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Title: Renaissance in Italy, Volume 1 (of 7) - The Age of the Despots
Author: Symonds, John Addington, 1840-1893
Language: English
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The Age of the Despots



Author of _Studies of the Greek Poets_, _Sketches in Italy and Greece_,

'Di questi adunque oziosi principi, e di queste vilissime armi, sarà
piena la mia Istoria'

Mach. 1_st_. _Fior_. lib. i.

New York
Henry Holt and Company










Though these books taken together and in the order planned by the author
form one connected study of Italian culture at a certain period of
history, still each aims at a completeness of its own, and each can be
read independently of its companions. That the author does not regard
acquaintance with any one of them as essential to a profitable reading
of any other has been shown by the publication of each with a separate
title-page and without numeration of the volumes, while all three bear
the same general heading of "Renaissance in Italy."


This volume is the First Part of a work upon the 'Renaissance in Italy.'
The Second Part treats of the Revival of Learning. The Third, of the
Fine Arts. The Fourth Part, in two volumes, is devoted to Italian

Owing to the extent of the ground I have attempted to traverse, I feel
conscious that the students of special departments will find much to be
desired in my handling of each part. In some respects I hope that the
several portions of the work may complete and illustrate each other.
Many topics, for example, have been omitted from Chapter VIII. in this
volume because they seemed better adapted to treatment in the future.

One of the chief difficulties which the critic has to meet in dealing
with the Italian Renaissance is the determination of the limits of the
epoch. Two dates, 1453 and 1527, marking respectively the fall of
Constantinople and the sack of Rome, are convenient for fixing in the
mind that narrow space of time during which the Renaissance culminated.
But in order to trace its progress up to this point, it is necessary to
go back to a far more remote period; nor, again, is it possible to
maintain strict chronological consistency in treating of the several
branches of the whole theme.

The books of which the most frequent use has been made in this first
portion of the work are Sismondi's 'Républiques Italiennes'; Muratori's
'Rerum Italicarum Scriptores'; the 'Archivio Storico Italiano'; the
seventh volume of Michelet's 'Histoire de France'; the seventh and
eighth volumes of Gregorovius' 'Geschichte der Stadt Rom'; Ferrari's
'Rivoluzioni d' Italia'; Alberi's series of Despatches; Gino Capponi's
'Storia della Repubblica di Firenze'; and Burckhardt's 'Cultur der
Renaissance in Italien.' To the last-named essay I must acknowledge
especial obligations. It fell under my notice when I had planned, and in
a great measure finished, my own work. But it would be difficult for me
to exaggerate the profit I have derived from the comparison of my
opinions with those of a writer so thorough in his learning and so
delicate in his perceptions as Jacob Burckhardt, or the amount I owe to
his acute and philosophical handling of the whole subject. I must also
express a special debt to Ferrari, many of whose views I have adopted in
the Chapter on 'Italian History.' With regard to the alterations
introduced into the substance of the book in this edition, it will be
enough to say that I have endeavored to bring each chapter up to the
level of present knowledge.

In conclusion, I once more ask indulgence for a volume which, though it
aims at a completeness of its own, is professedly but one part of a long




Difficulty of fixing Date--Meaning of Word Renaissance--The Emancipation
of the Reason--Relation of Feudalism to the Renaissance--Mediæval
Warnings of the Renaissance--Abelard, Bacon, Joachim of Flora, the
Provencals, the Heretics, Frederick II.--Dante, Petrarch,
Boccaccio--Physical Energy of the Italians--The Revival of Learning--The
Double Discovery of the World and of Man--Exploration of the Universe
and of the Globe--Science--The Fine Arts and Scholarship--Art Humanizes
the Conceptions of the Church--Three Stages in the History of
Scholarship--The Age of Desire--The Age of Acquisition--The Legend of
Julia's Corpse--The Age of the Printers and Critics--The Emancipation of
the Conscience--The Reformation and the Modern Critical
Spirit--Mechanical Inventions--The Place of Italy in the Renaissance P. 1.



The special Difficulties of this Subject--Apparent Confusion--Want of
leading Motive--The Papacy--The Empire--The Republics--The Despots--The
People--The Dismemberment of Italy--Two main Topics--The Rise of the
Communes--Gothic Kingdom--Lombards--Franks--Germans--The Bishops--The
Consuls--The Podestas--Civil Wars--Despots--The Balance of Power--The
Five Italian States--The Italians fail to achieve National Unity--The
Causes of this Failure--Conditions under which it might have been
achieved--A Republic--A Kingdom--A Confederation--A Tyranny--The Part
played by the Papacy P. 32.



Salient Qualities of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries in
Italy--Relation of Italy to the Empire and to the Church--The
Illegitimate Title of Italian Potentates--The Free Emergence of
Personality--Frederick II. and the Influence of his Example--Ezzelino da
Romano--Six Sorts of Italian Despots--Feudal Seigneurs--Vicars of the
Empire--Captains of the People--Condottieri--Nephews and Sons of
Popes--Eminent Burghers--Italian Incapacity for Self-government in
Commonwealths--Forcible Tenure of Power encouraged Personal Ability--The
Condition of the Despot's Life--Instances of Domestic Crime in the
Ruling Houses--Macaulay's Description of the Italian
Tyrant--Savonarola's and Matteo Villani's Descriptions of a Tyrant--The
Absorption of Smaller by Greater Tyrannies in the Fourteenth
Century--History of the Visconti--Francesco Sforza--The Part played in
Italian Politics by Military Leaders--Mercenary Warfare--Alberico da
Barbiano, Braccio da Montone, Sforza Attendolo--History of the Sforza
Dynasty--The Murder of Galeazzo Maria Sforza--The Ethics of Tyrannicide
in Italy--Relation of the Despots to Arts and Letters--Sigismondo
Pandolfo Malatesta--Duke Federigo of Urbino--The School of Vittorino and
the Court of Urbino--The Cortegiano of Castiglione--The Ideals of the
Italian Courtier and the Modern Gentleman--General Retrospect P. 99.



The different Physiognomies of the Italian Republics--The Similarity of
their Character as Municipalities--The Rights of Citizenship--Causes of
Disturbance in the Commonwealths--Belief in the Plasticity of
Constitutions--Example of Genoa--Savonarola's
Constitution--Machiavelli's Discourse to Leo X.--Complexity of Interests
and Factions--Example of Siena--Small Size of Italian Cities--Mutual
Mistrust and Jealousy of the Commonwealths--The notable Exception of
Venice--Constitution of Venice--Her wise System of Government--Contrast
of Florentine Vicissitudes--The Magistracies of Florence--Balia and
Parlamento--The Arts of the Medici--Comparison of Venice and Florence in
respect to Intellectual Activity and Mobility--Parallels between Greece
and Italy--Essential Differences--The Mercantile Character of Italian
Burghs--The 'Trattato del Governo della Famiglia'--The Bourgeois Tone of
Florence, and the Ideal of a Burgher--Mercenary Arms P. 193.



Florence, the City of Intelligence--Cupidity, Curiosity, and the Love of
Beauty--Florentine Historical Literature--Philosophical Study of
History--Ricordano Malespini--Florentine History compared with the
Chronicles of other Italian Towns--The Villani--The Date
1300--Statistics--Dante's Political Essays and Pamphlets--Dino
Compagni--Latin Histories of Florence in Fifteenth Century--Lionardo
Bruni and Poggio Bracciolini--The Historians of the First Half of the
Sixteenth Century--Men of Action and Men of Letters; the
Doctrinaires--Florence between 1494 and 1537--Varchi, Segni, Nardi,
Pitti, Nerli, Guicciardini--The Political Importance of these
Writers--The Last Years of Florentine Independence, and the Siege of
1529--State of Parties--Filippo Strozzi--Different Views of Florentine
Weakness taken by the Historians--Their Literary Qualities--Francesco
Guicciardini and Niccolo Machiavelli--Scientific Statists--Discord
between Life and Literature--The Biography of Guicciardini--His 'Istoria
d'Italia,' 'Dialogo del Reggimento di Firenze,' 'Storia Fiorentina,'
'Ricordi'--Biography of Machiavelli--His Scheme of a National
Militia--Dedication of 'The Prince'--Political Ethics of the Italian
Renaissance--The 'Discorsi'--The Seven Books on the Art of War and the
'History of Florence. P. 246.



The Sincerity of Machiavelli in this Essay--Machiavellism--His
deliberate Formulation of a cynical political Theory--Analysis of 'The
Prince'--Nine Conditions of Principalities--The Interest of the
Conqueror acknowledged as the sole Motive of his Policy--Critique of
Louis XII.--Feudal Monarchy and Oriental Despotism--Three Ways of
subduing a free City--Example of Pisa--Principalities founded by
Adventurers--Moses, Romulus, Cyrus, Theseus--Savonarola--Francesco
Sforza--Cesare Borgia--Machiavelli's personal Relation to
him--Machiavelli's Admiration of Cesare's Genius--A Sketch of Cesare's
Career--Concerning those who have attained to Sovereignty by
Crimes--Oliverotto da Fermo--The Uses of Cruelty--Messer Ramiro d'
Orco--The pessimistic Morality of Machiavelli--On the Faith of
Princes--Alexander VI.--The Policy of seeming virtuous and
honest--Absence of chivalrous Feeling in Italy--The Military System of a
powerful Prince--Criticism of Mercenaries and Auxiliaries--Necessity of
National Militia--The Art of War--Patriotic Conclusion of the
Treatise--Machiavelli and Savonarola P. 334.



The Papacy between 1447 and 1527--The Contradictions of the Renaissance
Period exemplified by the Popes--Relaxation of their hold over the
States of the Church and Rome during the Exile in Avignon--Nicholas
V.--His Conception of a Papal Monarchy--Pius II.--The
Crusade--Renaissance Pontiffs--Paul II.--Persecution of the
Platonists--Sixtus IV.--Nepotism--The Families of Riario and Delia
Rovere--Avarice--Love of Warfare--Pazzi Conspiracy--Inquisition in
Spain--Innocent VIII.--Franceschetto Cibo--The Election of Alexander
VI.--His Consolidation of the Temporal Power--Policy toward Colonna and
Orsini Families--Venality of everything in Rome--Policy toward the
Sultan--The Index--The Borgia Family--Lucrezia--Murder of Duke of
Gandia--Cesare and his Advancement--The Death of Alexander--Julius
II.--His violent Temper--Great Projects and commanding Character--Leo
X.--His Inferiority to Julius--S. Peter's and the Reformation--Adrian
VI.--His Hatred of Pagan Culture--Disgust of the Roman Court at his
Election--Clement VII.--Sack of Rome--Enslavement of Florence P. 371.



Corruption of the Church--Degradation and Division of Italy--Opinions of
Machiavelli, Guicciardini, and King Ferdinand of Naples--Incapacity of
the Italians for thorough Reformation--The Worldliness and Culture of
the Renaissance--Witness of Italian Authors against the Papal Court and
the Convents--Superstitious Respect for Relics--Separation between
Religion and Morality--Mixture of Contempt and Reverence for the
Popes--Gianpaolo Baglioni--Religious Sentiments of the
Tyrannicides--Pietro Paolo Boscoli--Tenacity of Religions--The direct
Interest of the Italians in Rome--Reverence for the Sacraments of the
Church--Opinions pronounced by Englishmen on Italian Immorality--Bad
Faith and Sensuality--The Element of the Fancy in Italian Vice--The
Italians not Cruel, or Brutal, or Intemperate by Nature--Domestic
Murders--Sense of Honor in Italy--Onore and Onesta--General
Refinement--Good Qualities of the People--Religious Revivalism P. 447.



The Attitude of Savonarola toward the Renaissance--His Parentage, Birth,
and Childhood at Ferrara--His Poem on the Ruin of the World--Joins the
Dominicans at Bologna--Letter to his Father--Poem on the Ruin of the
Church--Begins to preach in 1482--First Visit to Florence--San
Gemignano--His Prophecy--Brescia in 1486--Personal Appearance and Style
of Oratory--Effect on his audience--The three Conclusions--His
Visions--Savonarola's Shortcomings as a patriotic Statesman--His sincere
Belief in his prophetic Calling--Friendship with Pico della
Mirandola--Settles in Florence, 1490--Convent of San Marco--Savonarola's
Relation to Lorenzo de' Medici--The death of Lorenzo--Sermons of 1493
and 1494--the Constitution of 1495--Theocracy in Florence--Piagnoni,
Bigi, and Arrabbiati--War between Savonarola and Alexander VI.--The
Signory suspends him from preaching in the Duomo in 1498--Attempts to
call a Council--The Ordeal by Fire--San Marco stormed by the Mob--Trial
and Execution of Savonarola  P. 497.



The Italian States confront the Great Nations of Europe--Policy of Louis
XI. of France--Character of Charles VIII.--Preparations for the Invasion
of Italy--Position of Lodovico Sforza--Diplomatic Difficulties in Italy
after the Death of Lorenzo de' Medici--Weakness of the Republics--Il
Moro--The year 1494---Alfonso of Naples--Inefficiency of the Allies to
cope with France--Charles at Lyons is stirred up to the Invasion of
Italy by Giuliano della Rovere--Charles at Asti and Pavia--Murder of
Gian Galeazzo Sforza--Mistrust in the French Army--Rapallo and
Fivizzano--The Entrance into Tuscany--Part played by Piero de'
Medici--Charles at Pisa--His Entrance into Florence--Piero Capponi--The
March on Rome--Entry into Rome--Panic of Alexander VI.--The March on
Naples--The Spanish Dynasty: Alfonso and Ferdinand--Alfonso II. escapes
to Sicily--Ferdinand II. takes Refuge in Ischia--Charles at Naples--The
League against the French--De Comines at Venice--Charles makes his
Retreat by Rome, Siena, Pisa, and Pontremoli--The Battle of
Fornovo--Charles reaches Asti and returns to France--Italy becomes the
Prize to be fought for by France, Spain, and Germany--Importance of the
Expedition of Charles VIII. P. 537.

       *       *       *       *       *


No. I.--The Blood-madness of Tyrants                           589

No. II.--Translations of Nardi, 'Istorie di Firenze,' lib. l. cap. 4;
  and of Varchi, 'Storia Fiorentina,' lib. iii. caps. 20,
  21, 22; lib. ix. caps. 48, 49, 46                            592

No. III.--The Character of Alexander VI., from Guicciardini's
  'Storia Fiorentina,' cap. 27                                 603

No. IV.--Religious Revivals in Mediæval Italy                  606

No. V.--The 'Sommario della Storia d' Italia dal 1511 al 1527,
  by Francesco Vettori                                         624




Difficulty of fixing Date--Meaning of Word Renaissance--The Emancipation
of the Reason--Relation of Feudalism to the Renaissance--Mediæval
Warnings of the Renaissance--Abelard, Bacon, Joachim of Flora, the
Provençals, the Heretics, Frederick II.--Dante, Petrarch,
Boccaccio--Physical Energy of the Italians--The Revival of Learning--The
Double Discovery of the World and of Man--Exploration of the Universe
and of the Globe--Science--The Fine Arts and Scholarship--Art Humanizes
the Conceptions of the Church--Three Stages in the History of
Scholarship--The Age of Desire--The Age of Acquisition--The Legend of
Julia's Corpse--The Age of the Printers and Critics--The Emancipation of
the Conscience--The Reformation and the Modern Critical
Spirit--Mechanical Inventions--The Place of Italy in the Renaissance.

The word Renaissance has of late years received a more extended
significance than that which is implied in our English equivalent--the
Revival of Learning. We use it to denote the whole transition from the
Middle Ages to the Modern World; and though it is possible to assign
certain limits to the period during which this transition took place, we
cannot fix on any dates so positively as to say--between this year and
that the movement was accomplished. To do so would be like trying to
name the days on which spring in any particular season began and ended
Yet we speak of spring as different from winter and from summer. The
truth is, that in many senses we are still in mid-Renaissance. The
evolution has not been completed. The new life is our own and is
progressive. As in the transformation scene of some great Masque, so
here the waning and the waxing shapes are mingled; the new forms, at
first shadowy and filmy, gain upon the old; and now both blend; and now
the old scene fades into the background; still, who shall say whether
the new scene be finally set up?

In like manner we cannot refer the whole phenomena of the Renaissance to
any one cause or circumstance, or limit them within the field of any one
department of human knowledge. If we ask the students of art what they
mean by the Renaissance, they will reply that it was the revolution
effected in architecture, painting, and sculpture by the recovery of
antique monuments. Students of literature, philosophy, and theology see
in the Renaissance that discovery of manuscripts, that passion for
antiquity, that progress in philology and criticism, which led to a
correct knowledge of the classics, to a fresh taste in poetry, to new
systems of thought, to more accurate analysis, and finally to the
Lutheran schism and the emancipation of the conscience. Men of science
will discourse about the discovery of the solar system by Copernicus and
Galileo, the anatomy of Vesalius, and Harvey's theory of the circulation
of the blood. The origination of a truly scientific method is the point
which interests them most in the Renaissance. The political historian,
again, has his own answer to the question. The extinction of feudalism,
the development of the great nationalities of Europe, the growth of
monarchy, the limitation of the ecclesiastical authority and the
erection of the Papacy into an Italian kingdom, and in the last place
the gradual emergence of that sense of popular freedom which exploded in
the Revolution; these are the aspects of the movement which engross his
attention. Jurists will describe the dissolution of legal fictions based
upon the false decretals, the acquisition of a true text of the Roman
Code, and the attempt to introduce a rational method into the theory of
modern jurisprudence, as well as to commence the study of international
law. Men whose attention has been turned to the history of discoveries
and inventions will relate the exploration of America and the East, or
will point to the benefits conferred upon the world by the arts of
printing and engraving, by the compass and the telescope, by paper and
by gunpowder; and will insist that at the moment of the Renaissance all
these instruments of mechanical utility started into existence, to aid
the dissolution of what was rotten and must perish, to strengthen and
perpetuate the new and useful and life-giving. Yet neither any one of
these answers taken separately, nor indeed all of them together, will
offer a solution of the problem. By the term Renaissance, or new birth,
is indicated a natural movement, not to be explained by this or that
characteristic, but to be accepted as an effort of humanity for which
at length the time had come, and in the onward progress of which we
still participate. The history of the Renaissance is not the history of
arts, or of sciences, or of literature, or even of nations. It is the
history of the attainment of self-conscious freedom by the human spirit
manifested in the European races. It is no mere political mutation, no
new fashion of art, no restoration of classical standards of taste. The
arts and the inventions, the knowledge and the books, which suddenly
became vital at the time of the Renaissance, had long lain neglected on
the shores of the Dead Sea which we call the Middle Ages. It was not
their discovery which caused the Renaissance. But it was the
intellectual energy, the spontaneous outburst of intelligence, which
enabled mankind at that moment to make use of them. The force then
generated still continues, vital and expansive, in the spirit of the
modern world.

How was it, then, that at a certain period, about fourteen centuries
after Christ, to speak roughly, the intellect of the Western races awoke
as it were from slumber and began once more to be active? That is a
question which we can but imperfectly answer. The mystery of organic
life defeats analysis; whether the subject of our inquiry be a
germ-cell, or a phenomenon so complex as the commencement of a new
religion, or the origination of a new disease, or a new phase in
civilization, it is alike impossible to do more than to state the
conditions under which the fresh growth begins, and to point out what
are its manifestations. In doing so, moreover, we must be careful not
to be carried away by words of our own making. Renaissance, Reformation,
and Revolution are not separate things, capable of being isolated; they
are moments in the history of the human race which we find it convenient
to name; while history itself is one and continuous, so that our utmost
endeavors to regard some portion of it independently of the rest will be

A glance at the history of the preceding centuries shows that, after the
dissolution of the fabric of the Roman Empire, there was no immediate
possibility of any intellectual revival. The barbarous races which had
deluged Europe had to absorb their barbarism: the fragments of Roman
civilization had either to be destroyed or assimilated: the Germanic
nations had to receive culture and religion from the people they had
superseded; the Church had to be created, and a new form given to the
old idea of the Empire. It was further necessary that the modern
nationalities should be defined, that the modern languages should be
formed, that peace should be secured to some extent, and wealth
accumulated, before the indispensable conditions for a resurrection of
the free spirit of humanity could exist. The first nation which
fulfilled these conditions was the first to inaugurate the new era. The
reason why Italy took the lead in the Renaissance was, that Italy
possessed a language, a favorable climate, political freedom, and
commercial prosperity, at a time when other nations were still
semi-barbarous. Where the human spirit had been buried in the decay of
the Roman Empire, there it arose upon the ruins of that Empire; and the
Papacy, called by Hobbes the ghost of the dead Roman Empire, seated,
throned and crowned, upon the ashes thereof, to some extent bridged over
the gulf between the two periods.

Keeping steadily in sight the truth that the real quality of the
Renaissance was intellectual, that it was the emancipation of the reason
for the modern world, we may inquire how feudalism was related to it.
The mental condition of the Middle Ages was one of ignorant prostration
before the idols of the Church--dogma and authority and scholasticism.
Again, the nations of Europe during these centuries were bound down by
the brute weight of material necessities. Without the power over the
outer world which the physical sciences and useful arts communicate,
without the ease of life which wealth and plenty secure, without the
traditions of a civilized past, emerging slowly from a state of utter
rawness, each nation could barely do more than gain and keep a difficult
hold upon existence. To depreciate the work achieved during the Middle
Ages would be ridiculous. Yet we may point out that it was done
unconsciously--that it was a gradual and instinctive process of
becoming. The reason, in one word, was not awake; the mind of man was
ignorant of its own treasures and its own capacities. It is pathetic to
think of the mediæval students poring over a single ill-translated
sentence of Porphyry, endeavoring to extract from its clauses whole
systems of logical science, and torturing their brains about puzzles
hardly less idle than the dilemma of Buridan's donkey, while all the
time, at Constantinople and at Seville, in Greek and Arabic, Plato and
Aristotle were alive but sleeping, awaiting only the call of the
Renaissance to bid them speak with voice intelligible to the modern
mind. It is no less pathetic to watch tide after tide of the ocean of
humanity sweeping from all parts of Europe, to break in passionate but
unavailing foam upon the shores of Palestine, whole nations laying life
down for the chance of seeing the walls of Jerusalem, worshiping the
sepulcher whence Christ had risen, loading their fleet with relics and
with cargoes of the sacred earth, while all the time within their
breasts and brains the spirit of the Lord was with them, living but
unrecognized, the spirit of freedom which erelong was destined to
restore its birthright to the world.

Meanwhile the middle age accomplished its own work. Slowly and
obscurely, amid stupidity and ignorance, were being forged the nations
and the languages of Europe. Italy, France, Spain, England, Germany took
shape. The actors of the future drama acquired their several characters,
and formed the tongues whereby their personalities should be expressed.
The qualities which render modern society different from that of the
ancient world, were being impressed upon these nations by Christianity,
by the Church, by chivalry, by feudal customs. Then came a further
phase. After the nations had been molded, their monarchies and dynasties
were established. Feudalism passed by slow degrees into various forms of
more or less defined autocracy. In Italy and Germany numerous
principalities sprang into pre-eminence; and though the nation was not
united under one head, the monarchical principle was acknowledged.
France and Spain submitted to a despotism, by right of which the king
could say, 'L'Etat c'est moi.' England developed her complicated
constitution of popular right and royal prerogative. At the same time
the Latin Church underwent a similar process of transformation. The
Papacy became more autocratic. Like the king, the Pope began to say,
'L'Eglise c'est moi.' This merging of the mediæval State and mediæval
Church in the personal supremacy of King and Pope may be termed the
special feature of the last age of feudalism which preceded the
Renaissance. It was thus that the necessary conditions and external
circumstances were prepared. The organization of the five great nations,
and the leveling of political and spiritual interests under political
and spiritual despots, formed the prelude to that drama of liberty of
which the Renaissance was the first act, the Reformation the second, the
Revolution the third, and which we nations of the present are still
evolving in the establishment of the democratic idea.

Meanwhile, it must not be imagined that the Renaissance burst suddenly
upon the world in the fifteenth century without premonitory symptoms.
Far from that: within the middle age itself, over and over again, the
reason strove to break loose from its fetters. Abelard, in the twelfth
century, tried to prove that the interminable dispute about entities and
words was founded on a misapprehension. Roger Bacon, at the beginning of
the thirteenth century, anticipated modern science, and proclaimed that
man, by use of nature, can do all things. Joachim of Flora, intermediate
between the two, drank one drop of the cup of prophecy offered to his
lips, and cried that 'the Gospel of the Father was past, the Gospel of
the Son was passing, the Gospel of the Spirit was to be.' These three
men, each in his own way, the Frenchman as a logician, the Englishman as
an analyst, the Italian as a mystic, divined the future but inevitable
emancipation of the reason of mankind. Nor were there wanting signs,
especially in Provence, that Aphrodite and Phoebus and the Graces were
ready to resume their sway. The premature civilization of that favored
region, so cruelly extinguished by the Church, was itself a reaction of
nature against the restrictions imposed by ecclesiastical discipline;
while the songs of the wandering students, known under the title of
_Carmina Burana_, indicate a revival of Pagan or pre-Christian feeling
in the very stronghold of mediæval learning. We have, moreover, to
remember the Cathari, the Paterini, the Fraticelli, the Albigenses, the
Hussites--heretics in whom the new light dimly shone, but who were
instantly exterminated by the Church. We have to commemorate the vast
conception of the Emperor Frederick II., who strove to found a new
society of humane culture in the South of Europe, and to anticipate the
advent of the spirit of modern tolerance. He, too, and all his race were
exterminated by the Papal jealousy. Truly we may say with Michelet that
the Sibyl of the Renaissance kept offering her books in vain to feudal
Europe. In vain because the time was not yet. The ideas projected thus
early on the modern world were immature and abortive, like those
headless trunks and zoophitic members of half-molded humanity which, in
the vision of Empedocles, preceded the birth of full-formed man. The
nations were not ready. Franciscans imprisoning Roger Bacon for
venturing to examine what God had meant to keep secret; Dominicans
preaching crusades against the cultivated nobles of Toulouse; Popes
stamping out the seed of enlightened Frederick; Benedictines erasing the
masterpieces of classical literature to make way for their own litanies
and lurries, or selling pieces of the parchment for charms; a laity
devoted by superstition to saints and by sorcery to the devil; a clergy
sunk in sensual sloth or fevered with demoniac zeal: these still ruled
the intellectual destinies of Europe. Therefore the first anticipations
of the Renaissance were fragmentary and sterile.

Then came a second period. Dante's poem, a work of conscious art,
conceived in a modern spirit and written in a modern tongue, was the
first true sign that Italy, the leader of the nations of the West, had
shaken off her sleep. Petrarch followed. His ideal, of antique culture
as the everlasting solace and the universal education of the human race,
his lifelong effort to recover the classical harmony of thought and
speech, gave a direct impulse to one of the chief movements of the
Renaissance--its passionate outgoing toward the ancient world. After
Petrarch, Boccaccio opened yet another channel for the stream of
freedom. His conception of human existence as joy to be accepted with
thanksgiving, not as a gloomy error to be rectified by suffering,
familiarized the fourteenth century with that form of semi-pagan
gladness which marked the real Renaissance.

In Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio Italy recovered the consciousness of
intellectual liberty. What we call the Renaissance had not yet arrived;
but their achievement rendered its appearance in due season certain.
With Dante the genius of the modern world dared to stand alone and to
create confidently after its own fashion. With Petrarch the same genius
reached forth across the gulf of darkness, resuming the tradition of a
splendid past. With Boccaccio the same genius proclaimed the beauty of
the world, the goodliness of youth and strength and love and life,
unterrified by hell, unappalled by the shadow of impending death.

It was now, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, when Italy had
lost indeed the heroic spirit which we admire in her Communes of the
thirteenth, but had gained instead ease, wealth, magnificence, and that
repose which springs from long prosperity, that the new age at last
began. Europe was, as it were, a fallow field, beneath which lay buried
the civilization of the old world. Behind stretched the centuries of
mediævalism, intellectually barren and inert. Of the future there were
as yet but faint foreshadowings. Meanwhile, the force of the nations who
were destined to achieve the coming transformation was unexhausted;
their physical and mental faculties were unimpaired. No ages of
enervating luxury, of intellectual endeavor, of life artificially
preserved or ingeniously prolonged, had sapped the fiber of the men who
were about to inaugurate the modern world. Severely nurtured, unused to
delicate living, these giants of the Renaissance were like boys in their
capacity for endurance, their inordinate appetite for enjoyment. No
generations, hungry, sickly, effete, critical, disillusioned, trod them
down. Ennui and the fatigue that springs from skepticism, the despair of
thwarted effort, were unknown. Their fresh and unperverted senses
rendered them keenly alive to what was beautiful and natural. They
yearned for magnificence, and instinctively comprehended splendor. At
the same time the period of satiety was still far off. Everything seemed
possible to their young energy; nor had a single pleasure palled upon
their appetite. Born, as it were, at the moment when desires and
faculties are evenly balanced, when the perceptions are not blunted nor
the senses cloyed, opening their eyes for the first time on a world of
wonder, these men of the Renaissance enjoyed what we may term the first
transcendent springtide of the modern world. Nothing is more remarkable
than the fullness of the life that throbbed in them. Natures rich in all
capacities and endowed with every kind of sensibility were frequent. Nor
was there any limit to the play of personality in action. We may apply
to them what Mr. Browning has written of Sordello's temperament:--

                A footfall there
  Suffices to upturn to the warm air
  Half germinating spices, mere decay
  Produces richer life, and day by day
  New pollen on the lily-petal grows,
  And still more labyrinthine buds the rose.

During the Middle Ages man had lived enveloped in a cowl. He had not
seen the beauty of the world or had seen it only to cross himself, and
turn aside and tell his beads and pray. Like S. Bernard traveling along
the shores of the Lake Leman, and noticing neither the azure of the
waters, nor the luxuriance of the vines, nor the radiance of the
mountains with their robe of sun and snow, but bending a
thought-burdened forehead over the neck of his mule; even like this
monk, humanity had passed, a careful pilgrim, intent on the terrors of
sin, death, and judgment, along the highways of the world, and had
scarcely known that they were sightworthy, or that life is a blessing.
Beauty is a snare, pleasure a sin, the world a fleeting show, man
fallen and lost, death the only certainty, judgment inevitable, hell
everlasting, heaven hard to win; ignorance is acceptable to God as a
proof of faith and submission; abstinence and mortification are the only
safe rules of life: these were the fixed ideas of the ascetic mediæval
Church. The Renaissance shattered and destroyed them, rending the thick
veil which they had drawn between the mind of man and the outer world,
and flashing the light of reality upon the darkened places of his own
nature. For the mystic teaching of the Church was substituted culture in
the classical humanities; a new ideal was established, whereby man
strove to make himself the monarch of the globe on which it is his
privilege as well as destiny to live. The Renaissance was the liberation
of the reason from a dungeon, the double discovery of the outer and the
inner world.

An external event determined the direction which this outburst of the
spirit of freedom should take. This was the contact of the modern with
the ancient mind which followed upon what is called the Revival of
Learning. The fall of the Greek Empire in 1453, while it signalized the
extinction of the old order, gave an impulse to the now accumulated
forces of the new. A belief in the identity of the human spirit under
all previous manifestations and in its uninterrupted continuity was
generated. Men found that in classical as well as Biblical antiquity
existed an ideal of human life, both moral and intellectual, by which
they might profit in the present. The modern genius felt confidence in
its own energies when it learned what the ancients had achieved. The
guesses of the ancients stimulated the exertions of the moderns. The
whole world's history seemed once more to be one.

The great achievements of the Renaissance were the discovery of the
world and the discovery of man.[1] Under these two formulæ may be
classified all the phenomena which properly belong to this period. The
discovery of the world divides itself into two branches--the exploration
of the globe, and that systematic exploration of the universe which is
in fact what we call Science. Columbus made known America in 1492; the
Portuguese rounded the Cape in 1497; Copernicus explained the solar
system in 1507. It is not necessary to add anything to this plain
statement; for, in contact with facts of such momentous import, to avoid
what seems like commonplace reflection would be difficult. Yet it is
only when we contrast the ten centuries which preceded these dates with
the four centuries which have ensued, that we can estimate the magnitude
of that Renaissance movement by means of which a new hemisphere has been
added to civilization. In like manner, it is worth while to pause a
moment and consider what is implied in the substitution of the
Copernican for the Ptolemaic system. The world, regarded in old times
as the center of all things, the apple of God's eye, for the sake of
which were created sun and moon and stars, suddenly was found to be one
of the many balls that roll round a giant sphere of light and heat,
which is itself but one among innumerable suns attended each by a
_cortège_ of planets, and scattered, how we know not, through infinity.
What has become of that brazen seat of the old gods, that Paradise to
which an ascending Deity might be caught up through clouds, and hidden
for a moment from the eyes of his disciples. The demonstration of the
simplest truths of astronomy destroyed at a blow the legends that were
most significant to the early Christians by annihilating their
symbolism. Well might the Church persecute Galileo for his proof of the
world's mobility. Instinctively she perceived that in this one
proposition was involved the principle of hostility to her most
cherished conceptions, to the very core of her mythology. Science was
born, and the warfare between scientific positivism and religious
metaphysic was declared. Henceforth God could not be worshiped under the
forms and idols of a sacerdotal fancy; a new meaning had been given to
the words: 'God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him
in spirit and in truth.' The reason of man was at last able to study the
scheme of the universe, of which he is a part, and to ascertain the
actual laws by which it is governed. Three centuries and a half have
elapsed since Copernicus revolutionized astronomy. It is only by
reflecting on the mass of knowledge we have since acquired, knowledge
not only infinitely curious but also incalculably useful in its
application to the arts of life, and then considering how much ground of
this kind was acquired in the ten centuries which preceded the
Renaissance, that we are at all able to estimate the expansive force
which was then generated. Science, rescued from the hand of astrology,
geomancy, alchemy, began her real life with the Renaissance. Since then,
as far as to the present moment she has never ceased to grow.
Progressive and durable, Science may be called the first-born of the
spirit of the modern world.

    [1] It is to Michelet that we owe these formulæ, which have
    passed into the language of history.

Thus by the discovery of the world is meant on the one hand the
appropriation by civilized humanity of all corners of the habitable
globe, and on the other the conquest by Science of all that we now know
about the nature of the universe. In the discovery of man, again, it is
possible to trace a twofold process. Man in his temporal relations,
illustrated by Pagan antiquity, and man in his spiritual relations,
illustrated by Biblical antiquity; these are the two regions, at first
apparently distinct, afterwards found to be interpenetrative, which the
critical and inquisitive genius of the Renaissance opened for
investigation. In the former of these regions we find two agencies at
work, art and scholarship. During the Middle Ages the plastic arts, like
philosophy, had degenerated into barren and meaningless scholasticism--a
frigid reproduction of lifeless forms copied technically and without
inspiration from debased patterns. Pictures became symbolically connected
with the religious feelings of the people, formulæ from which to deviate
would be impious in the artist and confusing to the worshiper.
Superstitious reverence bound the painter to copy the almond eyes and
stiff joints of the saints whom he had adored from infancy; and, even
had it been otherwise, he lacked the skill to imitate the natural forms
he saw around him. But with the dawning of the Renaissance, a new spirit
in the arts arose. Men began to conceive that the human body is noble in
itself and worthy of patient study. The object of the artist then became
to unite devotional feeling and respect for the sacred legend with the
utmost beauty and the utmost fidelity of delineation. He studied from
the nude; he drew the body in every posture; he composed drapery,
invented attitudes, and adapted the action of his figures and the
expression of his faces to the subject he had chosen. In a word, he
humanized the altar-pieces and the cloister-frescoes upon which he
worked. In this way the painters rose above the ancient symbols, and
brought heaven down to earth. By drawing Madonna and her son like living
human beings, by dramatizing the Christian history, they silently
substituted the love of beauty and the interests of actual life for the
principles of the Church. The saint or angel became an occasion for the
display of physical perfection, and to introduce 'un bel corpo ignudo'
into the composition was of more moment to them than to represent the
macerations of the Magdalen. Men thus learned to look beyond the
relique and the host, and to forget the dogma in the lovely forms which
gave it expression. Finally, when the classics came to aid this work of
progress, a new world of thought and fancy, divinely charming, wholly
human, was revealed to their astonished eyes. Thus art, which had begun
by humanizing the legends of the Church, diverted the attention of its
students from the legend to the work of beauty, and lastly, severing
itself from the religious tradition, became the exponent of the majesty
and splendor of the human body. This final emancipation of art from
ecclesiastical trammels culminated in the great age of Italian painting.
Gazing at Michael Angelo's prophets in the Sistine Chapel, we are indeed
in contact with ideas originally religious. But the treatment of these
ideas is purely, broadly human, on a level with that of the sculpture of
Pheidias. Titian's Virgin received into Heaven, soaring midway between
the archangel who descends to crown her and the apostles who yearn to
follow her, is far less a Madonna Assunta than the apotheosis of
humanity conceived as a radiant mother. Throughout the picture there is
nothing ascetic, nothing mystic, nothing devotional. Nor did the art of
the Renaissance stop here. It went further, and plunged into Paganism.
Sculptors and painters combined with architects to cut the arts loose
from their connection with the Church by introducing a spirit and a
sentiment alien to Christianity.

Through the instrumentality of art, and of all the ideas which art
introduced into daily life, the Renaissance wrought for the modern world
a real resurrection of the body, which, since the destruction of antique
civilization, had lain swathed up in hair-shirts and cerements within
the tomb of the mediæval cloister. It was scholarship which revealed to
men the wealth of their own minds, the dignity of human thought, the
value of human speculation, the importance of human life regarded as a
thing apart from religious rules and dogmas. During the Middle Ages a
few students had possessed the poems of Virgil and the prose of
Boethius--and Virgil at Mantua, Boethius at Pavia, had actually been
honored as saints--together with fragments of Lucan, Ovid, Statius,
Juvenal, Cicero, and Horace. The Renaissance opened to the whole reading
public the treasure-houses of Greek and Latin literature. At the same
time the Bible in its original tongues was rediscovered. Mines of
Oriental learning were laid bare for the students of the Jewish and
Arabic traditions. The Aryan and Semitic revelations were for the first
time subjected to something like a critical comparison. With unerring
instinct the men of the Renaissance named the voluminous subject-matter
of scholarship 'Litteræ Humaniores,'--the more human literature, or the
literature that humanizes.

There are three stages in the history of scholarship during the
Renaissance. The first is the age of passionate desire; Petrarch poring
over a Homer he could not understand, and Boccaccio in his maturity
learning Greek, in order that he might drink from the well-head of
poetic inspiration, are the heroes of this period. They inspired the
Italians with a thirst for antique culture. Next comes the age of
acquisition and of libraries. Nicholas V., who founded the Vatican
Library in 1453, Cosimo de Medici, who began the Medicean Collection a
little earlier, and Poggio Bracciolini, who ransacked all the cities and
convents of Europe for manuscripts, together with the teachers of Greek,
who in the first half of the fifteenth century escaped from
Constantinople with precious freights of classic literature, are the
heroes of this second period. It was an age of accumulation, of
uncritical and indiscriminate enthusiasm. Manuscripts were worshiped by
these men, just as the reliques of Holy Land had been adored by their
great-grandfathers. The eagerness of the Crusades was revived in this
quest of the Holy Grail of ancient knowledge. Waifs and strays of Pagan
authors were valued like precious gems, reveled in like odoriferous and
gorgeous flowers, consulted like oracles of God, gazed on like the eyes
of a beloved mistress. The good, the bad, and the indifferent received
an almost equal homage. Criticism had not yet begun. The world was bent
on gathering up its treasures, frantically bewailing the lost books of
Livy, the lost songs of Sappho--absorbing to intoxication the strong
wine of multitudinous thoughts and passions that kept pouring from those
long-buried amphora of inspiration. What is most remarkable about this
age of scholarship is the enthusiasm which pervaded all classes in
Italy for antique culture. Popes and princes, captains of adventure and
peasants, noble ladies and the leaders of the demi-monde, alike became
scholars. There is a story told by Infessura which illustrates the
temper of the times with singular felicity. On the 18th of April 1485 a
report circulated in Rome that some Lombard workmen had discovered a
Roman sarcophagus while digging on the Appian Way. It was a marble tomb,
engraved with the inscription, 'Julia, Daughter of Claudius,' and inside
the coffer lay the body of a most beautiful girl of fifteen years,
preserved by precious unguents from corruption and the injury of time.
The bloom of youth was still upon her cheeks and lips; her eyes and
mouth were half open; her long hair floated round her shoulders. She was
instantly removed, so goes the legend, to the Capitol; and then began a
procession of pilgrims from all the quarters of Rome to gaze upon this
saint of the old Pagan world. In the eyes of those enthusiastic
worshipers, her beauty was beyond imagination or description: she was
far fairer than any woman of the modern age could hope to be. At last
Innocent VIII. feared lest the orthodox faith should suffer by this new
cult of a heathen corpse. Julia was buried secretly and at night by his
direction, and naught remained in the Capitol but her empty marble
coffin. The tale, as told by Infessura, is repeated in Matarazzo and in
Nantiporto with slight variations. One says that the girl's hair was
yellow, another that it was of the glossiest black. What foundation for
the legend may really have existed need not here be questioned. Let us
rather use the mythus as a parable of the ecstatic devotion which
prompted the men of that age to discover a form of unimaginable beauty
in the tomb of the classic world.[1]

    [1] The most remarkable document regarding the body of Julia
    which has yet been published is a Latin letter, written by
    Bartholomæus Fontius to his friend Franciscus Saxethus,
    minutely describing her, with details which appear to prove
    that he had not only seen but handled the corpse. It is printed
    in Janitschek, _Die Gesellschaft der R. in It._: Stuttgart,
    1879, p. 120.

Then came the third age of scholarship--the age of the critics,
philologers, and printers. What had been collected by Poggio and Aurispa
had now to be explained by Ficino, Poliziano, and Erasmus. They began
their task by digesting and arranging the contents of the libraries.
There were then no short cuts to learning, no comprehensive lexicons, no
dictionaries of antiquities, no carefully prepared thesauri of mythology
and history. Each student had to hold in his brain the whole mass of
classical erudition. The text and the canon of Homer, Plato, Aristotle,
and the tragedians had to be decided. Greek type had to be struck.
Florence, Venice, Basle, Lyons, and Paris groaned with printing presses.
The Aldi, the Stephani, and Froben toiled by night and day, employing
scores of scholars, men of supreme devotion and of mighty brain, whose
work it was to ascertain the right reading of sentences, to accentuate,
to punctuate, to commit to the press, and to place beyond the reach of
monkish hatred or of envious time that everlasting solace of humanity
which exists in the classics. All subsequent achievements in the field
of scholarship sink into insignificance beside the labors of these men,
who needed genius, enthusiasm, and the sympathy of Europe for the
accomplishment of their titanic task. Virgil was printed in 1470, Homer
in 1488, Aristotle in 1498, Plato in 1513. They then became the
inalienable heritage of mankind. But what vigils, what anxious
expenditure of thought, what agonies of doubt and expectation, were
endured by those heroes of humanizing scholarship, whom we are apt to
think of merely as pedants! Which of us now warms and thrills with
emotion at hearing the name of Aldus Manutius, or of Henricus Stephanus,
or of Johannes Froben? Yet this we surely ought to do; for to them we
owe in a great measure the freedom of our spirit, our stores of
intellectual enjoyment, our command of the past, our certainty of the
future of human culture.

This third age in the history of the Renaissance Scholarship may be said
to have reached its climax in Erasmus; for by this time Italy had handed
on the torch of learning to the northern nations. The publication of his
"Adagia" in 1500, marks the advent of a more critical and selective
spirit, which from that date onward has been gradually gaining strength
in the modern mind. Criticism, in the true sense of accurate testing and
sifting, is one of the points which distinguish the moderns from the
ancients; and criticism was developed by the process of assimilation,
comparison, and appropriation, which was necessary in the growth of
scholarship. The ultimate effect of this recovery of classic literature
was, once and for all, to liberate the intellect. The modern world was
brought into close contact with the free virility of the ancient world,
and emancipated from the thralldom of unproved traditions. The force to
judge and the desire to create were generated. The immediate result in
the sixteenth century was an abrupt secession of the learned, not merely
from monasticism, but also from the true spirit of Christianity. The
minds of the Italians assimilated Paganism. In their hatred of mediæval
ignorance, in their loathing of cowled and cloistered fools, they flew
to an extreme, and affected the manner of an irrevocable past. This
extravagance led of necessity to a reaction--in the north to Puritanism,
in the south to what has been termed the Counter-Reformation effected
under Spanish influences in the Latin Church. But Christianity, that
most precious possession of the modern world, was never seriously
imperiled by the classical enthusiasm of the Renaissance; nor, on the
other hand, was the progressive emancipation of the reason materially
retarded by the reaction it produced.

The transition at this point to the third branch in the discovery of
man, the revelation to the consciousness of its own spiritual freedom,
is natural. Not only did scholarship restore the classics and encourage
literary criticism; it also restored the text of the Bible, and
encouraged theological criticism. In the wake of theological freedom
followed a free philosophy, no longer subject to the dogmas of the
Church. To purge the Christian faith from false conceptions, to liberate
the conscience from the tyranny of priests, and to interpret religion to
the reason has been the work of the last centuries; nor is this work as
yet by any means accomplished. On the one side Descartes and Bacon,
Spinoza and Locke, are sons of the Renaissance, champions of new-found
philosophical freedom; on the other side, Luther is a son of the
Renaissance, the herald of new-found religious freedom. The whole
movement of the Reformation is a phase in that accelerated action of the
modern mind which at its commencement we call the Renaissance. It is a
mistake to regard the Reformation as an isolated phenomenon or as a mere
effort to restore the Church to purity. The Reformation exhibits in the
region of religious thought and national politics what the Renaissance
displays in the sphere of culture, art, and science--the recovered
energy and freedom of the reason. We are too apt to treat of history in
parcels, and to attempt to draw lessons from detached chapters in the
biography of the human race. To observe the connection between the
several stages of a progressive movement of the human spirit, and to
recognize that the forces at work are still active, is the true
philosophy of history.

The Reformation, like the revival of science and of culture, had its
mediæval anticipations and foreshadowings. The heretics whom the Church
successfully combated in North Italy, France, and Bohemia were the
precursors of Luther. The scholars prepared the way in the fifteenth
century. Teachers of Hebrew, founders of Hebrew type--Reuchlin in
Germany, Aleander in Paris, Von Hutten as a pamphleteer, and Erasmus as
a humanist--contribute each a definite momentum. Luther, for his part,
incarnates the spirit of revolt against tyrannical authority, urges the
necessity of a return to the essential truth of Christianity, as
distinguished from the idols of the Church, and asserts the right of the
individual to judge, interpret, criticise, and construct opinion for
himself. The veil which the Church had interposed between the human soul
and God was broken down. The freedom of the conscience was established.
Thus the principles involved in what we call the Reformation were
momentous. Connected on the one side with scholarship and the study of
texts, it opened the path for modern biblical criticism. Connected on
the other side with the intolerance of mere authority it led to what has
since been named rationalism--the attempt to reconcile the religious
tradition with the reason, and to define the logical ideas that underlie
the conceptions of the popular religious consciousness. Again, by
promulgating the doctrine of personal freedom, and by connecting itself
with national politics, the reformation was linked historically to the
revolution. It was the Puritan Church in England stimulated by the
patriotism of the Dutch Protestants, which established our
constitutional liberty, and introduced in America the general principle
of the equality of men. This high political abstraction, latent in
Christianity, evolved by criticism, and promulgated as a gospel in the
second half of the last century, was externalized in the French
Revolution. The work that yet remains to be accomplished for the modern
world is the organization of society in harmony with democratic

Thus what the word Renaissance really means is new birth to liberty--the
spirit of mankind recovering consciousness and the power of
self-determination, recognizing the beauty of the outer world, and of
the body through art, liberating the reason in science and the
conscience in religion, restoring culture to the intelligence, and
establishing the principle of political freedom. The Church was the
schoolmaster of the Middle Ages. Culture was the humanizing and refining
influence of the Renaissance. The problem for the present and the future
is how through education to render knowledge accessible to all--to break
down that barrier which in the Middle Ages was set between clerk and
layman, and which in the intermediate period has arisen between the
intelligent and ignorant classes. Whether the Utopia of a modern world,
in which all men shall enjoy the same social, political, and
intellectual advantages, be realized or not, we cannot doubt that the
whole movement of humanity from the Renaissance onward has tended in
this direction. To destroy the distinctions, mental and physical, which
nature raises between individuals, and which constitute an actual
hierarchy, will always be impossible. Yet it may happen that in the
future no civilized man will lack the opportunity of being physically
and mentally the best that God has made him.

It remains to speak of the instruments and mechanical inventions which
aided the emancipation of the spirit in the modern age. Discovered over
and over again, and offered at intervals to the human race at various
times and on divers soils, no effective use was made of these material
resources until the fifteenth century. The compass, discovered according
to tradition by Gioja of Naples in 1302, was employed by Columbus for
the voyage to America in 1492. The telescope, known to the Arabians in
the Middle Ages, and described by Roger Bacon in 1250, helped Copernicus
to prove the revolution of the earth in 1530, and Galileo to
substantiate his theory of the planetary system. Printing, after
numerous useless revelations to the world of its resources, became an
art in 1438; and paper, which had long been known to the Chinese, was
first made of cotton in Europe about 1000, and of rags in 1319.
Gunpowder entered into use about 1320. As employed by the Genius of the
Renaissance, each one of these inventions became a lever by means of
which to move the world. Gunpowder revolutionized the art of war. The
feudal castle, the armor of the Knight and his battle-horse, the prowess
of one man against a hundred, and the pride of aristocratic cavalry
trampling upon ill-armed militia, were annihilated by the flashes of the
canon. Courage became more a moral than a physical quality. The victory
was delivered to the brain of the general. Printing has established, as
indestructible, all knowledge, and disseminated, as the common property
of every one, all thought; while paper has made the work of printing
cheap. Such reflections as these, however, are trite, and must occur to
every mind. It is far more to the purpose to repeat that not the
inventions, but the intelligence that used them, the conscious
calculating spirit of the modern world, should rivet our attention when
we direct it to the phenomena of the Renaissance.

In the work of the Renaissance all the great nations of Europe shared.
But it must never be forgotten that as a matter of history the true
Renaissance began in Italy. It was there that the essential qualities
which distinguish the modern from the ancient and the mediæval world
were developed. Italy created that new spiritual atmosphere of culture
and of intellectual freedom which has been the life-breath of the
European races. As the Jews are called the chosen and peculiar people of
divine revelation, so may the Italians be called the chosen and peculiar
vessels of the prophecy of the Renaissance. In art, in scholarship, in
science, in the mediation between antique culture and the modern
intellect, they took the lead, handing to Germany and France and
England the restored humanities complete. Spain and England have since
done more for the exploration and colonization of the world. Germany
achieved the labor of the Reformation almost single-handed. France has
collected, centralized, and diffused intelligence with irresistible
energy. But if we return to the first origins of the Renaissance, we
find that, at a time when the rest of Europe was inert, Italy had
already begun to organize the various elements of the modern spirit, and
to set the fashion whereby the other great nations should learn and



The special Difficulties of this Subject--Apparent Confusion--Want of
leading Motive--The Papacy--The Empire--The Republics--The Despots--The
People--The Dismemberment of Italy--Two main Topics--The Rise of the
Communes--Gothic Kingdom--Lombards--Franks--Germans--The Bishops--The
Consuls--The Podestàs--Civil Wars--Despots--The Balance of Power--The
Five Italian States--The Italians fail to achieve National Unity--The
Causes of this Failure--Conditions under which it might have been
achieved--A Republic--A Kingdom--A Confederation--A Tyranny--The Part
played by the Papacy.

After a first glance into Italian history the student recoils
as from a chaos of inscrutable confusion. To fix the moment of
transition from ancient to modern civilization seems impossible. There
is no formation of a new people, as in the case of Germany or France or
England, to serve as starting-point. Differ as the Italian races do in
their original type; Gauls, Ligurians, Etruscans, Umbrians, Latins,
Iapygians, Greeks have been fused together beneath the stress of Roman
rule into a nation that survives political mutations and the disasters
of barbarian invasions. Goths, Lombards, and Franks blend successively
with the masses of this complex population, and lose the outlines of
their several personalities. The western Empire melts imperceptibly
away. The Roman Church grows no less imperceptibly, and forms the Holy
Roman Empire as the equivalent of its own spiritual greatness in the
sphere of secular authority. These two institutions, the crowning
monuments of Italian creative genius, dominate the Middle Ages, powerful
as facts, but still more powerful as ideas. Yet neither of them controls
the evolution of Italy in the same sense as France was controlled by the
monarchical, and Germany by the federative, principle. The forces of the
nation, divided and swayed from side to side by this commanding dualism,
escaped both influences in so far as either Pope or Emperor strove to
mold them into unity. Meanwhile the domination of Byzantine Greeks in
the southern provinces, the kingdom of the Goths at Ravenna, the kingdom
of the Lombards and Franks at Pavia, the incursions of Huns and
Saracens, the kingdom of the Normans at Palermo, formed but accidents
and moments in a national development which owed important modifications
to each successive episode, but was not finally determined by any of
them. When the Communes emerge into prominence, shaking off the
supremacy of the Greeks in the South, vindicating their liberties
against the Empire in the North, jealously guarding their independence
from Papal encroachment in the center, they have already assumed shapes
of marked distinctness and bewildering diversity. Venice, Milan, Genoa,
Florence, Bologna, Siena, Perugia, Amalfi, Lucca, Pisa, to mention only
a few of the more notable, are indiscriminately called Republics. Yet
they differ in their internal type no less than in external conditions.
Each wears from the first and preserves a physiognomy that justifies our
thinking and speaking of the town as an incarnate entity. The cities of
Italy, down to the very smallest, bear the attributes of individuals.
The mutual attractions and repulsions that presided over their growth
have given them specific qualities which they will never lose, which
will be reflected in their architecture, in their customs, in their
language, in their policy, as well as in the institutions of their
government. We think of them involuntarily as persons, and reserve for
them epithets that mark the permanence of their distinctive characters.
To treat of them collectively is almost impossible. Each has its own
biography, and plays a part of consequence in the great drama of the
nation. Accordingly the study of Italian politics, Italian literature,
Italian art, is really not the study of one national genius, but of a
whole family of cognate geniuses, grouped together, conscious of
affinity, obeying the same general conditions, but issuing in markedly
divergent characteristics. Democracies, oligarchies, aristocracies
spring into being by laws of natural selection within the limits of a
single province. Every municipality has a separate nomenclature for its
magistracies, a somewhat different method of distributing administrative
functions. In one place there is a Doge appointed for life; in another
the government is put into commission among officers elected for a
period of months. Here we find a Patrician, a Senator, a Tribune; there
Consuls, Rectors, Priors, Ancients, Buonuomini, Conservatori. At one
period and in one city the Podestà seems paramount; across the border a
Captain of the People or a Gonfaloniere di Giustizia is supreme. Vicars
of the Empire, Exarchs, Catapans, Rectors for the Church, Legates,
Commissaries, succeed each other with dazzling rapidity. Councils are
multiplied and called by names that have their origin and meaning buried
in the dust of archæology. Consigli del Popolo, Credenza, Consiglio del
Comune, Senato, Gran Consiglio, Pratiche, Parlamenti, Monti, Consiglio
de' Savi, Arti, Parte Guelfa, Consigli di Dieci, di Tre, I Nove, Gli
Otto, I Cento--such are a few of the titles chosen at random from the
constitutional records of different localities.

Not one is insignificant. Not one but indicates some moment of
importance in the social evolution of the state. Not one but speaks of
civil strife, whereby the burgh in question struggled into individuality
and defined itself against its neighbor. Like fossils, in geological
strata, these names survive long after their old uses have been
forgotten, to guide the explorer in his reconstruction of a buried past.
While one town appears to respect the feudal lordship of great families,
another pronounces nobility to be a crime, and forces on its citizens
the reality or the pretense of labor. Some recognize the supremacy of
ecclesiastics. Others, like Venice, resist the least encroachment of the
Church, and stand aloof from Roman Christianity in jealous isolation.
The interests of one class are maritime, of another military, of a third
industrial, of a fourth financial, of a fifth educational. Amalfi, Pisa,
Genoa, and Venice depend for power upon their fleets and colonies; the
little cities of Romagna and the March supply the Captains of adventure
with recruits; Florence and Lucca live by manufacture; Milan by banking;
Bologna, Padua, Vicenza, owe their wealth to students attracted by their
universities. Foreign alliances or geographical affinities connect one
center with the Empire of the East, a second with France, a third with
Spain. The North is overshadowed by Germany; the South is disquieted by
Islam. The types thus formed and thus discriminated are vital, and
persist for centuries with the tenacity of physical growths. Each
differentiation owes its origin to causes deeply rooted in the locality.
The freedom and apparent waywardness of nature, when she sets about to
form crystals of varying shapes and colors, that shall last and bear her
stamp for ever, have governed their uprising and their progress to
maturity. At the same time they exhibit the keen jealousies and mutual
hatreds of rival families in the animal kingdom. Pisa destroys Amalfi;
Genoa, Pisa; Venice, Genoa; with ruthless and remorseless egotism in the
conflict of commercial interests. Florence enslaves Pisa because she
needs a way to the sea. Siena and Perugia, upon their inland altitudes,
consume themselves in brilliant but unavailing efforts to expand. Milan
engulfs the lesser towns of Lombardy. Verona absorbs Padua and Treviso.
Venice extends dominion over the Friuli and the Veronese conquests.
Strife and covetousness reign from the Alps to the Ionian Sea. But it is
a strife of living energies, the covetousness of impassioned and
puissant units. Italy as a whole is almost invisible to the student by
reason of the many-sided, combative, self-centered crowd of numberless
Italian communities. Proximity foments hatred and stimulates hostility.
Fiesole looks down and threatens Florence. Florence returns frown for
frown, and does not rest till she has made her neighbor of the hills a
slave. Perugia and Assissi turn the Umbrian plain into a wilderness of
wolves by their recurrent warfare. Scowling at one another across the
Valdichiana, Perugia rears a tower against Chiusi, and Chiusi builds her
Becca Questa in responsive menace. The tiniest burgh upon the Arno
receives from Dante, the poet of this internecine strife and fierce
town-rivalry, its stigma of immortalizing satire and insulting epithet,
for no apparent reason but that its dwellers dare to drink of the same
water and to breathe the same air as Florence. It would seem as though
the most ancient furies of antagonistic races, enchained and suspended
for centuries by the magic of Rome, had been unloosed; as though the
indigenous populations of Italy, tamed by antique culture, were
reverting to their primal instincts, with all the discords and divisions
introduced by the military system of the Lombards, the feudalism of the
Franks, the alien institutions of the Germans, superadded to
exasperate the passions of a nation blindly struggling against obstacles
that block the channel of continuous progress. Nor is this the end of
the perplexity. Not only are the cities at war with one another, but
they are plunged in ceaseless strife within the circuit of their
ramparts. The people with the nobles, the burghs with the castles, the
plebeians with the burgher aristocracy, the men of commerce with the men
of arms and ancient lineage, Guelfs and Ghibellines, clash together in
persistent fury. One half the city expels the other half. The exiles
roam abroad, cement alliances, and return to extirpate their conquerors.
Fresh proscriptions and new expulsions follow. Again alliances are made
and revolutions accomplished, till the ancient feuds of the towns are
crossed, recrossed, and tangled in a web of madness that defies
analysis. Through the medley of quarreling, divided, subdivided, and
intertwisted factions, ride Emperors followed by their bands of knights,
appearing for a season on vain quests, and withdrawing after they have
tenfold confounded the confusion. Papal Legates drown the cities of the
Church in blood, preach crusades, fulminate interdictions, rouse
insurrections in the States that own allegiance to the Empire. Monks
stir republican revivals in old cities that have lost their liberties,
or assemble the populations of crime-maddened districts in aimless
comedies of piety and false pacification, or lead them barefooted and
intoxicated with shrill cries of 'Mercy' over plain and mountain.
Princes of France, Kings of Bohemia and Hungary, march and countermarch
from north to south and back again, form leagues, establish realms, head
confederations, which melt like shapes we form from clouds to nothing.
At one time the Pope and Emperor use Italy as the arena of a deadly
duel, drawing the congregated forces of the nation into their dispute.
At another they join hands to divide the spoil of ruined provinces.
Great generals with armies at their backs start into being from apparent
nothingness, dispute the sovereignty of Italy in bloodless battles,
found ephemeral dynasties, and pass away like mists upon a mountain-side
beneath a puff of wind. Conflict, ruin, desolation, anarchy are ever
yielding place to concord, restoration, peace, prosperity, and then
recurring with a mighty flood of violence. Construction, destruction,
and reconstruction play their part in crises that have to be counted by
the thousands.

In the mean time, from this hurricane of disorder rises the clear ideal
of the national genius. Italy becomes self-conscious and attains the
spiritual primacy of modern Europe. Art, Learning, Literature,
State-craft, Philosophy, Science build a sacred and inviolable city of
the soul amid the tumult of seven thousand revolutions, the dust and
crash of falling cities, the tramplings of recurrent invasions, the
infamies and outrages of tyrants and marauders who oppress the land.
Unshaken by the storms that rage around it, this refuge of the spirit,
raised by Italian poets, thinkers, artists, scholars, and discoverers,
grows unceasingly in bulk and strength, until the younger nations take
their place beneath its ample dome. Then, while yet the thing of wonder
and of beauty stands in fresh perfection, at that supreme moment when
Italy is tranquil and sufficient to fulfill the noblest mission for the
world, we find her crushed and trampled under foot. Her tempestuous but
splendid story closes in the calm of tyranny imposed by Spain.

Over this vertiginous abyss of history, where the memories of antique
civilization blend with the growing impulses of modern life in an
uninterrupted sequence of national consciousness; through this
many-chambered laboratory of conflicting principles, where the ideals of
the Middle Age are shaped, and laws are framed for Europe; across this
wonder-land of waning and of waxing culture, where Goths, Greeks,
Lombards, Franks, and Normans come to form themselves by contact with
the ever-living soul of Rome; where Frenchmen, Spaniards, Swiss, and
Germans at a later period battle for the richest prize in Europe, and
learn by conquest from the conquered to be men; how shall we guide our
course? If we follow the fortunes of the Church, and make the Papacy the
thread on which the history of Italy shall hang, we gain the advantage
of basing our narrative upon the most vital and continuous member of the
body politic. But we are soon forced to lose sight of the Italians in
the crowd of other Christian races. The history of the Church is
cosmopolitan. The Sphere of the Papacy extends in all directions around
Italy taken as a local center. Its influence, moreover, was invariably
one of discord rather than of harmony within the boundaries of the
peninsula. If we take the Empire as our standing-ground, we have to
write the annals of a sustained struggle, in the course of which the
Italian cities were successful, when they reduced the Emperor to the
condition of an absentee with merely nominal privileges. After Frederick
II. the Empire played no important part in Italy until its rights were
reasserted by Charles V. upon the platform of modern politics. A power
so external to the true life of the nation, so successfully resisted,
so impotent to control the development of the Italians, cannot be chosen
as the central point of their history. If we elect the Republics, we are
met with another class of difficulties. The historian who makes the
Commune his unit, who confines attention to the gradual development,
reciprocal animosities, and final decadence of the republics, can hardly
do justice to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the Papacy, which
occupy no less than half the country. Again, the great age of the
Renaissance, when all the free burghs accepted the rule of despots, and
when the genius of the Italians culminated, is for him a period of
downfall and degradation. Besides, he leaves the history of the Italian
people before the starting-point of the Republics unexplained. He has,
at the close of their career, to account for the reason why these
Communes, so powerful in self-development, so intelligent, so wealthy,
and so capable of playing off the Pope against the Empire, failed to
maintain their independence. In other words he selects one phase of
Italian evolution, and writes a narrative that cannot but be partial. If
we make the Despots our main point, we repeat the same error in a worse
form. The Despotisms imply the Communes as their predecessors. Each and
all of them grew up and flourished on the soil of decadent or tired
Republics. Though they are all-important at one period of Italian
history--the period of the present work--they do but form an episode in
the great epic of the nation. He who attempts a general history of Italy
from the point of view of the despotisms, is taking a single scene for
the whole drama. Finally we might prefer the people--that people,
instinctively and persistently faithful to Roman traditions, which
absorbed into itself the successive hordes of barbarian invaders,
civilized them, and adopted them as men of Italy; that people which
destroyed the kingdoms of the Goths and Lombards humbled the Empire at
Legnano, and evolved the Communes; that people which resisted alien
feudalism, and spent its prime upon eradicating every trace of the
repugnant system from its midst; that people which finally attained to
the consciousness of national unity by the recovery of scholarship and
culture under the dominion of despotic princes. This people is Italy.
But the documents that should throw light upon the early annals of the
people are deficient. It does not appear upon the scene before the reign
of Otho I. Nor does it become supreme till after the Peace of Constance.
Its biography is bound up with that of the republics and the despots.
Before the date of their ascendency we have to deal with Bishops of
Rome, Emperors of the East and West, Exarchs and Kings of Italy, the
feudal Lords of the Marches, the Dukes and Counts of Lombard and
Frankish rulers. Through that long period of incubation, when Italy
freed herself from dependence upon Byzantium, created the Papacy and
formed the second Roman Empire, the people exists only as a spirit
resident in Roman towns and fostered by the Church, which effectually
repelled all attempts at monarchical unity, playing the Lombards off
against the Goths, the Franks against the Lombards, the Normans against
the Greeks, merging the Italian Kingdom in the Empire when it became
German, and resisting the Empire of its own creation when the towns at
last were strong enough to stand alone. To speak about the people in
this early period is, therefore, to invoke a myth; to write its history
is the same as writing an ideal history of mediæval Europe.

The truth is that none of these standpoints in isolation suffices for
the student of Italy. Her inner history is the history of social and
intellectual progress evolving itself under the conditions of attraction
and repulsion generated by the double ideas of Papacy and Empire.
Political unity is everywhere and at all times imperiously rejected. The
most varied constitutional forms are needed for the self-effectuation of
a race that has no analogue in Europe. The theocracy of Rome, the
monarchy of Naples, the aristocracy of Venice, the democracy of
Florence, the tyranny of Milan are equally instrumental in elaborating
the national genius that gave art, literature, and mental liberty to
modern society. The struggles of city with city for supremacy or bare
existence, the internecine wars of party against party, the never-ending
clash of principles within the States, educated the people to
multifarious and vivid energy. In the course of those long complicated
contests, the chief centers acquired separate personalities, assumed the
physiognomy of conscious freedom, and stamped the mark of their own
spirit on their citizens. At the end of all discords, at the close of
all catastrophes, we find in each of the great towns a population
released from mental bondage and fitted to perform the work of
intellectual emancipation for the rest of Europe. Thus the essential
characteristic of Italy is diversity, controlled and harmonized by an
ideal rhythm of progressive movement.[1] We who are mainly occupied in
this book with the Italian genius as it expressed itself in society,
scholarship, fine art, and literature, at its most brilliant period of
renascence, may accept this fact of political dismemberment with
acquiescence. It was to the variety of conditions offered by the Italian
communities that we owe the unexampled richness of the mental life of
Italy. Yet it is impossible to overlook the weakness inflicted on the
people by those same conditions when the time came for Italy to try her
strength against the nations of Europe.[2] It was then shown that the
diversities which stimulated spiritual energy were a fatal source of
national instability. The pride of the Italians in their local
independence, their intolerance of unification under a single head, the
jealousies that prevented them from forming a permanent confederation,
rendered them incapable of coping with races which had yielded to the
centripetal force of monarchy. If it is true that the unity of the
nation under a kingdom founded at Pavia would have deprived the world of
much that Italy has yielded in the sphere of thought and art, it is
certainly not less true that such centralization alone could have
averted the ruin of the sixteenth century which gives the aspect of a
tragedy to each volume of my work on the Renaissance.

    [1] See Guicciardini (_Op. Ined._ vol. i. p. 28) for an eloquent
    demonstration of the happiness, prosperity, and splendor conferred
    on the Italians by the independence of their several centers. He is
    arguing against Machiavelli's lamentation over their failure to
    achieve national unity.

    [2] This was the point urged by Machiavelli, in the _Principe_, the
    _Discorsi_, and the _Art of War_. With keener political insight than
    Guicciardini, he perceived that the old felicity of Italy was about
    to fail her through the very independence of her local centers,
    which Guicciardini rightly recognized as the source of her
    unparalleled civilization and wealth. The one thing needful in the
    shock with France and Spain was unity.

Without seeking to attack the whole problem of Italian history, two main
topics must be briefly discussed in the present chapter before entering
on the proper matter of this work. The first relates to the growth of
the Communes, which preceded, necessitated, and determined the
despotisms of the fifteenth century. The second raises the question why
Italian differs from any other national history, why the people failed
to achieve unity either under a sovereign or in a powerful
confederation. These two subjects of inquiry are closely connected and
interdependent. They bring into play the several points that have been
indicated as partially and imperfectly explanatory of the problem of
Italy. But, since I have undertaken to write neither a constitutional
nor a political history, but a history of culture at a certain epoch, it
will be enough to treat of these two questions briefly, with the special
view of showing under what conditions the civilization of the
Renaissance came to maturity in numerous independent Communes, reduced
at last by necessary laws of circumstance to tyranny; and how it was
checked at the point of transition to its second phase of modern
existence, by political weakness inseparable from the want of national
coherence in the shock with mightier military races.

