre- 
texts for complaint. Nardi, " Storia di Firenze," vol. i. p. 227. 

3 This letter signed by Albizzi, and written in his own hand, is the first of those 
printed in the " Commissione in campo contro i Pisani." Machiavelli, " Opere," 
vol. vi. p. 32. 


money, and being unable to obtain it, had seized upon Albizzi as 
their prisoner." They dragged him upon foot to the quarters of 
tlie Baily of Dijon, and from thence he wrote the same day to say 
that he was disputing for his Hfe from hour to hour, in the midst 
of soldiery brandishing their halberds thrcaLeiiiiigly in his face. 
They also insisted that he should give pay to a company of about 
five hundred Swiss who had come from Rome, and to this most 
unreasonable request he had energetically refused to consent. 
But even in these critical moments he remained calm, and gave 
some useful advice in the same letter ; he could not, however, 
refrain from bitter complaints of having been abandoned " like a 
lost and rejected person. If with nought else, let God at least 
console me by death."" But he could not obtain his liberation 
until he had signed a paper, with his personal security for the 
payment of 1,300 ducats to the Swiss who had come from Rome.3 
The army then dispersed, the men-at-arms being the last to 
depart. Thus, after heavy expenses and heavy sacrifices, the 
Florentines were left with a deserted camp, and with their enemies 
the Pisans more audacious than before.* New commissioners, 
however, Piero Vespucci and Francesco della Casa, were speedily 
sent to ascertain what it was possible to do, both as regarded the 
payment and gathering of fresh troops from the country round. 
The king wrote various letters, regretting what had happened, 
reproving the captains, threatening the soldiers, and promising to 
reduce Pisa at any price. s But these weft empty words quite 

• Dated : Ex castris aptid Pisas, die iionajiilii, hora 14, is the second of those 
that are printed, and is to be found with the others in the Florence Arcliives. It 
is addressed to the Signory ; and bears the inscription : 


» This is the fourth of the published letters. 

3 Historians differ slightly as to the exact sum. It is, however, fixed in a letter 
of the Signoria to Courgon. " Carte del MacliiavcUi," case i. inseito 83, p. 6. 

•* See Nardi's " Storia di Firenze," the " Diariu," and Buonaccorsi's previously 
quoted " Impresa contro Pisa," iS:c. , 

s See the printed edition of the " Commissione." This, besides other documents, 
contains in all four letters. The first and fourth are by Albizzi, the second by 
Machiavelli, the third by Bartolini. Only that signed by Machiavelli is in his 
handwriting. Passerini and Milanesi in their new edition of the " Opere," reprint 
these letters only, and at p. 51, vol. iii. tell us that : " It is necessary to explain 
that we have not been able to fulfil our wish of enlarging this series, because the 
registers of the Signoria's correspondence, as well as of that of the Dieci, are both 
missing." So without adding to the Commissioner's letters they give other docu- 
ments. But the Florence Archives contain many more unpublished letters of this 
commission in the file 01 filza marked : Class x. dist. 2, No. 44, or according to the 
new classification : Signori, Carteggio, Responsive, reg. 17. A f«w others are also 
to be found in the 3rd file of the Strozzi Papers in the Archives.' 


unsupported by deeds. He merely sent Duplessis, lord of Cour- 
9on, styled by the Florentines Carcon or Corco^ to inquire into 
what had happened upon the spot, and to send in a Report. 

But while this was going on, the Pisans made a sally from 
behind their walls, captured Librafatta and soon after the Ventura 
bastion, which had been constructed at so great an expense by 
Vitelli. And in this manner they opened communications with 
Lucca, whence they received continual reinforcements. Courgon, 
it is true, offered more soldiers to the Florentines in the King's 
name, saying that with their assistance, Florence might harass the 
Pisans by constant skirmishes during the winter, and thus reduce 
them with greater ease as soon as the spring set in. But the 
Republic would have nothing more to do with either French or 
Swiss, much to the irritation of the King, who, disgusted with the 
result of the campaign, in which his troops had reaped nothing but 
dishonour, tried to throw the entire blame upon the Florentines. 
They had, he said, insisted on taking Beaumont as their captain 
instead of Ives d'Alegre whom he had proposed, and likewise 
had neglected to victual the army or to give it regular pay. But 
the real reason of his disgust was his inability to any longer 
saddle Florence with the maintenance of part of his army. Indeed 
so heavy were his threats as well as his complaints, and so dili- 
gently did the enemies of the Republic blow upon the flame, that 
it was thought necessary to send Messrs. Francesco della Casa and 
Niccolo Machiavelli as envoys to the French Court, since having 
both followed the camp, they were in a position to give exact 

These inedited letters are of no importance, but many are in Machiavelli's 
handwriting, and signed first by Albizzi and Ridolfi, then, after the latter's 
departure, by the former alone. In his hand are those of the loth June, from 
Pistoia ; iith June, from Pescia ; i8th June, from Camaiore ; 23rd June, from 
Cascina ; 24th June, from near Cascina ; 24th June, from Cascina ; 27lh 
June, from near Campi. Also in his hand and of some interest, are those 
of 26th June, near Campi : 29th June, ex Gallontm castris ; 30th June, from 
this camp (this is at sheet 159 of the 3rd file of the Strozzi Papers) ; 2nd July ; ex 
Gallorujii castris. Of no importance whatever are the letters dated : 4th July, 
from the camp ; 6th July, from the camp (in this there is only a short portion 
written by Machiavelli) ; 7th July, from the camp (Strozzi Papers, 3rd file, sheet 
160); from the camp without date (Strozzi Papers, 3rd file, sheet 161) ; lith July, 
from Cascina (signed by the Commissioner Vespucci) ; I2lh July, from Empoli 
(with a postscript in Machiavelli's hand). In the Archives there are also other 
letters belonging to this Commission, but not in Machiavelli's hand. We give 
none of these in the Appendix, not wishing to swell needlessly the number of the 
letters printed. 

For this commissionership to the camp before Pisa, Machiavelli received six 
broad gold florins, " the which florins are bestowed upon you in remuneration for 
the fatigues which you sujiported, and the perils which you incurred." The docu- 
ment relaling to the gift was published by Passerini, " Opere " (P. M.), vol. i. 
p. Ix. 


information to the King and contradict all unjust and calumnious 
accusations, while, at the same time, ihcy could announce the 
speedy arrival of new ambassadors to make terms of agreement.' 

Up to the year 1498, Niccol5 Machiavelli had had little 
experience of mankind or of the world ; Iiis intellect had been 
principally devoted to books, especially to the Latin authors and 
the history of Rome. Rut during the two following years he had 
gained much and rapid experience of real life and State affairs. 
The Legation to Forli had given him his first initiation in the 
intrigues of diplomacy, the Vitelli alTair and the engagement of 
the Swiss soldiery had inspired him with a contempt almost 
amounting to hatred for all mercenary troops. His father's death, 
which took place on the 19th of May, 1500, four years after that 
of his mother, and only a few months before the loss of a sister, 
made him as it were the head of his family — although he was 
not the eldest son — and increased his cares and responsibilities. 
His journey to France opened up a new field of observation, and 
enlarged his mental horizon, the more too, since, in consequence 
of the illness of his colleague, the whole weight of the unpretend- 
ing, but not unimportant mission devolved upon him.' 

On the 1 8th of July, 1500, the decision or decree was passed for 
sending Delia Casa and Machiavelli to the King. Written instruc- 
tions were supplied charging them to convince the monarch that 
all the disorders at the camp had been solely caused by the fault 
of his own troops, and to try to persuade him to reduce his unjust 
and exorbitant claims for sums of money, in anticipation of the 
conquest of Pisa. Their first efforts were to be made upon the 
Cardinal de Rouen, and they were carefully to avoid all injurious 
mention of \Vi% protege the Captain Beaumont. " If, however," so 
wrote the Signory, " you should notice any disposition to listen to 
things to his prejudice, you may attack him with energy and accuse 
him of cowardice and corruption." 3 

' Buonaccorsi, "Diario"ancl " Impresa," &c. ; Nardi, " Storia de Firenze ; " 
Guicciardini, " Storia d'ltalia," Pisa, Capurro, vol. iii. book v. p. II. 

2 On the first sheet of one of the Registers of the Ten (Florence Archives, 
" Lettere de' Dieci di Balia dal 1500 al 1501," class x. dist. 3, No. 93), is the fol- 
lowing inscription : — " This book is of the Commune and relates to war matters 
infra dominium, scripto, for the second chancery, cuius caput est Nicolaus 
Machiavellus, qui hodie mittitur ad regem Francorum a dominatione Franciscus 
Delia Casa ibidem, XVIII. Julii 1500, die Sabb," &c. In the same way when he 
was at the camp before Pisa, we find written at the head of another register : 
" Hie enint literae de rebus bellicis scriptae per magnificum dominum Marcellum 
ad commissarios in castris quo tempore Nicolaus Maclavellus fuit apud commis- 
saries." See vol. vi. of the " Opere," p. 32, note i. 

3 See the commission and the instructions at the commencement of the legation! 
•' Opcre," vol. vi. pp. 48 and foL 


Lorenzo Lenzi, already established for some time with Fran- 
cesco Gualterotti, the Florentine ambassador in France,' re- 
peated almost the same advice. They were at liberty to speak 
ill of the Italians at the camp, but only " as by a slip of the 
tongue," could they be permitted to accuse the real criminals.^ 
Therefore to avoid arousing the insolence of the French, it was 
necessary to steer cautiously between Scylla and Charybdis. And 
to these difficulties was added that of the very modest social 3 
position of the two envoys, who were neither wealthy nor well 
paid. To Francesco della Casa a stipend of eight lire per day was 
assigned, and Machiavelli, having a post of inferior rank, only 
succeeded in obtaining an equal sum, after much difficulty and 
many complaints of incurring 4 enormous expenses no lighter 
than those of his colleagues Even then he had to disburse a 
great deal more than he received. His forty ducats very speedily 
vanished, and he had to commission his brother to obtain 
seventy more for him on loan. Being compelled to follow the 
monarch from city to city, it was requisite to provide himself with 
servants and horses, and although on starting, the envoys had 
eighty florins each, they soon got through one hundred ducats, 
since it proved impossible to find decent board and lodging 
for less than a crown and a half a day, a larger sum than that 
which they received. Therefore both grumbled sorely,^ especially 
Machiavelli, who was not rich, and yet had no talent for economy. 

Meanwhile, the two envoys on reaching Lyons on the 28th of 
July, found that the King had already started. They caught him 
up at Nevers, and after having spoken with the Cardinal de Rouen, 

' The Florentines, after having sent three ambassadors in June, 1498, to con- 
giatulate the King upon his ascension to the throne, elected Francesco Gualterotti 
and Lorenzo Lenzi on the 1 8th of September, 1499. SaUiati was also sent with 
them as far as Milan to congratulate the King upon his victory, and if the terms 
for the Pisan affair were not yet signed, to obtain the royal signature. The two 
ambassadois then went to France in the suite of the King, who left Mihan on the 
22nd of November, 1499. See Desjardins, " Negociations," &c. 

* Machiavelli, " Opere," vol. vi. p. 54. 

3 In this letter of the 30th of July, Machiavelli says, " We being men of no 
money and no credit." 

■* On the 27th of August, 1500, Totto writes to his brother Niccolo Machiavelli, 
that after a fortnight of continued efforts, the Signori had consented to equalize 
the salaries. He adds that he had spent eleven florins for him in the spring, and 
afterwards sent him fifty more. This letter is among the " Carte del Machiavelli," 
case I, No. 8, and has been published by Nitti, in his work, " Machiavelli nella 
vita e nelle dottrine," vol. i. p. 89. The increase of stipend alluded to, only began 
from the 28th of August, as may be seen by the accounts in the archives (class 
xiii. dist. 6, No. 64, a. c. 90). 

■'' Letter of the 12th of August, signed by Machiavelli only. 

' See letters of the 29th of August and 3rd of September. 
VOL. I, ' ^8 


both were granlcd an aiulicncc on llic 71I1 of Aii!j;u>l, in llic 
jircsencc of the Cardinal, of RuberLet, Trivulzio ami ollicrs. A 
third of tlie Court consisted of Italians wljo were all very discon- 
tenleil and desirous that the French army should speedily cross 
the Alps again.' The facts liaving been relateil, no sooner was 
an attempt made to blame the French soldiery, than the King and 
his supporters "quickly changed the conversation." ' All waste 
be laid to the charge of the Florentines. Louis XII., for the sake 
of his own dignity, wished to conclude the Pisan expedition, and 
therefore the necessary funds must be supplied. The rej)ly of the 
orators was, that the resources of the Republic being exhausted, 
and the people displeased by recent events, it would be impossible 
to procure those funds. It might however be possible to obtain 
them at the end of the campaign, after the surrender of Pisa. But 
thereupon all cried aloud with one voice that this was a most 
unseemly proposal, for the King could not pay the expenses of the 
Florentines. And from day to day matters went on after the same 
fashion. Louis wished to send soldiers whom the Florentines 
refused to take ; he complained that the Swiss did not receive the 
amount fixed, and w^ould not listen when it was replied that 
neither did they give the services promised. The Cardinal 3 
irritably insisted on his view of the case,^ and Courgon, who had 
just returned from Tuscany, so aggravated matters, that their 
aspect became threatening. " The French," wrote the two 
orators, " are blinded by their own power, and only think those 
who are armed or ready to give money worthy of their esteem. 
They see that these two qualities are wanting in you, so they look 
upon you as Sir Nihil, ascribing the impossibility to your disunion, 
and the dishonesty of their own army to your bad government. 

' There is a description of the Royal Court in the second letter of the 1 2th of 

^ Letter of the 7th of August. 

3 It is evident from the letter of the nth of August that the Cardinal de Rouen 
did not know Italian, for the two orators were obliged to translate an Italian 
letter into French for him. Neither did the King know Italian, but Rubertet 
spoke it. 

•* According to a letter of the Signory, dated 30th of July, 1500, addressed to 
Gualterotti and Lenzi, Courcon had only passed one evening in the camp, " so that 
we do not perceive how after so short a stay he can be able to satisfy his Majesty 
the King about the investigation of the causes and the authors of the disorders 
which had there occurred " (" Carte del Machiavelli," case i, inserto, 83, No. 4). 
Passerini gives it in the " Opere " (P. M.), vol. iii. p. in, as a letter of the Ten ; 
but the Ten had not as yet been re-nominated. It is also stated in this letter, iha 
when the Florentines explained to Cour9on their reasons for not believing them- 
selves obliged to pay the Germans, he had answered that "it was brain-splitting 
work to try and reason with Gciuians." Tiie Germans allude] to were the Gerniaa 


The ambassadors resident here have gone away, nor do we hear 
that new ones are coming. Our degree and quahty, on an 
unwelcome errand, do not suffice to bring sinking things to the 
surface.' The King therefore is highly displeased, ahvays lamenting 
having had to pay the Swiss 38,000 francs, which according to the 
Convention of Milan, you ought to have paid, and he threatens to 
erect Pisa and the neighbouring territory into an independent 
State." ^ Then, as a piece of good advice, they suggested that the 
Republic "should try to obtain by bribery some friends in France 
who would be stirred by more than natural affection, since that is 
what has to be done by all who have affairs at this Court. And 
he who refuses to do it is like one who would win a suit without 
feeing his attorney." 3 

Up to the 14th of September the letters were always signed by 
both envoys, though nearly all were written by Machiavelli. But 
on that day the King left Melun, and Delia Casa, being ill, went 
to Paris for advice ; so that Machiavelli was left alone to continue 
the journey, and pursue the mission, which, after the 26th of 
September, increased in its importance, and extended over a wider 
field. He did not confine himself to the one affair, with which he 
was encharged, but investigated the various questions bearing upon 
Italian policy, and sent precise details of everything, first to the 
Signory, and then to the Ten, who were re-elected during this 
period ; and he showed so much zeal, so much ardour in all these 
matters, that occasionally he almost seemed to lose sight of the 
special and very limited object of his mission. By the use, now of 
Latin and now of French — for neither King nor Cardinal could 
speak Italian — he conversed with both and questioned every one. 
And now for the first time the penetration and originality of his 
intellect, the power and marvellous vigovir of his style, began to 
be manifest. While travelling with the Cardinal de Rouen, and 
finding him still inflexible regarding the money, he turned the 
conversation upon the army which the Pope was forming, with the 
help of France, to forward the designs of Valentinois. And he 
was able to discover, " that if the King had conceded everything 
for the expedition in Rom.agna, it was rather because he knew not 
how to withstand the unbridled desires of the Pope, than from any 
real desire for his success." * 

"Yet." continued Machiavelli, "the more does he fear Germany, 
so much the more he favours Rome, because there is the well-armed 
head of Religion, and also because he is urged in that direction 
by tlie Cardinal, who, knowing himself to have many enemies 

» Letter of the 27th of August. " Letter of the 29th of August, from Mehm. 

3 Letter of the 14th of September. ^ Letters of the 2nd and 8th of October. 


here, the direction of all tilings being in his hands, hopes to 
receive efficacious protection from tliat quarter." But whenever 
he touched upon money matters, the Cardinal fell into fresh fury, 
and threateningly said, " that the Florentines knew how to reason 
tincly, but would repent of their obstinacy in the end." ' 

After this, fortunately, the aspect of alTairs began to greatly 
improve, owing to the election of a new ambassador, Pier Fran- 
cesco Losinghi, with much wider powers, and the permission 
obtained by the Signory from the Councils for granting a fresh 
sum of money ; thus Machiavelli had less difficulty in calming the 
French wrath and continuing his discourses upon general politics. 
He even obtained an explicit assurance that Valentinois would not 
be allowed to injure Tuscany.^ But on the 2ist of November he 
learnt from a friend that the Pope was doing his best to make 
mischief, asserting that he should be able, with the expected aid 
of the Venetians, to replace Piero dei Medici in Florence, and 
that Piero would speedily pay any amount of money the King 
Avished. His Holiness also promised to deprive Bentivoglio of his 
state, while as to Ferrara and Mantova, who showed so much 
liking for Florence, he would " bring their necks under the yoke." 

Upon hearing this, Machiavelli instantly went to seek the 
Cardinal, and finding him at leisure, was able to speak with him 
at length. To combat the Pope's calumnies of the Florentines, 
he dwelt " not upon their good faith, but upon its being their 
interest to side with the French. The Pope tries by all means 
to compass the destruction of the King's friends, to wrest Italy 
from his hands with greater ease." " But His Majesty should 
follow the method of those who have before wished to possess a 
foreign province, which is, to abase the powerful, caress their 
subjects, maintain friends, and beware of comrades, that is, of 
those who desire equal authority in such a place." "And certainly 
it is not the Florentines, neither is it Bologna nor Ferrara, who 
desire to mate with the King ; but rather those who have alwa3S 
pretended to the domination of Italy, namely, the Venetians, and 
above all, the Pope." The Cardinal gave affable attention to these 
theories which the modest secretary, warming as he went on, 
expounded almost in the accents of a master, and replied that the 
King " had long ears and short belief ; that he listened to all, but 
believed in nothing but that which he could touch with his 

' Letters of the nth of October, from Blois. By this letter it is shown that 
IVIachiavelli was accustomed to speak Latin with the Cardinal de Rouen. 

' Letter of the 4th of November from Nantes. Jt seems that this conversation 
was held in French. 


hand."' And this may have been the occasion when, the Cardinal 
having said that the Itahans knew nothing about war, MachiavelU 
made the reply that the French knew nothing of statesmanship, 
" for understanding that, they would never have allowed the 
Church to attain to so much greatness." * 

On the 24th of November he wrote the two final despatches of 
this Legation. By that time the progress of Valentinois had 
become very threatening, and the Florentines, in their keen 
anxiety on that head, had not only hastened the departure of 
the new ambassador, but promised the representatives of France 
that they would shortly send money to the king. The latter 
therefore waited more patiently, and sent special orders to 
Valentinois, forbidding him to attack either Bologna or Florence. 
Having given this news in his first letter, Machiavelli wrote the 
second on the same day, to recommend the suit of a certain Giulio 
de Scruciatis,3 a Neapolitan, against the heirs of the Bandini 
family in Florence. " De Scruciatis had rendered and might 
again render useful services to the Republic. I know nothing," 
he continued, " of this lawsuit of his ; but I do know that while 
your standing with his French Majesty is so airy and precarious, 
few can help you, and all can injure you. Wherefore it is 
necessary to soothe him with smooth words, otherwise at the first 
letter of yours that comes here, he will be like a thunderbolt in 
this court ; " " and the evil he may say Avill be believed more 
easily than any good that he may have said ; furthermore, he is a 
man of some credit, very daring, loquacious, persistent, terrible, 
and being without measure in his passions, is capable of effecting 
somewhat in all that he undertakes." And having written these 
things Machiavelli made ready to leave France. 

The reader will have perceived how in certain portions of these 
despatches, a foreshadowing — if as yet misty — of the author of the 

' Letter of the 21st of November. This is addressed to the Ten who had 
ahcady been re-elected, on which matter Machiavelli had congratulated them in 
his letter of the 2nd of October. ^ " Principe," at the end of chap. iii. 

3 In Florence he was known as Scurcigliato, Scorciato, or Scruciato, and so 
even Machiavelli calls him in his letters. He belonged to the De Scruciatis family 
of Castelluccio, Neapolitan nobles ; he was a judge of the Vicaria, counsellor of 
Santa Chiara, fiscal advocate, and was one of those who had passed judgment on 
Antonello Petrucci, and the other members of the conspiracy of the barons. 
Ferdinand of Naples held him for one of his most faithful instruments, and made 
frequent use of him in the commission of his principal iniquities. Later, however, 
on the decline of the Aragonese fortunes, De Scruciatis forsook them in favour of 
the French, who, in 1499, named him a Roman senator. He afterwards followed 
the French camp, held many posts and filled missions even in Tuscany, committed 
rascalities of many descriptions, and ended in Rome as an inquisitor of the Holy 


" Discorsi " and tlic " Piincipi " is already apparent. Those 
maxims, aflerwards expounded by Machiavelli in a scientific sliapc, 
arc liore hurriedly sketched with an uneerlain touch, and as it 
were by chance ; in succcedincj despatches we shall see them 
E[raduall\'^ assumintr a firmer outline, and clearer development. 
Even his style now began to acquire the vifiour, that was soon 
to enable him to paint true and livinsj men with a few strokes of 
his pen, to express his thoughts with truly wonderful lucidity, 
and hence to deserve his universally acknowledged title of the 
first of Italian prose writers. It will therefore surprise no one 
to learn that this mission to France brought great honour to 
Machiavelli in Florence, and that Buonaccorsi, as far back as the 
23rd of August, wrote to tell him with unfeigned joy, that his 
despatches had been highly commended by the most influential 
citizens.' Yet in August he was still with Delia Casa, who, as 
chief envoy, placed his signature first. We may therefore well 
imagine that the Republic was increasingly satisfied with its 

On his return home, Machiavelli applied himself with his usual 
ardour to his office work, and the registers of the chancery were 
again filled day by day with his letters. Business was soon 
carried on with greater regularity, either because he exercised 
much authority over his subordinates, or because the Ten now re- 
elected, — who had been chosen among those most experienced in 
military matters, — were less distracted by other cares, and remained 
in office six months, instead of two only, like the Signory. Also, 
by the decree of the i8th of September, 1500, which replaced 
them in office, their attributes were better defined and restricted ; 
they could no longer, of their own authority, make peace, form a 
league or engage troops for more than one week, and in all im- 
portant matters, required the sanction of the Eighty before 
pronouncing their decision.' 

' This letter of Buonaccorsi is included, like his others, among the " Carte del 
Machiavelli " (case i. No. 7). 

"" Florence Archives : " Consigli Maggiori, Provvisioni," register 191, at sheet 


Tumults in Pistoia, whither Machiavelli is sent — Valentinois in Tuscany ; the 
Condotta stipulated with the Florentines by him — New French army in Italy 
— Fresh riots in Pistoia, and Machiavelli again sent there — The war with 
Pisa goes on — Rebellion of Arezzo, and the Val di Chiana — Machiavelli and 
Bishop Soderini despatched to Valentinois's Court at Urbino — The French 
come to assist in putting down disorders in Arezzo—" On the method of 
treating the rebellious population of the Val di Chiana " — Creation of a 
Gonfalonier for life. 


^jHERE was certainly no lack of public business, 
although the hostilities with Pisa were some- 
what slackened. At Pistoia the bloody 
conflicts between the Cancellieri and the 
Panciatichi had assumed the gravest pro- 
portions ; the Panciatichi having been driven 
from the city, which was still subject to 
Florence, but ever on the eve of reb'^llion. 
To restore order therefore it was necessary to send special com- 
missioners, men and arms. Machiavelli not only conducted the 
correspondence, gave orders, was applied to for advice by the 
Signory and the Ten ; but had frequently to go in person to 
Pistoia. And it is there that we find him in February and June, 
in order to see for himself and report upon the state of things. 

Many members of both factions were confined in Florence, all 
the others requested to return to Pistoia ; that commune binding 
itself to defend them and indemnify them for all fresh injury, by 
the payment of a large sum of money for which the offenders 
would be liable, according to a decree of the Signory and the 


Ton, in (Lite of tlie 2S1I1 of Ai)iil, 1501.' The Pisloians wislicc! 
to baiii>h the Paiicialichi, on account of their known liosliHly 
to Florence ; but, on the 4th of May, MachiaveUi wrote to 
them in the name of the Signory, that it would be highly 
dangerous to keep the Cancellicri within the town and the 
Pancialichi without, since thus they miglit suddenly '* lose all 
the cilv or all its territory, and perhaps both together, the one 
being lull of malcontents, the other full of suspicion." In con- 
clusion, he insisted on the immediate execution of the orders of 
the government, and bade them employ the forces sent there, to 
compel the Panciatichi to re-enter the town unarmed and ensure 
their being kept under surveillance.^ 

Heavier anxieties soon assailed Florence from another quarter. 
Valentinois, prevented from attacking Bologna by the French 
prohibition, now turned towards Tuscany, and having seized upon 
Bersighella, the key of the Val di Lamone, and gained the 
assistance of Dionigi Naldi,3 a military man with influential 
connections in those parts, had the whole district at his mercy. 
In threatening terms he next requested free passage through the 
territories of the Republic, alleging that he wished to lead his 
troops back to Rome. And the Florentines, knowing with whom 
they had to deal, sent to him a certain Piero Del Bene, one of his 
own personal friends, sent a commissary of war to Castrocaro on 
the frontier, and despatched a special envoy to Rome to inform 
the French ambassador of all that had happened : at the same 
time they prepared 20,000 ducats 4 to be forwarded to Louis XII., 
to make him — as in fact it did make him — more decidedly 
favourable to their cause. Aleanwhile a thousand different 

' Published by Passenni in the "Opere" (P. M.), vol. iii. p. 279. The sum 
was 500 florins, half of which went to the injured parties, a fourth to the magis- 
trate who exacted it, the other fourth for the repairs of the Pistoia fortresses. See 
also the '" Sommario della Citta" and the " Sommario del Contado," included 
among the " Carte del Machiavelli" (case I, No. 12), and published by Passerini, 
" Opere " (P.M.), vol. iii. p. 355. They consist of the measures decreed and the 
rules to be followed for the restoration of order in the city and its territory. They 
are ofticial documents of no literary value, and should not be included among 
Machiavelli's Works, not being even written by his pen. 