Modern Italian history may be said to begin with the retirement of
Honorius to Ravenna and the subsequent foundation of Odoacer's Kingdom
in 476. The Western Empire ended, and Rome was recognized as a Republic.
When Zeno sent the Goths into Italy, Theodoric established himself at
Ravenna, continued the institutions and usages of the ancient Empire,
and sought by blending with the people to naturalize his alien
authority. Rome was respected as the sacred city of ancient culture and
civility. Her Consuls, appointed by the Senate, were confirmed in due
course by the Greek Emperor; and Theodoric made himself the vicegerent
of the Cæsars rather than an independent sovereign. When we criticise
the Ostro-Gothic occupation by the light of subsequent history, it is
clear that this exclusion of the capital from Theodoric's conquest and
his veneration for the Eternal City were fatal to the unity of the
Italian realm. From the moment that Rome was separated from the
authority of the Italian Kings, there existed two powers in the
Peninsula--the one secular, monarchical, with the military strength of
the barbarians imposed upon its ancient municipal organization; the
other ecclesiastical, pontifical, relying on the undefined ambitions of
S. Peter's See and the unconquered instincts of the Roman people
scattered through the still surviving cities.[1] Justinian, bent upon
asserting his rights as the successor of the Cæsars, wrested Italy from
the hands of the Goths; but scarcely was this revolution effected when
Narses, the successor of Belisarius, called a new nation of barbarians
to support his policy in Italy. Narses died before the advent of the
Lombards; but they descended, in forces far more formidable than the
Goths, and established a second kingdom at Pavia. Under the Lombard
domination Rome was left untouched. Venice, with her population gathered
from the ruins of the neighboring Roman cities, remained in
quasi-subjection to the Empire of the East. Ravenna became a Greek
garrison, ruling the Exarchate and Pentapolis under the name of the
Byzantine Emperors. The western coast escaped the Lombard domination;
for Genoa grew slowly into power upon her narrow cornice between hills
and sea, while Pisa defied the barbarians intrenched in military
stations at Fiesole and Lucca. In like manner the islands, Sicily,
Sardinia, and Corsica, were detached from the Lombard Kingdom; and the
maritime cities of Southern Italy, Bari, Naples, Amalfi, and Gaeta
asserted independence under the shadow of the Greek ascendency. What the
Lombards achieved in their conquest, and what they failed to accomplish,
decided the future of Italy. They broke the country up into unequal
blocks; for while the inland regions of the north obeyed Pavia, while
the great duchies of Spoleto in the center and of Benevento in the south
owned the nominal sway of Alboin's successors,[2] Venice and the
Riviera, Pisa and the maritime republics of Apulia and Calabria,
Ravenna and the islands, repelled their sovereignty. Rome remained
inviolable beneath the ægis of her ancient prestige, and the decadent
Empire of the East was too inert to check the freedom of the towns which
recognized its titular supremacy.

    [1] When I apply the term Roman here and elsewhere to the
    inhabitants of the Italian towns, I wish to indicate the indigenous
    Italic populations molded by Roman rule into homogeneity. The
    resurgence of this population and its reattainment of intellectual
    consciousness by the recovery of past traditions and the rejection
    of foreign influence constitutes the history of Italy upon the close
    of the Dark Ages.

    [2] It will be remembered by students of early Italian history that
    Benevento and Spoleto joined the Church in her war upon the Lombard
    kingdom. Spoleto was broken up. Benevento survived as a Lombard
    duchy till the Norman Conquest.

The kingdom of the Lombards endured two centuries, and left ineffaceable
marks upon Italy. A cordon of military cities was drawn round the old
Roman centers in Lombardy, Tuscany, and the Duchy of Spoleto. Pavia rose
against Milan, which had been a second Rome, Cividale against Aquileia,
Fiesole against Florence, Lucca against Pisa. The country was divided
into Duchies and Marches; military service was exacted from the
population, and the laws of the Lombards, _asininum jus, quoddam jus
quod faciebant reges per se_, as the jurists afterwards defined them,
were imposed upon the descendants of Roman civilization. Yet the
outlying cities of the sea-coast, as we have already seen, were
independent; and Rome remained to be the center of revolutionary ideas,
the rallying-point of a policy inimical to Lombard unity. Not long after
their settlement, the princes of the Lombard race took the fatal step of
joining the Catholic communion, whereby they strengthened the hands of
Rome and excluded themselves from tyrannizing in the last resort over
the growing independence of the Papal See. The causes of their
conversion from Arianism to orthodox Latin Christianity are buried in
obscurity. But it is probable that they were driven to this measure by
the rebelliousness of their great vassals and the necessity of resting
for support upon the indigenous populations they had subjugated. Rome,
profiting by the errors and the weakness of her antagonists, extended
her spiritual dominion by enforcing sacraments, ordeals, and appeals to
ecclesiastical tribunals, organized her hierarchy under Gregory the
Great, and lost no opportunity of enriching and aggrandizing her
bishoprics. In 718 she shook off the yoke of Byzantium by repelling the
heresies of Leo the Isaurian; and when this insurrection menaced her
with the domestic tyranny of the Lombard Kings, who possessed themselves
of Ravenna in 728, she called the Franks to her aid against the now
powerful realm. Stephen II. journeyed in 753 to Gaul, named Pippin
Patrician of Rome, and invited him to the conquest of Italy. In the war
that followed, the Franks subdued the Lombards, and Charles the Great
was invested with their kingdom and crowned Emperor in 800 by Leo III.
at Rome.

The famous compact between Charles the Great and the Pope was in effect
a ratification of the existing state of things. The new Emperor took for
himself and converted into a Frankish Kingdom all the provinces that had
been wrested from the Lombards. He relinquished to the Papacy Rome with
its patrimony, the portions of Spoleto and Benevento that had already
yielded to the See of S. Peter, the southern provinces that owned the
nominal ascendency of Byzantium, the islands and the cities of the
Exarchate and Pentapolis which formed no part of the Lombard conquest.
By this stipulation no real temporal power was accorded to the Papacy,
nor did the new Empire surrender its paramount rights over the peninsula
at large. The Italian kingdom, transferred to the Franks in 800, was the
kingdom founded by the Lombards; while the outlying and unconquered
districts were placed beneath the protectorate of the power which had
guided their emancipation. Thus the dualism introduced into Italy by
Theodoric's veneration for Rome, and confirmed by the failure of the
Lombard conquest, was ratified in the settlement whereby the Pope gave a
new Empire to Western Christendom. Venice, Pisa, Genoa, and the maritime
Republics of the south, excluded from the kingdom, were left to pursue
their own course of independence; and this is the chief among many
reasons why they rose so early into prominence. Rome consolidated her
ancient patrimonies and extended her rectorship in the center, while the
Frankish kings, who succeeded each other through eight reigns, developed
the Regno upon feudal principles by parceling the land among their
Counts. New marches were formed, traversing the previous Lombard fabric
and introducing divisions that decentralized the kingdom. Thus the great
vassals of Ivrea, Verona, Tuscany, and Spoleto raised themselves against
Pavia. The monarchs, placed between the Papacy and their ambitious
nobles, were unable to consolidate the realm; and when Berengar, the
last independent sovereign strove to enforce the declining authority of
Pavia, he was met with the resistance and the hatred of the nation.

The kingdom Berengar attempted to maintain against his vassals and the
Church was virtually abrogated by Otho I., whom the Lombard nobles
summoned into Italy in 951. When he reappeared in 961, he was crowned
Emperor at Rome, and assumed the title of the King of Italy. Thus the
Regno was merged in the Empire, and Pavia ceased to be a capital.
Henceforth the two great potentates in the peninsula were an unarmed
Pontiff and an absent Emperor. The subsequent history of the Italians
shows how they succeeded in reducing both these powers to the condition
of principles, maintaining the pontifical and imperial ideas, but
repelling the practical authority of either potentate. Otho created new
marches and gave them to men of German origin. The houses of Savoy and
Montferrat rose into importance in his reign. To Verona were intrusted
the passes between Germany and Italy. The Princes of Este at Ferrara
held the keys of the Po, while the family of Canossa accumulated fiefs
that stretched from Mantua across the plain of Lombardy, over the
Apennines to Lucca, and southward to Spoleto. Thus the ancient Italy of
Lombards and Franks was superseded by a new Italy of German feudalism,
owing allegiance to a suzerain whose interests detained him in the
provinces beyond the Alps. At the same time the organization of the
Church was fortified. The Bishops were placed on an equality with the
Counts in the chief cities, and Viscounts were created to represent
their civil jurisdiction. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance
of Otho's concessions to the Bishops. During the preceding period of
Frankish rule about one third of the soil of Italy had been yielded to
the Church, which had the right of freeing its vassals from military
service; and since the ecclesiastical sees were founded upon ancient
sites of Roman civilization, without regard to the military centers of
the barbarian kingdoms, the new privileges of the Bishops accrued to the
benefit of the indigenous population. Milan, for example, down-trodden
by Pavia, still remained the major See of Lombardy. Aquileia, though a
desert, had her patriarch, while Cividale, established as a fortress to
coerce the neighboring Roman towns, was ecclesiastically but a village.
At this epoch a third power emerged in Italy. Berengar had given the
cities permission to inclose themselves with walls in order to repel the
invasions of the Huns.[1] Otho respected their right of self-defense,
and from the date of his coronation the history of the free burghs
begins in Italy. It is at first closely connected with the changes
wrought by the extinction of the kingdom of Pavia, by the exaltation of
the clergy, and by the dislocation of the previous system of
feud-holding, which followed upon Otho's determination to remodel the
country in the interest of the German Empire. The Regno was abolished.
The ancient landmarks of nobility were altered and confused. The cities
under their Bishops assumed a novel character of independence. Those of
Roman origin, being ecclesiastical centers, had a distant advantage over
the more recent foundations of the Lombard and the Frankish monarchs.
The Italic population everywhere emerged and displayed a vitality that
had been crushed and overlaid by centuries of invasion and military

    [1] It is worthy of notice that to this date belongs the war-chant
    of the Modenese sentinels, with its allusions to Troy and Hector,
    which is recognized as the earliest specimen of the Italian
    hendecasyllabic meter.

The burghs at this epoch may be regarded as luminous points in the dense
darkness of feudal aristocracy.[1] Gathering round their Cathedral as a
center, the towns inclose their dwellings with bastions, from which they
gaze upon a country bristling with castles, occupied by serfs, and
lorded over by the hierarchical nobility. Within the city the Bishop
and the Count hold equal sway; but the Bishop has upon his side the
sympathies and passions of the burghers. The first effort of the towns
is to expel the Count from their midst. Some accident of misrule
infuriates the citizens. They fly to arms and are supported by the
Bishop. The Count has to retire to the open country, where he
strengthens himself in his castle.[2] Then the Bishop remains victor in
the town, and forms a government of rich and noble burghers, who control
with him the fortunes of the new-born state. At this crisis we begin to
hear for the first time a word that has been much misunderstood. The
_Popolo_ appears upon the scene. Interpreting the past by the present,
and importing the connotation gained by the word _people_ in the
revolutions of the last two centuries, students are apt to assume that
the Popolo of the Italian burghs included the whole population. In
reality it was at first a close aristocracy of influential families, to
whom the authority of the superseded Counts was transferred in
commission, and who held it by hereditary right.[3] Unless we firmly
grasp this fact, the subsequent vicissitudes of the Italian
commonwealths are unintelligible, and the elaborate definitions of the
Florentine doctrinaires lose half their meaning. The internal
revolutions of the free cities were almost invariably caused by the
necessity of enlarging the Popolo, and extending its franchise to the
non-privileged inhabitants. Each effort after expansion provoked an
obstinate resistance from those families who held the rights of
burghership; and thus the technical terms _primo popolo_, _secondo
popolo_, _popolo grasso_, _popolo minuto_, frequently occurring in the
records of the Republics, indicate several stages in the progress from
oligarchy to democracy. The constitution of the city at this early
period was simple. At the head of its administration stood the Bishop,
with the Popolo of enfranchised burghers. The _Commune_ included the
Popolo, together with the non-qualified inhabitants, and was represented
by Consuls, varying in number according to the division of the town into
quarters.[4] Thus the Commune and the Popolo were originally separate
bodies; and this distinction has been perpetuated in the architecture of
those towns which still can show a Palazzo del Popolo apart from the
Palazzo del Commune. Since the affairs of the city had to be conducted
by discussion, we find Councils corresponding to the constituent
elements of the burgh. There is the _Parlamento_, in which the
inhabitants meet together to hear the decisions of the Bishop and the
Popolo, or to take measures in extreme cases that affect the city as a
whole; the _Gran Consiglio_, which is only open to duly qualified
members of the Popolo; and the _Credenza_, or privy council of specially
delegated burghers, who debate on matters demanding secrecy and
diplomacy. Such, generally speaking, and without regard to local
differences, was the internal constitution of an Italian city during the
supremacy of the Bishops.

    [1] It is not necessary to raise antiquarian questions here relating
    to the origin of the Italian Commune. Whether regarded as a survival
    of the ancient Roman _municipium_ or as an offshoot from the Lombard
    _guild_, it was a new birth of modern times, a new organism evolved
    to express the functions of Italian as different from ancient Roman
    or mediæval Lombard life. The affection of the people for their past
    induced them to use the nomenclature of Latin civility for the
    officers and councils of the Commune. Thus a specious air of
    classical antiquity, rather literary and sentimental than real, was
    given to the Commune at the outset. Moreover, it must be remembered
    that Rome herself had suffered no substantial interruption of
    republican existence during the Dark Ages. Therefore the free
    burghs, though their vitality was the outcome of wholly new
    conditions, though they were built up of guilds and associations
    representing interests of modern origin, flattered themselves with
    an uninterrupted municipal succession from the Roman era, and
    pointed for proof to the Eternal City.

    [2] The Italian word _contado_ is a survival from this state of
    things. It represents a moment in the national development when the
    sphere of the Count outside the city was defined against the sphere
    of the municipality. The _Contadini_ are the people of the Contado,
    the Count's men.

    [3] Even Petrarch, in his letter to four Cardinals (Lett. Fam. xi.
    16, ed. Fracassetti) on the reformation of the Roman Commonwealth,
    recommends the exclusion of the neighboring burghs and all
    strangers, inclusive of the Colonna and Orsini families, from the
    franchise. None but pure Romans, how to be discovered from the
    _colluviet omnium gentium_ deposited upon the Seven Hills by
    centuries of immigration he does not clearly say, should be chosen
    to revive the fallen majesty of the Republic. See in particular the
    peroration of his argument (op. cit. vol. iii. p. 95). In other
    words, he aims at a narrow Popolo, a _pura cittadinanza_, in the
    sense of Cacciaguida Par. xvi.

    [4] In some places we find as many as twelve Consuls. It appears
    that both the constituent families of the Popolo and the numbers of
    the Consuls were determined by the Sections of the city, so many
    being told off for each quarter.

In the North of Italy not a few of the greater vassals, among whom may
be mentioned the houses of Canossa, Montferrat, Savoy, and Este,
creations of the Salic Emperors, looked with favor upon the development
of the towns, while some nobles went so far as to constitute themselves
feudatories of Bishops.[1] The angry warfare carried on against Canossa
by the Lombard barons has probably to be interpreted by the jealousy
this popular policy excited. At the same time, while Lombardy and
Tuscany were establishing their municipal liberties, a sympathetic
movement began in Southern Italy, which resulted in the conquest of
Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily by the Normans. Omitting all the details of
this episode, than which nothing more dramatic is presented by the
history of modern nations, it must be enough to point out here that the
Normans finally severed Italy from the Greek Empire, gave a monarchical
stamp to the south of the peninsula, and brought the Regno they
consolidated into the sphere of national politics under the protection
of the Pope. Up to the date of their conquest Southern Italy had a
separate and confused history. It now entered the Italian community, and
by the peculiar circumstances of its cession to the Holy See was
destined in the future to become the chief instrument whereby the Popes
disturbed the equilibrium of the peninsula in furtherance of their
ambitious schemes.

    [1] The Pelavicini of S. Donnino, for example, gave themselves to

The greatness of the Roman cities under the popular rule of their
Bishops is illustrated by Milan, second only to Rome in the last days of
the Empire. Milan had been reduced to the condition of abject misery by
the Kings, who spared no pains to exalt Pavia at the expense of her
elder sister. After the dissolution of the kingdom, she started into a
new life, and in 1037 her archbishop, Heribert, was singled out by
Conrad II. as the protagonist of the episcopal revolution against
feudalism.[1] Heribert was in truth the hero of the burghs in their
first strife for independence. It was he who devised the _Carroccio_, an
immense car drawn by oxen, bearing the banner of the Commune, with an
altar and priests ministrant, around which the pikemen of the city
mustered when they went to war. This invention of Heribert's was soon
adopted by the cities throughout Italy. It gave cohesion and confidence
to the citizens, reminded them that the Church was on their side in the
struggle for freedom, and served as symbol of their military strength in
union. The first authentic records of a Parliament, embracing the nobles
of the Popolo, the clergy, and the multitude, are transmitted to us by
the Milanese Chronicles, in which Heribert figures as the president of a
republic. From this date Milan takes the lead in the contests for
municipal independence. Her institutions like that of the Carroccio,
together with her tameless spirit, are communicated to the neighboring
cities of Lombardy, cross the Apennines, and animate the ancient burghs
of Tuscany.

    [1] He was summoned before the Diet of Pavia for having dispossessed
    a noble of his feud.

Having founded their liberties upon the episcopal presidency, the cities
now proceeded to claim the right of choosing their own Bishops. They
refused the prelates sent them by the Emperor, and demanded an election
by the Chapters of each town. This privilege was virtually won when the
war of Investitures broke out in 1073. After the death of Gregory VI. in
1046, the Emperors resolved to enforce their right of nominating the
Popes. The two first prelates imposed on Rome, Clement II. and Damatus
II., died under suspicion of poison. Thus the Roman people refused a
foreign Pope, as the Lombards had rejected the bishops sent to rule
them. The next Popes, Leo IX. and Victor II., were persuaded by
Hildebrand, who now appears upon the stage, to undergo a second
election at Rome by the clergy and the people. They escaped
assassination. But the fifth German, Stephen X., again died suddenly;
and now the formidable monk of Soana felt himself powerful enough to
cause the election of his own candidate, Nicholas II. A Lateran council,
inspired by Hildebrand, transferred the election of Popes to the
Cardinals, approved by the clergy and people of Rome, and confirmed the
privilege of the cities to choose their bishops, subject to Papal
ratification. In 1073 Hildebrand assumed the tiara as Gregory VII., and
declared a war that lasted more than forty years against the Empire. At
its close in 1122 the Church and the Empire were counterposed as
mutually exclusive autocracies, the one claiming illimitable spiritual
sway, the other recognized as no less illimitably paramount in civil
society. From the principles raised by Hildebrand and contested in the
struggles of this duel, we may date those new conceptions of the two
chief powers of Christendom which found final expression in the
theocratic philosophy of the _Summa_ and the imperial absolutism of the
_De Monarchiâ_. Meanwhile the Empire and the Papacy, while trying their
force against each other, had proved to Italy their essential weakness.
What they gained as ideas, controlling the speculations of the next two
centuries, they lost as potentates in the peninsula. It was impossible
for either Pope or Emperor to carry on the war without bidding for the
support of the cities; and therefore, at the end of the struggle, the
free burghs found themselves strengthened at the expense of both powers.
Still it must not be forgotten that the wars of Investitures, while they
developed the independent spirit and the military energies of the
Republics, penetrated Italy with the vice of party conflict. The
ineradicable divisions of Guelf and Ghibelline were a heavy price to pay
for a step forward on the path of emancipation; nor was the
ecclesiastical revolution, which tended to Italianize the Papacy, while
it magnified its cosmopolitan ascendency, other than a source of evil to
the nation.

The forces liberated in the cities by these wars brought the Consuls to
the front. The Bishops had undermined the feudal fabric of the kingdom,
depressed the Counts, and restored the Roman towns to prosperity. During
the war both Popolo and Commune grew in vigor, and their Consuls began
to use the authority that had been conquered by the prelates. At first
the Consuls occupied a subordinate position as men of affairs and
notaries, needed to transact the business of the mercantile inhabitants.
They now took the lead as political agents of the first magnitude,
representing the city in its public acts, and superseding the
ecclesiastics. The Popolo was enlarged by the admission of new burgher
families, and the ruling caste, though still oligarchical, became more
fairly representative of the inhabitants. This progress was inevitable,
when we remember that the cities had been organized for warfare, and
that, except their Consuls, they had no officials who combined civil
and military functions. Under the jurisdiction of the Consuls Roman law
was everywhere substituted for Lombard statutes, and another strong blow
was thus dealt against decaying feudalism. The school of Bologna
eclipsed the university of Pavia. Justinian's Code was studied with
passionate energy, and the Italic people enthusiastically reverted to
the institutions of their past. In the fable of the Codex of the
_Pandects_ brought by Pisa from Amalfi we can trace the fervor of this
movement, whereby the Romans of the cities struggled after resurrection.

One of the earliest manifestations of municipal vitality was the war of
city against city, which began to blaze with fury in the first half of
the twelfth century, and endured so long as free towns lasted to
perpetuate the conflict. No sooner had the burghs established themselves
beneath the presidency of their Consuls than they turned the arms they
had acquired in the war of independence, against their neighbors. The
phenomenon was not confined to any single district. It revealed a new
necessity in the very constitution of the commonwealths. Penned up
within the narrow limits of their petty dependencies, throbbing with
fresh life, overflowing with a populace inured to warfare, demanding
channels for their energies in commerce, competing with each other on
the paths of industry, they clashed in deadliest duels for breathing
space and means of wealth. The occasions that provoked one Commune to
declare war upon its rival were trivial. The animosity was internecine
and persistent. Life or death hung in the balance. It was a conflict for
ascendency that brought the sternest passions into play, and decided the
survival of the fittest among hundreds of competing cities. The deeply
rooted jealousies of Roman and feudal centers, the recent partisanship
of Papal and Imperial principles, imbittered this strife. But what lay
beneath all superficial causes of dissension was the economic struggle
of communities, for whom the soil of Italy already had begun to seem too
narrow. So superabundant were the forces of her population, so vast were
the energies emancipated by her attainment of municipal freedom, that
this mighty mother of peoples could not afford equal sustenance to all
her children. New-born, they had to strangle one another as they hung
upon the breast that gave them nourishment. It was impossible for the
Emperor to overlook the apparent anarchy of his fairest province.
Therefore, when Frederick Barbarossa was elected in 1152, his first
thought was to reduce the Garden of the Empire to order. Soon after his
election he descended into Lombardy and formed two leagues among the
cities of the North, the one headed by Pavia, the center of the
abrogated kingdom, the other by Milan, who inherited the majesty of Rome
and contained within her loins the future of Italian freedom. It is not
necessary to follow in detail the conflict of the Lombard burghs with
Frederick, so enthusiastically described by their historian, Sismondi,
It is enough for our present purpose to remember that in the course of
that contention both leagues made common cause against the Emperor, drew
the Pope Alexander III. into their quarrel, and at last in 1183, after
the victory of Legnano had convinced Frederick of his weakness, extorted
by the Peace of Constance privileges whereby their autonomy was amply
guaranteed and recognized. The advantages won by Milan who sustained the
brunt of the imperial onslaughts, and by the splendor of her martyrdom
surmounted the petty jealousies of her municipal rivals, were extended
to the cities of Tuscany. After the date of that compact signed by the
Emperor and his insurgent subjects, the burghs obtained an assured
position as a third power between the Empire and the Church. The most
remarkable point in the history of this contention is the unanimous
submission of the Communes to what they regarded as the just suzerainty
of Cæsar's representative. Though they were omnipotent in Lombardy, they
took no measures for closing the gates of the Alps against the Germans.
The Emperor was free to come and go as he listed; and when peace was
signed, he reckoned the burghers who had beaten him by arms and policy,
among his loyal vassals. Still the spirit of independence in Italy had
been amply asserted. This is notably displayed in the address presented
to Frederick, before his coronation, by the senate of Rome. Regenerated
by Arnold of Brescia's revolutionary mission, the Roman people assumed
its antique majesty in these remarkable words: 'Thou wast a stranger; I
have made thee citizen; thou camest from regions from beyond the Alps; I
have conferred on thee the principality.'[1] Presumptuous boast as this
sounded in the ears of Frederick, it proved that the Italic nation had
now sharply defined itself against the Church and the barbarians. It
still accepted the Empire because the Empire was the glory of Italy, the
crown that gave to her people the presidency of civilization. It still
recognized the authority of the Church because the Church was the eldest
daughter of Italy emergent from the wrecks of Roman society. But the
nation had become conscious of its right to stand apart from either.

    [1]: 'Hospes eras, civem feci. Advena fuisti ex transalpinis
    partibus, principem constitui. Quod meum jure fuit, tibi dedi.' See
    _Ottonis Episcopi Frisingensis Chronicon_, De Rebus Gestis Frid. i.
    Imp. Lib. ii. cap. 21. Basileæ, 1569. The Legates appointed by the
    Senate met the Emperor at Sutri, and delivered the oration of which
    the sentence just quoted was part. It began: 'Urbis legati nos, rex
    optime, ad tuam a Senatu, populoque Romano destinati sumus
    excellentiam,' and contained this remarkable passage: 'Orbis
    imperium affectas, coronam præbitura gratanter assurgo, jocanter
    occurro ... indebitum clericorum excussurus jugum.' If the words are
    faithfully reported, the Republic separates itself abruptly from the
    Papacy, and claims a kind of precedence in honor before the Empire.
    Frederick is said to have interrupted the Legates in a rage before
    they could finish their address, and to have replied with angry
    contempt. The speech put into his mouth is probably a rhetorical
    composition, but it may have expressed his sentiments. 'Multa de
    Romanorum sapientia seu fortitudine hactenus audivimus, magis tamen
    de sapientia. Quare satis mirari non possumus, quod verba vestra
    plus arrogantiæ tumore insipida quam sale sapientiæ condita
    sentimus.... Fuit, fuit quondam in hac Republica virtus. Quondam
    dico, atque o utinam tam veracitur quam libenter nunc dicere
    possemus,' etc.

Strengthened by their contest with Frederick Barbarossa, recognized in
their rights as belligerent powers, and left to their own guidance by
the Empire, the cities were now free to prosecute their wars upon the
remnants of feudalism. The town, as we have learned to know it, was
surrounded by a serried rank of castles, where the nobles held still
undisputed authority over serfs of the soil. Against this cordon of
fortresses every city with singular unanimity directed the forces it had
formed in the preceding conflicts. At the same time the municipal
struggles of Commune against Commune lost none of their virulence. The
Counts, pressed on all sides by the towns that had grown up around them,
adopted the policy of pitting one burgh against another. When a noble
was attacked by the township near his castle, he espoused the
animosities of a more distant city, compromised his independence by
accepting the captaincy or lieutenancy of communes hostile to his
natural enemies, and thus became the servant or ally of a Republic. In
his desperation he emancipated his serfs, and so the folk of the Contado
profited by the dissensions of the cities and their feudal masters. This
new phase of republican evolution lasted over a long and ill-defined
period, assuming different characters in different centers; but the end
of it was that the nobles were forced to submit to the cities. They were
admitted to the burghership, and agreed to spend a certain portion of
every year in the palaces they raised within the circuit of the walls.
Thus the Counts placed themselves beneath the jurisdiction of the
Consuls, and the Italic population absorbed into itself the relics of
Lombard, Frank, and German aristocracy. Still the gain upon the side of
the republics was not clear. Though the feudal lordship of the nobles
had been destroyed, their wealth, their lands, and their prestige
remained untouched. In the city they felt themselves but aliens. Their
real home was still the castle on the neighboring mountain. Nor, when
they stooped to become burghers, had they relinquished the use of arms.
Instead of building peaceable dwelling-houses in the city, they filled
its quarters with fortresses and towers, whence they carried on feuds
among themselves and imperiled the safety of the streets. It was
speedily discovered that the war against the Castles had become a war
against the Palaces, and that the arena had been transferred from the
open Contado to the Piazza and the barricade. The authority of the
consuls proved insufficient to maintain an equilibrium between the
people and the nobles. Accordingly a new magistrate started into being,
combining the offices of supreme justiciary and military dictator. When
Frederick Barbarossa attempted to govern the rebellious Lombard cities
in the common interest of the Empire, he established in their midst a
foreign judge, called Podestà _quasi habens potestatem Imperatoris in
hâc parte_. This institution only served at the moment to inflame and
imbitter the resistance of the Communes: but the title of Podestà was
subsequently conferred upon the official summoned to maintain an equal
balance between the burghers and the nobles. He was invariably a
foreigner, elected for one year, intrusted with summary jurisdiction in
all matters of dispute, exercising the power of life and death, and
disposing of the municipal militia. The old constitution of the Commune
remained to control this dictator and to guard the independence of the
city. All the Councils continued to act, and the Consuls were fortified
by the formation of a College of Ancients or Priors. The Podestà was
created with the express purpose of effecting a synthesis between two
rival sections of the burgh. He was never regarded as other than an
alien to the city, adopted as a temporary mediator and controller of
incompatible elements. The lordship of the burgh still resided with the
Consuls, who from this time forward began to lose their individuality in
the College of the _Signoria_--called _Priori_, _Anziani_, or _Rettori_,
as the case might be in various districts.

The Italian republics had reached this stage when Frederick II. united
the Empire and the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It was a crisis of the
utmost moment for Italian independence. Master of the South, Frederick
sought to reconquer the lost prerogatives of the Empire in Lombardy and
Tuscany; nor is it improbable that he might have succeeded in uniting
Italy beneath his sway but for the violent animosity of the Church. The
warfare of extermination carried on by the Popes against the house of
Hohenstauffen was no proof of their partiality for the cause of freedom.
They dreaded the reality of a kingdom that should base itself on Italy
and be the rival of their own authority. Therefore they espoused the
cause of the free burghs against Frederick, and when the North was
devastated by his Vicars, they preached a crusade against Ezzelino da
Romano. In the convulsions that shook Italy from North to South the
parties of Guelf and Ghibelline took shape, and acquired an ineradicable
force. All the previous humors and discords of the nation were absorbed
by them. The Guelf party meant the burghers of the consular Communes,
the men of industry and commerce, the upholders of civil liberty, the
friends of democratic expansion. The Ghibelline party included the
naturalized nobles, the men of arms and idleness, the advocates of
feudalism, the politicians who regarded constitutional progress with
disfavor. That the banner of the Church floated over the one camp, while
the standard of the Empire rallied to itself the hostile party, was a
matter of comparatively superficial moment. The true strength of the war
lay in the population, divided by irreconcilable ideals, each eager to
possess the city for itself, each prepared to die for its adopted
principles. The struggle is a social struggle, played out within the
precincts of the Commune, for the supremacy of one or the other moiety
of the whole people. A city does not pronounce itself either Guelf or
Ghibelline till half the burghers have been exiled. The victorious
party organizes the government in its own interest, establishes itself
in a Palazzo apart from the Commune, where it develops its machinery at
home and abroad, and strengthens its finance by forced contributions and
confiscations.[1] The exiles make common cause with members of their own
faction in an adverse burgh; and thus, by the diplomacy of Guelfs and
Ghibellines, the most distant centers are drawn into the network of a
common dualism. In this way we are justified in saying that Italy
achieved her national consciousness through strife and conflict; for the
Communes ceased to be isolated, cemented by temporary leagues, or
engaged in merely local conflicts. They were brought together and
connected by the sympathies and antipathies of an antagonism which
embraced and dominated the municipalities, set Republics and Regno on
equal footing, and merged the titular leaders of the struggle, Pope and
Emperor, in the uncontrollable tumult. The issue was no vulgar one; no
merely egotistic interests were at stake. Guelfs and Ghibellines alike
interrogated the oracle, with perfect will to obey its inspiration for
the common good; but they read the utterances of the Pythia in adverse
senses. The Ghibelline heard Italy calling upon him to build a citadel
that should be guarded by the lance and shield of chivalry, where the
hierarchies of feudalism, ranged beneath the dais of the Empire, might
dispense culture and civil order in due measure to the people. The Guelf
believed that she was bidding him to multiply arts and guilds within the
burgh, beneath the mantle of the Pope, who stood for Christ, the
preacher of equality and peace for all mankind, in order that the
beehive of industry should in course of time evolve a civil order and a
culture representative of its own freely acting forces.

    [1] It is enough to refer to the importance of the _Parte Guelfa_ in
    the history of Florence.

During the stress and storm of the fierce warfare carried on by Guelfs
and Ghibellines, the Podestà fell into the second rank. He had been
created to meet an emergency; but now the discord was too vehement for
arbitration. A new functionary appears, with the title of _Captain of
the People_. Chosen when one or other of the factions gains supreme
power in the burgh, he represents the victorious party, takes the lead
in proscribing their opponents, and ratifies on his responsibility the
changes introduced into the constitution. The old magistracies and
councils, meanwhile, are not abrogated. The Consiglio del Popolo, with
the Capitano at its head, takes the lead; and a new member, called the
Consiglio della Parte, is found beside them, watchful to maintain the
policy of the victorious faction. But the Consiglio del Comune, with the
Podestà, who has not ceased to exercise judicial functions, still
subsists. The Priors form the signory as of old. The Credenza goes on
working, and the Gran Consiglio represents the body of privileged
burghers. The party does but tyrannize over the city it has conquered,
and manipulates the ancient constitution for its own advantage. In this
clash of Guelf with Ghibelline the beneficiaries were the lower classes
of the people. Excluded from the Popolo of episcopal and consular
revolutions, the trades and industries of the great cities now assert
their claims to be enfranchised. The advent of the _Arti_ is the chief
social phenomenon of the crisis.[1] Thus the final issue of the conflict
was a new Italy, deeply divided by factions that were little understood,
because they were so vital, because they represented two adverse
currents of national energy, incompatible, irreconcilable, eternal in
antagonism as the poles. But this discordant nation was more commercial
and more democratic. Families of merchants rose upon the ruins of the
old nobility. Roman cities of industry reduced their military rivals of
earlier or later origin to insignificance. The plain, the river, and the
port asserted themselves against the mountain fastness and the
barrackburgh. The several classes of society, triturated, shaken
together, leveled by warfare and equalized by industry, presented but
few obstacles to the emergence of commanding personalities, however
humble, from their ranks. Not only had the hierarchy of feudalism
disappeared; but the constitution of the city itself was confused, and
the Popolo, whether 'primo' or 'secondo or even 'terzo,' was diluted
with recently franchised Contadini and all kinds of 'novi homines.'[2]
The Divine Comedy, written after the culmination of the Guelf and
Ghibelline dissensions, yields the measure of their animosity. Dante
finds no place in Hell Heaven, or Purgatory for the souls who stood
aloof from strife, the angels who were neither Guelf nor Ghibelline in
Paradise. His Vigliacchi, 'wretches who never lived,' because they never
felt the pangs or ecstasies of partisanship, wander homeless on the
skirts of Limbo, among the abortions and offscourings of creation. Even
so there was no standing-ground in Italy outside one or the other
hostile camp. Society was riven down to its foundation. Rancors dating
from the thirteenth century endured long after the great parties ceased
to have a meaning. They were perpetuated in customs, and expressed
themselves in the most trivial details. Banners, ensigns, and heraldic
colors followed the divisions of the factions. Ghibellines wore the
feathers in their caps upon one side, Guelfs upon the other. Ghibellines
cut fruit at table crosswise, Guelfs straight down. In Bergamo some
Calabrians were murdered by their host, who discovered from their way of
slicing garlic that they sided with the hostile party. Ghibellines drank
out of smooth, and Guelfs out of chased, goblets. Ghibellines wore
white, and Guelfs red, roses. Yawning, passing in the street, throwing
dice, gestures in speaking or swearing, were used as pretexts for
distinguishing the one half of Italy from the other. So late as the
middle of the fifteenth century, the Ghibellines of Milan tore Christ
from the high-altar of the Cathedral at Crema and burned him because he
turned his face to the Guelf shoulder. Every great city has a tale of
love and death that carries the contention of its adverse families into
the region of romance and legend. Florence dated her calamities from the
insult offered by Buondelmonte dei Buondelmonti to the Amidei in a
broken marriage. Bologna never forgot the pathos of Imelda Lambertazzi
stretched in death upon her lover Bonifazio Gieremei's corpse. The story
of Romeo and Juliet at Verona is a myth which brings both factions into
play, the well-meaning intervention of peace-making monks, and the
ineffectual efforts of the Podestà to curb the violence of party

    [1] The history of Florence illustrates more clearly than that of
    any other town the vast importance acquired by trades and guilds in
    politics at this epoch of the civil wars.

    [2] This is the sting of Cacciaguida's scornful lamentation over
    Florence Par. xvi.

        Ma la cittadinanza, ch' è or mista
      Di Campi e di Certaldo e di Figghine,
      Pura vedeasi nell' ultimo artista.

        Tal fatto è fiorentino, e cambia e merca,
      Che si sarebbe volto a Semifonti,
      Là dove andava l' avolo alia cerca.

        Sempre la confusione delle persone
      Principio fu del mal della cittade,
      Come del corpo il cibo che s' appone.

So deep and dreadful was the discord, so utter the exhaustion, that the
distracted Communes were fain at last to find some peace in tyranny. At
the close of their long quarrel with the house of Hohenstauffen, the
Popes called Charles of Anjou into Italy. The final issue of that policy
for the nation at large will be discussed in another portion of this
work. It is enough to point out here that, as Ezzelino da Romano
introduced despotism in its worst form as a party leader of the
Ghibellines, so Charles of Anjou became a typical tyrant in the Guelf
interest. He was recognized as chief of the Guelf party by the
Florentines, and the kingdom of the Two Sicilies was conferred upon him
as the price of his dictatorship. The republics almost simultaneously
entered upon a new phase. Democratized by the extension of the
franchise, corrupted, to use Machiavelli's phrase, in their old
organization of the Popolo and Commune, they fell into the hands of
tyrants, who employed the prestige of their party, the indifference of
the Vigliacchi, and the peace-loving instincts of the middle class for
the consolidation of their selfish autocracy.[1] Placing himself above
the law, manipulating the machinery of the State for his own ends,
substituting the will of a single ruler for the clash of hostile
passions in the factions, the tyrant imposed a forcible tranquillity
upon the city he had grasped. The Captaincy of the people was conferred
upon him.[2] The Councils were suffocated and reduced to silence. The
aristocracy was persecuted for the profit of the plebs. Under his rule
commerce flourished; the towns were adorned with splendid edifices;
foreign wars were carried on for the aggrandizement of the State without
regard to factious rancors. Thus the tyrant marked the first emergence
of personality supreme within the State, resuming its old forces in an
autocratic will, superseding and at the same time consciously
controlling the mute, collective, blindly working impulses of previous
revolutions. His advent was welcomed as a blessing by the recently
developed people of the cities he reduced to peace. But the great
families and leaders of the parties regarded him with loathing, as a
reptile spawned by the corruption and disease of the decaying body
politic. In their fury they addressed themselves to the two chiefs of
Christendom. Boniface VIII., answering to this appeal, called in a
second Frenchman, Charles of Valois, with the titles of Marquis of
Ancona, Count of Romagna, Captain of Tuscany, who was bidden to reduce
Italy to order on Guelf principles. Dante in his mountain solitudes
invoked the Emperor, and Italy beheld the powerless march of Henry VII.
Neither Pope nor Emperor was strong enough to control the currents of
the factions which were surely whirling Italy into the abyss of
despotism. Boniface died of grief after Sciarra Colonna, the terrible
Ghibelline's outrage at Anagni, and the Papal Court was transferred to
Avignon in 1316. Henry VII. expired, of poison probably, at
Buonconvento, in 1313. The parties tore each other to fragments. Tyrants
were murdered. Whole families were extirpated. Yet these convulsions
bore no fruit of liberty. The only exit from the situation was in
despotism--the despotism of a jealous oligarchy as at Florence, or the
despotism of new tyrants in Lombardy and the Romagna.[3]

    [1] Not to mention the republics of Lombardy and Romagna, which took
    the final stamp of despotism at the beginning of the fourteenth
    century, it is noticeable that Pisa submitted to Uguccione da
    Faggiuola, Lucca to Castruccio Castracane, and Florence to the Duke
    of Athens. The revolution of Pisa in 1316 delivered it from
    Uguccione; the premature death of Castruccio in 1328 destroyed the
    Tuscan duchy he was building up upon the basement of Ghibellinism;
    while the rebellion of 1343 averted tyranny from Florence for
    another century.

    [2] Machiavelli's _Vita di Castruccio Castracane_, though it is
    rather a historical romance than a trustworthy biography,
    illustrates the gradual advances made by a bold and ambitious leader
    from the Captaincy of the people, conferred upon him for one year,
    to the tyranny of his city.

    [3] The Divine comedy is, under one of its aspects, the Epic of
    Italian tyranny, so many of its episodes are chosen from the history
    of the civil wars:

        Chè le terre d' Italia tutte piene
      Son di tiranni; ed un Marcel diventa
      Ogni villan che parteggiando viene.

    Those lines occur in the apostrophe to Italy (_Purg._ vi.) where
    Dante refers to the Empire, idealized by him as the supreme
    authority in Europe.

Meanwhile the perils to which the tyrants were exposed taught them to
employ cruelty and craft in combination. From the confused and spasmodic
efforts of the thirteenth century, when Captains of the people and
leaders of the party seized a momentary gust of power, there arose a
second sort of despotism, more cautious in its policy, more methodic in
its use of means to ends, which ended by metamorphosing the Italian
cities and preparing the great age of the Renaissance. It would be
sentimental to utter lamentations over this change, and unphilosophical
to deplore the diminution of republican liberty as an unmixed evil. The
divisions of Italy and the weakness of both Papacy and Empire left no
other solution of the political problem. All branches of the municipal
administration, strained to the cracking-point by the tension of party
conflict, were now isolated from the organism, abnormally developed,
requiring the combining effort of a single thinker to reunite their
scattered forces in one system or absorb them in himself. The indirect
restraints which a calmer period of municipal vitality had placed upon
tyrannic ambition, were removed by the leveling of classes and the
presentation of an equal surface to the builder of the palace-dome of
monarchy. Moreover, it must be remembered that what the Italians then
understood by freedom was municipal autonomy controlled by ruling houses
in the interest of the few. These considerations need not check our
sympathy with Florence in the warfare she carried on against the
Milanese tyrants. But they should lead us to be cautious in adopting the
conclusions of Sismondi, who saw Italian greatness only in her free
cities. The obliteration of the parties beneath despotism was needed,
under actual conditions, for that development of arts and industry which
raised Italy to a first place among civilized nations. Of the manners of
the Despots, and of the demoralization they encouraged in the cities of
their rule, enough will be said in the succeeding chapters, which set
forth the social conditions of the Renaissance in Italy. But attention
should here be called to the general character of despotic authority,
and to the influence the Despots exercised for the pacification of the
country. We are not justified by facts in assuming that had the free
burghs continued independent, arts and literature would have risen to a
greater height. Venice, in spite of an uninterrupted republican career,
produced no commanding men of letters, and owed much of her splendor in
the art of painting to aliens from Cadore, Castelfranco, and Verona.
Genoa remained silent and irresponsive to the artistic movement of Italy
until the last days of the republic, when her independence was but a
shadow. Pisa, though a burgh of Tuscany, displayed no literary talent,
while her architecture dates from the first period of the Commune.
Siena, whose republican existence lasted longer even than that of
Florence, contributed nothing of importance to Italian literature. The
art of Perugia was developed during the ascendency of despotic families.
The painting of the Milanese School owed its origin to Lodovico Sforza,
and survived the tragic catastrophes of his capital, which suffered more
than any other from the brutalities of Spaniards and Frenchmen. Next to
Florence, the most brilliant centers of literary activity during the
bright days of the Renaissance were princely Ferrara and royal Naples.
Lastly, we might insist upon the fact that the Italian language took its
first flight in the court of imperial Palermo, while republican Rome
remained dumb throughout the earlier stage of Italian literary
evolution. Thus the facts of the case seem to show that culture and
republican independence were not so closely united in Italy as some
historians would seek to make us believe. On the other hand it is
impossible to prove that the despotisms of the fifteenth century were
necessary to the perfecting of art and literature. All that can be
safely advanced upon this subject, is that the pacification of Italy was
demanded as a preliminary condition, and that this pacification came to
pass through the action of the princes, checked and equilibrated by the
oligarchies of Venice and Florence. It might further be urged that the
Despots were in close sympathy with the masses of the people, shared
their enthusiasms, and promoted their industry. When the classical
revival took place at the close of the fourteenth century, they divined
this movement of the Italic races to resume their past, and gave it all
encouragement. To be a prince, and not to be the patron of scholarship,
the pupil of humanists, and the founder of libraries, was an
impossibility. In like manner they employed their wealth upon the
development of arts and industries. The great age of Florentine painting
is indissolubly connected with the memories of Casa Medici. Rome owes
her magnificence to the despotic Popes. Even the pottery of Gubbio was a
creation of the ducal house of Urbino.

After the death of Henry VII. and the beginning of the Papal exile at
Avignon, the Guelf party became the rallying-point of municipal
independence, with its headquarters in Florence. Ghibellinism united
the princes in an opposite camp. 'The Guelf party,' writes Giovanni
Villani, 'forms the solid and unalterable basis of Italian liberty, and
is so antagonistic to all tyranny that, if a Guelf become a tyrant, he
must of necessity become at the same moment Ghibelline.' Milan, first to
assert the rights of the free burghs, was now the chief center of
despotism; and the events of the next century resume themselves in the
long struggle between Florence and the Visconti. The chronicle of the
Villani and the Florentine history of Poggio contain the record of this
strife, which seemed to them the all-important crisis of Italian
affairs. In the Milanese annals of Galvano Fiamma and Mussi, on the
other hand, the advantages of a despotic sovereignty in giving national
coherence, the crimes of the Papacy, which promoted anarchy in its
ill-governed States, and the prospect of a comprehensive Italian tyranny
under the great house of the Visconti, are eloquently pleaded. The terms
of the main issue being thus clearly defined, we may regard the warfare
carried on by Bertrand du Poiet and Louis of Bavaria in the interests of
Church and Empire, the splendid campaigns of Egidio d'Albornoz, and the
delirious cruelty of Robert of Geneva, no less than the predatory
excursions of Charles IV., as episodical. The main profits of those
convulsions, which drowned Italy in blood during nearly all the
fourteenth century, accrued to the Despots, who held their ground in
spite of all attempts to dispossess them. The greater houses, notably
the Visconti, acquired strength by revolutions in which the Church and
Empire neutralized each other's action. The lesser families struck firm
roots into cities, infuriated rather than intimidated by such acts of
violence as the massacres of Faenza and Cesena in 1377. The relations of
the imperial and pontifical parties were confused; while even in the
center of republican independence, at Florence, social changes,
determined in great measure by the exhaustion of the city in its
conflict, prepared the way for the Medicean tyranny. Neither the Church
nor the Empire gained steady footing in Italy, while the prestige of
both was ruined.[1] Municipal freedom, instead of being enlarged, was
extinguished by the ambition of the Florentine oligarchs, who, while
they spent the last florin of the Commune in opposing the Visconti,
never missed an opportunity of enslaving the sister burghs of Tuscany.
In a word, the destiny of the nation was irresistibly impelling it
toward despotism.

    [1] Machiavelli, in his _Istorie Fiorentine_ (Firenze, 1818, vol. i.
    pp. 47, 48), points out how the competition of the Church and
    Empire, during the Papacies of Benedict XII. and Clement VI. and the
    reign of Louis strengthened the tyrants of Lombardy, Romagna, and
    the March. Each of the two contending powers gave away what did not
    belong to them, bidding against each other for any support they
    might obtain from the masters of the towns.

In order to explain the continual prosperity of the princes amid the
clash of forces brought to bear against them from so many sides, we must
remember that they were the partisans of social order in distracted
burghs, the heroes of the middle classes and the multitude, the quellers
of faction, the administrators of impartial laws, and the aggrandizers
of the city at the expense of its neighbors. Ser Gorello, singing the
praises of the Bishop Guido dei Tarlati di Pietra Mala, who ruled Arezzo
in the first half of the fourteenth century, makes the Commune say:[1]
'He was the lord so valiant and magnificent, so full of grace and
daring, so agreeable to both Guelfs and Ghibellines. He, for his virtue,
was chosen by common consent to be the master of my people. Peace and
justice were the beginning, middle, and end of his lordship, which
removed all discord from the State. By the greatness of his valor I grew
in territory round about. Every neighbor reverenced me, some through
love and some through dread; for it was dear to them to rest beneath his
mantle.' These verses set forth the qualities which united the mass of
the populations to their new lords. The Despot delivered the industrial
classes from the tyranny and anarchy of faction, substituting a reign of
personal terrorism that weighed more heavily upon the nobles than upon
the artisans or peasants. Ruling more by perfidy, corruption, and fraud
than by the sword, he turned the leaders of parties into courtiers,
brought proscribed exiles back into the city as officials, flattered
local vanity by continuing the municipal machinery in its functions of
parade, and stopped the mouths of unruly demagogues by making it their
pecuniary interest to preach his benefits abroad. So long as the
burghers remained peaceable beneath his sway and refrained from
attacking him in person, he was mild. But at the same moment the
gallows, the torture-chamber, the iron cage suspended from the giddy
height of palace-roof or church tower, and the dreadful dungeons, where
a prisoner could neither stand nor lie at ease, were ever ready for the
man who dared dispute his authority. That authority depended solely on
his personal qualities of will, courage, physical endurance. He held it
by intelligence, being as it were an artificial product of political
necessities, an equilibrium of forces, substituted without legal title
for the Church and Empire, and accumulating in his despotic
individuality the privileges previously acquired by centuries of
consuls, Podestàs, and Captains of the people. The chief danger he had
to fear was conspiracy; and in providing himself against this peril he
expended all the resources suggested by refined ingenuity and heightened
terror. Yet, when the Despot was attacked and murdered, it followed of
necessity that the successful conspirator became in turn a tyrant.
'Cities,' wrote Machiavelli,[2] 'that are once corrupt and accustomed to
the rule of princes, can never acquire freedom, even though the prince
with all his kin be extirpated. One prince is needed to extinguish
another; and the city has no rest except by the creation of a new lord,
unless it chance that one burgher by his goodness and great qualities
may during his lifetime preserve its temporary independence.' Palace
intrigues, therefore, took the place of Piazza revolutions, and
dynasties were swept away to make room for new tyrants without material
change in the condition of the populace.

    [1] _Mur. Scr. R. It._ xv. 826. Compare what G. Merula wrote about
    Azzo Visconti: 'He conciliated the people to him by equal justice
    without distinction of Guelf or Ghibelline.'

    [2] _Discorsi_. i. 17.

It was the universal policy of the Despots to disarm their subjects.
Prompted by considerations of personal safety, and demanded by the
necessity of extirpating the factions, this measure was highly popular.
It relieved the burghers of that most burdensome of all public duties,
military service. A tax on silver and salt was substituted in the
Milanese province for the conscription, while the Florentine oligarchs,
actuated probably by the same motives, laid a tax upon the country. The
effect of this change was to make financial and economical questions
all-important, and to introduce a new element into the balance of
Italian powers. The principalities were transformed into great banks,
where the lords of cities sat in their bureau, counted their money, and
calculated the cost of wars or the value of towns they sought to acquire
by bargain. At first they used their mercenary troops like pawns, buying
up a certain number for some special project, and dismissing them when
it had been accomplished. But in course of time the mercenaries awoke to
the sense of their own power, and placed themselves beneath captains who
secured them a certainty of pay with continuity of profitable service.
Thus the Condottieri came into existence, and Italy beheld the spectacle
of moving despotisms, armed and mounted, seeking to effect establishment
upon the weakest, worst-defended points of the peninsula. They proved a
grave cause of disquietude alike to the tyrants and the republics; and
until the settlement of Francesco Sforza in the Duchy of Milan, when the
employers of auxiliaries had come to understand the arts of dealing with
them by perfidy, secret assassination, and a system of elaborate
counter-checks, the equilibrium of power in Italy was seriously
threatened. The country suffered at first from marauding excursions
conducted by piratical leaders of adventurous troops, by Werner of
Urslingen, the Conte Lando, and Fra Moriale; afterwards from the
discords of Braccio da Montone and Sforza Attendolo, incessantly
plotting to carve duchies for themselves from provinces they had been
summoned by a master to subdue. At this period gold ruled the destinies
of Italy. The Despots, relying solely on their exchequer for their
power, were driven to extortion. Cities became bankrupt, pledged their
revenues, or sold themselves to the highest bidder.[1] Indescribable
misery oppressed the poorer classes and the peasants. A series of
obscure revolutions in the smaller despotic centers pointed to a
vehement plebeian reaction against a state of things that had become
unbearable. The lower classes of the burghers rose against the 'popolani
grassi,' and a new class of princes emerged at the close of the crisis.
Thus the plebs forced the Bentivogli on Bologna and the Medici on
Florence, and Baglioni on Perugia and the Petrucci on Siena.

    [1] Perugia, for example, farmed out the tax upon her country
    population for 12,000 florins, upon her baking-houses for 7,266,
    upon her wine for 4,000, upon her lake for 5,200, upon contracts for
    1,500. Two bankers accepted the Perugian loan at this price in 1388.

The emergence of the Condottieri at the beginning of the fourteenth
century, the anarchy they encouraged for their own aggrandizement, and
the financial distress which ensued upon the substitution of mercenary
for civic warfare, completed the democratization of the Italian cities,
and marked a new period in the history of despotism. From the date of
Francesco Sforza's entry into Milan as conqueror in 1450, the princes
became milder in their exercise of power and less ambitious. Having
begun by disarming their subjects, they now proceeded to lay down arms
themselves, employing small forces for the protection of their person
and the State, engaging more cautiously in foreign strife, and
substituting diplomacy, wherever it was possible, for warfare. Gold
still ruled in politics, but it was spent in bribery. To the ambitious
military schemes of Gian Galeazzo Visconti succeeded the commercial
cynicism of Cosimo de' Medici, who enslaved Florence by astute
demoralization.[1] The spirit of the age was materialistic and positive.
The Despots held their state by treachery, craft, and corruption. The
element of force being virtually eliminated, intelligence at last gained
undivided sway; and the ideal statecraft of Machiavelli was realized
with more or less completeness in all parts of the peninsula. At this
moment and by these means Italy obtained a brief but golden period of
peace beneath the confederation of her great powers. Nicholas V. had
restored the Papal court to Rome in 1447; where he assumed the manners
of despotism and counted as one among the Italian Signori. Lombardy
remained tranquil under the rule of Francesco Sforza, and Tuscany under
that of the Casa Medici. The kingdom of Naples, conquered by Alfonso of
Aragon in 1442, was equally ruled in the spirit of enlightened
despotism, while Venice, who had so long formed a state apart, by her
recent acquisition of a domain on terra firma, entered the community of
Italian politics. Thus the country had finally resolved itself into five
grand constituent elements--the Duchy of Milan, the Republic of S. Mark,
Florence, Rome, and the kingdom of Naples--all of them, though widely
differing in previous history and constitutional peculiarities, now
animated by a common spirit.[2] Politically they tended to despotism;
for though Venice continued to be a republic, the government of the
Venetian oligarchy was but despotism put into commission.
Intellectually, the same enthusiasm for classical studies, the same
artistic energy, and the same impulse to revive Italian literature
brought the several centers of the nation into keener sympathy than they
had felt before. A network of diplomacy embraced the cities; and round
the leaders of the confederation were grouped inferior burghs,
republican or tyrannical as the case might be, like satellites around
the luminaries of a solar system. When Constantinople was taken by the
Turks in 1453, Italy felt the need of suppressing her old jealousies,
and Nicholas V. induced the four great powers to sign with him a treaty
of peace and amity. The political tact and sagacity of Lorenzo de'
Medici enabled him to develop and substantiate the principle of balance
then introduced into Italian politics; nor was there any apparent reason
why the equilibrium so hardly won, so skillfully maintained, should not
have subsisted but for Lodovico Sforza's invitation to the French in
1494. Up to that date the more recent wars of Italy had been principally
caused by the encroachments of Venice and the nepotism of successive
Popes. They raised no new enthusiasm hostile to the interests of peace.
The Empire was eliminated and forgotten as an obsolete antiquity. Italy
seemed at last determined to manage her own affairs by mutual agreement
between the five great powers.

    [1] I have attempted to analyze Cosimo's method in the article on
    'Florence and the Medici,' _Studies and Sketches in Italy_.

    [2] This centralization of Italy in five great powers was not
    obtained without the depression or total extinction of smaller
    cities. Ferrari counts seventeen towns, who died, to use his
    forcible expression, at the close of the civil wars. _Storia delle
    Rivoluzioni d' Italia_, iii. 239.

Still the ground beneath this specious fabric of diplomacy rung hollow.
The tyrannies represented a transient political necessity. They were not
the product of progressive social growth, satisfying and regulating
organic functions of the nation. Far from being the final outcome of a
slow, deliberate accretion in the states they had absorbed, we see in
them the climax of conflicting humors, the splendid cancers and
imposthumes of a desperate disease. That solid basis of national
morality which grounds the monarch firm upon the sympathies and
interests of the people whom he seems to lead, but whom he in reality
expresses, failed them. Therefore each individual despot trembled for
his throne, while Italy, as in the ominous picture drawn by her
historian, felt that all the elements were combining to devour her with
a coming storm. The land of earthquakes divined a cataclysm, to cope
with which she was unable. An apparently insignificant event determined
the catastrophe. The Sforza appealed to France, and after the disastrous
descent of Charles VIII. the whole tide of events turned. Instead of
internal self-government by any system of balance, Italy submitted to a
succession of invasions terminating in foreign tyranny.

The problem why the Italians failed to achieve the unity of a coherent
nation has been implicitly discussed in the foregoing pages upon the
history of the Communes and the development of despotism. We have
already seen that their conception of municipal independence made a
narrow oligarchy of enfranchised burghers lords of the city, which in
its turn oppressed the country and the subject burghs of its domain.
Every conquest by a republic reduced some village or center of civil
life to the condition of serfdom. The voices of the inhabitants were no
longer heard debating questions that affected their interests. They
submitted to dictation from their masters, the enfranchised few in the
ascendant commonwealth. Thus, as Guicciardini pointed out in his
'Considerations on the Discourses of Machiavelli,' the subjection of
Italy by a dominant republic would have meant the extinction of
numberless political communities and the sway of a close oligarchy from
the Alps to the Ionian Sea.[1] The 3,200 burghers who constituted
Florence in 1494, or the nobles of the Golden Book at Venice, would by
such unification of the country under a victorious republic have become
sovereigns, administering the resources of the nation for their profit.
The dread of this catastrophe rendered Venice odious to her sister
commonwealths at the close of the fifteenth century, and justified,
according to Guicciardini's views of history, the action taken by Cosimo
de' Medici in 1450, when he rendered Milan strong by supporting her
despot, Francesco Sforza.[2] In a word republican freedom, as the term
is now understood, was unknown in Italy. Municipal autonomy, implying
the right of the municipality to rule its conquests for its own
particular profit, was the dominant idea. To have advanced from this
stage of thought to the highly developed conception of a national
republic, centralizing the forces of Italy and at the same time giving
free play to its local energies, would have been impossible. This kind
of republican unity implies a previous unification of the people in some
other form of government. It furthermore demands a system of
representation extended to all sections of the nation. Their very
nature, therefore, prevented the republican institutions won by the
Italians in the early Middle Ages from sufficing for their independence
in a national republic.

    [1] _Op. Ined._ vol. i. p. 28.

    [2] _Ib._ vol. iii. p. 8.

It may with more reason be asked in the next place why Italy did not
become a monarchy, and again why she never produced a confederation,
uniting the Communes as the Swiss Cantons were combined for mutual
support and self-defense. When we attack the first of these two
questions, our immediate answer must be that the Italians had a rooted
disinclination for monarchical union.[1] Their most strenuous efforts
were directed against it when it seemed to threaten them. It may be
remembered that they were not a new people, needing concentration to
secure their bare existence. Even during the great days of ancient Rome
they had not been what we are wont to call a nation, but a confederacy
of municipalities governed and directed by the mistress of the globe.
When Rome passed away, the fragments of the body politic in Italy,
though rudely shaken, retained some portion of the old vitality that
joined them to the past. It was to the past rather than the future that
the new Italians looked; and even as they lacked initiative forces in
their literature, so in their political systems they ventured on no
fresh beginning. Though Rome herself was ruined, the shadow of the name
of Rome, the mighty memory of Roman greatness, still abode with them.
Instead of a modern capital and a modern king, they had an idea for
their rallying-point, a spiritual city for their metropolis. Nor was
there any immediate reason why they should have sacrificed their local
independence in order to obtain the security afforded by a sovereign. It
was not till a later epoch that Italy learned by bitter experience that
unity at any cost would be acceptable, face to face with the organized
armies of modern Europe. But when the chance of securing that safeguard
was offered in the Middle Ages, it must have been bought by subjection
to foreigners, by toleration of feudalism, by the extinction of Roman
culture in the laws and customs of barbarians. Thus it is not too much
to say that the Italians themselves rejected it. Moreover, the problem
of unifying Italy in a monarchy was never so practically simple as that
of forming nations out of the Teutonic tribes. Not only was the instinct
of clanship absent, but before the year 800 all attempts to establish a
monarchical state were thwarted by the still formidable proximity of
the Greek Empire and by the growing power of ecclesiastical Rome. We
have seen how the Goths erred by submitting-to the Empire and merging
their authority in a declining organization. We have seen again how the
Lombards erred by adopting Catholic Christianity and thus entangling
themselves in the policy of Papal Rome. Both Goths and Lombards
committed the mistake of sparing the Eternal City; or it may be more
accurate to say that neither of them were strong enough to lay hands of
violence upon the sacred and mysterious metropolis and hold it as their
seat of monarchy against the world. So long as Rome remained
independent, neither Ravenna nor Pavia could head a kingdom in the
peninsula. Meanwhile Rome lent her prestige to the advancement of a
spiritual power which, subject to no dynastic weakness, with the
persistent force of an idea that cannot die, was bent on subjugating
Europe. The Papacy needed Italy as the basis of its operations, and
could not brook a rival that might reduce the See of S. Peter to the
level of an ordinary bishopric. Rome therefore, generation after
generation, upheld the so-called liberties of Italy against all comers;
and when she summoned the Franks, it was to break the growing power of
the Lombard monarchs. The pact between the Popes and Charles the Great,
however we may interpret its meaning, still further removed the
possibility of a kingdom by dividing Italy into two sections with
separate allegiances; and since the sway of neither Pope nor Emperor,
the one unarmed, the other absent, was stringent enough to check the
growth of independent cities, a third and all-important factor was added
to the previous checks upon national unity.

    [1] Guicciardini (_Op. Ined._ i. 29) remarks: 'O sia per qualche
    fato d' Italia, o per la complessione degli uomini temperata in modo
    che hanno ingegno e forze, non è mai questa provincia stata facile a
    ridursi sotto uno imperio.' He speaks again of her disunion as
    'quello modo di vivere che è più secondo la antiquissima
    consuetudine e inclinazione sua.' But Guicciardini, with that defect
    of vision which rendered him incapable of appreciating the whole
    situation while he analyzed its details so profoundly, was reckoning
    without the great nations of Europe. See above, pp. 40, 41.

After 1200 the problem changes its aspect. We have now to ask ourselves
why, when the struggle with the Empire was over, when Frederick
Barbarossa had been defeated at Legnano, when the Lombard and the Tuscan
Leagues were in full vigor before the Guelf and Ghibelline factions had
confused the mainsprings of political activity, and while the national
militia was still energetic, the Communes did not advance from the
conception of local and municipal independence to that of national
freedom in a confederacy similar to the Swiss Bund. The Italians, it may
be suggested, saw no immediate necessity for a confederation that would
have limited the absolute autonomy of their several parcels. Only the
light cast by subsequent events upon their early history makes us
perceive that they missed an unique opportunity at this moment. What
they then desired was freedom for expansion each after his own political
type, freedom for the development of industry and commerce, freedom for
the social organization of the city beloved by its burghers above the
nation as a whole. Special difficulties, moreover, lay in the way of
confederation. The Communes were not districts, like the Swiss Cantons,
but towns at war with the Contado round them and at war among
themselves. Mutually jealous and mistrustful, with a country population
that but partially obeyed their rule, these centers of Italian freedom
were in a very different position from the peasant communities of
Schwytz, Uri, Untenvalden. Italy, moreover, could not have been
federally united without the consent of Naples and the Church. The
kingdom of the Two Sicilies, rendered definitely monarchical by the
Norman Conquest, offered a serious obstacle; and though the Regno might
have been defied and absorbed by a vigorous concerted movement from the
North and center, there still remained the opposition of the Papacy. It
had been the recent policy of the Popes to support the free burghs in
their war with Frederick. But they did this only because they could not
tolerate a rival near their base of spiritual power; and the very
reasons which had made them side with the cities in the wars of
liberation would have roused their hostility against a federative union.
To have encouraged an Italian Bund, in the midst of which they would
have found the Church unarmed and on a level with the puissant towns of
Lombardy and Tuscany, must have seemed to them a suicidal error. Such a
coalition, if attempted, could not but have been opposed with all their
might; for the whole history of Italy proves that Machiavelli was right
when he asserted that the Church had persistently maintained the nation
in disunion for the furtherance of her own selfish ends. We have
furthermore to add the prestige which the Empire preserved for the
Italians, who failed to conceive of any civilized, human society whereof
the representative of Cæsar should not be the God-appointed head. Though
the material power of the Emperors was on the wane, it still existed as
a dominant idea. Italy was still the Garden of the Empire no less than
the Throne of Christ on earth. After the burghs had wrung what they
regarded as their reasonable rights and privileges from Frederick, they
laid down their arms, and were content to flourish beneath the imperial
shadow. To raise up a political association as a bulwark against the
Holy Roman Empire, and by the formation of this defense to become an
independent and united nation, instead of remaining an aggregate of
scattered townships, would have seemed to their minds little short of
sacrilege. Up to this point the Church and the Empire had been,
theoretically at least, concordant. They were the sun and moon of a
sacred social system which ruled Europe with light and might. But the
Wars of Investiture placed them in antagonism, and the result of that
quarrel was still further to divide the Italians, still further to
remove the hope of national unity into the region of things
unattainable. The great parties accentuated communal jealousies and gave
external form and substance to the struggles of town with town. So far
distant was the possibility of confederation on a grand scale that every
city strove within itself to establish one of two contradictory
principles, and the energies of the people were expended in a struggle
that set neighbor against neighbor on the field of war and in the
market-place. The confusion, exhaustion, and demoralization engendered
by these conflicts determined the advent of the Despots; and after 1400
Italy could only have been united under a tyrant's iron rule. At such an
universal despotism Gian Galeazzo Visconti was aiming when the plague
cut short his schemes. Cesare Borgia played his highest stakes for it.
Leo X. dreamed of it for his family. Machiavelli, at the end of the
_Principe_, when the tragedy of Italy was almost accomplished, invoked
it. But even for this last chance of unification it was now too late.
The great nations of Europe were in movement, and the destinies of Italy
depended upon France and Spain. When Charles V. remained victor in the
struggle of the sixteenth century, he stereotyped and petrified the
divisions of Italy in the interest of his own dynastic policy. The only
Italian power that remained unchangeable throughout all changes was the
Papacy--the first to emerge into prominence after the decay of the old
Western Empire, the last to suffer diminution in spite of vicissitudes,
humiliations, schisms, and internal transformation. As the Papacy had
created and maintained a divided Italy, as it had opposed itself to
every successive prospect of unification, so it survived the extinction
of Italian independence, and lent its aid to that imperial tyranny
whereby the disunion of the nation was confirmed and prolongated till
the present century.



Salient Qualities of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries in
Italy--Relation of Italy to the Empire and to the Church--The
Illegitimate Title of Italian Potentates--The Free Emergence of
Personality--Frederick II. and the Influence of his Example--Ezzelino
da Romano--Six Sorts of Italian Despots--Feudal Seigneurs--Vicars of the
Empire--Captains of the People--Condottieri--Nephews and Sons of
Popes--Eminent Burghers--Italian Incapacity for Self-Government in
Commonwealths--Forcible Tenure of Power encouraged Personal Ability--The
Condition of the Despot's Life--Instances of Domestic Crime in the
Ruling Houses--Macaulay's Description of the Italian Tyrant--
Savonarola's and Matteo Villani's Description of a Tyrant--The
Absorption of Smaller by Greater Tyrannies in the Fourteenth
Century--History of the Visconti--Francesco Sforza--The Part played in
Italian Politics by Military Leaders--Mercenary Warfare--Alberico da
Barbiano, Braccio da Montone, Sforza Attendolo--History of the Sforza
Dynasty--The Murder of Galeazzo Maria Sforza--The Ethics of Tyrannicide
in Italy--Relation of the Despots to Arts and Letters--Sigismondo
Pandolfo Malatesta--Duke Federigo of Urbino--The School of Vittorino
and the Court of Urbino--The Cortegiano of Castiglione--The Ideals of
the Italian Courtier and the Modern Gentleman--General Retrospect.

The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries may be called the Age of the
Despots in Italian history, as the twelfth and thirteenth are the Age of
the Free Burghs, and as the sixteenth and seventeenth are the Age of
Foreign Enslavement. It was during the age of the Despots that the
conditions of the Renaissance were evolved, and that the Renaissance
itself assumed a definite character in Italy. Under tyrannies, in the
midst of intrigues, wars, and revolutions, the peculiar individuality of
the Italians obtained its ultimate development. This individuality, as
remarkable for salient genius and diffused talent as for self-conscious
and deliberate vice, determined the qualities of the Renaissance and
affected by example the whole of Europe. Italy led the way in the
education of the Western races, and was the first to realize the type of
modern as distinguished from classical and mediæval life.

During this age of the despots, Italy presents the spectacle of a nation
devoid of central government and comparatively uninfluenced by
feudalism. The right of the Emperor had become nominal, and served as a
pretext for usurpers rather than as a source of order. The visits, for
instance, of Charles IV. and Frederick III. were either begging
expeditions or holiday excursions, in the course of which ambitious
adventurers bought titles to the government of towns, and meaningless
honors were showered upon vain courtiers. It was not till the reign of
Maximilian that Germany adopted a more serious policy with regard to
Italy, which by that time had become the central point of European
intrigue. Charles V. afterwards used force to reassert imperial rights
over the Italian cities, acting not so much in the interest of the
Empire as for the aggrandizement of the Spanish monarchy. At the same
time the Papacy, which had done so much to undermine the authority of
the Empire, exercised a power at once anomalous and ill-recognized
except in the immediate States of the Church. By the extinction of the
House of Hohenstauffen and by the assumed right to grant the investiture
of the kingdom of Naples to foreigners, the Popes not only struck a
death-blow at imperial influence, but also prepared the way for their
own exile to Avignon. This involved the loss of the second great
authority to which Italy had been accustomed to look for the maintenance
of some sort of national coherence. Moreover, the Church, though
impotent to unite all Italy beneath her own sway, had power enough to
prevent the formation either by Milan or Venice or Naples of a
substantial kingdom. The result was a perpetually recurring process of
composition, dismemberment, and recomposition, under different forms, of
the scattered elements of Italian life. The Guelf and Ghibelline
parties, inherited from the wars of the thirteenth century, survived the
political interests which had given them birth, and proved an
insurmountable obstacle, long after they had ceased to have any real
significance, to the pacification of the country.[1] The only important
state which maintained an unbroken dynastic succession of however
disputed a nature at this period was the kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
The only great republics were Venice, Genoa, and Florence. Of these,
Genoa, after being reduced in power and prosperity by Venice, was
overshadowed by the successive lords of Milan; while Florence was
destined at the end of a long struggle to fall beneath a family of
despots. All the rest of Italy, especially to the north of the
Apennines, was the battle-field of tyrants, whose title was
illegitimate--based, that is to say, on no feudal principle, derived in
no regular manner from the Empire, but generally held as a gift or
extorted as a prize from the predominant parties in the great towns.

    [1] So late as 1526 we find the burlesque poet Folengo exclaiming
    (_Orlandino_, ii. 59)--

      Chè se non fusser le gran parti in quella,
      Dominerebbe il mondo Italia bella.

If we examine the constitution of these tyrannies, we find abundant
proofs of their despotic nature. The succession from father to son was
always uncertain. Legitimacy of birth was hardly respected. The last La
Scalas were bastards. The house of Aragon in Naples descended from a
bastard. Gabriello Visconti shared with his half-brothers the heritage
of Gian Galeazzo. The line of the Medici was continued by princes of
more than doubtful origin. Suspicion rested on the birth of Frederick of
Urbino. The houses of Este and Malatesta honored their bastards in the
same degree as their lawful progeny. The great family of the Bentivogli
at Bologna owed their importance at the end of the fifteenth century to
an obscure and probably spurious pretender, dragged from the
wool-factories of Florence by the policy of Cosimo de' Medici. The sons
of popes ranked with the proudest of aristocratic families. Nobility was
less regarded in the choice of a ruler than personal ability. Power
once acquired was maintained by force, and the history of the ruling
families is one long catalogue of crimes. Yet the cities thus governed
were orderly and prosperous. Police regulations were carefully
established and maintained by governors whose interest it was to rule a
quiet state. Culture was widely diffused without regard to rank or
wealth. Public edifices of colossal grandeur were multiplied. Meanwhile
the people at large were being fashioned to that self-conscious and
intelligent activity which is fostered by the modes of life peculiar to
political and social centers in a condition of continued rivalry and

Under the Italian despotisms we observe nearly the opposite of all the
influences brought to bear in the same period upon the nations of the
North. There is no gradual absorption of the great vassals in
monarchies, no fixed allegiance to a reigning dynasty, no feudal aid or
military service attached to the tenure of the land, no tendency to
centralize the whole intellectual activity of the race in any capital,
no suppression of individual character by strongly biased public
feeling, by immutable law, or by the superincumbent weight of a social
hierarchy. Everything, on the contrary, tends to the free emergence of
personal passions and personal aims. Though the vassals of the despot
are neither his soldiers nor his loyal lieges, but his courtiers and
taxpayers, the continual object of his cruelty and fear, yet each
subject has the chance of becoming a prince like Sforza or a companion
of princes like Petrarch. Equality of servitude goes far to democratize
a nation, and common hatred of the tyrant leads to the combination of
all classes against him. Thence follows the fermentation of arrogant and
self-reliant passions in the breasts of the lowest as well as the
highest.[1] The rapid mutations of government teach men to care for
themselves and to depend upon themselves alone in the battle of the
world; while the necessity of craft and policy in the conduct of
complicated affairs sharpens intelligence. The sanction of all means
that may secure an end under conditions of social violence encourages
versatility unprejudiced by moral considerations. At the same time the
freely indulged vices of the sovereign are an example of self-indulgence
to the subject, and his need of lawless instruments is a practical
sanction of force in all its forms. Thus to the play of personality,
whether in combat with society and rivals, or in the gratification of
individual caprice, every liberty is allowed. Might is substituted for
right, and the sense of law is supplanted by a mere dread of coercion.
What is the wonder if a Benvenuto Cellini should be the outcome of the
same society as that which formed a Cesare Borgia? What is the miracle
if Italy under these circumstances produced original characters and
many-sided intellects in greater profusion than any other nation at any
other period, with the single exception of Greece on her emergence from
the age of her despots? It was the misfortune of Italy that the age of
the despots was succeeded not by an age of free political existence, but
by one of foreign servitude.

    [1] See Guicciardini, 'Dialogo del Reggimento di Firenze,' _Op.
    Ined._ vol. ii. p. 53, for a critique of the motives of tyrannicide
    in Italy.

Frederick II. was at the same time the last emperor who maintained
imperial sway in Italy in person, and also the beginner of a new system
of government which the despots afterwards pursued. His establishment of
the Saracen colony at Nocera, as the nucleus of an army ready to fulfill
his orders with scrupulous disregard for Italian sympathies and customs,
taught all future rulers to reduce their subjects to a state of unarmed
passivity, and to carry on their wars by the aid of German, English,
Swiss, Gascon, Breton, or Hungarian mercenaries, as the case might be.
Frederick, again, derived from his Mussulman predecessors in Sicily the
arts of taxation to the utmost limits of the national capacity, and
founded a precedent for the levying of tolls by a Catasto or schedule of
the properties attributed to each individual in the state. He also
destroyed the self-government of burghs and districts, by retaining for
himself the right to nominate officers, and by establishing a system of
judicial jurisdiction which derived authority from the throne. Again, he
introduced the example of a prince making profit out of the industries
of his subjects by monopolies and protective duties. In this path he was
followed by illustrious successors--especially by Sixtus IV. and Alfonso
II. of Aragon, who enriched themselves by trafficking in the corn and
olive-oil of their famished provinces. Lastly, Frederick established the
precedent of a court formed upon the model of that of Oriental Sultans,
in which chamberlains and secretaries took the rank of hereditary
nobles, and functions of state were confided to the body-servants of the
monarch. This court gave currency to those habits of polite culture,
magnificent living, and personal luxury which played so prominent a part
in all subsequent Italian despotism. It is tempting to overstrain a
point in estimating the direct influence of Frederick's example. In many
respects doubtless he was merely somewhat in advance of his age; and
what we may be inclined to ascribe to him personally, would have
followed in the natural evolution of events. Yet it remains a fact that
he first realized the type of cultivated despotism which prevailed
throughout Italy in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Italian
literature began in his court, and many Saracenic customs of statecraft
were transmitted through him from Palermo to Lombardy.

While Frederick foreshadowed the comparatively modern tyrants of the
coming age, his Vicar in the North of Italy, Ezzelino da Romano,
represented the atrocities towards which they always tended to
degenerate. Regarding himself with a sort of awful veneration as the
divinely appointed scourge of humanity, this monster in his lifetime was
execrated as an aberration from 'the kindly race of men,' and after his
death he became the hero of a fiendish mythus. But in the succeeding
centuries of Italian history his kind was only too common; the
immorality with which he worked out his selfish aims was systematically
adopted by princes like the Visconti, and reduced to rule by theorists
like Machiavelli. Ezzelino, a small, pale, wiry man, with terror in his
face and enthusiasm for evil in his heart, lived a foe to luxury, cold
to the pathos of children, dead to the enchantment of women. His one
passion was the greed of power, heightened by the lust for blood.
Originally a noble of the Veronese Marches, he founded his illegal
authority upon the captaincy of the Imperial party delegated to him by
Frederick. Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Feltre, and Belluno made him their
captain in the Ghibelline interest, conferring on him judicial as well
as military supremacy. How he fearfully abused his power, how a crusade
was preached against him,[1] and how he died in silence, like a boar at
bay, rending from his wounds the dressings that his foes had placed to
keep him alive, are notorious matters of history. At Padua alone he
erected eight prisons, two of which contained as many as three hundred
captives each; and though the executioner never ceased to ply his trade
there, they were always full. These dungeons were designed to torture by
their noisomeness, their want of air and light and space. Ezzelino made
himself terrible not merely by executions and imprisonments but also by
mutilations and torments. When he captured Friola he caused the
population, of all ages, sexes, occupations, to be deprived of their
eyes, noses, and legs, and to be cast forth to the mercy of the
elements. On another occasion he walled up a family of princes in a
castle and left them to die of famine. Wealth, eminence, and beauty
attracted his displeasure no less than insubordination or disobedience.
Nor was he less crafty than cruel. Sons betrayed their fathers, friends
their comrades, under the fallacious safeguard of his promises. A
gigantic instance of his scheming was the coup-de-main by which he
succeeded in entrapping 11,000 Paduan soldiers, only 200 of whom escaped
the miseries of his prisons. Thus by his absolute contempt of law, his
inordinate cruelty, his prolonged massacres, and his infliction of
plagues upon whole peoples, Ezzelino established the ideal in Italy of a
tyrant marching to his end by any means whatever. In vain was the
humanity of the race revolted by the hideous spectacle. Vainly did the
monks assemble pity-stricken multitudes upon the plain of Paquara to
atone with tears and penitence for the insults offered to the saints in
heaven by Ezzelino's fury. It laid a deep hold upon the Italian
imagination, and, by the glamor of loathing that has strength to
fascinate, proved in the end contagious. We are apt to ask ourselves
whether such men are mad--whether in the case of a Nero or a Maréchal
de Retz or an Ezzelino the love of evil and the thirst for blood are not
a monomaniacal perversion of barbarous passions which even in a cannibal
are morbid.[2] Is there in fact such a thing as Hæmatomania,
Bloodmadness? But if we answer this question in the affirmative, we
shall have to place how many Visconti, Sforzeschi, Malatesti, Borgias,
Farnesi, and princes of the houses of Anjou and Aragon in the list of
these maniacs? Ezzelino was indeed only the first of a long and horrible
procession, the most terror-striking because the earliest, prefiguring
all the rest.

    [1] Alexander IV. issued letters for this crusade in 1255. It was
    preached next year by the Archbishop of Ravenna.

    [2] See Appendix, No. I.

Ezzelino's cruelty was no mere Berserkir fury or Lycanthropia coming
over him in gusts and leaving him exhausted. It was steady and
continuous. In his madness, if such we may call this inhumanity, there
was method; he used it to the end of the consolidation of his tyranny.
Yet, inasmuch as it passed all limits and prepared his downfall, it may
be said to have obtained over his nature the mastery of an insane
appetite. While applying the nomenclature of disease to these
exceptional monsters, we need not allow that their atrocities were, at
first at any rate, beyond their control. Moral insanity is often nothing
more than the hypertrophy of some vulgar passion--lust, violence,
cruelty, jealousy, and the like. The tyrant, placed above law and less
influenced by public opinion than a private person, may easily allow a
greed for pleasure or a love of bloodshed to acquire morbid proportions
in his nature. He then is not unjustly termed a monomaniac. Within the
circle of his vitiated appetite he proves himself irrational. He becomes
the puppet of passions which the sane man cannot so much as picture to
his fancy, the victim of desire, ever recurring and ever destined to
remain unsatisfied; nor is any hallucination more akin to lunacy than
the mirage of a joy that leaves the soul thirstier than it was before,
the paroxysm of unnatural pleasure which wearies the nerves that crave
for it.

In Frederick, the modern autocrat, and Ezzelino, the legendary tyrant,
we obtain the earliest specimens of two types of despotism in Italy.
Their fame long after their death powerfully affected the fancy of the
people, worked itself into the literature of the Italians, and created a
consciousness of tyranny in the minds of irresponsible rulers.

During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries we find, roughly speaking,
six sorts of despots in Italian cities.[1] Of these the _first_ class,
which is a very small one, had a dynastic or hereditary right accruing
from long seignioral possession of their several districts. The most
eminent are the houses of Montferrat and Savoy, the Marquises of
Ferrara, the Princes of Urbino. At the same time it is difficult to know
where to draw the line between such hereditary lordship as that of the
Este family, and tyranny based on popular favor. The Malatesti of
Rimini, Polentani of Ravenna, Manfredi of Faenza, Ordelaffi of Forli,
Chiavelli of Fabriano, Varani of Camerino, and others, might claim to
rank among the former, since their cities submitted to them without a
long period of republican independence like that which preceded
despotism in the cases to be next mentioned. Yet these families styled
themselves Captains of the burghs they ruled; and in many instances they
obtained the additional title of Vicars of the Church.[2] Even the
Estensi were made hereditary captains of Ferrara at the end of the
thirteenth century, while they also acknowledged the supremacy of the
Papacy. There was in fact no right outside the Empire in Italy; and
despots of whatever origin or complexion gladly accepted the support
which a title derived from the Empire, the Church, or the People might
give. Brought to the front amid the tumults of the civil wars, and
accepted as pacificators of the factions by the multitude, they gained
the confirmation of their anomalous authority by representing themselves
to be lieutenants or vicegerents of the three great powers. The _second_
class comprise those nobles who obtained the title of Vicars of the
Empire, and built an illegal power upon the basis of imperial right in
Lombardy. Of these, the Della Scala and Visconti families are
illustrious instances. Finding in their official capacity a ready-made
foundation, they extended it beyond its just limits, and in defiance of
the Empire constituted dynasties. The _third_ class is important. Nobles
charged with military or judicial power, as Capitani or Podestàs, by the
free burghs, used their authority to enslave the cities they were chosen
to administer. It was thus that almost all the numerous tyrants of
Lombardy, Carraresi at Padua, Gonzaghi at Mantua, Rossi and Correggi at
Parma, Torrensi and Visconti at Milan, Scotti at Piacenza, and so forth,
first erected their despotic dynasties. This fact in the history of
Italian tyranny is noticeable. The font of honor, so to speak, was in
the citizens of these great burghs. Therefore, when the limits of
authority delegated to their captains by the people were overstepped,
the sway of the princes became confessedly illegal. Illegality carried
with it all the consequences of an evil conscience, all the insecurities
of usurped dominion all the danger from without and from within to which
an arbitrary governor is exposed. In the _fourth_ class we find the
principle of force still more openly at work. To it may be assigned
those Condottieri who made a prey of cities at their pleasure. The
illustrious Uguccione della Faggiuola, who neglected to follow up his
victory over the Guelfs at Monte Catini, in order that he might cement
his power in Lucca and Pisa, is an early instance of this kind of
tyrant. His successor, Castruccio Castracane, the hero of Machiavelli's
romance, is another. But it was not until the first half of the
fifteenth century that professional Condottieri became powerful enough
to found such kingdoms as that, for example, of Francesco Sforza at
Milan.[3] The _fifth_ class includes the nephews or sons of Popes. The
Riario principality of Forli, the Della Rovere of Urbino, the Borgia of
Romagna, the Farnese of Parma, form a distinct species of despotisms;
but all these are of a comparatively late origin. Until the Papacies of
Sixtus IV. and Innocent VIII. the Popes had not bethought them of
providing in this way for their relatives. Also, it may be remarked,
there was an essential weakness in these tyrannies. Since they had to be
carved out of the States of the Church, the Pope who had established his
son, say in Romagna, died before he could see him well confirmed in a
province which the next Pope sought to wrest from his hands, in order to
bestow it on his own favorite. The fabric of the Church could not long
have stood this disgraceful wrangling between Papal families for the
dynastic possession of Church property. Luckily for the continuance of
the Papacy, the tide of counter-reformation which set in after the sack
of Rome and the great Northern Schism, put a stop to nepotism in its
most barefaced form.

    [1] This classification must of necessity be imperfect, since many
    of the tyrannies belong in part to two or more of the kinds which I
    have mentioned.

    [2] See Guicc. _Ist._ end of Book 4.

    [3] John Hawkwood (died 1393), the English adventurer, held
    Cotignola and Bagnacavallo from Gregory XI. In the second half of
    the fifteenth century the efforts of the Condottieri to erect
    tyrannies were most frequent. Braccio da Montone established himself
    in Perugia in 1416, and aspired, not without good grounds for hope,
    to acquiring the kingdom of Italy. Francesco Sforza, before gaining
    Milan, had begun to form a despotism at Ancona. Sforza's rival,
    Giacomo Piccinino, would probably have succeeded in his own attempt,
    had not Ferdinand of Aragon treacherously murdered him at Naples in
    1465. In the disorganization caused by Charles VIII., Vidovero of
    Brescia in 1495 established himself at Cesena and Castelnuovo, and
    had to be assassinated by Pandolfo Malatesta at the instigation of
    Venice. After the death of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, in 1402, the
    generals whom he had employed in the consolidation of his vast
    dominions attempted to divide the spoil among themselves. Naples,
    Venice, Milan, Rome, and Florence were in course of time made keenly
    alive to the risk of suffering a captain of adventure to run his
    course unchecked.

There remains the _sixth_ and last class of despots to be mentioned.
This again is large and of the first importance. Citizens of eminence,
like the Medici at Florence, the Bentivogli at Bologna, the Baglioni of
Perugia, the Vitelli of Città di Castello, the Gambacorti of Pisa, like
Pandolfo Petrucci in Siena (1502), Roméo Pepoli, the usurer of Bologna
(1323), the plebeian, Alticlinio, and Agolanti of Padua (1313), Giovanni
Vignate, the millionaire of Lodi (1402), acquired more than their due
weight in the conduct of affairs, and gradually tended to tyranny. In
most of these cases great wealth was the original source of despotic
ascendency. It was not uncommon to buy cities together with their
Signory. Thus the Rossi bought Parma for 35,000 florins in 1333; the
Appiani sold Pisa; Astorre Manfredi sold Faenza and Imola in 1377. In
1444 Galeazzo Malatesta sold Pesaro to Alessandro Sforza, and
Fossombrone to Urbino; in 1461 Cervia was sold to Venice by the same
family. Franceschetto Cibo purchased the County of Anguillara. Towns at
last came to have their market value. It was known that Bologna was
worth 200,000 florins, Parma 60,000, Arezzo 40,000 Lucca 30,000, and so
forth. But personal qualities and nobility of blood might also produce
despots of the sixth class. Thus the Bentivogli claimed descent from a
bastard of King Enzo, son of Frederick II., who was for a long time an
honorable prisoner in Bologna. The Baglioni, after a protracted struggle
with the rival family of Oddi, owed their supremacy to ability and vigor
in the last years of the fifteenth century. But the neighborhood of the
Papal power, and their own internal dissensions, rendered the hold of
this family upon Perugia precarious. As in the case of the Medici and
the Bentivogli, many generations might elapse before such burgher
families assumed dynastic authority. But to this end they were always

The history of the bourgeois despots proves that Italy in the fifteenth
century was undergoing a natural process of determination toward
tyranny. Sismondi may attempt to demonstrate that Italy was 'not
answerable for the crimes with which she was sullied by her tyrants.'
But the facts show that she was answerable for choosing despots instead
of remaining free, or rather that she instinctively obeyed a law of
social evolution by which princes had to be substituted for
municipalities at the end of those fierce internal conflicts and
exhausting wars of jealousy which closed the Middle Ages. Machiavelli,
with all his love of liberty, is forced to admit that in his day the
most powerful provinces of Italy had become incapable of freedom. 'No
accident, however weighty and violent, could ever restore Milan or
Naples to liberty, owing to their utter corruption. This is clear from
the fact that after the death of Filippo Visconti, when Milan tried to
regain freedom, she was unable to preserve it.'[1] Whether Machiavelli
is right in referring this incapacity for self-government to the
corruption of morals and religion may be questioned. But it is certain
that throughout the states of Italy, with the one exception of Venice,
causes were at work inimical to republics and favorable to despotisms.

    [1] _Discorsi_, i. 17. The Florentine philosopher remarks in the
    same passage, 'Cities, once corrupt, and accustomed to the rule of a
    prince, can never acquire their freedom even though the prince with
    all his kith and kin be extirpated. One prince is needed to
    extinguish another; and the city has no rest except by the creation
    of a new lord, unless one burgher by his goodness and his great
    qualities may chance to preserve its independence during his

It will be observed in this classification of Italian tyrants that the
tenure of their power was almost uniformly forcible. They generally
acquired it through the people in the first instance, and maintained it
by the exercise of violence. Rank had nothing to do with their claims.
The bastards of Popes, who like Sixtus IV. had no pedigree, merchants
like the Medici, the son of a peasant like Francesco Sforza, a rich
usurer like Pepoli, had almost equal chances with nobles of the ancient
houses of Este, Visconti, or Malatesta. The chief point in favor of the
latter was the familiarity which through long years of authority had
accustomed the people to their rule. When exiled, they had a better
chance of return to power than parvenus, whose party-cry and ensigns
were comparatively fresh and stirred no sentiment of loyalty--if indeed
the word loyalty can be applied to that preference for the established
and the customary which made the mob, distracted by the wrangling of
doctrinaires and intriguers, welcome back a Bentivoglio or a Malatesta.
Despotism in Italy as in ancient Greece was democratic. It recruited its
ranks from all classes and erected its thrones upon the sovereignty of
the peoples it oppressed. The impulse to the free play of ambitious
individuality which this state of things communicated was enormous.
Capacity might raise the meanest monk to the chair of S. Peter's, the
meanest soldier to the duchy of Milan. Audacity, vigor, unscrupulous
crime were the chief requisites for success. It was not till Cesare
Borgia displayed his magnificence at the French Court, till the Italian
adventurer matched himself with royalty in its legitimate splendor, that
the lowness of his origin and the frivolity of his pretensions appeared
in any glaring light.[1] In Italy itself, where there existed no
time-honored hierarchy of classes and no fountain of nobility in the
person of a sovereign, one man was a match for another, provided he knew
how to assert himself. To the conditions of a society based on these
principles we may ascribe the unrivaled emergence of great
personalities among the tyrants, as well as the extraordinary tenacity
and vigor of such races as the Visconti. In the contest for power, and
in the maintenance of an illegal authority, the picked athletes came to
the front. The struggle by which they established their tyranny, the
efforts by which they defended it against foreign foes and domestic
adversaries, trained them to endurance and to daring. They lived
habitually in an atmosphere of peril which taxed all their energies.
Their activity was extreme, and their passions corresponded to their
vehement vitality. About such men there could be nothing on a small or
mediocre scale. When a weakling was born in a despotic family, his
brothers murdered him, or he was deposed by a watchful rival. Thus only
gladiators of tried capacity and iron nerve, superior to religious and
moral scruples, dead to national affection, perfected in perfidy,
scientific in the use of cruelty and terror, employing first-rate
faculties of brain and will and bodily powers in the service of
transcendent egotism, only the _virtuosi_ of political craft as
theorized by Machiavelli, could survive and hold their own upon this
perilous arena.

    [1] Brantôme _Capitaines Etrangers_, Discours 48, gives an account
    of the entrance of the Borgia into Chinon in 1498, and adds: 'The
    king being at the window saw him arrive, and there can be no doubt
    how he and his courtiers ridiculed all this state, as unbecoming the
    petty Duke of Valentinois.'

The life of the despot was usually one of prolonged terror. Immured in
strong places on high rocks, or confined to gloomy fortresses like the
Milanese Castello, he surrounded his person with foreign troops,
protected his bedchamber with a picked guard, and watched his meat and
drink lest they should be poisoned. His chief associates were artists,
men of letters, astrologers, buffoons, and exiles. He had no real
friends or equals, and against his own family he adopted an attitude of
fierce suspicion, justified by the frequent intrigues to which he was
exposed.[1] His timidity verged on monomania. Like Alfonso II. of
Naples, he was tortured with the ghosts of starved or strangled victims;
like Ezzelino, he felt the mysterious fascination of astrology; like
Filippo Maria Visconti, he trembled at the sound of thunder, and set one
band of body-guards to watch another next his person. He dared not hope
for a quiet end. No one believed in the natural death of a prince:
princes must be poisoned or poignarded.[2] Out of thirteen of the
Carrara family, in little more than a century (1318-1435), three were
deposed or murdered by near relatives, one was expelled by a rival from
his state, four were executed by the Venetians. Out of five of the La
Scala family, three were killed by their brothers, and a fourth was
poisoned in exile.

    [1] See what Guicciardini in his _History of Florence_ says about
    the suspicious temper of even such a tyrant as the cultivated and
    philosophical Lorenzo de' Medici. See too the incomparably eloquent
    and penetrating allegory of _Sospetto_, and its application to the
    tyrants of Italy in Ariosto's _Cinque Canti_ (C. 2. St. 1-9).

    [2] Our dramatist Webster, whose genius was fascinated by
    the crimes of Italian despotism, makes the Duke of Bracciano exclaim
    on his death-bed:--

      'O thou soft natural Death, thou art joint-twin
      To sweetest Slumber! no rough-bearded comet
      Stares on thy mild departure; the dull owl
      Beats not against thy casement; the hoarse wolf
      Scents not thy carrion: pity winds thy corse,
      Whilst horror waits on princes.'

    Instances of domestic crime might be multiplied by the hundred.
    Besides those which will follow in these pages, it is enough to
    notice the murder of Giovanni Francesco Pico, by his nephew, at
    Mirandola (1533); the murder of his uncle by Oliverotto da Fermo;
    the assassination of Giovanni Varano by his brothers at Camerino
    (1434); Ostasio da Polenta's fratricide (1322); Obizzo da Polenta's
    fratricide in the next generation, and the murder of Ugolino Gonzaga
    by his brothers; Gian Francesco Gonzaga's murder of his wife; the
    poisoning of Francesco Sforza's first wife, Polissena, Countess of
    Montalto, with her little girl, by her aunt; and the murder of
    Galeotto Manfredi, by his wife, at Faenza (1488).

To enumerate all the catastrophes of reigning families, occurring in the
fifteenth century alone, would be quite impossible within the limits of
this chapter. Yet it is only by dwelling on the more important that any
adequate notion of the perils of Italian despotism can be formed. Thus
Girolamo Riario was murdered by his subjects at Forli (1488), and
Francesco Vico dei Prefetti in the Church of S. Sisto at Viterbo[1]
(1387). At Lodi in 1402 Antonio Fisiraga burned the chief members of the
ruling house of Vistarini on the public square, and died himself of
poison after a few months. His successor in the tyranny, Giovanni
Vignate, was imprisoned by Filippo Maria Visconti in a wooden cage at
Pavia, and beat his brains out in despair against its bars. At the same
epoch Gabrino Fondulo slaughtered seventy of the Cavalcabò family
together in his castle of Macastormo, with the purpose of acquiring
their tyranny over Cremona. He was afterwards beheaded as a traitor at
Milan (1425). Ottobon Terzi was assassinated at Parma (1408), Nicola
Borghese at Siena (1499). Altobello Dattiri at Todi (about 1500),
Raimondo and Pandolfo Malatesta at Rimini, and Oddo Antonio di
Montefeltro at Urbino (1444).[2] The Varani were massacred to a man in
the Church of S. Dominic at Camerino (1434), the Trinci at Foligno
(1434), and the Chiavelli of Fabriano in church upon Ascension Day
(1435). This wholesale extirpation of three reigning families introduces
one of the most romantic episodes in the history of Italian despotism.
From the slaughter of the Varani one only child, Giulio Cesare, a boy of
two years old, was saved by his aunt Tora. She concealed him in a truss
of hay and carried him to the Trinci at Foligno. Hardly had she gained
this refuge, when the Trinci were destroyed, and she had to fly with her
burden to the Chiavelli at Fabriano. There the same scenes of bloodshed
awaited her. A third time she took to flight, and now concealed her
precious charge in a nunnery. The boy was afterwards stolen from the
town on horseback by a soldier of adventure. After surviving three
massacres of kith and kin, he returned as despot at the age of twelve to
Camerino, and became a general of distinction. But he was not destined
to end his life in peace. Cesare Borgia finally murdered him, together
with three of his sons, when he had reached the age of sixty. Less
romantic but not less significant in the annals of tyranny is the story
of the Trinci. A rival noble of Foligno, Pietro Rasiglia, had been
injured in his honor by the chief of the ruling house. He contrived to
assassinate two brothers, Nicolà and Bartolommeo, in his castle of
Nocera; but the third, Corrado Trinci, escaped, and took a fearful
vengeance on his enemy. By the help of Braccio da Montone he possessed
himself of Nocera and all its inhabitants, with the exception of Pietro
Rasiglia's wife, whom her husband flung from the battlements. Corrado
then butchered the men, women, and children of the Rasiglia clan, to the
number of three hundred persons, accomplishing his vengeance with
details of atrocity too infernal to be dwelt on in these pages. It is
recorded that thirty-six asses laden with their mangled limbs paraded
the streets of Foligno as a terror-striking spectacle for the
inhabitants. He then ruled the city by violence, until the warlike
Cardinal dei Vitelleschi avenged society of so much mischief by
destroying the tyrant and five of his sons, in the same year. Equally
fantastic are the annals of the great house of the Baglioni at Perugia.
Raised in 1389 upon the ruins of the bourgeois faction called Raspanti,
they founded their tyranny in the person of Pandolfo Baglioni, who was
murdered together with sixty of his clan and followers by the party
they had dispossessed. The new despot, Biordo Michelotti, was stabbed in
the shoulders with a poisoned dagger by his relative, the abbot of S.
Pietro. Then the city, in 1416, submitted to Braccio da Montone, who
raised it to unprecedented power and glory. On his death it fell back
into new discords, from which it was rescued again by the Baglioni in
1466, now finally successful in their prolonged warfare with the rival
family of Oddi. But they did not hold their despotism in tranquillity.
In 1500 one of the members of the house, Grifonetto degli Baglioni,
conspired against his kinsmen and slew them in their palaces at night.
As told by Matarazzo, this tragedy offers an epitome of all that is
most, brilliant and terrible in the domestic feuds of the Italian
tyrants.[3] The vicissitudes of the Bentivogli at Bologna present
another series of catastrophes, due less to their personal crimes than
to the fury of the civil strife that raged around them. Giovanni
Bentivoglio began the dynasty in 1400. The next year he was stabbed to
death and pounded in a wine-vat by the infuriated populace, who thought
he had betrayed their interests in battle. His son, Antonio, was
beheaded by a Papal Legate, and numerous members of the family on their
return from exile suffered the same fate. In course of time the
Bentivogli made themselves adored by the people; and when Piccinino
imprisoned the heir of their house, Annibale, in the castle of Varano,
four youths of the Marescotti family undertook his rescue at the peril
of their lives, and raised him to the Signory of Bologna. In 1445 the
Canetoli, powerful nobles, who hated the popular dynasty, invited
Annibale and all his clan to a christening feast, where they
exterminated every member of the reigning house. Not one Bentivoglio was
left alive. In revenge for this massacre, the Marescotti, aided by the
populace, hunted down the Canetoli for three whole days in Bologna, and
nailed their smoking hearts to the doors of the Bentivoglio palace. They
then drew from his obscurity in Florence the bastard Santi Bentivoglio,
who found himself suddenly lifted from a wool-factory to a throne.
Whether he was a genuine Bentivoglio or not, mattered little. The house
had become necessary to Bologna, and its popularity had been baptized in
the bloodshed of four massacres. What remains of its story can be
briefly told. When Cesare Borgia besieged Bologna, the Marescotti
intrigued with him, and eight of their number were sacrificed by the
Bentivogli in spite of their old services to the dynasty. The survivors,
by the help of Julius II., returned from exile in 1536, to witness the
final banishment of the Bentivogli and to take part in the destruction
of the palace, where their ancestors had nailed the hearts of the
Canetoli upon the walls.

    [1] The family of the Prefetti fed up the murderer in their castle
    and then gave him alive to be eaten by their hounds.

    [2] Sforza Attendolo killed Terzi by a spear-thrust in the back.
    Pandolfo Petrucci murdered Borghese, who was his father-in-law.
    Raimondo Malatesta was stabbed by his two nephews disguised as
    hermits. Dattiri was bound naked to a plank and killed piecemeal by
    the people, who bit his flesh, cut slices out, and sold and ate
    it--distributing his living body as a sort of infernal sacrament
    among themselves.

    [3] See the article 'Perugia' in my _Sketches in Italy and Greece_.

To multiply the records of crime revenged by crime, of force repelled
by violence, of treason heaped on treachery, of insult repaid by fraud,
would be easy enough. Indeed, a huge book might be compiled containing
nothing but the episodes in this grim history of despotism, now tragic
and pathetic, now terror-moving in sublimity of passion, now despicable
by the baseness of the motives brought to light, at one time revolting
through excess of physical horrors, at another fascinating by the
spectacle of heroic courage, intelligence, and resolution. Enough
however, has been said to describe the atmosphere of danger in which the
tyrants breathed and moved, and from which not one of them was ever
capable of finding freedom. Even a princely house so well based in its
dynasty and so splendid in its parade of culture as that of the Estensi
offers a long list of terrific tragedies. One princess is executed for
adultery with her stepson (1425); a bastard's bastard tries to seize the
throne, and is put to death with all his kin (1493); a wife is poisoned
by her husband to prevent her poisoning him (1493); two brothers cabal
against the legitimate heads of the house, and are imprisoned for life
(1506). Such was the labyrinth of plot and counterplot, of force
repelled by violence, in which the princes praised by Ariosto and by
Tasso lived.

Isolated, crime-haunted, and remorseless, at the same time fierce and
timorous, the despot not unfrequently made of vice a fine art for his
amusement, and openly defied humanity. His pleasures tended to
extravagance. Inordinate lust and refined cruelty sated his irritable
and jaded appetites. He destroyed pity in his soul, and fed his dogs
with living men, or spent his brains upon the invention of new tortures.
From the game of politics again he won a feverish pleasure, playing for
states and cities as a man plays chess, and endeavoring to extract the
utmost excitement from the varying turns of skill and chance. It would
be an exaggeration to assert that all the princes of Italy were of this
sort. The saner, better, and nobler among them--men of the stamp of Gian
Galeazzo Visconti, Can Grande della Scala, Francesco and Lodovico
Sforza, found a more humane enjoyment in the consolidation of their
empire, the cementing of their alliances, the society of learned men,
the friendship of great artists, the foundation of libraries, the
building of palaces and churches, the execution of vast schemes of
conquest. Others, like Galeazzo Visconti, indulged a comparatively
innocent taste for magnificence. Some, like Sigismondo Pandolfo
Malatesta, combined the vices of a barbarian with the enthusiasm of a
scholar. Others again, like Lorenzo de' Medici and Frederick of Urbino,
exhibited the model of moderation in statecraft and a noble width of
culture. But the tendency to degenerate was fatal in all the despotic
houses. The strain of tyranny proved too strong. Crime, illegality, and
the sense of peril, descending from father to son, produced monsters in
the shape of men. The last Visconti, the last La Scalas, the last
Sforzas, the last Malatestas, the last Farnesi, the last Medici are
among the worst specimens of human nature.

Macaulay's brilliant description of the Italian tyrant in his essay on
Machiavelli deserves careful study. It may, however, be remarked that
the picture is too favorable. Macaulay omits the darker crimes of the
despots, and draws his portrait almost exclusively from such men as Gian
Galeazzo Visconti, Francesco and Lodovico Sforza, Frederick of Urbino,
and Lorenzo de' Medici. The point he is seeking to establish--that
political immorality in Italy was the national correlative to Northern
brutality--leads him to idealize the polite refinement, the disciplined
passions, the firm and astute policy, the power over men, and the
excellent government which distinguished the noblest Italian princes.
When he says 'Wanton cruelty was not in his nature: on the contrary,
where no political object was at stake, his disposition was soft and
humane'; he seems to have forgotten Gian Maria Visconti, Corrado Trinci,
Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, and Cesare Borgia. When he writes, 'His
passions, like well-trained troops, are impetuous by rule, and in their
most headstrong fury never forget the discipline to which they have been
accustomed,' he leaves Francesco Maria della Rovere, Galeazzo Maria
Sforza, Pier Luigi Farnese, Alexander VI., out of the reckoning. If all
the despots had been what Macaulay describes, the revolutions and
conspiracies of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries would not have
taken place. It is, however, to be remarked that in the sixteenth
century the conduct of the tyrant toward his subjects assumed an
external form of mildness. As Italy mixed with the European nations, and
as tyranny came to be legalized in the Italian states, the despots
developed a policy not of terrorism but of enervation (Lorenzo de'
Medici is the great example), and aspired to be paternal governors.

What I have said about Italian despotism is no mere fancy picture. The
actual details of Milanese history, the innumerable tragedies of
Lombardy, Romagna, and the Marches of Ancona, during the ascendency of
despotic families, are far more terrible than any fiction; nor would it
be easy for the imagination to invent so perplexing a mixture of savage
barbarism with modern refinement. Savonarola's denunciations[1] and
Villani's descriptions of a despot read like passages from Plato's
Republic, like the most pregnant of Aristotle's criticisms upon tyranny.
The prologue to the sixth book of Matteo Villani's Chronicle may be
cited as a fair specimen of the judgment passed by contemporary Italian
thinkers upon their princes (Libro Sesto, cap. i.): 'The crimes of
despots always hinder and often neutralize the virtues of good men.
Their pleasures are at variance with morality. By them the riches of
their subjects are swallowed up. They are foes to men who grow in
wisdom and in greatness of soul in their dominions. They diminish by
their imposts the wealth of the peoples ruled by them. Their unbridled
lust is never satiated, but their subjects have to suffer such outrages
and insults as their fancy may from time to time suggest. But inasmuch
as the violence of tyranny is manifested to all eyes by these and many
other atrocities, we need not enumerate them afresh. It is enough to
select one feature, strange in appearance but familiar in fact; for what
can be more extraordinary than to see princes of ancient and illustrious
lineage bowing to the service of despots, men of high descent and
time-honored nobility frequenting their tables and accepting their
bounties? Yet if we consider the end of all this, the glory of tyrants
often turns to misery and ruin. Who can exaggerate their wretchedness?
They know not where to place their confidence; and their courtiers are
always on the lookout for the despot's fall, gladly lending their
influence and best endeavors to undo him in spite of previous servility.
This does not happen to hereditary kings, because their conduct toward
their subjects, as well as their good qualities and all their
circumstances, are of a nature contrary to that of tyrants. Therefore
the very causes which produce and fortify and augment tyrannies, conceal
and nourish in themselves the sources of their overthrow and ruin. This
indeed is the greatest wretchedness of tyrants.'

    [1] See the passage condensed from his Sermons in Villari's Life of
    Savonarola (Eng. Tr. vol. ii. p. 62). The most thorough-going
    analysis of despotic criminality is contained in Savonarola's
    _Tractato circa el Reggimento e Governo della Città di Firenze_,
    Trattato ii. cap. 2. _Della Malitia e pessime Conditioni del

It may be objected that this sweeping criticism, from the pen of a
Florentine citizen at war with Milan, partakes of the nature of an
invective. Yet abundant proofs can be furnished from the chronicles of
burghs which owed material splendor to their despots, confirming the
censure of Villani. Matarazzo, for example, whose sympathy with the
house of Baglioni is so striking, and who exults in the distinction they
conferred upon Perugia, writes no less bitterly concerning the
pernicious effects of their misgovernment.[1] It is to be noticed that
Villani and Matarazzo agree about the special evils brought upon the
populations by their tyrants. Lust and violence take the first place.
Next comes extortion; then the protection of the lawless and the
criminal against the better sort of citizens. But the Florentine, with
intellectual acumen, lays his finger on one of the chief vices of their
rule. They retard the development of mental greatness in their states,
and check the growth of men of genius. Ariosto, in the comparative calm
of the sixteenth century, when tyrannies had yielded to the protectorate
of Spain, sums up the records of the past in the following memorable
passage:[2] 'Happy the kingdoms where an open-hearted and blameless man
gives law! Wretched indeed and pitiable are those where injustice and
cruelty hold sway, where burdens ever greater and more grievous are laid
upon the people by tyrants like those who now abound in Italy, whose
infamy will be recorded through years to come as no less black than
Caligula's or Nero's.' Guicciardini, with pregnant brevity, observes:[3]
'The mortar with which the states of the tyrants are cemented is the
blood of the citizens.'

    [1] Arch. Stor. xvi. 102. See my _Sketches in Italy and Greece_, p.

    [2] Cinque Canti, ii. 5.

    [3] Ricordi Politici, ccxlii.

In the history of Italian despotism two points of first-rate importance
will demand attention. The first is the process by which the greater
tyrannies absorbed the smaller during the fourteenth century. The second
is the relation of the chief Condottieri to the tyrants of the fifteenth
century. The evolution of these two phenomena cannot be traced more
clearly than by a study of the history of Milan, which at the same time
presents a detailed picture of the policy and character of the Italian
despot during this period. The dynasties of Visconti and Sforza from
1300 to 1500 bridged over the years that intervened between the Middle
Age and the Renaissance, between the period of the free burghs and the
period during which Italy was destined to become the theater of the
action of more powerful nations. Their alliances and diplomatic
relations prepared the way for the interference of foreigners in Italian
affairs. Their pedigree illustrates the power acquired by military
adventurers in the peninsula. The magnitude of their political schemes
displays the most soaring ambition which it was ever granted to Italian
princes to indulge. The splendor of their court and the intelligence of
their culture bear witness to the high state of civilization which the
Italians had reached.

The power of the Visconti in Milan was founded upon that of the Della
Torre family, who preceded them as Captains General of the people at the
end of the thirteenth century. Otho, Archbishop of Milan, first laid a
substantial basis for the dominion of his house by imprisoning Napoleone
Della Torre and five of his relatives in three iron cages in 1277, and
by causing his nephew Matteo Visconti to be nominated both by the
Emperor and by the people of Milan as imperial Vicar. Matteo, who headed
the Ghibelline party in Lombardy, was the model of a prudent Italian
despot. From the date 1311, when he finally succeeded in his attempts
upon the sovereignty of Milan, to 1322, when he abdicated in favor of
his son Galeazzo, he ruled his states by force of character, craft, and
insight, more than by violence or cruelty. Excellent as a general, he
was still better as a diplomatist, winning more cities by money than by
the sword. All through his life, as became a Ghibelline chief at that
time, he persisted in fierce enmity against the Church. But just before
his death a change came over him. He showed signs of superstitious
terror, and began to fear the ban of excommunication which lay upon him.
This weakness alarmed the suspicions of his sons, terrible and wolf-like
men, whom Matteo had hitherto controlled with bit and bridle. They
therefore induced him to abdicate in 1322, and when in the same year he
died, they buried his body in a secret place, lest it should be exhumed,
and scattered to the winds in accordance with the Papal edict against
him.[1] Galeazzo, his son, was less fortunate than Matteo, surnamed Il
Grande by the Lombards. The Emperor Louis of Bavaria threw him into
prison on the occasion of his visit to Milan in 1327, and only released
him at the intercession of his friend Castruccio Castracane. To such an
extent was the growing tyranny of the Visconti still dependent upon
their office delegated from the Empire. This Galeazzo married Beatrice
d' Este, the widow of Nino di Gallura, of whom Dante speaks in the
eighth canto of the Purgatory, and had by her a son named Azzo. Azzo
bought the city, together with the title of Imperial Vicar, from the
same Louis who had imprisoned his father.[2] When he was thus seated in
the tyranny of his grandfather, he proceeded to fortify it further by
the addition of ten Lombard towns, which he reduced beneath the
supremacy of Milan. At the same time he consolidated his own power by
the murder of his uncle Marco in 1329, who had grown too mighty as a
general. Giovio describes him as fair of complexion, blue-eyed,
curly-haired, and subject to the hereditary disease of gout.[3] Azzo
died in 1339, and was succeeded by his uncle Lucchino. In Lucchino the
darker side of the Visconti character appears for the first time. Cruel,
moody, and jealous, he passed his life in perpetual terror. His nephews,
Galeazzo and Barnabas, conspired against him, and were exiled to
Flanders. His wife, Isabella Fieschi, intrigued with Galeazzo and
disgraced him by her amours with Ugolino Gonzaga and Dandolo the Doge of
Venice. Finally suspicion rose to such a pitch between this ill-assorted
couple, that, while Lucchino was plotting how to murder Isabella, she
succeeded in poisoning him in 1349. In spite of these domestic
calamities, Lucchino was potent as a general and governor. He bought
Parma from Obizzo d' Este, and made the town of Pisa dependent upon
Milan. Already in his policy we can trace the encroachment which
characterized the schemes of the Milanese despots, who were always
plotting to advance their foot beyond the Apennines as a prelude to the
complete subjugation of Italy. Lucchino left sons, but none of proved
legitimacy.[4] Consequently he was succeeded by his brother Giovanni,
son of old Matteo il Grande, and Archbishop of Milan. This man, the
friend of Petrarch, was one of the most notable characters of the
fourteenth century. Finding himself at the head of sixteen cities, he
added Bologna to the tyranny of the Visconti in 1350, and made himself
strong enough to defy the Pope. Clement VI., resenting his encroachments
on Papal territory, summoned him to Avignon. Giovanni Visconti replied
that he would march thither at the head of 12,000 cavalry and 6,000
infantry. In the Duomo of Milan he ascended his throne with the crosier
in his left hand and a drawn sword in his right; and thus he is always
represented in pictures. The story of Giovanni's answer to the Papal
Legate is well told by Corio:[5] 'After Mass in the Cathedral the
great-hearted Archbishop unsheathed a flashing sword, which he had
girded on his thigh, and with his left hand seized the cross, saying,
"This is my spiritual scepter, and I will wield the sword as my
temporal, in defense of all my empire."' Afterwards he sent couriers to
engage lodgings for his soldiers and his train for six months. Visitors
to Avignon found no room in the city, and the Pope was fain to decline
so terrible a guest. In 1353 Giovanni annexed Genoa to the Milanese
principality, and died in 1354, having established the rule of the
Visconti over the whole of the North of Italy, with the exception of
Piedmont, Verona, Mantua, Ferrara and Venice.

    [1] We may compare what Dante puts into the mouth of Manfred in the
    'Purgatory' (canto iii.). The great Ghibelline poet here protests
    against the use of excommunication as a political weapon. His sense
    of justice will not allow him to believe that God can regard the
    sentence of priests and pontiffs, actuated by the spite of
    partisans; yet the examples of Frederick II. and of this Matteo
    Visconti prove how terrifying, even to the boldest, those sentences
    continued to be. Few had the resolute will of Galeazzo Pico di
    Mirandola, who expired in 1499 under the ban of the Church, which he
    had borne for sixteen years.

    [2] This was in 1328. Azzo agreed to pay 25,000 florins. The vast
    wealth of the Visconti amassed during their years of peaceful
    occupation always stood them in good stead when bad times came, and
    when the Emperor was short of cash. Azzo deserves special
    commendation from the student of art for the exquisite octagonal
    tower of S. Gottardo, which he built of terra cotta with marble
    pilasters, in Milan. It is quite one of the loveliest monuments of
    mediæval Italian architecture.

    [3] Lucchino and Galeazzo Visconti were both afflicted with gout,
    the latter to such an extent as to be almost crippled.

    [4] This would not have been by itself a bar to succession in an
    Italian tyranny. But Lucchino's bastards were not of the proper
    stuff to continue their father's government, while their fiery uncle
    was precisely the man to sustain the honor and extend the power of
    the Visconti.

    [5] Storia di Milano, 1554, p. 223.

The reign of the archbishop Giovanni marks a new epoch in the despotism
of the Visconti. They are now no longer the successful rivals of the
Della Torre family or dependents on imperial caprice, but self-made
sovereigns, with a well-established power in Milan and a wide extent of
subject territory. Their dynasty, though based on force and maintained
by violence, has come to be acknowledged; and we shall soon see them
allying themselves with the royal houses of Europe. After the death of
Giovanni, Matteo's sons were extinct. But Stefano, the last of his
family, had left three children, who now succeeded to the lands and
cities of the house. They were named Matteo, Bernabo, and Galeazzo.
Between these three princes a partition of the heritage of Giovanni
Visconti was effected. Matteo took Bologna, Lodi, Piacenza, Parma,
Bobbio, and some other towns of less importance. Bernabo received
Cremona, Crema, Brescia, and Bergamo. Galeazzo held Como, Novara,
Vercelli, Asti, Tortona, and Alessandria. Milan and Genoa were to be
ruled by the three in common. It may here be noticed that the
dismemberment of Italian despotisms among joint-heirs was a not
unfrequent source of disturbance and a cause of weakness to their
dynasties. At the same time the practice followed naturally upon the
illegal nature of the tyrant's title. He dealt with his cities as so
many pieces of personal property, which he could distribute as he chose,
not as a coherent whole to be bequeathed to one ruler for the common
benefit of all his subjects. In consequence of such partition, it became
the interest of brother to murder brother, so as to effect a
reconsolidation of the family estates. Something of the sort happened on
this occasion. Matteo abandoned himself to bestial sensuality; and his
two brothers, finding him both feeble and likely to bring discredit on
their rule, caused him to be assassinated in 1355.[1] They then jointly
swayed the Milanese, with unanimity remarkable in despots. Galeazzo was
distinguished as the handsomest man of his age. He was tall and
graceful, with golden hair, which he wore in long plaits, or tied up in
a net, or else loose and crowned with flowers. Fond of display and
magnificence, he spent much of his vast wealth in shows and festivals,
and in the building of palaces and churches. The same taste for splendor
led him to seek royal marriages for his children. His daughter Violante
was wedded to the Duke of Clarence, son of Edward III. of England, who
received with her for dowry the sum of 200,000 golden florins, as well
as five cities bordering on Piedmont.[2] It must have been a strange
experience for this brother of the Black Prince, leaving London, where
the streets were still unpaved, the houses thatched, the beds laid on
straw, and where wine was sold as medicine, to pass into the luxurious
palaces of Lombardy, walled with marble, and raised high above smooth
streets of stone. Of his marriage with Violante Giovio gives some
curious details. He says that Galeazzo on this occasion made splendid
presents to more than 200 Englishmen, so that he was reckoned to have
outdone the greatest kings in generosity. At the banquet Gian Galeazzo,
the bride's brother, leading a choice company of well-born youths,
brought to the table with each course fresh gifts.[3] 'At one time it
was a matter of sixty most beautiful horses with trappings of silk and
silver; at another, plate, hawks, hounds, horse-gear, fine cuirasses,
suits of armor fashioned of wrought steel, helmets adorned with crests,
surcoats embroidered with pearls, belts, precious jewels set in gold,
and great quantities of cloth of gold and crimson stuff for making
raiment. Such was the profusion of this banquet that the remnants taken
from the table were enough and to spare for 10,000 men.' Petrarch, we
may remember, assisted at this festival and sat among the princes. It
was thus that Galeazzo displayed his wealth before the feudal nobles of
the North, and at the same time stretched the hand of friendly patronage
to the greatest literary man of Europe. Meanwhile he also married his
son Gian Galeazzo to Isabella, daughter of King John of France, spending
on this occasion, it is said, a similar sum of money for the honor of a
royal alliance.[4]

    [1] M. Villani, v. 81. Compare Corio, p. 230. Corio gives the date

    [2] Namely, Alba, Cuneo, Carastro, Mondovico, Braida. See Corio, p.
    238, who adds sententiously, 'il che quasi fu l' ultima roina del
    suo stato.'

    [3] Corio (pp. 239, 240) gives the bill of fare of the banquet.

    [4] Sismondi says he gave 600,000 florins to Charles, the brother of
    Isabella, but authorities differ about the actual amount.

Galeazzo held his court at Pavia. His brother reigned at Milan. Bernabo
displayed all the worst vices of the Visconti. His system of taxation
was most oppressive, and at the same time so lucrative that he was able,
according to Giovio's estimate, to settle nine of his daughters at an
expense of something like two millions of gold pieces. A curious
instance of his tyranny relates to his hunting establishment. Having
saddled his subjects with the keep of 5,000 boar-hounds, he appointed
officers to go round and see whether these brutes were either too lean
or too well-fed to be in good condition for the chase. If anything
appeared defective in their management, the peasants on whom they were
quartered had to suffer in their persons and their property.[1] This
Bernabo was also remarkable for his cold-blooded cruelty. Together with
his brother, he devised and caused to be publicly announced by edict
that State criminals would be subjected to a series of tortures
extending over the space of forty days. In this infernal programme
every variety of torment found a place, and days of respite were so
calculated as to prolong the lives of the victims for further suffering,
till at last there was little left of them that had not been hacked and
hewed and flayed away.[2] To such extremities of terrorism were the
despots driven in the maintenance of their illegal power.

    [1] 'Per cagione di questa caccia continoamente teneva cinque mila
    cani; e la maggior parte di quelle distribuiva alla custodia de i
    cittadini, e anche a i contadini, i quali niun altro cane che quelli
    potevano tenere. Questi due volte il mese erano tenuti a far la
    mostra. Onde trovandoli macri in gran somma di danari erano
    condannati, e se grossi erano, incolpandoli del troppo, erano
    multati; se morivano, li pigliava il tutto.--Corio, p. 247.

    Read M. Villani, vii. 48, for the story of a peasant who was given
    to Bernabo's dogs to be devoured for having killed a hare. Corio (p.
    247) describes the punishments which he inflicted on his subjects
    who were convicted of poaching--eyes put out, houses burned, etc. A
    young man who dreamed of killing a boar had an eye put out and a
    hand cut off because he imprudently recounted his vision of sport in
    sleep. On one occasion he burned two friars who ventured to
    remonstrate. We may compare Pontanus, 'De Immanitate,' vol. i. pp.
    318, 320, for similar cruelty in Ferdinand, King of Naples.

    [2] This programme may be read in Sismondi, iv. 282.

Galeazzo died in 1378, and was succeeded in his own portion of the
Visconti domain by his son Gian Galleazzo. Now began one of those long,
slow, internecine struggles which were so common between the members of
the ruling families in Italy. Bernabo and his sons schemed to get
possession of the young prince's estate. He, on the other hand,
determined to supplant his uncle, and to reunite the whole Visconti
principality beneath his own sway. Craft was the weapon which he chose
in this encounter. Shutting himself up in Pavia, he made no disguise of
his physical cowardice, which was real, while he simulated a timidity of
spirit wholly alien to his temperament. He pretended to be absorbed in
religious observances, and gradually induced his uncle and cousins to
despise him as a poor creature whom they could make short work of when
occasion served. In 1385, having thus prepared the way for treason, he
avowed his intention of proceeding on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of
Varese. Starting from Pavia with a body guard of Germans, he passed near
Milan, where his uncle and cousins came forth to meet him. Gian
Galeazzo feigned a courteous greeting; but when he saw his relatives
within his grasp, he gave a watchword in German to his troops, who
surrounded Bernabo and took him prisoner with his sons. Gian Galeazzo
marched immediately into Milan, poisoned his uncle in a dungeon, and
proclaimed himself sole lord of the Visconti heirship.[1]

    [1] The narrative of this coup-de-main may be read with advantage in
    Corio, p. 258.

The reign of Gian Galeazzo, which began with this coup-de-main
(1385-1402), forms a very important chapter in Italian history. We may
first see what sort of man he was, and then proceed to trace his aims
and achievements. Giovio describes him as having been a remarkably
sedate and thoughtful boy, so wise beyond his years that his friends
feared he would not grow to man's estate. No pleasures in after-life
drew him away from business. Hunting, hawking, women, had alike no
charms for him. He took moderate exercise for the preservation of his
health, read and meditated much, and relaxed himself in conversation
with men of letters. Pure intellect, in fact, had reached to perfect
independence in this prince, who was far above the boisterous pleasures
and violent activities of the age in which he lived. In the erection of
public buildings he was magnificent. The Certosa of Pavia and the Duomo
of Milan owed their foundation to his sense of splendor. At the same
time he completed the palace of Pavia, which his father had begun, and
which he made the noblest dwelling-house in Europe. The University of
Pavia was raised by him from a state of decadence to one of great
prosperity, partly by munificent endowments and partly by a wise choice
of professors. In his military undertakings he displayed a kindred taste
for vast engineering projects. He contemplated and partly carried out a
scheme for turning the Mincio and the Brenta from their channels, and
for drying up the lagoons of Venice. In this way he purposed to attack
his last great enemy, the Republic of S. Mark, upon her strongest point.
Yet in the midst of these huge designs he was able to attend to the most
trifling details of economy. His love of order was so precise that he
may be said to have applied the method of a banker's office to the
conduct of a state. It was he who invented Bureaucracy by creating a
special class of paid clerks and secretaries of departments. Their duty
consisted in committing to books and ledgers the minutest items of his
private expenditure and the outgoings of his public purse; in noting the
details of the several taxes, so as to be able to present a survey of
the whole state revenue; and in recording the names and qualities and
claims of his generals, captains, and officials. A separate office was
devoted to his correspondence, of all of which he kept accurate
copies.[1] By applying this mercantile machinery to the management of
his vast dominions, at a time when public economy was but little
understood in Europe, Gian Galeazzo raised his wealth enormously above
that of his neighbors. His income in a single year is said to have
amounted to 1,200,000 golden florins, with the addition of 800,000
golden florins levied by extraordinary calls.[2] The personal timidity
of this formidable prince prevented him from leading his armies in the
field. He therefore found it necessary to employ paid generals, and took
into his service all the chief Condottieri of the day, thus giving an
impulse to the custom which was destined to corrupt the whole military
system of Italy. Of these men, whom he well knew how to choose, he was
himself the brain and moving principle. He might have boasted that he
never took a step without calculating the cost, carefully considering
the object, and proportioning the means to his end. How mad to such a
man must have seemed the Crusaders of previous centuries, or the
chivalrous Princes of Northern Germany and Burgundy, who expended their
force upon such unprofitable and impossible undertakings as the
subjugation, for instance, of Switzerland! Not a single trait in his
character reminds us of the Middle Ages, unless it be that he was said
to care for reliques with a superstitious passion worthy of Louis XI.
Sismondi sums up the description of this extraordinary despot in the
following sentences, which may be quoted for their graphic brevity:
'False and pitiless, he joined to immeasurable ambition a genius for
enterprise, and to immovable constancy a personal timidity which he did
not endeavor to conceal. The least unexpected motion near him threw him
into a paroxysm of nervous terror. No prince employed so many soldiers
to guard his palace, or took such multiplied precautions of distrust. He
seemed to acknowledge himself the enemy of the whole world. But the
vices of tyranny had not weakened his ability. He employed his immense
wealth without prodigality; his finances were always flourishing; his
cities well garrisoned and victualed; his army well paid; all the
captains of adventure scattered throughout Italy received pensions from
him, and were ready to return to his service whenever called upon. He
encouraged the warriors of the new Italian school; he knew well how to
distinguish, reward, and win their attachment.'[3] Such was the tyrant
who aimed at nothing less than the reduction of the whole of Italy
beneath the sway of the Visconti, and who might have achieved his
purpose had not his career of conquest been checked by the Republic of
Florence, and afterwards cut short by a premature death.

    [1] Giovio is particular upon these points: 'Ho veduto io ne gli
    armari de' suoi Archivi maravigliosi libri in carta pecora, i quali
    contenevano d' anno in anno i nomi de' capitani, condottieri, e
    soldati vecchi, e le paghe di ogn' uno, e 'l rotulo delle
    cavallerie, et delle fanterie: v' erano anco registrate le copie
    delle lettere le quali negli importantissimi maneggi di far guerra o
    pace, o egli haveva scritto ai principi o haveva ricevuto da loro.'

    [2] The description given by Corio (pp. 260, 266-68) of the dower in
    money, plate, and jewels brought by Valentina Visconti to Louis
    d'Orleans is a good proof of Gian Galeazzo's wealth. Besides the
    town of Asti, she took with her in money 400,000 golden florins. Her
    gems were estimated at 68,858 florins, and her plate at 1,667 marks
    of Paris. The inventory is curious.

    [3] 'History of the Italian Republics' (1 vol. Longmans), p. 190.

At the time of his accession the Visconti had already rooted out the
Correggi and Rossi of Parma, the Scotti of Piacenza, the Pelavicini of
San Donnino, the Tornielli of Novara, the Ponzoni and Cavalcabò of
Cremona, the Beccaria and Languschi of Pavia, the Fisiraghi of Lodi, the
Brusati of Brescia. Their viper had swallowed all these lesser
snakes.[1] But the Carrara family still ruled at Padua, the Gonzaga at
Mantua, the Este at Ferrara, while the great house of Scala was in
possession of Verona. Gian Galeazzo's schemes were first directed
against the Scala dynasty. Founded, like that of the Visconti, upon the
imperial authority, it rose to its greatest height under the Ghibelline
general Can Grande and his nephew Mastino, in the first half of the
fourteenth century (1312-51). Mastino had himself cherished the project
of an Italian Kingdom; but he died before approaching its
accomplishment. The degeneracy of his house began with his three sons.
The two younger killed the eldest; of the survivors the stronger slew
the weaker and then died in 1374, leaving his domains to two of his
bastards. One of these, named Antonio, killed the other in 1381,[2] and
afterwards fell a prey to the Visconti in 1387. In his subjugation of
Verona Gian Galeazzo contrived to make use of the Carrara family,
although these princes were allied by marriage to the Scaligers, and had
everything to lose by their downfall. He next proceeded to attack Padua,
and gained the co-operation of Venice. In 1388 Francesco da Carrara had
to cede his territory to Visconti's generals, who in the same year
possessed themselves for him of the Trevisan Marches. It was then that
the Venetians saw too late the error they had committed in suffering
Verona and Padua to be annexed by the Visconti, when they ought to have
been fortified as defenses interposed between his growing power and
themselves. Having now made himself master of the North of Italy,[3]
with the exception of Mantua, Ferrara, and Bologna, Gian Galeazzo turned
his attention to these cities. Alberto d' Este was ruling in Ferrara;
Francesco da Gonzaga in Mantua. It was the Visconti's policy to enfeeble
these two princes by causing them to appear odious in the eyes of their
subjects.[4] Accordingly he roused the jealousy of the Marquis of
Ferrara against his nephew Obizzo to such a pitch that Alberto beheaded
him together with his mother, burned his wife, and hung a third member
of his family, besides torturing to death all the supposed accomplices
of the unfortunate young man. Against the Marquis of Mantua Gian
Galeazzo devised a still more diabolical plot. By forged letters and
subtly contrived incidents he caused Francesco da Gonzaga to suspect his
wife of infidelity with his secretary.[5] In a fit of jealous fury
Francesco ordered the execution of his wife, the mother of several of
his children, together with the secretary. Then he discovered the
Visconti's treason. But it was too late for anything but impotent
hatred. The infernal device had been successful; the Marquis of Mantua
was no less discredited than the Marquis of Ferrara by his crime. It
would seem that these men were not of the stamp and caliber to be
successful villans, and that Gian Galeazzo had reckoned upon this defect
in their character. Their violence caused them to be rather loathed than
feared. The whole of Lombardy was now prostrate before the Milanese
tyrant. His next move was to set foot in Tuscany. For this purpose Pisa
had to be acquired; and here again he resorted to his devilish policy of
inciting other men to crimes by which he alone would profit in the
long-run. Pisa was ruled at that time by the Gambacorta family, with an
old merchant named Pietro at their head. This man had a friend and
secretary called Jacopo Appiano, whom the Visconti persuaded to turn
Judas, and to entrap and murder his benefactor and his children. The
assassination took place in 1392. In 1399 Gherardo, son of Jacopo
Appiano, who held Pisa at the disposal of Gian Galeazzo, sold him this
city for 200,000 florins.[6] Perugia was next attacked. Here Pandolfo,
chief of the Baglioni family, held a semi-constitutional authority,
which the Visconti first helped him to transmute into a tyranny, and
then, upon Pandolfo's assassination, seized as his own.[7] All Italy and
even Germany had now begun to regard the usurpations of the Milanese
despot with alarm. But the sluggish Emperor Wenceslaus refused to take
action against him; nay, in 1395 he granted to the Visconti the
investiture of the Duchy of Milan for 100,000 florins, reserving only
Pavia for himself. In 1399 the Duke laid hands on Siena; and in the next
two years the plague came to his assistance by enfeebling the ruling
families of Lucca and Bologna, the Guinizzi and the Bentivogli, so that
he was now able to take possession of those cities.

    [1] Il Biscione, or the Great Serpent, was the name commonly given
    to the tyranny of the Visconti (see M. Villani, vi. 8), in allusion
    to their ensign of a naked child issuing from a snake's mouth.

    [2] Corio, p. 255, tells how the murder was accomplished. Antonio
    tried to make it appear that his brother Bartolommeo had met his
    death in the prosecution of infamous amours.

    [3] Savoy was not in his hands, however, and the Marquisate of
    Montferrat remained nominally independent, though he held its heir
    in a kind of honorable confinement. Venice, too, remained in
    formidable neutrality, the spectator of the Visconti's conquests.

    [4] The policy adopted by the Visconti against the Estensi and the
    Gonzaghi was that recommended by Machiavelli (Disc. iii. 32):
    'quando alcuno vuole o che un popolo o un principe levi al tutto l'
    animo ad uno accordo, non ci è altro modo più vero, nè più stabile,
    che fargli usare qualche grave scelleratezza contro a colui con il
    qual tu non vuoi che l' accordo si faccia.'

    [5] This lady was a first cousin as well as sister-in-law of Gian
    Galeazzo Visconti, who in second marriage had taken Caterina,
    daughter of Bernabo Visconti, to wife. This fact makes his perfidy
    the more disgraceful.

    [6] The Appiani retired to Piombino, where they founded a petty
    despotism. Appiano's crime, which gave a tyranny to his children, is
    similar to that of Tremacoldo, who murdered his masters, the
    Vistarini of Lodi, and to that of Luigi Gonzaga, who founded the
    Ducal house of Mantua by the murder of his patron, Passerino

    [7] Pandolfo was murdered in 1393. Gian Galeazzo possessed himself
    of Perugia in 1400, having paved his way for the usurpation by
    causing Biordo Michelotti, the successor of the Baglioni to be
    assassinated by his friend Francesco Guidalotti. It will be noticed
    that he proceeded slowly and surely in the case of each annexation,
    licking over his prey after he had throttled it and before he
    swallowed it, like a boa-constrictor.

There remained no power in Italy, except the Republic of Florence and
the exiled but invincible Francesco da Carrara, to withstand his further
progress. Florence delayed his conquests in Tuscany. Francesco managed
to return to Padua. Still the peril which threatened the whole of Italy
was imminent. The Duke of Milan was in the plenitude of manhood--rich,
prosperous, and full of mental force. His acquisitions were well
cemented; his armies in good condition; his treasury brim full; his
generals highly paid. All his lieutenants in city and in camp respected
the iron will and the deep policy of the despot who swayed their action
from his arm-chair in Milan. He alone knew how to use the brains and
hands that did him service, to keep them mutually in check, and by their
regulated action to make himself not one but a score of men. At last,
when all other hope of independence for Italy had failed, the plague
broke out with fury in Lombardy. Gian Galeazzo retired to his isolated
fortress of Marignano in order to escape infection. Yet there in 1402 he
sickened. A comet appeared in the sky, to which he pointed as a sign of
his approaching death--'God could not but signalize the end of so
supreme a ruler,' he told his attendants. He died aged 55. Italy drew a
deep breath. The danger was passed.

The systematic plan conceived by Gian Galeazzo for the enslavement of
Italy, the ability and force of intellect which sustained him in its
execution, and the power with which he bent men to his will, are
scarcely more extraordinary than the sudden dissolution of his dukedom
at his death. Too timid to take the field himself, he had trained in his
service a band of great commanders, among whom Alberico da Barbino,
Facino Cane, Pandolfo Malatesta, Jacopo dal Verme, Gabrino Fondulo, and
Ottobon Terzo were the most distinguished. As long as he lived and held
them in leading strings, all went well. But at his death his two sons
were still mere boys. He had to intrust their persons, together with the
conduct of his hardly won dominions, to these captains in conjunction
with the Duchess Catherine and a certain Francesco Barbavara. This man
had been the Duke's body-servant, and was now the paramour of the
Duchess. The generals refused to act with them; and each seized upon
such portions of the Visconti inheritance as he could most easily
acquire. The vast tyranny of the first Duke of Milan fell to pieces in a
day. The whole being based on no legal right, but held together
artificially by force and skill, its constituent parts either reasserted
their independence or became the prey of adventurers.[1] Many scions of
the old ejected families recovered their authority in the subject towns.
We hear again of the Scotti at Piacenza, the Rossi and Correggi at
Parma, the Benzoni at Crema, the Rusconi at Como, the Soardi and
Colleoni at Bergamo, the Landi at Bobbio, the Cavalcabò at Cremona.
Facino Cane appropriated Alessandria; Pandolfo Malatesta seized Brescia;
Ottonbon Terzo established himself in Parma. Meanwhile Giovanni Maria
Visconti was proclaimed Duke of Milan, and his brother Filippo Maria
occupied Pavia. Gabriello, a bastard son of the first duke, fortified
himself in Crema.

    [1] The anarchy which prevailed in Lombardy after Gian Galeazzo's
    death makes it difficult to do more than signalize a few of these
    usurpations. Corio, pp. 292 et seq., contain the details.