' " Opere " (P. M.), vol. iii. p. 299. The letter also contains other orders and 
details not in Machiavelli's hand. His signature is appended to this and other 
letters published by Passerini. It must, however, be observed that Machiavelli's 
signature, which very often is in another's handwriting, is merely used in these 
cases to indicate the head of the office, and thus is appended to letters written by 
his coadjutors, as well as to those written by himself. It is therefore necessary to 
tJ^amine the handwriting. 

3 Called indifferently Dionigi Nahli, Nahlo, and di Kaldo. 

* See the letter of the Ten dated the 3rd of M.iy, " Opere" (P. M.), vol. iii. 
p. 298. 


nimoiirs were afloat : the Siennese and Lucchese were sending 
continual reinforcements to Pisa, where Oliverotto, one of 
Valentinois's officers, had marched in with a few horsemen ; the 
Vitelli were helping the Panciatichi to revenge themselves upon 
their enemies, and so on, and so on. All these matters had to be 
attended to, and Machiavelli did the work of several men, writing 
letters and issuing orders to captains, commissaries and magistrates.^ 
Fortunately, however, ncAvs arrived from France, with promises of 
certain aid, and thus the Republic had a respite from its worst 
anxieties during the month of May. 

But Valentinois continued his attempts. News reached 
Florence that the Orsini and the Vitelli were already menacing 
the frontiers ; that a certain Ramazzotto, an old adherent of the 
Medici, had presented himself in Firenzuola, demanding the State 
in the name of the Duke, and of Piero dei Medici.^ And men's 
minds were so stirred in Florence by these events, that there was 
even a talk of creating a Balia with extraordinary powers, and, 3 
although this was not done, necessary measures were taken to 
defend the city from any sudden attack. Irregular native troops 
who had been summoned from the Mugello and the Casentino and 
were commanded by the abbot Don Basilio, were stationed all 
round Florence ; others arrived from Romagna ; and more men 
were collected within the walls. Machiavelli was the life and soul 
of these military movements, and devoted himself to them with 
a zeal that was most singular in a literary man of his stamp. 
But in fact — contrary to the prevailing opinion of the time — he 
had lost all faith in mercenary troops, and these irregulars seeming 
to him the germ of a national militia, destined to defend their 
country, after the manner of the ancient Romans, this was enough 
to inflame his enthusiasm. 

When all these arrangements were concluded, ambassadors 
were sent to the Duke, giving him permission to pass through 
the territories if he chose ; but with small bodies of men at the 
time, and without the Orsini or the Vitelli. Upon this he angrily 
advanced through the M*ugello, his soldiers pillaging as they went, 
and insulting every one ; for which reason the popular irritation 
rose to a high pitch both in town and country, and there was 
universal outcry against the " asinine patience " of the magistrates 
who had the greatest trouble to prevent a general rising against 

' An enormous number of letters were written by Machiavelli during these 
months, and they exist in his handwriting in the Florence Archives. We only 
<luote from a few of those in the file which is countersigned : class x. dist. 3, No. 
95, at sheets 12, 18, 30, 92, 103, 163, 183, &c. 

'^ Nardi, " Storia di Firenze," vol. i. p. 239 ; Buonaccorsi, "Diario." 

^ Guicciardini, " Storia Fiorentina," chap. xxii. p. 237. 


that arniy of freebooters.' At last the Duke, seeing how dangerous 
a turn matters were taking and knowing that the Florentines 
were rcallv under the protection of the French, declared that he 
wished to be on terms of sincere friendship with them, and would 
accept an engagement as their captain. He added, however, that 
thev must grant him free passage to continue his expedition 
against Piombino, and must also change their form of govern- 
ment and recall Piero dei Medici, as a guarantee that they would 
carry out their promises. 

In order to combat these pretensions, the Florentines first of all 
armed another thousand men within the city, insisting on greater 
zeal and watchfulness on all sides ; then they sent Caesar their 
reply. As regarded the Piombino expedition, he was, they told 
him, at liberty to continue his march, but as for changing their 
government, he might hold his tongue about it, for that was no 
business of his, and no one in Florence would have aught to do 
with the Medici. Whereupon Valcntinois, on his arrival at 
Campi, without alluding to other subjects, let it be known that 
he would be satisfied with a condotta, or engagement, of 36,000 
ducats annually for three years, without obligation of active ser- 
vice, but always in readiness to supply 300 men-at-arms in case 
of emergency. In short, after the usual fashion of the Borgia, 
other things failing, he determined at least to have money. 
The Florentines, in order to be rid of him, signed a convention 
on the 15th of May, 1501, granting the condotta and concluding 
a perpetual alliance with him." They hoped to avoid paying him 
a farthing, and the Duke, although aware of this, accepted the terms, 
because, were the money not forthcoming, he would have a good 
excuse for furt'her aggressions at the first convenient opportunity. 
Meanwhile he went on his way sacking and pillaging", and reached 
Piombino on the 4th of June. There he could do nothing but 
seize a few neighbouring domains and the island of Pianosa ; he 
then crossed over to Elba with some ships sent by the Pope. 3 

* Nardi, " Storia di Firenze," vol. i. p. 242, 

" " Archivio Storico," vol. xv. p. 269. According to this convention the Duke 
was to be ready to bring 300 men-at arms for the defence of the Repul)lic, on any 
emergency ; for other enterprise? he was to receive tliree months' notice, and was 
not bound to come in person ; he might, however, be obh'ged to accompany the 
French on the expedition to Naples. This last clause suited the Duke's purpose, 
since he knew that he must go with the French in any case, and he would thus 
receive his money without added obligations ; it also suited the Florentines, since, 
being pledged to assist the king with men-at-arms, they might, when necessary, 
fulfil both compacts with the same sum of money. 

3 Buonaccorsi in his " Diario " (pp. 44 and 45) does not speak of the journey to 
Flba; Nardi, however, mentions it, and also Guicciardini in his "Storia d' Italia." 
But the latter, in his "Storia Fiorentina" (chap. iii. p. 244), says that it was tlun 
that Valentinois drove away the Lord of Piombino, an event which took place later. 


But he was speedily recalled to the mainland to join the French 
who were returning from the Neapolitan Avar ; and then, leaving 
the few places he had conquered well garrisoned, he hurried to 
Rome, entering it as a conqueror, although his campaigns had 
been rather those of a freebooter than of a military chief. 

But if the Neapolitan war freed the Republic of the Duke's 
presence, it entailed evils and anxieties of another kind. The 
French army was composed of 1,000 lances and 10,000 infantry, 
4,000 of whom were Swiss, exclusive of a force of 6,000 men, who 
were coming by sea ; they advanced in two bodies, one of Avhich, 
with the larger portion of the artilleiy, marched by Pontremoli 
and Pisa, while the other, coming down by Castrocaro, was to 
traverse nearly the whole of Tuscany. Besides these, small 
bodies of the Duke's men under Oliverotto di Fermo, Vitellozzo 
Vitelli and other captains, came straggling in the rear, either 
pillaging as they passed, or going to Pisa to help the rebels. It 
was therefore necessary to write to the various Commissaries and 
Podestas, instructing them to furnish provisions for the army, and 
defend themselves from the roving soldiery ; it was also necessary 
to find 12,000 ducats to satisfy the French who were always de- 
manding money on the pretext of arrears owing to the Swiss who 
had served the Republic so badly.' Machiavelli entered into all 

' In the Florence Archives are many letters of this period, also written by 
Machiavelli, which are still inedited. We call attention to a few only. On the 
i8th of May he announces the Condotta concluded with Valentinois (CI. x. dist. 3, 
No. 96, sheet 23). On the 28th of the same month (at sheet 41) he says that 
Valentinois has come, and " with his innumerable turpitudes has ravaged and 
reduced to famine half our land." On the 2nd of June orders are given to send 
all women and children away from Cascina, on account of the passage of the army. 
An undated letter (at sheet 57 of the same file) orders that all those of Valentinois' 
men who had been captured should be set at liberty, with the exception of Dionigi 
Naldi. One of the i6lh July (sheet 77 retro) is addressed to Luigi Delia Stufa, 
who is directed to pacify the factions in Scarperia, and keep an eye upon Vitel- 
lozzo's men, who have appeared in that neighbourhood. 

Many others are to ht found in the following file, marked No. 97. In a 
letter of 7th July (same file, 97) Piero Vespucci is told : We command thee not to 
give a safe conduct to Oliverotto di Fermo. If it be already given, withdraw it, 
and give orders "that he should be seized, stripped of everything, treated as an 
enemy" (file 97 a.c. 73). On the 8th of July to the same : We are content with 
the orders given against Oliverotto. Forty of Don Michele's horse are expected 
in Pisa. If they come, "do thy best to plunder them and treat them as enemies."' 
Do not, however, seek to pick quarrels, for we do not want a new war, unless 
they provoke us to it, as if, for instance, they were to send troops to Pisa (folio 74). 
On the 13th to the commissaries of Leghorn and Rosignano : " The Lord of Piom- 
bino advises us that a Turkish fleet of sixty sail has appeared near Pianosa, 
seemingly bound for Genoa. Should they disembark in search of victuals, allow 
them to do so, telling them that we are good friends of their Lord. But if they 
attempt to march inland, you must try to stop them, and gain time by wailing 
for instructions " (at sheet 77). And thus many more of the same kind. 


these affairs with the utmost zeal, ami fiiiallv, at heaven's pleasure, 
the army left Tuscany and passed into the States of the Church. 
Only then was the Pope informed of the secret treaty concluded at 
Granada between the kings of Sjiain and France, and, with his 
accustomed cynicism, he promised investiture to both sovereij^ns. 

On the arrival of the French at the Neapolitan frontier, the 
unhappy Frederic gathered together his scanty forces, having 
already placed his sole hope in the help of Spain, whose army 
was commanded by the valiant Gonsalvo of Cordova, But at 
this moment the latter announced that he must give up his 
estates in the Neapolitan kingdom, since his duties as Frederic's 
vassal were no longer compatible with those of a Spanish 
captain. Thus the miserable monarch was left utterly forsaken, 
and shortly the whole of his kingdom was occupied by foreigners. 
Capua only held out against the French, but in July it was taken 
by assault, cruelly sacked, and cost the lives of seven thousand 
persons. Guicciardini asserts that not even cloistered virgins were 
respected by the soldiery, that many women in their despair cast 
themselves into the Volturno, and others took refuge in a tower. 
According to the same writer, Valentinois, who had followed the 
army with his guards, but without a command, and had plunged 
during the sack into every excess, went to inspect these women in 
order to choose for himself forty of the loveliest among them. 

On the 19th of August the French entered Naples, and shortly 
after Frederic surrendered entirely to the king, who gave him the 
Duchy of Anjou in France, with a revenue of 30,000 ducats. There 
he died on the 9th September, 1504 ; his sons, one after the other, 
followed him to the grave, and with them was extinguished the 
Neapolitan House of Aragon. Gonsalvo, in the meantime, had 
seized, without meeting any resistance, the portion of the kingdom 
belonging to Spain. The treaty of Granada, however, had been 
drawn up — not perhaps altogether by chance — in a manner 
which allowed of different interpretations of the due division. 
Soon indeed it was plain, that one or the other of the two 
potentates must remain master of the whole kingdom, and the 
final decision be made by arms. Nevertheless a temporary agree- 
ment was patched up between the two armies, who jointly governed 
the disputed provinces. 

On the 3rd of September the troops of Duke Caesar marched 
into Piombino ; Appiani fled for his life, and in February the 
Pope in person came with his son to examine the plans of the 
fortresses which the latter was having built there.^ Thus the 
Florentines again saw the dreaded enemy at their gates, while at 
' Euonaccorsi, "Diario," p. 53. 


the same time the Lucchese and Pisans were becoming more 
daring, and France once more slackening in her friendship, 
although the Republic, after having already given her 30,000 
ducats for the Swiss, was now negotiating to pay her from 120 
to 150,000 within three or four years, for the sake of the usual 
promise of the conquest of Pisa.' 

And while these things were keeping the Republic in ever 
increasing difficulties, and making the Ten more and more 
unpopular, urgent demands for aid arrived from Pistoia, for that 
city was again a prey to the fury of the two factions, and no 
manner of government was possible there. Machiavelli, who in 
July had already gone there for the second time, was again sent 
twice in the month of October, to take instructions, and to 
consult, on his return, with the Ten and the Signoria,' as to what 
was necessary to be done. 

According to instructions received, he wrote that the sole 
remedy to be thought of at present was to reform the govern- 
ment and administration of the city, by immediately recalling the 
Panciatichi, and then afterwards take measures about the territory, 
where still greater evils were rife. 3 During these months, besides 
all these letters, orders, and instructions, Machiavelli also indited, 
as secretary, an official report of the events at Pistoia, to give the 
magistrates a clearer idea of the whole* Many such reports or 
narratives of what happened in the territories of the Republic were 
compiled in the chanceries of the Ten and the Signoria, and this 
by Machiavelli was likewise a strictly official work of no particular 

Hardly had the Pistoian disturbances been put down, than 
news came in May, 1502, that Vitellozzo and the Orsini were 
advancing on the Val di Chiana, followed at a short distance by 
the Duke of Valentinois. And the Emperor Maximilian, desiring 
to come to Italy to be crowned, asked of the Florentines — under 
the usual pretext of making war on the Turks — the sum of 100,000 
ducats, of which 60,000 were to be paid down on the nail. This 

' See in Desjardins (" Negociations," &c., vol. ii. pp. 43-69), the various instruc- 
tions sent to the ambassadors in France. 

^ Machiavelli, " Opera " (P. M.), vol. iii. pp. 330, 332. In the August of that 
>ear he had also been sent to Sienna, to Pandolfo Petrucci, to Pistoia, and to 
Cascina. See the documents at p. 358 of the same volume. Another document 
would seem to show that in May he had been sent to Bologna to confer with 
Giovanni Bentivoglio, but there is no proof that he really went there. 

3 See in the "Opere" (vol. vi. p. 166) a letter of the Signoria, dated 26th 
October, 1501, almost entirely in Machiavelli's hand. Guicciardini speaks of 
these disorders on Pistoian territory in his "Storia Fiorentina," pp. 269-70. 

♦ "Opere" (P. M.), p. 352. 


money Florence refused to pay, but she found herself compelled 
to promise France the sum of 120,000 ducats payable within three 
years, for a treaty of alliance concluded on the I2lh April, 1502, 
bv which the kiiit]; was bound to protect the Kcpublic, and su])ply 
it on ilcrnand with 400 lances.' All those thinj^s, while insufTicicnt 
to friirhten away Valcntinois, who was marching slowly forward, 
had utterly exhausted the treasury of the Kcpublic, which knew 
not what fresh tax to invent, after levying even the Dccitnu scalata 
or graduated tithe, a species of progressive tax." On this account 
the war with Pisa was almost suspended, and restricted to raids 
on Pisan territory. The Florentines, extremely dissatisfied with 
the Ten, declined to re-elect them, and placed the conduct of the 
war in the hands of a Commission chosen by the Signoria, where- 
upon all things went from bad to worse.3 The Pisans, in fact, 
assumed the offensive, advanced on Vico Pisano, took possession of 
it, and continued the negotiations begun in the preceding December 
with the Pope and Valentinois, for the formation of an indepen- 
dent State stretching to the coast, including the inland territory 
occupied by the Florentines, with whom neither peace nor truce 
was ever to be made. Valentinois was to have the title of Duke 
of Pisa, and the Duchy was to be hereditary ; the time-honoured 
magistrature of the Anziani (elders) was to be preserved, and one 
of the Borgia was to be named Archbishop of Pisa.* These 
designs were never carried out, but they sufficed to cause anxiety 
to the Florentines, against whom the Borgia tried to stir up 
enemies on every side, for the purpose, as they now pretended, of 
uniting all Italy in a league against foreigners in general and the 
French in particular. 

Meanwhile Vitellozzo was already close upon Arezzo with the 
manifest purpose of exciting a rebellion there, and Valentinois 
was at a short distance, feigning to take no part in the proceed- 
ings of one of his own captains.s The Republic, having at this 
moment no troops at its command, hurriedly despatched as war 

* Buonaccorsi, " Diario," pp. 49-53 ; Guicciardini, " Storia Fiorenfina," chap, 

* Guicciardini, " Storia Fiorentina," chap. xxi. This tax was very heavy, 
although part of it was placed to the credit of the contributor and considered as a 
loan, as Canestrini tells us in his work, "La Scienza e I'Arte di Stato," Florence, 
Le Monnier, 1862. 3 Ibid., chap, xxiii. 

* Desjardins, " Ncgociations," &c., vol. ii. pp. 69-70. 

5 The Venetian ambassador wrote from Rome on the 7th June, 1502, that the 
Arezzo business was " an old scheme of the Duke," and on the 20th June he 
added, that the Pope, "ever intent on his own private passions," in spile of the 
vigorous French protest regarding the affair of Arezzo, spoke of nothing but this 
and the other enterprises of his Duke. See the " Dispacci " of A. Giustinian. 


commissary, Gugliemo de Pazzi, father of the Bishop of Arezzo, 
who was already on the spot. But the commissary had barely 
arrived when the people broke into rebellion (4th June), and both 
father and son had to take refuge with the captain in the fortress. 
Vitellozzo then entered the town with 120 men-at-arms and a 
good number of foot soldiers, soon followed by Giovan Paolo 
Baglioni, another of the Duke's captains, Avith fifty men-at-arms 
and five hundred infantry. To face these dangers, France was 
requested to send the promised contingent of four hundred lances, 
and also Piero Soderini was sent to Milan to ensure their 
departure. The troops encamped before Pisa received orders to 
advance by the Val di Chiana, where Antonio Giacomini Tebal- 
ducci, was sent as commissary, and likewise to fill the post of 
captain. This man had dedicated himself to military studies for 
some time, and already had given proofs of the immense superiority 
of patriot captains over mercenaries.' Machiavelli, who was in 
constant correspondence with him, and followed his career step by 
step, now renewed his observations and matured his ideas on the 
subject of a national militia. 

Meanwhile events were hurrying on, for the citadel of Arezzo, 
after holding out for a fortnight, had to surrender without being 
able to receive succour from the troops on the march from the 
camp before Pisa. The latter therefore received orders to retire 
on Montevarchi, while the enemies, with their Arezzo reinforce- 
ments, occupied the whole of the Val di Chiana, and had been 
already joined by Piero dei Medici and his brother.^ The Floren- 
tines, as may easily be imagined, awaited most anxiously the French 
contingent which was to rescue them from their imminent danger, 
and while in this suspense, a message came from Valentinois 
demanding that some one should be sent to confer with him. 
Francesco Soderini, Bishop of Volterra, was chosen for this mis- 
sion, and was accompanied by Niccolo Machiavelli. The Duke 
was at that time at Urbino, which he had seized by treachery, and 
the unhappy Guidobaldo di Montefeltro had barely saved his life 
by hurried flight to the mountains, although he had always con- 
sidered himself the friend of the Borgia, and assisted them with 
the very troops, whom they had roused against him to strip him 
of his State. 

Machiavelli only remained a few days with Soderini, having 
then to return to Florence to ^w^viva voce details to the Signory. 

' Nardi, " Vita di Antonio Giacomini." Napier, in his " Florentine History" 
(vol. iv. p. 105), tells us on the authority of Jacopo Pilti (book i. p. 77), that 
Ginromini's appointment caused the re-election of the Ten. 

" Buonaccorsi, " Diario," p. 54 and fol. 


Therefore only the two first despatches of lliis lcf]jation arc written 
by him, and both bear the sio;nature of I>ishop Soderini. In 
the second dated from Urbino the 26th of June, ante luccm^ we 
find a description of Borgia, clearly showing how profound an 
impression eh had aheady produced upon the mind of the 
Florentine secretary. They gained audience on the evening of the 
24th at two o'clock of the night,' in the palace inhabited by the 
Duke and a few of his men, who kept the doors well locked and 
guarded. Borgia told the envoys that he wished to be on a clear 
footing with the Florentines, their firm friend or declared enemy. 
Should they decline his friendship, he would be justified, before 
both God and man, in seeking by every means to ensure the 
safety of his own dominions which bordered upon theirs along 
so extended a frontier. " I desire to have explicit .surety since too 
well I know that your city is not well minded towards me, but 
would abandon me like an assassin, and has already sought to plunge 
me in heavy embroilments with the Pope and King of France. 
This government of yours does not please me, and you must 
change it, otherwise if you refuse me for a friend, you shall know 
me for an enemy." The envoys replied that Florence had the 
government which she desired, and that none throughout Italy 
could boast of keeping better faith. That if the Duke's inten- 
tions were really friendly he could easily prove it by compelling 
Vitellozzo, who was in fact his subordinate, to withdraw at once. 
Upon this the Duke asserted that Vitellozzo and the others were 
acting on their own account, although he was by no means ill- 
pleased that the Florentines should, without any fault of his, 
receive a severe and merited lesson. Nor was it possible to get 
anything else out of him, whereupon the ambassadors hurried to 
write their despatches, feeling that it was most necessary to 
acquaint the government with the Duke's motives in sending for 
them, the more so " as these people's mode of action is to sneak 
into others' houses before they are aware of it, as was the case of 
the last Lord of this place, M'hose death was heard of before his 
illness." '^ 

The Duke had also asserted that he was sure of France, and 
caused the same to be repeated to them by the Orsini, who not 
only gave it to be understood that Vitellozzo's expedition had been 
undertaken by agreement with that country, but added that all 
was in readiness for a speedy invasion of Tuscany with twenty or 
twenty-five thousand men, which force however the orators 

* I.e., two hours after sunset, according to the old style. 
° This was Guidobaldo di Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino. 


reckoned at sixteen thousand only. " This Duke," said the letter 
in conclusion, " is so enterprising that nothing is too great to seem 
small to him, and for the sake of glory and the extension of his 
dominions, he deprives himself of rest, yielding to no fatigue, no 
danger. He arrives at this place before one hears that he has left 
the other, he gains the goodwill of his soldiers, he has got hold 
of the best men in Italy and has constant good luck ; all which 
things make him victorious and formidable." But the fact 
was, that he knew that the French were coming to the aid 
of the Florentines, and therefore wished to bind the latter at 
any price. Accordingly, at three o'clock of the night of the 
25th, after the orators had already spoken with Orsini, he sent for 
them again to signify that he wished an instant reply from the 
Signoria, nor would he grant them a longer delay than of four 
days. So the letter,' finished at dawn, was instantly sent off by a 
special courier, followed closely by Machiavelli himself, who had 
nothing more to do at Urbino. He went away filled with a 
strange intellectual admiration of this enemy of his country, 
which admiration was probably increased by that already inspired 
by Borgia in Bishop Soderini.* The latter remained with the 
Duke, who daily increased both his demands and his threats. 
The Florentines, however, paid slight attention to these, for they 
knew that the French contingent was already on the road. For 
the same reason, when Giacomini — who on this occasion had 
shown marvellous courage and activity — now wrote to say that 
if they sent him three thousand foot soldiers and a thousand 
irregulars he would be able to attack the enemy, they replied in 
the first week in July, that he need only stand on the defence, for 
that the artillery and four thousand Swiss sent by France were 
already on their wa}''. They added that it would be necessary to 
pay these troops at once, and it would therefore be imprudent to 
involve the Republic in fresh expenses, especially as Valentinois 
himself seemed already folding his wings. 3 And they wrote to 
the same effect at later dates.* 

On the 24th of July the King wrote that horse and foot would 
speedily arrive, together with a sufficient supply of artillery, 

* The greater part of this letter, with a few by Soderini, was published by us at 
the end of vol. i. of the " Dispacci" of A. Giustinian. Passerini has published 
all the documents of the legation, which, as we have already said, only include 
two by Machiavelli. " Opere " (P. M.), vol. iv. 

'^ Machiavelli himself says this, as we shall shortly see. 

3 Letters of the ist and I2th July, in the Florence Archives, class x. dist. 3, 
No. loi, sheets 2 and 24. See Appendix, document v. 

■» Letters of the 2nd, 4th, and I5ih July, in the " Scritti Inediti " published by 
Cauestrini, pp. 3, 5, and S. 

VOL. I. 1 9 

2 7 4 ^^'i cm A VELLl 'S LIFE A ND TIMES. 

uiulcr the cDiniiKiiul of La Tremoillc. The Florentines therefore 
must have jiay ami jirovisions ready for them.' And very soon 
the Captain Imbault ajipcarcd with a small troop before Arezzo, 
and sjiocdily brought Vitcllozzo to terms. The latter was to 
surrender all the places he had taken excepting the city he was 
then occupying, and where he was to be allowed to remain with 
Piero dei Medici until the return of Cardinal Orsini, who had 
gone to treat with the King in person. But even this concession 
— which the Florentines rightly considered unseemly,* — was after- 
wards withdrawn, because the Pope and the Duke — throwing the 
blame of everything on Vitellozzo and the Orsini whom they 
mortally hated — abandoned them altogether ; neither in fact did 
they care much about the Medici, precisely for the reason that 
these were friends and relatives of the Orsini. 3 On the contrary 
they pledged themselves to assist France in the Neapolitan expedi- 
tion.4 And the Florentines having previously settled that Captain 
Imbault, who had not satisfied them, should be superseded by De 
Langres,5 soon recovered all their territory, a circumstance which 
was made known in an epistle of the 28th of August, together 
with orders for public festivals to be held in commemoration of 
the event.^ 

Towards the middle of August Machiavelli was sent to the 
French camp, to accompany De Langres and collect information 
prejudicial to Imbault, but he was not long absent from his post. 
Piero Soderini and Luca degli Albizzi, both men of great influence, 
had been sent to Arezzo for the purpose of restoring order as 
soon as the rebellion should be quelled, and preventing De Langres 
from going away too soon, since the Florentine forces were all 
engaged in keeping back the Pisans, who were advancing in the 
opposite quarter. 7 Meanwhile he wrote from his Chancery, pray- 

' Desjardins, " Negociations," &c., vol. ii. p. 70. 

» Vide letter of the 30th July in Canestrini's " Scritti Inediti," p. 19. 

3 The Venetian ambassador in Rome plainly stated in a letter of July, 1502, 
that the Pope had been compelled by orders from France, to insist on the with- 
drawal of Vitellozzo and the Orsini from Arezzo ; but that he had no real desire 
to reinstate the Medici in Florence, for they were friends of the Orsini whom he 
wished to root out. See the " Dispacci " of A. Giustinian, especially those dated 
1st and 7th July. Then Buonaccorsi at page 54 of his " Diario," tells us that 
Valentinois would have willingly joined the Florentines in injuring the Orsini and 
Vitelli, but did not dare to speak his mind for fear of meeting with a refusal. 

^ Buonaccorsi, " Diario," p. 62. 

- Ibid., p. 63; Canestrini, "Scritti Inediti," p. 21. Worthy too of note are 
the letters of 4lh August and following in the Florence Archives, class x. dist. 3, 
No. 100, at sheets 68 and fol. 

* Florence Archives, class x. dist. 3, No. loi, at sheet 104. 