In the despotic families of Italy, as already hinted, there was a
progressive tendency to degeneration. The strain of tyranny sustained by
force and craft for generations, the abuse of power and pleasure, the
isolation and the dread in which the despots lived habitually, bred a
kind of hereditary madness.[1] In the case of Giovanni Maria and Filippo
Maria Visconti these predisposing causes of insanity were probably
intensified by the fact that their father and mother were first cousins,
the grandchildren of Stefano, son of Matteo il Grande. Be this as it
may, the constitutional ferocity of the race appeared as monomania in
Giovanni, and its constitutional timidity as something akin to madness
in his brother. Gian Maria, Duke of Milan in nothing but in name,
distinguished himself by cruelty and lust. He used the hounds of his
ancestors no longer in the chase of boars, but of living men. All the
criminals of Milan, and all whom he could get denounced as criminals,
even the participators in his own enormities, were given up to his
infernal sport. His huntsman, Squarcia Giramo, trained the dogs to their
duty by feeding them on human flesh, and the duke watched them tear his
victims in pieces with the avidity of a lunatic.[2] In 1412 some
Milanese nobles succeeded in murdering him, and threw his mangled corpse
into the street. A prostitute is said to have covered it with roses.
Filippo Maria meanwhile had married the widow of Facino Cane,[3] who
brought him nearly half a million of florins for dowry, together with
her husband's soldiers and the cities he had seized after Gian
Galeazzo's death. By the help of this alliance Filippo was now gradually
recovering the Lombard portion of his father's dukedom. The minor
cities, purged by murder of their usurpers, once more fell into the
grasp of the Milanese despot, after a series of domestic and political
tragedies that drenched their streets with blood. Piacenza was utterly
depopulated. It is recorded that for the space of a year only three of
its inhabitants remained within the walls.

    [1] I may refer to Dr. Maudsley (Mind and Matter) for a scientific
    statement of the theory of madness developed by accumulated and
    hereditary vices.

    [2] Corio, p. 301, mentions by name Giovanni da Pusterla and
    Bertolino del Maino as 'lacerati da i cani del Duca.' Members of the
    families of these men afterwards helped to kill him.

    [3] Beatrice di Tenda, the wife of Facino Cane, was twenty years
    older than the Duke of Milan. As soon as the Visconti felt himself
    assured in his duchy, he caused a false accusation to be brought
    against her of adultery with the youthful Michele Oranbelli, and, in
    spite of her innocence, beheaded her in 1418. Machiavelli relates
    this act of perfidy with Tacitean conciseness (1st. Fior. lib. i.
    vol. i. p. 55): 'Dipoi per esser grato de' benefici grandi, come
    sono quasi sempre tutti i Principi, accusè Beatrice sua moglie di
    stupro e la fece morire.'

Filippo, the last of the Visconti tyrants, was extremely ugly, and so
sensitive about his ill-formed person that he scarcely dared to show
himself abroad. He habitually lived in secret chambers, changed
frequently from room to room, and when he issued from his palace refused
salutations in the streets. As an instance of his nervousness, the
chroniclers report that he could not endure to hear the noise of
thunder.[1] At the same time he inherited much of his father's insight
into character, and his power of controlling men more bold and active
than himself. But he lacked the keen decision and broad views of Gian
Galeazzo. He vacillated in policy and kept planning plots which seemed
to have no object but his own disadvantage. Excess of caution made him
surround the captains of his troops with spies, and check them at the
moment when he feared they might become too powerful. This want of
confidence neutralized the advantage which he might have gained by his
choice of fitting instruments. Thus his selection of Francesco Sforza
for his general against the Venetians in 1431 was a wise one. But he
could not attach the great soldier of fortune to himself. Sforza took
the pay of Florence against his old patron, and in 1441 forced him to a
ruinous peace; one of the conditions of which was the marriage of the
Duke of Milan's only daughter, Bianca, to the son of the peasant of
Cotignola. Bianca was illegitimate, and Filippo Maria had no male heir.
The great family of the Visconti had dwindled away. Consequently, after
the duke's death in 1447, Sforza found his way open to the Duchy of
Milan, which he first secured by force and then claimed in right of his
wife. An adverse claim was set up by the House of Orleans, Louis of
Orleans having married Valentina, the legitimate daughter of Gian
Galeazzo.[2] But both of these claims were invalid, since the
investiture granted by Wenceslaus to the first duke excluded females. So
Milan was once again thrown open to the competition of usurpers.

    [1] The most complete account of Filippo Maria Visconti written by a
    contemporary is that of Piero Candido Decembrio (Muratori, vol.
    xx.). The student must, however, read between the lines of this
    biography, for Decembrio, at the request of Leonello d' Este,
    suppressed the darker colors of the portrait of his master. See the
    correspondence in Rosmini's Life of Guarino da Verona.

    [2] This claim of the House of Orleans to Milan was one source of
    French interference in Italian affairs. Judged by Italian custom,
    Sforza's claim through Bianca was as good as that of the Orleans
    princes through Valentina, since bastardy was no real bar in the
    peninsula. It is said that Filippo Maria bequeathed his duchy to the
    Crown of Naples, by a will destroyed after his death. Could this
    bequest have taken effect, it might have united Italy beneath one
    sovereign. But the probabilities are that the jealousies of
    Florence, Venice, and Rome against Naples would have been so
    intensified as to lead to a bloody war of succession, and to hasten
    the French invasion.

The inextinguishable desire for liberty in Milan blazed forth upon the
death of the last duke. In spite of so many generations of despots, the
people still regarded themselves as sovereign, and established a
republic. But a state which had served the Visconti for nearly two
centuries, could not in a moment shake off its weakness and rely upon
itself alone. The republic, feeling the necessity of mercenary aid, was
short-sighted enough to engage Francesco Sforza as commander-in-chief
against the Venetians, who had availed themselves of the anarchy in
Lombardy to push their power west of the Adda.

Sforza, though the ablest general of the day, was precisely the man whom
common prudence should have prompted the burghers to mistrust. In one
brilliant campaign he drove the Venetians back beyond the Adda, burned
their fleet at Casal Maggiore on the Po, and utterly defeated their army
at Caravaggio. Then he returned as conqueror to Milan, reduced the
surrounding cities, blockaded the Milanese in their capital, and forced
them to receive him as their Duke in 1450. Italy had lost a noble
opportunity. If Florence and Venice had but taken part with Milan, and
had stimulated the flagging energies of Genoa, four powerful republics
in federation might have maintained the freedom of the whole peninsula
and have resisted foreign interference. But Cosimo de' Medici, who was
silently founding the despotism of his own family in Florence, preferred
to see a duke in Milan; and Venice, guided by the Doge Francesco
Foscari, thought only of territorial aggrandizement. The chance was
lost. The liberties of Milan were extinguished. A new dynasty was
established in the duchy, grounded on a false hereditary claim, which,
as long as it continued, gave a sort of color to the superior but still
illegal pretensions of the house of Orleans. It is impossible at this
point in the history of Italy to refrain from judging that the Italians
had become incapable of local self-government, and that the prevailing
tendency to despotism was not the results of accidents in any
combination, but of internal and inevitable laws of evolution.

It was at this period that the old despotisms founded by Imperial Vicars
and Captains of the People came to be supplanted or crossed by those of
military adventurers, just as at a somewhat later time the Condottiere
and the Pope's nominee were blent in Cesare Borgia. This is therefore
the proper moment for glancing at the rise and influence of mercenary
generals in Italy, before proceeding to sketch the history of the Sforza

After the wars in Sicily, carried on by the Angevine princes, had ceased
(1302), a body of disbanded soldiers, chiefly foreigners, was formed
under Fra Ruggieri, a Templar, and swept the South of Italy. Giovanni
Villani marks this as the first sign of the scourge which was destined
to prove so fatal to the peace of Italy.[1] But it was not any merely
accidental outbreak of Banditti, such as this, which established the
Condottiere system. The causes were far more deeply seated, in the
nature of Italian despotism and in the peculiar requirements of the
republics. We have already seen how Frederick II. found it convenient to
employ Saracens in his warfare with the Holy See. The same desire to
procure troops incapable of sympathizing with the native population
induced the Scala and Visconti tyrants to hire German, Breton, Swiss,
English, and even Hungarian guards. These foreign troops remained at
the disposal of the tyrants and superseded the national militia. The
people of Italy were reserved for taxation; the foreigners carried on
the wars of the princes. Nor was this policy otherwise than popular. It
relieved all classes from the conscription, leaving the burgher free to
ply his trade, the peasant to till his fields, and disarming the nobles
who were still rebellious and turbulent within the city walls. The same
custom gained ground among the Republics. Rich Florentine citizens
preferred to stay at home at ease, or to travel abroad for commerce,
while they intrusted their military operations to paid generals.[2]
Venice, jealous of her own citizens, raised no levies in her immediate
territory, and made a rule of never confiding her armies to Venetians.
Her admirals, indeed, were selected from the great families of the
Lagoons. But her troops were placed beneath the discipline of
foreigners. The warfare of the Church, again, had of necessity to be
conducted on the same principles; for it did not often happen that a
Pope arose like Julius II., rejoicing in the sound of cannon and the
life of camps. In this way principalities and republics gradually
denationalized their armies, and came to carrying on campaigns by the
aid of foreign mercenaries under paid commanders. The generals, wishing
as far as possible to render their troops movable and compact,
suppressed the infantry, and confined their attention to perfecting the
cavalry. Heavy-armed cavaliers, officered by professional captains,
fought the battles of Italy; while despots and republics schemed in
their castles, or debated in their council-chambers, concerning objects
of warfare about which the soldiers of fortune were indifferent. The pay
received by men-at-arms was more considerable than that of the most
skilled laborers in any peaceful trade. The perils of military service
in Italy, conducted on the most artificial principles, were but slight;
while the opportunities of self-indulgence--of pillage during war and of
pleasure in the brief intervals of peace--attracted all the hot blood of
the country to this service.[3] Therefore, in course of time, the
profession of Condottiere fascinated the needier nobility of Italy, and
the ranks of their men-at-arms were recruited by townsfolk and peasants,
who deliberately chose a life of adventure.

    [1] VIII. 51.

    [2] We may remember how the Spanish general Cardona, in 1325,
    misused his captaincy of the Florentine forces to keep rich members
    of the republican militia in unhealthy stations, extorting money
    from them as the price of freedom from perilous or irksome service.

    [3] Matarazzo, in his Chronicle of Perugia, gives a lively picture
    of an Italian city, in which the nobles for generations followed the
    trade of Condottieri, while the people enlisted in their bands--to
    the utter ruin of the morals and the peace of the community.

At first the foreign troops of the despots were engaged as body-guards,
and were controlled by the authority of their employers. But the
captains soon rendered themselves independent, and entered into military
contracts on their own account. The first notable example of a roving
troop existing for the sake of pillage, and selling its services to any
bidder, was the so-called Great Company (1343), commanded by the German
Guarnieri, or Duke Werner who wrote upon his corselet: 'Enemy of God, of
Pity and of Mercy.' This band was employed in 1348 by the league of the
Montferrat, La Scala, Carrara, Este, and Gonzaga houses, formed to check
the Visconti.

'In the middle of the fourteenth century,' writes Sismondi,[1] 'all the
soldiers who served in Italy were foreigners: at the end of the same
century they were all, or nearly all, Italian.' This sentence indicates
a most important change in the Condottiere system, which took place
during the lifetime of Gian Galeazzo Visconti. Alberico da Barbiano, a
noble of Romagna, and the ancestor of the Milanese house of Belgiojoso,
adopted the career of Condottiere, and formed a Company, called the
Company of S. George, into which he admitted none but Italians. The
consequence of this rule was that he Italianized the profession of
mercenary arms for the future. All the great captains of the period were
formed in his ranks, during the course of those wars which he conducted
for the Duke of Milan. Two rose to paramount importance--Braccio da
Montone, who varied his master's system by substituting the tactics of
detached bodies of cavalry for the solid phalanx in which Barbiano had
moved his troops; and Sforza Attendolo, who adhered to the old method.
Sforza got his name from his great physical strength. He was a peasant
of the village of Cotignola, who, being invited to quit the mattock for
a sword, threw his pickax into an oak, and cried, 'If it stays there, it
is a sign that I shall make my fortune.' The ax stuck in the tree, and
Sforza went forth to found a line of dukes.[2] After the death of
Barbiano in 1409, Sforza and Braccio separated and formed two distinct
companies, known as the Sforzeschi and Bracceschi, who carried on
between them, sometimes in combination, but usually in opposition, all
the wars of Italy for the next twenty years. These old comrades, who had
parted in pursuit of their several advantage, found that they had more
to lose than to gain by defeating each other in any bloody or
inconveniently decisive engagement. Therefore they adopted systems of
campaigning which should cost them as little as possible, but which
enabled them to exhibit a chess-player's capacity for designing clever
checkmates.[3] Both Braccio and Sforza died in 1424, and were succeeded
respectively by Nicolo Piccinino and Francesco Sforza. These two men
became in their turn the chief champions of Italy. At the same time
other Condottieri rose into notice. The Malatesta family at Rimini, the
ducal house of Urbino, the Orsini and the Vitelli of the Roman States,
the Varani of Camerino, the Baglioni of Perugia, and the younger
Gonzaghi furnished republics and princes with professional leaders of
tried skill and independent resources. The vassals of these noble houses
were turned into men-at-arms, and the chiefs acquired more importance in
their roving military life than they could have gained within the narrow
circuit of their little states.

    [1] Vol. v. p. 207.

    [2] This is the commonly received legend. Corio, p. 255, does not
    draw attention to the lowness of Sforza's origin, but says that he
    was only twelve years of age when he enlisted in the corps of
    Boldrino da Panigale, condottiere of the Church. His robust physical
    qualities were hereditary for many generations in his family. His
    son Francesco was tall and well made, the best runner, jumper, and
    wrestler of his day. He marched, summer and winter, bareheaded;
    needed but little sleep; was spare in diet, and self-indulgent only
    in the matter of women. Galeazzo Maria, though stained by despicable
    vices was a powerful prince, who ruled his duchy with a strong arm.
    Of his illegitimate daughter, Caterina, the wife of Girolamo Riario,
    a story is told, which illustrates the strong coarse vein that still
    distinguished this brood of princes. [See Dennistoun, 'Dukes of
    Urbino,' vol. i. p. 292, for Boccalini's account of the Siege of
    Forli, sustained by Caterina in 1488. Compare Sismondi, vol. vii. p.
    251.] Caterina Riario Sforza, as a woman, was no unworthy inheritor
    of her grandfather's personal heroism and genius for government.

    [3] I shall have to notice the evils of this system in another
    place, while reviewing the _Principe_ of Machiavelli. In that
    treatise the Florentine historian traces the whole ruin of Italy
    during the sixteenth century to the employment of mercenaries.

The biography of one of these Condottieri deserves special notice, since
it illustrates the vicissitudes of fortune to which such men were
exposed, as well as their relations to their patrons. Francesco
Carmagnuola was a Piedmontese. He first rose into notice at the battle
of Monza in 1412, when Filippo Maria Visconti observed his capacity and
bravery, and afterwards advanced him to the captaincy of a troop. Having
helped to reduce the Visconti duchy to order, Carmagnuola found himself
disgraced and suspected without good reason by the Duke of Milan; and in
1426 he took the pay of the Venetians against his old master. During the
next year he showed the eminence of his abilities as a general; for he
defeated the combined forces of Piccinino, Sforza, and other captains of
the Visconti, and took them prisoners at Macalo. Carmagnuola neither
imprisoned nor murdered his foes.[1] He gave them their liberty, and
four years later had to sustain a defeat from Sforza at Soncino. Other
reverses of fortune followed, which brought upon him the suspicion of
bad faith or incapacity. When he returned to Venice, the state received
their captain with all honors, and displayed unusual pomp in his
admission to the audience of the Council. But no sooner had their velvet
clutches closed upon him, than they threw him into prison, instituted a
secret impeachment of his conduct, and on May 5, 1432, led him out with
his mouth gagged, to execution on the Piazza. No reason was assigned for
this judicial murder. Had Carmagnuola been convicted of treason? Was he
being punished for his ill success in the campaign of the preceding
years? The Republic of Venice, by the secrecy in which she enveloped
this dark act of vengeance, sought to inspire the whole body of her
officials with vague alarm.

    [1] Such an act of violence, however consistent with the morality of
    a Cesare Borgia, a Venetian Republic, or a Duke of Milan, would have
    been directly opposed to the code of honor in use among Condottieri.
    Nothing, indeed, is more singular among the contradictions of this
    period than the humanity in the field displayed by hired captains.
    War was made less on adverse armies than on the population of
    provinces. The adventurers respected each other's lives, and treated
    each other with courtesy. They were a brotherhood who played at
    campaigning, rather than the representatives of forces seriously
    bent on crushing each other to extermination. Machiavelli says
    (Princ. cap. xii.) 'Aveano usato ogni industria per levar via a se e
    a' soldati la fatica e la paura, non s'ammazzando nelle zuffe, ma
    pigliandosi prigioni e senza taglia.' At the same time the license
    they allowed themselves against the cities and the districts they
    invaded is well illustrated by the pillage of Piacenza in 1447 by
    Francesco Sforza's troops. The anarchy of a sack lasted forty days,
    during which the inhabitants were indiscriminately sold as slaves,
    or tortured for their hidden treasure. Sism. vi. 170.

But to return to the Duchy of Milan. Francesco Sforza entered the
capital as conqueror in 1450, and was proclaimed Duke. He never obtained
the sanction of the Empire to his title, though Frederick III. was
proverbially lavish of such honors. But the great Condottiere,
possessing the substance, did not care for the external show of
monarchy. He ruled firmly, wisely, and for those times well, attending
to the prosperity of his states, maintaining good discipline in his
cities, and losing no ground by foolish or ambitious schemes. Louis XI.
of France is said to have professed himself Sforza's pupil in
statecraft, than which no greater tribute could be paid to his political
sagacity. In 1466 he died, leaving three sons, Galeazzo, Duke of Milan,
the Cardinal Ascanio, and Lodovico, surnamed Il Moro.

'Francesco's crown,' says Ripamonti, 'was destined to pass to more than
six inheritors, and these five successions were accomplished by a series
of tragic events in his family. Galeazzo, his son, was murdered because
of his abominable crimes, in the presence of his people, before the
altar, in the middle of the sacred rites. Giovanni Galeazzo, who
followed him, was poisoned by his uncle Lodovico. Lodovico was
imprisoned by the French, and died of grief in a dungeon.[1] One of his
sons perished in the same way; the other, after years of misery and
exile, was restored in his childless old age to a throne which had been
undermined, and when he died, his dynasty was extinct. This was the
recompense for the treason of Francesco to the State of Milan. It was
for such successes that he passed his life in perfidy, privation, and
danger.' In these rapid successions we trace, besides the demoralization
of the Sforza family, the action of new forces from without. France,
Germany, and Spain appeared upon the stage; and against these great
powers the policy of Italian despotism was helpless.

    [1] In the castle of Loches, there is said to be a roughly painted
    wall-picture of a man in a helmet over the chimney in the room known
    as his prison, with this legend, _Voilà un qui n'est pas content_.
    Tradition gives it to Il Moro.

We have now reached the threshold of the true Renaissance, and a new
period is being opened for Italian politics. The despots are about to
measure their strength with the nations of the North. It was Lodovico
Sforza who, by his invitation of Charles VIII. into Italy, inaugurated
the age of Foreign Enslavement. His biography belongs, therefore, to
another chapter. But the life of Galeazzo Maria, husband of Bona of
Savoy, and uncle by marriage to Charles VIII. of France, forms an
integral part of that history of the Milanese despots which we have
hitherto been tracing. In him the passions of Gian Maria Visconti were
repeated with the addition of extravagant vanity. We may notice in
particular his parade-expedition in 1471 to Florence, when he flaunted
the wealth extorted from his Milanese subjects before the soberminded
citizens of a still free city. Fifty palfreys for the Duchess, fifty
chargers for the Duke, trapped in cloth of gold; a hundred men-at-arms
and five hundred foot soldiers for a body-guard; five hundred couples of
hounds and a multitude of hawks; preceded him. His suite of courtiers
numbered two thousand on horseback: 200,000 golden florins were expended
on this pomp. Machiavelli (1st. Fior. lib. 7) marks this visit of the
Duke of Milan as a turning-point from austere simplicity to luxury and
license in the manners of the Florentines, whom Lorenzo de' Medici was
already bending to his yoke. The most extravagant lust, the meanest and
the vilest cruelty, supplied Galeazzo Maria with daily recreation.[1] He
it was who used to feed his victims on abominations or to bury them
alive, and who found a pleasure in wounding or degrading those whom he
had made his confidants and friends. The details of his assassination,
in 1476, though well known, are so interesting that I may be excused for
pausing to repeat them here; especially as they illustrate a moral
characteristic of this period which is intimately connected with the
despotism. Three young nobles of Milan, educated in the classic
literature by Montano, a distinguished Bolognese scholar, had imbibed
from their studies of Greek and Latin history an ardent thirst for
liberty and a deadly hatred of tyrants.[2] Their names were Carlo
Visconti, Girolamo Olgiati, and Giannandrea Lampugnani. Galeazzo Sforza
had wounded the two latter in the points which men hold dearest--their
honor and their property[3]--by outraging the sister of Olgiati and by
depriving Lampugnani of the patronage of the Abbey of Miramondo. The
spirit of Harmodius and Virginius was kindled in the friends, and they
determined to rid Milan of her despot. After some meetings in the garden
of S. Ambrogio, where they matured their plans, they laid their project
of tyrannicide as a holy offering before the patron saint of Milan.[4]
Then having spent a few days in poignard exercise for the sake of
training,[5] they took their place within the precincts of S. Stephen's
Church. There they received the sacrament and addressed themselves in
prayer to the Protomartyr, whose fane was about to be hallowed by the
murder of a monster odious to God and man. It was on the morning of
December 26, 1476, that the duke entered San Stefano. At one and the
same moment the daggers of the three conspirators struck him--Olgiati's
in the breast, Visconti's in the back, Lampugnani's in the belly. He
cried 'Ah, Dio!' and fell dead upon the pavement. The friends were
unable to make their escape; Visconti and Lampugnani were killed on the
spot; Olgiati was seized, tortured, and torn to death.

    [1] Allegretto Allegretti, Diari Sanesi, in Muratori, xxiii. p. 777,
    and Corio, p. 425, should be read for the details of his pleasures.
    See too his character by Machiavelli, 1st. Fior. lib. 7, vol. ii. p.
    316. Yet Giovio calls him a just and firm ruler, stained only with
    the vice of unbridled sensuality.

    [2] The study of the classics, especially of Plutarch, at this
    time, as also during the French Revolution, fired the
    imagination of patriots. Lorenzino de' Medici appealed to the
    example of Timoleon in 1537, and Pietro Paolo Boscoli to that
    of Brutus in 1513.

    [3] 'Le ingiurie conviene che siano nella roba, nel sangue, o
    nell' onore.... La roba e l'onore sono quelle due cose che
    offendono più gli uomini che alcun' altra offesa, e dalle quali
    il principe si debbe guardare: perchè e' non può mai spogliare
    uno tanto che non gli resti un coltello da vendicarsi; non può
    tanto disonorare uno che non gli resti un animo ostinato alla
    vendetta.' Mach. Disc. iii. 6.

    [4] See Olgiati's prayer to Saint Ambrose in Sismondi, vii. 87,
    and in Mach. Ist. Fior. lib. 7.

    [5] Giovanni Sanzi's chronicle, quoted by Dennistoun, vol. i.
    p. 223, describes the conspirators rehearsing on a wooden

In the interval which elapsed between the rack and the pincers, Olgiati
had time to address this memorable speech to the priest who urged him to
repent: 'As for the noble action for which I am about to die, it is this
which gives my conscience peace; to this I trust for pardon from the
Judge of all. Far from repenting, if I had to come ten times to life in
order ten times to die by these same torments, I should not hesitate to
dedicate my blood and all my powers to an object so sublime.' When the
hangman stood above him, ready to begin the work of mutilation, he is
said to have exclaimed: Mors acerba, fama perpetua, stabit vetus memora
facti--my death is untimely, my fame eternal, the memory of the deed
will last for aye.' He was only twenty-two years of age.[1] There is an
antique grandeur about the outlines of this story, strangely mingled
with mediæval Catholicism in the details, which makes it typical of the
Renaissance. Conspiracies against rulers were common at the time in
Italy; but none were so pure and honorable as this. Of the Pazzi
Conjuration (1478) which Sixtus IV. directed to his everlasting infamy
against the Medici, I shall have to speak in another place. It is enough
to mention here in passing the patriotic attempt of Girolamo Gentile
against Galeazzo Sforza at Genoa in 1476, and the more selfish plot of
Nicolo d' Este, in the same year, against his uncle Ercole, who held the
Marquisate of Ferrara to the prejudice of his own claim. The latter
tragedy was rendered memorable by the vengeance taken by Ercole. He
beheaded Nicolo and his cousin Azzo together with twenty-five of his
comrades, effectually preventing by this bloodshed any future attempt to
set aside his title. Falling as these four conspiracies do within the
space of two years, and displaying varied features of antique heroism,
simple patriotism, dynastic dissension, and ecclesiastical perfidy, they
present examples of the different forms and causes of political
tragedies with a noteworthy and significant conciseness.[2]

    [1] The whole story may be read in Ripamonti, under the head of
    'Confessio Olgiati;' in Corio, who was a page of the Duke's and an
    eye-witness of the murder; and in the seventh book of Machiavelli's
    'History.' Sismondi's summary and references, vol. vii. pp. 86-90,
    are very full.

    [2] It is worthy of notice that very many tyrannicides took
    place in Church--for example, the murders of Francesco Vico dei
    Prefetti, of the Varani, the Chiavelli, Giuliano de' Medici,
    and Galeazzo Maria Sforza. The choice of public service, as the
    best occasion for the commission of these crimes, points to the
    guarded watchfulness maintained by tyrants in their palaces and
    on the streets. Banquets and festivities offered another kind
    of opportunity; and it was on such occasions that domestic
    tragedies, like Oliverotto's murder of his uncle and Grifonetto
    Baglioni's treason, were accomplished.

Such was the actual condition of Italy at the end of the fifteenth
century. Neither public nor private morality in our sense of the word
existed. The crimes of the tyrants against their subjects and the
members of their own families had produced a correlative order of crime
in the people over whom they tyrannized. Cruelty was met by conspiracy.
Tyrannicide became honorable; and the proverb, 'He who gives his own
life can take a tyrant's,' had worked itself into popular language. At
this point it may be well to glance at the opinions concerning public
murder which prevailed in Italy. Machiavelli, in the _Discorsi_ iii. 6,
discusses the whole subject with his usual frigid and exhaustive
analysis. It is no part of his critical method to consider the morality
of the matter. He deals with the facts of history scientifically. The
esteem in which tyrannicide was held at Florence is proved by the
erection of Donatello's Judith in 1495, at the gate of the Palazzo
Pubblico, with this inscription, _exemplum salutis publicæ cives
posuere_. All the political theorists agree that to rid a state of its
despot is a virtuous act. They only differ about its motives and its
utility. In Guicciardini's Reggimento di Firenze (Op. Ined. vol. ii. pp.
53, 54, 114) the various motives of tyrannicide are discussed, and it is
concluded that _pochissimi sono stati quelli che si siano mossi
meramente per amore della libertà della sua patria, a' quali si conviene
suprema laude_.[1] Donato Giannotti (Opere, vol. i. p. 341) bids the
conspirator consider whether the mere destruction of the despot will
suffice to restore his city to true liberty and good government--a
caution by which Lorenzino de' Medici in his assassination of Duke
Alessandro might have profited; for he killed one tyrant in order only
to make room for another. Lorenzino's own Apology (Varchi, vol. iii. pp.
283-295) is an important document, as showing that the murderer of a
despot counted on the sympathy of honorable men. So, too, is the verdict
of Boscolo's confessor (Arch. Stor. vol. i. p. 309), who pronounced that
conspiracy against a tyrant was no crime. Nor did the demoralization of
the age stop here. Force, which had been substituted for Law in
government, became, as it were, the mainspring of society. Murders,
poisoning, rapes, and treasons were common incidents of private as of
public life.[2] In cities like Naples bloodguilt could be atoned at an
inconceivably low rate. A man's life was worth scarcely more than that
of a horse. The palaces of the nobles swarmed with professional
cut-throats, and the great ecclesiastics claimed for their abodes the
right of sanctuary. Popes sold absolution for the most horrible
excesses, and granted indulgences beforehand for the commission of
crimes of lust and violence. Success was the standard by which acts were
judged; and the man who could help his friends intimidate his enemies,
and carve a way to fortune for himself by any means he chose, was
regarded as a hero. Machiavelli's use of the word _virtù_ is in this
relation most instructive. It has altogether lost the Christian sense of
_virtue_, and retains only so much of the Roman _virtus_ as is
applicable to the courage, intellectual ability, and personal prowess of
one who has achieved his purpose, be that what it may. The upshot of
this state of things was that individuality of character and genius
obtained a freer scope at this time in Italy than during any other
period of modern history.

    [1] 'Very few indeed have those been, whose motive for tyrannicide
    was a pure love of their country's liberty; and these deserve the
    highest praise.'

    [2] It is quite impossible to furnish a complete view of
    Italian society under this aspect. Students must be referred to
    the stories of the novelists, who collected the more dramatic
    incidents and presented them in the form of entertaining
    legends. It may suffice here to mention Bartolommeo Colleoni,
    Angelo Poliziano, and Pontano, all of whom owed their start in
    life to the murder of their respective fathers by assassins; to
    Varchi and Filelfo, whose lives were attempted by cut-throats;
    to Cellini, Perugino, Masaccio, Berni, in each of whose
    biographies poison and the knife play their parts. If men of
    letters and artists were exposed to these perils, the dangers
    of the great and noble may be readily imagined.

At the same time it must not be forgotten that during this period the
art and culture of the Renaissance were culminating. Filelfo was
receiving the gold of Filippo Maria Visconti. Guarino of Verona was
instructing the heir of Ferrara, and Vittorino da Feltre was educating
the children of the Marquis of Mantua. Lionardo was delighting Milan
with his music and his magic world of painting. Poliziano was pouring
forth honeyed eloquence at Florence. Ficino was expounding Plato.
Boiardo was singing the prelude to Ariosto's melodies at Ferrara. Pico
della Mirandola was dreaming of a reconciliation of the Hebrew, Pagan,
and Christian traditions. It is necessary to note these facts in
passing; just as when we are surveying the history of letters and the
arts, it becomes us to remember the crimes and the madness of the
despots who patronized them. This was an age in which even the wildest
and most perfidious of tyrants felt the ennobling influences and the
sacred thirst of knowledge. Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, the Lord of
Rimini, might be selected as a true type of the princes who united a
romantic zeal for culture with the vices of barbarians.[1] The coins
which bear the portraits of this man, together with the medallions
carved in red Verona marble on his church at Rimini, show a narrow
forehead, protuberant above bushy eyebrows, a long hooked nose, hollow
cheeks, and petulant, passionate, compressed lips. The whole face seems
ready to flash with sudden violence, to merge its self-control in a
spasm of fury. Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta killed three wives in
succession, violated his daughter, and attempted the chastity of his own
son. So much of him belongs to the mere savage. He caused the
magnificent church of S. Francesco at Rimini to be raised by Leo Alberti
in a manner more worthy of a Pagan Pantheon than of a Christian temple.
He incrusted it with exquisite bas-reliefs in marble, the triumphs of
the earliest Renaissance style, carved his own name and ensigns upon
every scroll and frieze and point of vantage in the building, and
dedicated a shrine there to his concubine--_Divæ Isottæ Sacrum_. So much
of him belongs to the Neo-Pagan of the fifteenth century. He brought
back from Greece the mortal remains of the philosopher Gemistos Plethon,
buried them in a sarcophagus outside his church, and wrote upon the tomb
this epigraph: 'These remains of Gemistus of Byzantium, chief of the
sages of his day, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, son of Pandolfo,
commander in the war against the king of the Turks in the Morea, induced
by the mighty love with which he burns for men of learning, brought
hither and placed within this chest. 1466.' He, the most fretful and
turbulent of men, read books with patient care, and bore the
contradictions of pedants in the course of long discussions on
philosophy and arts and letters. So much of him belonged to the new
spirit of the coming age, in which the zeal for erudition was a passion,
and the spell of science was stronger than the charms of love. At the
same time, as Condottiere, he displayed all the treasons, duplicities,
cruelties, sacrileges, and tortuous policies to which the most
accomplished villain of the age could have aspired.

    [1] For a fuller account of him, see my 'Sketches in Italy and
    Greece,' article _Rimini_.

It would be easy, following in the steps of Tiraboschi, to describe the
patronage awarded in the fifteenth century to men of letters by
princes--the protection extended by Nicholas III. of Ferrara to Guarino
and Aurispa--the brilliant promise of his son Leonello, who corresponded
with Poggio, Filelfo, Guarino, Francesco Barbaro, and other
scholars--the liberality of Duke Borso, whose purse was open to poor
students. Or we might review the splendid culture of the court of
Naples, where Alfonso committed the education of his terrible son
Ferdinand to the care of Lorenzo Valla and Antonio Beccadelli.[1] More
insight, however, into the nature of Italian despotism in all its phases
may be gained by turning from Milan to Urbino, and by sketching a
portrait of the good Duke Frederick.[2] The life of Frederick, Count of
Montefeltro, created Duke of Urbino in 1474 by Pope Sixtus IV., covers
the better part of the fifteenth century (b. 1422, d. 1482). A little
corner of old Umbria lying between the Apennines and the Adriatic,
Rimini and Ancona, formed his patrimony. Speaking roughly, the whole
duchy was but forty miles square, and the larger portion consisted of
bare hillsides and ruinous ravines. Yet this poor territory became the
center of a splendid court. 'Federigo,' says his biographer, Muzio,
'maintained a suite so numerous and distinguished as to rival any royal
household.' The chivalry of Italy flocked to Urbino in order to learn
manners and the art of war from the most noble general of his day. 'His
household,' we hear from Vespasiano, 'which consisted of 500 mouths
entertained at his own cost, was governed less like a company of
soldiers than a strict religious community. There was no gaming nor
swearing, but the men conversed with the utmost sobriety.' In a list of
the court officers we find forty-five counts of the duchy and of other
states, seventeen gentlemen, five secretaries, four teachers of grammar,
logic, and philosophy, fourteen clerks in public offices, five
architects and engineers, five readers during meals, four transcribers
of MSS. The library, collected by Vespasiano during fourteen years of
assiduous labor, contained copies of all the Greek and Latin authors
then discovered, the principal treatises on theology and church history,
a complete series of Italian poets, historiographers, and commentators,
various medical, mathematical, and legal works, essays on music,
military tactics and the arts, together with such Hebrew books as were
accessible to copyists. Every volume was bound in crimson and silver,
and the whole collection cost upwards of 30,000 ducats. For the expenses
of so large a household, and the maintenance of this fine library, not
to mention a palace that was being built and churches that required
adornment, the mere revenues of the duchy could not have sufficed.
Federigo owed his wealth to his engagements as a general. Military
service formed his trade. 'In 1453,' says Dennistoun, 'his war-pay from
Alfonso of Naples exceeded 8,000 ducats a month, and for many years he
had from him and his son an annual peace-pension of 6,000 in name of
past services. At the close of his life, when captain-general of the
Italian league, he drew in war 165,000 ducats of annual stipend, 45,000
being his own share; in peace, 65,000 in all.' As a Condottiere,
Federigo was famous in this age of broken faith for his plain dealing
and sincerity. Only one piece of questionable practice--the capture of
Verucchio in 1462 by a forged letter pretending to come from Sigismondo
Malatesta--stained his character for honesty. To his soldiers in the
field he was considerate and generous; to his enemies compassionate and
merciful.[3] 'In military science,' says Vespasiano, 'he was excelled by
no commander of his time; uniting energy with judgment, he conquered by
prudence as much as by force. The like wariness was observed in all his
affairs; and in none of his many battles was he worsted. Nor may I omit
the strict observance of good faith, wherein he never failed. All to
whom he once gave his word, might testify to his inviolate performance
of it.' The same biographer adds that 'he was singularly religious, and
most observant of the Divine commands. No morning passed without his
hearing mass upon his knees.'

    [1] The Panormita; author, by the way, of the shameless
    'Hermaphroditus.' This fact is significant. The moral sense was
    extinct when such a pupil was intrusted to such a tutor.

    [2] For the following details I am principally indebted to 'The
    Memoirs of the Dukes of Urbino,' by James Dennistoun; 3 vols.,
    Longmans, 1851. Vespasiano's Life of Duke Frederick (Vite di
    uomini illustri, pp. 72-112) is one of the most charming
    literary portraits extant. It has, moreover, all the value of a
    personal memoir, for Vespasiano had lived in close relation
    with the Duke as his librarian.

    [3] See the testimony of Francesco di Giorgio; Dennistoun, vol.
    i. p. 259. The sack of Volterra was, however, a blot upon his

While a boy, Federigo had been educated in the school of Vittorino da
Feltre at Mantua. Gian Francesco Gonzaga invited that eminent scholar to
his court in 1425 for the education of his sons and daughter, assembling
round him subordinate teachers in grammar, mathematics, music, painting,
dancing, riding, and all noble exercises. The system supervised by
Vittorino included not only the acquisition of scholarship, but also
training in manly sports and the cultivation of the moral character.
Many of the noblest Italians were his pupils. Ghiberto da Correggio,
Battista Pallavicíni, Taddeo Manfredi of Faenza, Gabbriello da Cremona,
Francesco da Castiglione, Niccolo Perrotti, together with the Count of
Montefeltro, lived in Vittorino's house, associating with the poorer
students whom the benevolent philosopher instructed for the love of
learning. Ambrogio Camaldolese in a letter to Niccolo Niccoli gives this
animated picture of the Mantuan school: 'I went again to visit Vittorino
and to see his Greek books. He came to meet me with the children of the
prince, two sons and a daughter of seven years. The eldest boy is
eleven, the younger five. There are also other children of about ten,
sons of nobles, as well as other pupils. He teaches them Greek, and they
can write that language well. I saw a translation from Saint Chrysostom
made by one of them which pleased me much.' And again a few years later:
'He brought me Giovanni Lucido, son of the Marquis, a boy of about
fourteen, whom he has educated, and who then recited two hundred lines
composed by him upon the shows with which the Emperor was received in
Mantua. The verses were most beautiful, but the sweetness and elegance
of his recitation made them still more graceful. He also showed me two
propositions added by him to Euclid, which prove how eminent he promises
to be in mathematical studies. There was also a little daughter of the
Marquis, of about ten, who writes Greek beautifully; and many other
pupils, some of noble birth, attended them.' The medal struck by
Pisanello in honor of Vittorino da Feltre bears the ensign of a pelican
feeding her young from a wound in her own breast--a symbol of the
master's self-sacrifice.[1] I hope to return in the second volume of
this work to Vittorino. It is enough here to remark that in this good
school the Duke of Urbino acquired that solid culture which
distinguished him through life. In after years, when the cares of his
numerous engagements fell thick upon him, we hear from Vespasiano that
he still prosecuted his studies, reading Aristotle's Ethics, Politics,
and Physics, listening to the works of S. Thomas Aquinas and Scotus read
aloud, perusing at one time the Greek fathers and at another the Latin
historians.[2] How profitably he spent his day at Urbino may be gathered
from this account of his biographer: 'He was on horseback at daybreak
with four or six mounted attendants and not more, and with one or two
foot servants unarmed. He would ride out three or four miles, and be
back again when the rest of his court rose from bed. After dismounting,
he heard mass. Then he went into a garden open at all sides, and gave
audience to those who listed until dinner-time. At table, all the doors
were open; any man could enter where his lordship was; for he never ate
except with a full hall. According to the season he had books read out
as follows--in Lent, spiritual works; at other times, the history of
Livy; all in Latin. His food was plain; he took no comfits, and drank no
wine, except drinks of pomegranate, cherry, or apples.' After dinner he
heard causes, and gave sentence in the Latin tongue. Then he would visit
the nuns of Santa Chiara or watch the young men of Urbino at their
games, using the courtesy of perfect freedom with his subjects. His
reputation as a patron of the arts and of learning was widely spread.
'To hear him converse with a sculptor,' says Vespasiano, 'you would have
thought he was a master of the craft. In painting, too, he displayed the
most acute judgment; and as he could not find among the Italians worthy
masters of oil colors, he sent to Flanders for one, who painted for him
the philosophers and poets and doctors of the Church. He also brought
from Flanders masters in the art of tapestry.' Pontano, Ficino, and
Poggio dedicated works of importance to his name; and Pirro Perrotti, in
the preface to his uncle's 'Cornucopia,' draws a quaint picture of the
reception which so learned a book was sure to meet with at Urbino.[3]
But Frederick was not merely an accomplished prince. Concurrent
testimony proves that he remained a good husband and a constant friend
throughout his life, that he controlled his natural quickness of temper,
and subdued the sensual appetites which in that age of lax morality he
might have indulged without reproach. In his relations to his subjects
he showed what a paternal monarch should be, conversing familiarly with
the citizens of Urbino, accosting them with head uncovered, inquiring
into the necessities of the poorer artisans, relieving the destitute,
dowering orphan girls, and helping distressed shopkeepers with loans.
Numerous anecdotes are told which illustrate his consideration for his
old servants, and his anxiety for the welfare and good order of his
state. At a time when the Pope and the King of Naples were making money
by monopolies of corn, the Duke of Urbino filled his granaries from
Apulia, and sold bread during a year of scarcity at a cheap rate to his
poor subjects. Nor would he allow his officers to prosecute the indigent
for debts incurred by such purchases. He used to say: 'I am not a
merchant; it is enough to have saved my people from hunger.' We must
remember that this excellent prince had a direct interest in
maintaining the prosperity and good-will of his duchy. His profession
was warfare, and the district of Urbino supplied him with his best
troops. Yet this should not diminish the respect due to the foresight
and benevolence of a Condottiere who knew how to carry on his calling
with humanity and generosity. Federigo wore the Order of the Garter,
which Henry VII. conferred on him, the Neapolitan Order of the Ermine,
and the Papal decorations of the Rose, the Hat, the Sword. He served
three pontiffs, two kings of Naples, and two dukes of Milan. The
Republic of Florence and more than one Italian League appointed him
their general in the field. If his military career was less brilliant
than that of the two Sforzas, Piccinino, or Carmagnuola, he avoided the
crimes to which ambition led some of these men and the rocks on which
they struck. At his death he transmitted a flourishing duchy, a
cultivated court, a renowned name, and the leadership of the Italian
League to his son Guidobaldo.

    [1] Prendilacqua, the biographer of Vittorino, says that he died so
    poor that his funeral expenses had to be defrayed.

    [2] Pius II. in his Commentaries gives an interesting account
    of the conversations concerning the tactics of the ancients
    which he held with Frederick, in 1461, in the neighborhood of

    [3] The preface to the original edition of the 'Cornucopia' is
    worth reading for the lively impression which it conveys of
    Federigo's personality: 'Admirabitur in te divinam illam
    corporis proceritatem, membrorum robur eximium, venerandam oris
    dignitatem, ætatis maturam gravitatem, divinam quandam
    majestatem cum humanitate conjunctam, totum præterea talem
    qualem esse oportebat eum principem quem nuper pontifex maximus
    et universus senatus omnium rerum suarum et totius
    ecclesiastici imperii ducem moderatoremque constituit.'

The young Duke, whose court, described by Castiglione, may be said to
have set the model of good breeding to all Europe, began life under the
happiest auspices. From his tutor Odasio of Padua we hear that even in
boyhood he cared only for study and for manly sports. His memory was so
retentive that he could repeat whole treatises by heart after the lapse
of ten or fifteen years, nor did he ever forget what he had resolved to
retain. In the Latin and Greek languages he became an accomplished
scholar,[1] and while he appreciated the poets, he showed peculiar
aptitude for philosophy and history. But his development was precocious.
His zeal for learning and the excessive ardor with which he devoted
himself to physical exercises undermined his constitution. He became an
invalid and died childless, after exhibiting to his court for many years
an example of patience in sickness and of dignified cheerfulness under
the restraints of enforced inaction. His wife, Elizabetta Gonzaga, one
of the most famous women of her age, was no less a pattern of noble
conduct and serene contentment.

Such were the two last princes of the Montefeltro dynasty.[2] It is
necessary to bear their virtues in mind while dwelling on the
characteristics of Italian despotism in the fifteenth century. The Duchy
of Urbino, both as an established dynasty not founded upon violence, and
also as a center of really humane culture, formed, it is true, an
exception to the rule of Italian tyrannies: yet, if we omitted this
state from our calculation, confining our attention to the extravagant
iniquities of the Borgia family, or to the eccentricities of the
Visconti, or to the dark crimes of the court of Naples, we should gain a
false notion of the many-sided character of Italy, in which at that time
vices and virtues were so strangely blended. We must never forget that
the same society which produced a Filippo Maria Visconti, a Galeazzo
Maria Sforza, a Sigismondo Malatesta, a Ferdinand of Aragon, gave birth
also to a Lorenzo de' Medici and a Federigo da Montefeltro. It is only
by studying the lives of all these men in combination that we can obtain
a correct conception of the manifold personality, the mingled polish and
barbarism, of the Italian Renaissance.

    [1] It is not easy to say what a panegyrist of that period intended
    by 'a complete knowledge of Greek,' or 'fluent Greek writing,' in a
    Prince. I suspect, however, that we ought not to understand by these
    phrases anything like a real familiarity with Greek literature, but
    rather such superficial knowledge as would enable a reader of Latin
    books to understand allusions and quotations. Poliziano, it may be
    remarked, thought it worth while to flatter Guidobaldo in a Greek

    [2] After Guidobaldo's death the duchy was continued by the
    Della Rovere family, one of whom, Giovanni, Prefect of Rome and
    nephew of Sixtus IV., married the Duke's sister Giovanna in

Some more detailed account of Baldassare Castiglione's treatise _Il
Cortegiano_ will form a fitting conclusion to this Chapter on the
Despots. It is true that his book was written later than the period we
have been considering,[1] and he describes court life in its most
graceful aspect. Yet all the antecedent history of the past two
centuries had been gradually producing the conditions under which his
courtier flourished; and the Italian of the Renaissance, as he appeared
to the rest of Europe, was such a gentleman as he depicts. For the
historian his book is of equal value in its own department with the
Principe of Machiavelli, the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, and the
Diary of Burchard.

    [1] It was written in 1514, and first published in folio by the Aldi
    of Venice in 1528. We find an English translation so early as 1561
    by Thomas Hoby. At this time it was in the hands of all the
    gentlefolk of Europe. It is interesting to compare the 'Cortegiano'
    with Della Casa's 'Galateo,' published in 1558. The 'Galateo'
    professes to be a guide for gentlemen in social intercourse, and the
    minute rules laid down would satisfy the most exacting purist of the
    present century. In manners and their ethical analysis we have
    certainly gained nothing during the last three centuries. The
    principle upon which these precepts of conduct are founded is not
    etiquette or fashion, but respect for the sensibilities of others.
    It would be difficult to compose a more philosophical treatise on
    the lesser duties imposed upon us by the conditions of society--such
    minute matters as the proper way to blow the nose or use the napkin,
    being referred to the one rule of acting so as to cause no
    inconvenience to our neighbors.

In the opening of his 'Cortegiano' Castiglione introduces us to the
court of Urbino--refined, chivalrous, witty, cultivated,
gentle--confessedly the purest and most elevated court in Italy. He
brings together the Duchess Elizabetta Gonzaga; Emilia Pia, wife of
Antonio da Montefeltro, whose wit is as keen and active as that of
Shakespeare's Beatrice; Pietro Bembo, the Ciceronian dictator of letters
in the sixteenth century; Bernardo Bibbiena, Berni's patron, the author
of 'Calandra,' whose portrait by Raphael in the Pitti enables us to
estimate his innate love of humor; Giuliano de' Medici, Duke of Nemours,
of whom the marble effigy by Michael Angelo still guards the tomb in San
Lorenzo; together with other knights and gentlemen less known to
fame--two Genoese Fregosi, Gasparo Pallavicini, Lodovico, Count of
Canossa, Cesare Gonzaga, l' Unico Aretino, and Fra Serafino the
humorist. These ladies and gentlemen hold discourse together, as was the
custom of Urbino, in the drawing-room of the duchess during four
consecutive evenings. The theme of their conversation is the Perfect
Courtier. What must that man be who deserves the name of Cortegiano,
and how must he conduct himself? The subject of discussion carries us at
once into a bygone age. No one asks now what makes the perfect courtier;
but in Italy of the Renaissance, owing to the changes from republican to
despotic forms of government which we have traced in the foregoing
pages, the question was one of the most serious importance. Culture and
good breeding, the amenities of intercourse, the pleasures of the
intellect, scarcely existed outside the sphere of courts; for one effect
of the Revival of Learning had been to make the acquisition of polite
knowledge difficult, and the proletariat was less cultivated then than
in the age of Dante. Men of ambition who desired to acquire a reputation
whether as soldiers or as poets, as politicians or as orators, came to
court and served their chosen prince in war or at the council-table, or
even in humbler offices of state. To be able, therefore, to conduct
himself with dignity, to know how to win the favor of his master and to
secure the good-will of his peers, to retain his personal honor and to
make himself respected without being hated, to inspire admiration and to
avoid envy, to outshine all honorable rivals in physical exercises and
the craft of arms, to maintain a credable equipage and retinue, to be
instructed in the arts of polite intercourse, to converse with ease and
wit, to be at home alike in the tilting-yard, the banquet-hall, the
boudoir, and the council-chamber, to understand diplomacy, to live
before the world and yet to keep a fitting privacy and distance,--these
and a hundred other matters were the climax and perfection of the
culture of a gentleman. Courts being now the only centers in which it
was possible for a man of birth and talents to shine, it followed that
the perfect courtier and the perfect gentleman were synonymous terms.
Castiglione's treatise may therefore be called an essay on the character
of the true gentleman as he appeared in Italy. Eliminating all qualities
that are special to any art or calling, he defines those essential
characteristics which were requisite for social excellence in the
sixteenth century. It is curious to observe how unchangeable are the
laws of real politeness and refinement. Castiglione's courtier is, with
one or two points of immaterial difference, a modern gentleman, such as
all men of education at the present day would wish to be.

The first requisite in the ideal courtier is that he must be noble. The
Count of Canossa, who proposed the subject of debate, lays down this as
an axiom. Gaspar Pallavicino denies the necessity[1] But after a lively
discussion, his opinion is overruled, on the ground that, although the
gentle virtues may be found among people of obscure origin, yet a man
who intends to be a courtier must start with the prestige of noble
birth. Next he must be skillful in the use of weapons and courageous in
the battle-field. He is not, however, bound to have the special science
of a general, nor must he in times of peace profess unique devotion to
the art of war: that would argue a coarseness of nature or vainglory.
Again, he must excel in all manly sports and exercises, so as, if
possible, to beat the actual professors of each game, or feat of skill
on their own ground. Yet here also he should avoid mere habits of
display, which are unworthy of a man who aspires to be a gentleman and
not an athlete. Another indispensable quality is gracefulness in all he
does and says. In order to secure this elegance, he must beware of every
form of affectation: 'Let him shun affectation, as though it were a most
perilous rock; and let him seek in everything a certain carelessness, to
hide his art, and show that what he says or does comes from him without
effort or deliberation.' This vice of affectation in all its kinds, and
the ways of avoiding it, are discussed with a delicacy of insight which
would do credit to a Chesterfield of the present century, sending forth
his son into society for the first time. Castiglione goes so far as to
condemn the pedantry of far-fetched words and the coxcombry of elaborate
costumes, as dangerous forms of affectation. His courtier must speak and
write with force and freedom. He need not be a purist in his use of
language, but may use such foreign phrases and modern idioms as are
current in good society, aiming only at simplicity and clearness. He
must add to excellence in arms polite culture in letters and sound
scholarship, avoiding that barbarism of the French, who think it
impossible to be a good soldier and an accomplished student at the same
time. Yet his learning should be always held in reserve, to give
brilliancy and flavor to his wit, and not brought forth for merely
erudite parade. He must have a practical acquaintance with music and
dancing; it would be well for him to sing and touch various stringed and
keyed instruments, so as to relax his own spirits and to make himself
agreeable to ladies. If he can compose verses and sing them to his own
accompaniment, so much the better. Finally, he ought to understand the
arts of painting and sculpture; for criticism, even though a man be
neither poet nor artist, is an elegant accomplishment. Such are the
principal qualities of the Cortegiano.

    [1] Italy, earlier than any other European nation, developed
    theoretical democracy. Dante had defined true nobility to consist of
    personal excellence in a man or in his ancestors; he also called
    'nobiltà' sister of 'filosofia.' Poggio in his 'Dialogue De
    Nobilitate,' into which he introduces Niccolo Niccoli and Lorenzo
    de' Medici (Cosimo's brother), decides that only merit constitutes
    true nobility. Hawking and hunting are far less noble occupations
    than agriculture; descent from a long line of historic criminals is
    no honor. French and English castle-life, and the robber-knighthood
    of Germany, he argues, are barbarous. Lorenzo pleads the authority
    of Aristotle in favor of noble blood; Poggio contests the passage
    quoted, and shows the superiority of the Latin word 'nobilitas'
    (distinction) over the Greek term [Greek: _eugeneia_] (good birth).
    The several kinds of aristocracy in Italy are then discussed. In
    Naples the nobles despise business and idle their time away. In Rome
    they manage their estates. In Venice and Genoa they engage in
    commerce. In Florence they either take to mercantile pursuits or
    live upon the produce of their land in idleness. The whole way of
    looking at the subject betrays a liberal and scientific spirit,
    wholly free from prejudice. Machiavelli ('Discorsi,' i. 55) is very
    severe on the aristocracy, whom he defines as 'those who live in
    idleness on the produce of their estates, without applying
    themselves to agriculture or to any other useful occupation.' He
    points out that the Venetian nobles are not properly so called,
    since they are merchants. The different districts of Italy had
    widely different conceptions of nobility. Naples was always
    aristocratic, owing to its connection with France and Spain. Ferrara
    maintained the chivalry of courts. Those states, on the other hand,
    which had been democratized, like Florence, by republican customs,
    or like Milan, by despotism, set less value on birth than on talent
    and wealth. It was not until the age of the Spanish ascendency
    (latter half of sixteenth century) that Cosimo I. withdrew the young
    Florentines from their mercantile pursuits and enrolled them in his
    order of S. Stephen, and that the patricians of Genoa carried
    daggers inscribed 'for the chastisement of villeins.'

The precepts which are laid down for the use of his acquirements and his
general conduct, resolve themselves into a strong recommendation of tact
and caution. The courtier must study the nature of his prince, and show
the greatest delicacy in approaching him, so as to secure his favor, and
to avoid wearying him with importunities. In tendering his advice he
must be modest; but he should make a point of never sacrificing his own
liberty of judgment. To obey his master in dishonorable things would be
a derogation from his dignity; and if he discovers any meanness in the
character of the prince, it is better to quit his service.[1] A courtier
must be careful to create beforehand a favorable opinion of himself in
places he intends to visit. Much stress is laid upon his choice of
clothes and the equipment of his servants. In these respects he should
aim at combining individuality with simplicity, so as to produce an
impression of novelty without extravagance or eccentricity. He must be
very cautious in his friendships, selecting his associates with care,
and admitting only one or two to intimacy.

    [1] From many passages in the 'Cortegiano' it is clear that
    Castiglione is painting the character of an independent gentleman,
    to whom self-culture in all humane excellence is of far more
    importance than the acquisition of the art of pleasing.
    Circumstances made the life of courts the best obtainable; but there
    is no trace of French 'oeil-de-boeuf' servility.

In connection with the general subject of tact and taste, the Cardinal
Bibbiena introduces an elaborate discussion of the different sorts of
jokes, which proves the high value attached in Italy to all displays of
wit. It appears that even practical jokes were not considered in bad
taste, but that irreverence and grossness were tabooed as boorish. Mere
obscenity is especially condemned, though it must be admitted that many
jests approved of at that time would now appear intolerable. But the
essential point to be aimed at then, as now, was the promotion of mirth
by cleverness, and not by mere tricks and clumsy inventions.

In bringing this chapter on Italian Despotism in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries to a conclusion, it will be well to cast a backward
glance over the ground which has been traversed. A great internal change
took place and was accomplished during this period. The free burghs
which flourished in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, gave place to
tyrannies, illegal for the most part in their origin, and maintained by
force. In the absence of dynastic right, violence and craft were
instruments by means of which the despots founded and preserved their
power. Yet the sentiments of the Italians at large were not unfavorable
to the growth of principalities. On the contrary, the forces which move
society, the inner instinct of the nation, and the laws of progress and
development, tended year by year more surely to the consolidation of
despotisms. City after city lost its faculty for self-government, until
at last Florence, so long the center of political freedom, fell beneath
the yoke of her merchant princes. It is difficult for the historian not
to feel either a monarchical or a republican bias. Yet this internal and
gradual revolution in the states of Italy may be regarded neither as a
matter for exultation in the cause of sovereignty, nor for lamentation
over the decay of liberty. It was but part of an inevitable process
which the Italians shared, according to the peculiarities of their
condition, in common with the rest of Europe.

In tracing the history of the Visconti and the Sforzas our attention has
been naturally directed to the private and political vices of the
despot. As a contrast to so much violence and treachery, we have studied
the character of one of the best princes produced in this period. Yet it
must be borne in mind that the Duke of Urbino was far less
representative of his class than Francesco Sforza, and that the aims and
notions of Gian Galeazzo Visconti formed the ideal to which an Italian
prince of spirit, if he had the opportunity, aspired. The history of art
and literature in this period belongs to another branch of the inquiry;
and a separate chapter must be devoted to the consideration of political
morality as theorized by the Italians at the end of these two centuries
of intrigue. But having insisted on the violence and vices of the
tyrants, it seemed necessary to close the review of their age by
describing the Italian nobleman as court-life made him. Castiglione
shows him at the very best: the darker shadows of the picture are
omitted; the requirements of the most finished culture and the tone of
the purest society in Italy are depicted with the elegance of a scholar
and the taste of a true gentleman. The fact remains that the various
influences at work in Italy during the age of the despots had rendered
the conception of this ideal possible. Nowhere else in Europe could a
portrait of so much dignity and sweetness, combining the courage of a
soldier with the learning of a student and the accomplishments of an
artist, the liberality of freedom with the courtesies of service, have
been painted from the life and been recognized as the model which all
members of polite society should imitate. Nobler characters and more
heroic virtues might have been produced by the Italian commonwealths if
they had continued to enjoy their ancient freedom of self-government.
Meanwhile we must render this justice to Italian despotism, that beneath
its shadow was developed the type of the modern gentleman.



The different Physiognomies of the Italian Republics--The Similarity of
their Character as Municipalities--The Rights of Citizenship--Causes of
Disturbance in the Commonwealths--Belief in the Plasticity of
Constitutions--Example of Genoa--Savonarola's
Constitution--Machiavelli's Discourse to Leo X.--Complexity of Interests
and Factions--Example of Siena--Small Size of Italian Cities--Mutual
Mistrust and Jealousy of the Commonwealths--The notable Exception of
Venice--Constitution of Venice--Her wise System of Government--Contrast
of Florentine Vicissitudes--The Magistracies of Florence--Balia and
Parlamento--The Arts of the Medici--Comparison of Venice and Florence in
respect to Intellectual Activity and Mobility--Parallels between Greece
and Italy--Essential Differences--The Mercantile Character of Italian
Burghs--The 'Trattato del Governo della Famiglia'--The Bourgeois Tone of
Florence, and the Ideal of a Burgher--Mercenary Arms.

The despotisms of Italy present the spectacle of states founded upon
force, controlled and molded by the will of princes, whose object in
each case has been to maintain usurped power by means of mercenary arms
and to deprive the people of political activity. Thus the Italian
principalities, however they may differ in their origin, the character
of their administration, or their relation to Church and Empire, all
tend to one type. The egotism of the despot, conscious of his selfish
aims and deliberate in their execution, formed the motive principle in
all alike.

The republics on the contrary are distinguished by strongly marked
characteristics. The history of each is the history of the development
of certain specific qualities, which modified the type of municipal
organization common to them all. Their differences consist chiefly in
the varying forms which institutions of a radically similar design
assumed, and also in those peculiar local conditions which made the
Venetians Levant merchants, the Perugians captains of adventure, the
Genoese admirals and pirates, the Florentines bankers, and so forth.
Each commonwealth contracted a certain physiognomy through the prolonged
action of external circumstances and by the maintenance of some
political predilection. Thus Siena, excluded from maritime commerce by
its situation, remained, broadly speaking, faithful to the Ghibelline
party; while Perugia at the distance of a few miles, equally debarred
from mercantile expansion, maintained the Guelf cause with pertinacity.
The annals of the one city record a long succession of complicated party
quarrels, throughout the course of which the State continued free; the
Guelf leanings of the other exposed it to the gradual encroachment of
the Popes, while its civic independence was imperiled and enfeebled by
the contests of a few noble families. Lucca and Pistoja in like manner
are strongly contrasted, the latter persisting in a state of feud and
faction which delivered it bound hand and foot to Florence, the former
after many vicissitudes attaining internal quiet under the dominion of a
narrow oligarchy.

But while recognizing these differences, which manifest themselves
partly in what may be described as national characteristics, and partly
in constitutional varieties, we may trace one course of historical
progression in all except Venice. This is what natural philosophers
might call the morphology of Italian commonwealths. To begin with, the
Italian republics were all municipalities. That is, like the Greek
states, they consisted of a small body of burghers, who alone had the
privileges of government, together with a larger population, who,
though they paid taxes and shared the commercial and social advantages
of the city had no voice in its administration. Citizenship was
hereditary in those families by whom it had been once acquired, each
republic having its own criterion of the right, and guarding it
jealously against the encroachments of non-qualified persons. In
Florence, for example, the burgher must belong to one of the Arts.[1]
In Venice his name must be inscribed upon the Golden Book. The
rivalries to which this system of municipal government gave rise were a
chief source of internal weakness to the commonwealths. Nor did the
burghers see far enough or philosophically enough to recruit their
numbers by a continuous admission of new members from the wealthy but
unfranchised citizens.[2] This alone could have saved them from the
death by dwindling and decay to which they were exposed. The Italian
conception of citizenship may be set forth in the words of one of their
acutest critics, Donato Giannotti, who writes concerning the electors
in a state:[3] 'Non dico tutti gli abitanti della terra, ma tutti
quelli che hanno grado; cioè che hanno acquistato, o eglino o gli
antichi loro, facultà d'ottenere i magistrate; e in somma che sono
_participes imperandi et parendi_.' No Italian had any notion of
representative government in our sense of the term. The problem was
always how to put the administration of the state most conveniently
into the hands of the fittest among those who were qualified as
burghers, and how to give each burgher his due share in the government;
not how to select men delegated from the whole population. The wisest
among their philosophical politicians sought to establish a mixed
constitution, which should combine the advantages of principality,
aristocracy, and democracy. Starting with the fact that the eligible
burghers numbered some 5,000, and with the assumption that among these
the larger portion would be content with freedom and a voice in the
administration, while a certain body were ambitious of honorable
distinctions, and a few aspired to the pomp of titular presidency, they
thought that these several desires might be satisfied and reconciled in
a republic composed of a general assembly of the citizens, a select
Senate, and a Doge. In these theories the influence of Aristotelian
studies[4] and the example of Venice are apparent. At the same time it
is noticeable that no account whatever is taken of the remaining 95,000
who contributed their wealth and industry to the prosperity of the
city.[5] The theory of the State rests upon no abstract principle like
that of the divine right of the Empire, which determined Dante's
speculation in the Middle Ages, or that of the divine right of kings,
with which we Englishmen were made familiar in the seventeenth century,
or that again of the rights of men, on which the democracies of France
and America were founded. The right contemplated by the Italian
politicians is that of the burghers to rule the commonwealth for their
advantage. As a matter of fact, Venice was the only Italian republic
which maintained this kind of oligarchy with success through centuries
of internal tranquillity. The rest were exposed to a series of
revolutions which ended at last in their enslavement.

    [1] Villari, _Life of Savonarola_, vol. i. p. 259, may be consulted
    concerning the further distinction of Benefiziati, Statuali,
    Aggravezzati, at Florence. See also Varchi, vol. i. pp. 165-70.
    Consult Appendix ii.

    [2] It must be mentioned that a provision for admitting deserving
    individuals to citizenship formed part of the Florentine
    Constitution of 1495. The principle was not, however, recognized at
    large by the republics.

    [3] On the Government of Siena (vol. i. p. 351 of his collected
    works): 'I say not all the inhabitants of the state, but all those
    who have rank; that is, who have acquired, either in their own
    persons or through their ancestors, the right of taking magistracy,
    in short those who are participes imperandi et parendi.' What has
    already been said in Chapter II. about the origin of the Italian
    Republics will explain this definition of burghership.

    [4] It would be very interesting to trace in detail the influence of
    Aristotle's Politics upon the practical and theoretical statists of
    the Renaissance. The whole of Giannotti's works; the discourses of
    de' Pazzi, Vettori, Acciaiuoli, and the two Guicciardini on the
    State of Florence (_Arch. St. It._ vol. i.); and Machiavelli's
    _Discorso sul Reggimento di Firenze_, addressed to Leo X.,
    illustrate in general the working of Aristotelian ideas. At
    Florence, in 1495, Savonarola urged his Constitution on the burghers
    by appeals to Aristotle's doctrine and to the example of Venice [see
    Segni, p. 15, and compare the speeches of Pagolo Antonio Soderini
    and Guido Antonio Vespucci, in Guicciardini's _Istoria d' Italia_,
    vol. ii. p. 155 of Rosini's edition, on the same occasion]. Segni,
    p. 86, mentions a speech of Pier Filippo Pandolfini, the arguments
    of which, he says, were drawn from Aristotle and illustrated by
    Florentine history. The Italian doctrinaires seem to have imagined
    that, by clever manipulation of existing institutions, they could
    construct a state similar to that called [Greek: _politeia_] by
    Aristotle, in which all sections of the community should be fairly
    represented. Venice, meanwhile, was a practical instance of the
    possible prosperity of such a constitution with a strong
    oligarchical complexion.

    [5] These numbers, 100,000 for the population, and 5,000 for the
    burghers, are stated roundly. In Florence, when the Consiglio
    Maggiore was opened in 1495, it was found that the Florentines
    altogether numbered about 90,000, while the qualified burghers were
    not more than 3,200. In 1581 the population of Venice numbered
    134,890, whereof 1,843 were adult patricians [see below, p. 209].

Intolerant of foreign rule, and blinded by the theoretical supremacy of
the Empire to the need of looking beyond its own municipal institutions,
each city in the twelfth century sought to introduce such a system into
the already existing machinery of the burgh as should secure its
independence and place the government in the hands of its citizens. But
the passing of bad laws, or the non-observance of wise regulations, or,
again, the passions of individuals and parties, soon disturbed the
equilibrium established in these little communities. Desire for more
power than their due prompted one section of the burghers to violence.
The love of independence, or simple insubordination, drove another
portion to resistance. Matters were further complicated by resident or
neighboring nobles. Then followed the wars of factions, proscriptions,
and exiles. Having banished their rivals, the party in power for the
time being remodeled the institutions of the republic to suit their own
particular interest. Meanwhile the opposition in exile fomented every
element of discontent within the city, which this short-sighted policy
was sure to foster. Sudden revolutions were the result, attended in most
cases by massacres consequent upon the victorious return of the outlaws.
To the action of these peccant humors--_umori_ is the word applied by
the elder Florentine historians to the troubles attendant upon
factions--must be added the jealousy of neighboring cities, the cupidity
of intriguing princes, the partisanship of the Guelfs and Ghibellines,
the treason and the egotism of mercenary generals, and the false foreign
policy which led the Italians to rely for aid on France or Germany or
Spain. Little by little, under the prolonged action of these disturbing
forces, each republic in turn became weaker, more confused in policy,
more mistrustful of itself and its own citizens, more subdivided into
petty but ineradicable factions, until at last it fell a prey either to
some foreign potentate, or to the Church, or else to an ambitious family
among its members. The small scale of the Italian commonwealths, taken
singly, favored rapid change, and gave an undue value to distinguished
wealth or unscrupulous ability among the burghers. The oscillation
between democracy and aristocracy and back again, the repetition of
exhausting discords, and the demoralizing influences of occasional
despotism, so broke the spirit of each commonwealth that in the end the
citizens forgot their ancient zeal for liberty, and were glad to accept
tyranny for the sake of the protection it professed to extend to life
and property.

To these vicissitudes all the republics of Italy, with the exception of
Venice, were subject. In like manner, they shared in common the belief
that constitutions could be made at will, that the commonwealth was
something plastic, capable of taking the complexion and the form
impressed upon it by speculative politicians. So firmly rooted was this
conviction, and so highly self-conscious had the statesmen of Italy
become, partly by the experience of their shifting history, and partly
by their study of antiquity, that the idea of the State as something
possessed of organic vitality can scarcely be said to have existed among
them. The principle of gradual growth, which gives its value, for
example, to the English Constitution, was not recognized by the
Italians. Nor again had their past history taught them the necessity, so
well defined and recognized by the Greek statesmen, of maintaining a
fixed character at any cost in republics, which, in spite of their small
scale, aspired to permanence.[1] The most violent and arbitrary changes
which the speculative faculty of a theorist could contrive, or which the
prejudices of a party could impose, seemed to them not only possible but

    [1] The value of the [Greek: _êthos_] was not wholly unrecognized by
    political theorists. Giannotti (vol. i. p. 160, and vol. ii. p. 13),
    for example translates it by the word 'temperamento.'

A very notable instance of this tendency to treat the State as a plastic
product of political ingenuity, is afforded by the annals of Genoa.
After suffering for centuries from the vicissitudes common to all
Italian free cities--discords between the Guelf and Ghibelline factions,
between the nobles and the people, between the enfranchised citizens and
the proletariat--after submitting to the rule of foreign masters,
especially of France and Milan, and after being torn in pieces by the
rival houses of Adorni and Fregosi, the Genoese at last received liberty
from the hands of Andrea Doria in 1528. They then proceeded to form a
new Constitution for the protection of their freedom; and in order to
destroy the memory of the old parties which had caused their ruin, they
obliterated all their family names with the exception of twenty, under
one or other of which the whole body of citizens were bound to enroll
themselves.[1] This was nothing less than an attempt to create new
_gentes_ by effacing the distinctions established by nature and
tradition. To parallel a scheme so artificial in its method, we must go
back to the history of Sicyon and the changes wrought in the Dorian
tribes by Cleisthenes.

    [1] See Varchi, _St. F._ lib. vii. cap. 3.

Short of such violent expedients as these, the whole history of towns
like Florence reveals a succession of similar attempts. When, for
example, the Medici had been expelled in 1494, the Florentines found
themselves without a working constitution, and proceeded to frame one.
The matter was at first referred to two eminent jurists, Guido Antonio
Vespucci and Paolo Antonio Soderini, who argued for and against the
establishment of a Grand Council on the Venetian model, before the
Signory in the Palazzo. At this juncture Savonarola in his sermon for
the third Sunday in Advent[1] suggested that each of the sixteen
Companies should form a plan, that these should be submitted to the
Gonfaloniers, who should choose the four best, and that from these four
the Signory should select the most perfect. At the same time he
pronounced himself in favor of an imitation of the Venetian Consiglio
Grande. His scheme, as is well known, was adopted.[2] Running through
the whole political writings of the Florentine philosophers and
historians, we find the same belief in artificial and arbitrary
alterations of the state. Machiavelli pronounces his opinion that, in
spite of the corruption of Florence, a wise legislator might effect her
salvation.[3] Skill alone was needed. There lay the wax; the scientific
artist had only to set to his hand and model it.

    [1] December 12, 1494.

    [2] Segni (pp. 15, 16) says that Savonarola deserved to be honored
    for this Constitution by the Florentines no less than Numa by the
    Romans. Varchi (vol. i. p. 169) judges the Consiglio Grande to have
    been the only good institution ever adopted by the Florentines. We
    may compare Giannotti (_Sopra la Repubblica di Siena_ p. 346) for a
    similar opinion. Guicciardini, both in the _Storia d' Italia_ and
    the _Storia di Firenze_, gives to Savonarola the whole credit of
    having passed this Constitution. Nardi and Pitti might be cited to
    the same effect. None of these critics doubt for a moment that what
    was theoretically best ought to have been found practically

    [3] _St. Fior._ lib. iii. 1. 'Firenze a quel grado è pervenuta che
    facilmente da uno savio dator di leggi potrebbe essere in qualunque
    forma di governo riordinata.'

This is the dominant thought which pervades his treatise on the right
ordering of the State of Florence addressed to Leo X.[1] A more
consummate piece of political mechanism than that devised by Machiavelli
in this essay can hardly be imagined. It is like a clock with separate
actions for hours, minutes, seconds, and the revolutions of the moon and
planets. All the complicated interest of parties and classes in the
state, the traditional pre-eminence of the Medicean family, the rights
of the Church, and the relation of Florence to foreign powers, have been
carefully considered and provided for. The defect of this consummate
work of art is that it remained a mere machine, devised to meet the
exigencies of the moment, and powerless against such perturbations as
the characters and passions of living men must introduce into the
working of a Commonwealth. Had Florence been a colony established in a
new country with no neighbors but savages, or had it been an institution
protected from without against the cupidity of selfish rivals, then
such a constitution might have been imposed on it with profit. But to
expect that a city dominated by ancient prejudices, connected by a
thousand subtle ties not only with the rest of Italy but also with the
states of Europe, and rotten to the core in many of its most important
members, could be restored to pristine vigor by a doctrinaire however
able, was chimerical. The course of events contradicted this vain
expectation. Meanwhile a few clear-headed and positive observers were
dimly conscious of the instability of merely speculative
constitution-making. Varchi, in a weighty passage on the defects of the
Florentine republic, points out that its weakness arose partly from the
violence of factions, but also in a great measure from the implicit
faith reposed in doctors of the law.[2] The history of the Florentine
Constitution, he says, is the history of changes effected by successions
of mutually hostile parties, each in its own interest subverting the
work of its predecessor, and each in turn relying on the theories of
jurists, who without practical genius for politics make arbitrary rules
for the control of state-affairs. Yet even Varchi shares the prevailing
conviction that the proper method is first to excogitate a perfect
political system, and then to impress that like a stamp upon the
material of the commonwealth. His criticism is directed against lawyers,
not against philosophers and practical diplomatists.

    [1] The language of this treatise is noteworthy. After discoursing
    on the differences between republics and principalities, and showing
    that Florence is more suited to the former, and Milan to the latter,
    form of government, he says: 'Ma perchè _fare_ principato dove
    starebbe bene repubblica,' etc. ... 'si perche Firenze _è subietto
    attissimo di pigliare questa forma_,' etc. The phrases in italics
    show how thoroughly Machiavelli regarded the commonwealth as
    plastic. We may compare the whole of Guicciardini's elaborate essay
    'Del Reggimento di Firenze' (_Op. Ined._ vol. ii.), as well as the
    'Discourses' addressed by Alessandro de' Pazzi, Francesco Vettori,
    Ruberto Acciaiuoli, Francesco Guicciardini, and Luigi Guicciardini,
    to the Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, on the settlement of the
    Florentine Constitution in 1522 (_Arch. Stor._ vol. i.). Not one of
    these men doubted that his nostrum would effect the cure of the
    republic undermined by slow consumption.

    [2] _St. Fior._ lib. vi. cap. 4; vol. i. p. 294.

In this sense and to this extent were the republics of Italy the
products of constructive skill; and great was the political sagacity
educed among the Italians by this state of things. The citizens
reflected on the past, compared their institutions with those of
neighboring states, studied antiquity, and applied the whole of their
intelligence to the one aim of giving a certain defined form to the
commonwealth. Prejudice and passion distorted their schemes, and each
successive modification of the government was apt to have a merely
temporary object. Thus the republics, as I have already hinted, lacked
that safeguard which the Greek states gained by clinging each to its own
character. The Greeks were no less self-conscious in their political
practice and philosophy; but after the age of the Nomothetæ, when they
had experienced nearly every phase through which a commonwealth can
pass, they recognized the importance of maintaining the traditional
character of their constitutions inviolate. Sparta adhered with singular
tenacity to the code of Lycurgus; and the Athenians, while they advanced
from step to step in the development of a democracy, were bent on
realizing the ideal they had set before them.

Religion, which in Greece, owing to its local and genealogical
character, was favorable to this stability, proved in Italy one of the
most potent causes of disorder. The Greek city grew up under the
protection of a local deity, whose blood had been transmitted in many
instances to the chief families of the burgh. This ancestral god gave
independence and autonomy to the State; and when the Nomothetes
appeared, he was understood to have interpreted and formulated the
inherent law that animated the body politic. Thus the commonwealth was a
divinely founded and divinely directed organism, self-sufficing, with no
dependence upon foreign sanction, with no question of its right. The
Italian cities, on the contrary, derived their law from the common _jus_
of the Imperial system, their religion from the common font of
Christianity. They could not forget their origin, wrung with difficulty
from existing institutions which preceded them and which still remained
ascendant in the world of civilized humanity. The self-reliant autonomy
of a Greek state, owing allegiance only to its protective deity and its
inherent Nomos, had no parallel in Italy outside Venice. All the other
republics were conscious of dependence on external power, and regarded
themselves as _ab initio_ artificial rather than natural creations.

Long before a true constitutional complexion had been given to any
Italian State but Venice, parties had sprung up, and taken such firm
root that the subsequent history of the republics was the record of
their factions. To this point I have already alluded; but it is too
important to be passed by without further illustration. The great
division of Guelf and Ghibelline introduced a vital discord into each
section of the people, by establishing two antagonistic theories
respecting the right of supreme government. Then followed subordinate
quarrels of the nobles with the townsfolk, schisms between the
wealthier and poorer burghers, jealousies of the artisans and merchants,
and factions for one or other eminent family. These different elements
of discord succeed each other with astonishing rapidity; and as each
gives place to another, it leaves a portion of its mischief rankling in
the body politic, until last there remains no possibility of
self-government.[1] The history of Florence, or Genoa, or Pistoja would
supply us with ample illustrations of each of these obstacles to the
formation of a solid political temperament. But Siena furnishes perhaps
the best example of the extent to which such feuds could disturb a
state. The way in which this city conducted its government for a long
course of years, justified Varchi in calling it 'a jumble, so to speak,
and chaos of republics, rather than a well-ordered and disciplined
commonwealth.'[2] The discords of Siena were wholly internal. They
proceeded from the wrangling of five successive factions, or Monti, as
the people of Siena called them. The first of these was termed the
_Monte de' Nobili_; for Siena, like all Italian free burghs, had
originally been controlled by certain noble families, who formed the
people and excluded the other citizens from offices of state. In course
of time the plebeians acquired wealth, and the nobles split into parties
among themselves. To such a pitch were the quarrels of these nobles
carried, that at last they found it impossible to conduct the
government, and agreed to relinquish it for a season to nine plebeian
families chosen from among the richest and most influential. This gave
rise to the _Monte de' Nove_, who were supposed to hold the city in
commission for the nobles, while the latter devoted themselves to the
prosecution of their private animosities. Weakened by feuds, the
patricians fell a prey to their own creatures, the _Monte de' Nove_, who
in their turn ruled Siena like oligarchs, refusing to give up the power
which had been intrusted to them. In time, however, their insolence
became insufferable. The populace rebelled, deposed the _Nove_, and
invested with supreme authority twelve other families of mixed origin.
The _Monte de' Dodici_, created after this fashion, ran nearly the same
course as their predecessors, except that they appear to have
administered the city equitably. Getting tired of this form of
government, the people next superseded them by sixteen men, chosen from
the dregs of the plebeians, who assumed the title of _Riformatori_. This
new _Monte de' Sedici_ or _de' Riformatori_ showed much integrity in
their management of affairs, but, as is the wont of red republicans,
they were not averse to bloodshed. Their cruelty caused the people, with
the help of the surviving patrician houses, together with the _Nove_
and the _Dodici_, to rise and shake them off. The last governing body
formed in this diabolical five-part fugue of crazy statecraft received
the name of _Monte del Popolo_, because it included all who were then
eligible to the Great Council of the State. Yet the factions of the
elder _Monti_ still survived; and to what extent they had absorbed the
population may be gathered from the fact that, on the defeat of the
_Riformatori_, 4,500 of the Sienese were exiled. It must be borne in
mind that with the creation of each new _Monte_ a new party formed
itself in the city, and the traditions of these parties were handed down
from generation to generation. At last, in the beginning of the
sixteenth century, Pandolfo Petrucci, who belonged to the _Monte de'
Nove_, made himself in reality, if not in name, the master of Siena, and
the Duke of Florence, later on in the same century extended his dominion
over the republic.[3] There is something almost grotesque in the bare
recital of these successive factions; yet we must remember that beneath
their dry names they conceal all elements of class and party discord.

    [1] Machiavelli, in spite of his love of freedom, says (_St. Fior._
    lib. vii. 1): 'Coloro che sperano che una repubblica possa essere
    unita assai di questa speranza s'ingannano.'

    [2] Vol. i. pp. 324-30. See, too, Segni, p. 213, and Giannotti, vol.
    i. p. 341. De Comines describes Siena thus: 'La ville est de tout
    temps en partialité, et se gouverne plus follement que ville

    [3] Siena capitulated, in 1555, to the Spanish troops, who resigned
    it to Duke Cosmo I. in 1557.

What rendered the growth of parties still more pernicious, as already
mentioned, was the smallness of Italian republics. Varchi reckoned
10,000 _fuochi_ in Florence, 50,000 _bocche_ of seculars, and 20,000
_bocche_ of religious. According to Zuccagni Orlandini there were 90,000
Florentines in 1495, of whom only 3,200 were burghers. Venice, according
to Giannotti, counted at about the same period 20,000 _fuochi_, each of
which supplied the state with two men fit to bear arms. These
calculations, though obviously rough and based upon no accurate returns,
show that a republic of 100,000 souls, of whom 5,000 should be citizens,
would have taken distinguished rank among Italian cities.[1] In a state
of this size, divided by feuds of every kind, from the highest political
antagonism down to the meanest personal antipathy, changes were very
easily effected. The slightest disturbance of the equilibrium in any
quarter made itself felt throughout the city.[2] The opinions of each
burgher were known and calculated. Individuals, by their wealth, their
power of aiding or of suppressing poorer citizens, and the force of
their personal ability, acquired a perilous importance. At Florence the
political balance was so nicely adjusted that the ringing of the great
bell in the Palazzo meant a revolution, and to raise the cry of _Palle_
in the streets was tantamount to an outbreak in the Medicean interest.
To call aloud _Popolo e libertà_ was nothing less than riot punishable
by law. Segni tells how Jacopino Alamanni, having used these words near
the statue of David on the Piazza in a personal quarrel, was beheaded
for it the same day.[3] The secession of three or four families from one
faction to another altered the political situation of a whole republic,
and led perhaps to the exile of a sixth part of the enfranchised
population.[4] After this would follow the intrigues of the outlaws
eager to return, including negotiations with lukewarm party-leaders in
the city, alliances with hostile states, and contracts which compromised
the future conduct of the commonwealth in the interest of a few
revengeful citizens. The biographies of such men as Cosimo de' Medici
the elder and Filippo Strozzi throw the strongest light upon these
delicacies and complexities of party politics in Florence.

    [1] It may be worth while to compare the accurate return of the
    Venetian population in 1581 furnished by Yriarte (Vie d'un Patricien
    de Venise, p. 96). The whole number of the inhabitants was 134,600.
    Of these 1,843 were adult patricians; 4,309 women and children of
    the patrician class; Cittadini of all ages and both sexes, 3,553;
    monks, nuns, and priests, 3,969; Jews, 1,043; beggars, 187.

    [2] We might mention, as famous instances, the Neri and Bianchi
    factions introduced into Pistoja in 1296 by a quarrel of the
    Cancellieri family, the dismemberment of Florence in 1215 by a feud
    between the Buondelmonti and Amidei, the tragedy of Imelda
    Lambertazzi, which upset Bologna in 1273, the student riot which
    nearly delivered Bologna into the hands of Roméo de' Pepoli in 1321,
    the whole action of the Strozzi family at the period of the
    extinction of Florentine liberty, the petty jealousies of the Cerchi
    and Donati detailed by Dino Compagni, in 1294.

    [3] Segni, _St. Fior_. p. 53.

    [4] As an instance, take what Marco Foscari reported in 1527 to the
    Venetian Senate respecting the parties in Florence (_Rel. Ven._
    serie ii. vol. i. p. 70). The _Compagnacci_, one of the three great
    parties, only numbered 800 persons.

In addition to the evils of internal factions we must reckon all the
sources of mutual mistrust to which the republics were exposed. As the
Italians had no notion of representative government, so they never
conceived a confederation. The thirst for autonomy in each state was as
great as of old among the cities of Greece. To be independent of a
sister republic, though such freedom were bought at the price of the
tyranny of a native family was the first object of every commonwealth.
At the same time this passion for independence was only equaled by the
greed of foreign usurpation. The second object of each republic was to
extend its power at the expense of its neighbors. As Pisa swallowed
Amalfi, so Genoa destroyed Pisa, and Venice did her best to cripple
Genoa. Florence obliterated the rival burgh of Semifonte, and Milan
twice reduced Piacenza to a wilderness. The notion that the great
maritime powers of Italy or the leading cities of Lombardy should
permanently co-operate for a common purpose was never for a moment
entertained. Such leagues as were formed were understood to be
temporary. When their immediate object had been gained, the members
returned to their initial rivalries. Milan, when, on the occasion of
Filippo Maria Visconti's death, she had a chance of freedom, refused to
recognize the liberties of the Lombard cities, and fell a prey to
Francesco Sforza. Florence, under the pernicious policy of Cosimo de'
Medici, helped to enslave Milan and Bologna instead of entering into a
republican league against their common foes, the tyrants. Pisa, Arezzo,
and the other subject cities of Tuscany were treated by her with such
selfish harshness that they proved her chiefest peril in the hour of
need.[1] Competition in commerce increased the mutual hatred of the
free burghs. States like Venice, Florence, Pisa, Genoa, depending for
their existence upon mercantile wealth, and governed by men of
business, took every opportunity they could of ruining a rival in the
market. So mean and narrow was the spirit of Italian policy that no one
accounted it unpatriotic or dishonorable for Florence to suck the very
life out of Pisa, or for Venice to strangle a competitor so dangerous
as Genoa.

    [1] See the instructions furnished to Averardo dei Medici, quoted by
    Von Reumont in his _Life of Lorenzo_, vol. ii. p. 122, German

Thus the jealousy of state against state, of party against party, and of
family against family, held Italy in perpetual disunion; while
diplomatic habits were contracted which rendered the adoption of any
simple policy impossible. When the time came for the Italians to cope
with the great nations of Europe, the republics of Venice, Genoa, Milan,
Florence ought to have been leagued together and supported by the weight
of the Papal authority. They might then have stood against the world.
Instead of that, these cities presented nothing but mutual rancors,
hostilities, and jealousies to the common enemy. Moreover, the Italians
were so used to petty intrigues and to a system of balance of power
within the peninsula, that they could not comprehend the magnitude of
the impending danger. It was difficult for a politician of the
Renaissance, accustomed to the small theater of Italian diplomacy,
schooled in the traditions of Lorenzo de' Medici, swayed in his
calculations by the old pretensions of Pope and Emperor, dominated by
the dread of Venice, Milan, and Naples, and as yet but dimly conscious
of the true force of France or Spain, to conceive that absolutely the
only chance of Italy lay in union at any cost and under any form.
Machiavelli indeed seems too late to have discerned this truth. But he
had been lessoned by events, which rendered the realization of his
cherished schemes impossible; nor, could he find a Prince powerful
enough to attempt his Utopia. Of the Republics he had abandoned all

To the laws which governed the other republics of Italy, Venice offered
in many respects a notable exception. Divided from the rest of Italy by
the lagoons, and directed by her commerce to the Eastern shores of the
Mediterranean, Venice took no part in the factions which rent the rest
of the peninsula, and had comparatively little to fear from foreign
invasion. Her attitude was one of proud and almost scornful isolation.
In the Lombard Wars of Independence she remained neutral, and her name
does not appear among the Signataries to the Peace of Constance. Both
the Papacy and the Empire recognized her independence. Her true policy
consisted in consolidating her maritime empire and holding aloof from
the affairs of Italy. As long as she adhered to this course, she
remained the envy and the admiration of the rest of Europe.[1] It was
only when she sought to extend her hold upon the mainland that she
aroused the animosity of the Italian powers, and had to bear the brunt
of the League of Cambray alone.[2] Her selfish prudence had been a
source of dread long before this epoch: when she became aggressive, she
was recognized as a common and intolerable enemy.

    [1] De Comines, in his _Memoirs of the Reign of Charles VIII._ (tom.
    ii. p, 69), draws a striking picture of the impression made upon his
    mind by the good government of the state of Venice. This may be
    compared with what he says of the folly of Siena.

    [2] See Mach. _1st. Fior._ lib. i. 'Avendo loro con il tempo
    occupata Padova, Vicenza, Trevigi, e dipoi Verona, Bergamo e
    Brescia, e nel Reame e in Romagna molte città, cacciati dalla
    cupidità del dominare vennero in tanta opinione di potenza, che non
    solamente ai principi Italiani ma ai Rè oltramontani erano in
    terrore. Onde congiurati quelli contra di loro, in un giorno fu
    tolto loro quello stato che si avevano in molti anni con infiniti
    spendii guadagnato. E benchè ne abbino in questi ultimi tempi
    racquistato parte, non avendo racquistata nè la riputazione, nè le
    forze, a discrezione d'altri, come tutti gli altri principi Italiani
    vivono.' It was Francesco Foscari who first to any important extent
    led the republic astray from its old policy. He meddled in Italian
    affairs, and sought to encroach upon the mainland. For this, and for
    the undue popularity he acquired thereby, the Council of Ten
    subjected him and his son Jacopo to the most frightfully protracted
    martyrdom that a relentless oligarchy has ever inflicted [1445-57].

The external security of Venice was equaled by her internal repose.
Owing to continued freedom from party quarrels, the Venetians were able
to pursue a consistent course of constitutional development. They in
fact alone of the Italian cities established and preserved the character
of their state. Having originally founded a republic under the
presidency of a Doge, who combined the offices of general and judge, and
ruled in concert with a representative council of the chief citizens
(697-1172), the Venetians by degrees caused this form of government to
assume a strictly oligarchical character. They began by limiting the
authority of the Doge, who, though elected for life, was in 1032
forbidden to associate his son in the supreme office of the state. In
1172 the election of the Doge was transferred from the people to the
Grand Council, who, as a co-opting body, tended to become a close
aristocracy. In 1179 the Ducal power was still further restricted by the
creation of a senate called the Quarantia for the administration of
justice; while in 1229 the Senate of the Pregadi, interposed between the
Doge and the Grand Council, became an integral part of the constitution.
To this latter Senate were assigned all deliberations upon peace and
war, the voting of supplies, the confirmation of laws. Both the
Quarantia and the Pregadi were elected by the Consiglio Grande, which by
this time had become the virtual sovereign of the State of Venice. It is
not necessary here to mention the further checks imposed upon the power
of the Doges by the institution of officials named Correttori and
Inquisitori, whose special business it was to see that the coronation
oaths were duly observed, or by the regulations which prevented the
supreme magistrate from taking any important action except in concert
with carefully selected colleagues. Enough has been said to show that
the constitution of Venice was a pyramid resting upon the basis of the
Grand Council and rising to an ornamented apex, through the Senate, and
the College, in the Doge. But in adopting this old simile--originally
the happy thought of Donato Giannotti, it is said[1]--we must not
forget that the vital force of the Grand Council was felt throughout
the whole of this elaborate system, and that the same individuals were
constantly appearing in different capacities. It is this which makes the
great event of the years 1297-1319 so all-important for the future
destinies of Venice. At this period the Grand Council was restricted to
a certain number of noble families who had henceforth the hereditary
right to belong to it. Every descendant of a member of the Grand Council
could take his seat there at the age of twenty-five; and no new
families, except upon the most extraordinary occasions, were admitted to
this privilege.[2] By the Closing of the Grand Council, as the
ordinances of this crisis were termed, the administration of Venice was
vested for perpetuity in the hands of a few great houses. The final
completion was given to the oligarchy in 1311 by the establishment of
the celebrated Council of Ten,[3] who exercised a supervision over all
the magistracies, constituted the Supreme Court of judicature, and ended
by controlling the whole foreign and internal policy of Venice. The
changes which I have thus briefly indicated are not to be regarded as
violent alterations in the constitution, but rather as successive steps
in its development. Even the Council of Ten, which seems at first sight
the most tyrannous state-engine ever devised for the enslavement of a
nation, was in reality a natural climax to the evolution which had been
consistently advancing since the year 1172. Created originally during
the troublous times which succeeded the closing of the Grand Council,
for the express purpose of curbing unruly nobles and preventing the
emergence of conspirators like Tiepolo, the Council of Ten were
specially designed to act as a check upon the several orders in the
state and to preserve its oligarchical character inviolate. They were
elected by the Consiglio Grande, and at the expiration of their office
were liable to render strict account of all that they had done. Nor was
this magistracy coveted by the Venetian nobles. On the contrary, so
burdensome were its duties, and so great was the odium which from time
to time the Ten incurred in the discharge of their functions, that it
was not always found easy to fill up their vacancies. A law had even to
be passed that the Ten had not completed their magistracy before their
successors were appointed.[4] They may therefore be regarded as a select
committee of the citizens, who voluntarily delegated dictatorial powers
to this small body in order to maintain their own ascendency, to
centralize the conduct of important affairs, to preserve secrecy in the
administration of the republic, and to avoid the criticism to which the
more public government of states like Florence was exposed.[5] The
weakness of this portion of the state machinery was this: created with
ill-defined and almost unlimited authority,[6] designed to supersede the
other public functionaries on occasions of great moment, and composed of
men whose ability placed them in the very first rank of citizens, the
Ten could scarcely fail, as time advanced, to become a permanently
oppressive power--a despotism within the bosom of an oligarchy. Thus in
the whole mechanism of the state of Venice we trace the action of a
permanent aristocracy tolerating, with a view to its own supremacy, an
amount of magisterial control which in certain cases, like that of the
two Foscari, amounted to the sternest tyranny. By submitting to the
Council of Ten the nobility of Venice secured its hold upon the people
and preserved unity in its policy.

    [1] Vol. ii. of his works, p. 37. On p. 29 he describes the
    population of Venice as divided into 'Popolari,' or plebeians,
    exercising small industries, and so forth: 'Cittadini,' or the
    middle class, born in the state, and of more importance than the
    plebeians; 'Gentiluomini,' or masters of Venice by sea and land,
    about 3,000 in number, corresponding to the burghers of Florence.
    What he says about the Constitution refers solely to this upper
    class. The elaborate work of M. Yriarte, _La Vie d'un Patricien de
    Venise an Seizième Siècle_, Paris, 1874, contains a complete
    analysis of the Venetian state-machine. See in particular what he
    says about the helplessness of the Doges, ch. xiii. 'Rex in foro,
    senator in curiâ, captivus in aulâ,' was a current phrase which
    expressed the contrast between their dignity of parade and real
    servitude. They had no personal freedom, and were always ruined by
    office. It was necessary to pass a law compelling the Doge elect to
    accept the onerous distinction thrust upon him. The Venetian
    oligarchs argued that it was good that one man should die for the

    [2] See Giannotti, vol. ii. p. 55, for the mention of fifteen,
    admitted on the occasion of Baiamonte Tiepolo's conspiracy, and of
    thirty ennobled during the Genoese war.

    [3] The actual number of this Council was seventeen, for the Ten
    associated with the Signoria, which consisted of the Doge and six

    [4] Giannotti, vol. ii. p. 123.

    [5] The diplomatic difficulties of a popular government, a 'governo
    largo,' as opposed to a 'governo stretto,' are set forth with great
    acumen by Guicciardini, _Op. Ined._ vol. ii. p. 84. Cf. vol. iii. p.

    [6] 'è la sua autorità pari a quella del Consiglio de' Pregati e di
    utta la città,' says Giannotti, vol. ii. p. 120.

No state has ever exercised a greater spell of fascination over its
citizens than Venice. Of treason against the Republic there was little.
Against the decrees of the Council, arbitrary though they might be, no
one sought to rebel. The Venetian bowed in silence and obeyed, knowing
that all his actions were watched, that his government had long arms in
foreign lands, and that to arouse revolt in a body of burghers so
thoroughly controlled by common interests, would be impossible. Further
security the Venetians gained by their mild and beneficent
administration of subject cities, and by the prosperity in which their
population flourished. When, during the war of the League of Cambray,
Venice gave liberty to her towns upon the mainland, they voluntarily
returned to her allegiance. At home, the inhabitants of the lagoons, who
had never seen a hostile army at their gates, and whose taxes were light
in comparison with those of the rest of Italy, regarded the nobles as
the authors of their unexampled happiness. Meanwhile, these nobles were
merchants. Idleness was unknown in Venice. Instead of excogitating new
constitutions or planning vengeance against hereditary foes the Venetian
attended to his commerce on the sea, swayed distant provinces, watched
the interests of the state in foreign cities, and fought the naval
battles of the republic. It was the custom of Venice to employ her
patricians only on the sea as admirals, and never to intrust her armies
to the generalship of burghers. This policy had undoubtedly its wisdom;
for by these means the nobles had no opportunity of intriguing on a
large scale in Italian affairs, and never found the chance of growing
dangerously powerful abroad. But it pledged the State to that system of
paid condottieri and mercenary troops, jealously watched and scarcely
ever trustworthy, which proved nearly as ruinous to Venice as it did to

It is difficult to imagine a greater contrast than that which is
presented by Florence to Venice. While Venice pursued one consistent
course of gradual growth, and seemed immovable, Florence remained in
perpetual flux, and altered as the strength of factions or of
party-leaders varied.[1] When the strife of Guelfs and Ghibellines,
Neri, and Bianchi, had exhausted her in the fourteenth century, she
submitted for a while to the indirect ascendency of the kings of Naples,
who were recognized as Chiefs of the Guelf Party. Thence she passed for
a few months into the hands of a despot in the person of the Duke of
Athens (1342-43). After the confirmation of her republican liberty,
followed a contest between the proletariat and the middle classes
(Ciompi 1378). During the fifteenth century she was kept continually
disturbed by the rivalry of her great merchant families. The rule of the
Albizzi, who fought the Visconti and extended the Florentine territory
by numerous conquests, was virtually the despotism of a close oligarchy.
This phase of her career was terminated by the rise of the Medici, who
guided her affairs with a show of constitutional equity for four
generations. In 1494, this state of things was violently shaken. The
Florentines expelled the Medici, who had begun to throw off their mask
and to assume the airs of sovereignty; then they reconstituted their
Commonwealth as nearly as they could upon the model of Venice, and to
this new form of government Savonarola gave a quasi-theocratic
complexion by naming Christ the king of Florence.[2] But the internal
elements of the discord were too potent for the maintenance of this
régime. The Medici were recalled; and this time Florence fell under the
shadow of Church-rule, being controlled by Leo X. and Clement VII.,
through the hands of prelates whom they made the guardians and advisers
of their nephews. In 1527 a final effort for liberty shed undying luster
on the noblest of Italian cities. The sack of Rome had paralyzed the
Pope. His family were compelled to quit the Medicean palace. The Grand
Council was restored: a Gonfalonier was elected; Florence suffered the
hardships of her memorable siege. At the end of her trials, menaced
alike by Pope and Emperor, who shook hands over her prostrate corpse,
betrayed by her general, the infamous Malatesta Baglioni, and sold by
her own selfish citizens, she had to submit to the hereditary
sovereignty of the Medici. It was in vain that Lorenzino of that house
pretended to play Brutus and murdered his cousin the Duke Alessandro in
1536. Cosimo succeeded in the same year, and won the title of Grand
Duke, which he transmitted to a line of semi-Austrian princes.

    [1] 'Nunquam in eodem statu permanserunt,' says Marco Foscari (as
    quoted above, p. 42 of his report). The flux of Florence struck a
    Venetian profoundly.

    [2] The Gonfalonier Capponi put up a tablet on the Public Palace, in
    1528, to this effect: 'Jesus Christus Rex Florentini Populi S.F.
    decreto electus.' This inscription is differently given. See Varchi,
    vol. i. p. 266; Segni, p. 46. Nothing is more significant of the
    difference between Venice and Florence than the political idealism
    implied in this religious consecration of the republic by statute.
    In my essay on 'Florence and the Medici' (_Sketches and Studies in
    Italy_) I have attempted to condense the internal history of the
    Republic and to analyze the state-craft of the Medici.

Throughout all these vicissitudes every form and phase of republican
government was advocated, discussed, and put in practice by the
Florentines. All the arts of factions, all the machinations of exiles,
all the skill of demagogues, all the selfishness of party-leaders, all
the learning of scholars, all the cupidity of subordinate officials, all
the daring of conspirators, all the ingenuity of theorists, and all the
malice of traitors, were brought successively or simultaneously into
play by the burghers, who looked upon their State as something they
might mold at will. One thing at least is clear amid so much apparent
confusion, that Florence was living a vehemently active and
self-conscious life, acknowledging no principle of stability in her
constitution, but always stretching forward after that ideal
_Reggimento_ which was never realized.[1]

    [1] In his 'Proemio' to the 'Trattato del Reggimento di Firenze,
    Guicciardini thus describes the desideratum: 'introdurre in Firenze
    un governo onesto, bene ordinato, e che veramente si potesse
    chiamare libero, il che dalla sua prima origine insino a oggi non è
    mai stato cittadino alcuno che abbia saputo o potuto fare.'

It is worth while to consider more in detail the different magistracies
by which the government of Florence was conducted between the years of
1250 and 1531, and the gradual changes in the constitution which
prepared the way for the Medicean tyranny.[1] It is only thus an
accurate conception of the difference between the republican systems of
Venice and of Florence can be gained. Before the date 1282, which may be
fixed as the turning-point in Florentine history we hear of twelve
Anziani, two chosen for each Sestiere of the city, acting in concert
with a foreign Podestà, and a Captain of the People charged with
military authority. At this time no distinction was made between nobles
and plebeians; and the town, though Guelf, had not enacted rigorous laws
against the Ghibelline families. Towards the end of the thirteenth
century, however, important, changes were effected in the very elements
of the commonwealth. The Anziani were superseded by the Priors of the
Arts. Eight Priors, together with a new officer called the Gonfalonier
of Justice, formed the Signoria, dwelling at public charge in the
Palazzo and holding office only for two months.[2] No one who had not
been matriculated into one of the Arti or commercial guilds could
henceforth bear office in the state. At the same time severe measures,
called Ordinanze della Giustizia, were passed, by which the nobles were
for ever excluded from the government, and the Gonfalonier of Justice
was appointed to maintain civil order by checking their pride and
turbulence.[3] These modifications of the constitution, effected between
1282 and 1292, gave its peculiar character to the Florentine republic.
Henceforward Florence was governed solely by merchants. Both Varchi and
Machiavelli have recorded unfavorable opinions of the statute which
reduced the republic of Florence to a commonwealth of shop-keepers.[4]
But when we read these criticisms, we must bear in mind the internecine
ferocity of party-strife at this period, and the discords to which a
city divided between a territorial aristocracy and a commercial
bourgeoisie was perpetually exposed. If anything could make the
Ordinanze della Giustizia appear rational, it would be a cool perusal of
the _Chronicle_ of Matarazzo, which sets forth the wretched state of
Perugia owing to the feuds of its patrician houses, the Oddi and the
Baglioni.[5] Peace for the republic was not, however, secured by these
strong measures. The factions of the Neri and Bianchi opened the
fourteenth century with battles and proscriptions; and in 1323 the
constitution had again to be modified. At this date the Signoria of
eight Priors with the Gonfalonier of Justice, the College of the twelve
Buonuomini, and the sixteen Gonfaloniers of the companies--called
collectively _i tre maggiori_, or the three superior magistracies--were
rendered eligible only to Guelf citizens of the age of thirty, who had
qualified in one of the seven Arti Maggiori, and whose names were drawn
by lot. This mode of election, the most democratic which it is possible
to adopt, held good through all subsequent changes in the state. Its
immediate object was to quiet discontent and to remove intrigue by
opening the magistracies to all citizens alike. But, as Nardi has
pointed out, it weakened the sense of responsibility in the burghers,
who, when their names were once included in the bags kept for the
purpose, felt sure of their election, and had no inducement to maintain
a high standard of integrity. Sismondi also dates from this epoch the
withdrawal of the Florentines from military service.[6] Nor, as the
sequel shows, was the measure efficient as a check upon the personal
ambition of encroaching party leaders. The _Squittino_ and the _Borse_
became instruments in the hands of the Medici for the consolidation of
their tyranny.[7] By the end of the fourteenth century (about 1378)the
Florentines had to meet a new difficulty. The Guelf citizens began to
abuse the so-called Law of Admonition, by means of which the Ghibellines
were excluded from the government. This law had formed an essential part
of the measures of 1323. In the intervening half-century a new
aristocracy, distinguished by the name of _nobili popolani_, had grown
up and were now threatening the republic with a close oligarchy.[8] The
discords which had previously raged between the people and the
patricians were now transferred to this new aristocracy and the
plebeians. It was found necessary to abolish the Admonition, which had
been made a pretext of excluding all _novi homines_ from the government,
and to place the members of the inferior Arti on the same footing as
those of the superior.[9] At this epoch the Medici, who neither belonged
to the ancient aristocracy nor y the more distinguished houses of the
_nobili popolani_, but rather to the so-called _gente grassa_ or
substantial tradesmen, first acquired importance. It was by a law of
Salvestro de' Medici's in 1378 that the constitution received its final
development in the direction of equality. Yet after all this leveling,
and in the vehement efforts made by the proletariat on the occasion of
the Ciompi outbreak, the exclusive nature of the Florentine republic was
maintained. The franchise was never extended to more than the burghers,
and the matter in debate was always virtually, who shall be allowed to
rank as citizen upon the register? In fact, by using the pregnant words
of Machiavelli, we may sum up the history of Florence to this point in
one sentence: 'Di Firenze in prima si divisono intra loro i nobili,
dipoi i nobili e il popolo, e in ultimo il popolo e la plebe; e molte
volte occorse che una di queste parti rimasa superiore, si divise in

    [1] I will place in an appendix (No. ii.) translations of Varchi,
    book iii. sections 20-22, and Nardi, book i. cap. 4, which give
    complete and clear accounts of the Florentine constitution after

    [2] See Machiavelli, _Ist. Fior._ lib. ii. sect. II. The number of
    the Priors was first three, then six, and finally eight. Up to 1282
    the city had been divided into Sestieri. It was then found
    convenient to divide it into quarters, and the numbers followed this

    [3] Machiavelli, _Ist. Fior._ lib. ii. sect. 13, may be consulted
    for the history of Giano della Bella and his memorable ordinance.
    Dino Compagni's _Chronicle_ contains the account of a contemporary.

    [4] See Varchi, vol. i. p. 169; Mach. _Ist. Fior._ end of book ii.

    [5] _Archivio Storico_, vol. xvi. See also the article 'Perugia,' in
    my _Sketches in Italy and Greece_.

    [6] Vol. iii. p. 347.

    [7] See App. ii. for the phrases 'Squittino' and 'Borse.'

    [8] Of these new nobles the Albizzi and Ricci, deadly foes, were the
    most eminent. The former strove to exclude the Medici from the

    [9] The number of the Arti varied at different times. Varchi treats
    of them as finally consisting of seven maggiori and fourteen minori.

    [10] Proemio to _Storia Fiorentina_. 'In Florence the nobles first
    split up, then the nobles and the people, lastly the people and the
    multitude; and it often happened that when one of these parties got
    the upper hand, it divided into two camps.' For the meaning of
    _Popolo_ see above, p. 55.

In the next generation the constitutional history of Florence exhibits a
new phase. The equality which had been introduced into all classes of
the commonwealth, combined with an absence of any state machinery like
that of Venice, exposed Florence at this period to the encroachments of
astute and selfish parvenus. The Medici, who had hitherto been nobodies,
begin now to aspire to despotism. Partly by his remarkable talent for
intrigue, partly by the clever use which he made of his vast wealth, and
partly by espousing the plebeian cause, Cosimo de' Medici succeeded in
monopolizing the government. It was the policy of the Medici to create a
party dependent for pecuniary aid upon their riches, and attached to
their interests by the closest ties of personal necessity. At the same
time they showed consummate caution in the conduct of the state, and
expended large sums on works of public utility. There was nothing mean
in their ambition; and though posterity must condemn the arts by which
they sought to sap the foundations of freedom in their native city, we
are forced to acknowledge that they shared the noblest enthusiasms of
their brilliant era. Little by little they advanced so far in the
enslavement of Florence that the elections of all the magistrates,
though still conducted by lot, were determined at their choice: the
names of none but men devoted to their interests were admitted to the
bags from which the candidates for office were selected, while
proscriptive measures of various degrees of rigor excluded their enemies
from participation in the government.[1] At length in 1480 the whole
machinery of the republic was suspended by Lorenzo de' Medici in favor
of the Board of Seventy, whom he nominated, and with whom, acting like a
Privy Council, he administered the state.[2] It is clear that this
revolution could never have been effected without a succession of coups
d'état. The instrument for their accomplishment lay ready to the hands
of the Medicean party in the pernicious system of the Parlamento and
Balia, by means of which the people, assembled from time to time in the
public square, and intimidated by the reigning faction, intrusted full
powers to a select committee nominated in private by the chiefs of the
great house.[3] It is also clear that so much political roguery could
not have been successful without an extensive demoralization of the
upper rank of citizens. The Medici in effect bought and sold the honor
of the public officials, lent money, jobbed posts of profit, and winked
at peculation, until they had created a sufficient body of _âmes
damnées_, men who had everything to gain by a continuance of their
corrupt authority. The party so formed, including even such
distinguished citizens as the Guicciardini, Baccio Valori, and Francesco
Vettori, proved the chief obstacle to the restoration of Florentine
liberty in the sixteenth century.

    [1] What Machiavelli says (_Ist. Fior._ vii. 1) about the arts of
    Cosimo contains the essence of the policy by which the Medici rose.
    Compare v. 4 and vii. 4-6 for his character of Cosimo. Guicciardini
    (_Op. Ined._ vol. ii. p. 68) describes the use made of extraordinary
    taxation as a weapon of offense against his enemies, by Cosimo: 'usò
    le gravezze in luogo de' pugnali che communemente suole usare chi ha
    simili reggimenti nelle mani.' The Marchese Gino Capponi (_Arch.
    Stor._ vol. i. pp. 315-20) analyzes the whole Medicean policy in a
    critique of great ability.

    [2] Guicciardini (_Op. Ined._ vol. ii. pp. 35-49) exposes the
    principle and the _modus operandi_ of this Council of Seventy, by
    means of which Lorenzo controlled the election of the magistracies,
    diverted the public moneys to his own use, and made his will law in
    Florence. The councils which he superseded at this date were the
    Consiglio del Popolo and the Consiglio del Comune, about which see
    Nardi, lib i. cap. 4.

    [3] For the operation of the Parlamento and Balia, see Varchi, vol.
    ii. p. 372; Segni, p. 199; Nardi, lib. vi. cap. 4. Segni says: 'The
    Parlamento is a meeting of the Florentine people on the Piazza of
    the Signory. When the Signory has taken its place to address the
    meeting, the piazza is guarded by armed men, and then the people are
    asked whether they wish to give absolute power (Balia) and authority
    to the citizens named, for their good. When the answer, yes,
    prompted partly by inclination and partly by compulsion, is
    returned, the Signory immediately retires into the palace. This is
    all that is meant by this parlamento, which thus gives away the full
    power of effecting a change in the state.' The description given by
    Marco Foscari, p. 44 (loc. cit. supr.) is to the same effect, but
    the Venetian exposes more clearly the despotic nature of the
    institution in the hands of the Medici. It is well known how hostile
    Savonarola was to an institution which had lent itself so easily to
    despotism. This couplet he inscribed on the walls of the Council
    Chamber, in 1495:--

     'E sappi che chi vuol parlamento
      Vuol torti dalle mani il reggimento.'

    Compare the proverb, 'Chi disse parlamento disse guastamento.'

This tyranny of a commercial family, swaying the republic without the
title and with but little of the pomp of princes, subsisted until the
hereditary presidency of the state was conferred upon Alessandro de'
Medici, Duke of Cività di Penna, in 1531. Cosimo his successor, obtained
the rank of Grand Duke from Pius V. in 1569, and his son received the
imperial sanction to the title in 1575. The re-establishment at two
different periods of a free commonwealth upon the sounder basis of the
Consiglio Grande (1494-1512 and 1527-30) formed but two episodes in the
history of this masked but tenacious despotism. Had Savonarola's
constitution been adopted in the thirteenth instead of at the end of the
fifteenth century, the stability of Florence might have been secured.
But at the latter date the roots of the Medicean influence were too
widely intertwined with private interests, the jealousies of classes and
of factions were too inveterate, for any large and wholesome form of
popular government to be universally acceptable. Besides, the burghers
had been reduced to a nerveless equality of servitude, in which ambition
and avarice took the place of patriotism; while the corruption of
morals, fostered by the Medici for the confirmation of their own
authority, was so widely spread as to justify Segni, Varchi, Giannotti,
Guicciardini, and Machiavelli in representing the Florentines as equally
unable to maintain their liberty and to submit to control.

The historical vicissitudes of Florence were no less remarkable than the
unity of Venice. If in Venice we can trace the permanent and corporate
existence of a state superior to the individuals who composed it,
Florence exhibits the personal activity and conscious effort of her
citizens. Nowhere can the intricate relations of classes to the
commonwealth be studied more minutely than in the annals of Florence. In
no other city have opinions had greater value in determining historical
events; and nowhere was the influence of character in men of mark more
notable. In this agitated political atmosphere the wonderful Florentine
intelligence, which Varchi celebrated as the special glory of the Tuscan
soil, and which Vasari referred to something felicitous in Tuscan air,
was sharpened to the finest edge.[1] Successive generations of practical
and theoretical statesmen trained the race to reason upon government,
and to regard politics as a science. Men of letters were at the same
time also prominent in public affairs. When, for instance, the exiles of
1529 sued Duke Alessandro before Charles V. at Naples, Jacopo Nardi drew
up their pleas, and Francesco Guicciardini rebutted them in the interest
of his master. Machiavelli learned his philosophy at the Courts of
France and Germany and in the camp of Cesare Borgia. Segni shared the
anxieties of Nicolo Capponi, when the Gonfalonier was impeached for high
treason to the state of Florence. This list might be extended almost
indefinitely, with the object of proving the intimate connection which
subsisted at Florence between the thinkers and the actors. No other
European community of modern times has ever acquired so subtle a sense
of its own political existence, has ever reasoned upon its past history
so acutely, or has ever displayed so much ingenuity in attempting to
control the future. Venice on the contrary owed but little to the
creative genius of her citizens. In Venice the state was everything: the
individual was almost nothing. We find but little reflection upon
politics, and no speculative philosophy of history among the Venetians
until the date of Trifone Gabrielli and Paruta. Their records are all
positive and detailed. The generalizations and comparisons of the
Florentines are absent; nor was it till a late date of the Renaissance
that the Venetian history came to be written as a whole. It would seem
as though the constitutional stability which formed the secret of the
strength of Venice was also the source of comparative intellectual
inertness. This contrast between the two republics displayed itself even
in their art. Statues of Judith, the tyrannicide, and of David, the
liberator of his country, adorned the squares and loggie of Florence.
The painters of Venice represented their commonwealth as a beautiful
queen receiving the homage of her subjects and the world. Florence had
no mythus similar to that which made Venice the Bride of the Sea, and
which justified the Doge in hailing Caterina Cornaro as daughter of S.
Mark's (1471). It was in the personal courage and intelligence of
individual heroes that the Florentines discovered the counterpart of
their own spirit; whereas the Venetians personified their city as a
whole, and paid their homage to the Genius of the State.

    [1] Varchi, ix. 49; Vasari, xii. p. 158; Burckhardt, p. 270.

It is not merely fanciful to compare Athens, the city of self-conscious
political activity, variable, cultivated, and ill-adapted by its very
freedom for prolonged stability, with Florence; Sparta, firmly based
upon an ancient constitution, indifferent to culture, and solid at the
cost of some rigidity, with Venice. As in Greece the philosophers of
Athens, especially Plato and Aristotle, wondered at the immobility of
Sparta and idealized her institutions; so did the theorists of Florence,
Savonarola, Giannotti, Guicciardini, look with envy at the state
machinery which secured repose and liberty for Venice. The parallel
between Venice and Sparta becomes still more remarkable when we inquire
into the causes of their decay. Just as the Ephors, introduced at first
as a safeguard to the constitution, by degrees extinguished the
influence of the royal families, superseded the senate, and exercised a
tyrannous control over every department of the state; so the Council of
Ten, dangerous because of its vaguely defined dictatorial functions,
reduced Venice to a despotism.[1] The gradual dwindling of the Venetian
aristocracy, and the impoverishment of many noble families, which
rendered votes in the Grand Council venal, and threw the power into the
hands of a very limited oligarchy, complete the parallel.[2] One of the
chief sources of decay both to Venice and to Sparta was that
shortsighted policy which prevented the nobles from recruiting their
ranks by the admission of new families. The system again of secret
justice, the espionage, and the calculated terrorism, by means of which
both the Spartan Ephoralty and the Venetian Council imposed their will
upon the citizens, were stifling to the free life of a republic.[3]
Venice in the end became demoralized in politics and profligate in
private life. Her narrowing oligarchy watched the national degeneration
with approval, knowing that it is easier to control a vitiated populace
than to curb a nation habituated to the manly virtues.

    [1] Aristotle terms the Spartan Ephoralty [Greek: _isotyrannos_].
    Giannotti (vol-ii. p. 120) compares the Ten to dictators. We might
    bring the struggles of the Spartan kings with the Ephoralty into
    comparison with the attempts of the Doges Falieri and Foscari to
    make themselves the chiefs of the republic in more than name.
    Müller, in his _Dorians_, observes that 'the Ephoralty was the
    moving element, the principle of change, in the Spartan
    constitution, and, in the end, the cause of its dissolution.'
    Sismondi remarks that the precautions which led to the creation of
    the Council of Ten 'dénaturaient entièrement la constitution de

    [2] See what Aristotle in the _Politics_ says about [Greek:
    _oliganthrôpia_], and the unequal distribution of property. As to
    the property of the Venetian nobles, see Sanudo, _Vite dei Duchi_,
    Murat. xxii. p. 1194, who mentions the benevolences of the richer
    families to the poor. They built houses for aristocratic paupers to
    live in free of rent.

    [3] A curious passage in Plutarch's _Life of Cleomenes_ (Clough's
    Translation, vol. iv. p. 474) exactly applies to the Venetian
    statecraft:--'They, the Spartans, worship Fear, not as they do
    supernatural powers which they dread, esteeming it hurtful, but
    thinking their polity is chiefly kept up by fear ... and therefore
    the Lacedæmonians placed the temple of Fear by the Syssitium of the
    Ephors, having raised that magistracy to almost regal authority.'

Between Athens and Florence the parallel is not so close. These two
republics, however, resemble one another in the freedom and variety of
their institutions. In Athens, as in Florence, there was constant change
and a highly developed political consciousness. Eminent men played the
same important part in both. In both the genius of individuals was even
stronger than the character of the state. Again, as Athens displayed
more of a Panhellenic feeling than any other Greek city, so Florence was
invariably more alive to the interests of Italy at large than any other
state of the peninsula. Florence, like Athens, was the center of culture
for the nation. Like Athens, she give laws to her sister towns in
language, in literature, in fine arts, poetry, philosophy, and history.
Without Florence it is not probable that Italy would have taken the
place of proud pre-eminence she held so long in Europe. Florence never
attained to the material greatness of Athens, because her power,
relatively to the rest of Italy, was slight, her factions were
incessant, and her connection with the Papacy was a perpetual source of
weakness. But many of the causes which ruined Athens were in full
operation at Florence. First and foremost was the petulant and variable
temper of a democracy, so well described by Plato, and so ably analyzed
by Machiavelli. The want of agreement among the versatile Florentines,
fertile in plans but incapable of concerted action, was a chief source
of political debility. Varchi and Segni both relate how, in spite of
wealth, ability, and formidable forces, the Florentine exiles under the
guidance of Filippo Strozzi (1533-37) became the laughing-stock of Italy
through their irresolution. The Venetian ambassadors agree in
representing the burghers of Florence as timid from excess of
intellectual mobility. And Dante, whose insight into national
characteristics was of the keenest, has described in ever-memorable
lines the temperament of his fickle city (_Purg._ vi. 135-51).

Much of this instability was due to the fact that Florentine, like
Athenian, intelligence was overdeveloped. It passed into mere
cleverness, and overreached itself. Next we may note the tyranny which
both republics exercised over cities that had once been free. Athens
created a despotic empire instead of forming an Ionian Confederation.
Florence reduced Pisa to the most miserable servitude, rendered herself
odious to Arezzo and Volterra, and never rested from attempts upon the
liberties of Lucca and Siena. All these states, which as a Tuscan
federation should have been her strength in the hour of need, took the
first opportunity of throwing off her yoke and helping her enemies. What
Florence spent in recapturing Pisa, after the passage of Charles VIII.
in 1494, is incalculable. And no sooner was she in difficulties during
the siege of 1329, than both Arezzo and Pisa declared for her foes.

It will not do to push historical parallels too far, interesting as it
may be to note a repetition of the same phenomena at distant periods and
under varying conditions of society. At the same time, to observe
fundamental points of divergence is no less profitable. Many of the
peculiarities of Greek history are attributable to the fact that a Greek
commonwealth consisted of citizens living in idleness, supported by
their slaves, and bound to the state by military service and by the
performance of civic duties. The distinctive mark of both Venice and
Florence, on the other hand, was that their citizens were traders. The
Venetians carried on the commerce of the Levant; the Florentines were
manufacturers and bankers: the one town sent her sons forth on the seas
to barter and exchange; the other was full of speculators, calculating
rates of interest and discount, and contracting with princes for the
conduct of expensive wars. The mercantile character of these Italian
republics is so essential to their history that it will not be out of
place to enlarge a little on the topic. We have seen that the
Florentines rendered commerce a condition of burghership. Giannotti,
writing the life of one of the chief patriots of the republic,[1] says:
'Egli stette a bottega, come fanno la maggior parte de' nostri, cosi
nobili come ignobili.' To quote instances in a matter so clear and
obvious would be superfluous: else I might show how Bardi and Peruzzi,
Strozzi, Medici, Pitti, and Pazzi, while they ranked with princes at
the Courts of France, or Rome, or Naples, were money-lenders, mortgagees
and bill-discounters in every great city of Europe. The Palle of the
Medici, which emboss the gorgeous ceilings of the Cathedral of Pisa,
still swing above the pawnbroker's shop in London. And though great
families like the Rothschilds in the most recent days have successfully
asserted the aristocracy of wealth acquired by usury, it still remains a
surprising fact that the daughter of the mediæval bankers should have
given a monarch to the French in the sixteenth century.

    [1] _Sulle azioni del Ferruccio_, vol. i. p. 44. The report of Marco
    Foscari on the state of Florence, already quoted more than once,
    contains a curious aristocratic comment upon the shop-life of
    illustrious Florentine citizens. See Appendix ii. Even Piero de'
    Medici refused a Neapolitan fief on the ground that he was a

A very lively picture of the modes of life and the habits of mind
peculiar to the Italian burgher may be gained by the perusal of Agnolo
Pandolfini's treatise, _Del Governo della Famiglia_. This essay should
be read side by side with Castiglione's _Cortegiano_, by all who wish to
understand the private life of the Italians in the age of the
Renaissance.[1] Pandolfini lived at the time of the war of Florence with
Filippo Visconti the exile, and the return of Cosimo de' Medici. He was
employed by the republic on important missions, and his substance was so
great that, on occasion of extraordinary aids, his contributions stood
third or fourth upon the list. In the Councils of the Republic he always
advocated peace, and in particular he spoke against Impresa di Lucca. As
age advanced, he retired from public affairs, and devoted himself to
study, religious exercises, and country excursions. He possessed a
beautiful villa at Signa, notable for the splendor of its maintenance in
all points which befit a gentleman. There he had the honor on various
occasions of entertaining Pope Eugenius, King Réné, Francesco Sforza,
and the Marchese Piccinino. His sons lived with him, and spent much of
their spare time in hawking and the chase. They were three, Carlo, who
rose to great dignity in the republic, Giannozzo, still more eminent as
a public man, and Pandolfo, who died young. His wife, one of the
Strozzi, died while Agnolo was between thirty and forty; but he never
married again. He was a great friend of Lionardo Aretino, who published
nothing without his approval. He lived to be upwards of eighty-five, and
died in 1446. These facts sufficiently indicate what sort of man was the
supposed author of the "Essay on the Family," proving, as they do, that
he passed his leisure among princes and scholars, and that he played
some part in the public affairs of the State of Florence. Yet his view
of human life is wholly _bourgeois_, though by no means ignoble. In his
conception, the first of all virtues is thrift, which should regulate
the use not only of money, but of all the gifts of nature and of
fortune. The proper economy of the mind involves liberal studies,
courteous manners, honest conduct, and religion.[2] The right use of the
body implies keeping it in good health by continence, exercise and
diet.[3] The thrift of time consists in being never idle. Agnolo's sons,
who are represented as talking with their father in this dialogue, ask
him, in relation to the gifts of fortune, whether he thinks the honors
of the State desirable. This question introduces a long and vehement
invective against the life of a professional statesman, as of necessity
fraudulent, mendacious, egotistic, cruel.[4] The private man of middle
station is really happiest; and only a sense of patriotism should induce
him, not seeking but when sought, to serve the State in public office.
The really dear possessions of a man are his family, his wealth, his
good repute, and his friendships. In order to be successful in the
conduct of the family, a man must choose a large and healthy house,
where the whole of his offspring--children and grandchildren, may live
together. He must own an estate which will supply him with corn, wine,
oil, wood, fowls, in fact with all the necessaries of life, so that he
may not need to buy much. The main food of the family will be bread and
wine. The discussion of the utility of the farm leads Agnolo to praise
the pleasure and profit to be derived from life in the Villa. But at the
same time a town-house has to be maintained; and it is here that the
sons of the family should be educated, so that they may learn caution,
and avoid vice by knowing its ugliness. In order to meet expenses, some
trade must be followed, silk or wool manufacture being preferred; and in
this the whole family should join, the head distributing work of various
kinds to his children, as he deems most fitting, and always employing
them rather than strangers. Thus we get the three great elements of the
Florentine citizen's life: the _casa_, or town-house, the _villa_, or
country-farm, and the _bottega_, or place of business. What follows is
principally concerned with the details of economy. Expenses are of two
sorts: necessary, for the repair of the house, the maintenance of the
farm, the stocking of the shop; and unnecessary, for plate, house
decoration, horses, grand clothes, entertainments. On this topic Agnolo
inveighs with severity against household parasites, bravi, and dissolute
dependents.[5] A little further on he indulges in another diatribe
against great nobles, _i signori_, from whom he would have his sons keep
clear at any cost.[6] It is the animosity of the industrious burgher for
the haughty, pleasure-loving, idle, careless man of blood and high
estate. In the bourgeois household described by Pandolfini no one can be
indolent. The men have to work outside and collect wealth, the women to
stay at home and preserve it. The character of a good housewife is
sketched very minutely. Pandolfini describes how, when he was first
married, he took his wife over the house, and gave up to her care all
its contents. Then he went into their bedroom, and made her kneel with
him before Madonna, and prayed God to give them wealth, friends, and
male children. After that he told her that honesty would be her great
charm in his eyes, as well as her chief virtue, and advised her to
forego the use of paints and cosmetics. Much sound advice follows as to
the respective positions of the master and the mistress in the
household, the superintendence of domestics, and the right ordering of
the most insignificant matters. The quality of the dress which will
beseem the children of an honored citizen on various occasions, the
pocket money of the boys, the food of the common table, are all
discussed with some minuteness: and the wife is made to feel that she
must learn to be neither jealous nor curious about concerns which her
husband finds it expedient to keep private.

    [1] I ought to state that Pandolfini is at least a century earlier
    in date than Casliglione, and that he represents a more primitive
    condition of society. The facts I have mentioned about his life are
    given on the authority of Vespasiano da Bisticci. The references are
    made to the Milanese edition of 1802. It must also be added that
    there are strong reasons for assigning the treatise in question to
    Leo Battista Alberti. As it professes, however, to give a picture of
    Pandolfini's family, I have adhered to the old title. But the whole
    question of the authorship of the Famiglia will be fully discussed
    in the last section of my book, which deals with Italian literature.
    Personally. I accept the theory of Alberti's authorship.

    [2] A beautiful description of the religious temper, p. 74.

    [3] What Pandolfini says about the beauty of the body is worthy of a
    Greek: what he says about exercise might have been written by an
    Englishman, p. 77.

    [4] Pp. 82-89 are very important as showing how low the art of
    politics had sunk in Italy.

    [5] P. 125.

    [6] P. 175.

The charm of a treatise like that of Pandolfini on the family evaporates
as soon as we try to make a summary of its contents. Enough, however,
has been quoted to show the thoroughly _bourgeois_ tone which prevailed
among the citizens of Florence in the fifteenth century.[1] Very
important results were the natural issue of this commercial spirit in
the State. Talking of the Ordinanze di Giustizia, Varchi observes:
'While they removed in part the civil discords of Florence, they almost
entirely extinguished all nobility of feeling in the Florentines, and
tended as much to diminish the power and haughtiness of the city as to
abate the insolence of the patriciate.'[2] A little further on he says:
'Hence may all prudent men see how ill-ordered in all things, save only
in the Grand Council, has been the commonwealth of Florence; seeing
that, to speak of nought else, that kind of men who in a wisely
constituted republic ought not to fulfill any magistracy whatever, the
merchants and artisans of all sorts, are in Florence alone capable of
taking office, to the exclusion of all others.' Machiavelli, less wordy
but far more emphatic than Varchi, says of the same revolution: 'This
caused the abandonment by Florence not only of arms, but of all nobility
of soul.'[3] The most notable consequence of the mercantile temper of
the republics was the ruinous system of mercenary warfare, with all its
attendant evils of ambitious captains of adventure, irresponsible
soldiery, and mock campaigns, adopted by the free Italian States. It is
true that even if the Italians had maintained their national militias in
full force, they might not have been able to resist the shock of France
and Spain any better than the armies of Thebes, Sparta, and Athens
averted the Macedonian hegemony. But they would at least have run a
better chance, and not perhaps have perished so ignobly through the
treason of an Alfonso d'Este (1527), of a Marquis of Pescara (1525), of
a Duke of Urbino (1527), and of a Malatesta Baglioni (1530).[4]
Machiavelli, in a weighty passage at the end of the first book of his
Florentine History, sums up the various causes which contributed to the
disuse of national arms among the Italians of the Renaissance. The fear
of the despot for his subjects, the priest-rule of the Church, the
jealousy of Venice for her own nobles, and the commercial sluggishness
of the Florentine burghers, caused each and all of these powers,
otherwise so different, to intrust their armies to paid captains. 'Di
questi adunque oziosi principi e di queste vilissime armi sarà piena la
mia istoria,' is the contemptuous phrase with which he winds up his

    [1] Varchi (book x. cap. 69) quotes a Florentine proverb: 'Chiunque
    non sta a bottega è ladro.' See above, p. 239.

    [2] Varchi, vol. i. p. 168; compare vol. ii. p. 87, however.

    [3] _Ist. Fior._ lib. ii. end. Aristotle's contempt for the [Greek:
    _technitai_] emerges in these comments of the doctrinaires.

    [4] To multiply the instances of fraud and treason on the part of
    Italian condottieri would be easy. I have only mentioned the notable
    examples which fall within a critical period of five years. The
    Marquis of Pescara betrayed to Charles V. the league for the
    liberation of Italy, which he had joined at Milan. The Duke of
    Ferrara received and victualed Bourbon's (then Frundsberg's) army on
    its way to sack Rome, because he spited the Pope, and wanted to
    seize Modena for himself. The Duke of Urbino, wishing to punish
    Clement VII. for personal injuries, omitted to relieve Rome when it
    was being plundered by the Lutherans, though he held the commission
    of the Italian League. Malatesta Baglioni sold Florence, which he
    had undertaken to defend, to the Imperial army under the Prince of

    [5] 'With the records of these indolent princes and most abject
    armaments, my history will, therefore, be filled.' Compare the
    following passage in a letter from Machiavelli to Francesco
    Guicciardini (_Op._ vol. x. p. 255): 'Comincio ora a scrivere di
    nuovo, e mi sfogo accusando i principi, che hanno fatto ogni cosa
    per condurci qui.'



Florence, the City of Intelligence--Cupidity, Curiosity, and the Love of
Beauty--Florentine Historical Literature--Philosophical Study of
History--Ricordano Malespini--Florentine History compared with the
Chronicles of other Italian Towns--The Villani--The Date
1300--Statistics--Dante's Political Essays and Pamphlets--Dino
Compagni--Latin Histories of Florence in Fifteenth Century--Lionardo
Bruni and Poggio Bracciolini--The Historians of the First Half of the
Sixteenth Century--Men of Action and Men of Letters: the
Doctrinaires--Florence between 1494 and 1537--Varchi, Segni, Nardi,
Pitti, Nerli, Guicciardini--The Political Importance of these
Writers--The Last Years of Florentine Independence, and the Siege of
1529--State of Parties--Filippo Strozzi--Different Views of Florentine
Weakness taken by the Historians--Their Literary Qualities--Francesco
Guicciardini and Niccolo Machiavelli--Scientific Statists--Discord
between Life and Literature--The Biography of Guicciardini--His 'Istoria
d'Italia,' 'Dialogo del Reggimento di Firenze,' 'Storia Fiorentina,'
'Ricordi'--Biography of Machiavelli--His Scheme of a National
Militia--Dedication of 'The Prince'--Political Ethics of the Italian
Renaissance--The Discorsi--The Seven Books on the Art of War and the
'History of Florence.'

Florence was essentially the city of intelligence in modern times. Other
nations have surpassed the Italians in their genius--the quality which
gave a superhuman power of insight to Shakespeare and an universal
sympathy to Goethe. But nowhere else except at Athens has the whole
population of a city been so permeated with ideas, so highly
intellectual by nature, so keen in perception, so witty and so subtle,
as at Florence. The fine and delicate spirit of the Italians existed in
quintessence among the Florentines. And of this superiority not only
they but the inhabitants also of Rome and Lombardy and Naples, were
conscious. Boniface VIII., when he received the ambassadors of the
Christian powers in Rome on the occasion of the Jubilee in 1300,
observed that all of them were citizens of Florence. The witticism which
he is said to have uttered, _i Fiorentini essere il quinto elemento_,
'that the men of Florence form a fifth element,' passed into a proverb.
The primacy of the Florentines in literature, the fine arts, law,
scholarship, philosophy, and science was acknowledged throughout Italy.

When the struggle for existence has been successfully terminated, and
the mere instinct of self-preservation no longer absorbs the activities
of a people, then the three chief motive forces of civilization begin to
operate. These are cupidity, or the desire of wealth and all that it
procures; curiosity, or the desire to discover new facts about the world
and man; and the love of beauty, which is the parent of all art.
Commerce, philosophy, science, scholarship, sculpture, architecture,
painting, music, poetry, are the products of these ruling
impulses--everything in fact which gives a higher value to the life of
man. Different nations have been swayed by these passions in different
degrees. The artistic faculty, which owes its energy to the love of
beauty, has been denied to some; the philosophic faculty, which starts
with curiosity, to others; and some again have shown but little capacity
for amassing wealth by industry or calculation. It is rare to find a
whole nation possessed of all in an equal measure of perfection. Such,
however, were the Florentines.[1] The mere sight of the city and her
monuments would suffice to prove this. But we are not reduced to the
necessity of divining what Florence was by the inspection of her
churches, palaces, and pictures. That marvelous intelligence which was
her pride, burned brightly in a long series of historians and annalists,
who have handed down to us the biography of the city in volumes as
remarkable for penetrative acumen as for definite delineation and
dramatic interest. We possess picture-galleries of pages in which the
great men of Florence live again and seem to breathe and move, epics of
the commonwealth's vicissitudes from her earliest commencement, detailed
tragedies and highly finished episodes, studies of separate characters,
and idylls detached from the main current of her story. The whole mass
of this historical literature is instinct with the spirit of criticism
and vital with experience. The writers have been either actors or
spectators of the drama. Trained in the study of antiquity, as well as
in the council-chambers of the republic and in the courts of foreign
princes, they survey the matter of their histories from a lofty vantage
ground, fortifying their speculative conclusions by practical knowledge
and purifying their judgment of contemporary events with the philosophy
of the past. Owing to this rare mixture of qualities, the Florentines
deserve to be styled the discoverers of the historic method for the
modern world. They first perceived that it is unprofitable to study the
history of a state in isolation, that not wars and treaties only, but
the internal vicissitudes of the commonwealth, form the real subject
matter of inquiry,[2] and that the smallest details, biographical,
economical, or topographical, may have the greatest value. While the
rest of Europe was ignorant of statistics, and little apt to pierce
below the surface of events to the secret springs of conduct, in
Florence a body of scientific historians had gradually been formed, who
recognized the necessity of basing their investigations upon a diligent
study of public records, state-papers, and notes of contemporary
observers.[3] The same men prepared themselves for the task of criticism
by a profound study of ethical and political philosophy in the works of
Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, and Tacitus.[4] They examined the methods of
classical historians, and compared the annals of Greece, Rome, and
Palestine with the chronicles of their own country. They attempted to
divine the genius and to characterize the special qualities of the
nations, cities, and individuals of whom they had to treat.[5] At the
same time they spared no pains in seeking out persons possessed of
accurate knowledge in every branch of inquiry that came beneath their
notice, so that their treatises have the freshness of original documents
and the charm of personal memoirs. Much, as I have elsewhere noted, was
due to the peculiarly restless temper of the Florentines, speculative,
variable, unquiet in their politics. The very qualities which exposed
the commonwealth to revolutions, developed the intelligence of her
historians; her want of stability was the price she paid for
intellectual versatility and acuteness unrivaled in modern times. '"_O
ingenia magis acria quam matura_," said Petrarch, and with truth, about
the wits of the Florentines; for it is their property by nature to have
more of liveliness and acumen than of maturity or gravity.'[6]

    [1] Since the Greeks, no people have combined curiosity and the love
    of beauty, the scientific and the artistic sense, in the same
    proportions as the Florentines.

    [2] See Machiavelli's critique of Lionardo d'Arezzo and Messer
    Poggio, in the Proemio to his _Florentine History_. His own
    conception of history, as the attempt to delineate the very spirit
    of a nation, is highly philosophical.

    [3] The high sense of the requirements of scientific history
    attained by the Italians is shown by what Giovio relates of Gian
    Galeazzo's archives (_Vita di Gio. Galeazzo_, p. 107). After
    describing these, he adds: 'talche, chi volesse scrivere un'
    historia giusta non potrebbe desiderare altronde nè più abbondante
    nè più certa materia; perciocchè da questi libri facilissimamente si
    traggono le cagioni delle guerre, i consigli, e i successi dell'
    imprese.' The Proemio to Varchi's _Storie Fiorentine_ (vol. i. pp.
    42-44), which gives an account of his preparatory labors, is an
    unconscious treatise on the model historian. Accuracy, patience,
    love of truth, sincerity in criticism, and laborious research, have
    all their proper place assigned to them. Compare Guicciardini,
    _Ricordi_, No. cxliii., for sound remarks upon the historian's duty
    of collecting the statistics of his own age and country.