7 Letters of the 3rd, 4th, and 6th September, 1502, in the Florence Archives, 
cl. X. dist. 3, No. 100, folio 107, 109, and III. 


ing Soderini to hasten at all events to send to Florence, before the 
departure of the French, all such Aretini, " as may seem to you 
likely ; either by their brains, courage, pugnacity, or wealth, to 
draw other men after them, and it were better rather to send 
twenty too many than one too few, without troubling yourself as 
to their number, or about leaving the town empty." ' He quitted 
his post again on the nth and 17th September to make two 
journeys to Arezzo, in order to look into the state of things, and 
provide for the departure of the French, who had now decided 
on going away.* 

Fortunately everything turned out fairly well, and Machiavelli, 
having long begun to think seriously on political matters, not 
from the official point of view, but from that of a student and 
man of science, in whose mind particular facts were marshalled 
according to general principles and rules, composed, after his 
Arezzo experiences, a short treatise entitled : " Del modo di 
trattare i popoli della Val di Chiana ribellati." 3 

The author is supposed to pronounce this discourse before the 
magistrates of the Republic, but it is not one of those compiled 
in the usual routine of ofhce work : on the contrary, it was a 
first attempt to soar above his daily work to the highest 
scientific level. And in this treatise we can already perceive the 
germs of all the signal merits and defects, which we shall sec 
displayed later in the secretary's principal writings. That which 
first arrests our attention is the singular manner in which we 
find, grafted the one upon the other in the author's mind, experi- 
ence of actual facts, judgments formed of the actions of men 
personally known to him — among whom Ccesar Borgia is not 
the last — together with an extraordinary admiration for Roman 
antiquity, which seems to have been the only link of con- 
nection between the results of his daily observations and the 
general principles of his, as yet, uncertain science. By comparing, 
he says, that which happens under our own eyes with that which 
in similar circumstances occurred in Rome, we may succeed in 
understanding what we should do, since, in point of fact, men are 
always the same, and have the same passions ; thus when circum- 
stances are identical, the same causes lead to the same effects, and 
therefore the same facts ought to suggest the same rules of con- 

' Letter of the Slh of September, written nomine Pn'orirni, loc. a't., at sheet 
116. A similar letter in the name of the Ten is in the " Scritli Inedili," pp. 28 
and 29. 

' See in Machiavelli, " Opere," vol vi. pp. 182-84, several letters referring to 
these journeys. 

3 " Opere," vol. ii. p. 385. 

2 76 MA cm A t 'FJJJ 'S LIFE AND TIMES. 

duct. Certainly in tliose days it was a daringly original idea 
to have recourse io antiquity and history, in onier — by comparison 
with recent experiences — io discover the principles regulating 
the movements of liuman actions, and bound to regulate those of 
governments. But if history teaches us the successive order of 
liumaii alTairs, it also shows the continual mutations of man- 
kind and society, and the difficulty of discovering absolute and 
unchangeable rules. In truth, on close examination, althougli 
liistory is the original model to which Machiavelli constantly 
refers, we shall frequently find that it only serves to give 
greater weight to, or furnish the demonstration of those maxims 
which were, in fact, the fruits of his own experience. And 
this is the primary source of his chief merits and defects. Having 
as yet no accurate vision of the process, by which an ever 
different present results from the past ; being as yet too uncertain 
of his method to deduce with scientific precision general prin- 
ciples from concrete facts, he placed antiquity between the two, 
and antiquity proved to be an artificial link, whenever it was only 
called upon to demonstrate foregone conclusions. Nevertheless 
this first attempt shows us plainly, that Machiavelli used it — one 
may say as a ladder — in order to climb to a higher world far above 
the wearying routine of daily labour amidst a policy of petty 
subterfuge. Urged on by genius, great powers of analysis, and 
a restless fancy, he attempted to create a new science, not with- 
out occasionally falling into exaggerations, which never entirely 
disappeared from his works, and which later brought upon him 
the blame of Guicciardini, who accused him of over-preference 
"for extraordinary deeds and ways." 

This is the manner in which his discourse opens : " Lucius 
Furius Camillus entered the Senate, after having conquered the 
rebellious peoples of Latium, and said — ' I have done all that war 
can do ; now it is your concern, O Conscript Fathers, to assure 
your future safety as regards the rebels.' And the Senate gene- 
rously pardoned the rebels, excepting only the cities of Veliterno 
and Anzio. The first was demolished, and its inhabitants sent to 
Rome ; the second, after its ships had been destroyed, and it had 
been forbidden to build others, was colonized by new and loyal 
inhabitants. This was because the Romans knew that half 
measures were to be avoided, and that peoples must either be 
conquered by kindness or reduced to impotence." " I have 
heard that history is the teacher of our actions, and especially of 
our rulers ; ' the world has always been inhabited by men with 
the same passions as our own, and there have always been rulers and 
' That is — Statesmen. 


ruled, and good subjects and bad subjects, and those who rebel and 
are punished." " One can therefore approve your general course 
of conduct towards the inhabitants of the Val di Chiana ; but not 
your particular conduct towards the Aretini, who have always been 
rebellious, and whom you have neither known how to win by 
kindness nor utterly subdue, after the manner of the Romans. In 
fact, you have not benefited the Aretini, but on the contrary have 
harassed them by summoning them to Florence, stripping them of 
honours, selling their possessions ; neither are you in safety from 
them, for you have left their walls standing, and allowed five- 
sixths of the inhabitants to remain in the city, without sending 
others to keep them in subjection. And thus Arezzo will ever be 
ready to break into fresh rebellion, which is a thing of no slight 
importance, with Csesar Borgia at hand, seeking to form a strong 
state by getting Tuscany itself into his power. And the Borgia 
neither use half measures nor halt half way in their undertakings. 
Cardinal Soderini, who knows them well, has often told me that, 
among other qualities of greatness possessed by the Pope and the 
Pope's son, they likewise have that of knowing how to seize and 
profit by opportunities, the which is well confirmed by our 
experience of what they have already done." At this point 
the unfinished discourse suddenly breaks off. 

Machiavelli who had shown so much zeal in prosecuting the 
business of the capture and condemnation of Vitelli, and, on the 
8th of September, had written to the Plorentine commissaries that 
in order to clear Arezzo of dangerous men, they should rather 
send twenty too many than one too few, without caring if the 
city were even depopulated, had no need to demonstrate that 
he disapproved of half measures in politics, trusted solely to 
prompt and resolute conduct, and was by no means satisfied with 
the perpetual petty tergiversation of his fellow citizens. But 
neither must we believe that in these theoretical discourses he 
intended positively to condemn the conduct of the magistrates. 
They naturally had to consider the passions and character of the 
men over whom they ruled ; his object ni writing was to inquire 
into what should be the true policy of a people such as he 
imagined after meditating on the history of Rome. 

Certainly the affairs of the Republic at this juncture were 
carried on with a weakness and timidity making all men feel 
the necessity of some active reform. In the April of this year 
a new law had been passed for the abolishment of the Podesta and 
the Captain of the people, ancient offices which had originally 
been political and judicial posts; but having long lost the 
former of their attributes^ now fulfilled the second very indif- 


fcrcntly iiolwillistamlin^ its j^ivat iinporlaiicc. TlicrcfDi'c-, accord- 
ing to one of Savonarola's old suggestions, a rnota was instituted 
of live doctors of the law, each of whom jiresided in turn for six 
months, and filled for that period the place of the Podesti. The 
Ruota had to sit in judgment on civil and criminal suits, and by 
a provision of the 15th of April, 1502, was instituted for tliree 
years only, a term that was afterwards extended.' By another 
of the 2 1 St of April, the Court of Commerce was remodelled, 
and compelled to restrict its operations to conmiercial affairs 
only." But similar alterations, as may easily be understood, 
brought no improvement to the general course of affairs under 
a government, the primary cause of whose weakness lay in 
changing the Gonfaloniere and the Signoria every two months.3 
Thus no traditions of office were formed ; no State secrets were 
possible ; all was carried on in public, and only the head chancellor 
or secretary, Marcello Virgilio, managed, in virtue of his own zeal 
and influence, to maintain a certain degree of uniformity in the 
conduct of affairs.'* All measures were slow and uncertain ; 
money was squandered ; the citizens, weighed down by excessive 
taxation, Avere full of discontent, and had no one to appeal to, 
since the magistrates disappeared from the stage almost as soon as 
they had taken office. At last necessary grants of money ceased to 
be voted, the soldiery received no pay, and influential citizens 
refused to accept embassies or other high offices, which were 
consequently bestowed on obscure and insignificant men, who — 
as Guicciardin-* phrased it — " had more tongue than presence," 
and were merely chosen because they pushed themselves for- 

For these reasons it was proposed to make some radical change 
in the form of government. The first idea was to create a Senate 
for life, like the Pregadi of Venice, but it was feared that this 
might throw the State into the hands of a few individuals ; then 
it was proposed instead to create a Gonfaloniere for life like the 
Doge,^ and on the 26th of August, 1502, that measure was 
carried.7 The legal position of the new Gonfaloniere differed 

* "Consigli Maggiori, Provvisioni," reg. 194, at sheet i. Giiicciartlini, " Storia 
Fioientina," pp. 250-51 ; Giovanni Cambi, " Delizie degli Eruditi Toscani," vol. 
xxi. p. 172. _ 2 Ibid., reg. 194, at sheet il. 

3 Guicciardini, " Storia Fiorentina," chap. xxv. 

* Nardi,_ " Storia di firenze," vol. i. p. 276. He makes no mention of 

5 Guicciardini, " Storia Fiorentina," cliap. xxiv., at pp. 257-5S, and chap, 
xxv. p. 274. <* Ibid., chap. xxv. p. 278. 

' This provision (" Consigli Maggiori, Provvisioni," reg. 194, at sheet 150) has 


little from what it had formerly been ; he was at the head of the 
Signoria and nothing more. But at all its sittings, he had the 
right of initiative in proposing laws ; also that of taking part in 
and voting with the judges in criminal trials, which was in itself 
an increase of power. Then the fact of being elected for life, 
among political magistrates with so brief a tenure of authority, 
greatly increased both his influence and his strength. It Avas 
necessary that he should be at least fifty years of age, and should 
hold no other office ; his brothers, sons, and nephews were 
excluded from the Signoria, and both himself and his sons were 
forbidden to trade. His salary was 1,200 florins a year. The 
number of eligible candidates was large, even the citizens belong- 
ing to the lesser trades being admissible. The election was to be 
made by the Great Council, for, on that day, all who had a right 
to sit there were to have the power to vote. Every counsellor 
was called upon to give the name of the citizen whom he wished 
to elect, and all those obtaining half the wotQS plus one, were 
again balloted thrice. At the third time whoever obtained 
the majority, among those having more than half the whole 
number of votes, was the successful candidate. The Signory, the 
Colleges, the Ten, the Captains of the Guelph party, and the 
Right in conjunction could deprive him of office by a majority of 
three-fourths, in the event of his violating the law.' This pro- 
vision, twice discussed by the Eighty and twice by the Great 
Council, was finally carried — after a hard struggle — by sixty- 
eight votes against thirty-one in the Council of Eighty, and by 
eight hundred and eighteen against three hundred and seventy- 
two in the Great Council. 

On the the 20th of September, Piero Soderini, the Bishop's 
brother, was elected Gonfaloniere by a large majority. He had 
already officiated as Gonfaloniere eighteen months before, had 
filled many other posts, and although of ancient and wealthy 

been published by L. Banchi, Director of the Siennese Archives, in a "Raccolta 
di scritture varie," made for the Riccomanni-Fineschi marriage. Turin, Vercel- 
lino, 1865. See also the documents published by Razzi in his "Vita di Piero 
Soderini," Padua, 1737. 

' Guicciardini {" Storia Fiorentina," pp. 280-82) gives a very minute and exact 
report of the Provvisioni. Careful comparison with the original documents enables 
us to see the marvellous accuracy of Guicciardini on this subject, as indeed on all 
others, in his " Storia Fiorentina." Frequently he gives verbatim the laws and 
documents which he has occasion to mention. This proves that the illustrious 
historian Ranke was mistaken in his over severe judgment respecting the studies, 
acquirements, and historic fidelity of Guicciardini. llowever it is true that when 
the illustrious German expressed that opinion in his "Zur Kritik neuerer 
Geschiclitschreiber " (Berlin, 1824), he could not have read Guicciardini's " Opere 
Inedite," which, even in Italy, exhibited him in an entirely new light. 



family, was a good friend of the people and the Liberal Govern- 
ment. Likewise lie was a faeilc speaker, a good citizen, and had 
none of the large energies or lofty gifts exciting too much 
liatrcd or too much alTection, anil this was by no means the least 
cause of his success.' On the 23rd of the same month Machia- 
velli despatched to him at Arezzo the official announcement of 
his election, expressing at the same time the hope that he 
might succeed in conferring on the Republic that prosperity for 
the sake of which the new office had been created-^* This election 
was a very notable event, not only in the history of Florence, but 
also in the life of Machiavelli ; for he was an old acquaintance of 
the Soderini family, and speedily gained the full confidence of the 
new Gonfaloniere, who entrusted him, as we shall see, with very 
important State affairs. 

' Guicciardini, " Storia Fiorenlina," p. 200; Biionaccorsi, " Diario," p. 64. 
'Florence Archives, class x. dist. 3, No. loi, at sheet 134. The Idler 
was not written by Machiavelli, only corrected by him. 


Legation 'to the Duke of Valentinois in Romagna — The doings of the Pope in 
Rome at the same period— Machiavelh composes his " Descrizione " of events 
in Romagna. 


NCE more it is the turn of the Borgia to claim 
the attention of all Italy. Lucrezia had now, 
to her own advantage, disappeared from the 
Roman stage, after having been the chief per- 
sonage of the most scandalous and nefarious 
tales. But she seemed heedless of reproach, 
since she was often to be seen with her father 
and brother merrily taking part in masquerades 
and balls which were nothing better than orgies too indecent for 
description.' At last, in the January of 1 502, she set out for Ferrara 
with an immense suite, and travelling with an excessive pomp and 
luxury of which contemporary chroniclers give minute and 
tedious accounts repeated ad nauseam. In Ferrara she became 
the bride of Duke Alfonso d'Este, and splendid festivities 
v/ere held there during many days.** But from that time her 

' Burchardi and Matarazzo give particulars of them. 

' Marchioness Isabella Gonzaga, a lady whose elevated mode of thought is strik- 
ingly contrasted with the prevailing tone of the times, went to Ferrara to join in 
these festivities, and wrote to her husband that she found them very wearisome, 
and that it seemed a thousand years before she could return to Mantova, " not 
only for the sake of coming back to your lordship and my little son, but also to 
get away from this place where one has no pleasure in life." (Letter of the 5th 
Fel)ruary, 1502.) "And were they veritable pleasures," she wrote, "they could 
not satisfy me without the presence of your lordship and our little boy." Isabella 
Cionznga was not deceived by the show of official gaiety, for she remarked : " to 
say the truth this wedding is a very cold one." (Letter of the 3rd of February.) 
Vide the collection of her very interesting letters published by Signer Carlo 
d'Arco in the " Archivio .Storico," Appendix xi. 


life ciitcrcil into a quieter and more decorous phase, for slie 
now had to deal with a husband capable of sending her out 
of the world with little hesitation after the Borgia's favourite 
style. For this reason, although some of her actions were in 
accordance with her past career, they have always been enveloped 
in the deepest mystery.' She surrounded herself with littcrati 
who flattered her, even applied herself to works of piety ami 
charity, thus gaining the improved reputation that she ever 
after enjoyed, and almost complete exculpation at the hands of 
many writers. 

But in Rome with the Pope, and in Romagna with the Duke of 
Valentinois, the scene only shifted from one tragedy to another, 
from bloodshed to more bloodshed. Insulting pamphlets, atrocious 
epigrams, were continually appearing in the Eternal City ; but the 
Pope was too full of other matters to pay any attention to them. 
From time to time, some cardinal, after accumulating great riches, 
would fall ill and die suddenly, or be unexpectedly impeached and 
sentenced to confinement in the castle of St. Angelo, from which 
he never issued alive. All his possessions — plate, money, even 
furniture and tapestry — speedily found their way to the Vatican. 
His vacant benefices were conferred upon other prelates, often 
destined to come to the same end as soon as they were rich enough. 
" Our Lord," wrote the Venetian ambassador, " generally fattens 
them up, before feasting on them." And, in the July of that 
year, this was the fate of the Datario, Battista Ferrari, cardinal of 
Modena, who had been his most faithful instrument in squeezing 
money from everybody and everything. Having amassed great 
riches he was suddenly seized with a mortal sickness ; the Pope 
gave him spiritual assistance at the last hour, and then, as usual, 
stripped his palace and took all his property. The greater part 
of his benefices were conferred upon Sebastiano Pinzon who had 
been his private secretary, and, as it was generally rumoured, had 
poisoned his master by the Holy Father's own command.* 

The city was illuminated during these days ; the Governor of 
Rome and the Pope's guards, followed by a great crowd, Avent 
about the streets shouting — The Ditke^ the Dtikc^ Caesar Borgia 
had entered Camerino and captured its Lord, Giulio Cesare da 
Varano, and his sons. The Pope therefore was so excited with joy, 

* Gregorovius, " Lucrezia Borgia." 

■ And it is publicly said that he had them in preinium ianguinis, " since by many 
evident signs all hold that the cardinal died ex veneiio, and that this Sebastian was 
the murderer. . . . The pope has received him inter familiares." Antonio 
Giustiiiian, " Dispacci " : Despatch of the 20th July, 1502. 

3 Despatch of the 24th of July, 1502. 


as to be unable to keep it concealed. Having called a Consistory 
to announce a victory of the Hungarians over the Turks, he 
spoke only of Camerino and the Duke. Reminded by the cardinal 
of Santa Prassede of the object of the meeting, he at once ordered 
the letter to be fetched ; but then, pursuing his other subject, 
forgot to have it read.' While speaking with the Venetian 
and Spanish ambassadors, he walked about the room too restless 
to sit still ; had the Duke's letter read, which after relating 
all that occvu'red concluded as follows : ""May this do good to your 
Holiness ; " and then exalted the Duke's prudence and magnani- 
mity, " praising him ah omni parie.^'^ " He predicted his son's 
future conquests, and in his mind's eye already beheld him master 
of all central Italy. He was however uncertain of what might be 
the attitude of Venice with regard to changes so rapid. Therefore 
calling to him the Venetian ambassador, he immediately began to 
make great protestations of friendship, in order to see how he 
would reply. But Antonio Giustinian was a wary politician, and 
wrote to his Doge : " In answer to what I have just related, 
Principe Serenissimo, ambidavi super generalissimis while the 
Pope went super generalibusP 3 

Meanwhile Valentinois had assumed the titles of Caesar Borgia 
of France, by the grace of God, Duke of Romagna, Valencia and 
Urbino, Prince of Andria, Lord of Piombino, Gonfalonier and 
Captain-General of the Church, and he advanced upon Bologna 
without delay. But at this moment France put her veto upon any 
farther proceedings, giving it to be understood that she could not 
permit the Borgia to extend their conquests in Italy : that they 
must renounce all idea of Bologna and Tuscany .4 At the same 

' Despatch of the 29th July. ' Despatch of the a/lh July. 

3 Despatch of the 22nd July, 1502. 

* The good Isabella Gonzaga wrote to her husband on this subject : It is said 
that the king of France means to make you march against the Duke, but it seems 
to me that we must be very cautious, " for now one knows not whom to trust," 
and soon we might see the King once more in agreement with the Duke. (Letter of 
the 23rd July, 1502.) She was not mistaken in this. But it was no sympathy 
for Valentinois that made her express this opinion. For at the time when the 
people of Faenza were valiantly defending their lord, she had written to her hus- 
band : " I am pleased that the Faentini are so faithful and constant in the defence of 
their lord, for they restore the honour of the Italians. Thus may God grant them 
grace to persevere, not to wish ill to the Duke of Valentinois, but because neither 
that lord, nor his faithful people, deserve so heavy a ruin." (Letter of the 20th 
April, 1501.) And on the 3rd of July of the same year she wrote, that for the anni 
versary of the battle of Fornuovo she had ordered " that mass should be cele- 
brated for the souls of those valiant men of ours, who lost their lives to save Italy, 
according to your excellency's prudent and pious advice." Language such as this 
is very rare, and therefore all the more worthy of note in the age of the Borgia and 
Lodovico the Moor. 


(iiuo the Duke's principal captains, who were nearly all of lluin 
jietty tyrants from central Italy, perceived how he was destroying 
one by one all their companions, and understood that before lonf^ 
their own turn would come. And, on learnintr that he had 
already resolved to take possession of Perugia and Castello, and 
then fall upon the Ofsini, they all met together " in order not to 
be devoured by the dragon one after another," ■ and decided to 
raise the standard of rebellion against the Duke and seize the 
present opportunity for attacking him, now that he was deserted 
by France. The first result of this agreement was, that on the 
8th of October some of the conspirators carried by surprise the 
fortress of San Leo in the Duchy of Urbino, the which made 
an extraordinary impression, as the signal and forerunner of 
fresh events. In fact, on the 9th day of October,^ the conspirators 
all assembled at La Magione near Perugia, for the formal arrange- 
ment of the terms of the league. There were several of the 
Orsini, namely, the cardinal, the Duke of Gravina, Paolo and 
Frangiotto, besides Ernies, son of Giovanni Eentivoglio, with full 
powers as representative of his father, Antonio da Venafio, with 
full powers from Pandolfo Petrucci, Messer Gentile and Giovan 
Paolo Baglioni, and Vitellozzo Vitelli who, being ill, was carried 
in on a couch. 3 They pledged themselves to the common defence, 
to make no attack without the general consent, and to collect an 
army of 700 men-at-arms in blank {in bmiico),^ 100 light horse, 
9,000 foot soldiers, and more if necessary ; and all who should fail 
to observe these legally stipulated terms, were to be fined 50,000 
ducats, and be stigmatized as traitors. Florentine assistance was 
soon asked, but they took to arms at once, and Paolo Vitelli. 
having carried the citadel of Urbino by assault on the 15th of 
October, now stirred the whole Duchy to revolt, so that only a 
few of the numerous fortresses remained in Borgia's hands. 

Caesar perfectly understood the gravity of this revolt. But 
without losing his presence of mind, he sent against the enemy 
the portio of his army still remaining faithful to him, under 

' This expression is to be found in a letter of the iilh October, written by 
Giovan Paolo Baglioni, one of the conspirators, to Messer Vincenzo Count of 
Montevibiano, the last who filled the office of Podesta in Florence. It is included 
in the correspondence published by Passerini, " Opere " (P.M.), vol. iv. p. 94 
and fob 

* The date is extracted from the before-quoted letters. Several preparatory 
meetings had however been previously held, as we learn from the historians and 
Irom the documents of Machiavelli's own Legation to Borgia in Roniagna. 

3 Letters of Baglioni quoted above. 

* That is to say, they were bound to engage 700 men, but had not already got them 
in rcadmess. As we shall see, Ca;sar Borgia mocked this exDrcssion of theiiS: 


the command of one of his captains, Don Michele CorigHa, a 
Spaniard of notorious cruelty,' and his strangier, better known 
as Don Michelotto. This man estabhshed his quarters in the 
citadel of Pergola, which still held out for the Duke, making 
sorties thence into the surrounding territory, and laying it all 
waste. We are told that it was then that he murdered Giulio da 
Varano, his wife, and two of his sons, who were in prison, while 
another of them, after being first tortured at Pesaro, was dragged 
half dead into a church, and there butchered by a Spanish priest, 
who was afterwards, in his turn, cut to pieces in a popular riot at 
Cagli. From Pergola the army went to Fossombrone, where many 
women, to escape the ferocity of the soldiery, threw themselves 
and their children into the river. =^ 

Meanwhile the rebel army, being now joined by Baglioni and 
his troops, had increased to 12,000 men, and three miles from 
Fossombrone, gave battle to Borgia's army, under the joint com- 
mand of Don Michelotto and Don Ugo di Moncada, another 
Spaniard. The Duke's forces were utterly routed ; Don Ugo was 
taken prisoner, Don Michelotto barely escaped, and the exultation 
of the rebels was at its height. The fugitive Guidobaldo di 
Montefeltro re-entered his dominions, and had a triumphant re- 
ception at Urbino ; Giovan Maria da Varano, the only survivor of 
his unhappy family, returned to Camerino. Thus the laborious 
and sanguinary work of the Borgia seemed all crumbled to dust in 
one moment. Yet skirmishes on a large scale still went on ; Don 
Michelotto continued to hold out at Pesaro ; the Duke was at 
Imola with a considerable force that he tried to augment. The 
rebels had asked aid from Venice, who remained a passive 
spectator ; from Florence, who mindful of the doings of the Orsini 
and Vitelli in Tuscany, and unwilling to go to war with the 
Borgia, first temporized and then refused outright. The Duke 
on the other hand applied to the French, who instantly sent 
him .a small body of spearmen under the command of Charles 
d'Amboise, Lord of Chaumont. This dishonourable action 
brought about an instant change in the aspect of affairs, and struck 
terror into Borgia's enemies, who, having neglected to take advan- 

' A note in the edition of Machiavelli's works (vol. vi. p. 485), also repeated in 
the Passerini and Milanesi edition, styles him a Venetian, and quotes a letter from 
the commissary in Arezzo, which we have searched for in vain in the Florence 
Archives. All other writers call him a Spaniard, and when he was engaged by 
the Florentines as Captain of the Guard, the decree of the 27th of February, 1507, 
runs as follow: " Dicti Domini, they decided, &c., that Michele Coriglia, the 
Spa7iiatci, should be engaged as Captain . . . ." CI. xiii. dist. 2, No. 70 ("Dtiibe- 
razioni dei ix d'ordinanza "), at sheet 9/. 

'Ugolini, " Storia dei Conti e Duchi d'Urbino," vol. ii. p. 9S and fol. 


tagc of the favourable moment, now beheld in the banner uf 
France his salvation and their own ruin. 

From the first moment of the open rupture with the Orsini, 
the Duke and the Pope had pressed Florence to send ambassadors 
to bolh courts, in the desire to assure themselves of the friend- 
ship of a State which, by reason of its extended frontier towards 
Romagna, woukl be a very useful ally, a very formidable enemy. As 
to the Pope, the Florentines quickly decided to send Gian Vittorio 
Soderini, but he being too ill to start before the 7th_ December, 
Alessandro Bracci went as his substitute in the meantime. They 
could not, however, come to so speedy a decision respecting the 
Duke, for without wanting to make him their enemy, neither did 
they wish to contract a friendly alliance that might compel them 
to assist him. They had certa'inly no interest in irritating him, 
but it was undesirable to attract the hostility of the rebels who 
were in arms and in great force ; neither 'were they able nor 
willing to come to a decision without previous consultation with 
France. So that after much dispute it was impossible to get a 
majority for the nomination of an ambassador, and it was finally 
arranged that the Ten should despatch a special envoy.' The 
choice fell upon Niccolo Machiavelli, who, though not yet raised 
to the rank and renown required in an ambassador, had proved his 
ability on previous missions, and, as Cerretani observes, was " a 
man to gain the favour of the few," ^ id est^ to obtain the con- 
fidence of those with Avhom he was in direct communication, as 
afterwards with the Gonfaloniere Soderini.3 

As secretary of the Ten, he could not refuse so honourable a 
charge ; yet he appears to have accepted it with much regret, and 
set out most unwillingly. Every one of these missions drove him 
into debt, for he was always ill paid, and yet felt obliged to spend 
money and keep up his official dignity. Besides he was conscious 
of lacking both the rank and influence demanded for treating with 
Valentinois upon honourable terms. And in addition to all this 
he had recently married Marietta, daughter of Lodovico Corsini, 
who was warmly attached to him, and much afflicted by so speedy 

* It was generally the office of the Signoiy not the Ten to send ambassadors to 
Kings, Emperor, Pope, or other potentates. This dispute about the election is 
mentioned by Parenli, in his " Storia di Firenzi " (National Library of Florenze, 
room II, shelf II, Cod. 133, at sheet 62), and by Cerretani inhis"Stona di 
Firenze" (same place, room ii, shelf III, Cod. 74, at sheet 301/). See also the 
"Dispacci" of A. Giustinian, vol. i. p. iSl, note I. 