    [4] The prefaces to Giannotti's critiques of Florence and of Venice
    show how thoroughly his mind had been imbued with the _Politics_ of
    Aristotle. Varchi acknowledges the direct influence of Polybius and
    Tacitus. Livy is Machiavelli's favorite.

    [5] On this point the Relazioni of Italian ambassadors are
    invaluable. What dryly philosophical compendia are the notes of
    Machiavelli upon the French Court and Cesare Borgia! How astute are
    the Venetian letters on the opinions and qualities of the Roman

    [6] Guicc. _Ricordi_, cciii. _Op. Ined._ vol. i. p. 229.

The year 1300 marks the first development of historical research in
Florence. Two great writers, Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Villani, at
this epoch pursued different lines of study, which determined the future
of this branch of literature for the Italians. It is not
uncharacteristic of Florentine genius that while the chief city of
Tuscany was deficient in historians of her achievements before the date
which I have mentioned, her first essays in historiography should have
been monumental and standard-making for the rest of Italy. Just as the
great burghs of Lombardy attained municipal independence somewhat
earlier than those of Tuscany, so the historic sense developed itself in
the valley of the Po at a period when the valley of the Arno had no
chronicler. Sire Raul and Ottone Morena, the annalists of Milan, Fra
Salimbene, the sagacious and comprehensive historian of Parma,
Rolandino, to whom we owe the chronicle of Ezzelino and the tragedy of
the Trevisan Marches, have no rivals south of the Apennines in the
thirteenth century. Even the Chronicle of the Malespini family, written
in the vulgar tongue from the beginning of the world to the year 1281,
which occupies 146 volumes of Muratori's Collection, and which used to
be the pride of Tuscan antiquarians, has recently been shown to be in
all probability a compilation based upon the Annals of Villani.[1] This
makes the clear emergence of a scientific sense for history in the year
1300 at Florence all the more remarkable. In order to estimate the high
quality of the work achieved by the Villani it is only necessary to turn
the pages of some early chronicles of sister cities which still breathe
the spirit of unintelligent mediæval industry, before the method of
history had been critically apprehended. The naïveté of these records
may be appreciated by the following extracts. A Roman writes[2]: 'I
Lodovico Bonconte Monaldeschi was born in Orvieto, and was brought up in
the city of Rome, where I have resided. I was born in the year 1327, in
the month of June, at the time when the Emperor Lodovico came. Now I
wish to relate the whole history of my age, seeing that I lived one
hundred and fifteen years without illness, except that when I was born I
fainted, and I died of old age, and remained in bed twelve months on
end.' Burigozzo's Chronicle of Milan, again, concludes with these
words:[3] 'As you will see in the Annals of my son, inasmuch as the
death which has overtaken me prevents my writing more.' Chronicles
conceived and written in this spirit are diaries of events, repertories
of strange stories, and old wives' tales, without a deep sense of
personal responsibility, devoid alike of criticism and artistic unity.
Very different is the character of the historical literature which
starts into being in Florence at the opening of the fourteenth century.

    [1] See Paul Scheffer-Boichorst, _Florentiner Studien_,
    Leipzig, 1874, Carl Hegel, in his defense of Compagni, _Die
    Chronik des Dino Compagni, Versuch einer Rettung_, Leipzig,
    1875, admits the proof of spuriousness. See the preface, p. v.
    The point, however, is still disputed by Florentine scholars of
    high authority. Gino Capponi, in his _Storia della Repubblica
    di Firenze_ (vol. i. Appendix, final note), observes that while
    the Villani are popular in tone the Malespini Chronicle is
    feudal. Adolfo Bartoli (_Storia della Lett. It._ vol. iii. p.
    155) treats the question as still open. The custom of
    preserving brief _fasti_ in the archives of great houses
    rendered such compilations as the Malespini Chronicle is now
    supposed to have been both easy and attractive. The Christian
    name _Ricordano_ given to the first Malespini annalist does not
    exist. It has been suggested that it is due to a misreading of
    an initial sentence, _Ricordano i Malespini_.

    [2] Muratori, vol. xii. p. 529.

    [3] _Arch. Stor._ vol. iii. p. 552. Both Monaldeschi and Burigozzo
    appear to mention their own death. The probability is that their
    annals, as we have them, have been freely dealt with by transcribers
    or continuators adopting the historic 'I' after the decease of the
    titular authors.

Giovanni Villani relates how, having visited Rome on the occasion of the
Jubilee, when 200,000 pilgrims crowded the streets of the Eternal City,
he was moved in the depth of his soul by the spectacle of the ruins of
the discrowned mistress of the world.[1] 'When I saw the great and
ancient monuments of Rome, and read the histories and the great deeds of
the Romans, written by Virgil, and by Sallust, and by Lucan, and by
Livy, and by Valerius, and Orosius, and other masters of history, who
related small as well as great things of the acts and doings of the
Romans, I took style and manner from them, though, as a learner, I was
not worthy of so vast a work.' Like our own Gibbon, musing upon the
steps of Ara Celi, within sight of the Capitol, and within hearing of
the monks at prayer, he felt the _genius loci_ stir him with a mixture
of astonishment and pathos. Then 'reflecting that our city of Florence,
the daughter and the creature of Rome, was in the ascendant toward great
achievements, while Rome was on the wane, I thought it seemly to relate
in this new Chronicle all the doings and the origins of the town of
Florence, as far as I could collect and discover them, and to continue
the acts of the Florentines and the other notable things of the world in
brief onwards so long as it shall be God's pleasure, hoping in whom by
His grace I have done the work rather than by my poor knowledge; and
therefore in the year 1300, when I returned from Rome, I began to
compile this book, to the reverence of God and Saint John and the praise
of this our city Florence.' The key-note is struck in these passages.
Admiration for the past mingles with prescience of the future. The
artist and the patriot awake together in Villani at the sight of Rome
and the thought of Florence.

    [1] Lib. viii. cap. 36.

The result of this visit to Rome in 1300 was the Chronicle which
Giovanni Villani carried in twelve books down to the year 1346. In 1348
he died of the plague, and his work was continued on the same plan by
his brother Matteo. Matteo in his turn died of plague in 1362, and left
the Chronicle to his son Filippo, who brought it down to the year 1365.
Of the three Villani, Giovanni is the greatest, both as a master of
style and as an historical artist. Matteo is valuable for the general
reflections which form exordia to the eleven books that bear his name.
Filippo was more of a rhetorician. He is known as the public lecturer
upon the Divine Comedy, and as the author of some interesting but meager
lives of eminent Florentines, his predecessors or contemporaries.

The Chronicle of the Villani is a treasure-house of clear and accurate
delineations rather than of profound analysis. Not only does it embrace
the whole affairs of Europe in annals which leave little to be desired
in precision of detail and brevity of statement; but, what is more to
our present purpose, it conveys a lively picture of the internal
condition of the Florentines and the statistics of the city in the
fourteenth century. We learn, for example, that the ordinary revenues of
Florence amounted to about 300,000 golden florins,[1] levied chiefly by
way of taxes--90,200 proceeding from the octroi, 58,300 from the retail
wine trade, 14,450 from the salt duties, and so on through the various
imposts, each of which is carefully calculated. Then we are informed
concerning the ordinary expenditure of the Commune--15,240 lire for the
podestà and his establishment, 5,880 lire for the Captain of the people
and his train, 3,600 for the maintenance of the Signory in the Palazzo,
and so on down to a sum of 2,400 for the food of the lions, for candles,
torches, and bonfires. The amount spent publicly in almsgiving; the
salaries of ambassadors and governors; the cost of maintaining the
state armory; the pay of the night-watch; the money spent upon the
yearly games when the palio was run; the wages of the city trumpeters;
and so forth, are all accurately reckoned. In fact the ordinary Budget
of the Commune is set forth. The rate of extraordinary expenses during
war-time is estimated on the scale of sums voted by the Florentines to
carry on the war with Martino della Scala in 1338. At that time they
contributed 25,000 florins monthly to Venice, maintained full garrisons
in the fortresses of the republic, and paid as well for upwards of 1,000
men at arms. In order that a correct notion of these balance-sheets may
be obtained, Villani is careful to give particulars about the value of
the florin and the lira, and the number of florins coined yearly. In
describing the condition of Florence at this period, he computes the
number of citizens capable of bearing arms, between the ages fifteen and
seventy, at 25,000; the population of the city at 90,000, not counting
the monastic communities, nor including the strangers, who are estimated
at about 15,000. The country districts belonging to Florence add 80,000
to this calculation. It is further noticed that the excess of male
births over female was between 300 and 500 yearly in Florence, that from
8,000 to 10,000 boys and girls learned to read; that there were six
schools, in which from 10,000 to 12,000 children learned arithmetic; and
four high schools, in which from 550 to 600 learned grammar and logic.
Then follows a list of the religious houses and churches: among the
charitable institutions are reckoned 30 hospitals capable of receiving
more than 1,000 sick people. Here too it may be mentioned that Villani
reckons the beggars of Florence at 17,000, with the addition of 4,000
paupers and sick persons and religious mendicants.[2] These mendicants
were not all Florentines, but received relief from the city charities.
The big wool factories are numbered at upwards of two hundred; and it is
calculated that from sixty to eighty thousand pieces of cloth were
turned out yearly, to the value in all of about 1,200,000 florins. More
than 30,000 persons lived by this industry. The _calimala_ factories,
where foreign cloths were manufactured into fine materials, numbered
about twenty. These imported some 10,000 pieces of cloth yearly, to the
value of 300,000 florins. The exchange offices are estimated at about
eighty in number. The fortunes made in Florence by trade and by banking
were colossal for those days. Villani tells us that the great houses of
the Bardi and Peruzzi lent to our King Edward III. more than 1,365,000
golden florins.[3] 'And mark this,' he continues, 'that these moneys
were chiefly the property of persons who had given it to them on
deposit.' This debt was to have been recovered out of the wool revenues
and other income of the English; in fact, the Bardi and Peruzzi had
negotiated a national loan, by which they hoped to gain a superb
percentage on their capital. The speculation, however, proved
unfortunate; and the two houses would have failed, but for their
enormous possessions in Tuscany. We hear, for example, of the Bardi
buying the villages of Vernia and Mangona in 1337.[4] As it was, their
credit received a shock from which it never thoroughly recovered; and a
little later on, in 1342, after the ruinous wars with the La Scala
family and Pisa, and after the loss of Lucca, they finally stopped
payment and declared themselves bankrupt.[5] The shock communicated by
this failure to the whole commerce of Christendom is well described by
Villani.[6] The enormous wealth amassed by Florentine citizens in
commerce may be still better imagined when we remember that the Medici,
between the years 1434 and 1471, spent some 663,755 golden florins upon
alms and public works, of which 400,000 were supplied by Cosimo alone.
But to return to Villani; not content with the statistics which I have
already extracted, he proceeds to calculate how many bushels of wheat,
hogsheads of wine, and head of cattle were consumed in Florence by the
year and the week.[7] We are even told that in the month of July 1280,
40,000 loads of melons entered the gate of San Friano and were sold in
the city. Nor are the manners and the costume of the Florentines
neglected: the severe and decent dress of the citizens in the good old
times (about 1260) is contrasted with the new-fangled fashions
introduced by the French in 1342.[8] In addition to all this
miscellaneous information may be mentioned what we learn from Matteo
Villani concerning the foundation of the Monte or Public Funds of
Florence in the year 1345,[9] as well as the remarkable essay upon the
economical and other consequences of the plague of 1348, which forms the
prelude to his continuation of his brother's Chronicle.[10]

    [1] xi. 62.

    [2] x. 162.

    [3] xi. 88.

    [4] xi. 74. On this occasion a law was passed forbidding citizens to
    become lords of districts within the territory of Florence.

    [5] xi. 38.

    [6] xi. 88.

    [7] xi, 94.

    [8] vi. 69; xii. 4.

    [9] iii. 106.

    [10] i. 1-8.

In his survey of the results of the Black Death, Matteo notices not only
the diminution of the population, but the alteration in public morality,
the displacement of property, the increase in prices, the diminution of
labor, and the multiplication of lawsuits, which were the consequences
direct or indirect of the frightful mortality. Among the details which
he has supplied upon these topics deserve to be commemorated the
enormous bequests to public charities in Florence--350,000 florins to
the Society of Orsammichele, 25,000 to the Compagnia della Misericordia,
and 25,000 to the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova. The poorer population
had been almost utterly destroyed by the plague; so that these funds
were for the most part wasted, misapplied, and preyed upon by
mal-administrators.[1] The foundation of the University of Florence is
also mentioned as one of the extraordinary consequences of this

    [1] Matteo Villani expressly excepts the Hospital of S. Maria Nuova,
    which seems to have been well managed.

The whole work of the Villani remains a monument, unique in mediæval
literature, of statistical patience and economical sagacity, proving how
far in advance of the other European nations were the Italians at this
period.[1] Dante's aim is wholly different. Of statistics and of
historical detail we gain but little from his prose works. His mind was
that of a philosopher who generalizes, and of a poet who seizes salient
characteristics, not that of an annalist who aims at scrupulous fidelity
in his account of facts. I need not do more than mention here the
concise and vivid portraits, which he has sketched in the Divine Comedy,
of all the chief cities of Italy; but in his treatise 'De Monarchiâ' we
possess the first attempt at political speculation, the first essay in
constitutional philosophy, to which the literature of modern Europe gave
birth; while his letters addressed to the princes of Italy, the
cardinals, the emperor and the republic of Florence, are in like manner
the first instances of political pamphlets setting forth a rationalized
and consistent system of the rights and duties of nations. In the 'De
Monarchiâ' Dante bases a theory of universal government upon a definite
conception of the nature and the destinies of humanity. Amid the anarchy
and discord of Italy, where selfishness was everywhere predominant, and
where the factions of the Papacy and Empire were but cloaks for party
strife, Dante endeavors to bring his countrymen back to a sublime ideal
of a single monarchy, a true _imperium_, distinct from the priestly
authority of the Church, but not hostile to it,--nay, rather seeking
sanction from Christ's Vicar upon earth and affording protection to the
Holy See, as deriving its own right from the same Divine source.
Political science in this essay takes rank as an independent branch of
philosophy, and the points which Dante seeks to establish are supported
by arguments implying much historical knowledge, though quaintly
scholastic in their application. The Epistles contain the same thoughts:
peace, mutual respect, and obedience to a common head, the duty of the
chief to his subordinates and of the governed to their lord, are urged
with no less force, but in a more familiar style and with direct
allusion to the events which called each letter forth. They are in fact
political brochures addressed by a thinker from his solitude to the
chief actors in the drama of history around him. Nor would it here be
right to omit some notice of the essay 'De Vulgari Eloquio,' which,
considering the date of its appearance, is no less original and
indicative of a new spirit in the world than the treatise 'De
Monarchiâ.' It is an attempt to write the history of Italian as a member
of the Romance Languages, to discuss the qualities of its several
dialects, and to prove the advantages to be gained by the formation of a
common literary tongue for Italy. Though Dante was of course devoid of
what we now call comparative philology, and had but little knowledge of
the first beginnings of the languages which he discusses, yet it is not
more than the truth to say that this essay applies the true method of
critical analysis for the first time to the subject, and is the first
attempt to reason scientifically upon the origin and nature of a modern

    [1] We must remember that our own annalists, Holinshed and Stow,
    were later by two centuries than the Villani.

While discussing the historical work of Dante and the Villani, it is
impossible that another famous Florentine should not occur to our
recollection, whose name has long been connected with the civic contests
that resulted in the exile of Italy's greatest poet from his native
city. Yet it is not easy for a foreign critic to deal with the question
of Dino Compagni's Chronicle--a question which for years has divided
Italian students into two camps, which has produced a voluminous
literature of its own, and which still remains undecided. The point at
issue is by no means insignificant. While one party contends that we
have in this Chronicle the veracious record of an eye-witness, the other
asserts that it is the impudent fabrication of a later century, composed
on hints furnished by Dante, and obscure documents of the Compagni
family, and expressed in language that has little of the fourteenth
century. The one regards it as a faithful narrative, deficient only in
minor details of accuracy. The other stigmatizes it as a wholly
untrustworthy forgery, and calls attention to numberless mistakes,
confusions, misconceptions, and misrepresentations of events, which
place its genuineness beyond the pale of possibility. After a careful
consideration of Scheffer's, Fanfani's, Gino Capponi's, and Isidoro del
Lungo's arguments, it seems to me clearly established that the Chronicle
of Dino Compagni can no longer be regarded as a perfectly genuine
document of fourteenth-century literature. In the form in which we now
possess it, we are rather obliged to regard it as a _rifacimento_ of
some authentic history, compiled during the course of the fifteenth
century in a prose which bears traces of the post-Boccaccian style of
composition.[1] Yet the authority of Dino Compagni has long been such,
and such is still the literary value of the monograph which bears his
name, that it would be impertinent to dismiss the 'Chronicle'
unceremoniously as a mere fiction. I propose, therefore, first to give
an account of the book on its professed merits, and then to discuss, as
briefly as I can, the question of its authenticity.

    [1] The first critic to call Compagni's authenticity in question was
    Pietro Fanfani, in an article of _Il Pievano Arlotto_, 1858. The
    cause was taken up, shortly after this date, by an abler German
    authority, P. Scheffer-Boichorst. The works which I have studied on
    this subject are, 1. _Florentiner Studien_, von P.
    Scheffer-Boichorst, Leipzig, Hirzel, 1874. 2. _Dino Compagni
    vendicato dalla Calunnia di Scrittore della Cronica_, di Pietro
    Fanfani, Milano, Carrara, 1875. 3. _Die Chronik des Dino Compagni,
    Versuch einer Rettung_, von Dr. Carl Hegel, Leipzig, Hirzel, 1875.
    4. _Die Chronik des Dino Compagni, Kritik der Hegelschen Schrift_,
    von P. Scheffer-Boichorst, Leipzig, Hirzel, 1875. 5. The note
    appended to Gino Capponi's _Storia della Repubblica di Firenze_. 6.
    _Dino Compagni e la sua Chronica_, per Isidoro del Lungo, Firenze,
    Le Mornier. Unluckily, the last-named work, though it consists
    already of two bulky volumes in large 8vo, is not yet complete; and
    the part which will treat of the question of authorship and MS.
    authority has not appeared.

The year 1300, which Dante chose for the date of his descent with Virgil
to the nether world, and which marked the beginning of Villani's
'Chronicle,' is also mentioned by Dino Compagni in the first sentence of
the preface to his work. 'The recollections of ancient histories,' he
says, 'have a long while stirred my mind to writing the perilous and
ill-fated events, which the noble city, daughter of Rome, has suffered
many years, and especially at the time of the jubilee in the year 1300.'
Dino Compagni, whose 'Chronicle' embraces the period between 1280 and
1312, took the popular side in the struggles of 1282, sat as Prior in
1289, and in 1301, and was chosen Gonfalonier of Justice in 1293. He was
therefore a prominent actor in the drama of those troublous times. He
died in 1324, two years and four months after the date of Dante's death,
and was buried in the church of Santa Trinità. He was a man of the same
stamp as Dante;[1] burning with love for his country, but still more a
lover of the truth; severe in judgment, but beyond suspicion of mere
partisanship; brief in utterance, but weighty with personal experience,
profound conviction, prophetic intensity of feeling, sincerity, and
justice. As a historian, he narrowed his labors to the field of one
small but highly finished picture. He undertook to narrate the civic
quarrels of his times, and to show how the commonwealth of Florence was
brought to ruin by the selfishness of her own citizens; nor can his
'Chronicle,' although it is by no means a masterpiece of historical
accuracy or of lucid arrangement, be surpassed for the liveliness of its
delineation, the graphic clearness of its characters, the earnestness of
its patriotic spirit, and the acute analysis which lays bare the
political situation of a republic torn by factions, during the memorable
period which embraced the revolution of Giano della Bella and the
struggles of the Neri and Bianchi. The comparison of Dino Compagni with
any contemporary annalist in Italy shows that here again, in these
pages, a new spirit has arisen. Muratori, proud to print them for the
first time in 1726, put them on a level with the 'Commentaries of
Cæsar'; Giordani welcomed their author as a second Sallust. The
political sagacity and scientific penetration, possessed in so high a
degree by the Florentines, appear in full maturity. Compagni's
'Chronicle' heads a long list of similar monographs, unique in the
literature of a single city.[2]

    [1] The apostrophes to the citizens of Florence at large, and the
    imprecations on some of the worst offenders among the party-leaders
    (especially in book ii. on the occasion of the calamities of 1301)
    are conceived and uttered in the style of Dante.

    [2] Among these I may here mention Gino Capponi's history of the
    Ciompi Rebellion, Giovanni Cavalcanti's memoirs of the period
    between 1420 and 1452, Leo Battista Alberti's narrative of Porcari's
    attempt upon the life of Nicholas V., Vespasiano's 'Biographies,'
    and Poliziano's 'Essay on the Pazzi Conspiracy.' Gino Capponi, born
    about 1350, was Prior in 1396, and Gonfalonier of Justice in 1401
    and 1418; he died in 1421. Giovanni Cavalcanti was a zealous admirer
    of Cosimo de' Medici; he composed his 'Chronicle' in the prison of
    the Stinche, where he was unjustly incarcerated for a debt to the
    Commune of Florence. Vespasiano da Bisticci contributed a series of
    most valuable portraits to the literature of Italy: all the great
    men of his time are there delineated with a simplicity that is the
    sign of absolute sincerity, Poliziano was present at the murder of
    Giuliano de' Medici in the Florentine Duomo. The historians of the
    sixteenth century will be noticed together further on.

The arguments against the authenticity of Dino Compagni's 'Chronicle'
may be arranged in three groups. The _first_ concerns the man himself.
It is urged that, with the exception of his offices as Prior and
Gonfalonier, we have no evidence of his political activity, beyond what
is furnished by the disputed 'Chronicle.' According to his own account,
Dino played a part of the first importance in the complicated events of
1280-1312. Yet he is not mentioned by Giovanni Villani, by Filippo
Vallani, or by Dante. There is no record of his death, except a MS. note
in the Magliabecchian Codex of his 'Chronicle' of the date 1514.[1] He
is known in literature as the author of a few lyrics and an oration to
Pope John XXII., the style of which is so rough and mediæval as to make
it incredible that the same writer should have composed the masterly
paragraphs of the 'Chronicle.'[2] The _second_ group of arguments
affects the substance of the 'Chronicle' itself. Though Dino was Prior
when Charles of Valois entered Florence, he records that event under the
date of Sunday the fourth of November, whereas Charles arrived on the
first of November, and the first Sunday of the month was the fifth. He
differs from the concurrent testimony of other historians in making the
affianced bride of Buondelmonte dei Buondelmonti a Giantruffetti instead
of an Amidei, and the Bishop of Arezzo a Pazzi instead of an Ubertini.
He reckons the Arti at twenty-four, whereas they numbered twenty-one. He
places the Coronation of Henry VII. in August, instead of in June, 1312.
He seems to refer to the Palace of the Signory, which could not have
been built at the date in question. He asserts that a member of the
Benivieni family was killed by one of the Galligai, whereas the murderer
was of the blood of the Galli. He represents himself as having been the
first Gonfalonier of Justice who destroyed the houses of rebellious
nobles, while Baldo de' Ruffoli, who held the office before him, had
previously carried out the Ordinances. Speaking of Guido Cavalcanti
about the year 1300, he calls him 'uno giovane gentile'; and yet Guido
had married the daughter of Farinata degli Uberti in 1266, and certainly
did not survive 1300 more than a few months. The peace with Pisa, which
was concluded during Compagni's tenure of the Gonfalonierate, is not
mentioned, though this must have been one of the most important public
events with which he was concerned. Chronology is hopelessly and
inextricably confused; while inaccuracies and difficulties of the kind
described abound on every page of the 'Chronicle,' rendering the labor
of its last commentator and defender one of no small difficulty. The
_third_ group of arguments assails the language of the 'Chronicle' and
its MS. authority. Fanfani, who showed more zeal than courtesy in his
destructive criticism, undertook to prove that Dino's style in general
is not distinguished for the 'purity, simplicity, and propriety' of the
trecento[3]; that it abounds in expressions of a later period, such as
_armata_ for _oste_, _marciare_ for _andare_, _acciò_ for _acciocchè_,
_onde_ for _affinchè_; that numerous imitations of Dante can be traced
in it; and that to an acute student of early Italian prose its palpable
_quattrocentismo_ is only slightly veiled by a persistent affectation of
fourteenth-century archaism. This argument from style seems the
strongest that can be brought against the genuineness of the
'Chronicle'; for while it is possible that Dino may have made
innumerable blunders about the events in which he took a part, it is
incredible that he should have anticipated the growth of Italian by at
least a century. Yet judges no less competent than Fanfani in this
matter of style, and far more trustworthy as witnesses, Vincenzo
Nannucci, Gino Capponi, Isidoro del Lungo, are of opinion that Dino's
'Chronicle' is a masterpiece of Italian fourteenth-century prose; and
till Italian experts are agreed, foreign critics must suspend their
judgment. The analysis of style receives a different development from
Scheffer-Boichorst. In his last essay he undertakes to show that many
passages of the 'Chronicle,' especially the important one which refers
to the _Ordinamenti della Giustizia_, have been borrowed from
Villani.[4] This critical weapon is difficult to handle, for it almost
always cuts both ways. Yet the German historian has made out an
undoubtedly good case by proving Villani's language closer to the
original _Ordinamenti_ than Compagni's. With regard to MS. authority,
the codices of Dino's 'Chronicle' extant in Italy are all of them
derived from a MS. transcribed by Noferi Busini and given by him to
Giovanni Mazzuoli, surnamed Lo Stradino, who was a member of the
Florentine Academy and a greedy collector of antiquities. This MS. bears
the date 1514. The recent origin of this parent codex, and the
questionable character of Lo Stradino, gave rise to not unreasonable
suspicions. Fanfani roundly asserted that the 'Chronicle' must have been
fabricated as a hoax upon the uncritical antiquary, since it suddenly
appeared without a pedigree, at a moment when such forgeries were not
uncommon. Scheffer-Boichorst, in his most recent pamphlet, committed
himself to the opinion that either Lo Stradino himself, nicknamed
_Cronaca Scorretta_ by his Florentine cronies, or one of his
contemporaries, was the forger.[5] An Italian impugner of the
'Chronicle,' Giusto Grion of Verona, declared for Antonfrancesco Doni as
the fabricator.[6] These hypotheses, however, are, to say the least,
unlucky for their suggestors, and really serve to weaken rather than to
strengthen the destructive line of argument. There exists an elder codex
of which Fanfani and his followers were ignorant. It is a MS. of perhaps
the middle of the fifteenth century, which was purchased for the
Ashburnham Library in 1846. This MS. has been minutely described by
Professor Paul Meyer; and Isidoro del Lungo publishes a fac-simile
specimen of one of its pages.[7] By some unaccountable negligence this
latest and most determined defender of Compagni has failed to examine
the MS. with his own eyes.

    [1] This is Isidoro del Lungo's Codex A. The note occurs also in the
    Ashburnham MS. which Del Lungo refers to the fifteenth century.

    [2] On this point it is worth mentioning that some good critics
    refer the poems to an elder Dino Compagni, who sat as Ancient in
    1251. See the discussion of this question, as also of the authorship
    of the _Intelligenza_, claimed by Isidoro del Lungo for the writer
    of the 'Chronicle,' in Borgognini's Essays (_Scritti Vari_, Bologna,
    Romagnoli, 1877, vol. i.). With regard to the oration to Pope John
    XXII. date 1326, it must be noted that this performance was first
    printed by Anton Francesco Doni in 1547, and that its genuineness
    may be disputed. See Carl Hegel, op. cit. pp. 18-22.

    [3] The most important of Fanfani's numerous essays on the Compagni
    controversy, together with minor notes by his supporters, are
    collected in the book quoted above, Note to p. 241. Fanfani exceeds
    all bounds of decency in the language he uses, and in his arrogant
    claims to be considered an unique judge of fourteenth-century style.
    These claims he bases in some measure upon the fact that he deceived
    the Della Crusca by a forgery of his own making, which was actually
    accepted for the _Archivio Storico_. See op. cit. p. 181.

    [4] _Die Chronik_, etc., pp. 53-57.

    [5] _Die Chronik_, etc., p. 39.

    [6] See Hegel's op. cit. p. 6.

    [7] See Del Lungo, op. cit. vol. ii. pp. 19-23, and fac-simile, to
    face p. 1. This MS. was bought by G. Libri from the Pucci family in
    1840, and sold to Lord Ashburnham. Del Lungo identifies it with a
    MS. which Braccio Compagni in the seventeenth century spoke of as
    'la copia più antica, appresso il Signor senatore Pandolfini.'

Thus stands the question of Dino Compagni's 'Chronicle.' The defenders
of its authenticity, forced to admit Compagni's glaring inaccuracies,
fall back upon arguments deduced from the internal spirit of the author,
from the difficulties of fabricating a personal narrative instinct with
the spirit of the fourteenth century, from the hypotheses of a copyist's
errors or of a thorough-going literary process of rewriting at a later
date, from the absence of any positive evidence of forgery, and from
general considerations affecting the validity of destructive criticism.
One thing has been clearly proved in the course of the controversy, that
the book can have but little historical value when not corroborated.
Still there is a wide gap between inaccuracy and willful fabrication.
Until the best judges of Italian style are agreed that the 'Chronicle'
could not have been written in the second decade of the fourteenth
century, the arguments adduced from an examination of the facts recorded
in it are not strong enough to demonstrate a forgery. There is the
further question of _cui bono?_ which in all problems of literary
forgery must first receive some probable solution. What proof is there
that the vanity or the cupidity of any parties was satisfied by its
production? A book exists in a MS. of about 1450, acquires some notice
in a MS. of 1514, but is not published to the world until 1726.
Supposing it to have been a forgery, the labor of concocting it must
have been enormous. With all its defects, the 'Chronicle' would still
remain a masterpiece of historical research, imagination, sympathy with
bygone modes of feeling, dramatic vigor, and antiquarian command of
language. But who profited by that labor? Not the author of the forgery,
since he was dead or buried more than two centuries before his
fabrication became famous. Not the Compagni family; for there is no
evidence to show that they had piqued themselves upon being the
depositaries of their ancestors masterpiece, nor did they make any
effort, at a period when the printing-press was very active, to give
this jewel of their archives to the public. If it be objected that, on
the hypothesis of genuineness, the MS. of the 'Chronicle' must have been
divulged before the beginning of the sixteenth century, we can adduce
two plausible answers. In the first place, Dino was the partisan of a
conquered cause; and his family had nothing to gain by publishing an
acrimonious political pamphlet during the triumph of his antagonists. In
the second place, MSS. of even greater literary importance disappeared
in the course of the fourteenth century, to be reproduced when their
subjects again excited interest in the literary world. The history of
Dante's treatise _De Vulgari Eloquio_ is a case in point. With regard to
style, no foreigner can pretend to be a competent judge. Reading the
celebrated description of Florence at the opening of Dino's 'Chronicle,'
I seem indeed, for my own part, to discern a post-Boccaccian
artificiality of phrase. Still there is nothing to render it impossible
that the 'Chronicle,' as we possess it, in the texts of 1450(?) and
1514, may be a _rifacimento_ of an elder and simpler work. In that
section of my history which deals with Italian literature of the
fifteenth century, I shall have occasion to show that such remodeling of
ancient texts to suit the fashion of the time was by no means
unfrequent. The curious discrepancies between the _Trattato della
Famiglia_ as written by Alberti and as ascribed to _Pandolfini_ can only
be explained upon the hypothesis of such _rifacimento_. If the
historical inaccuracies in which the 'Chronicle' abounds are adduced as
convincing proof of its fabrication, it may be replied that the author
of so masterly a romance would naturally have been anxious to preserve a
strict accordance with documents of acknowledged validity. Consequently,
these very blunders might not unreasonably be used to combat the
hypothesis of deliberate forgery. It is remarkable, in this connection,
that only one meager reference is made to Dante by the Chronicler, who,
had he been a literary forger, would scarcely have omitted to enlarge
upon this theme. Without, therefore, venturing to express a decided
opinion on a question which still divides the most competent
Italian judges, I see no reason to despair of the problem being
ultimately solved in a way less unfavorable to Dino Compagni than
Scheffer-Boichorst and Fanfani would approve of. Considered as the
fifteenth century _rifacimento_ of an elder document, the 'Chronicle'
would lose its historical authority, but would still remain an
interesting monument of Florentine literature, and would certainly not
deserve the unqualified names of 'forgery' and 'fabrication' that have
been unhesitatingly showered upon it.[1]

    [1] It is to be hoped that the completion of Del Lungo's work may
    put an end to the Compagni controversy, either by a solid
    vindication of the 'Chronicle,' or by so weak a defense as to render
    further partisanship impossible. So far as his book has hitherto
    appeared, it contains no signs of an ultimate triumph. The
    weightiest point contained in it is the discovery of the Ashburnham
    MS. If Del Lungo fails to prove his position, we shall be left to
    choose between Scheffer-Boichorst's absolute skepticism or the
    modified view adopted by me in the text.

The two chief Florentine historians of the fifteenth century are
Lionardo Bruni of Arezzo, and Poggio Bracciolini, each of whom, in his
capacity of Chancellor to the Republic, undertook to write the annals of
the people of Florence from the earliest date to his own time. Lionardo
Aretino wrote down to the year 1404, and Poggio Bracciolini to the year
1455. Their histories are composed in Latin, and savor much of the
pedantic spirit of the age in which they were projected.[1] Both of them
deserve the criticism of Machiavelli, that they filled their pages too
exclusively with the wars and foreign affairs in which Florence was
engaged, failing to perceive that the true object of the historian is to
set forth the life of a commonwealth as a continuous whole, to draw the
portrait of a state with due regard to its especial physiognomy.[2] To
this critique we may add that both Lionardo and Poggio were led astray
by the false taste of the earlier Renaissance. Their admiration for Livy
and the pedantic proprieties of a labored Latinism made them pay more
attention to rhetoric than to the substance of their work.[3] We meet
with frigid imitations and bombastic generalities, where concise
details and graphic touches would have been acceptable. In short, these
works are rather studies of style in an age when the greatest stylists
were but bunglers and beginners, than valuable histories. The Italians
of the fifteenth century, striving to rival Cicero and Livy, succeeded
only in becoming lifeless shadows of the past. History dictated under
the inspiration of pedantic scholarship, and with the object of
reproducing an obsolete style, by men of letters who had played no
prominent part in the Commonwealth,[4] cannot pretend to the vigor and
the freshness that we admire so much in the writings of men like the
Villani, Gino Capponi, Giovanni Cavalcanti, and many others. Yet even
after making these deductions, it may be asserted with truth that no
city of Italy at this period of the Renaissance, except Florence, could
boast historiographers so competent. Vespasiano at the close of his
biography of Poggio estimates their labor in sentences which deserve to
be remembered: 'Among the other singular obligations which the city of
Florence owes to Messer Lionardo and to Messer Poggio, is this, that
except the Roman Commonwealth no republic or free state in Italy has
been so distinguished as the town of Florence, in having had two such
notable writers to record its doings as Messer Lionardo and Messer
Poggio; for up to the time of their histories everything was in the
greatest obscurity. If the republic of Venice, which can show so many
wise citizens, had the deeds which they have done by sea and land
committed to writing, it would be far more illustrious even than it is
now. And Galeazzo Maria, and Filippo Maria, and all the Visconti--their
actions would also be more famous than they are. Nay, there is not any
republic that ought not to give every reward to writers who should
commemorate its doings. We see at Florence that from the foundation of
the city to the days of Messer Lionardo and Messer Poggio there was no
record of anything that the Florentines had done, in Latin, or history
devoted to themselves. Messer Poggio follows after Messer Lionardo, and
writes like him in Latin. Giovanni Villani, too, wrote an universal
history in the vulgar tongue of whatsoever happened in every place, and
introduces the affairs of Florence as they happened. The same did Messer
Filippo Villani, following after Giovanni Villani. These are they alone
who have distinguished Florence by the histories that they have
written.'[5] The pride of the citizen and a just sense of the value of
history, together with sound remarks upon Venice and Milan, mingle
curiously in this passage with the pedantry of a fifteenth-century

    [1] Poggio's _Historia Populi Florentini_ is given in the XXth
    volume of Muratori's collection. Lionardo's _Istoria Fiorentina_,
    translated into Italian by Donato Acciajuoli, has been published by
    Le Monnier (Firenze, 1861). The high praise which Ugo Foscolo
    bestowed upon the latter seems due to a want of familiarity.

    [2] See the preface to the _History of Florence_, by Machiavelli.

    [3] Lionardo Bruni, for example, complains in the preface to his
    history that it is impossible to accommodate the rude names of his
    personages to a polished style.

    [4] Both Poggio and Lionardo began life as Papal secretaries; the
    latter was not made a citizen of Florence till late in his career.

    [5] _Vite di Uomini Illustri_. Barbera, 1859; p. 425.

The historians of the first half of the sixteenth century are a race
apart. Three generations of pedantic erudition and of courtly or
scholastic trifling had separated the men of letters from the men of
action, and had made literature a thing of curiosity. Three generations
of the masked Medicean despotism had destroyed the reality of freedom in
Florence, and had corrupted her citizens to the core. Yet, strange to
say, it was at the end of the fifteenth century that the genius of the
thirteenth revived. Italian literature was cultivated for its own sake
under the auspices of Lorenzo de' Medici. The year 1494 marks the
resurrection of the spirit of old liberty beneath the trumpet-blast of
Savonarola's oratory. Amid the universal corruption of public morals,
from the depth of sloth and servitude, when the reality of liberty was
lost, when fate and fortune had combined to render constitutional
reconstruction impossible for the shattered republics of Italy, the
intellect of the Florentines displayed itself with more than its old
vigor in a series of the most brilliant political writers who have ever
illustrated one short but eventful period in the life of a single
nation. That period is marked by the years 1494 and 1537. It embraces
the two final efforts of the Florentines to shake off the Medicean yoke,
the disastrous siege at the end of which they fell a prey to the
selfishness of their own party-leaders, the persecution of Savonarola by
Pope Alexander, the Church-rule of Popes Leo and Clement, the extinction
of the elder branch of the Medici in its two bastards (Ippolito,
poisoned by his brother Alessandro, and Alessandro poignarded by his
cousin Lorenzino), and the final eclipse of liberty beneath the
Spain-appointed dynasty of the younger Medicean line in Duke Cosimo. The
names of the historians of this period are Niccolo Machiavelli, Jacopo
Nardi, Francesco Guicciardini, Filippo Nerli, Donato Giannotti,
Benedetto Varchi, Bernardo Segni, and Jacopo Pitti.[1] In these men the
mental qualities which we admire in the Villani, Dante, and Compagni
reappear, combined, indeed, in different proportions, tempered with the
new philosophy and scholarship of the Renaissance, and permeated with
quite another morality. In the interval of two centuries freedom has
been lost. It is only the desire for freedom that survives. But that,
after the apathy of the fifteenth century, is still a passion. The
rectitude of instinct and the intense convictions of the earlier age
have been exchanged for a scientific clairvoyance, a 'stoic-epicurean
acceptance' of the facts of vitiated civilization, which in men like
Guicciardini and Machiavelli is absolutely appalling. Nearly all the
authors of this period bear a double face. They write one set of memoirs
for the public, and another set for their own delectation. In their
inmost souls they burn with the zeal for liberty: yet they sell their
abilities to the highest bidder--to Popes whom they despise, and to
Dukes whom they revile in private. What makes the literary labors of
these historians doubly interesting is that they were carried on for the
most part independently; for though they lived at the same time, and in
some cases held familiar conversation with each other, they gave
expression to different shades of political opinion, and their histories
remained in manuscript till some time after their death.[2] The student
of the Renaissance has, therefore the advantage of comparing and
confronting a whole band of independent witnesses to the same events.
Beside their own deliberate criticism of the drama in which all played
some part as actors or spectators, we can use the not less important
testimony they afford unconsciously, according to the bias of private or
political interest by which they are severally swayed.

    [1] The dates of these historians are as follows:--

                           BORN.  DIED.
          Machiavelli      1469   1527
          Nardi            1476   1556
          Guicciardini     1482   1540
          Nerli            1485   1536
          Giannotti        1492   1572
          Varchi           1502   1565
          Segni            1504   1558
          Pitti            1519   1589

    [2] Varchi, it is true, had Nardi's _History of Florence_ and
    Guicciardini's _History of Italy_ before him while he was compiling
    his _History of Florence_. But Segni and Nerli were given for the
    first time to the press in the last century; Pitti in 1842, and
    Guicciardini's _History of Florence_ in 1859.

The Storia Fiorentina of Varchi extends from the year 1527 to the year
1538; that of Segni from 1527 to 1555; that of Nardi from 1494 to 1552;
that of Pitti from 1494 to 1529; that of Nerli from 1494 to 1537; that
of Guicciardini from 1420 to 1509. The prefatory chapters, which in most
cases introduce the special subject of each history, contain a series of
retrospective surveys over the whole history of Florence extremely
valuable for the detailed information they contain, as well as for the
critical judgments of men whose acumen had been sharpened to the utmost
by their practical participation in politics. It will not, perhaps, be
superfluous to indicate the different parts played by these historians
in the events of their own time. Guicciardini, it is well known, had
governed Bologna and Romagna for the Medicean Popes. He too was
instrumental in placing Duke Cosimo at the head of the republic in 1536.
At Naples, in 1535, he pleaded the cause of Duke Alessandro against the
exiles before Charles V. Nardi on this occasion acted as secretary and
advocate for Filippo Strozzi and the exiles; his own history was
composed in exile at Venice, where he died. Segni was nephew of the
Gonfalonier Capponi, and shared the anxieties of the moderate liberals
during the siege of Florence. Pitti was a member of the great house who
contested the leadership of the republic with the Medici in the
fifteenth century; his zeal for the popular party and his hatred of the
Palleschi may still perhaps be tinctured with ancestral animosity.
Giannotti, in whose critique of the Florentine republic we trace a
spirit no less democratic than Pitti's, was also an actor in the events
of the siege, and afterwards appeared among the exiles. In the attempt
made by the Cardinal Salviati (1537) to reconcile Duke Cosimo and the
adherents of Filippo Strozzi, Giannotti was chosen as the spokesman for
the latter. He wrote and died in exile at Venice. Nerli again took part
in the events of those troublous times, but on the wrong side, by mixing
himself up with the exiles and acting as a spy upon their projects. All
the authors I have mentioned were citizens of Florence, and some of
them were members of her most illustrious families. Varchi, in whom the
flame of Florentine patriotism burns brightest, and who is by far the
most copious annalist of the period, was a native of Montevarchi. Yet,
as often happens, he was more Florentine than the Florentines; and of
the events which he describes, he had for the most part been witness.
Duke Cosimo employed him to write the history; it is a credit both to
the prince and to the author that its chapters should be full of
criticisms so outspoken, and of aspirations after liberty so vehement.
On the very first page of his preface Varchi dares to write these words
respecting Florence--'divenne, dico, di stato piuttosto corrotto e
licenzioso, tirannide, che di sana e moderata repubblica,
principato';[1] in which he deals blame with impartial justice all
round. It must, however, be remembered that at the time when Varchi
wrote, the younger branch of the Medici were firmly established on the
throne of Florence. Between this branch and the elder line there had
always been a coldness. Moreover, all parties had agreed to accept the
duchy as a divinely appointed instrument for rescuing the city from her
factions and reducing her to tranquillity.[2]

    [1] 'It passed, I say, from the condition of a corrupt and
    ill-conducted commonwealth to tyranny, rather than from a healthy
    and well-tempered republic to principality.'

    [2] See _Arch. Stor._ vol. i. p. xxxv.

It would be beyond the purpose of this chapter to enter into the
details of the history of Florence between 1527 and 1531--those years of
her last struggle for freedom, which have been so admirably depicted by
her great political annalists. It is rather my object to illustrate the
intellectual qualities of philosophical analysis and acute observation
for which her citizens were eminent. Yet a sketch of the situation is
necessary in order to bring into relief the different points of view
maintained by Segni, Nardi, Varchi, Pitti, and Nerli respectively.

At the period in question Florence was, according to the universal
testimony of these authors, too corrupt for real liberty and too
turbulent for the tranquil acceptance of a despotism. The yoke of the
Medici had destroyed the sense of honor and the pride of the old noble
families; while the policy pursued by Lorenzo and the Popes had created
a class of greedy professional politicians. The city was not content
with slavery; but the burghers, eminent for wealth or ability, were
egotistical, vain, and mutually jealous. Each man sought advantage for
himself. Common action seemed impossible. The Medicean party, or
Palleschi, were either extreme in their devotion to the ruling house,
and desirous of establishing a tyranny; or else they were moderate and
anxious to retain the Medici as the chiefs of a dominant oligarchy. The
point of union between these two divisions of the party was a prejudice
in favor of class rule, a hope to get power and wealth for themselves
through the elevation of the princely family The popular faction on the
other hand agreed in wishing to place the government of the city upon a
broad republican basis. But the leaders of this section of the citizens
favored the plebeian cause from different motives. Some sought only a
way to riches and authority, which they could never have opened for them
under the oligarchy contemplated by the Palleschi. Others, styled
Frateschi or Piagnoni, clung to the ideas of liberty which were
associated with the high morality and impassioned creed of Savonarola.
These were really the backbone of the nation, the class which might have
saved the state if salvation had been possible. Another section, steeped
in the study of ancient authors and imbued with memories of Roman
patriotism, thought it still possible to secure the freedom of the state
by liberal institutions. These men we may call the Doctrinaires. Their
panacea was the establishment of a mixed form of government, such as
that which Giannotti so learnedly illustrated. To these parties must be
added the red republicans, or Arrabbiati--a name originally reserved for
the worst adherents of the Medici, but now applied to fanatics of
Jacobin complexion--and the Libertines, who only cared for such a form
of government as should permit them to indulge their passions.

Amid this medley of interests there resulted, as a matter of fact, two
policies at the moment when the affairs of Florence, threatened by Pope
and Emperor in combination, and deserted by France and the rest of
Italy, grew desperate. One was that of the Gonfalonier Capponi, who
advocated moderate counsels and an accommodation with Clement VII. The
other was that of the Gonfalonier Carducci, who pushed things to
extremities and used the enthusiasm of the Frateschi for sustaining the
spirit of the people in the siege.[1] The latter policy triumphed over
the former. Its principles were an obstinate belief in Francis, though
he had clearly turned a deaf ear to Florence; confidence in the
generals, Baglioni and Colonna, who were privately traitors to the cause
they professed to defend; and reliance on the prophecies of Savonarola,
supported by the preaching of the Friars Foiano, Bartolommeo, and
Zaccaria. Ill-founded as it was in fact, the policy of Carducci had on
its side all that was left of nobility, patriotism, and the fire of
liberty among the Florentines. In spite of the hopelessness of the
attempt, we cannot now read without emotion how bravely and desperately
those last champions of freedom fought, to maintain the independence of
their city at any cost, and in the teeth of overwhelming opposition. The
memory of Savonarola was the inspiration of this policy. Ferrucci was
its hero. It failed. It was in vain that the Florentines had laid waste
Valdarno, destroyed their beautiful suburbs, and leveled their crown of
towers. It was in vain that they had poured forth their treasures to the
uttermost farthing, had borne plague and famine without a murmur, and
had turned themselves at the call of their country into a nation of
soldiers, Charles, Clement, the Palleschi, and Malatesta
Baglioni--enemies without the city walls and traitors within its
gates--were too powerful for the resistance of burghers who had learned
but yesterday to handle arms and to conduct a war on their own
account.[2] Florence had to capitulate. The venomous Palleschi,
Francesco Guicciardini and Baccio Valori, by proscription, exile, and
taxation, drained the strength and broke the spirit of the state. Cæsar
and Christ's Vicar, a new Herod and a new Pilate, embraced and made
friends over the prostrate corpse of sold and slaughtered liberty.
Florence was paid as compensation for the insult offered to the Pontiff
in the sack of Rome.

    [1] Guicciardini, writing his _Ricordi_ during the first months of
    the siege, remarks upon the power of faith (_Op. Ined._ vol. i. p.
    83. Compare p. 134): 'Esemplo a' dì nostri ne è grandissimo questa
    ostinazione de' Fiorentini, che essendosi contro a ogni ragione del
    mondo messi a aspettare la guerra del papa e imperadore, senza
    speranza di alcuno soccorso di altri, disuniti e con mille
    difficultà, hanno sostenuto in quelle mura già sette mesi gli e
    serciti, e quali non sì sarebbe creduto che avessino sostenuti sette
    dì; e condotto le cose in luogo che se vincessino, nessuno più se ne
    maraviglierebbe, dove prima da tutti erano giudicati perduti; e
    questa ostinazione ha causata in gran parte la fede di non potere
    perire, secondo le predicazioni di Fra Jeronimo da Ferrara.'

    [2] See above, p. 238, for what Giannotti says of the heroic

The part played by Filippo Strozzi in this last drama of the liberties
of Florence is feeble and discreditable, but at the same time
historically instructive, since it shows to what a point the noblest of
the Florentines had fallen. All Pitti's invectives against the
Ottimati, bitter as they may be, are justified by the unvarnished
narrative we read upon the pages of Varchi and Segni concerning this
most vicious, selfish, vain, and brilliant hero of historical romance.
Married to Clarice de' Medici, by whom he had a splendid family of
handsome and vigorous sons, he was more than the rival of his wife's
princely relatives by his wealth. Yet though he made a profession of
patriotism, Filippo failed to use this great influence consistently as a
counterpoise to the Medicean authority. It was he, for instance, who
advised Lorenzo the younger to make himself Duke of Florence.
Distinguished, as he was, above all men of his time for wit, urbanity,
accomplishments, and splendid living, his want of character neutralized
these radiant gifts of nature. His private morals were infamous. He
encouraged by precept and example the worst vices of his age and nation,
consorting with young men whom he instructed in the arts of dissolute
living, and to whom he communicated his own selfish Epicureanism. To him
in a great measure may be attributed the corruption of the Florentine
aristocracy in the sixteenth century. In his public action he was no
less vacillating than unprincipled in private life. After prevailing
upon Ippolito and Alessandro de' Medici to leave Florence in 1527, he
failed to execute his trust of getting Pisa from their grasp (moved, it
is said, by a guilty fondness for the young and handsome Ippolito), nor
did he afterwards share any of the hardships and responsibilities of
the siege. Indeed, he then found it necessary to retire into exile in
France, on the excuse of superintending his vast commercial affairs at
Lyons. After the restoration of the Medici he returned to Florence as
the courtier of Duke Alessandro, whom he aided and abetted in his
juvenile debaucheries. Quarreling with Alessandro on the occasion of an
insult offered to his daughter Luisa, and the accusation of murder
brought against his son Piero, he went into opposition and exile, less
for political than for private reasons. After the murder of Alessandro,
he received Lorenzo de' Medici, the fratricide, with the title of
'Second Brutus' at Venice. Meanwhile it was he who paid the dowry of
Catherine de' Medici to the Duke of Orleans, helping thus to strengthen
the house of princes against whom he was plotting, by that splendid
foreign alliance which placed a descendant of the Florentine
bill-brokers on the throne of France. After all these vicissitudes
Filippo Strozzi headed an armed attack upon the dominions of Duke
Cosimo, was taken in the battle of Montemurlo, and finally was murdered
in that very fortress, outside the Porto a Faenza, which he had
counseled Alessandro to construct for the intimidation of the
Florentines.[1] The historians with the exception of Nerli agree in
describing him as a pleasure-loving and self-seeking man, whose many
changes of policy were due, not to conviction, but to the desire of
gaining the utmost license of disorderly living. At the same time we
cannot deny him the fame of brilliant mental qualities, a princely
bearing, and great courage.

    [1] See Varchi, vol. iii. p. 61, for the first stone laid of this
    castle. It should be said that accounts disagree about Filippo's
    death. Nerli very distinctly asserts that he committed suicide.
    Segni inclines to the belief that he was murdered by the creatures
    of Duke Cosimo.

The moral and political debility which proved the real source of the
ruin of Florence is accounted for in different ways by the historians of
the siege. Pitti, whose insight into the situation is perhaps the
keenest, and who is by far the most outspoken, does not refer the
failure of the Florentines to the cowardice or stupidity of the popular
party, but to the malignity of the Palleschi, the double-dealing and
egotism of the wealthy nobles, who to suit their own interests favored
now one and now another of the parties. These Ottimati--as he calls
them, by a title borrowed from classical phraseology--whether they
professed the Medicean or the popular cause, were always bent on
self-aggrandizement at the expense of the people or their princes.[1]
The sympathies of Pitti were on the side of the plebeians, whose policy
during the siege was carried out by the Gonfalonier Carducci. At the
same time he admitted the feebleness and insufficiency of many of these
men, called from a low rank of life and from mechanical trades to the
administration of the commonwealth. The state of Florence under Piero
Soderini--that 'non mai abbastanza lodato cavaliere,' as he calls
him--was the ideal to which he reverted with longing eyes. Segni, on the
other hand, condemns the ambition of the plebeian leaders, and declares
his opinion that the State could only have been saved by the more
moderate among the influential citizens. He belonged in fact to that
section of the Medicean party which Varchi styles the Neutrals. He had
strong aristocratic leanings, and preferred a government of nobles to
the popular democracy which flourished under Francesco Carducci. While
he desired the liberty of Florence, Segni saw that the republic could
not hold its own against both Pope and Emperor, at a crisis when the
King of France, who ought to have rendered assistance in the hour of
need, was bound by the treaty of Cambray, and by the pledges he had
given to Charles in the persons of his two sons. The policy of which
Segni approved was that which Niccolo Capponi had prepared before his
fall--a reconciliation with Clement through the intervention of the
Emperor, according to the terms of which the Medici should have been
restored as citizens of paramount authority, but not as sovereigns.
Varchi, while no less alive to the insecurity of Carducci's policy, was
animated with a more democratic spirit. He had none of Segni's Whig
leanings, but shared the patriotic enthusiasm which at that supreme
moment made the whole state splendidly audacious in the face of
insurmountable difficulties. Both Segni and Varchi discerned the
exaggerated and therefore baneful influence of Savonarola's prophecies
over the populace of Florence. In spite of continued failure, the people
kept trusting to the monk's prediction that, after her chastisement,
Florence would bloom forth with double luster, and that angels in the
last resort would man her walls and repel the invaders. There is
something pathetic in this delusion of a great city, trusting with
infantine pertinacity to the promises of the man whom they had seen
burned as an impostor, when all the while their statesmen and their
generals were striking bargains with the foe. Nardi is more sincerely
Piagnone than either Segni or Varchi. Yet, writing after the events of
the siege, his faith is shaken; and while he records his conviction that
Savonarola was an excellent Nomothetes, he questions his prophetic
mission, and deplores the effect produced by his vain promises. Nerli,
as might have been expected from a noble married to Caterina Salviati,
the niece of Leo and the aunt of Cosimo, who had himself been courtier
to Clement and privy councilor to Alessandro, sustains the Medicean note
throughout his commentaries.

    [1] He goes so far as to assert that Leo X. and Clement VII. wished
    to give a liberal constitution to Florence, but that their plans
    were frustrated by the avarice and jealousy of the would-be
    oligarchs. See _Arch. Stor_. vol. i. pp. 121,131. The passages
    quoted from his 'Apologia de' Cappucci,' relative to Machiavelli,
    Filippo Strozzi, and Francesco Guicciardini (_Arch. Stor_. vol. i.
    pp. xxxix. xxxviii.), are very instructive; with such greedy
    self-seeking oligarchs, it was impossible for the Medicean Popes to
    establish any government but a tyranny in Florence.

Thus from these five authors, writing from different points of view, we
gain a complete insight into the complicated politics of Florence, at a
period when her vitality was still vigorous, but when she had lost all
faculty for centralized or concerted action. In sagacity, in the power
of analysis with which they pierce below the surface, trace effects to
causes, discern character, and regard the facts of history as the proper
subject-matter of philosophical reflection, they have much in common. He
who has seen Rembrandt's painting of the dissecting-room might construct
for himself another picture, in which the five grave faces of these
patient observers should be bent above the dead and diseased body of
their native city. Life is extinct. Nothing is left for science but,
scalpel in hand, to lay bare the secret causes of dissolution. Each
anatomist has his own opinion to deliver upon the nature of the malady.
Each records the facts revealed by the autopsy according to his own

The literary qualities of these historians are very different, and seem
to be derived from essential differences in their characters. Pitti is
by far the most brilliant in style, concentrated in expression to the
point of epigram, and weighty in judgment. Nardi, though deficient in
some of the most attractive characteristics of the historian, is
invaluable for sincerity of intention and painstaking accuracy. The
philosophical, rhetorical, and dramatic passages which add so much
splendor to the works of Guicciardini are absent from the pages of
Nardi. He is anxious to present a clear picture of what happened; but he
cannot make it animated, and he never reflects at length upon the
matter of his history. At the same time he lacks the _naïiveté_ which
makes Corio, Allegretti, Infessura, and Matarazzo so amusing. He gossips
as little as Machiavelli, and has no profundity to make up for the want
of piquancy. The interest of his chronicle is greatest in the part which
concerns Savonarola, though even here the peculiarly reticent and
dubitative nature of the man is obvious. While he sympathizes with
Savonarola's political and moral reforms, he raises a doubt about his
inner sincerity, and does not approve of the attitude of the
Piagnoni.[1] In his estimation of men Nardi was remarkably cautious,
preferring always to give an external relation of events, instead of
analyzing motives or criticising character.[2] He is in especial silent
about bad men and criminal actions. Therefore, when he passes an adverse
judgment (as, for instance, upon Cesare Borgia), or notes a dark act (as
the _stuprum_ committed upon Astorre Manfredi), his corroboration of
historians more addicted to scandal is important. Segni is far more
lively than Nardi, while he is not less painstaking to be accurate. He
shows a partisan feeling, especially in his admiration for Niccolo
Capponi and his prejudice against Francesco Carducci, which gives the
relish of personality that Nardi's cautiously dry chronicle lacks.
Rarely have the entangled events of a specially dramatic period been set
forth more lucidly, more succinctly, and with greater elegance of style.
Segni is deficient, when compared with Varchi, only perhaps in volume,
minuteness, and that wonderful mixture of candor, enthusiasm, and zeal
for truth which makes Varchi incomparable. His sketches of men,
critiques, and digressions upon statistical details are far less copious
than Varchi's. But in idiomatic purity of language he is superior.
Varchi had been spoiled by academic habits of composition. His language
is diffuse and lumbering. He lacks the vivacity of epigram, selection,
and pointed phrase. But his Storia Fiorentina remains the most valuable
repertory of information we possess about the later vicissitudes of the
republic, and the charm of detail compensates for the lack of style.
Nerli is altogether a less interesting writer than those that have been
mentioned; yet some of the particulars which he relates, about
Savonarola's reform of manners, for example, and the literary gatherings
in the Rucellai gardens, are such as we find nowhere else.

    [1] Book ii. cap. 16.

    [2] See lib. ii. cap. 34: 'Nel nostro scrivere non intendiamo
    far giudizio delle cose incerte, e massimamente della
    intenzione e animo segreto degli uomini, che non apparisce
    chiara se non per congettura e riscontro delle cose esteriori.
    E però stando termo il primo proposito, vogliamo raccontare
    quanto più possibile ci sia, la verità delle cose fatte, più
    tosto che delle pensate o immaginate.' This is dignified and
    noble language in an age which admired the brilliant falsehoods
    of Giovio.

Many of my readers will doubtless feel that too much time has been spent
in the discussion of these annalists of the siege of Florence. Yet for
the student of history they have a value almost unique. They suggest the
possibilities of a true science of comparative history, and reveal a
vivacity of the historic consciousness which can be paralleled by no
other nation. How different might be our conception of the vicissitudes
of Athens between 404 and 338 B.C. if we possessed a similar Pleiad of
contemporary Greek authors!

Having traced the development of historical research and political
philosophy in Florence from the year 1300 to the fall of the Republic,
it remains to speak of the two greatest masters of practical and
theoretical statecraft--Francesco Guicciardini and Niccolo Machiavelli.
These two writers combine all the distinctive qualities of the
Florentine historiographers in the most eminent perfection. At the same
time they are, not merely as authors but also as men, mirrors of the
times in which they both played prominent parts. In their biographies
and in their works we trace the spirit of an age devoid of moral
sensibility, penetrative in analysis, but deficient in faith, hope,
enthusiasm, and stability of character. The dry light of the intellect
determined their judgment of men, as well as their theories of
government. On the other hand, the sordid conditions of existence to
which they were subjected as the servants of corrupt states, or the
instruments of wily princes--as diplomatists intent upon the plans of
kings like Ferdinand or adventurers like Cesare Borgia, privy councilors
of such Popes as Clement VII. and such tyrants as Duke Alessandro de'
Medici--distorted their philosophy and blunted their instincts. For the
student of the sixteenth century they remain riddles, the solution of
which is difficult, because by no strain of the imagination is it easy
to place ourselves in their position. One half of their written
utterances seem to be at variance with the other half. Their actions
often contradict their most brilliant and emphatic precepts; while
contemporaries disagree about their private character and public
conduct. All this confusion, through which it is now perhaps impossible
to discern what either Guicciardini or Machiavelli really was, and what
they really felt and thought, is due to the anomaly of consummate
ability and unrivaled knowledge of the world existing without religious
or political faith, in an age of the utmost depravity of public and
private morals. No criticism could be more stringent upon the
contemporary disorganization of society in Italy than is the silent
witness of these men, sublimely great in all mental qualities, but
helplessly adrift upon a sea of contradictions and of doubts, ignorant
of the real nature of mankind in spite of all their science, because
they leave both goodness and beauty out of their calculations.

Francesco Guicciardini was born in 1482. In 1505, at the age of
twenty-three, he had already so distinguished himself as a student of
law that he was appointed by the Signoria of Florence to read the
Institutes in public. However, as he preferred active to professorial
work, he began at this time to practice at the bar, where he soon ranked
as an able advocate and eloquent speaker. This reputation, together
with his character for gravity and insight, determined the Signoria to
send him on an embassy to the Court of Ferdinand of Aragon in 1512. Thus
Guicciardini entered on the real work of his life as a diplomatist and
statesman. We may also conclude with safety that it was at the court of
that crowned hypocrite and traitor to all loyalty of soul that he
learned his first lessons in political cynicism. The court of Spain
under Ferdinand the Catholic was a perfect school of perfidy, where even
an Italian might discern deeper reaches of human depravity and formulate
for his own guidance a philosophy of despair. It was whispered by his
enemies that here, upon the threshold of his public life, Guicciardini
sold his honor by accepting a bribe from Ferdinand.[1] Certain it is
that avarice was one of his besetting sins, and that from this time
forward he preferred expediency to justice, and believed in the policy
of supporting force by clever dissimulation.[2] Returning to Florence,
Guicciardini was, in 1515, deputed to meet Leo X. on the part of the
Republic at Cortona. Leo, who had the faculty of discerning able men and
making use of them, took him into favor, and three years later appointed
him Governor of Reggio and Modena. In 1521 Parma was added to his rule.
Clement VII. made him Viceroy of Romagna in 1523, and in 1526 elevated
him to the rank of Lieutenant-General of the Papal army. In consequence
of this high commission, Guicciardini shared in the humiliation
attaching to all the officers of the League who, with the Duke of Urbino
at their head suffered Rome to be sacked and the Pope to be imprisoned
in 1527. The blame of this contemptible display of cowardice or private
spite cannot, however, be ascribed to him: for he attended the armies of
the League not as general, but as counselor and chief reporter. It was
his business not to control the movements of the army so much as to act
as referee in the Pope's interest, and to keep the Vatican informed of
what was stirring in the camp. In 1531 Guicciardini was advanced to the
governorship of Bologna, the most important of all the Papal
lord-lieutenancies. This post he resigned in 1534 on the election of
Paul III., preferring to follow the fortunes of the Medicean princes at
Florence. In this sketch of his career I must not omit to mention that
Guicciardini was declared a rebel in 1527 by the popular government on
account of his well-known Medicean prejudices, and that in 1530 he had
been appointed by Clement VII. to punish the rebellious citizens. On the
latter occasion he revenged himself for the insults offered him in 1527
by the cruelty with which he pushed proscription to the utmost limits,
relegating his enemies to unhealthy places of exile, burdening them with
intolerable fines, and using all the indirect means which his ingenuity
could devise for forcing them into outlawry and contumacy.[3] Therefore
when he returned to inhabit Florence, he did so as the creature of the
Medici, sworn to maintain the bastard Alessandro in his power. He was
elected a member of the Senate of eighty; and so thoroughly did he
espouse the cause of his new master, that he had the face to undertake
the Duke's defense before Charles V. at Naples in 1535. On this occasion
Alessandro, who had rendered himself unbearable by his despotic habits,
and in particular by the insults which he offered to women of all ranks
and conditions in Florence, was arraigned by the exiles before the bar
of Cæsar. Guicciardini won the cause of his client, and restored
Alessandro with an Imperial confirmation of his despotism to Florence.
This period of his political career deserves particular attention, since
it displays a glaring contradiction between some of his unpublished
compositions and his actions, and confirms the accusations of his
enemies.[4] That he should have preferred a government of Ottimati, or
wealthy nobles, to a more popular constitution, and that he should have
adhered with fidelity to the Medicean faction in Florence, is no ground
for censure.[5] But when we find him in private unmasking the artifices
of the despots by the most relentless use of frigid criticism, and
advocating a mixed government upon the type of the Venetian
Constitution, we are constrained to admit with Varchi and Pitti that his
support of Alessandro was prompted less by loyalty than by a desire to
gratify his own ambition and avarice under the protective shadow of the
Medicean tyranny.[6] He belonged in fact to those selfish citizens whom
Pitti denounces, diplomatists and men of the world, whose thirst for
power induced them to play into the hands of the Medici, wishing to suck
the state[7] themselves, and to hold the prince in the leading-strings
of vice and pleasure for their own advantage.[8] After the murder of
Alessandro, it was principally through Guicciardini's influence that
Cosimo was placed at the head of the Florentine Republic with the title
of Duke. Cosimo was but a boy, and much addicted to field sports.
Guicciardini therefore reckoned that, with an assured income of 12,000
ducats, the youth would be contented to amuse himself, while he left the
government of Florence in the hands of his Vizier.[9] But here the wily
politician overreached himself. Cosimo wore an old head on his young
shoulders. With decent modesty and a becoming show of deference, he used
Guicciardini as his ladder to mount the throne by, and then kicked the
ladder away. The first days of his administration showed that he
intended to be sole master in Florence. Guicciardini, perceiving that
his game was spoiled, retired to his villa in 1537 and spent the last
years of his life in composing his histories. The famous Istoria d'
Italia was the work of one year of this enforced retirement. The
question irresistibly rises to our mind, whether some of the severe
criticisms passed upon the Medici in his unpublished compositions were
the fruit of these same bitter leisure hours.[10] Guicciardini died in
1540 at the age of fifty-eight, without male heirs.

    [1] See the 'Apologia de' Cappucci,' _Arch. Stor._ vol. iv.
    part 2, p. 318.

    [2] For the avarice of Guicciardini, see Varchi, vol. i. p.
    318. His _Ricordi Politici_ amply justify the second, though
    not the first, clause of this sentence.

    [3] See Varchi, book xii. (and especially cap. xxv.), for these
    arts; he says, 'Nel che messer Francesco Guicciardini si
    scoperse più crudele e più appassionato degli altri.'

    [4] Knowing what sort of tyrant Alessandro was, and remembering
    'hat Guicciardini had written (_Ricordi_, No. ccxlii.): 'La
    calcina con che si murano gli stati de' tiranni è il sangue de'
    cittadini: però doverebbe sforzarsi ognuno che nella città sua
    non s'avessino a murare tali palazzi,' it is very difficult to
    approve of his advocacy of the Duke.

    [5] Though even here the selfish ambition of the man was
    apparent to contemporaries: 'egli arebbe voluto uno stato col
    nome d' Ottimati, ma in fatti de' Pochi, nel quale larghissima
    parte, per le sue molte e rarissime qualità, meritissimamente
    gli si venia.'--Varchi, vol. i. p. 318.

    [6] Guicciardini's _Storia Fiorentina_ and _Reggimento di
    Firenze_ (_Op. Ined._ vols. i, and iii.) may be consulted for
    his private critique of the Medici. What was the judgment
    passed upon him by contemporaries may be gathered from Varchi,
    vols. i. pp. 238, 318; ii. 410; iii. 204. Segni, pp. 219, 332.
    Nardi, vol. ii. p. 287. Pitti, quoted in _Arch. Stor._ vol. i.
    p. xxxviii., and the 'Apologia de' Cappucci' (_Arch. Stor._
    vol. iv. pt. 2). It is, however, only fair to Guicciardini to
    record here his opinion, expressed in _Ricordi_, Nos. ccxx. and
    cccxxx., that it was the duty of good citizens to seek to guide
    the tyrant: 'Credo sia uficio di buoni cittadini, quando la
    patria viene in mano di tiranni, cercare d'avere luogo con loro
    per potere persuadere il bene, e detestare il male; e certo è
    interesse della città che in qualunque tempo gli uomini da bene
    abbino autorità; e ancora che gli ignoranti e passionati di
    Firenze l' abbino sempre intesa altrimenti, si accorgerebbono
    quanta pestifero sarebbe il governo de' Medici, se non avessi
    intorno altri che pazzi e cattivi.'

    [7] See Varchi, vol. iii. p. 204. 'Che Cosimo ... _succiarsi lo

    [8] Pitti dips his pen in gall when he describes these
    citizens: 'Cotesti vogliosi Ottimati; i quali non hanno saputo
    mai ritrovare luogo che piaccia loro, sottomendosi ora al
    Medici per l'ingorda avarizia; ora gittandosi al popolo, per
    non potere a modo loro tiraneggiare; ora rivendendolo a'
    Medici, vedutisi scoperti e raffrenati da lui; e sempre mai con
    danno della Repubblica, e di ciascuna parte, inquieti,
    insaziabili e fraudolenti.'--'Apologia de' Cappucci,' _Arch.
    Stor._ xv. pt. ii. p. 215.