' Cerretani, he. cit. 

» Although elected in September, Soderini did not come to Florence before the 
hec'inning of October, and entered upon his office towards the end of that month. 
Cerretani, cod. cit., at sheets 301/ and 302; Parenti, cod. cit., at sheet 65. 


a separation.* In reality we know very little of this undoubtedly 
important event in Machiavelli's private life. But we know 
that all that has been written to the injury of this poor Marietta, 
asserting that her husband made allusion to her in his famous story 
" Belphagor," has not a shadow of foundation. On the contrary, 
a few of her letters and others written to Machiavelli by friends, 
prove her to have been an affectionate wife and a good mother.^ 
Nevertheless it is certain that Machiavelli seldom spoke of 
his wife, nor does he appear to have often written to her, 
generally contenting himself with sending messages by others. 
Neither did his marriage put a stop to his dissipated mode 
of life, concerning which he spoke freely and wrote jestingly 
to many, among others to his friend Buonaccorsi, through 
whom he received news of Marietta and sent her his own. 
Without attempting to endow him with an ideal delicacy of 
feeling, which was certainly unknown to him, nothing justifies 
us in concluding that he felt no affection for his wife and family. 
We see instead in his conduct and mode of conversation the 
results of the scant respect, if not positive contempt for women 
that began in Italy on the decay of national morality, and of 
the cynicism with regard to manners, introduced among us by 
men of learning, that was habitual even among the best and 
most affectionate of men. For instance, by all that we know of 
Buonaccorsi, he must have had an excellent character in every 
respect ; yet his letters to Machiavelli are noteworthy proofs of 
what we have just stated, and in preparing them for the press 
it is often necessary to expunge many words and even entire sen- 
tences, to avoid arousing the disgust of the modern reader. 

However this may be, Machiavelli, unable to decline the 
proffered mission, and with every reason to hope that his absence 
would be short, made his wife believe that it would be still 
shorter, and set about his preparations for the journey. 

On the 4th of October the safe-conduct was signed, and on the 
following day the commission. This instructed him to start 
without delay to present himself to the Duke, to make large pro- 

' We are unable to determine the precise date of the marriage; but it certainly 
took place in the year 1502. In 1503 a son was born to him as we learn from 
several of Buonaccorsi's letters. Buonaccorsi, who never before mentioned Ma- 
rietta, speaks of her, as we shall see, during Machiavelli's mission to Valentinois, 
in a way that leaves no doubt of her being already married. On the 27th of 
October, 1502, the Florentine ambassadors in France make allusion, in a letter to 
Machiavelli, which we shall quote later, to his having left his wife alone in Florence. 

" The first to prove this by authentic documents was Signer Inocenzio Giam- 
picri, in an article upon Machiavelli, published in the " Monumenti del Giardino 
Puccini : ' Pistoia, Gino, 1S46. 


testations of friendship, and assure him that the Republic had 
positively refused all assistance to the conspirators, who had 
already applied for it. " And on this head you can enlarge as 
may seem best to you ; but if His Excellency sliould question you 
upon other points, you will defer answering till after communi- 
cating with us and receiving our reply." He was also charged to 
ask a safe-conduct for Florentine merchants, having to pass 
through the Duke's dominions, on their way to and from the 
East, and told to strongly urge that request, since " the matter 
was of vital importance to the city." ' All will understand how 
weighty an undertaking it must have been for the modest Floren- 
tine secretary to bandy words with a man like Caesar Borgia, 
who used few words, desired less, and was at this moment 
thirsting for revenge. Yet it was this mission, so unwillingly 
accepted by Machiavelli, that first showed the extent of his genius 
as a political writer. 

Still unversed in practical aflfairs, and by nature and tempera- 
ment more inclined to thoughtful scrutiny than to action, he now 
had to face a man who acted without speaking ; one who never 
discussed a point, but signified his ideas by a gesture or movement, 
indicating that his resolution was already taken or carried out. 
While conscious that, intellectually, he was the Duke's superior, 
he acknowledged himself inferior as a man of action, and saw 
the small use, amid the clash of warring passions and the realities 
of life, of subtle pondering and lengthened reflection. All this 
tended to increase in him that admiration of which the first signs 
were displayed during his journey to Urbino with Cardinal 
Soderini. Borgia, as we have already noted, was neither a great 
statesman nor a great captain, but a species of brigand-chief, 
whose strength principally lay in the support of France and the 
Vatican. He had had, however, the ability to create a State out 
of nothing, intimidating all men, including the Pope himself ; 
and when taken by surprise by a large number of powerful enemies, 
had contrived to free himself, and get rid of them by means of 
boundless audacity and devilish craft. His audacity and craft 
were the qualities which so many then admired, and JMachiavelli 
even more than the rest. Considering these qualities in them- 
selves, and scruples apart, the question with him was : what might 
they not achieve could they only be directed towards a diflFerent 

* " Tal cosa h lo stomaco di questa citti. Commisione a Niccolo Machiavelli, 
deliberate a di 5 Ottobre 1502 : Opere," vol. vi. p. 185. It is made out in the 
name of the Signoria, although Machiavelli carried on his correspondence with 
the Ten by whom he was sent. 


and nobler purpose ? And in this way his imagination began to 
take fire. 

The Duke, on the other hand, finding himself confronted by a 
man trained in learning and in the office work of the Florence 
Chancery, was conscious of his own practical superiority, and 
plainly showed this consciousness in his conversation. The man, 
however, was Niccold Machiavelli, whose keen vision pierced far 
beneath the surface of things, and who, if sometimes deficient in 
the instinct suggesting quick repartee and immediate action, had 
an incomparable power of analysing the actions of others after 
the event. He had neither ability nor inclination to take part in 
what happened before his eyes ; but now for the first time his 
mind began to formulate with clearness and precision the idea of 
giving to politics an assured and scientific basis, treating them as 
having a proper and distinct value of their own, entirely apart 
from their moral worth ; as the art, in short, of finding the means 
to the end, whatever that end might be. And although the 
Republic he served was by no means overburdened with moral 
scruples, in Caesar Borgia he first beheld the personification 
of this art, living and breathing before his eyes ; he therefore 
chose him for its representative type, and at last came to admire 
him almost as a creation of his own intellect. But we shall recur 
to this subject later on. 

Meanwhile Machiavelli began his journey upon horseback, and 
reaching Scarperia travelled on by post to Imola, where he arrived 
on the 7th October ; and at the eighteenth hour of the day pre- 
sented himself to the Duke without even changing his clothes, 
'■'' cavalchereccto " — horseman like as he was — to make use of his 
own expression. At that period the rebellion had barely com- 
menced, and the gravity of it was not yet understood. The 
Duke listened without reply to the protestations of friendship 
offered by Machiavelli in the name of the Republic, evidently 
receiving them as conventional forms of speech. Then he said 
that he desired to confide to the envoy secrets which he had 
told to no living man ; and began to relate how the Orsini had 
at one time supplicated him, almost on their knees, to proceed 
to attack Florence, and how he had always refused his consent. 
He had had no hand in their expedition on Arezzo, but had 
not regretted it, since the Florentines had broken faith with him. 
However, on the receipt of missives from France and the Pope, 
he had been obliged to order them to withdraw. Hence the ran- 
cours leading them (the Orsini) to this " Diet of bankrupts ; " * 

• The letter is dated 7th October : " Opere," vol. i. p. 1S8. The final Diet 
VOL. I. 20 


bul tlu-y were fools for their pains, because tlie Pope bcinpf alive, 
and the King of France in Italy, '' the ground was burning under 
their feet, and it needed more water to put it out than such men 
as those could throw." The conclusion of the whole discourse 
was, that this was the moment for the Florentines to conclude a 
firm alliance with him. If they waited till he had " patched up 
matters with the Orsini," there would be as many difficulties and 
hesitations as before. They must declare themselves and come at 
once to terms. Machiavelli was obliged to answer that he must 
write to Florence, which so miich ve.xed the Duke, that lie would 
add nothing more, when pressed to say something definite, as to 
what kind of agreement he wished, &c. " And notwithstanding 
that I pressed him, to extract something definite, he always kept 
wide of the point." ^ On the gth, the day on which the rebels 
signed their league at La Magione, the Duke summoned Machia- 
velli, and showed him so much courtesy, that the latter wrote that 
he knew not how to describe it. He made him listen to some 
favourable letters from France, showing him their well-known 
signature, and again insisted on the necessity of a speedy agree- 
ment. " One can plainly see," concluded Machiavelli, after giving 
many details, " that the Duke is now ready for any bargain ; 
but it would be advisable to send an ambassador empowered to 
offer definite terms." ^ The secretary and agents of the Duke 
all repeated the same things, pressing him on every side. 
Then came the news of the defeat of Don Ugo and Don 
Micheletto b}^ the Orsini and Vitelli, and Machiavelli had the 
greatest difficulty to learn the particulars, "for at this Court all 
is arranged with admirable secrecy, and matters that are to be 
hidden are never alluded to." With his usual impenetrability the 
Duke affected the utmost contempt for his adversaries and the 
number of men-at-arms which they pretended to have, saying that 
it was well to call them " men-at-arms in blank, which means in 
nothing." Among the rest Vitellozzo had never been seen to do 
anything " beseeming a man of courage, always excusing himself 
on account of having the French sickness. He is fit for nought 
else than pillaging defenceless places, robbing those who run away 
from him, and committing treachery such as this." And the 
Duke enlarged a good deal on this subject, speaking quite gently 
without any show of anger. 3 In these days danger had made him 
more tractable, and Machiavelli was able to obtain the safe-conduct 

at La Magione was held on the 9th. Thif, as we have said, proves that others 
had been held before. 

' T.etter of the 7th October, 1502. 

" Ibid. 3 Fiist letter of the COth October. 


for the Florentine merchants, which he instantly forwarded to the 
Ten,' to whom he was continually sending all the intelligence it 
was possible to collect. 

On the 23rd of October he had another long conference with 
the Duke, who read to him a very encouraging letter from the 
King of France, adding that the French lances would soon arrive, 
and also the foreign infantry. Then he spoke with great indigna- 
tion of the treachery of the Orsini, who were already trying to 
come to terms with him. " Now," said he, *' they are playing the 
part of friends, and write me kind letters." " To-day Signor 
Paolo is to come to see mc, to-morrow the Cardinal, and thus 
they think to bamboozle me at their pleasure. But I, on the other 
hand, am only dallying with them, I listen to everything, and 
take my own time." He again repeated that the Florentines 
ought to conclude a strict friendship with him.^' 

All his conversation hinged upon this point, to which as yet the 
orator could give no reply. And what greatly added to JSTachia- 
velli's perplexity was his inability to discover what would be 
the probable result of the agreement. On the 27th of October, 
Paolo Orsini, in the disguise of a messenger, came to treat in 
person-, " but what is now the Duke's mind I cannot tell : I do 
not see how he can pardon this offence, nor how the Orsini can 
cease to dread him." 3 The Secretary Agapito informed him that 
nothing was yet concluded, because the Duke wished to add a 
certain clause to the terms, '* that, if accepted, opens him a 
window, and, if refused, a door by which to escape from these 
stipulations, at which even babes might laugh." * Other agents 
continued to repeat to him that this was the moment to conclude 
a friendly alliance with Florence, who ought to give the promised 
Condotta, without loss of time. " As to the agreement with the 
rebels it was not even settled, and in any case he need not trouble 
about it, since where there are men there are ways of managing 
them. A few only of the Orsini will be spared ; for as to 
Vitellozzo, who is the real enemy of Florence, the Duke will 
not hear a word, knowing him to be a venomous snake, the brand 
of Tuscany and Italy." 

At last the terms of the agreement were concluded, dating from 
the 28th of October, signed by the Duke and Paolo Orsini, 
and Machiavelli sent the Ten a secretly obtained copy of them 
with his despatch of the loth of Novembcr.5 Peace was sworn, 

' See the " Legazioni : Opeie," vol. vi. p. 225. 

* LeUer of the 23rd October, 1502. 

' LeUer of tlie 27th October. * Letter of the Stli November, 1502. 

5 This agreement is in the " Opere," vol. iv. p. 264. 


ami a loau,uc for ofTcncc and defence between the Duke and the 
rebels, with the oblis;ation of reducing Urbino and Canierino to 
obedience. The Duke j)roniised to continue the previous stipends 
to the Orsini and Vitelli, without obliging both to be in 
camp at the same time, and the cardinal was only to stay in 
Rome when it pleased him to be there. As to Bentivoglio, 
he was left out of the agreement, since, being under French 
protection, the Borgia dared not break any pledges made to 
him. The mutual distrust with which both parties drew up 
terms was so plaiidy evident, that it is hard to understand 
how the Orsini and VitelH could let themselves be so miser- 
ably entrapped, unless indeed they were frightened by the Duke's 
French reinforcements, while want of money made it impossible 
for them to continue to struggle against a powerful foe with 
France and the Pope at his back. They hoped to gain time 
in order to begin over again ; but the Duke was on the alert, and 
in spite of being surrounded by many enemies, it was easy for him 
to lop off some, and thus weaken the rest — a course impossible 
for his foes who had only a single individual to contend with.' 

Very graphically and regularly Machiavelli described the march 
of all these events to the Ten, and when on the nth of November 
those magistrates complained of having had no letters from him 
for eight da3'S,^ he answered : " Your excellencies must hold me 
excused, remembering that matters cannot be guessed, and that 
we have to do with a prince who governs for himself, and that he 
who would not write dreams and vagaries, has to make sure of 
things, and in making sure of them time goes, and I try to use time 
and not throw it away." 3 In fact, he threw into the observation 
of the drama then unrolled before his eyes, all the ardour of one 
seeking for truth in a scientific spirit and method. At times he 
seemed to be an anatomist dissecting a corpse, and feeling sure of 
discovering in it the germ of an unknown disease. He had an 
unequalled gift of faithful and graphic narrative, and his style 
attains to a vigour and originality, of which modern prose had 

* Thus wrote Machiavelli in his leller of the I3tli November, and in thnt of the 
20lh he related how he had said lo the Duke, that for that reason he had always 
judged that he (the Duke) would be victorious, and that had he written what he 
thought from the first, he sliould have proved himself a prophet. Later he built 
up a theory upon this observation, giving it as a general rule, that one who is 
surrounded by many enemies, can easily weaken and conquer them exactly because 
lie can divide them, which is not possible for his adversaries. 

* Letter of the Ten, signed by Marcello, dated nth November, 1502. See 
" Opere" (P.M.), vol. iv. p. 168. Buonaccorsi repeated the same complaint in 
his letters. 

3 Letter of the 13th November. 


as yet given no example. In these letters we see Machiavelli's 
political doctrines growing into shape under our eyes, we note his 
rigourness of method, and also find the greatest eloquence of 
which he was capable. 

Yet, strange to sa}', he was thoroughly discontented, and daily 
begged for his recall with increasing insistence. We have already 
noted some of the motives of this discontent. Naturally restless, 
he disliked staying long in one place ; ' and on this, as on all his 
legations, could not pay his way with the scanty sum allowed 
him by the Republic ; and neither wishing to follow the example 
of those who lived at court at the Duke's expense, nor to compro- 
mise the dignity of his position, he was obliged to spend freely 
and contract debts. His Avife, finding herself forsaken almost as 
soon as married, for her husband, after having promised to come 
back to her in a week, seldom wrote to her, and left her to 
struggle throvigh domestic embarrassments, was daily at the 
Chancery asking news of him, making complaints, and worrying 
Buonaccorsi and other friends who in their turn continually 
wrote to him upon the subject.^ 

To these reasons may be added others of even greater import- 
ance to him. It was certainly a most troublesome mission to have 
to temporize with the Duke without the power to settle anything, 
to find him daily more impatient, and be derisively told by his 
agents that : " he who waits for time and has it, seeks better bread 
than wheaten bread." 3 At any rate, matters could only be con- 
cluded by an ambassador charged Avith clear and exact pro- 
posals. In his opinion it had been an error to send one to Rome 
instead of Imola, because it was the Duke that was to be satisfied 
by the agreement, not the Pope, who could never undo what was 
done by the Duke, whereas the contrary might easily occur.* But 

' In a letter of the i8th November, Buonaccorsi teils him : " Having so much 
firmness, that you cannot keep in the same mind for an hour." " Carte di-1 
Machiavelli," case iii., No. l6. Ser Agostino Vespucci da Terranuova wrote to 
him on the 14th of October: "Vides igitur quo nos inducat animus iste luus 
equitandi, evagan H ac cursilandi tam avidus." Idem, cassetta iii., No. 38. 

^ On the i8th October, 1502, IJuonaccorsi wrote to him at Imola, that Marietta 
asked about him and complained of his remaining absent so long when he had 
promised to come back to her in a week. She would not write to him herself, 
" and she does thousands of mid things, ... so in the devil's name pray come 
back." "Carte del Machiavelli," case iii. No. 5. And in another of the 21st 
December, 1502, he says to him : " Monna Marietta blasphemes God, and thinks 
that she has thrown away both herself and her property. For goodness' sake give 
orders that she may have her own dower, like others of her position, otherwise 
she will lose all patience with you. ... I now sit in your place at certain little 
suppers given by the Ten. . . . &c.'* Idem, case iii. No. 17. 

3 Letter of the 13th November, 1502. 
I < Letter of the 14th December. On the 27th lune, 1502, Ei.-,liop Soderini had 


although Machiavclli complained that these anxieties and worries 
were injuring his health, his laments led to nothing,' for the 
Florentines had excellent reasons for wishing to temporize. The 
Republic could place no faith either in the Borgia or the Orsini 
and Vitclli, foi alliances made with them were only observed as 
long as suited their own purposes. The basis of the Republic's 
jiolicy in Italy was the French alliance, which if not allogcthcr 
safe, aflbrded better security than one with the Borgia. To 
the latter words alone were to be giv^en, and although an ambas- 
sador might be sent to the Pope in token of respect, none must 
be despatched to the Duke who wanted to bring matters to the 
point. Besides, before sending one to him it was requisite to wait 
for intelligence and instructions from France. This was the con- 
tinual purport of the letters of the Ten to Machiavelli, no little to 
his discontent, since his condition still remained unchanged. 

Then too it was most necessary for Florence to have exact in- 
formation regarding the intentions as well as the movements of 
the Duke, and on that account the importance of Machiavelli's 
despatches being now imiversally recognized, no one would hear of 
his recall, particularly as no satisfactory person could be found 
to replace him. Niccolo Valori wrote to him on the 2ist of 
October : " And truly there is so much force in the two last 
letters you have sent, and they so well show the excellence of 
your judgment, that they could not have been better approved. 
And 1 spoke at length of them with Piero Soderini, who does not 
think it possible to recall you from your post." " Later he was 
addressed by Buonaccorsi, Marcello Virgilio and the Gonfalonier 
himself, who all repeated that it was impossible to recall him, 

written to the Signoria from Urbino, tliat the duke had told Idm, that as regarded 
war matters, it was he who ruled Rome, not Rome him." " Opere " (r.M.), vol. 
iv. p. 19. 

' On the 22nd November he wrote from Imola : "Besides j^erceiving that I can 
do no useful thing in this city, I am in a bad state of body, and two days ago I had 
a great fever, and still feel ailing. Likewise there is no one to look after my 
affairs at home, and I lose in many ways." And from many of his friends' letters 
it was evident that he was compelled to borrow money at this time. And in his 
first letter of the 6th December, he wrote as usual, asking to be recalled, " to 
relieve the government of this expense, and me of this inconvenience, since for the 
last twelve days I have been feeling very ill, and if I go on like this, I fear I may 
have to come back in a basket." 

* " Carte del Machiavelli," case iii. No. 30. On the iith of October he had 
written to the same : "Your discourse and the portrait could not have been more 
approved, and all recognize what I have particularly noticed in you, a clear, piroper 
and sincere mode of narration, upon which one can rely." Idem, case iii. No. 
12. The Ten, Soderini, many friends wrote to the same effect. See among others 
the letters of Soderini, dated 14th and 2Sth November, " Opere " (P. M.), vol. 
iv. pp. 169 and 201. 


since it was necessary to have some one at the Duke's court, and 
none fitter than himself could be found.' At the same time the 
Gonfalonier and the Ten sent him twenty-five gold ducats and 
sixteen braccia (eleven yards) of damask, the first towards his own 
expenses, the cloth to be given away in presents." 

And there is still another reason to be added to those already 
mentioned. It is true that Machiavelli found the amplest materials 
for study in observing the actions of Valentinois and those around 
him ; 3 it is true that he regarded politics as abstract from 
morality ; equally true that he was troubled by few scruples of 
conscience where State affairs were concerned ; yet notwithstand- 
ing all this it was intolerable to one of his disposition, to be con- 
tinually involved in so dense a tangle of infamy ; to live among 
men steeped in crime, ever ready for treachery and bloodshed, 
amenable to nothing but brute force, without having the slightest 
power to prevent or modify their misdeeds. No opinion can 
be more erroneous than that held by those supposing that the 
actions of Valentinois at this period were counselled and directed 
by Machiavelli.'* On the contrary, all his letters tend to prove the 
great difficulty he experienced "in discovering the intentions and 
secret designs of the Duke, and how often he failed in this being 
kept altogether in the dark. The Duke did not heed the advice 
of the Florentine secretary, whom he sometimes seemed almost to 
ridicule. Machiavelli was neither bloodthirsty nor cruel, indeed 

' M. Virgilio's letter is dated 7th of November, 1 502, and is among the "Carte 
del Machiavelli," case iii. No. 32. In it he says that he gives him this now very 
unwillingly, for, " I find myself with my own affairs, thine, and thy lectures all 
on my hands at once." Which is a proof of what we have elsewhere remarked, 
that the First Secretary still continued to teach at the University. 

' The letter of the Gonfaloniere Soderini, written on the 21st December, is also 
included among the " Carte del Machiavelli," and was published in the '• Opere " 
(P. M.), vol. iv. p. 243. See too the letters of the Ten published in the same 
volume, at pp. 239-41, 

3 On the 27th October, 1502, the Florentine ambassadors in France, Luigi Delia 
Stufa and Ugolino Martelli, v/rote to him : " We should have some compassion 
on you, who, like ourselves, have had to leave your wife and your home, were it not 
that you must have been already wearied out by the grave nature of your business 
in Florence, and that you must willingly relax your mind and repose your 
body ; that change of air and seeing other faces, especially when of such a sort, 
generally sharpens the wits ; and therefore we congratulate you, and we pray 
you, when you have time, to write us some news." "Opere" (P. M.), vol. iv. 
pp. 132-34. 

* Passerini, in his notes to AdemoUo's romance Marietta dei Ricci, said outright, 
that Machiavelli believing to have found in Borgia " the fitting instrument to carry 
out his cherished idea of the liberty and union of Italy, instigated him to his 
famous treachery at Sinigaglia." (Note lO to chap, iv.) He repeats this in the 
"Opere" (P. M.). This opinion, maintained before and after, by other writers 
also, found in Gervinus one of its first and most energetic opponents. 


the gentleness of his disposition made all contact with evil 
most repugnant to him. Frequently, during this legation, ex- 
pressions fell from jiis pen, betraying a certain agonized terror 
beneath a veil of cynicism. Then, to banish the memory of 
horrible sights, he wrote ribald and facetious letters to his ofticial 
colleagues, which made them burst with laughter,' as they told 
him in their replies, and, in their turn, they related to him all 
the gossip and scandal of the Chancery — where, in his absence, 
there was always great disorder — or else their own excesses and in- 

At other times, weary of such themes, he withdrew to meditate 
on the writers of antiquity. We find him writing to Buonaccorsi 
with feverish insistence for " Plutarch's Lives," and he was con- 
tinually applying to this kind and obliging friend for books, 
money, and help of all kinds. In a letter of the 2ist of October, 
Buonaccorsi MTOte to him : " We have been searching for 
' Plutarch's Lives,' but it is not to be bought in Florence. 
Have patience, for we must write to Venice for it ; and to tell 
you the truth, you are a worry to ask for so many things." =» 
A strange spectacle to see Machiavelli, while divided between 
contemplation of the heroes of Plutarch and of the deeds of 
Valentinois, beginning to create a science of politic? founded 
on the history of the past and experience of the present. Scho- 
lastic writers had sought the first origin and basis of human 
society, starting from the conception of God and the Supreme 
Good, and digressing into reflections having no weight on the 
practical affairs of life. Even Dante had been unable in his 
" Monarchia " to free himself from theories that were too ab- 
stract and artificial. For similar theories Machiavelli had neither 
time, opportunity, nor liking. Face to face with the realities of 
life, he investigated the ruling laws of human actions, in order to 
formulate useful precepts for the government of men. He sought 
to know the sources from which the statesman derives his strength, 
and how that strength should be employed to attain the desired 

Meanwhile it became increasingly difficult to obtain audience ol 

* A letter of Bartolommeo Ruffini, dated the 23rd October, 1502, said : " Your 
letters to Biagio and the others are most grateful to all, and the jests and merry 
saws contained in them make all crack their jaws with laughter. Your wife 
desires you, and often sends here to ask of you and of your return." 

^ " Carte del Machiavelli," case iii. No. 6. His afiection for Machiavelli was so 
great, that on the i8th of October 1502, after writing to him concerning it, he 
added : " For the which I do not desire you to be grateful, since even if I wished 
not to love you and be all yeurs, I could not help myself, being as it were forced 
by nature to love you." Idem, case iii. No. 5. 


the Duke, who always harped on the necessity of concluding an alH- 
ance, confirming the already stipulated Condotta^ and, whenever 
forced to listen to fresh protestations of friendship, without any 
definite proposals, broke out indignantly : " Ecco ! nothing can be 
settled " with these Florentines ! ' Yet from time to time he 
summoned Machiavelli, and under colour of making fresh confi- 
dences, tried to see how the land lay. One day he told him that 
in past times Giovan Paolo Baglioni had begged for a letter 
empowering him to follow Vitellozzo and assist him in the restora- 
tion of the Medici in Florence, and that he had written the letter. 
" Now I know not," he continued, looking at Machiavelli, 
" whether he may have boasted of this to lay the blame at my 
door." And the Secretary replied that he had heard nothing of 
the matter.^ Another day he confided to him with much gravity 
how Paolo Orsini declared that the Florentines had just ofiFered 
him a Condotta for the army before Pisa, and that he had refused 
it. Thereupon Machiavelli asked whether Orsini had given the 
name of the person bearing the offer, or had shown the letters, 
and if he was in the habit of telling lies. The Duke, perceiving 
that the secretary would not fall into the trap, replied that 
Orsini had neither mentioned names, nor shown letters ; but 
had told plenty of lies. "And thus this matter passed off in 
laughter, although at first he had spoken of it with disquiet, pre- 
tending to believe it and be vexed by it." 3 He then spoke of a 
secret agreement made by the Venetians in Rimini, by means of a 
compatriot who dwelt there, adding that he — the Duke — had 
caused him to be hung to save their honour." After uttering this 
warning, as it were by chance, he went on to talk of the conquest 
of Pisa, remarking that " it would be one of the most glorious 
any captain could make." " Then he referred to Lucca, say- 
ing that it was the richest of States, and a mouthful for a gour- 
mand. He afterwards added that if he, Florence and Ferrara 
were allied, they need be afraid of nothing." * It was the old story 

* Letter of the 20th November. 