    [9] Here is a graphic touch in Varchi's _History_, vol. iii. p.
    202. Guicciardini is discussing the appointment of Cosimo de'
    Medici: 'Gli dovessero esser pagati per suo piatto ogn' anno
    12,000 fiorini d' oro, e non più, avendo il Guicciardino,
    _abbassando il viso e alzando gli occhi_, detto: "Un 12,000
    fiorini d' oro è--un bello spendere."'

    [10] Pitti seems to have taken this view: see 'Apologia de'
    Cappucci' (_Arch. Stor._ vol. iv. part ii. p. 329): 'Tosto che
    'l duca Cosimo lo pose a sedere insieme con certi altri suoi
    colleghi, si adirò malamente; e se la disputa della provvisione
    non l' avesse ritenuto, sarebbe ito a servire papa Pagolo
    terzo. Onde, restato confuso e disperato, si tratteneva alla
    sua villa di Santa Margarita a Montici; dove transportato dalla
    stizza ritoccò in molte parti la sua Istoria, per mostrare di
    non essere stato della setta Pallesca; e dove potette, accattó
    l' occasione di parere istrumento della Repubblica.'
    Guicciardini's own apology for his treatment of the Medici, in
    the proemio to the treatise _Del Reggimento di Firenze_,
    deserves also to be read.

Turning now from the statesman to the man of letters, we find in
Guicciardini one of the most consummate historians of any nation or of
any age. The work by which he is best known, the Istoria d' Italia, is
one that can scarcely be surpassed for masterly control of a very
intricate period, for subordination of the parts to the whole, for
calmness of judgment and for philosophic depth of thought. Considering
that Guicciardini in this great work was writing the annals of his own
times, and that he had to disentangle the raveled skein of Italian
politics in the sixteenth century, these qualities are most remarkable.
The whole movement of the history recalls the pomp and dignity of Livy,
while a series of portraits sketched from life with the unerring hand of
an anatomist and artist add something of the vivid force of Tacitus. Yet
Guicciardini in this work deserves less commendation as a writer than as
a thinker. There is a manifest straining to secure style, by
manipulation and rehandling, which contrasts unfavorably with the
unaffected ease, the pregnant spontaneity, of his unpublished writings.
His periods are almost interminable, and his rhetoric is prolix and
monotonous. We can trace the effort to emulate the authors of antiquity
without the ease which is acquired by practice or the taste that comes
with nature.

The transcendent merit of the history is this--that it presents us with
a scientific picture of politics and of society during the first half of
the sixteenth century. The picture is set forth with a clairvoyance and
a candor that are almost terrible. The author never feels enthusiasm for
a moment: no character, however great for good or evil, rouses him from
the attitude of tranquil disillusioned criticism. He utters but few
exclamations of horror or of applause. Faith, religion, conscience,
self-subordination to the public good, have no place in his list of
human motives; interest, ambition, calculation, envy, are the forces
which, according to his experience, move the world. That the
strong should trample on the weak, that the wily should circumvent the
innocent, that hypocrisy and fraud and dissimulation should triumph,
seems to him but natural. His whole theory of humanity is tinged with
the sad gray colors of a stolid, cold-eyed, ill-contented, egotistical
indifference. He is not angry, desperate, indignant, but phlegmatically
prudent, face to face with the ruin of his country. For him the world
was a game of intrigue, in which his friends, his enemies, and himself
played parts, equally sordid, with grave faces and hearts bent only on
the gratification of mean desires. Accordingly, though his mastery of
detail, his comprehension of personal motives, and his analysis of craft
are alike incomparable, we find him incapable of forming general views
with the breadth of philosophic insight or the sagacity of a frank and
independent nature. The movements of the eagle and the lion must be
unintelligible to the spider or the fox. It was impossible for
Guicciardini to feel the real greatness of the century, or to foresee
the new forces to which it was giving birth. He could not divine the
momentous issues of the Lutheran schism; and though he perceived the
immediate effect upon Italian politics of the invasion of the French, he
failed to comprehend the revolution marked out for the future in the
shock of the modern nations. While criticising the papacy, he discerned
the pernicious results of nepotism and secular ambition: but he had no
instinct for the necessity of a spiritual and religious regeneration.
His judgment of the political situation led him to believe that the
several units of the Italian system might be turned to profit and
account by the application of superficial remedies,--by the development
of despotism, for example, or of oligarchy, when in reality the decay of
the nation was already past all cure.

Two other masterpieces from Guicciardini's pen, the _Dialogo del
Reggimento di Firenze_ and the _Storia Fiorentina_, have been given to
the world during the last twenty years. To have published them
immediately after their author's death would have been inexpedient,
since they are far too candid and outspoken to have been acceptable to
the Medicean dynasty. Yet in these writings we find Guicciardini at his
best. Here he has not yet assumed the mantle of the rhetorician, which
in the _Istoria d' Italia_ sits upon him somewhat cumbrously. His style
is more spontaneous; his utterances are less guarded. Writing for
himself alone, he dares to say more plainly what he thinks and feels. At
the same time the political sagacity of the statesman is revealed in all
its vigor. I have so frequently used both of these treatises that I need
not enter into a minute analysis of their contents. It will be enough to
indicate some of the passages which display the literary style and the
scientific acumen of Guicciardini at their best. The _Reggimento di
Firenze_ is an essay upon the form of government for which Florence was
best suited. Starting with a discussion of Savonarola's constitution, in
which ample justice is done to the sagacity and promptitude by means of
which he saved the commonwealth at a critical juncture (pp. 27-30), the
interlocutors pass to an examination of the Medicean tyranny (pp.
34-49). This is one of the masterpieces of Guicciardini's analysis. He
shows how the administration of justice, the distribution of public
honors, and the foreign policy of the republic were perverted by this
family. He condemns Cosimo's tyrannical application of fines and imposts
(p. 68), Piero the younger's insolence (p. 46), and Lorenzo's
appropriation of the public moneys to his private use (p. 43). Yet while
setting forth the vices of this tyranny in language which even Sismondi
would have been contented to translate and sign, Guicciardini shows no
passion. The Medici were only acting as befitted princes eager for
power, although they crushed the spirit of the people, discouraged
political ardor, extinguished military zeal, and did all that in them
lay to enervate the nation they governed. The scientific statist
acknowledges no reciprocal rights and duties between the governor and
the governed. It is a trial of strength. If the tyrant gets the upper
hand, the people must expect to be oppressed. If, on the other side, the
people triumph, they must take good care to exterminate the despotic
brood: 'The one true remedy would be to destroy and extinguish them so
utterly that not a vestige should remain, and to employ for this purpose
the poignard or poison, as may be most convenient; otherwise the least
surviving spark is certain to cause trouble and annoyance for the
future'(p. 215). The same precise criticism lays bare the weakness of
democracy. Men, says Guicciardini, always really desire their own power
more than the freedom of the state (p. 50), and the motives even of
tyrannicides are very rarely pure (pp. 53-54). The governments
established by the liberals are full of defects. The Consiglio Grande,
for example, of the Florentines is ignorant in its choice of
magistrates, unjust in its apportionment of taxes, scarcely less
prejudiced against individuals than a tyrant would be, and incapable of
diplomatic foreign policy (pp. 58-69). Then follows a discussion of the
relative merits of the three chief forms of government--the Governo
dell' Uno, the Governo degli Ottimati, and the Governo del Popolo (p.
129). Guicciardini has already criticised the first and the third.[1] He
now expresses a strong opinion that the second is the worst which could
be applied to the actual conditions of the Florentine Republic (p. 130).
His panegyric of the Venetian constitution (pp. 139-41) illustrates his
plan for combining the advantages of the three species and obviating
their respective evils. In fact he declares for that Utopia of the
sixteenth century--the Governo Misto--a political invention which
fascinated the imagination of Italian statesmen much in the same way as
the theory of perpetual motion attracted scientific minds in the last
century.[2] What follows is an elaborate scheme for applying the
principles of the Governo Misto to the existing state of things in
Florence. This lucid and learned disquisition is wound up (p. 188) with
a mournful expression of the doubt which hung like a thick cloud over
all the political speculations of both Guicciardini and Machiavelli: 'I
hold it very doubtful, and I think it much depends on chance whether
this disorganized constitution will ever take new shape or not ... and
as I said yesterday, I should have more hope if the city were but young;
seeing that not only does a state at the commencement take form with
greater facility than one that has grown old under evil governments, but
things always turn out more prosperously and more easily while fortune
is yet fresh and has not run its course,' etc.[3] In reading the
Dialogue on the Constitution of Florence it must finally be remembered
that Guicciardini has thrown it back into the year 1494, and that he
speaks through the mouths of four interlocutors. Therefore we may
presume that he intended his readers to regard it as a work of
speculative science rather than of practical political philosophy. Yet
it is not difficult to gather the drift of his own meaning.

    [1] Cf. _Ricordi_, cxl.: 'Chi disse uno popolo, disse veramente
    uno animale pazzo, pieno ni mille errori, di mille confusioni,
    sanza gusto, sanza diletto, sanza stabilità.' It should be
    noted that Guicciardini here and elsewhere uses the term Popolo
    in its fuller democratic sense. The successive enlargements of
    the burgher class in Florence, together with the study of Greek
    and Latin political philosophy, had introduced the modern
    connotation of the term.

    [2] A lucid criticism of the three forms of government is
    contained in Guicciardini's Comment on the second chapter of
    the first book of Machiavelli's _Discorsi_ (_Op. Ined._ vol. i.
    p. 6): 'E non è dubio che il governo misto delle tre spezie,
    principi, ottimati e popolo, è migliore e più stabile che uno
    governo semplice di qualunque delle tre spezie, e massime
    quando è misto in modo che di qualunque spezie è tolto il buono
    e lasciato indietro il cattivo.' Machiavelli had himself, in
    the passage criticised, examined the three simple governments
    and declared in favor of the mixed as that which gave stability
    to Sparta, Rome, and Venice. The same line of thought may be
    traced in the political speculations of both Plato and
    Aristotle. The Athenians and Florentines felt the superior
    stability of the Spartan and Venetian forms of government, just
    as a French theorist might idealize the English constitution.
    The essential element of the Governo Misto, which Florence had
    lost beyond the possibility of regaining it, was a body of
    hereditary and patriotic patricians. This gave its strength to
    Venice; and this is that which hitherto has distinguished the
    English nation.

    [3] Compare _Ricordi Politici e Civili_, No. clxxxix., for a
    lament of this kind over the decrepitude of kingdoms, almost
    sublime in its stoicism.

The _Istoria Fiorentina_ is a succinct narrative of the events of
Italian History, especially as they concerned Florence, between the
years 1378 and 1509. In other words it relates the vicissitudes of the
Republic under the Medici, and the administration of the Gonfalonier
Soderini. This masterpiece of historical narration sets forth with
brevity and frankness the whole series of events which are rhetorically
and cautiously unfolded in the Istoria d' Italia. Most noticeable are
the characters of Lorenzo de' Medici (cap. ix.), of Savonarola (cap.
xvii.), and of Alexander VI. (cap. xxvii.). The immediate consequences
of the French invasion have never been more ably treated than in Chapter
xi., while the whole progress of Cesare Borgia in his career of villany
is analyzed with exquisite distinctness in Chapter xxvi. The wisdom of
Guicciardini nowhere appears more ripe, or his intellect more elastic,
than in the _Istoria Fiorentina_. Students who desire to gain a still
closer insight into the working of Guicciardini's mind should consult
the 403 _Ricordi Politici e Civili_ collected in the first volume of his
_Opere Inedite_. These have all the charm which belongs to occasional
utterances, and are fit, like proverbs, to be worn for jewels on the
finger of time.

The biography of Niccolo Machiavelli consists for the most part of a
record of his public services to the State of Florence. He was born on
May 3, 1469, of parents who belonged to the prosperous middle class of
Florentine citizens. His ancestry was noble; for the old tradition which
connected his descent with the feudal house of Montespertoli has been
confirmed by documentary evidence.[1] His forefathers held offices of
high distinction in the Commonwealth; and though their wealth and
station had decreased, Machiavelli inherited a small landed estate. His
family, who were originally settled in the Val di Pesa, owned farms at
San Casciano and in other villages of the Florentine dominion, a list of
which may be seen in the return presented by his father Bernardo to the
revenue office in 1498.[2] Their wealth was no doubt trivial in
comparison with that which citizens amassed by trade in Florence; for it
was not the usage of those times to draw more than the necessaries of
life from the Villa: all superfluities were provided by the Bottega in
the town.[3] Yet there can be no question, after a comparison of
Bernardo Machiavelli's return of his landed property with Niccolo
Machiavelli's will,[4] that the illustrious war secretary at all periods
of his life owned just sufficient property to maintain his family in a
decent, if not a dignified, style. About his education we know next to
nothing. Giovio[5] asserts that he possessed but little Latin, and that
he owed the show of learning in his works to quotations furnished by
Marcellus Virgilius. This accusation, which, whether it be true or not,
was intended to be injurious, has lost its force in an age that, like
ours, values erudition less than native genius. It is certain that
Machiavelli knew quite enough of Latin and Greek literature to serve his
turn; and his familiarity with some of the classical historians and
philosophers is intimate. There is even too much parade in his works of
illustrations borrowed from Polybius, Livy, and Plutarch: the only
question is whether Machiavelli relied upon translations rather than
originals. On this point, it is also worthy of remark that his culture
was rather Roman than Hellenic. Had he at any period of his life made as
profound a study of Plato's political dialogues as he made of Livy's
histories, we cannot but feel that his theories both of government and
statecraft might have been more concordant with a sane and normal

    [1] See Villani's _Machiavelli_, vol. i. p. 303. Ed. Le

    [2] See vol. i. of the edition of Machiavelli, by Mess. Fanfani
    and Passerini, Florence, 1873; p. lv. Villani's Machiavelli,
    ib. p. 306. The income is estimated at about 180_l._

    [3] See Pandolfini, _Trattato del Governo della Famiglia_.

    [4] Fanfani and Passerini's edition, vol. i. p. xcii.

    [5] Elogia, cap. 87.

In 1494, the date of the expulsion of the Medici, Machiavelli was
admitted to the Chancery of the Commune as a clerk; and in 1498 he was
appointed to the post of chancellor and secretary to the _Dieci di
libertà e pace_. This place he held for the better half of fifteen
years, that is to say, during the whole period of Florentine freedom.
His diplomatic missions undertaken at the instance of the Republic were
very numerous. Omitting those of less importance, we find him at the
camp of Cesare Borgia in 1502, in France in 1504, with Julius II. in
1506, with the Emperor Maximilian in 1507, and again at the French Court
in 1510.[1] To this department of his public life belong the dispatches
and Relazioni which he sent home to the Signory of Florence, his
Monograph upon the Massacre of Sinigaglia, his treatises upon the method
of dealing with Pisa, Pistoja, and Valdichiana, and those two remarkable
studies of foreign nations which are entitled _Ritratti delle Cose dell'
Alemagna_ and _Ritratti delle Cose di Francia_. It was also in the year
1500 that he laid the first foundations of his improved military system.
The political sagacity and the patriotism for which Machiavelli has been
admired are nowhere more conspicuous than in the discernment which
suggested this measure, and in the indefatigable zeal with which he
strove to carry it into effect. Pondering upon the causes of Italian
weakness when confronted with nations like the French, and comparing
contemporary with ancient history, Machiavelli came to the conclusion
that the universal employment of mercenary troops was the chief secret
of the insecurity of Italy. He therefore conceived a plan for
establishing a national militia, and for placing the whole male
population at the service of the state in times of war. He had to begin
cautiously in bringing this scheme before the public; for the stronghold
of the mercenary system was the sloth and luxury of the burghers. At
first he induced the _Dieci di libertà e pace_, or war office, to
require the service of one man per house throughout the Florentine
dominion; but at the same time he caused a census to be taken of all men
capable of bearing arms. His next step was to carry a law by which the
permanent militia of the state was fixed at 10,000. Then in 1503, having
prepared the way by these preliminary measures, he addressed the Council
of the Burghers in a set oration, unfolding the principles of his
proposed reform, and appealing not only to their patriotism but also to
their sense of self-preservation. It was his aim to prove that mercenary
arms must be exchanged for a national militia, if freedom and
independence were to be maintained. The Florentines allowed themselves
to be convinced, and, on the recommendation of Machiavelli, they voted
in 1506 a new magistracy, called the _Nove dell' Ordinanza e Milizia_,
for the formation of companies, the discipline of soldiers, and the
maintenance of the militia in a state of readiness for active
service.[2] Machiavelli became the secretary of this board; and much of
his time was spent thenceforth in the levying of troops and the
practical development of his system. It requires an intimate familiarity
with the Italian military system of the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries to understand the importance of this reform. We are so
accustomed to the systems of Militia, Conscription, and Landwehr, by
means of which military service has been nationalized among the modern
races, that we need to tax our imagination before we can place ourselves
at the point of view of men to whom Machiavelli's measure was a novelty
of genius.[3]

    [1] Machiavelli never bore the title of Ambassador on these
    missions. He went as Secretary. His pay was miserable. We find
    him receiving one ducat a day for maintenance.

    [2] Documents relating to the institution of the _Nove dell'
    Ordinanza e Milizia_, and to its operations between December 6,
    1506, and August 6, 1512, from the pen of Machiavelli, will be
    found printed by Signor Canestrini in _Arch. Stor._ vol. xv.
    pp. 377 to 453. Machiavelli's treatise _De re militari_, or _I
    libri sull' arte della guerra_, was the work of his later life;
    it was published in 1521 at Florence.

    [3] Though Machiavelli deserves the credit of this military
    system, the part of Antonio Giacomini in carrying it into
    effect must not be forgotten. Pitti, in his 'Life of Giacomini'
    (_Arch. Stor._ vol. iv. pt. ii. p. 241), says: 'Avendo per
    dieci anni continovi fatto prova nelle fazioni e nelle
    battaglie de' fanti del dominio e delli esterni, aveva troppo
    bene conosciuto con quanta più sicurezza si potesse la
    repubblica servire de' suoi propri che delli istranieri.'
    Machiavelli had gone as Commissary to the camp of Giacomini
    before Pisa in August 1505; there the man of action and the man
    of theory came to an agreement: both found in the Gonfalonier
    Soderini a chief of the republic capable of entering into their

It must be admitted that the new militia proved ineffectual in the hour
of need. To revive the martial spirit of a nation, enervated by tyranny
and given over to commerce, merely by a stroke of genius, was beyond the
force of even Machiavelli. When Prato had been sacked in 1512, the
Florentines, destitute of troops, divided among themselves and headed
by the excellent but hesitating Piero Soderini, threw their gates open
to the Medici. Giuliano, the brother of Pope Leo, and Lorenzo, his
nephew, whose statues sit throned in the immortality of Michael Angelo's
marble upon their tombs in San Lorenzo, disposed of the republic at
their pleasure. Machiavelli, as War Secretary of the anti-Medicean
government, was of course disgraced and deprived of his appointments. In
1513 he was suspected of complicity in the conjuration of Pietropaolo
Boscoli and Agostino Capponi, was imprisoned in the Bargello, and
tortured to the extent of four turns of the rack. It seems that he was
innocent. Leo X. released him by the act of amnesty passed upon the
event of his assuming the tiara; and Machiavelli immediately retired to
his farm near San Casciano.

Since we are now approaching the most critical passage of Machiavelli's
biography, it may be well to draw from his private letters a picture of
the life to which this statesman of the restless brain was condemned in
the solitude of the country.[1] Writing on December 10 to his friend
Francesco Vettori, he says, 'I am at my farm; and, since my last
misfortunes, have not been in Florence twenty days. I rise with the sun,
and go into a wood of mine that is being cut, where I remain two hours
inspecting the work of the previous day and conversing with the
woodcutters, who have always some trouble on hand among themselves or
with their neighbors. When I leave the wood, I proceed to a well, and
thence to the place which I use for snaring birds, with a book under my
arm--Dante, or Petrarch, or one of the minor poets, like Tibullus or
Ovid. I read the story of their passions, and let their loves remind me
of my own, which is a pleasant pastime for a while. Next I take the
road, enter the inn door, talk with the passers-by, inquire the news of
the neighborhood, listen to a variety of matters, and make note of the
different tastes and humors of men. This brings me to dinner-time, when
I join my family and eat the poor produce of my farm. After dinner I go
back to the inn, where I generally find the host and a butcher, a
miller, and a pair of bakers. With these companions I play the fool all
day at cards or backgammon: a thousand squabbles, a thousand insults and
abusive dialogues take place, while we haggle over a farthing, and shout
loud enough to be heard from San Casciano. But when evening falls I go
home and enter my writing-room. On the threshold I put off my country
habit, filthy with mud and mire, and array myself in royal courtly
garments; thus worthily attired, I make my entrance into the ancient
courts of the men of old, where they receive me with love, and where I
feed upon that food which only is my own and for which I was born. I
feel no shame in conversing with them and asking them the reason of
their actions. They, moved by their humanity, make answer; for four
hours' space I feel no annoyance, forget all care; poverty cannot
frighten, nor death appall me. I am carried away to their society. And
since Dante says "that there is no science unless we retain what we have
learned," I have set down what I have gained from their discourse, and
composed a treatise, _De Principatibus_, in which I enter as deeply as I
can into the science of the subject, with reasonings on the nature of
principality, its several species, and how they are acquired, how
maintained, how lost. If you ever liked any of my scribblings, this
ought to suit your taste. To a prince, and especially to a new prince,
it ought to prove acceptable. Therefore I am dedicating it to the
Magnificence of Giuliano.'

    [1] This letter may be compared with others of about the same
    date. In one (Aug. 3, 1514) he says: 'Ho lasciato dunque i
    pensieri delle cose grandi e gravi, non mi diletta più leggere
    le cose antiche, nè ragionare delle moderne; tutte si son
    converse in ragionamenti dolci,' etc. Again he writes (Dec. 4,
    1514): 'Quod autem ad me pertinet, si quid agam scire cupis,
    omnem meae vitae rationem ab eodem Tafano intelliges, quam
    sordidam ingloriamque, non sine indignatione, si me ut soles
    amas, cognosces.' Later on, we may notice the same language.
    Thus (Feb. 5, 1515), 'Sono diventato inutile a me, a' parenti
    ed agli amici,' and (June 8, 1517) 'Essendomi io ridotto a
    stare in villa per le avversità che io ho avuto ed ho, sto
    qualche volta un mese che non mi ricordo di me.'

Further on in the same letter he writes: 'I have talked with Filippo
Casavecchia about this little work of mine, whether I ought to present
it or not; and if so, whether I ought to send or take it myself to him.
I was induced to doubt about presenting it at all by the fear lest
Giuliano should not even read it, and that this Ardinghelli should
profit by my latest labors. On the other hand, I am prompted to present
it by the necessity which pursues me, seeing that I am consuming myself
in idleness, and I cannot continue long in this way without becoming
contemptible through poverty. I wish these Signori Medici would begin to
make some use of me, if it were only to set me to the work of rolling a
stone.[1] If I did not win them over to me afterwards, I should only
complain of myself. As for my book, if they read it, they would perceive
that the fifteen years I have spent in studying statecraft have not been
wasted in sleep or play; and everybody ought to be glad to make use of a
man who has so filled himself with experience at the expense of others.
About my fidelity they ought not to doubt. Having always kept faith, I
am not going to learn to break it now. A man who has been loyal and good
for forty-three years, like me, is not likely to change his nature; and
of my loyalty and goodness my poverty is sufficient witness to them.'

    [1] Compare the letter, dated June 10, 1514, to Fr. Vettori:
    'Starommi dunque così tra i miei cenci, senza trovare uomo che
    della mia servitù si ricordi, o che creda che io possa esser
    buono a nulla. Ma egli è impossibile che io possa star molto
    così, perchè io mi logoro,' etc. Again, Dec. 20, 1514: 'E se la
    fortuna avesse voluto che i Medici, o in cosa di Firenze o di
    fuora, o in cose loro particolari o in pubbliche, mi avessino
    una volta comandato, io sarei contento.'

This letter, invaluable to the student of Machiavelli's works, is
prejudicial to his reputation. It was written only ten months after he
had been imprisoned and tortured by the Medici, just thirteen months
after the republic he had served so long had been enslaved by the
princes before whom he was now cringing. It is true that Machiavelli was
not wealthy; his habits of prodigality made his fortune insufficient for
his needs.[1] It is true that he could ill bear the enforced idleness of
country life, after being engaged for fifteen years in the most
important concerns of the Florentine Republic. But neither his poverty,
which, after all, was but comparative, nor his inactivity, for which he
found relief in study, justifies the tone of the conclusion to this
letter. When we read it, we cannot help remembering the language of
another exile, who while he tells us--

                Come sa di sale
  Lo pane altrui, e com' è duro calle
  Lo scendere e 'l salir per l' altrui scale

--can yet refuse the advances of his factious city thus: 'If Florence
cannot be entered honorably, I will never set foot within her walls. And
what? Shall I not be able from any angle whatsoever of the earth to gaze
upon the sun and stars? shall I not beneath whatever region of the
heavens have power to meditate the sweetest truths, unless I make myself
ignoble first, nay ignominious, in the face of Florence and her people?
Nor will bread, I warrant, fail me!' If Machiavelli, who in this very
letter to Vettori quoted Dante, had remembered these words, they ought
to have fallen like drops of molten lead upon his soul. But such was the
debasement of the century that probably he would have only shrugged his
shoulders and sighed, 'Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.'

    [1] See familiar letter, June 10, 1514.

In some respects Dante, Machiavelli, and Michael Angelo Buonarroti may
be said to have been the three greatest intellects produced by Florence.
Dante in exile and in opposition, would hold no sort of traffic with her
citizens. Michael Angelo, after the siege, worked at the Medici tombs
for Pope Clement, as a makepeace offering for the fortification of
Samminiato; while Machiavelli entreats to be put _to roll a stone by
these Signori Medici_, if only he may so escape from poverty and
dullness. Michael Angelo, we must remember, owed a debt of gratitude as
an artist to the Medici for his education in the gardens of Lorenzo.
Moreover, the quatrain which he wrote for his statue of the Night
justifies us in regarding that chapel as the cenotaph designed by him
for murdered Liberty. Machiavelli owed nothing to the Medici, who had
disgraced and tortured him, and whom he had opposed in all his public
action during fifteen years. Yet what was the gift with which he came
before them as a suppliant, crawling to the footstool of their throne? A
treatise _De Principatibus_; in other words, the celebrated _Principe_;
which, misread it as Machiavelli's apologists may choose to do, or
explain it as the rational historian is bound to do, yet carries venom
in its pages. Remembering the circumstances under which it was composed,
we are in a condition to estimate the proud humility and prostrate pride
of the dedication. 'Niccolo Machiavelli to the Magnificent Lorenzo, son
of Piero de' Medici:' so runs the title. 'Desiring to present myself to
your Magnificence with some proof of my devotion, I have not found
among my various furniture aught that I prize more than the knowledge of
the actions of great men acquired by me through a long experience of
modern affairs and a continual study of ancient. These I have long and
diligently revolved and examined in my mind, and have now compressed
into a little book which I send to your Magnificence. And though I judge
this work unworthy of your presence, yet I am confident that your
humanity will cause you to value it when you consider that I could not
make you a greater gift than this of enabling you in a few hours to
understand what I have learned through perils and discomforts in a
lengthy course of years.' 'If your Magnificence will deign, from the
summit of your height, some time to turn your eyes to my low place, you
will know how unjustly I am forced to endure the great and continued
malice of fortune.' The work so dedicated was sent in MS. for the
Magnificent's private perusal. It was not published until 1532, by order
of Clement VII., after the death of Machiavelli.

I intend to reserve the _Principe_, considered as the supreme expression
of Italian political science, for a separate study; and after the
introduction to Macaulay's Essay on Machiavelli, I need hardly enter in
detail into a discussion of the various theories respecting the
intention of this treatise.[1] Yet this is the proper place for
explaining my view about Machiavelli's writings in relation to his
biography, and for attempting to connect them into such unity as a mind
so strictly logical as his may have designed.

    [1] Macaulay's essay is, of course, brilliant and
    comprehensive. I do not agree with his theory of the Italian
    despot, as I have explained on p. 127 of this volume.
    Sometimes, too, he indulges in rhetoric that is merely
    sentimental, as when he says about the dedication of the
    Florentine History to Clement: 'The miseries and humiliations
    of dependence, the bread which is more bitter than every other
    food, the stairs which are more painful than every other
    ascent, had not broken the spirit of Machiavelli. _The most
    corrupting post in a corrupting profession had not depraved the
    generous heart of Clement._' The sentence I have printed in
    italics may perhaps tell the truth about the Church and Popes
    in general; but the panegyric of Clement is preposterous.
    Macaulay must have been laughing in his sleeve.

With regard to the circumstances under which the Prince was composed,
enough has been already said. Machiavelli's selfish purpose in putting
it forth seems to my mind apparent. He wanted employment: he despaired
of the republic: he strove to furnish the princes in power with a
convincing proof of his capacity for great affairs. Yet it must not on
this account be concluded that the _Principe_ was merely a cheap bid for
office. On the contrary, it contained the most mature and the most
splendid of Machiavelli's thoughts, accumulated through his long years
of public service; and, strange as it may seem, it embodied the dream of
a philosophical patriot for the restitution of liberty to Italy.
Florence, indeed, was lost. 'These Signori Medici' were in power. But
could not even they be employed to purge the sacred soil of Italy from
the Barbarians?

If we can pretend to sound the depths of Machiavelli's mind at this
distance of time, we may conjecture that he had come to believe the
free cities too corrupt for independence. The only chance Italy had of
holding her own against the great powers of Europe was by union under a
prince. At the same time the Utopia of this union, with which he closes
the _Principe_, could only be realized by such a combination as would
either neutralize the power of the Church, or else gain the Pope for an
ally by motives of interest. Now at the period of the dedication of the
_Principe_ to Lorenzo de' Medici, Leo X. was striving to found a
principality in the states of the Church.[1] In 1516 he created his
nephew Duke of Urbino, and it was thought that this was but a prelude to
still further greatness. Florence in combination with Rome might do much
for Italy. Leo meanwhile was still young, and his participation in the
most ambitious schemes was to be expected. Thus the moment was
propitious for suggesting to Lorenzo that he should put himself at the
head of an Italian kingdom, which, by its union beneath the strong will
of a single prince, might suffice to cope with nations more potent in
numbers and in arms.[2] The _Principe_ was therefore dedicated in good
faith to the Medici, and the note on which it closes was not false.
Machiavelli hoped that what Cesare Borgia had but just failed in
accomplishing, Lorenzo de' Medici, with the assistance of a younger Pope
than Alexander, a firmer basis to his princedom in Florence, and a grasp
upon the states of the Church made sure by the policy of Julius II.,
might effect. Whether so good a judge of character as Machiavelli
expected really much from Lorenzo may be doubted.

    [1] We are, however, bound to remember that Leo was only made
    Pope in March 1513, and that the _Principe_ was nearly finished
    in the following December. Machiavelli cannot therefore be
    credited with knowing as well as we do now to what length the
    ambition of the Medici was about to run when he composed his
    work. He wrote in the hope that it might induce them to employ

    [2] The two long letters to Fr. Vettori (Aug. 26, 1513) and to
    Piero Soderini (no date) should be studied side by side with
    the _Principe_ for the light they throw on Machiavelli's
    opinions there expressed.

These circumstances make the morality of the book the more remarkable.
To teach political science denuded of commonplace hypocrisies was a
worthy object. But while seeking to lay bare the springs of action, and
to separate statecraft from morals, Machiavelli found himself impelled
to recognize a system of inverted ethics. The abrupt division of the two
realms, ethical and political, which he attempted, was monstrous; and he
ended by substituting inhumanity for human nature. Unable to escape the
logic which links morality of some sort with conduct, he gave his
adhesion to the false code of contemporary practice. He believed that
the right way to attain a result so splendid as the liberation of Italy
was to proceed by force, craft, bad faith, and all the petty arts of a
political adventurer. The public ethics of his day had sunk to this low
level. Success by means of plain dealing was impossible. The game of
statecraft could only be carried on by guile and violence. Even the
clear genius of Machiavelli had been obscured by the muddy medium of
intrigue in which he had been working all his life. Even his keen
insight was dazzled by the false splendor of the adventurer Cesare

To have formulated the ethics of the _Principe_ is not diabolical. There
is no inventive superfluity of naughtiness in the treatise. It is simply
a handbook of princecraft, as that art was commonly received in Italy,
where the principles of public morality had been translated into terms
of material aggrandizement, glory, gain, and greatness. No one thought
of judging men by their motives but by their practice; they were not
regarded as moral but as political beings, responsible, that is to say,
to no law but the obligation of success. Crimes which we regard as
horrible were then commended as magnanimous, if it could be shown that
they were prompted by a firm will and had for their object a deliberate
end. Machiavelli and Paolo Giovio, for example, both praise the massacre
at Sinigaglia as a masterstroke of art, without uttering a word in
condemnation of its perfidy. Machiavelli sneers at Gianpaolo Baglioni
because he had not the courage to strangle his guest Julius II. and to
crown his other crimes with this signal act of magnanimity. What virtue
had come to mean in the Italian language we have seen already. The one
quality which every one despised was simplicity, however this might be
combined with lofty genius and noble aims. It was because Soderini was
simple and had a good heart that Machiavelli wrote the famous epigram--

  La notte che morì Pier Soderini
  L' alma n' andò dell' inferno alla bocca;
  E Pluto le gridò: Anima sciocca,
  Che inferno? va nel limbo de' bambini.

  The night that Peter Soderini died,
  His soul flew down unto the mouth of hell:
  'What? Hell for you? You silly spirit!' cried
  The fiend: 'your place is where the babies dwell.'

As of old in Corcyra, so now in Italy, 'guilelessness, which is the
principal ingredient of genuine nobleness, was laughed down, and
disappeared.'[1] What men feared was not the moral verdict of society,
pronouncing them degraded by vicious or violent acts, but the
intellectual estimate of incapacity and the stigma of dullness. They
were afraid of being reckoned among feebler personalities; and to escape
from this contempt, by the commission even of atrocities, had come to be
accounted manly. The truth, missed almost universally, was that the
supreme wisdom, the paramount virility, is law-abiding honesty, the
doing of right because right is right, in scorn of consequence. Nothing
appears more clearly in the memoirs of Cellini than this point, while
the Italian novels are full of matter bearing on the same topic. It is
therefore ridiculous to assume that an Italian judged of men or conduct
in any sense according to our standards. Pinturicchio and Perugino
thought it no shame to work for princes like the Baglioni and for Popes
like Alexander VI. Lionardo da Vinci placed his talents as an engineer
at the service of Cesare Borgia, and employed his genius as a musician
and a painter for the amusement of the Milanese Court, which must have
been, according to Corio's account, flagrantly and shamelessly corrupt.
Leo Battista Alberti, one of the most charming and the gentlest spirits
of the earlier Renaissance, in like manner lent his architectural
ability to the vanity of the iniquitous Sigismondo Malatesta. No: the
_Principe_ was not inconsistent with the general tone of Italian
morality; and Machiavelli cannot be fairly taxed with the discovery of a
new infernal method. The conception of politics as a bare art of means
to ends had grown up in his mind by the study of Italian history and
social customs. His idealization of Cesare Borgia and his romance of
Castruccio were the first products of the theory he had formed by
observation of the world he lived in. The _Principe_ revealed it fully
organized. But to have presented such an essay in good faith to the
despots of his native city, at that particular moment in his own career,
and under the pressure of trivial distress, is a real blot upon his

    [1] Thuc. iii. 83. The whole of the passage about Corcyra in
    the third book of Thucydides (chs. 82 and 83) applies literally
    to the moral condition of Italy at this period.

We learn from Varchi that Machiavelli was execrated in Florence for his
_Principe_, the poor thinking it would teach the Medici to take away
their honor, the rich regarding it as an attack upon their wealth, and
both discerning in it a death-blow to freedom.[1] Machiavelli can
scarcely have calculated upon this evil opinion, which followed him to
the grave: for though he showed some hesitation in his letter to Vettori
about the propriety of presenting the essay to the Medici, this was only
grounded on the fear lest a rival should get the credit of his labors.
Again, he uttered no syllable about its being intended for a trap to
catch the Medici, and commit them to unpardonable crimes. We may
therefore conclude that this explanation of the purpose of the
_Principe_ (which, strange to say, has approved itself to even recent
critics) was promulgated either by himself or by his friends, as an
after-thought, when he saw that the work had missed its mark, and at the
time when he was trying to suppress the MS.[2] Bernardo Giunti in the
dedication of the edition of 1532, and Reginald Pole in 1535, were, I
believe, the first to put forth this fanciful theory in print.
Machiavelli could not before 1520 have boasted of the patriotic
treachery with which he was afterwards accredited, so far, at any rate,
as to lose the confidence of the Medicean family; for in that year the
Cardinal Giulio de' Medici commissioned him to write the history of

    [1] _Storia Fior._ lib. iv. cap. 15.

    [2] See Varchi, loc. cit. The letter written by Machiavelli to
    Fr. Guicciardini from Carpi, May 17, 1521, should be studied in
    this connection. It is unfortunately too mutilated to be wholly
    intelligible. After explaining his desire to be of use to
    Florence, but not after the manner most approved of by the
    Florentines themselves, he says: 'io credo che questo sarebbe
    il vero modo di andare in Paradiso, imparare la via dell'
    Inferno per fuggirla.'

The _Principe_, after its dedication to Lorenzo, remained in MS., and
Machiavelli was not employed in spite of the continual solicitations of
his friend Vettori.[1] Nothing remained for him but to seek other
patrons, and to employ his leisure in new literary work. Between 1516
and 1519, therefore, we find him taking part in the literary and
philosophical discussions of the Florentine Academy, which assembled at
that period in the Rucellai Gardens.[2] It was here that he read his
Discourses on the First Decade of Livy--a series of profound essays upon
the administration of the state, to which the sentences of the Roman
historian serve as texts. Having set forth in the _Principe_ the method
of gaining or maintaining sovereign power, he shows in the _Discorsi_
what institutions are necessary to preserve the body politic in a
condition of vigorous activity. We may therefore regard the _Discorsi_
as in some sense a continuation of the _Principe_. But the wisdom of the
scientific politician is no longer placed at the disposal of a
sovereign. He addresses himself to all the members of a state who are
concerned in its prosperity. Machiavelli's enemies have therefore been
able to insinuate that, after teaching tyranny in one pamphlet, he
expounded the principles of opposition to a tyrant in the other,
shifting his sails as the wind veered.[3] The truth here also lies in
the critical and scientific quality of Machiavelli's method. He was
content to lecture either to princes or to burghers upon politics, as an
art which he had taken great pains to study, while his interest in the
demonstration of principles rendered him in a measure indifferent to
their application.[4] In fact, to use the pithy words of Macaulay, 'the
Prince traces the progress of an ambitious man, the Discourses the
progress of an ambitious people. The same principles on which, in the
former work, the elevation of an individual is explained, are applied in
the latter to the longer duration and more complex interest of a

    [1] The political letters addressed to Francesco Vettori, at
    Rome, and intended probably for the eye of Leo X., were written
    in 1514. The discourse addressed to Leo, _sulla riforma dello
    stato di Firenze_, may be referred perhaps to 1519.

    [2] Of these meetings Filippo de' Nerli writes in the Seventh
    Book of his Commentaries, p. 138: 'Avendo convenuto assai tempo
    nell' orto de' Rucellai una certa scuola di giovani letterati e
    d' elevato ingegno, infra quali praticava continuamente Niccolò
    Machiavelli (ed io ero di Niccolò e di tutti loro amicissimo, e
    molto spesso con loro convirsavo), s' esercitavano costoro
    assai, mediante le lettere, nelle lezioni dell' istorie, e
    sopra di esse, ed a loro istanza compose il Machiavello quel
    suo libro de' discorsi sopra Tito Livio, e anco il libro di
    que' trattati e ragionamenti sopra la milizia.'

    [3] See Pitti, 'Apologia de' Cappucci,' _Arch. Stor._ vol. iv.
    pt. ii. p. 294.

    [4] The dedication of the _Discorsi_ contains a phrase which
    recalls Machiavelli's words about the _Principe_: 'Perche in
    quello io ho espresso quanto io so, e quanto io ho imparato per
    una lunga pratica e continua lezione delle cose del mondo.'

The Seven Books on the Art of War may be referred with certainty to the
same period of Machiavelli's life. They were probably composed in 1520.
If we may venture to connect the works of the historian's leisure,
according to the plan above suggested, this treatise forms a supplement
to the _Principe_ and the _Discorsi_. Both in his analysis of the
successful tyrant and in his description of the powerful commonwealth he
had insisted on the prime necessity of warfare, conducted by the people
and their rulers in person. The military organization of a great kingdom
is here developed in a separate Essay, and Machiavelli's favorite scheme
for nationalizing the militia of Italy is systematically expounded.
Giovio's flippant objection, that the philosopher could not in practice
maneuver a single company, is no real criticism on the merit of his

By this time the Medici had determined to take Machiavelli into favor;
and since he had expressed a wish to be set at least to rolling stones,
they found for him a trivial piece of work. The Franciscans at Carpi had
to be requested to organize a separate Province of their Order in the
Florentine dominion; and the conduct of this weighty matter was
intrusted to the former secretary at the Courts of Maximilian and Louis.
Several other missions during the last years of his life devolved upon
Machiavelli; but none of them were of much importance: nor, when the
popular government was instituted in 1527, had he so far regained the
confidence of the Florentines as to resume his old office of war
secretary. This post, considering his recent alliance with the Medicean
party, he could hardly have expected to receive; and therefore it is
improbable that the news of Gianotti's election at all contributed to
cause his death.[1] Disappointment he may indeed have felt: for his
moral force had been squandered during fifteen years in the attempt to
gain the favor of princes who were now once more regarded as the enemies
of their country. When the republic was at last restored, he found
himself in neither camp. The overtures which he had made to the Medici
had been but coldly received; yet they were sufficiently notorious to
bring upon him the suspicion of the patriots. He had not sincerely acted
up to the precept of Polonius: 'This above all,--to thine own self be
true.' His intellectual ability, untempered by sufficient political
consistency or moral elevation, had placed him among the outcasts:--

     che non furon ribelli,
  Nè fur fedeli a Dio, ma per sè foro.

The great achievement of these years was the composition of the _Istorie
Fiorentine_. The commission for this work he received from Giulio de'
Medici through the Officiali dello Studio in 1520, with an annual
allowance of 100 florins. In 1527, the year of his death, he dedicated
the finished History to Pope Clement VII. This masterpiece of literary
art, though it may be open to the charges of inaccuracy and
superficiality,[2] marks an epoch in the development of modern
historiography. It must be remembered that it preceded the great work of
Guicciardini by some years, and that before the date of its appearance
the annalists of Italy had been content with records of events, personal
impressions, and critiques of particular periods. Machiavelli was the
first to contemplate the life of a nation in its continuity, to trace
the operation of political forces through successive generations, to
contrast the action of individuals with the evolution of causes over
which they had but little control, and to bring the salient features of
the national biography into relief by the suppression of comparatively
unimportant details. By thus applying the philosophical method to
history, Machiavelli enriched the science of humanity with a new
department. There is something in his view of national existence beyond
the reach of even the profoundest of the classical historians. His style
is adequate to the matter of his work. Never were clear and definite
thoughts expressed with greater precision in language of more masculine
vigor. We are irresistibly compelled, while characterizing this style,
to think of the spare sinews of a trained gladiator. Though Machiavelli
was a poet, he indulges in no ornaments of rhetoric.[3] His images, rare
and carefully chosen, seem necessary to the thoughts they illustrate.
Though a philosopher, he never wanders into speculation. Facts and
experience are so thoroughly compacted with reflection in his mind, that
his widest generalizations have the substance of realities. The element
of unreality, if such there be, is due to a misconception of human
nature. Machiavelli seems to have only studied men in masses, or as
political instruments, never as feeling and thinking personalities.

    [1] See Varchi, loc. cit.

    [2] See the criticisms of Ammirato and Romagnosi, quoted by
    Cantù, _Letteratura Italiana_, p. 187.

    [3] I shall have to speak elsewhere of Machiavelli's comedies,
    occasional poems, novel of 'Belphegor,' etc.

Machiavelli, according to the letter addressed by his son Pietro to
Francesco Nelli, died of a dose of medicine taken at the wrong time. He
was attended on his deathbed by a friar, who received his confession.
His private morality was but indifferent. His contempt for weakness and
simplicity was undisguised. His knowledge of the world and men had
turned to cynicism. The frigid philosophy expressed in his political
Essays, and the sarcastic speeches in which he gave a vent to his soured
humors, made him unpopular. It was supposed that he had died with
blasphemy upon his lips, after turning all the sanctities of human
nature into ridicule. Through these myths, as through a mist, we may
discern the bitterness of that great, disenchanted, disappointed soul.
The desert in which spirits of the stamp of Machiavelli wander is too
arid and too aerial for the gross substantial bugbears of the vulgar
conscience to inhabit. Moreover, as Varchi says, 'In his conversation
Machiavelli was pleasant, serviceable to his friends, a friend of
virtuous men, and, in a word, worthy of having received from nature
either less genius or a better mind.'



The Sincerity of Machiavelli in this Essay--Machiavellism--His
deliberate Formulation of a cynical political Theory--Analysis of the
Prince--Nine Conditions of Principalities--The Interest of the Conqueror
acknowledged as the sole Motive of his Policy--Critique of Louis
XII.--Feudal Monarchy and Oriental Despotism--Three Ways of subduing a
free City--Example of Pisa--Principalities founded by
Adventurers--Moses, Romulus, Cyrus, Theseus--Savonarola--Francesco
Sforza--Cesare Borgia--Machiavelli's personal Relation to
him--Machiavelli's Admiration of Cesare's Genius--A Sketch of Cesare's
Career--Concerning those who have attained to Sovereignty by
Crimes--Oliverotto da Fermo--The Uses of Cruelty--Messer Ramiro d'
Orco--The pessimistic Morality of Machiavelli--On the Faith of
Princes--Alexander VI.--The Policy of seeming virtuous and
honest--Absence of chivalrous Feeling in Italy--The Military System of a
powerful Prince--Criticism of Mercenaries and Auxiliaries--Necessity of
National Militia--The Art of War--Patriotic Conclusion of the
Treatise--Machiavelli and Savonarola.

After what has been already said about the circumstances under which
Machiavelli composed the _Principe_, we are justified in regarding it as
a sincere expression of his political philosophy. The intellect of its
author was eminently analytical and positive; he knew well how to
confine himself within the strictest limits of the subject he had
chosen. In the _Principe_ it was not his purpose to write a treatise of
morality, but to set forth with scientific accuracy the arts which he
considered necessary to the success of an absolute ruler. We may
therefore accept this essay as the most profound and lucid exposition of
the principles by which Italian statesmen were guided in the sixteenth
century. That Machiavellism existed before Machiavelli has now become a
truism. Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Louis XI. of France, Ferdinand the
Catholic, the Papal Curia, and the Venetian Council had systematically
pursued the policy laid down in the chapters of the _Prince_. But it is
no less true that Machiavelli was the first in modern times to formulate
a theory of government in which the interests of the ruler are alone
regarded, which assumes a separation between statecraft and morality,
which recognizes force and fraud among the legitimate means of attaining
high political ends, which makes success alone the test of conduct, and
which presupposes the corruption, venality, and baseness of mankind at
large. It was this which aroused the animosity of Europe against
Machiavelli, as soon as the Prince attained wide circulation. Nations
accustomed to the Monarchical rather than the Despotic form of
government resented the systematic exposition of an art of tyranny which
had long been practiced among the Italians. The people of the North,
whose moral fiber was still vigorous, and who retained their respect for
established religion, could not tolerate the cynicism with which
Machiavelli analyzed his subject from the merely intellectual point of
view. His name became a byword. 'Am I Machiavel?' says the host in the
_Merry Wives of Windsor_. Marlowe makes the ghost of the great
Florentine speak prologue to the _Jew of Malta_ thus--

  I count religion but a childish toy,
  And hold there is no sin but ignorance.

When the Counter-reformation had begun in Italy, and desperate efforts
were being made to check the speculative freedom of the Renaissance, the
_Principe_ was condemned by the Inquisition. Meanwhile it was whispered
that the Spanish princes, and the sons of Catherine de' Medici upon the
throne of France, conned its pages just as a manual of toxicology might
be studied by a Marquise de Brinvilliers. Machiavelli became the
scapegoat of great political crimes; and during the religious wars of
the sixteenth century there were not wanting fanatics who ascribed such
acts of atrocity as the Massacre of S. Bartholomew to his venomous
influence. Yet this book was really nothing more or less than a critical
compendium of facts respecting Italy, a highly condensed abstract of
political experience. In it as in a mirror we may study the lineaments
of the Italian despot who by adventure or by heritage succeeded to the
conduct of a kingdom. At the same time the political principles here
established are those which guided the deliberations of the Venetian
Council and the Papal Court, no less than the actions of a Sforza or a
Borgia upon the path to power. It is therefore a document of the very
highest value for the illustration of the Italian conscience in relation
to political morality.

The _Principe_ opens with the statement that all forms of government may
be classified as republics or as principalities. Of the latter some are
hereditary, others acquired. Of the principalities acquired in the
lifetime of the ruler some are wholly new, like Milan under Francesco
Sforza; others are added of hereditary kingdoms, like Naples to Spain.
Again, such acquired states have been previously accustomed either to
the rule of a single man or to self-government. Finally they are won
either with the conqueror's own or with borrowed armies, either by
fortune or by ability.[1] Thus nine conditions under which
principalities may be considered are established at the outset.

    [1] The word Virtù, which I have translated ability, is almost
    equivalent to the Greek [Greek: _aretê_], before it had
    received a moral definition, or to the Roman Virtus. It is very
    far, as will be gathered from the sequel of the _Principe_,
    from denoting what we mean by Virtue.

The short chapter devoted by Machiavelli to hereditary principalities
may be passed over as comparatively unimportant. It is characteristic of
Italian politics that the only instance he adduces of this form of
government in Italy is the Duchy of Ferrara. States and cities were so
frequently shifting owners in the sixteenth century that the scientific
politician was justified in confining his attention to the method of
establishing and preserving principalities acquired by force. When he
passes to the consideration of this class, Machiavelli enters upon the
real subject of his essay. The first instance he discusses is that of a
prince who has conquered a dominion which he wishes to unite as firmly
as possible to his hereditary states. The new territory may either
belong to the same nationality and language as the old possession, or
may not. In the former case it will be enough to extinguish the whole
line of the ancient rulers, and to take care that neither the laws nor
the imposts of the province be materially altered. It will then in
course of time become by natural coalition part of the old kingdom. But
if the acquired dominion be separate in language, customs, and
traditions from the old, then arises a real difficulty for the
conqueror. In order to consolidate his empire and to accustom his new
subjects to his rule, Machiavelli recommends that he should either take
up his residence in the subjugated province, or else plant colonies
throughout it, but that he should by no means trust merely to garrisons.
'Colonies,' he remarks, 'are not costly to the prince, are more
faithful, and cause less offense to the subject states; those whom they
may injure, being poor and scattered, are prevented from doing mischief.
For it should be observed that men ought either to be caressed or
trampled out, seeing that small injuries may be avenged, whereas great
ones destroy the possibility of retaliation; and so the damage that has
to be inflicted ought to be such that it need involve no fear of
vengeance.' I quote this passage as a specimen of Machiavelli's direct
and scientific handling of the most inhuman necessities of statecraft,
as conceived by him.[1] He uses no hypocritical palliation to disguise
the egotism of the conqueror. He does not even pretend to take into
consideration any interests but those of the ambitious prince. He treats
humanity as though it were the marble out of which the political artist
should hew the form that pleased his fancy best. He calculates the exact
amount of oppression which will render a nation incapable of resistance,
and relieve the conqueror of trouble in his work of building up a
puissant kingdom for his own aggrandizement.

    [1] It is fair to call attention to the strong expressions used
    by Machiavelli in the _Discorsi_, lib. i. cap. 18 and cap. 26,
    on the infamies and inhumanities to which the aspirant after
    tyranny is condemned.

What Machiavelli says about mixed principalities is pointed by a
searching critique of the Italian policy of Louis XII. The French king
had well-known claims upon the Duchy of Milan, which the Venetians urged
him to make good. They proposed to unite forces and to divide the
conquered province of Lombardy. Machiavelli does not blame Louis for
accepting this offer and acting in concert with the Republic. His
mistakes began the moment after he had gained possession of Milan,
Genoa, and the majority of the North Italian cities. It was then his
true policy to balance Venice against Rome, to assume the protectorate
of the minor states, and to keep all dangerous rivals out of Italy.
Instead of acting thus, he put Romagna into the hands of the Pope and
divided Naples with the King of Spain. 'Louis indeed,' concludes
Machiavelli, 'was guilty of five capital errors: he destroyed the hopes
of his numerous and weak allies; he increased the power, already too
great, of the Papacy; he introduced a foreign potentate; he neglected to
reside in Italy; he founded no colonies for the maintenance of his
authority. If I am told that Louis acted thus imprudently toward
Alexander and Ferdinand in order to avoid a war, I answer that in each
case the mistake was as bad as any war could be in its results. If I am
reminded of his promise to the Pope, I reply that princes ought to know
how and when to break their faith, as I intend to prove. When I was at
Nantes, the Cardinal of Rouen told me that the Italians did not know how
to conduct a war: I retorted that the French did not understand
statecraft, or they would not have allowed the Church to gain so much
power in Italy. Experience showed that I was right; for the French
wrought their own ruin by aggrandizing the Papacy and introducing Spain
into the realm of Naples.'

This criticism contains the very essence of political sagacity. It lays
bare the secret of the failure of the French under Charles, under Louis,
and under Francis, to establish themselves in Italy. Expeditions of
parade, however brilliant, temporary conquests, cross alliances, and
bloody victories do not consolidate a kingdom. They upset states and
cause misery to nations: but their effects pass and leave the so-called
conquerors worse off than they were before. It was the doom of Italy to
be ravaged by these inconsequent marauders, who never attempted by
internal organization to found a substantial empire, until the mortmain
of the Spanish rule was laid upon the peninsula, and Austria gained by
marriages what France had failed to win by force of arms.

The fourth chapter of the _Principe_ is devoted to a parallel between
Monarchies and Despotisms which is chiefly interesting as showing that
Machiavelli appreciated the stability of kingdoms based upon feudal
foundations. France is chosen as the best example of the one and Turkey
of the other. 'The whole empire of the Turk is governed by one Lord; the
others are his servants; he divides his kingdom into satrapies, to which
he appoints different administrators, whom he changes about at pleasure.
But the King of France is placed in the center of a time-honored company
of lords, acknowledged as such by their subjects and loved by them; they
have their own prerogatives, nor can the king deprive them of these
without peril.' Hence it follows that the prince who has once
dispossessed a despot finds ready to his hand a machinery of government
and a band of subservient ministers; while he who may dethrone a monarch
has immediately to cope with a multitude of independent rulers, too
numerous to extinguish and too proud to conciliate.

Machiavelli now proceeds to discuss the best method of subjugating free
cities which have been acquired by a prince. There are three ways of
doing it, he says. 'The first is to destroy them utterly; the second, to
rule them in your own person; the third, to leave them their
constitution under the conduct of an oligarchy chosen by yourself, and
to be content with tribute. But, to speak the truth, the only safe way
is to ruin them.' This sounds very much like the advice which an old
spider might give to a young one: When you have caught a big fly, suck
him at once; suck out at any rate so much of his blood as may make him
powerless to break your web, and feed on him afterwards at leisure. Then
he goes on to give his reasons. 'He who becomes the master of a city
used to liberty, and does not destroy it, should be prepared to be
undone by it himself, because that name of Liberty, those ancient usages
of Freedom, which no length of years and no benefits can extinguish in
the nation's mind, which cannot be uprooted by any forethought or by any
pains, unless the citizens themselves be broken or dispersed, will
always be a rallying-point for revolution when an opportunity occurs.'
This terrific moral--through which, let it be said in justice to
Machiavelli, the enthusiasm of a patriot transpires--is pointed by the
example of Pisa. Pisa, held for a century beneath the heel of
Florence--her ports shut up, her fields abandoned to marsh fever, her
civic life extinguished, her arts and sciences crushed out--had yet not
been utterly ruined in the true sense of depopulation or dismemberment.
Therefore when Charles VIII. in 1494 entered Pisa, and Orlandi, the
orator, caught him by the royal mantle, and besought him to restore her
liberty, that word, the only word the crowd could catch in his petition,
inflamed a nation: the lions and lilies of Florence were erased from the
public buildings; the Marzocco was dashed from its column on the quay
into the Arno; and in a moment the dead republic awoke to life.
Therefore, argues Machiavelli, so tenacious is the vitality of a free
state that a prudent conqueror will extinguish it entirely or will rule
it in person with a rod of iron. This, be it remembered, is the advice
of Machiavelli, the the Florentine patriot, to Lorenzo de' Medici, the
Florentine tyrant, who has recently resumed his seat upon the neck of
that irrepressible republic.

Hitherto we have been considering how the state acquired by a conqueror
should be incorporated with his previous dominions. The next section of
Machiavelli's discourse is by far the most interesting. It treats of
principalities created by the arms, personal qualities, and good fortune
of adventurers. Italy alone in the sixteenth century furnished examples
of these tyrannies: consequently that portion of the _Principe_ which is
concerned with them has a special interest for students of the
Renaissance. Machiavelli begins with the founders of kingdoms who have
owed but little to fortune and have depended on their own forces. The
list he furnishes, when tested by modern notions of history, is to say
the least a curious one. It contains Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, and Theseus.
Having mentioned Moses first, Machiavelli proceeds to explain that,
though we have to regard him as the mere instrument of God's purpose,
yet the principles on which the other founders acted were 'not different
from those which Moses derived from so supreme a teacher.' What these
men severally owed to fortune was but the occasion for the display of
the greatness that was in them. Moses found the people of Israel
enslaved in Egypt. Romulus was an exile from Alba. Cyrus had to deal
with the Persian people tired of the empire of effeminate Medes. Theseus
undertook to unite the scattered elements of the Athenian nation. Thus
each of these founders had an opening provided for him, by making use of
which he was able to bring his illustrious qualities into play. The
achievement in each case was afterwards due solely to his own ability,
and the conquest which he made with difficulty was preserved with ease.
This exordium is not without practical importance, as will be seen when
we reach the application of the whole argument to the house of Medici at
the conclusion of the treatise. The initial obstacles which an innovator
has to overcome, meanwhile, are enormous. 'He has for passionate foes
all such as flourish under the old order, for friends those who might
flourish under the new; but these are lukewarm, partly from fear of
their opponents, on whose side are established law and right, partly
from the incredulity which prevents men from putting faith in what is
novel and untried.' It therefore becomes a matter of necessity that the
innovator should be backed up with force, that he should be in a
position to command and not obliged to sue for aid. This is the reason
why all the prophets who have used arms to enforce their revelations
have succeeded, and why those who have only trusted to their personal
ascendency have failed. Moses, of course, is an illustrious example of
the successful prophet. Savonarola is adduced as a notable instance of a
reformer 'who was ruined in his work of innovation as soon as the
multitude lost their faith in him, since he had no means of keeping
those who had believed firm, or of compelling faith from disbelievers.'
In this critique Machiavelli remains true to his positive and scientific
philosophy of human nature. He will not allow that there are other
permanent agencies in the world than the calculating ability of resolute
men and the might derived from physical forces.

Among the eminent examples of Italian founders who rose to princely
power by their own ability or by availing themselves of the advantages
which fortune put within their reach, Machiavelli selects Francesco
Sforza and Cesare Borgia. The former is a notable instance of success
achieved by pure _virtù_: 'Francesco, by using the right means, and by
his own singular ability, raised himself from the rank of a private man
to the Duchy of Milan, and maintained with ease the mastery he had
acquired with infinite pains.' Cesare, on the other hand, illustrates
both the strength and the weakness of _fortuna_: 'he acquired his
dominion by the aid derived from his father's position, and when he lost
that he also lost his power, notwithstanding that he used every endeavor
and did all that a prudent and able man ought to do in order to plant
himself firmly in those states which the arms and fortune of others had
placed at his disposal.' It is not necessary to dwell upon the career of
Francesco Sforza. Not he but Cesare Borgia is Machiavelli's hero in this
treatise, the example from which he deduces lessons both of imitation
and avoidance for the benefit of Lorenzo de' Medici. Lorenzo, it must be
remembered, like Cesare, would have the fortunes of the Church to start
with in that career of ambition to which Machiavelli incites him. Unlike
Francesco Sforza, he was no mere soldier of adventure, but a prince,
born in the purple, and bound to make use of those undefined advantages
which he derived from his position in Florence and from the countenance
of his uncle, the Pope. The Duke Valentino, therefore, who is at one and
the same time Machiavelli's ideal of prudence and courage in the conduct
of affairs, and also his chief instance of the instability of fortune,
supplies the philosopher with all he needed for the guidance of his
princely pupil. With the Duke Valentino Machiavelli had conversed on
terms of private intimacy, and there is no doubt that his imagination
had been dazzled by the brilliant intellectual abilities of this
consummate rogue. Dispatched in 1502 by the Florentine Republic to watch
the operations of Cesare at Imola, with secret instructions to offer the
Duke false promises in the hope of eliciting information that could be
relied upon, Machiavelli had enjoyed the rare pleasure of a game at
political écarté with the subtlest and most unscrupulous diplomatist of
his age. He had witnessed his terrible yet beneficial administration of
Romagna. He had been present at his murder of the chiefs of the Orsini
faction at Sinigaglia. Cesare had confided to him, or had pretended to
confide, his schemes of personal ambition, as well as the motives and
the measures of his secret policy. On the day of the election of Pope
Julius II. he had laid bare the whole of his past history before the
Florentine secretary, and had pointed out the single weakness of which
he felt himself to have been guilty. In these trials of skill and this
exchange of confidence it is impossible to say which of the two
gamesters may have been the more deceived. But Machiavelli felt that the
Borgia supplied him with a perfect specimen for the study of the arts of
statecraft; and so deep was the impression produced upon his mind, that
even after the utter failure of Cesare's designs he made him the hero of
the political romance before us. His artistic perception of the perfect
and the beautiful, both in unscrupulous conduct and in frigid
calculation of conflicting interests, was satisfied by the steady
selfishness, the persistent perfidy, the profound mistrust of men, the
self-command in the execution of perilous designs, the moderate and
deliberate employment of cruelty for definite ends, which he observed in
the young Duke, and which he has idealized in his own _Principe_. That
nature, as of a salamander adapted to its element of fire, as of 'a
resolute angel that delights in flame,' to which nothing was sacred,
which nothing could daunt, which never for a moment sacrificed reason to
passion, which was incapable of weakness or fatigue, had fascinated
Machiavelli's fancy. The moral qualities of the man, the base
foundations upon which he raised his power, the unutterable scandals of
his private life, and the hatred of all Christendom were as nothing in
the balance. Such considerations had, according to the conditions of his
subject, to be eliminated before he weighed the intellectual qualities
of the adventurer. 'If all the achievements of the Duke are
considered'--it is Machiavelli speaking--'it will be found that he built
up a great substructure for his future power; nor do I know what
precepts I could furnish to a prince in his commencement better than
such as are to be derived from his example.' It is thus that
Machiavelli, the citizen, addresses Lorenzo, the tyrant of Florence. He
says to him: Go thou and do likewise. And what, then, is this likewise?

Cesare, being a Pope's son, had nothing to look to but the influence of
his father. At first he designed to use this influence in the Church;
but after murdering his elder brother, he threw aside the Cardinal's
scarlet and proclaimed himself a political aspirant. His father could
not make him lord of any state, unless it were a portion of the
territory of the Church: and though, by creating, as he did, twelve
Cardinals in one day, he got the Sacred College to sanction his
investiture of the Duchy of Romagna, yet both Venice and Milan were
opposed to this scheme. Again there was a difficulty to be encountered
in the great baronial houses of Orsini and Colonna, who at that time
headed all the mercenary troops of Italy, and who, as Roman nobles, had
a natural hatred for the Pope. It was necessary to use their aid in the
acquisition of Cesare's principality. It was no less needful to humor
their animosity. Under these circumstances Alexander thought it best to
invite the French king into Italy, bargaining with Louis that he would
dissolve his marriage in return for protection awarded to Cesare. The
Colonna faction meanwhile was to be crushed, and the Orsini to be
flattered. Cesare, by the help of his French allies and the Orsini
captains, took possession of Imola and Faenza, and thence proceeded to
overrun Romagna. In this enterprise he succeeded to the full. Romagna
had been, from the earliest period of Italian history, a nest of petty
tyrants who governed badly and who kept no peace in their dominions.
Therefore the towns were but languid in their opposition to Cesare, and
were soon more than contented with a conqueror who introduced a good
system for the administration of justice. But now two difficulties
arose. The subjugation of Romagna had been effected by the help of the
French and the Orsini. Cesare as yet had formed no militia of his own,
and his allies were becoming suspicious. The Orsini had shown some
slackness at Faenza; and when Cesare proceeded to make himself master of
Urbino, and to place a foot in Tuscany by the capture of Piombino--which
conquests he completed during 1500 and 1501--Louis began to be jealous
of him. The problem for the Duke was how to disembarrass himself of the
two forces by which he had acquired a solid basis for his future
principality. His first move was to buy over the Cardinal d'Amboise,
whose influence in the French Court was supreme and thus to keep his
credit for awhile afloat with Louis. His second was to neutralize the
power of the Orsini, partly by pitting them against the Colonnesi, and
partly by superseding them in their command as captains. For the latter
purpose he became his own Condottiere, drawing to his standard by the
lure of splendid pay all the minor gentry of the Roman Campagna. Thus he
collected his own forces and was able to dispense with the unsafe aid of
mercenary troops. At this point of his career the Orsini, finding him
established in Romagna, in Urbino, and in part of Tuscany, while their
own strength was on the decline, determined if possible to check the
career of this formidable tyrant by assassination. The conspiracy known
as the 'Diet of La Magione' was the consequence. In this conjuration the
Cardinal Orsini, Paolo Orsini, his brother and head of the great house,
together with Vitellozzo Vitelli, lord of Città di Castello, the
Baglione of Perugia, the Bentivoglio of Bologna, Antonio da Venasso from
Siena, and Oliverotto da Fermo took each a part. The result of their
machinations against the common foe was that Cesare for a moment lost
Urbino, and was nearly unseated in Romagna. But the French helped him,
and he stood firm. Still it was impossible to believe that Louis XII.
would suffer him to advance unchecked in his career of conquest; and as
long as he continued between the French and the Orsini his position was
of necessity insecure. The former had to be cast off; the latter to be
extirpated; and yet he had not force enough to play an open game. 'He
therefore,' says Machiavelli, 'turned to craft, and displayed such skill
in dissimulation that the Orsini through the mediation of Paolo became
his friends again.' The cruelty of Cesare Borgia was only equalled by
his craft; and it was by a supreme exercise of his power of
fascination that he lured the foes who had plotted against him at La
Magione into his snare at Sinigaglia. Paolo Orsini, Francesco Orsini,
duke of Gravina, Vitellozzo Vitelli, and Oliverotto da Fermo were all
men of arms, accustomed to intrigue and to bloodshed, and more than one
of them were stained with crimes of the most atrocious treachery. Yet
such were the arts of Cesare Borgia that in 1502 he managed to assemble
them, apart from their troops, in the castle of Sinigaglia, where he had
them strangled. Having now destroyed the chiefs of the opposition and
enlisted their forces in his own service, Cesare, to use the phrase of
Machiavelli, 'had laid good foundations for his future power.' He
commanded a sufficient territory; he wielded the temporal and spiritual
power of his father; he was feared by the princes and respected by the
people throughout Italy; his cruelty and perfidy and subtlety and
boldness caused him to be universally admired. But as yet he had only
laid foundations. The empire of Italy was still to win; for he aspired
to nothing else, and it is even probable that he entertained a notion of
secularizing the Papacy. France was the chief obstacle to his ambition.
The alarm of Louis had at last been roused. But Louis' own mistake in
bringing the Spaniards into Naples afforded Cesare the means of shaking
off the French control. He espoused the cause of Spain, and by
intriguing now with the one power and now with the other made himself
both formidable and desirable to each. His geographical position between
Milan and Naples enforced this policy. Another difficulty against which
he had to provide was in the future rather than the present. Should his
father die, and a new Pope adverse to his interests be elected, he might
lose not only the support of the Holy See, but also his fiefs of Romagna
and Urbino. To meet this contingency he took four precautions, mentioned
with great admiration by Machiavelli. In the first place he
systematically murdered the heirs of the ruling families of all the
cities he acquired--as for example three Varani at Camerino, two
Manfredi at Faenza, the Orsini and Vitelli at Sinigaglia, and others
whom it would be tedious to mention. By this process he left no scion of
the ancient houses for a future Pope to restore. In the second place he
attached to his person by pensions, offices, and emoluments, all the
Roman gentry, so that he might be able to keep the new Pope a prisoner
and unarmed in Rome. Thirdly, he reduced the College of Cardinals, by
bribery, terrorism, poisoning, and packed elections, to such a state
that he could count on the creation of a Pope, if not his nominee, at
least not hostile to his interests. Fourthly, he lost no time, but
pushed his plans of conquest on with utmost speed, so as, if possible,
to command a large territory at the time of Alexander's death.
Machiavelli, who records these four points with approbation, adds: 'He
therefore, who finds it needful in his new authority to secure himself
against foes, to acquire allies, to gain a point by force or fraud,
etc., etc., could not discover an ensample more vigorous and blooming
than that of Cesare.' Such is the panegyric which Machiavelli, writing,
as it seems to me, in all good faith and innocence, records of a man
who, taken altogether, is perhaps the most selfish, perfidious, and
murderous of adventurers on record. The only fault for which he blames
him is that he did not prevent the election of Pope Julius II, by
concentrating his influence on either the Cardinal d'Amboise or a

It is curious to read the title of the chapter following that which
criticises the action of Cesare Borgia: it runs thus, 'Concerning those
who have attained to sovereignty by crimes.' Cesare was clearly not one
of these men in the eyes of Machiavelli, who confines his attention to
Agathocles of Syracuse, and to Oliverotto da Fermo, a brigand who
acquired the lordship of Fermo by murdering his uncle and benefactor,
Giovanni Fogliani, and all the chief men of the city at a banquet to
which he had invited them. This atrocity, according to Machiavelli's
creed, would have been justified, if Oliverotto had combined cruelty and
subtlety in proper proportions. But his savagery was not sufficiently
veiled; a prince should never incur odium by crimes of violence, but
only use them as the means of inspiring terror. Besides, Oliverotto was
so simple as to fall at last into the snare of Cesare Borgia at
Sinigaglia. Cesare himself supplies Machiavelli with a notable example
of the way in which cruelty can be well used. Having found the cities of
Romagna in great disorder, Cesare determined to quell them by the
ferocity of a terrible governor. For this purpose he chose Messer Ramiro
d' Orco, 'a man cruel and quick of action, to whom he gave the fullest
power.' A story is told of Messer Ramiro which illustrates his temper in
a very bizarre fashion: he one day kicked a clumsy page on to the fire,
and held him there with a poker till he was burned up. Acting after this
fashion, with plenipotentiary authority, Ramiro soon froze the whole
province into comparative tranquillity. But it did not suit Cesare to
incur the odium which the man's cruelty brought on his administration.
Accordingly he had him decapitated one night and exposed to public view,
together with the block and bloody hatchet, in the square at Cesena. Of
the art with which Cesare first reduced Romagna to order by the cruelty
of his agent, and then avoided the odium of this cruelty by using the
wretched creature as an appalling example of his justice and his power,
Machiavelli wholly approves. His theory is that cruelty should be
employed for certain definite purposes, but that the Prince should
endeavor to shun as far as possible the hatred it inspires. In justice
both to Machiavelli and to Cesare, it should be said that the
administration of Romagna was far better under the Borgia rule than it
had ever been before. The exhibition of savage violence of which
Machiavelli approves was perhaps needed to cow so brutalized a

In those chapters which Machiavelli has devoted to the exposition of the
qualities that befit a Prince, it is clear that Cesare Borgia was not
unfrequentlv before his eyes.[1] The worst thing that can be said about
Italy of the sixteenth century is that such an analyst as Machiavelli
should have been able to idealize an adventurer whose egotistic
immorality was so undisguised. The ethics of this profound anatomist of
human motives were based upon a conviction that men are altogether bad.
When discussing the question whether it be better to be loved or feared,
Machiavelli decides that 'it is far safer to be feared than loved, if
you must choose; seeing that you may say of men generally that they are
ungrateful and changeable, dissemblers, apt to shun danger, eager for
gain; as long as you serve them, they offer you everything, down to
their very children, if you have no need; but when you want help, they
fail you. Therefore it is best to put no faith in their pretended love.'
This is language which could only be used in a country where loyalty was
unknown and where all political and social combinations were founded
upon force or convenience. Princes must, however, be cautious not to
injure their subjects in their honor or their property--especially the
latter, since men 'forget the murder of their fathers quicker than the
loss of their money.' Under another heading Machiavelli returns to the
same topic, and lays it down as an axiom that, since the large majority
of men are bad, a prince must learn in self-defense how to be bad, and
must use this science when and where he deems appropriate, endeavoring,
however, under all circumstances to pass for good.