' Letter of the 20th November. In a despatch of the 7th August, 1502, Gius- 
tininn wrote, that the Pope confessed that he had been dragged into seconding 
Vitellozzo and the Orsini in the affair of Arezzo. The ambassador, with his usual 
keenness, drew the conclusion that he spoke in this way, as a measure of precau- 
tion, having probably written compromising letters to Orsini and Vitellozzo. 

3 In the despatch of the 13th November, Giustinian writes that the Pope had 
told him how the Orsini were continually tempting the Florentines with the offer 
of giving them Pisa, " and these fools believe them ; ... for to get Pisa they 
would sell their souls to the devil, would abandon the king of France, ourselves, 
and all the rest of the world." 

* First letter of the 6th December. 


of the cat and the mouse, only in this case the mouse with whom 
he tried to play was Niccolo Machiavelh. 

Meanwhile the negotiations witli the rebels were still being 
continued, in order to drag as many as possible into them. 
V'itellozzo was still restive and hesitated, so that he was spoken 
of with nmch indignation at court. "This traitor has given us 
a dagger-thrust, and now thinks to heal it with words." * Yet he 
too was at last caught in the noose. When all was concluded, 
the Duke of Urbino again found himself alone and abandoned ; 
wherefore he had to immediately provide for his own safety, and, 
after demolishing some of his fortresses, leaving others in the 
care of trusty adliercnts, he took flight upon a mule, bemoaning 
his sad fate, and hotly pursued by the Pope and Valentinois. At 
Castel Durante he fell into a swoon from fatigue and suffering. 
Yet after all he succeeded in his escape.^ Antonio da San Savino 
was sent as governor over his dominions, and ruled with tolerable 
moderation ; but in Romagna a certain Messer Ramiro showed 
the most unheard of cruelty in a similar post. 3 At the same time 
the Duke set out with his army for Forli, accompanied by 
Machiavelli, who on the 14th of December wrote from Cesena 
that all was uncertainty and suspense, for that not one lance had 
been dismissed ; and in spite of the treaty one naturally judged 
of the future by the past, which compelled one to believe that the 
Duke now meant to make sure of his enemies. He harped 
upon the necessity of coming to an agreement by means of an 
ambassador and again begged to be recalled.^ But the Republic 
was less than ever inclined to listen to him now that matters were 
drawing to a conclusion, and France allowed it to be seen that 
she would no longer leave the Borgia unbridled. 

In fact, the four hundred and fifty French Lances who had so 
much added to the Duke's prestige, were suddenly recalled, and 
took their departure thereby, wrote Machiavelli, " driving this 
court out of its wits . . . ; and every one is building castles in 
the air." The reason of this sudden change was not then 
understood, and none could foresee its possible consequences. s 
It is certain however that this fact, that of all the strong- 

• Letter of the 28th of November, 1502. 

^ " Letlero di Piero Ardinghelli, Commissario Fiorentino," published by C. 
Guasti. " Archivio Storico," Series iii. vol. xix. No. ist, p. 21 and fol. 

3 Known indifferently as Messer Rimino or Messer Ramiro d' Oreo ; his real 
name was Remigius de Lorqua. See the " Dispacci " of A. Giustinian, vol. i. 
p. 226, note. 

* Letter of the 14th of December, 1502, from Cesena. 
5 Letters of the 20th and 23rd of December. 


holds of Urbino being either dismantled or still held in Guido- 
baldo's name, and the impossibility of placing any confidence in 
the recently concluded agreement, " had already deprived the 
Duke of half his forces and two-thirds of his reputation." ^ Yet 
his artillery continued its march as though nothing had happened ; 
1,000 Swiss had arrived at Faenza, and, between Swiss and 
Gascons, he had already a force of about 1,500 men. No one 
could guess the object of his movements ; all was mystery, for 
"this lord never reveals anything excepting when doing it, and 
he does it under pressure of necessity, on the moment and not 
otherwise ; wherefore I pray your Excellencies to excuse me and 
not charge me with negligence, when I cannot satisfy your 
Excellencies with news, for at most times 1 fail to satisfy even 
myself." = And the mystery was farther increased by a strange 
circumstance that took place at this time. Messer Rimino or 
Ramiro, the duke's trusted instrument in Romagna, where he 
had committed most atrocious cruelties to bring the country into 
subjection, and excited universal hatred, came from Pesaro to 
Cesena and, to the astonishment of all, was arrested on the 22nd 
of December and thrown into a dungeon.3 Four days later 
Machiavelli wrote to the Ten; "This morning Messer Rimino 
has been found cut into two pieces, on the Piazza where he still 
lies, and all the people have been able to see him ; the cause of 
his death is not well known, excepting that such was the pleasure 
of the prince, who shows us that he can make and unmake men 
according to their deserts." * 

But now things were hurrying to their end ; all was in train 
for the taking of Sinigaglia. From the days of Sixtus IV. this 
city had belonged to Giovanni Delia Rovere, the husband of 
Giovanna, sister of Guidobaldo d'Urbino, and now, by the death 
of that nobleman, had passed in 1501 to his son Francesco Maria, 
a boy of eleven years, whom Alexander VI. had nominated 
Prefect of Rome, Hke his father before him. The first time 

* Giustiiiian, despatch of the 29th of December, and note to the same. 
" Letter of the 26th of December, last of those written from Cesena. 

3 Letter of the 23rd of December, 1502. 

* Letter of the 26th of December. In chap. vii. of the "Principe," Machia- 
velli says in allusion to this fact, that the Duke wished to clear himself from the 
charges of cruelty brought against him on account of Messer Rimino's misdeeds 
as soon as the latter had freed him of his enemies. See also the " Dispacci " of 
A. Giustinian, vol. i. p. 293. 

In the same letter Machiavelli thanked the Ten for having sent him the twenty- 
five gold ducats and the black damask of which we have already spoken. And 
d. propos to this Euonaccorsi wrote to him on the 22nd of the same month : " You 
will crib a coat of this cloth, rascal that you are." See the " Opere," note to 
p. 332 of vol. vi. 


Guidobalclo Iiad taken fliglit, his little nephew luul accompanied 
him, but was now again at Sinigaglia with his molher, who 
governed for her son, aided by the counsels of his guardian, the 
celebrated Amlrea Doria, and was styled the Prefettessa. Doria, 
perceiving the hasty advance of the Duke's army, and being 
already confronteti by the troops of Vitellozzo and the Orsini, 
who were disposed to attack the city, first jilaced in safety the 
mother and child entrusted to his care, and then ordering his 
men to defend the citadel to the utmost, hurried in person to 

On the 29th of December, Machiavelli wrote a letter from 
Pesaro that was lost on the way, giving a very minute nar- 
ration of what he afterwards summarized in other letters ; 
namely, how Vitellozzo and the Orsini had entered Sinigaglia, 
and how the Duke on hearing this ordered them to station their 
men in the suburb outside the walls, and instantly marched his 
army towards the city, which he entered on the morning of the 
31st of December. The first to seek his presence was Vitellozzo, 
who having resisted reconciliation more stoutly than the others, 
knew himself to be the most hated. This captain came humbly 
forward, cap in hand, mounted on a mule, and imarmed. He 
was followed by the Duke of Gravina, Paolo Orsini, Oliverotto da 
Fermo, and all four accompanied the Duke through the streets of 
the city, to the house prepared for his reception. The Duke, who 
had already given the signal to those who were to seize them, 
made them prisoners as soon as they entered the house, ordered 
their foot soldiers in the suburb to be stripped and disarmed, and 
sent half his army to perform the same office on the men-at-arms 
quartered in the neighbouring castles at six or seven miles from 
Sinigaglia. And on the same day Machiavelli immediately re- 
ported the event, adding : "The sack is still going on, although 
it is now 23 o'clock " (an hour before sunset). " I am much 
troubled in my mind ; I know not if I can send this letter, 
havmg no one to carry it. I will write at length in another ; 
and it is my opinion that they (the prisoners) will not be alive 
to-morrow morning."' 

Another letter, much longer and of more importance, written 
at the same date, was lost. We have, however, that of the 1st 
of January, 1503, in which he relates how towards one o'clock of 
the night, he had been summoned by the Duke, " who, with the 
brightest face in the world, expressed his satisfaction at this 
triumph, adding wise words and expressions of exceeding affection 

■ Ugolini, " Storia dei Conti e Duclii d'Urbino," vol. ii. pp. 106-115, 
• Leuer of the ji.^t of December, 1502. 


towards our Florence. He said that this was the service which 
he had promised to render you at the fitting moment. And as 
he had declared that he would offer you his friendship all the 
more pressingiy, the surer he was of himself, so now he kept that 
promise ; then he expounded all the reasons inducing him to 
desire this friendship, in words which excited my admiration. He 
also begged me to write to you, that having destroyed his capital 
enemies, who were also those of Florence and France, and 
uprooted the tares which threatened to overrun Italy, you should 
now give him a manifest token of friendship, by sending troops 
towards Perugia, to arrest the flight of Duke Guidobaldo who 
had gone in that direction, and to take him prisoner should he enter 
Tuscany. It has likewise happened that, at ten o'clock last night, 
the Duke had Vitellozzo and Messer Oliverotto da Fermo both 
strangled ; " ' " the other two have been left living, in order, as 
it is thought, to see whether the Pope has seized the Cardinali" 
and the others who were in Rome, and it is surmised that he has 
seized them ; that they may all be cheerfully got rid of at the same 
time." The citadel had already surrendered ; the army had that 
same day begun its march towards Perugia, before going on to 

' The letter only states that they were put to death, but it is known that tliey 
were strangled, and Machiavelli himself mentions it elsewhere. At chap. viii. of 
the " Principe," he relates that Oliverotto da Fermo, brought up by his uncle, 
Giovanni Fogliani, and sent to fight under Paolo and then under Vitellozzo Vitelli, 
had become the chief leader of the latter's troops. Longing to make himself 
master of Fermo, where many were discontented with his uncle's rule, he first made 
an agreement with a few of the citizens, and then wrote to his uncle that he 
wished to come and see him and his native city. He arrived with a hundred 
horsemen, was, by orders of his uncle, most honourably received ; gave a grand 
dinner to him and the principal men of Fermo, and then had them all put to 

Niccolo Vitelli had five sons, four of whom died a violent death. The elder, 
Giovanni, by a cannon shot at the siege of Osimo ; the second, Camillo, by a stone 
at Circello in the kingdom of Naples, in fighting for the French ; Paolo was 
beheaded ; Vitellozzo strangled. 

Gregorovius in a note to p. 483 of vol. vii. of his " Geschichte," &c., remarks, 
how a propos to these murders, Giovio wrote in his " Life of C?esar Borgia," that 
"he had assassinated the Orsini by means of a splendid deception ; and the King 
of France had said — according to the orator of Ferrara— that it was ' an action 
worthy of a Roman.' " The Venetians had disapproved of the deed because of 
its great cruelty; but the Ferrara orator there had declared that they ought to 
bend their heads, when he proved to them that the Pope and Duke had been quite 
right '^ etiam to quarter these men, and utterly root out their family." It is 
singular too that on this occasion Isabella Gonzaga, with a letter of the 15th of 
January, 1503, sent the Duke 100 masks from ISIantua, and he warmly thanked 
her for them in a letter of the 1st of February. See documents xliv. and xlv. in 
the " Lucrezia Borgia" of Gregorovius. 

• Cardinal Orsini, 


Sienna ; MacliiavcUi followed oti its track, and it bcinjr now tlie 
winter season, the soliliery and all following the camp were 
exposed to many liardships.' 

Turmoil and disorder everywhere prevailed, and all the petty 
tyrants of the land lied in dismay on the Duke's apjiroach, as 
though pursued by a dragon.' It can easily be believed that 
amid so great a confusion few letter-carriers could be found, and 
si ill fewer who were trustworthy, and for this reason many of 
Afachiavelli's dcsjiatches were lost. On the 4th of January, 
1503, he gave notice that the soldiery of the Vitelli and Orsini 
had managed to escape. Meanwhile the march was continued, 
and the Baglioni fled from Perugia, which surrendered on the 
6th. Their sisters, on reaching the frontier where, in con- 
sequence of superior orders, the Florentine commissary, Piero 
Ardinghelli, had repulsed all the refugees, disguised their young 
daughters as boys, preferring to trust them to the commissary's 
compassion, rather than see them fall into the hands of the 
enemy. And Ardinghelli wrote to the Gonfalonier Soderini on 
the 19th of January, saving : " Now, I cannot avoid being stirred 
to pity by the spectacle of so much youth and misfortune. . . . 
I have preferred to write to your Excellency in person, to know 
if I may give shelter to these four women, or at least to the 
two damsels. . . , Should this not be contrary to the govern- 
ment's intentions, having a natural compassion for the afflicted, 
I should be greatly obliged to you." 3 And the request was 

On the 8th Niccolo Machiavclli wrote from Assisi that all were 
wondering why no one had yet come from Florence to con- 
gratulate the Duke, who repeated that by his after-achievements 
he had rendered signal service to the Republic, for " it would 
have cost your Excellencies two hundred thousand ducats to put 
an end to Vitellozzo and the Orsini, and even then you could 
not have done it so neatly." And meanwhile he pursued his 
march, always " proceeding with unheard-of good fortune, and 
more than human energy and hope," * resolved to expel the 
tyrant Pandolfo Petrucci from Sienna, and, if possible, take him 
captive, to which end the Pope tried to "lull him to sleep with 
Briefs," for it was well, said the Duke, "to deceive those who 

' Letter of the 1st of January, 1503. 

* •' Sent! Perugia e Siena ancor la vampa 
Deir Idra, e ciaschedun di quei tiranni 
Fuggendo innanzi alia sua furia scampa." 

Machiavelli, " Decennale," dec. I,' 
3 " Lcttere di Piero Ardinghelli,'' as before quoted. 
* LeUer of the 8th of January, 1503. 


have been masters of treachery." He did not attempt to take 
the city, for that was forbidden by France ; but he was de- 
termined to get rid of Pandolfo, who had been " the brain " of 
the conspiracy.' 

On the 13th of January they were at Castcllo della Pieve, and 
as the new Florentine ambassador, Jacopo Salviati, was at last 
on the point of arriving, Machiavelli prepared for his own 
departure, Avhich occurred in fact on the 20th. First, by way 
of replacing the many letters which had been lost, he wrote 
one containing a summary of all the events that had happened, 
but unfortunately the first sheet is all remaining to us of it. In 
this, with great zeal and care, he begins to give a general sketch 
of the expedition which, in his opening lines, he pronounces truly 
" rare and memorable." He does not attribute any premeditated 
treachery to the Duke, but rather a stern resolve on speedy 
revenge, when aware that his captains meant to betray him on 
account of the departure of the French lances. He describes the 
exceeding caution shown by him in concealing from the Orsini 
and Vitelli the amount of the forces still at his disposal, making 
them pass for fewer than they were. And with equal admiration, 
Machiavelli minutely describes the orders giv^en for dividing the 
whole army into small corps, and then marching them altogether 
upon Sinigaglia, so as to arrive there unexpectedly with an 
overwhelming force, while the enemy's troops were dispersed at 
a distance from the city, and could not disobey him, without 
prematurely revealing their treachery. But just as we are at the 
point of the entry into Sinigaglia we come to the end of this 
fragment,^ in which the writer, while endeavouring to remain 
faithful to historic truth, seems almost to have persuaded himself 
that he was depicting a hero ; indeed some reproofs to that effect 
had already reached him from Florence, as we learn by Buonac- 
corsi's letters.3 

Machiavelli was still at Castello della Pieve on the iSth of 
January, when the Duke, having received the long-expected news 
that the Pope had imprisoned Cardinal Orsini and the others in 
Rome, strangled Paolo and the Duke of Gravina Orsini, whom he 
had brought with him under strong escort from Sinigaglia. The 
Duke then continued to lay waste the Siennese territory, and 

' Letter of the loth of January. 

* " Carte del Machiavelli," case I, No. 19, autograph. This frfjjment was 
published in the " Opere " (P. M.), vol. iv. p. 254. Fasserini asserts that it was 
written on the 31st of December, 1502 ; but it mentions the arrival of the new 
ambassador, who was still being waited for on the 13th of January, 1503. 

3 Buonaccorsi often tells him that he is accused of too much admiration for 


threatened to attack tlic city itself if Pctrucci were not im- 
mediately expelled, but was appeased when the latter begged 
to be allowed to depart with a safe-conduct, for the French 
forbade any attack upon Sienna, and the Pope had summoned him 
suddenly to Rome. Rut allhouoh he granted Pctrucci a safe- 
conduct and a letter recommending him to the care of the 
Lucchosi, this did not prevent him from despatching fifty armed 
men on his track with orders to capture him dead or alive. And 
truly on this occasion the tyrant of Sienna had a miraculous escape 
from death. He had left his city on the 28th of January, and 
accompanied byGiovan Paolo Baglioni taken flight towards Lucca 
with headlong speed, for although ignorant that he was pursued, 
no one put any trust in the promises of a Borgia. The assassins 
were on the point of overtaking him, when they were arrested by 
the Florentine commissary, who, as the war between Florence 
and Pisa was still going on, would not allow armed men to rove 
freely about the field of war. Being ignorant of what had passed, 
he kept them prisoners till he could receive instructions from 
Florence. This gave the fugitives time to escape from the 
poisoned claws of the Duke. The latter was now obliged to 
hurry to Rome where his presence was anxiously desired by the 
Pope, who felt by no means secure with the Campagna full of 
armed men hostile to his authority. On the other hand France 
had again issued a severe prohibition of all farther conquests. 

While in Romagna and Central Italy we behold the Duke, and 
have Niccolo Machiavelli to give us so graphic a picture of all that 
occurred there ; in Rome we may look upon the equally tragic 
reverse of the medal. Here we see the Pope possessed of far less 
self-control than his son, confronted by Antonio Giustinian, who 
without having the genius or culture of Machiavelli, had much 
greater influence, larger experience of the world, and extraordinary 
knowledge of mankind, and who, as Venetian ambassador, had 
many means lacking to the Florentine secretary, of penetrating 
to the root of aflfairs. From the 6th of August he had written to 
the Doge, that Vitellozzo was " fighting shy " of the Duke, and 
that he foresaw that both the latter and the Pope were decided to 
" clip the wings " of the Orsini. When the news of the rebellion 
arrived, and then that of the defeat of Don Ugo and Don 
Micheletto, the Pope broke out in expressions of mad rage against 
the Orsini in Consistory, but immediately afterwards lowered 
his tone, and showed himself almost humble and downcast. At 
the first intelligence of French encouragement, his joy was so 
overpowering that the Cardinals sneered among themselves at the 
Holy Father's want of self-command.' Then began the prelimi- 
» Giustinian, despatches of the ist, 7th, and iSth of October, 1502, 


naries towards a reconciliation, and the ambassador, without being 
troubled by the doubts and uncertainties of the Florentine, 
instantly noticed that they were being carried on so as to omit 
powerful personages who might afterwards prove obstacles to 
any violation of the terms or any sanguinary solution.' Mean- 
while no time was lost. The Pope acknowledged having sent the 
Duke within a few days the sum of 36,000 ducats.^ He collected 
artillery, made warlike preparations as though the enemies were 
thundering at the gates, and took money " as much from friends 
as from enemies, not caring whether from Orsini or Colcnnesi, 
and behaves like a drowning man clutching hold of straws." 3 

Without at all endeavouring to discover the principles of a new 
science of politics, Giustinian was no less intent than Machiavelli 
on giving a graphic picture of all that he beheld ; and from the 
early part of November, observing that the monstrous ill faith 
with which the negotiations were pursued, was evident from the 
Pope's own words, he transcribed these to the Doge de verba ad 
verbum, adding : " And were it possible, I would fain paint the 
thing before your eyes, for often the manner of speech teaches men 
more of the intrinsic meaning than the words themselves ; " and 
every one is persuaded that this is a mock reconciliation. 4 In fact, 
on reading over the names of the Orsini who had signed it, the 
Pope said, laughing, to the Venetian ambassador, " Does it not 
seem to you that this is a company of scoundrels and bankrupts ? 
Do you not see by the terms, how fearful they are, and how they 
confess themselves traitors, not excepting the Cardinal himself, 
who feigns to be our friend, and yet insists on the condition of 
only staying in Rome when it may suit him to do so ? " And 
Giustinian then remarked that, " The Orsini might be very sure 
that they had now cut their own throats." s In fact, they showed 
incomprehensible blindness, especially the Cardinal, who was 
always in attendance on the Pope, as though he wished to fall into 
thii trap of his own accord. 

Alexander's endeavours to gain the friendship of the Venetian 
Republic coincided with his belief in the near approach and 
certainty of the Duke's new triumphs in Romagna. He called 
the ambassador aside, and with his arms crossed and pressed to 
his breast, deplored to him that the jealousy of Italian potentates 

' Despatch of the 22nd of October. " Despatch of the 23rd of October, 

3 Despatch of the 24th of October. 

* Giustinian, despatch of the 4th of November. 

5 The original expression in Venetian dialect is: "that the Orsini had taben 
iosse^o a tcr/ncne" i.e., poison that would act in a given time. Giustinian, 
despatch of the 6th of November, and ncjte to p. 195 of vol. i, 
VOL I. 21 


shouUl have delivered the land into the liaiids of foreigners \vho 
liad llieir mouths open to swallow it. "So far our only safety has 
lain in the jealousy between France and Spain, ollierwise we 
should already be ruined. But do not fancy that you (Venetians) 
are the children of the white goose (privileged people). Your 
turn would have come also. We are old, and must think ot 
our jiosterity, wherefore our only hope is in your Scrcntssi'ma 
Rcpnhlica^ which is everlasting. For the love of God, let us unite 
together to provide for the salvation of Italy. Do you know 
what is said of you ? That you try to be over wise. Be content 
with being wise enough. And in saying these things (adds the 
ambassador) his breast seemed as though it would burst, and as 
though the words came from his heart instead of his mouth." ' 
But who could put faith in the Borgia ? Therefore he said very 
few Avords in reply to the Pope ; " and solum I thanked his 
Holiness for his good intentions towards 3'our Most Excellent 
Lordship." Besides even Venice was not capable at that period of 
pursuing a really national policy, nor of protiting by the just 
notions, such as were now in his own interest and for badly dis- 
guised ends expressed by the Pope, while ready the following day 
to act in direct contradiction of all that he so passionately urged. 

On the 24th of November, while Machiavelli in Romagna was 
still in the dark respecting the Duke's designs and torturing his 
wits to divine them, Giustinian wrote from Rome : " The first 
blow will be struck at Sinigaglia to prevent the Prefcttessa from 
helping the Duke of Urbino, whom the Pope madly desires to get 
into his hands." ^ The latter was continually collecting money for 
his son, who .spent about 1000 ducats a day 3 besides all that he 
got by robbery and pillage. So extraordinary was his impatience 
for news of the Duke's progress that when the latter halted for 
some time at Cesena, he repeatedly shouted, beside himself with 
vexation : " We don't know what the devil he is staying there 
for ; we have written to him to make the best of this good time — 
' al fio de putta bastardo ! ' and such like oaths and words in 
Spanish." 4 To distract his mind from these thoughts and the 
public attention from his secret manoeuvres, he got up popular 
festivals and masquerades, which marched in procession through 
the streets of Rome and became most indecent in front of the 
Avindows, whence he looked down upon them, his old frame 

* Giustinian, despatches of the 7th and 15th ot November, and 2nd of 
December, 1503. 

^Giustinian, despatch of the I5lh of November, 1502. It is the second written 
on that day, and is marked No. 168. 

3 Despatch of the 17th of December. < Despatch of the 23rd of December. 


shaking with libertine laughter.^ He passed his evenings in the 
Vatican, often keeping up his "customary diversions," till dawn, 
for certain fair ladies never failed him, and indeed, " without 
them there was no feast worth having ; '' and also hundreds of 
ducats were staked at his Holiness's gambling tables. In these 
amusements the Cardinal Orsini often shared, to the astonish- 
ment of the whole Court, who could not understand why he 
should so weakly "entangle himself in the net" of his own accord.'' 

On the 31st of December the Pope wandered about the halls of 
the Vatican, saying that he could not imagine what the Duke 
was doing spending a thousand ducats a-day for nothing ; but 
then, unable to restrain his good humour, would laughingly add : 
" He always wants to do something fresh, his mind is too great." 
And the cardinals begged him to be easy, for the Duke knew how 
to turn his money to account. " We are all awaiting his return 
to get up a fine carnival. Vv'^e know well, we know well," said the 
Pope, still laughing, " that you all think of nothing else." This 
was the very day upon which Niccol6 Machiavelli announced the 
capture of Sinigaglia and of the Duke's enemies. After mass the 
following day, the Holy Father summoned the ambassadors there 
present, and told them the great news, affecting to have been 
surprised by it ; and he added that the Duke never forgave any who 
had injured him, and did not leave his vengeance to others, and 
he threatened those who had offended him, especially Oliverotto, 
" whom the Duke had sworn to hang with his own hands." The 
cardinals stood round him and tickled his ears 3 " with their various 
congratulations, while he freely descanted on the virtues and 
magnanimity of the Duke." Then they glanced at each other, 
and shrugging their shoulders, began to speculate upon what 
would happen next.'^ 

In fact, on the 3rd of January, 1503, the Pope having received 
the positive intelligence — still unknown to the rest of the 
world — of the strangling of Oliverotto and Vitellozzo, called 
Cardinal Orsini in great haste to the Vatican. The victim pre- 
sented himself with the Governor and Jacopo da Santa Croce, 
who, it seems, had received orders to accompany him, although 
pretending to do so by chance. As soon as the Cardinal 

' Burchard speaks in his " Diario " (25th November) of a masquerade of thirty 
persons in the Piazz.i of St. Peter habentes nasos longos et grosses in foi/iiam 
priaporiim sive fiie/nluvrion virilitcm, in magna qiiantitate, precedents valigta 
cardinalari. The Pope looked on at his window. 

* Despatch of the 30lh of December. 

3 An expression used by Giustinian to signify tliat th^y praised and flattered 

^ Giustinian, despatch of the ist of January, 1503. 

3oS MA CHI A I ■/;/. / / '^' LJJ'-Ji AND TIMES. 

arrived he was seized and — as all had foreseen — thrown into the 
castle of St. Angelo, ne\er to leave it alive. His house was 
ininiediately stripped, and his mother and two young maidens 
who were with her were driven forth and allowed to take nothing 
but the clothes they wore at the time. These poor women 
wandered about Rome without finding any one to give them 
shelter, for all were trembling for their own safety. Numerous 
other arrests speedily followed. The auditor of the Chamber, 
Bishop of Cescna, was torn from his bed, while suiTering from 
fever, and his house pillaged ; the same fate befell the Protonotary 
Andrea de Spiritihiis;- and many others besides. Whoever had 
money trembled for his life, for now " the Ponlifi" seems to think 
of nothing but obtaining gold, and says that what he has already 
done, is nothing to that which he shall do." " Even the Medici 
in Rome were terror-stricken ; the bishop of Chiusi died of fear, 
and so many took flight that the Pope thought it necessary to 
summon the Conservators of the city, to inform them that, all 
guilty persons having now been seized, the others might set about 
preparing a grand carnival.3 And he himself, while continuing 
his work of extermination, passed the months of January and 
February in carnival pleasures. The Venetian ambassador, going 
to confer with him upon business, found him laughing in the 
balcony, watching the tricks of the masks beneath his windows ; t 
and afterwards being invited to a supper party, found the Pope— 
who had passed the day attending races — enjoying the per- 
formance of plays, for which he had always much liking, in the 
midst of his cardinals, " some in their cardinal's dress, and a few 
in masquerade, together with several companions of the kind most 
pleasing to the Pontiff, some of whom lay stretched at his Holi- 
ness's feet." s 

On the day succeeding this festival. Cardinal Orsini expired in 
the prison of St. Angelo — by poison — as all men said. In vain 
his fellow cardinals had petitioned for his life, in vain had his 
relations offered 2 5,000 ducats as its ransom. His mother after being 
at first allowed to send food to her son, and then forbidden to 
do so, sent a woman beloved of the Cardinal to the Pope, to offer 
him a large pearl that he was known to covet. He accepted the 
pearl, but did not grant the pardon. However at that period 
the Cardinal was showing " signs of frenzy," and according to 

* Giustinian, despatch of the 5th of January, 1503, at 20 of the clock, 
" Despatch of the 6lh of January. 

3 Despatch of the 8th of January, 19 of the clock. 

* Despatch of the 7th of January. 

5 Despatch of the Sth of January, hora 2 noctis. 


the " general opinion had already drunk of the cup poisoned for 
him by the Pope, who then ordered the physicians to give 
him their best care."* The 15th, he was found, they said, in 
high fever ; the 22nd he was dead ; the 24th they were called 
on to depone that he had died a natural death. Then, by 
order of his Holiness, public obsequies were performed in his 

The Duke was now expected. The Cardinal d'Este had fled 
from Rome at this announcement, in terror of his life. Among 
the thousand different rumours afloat, it was even said that he 
loved Donna Sancia, the Duke's sister-in-laAV and the Duke's 

Such of the Orsini as had escaped slaughter, the Savelli, and 
the Colonna, had taken arms, and having entrenched themselves 
at Ceri, Bracciano, and other points, attacked the bridge of 
Nomentano on the 23rd of January. And although they were 
repulsed, the Pope had the palace placed in a state of defence ; 
became maddened with rage and alarm ; went about shrieking 
that he would root out the Orsini family, and begged his Duke 
to come to him without loss of time. The latter was now on 
the road, to the very last spreading devastation by the way. At 
San Quirico, finding that all the inhabitants had fled upon his 
approach excepting two old men and nine old women, he had 
them strung up by their arms, with a slow fire under their feet, 
to make them reveal where treasure was hidden ; and, as they 
could not tell him this, they had to die. He committed similar 
atrocities at Montefiascone, Acquapendente, Viterbo, &c.+ 

Although everything gave way before him, and many of his 
foes had retreated, yet Ceri and Bracciano held out against the 
insufficient artillery of the Pope, whom the Duke did not dare 
to assist openly, on account of the orders received from France, 
to which however the Holy Father paid no attention. In this 
way matters proceeded slowly, and on the 26th of February, 
leaving the fifty armed men who had accompanied him in a neigh- 
bouring villa, the Duke entered Rome with Cardinal Borgia, 
Cardinal d'Alibret and three servants, all masked. In the evening 
he was present at the representation of one of the usual comedies 

' Giustinian, Despatch of the 2lst February, 1503. 

' Despatches of 22nd, 23rd, and 24th February. 

3 " (^iiia idem Cardinalibus diligebat et cognescebat principissam, uxorem fratris 
dicti Ducis, quam et ipse Dux cognoscebat carnaliter." Burchardi, as quoted by 
Gregorovius, " Geschichte," &c., vol. vii. p. 486, note 4. 

■* This is the account given by Burchardi in his " Diary," at the date of the 23rd 
January, 1503. 


at tlie Vatican and retained his disguise, although recognized by 
every one.* 

Machiavclli meanwhile, his imagination fned, his mind full of 
all he had seen and heard of the Duke Cccsar and the l^orgia 
in general, had returned to his Florence chancery, where he con- 
tinued to read and write letters relating to those personages. 
But any one inclined to think him thoroughly deceived in his 
judgment of the true character of the Pope and the Pope's son, 
need only look through the first " Legazionc " to Rome and the 
first ** Decennale," to be convinced of the contrary. In the latter 
he styles the Duke "a man Avithout compassion, rebellious to 
Christ, the Hydra, the basilisk, deserving of the most wretched 
end, and speaks of the Pope in almost identical terms." '■' 

Yet, as we have related, it was in associating with Valentinois, 
that his mind first conceived and shaped out the idea — which was 
henceforth to occupy his whole life — of a science of Statecraft 
separate from, and independent of, every moral consideration. In 
such separation he saw the sole means of clearly formulating this 
science, and founding it on a new basis. He was going through 
a process of thought almost resembling that of a man attempt- 
ing for the first time to investigate the laws of the rise and 
decline of the wealth of nations, and studying the economic 
problem no less in the merchant, manufacturer, or agriculturist 
Avho are producers, than in the soldier who is a pillager, or 
the brigand and pirate who are robbers. It was from this 
more or less abstract and forced separation of a single social 
phenomenon from all the rest, that political economy in fact 
arose, and to this the rapidity of its growth was due as well as 

* Giustinian, despatches of the 26th and 27th of February-. 

^ When the Duke hoodwinks the Orsini, he calls him the />asilisk ; when the 
Duke goes towards Perugia, he calls him the hydra; when the Duke hoijcs in 
Julius II., he remarks : — 

" E quel Duca in altrui trovar credette 
Quella pieta che non conobbe mai." 

■\Micn the Duke is treacherously seized, and imprisoned by Consalvo di Cordova, 
Machiavelli says : — 

" g'' pose la soma 
Che meritava un ribellante a Cristo." 

And lastly, after narrating the death of Alexander VI., he adds : — 

" Del qua! seguirno le sante pedate 
Tre sue familiari e care ancelle, 
Lussuria, Simonia e Crudeltate." 

We shall see what he says later in the firs*. " I.cgazione " to 'Rome. 


some of the errors which it afterwards tried to ehminate. 
MachiavelH, in studying the actions of Caesar Borgia made a 
distinction of somewhat the same nature, for this distinction 
appeared to him in the hght of a real fact rather than as an 
hypothesis or abstraction. At that time he only succeeded in 
formulating a few general maxin:s, without rising to a theoretic 
conception of principles, neither had he sufficient grasp of his 
method to attempt to enrol his principles in a body of doctrines. 
Almost unconsciously, his ideas assumed the form of an ideal 
personage, representing the acute, able, and audacious statesman 
restrained by no scruples of conscience, no moral influence, from 
trying to achieve his fixed purpose, no matter what obstacles stood 
in the path, no matter what acts of treachery and bloodshed had 
to be performed. In short, in examining the actions of Valen- 
tinois, his mind had created an imaginary Valentinois, to which 
later he continually recurred. It is the well-known figure so 
often making its appearance amid the maxims of the " Discorsi " 
and the " Principe," as though to recall their primary origin, and 
to once more testify that the author had laid the foundations 
of his policy solely in the realities of life, without going back to 
the Supreme good, or running aground on any metaphysical 
abstraction. At a later period he obeyed a similar impulse in 
writing his " Vita di Castruccio Castracani," which, as all know, is 
no history, but rather an effort to glean from history his own 
political ideal. This explains to us the great praise coupled with 
severe blame accorded by him to Valentinois. His praise is 
generally bestowed on the ideal personage, his blame on the 
historical. The one however is not so different from the other as 
to prevent us from sometimes confusing them, especially as the 
author himself occasionally does so, when carried away by his 
imagination, which seems especially to dominate him when he is 
apparently reasoning in cold blood. Nor is it an uncommon case 
to find that men of the most reflective and cautious temperament 
may at times fall a sudden and con:iplete prey to their own 

But at this period of his life, whatever the state of his mind and 
ideas may have been, Machiavelli had no time for scientific medi- 
tations, nor for the composition of elaborate works. He therefore 
contented himself with writing a brief narrative of all that he had 
witnessed in Romagna, not for the purpose of giving exact 
historic details — for those existed in the numerous despatches of 
the Legation, in spite of several having been lost — but rather 
to establish more clearly the prudence and, in his opinion, the 
marvellous talent of the Duke. And he composed the well-known 

312 J/.t CIIL t J 'I<: T. 1. 1 \S I. IFE A XD T/AfES. 

" Dcscrizionc," • in wliich the Duke's crafty fashion of killing his 
enemies is painletl in the manner most suitable to the object 
that the author had in view. Otherwise it would be impossible to 
account for the diverse manner in which ATachiavclli now narrates 
the very facts which he had described in the " Legazionc," at the 
tiine when he was upon the spot, and it was his duty to supply 
the Ten with correct information. 

The " Dcscrizionc " begins with a picture of the Duke on his 
return from Lombardy, whither he had gone to exculpate himself 
to the King of France "from the many calumnies concerning him 
spread by the Florentines in consequence of the Arezzo rebellion." 
This is positively untrue, since the Florentines had not calum- 
niated him, and this should in any case suffice to change the 
opinion of all those who considered the " Dcscrizionc " to be no 
more than one of Machiavelli's usual letters. Certainly the 
secretary could not have spoken to the Ten or the Signoria of 
the calumnies of the Florentines. In continuation he gives a 
very brief account of the conspiracy at " La Magione," and the 
reconciliation afterwards concluded between the rebels and the 
Duke, whose astuteness he brings out in high relief. In this 
work the Duke is made to leave Imola when " November is going 
out," and in the *' Legazione " on the lolh of December ; he sets 
forth from Cesena " about the middle of December," whereas in 
the "Legazione" he was still "about to start" on the 26th of 

The " Descrizione " then goes on to relate how, after the taking 
of Sinigaglia by the Vitelli and Orsini, the fortress refused to 
surrender, the governor having declared that he would yield it to 
none " but the Duke in person," who, on that account, was 
invited to come. And, observes Machiavelli, he considered the 
occasion a good one and unlikely to arouse suspicion, and to give 
a still better colour to the affair, dismissed the French.' In the 
" Legazione," on the contrary, he had said— what too is clearly 
proved by all contemporary historians and ambassadors — that the 
French suddenly went away on the 22nd of December, because 
they had been recalled without any reasons being given, and 
certainly much to the Duke's peril and chagrin.3 Indeed, on the 

' " Dcscrizionc del modo tenuto dal Duca Valentino ncllo aminazzare Vitellozzo 
Vitelli, OliveroUo da Fcrmo, il Signer Pagolo e il duca di Gravina Orsini." 

^ All the editions say — '■'and for greater security, he dismissed the French 
soldiery ; " but the original autograph preserved in the Florence Archives (Carte 
Strozziane, file 139, sheets 208 and fol.) says — "^ per phi assicurargli,^ i.e., to 
better deceive the conspirators. 

' On the 28th December, 1502, the Ten wrote to the Commissary Giovanni 
nidolfi, in consequence of news received from Machiavelli and others, that they 


20Lh of December Machiavelli wrote that this matter " "had turned 
this Court's brains topsy-turvy,'' and on the 23rd, that thus the 
Duke " had lost more than half his strength and two-thirds 
of his reputation." Now in the " Descrizione " all this is changed 
into a stroke of cunning on the part of the Duke. Even the road 
from Fano to Sinigaglia is here described very differently from 
the minute description given in the fragment remaining to us 
of the letter from which we quote, and which gives a summary of 
recent events. 

And to the end the " Descrizione " goes on in the same strain 
The Duke communicates his design to eight of his trusty ad- 
herents, some of whose names are even given, yet in the 
" Legazione " there is no mention of anything of the sort. There 
is also a very different account of the seizure of the four captains, 
and the dying utterances of Oliverotto and Vitellozzo are given 
verbatim, although of such words none can confirm nor deny 
the historic truth, the author having made no mention of them 
elsewhere, nor it being at all likely that he had any certain 
knowledge of them. • How can patent contradictions such as these 
be accounted for, without admitting that this " Descrizione " is 
something different from exact history ? The Duke, whom 
Machiavelli here depicts as calumniated by the Florentines, and 
far more able and acute than the personage described in the 
" Legazione," is in fact the precursor of his " Principe," in which 
we shall behold later, put in a theoretic form, that which we now 
see only in an individual and concrete shape. The scientific con- 
ception, though not as yet very clear, is however already contained 
in the ideal personage evoked before us. 

could not understand the cause of this sudden withdrawal, no danger having arisen 
in Lombardy. *' Whence it may be concluded that it has been in order to check 
tills sinister career and all these designs of aggrandisement." At all events it was 
certainly no trick of the Duke. Archivio Plorentino, cl. x. dist. 3, No. 104, 
sheet 59. See also A. Giiistinian, " Dispacci," vol. 1. p. 293, and document iiL 
at the end of that volume. 


Necessity for new taxes — " Dicorso sulla provvisione del dcnaro" — Defensive 
measures against the Borgia — War with Pisa — New misdeeds of the Pope — 
Predominance of the Sjianiards in tlie Neajiolitan kingdom — Death of 
Alexander VI. — Election of Pius III. and of Julius II. 


SUZZ^J^HE Florentines were now in great straits from 
the difficulty of finding the funds urgently 
required for hiring fresh troops : since not only 
were they threatened by the Borgia on the one 
hand, and the Pisans on the other, but a new 
French army was on the march towards Naples, 
and all dreaded the complications and dangers 
of which this might prove the source. Yet this 
was the moment at which the Gonfaloniere Soderini, whose rule 
hitherto had been very popular, for the first time encountered the 
strong opposition of the citizens. Seven difierent proposals were 
brought before the Great Council during February and March, for 
the purpose of obtaining the necessary funds, but none could be 
carried. Nor was it easy to decide what measures to adopt, for were 
a heavy tax proposed, it could not be accepted by a people already 
so overburdened, while a slight one would fail in its object. 
Besides, there were additional motives of discontent to increase 
the present opposition. The wealthier citizens had not only paid 
the usual imposts, but had been obliged to lend very considerable 
sums of money to the Commune, which was therefore their debtor 
to the extent of four hundred thousand florins, eighteen thousand 
of w^hich \vere due to Soderini and his nephews. Accordingly, the 
rich declined to hear of any special measures, but demanded a 
general tax of the usual kind, which, weighing equally upon all, 
might enable the Republic to pay at least a portion of her debt 


to those upon whom she had pressed most heavily. In fact, the 
various proposals supported by the Gonfaloniere had been drawn 
up in conformity with this rule, but all these were rejected by the 
Council, where the majority, composed of poorer men, complained 
that Soderini, the people's choice, showed undue favour to the 
powerful. He sought, they added, to regain the sums which 
he had lent to the State, although in receipt of so generous a 
stipend. Then, too, there were the outcries of those who were 
impoverished by the numerous economies introduced into the new 
administration ; and there was even much grumbling, because the 
Gonfalonieve's wife, one of the Malaspini family, " very handsome, 
though middle-aged, and a good woman of royal manners," to use 
Cerretani's expression, had in these days taken up her abode in 
the palace, so that ladies were continually seen going up and down 
its stairs, an unheard-of thing in Florence. 

As the natural consequence of all this, the credit of the 
Republic, which had rapidly increased through the election of the 
new Gonfaloniere, and the regularity of his administration, now 
sank Avith equal rapidity, and the shares of the Monte Comune 
and the Monte delle Fanciulle' were negotiated in the market 
at the same low figure as before. Accordingly Soderini, being 
weary of temporizing measures, assembled the Great Council and 
made a notable speech, in which, after dwelling on the dangers 
now imminent, he charged the citizens themselves to determine 
the nature of the new tax in any way that pleased them, provided 
it fulfilled the object of furnishing the requisite funds for the 
preservation and defence of the Republic. So finall}^ a dccima — • 
or tithe — was voted on all landed property, including that of the 
Church, if permission could be obtained from Rome ; and even 
a small " arbitrio " was agreed upon. This so-called arhitrio was 
a tax upon professions, and probably derived its name from the 
fact of being imposed without any fixed rules, especially in the 
present emergency, when it was left entirely to the discretion of 
the magistrates. Matters then speedily returned to their normal 
condition, all difficulties having been overcome far more easily 
than was anticipated.^ 

Machiavelli now applied himself to the composition of a 
discourse, that, in his opinion, should have been made upon 
the occasion. We cannot ascertain whether it was written by 

' Monte Comune — the Public Debt— Monte delle FanciuUe— a Slate Insurance 
Office, which gave marriage portions to girls in return for small yearly payments. 
— Translator s note. 

' Parenti, " Storie Fiorentine," MS. in the Florence National Library, CI. ii 
cod. 133, vol. V. at sheet S7 and fol. 


coinmaml of Soclciiiii, or was VL-ritably the speech read or rcciled 
by the latter in the Council. It was certainly composed as 
though destined for that purpose. Written in a way to allow 
of certain points being more freely developed in delivery, it has 
singular strength and concision of style, and contains many of 
those ma.xims, general reflections, and historical reminiscences, 
which were still, as it were, floating in the secretary's mind, and, 
if not as yet thoroughly arranged, were always expressed with 
incomparable lucidity.' 

Pie begins by remarking that all States find it necessary to unite 
strength with prudence. The Florentines had testified their 
prudence by giving unity and a head to the government ; but 
they failed in their duty, in refusing to furnish supplies, when, 
but a few months before, they had been on the verge of total 
destruction at the hands of Valentinois. Nor did it avail them 
to say that the Duke had now no pretext for attacking them, 
because all are to be considered as enemies who can deprive us 
of our own, without our being able to defend ourselves. *' And 
at present you are incapable of defending your subjects, and 

' "Parole da dirle sopra la provvisione del danaio, fatto prima un poco di 
proemio e di scusa." It was first published in the Florence " Antologia" (July, 
1822, vol. vii. pp. 3-10), from one of Machiavelli's autograph manuscripts ; it was 
afterwards reprinted in Milan by the Rusconi Press, 1S23, in the " Opcre Minori " 
of Machiavelli : Florence, Le Monnier, 1852, and the more recent but little known 
edition of the entire works, issued in Florence by A. Usigli, 1S57. Some believed 
it to have been recited by Machiavelli himself in the Clreat Council ; but he, as 
a salaried official of the Government, had no power either to vote or join in the 
discussion, nor could any citizen, with the solitary exception of the Gonfaloniere, 
have held the language contained in this discourse. In the Great Council members 
either voted for the government proposals, or spoke in favour of them, previous 
to voting. Members did not, however, vote in their own names, but in that of 
the difi'erent benches (pancate) into which the citizens divided in order to consult 
on the decis'on to be taken ; and ail this with infinite care and precaution. 
Parent! tells us of a certain individual who, on this very occasion, was subjected 
to imprisonment and then exile, for having spoken too violently against past taxes. 
(See too my "Storia di Girolamo Savonarola," Book II. chap, v., in which I 
have given a minute description of the mode of procedure then in force in the 
Council.) In the "Pratiche" (answering to the Committees of the English 
Parliament), which were less public, greater freedom of language was employed ; 
but setting aside the improbability of Machiavelli taking part in these " Pratiche," 
the " Discorse " here in question is addressed to the citizens in general, and has 
the gravity of tone suitable to a large assembly. And still less can we admit the 
other hypothesis of its having been addressed to the Dieci di Balia, who were 
Machiavelli's superiors. It is written for delivery in the Great Council, where 
vSoderini alone could hold similar language. In fact, Parenti tells us that the 
Gonfaloniere inade a great speech then, and certainly Machiavelli composed 
it on this occasion, either by command, or as a literary exercise. Guicciardini 
has left us many discourses of the same description which are simply exercises in 


you stand between two or three cities, desiring your ruin rather 
than your preservation. And looking beyond Tuscany, you will 
see that all Italy is subject to the Venetians, or to the Pope, 
or the King of France. The former hate you, and seek to 
extort money from you for the purpose of attacking you ; it 
were better you should spend it in making war upon them. All 
know what small confidence may be placed in the Pope and the 
Duke, with whom it has been impossible as yet to conclude any 
alliance ; and even did you succeed in forming one, I repeat that 
these latter will only be your friends, while unable to attack 
you, for whereas laws, agreements, and contracts bind private 
individuals to keep faith, arms alone avail with potentates. 
Regarding the King of France, it is necessary that some one 
should tell you the truth, and I will be that person. Either he 
will find you the only obstacle to his designs upon Italy, in which 
case you are lost, or he will find an obstacle in others, and then 
your salvation will depend upon your making yourselves respected 
in such wise that none may dare to leave you at his mercy, and 
that he may not dare to set you aside among those of no account. 
Remember, at all events, that one cannot always use another's 
sword, and therefore it were well to keep your own in readiness 
and girded on, even when the enemy be far off. Many of yovi 
might remember that when Constantinople was about to be taken 
by the Turks, the Emperor foresaw the coming destruction, and 
his own resources being insuflScient to ward it off, he called the 
citizens together, and explained to them their danger and the 
remedies required. They all laughed him to scorn. " The siege 
took place. The very citizens who had jeered at the forebodings 
of their master, no sooner heard the cannon thundering against 
the walls and the shouts of the enemies' host, than they ran 
weeping to the Emperor with heaps of gold ; but he drove them 
all away, saying — 'go, die with your gold, since ye would not 
live without it. . . . If, however, others learn wisdom from their 
neighbours' perils, you do not learn it even from your own, . . . 
For I tell you that fortune will not help those who will not help 
themselves ; nor will heaven itself sustain a thing that is deter- 
mined to fall. But beholding you free Florentines, with your 
liberty in your own hands, I will not believe that you desire to 
fall. For surely I must believe that men born free, and wishing 
to remain free, will have due respect for liberty ! '" 

Here we must call attention to the tendency, more and more 
observable in Machiavelli, to build up maxims of general policy, 
even in speaking of so simple a matter as the suggestion of a 
new tax. 


iMi.ainvliilc the nctrotiat ions sot on foot by t lie Rorf^ia towards 
an alliance with tlie Florentines, still draofged on without hopo 
of any definite result, for now the latter did nothing without the 
consent of France, who at this period was alienated from the 
Pope on account of the favour shown by him to the Spaniards. 
France was endeavouring to arrange a league between Sienna, 
Florence, Lucca and Bologna, of which, so far, the only cfTcct hacl 
been to assist the return of Petrucci to Sienna. Thither in April 
the Florentines despatched Machiavelli to communicate to Petrucci 
the Pope's wishes and designs ; and this was done rather in 
proof of friendship, than from any hope or desire of arriving at a 
practical conclusion.' As soon as the necessary supplies were 
voted, they gave serious attention to preparations of defence 
against any sudden attack from the Borgia, and Machiavelli again 
returned to his desk to write letters. He advised one commissary 
to keep an eye upon the enemy, another to provision the fortress, 
a third was severely reproved for negligence and laziness. In 
May he gave notice that Valentinois was disbanding his troops, 
who might possibly hazard some coup dc main on their own 
account, or even attempt, under like false pretences — to do good 
service to the Duke, whose soldiers were near Perugia, and 
threatening the confines. " Wherefore, although the prohibition 
of France prevents our believing an attack possible, nor allows us 
the faintest suspicion that His Majesty would consent to one, still 
we must not slumber, but be as much upon the alert as though we 
expected one, seeing the way in which things now go on, almost 
always turning out as no one could have imagined. The more 
then you see affairs darkening, and know them to be mena- 
cing, so much the more does it behove you to keep your eyes 
open ! " » 

It is true, the Ten had little fear of open attack, but they 
dreaded thefts, rapine, pillage, and incitements to rebellion, in 
some parts of their territory, since the responsibility of such deeds 
could be easily disavowed. " If our fears of open attack are as 
of twelve soldi in the lira^ our fears of robbery are as of eighteen 
to twenty." 3 It may have been that the sole object of all these 
threatening signs, was to prevent the usual raids on the Pisans, 
by diverting elsewhere the strength and vigilance of the Republic. 

* See the Conunissione entrusted to him by the Ten, " Opere," vol. vi. p. 261. 

■ Loc. cit., at sheet 163. 

3 The Lira being of 20 soldi, the first chance was as of 12 to 20, the second 
of iS to 20. Letter of the 14th of May, 1503, cl. x. dist. 3, No. 103, at sheet 172. 
See the Appendix, document vi. Files 103 and 104 contain numerous othci 
letters by Machiavelli on the same argument. 


But, as regarded Pisa, Florence was determined to take advantage 
of the favourable season. 

In fact two commissaries of war had already been sent to the 
camp, Antonio Giacomini— who filled the office of Captain with 
ever - increasing zeal — and Tommaso Tosinghi. In April a 
circular of the Ten decreed the enrolment Avithin the territory 
of several thousand pioneers and delvers to lay waste the country, 
and in May, beams, mortars, carpenters, and so large a number 
of foot soldiers, men-at-arms and foragers were made ready, that 
the Pisans were alarmed and showed signs of wishing to come 
to terms. But neither Giacomini nor Tosinghi were to be 
deceived by their devices, and declared that only deeds availed, 
not words ; and for this they received much praise from the Ten, 
in whose name Niccolo Machiavelli addressed a letter to them on 
the 22nd of Ma37^, exhorting them " to pursue the same course in 
all your actions, ever flourishing the sword in one hand, and salve in 
the other, so that they may know they have the option of choosing 
which they will."^ And on the 23rd of this month 300 men-at- 
arms, 200 light horse, 3000 infantry, and 2000 pioneers took the 
field, and thanks to the energy of Giacomini, in two days did 
such tremendous havoc in the valley of the Arno, that the Ten 
were astounded as well as gratified, and wished the Avork of 
devastation to be carried on into the Valley of the Serchio.'^ In 
writing all these letters Machiavelli did not always confine him- 
self to transmitting superior orders ; but sometimes digressed 
into advice, directions, suggestions, entering into the minutest 
particulars, as though he were a military leader upon the spot, 
Avhile all the time repeating that he left everything to the com- 
missaries and captains.3 

By the first week in June the Valley of the Serchio had been 
entirely laid waste, and the army had been joined by the Baily 
of Caen, who though bringing with him little else than the 
French flag and a few men-at-arms, immediately began the usual 
complaints, the usual pretensions. Yet his presence and that of 
his followers, though almost ineffectual either for good or evil, 
depressed the courage of the Pisans and raised that of the Floren- 
tines, who soon captured Vico Pisano and La Verruca, much to 
the content of the Ten,* and on the i8th of June they ordered 

' Archives Fiorentino, cl. x. diet 3, No. 108, at sheet 7/. 

' Letter of the 25th of May, 1503, in the Florence Aichives, cl. x. dist. 3, 
No. 108, at sheet 18. 

3 See letter of the 27th May in Appendix, document vii. cl. x. dist. 3, No. 
107, at sheet 24. 

^ Letter of the 14th of June, cl. x. dist. 5, No. 107, at sheet 47/. 

3 2o M. I cm. 1 1 -ELLI'S LIFE AND TIMES. 

an attack upDU Libratatta ami Tone di Focc' But news of tli6 
French advance towards Naples under La Trcnioille, brou!;ht all 
these operations to a standstill, since it was now necessary to 
keep the army in readiness for any unforeseen enierj^ency ; and 
therefore orders were issued oidy to take Torre di Foce, " so as 
to deprive the Pisans of that refuse, and prevent them from 
rebuilding a nest there."" After this the war was suspended in 
that quarter, and Giacomini was recalled to be sent to guard the 

In the kingdom of Naples matters had taken a most dis- 
couraging turn for France, Avhom the Borgia accordingly now 
began to hold in slight account ; and the Florentines felt less 
assured of safety than ever. Some of Caesar's men were already 
scouring the Sienncse territory, a matter which gave great anxiety 
to the Commissary Giovanni Ridolfi, so that in a letter of the 
4th of August, Machiavelli sought to encourage him, saying : 
Gaeta has not yet received the sacrament in extremis as you 
suppose ; the Spaniards are beginning to retreat, the French are 
advancing. And you also err in thinking that their army remains 
in Lombardy, through fear of the Venetians ; " who are no firmer 
in their stirrups, than they have been all this year, nor do we 
hear that they have changed a single horse, nor moved a single 
man-at-arms, so that — to return to the point — we do not perceive 
how the Duke in this state of affairs, could be likely to begin a 
war and openly disturb the affairs of Tuscany, since with the 
half of the favours at our command, we should have a thousand 
ways of burning his house about his ears." 3 But notwithstanding 
these encouraging words, orders were given to prepare for defence, 
and two hundred and fifty French lancers were despatched. The 
greater part of the year passed amid these uncertainties, and then 
fresh events in Rome changed the entire aspect of Italian politics. 

In that city, after Ceri had at last been captured by the Duke's 
adherents, some dissension seemed to have arisen between him 
and the Pope, Csesar being reluctant — from respect to France 
— to proceed energetically against Bracciano and the Orsini, 
whereupon the latter became so enraged as to threaten his son 
with excommunication, and it was even rumoured that one 
evening they had come to blows.* However, in the opinion of 
the Venetian ambassador, all this was a mere farce. In the actual 

' CI. X. dist. 3, No. 108, at sheet 54. 

" Letter of the 22nd of June, 1503, Florence Archives, cl. x. dist. 3, No. 108, 
at sheet 58. 

3 Florence Archives, cl. x. dist. 3, No. loS, at sheet 1 1 r. 

* Giustinian, despatches of 1st and 28th of February, of 1st, 4th, Sth, and lith 
of March, 1503. 


uncertainty as to pending events in Naples, the Pope showed a 
leaning towards Spain, the Duke towards France, and thus "each 
blaming the other, both pursued their common designs." * Indeed 
they had greater hopes than ever of carrying out their plans, 
amid the inevitable coming confusion, and they left no means 
unturned of collecting money. On the 29th of March the 
V^enetian ambassador wrote that a Bull had been issued, creating 
eighty new offices in the Curia, which were immediately sold at 
seven hundred and sixty ducats apiece. " If your Sublimity will 
cast up the sum, you will see how much money the Pontiff has 
gained." * And in May he added that nine men of the worst 
description had been made cardinals, on payment by each of a 
round sum of money, and by some of more than 20,000 ducats, 
so that altogether between 120 and 130 thousand ducats had 
been got together ; and Alexander had shown the world that 
a Pope's revenues might be swelled ad libitum.'^ 

All this did not suffice, and resort was had to other means. On 
the night of the loth of April, Cardinal Michiel expired after two 
days of violent sickness, and before dawn his house had been stripped 
by the order of the Pope, who, according to Giustinian,'* obtained 
more than 150,000 ducats in gold, plate, and precious stuffs. In 
fact, on going to the Vatican the ambassador found all the doors 
closed, and could not be received because the money was being 
counted over. This was still going on in the hall to which he 
was admitted on the morning of the 13th, on a summons from the 
Pope. His Holiness said to him : " See, there are only 23,832 
ducats, yet all the land rings with the news that M'e have had 
between 80 and 100,000 ducats in cash." And he appealed to the 
testimony of those who were present, "as though," observes the 
ambassador, " 'twould be a great matter for them to serve him by 
a lie." Nevertheless the Pope earnestly begged him to institute 
inquiries in the Venetian territories where there was more of the 
Cardinal's money ; the sum he had found seeming very small to 
him. Before long Jacopo da Santa Croce — he who had assisted the 
Pope to seize Cardinal Orsini, by conducting him to the Vatican 
—was also made prisoner, and after treating with him for the 
purchase of his life for a good sum of money, lost his head 
on the 8th of June. His corpse was left stretched on the bridge 
of St. Angelo until evening, his possessions both in land and in 

* Giustinian, despatch 304, the first dated 3rd of March. See also that 01 
the 19th of March. " Despatch of the 29lh of Maicli, 

3 iJespatch of the 31st of May. 
< Despatch of the 13th of April, 1503. 
VOL. I. zz 


goUl were confiscated, and his wife and child made homeless 

Meanwhile, on the iglh of May Troches" or Troccio, one of the 
Borgia's most trusted assassins, suddenly fled from Rome, and 
was hotly pursued by his late masters. Valentinois, in a letter 
of that date, ordered " all our vassals," under pain of being con- 
sidered rebels, to stop the fugitive, and prayed all his friends to 
assist them, since the motive of his flight was a matter " against 
the honour of the King of France." 3 Others however aflfunied 
that the reason of this assassin's flight was rage at not being 
included in the list of new cardinals, that he had manifested his 
anger to the Pope, who bade him liold his tongue unless he wished 
to be killed by the Duke ; and that upon this Troccio had revealed 
to France the secret manoeuvres with Spain. Hence the fury 
of the Borgia, and their ardent desire to get him into their hands. 

* Giustinian, despatch of the 8th of June. 

" Despatch 387, the first dated May, 1503, nnd despatch 390tlie second, May 20. 

3 This letter is among the " Carte del Machiavelli, " case i, No. i, and was 
published by Passerini, " Opere " (P. M.), vol. iv. p. 298. But he did not correctly 
interpret the name of the individual in question, having read it Noch instead of 
Troche, and therefore raistakirg him for some unknown soldier. Nor did he 
perceive that the sheet only contains a copy made by Machiavelli of the original 
letter. Deceived perhaps by the circumstance that Machiavelli had somewhat 
imitated the conventional signature specially used by Valentinois in official letters, 
he look it for granted that this letter had been written by Machiavelli and signed 
by Valentinois. This obliged him lo imagine that the Florentine secretary had 
made an unknown journey to Rome, and caused him to recur to his other 
hypothesis, that Machiavelli had been the counsellor of Borgia's policy and 
assassinations. An examination of the document destroys all these theories. 
Caesar's signature is not an autograph, but an imitation of one ; the signature of 
Agapito is wanting, though found on all Cassar's decrees ; there is no seal nor stamp 
of any sort, and the letter bears no address ; but on the back of it there is written 
in Alachiavelli's hand and with some abbreviations : 1503, concerning Messer 
Troche. Signor Nitti, op. cit. vol. i. pp. 223-24, note (i), in noticing that Ma- 
chiavelli wrote a letter from Florence dated the i6th May, doubts the pretended 
journey to Rome, and brings forward another equally impossible hypothesis, i.e., 
that Valentinois had sent ISIachiavelli a blank decree already signed. ^Yhen he 
formed that theory Signor Nitti must have forgotten for a moment who the Borgia 
were, and what manner of man was Valentinois. For it is not intelligible that a 
blank decree should have been sent to Machiavelli, when only a simple circular had 
to be written ; and in no case would Valentinois have committed himself to such 
a proceeding, even with Agapito, Don Micheletto, or any other of his trustiest 
adherents, among whom Machiavelli cannot certainly be included. And in con- 
clusion we must remark that not only did Machiavelli write letters from Florence 
on the i6th, but also on the 17th, i8th, 19th, and 21st of May, as is shown by the 
Registers of the Ten in the Florence Archives (class x. dist. 3, No. 108, from sheet 
2 to sheet 12). The Roman journey therefore becomes hot only improbable but 
impossible. Troccio fled from Rome on the 19th of May (Giustinian, despatch of 
19th of May), and the order for his arrest is dated from Rome the same day. 
^Iachiavelli therefore could not possibly have written it. 


However this may be, Troccio was seized on board a \cssel 
bound for Corsica, and being instantly brought back to Rome, 
was confined in a tower in the Trastevere quarter. There, after 
a few hours, the Duke made his appearance, and after a short 
colloquy with the prisoner, withdrew to a spot from whence he 
could secretly spy into the cell, and sent Don Micheletto in to 
strangle him. An inventory had already been made of his effects, 
which were distributed according to the orders of the Pope. And 
thus, observed Giustinian, of all the Borgia's trusted and most 
faithful tools two only survived, Don Micheletto and Romolino, 
for whom the same fate as had befallen the others was probably in 
store.' It really appeared as if there would never be an end to 
persecution and murder. Many were imprisoned as Jews, a still 
larger number as heretics. These pretexts sufficed for forcibly 
entering their houses, and stripping them of all their contents ; 
then bargains were made to sell the prisoners their lives for sums 
of money varying in amount. " AH these (arrests) are tricks 
to make money," wrote the Florentine ambassador Vittorio 
Soderini, and Giustinian said much the same thing." The latter 
reported later that on the ist of August, towards the Ave Maria, 
after only two days' illness, died Giovanni Borgia, Cardinal of Mon- 
reale " at whose death the Pontiff wore a very cheerful aspect, 
although Monreale was his own nephew." On going to the Vatican 
the ambassador was refused admittance on the score of the Pope's 
trouble at the death of his nephew the Cardinal, " and this 
trouble must have consisted in counting gold and fingering 
jewels." In fact, every one calculated that the property in cash 
and other effects amounted to 100,000 ducats, and it was 
generally asserted, " that he (the Cardinal) had also been sent the 
same way that all the other well fattened ones have gone, and the 
blame of this affair is laid upon the Duke " 3 Things had now 
reached such a point, that all who possessed or were supposed to 
possess money, trembled for their lives, " every moment thinking 
to see the executioner standing behind them." * 

* Giustinian, despatch of the 8th of June, 1503. It may seem strange that a 
man like Troccio should have occupied himself with poetry ; yet that would seem 
to have been the case from two letters of his, in which he earnestly begs the 
Marchioness of Mantova to send him certain sonnets. See the " Lucrezia Borgia" 
of Gregorovius, documents 42 and 43. Similar facts are by no means uncommon 
in the period of the Italian Renaissance. The Captain G. G. Trivulzio among 
other things lost in the taking of Milan, especially deplored the loss of a Quintus 
Curlius, and olTered a large reward for its restitution. 

* (jiustinian, despatch of 19 of June and note,- ' . 
3 II. id., despatch of 2nd of August, 1503. 

* Ibid., despatch of the 8th of lunc. 

3 -'4 ^'^' ^ cm A I El. LI 'S JJFE AND TIMES. 

The Borgia made every cfTort to make ready for new 
expeditions, aniiilst the general confusion expected from the rapid 
changes now i^weeping over the kingdom of Najiles. In Calabria, 
D'Aubigny had been defeated by the Sj)aniards who had crossed 
over from Sicily at Cerignola, Nemours by Gonsalvo dc Cordova, 
who, having issued from Barletta, and achieved a brilliant victory, 
entered Naples as a conqueror in May. In short, the French had 
lost everj'thing but the fortress of Gaeta — where a great part of the 
defeated survivors took refuge, and Venosa, occupied by Louis d'Ars 
and Santa Severina, where the Prince of Rossano was besieged. 
Louis XII. had to make a fresh beginning by openly attacking 
Spain, and sending another army into Italy under Louis La 
Tremoille and Francesco Gonzaga, an army to be increased by the 
promised contingents from Florence, Sienna, Mantova, Bologna and 
Ferrara. This expedition however proceeded with incredible 
slowness, on account of the suspected neutrality of Venice, and the 
more and more fickle and incomprehensible policy of the Pope. 
His Holiness openly leaned towards Spain, who was allowed by 
him to enlist men publicly in Rome ; but he gave the French to 
understand that he would help them in their enterprise, and even 
pay two-thirds of the expenses, provided they gave Naples or Sicily 
to Valcntinois, indemnifying themselves for the gift, by taking 
Avhat they pleased in North Italy.' At the same time he made 
the largest offers of friendship and alliance to the Venetians, 
to induce them to join with him against France and against 
Spain, for the general preservation of Italy from foreigners.^ On 
the other hand, he pressingly demanded from Maximilian King 
of the Romans — who was still thinking of coming to Italy to 
possess himself of the imperial crown — the investiture of Pisa for 
the Duke, saying that otherwise he would be compelled to throw 
himself into the arms of France, who promised him the kingdom 
of Naples in exchange for Romagna.3 

What successful result was to be expected from conduct so 
foolish, we leave to the judgment of those who have exalted the 
acumen and political insight of the Borgia. Treating with all 
against all, the Pope found himself, after so many exertions, 
condemned to inaction and unable to count on the friendship 
of any power. And the Duke, who was preparing to march on 
Sienna to unite with Pisa, and, once in possession of the latter 
city, to push on to the attack of Florence, was also prevented 
from stirring a step ; since he would have met the French army 

• Giustinian, despatches of the 7th and 8th of June, 1503. 

' Despatch of the 29th of May. 

3 Despatches of the 7th of June and 31st of July, 


on his road, and would hav^e been forced to declare himself openly 
for or against it — that is, either to attack it, or join in the march 
towards Naples. Wishing to be prepared for every eventuality, 
neither of these courses was open to him, and thus all his efforts, 
displays of craft and numerous assassinations, resulted in nothing 
but forced inaction and uncertainty. 

This state of things was suddenly altered by a most unlooked- 
for event. On the evening of the 5th of August the Pope went 
with the Duke to a supper in the vineyard of Cardinal Adriano 
behind the Vatican, and remained there till after nightfall. The 
Roman fever, always prevalent in the month of August, was rag- 
ing more severely than usual that year. Some of the ambassadors, 
many members of the Curia — especially those resident in the 
palace — had fallen ill ; and therefore all who attended this 
supper, suffered more or less from fever in consequence. On the 
7th, Giustinian found the Pope in his room covered with wraps, 
and he told the ambassador that he was taking care of himself, 
being alarmed by the many fever cases and deaths then happening 
in Rome.^ On the nth, Cardinal Adriano was in bed with the 
fever ; on the 12th, the Pope was seized by an attack of fever 
and sickness ; and the Duke also fell ill of the same complaint.^ 
The Pope was now seventy-three years of age, and the danger of 
his condition was evident. In fact, symptoms of cerebral conges- 
tion soon set in ; to reduce them copious blood-letting was 
resorted to, which, by weakening the patient, heightened the 
malady. An alarming stupor — almost like that of death — came 
on ; on the 17th, the fever, which the Ferrarese ambassador styles 
" the well-known tertian," 3 returned with such violent paroxysms, 
that the physician declared the case to be hopeless. The greatest 
disorder instantly ensued in the Vatican, and many began to 
provide for the safety of their property. The Pope, who during 
all these days had neither asked for the Duke, nor Lucrezia,-* on 
the 1 8th confessed and received the last sacraments. Towards 
six o'clock he had a fainting fit which resembled death, and only 
revived from it to draw his last breath immediately afterwards, 
about the vesper hour, in the presence of the Bishop of Carinola, 
the Datary and a few serving-men.s 

' Giustinian, despatch of the of August, 1503, note I, p- 99 of vol. ii. 

" Despatch of the 13th of August. 

' Also Burchardi speaks of it in his diary zsfebris tertiana. 

* " Dux nunquam venit ad Papam in tota eius infirmitate nee in morte, nee 
papa fuit unquam memor sui vel Lucretiae in aliquo minimo verbo, etiam in tota 
sua infirmitate." Burchardi, " Diarium," MS. of the National Library of Florence, 
vol. iv. at sheet i. 

5 Giustinian, despatches 484-87, dated iSlh of August, 1503. 


Tlic confusion was at the hi«2;lK'st i)itch. Tlic Duke, allhiuich 
still so sick, tliat his life was considered in danger, caused a lai ge 
jiortion of his clVects to. be carried to the castle of St. Angelo, 
and his soldiers to be sutnnioncd to Rome. Don Michelc, with 
some armed men, entered the Pope's apartments, and closing the 
doors, held a dagger to the throat of Cardinal Casanuova, 
threatening to kill him and throw Iiim out of the window if lie 
did not immediately give up the Pope's keys and money. In 
this way more than 100,000 ducats in gold, besides plate and 
jewels, amounting altogether to the value of above 300,000 
ducats' came into the liands of the Duke. But Don Michcle 
icrgot to search a room adjoining that in which Alexander had 
died, in which were precious mitres, jewelled rings, and silver 
vases enough to fill many chests.' Tlie servants took everything 
else they could find in the rooms already pillaged. At last 
the doors were thrown open, and the death of the Pope was 

Up to the moment of the funeral, everything wore a lugubrious 
and sinister aspect. The corpse, after being washed and dressed, 
was left alone, with only two lighted candles. The Cardinals 
did not come, although summoned, nor even the Pcnitenzieri 
whose duty it was to recite prayers for the dead. On the following 
day the body was so much changed by corruption as to have lost 
all semblance of humanity. It was very black, swelled almost as 
broad as it was long, and the tongue so large that it filled the 
whole mouth and kept it agape.3 At midday on the 19th of 
August, it was, according to custom, exhibited in St. Peter's 
church; " /(7;«^h being the ugliest, most monstrous and horrible 
dead body that was ever seen, without any form or likeness of 
humanity ; for shame's sake they kept it covered with a cloth, and 
then before sunset they buried it, adstaiitibus dtiobus cardinaUbiis 
of those resident in the palace." ♦ 

In St. Peter's the breviary, from which the prayers were to 
be read, had been mislaid, and then a riot ensued between 

* Sanuto gives details increasing this sum to 500,000 ducats. We have fixed it 
at the sum mentioned by the majority of writers. 

^ Burchardi, " Diarium," voh v. at sheet i, and fol. 

3 " Et continuo crevit turpido et negrtdo faciei, adeoque hora vigesima tertia 
qua eum vidi factus erat sicut pannus vel morus nigerrimus ; facies livoris tola 
plena ; nasus plenus ; os amplissimum ; lingua duplex in ore, quae labia tota 
implebat ; os apertum et adeo horribile, quod nemo viderit unquam, vel esse tale 
dicerit." (Burchardi, " Uiarium," MS. in the National Library of Florence, torn iv. 
at sheet 6.) And it went on growing more and more horrible, as declare also all 
the ambassadors, Costabili, Giustinian, &c. 

* Giustinian, despatch of the 19th of August, 1503, hora 24. 


the priests and soldiers, whereupon the clergy broke oflf their 
chants, and fled towards the sacristy, leaving the dead Pope 
almost alone. But, having deposited the corpse on the high altar, 
they feared it might be outraged by the indignant people, and 
therefore placed it with four lighted tapers behind a locked 
grating, and left it there all day. After four -and -twenty 
hours, it was carried into the chapel de febribus., where six 
workmen were joking and insulting the Pope's memory while 
digging the Pope's grave. Here the carpenters, having made 
the coffin too short and too narrow, pulled off the mitre, and 
covering the body with an old cloth, thrust it into the coffin by 
main force.' The mode of burial was such that the Marquis of 
Mantova — who was then in the neighbourhood of Rome with the 
French army — remarked in a letter to the Marchesa Isabella : 
" so mean was the tomb, that the deformed wife of the cripple at 
Mantova has a better one." " 

The rapid decomposition of the body, owing to the corrupt 
state of the blood, and the circumstance of the Pope, Valentinois, 
and Cardinal Adriano all falling ill at the same time, gained 
universal credit for the rumour that all had been poisoned, for 
poison seemed inseparably connected with the name of the 
Borgia. It was asserted that the Pope and the Duke had 
intended ridding themselves of the Cardinal ; but that through 
the blunder of the cup-bearer, they themselves had drunk of 
the poisoned wine. Bu'; even could it be conceived that the 
Borgia should have been clumsy enough in their own special 
calling to allow such blunders to occur, the fact of the Cardinal's 
illness would still require explanation.3 Others declared that the 
Cardinal was saved, because, foreseeing the attempt, he had given 
the cup-bearer a bribe of 10,000 ducats to poison the Borgia 
instead. But these rumours lose all value when confronted with 

' " Et cum piignis pestarunt eum ut capsam intraret, sine intorticiis vel lunr.ine 
aliquo, et sine aliquo presbitero vel persona una vel lumine." (Burchardi, 
" Diarium," loc. cit.) 

* Letter of the 22nd of September, 1503, quoted by Gregorovius, " Lucrezia 
Borgia," doc. 49. Afterwards the remains of Alexander VI. were transferred 
from the Crypt of the Vatican to San Giacomo degli Spagnuoli, and then to 
Santa Maria di Monserrato, where they repose with those of Calixtus III., behind 
the high altar, with no inscription over them. And even the memorial slab, 
placed in Santa Maria del Popolo over the burial-place of Vannozza and her 
children, was also removed. 

3 Giovio declares that the Cardinal told him that he believed his illness to have 
been caused by poison given to him by the Borgia. Still Giovio's assertions are 
not always to be credited, and besides, when all were suggesting poison, the 
Cardinal may easily have attributed his illness to that cause, without any founda- 
tion for his belief. 


the ambassadors' despatches, especially those of Giustiiiian, who, 
day by day, details the origin and progress of the malady ; and, 
bemg in continual intercourse with the Pope's physician, knew 
that cerebral congestion supervening on the fever was the real 
cause of the death. Even the Ferrarcse ambassador, Bcltrando 
Consiabili, who, on the iQth, after the rapid change of the body, 
mentioned the generally credited rumour of poison, had ex])]icitly 
declared on the 14th that the Pope's illness was tertian fever, and 
that there was no cause for wonder in it, since nearly the whole 
Court was suffering from the same malady, then very prevalent 
in Rome, "owing to the bad condition of the atmosphere." In 
any case, it would have been strange, to say the least, if poison 
administered at that supper, had only begun to show its effects 
after the interval of a whole week, when the fever was first 

We will spare our readers other tales then spread about, of 
devils seen by the Pope's bedside, of how he had sold his soul to 
them at the very beginning of his reign, and similar fables, all 
the more readily believed, because of the incredulity of the age. 
On the 19th of August the Duke seemed on the point of death ; 
all shops were closed, the Spaniards concealed themselves, and a 
rumour spread that Fabio Orsini had entered Rome, Avith Alviano 
and the other members of his family, full of the most furious 
t^ffiemes of revenge. Caesar Borgia knew this ; but he had 
thought of everything, as Machiavelli afterwards said, excepting 
the chance of being himself dying when the Pope was dead, and 
•\vas now in the greatest perplexity.* His soldiers were riotous 
and set fire to the Orsini's houses, some of which Avere burnt 
down. At last, with the intervention of the ambassadors, the 
conclave succeeded in persuading all to make a kind of truce. 
The Orsini and the Colonna withdrew ; the Duke, somewhat 
better, sent forward his artillery, and on the 2nd of September 
left Rome in a litter and went to the castle of Nepi, that was 
still in his possession. Here he was in the vicinity of the French 
^rmy, actually on its way to Naples, and on which he relied for 
assistance ; for he had suddenly declared for France, although 
still placing his entire confidence in the Spanish cardinals, by 
whom he Avas surrounded and supported. 

Many cardinals Avere now arriving in Rome ; among them 
Giuliano della Rovere, after ten years of exile, and Cardinal 
Ascanio Sforza, released from prison by the good offices of 

* "Et nescit quo se vertit, nee ubi reclinet caput," Giustiiiian, despatch, 489, 
the second of the 19th of August, 1503. 


Cardinal de Rouen, one of the aspirants to the Papacy. On the 
3rd of September a solemn funeral service was performed in 
honour of the dead Pope ; and on the 22nd, Francesco Todeschini 
dei Piccolomini, nephew of Pius II., was finally elected ; and 
assumed the name of Pius III. He was sixty-four years of age, 
and so hopeless an invalid, that his pontificate resembled that of 
a passing shadow, only serving as it were for the continuance of 
the intrigues going on on all sides, and to give the variotis parties 
already at work time to measure their strength for the next 
election. The French army, which had halted, pursued its 
march immediately the new Pope Avas proclaimed ; and the 
Duke, afraid to stay alone with his followers at Nepi, which, 
Alviano, thirsting for blood and vengeance, was preparing to 
attack, immediately returned to Rome. There he learnt that 
the cities once his, were recalling their former lords and welcoming 
them with open arms. Romagna, however, having been better 
governed, still remained faithful, and the strongholds under 
Spanish commandants, still held out for him. Yet he never 
thought of placing himself at the head of his little army, and 
cutting his way through his enemies, to reconquer and defend his 
own state by force of arms. He hoped always and only in the 
intrigues which were to render the next Papal election favourable 
to his views ; and the present Pope, a man of very gentle temper, 
showed him compassion for the time. But meanwhile the Orsini, 
hearing that he had gone over to the French, and had been 
accepted by them, were greatly enraged, and instantly concluded 
an alliance with the Colonna, Gonsalvo, and Spain. Some of 
them attacked the Borgo, and set fire to the Torrione gate, in 
order to enter the Vatican and seize Borgia, whom they pursued 
Avith great fury. He barely escaped by the aid of certain of the 
Cardinals, who hurried him away down the narrow passage com- 
municating with the castle of St. Angelo. Thus in the very 
place w^here so many of his own and his father's victims had ex- 
pired in the agonies of poison, Valentinois now found himself almost 
a captive. While here he learnt that Pius HI., who could not 
stand upright on the 8th of October, the day of his coronation, 
had breathed his last ten days later.* 

' In a letter dated Sth of November, 1503, signed SigisTimndus doctor et clerictis 
senensis, and addressed to Alessandro Piccolomini, nephew of Pius III., the 
writer, after lauding the Pope's goodness, says, that " he could not have died at 
a better moment than now when just exalted to that felicity, and before anything 
had occurred to mar it ; for such could not have failed to happen. , . . lie has 
committed no simony ; he has made no war against Christians ; he has done no 
murders, nor hangings, nor executions ; he has not squandered the patrimony of 


There could be no lonscr any doubi as to the result of the new 
election, for all had been ananged by bribes, promises, intrigues 
of every kind, even with Spanish Cardinals, on the part of Valen- 
tinois, who had thus secured himself valid protection. On the 
31st of October thirty-five cardmalstook their seats in conclave, and 
hardly were they assembled, hardly indeed had the doors been 
closed according to custom, than the new Pope was already chosen 
in the person of Giuliano delle Rovere, who took the name of 
Julius II. This bitterest enemy of the Borgia — whom, however, 
he had favoured when finding it expedient — was a native of 
Savona, of low origin, and now of sixty years of age ; but he 
came of the robust race of Pope Sixtus IV., who was his uncle ; 
he had been a Cardinal since 147 1, was the holder of many fat 
bishoprics, and possessed an iron constitution. Although his 
youth had been passed much as that of other prelates of those 
times, and although a man of few scruples, he showed a zeal 
and daring marvellous for one of his years, in forwarding the 
power and political grandeur of the Church. Without neglecting 
his own family, he never subordinated to their interests the 
needs of Church or State, and therefore indulged in no excess 
of nepotism. His views, his ambitions, his violent impetuosity 
of character, were all totally contrary to those of the Borgia. 
Yet, when necessary, he was able to feign and dissimulate, and had 
had no scruples in bargaining for his election with Valentinois, by 
promising him the post of Gonfaloniere of the Church and govern- 
ment of Romagna, as well as to give his daughter in marriage to 
Francesco Maria della Rovere, Prefect of Rome : but although 
not deliberately determined to violate these promises, he had but 
little intention of keeping them. All depended upon his seeing 
whether the Duke might or might not be — at least for a time— a 
useful instrument in forwarding the Pope's design of driving the 
Venetians from Romagna, whither they were advancing. Sooner 
or later the Duke would have to give up the fortresses still hold- 
ing out for him — notwithstanding all promises and hopes — since 
the general interest of the Church must not yield to any human 
consideration. On these points the resolutions of Julius II. were 
already taken, and, with his obstinacy of character, nothing could 
now induce him to change them. Hence the position of affairs 

St. Peter in warfare, nor on bastards, nor otlier people." Such was the credit 
then enjoyed by the Tontiffs. This Sigismondo, a native of Castiglione Aretino, 
made citizen of Sienna in 1842, was the author of various histories written m 
Latin, and still unpublished. This letter has been published in Sienna by the 
Ancora Printing Press, 1877, on the occasion of the marriage of Professor Enea 
Piccolomini, by Signor Giuseppe Palmieri Nuti. 



was becoming more and more involved ; indeed with this pontifi- 
cate, a new epoch began, not for Italy only, but for all Europe. 
On that account, the new legation of Machiavelli — who was at 
this juncture despatched to Rome — possesses great additional 




— _x , 

L - ^'^) \ 










Tlie Florentines show themselves hostile to the Venetians — Legation to Rome — 
The Spaniards are victorious in Naples — Second legation to France — Renewal 
of the war with Pisa — Fruitless attempts to turn the course of the Arno — 
" First Decennale " — A lost manuscript. 

(1 503-1 504.) 

IIILE the events just related were going on in 
Rome, the attention of Florence was directed 
to what was occurring in the States which 
had belonged to Valentinois and touched the 
frontiers of the Republic. It was especially 
necessary to prevent the advance of the Vene- 
tians, who still aspired to the Monarchy of Italy. 
Therefore Machiavelli, by command and in the 
name of the Ten, wrote to the Commissaries and Podestas, bidding 
them second the designs of the Church, and either the return of 
former rulers, or even that of the Duke himself — according to the 
way events turned, whichever best served to close the door against 
Venice.' Nor did the Ten neglect to take into consideration, 
whether it might not be possible to profit by the general tunnoil 
to seize some neighbouring territory on their own account : this, 
however, was only to be done with extreme caution, and without 
exposing the Republic to dangerous consequences. Written 
instructions to this effect were sent to the Commissary Ridolfi 
regarding Citerna, Faenza, Forli, with the declaration that to 

* Circular of the 20th August, 1503, in the Florence Archives, cL x. dist. 3, 
No. 108, at sheet 129. Many more of Machiavelli's letters are to be found in the 
same file. We only quote those at sheets 136, 139, and 148. 


obtain the latter State, Florence would be willing to expend as 
mucli as 10,000 ducats. But they added as usual that, the 
Republic not being strong enough for daring enterprises, it would 
to necessary to favour whichever party — excepting the Venetians — 
had the best probability of success.' While they were discussing 
the propriety of taking possession of Forli, Signor Antonio Orde- 
laffi entered that city, was well received by the inhabitants, and 
immediately declared that he relied upon the protection of the 
Florentines. The latter were now puzzled what course to adopt. 
They had no fitting excuse for refusing him their protection ; but 
did not feel sufficiently powerful to defend him against the 
Church and Valentinois, who might both probably attack him. 
At the same time Machiavelli wrote to the Commissary at Castro 
caro : " This arrival will raise the spirits of the men of Forli, and 
the suspicions of the Duke's people. You must tell the former 
that we made him (Ordelaffi) come, the better to help him : the 
latter on the contrary must be told, that we summoned him for 
the Duke's advantage, to shut that door which was open to the 
Venetians, and to deprive them of a tool. And in this way you 
must trim matters, so that we may gain time. You must, how- 
ever, manage this affair with dexterity and secrecy, colouring it 
in such wise that neither party may perceive that it is being 
tricked or circumvented."^ It was this perpetual petty tergiver- 
sation that chiefly disgusted Machiavelli, and inspired him with an 
exaggerated admiration for the conduct of men like Valentinois, 
who, untroubled by scruples, either human or divine, went straight 
to the end they had in view. 

By good fortune he was soon relieved from this torment, for on 
the 24th of October he received orders to go to Rome, with special 
instructions and letters of recommendation to many cardinals 
whom it was necessary that he should see, especially the Cardinal 
Soderini, then managing the principal affairs of the Republic, 
and by whose advice he was to be guided.3 

He was the bearer of condolences on the death of Pius III. ; 
he was to collect as much intelligence as possible during the con- 
clave, and — by means of the Cardinal de Rouen — conclude a Con- 
dotta with G. P. Baglioni. This Condotta was arranged in the 

* Letter of the 25th August, loc. cit., file 107, at sheet 136, and letter of the 
1 2th September, at sheet 156. 

" Letter of the 5th October to Americo Antinori, file 107 at sheet 171. 

3 From the 28th August it had been determined that he should be sent to Rome, 
as is shown by the Registers of the Ten. But he did not set out at that time ; and 
afterwards his mission was decided upon afresh. The instructions given him and 
the letter to Cardinal Soderini are in the "Legazione" contained in vol. vi. of 
the " Opere," p. 364 and fol. 


name of Florence, but alloj^eiher in the interest and service oi 
I'^ance, to counterbalance the injury done to that power by the 
desertion of the Orsini, who, to<2;ether with the Colonna, had joined 
Gonsalvo of Cortlova immediately the French had accepted tho 
friendship of Valentinois. As was natural, the Condotta was 
speeiiily arran,2;eil, and Raglioni prepared to start for Florence with- 
out delay to receive his money, for the Republic had pledged itself 
to pay to him the 60,000 ducats owin^ to France " in return for her 
protection."' And on this head, Machiavelli wrote of Baglioni, 
that "he was like the other pillagers of Rome, who are thieves 
rather than soldiers, and whose services are sought for the sake of 
their names and influence, rather than for their valour, or the 
number of men at their command. Moved as they are by per- 
sonal interests, the alliances they make only last till it suits their 
purpose to break them, and therefore all understanding these 
leaders only seek to prevent them from doing harm.'' = Fresli 
events soon occurred to change the aims and nature of this 
legation. Machiavelli arrived in Rome towards the close of the 
scandalous manoeuvres, by which — according to the Venetian 
ambassador — votes were bought and sold, not for thousands, but 
for tens of thousands of ducats; "there is no longer any differ- 
ence between the Papacy and the Soldanatc^ since plus offercnti 
dabittirr 3 Cardinal Giuliano delle Rovere had gained ground so 
rapidly, succeeding so well — as we have already noted — in win- 
ning the Spanish Cardinals, by means of promises held out to 
Valentinois, that he was now certain of success. But men's minds 
were still greatly agitated, and the city in so anarchical a condition, 
that on the evening of the 31st of October, one of the Cardinal's 
attendants was accompanied to Machiavelli's dwelling by an escort 
of twenty armed men. Nevertheless on that same evening the 
Secretary wrote that the election was now assured. In fact, on 
the following day, the Conclave met, the new Pope was proclaimed, 
immediately took the name of Julius II., and without hesitation 
seized the reins of government with a firm hand. Thus it was 
no longer a question of collecting and transmitting intelligence 
regarding the Conclave ; but two questions of much higher 
importance now arose. What did the Pope intend to do with 
Valentinois, to whom he had promised so much ? What would 
be his attitude towards Venice, who already manifested her inten- 
tion of marching into Romagna ? 

Two men were employed in studying these questions with the 

' Buonaccorsi, "Diario," p. S3 and fol. 

» Letter of the 29th October, 1503. 

3 Giustinian, de>patch of the 19th October. 


utmost diligence and penetration : Machiavelli and Giustiniau. 
Naturally, however, the latter concerned himself much less than 
the former with the affair of Valentinois, whom his Republic had 
little occasion to fear. As soon as he had heard of the promises 
made to him by Delle Rovere, he had set about ascertaining 
the latter's intentions with great acuteness. And he had been 
told in reply : " See that the election be successful, and have no 
doubts. You behold the miserable state to which we have been 
reduced by the carrion Pope Alexander has left behind him, with 
this great crowd of cardinals. Necessity compels men to do that 
which they would not, so long as they are dependent upon others ; 
but once freed, they then act in a different fashion." ^ After that, 
Giustinian required no more explanations, nor occupied himself 
any more with Valentinois, indeed, when repeatedly invited to 
visit him, he refused to go, in order, as he said, to avoid swelling 
the Duke's importance. On the other hand, he showed marvellous 
discretion and perseverance in scrutinizing the most secret ideas 
of the Pope touching the advance of the Venetians, and reported 
them to his government with a diligence surpassing descrip- 
tion. He speedily discovered that the first symptoms of benevo- 
lence and the first waverings were mere illusions ; that the Pope 
was resolved to risk his tiara and the peace of Europe in order to 
win back the territories which, in his opinion, appertained to the 
Church. Thus, before they were manifest to any other human 
eye, we may discern the germs of the League of Cambray in the 
despatches of the Venetian ambassador,^ who in vain counselled 
prudence to his government, and in vain sought to calm the 
haughty and irritable spirit of the Pope. Very different, with 
regard to these affairs, was the position of Machiavelli. Above 
all else, the chief anxiety of the Florentines was to see Julius 11. 
the declared enemy of the Venetians. The necessary reserve 
maintained by him on the first news of their advance, was not only 
interpreted by the Florentines as a sign of unpardonable coldness ; 
but almost as a proof that he rejoiced at the event, and was per- 
haps acting in concert with Venice, in order thus to prevent the 
restoration of the Duke. Therefore the Ten urged Machiavelli to 
use every art to arouse jealousy and hatred towards Venice ; but 
he was soon compelled to acknowledge that this was the easiest of 
matters, for the first symiptoms of the Pope's passionate and 
deliberate indignation were not slow in breaking out. But he 
had to keep a vigilant eye upon Valentinois, who — had he gone 
to Romagna — must have passed through Tuscany, a circumstance 

' Despatch of the 30th' October, 1503. 
" Despatch of the 6th November. 


of no small dan<;cr to the Republic. Besides, unlike Giustinian, 
he enjoyed few opportunit.ies of approaching the Pope, and there- 
fore ignored his real inlenlions towards a man whom he had 
greatly hated, but to whom he had promised much. 

The importance of this Legation, so far as it touches the life of 
Machiavelli, proceeds from its shortly bringing him once more in 
contact with Valentinois, when fallen from the high estate in 
which he had first known him. The secretary now writes and 
speaks of him with an indilTerence and cold contempt which has 
scandalized many, who looked upon this not only as a flagrant 
contradiction of all that he had previously written of him ; but 
also as a proof of a low nature, only capable of admiring successful 
prosperity and good luck, and ready to trample upon his hero, 
directly he saw him in the dust. This erroneous judgment, how- 
ever, is nothing but the natural consequence of the previous 
blunder of giving to Machiavelli's admiration for Valentinois 
a significance and a value which it never possessed. Even if a 
brigand chief had had the daring and dexterity to upset a country 
and subject it to his rule, Machiavelli would have admired his 
ability and courage without taking alarm at any sanguinary and 
cruel action. Indeed the workings of his own fancy would have 
converted the object of his admiration into a sort of imaginary 
hero, while lauding Caesar's prudence and virtue^ in the sense in 
which the latter word wa* iMuployed during the Italian Renais- 
sance. This all came from the nature of his genius, the cha- 
racter of the times, and — it may be— the coldness of his heart, 
which, though certainly not bad, was not easily inflamed with any 
very ardent enthusiasm for goodness. Naturally enough, there- 
fore, had he afterwards encountered the same brigand, fallen from 
his previous position into obscurity, and had beheld the man in all 
his immoral and repulsive monstrousness, Machiavelli, in pur- 
suance of his customary impassable examination of reality, would 
have described and judged him in his true light, without any 
hesitation or fear of contradicting himself. And this was not 
very unlike his attitude with regard to Valentinois, therefore the 
contradiction lies, not in his judgment, but rather in that of 
individuals wishing to attribute to him opinions, virtues and 
vices which he never possessed. 

Meanwhile many and various rumours were afloat as to the 
Pope's intentions respecting his given promises. He did not wish 
to keep them, but neither did he wish to pass for a perjurer — 
the very accusation so often hurled by him against the Borgia. 
And the Duke, on the other hand, wrote Machiavelli — "always 
transported by his daring confidence, believes that the words of 


others are more trustworthy than were his own, and that the 
promised marriage alHance must be maintained." ' On the 5th of 
November came letters from the Ten telhng of the revolt of Imola 
against Valentinois, and the advance of the Venetians towards 
Faenza. Machiavelli conveyed this news to the Pope, who heard it 
unmoved, and then to several cardinals, to whom he remarked 
that if his Holiness followed this course, he would soon be no 
better than a Venetian chaplain. He then presented himself to 
the Duke, who was greatly agitated, and complained bitterly of 
the Florentines ; he said that they might, with a hundred men, 
have saved him those States, and yet had not done so. Since 
Imola is lost, and Faenza attacked, he declares that he will no 
longer collect soldiers, nor be fooled by you. He will place all 
that remains to him in the hands of the Venetians. In this way 
he believes that he shall soon witness the destruction of your 
State, and will exult over it, for the French have too much to do 
in the kingdom of Naples, to be able to assist you. " And he 
enlarged upon these points with poisoned and passionate words. 
I had no lack of things to say in reply, nor would my words have 
failed me ; yet I took the course of trying to pacify him, and took 
leave of him as quickly as possible, for it seemed a thousand years 
till I could quit his presence." ^ The situation was now entirely 
changed ; the Duke had no longer the power to enforce his com- 
mands, and Machiavelli was conscious of his own superiority over 
his interlocutor, who in old times had seemed so much greater 
than he. 

We now see Rome the centre of the chief affairs of the world ; 
of those between France and Spain, the most important of all ; the 
concerns of Romagna ; the warfare of the barons. But the Pope, 
equally indebted to all for his election, and not having as yet 
collected either men or money cannot decide which to favour. 
" He is of necessity compelled to veer with the wind until change 
of times and circumstances force him to declare himself, or until 
he be so firmly fixed in his seat, as to be able to favour or carry 
out any undertaking that is to his mind." No one understands 
what he means to do with Valentinois ; he presses him to depart, 
he has written and caused others to write to your Excellencies, to 
grant him a safe conduct, but he does not at all care that he 
should really obtain it.3 The Duke is preparing to take the road 
by Porto Venere or Spezia, and thence by the Garfagnana and 

' Letter of the 4th of November. 

* This letter has no date, and is the ix. of this Leffalion, " Opoie," vol. vi. 
p. 388. 

3 Letter of the i ith of November. 
VOL. I. 23 


Modena iiilo Romagna. His troops coiisistincj of three liundrccl 
light horse and i'ovir hundred infantry, would pass through 
Tuscany, if he has the safe conduct of your Excellencies, of whom 
he now speaks with much affability. But who may count upon 
his friendshiji, especially now, that he himself seems hardly to 
know what he wishes ? The Cardinal of Volterra has found him 
" changeable, irresolute, and suspicious, incapable of remaining 
firm to any conclusion ; either because this be natural to him, or 
because these blows of misfortune have stupified him, and travail 
him inwardly as one unused to experience them." The Cardinal 
d'Elna ' has said that " he thought him out of his mind, for he 
knew not himself what he desired to do, so involved and irresolute 
did he seem."* 

Besides, the name of Valcntinois was so detested by the mass or 
Florentine citizens^ that, notwithstanding the recommendations — 
somewhat lukewarm, we must admit — of Cardinals Soderini and 
De Rouen, 3 when the proposal for the safe conduct was brought 
before the Council of Eighty, out of a hundred and ten votes, 
ninety were against it.* And on learning this, his Holiness 
raised his head and told Machiavelli that it was best so, and that 
he was content ; whereupon the latter wrote — one sees plainly 
that he wishes to be rid of him, without appearing to break faith 
with him, and therefore does not care in the least what others do 
against him.s Very different, of course, was the impression this 
made upon the mind of the Duke, who, the moment he saw 
Machiavelli, burst into fury, saying, that he had already sent on his 
troops, was himself about to take ship, and could not possibly 
wait. The orator tried to soothe him by promising to write to 
Florence, and suggested that the Duke should send one of his 
men there, which certainly would lead to some good arrangement. 
But what he really wrote to the Ten was, that he had said these 
things to pacify the Duke, and because the latter threatened to 
side with the Pisans, the Venetians, the devil himself, in order to 

' Francesco Loris, bishop of Elna. Often mentioned as d'Euna, d'Herina, 
d'Helna. For his true title see the "Dispacci " of A. Giustinian, vol. i. p. 247, 
note (i). * Letter of the 14th of November. 

3 The two letters of recommendation are in the " Opeie," P. M., vol. iv. p. 349. 

* Letter of Buonaccorsi, dated 5th of November, 1503, " Carte del Machiavelli," 
case ill. No. 21. On this subject, see too the letter of the Ten, " Opere," P. M., 
vol. iv. p. 361. 

s Letter of the iSth of November. Giustinian wrote on the 17th of the same 
month — " The Pope is planning the Duke's destruction, but does not wish to 
appear in the matter." And on the 13th he added, that the Pope himself had 
said to him — "This Duke is so changeable and incomprehensible, that certainly 
we do not know how to assert anything respecting his affairs ... let him go if he 
chooses, for we think that he will be stripped of everything." 


injure Florence. " When his messenger arrives, your Excellencies 
can neglect him and arrange about him as you Avill judge best. 
As to the troops which have already set out, namely, one hundred 
men-at-arms, and two hundred and fifty light horse, you can try 
to be informed of their movements, so as to have them disarmed 
and stripped at the first convenient opportunity." ^ 

Valentinois started for Ostia with four or five hundred men, 
according to public rumour, which also swelled to seven hundred 
horse the cavalry on the road to Tuscany.' These had been 
already preceded by the Bishop of Veroli, who had arrived in 
Florence with a letter of recommendation signed by Cardinal 
Soderini, and written by Machiavelli,3 who instantly despatched 
another one to explain that the first was nothing but a ruse to 
soothe the Duke and send him quietly away. They could act as 
they pleased with regard to the letter.4 

Now, however, affairs were becoming complicated, for news 
arrived that the Venetians had taken Faenza, and soon after, that 
they had annexed Rimini by agreement with Malatesta. Upon 
this, Machiavelli, in language that may truly be called prophetic, 
wrote that this expedition of the Venetians "will either be the 
gate opening all Italy to them, or prove to be their ruin.'' 5 Here 
in fact was the germ of the future league of Cambray. The 
Cardinal de Rouen, terribly enraged, swore on his soul that if the 
Venetians threatened Florence, the king would put aside all else 
to help them ; the Pope declared that if the Venetians persevered 
in their present course of action, he would join with France, with 
the Emperor, with any one, to achieve their downfall, as in fact he 
afterwards did.^ 

Meanwhile the Pope was unable to restrain himself any longer, 
although he had permitted Valentinois to go to Ostia, without 

' Letter of the i8th of November. "^ Letter of the 19th of November. 

3 This is in vol. vi. of the " Opere," p. 430, note. 

* Letter of the 20th of November. 
5 Letter of the 24th of November. 

* Letter of the 21st of November. In the following letter Machiavelli asks the 
Ten for money, and goes through his accounts. On starting he had received 
thirty-three ducats. He spent tiiirteen in travelling post, eighteen upon a mule, 
eighteen upon a velvet habit, eleven on a Catalan cloak, ten upon a loose robe, 
making a total of seventy ducats. He was living at an inn with two men and 
a mule, spending ten carlini a-day. Although the Ten had granted him the 
salary he had demanded, yet he was not then aware of the dearth of provisions in 
Rome. Therefore he now asked to be reimbursed for his travelling expenses, 
according to the usual custom. This request was granted. In fact there exists in 
the Florentine Archives an order of payment dated 3rd of January, 1503 (1504), in 
which it is stated that, Machiavelli having been granted a salary of ten lire a-day— 
his usual stipend included, a sum of 3C0 lire was owing to him from the 23rd of 


giving up the jiass-words of the Cesena ami Forll citadels which 
were still holiliiig out for him; he now sent the Cardinals of 
Volterra and Sorrento after him to order him to give the pass- 
words and slate tliat if he refused them, his Holiness would have 
him arrested and his adherents seized and disarmed. In fact, 
when these messengers returned without having obtained any- 
thing from Valentinois, the Pope instantly sent orders to the naval 
commandant in Ostiafor the Duke's arrest, and wrote to Sienna and 
Perugia that his people were to be stripped, and if possible their 
leader Don Michele made a prisoner.' AH this caused a rumour to 
arise that Cresar Borgia had been thrown into the Tiber, and 
although Machiavelli did not give full credence to the report, he 
added, in writing of it — "I really believe that even if this have 
not already happened, it soon may. . . . This Pope begins to pay 
his debts honourably enough, but rubs them out with the tow of 
his inkstand ; and since he (the Duke) is taken, whether he be 
alive or dead, we need trouble ourselves no more about him.=^ 
One sees that his sins are gradually bringing him to punishment ; 
God grant that all may go well ! " 3 

This is a specimen of the language that so deeply scandalizes 
those who after having converted Machiavelli not only into a 
blind admirer, but almost into the counsellor and secret agent of 
Valentinois, are amazed to perceive that he now speaks of him 
with so much cold contempt, and make that a ground for fresh 
accusations against him. But Borgia's behaviour at this junc- 
ture appeared to all as it really was — vile, contemptible, and incon- 
sistent. Instead of defending his badly acquired possessions sword 
in hand, he became humble and irresolute, trusting only to the 
basest intrigues. He is no longer the individual who excited 
Machiavelli's praise and admiration. And although the secretary's 
present tone of language may appear cynical to those either 
disposed to exalt him over much, or to blame him too severely, 
very different was the opinion entertained by his contemporaries. 
In Florence indeed he was blamed for always making too much 
account of the Duke, and to this accusation those least well dis- 
posed towards Alachiavelli added derision and even calumny. 

November to the 22nd of December. Deducting from this 164 lire, 3 sokli, 
4 denari, as his usual salary, there remained 132 lire, soldi, 8 denari, still to be 
paid to him, and for which an order was given, as also for 25 broad yellow florins, 
and 6 lire, " which his accounts show him to have expended in going to Rome, 
and on his return journey by post." " Opere " (P. M.), vol. i. p. 62. 

' Letters of the 23rd and 24th November. 

* Letter of the 26th November. It is almost unnecessary to add that many 
jX)rtions of these letters are written in cipher, 

5 Fim letter of the 28th November. 


Buonaccorsi, in one of his letters, tells him that — "In general you 
are laughed at for writing too earnestly of the Duke ; there are 
persons who even believe that you hope to get some benefit for 
yourself from him, but that you will not succeed." ' 

Meanwhile Caesar Borgia, escorted by the Papal guards, was 
brought up the Tiber on board a galleon, as far as S. Paolo, 
on the 29th of November, and entered Rome the same evening. 
" Your Excellencies," so wrote Machiavelli, " need not trouble your- 
selves as to where he may land. The men who were with him have 
straggled back one by one, and those who went with Don Michele 
will not get on very well."^ In fact on the ist of December came 
the news that this band pursued by the Baglioniand the Siennese, 
had been routed and disarmed, while Don Alichele, seized by the 
people of Castiglion Fiorentino, had been sent a prisoner to 
Florence. The Pope was overjoyed at this, and wished to have 
him in his own hands, in order to " get to the bottom of all the 
cruel robberies, murders, sacrileges, and infinite other crimes 
committed in Rome against God and man during the past eleven 
years. He told me smilingly, that he wished to speak with him, 
that he might learn something from him, the better to govern the 
Church. He hopes that you will therefore surrender Don Michele 
to him, and the Cardinal of Volterra has encouraged him in this 
hope, and strongly urges your Excellencies to give him up as a 
criminal guilty of despoiling the Church." 3 

The Duke, as was natural, became more and more dejected, 
shut up in the apartments of the Cardinal of Sorrento. This, how- 
ever, did not alter his mode of conduct. He had at last delivered 
the countersigns to Pietro d'Oviedo, who was to go with them to 
obtain the surrender of the fortresses ; but he asked the Pope to 
give him sureties for the Romagna territories, and required that 
the Cardinal of Rouen should guarantee these sureties in writing. 
" And while Valentinois," wrote Machiavelli in conclusion, " is 
making all these difficulties, and fighting over every point, the 
Pope, being quite easy as to the result, lets him run on and will 

* Letter of the 15th November, 1503, from which we have before quoted. 

■ Letter of the 29th November. See too Giustiaian's despatch of the same date. 
The two orators sometimes give the same news in almost identical words, as is by 
no means rare in the diplomatic correspondences of this period. This results in 
part from the faithfulness and precision of the Italian ambassadors, and in part, 
we believe, from their employment of the same secret agents to obtain news, or 
from having surreptitiously read the same documents, since we find the same 
phrases reproduced in the letters not of one or two, but of several orators. In the 
course of editing the Despatches of A. Giustinian we frequently had occasion to 
make this remark in collating them with those of other orators, 

3 Letter of the ist Pepernbe):. 


iidt press matters to a conclusion. It is believed, however, that 
whether he have the sureties or not, D'Oviedo will set out to- 
morrow ; and thus it would seem that little by little this Duke 
is slipping into his grave." ' 

It is useless now to waste time in relating how D'Oviedo set out ; 
how he came to his death in Romagna, hanged by one of the com- 
mandants of the fortresses who would not .surrender, because his 
master was in the power of the Pope ; how the Pope finally obtained 
the fortresses, and Valcntinois, deserted by all, went to Naples 
where he was seized by Gonsalvo dei Cordova, and sent a prisoner 
to Spain. All these are things generally known, and besides 
w-ould lead us too far astray from the subject of our narrative. 
Instead, it is only necessary to record one last circumstance, very 
typical of the Duke's behaviour at this period, and throwing a 
new light upon his character. He had repeatedly implored as" a 
special grace " an interview with Duke Guidobaldo, who had then 
come to Rome from Urbino, and was on very good terms with the 
Pope. At first this nobleman — remembering how iniquitously he 
had been in former days driven from his dominions by the Borgia, 
and with what fury they had sought to hunt him down, refused 
the request ; but finally yielded to the intercessions of his Holi- 
ness. We are told by an eye-witness that Valentinois entered cap 
in hand, and tv/ice bent his knees to the ground in advancing to- 
wards Duke Guidobaldo, who was sitting upon a species of couch 
in the pontifical ante-chamber. On seeing his old adversary in 
this attitude of humility, he left h