    [1] In a letter to Fr. Vettori (Jan. 31, 1514) he says: 'Il
    duca Valentino, l' opere del quale io imiterei sempre quando
    fossi principe nuove.

He brings the same desperate philosophy of life, the same bitter
experience of mankind, to bear upon his discussion of the faith of
princes. The chapter which is entitled 'How princes ought to keep their
word' is one of the most brilliantly composed and thoroughly
Machiavellian of the whole treatise. He starts with the assertion that
to fight the battles of life in accordance with law is human, to depend
on force is brutal; yet when the former method is insufficient, the
latter must be adopted. A prince should know how to combine the natures
of the man and of the beast; and this is the meaning of the mythus of
Cheiron, who was made the tutor of Achilles. He should strive to acquire
the qualities of the fox and of the lion, in order that he may both
avoid snares and guard himself from wolves. A prudent prince cannot and
must not keep faith, when it is harmful to do so, or when the occasion
under which he promised has passed by. He will always find colorable
pretexts for breaking his word; and if he learns well how to feign, he
will have but little difficulty in deceiving people. Among the
innumerable instances of successful hypocrites Machiavelli can think of
none more excellent than Alexander VI. 'He never did anything else but
deceive men, nor ever thought of anything but this, and always found apt
matter for his practice. Never was there a man who had greater force in
swearing and tying himself down to his engagements, or who observed them
less. Nevertheless his wiles were always successful in the way he
wished, because he well knew that side of the world.' It is curious that
Machiavelli should have forgotten that the whole elaborate life's policy
of Alexander and his son was ruined precisely by their falling into one
of their own traps, and that the mistake or treason of a servant upset
the calculations of the two most masterly deceivers of their age.[1]
Following out the same line of thought, which implies that in a bad
world a prince cannot afford to be good, Machiavelli asserts: 'It is not
necessary that a prince should be merciful, loyal, humane, religious,
just: nay, I will venture to say, that if he had all these qualities and
always used them, they would harm him. But he must _seem_ to have them,
especially if he be new in his principality, where he will find it quite
impossible to exercise these virtues, since in order to maintain his
power he will be often obliged to act contrary to humanity, charity,
religion.' Machiavelli does not advise him to become bad for the sake of
badness, but to know when to quit the path of virtue for the
preservation of his kingdom. 'He must take care to say nothing that is
not full of these five qualities, and must always appear all mercy, all
loyalty, all humanity, all justice, all religion, especially the last.'
On the advantage of a reputation for piety Machiavelli insists most
strongly. He points out how Ferdinand the Catholic used the pretext of
religious zeal in order to achieve the conquest of Granada, to invade
Africa, to expel the Moors, and how his perfidies in Italy, his
perjuries to France, were colored with a sanctimonious decency.

    [1] Perhaps this is an indirect argument against the legend of
    their death.

After reading these passages we feel that though it may be true that
Machiavelli only spoke with scientific candor of the vices which were
common to all statesmen in his age--though the Italians were so corrupt
that it seemed hopeless to deal fairly with them--yet there was a
radical taint in the soul of the man who could have the heart to cull
these poisonous herbs of policy and distill their juices to a
quintessence for the use of the prince to whom he was confiding the
destinies of Italy.[1] Almost involuntarily we remember the oath which
Arthur administered to his knights, when he bade them 'never to do
outrage nor murder, and always to flee treason; also by no means to be
cruel, but to give mercy unto him that asked mercy, upon pain of
forfeiture of their worship and lordship of King Arthur for evermore.'
In a land where chivalry like this had ever taken root, either as an
ideal or as an institution, the chapters of Machiavelli could scarcely
have been published. The Italians lacked the virtues of knighthood. It
was possible among them for the philosophers to teach the princes that
success purchased at the expense of honor, loyalty, humanity, and truth
might be illustrious.

It is refreshing to turn from those chapters in which Machiavelli
teaches the Prince how to cope with the world by using the vices of the
wicked, to his exposition of the military organization suited to the
maintenance of a great kingdom. Machiavelli has no mean or humble
ambition for his Prince: 'double will his glory be, who has founded a
new realm, and fortified and adorned it with good laws, good arms, good
friends, and good ensamples.' What the enterprise to which he fain would
rouse Lorenzo really is, will appear in the conclusion. Meanwhile he
encourages him by the example of Ferdinand the Catholic to gird his
loins up for great enterprises. He bids him be circumspect in his choice
of secretaries, seeing that 'the first opinion formed of a prince and of
his capacity is derived from the men whom he has gathered round him.' He
points out how he should shun flattery and seek respectful but sincere
advice. Finally he reminds him that a prince is impotent unless he can
command obedience by his arms. Fortresses are a doubtful source of
strength; against foreign foes they are worse than useless; against
subjects they are worthless in comparison with the goodwill of the
people: 'the best fortress possible is to escape the hatred of your
subjects.' Everything therefore depends upon the well-ordering of a
national militia. The neglect of that ruined the princes of Italy and
enabled Charles VIII. to conquer the fairest of European kingdoms with
wooden spurs and a piece of chalk.[2]

    [1] In the _Discorsi_, lib. i. cap. 55, he calls Italy 'la
    coruttela del mondo,' and judges that her case is desperate;
    'non si può sperare nelle provincie che in questi tempi si
    veggono corrotte, come è l' Italia sopra tutte le altre.'

    [2] The references in this paragraph are made to chapters
    xx.-xxiv. and chapter xii. of the _Principe_.

In his discourse on armies Machiavelli lays it down that the troops with
which a prince defends his state are either his own, or mercenaries, or
auxiliaries, or mixed. 'Mercenary and auxiliary forces are both useless
and perilous, and he who founds the security of his dominion on the
former will never be established firmly: seeing that they are disunited,
ambitious, and undisciplined, without loyalty, truculent to their
friends, cowardly among foes; they have no fear of God, no faith with
men; you are only safe with them before they are attacked; in peace they
plunder you; in war you are the prey of your enemies. The cause of this
is that they have no other love nor other reason to keep the field,
beyond a little pay, which is far from sufficient to make them wish to
die for you. They are willing enough to be your soldiers so long as you
are at peace, but when war comes their impulse is to fly or sneak away.
It ought to be easy to establish the truth of this assertion, since the
ruin of Italy is due to nothing else except this, that we have now for
many years depended upon mercenary arms.'[1] Here he touches the real
weakness of the Italian states. Then he proceeds to explain further the
rottenness of the Condottiere system. Captains of adventure are either
men of ability or not. If they are, you have to fear lest their ambition
prompt them to turn their arms against yourself or your allies. This
happened to Queen Joan of Naples, who was deserted by Sforza Attendolo
in her sorest need; to the Milanese, when Francesco Sforza made himself
their despot; to the Venetians, who were driven to decapitate
Carmagnuola because they feared him. The only reason why the Florentines
were not enslaved by Sir John Hawkwood was that, though an able general,
he achieved no great successes in the field. In the same way they
escaped by luck from Sforza, who turned his attention to Milan, and from
Braccio, who formed designs against the Church and Naples. If Paolo
Vitelli had been victorious against Pisa (1498), he would have held them
at discretion. In each of these cases it was only the good fortune of
the republic which saved it from a military despotism. If, on the other
hand, the mercenary captains are men of no capacity, you are defeated in
the field.

    [1] See chapter xii. of the _Principe._

Proceeding to the historical development of this bad system, Machiavelli
points out how after the decline of the Imperial authority in Italy, the
Papacy and the republics got the upper hand. Priests and merchants were
alike unwilling to engage in war. Therefore they took mercenary troops
into their pay. The companies of the Sforzeschi and Bracceschi were
formed; and 'after these came all those others who have ruled this sort
of warfare down to our own days. The consequence of their valor is that
Italy has been harried by Charles, plundered by Louis, forced by
Ferdinand, insulted by the Swiss. Their method has been to enhance the
reputation of their cavalry by depressing the infantry. Being without
dominion of their own, and making war their commerce, a few foot
soldiers brought them no repute, while they were unable to support many.
Therefore they confined themselves to cavalry, until in a force of
20,000 men you could not number 2,000 infantry. Besides this they
employed all their ingenuity to relieve themselves and their soldiers of
fatigue and peril, by refraining from slaughter and from taking
prisoners without ransom. Night attacks and sorties were abandoned;
stockades and trenches in the camp were given up; no one thought of a
winter campaign. All these things were allowed, or rather introduced, in
order to avoid, as I have said, fatigue and peril. Whereby they have
reduced Italy to slavery and insult.' Auxiliaries, such as the French
troops borrowed by Cesare Borgia, and the Spaniards engaged by Julius
II., are even worse. 'He who wants to be unable to win the game should
make use of these forces; for they are far more dangerous than
mercenaries, seeing that in them the cause of ruin is ready made--they
are united together, and inclined to obey their own masters. Machiavelli
enforces this moral by one of those rare but energetic figures which add
virile dignity to his discourse. He compares auxiliary troops to the
armor of Saul, which David refused, preferring to fight Goliath with his
stone and sling. 'In one word, arms borrowed from another either fall
from your back, or weigh you down, or impede your action.' It remains
for a prince to form his own troops and to take the field in person,
like Cesare Borgia, when he discarded his French allies and the
mercenary aid of the Orsini captains. Republics should follow the same
course, dispatching, as the Romans did, their own citizens to the war,
and controlling by law the personal ambition of victorious generals. It
was thus that the Venetians prospered in their conquests, before they
acquired their provinces in Italy and adopted the Condottiere system
from their neighbors. 'A prince, therefore, should have but one object,
one thought, one art--the art of war.' Those who have followed this rule
have attained to sovereignty, like Francesco Sforza, who became Duke of
Milan; those who have neglected it have lost even hereditary kingdoms,
like the last Sforzas, who sank from dukedom into private life. Even
amid the pleasures of the chase a prince should always be studying the
geographical conformation of his country with a view to its defense, and
should acquire a minute knowledge of such strategical laws as are
everywhere applicable. He should read history with the same object, and
should keep before his eyes the example of those great men of the past
from whom he can learn lessons for his guidance in the present.

This brings us to the peroration of the _Principe_, which contains the
practical issue toward which the whole treatise has been tending, the
patriotic thought that reflects a kind of luster even on the darkest
pages that have gone before. Like Thetis, Machiavelli has dipped his
Achilles in the Styx of infernal counsels; like Cheiron, he has shown
him how the human and the bestial natures should be combined in one who
has to break the teeth of wolves and keep his feet from snares; like
Hephaistos, he has forged for him invulnerable armor. The object toward
which this preparation has been leading is the liberation of Italy from
the barbarians. The slavery of Israel in Egypt, the oppression of the
Persians by the Medes, the dispersion of the Athenians into villages,
were the occasions which enabled Moses and Cyrus and Theseus to display
their greatness. The new Prince, who would fain win honor in Italy and
confer upon his country untold benefits, finds her at the present moment
'more enslaved than the Hebrews, more downtrodden than the Persians,
more disunited than the Athenians, without a chief, without order,
beaten, despoiled, mangled, overrun, subject to every sort of
desolation.' Fortune could not have offered him a nobler opportunity.
'See how she prays God to send her some one who should save her from
these barbarous cruelties ind insults! See her all ready and alert to
follow any standard, if only there be a man to raise it!' Then
Machiavelli addresses himself to the chief of the Medici in person. 'Nor
is there at the present moment any place more full of hope for her than
your illustrious House, which by its valor and its fortune, favored by
God and by the Church, whereof it is now the head, might take the lead
in this delivery.' This is followed by one of the rare passages of
courtly rhetoric which, when Machiavelli condescends to indulge in them,
add peculiar splendor to his style. Then he turns again to speak of the
means which should immediately be used. He urges Lorenzo above all
things to put no faith in mercenaries or auxiliaries, but to raise his
own forces, and to rely on the Italian infantry. If Italian armies have
always been defeated in the field during the past twenty years, it is
not due so much to their defective courage as to the weakness of their
commanders. Lorenzo will have to raise a force capable of coping with
the Swiss, the Spanish, and the French. The respect with which
Machiavelli speaks at this supreme moment of these foreign troops,
proves how great was their prestige in Italy; yet he ventures to point
out that there are faults peculiar to each of them: the Spanish infantry
cannot stand a cavalry charge, and the Switzers are liable to be
disconcerted by the rapid attack of the wiry infantry of Spain. It is
therefore necessary to train troops capable of resisting cavalry, and
not afraid of facing any foot soldiers in the world. 'This opportunity,
therefore, must not be suffered to slip by; in order that Italy may
after so long a time at last behold her saviour. Nor can I find words to
describe the love with which he would be hailed in all the provinces
that have suffered through these foreign deluges, the thirst for
vengeance, the stubborn fidelity, the piety, the tears, that he would
meet What gates would be closed against him? What people would refuse
him allegiance? What jealousy would thwart him? What Italian would be
found to refuse him homage? This rule of the barbarians stinks in the
nostrils of us all. Then let your illustrious House assume this
enterprise in the spirit and the confidence wherewith just enterprises
are begun, that so, under your flag, this land of ours may be ennobled,
and under your auspices be brought to pass that prophecy of Petrarch:--

  'Lo, valor against rage
  Shall take up arms, nor shall the fight be long;
  For that old heritage
  Of courage in Italian hearts is stout and strong.

With this trumpet-cry of impassioned patriotism the
_Principe_ closes.

Hegel, in his 'Philosophy of History,' has recorded a judgment of
Machiavelli's treatise in relation to the political conditions of Italy
at the end of the mediaeval period, which might be quoted as the most
complete apology for the author it is possible to make. 'This book,' he
says, 'has often been cast aside with horror as containing maxims of the
most revolting tyranny; yet it was Machiavelli's high sense of the
necessity of constituting a state which caused him to lay down the
principles on which alone states could be formed under the
circumstances. The isolated lords and lordships had to be entirely
suppressed; and though our idea of Freedom is incompatible with the
means which he proposes both as the only available and also as wholly
justifiable--including, as these do, the most reckless violence, all
kinds of deception, murder, and the like--yet we must confess that the
despots who had to be subdued were assailable in no other way, inasmuch
as indomitable lawlessness and perfect depravity were thoroughly
engrained in them.'

Yet after the book has been shut and the apology has been weighed, we
cannot but pause and ask ourselves this question, Which was the truer
patriot--Machiavelli, systematizing the political vices and corruptions
of his time in a philosophical essay, and calling on the despot to whom
it was dedicated to liberate Italy; or Savonarola, denouncing sin and
enforcing repentance--Machiavelli, who taught as precepts of pure wisdom
those very principles of public immorality which lay at the root of
Italy's disunion and weakness; or Savonarola, who insisted that without
a moral reformation no liberty was possible? We shall have to consider
the action of Savonarola in another place. Meanwhile, it is not too much
to affirm that, with diplomatists like Machiavelli, and with princes
like those whom he has idealized, Italy could not be free. Hypocrisy,
treachery, dissimulation, cruelty are the vices of the selfish and the
enslaved. Yet Machiavelli was led by his study of the past and by his
experience of the present to defend these vices, as the necessary
qualities of the prince whom he would fain have chosen for the saviour
of his country. It is legitimate to excuse him on the ground that the
Italians of his age had not conceived a philosophy of right which should
include duties as well as privileges, and which should guard the
interests of the governed no less than those of the governor. It is true
that the feudal conception of Monarchy, so well apprehended by him in
the fourth chapter of the _Principe,_ had nowhere been realized in
Italy, and that therefore the right solution of the political problem
seemed to lie in setting force against force, and fraud against fraud,
for a sublime purpose. It may also be urged with justice that the
historians and speculators of antiquity, esteemed beyond their value by
the students of the sixteenth century, confirmed him in his application
of a positive philosophy to statecraft. The success which attended the
violence and dissimulation of the Romans, as described by Livy, induced
him to inculcate the principles on which they acted. The scientific
method followed by Aristotle in the Politics encouraged him in the
adoption of a similar analysis; while the close parallel between ancient
Greece and mediaeval Italy was sufficient to create a conviction that
the wisdom of the old world would be precisely applicable to the
conditions of the new. These, however, are exculpations of the man
rather than justifications of his theory. The theory was false and
vicious. And the fact remains that the man, impregnated by the bad
morality of the period in which he lived, was incapable of ascending
above it to the truth, was impotent with all his acumen to read the
deepest lessons of past and present history, and in spite of his
acknowledged patriotism succeeded only in adding his conscious and
unconscious testimony to the corruption of the country that he loved.
The broad common-sense, the mental soundness, the humane instinct and
the sympathy with nature, which give fertility and wholeness to the
political philosophy of men like Burke, are absent in Machiavelli. In
spite of its vigor, his system implies an inversion of the ruling laws
of health in the body politic. In spite of its logical cogency, it is
inconclusive by reason of defective premises. Incomparable as an essay
in pathological anatomy, it throws no light upon the working of a normal
social organism, and has at no time been used with profit even by the
ambitious and unscrupulous.



The Papacy between 1447 and 1527--The Contradictions of the Renaissance
Period exemplified by the Popes--Relaxation of their hold over the
States of the Church and Rome during the Exile in Avignon--Nicholas
V.--His Conception of a Papal Monarchy--Pius II.--The
Crusade--Renaissance Pontiffs--Paul II.--Persecution of the
Platonists--Sixtus IV.--Nepotism--The Families of Riario and Delia
Rovere--Avarice--Love of Warfare--Pazzi Conspiracy--Inquisition in
Spain--Innocent VIII.--Franceschetto Cibo--The Election of Alexander
VI.--His Consolidation of the Temporal Power--Policy toward Colonna and
Orsini Families--Venality of everything in Rome--Policy toward the--
Sultan--The Index--The Borgia Family--Lucrezia--Murder of Duke of Gandia
Cesare and his Advancement--The Death of Alexander--Julius II.--His
violent Temper--Great Projects and commanding Character--Leo X.--His
Inferiority to Julius--S. Peter's and the Reformation--Adrian VI.--His
Hatred of Pagan Culture--Disgust of the Roman Court at his
Election--Clement VII.--Sack of Rome--Enslavement of Florence.

In the fourteenth and the first half of the fifteenth centuries the
authority of the Popes, both as Heads of the Church and as temporal
rulers, had been impaired by exile in France and by ruinous schisms. A
new era began with the election of Nicholas V. in 1447, and ended during
the pontificate of Clement VII. with the sack of Rome in 1527. Through
the whole of this period the Popes acted more as monarchs than as
pontiffs, and the secularization of the See of Rome was earned to its
utmost limits. The contrast between the sacerdotal pretensions and the
personal immorality of the Popes was glaring; nor had the chiefs of the
Church yet learned to regard the liberalism of the Renaissance with
suspicion. About the middle of the sixteenth century the Papal States
had become a recognized kingdom; while the Popes of this later epoch
were endeavoring by means of the inquisition and the educational orders
to check the free spirit of Italy.

The history of Italy has at all times been closely bound up with that of
the Papacy; but at no period has this been more the case than during
these eighty years of Papal worldliness, ambition, depotism, and
profligacy, which are also marked by the irruption of the European
nations into Italy and by the secession of the Teutonic races from the
Latin Church. In this short space of time a succession of Popes filled
the Holy Chair with such dramatic propriety--displaying a pride so
regal, a cynicism so unblushing, so selfish a cupidity, and a policy so
suicidal as to favor the belief that they had been placed there in the
providence of God to warn the world against Babylon. At the same time
the history of the Papal Court reveals with peculiar vividness the
contradictions of Renaissance morality and manners. We find in the Popes
of this period what has been already noticed in the despots--learning,
the patronage of of the arts, the passion for magnificence, and the
refinements of polite culture, alternating and not unfrequently combined
with barbarous ferocity of temper and with savage and coarse tastes. On
the one side we observe a Pagan dissoluteness which would have
scandalized the parasites of Commodus and Nero; on the other, a seeming
zeal for dogma worthy of S. Dominic. The Vicar of Christ is at one time
worshiped as a god by princes seeking absolution for sins or liberation
from burdensome engagements; at another he is trampled under foot, in
his capacity of sovereign, by the same potentates. Undisguised
sensuality; fraud cynical and unabashed; policy marching to its end by
murders, treasons, interdicts, and imprisonments; the open sale of
spiritual privileges; commercial traffic in ecclesiastical emoluments;
hypocrisy and cruelty studied as fine arts; theft and perjury reduced to
system--these are the ordinary scandals which beset the Papacy. Yet the
Pope is still a holy being. His foot is kissed by thousands. His curse
and blessing carry death and life. He rises from the bed of harlots to
unlock or bolt the gates of heaven and purgatory. In the midst of crime
he believes himself to be the representative of Christ on earth. These
anomalies, glaring as they seem to us, and obvious as they might be to
deeper thinkers like Machiavelli or Savonarola, did not shock the mass
of men who witnessed them. The Renaissance was so dazzling by its
brilliancy, so confusing by its rapid changes, that moral distinctions
were obliterated in a blaze of splendor, an outburst of new life, a
carnival of liberated energies. The corruption of Italy was only equaled
by its culture. Its immorality was matched by its enthusiasm. It was
not the decay of an old age dying, so much as the fermentation of a new
age coming into life, that bred the monstrous paradoxes of the fifteenth
and the sixteenth centuries. The contrast between mediæval Christianity
and renascent Paganism--the sharp conflict of two adverse principles,
destined to fuse their forces and to recompose the modern world--made
the Renaissance what it was in Italy. Nowhere is the first effervescence
of these elements so well displayed as in the history of those Pontiffs
who, after striving in the Middle Ages to suppress humanity beneath a
cowl, are now the chief actors in the comedy of Aphrodite and Priapus
raising their foreheads once more to the light of day.

The struggle carried on between the Popes of the thirteenth century and
the House of Hohenstauffen ended in the elevation of the Princes of
Anjou to the throne of Naples--the most pernicious of all the evils
inflicted by the Papal power on Italy. Then followed the French tyranny,
under which Boniface VIII. expired at Anagni. Benedict XI. was poisoned
at the instigation of Philip le Bel, and the Papal see was transferred
to Avignon. The Popes lost their hold upon the city of Rome and upon
those territories of Romagna, the March, and S. Peter's Patrimony which
had been confirmed to them by the grant of Rodolph of Hapsburg (1273).
They had to govern their Italian dependencies by means of Legates,
while, one by one, the cities which had recognized their sway passed
beneath the yoke of independent princes. The Malatesti established
themselves in Rimini, Pesaro, and Fano; the house of Montefeltro
confirmed its occupation of Urbino; Camerino, Faenza, Ravenna, Forli,
and Imola became the appanages of the Varani, the Manfredi, the
Polentani, the Ordelaffi, and the Alidosi.[1] The traditional supremacy
of the Popes was acknowledged in these tyrannies; but the nobles I have
named acquired a real authority, against which Egidio Albornoz and
Robert of Geneva struggled to a great extent in vain, and to break which
at a future period taxed the whole energies of Sixtus and of Alexander.

    [1] See Mach. _Ist. Fior_. lib. i.

While the influence of the Popes was thus weakened in their states
beyond the Apennines, three great families, the Orsini, the Savelli, and
the Colonnesi, grew to princely eminence in Rome and its immediate
neighborhood. They had been severally raised to power during the second
half of the thirteenth century by the nepotism of Nicholas III.,
Honorius IV., and Nicholas IV. This nepotism bore baneful fruits in the
future; for during the exile at Avignon the houses of Colonna and Orsini
became so overbearing as to threaten the freedom and safety of the
Popes. It was again reserved for Sixtus and Alexander to undo the work
of their predecessors and to secure the independence of the Holy See by
the coercion of these towering nobles.

In the States of the Church the temporal power of the Popes, founded
upon false donations, confirmed by tradition, and contested by rival
despots, was an anomaly. In Rome itself their situation, though
different, was no less peculiar. While the factions of Orsini and
Colonna divided the Campagna and wrangled in the streets of the city,
Rome continued to preserve, in form at least, the old constitution of
Caporioni and Senator. The Senator, elected by the people, swore, not to
obey the Pope, but to defend his person. The government was ostensibly
republican. The Pope had no sovereign rights, but only the ascendency
inseparable from his wealth and from his position as Primate of
Christendom. At the same time the spirit of Arnold of Brescia, of
Brancaleone, and of Rienzi revived from time to time in patriots like
Porcari and Baroncelli, who resented the encroachments of the Church
upon the privileges of the city. Rome afforded no real security to the
members of the Holy College. They commanded no fortress like the
Castello of Milan, and had no army at their disposition. When the people
or the nobles rose against them, the best they could do was to retire to
Orvieto or Viterbo, and to wait the passing of the storm.

Such was the position of the Pope, considered as one of the ruling
princes of Italy, before the election of Nicholas V. His authority was
wide but undefined, confirmed by prescription, but based on neither
force nor legal right. Italy, however, regarded the Papacy as
indispensable to her prosperity, while Rome was proud to be called the
metropolis of Christendom, and ready to sacrifice the shadow of
republican liberty for the material advantages which might accrue from
the sovereignty of her bishop. How the Roman burghers may have felt upon
this point we gather from a sentence of Leo Alberti's, referring to the
administration of Nicholas: 'The city had become a city of gold through
the jubilee; the dignity of the citizens was respected; all reasonable
petitions were granted by the Pontiff. There were no exactions, no new
taxes. Justice was fairly administered. It was the whole care of the
Pontiff to adorn the city.'[1] The prosperity which the Papal court
brought to Rome was the main support of the Popes as princes, at a time
when many thinkers looked with Dante's jealousy upon the union of
temporal and spiritual functions in the Papacy.[2] Moreover, the whole
of Italy, as we have seen in the previous chapters, was undergoing a
gradual and instinctive change in politics; commonwealths were being
superseded by tyrannies, and the sentiments of the race at large were by
no means unfavorable to this revolution. Now was the proper moment,
therefore, for the Popes to convert their ill-defined authority into a
settled despotism, to secure themselves in Rome as sovereigns, and to
subdue the States of the Church to their temporal jurisdiction.

    [1] See history of Porcari's Conspiracy (Muratori, vol. xxv.).

    [2] Lorenzo Valla's famous declamation against the Donation of
    Constantine, which appeared during the pontificate of Nicholas,
    contained these reminiscences of the 'De Monarchiá': 'Ut Papa
    tantum vicarius Christi sit et non etiam Cæsaris ... tune Papa et
    erit et dicetur pater sanctus, pater omnium, pater ecclesæ.'

The work was begun by Thomas of Sarzana, who ascended the Chair of S.
Peter, as Nicholas V., in 1447. One part of his biography belongs to the
history of scholarship, and need not here be touched upon. Educated at
Florence, under the shadow of the house of Medici, he had imbibed those
principles of deference to princely authority which were supplanting the
old republican virtues throughout Italy. The schisms which had rent the
Catholic Church were healed; and finding no opposition to his spiritual
power, he determined to consolidate the temporalities of his See. In
this purpose he was confirmed by the conspiracy of Stefano Porcari, a
Roman noble who had endeavored to rouse republican enthusiasm in the
city at the moment of the Pope's election, and who subsequently plotted
against his liberty, if not his life. Porcari and his associates were
put to death in 1453, and by this act the Pope proclaimed himself a
monarch. The vast wealth which the jubilee of 1450 had poured into the
Papal coffers[1] he employed in beautifying the city of Rome and in
creating a stronghold for the Sovereign Pontiff. The mausoleum of
Hadrian, used long before as a fortress in the Middle Ages, was now
strengthened, while the bridge of S. Angelo and the Leonine city were so
connected and defended by a system of walls and outworks as to give the
key of Rome into the hands of the Pope. A new Vatican began to rise, and
the foundations of a nobler S. Peter's Church were laid within the
circuit of the Papal domain. Nicholas had, in fact, conceived the great
idea of restoring the supremacy of Rome, not after the fashion of a
Hildebrand, by enforcing the spiritual despotism of the Papacy, but by
establishing the Popes as kings, by renewing the architectural
magnificence of the Eternal City, and by rendering his court the center
of European culture. In the will which he recited on his death-bed to
the princes of the Church, he set forth all that he had done for the
secular and ecclesiastical architecture of Rome, explaining his deep
sense of the necessity of securing the Popes from internal revolution
and external force, together with his desire to exalt the Church by
rendering her chief seat splendid in the eyes of Christendom. This
testament of Nicholas remains a memorable document. Nothing illustrates
more forcibly the transition from the Middle Ages to the worldliness of
the Renaissance than the conviction of the Pontiff that the destinies of
Christianity depended on the state and glory of the town of Rome. What
he began was carried on amid crime, anarchy, and bloodshed by successive
Popes of the Renaissance, until at last the troops of Frundsberg paved
the way, in 1527, for the Jesuits of Loyola, and Rome, still the Eternal
City, cloaked her splendor and her scandals beneath the black pall of
Spanish inquisitors. The political changes in the Papacy initiated by
Nicholas had been, however, by that date fully accomplished, and for
more than three centuries the Popes have since held rank among the kings
of the earth.

    [1] The bank of the Medici alone held 100,000 florins for the
    Pope. Vespasiano, _Vit, Nic. V._

Of Alfonso Borgia, who reigned for three years as Calixtus III., little
need be said, except that his pontificate prepared for the greatness of
his nephew, Roderigo Lenzuoli, known as Borgia in compliment to his
uncle. The last days of Nicholas had been imbittered by the fall of
Constantinople and the imminent peril which threatened Europe from the
Turks. The whole energies of Pius II. were directed towards the one end
of uniting the European nations against the infidel. Æneas Sylvius
Piccolomini, as an author, an orator, a diplomatist, a traveller, and a
courtier, bears a name illustrious in the annals of the Renaissance. As
a Pope, he claims attention for the single-hearted zeal which he
displayed in the vain attempt to rouse the piety of Christendom against
the foes of civilization and the faith. Rarely has a greater contrast
been displayed between the man and the pontiff than in the case of Pius.
The pleasure-loving, astute, free-thinking man of letters and the world
has become a Holy Father, jealous for Christian proprieties, and bent on
stirring Europe by an appeal to motives which had lost their force three
centuries before. Frederick II. and S. Louis closed the age of the
Crusades, the one by striking a bargain with the infidel, the other by
snatching at a martyr's crown. Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini was the mirror
of his times--a humanist and stylist, imbued with the rhetorical and
pseudo-classic taste of the earlier Renaissance. Pius II. is almost an
anachronism. The disappointment which the learned world experienced when
they discovered that the new Pope, from whom so much had been expected,
declined to play the part of their Mæcenas, may be gathered from the
epigrams of Filelfo upon his death[1]:--

  Gaudeat orator, Musæ gaudete Latinæ;
    Sustulit e medio quod Deus ipse Pium.
  Ut bene consuluit doctis Deus omnibus æque,
    Quos Pius in cunctos se tulit usque gravem.
  Nunc sperare licet. Nobis Deus optime Quintum
    Reddito Nicoleon Eugeniumve patrem.

and again:--

  Hac sibi quam vivus construxit clauditur arca
    Corpore; nam Stygios mens habet atra lacus.

Pius himself was not unconscious of the discrepancy between his old and
his new self. _Æneam rejicite, Pium recipite_, he exclaims in a
celebrated passage of his Retractation, where he declares his heartfelt
sorrow for the irrevocable words of light and vain romance that he had
scattered in his careless youth. Yet though Pius II. proved a virtual
failure by lacking the strength to lead his age either backwards to the
ideal of earlier Christianity or forwards on the path of modern culture,
he is the last Pope of the Renaissance period whom we can regard with
real respect. Those who follow, and with whose personal characters,
rather than their action as Pontiffs, we shall now be principally
occupied, sacrificed the interests of Christendom to family ambition,
secured their sovereignty at the price of discord in Italy, transacted
with the infidel, and played the part of Antichrist upon the theater of

    [1] Rosmini, _Vita di Filelfo_, vol. ii. p. 321.

It would be possible to write the history of these priest-kings without
dwelling more than lightly on scandalous circumstances, to merge the
court-chronicle of the Vatican in a recital of European politics, or to
hide the true features of high Papal dignitaries beneath the masks
constructed for them by ecclesiastical apologists. That cannot, however,
be the line adopted by a writer treating of civilization in Italy during
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. He must paint the Popes of the
Renaissance as they appeared in the midst of society, when Lorenzo de'
Medici called Rome 'a sink of all the vices,' and observers so competent
as Machiavelli and Guicciardini ascribed the moral depravity and
political decay of Italy to their influence. It might be objected that
there is now no need to portray the profligacy of that court, which, by
arousing the conscience of Northern Europe to a sense of intolerable
shame, proved one of the main causes of the Reformation. But without
reviewing those old scandals, a true understanding of Italian morality,
and a true insight into Italian social feeling as expressed in
literature, are alike impossible. Nor will the historian of this epoch
shrink from his task, even though the transactions he has to record seem
to savor of legend rather than of simple fact. No fiction contains
matter more fantastic, no myth or allegory is more adapted to express a
truth in figures of the fancy, than the authentic well-attested annals
of this period of seventy years, from 1464 to 1534.

Paul the Second was a Venetian named Pietro Barbi, who began life as a
merchant. He had already shipped his worldly goods on board a trading
vessel for a foreign trip, when news reached him that his uncle had been
made Pope under the name of Eugenius IV. His call to the ministry
consisted of the calculation that he could make his fortune in the
Church with a Pope for uncle sooner than on the high seas by his wits.
So he unloaded his bales, took to his book, became a priest, and at the
age of forty-eight rose to the Papacy. Being a handsome man, he was fain
to take the ecclesiastical title of Formosus; but the Cardinals
dissuaded him from this parade of vanity, and he assumed the tiara as
Paul in 1464. A vulgar love of show was his ruling characteristic. He
spent enormous sums in the collection of jewels, and his tiara alone was
valued at 200,000 golden florins. In all public ceremonies, whether
ecclesiastical or secular, he was splendid, delighting equally to sun
himself before the eyes of the Romans as the chief actor in an Easter
benediction or a Carnival procession. The poorer Cardinals received
subsidies from his purse in order that they might add luster to his
pageants by their retinues. The arts found in him munificent patron. For
the building of the palace of S. Marco, which marks an abrupt departure
from the previous Gothic style in vogue, he brought architects of
eminence to Rome, and gave employment to Mino da Fiesole, the sculptor,
and to Giuliano da San Gallo, the wood-carver. The arches of Titus and
Septimius Severus were restored at his expense, together with the statue
of Marcus Aurelius and the horses of Monte Cavallo. But Paul showed his
connoisseurship more especially in the collection of gems, medals,
precious stones, and cameos, accumulating rare treasures of antiquity
and costly masterpieces of Italian and Flemish gold-work in his
cabinets. This patronage of contemporary art, no less than the
appreciation of classical monuments, marked him as a Mæcenas of the true
Renaissance type.[1] But the qualities of a dilettante were not
calculated to shed luster on a Pontiff who spent the substance of the
Church in heaping up immensely valuable curiosities. His thirst for gold
and his love of hoarding were so extreme that, when bishoprics fell
vacant, he often refused to fill them up, drawing their revenues for his
own use. His court was luxurious, and in private he was addicted to
sensual lust.[2] This would not, however, have brought his name into bad
odor in Rome, where the Holy Father was already regarded as an Italian
despot with certain sacerdotal additions. It was his prosecution of the
Platonists which made him unpopular in an age when men had the right to
expect that, whatever happened, learning at least would be respected.
The example of the Florentine and Neapolitan academies had encouraged
the Romans to found a society for the discussion of philosophical
questions. The Pope conceived that a political intrigue was the real
object of this club. Nor was the suspicion wholly destitute of color.
The conspiracy of Porcari against Nicholas, and the Catilinarian riots
of Tiburzio which had troubled the pontificate of Pius, were still fresh
in people's memories; nor was the position of the Pope in Rome as yet by
any means secure. What increased Paul's anxiety was the fact that some
scholars, appointed secretaries of the briefs (Abbreviatori) by Pius and
deprived of office by himself, were members of the Platonic Society.
Their animosity against him was both natural and ill-concealed. At the
same time the bitter hatred avowed by Laurentius Valla against the
temporal power might in an age of conjurations have meant active malice.
Leo Alberti hints that Porcari had been supported by strong backers
outside Rome; and one of the accusations against the Platonists was that
Pomponius Lætus had addressed Platina as Holy Father. Now both Pomponius
Lætus and Valla had influence in Naples, while Paul was on the verge of
open rupture with King Ferdinand. He therefore had sufficient grounds
for suspecting a Neapolitan intrigue, in which the humanists were
playing the parts of Brutus and Cassius. Yet though we take this trouble
to construct some show of reason for the panic of the Pope, the fact
remains that he was really mistaken at the outset; and of the stupidity,
cruelty, and injustice of his subsequent conduct there can be no doubt.
He seized the chief members of the Roman Academy, imprisoned them, put
them to the torture, and killed some of them upon the rack. 'You would
have taken Castle S. Angelo for Phalaris' bull,' writes Platina; 'the
hollow vaults did so resound with the cries of innocent young men.' No
evidence of a conspiracy could be extorted. Then Paul tried the
survivors for unorthodoxy. They proved the soundness of their faith to
the satisfaction of the Pope's inquisitors. Nothing remained but to
release them, or to shut them up in dungeons, in order that the people
might not say the Holy Father had arrested them without due cause. The
latter course was chosen. Platina, the historian of the Popes, was one
of the _abbreviatori_ whom Paul had cashiered, and one of the Platonists
whom he had tortured. The tale of Papal persecution loses, therefore,
nothing in the telling; for if the humanists of the fifteenth century
were powerful in anything it was in writing innuendoes and invectives.
Among other anecdotes, he relates how, while he was being dislocated on
the rack, the inquisitors Vianesi and Sanga held a sprightly colloquy
about a ring which the one said jestingly the other had received as a
love-token from a girl. The whole situation is characteristic of Papal
Rome in the Renaissance.

    [1] See _Les Arts à la Cour des Papes pendant le XV. et le XVI.
    Siècles_, E. Müntz, Paris, Thorin, 2me Partie. M. Müntz has
    done good service to æsthetic archæology by vindicating the
    fame of Paul II. as an employer of artists from the wholesale
    abuse heaped on him by Platina. It may here be conveniently
    noticed that even the fierce Sixtus IV. showed intelligence as
    a patron of arts and letters. He built the Sistine Chapel, and
    brought the greatest painters of the day to Rome--Signorelli,
    Perugino, Botticelli, Cosimo, Rosselli, and Ghirlandajo.
    Melozzo da Forlì worked for him. One of that painter's few
    remaining masterpieces is the wall-picture, now in the Vatican,
    which represents Sixtus among his Cardinals and Secretaries--a
    magnificent piece of vivid portraiture. Sixtus again threw the
    Vatican library open to the public, and In his days the
    Confraternity of S. Luke was founded for the encouragement of
    design. Rome owes to him the hospital of S. Spirito, a severe
    building, by Baccio Pontelli, and the churches of S. Maria del
    Popolo and S. Maria della Pace. Innocent VIII. added the
    Belvedere to the Vatican after Antonio del Pollajuolo's plan,
    and commenced the Villa Magliana. Alexander VI. enriched the
    Vatican with the famous Borgia apartments, decorated by
    Pinturhicchio. He also began the Palace of the University, and
    converted the Mausoleum of Hadrian into the Castle of S.
    Angelo. These brief allusions must suffice. It is not the
    object of the present chapter to treat of the Popes as patrons;
    but it should not be forgotten that, having accepted a place
    among the despots of Italy, they strove to acquit their debt to
    art and learning in the spirit of contemporary potentates.

    [2] Corio sums up his character thus: 'Fu costui uomo alla
    libidine molto proclivo; in grandissimo precio furono le gioie
    appresso di lui. Del giorno faceva notte, e la notte ispediva
    quanto gli occorreva.' Marcus Attilius Alexius says: 'Paulus
    II. ex concubiná domum replevit, et quasi sterquilinium facta
    est sedes Barionis.' See Gregorovius, _Stadt Rom_, vol. vii. p.
    215, for the latter quotation.

Paul did not live as long as his comparative youth led people to
anticipate. He died of apoplexy in 1471, alone and suddenly, after
supping on two huge watermelons, _duos prægrandes pepones_. His
successor was a man of base extraction, named Francesco della Rovere,
born near the town of Savona on the Genoese Riviera. It was his whim to
be thought noble; so he bought the goodwill of the ancient house of
Rovere of Turin by giving them two cardinals' hats, and proclaimed
himself their kinsman. Theirs is the golden oak-tree on an azure ground
which Michael Angelo painted on the roof of the Sistine Chapel in
compliment to Sixtus and his nephew Julius. Having bribed the most venal
members of the Sacred College, Francesco della Rovere was elected Pope,
and assumed the name of Sixtus IV. He began his career with a lie; for
though he succeeded to the avaricious Paul who had spent his time in
amassing money which he did not use, he declared that he had only found
5,000 florins in the Papal treasury. This assertion was proved false by
the prodigality with which he lavished wealth immediately upon his
nephews. It is difficult even to hint at the horrible suspicions which
were cast upon the birth of two of the Pope's nephews and upon the
nature of his weakness for them. Yet the private life of Sixtus rendered
the most monstrous stories plausible, while his public treatment of
these men recalled to mind the partiality of Nero for Doryphorus.[1] We
may, however, dwell upon the principal features of his nepotism; for
Sixtus was the first Pontiff who deliberately organized a system for
pillaging the Church in order to exalt his family to principalities. The
weakness of this policy has already been exposed[2]: its justification,
if there is any, lies in the exigencies of a dynasty which had no
legitimate or hereditary succession. The names of the Pope's nephews
were Lionardo, Giuliano, and Giovanni della Rovere, the three sons of
his brother Raffaello; Pietro and Girolamo Riario, the two sons of his
sister Jolanda; and Girolamo, the son of another sister married to
Giovanni Basso. With the notable exception of Giuliano della Rovere,[3]
these young men had no claim to distinction beyond good looks and a
certain martial spirit which ill suited with the ecclesiastical
dignities thrust upon some of them. Lionardo was made prefect of Rome
and married to a natural daughter of King Ferdinand of Naples. Giuliano
received a Cardinal's hat, and, after a tempestuous warfare with the
intervening Popes, ascended the Holy Chair as Julius II. Girolamo Basso
was created Cardinal of San Crisogono in 1477, and died in 1507.
Girolamo Riario wedded Catherine, a natural daughter of Galeazzo Sforza.
For him the Pope in 1473 bought the town of Imola with money of the
Church, and, after adding to it Forli, made Girolamo a Duke. He was
murdered by his subjects in the latter place in 1488, not, however,
before he had founded a line of princes. Pietro, another nephew of the
Riario blood, or, as scandal then reported and Muratori has since
believed, a son of the Pope himself, was elevated at the age of
twenty-six to the dignities of Cardinal, Patriarch of Constantinople,
and Archbishop of Florence. He had no virtues, no abilities, nothing but
his beauty, the scandalous affection of the Pope, and the extravagant
profligacy of his own life to recommend him to the notice of posterity.
All Italy during two years rang with the noise of his debaucheries. His
official revenues were estimated at 60,000 golden florins; but in his
short career of profligate magnificence he managed to squander a sum
reckoned at not less than 200,000. When Leonora of Aragon passed through
Rome on her way to wed the Marquis of Ferrara, this fop of a Patriarch
erected a pavilion in the Piazza de' Santi Apostoli for her
entertainment.[4] The square was partitioned into chambers communicating
with the palace of the Cardinal. The ordinary hangings were of velvet
and of white and crimson silk, while one of the apartments was draped
with the famous tapestries of Nicholas V., which represented the
Creation of the World. All the utensils in this magic dwelling were of
silver--even to the very vilest. The air of the banquet-hall was cooled
with punkahs; _ire mantici coperti, che facevano continoamemte vento_,
are the words of Corio; and on a column in the center stood a living
naked gilded boy, who poured forth water from an urn. The description of
the feast takes up three pages of the history of Corio, where we find a
minute list of the dishes--wild boars and deer and peacocks, roasted
whole; peeled oranges, gilt and sugared; gilt rolls; rosewater for
washing; and the tales of Perseus, Atalanta, Hercules, etc., I wrought
in pastry--_tutte in vivande_. We are also told how masques of Hercules,
Jason, and Phædra alternated with the story of Susannah and the Elders,
played by Florentine actors, and with the Mysteries of _San Giovan
Battista decapitato_ and _quel Giudeo che rosfi il corpo di Cristo_. The
servants were arrayed in silk, and the seneschal changed his dress of
richest stuffs and jewels four times in the course of the banquet.
Nymphs and centaurs, singers and buffoons, drank choice wine from golden
goblets. The most eminent and reverend master of the palace, meanwhile,
moved among his guests 'like some great Cæsar's son.' The whole
entertainment lasted from Saturday till Thursday, during which time
Ercole of Este and his bride assisted at Church ceremonies in S.
Peter's, and visited the notabilities of Rome in the intervals of games,
dances, and banquets of the kind described. We need scarcely add that,
in spite of his enormous wealth, the young Cardinal died 60,000 florins
in debt. Happily for the Church and for Italy, he expired at Rome in
January 1474, after parading his impudent debaucheries through Milan and
Venice as the Pope's Legate. It was rumored, but never well
authenticated, that the Venetians helped his death by poison.[5] The
sensual indulgences of every sort in which this child of the
proletariat, suddenly raised to princely splendor, wallowed for
twenty-five continuous months, are enough to account for his immature
death without the hypothesis of poisoning. With him expired a plan which
might have ended in making the Papacy a secular, hereditary kingdom.
During his stay at Milan, Pietro struck a bargain with the Duke, by the
terms of which Galeazzo Maria Sforza was to be crowned king of Lombardy,
while the Cardinal Legate was to return and seize upon the Papal
throne.[6] Sixtus, it is said, was willing to abdicate in his nephew's
favor, with a view to the firmer establishment of his family in the
tyranny of Rome. The scheme was a wild one, yet, considering the power
and wealth of the Sforza family, not so wholly impracticable as might
appear. The same dream floated, a few years later, before the
imagination of the two Borgias; and Machiavelli wrote in his calm style
that to make the Papal power hereditary was all that remained for
nepotism in his days to do.[7] The opinion which had been conceived of
the Cardinal of San Sisto during his two years of eminence may be
gathered from the following couplets of an epigram placed, as Corio
informs us, on his tomb:--

  Fur, scortum, leno, moechus, pedico, cynædus,
  Et scurra, et fidicen cedat ab Italiâ:
  Namque illa Ausonii pestis scelerata senatûs,
  Petrus, ad infernas est modo raptus aquas.

After the death of Pietro, Sixtus took his last nephew, Giovanni della
Rovere, into like favor. He was married to Giovanna, daughter of
Federigo di Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, and created Duke of Sinigaglia.
Afterwards he became Prefect of Rome, upon the death of his brother
Lionardo. This man founded the second dynasty in the Dukedom of Urbino.
The plebeian violence of the della Rovere temper reached a climax in
Giovanni's son, the Duke Francesco Maria, who murdered his sister's
lover with his own hand when a youth of sixteen, stabbed the Papal
Legate to death in the streets of Bologna at the age of twenty, and
knocked Guicciardini, the historian, down with a blow of his fist during
a council of war in 1526.

    [1] The infamous stories about Sixtus and Alexander may in part
    be fables, currently reported by the vulgar and committed to
    epigrams by scholars. Still the fact remains that Infessura,
    Burchard, and the Venetian ambassadors relate of these two
    Popes such traits of character and such abominable actions as
    render the worst calumnies probable. Infessura, though he
    expressed horror for the crimes of Sixtus, was yet a dry
    chronicler of daily events, many of which passed beneath his
    own eyes, Burchurd was a frigid diarist of Court ceremonies,
    who reported the rapes, murders, and profligacies of Alexander
    with phlegmatic gravity. The evidence of these men, neither of
    whom indulges in satire strictly so called, is more valuable
    than that of Tacitus or Suetonius to the vices of the Roman
    emperors. The dispatches of the Venetian ambassadors, again,
    are trustworthy, seeing they were always written with political
    intention and not for the sake of gossip.

    [2] See ch. iii. p. 113.

    [3] As Julius II., by far the greatest name in his age. Yet
    even Giuliano did not at first impress men with his power.
    Jacobus Volaterranus (Mur. xxiii. 107) writes of him: 'Vir est
    naturæ duriusculæ, ac uti ingenii, mediocris literaturæ.'

    [4] For what follows read Corio, _Storia di Milano_, pp.

    [5] Mach. _1st. Fior_. lib. vii.; Corio, p. 420.

    [6] See Corio, p. 420. Corio hints that the Venetians poisoned
    the Cardinal for fear of this convention being carried out.

    [7] _1st. Fior_, lib. i. vol. i. p. 38.

Sixtus, however, while thus providing for his family, could not enjoy
life without some youthful protégé about his person. Accordingly in 1463
he made his valet, a lad of no education and of base birth, Cardinal and
Bishop of Parma at the age of twenty. His merit was the beauty of a
young Olympian. With this divine gift he luckily combined a harmless
though stupid character.

With all these favorites to plant out in life, the Pope was naturally
short of money. He relied on two principal methods for replenishing his
coffers. One was the public sale of places about the Court at Rome, each
of which had its well-known price.[1] Benefices were disposed of with
rather more reserve and privacy, for simony had not yet come to be
considered venial. Yet it was notorious that Sixtus held no privilege
within his pontifical control on which he was not willing to raise
money: 'Our churches, priests, altars, sacred rites, our prayers, our
heaven, our very God, are purchasable!' exclaims a scholar of the time;
while the Holy Father himself was wont to say, 'A pope needs only pen
and ink to get what sum he wants.'[2] The second great financial
expedient was the monopoly of corn throughout the Papal States.
Fictitious dearths were created; the value of wheat was raised to famine
prices; good grain was sold out of the kingdom, and bad imported in
exchange; while Sixtus forced his subjects to purchase from his stores,
and made a profit by the hunger and disease of his emaciated provinces.
Ferdinand, the King of Naples, practiced the same system in the south.
It is worth while to hear what this bread was like from one of the men
condemned to eat it: 'The bread made from the corn of which I have
spoken was black, stinking, and abominable; one was obliged to consume
it, and from this cause sickness frequently took hold upon the

    [1] The greatest ingenuity was displayed in promoting this
    market. Infessura writes: 'Multa et inexcogitata in Curia
    Romana officia adinvenit et vendidit,' p. 1183.

    [2] Baptista Mantuanus, _de Calamitatibus Temporum_, lib. iii.

                   Venalia nobis
      Templa, sacerdotes, altaria, sacra, coronæ,
      Ignes, thura, preces, coelum est venale, Deusque.

    Soriano, the Venetian ambassador, ap. Alberi ii. 3, p. 330,
    writes: 'Conviene ricordarsi quello che soleva dire Sisto IV.,
    che al papa bastava solo la mano con la penna e l'inchiostro,
    per avere quella somma che vuole.' Cp. Aen. Sylv. Picc. _Ep_.
    i. 66: 'Nihil est quod absque argento Romana Curia dedat; nam
    et ipsæ manus impositiones et Spiritus Sancti dona venduntur,
    nec peccatorum venia nisi nummatis impenditur.'

    [3] Infessura, _Eccardus_, vol. ii. p. 1941: 'Panis vero qui ex
    dicto frumento fiebat, erat ater, foetidus, et abominabilis; e
    ex necessitate comedebatur, ex quo sæpenumero in civitate
    morbus viguit.'

But Christendom beheld in Sixtus not merely the spectacle of a Pope who
trafficked in the bodies of his subjects and the holy things of God, to
squander basely gotten gold upon abandoned minions. The peace of Italy
was destroyed by desolating wars in the advancement of the same
worthless favorites, Sixtus desired to annex Ferrara to the dominions of
Girolamo Riario. Nothing stood in his way but the House of Este, firmly
planted for centuries, and connected by marriage or alliance with all
the chief families of Italy. The Pope, whose lust for blood and broils
was only equaled by his avarice and his libertinism,[1] rushed with wild
delight into a project which involved the discord of the whole
Peninsula. He made treaties with Venice and unmade them, stirred up all
the passions of the despots and set them together by the ears, called
the Swiss mercenaries into Lombardy, and when finally, tired of fighting
for his nephew, the Italian powers concluded the peace of Bagnolo, he
died of rage in 1484. The Pope did actually die of disappointed fury
because peace had been restored to the country he had mangled for the
sake of a favorite nephew.

    [1] This phrase requires support. Infessura (loc. cit. p. 1941)
    relates the savage pleasure with which Sixtus watched a combat
    'a steccato chiuso.' Hearing that a duel to the death was to be
    fought by two bands of his body-guard, he told them to choose
    the Piazza of S. Peter for their rendezvous. Then he appeared
    at a window, blessed the combatants, and crossed himself as a
    signal for the battle to begin. We who think the ring, the
    cockpit, and the bullfight barbarous, should study Pollajuolo's
    engraving in order to imagine the horrors of a duel 'a steccato
    chiuso.' Of the inclination of Sixtus to sensuality, Infessura
    writes: 'Hic, ut fertur vulgo, et experientia demonstravit,
    puerorum amator et sodomita fuit.' After mentioning the Riarii
    and a barber's son, aged twelve, he goes on: 'taceo nunc alia,
    quæ circa hoc possent recitari, quia visa sunt de continuo.' It
    was not, perhaps, a wholly Protestant calumny which accused
    Sixtus of granting private indulgences for the commission of
    abominable crimes in certain seasons of the year.

The crime of Sixtus which most vividly paints the corruption of the
Papacy in his age remains still to be told. This was the sanction of the
Pazzi Conjuration against Giuliano and Lorenzo de' Medici. In the year
1477 the Medici, after excluding the merchant princes of the Pazzi
family from the magistracy at Florence and otherwise annoying them, had
driven Francesco de' Pazzi in disgust to Rome. Sixtus chose him for his
banker in the place of the Medicean Company. He became intimate with
Girolamo Riario, and was well received at the Papal Court. Political
reasons at this moment made the Pope and his nephew anxious to destroy
the Medici, who opposed Girolamo's schemes of aggrandizement in
Lombardy. Private rancor induced Francesco de' Pazzi to second their
views and to stimulate their passion. The three between them hatched a
plot which was joined by Salviati, Archbishop of Pisa, another private
foe of the Medici, and by Giambattista Montesecco, a captain well
affected to the Count Girolamo. The first design of the conspirators was
to lure the brothers Medici to Rome, and to kill them there. But the
young men were too prudent to leave Florence. Pazzi and Salviati then
proceeded to Tuscany, hoping either at a banquet or in church to succeed
in murdering their two enemies together. Bernardo Bandini, a man of
blood by trade, and Francesco de' Pazzi were chosen to assassinate
Giuliano. Giambattista Montesecco undertook to dispose of Lorenzo.[1]
The 26th of April 1478 was finally fixed for the deed. The place
selected was the Duomo.[2] The elevation of the Host at Mass-time was
to be the signal. Both the Medici arrived. The murderers embraced
Giuliano and discovered that this timid youth had left his secret coat
of mail at home. But a difficulty, which ought to have been foreseen,
arose. Monteseoco, cut-throat as he was, refused to stab Lorenzo before
the high altar: at the last moment some sense of the _religio loci_
dashed his courage. Two priests were then discovered who had no such
silly scruples. In the words of an old chronicle, 'Another man was
found, who, _being a priest_, was more accustomed to the place and
therefore less superstitious about its sanctity.' This, however, spoiled
all. The priests, though more sacrilegious than the bravos, were less
used to the trade of assassination. They failed to strike home.
Giuliano, it is true, was stabbed to death by Bernardo Bandini and
Francesco de' Pazzi at the very moment of the elevation of Christ's
body. But Lorenzo escaped with a slight flesh-wound. The whole
conspiracy collapsed. In the retaliation which the infuriated people of
Florence took upon the murderers, the Archbishop Salviati, together with
Jacopo and Francesco de' Pazzi and some others among the principal
conspirators, were hung from the windows of the Palazzo Pubblico. For
this act of violence to the sacred person of a traitorous priest,
Sixtus, who had upon his own conscience the crime of mingled treason,
sacrilege, and murder, ex-communicated Florence, and carried on for
years a savage war with the Republic. It was not until 1481, when the
descent of the Turks upon Otranto made him tremble for his own safety,
that he chose to make peace with these enemies whom he had himself
provoked and plotted against.

    [1] His 'Confession,' printed by Fabroni, _Lorenzi Medicis
    Vita_, vol. ii. p. 168, gives an interesting account of the
    hatching of the plot. It is fair to Sixtus to say that
    Montesecco exculpates him of the design to murder the Medici.
    He only wanted to ruin them.

    [2] It is curious to note how many of the numerous Italian
    tyrannicides took place in church. The Chiavelli of Fabriano
    were murdered during a solemn service in 1435; the sentence of
    the creed 'Et incarnatus est' was chosen for the signal. Gian
    Maria Visconti was killed in San Gottardo (1412), Galeazzo
    Maria Sforza in San Stefano (1484). Lodovico Moro only just
    escaped assassination in Sant' Ambrogio (1484). Machiavelli
    says that Lorenzo de' Medici's life was attempted by Batista
    Frescobaldi in the Carmine (see _1st. Fior._ book viii. near
    the end). The Bagliani of Perugia were to have been massacred
    during the marriage festival of Astorre with Lavinia
    Colonna(1500). Stefano Porcari intended to capture Nicholas V.
    at the great gate of S. Peter's (1453). The only chance of
    catching cautious princes off their guard was when they were
    engaged in high solemnities. See above, p. 168.

Another peculiarity in the Pontificate of Sixtus deserves special
mention. It was under his auspices in the year 1478 that the Inquisition
was founded in Spain for the extermination of Jews, Moors, and
Christians with a taint of heresy. During the next four years 2,000
victims were burned in the province of Castile. In Seville, a plot of
ground, called the Quemadero, or place of burning--a new Aceldama--was
set apart for executions; and here in one year 280 heretics were
committed to the flames, while 79 were condemned to perpetual
imprisonment, and 17,000 to lighter punishments of various kinds. In
Andalusia alone 5,000 houses were at once abandoned by their
inhabitants. Then followed in 1492 the celebrated edict against the
Jews. Before four months had expired the whole Jewish population were
bidden to leave Spain, carrying with them nothing in the shape of gold
or silver. To convert their property into bills of exchange and movables
was their only resource. The market speedily was glutted: a house was
given for an ass, a vineyard for a suit of clothes. Vainly did the
persecuted race endeavor to purchase a remission of the sentence by the
payment of an exorbitant ransom. Torquemada appeared before Ferdinand
and his consort, raising the crucifix, and crying: 'Judas sold Christ
for 30 pieces of silver; sell ye him for a larger sum, and account for
the same to God!' The exodus began. Eight hundred thousand Jews left
Spain[1]--some for the coast of Africa, where the Arabs ripped their
bodies up in search for gems or gold they might have swallowed, and
deflowered their women--some for Portugal, where they bought the right
to exist for a large head-tax, and where they saw their sons and
daughters dragged away to baptism before their eyes. Others were sold as
slaves, or had to satisfy the rapacity of their persecutors with the
bodies of their children. Many flung themselves into the wells, and
sought to bury despair in suicide. The Mediterranean was covered with
famine-stricken and plague-breeding fleets of exiles. Putting into the
Port of Genoa, they were refused leave to reside in the city, and died
by hundreds in the harbor.[2] Their festering bodies, bred a pestilence
along the whole Italian sea-board, of which at Naples alone 20,000
persons died. Flitting from shore to shore, these forlorn specters, the
victims of bigotry and avarice, everywhere pillaged and everywhere
rejected, dwindled away and disappeared. Meanwhile the orthodox
rejoiced. Pico della Mirandola, who spent his life in reconciling Plato
with the Cabala, finds nothing more to say than this: 'The sufferings of
the Jews, in which the glory of the Divine justice delighted, were so
extreme as to fill us Christians with commiseration.' With these words
we may compare the following passage from Senarega: 'The matter at first
sight seemed praiseworthy, as regarding the honor done to our religion;
yet it involved some amount of cruelty, if we look upon them, not as
beasts, but as men, the handiwork of God.' A critic of this century can
only exclaim with stupefaction: _Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum!_
Thus Spain began to devour and depopulate herself. The curse which fell
upon the Jew and Moor descended next upon philosopher and patriot. The
very life of the nation, in its commerce, its industry, its free
thought, its energy of character, was deliberately and steadily
throttled. And at no long interval of time the blight of Spain was
destined to descend on Italy, paralyzing the fair movements of her
manifold existence to a rigid uniformity, shrouding the light and color
of her art and letters in the blackness of inquisitorial gloom.

    [1] This number is perhaps exaggerated. Limborch in his
    _History of the Inquisition_ (p. 83) gives both 800,000 and
    400,000; he also speaks of 170,000 _families_ as one

    [2] Senarega's account of the entry of the Jews into Genoa is
    truly awful. He was an eye-witness of what he relates. The
    passage may be read in Prescott's _Ferdinand and Isabella_,
    chapter 17.

Most singular is the attitude of a Sixtus--indulging his lust and pride
in the Vatican, adorning the chapel called after his name with
masterpieces,[1] rending Italy with broils for the aggrandizement of
favorites, haggling over the prices to be paid for bishoprics, extorting
money from starved provinces, plotting murder against his enemies,
hounding the semi-barbarous Swiss mountaineers on Milan by indulgences,
refusing aid to Venice in her championship of Christendom against the
Turk--yet meanwhile thinking to please God by holocausts of Moors, by
myriads of famished Jews, conferring on a faithless and avaricious
Ferdinand the title of Catholic, endeavoring to wipe out his sins by the
blood of others, to burn his own vices in the _autos da fé_ of Seville,
and by the foundation of that diabolical engine the Inquisition to
secure the fabric his own infamy was undermining.[2] This is not the
language of a Protestant denouncing the Pope. With all respect for the
Roman Church, that Alma Mater of the Middle Ages, that august and
venerable monument of immemorial antiquity, we cannot close our eyes to
the contradictions between practice and pretension upon which the
History of the Italian Renaissance throws a light so lurid.

    [1] Musing beneath the Sibyls and before the Judgment of
    Michael Angelo, it is difficult not to picture to the fancy the
    arraignment of the Popes who built and beautified that chapel,
    when the Christ, whose blood they sold, should appear with His
    menacing right arm uplifted, and the prophets should thunder
    their denunciations: 'Howl, ye shepherds, and cry; and wallow
    yourselves in the ashes, ye principal of the flock, for the
    days of your slaughter and your dispersions are accomplished.'

    [2] The same incongruity appears also in Innocent VIII., whose
    bull against witchcraft (1484) systematized the persecution
    directed against unfortunate old women and idiots. Sprenger, in
    the _Malleus Maleficarum_, mentions that in the first year
    after its publication forty-one witches were burned in the
    district of Como, while crowds of suspected women took refuge
    in the province of the Archduke Sigismond. Cantù's _Storia
    della Diocesi di Como_ (Le Monnier, 2 vols.) may be consulted
    for the persecution of witches in Valtellina and Val Camonica.
    Cp. Folengo's _Maccaronea_ for the prevalence of witchcraft in
    those districts.

After Sixtus IV. came Innocent VIII. His secular name was Giambattista
Cibo. The sacred College, terrified by the experience of Sixtus into
thinking that another Pope, so reckless in his creation of scandalous
Cardinals, might ruin Christendom, laid the most solemn obligations on
the Pope elect. Cibo took oaths on every relic, by every saint, to every
member of the conclave, that he would maintain a certain order of
appointment and a purity of election in the Church. No Cardinal under
the age of thirty, not more than one of the Pope's own blood, none
without the rank of Doctor of Theology or Law, were to be elected, and
so forth. But as soon as the tiara was on his head, he renounced them
all as inconsistent with the rights and liberties of S. Peter's Chair.
Engagements made by the man might always be broken by the Pope. Of
Innocent's Pontificate little need be said. He was the first Pope
publicly to acknowledge his seven children, and to call them sons and
daughters.[1] Avarice, venality, sloth, and the ascendency of base
favorites made his reign loathsome without the blaze and splendor of the
scandals of his fiery predecessor. In corruption he advanced a step
even beyond Sixtus, by establishing a Bank at Rome for the sale of
pardons.[2] Each sin had its price, which might be paid at the
convenience of the criminal: 150 ducats of the tax were poured into the
Papal coffers; the surplus fell to Franceschetto, the Pope's son. This
insignificant princeling, for whom the county of Anguillara was
purchased, showed no ability or ambition for aught but getting and
spending money. He was small of stature and tame-spirited: yet the
destinies of an important house of Europe depended on him; for his
father married him to Maddalena, the daughter of Lorenzo de' Medici, in
1487. This led to Giovanni de' Medici receiving a Cardinal's hat at the
age of thirteen, and thus the Medicean interest in Rome was founded; in
the course of a few years the Medici gave two Popes to the Holy See, and
by their ecclesiastical influence riveted the chains of Florence
fast.[3] The traffic which Innocent and Franceschetto carried on in
theft and murder filled the Campagna with brigands and assassins.[4]
Travelers and pilgrims and ambassadors were stripped and murdered on
their way to Rome; and in the city itself more than two hundred people
were publicly assassinated with impunity during the last months of the
Pope's life. He was gradually dozing off into his last long sleep, and
Franceschetto was planning how to carry off his ducats. While the Holy
Father still hovered between life and death, a Jewish doctor proposed to
reinvigorate him by the transfusion of young blood into his torpid
veins. Three boys throbbing with the elixir of early youth were
sacrificed in vain. Each boy, says Infessura, received one ducat. He
adds, not without grim humor: 'Et paulo post mortui sunt; Judæus quidem
aufugit, et Papa non sanatus est.' The epitaph of this poor old Pope
reads like a rather clever but blasphemous witticism: 'Ego autem in
Innocentiâ meâ ingressus sum.'

    [1] 'Primus pontificum filios filiasque palam ostentavit,
    primus eorum apertas fecit nuptias, primus domesticos hymenæos
    celebravit.' Egidius of Viterbo, quoted by Greg. _Stadt Rom_,
    vol. vii. p. 274, note.

    [2] Infessura says he heard the Vice-chancellor, when asked why
    criminals were allowed to pay instead of being punished,
    answer: 'God wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that
    he should pay and live.' Dominico di Viterbo, Apostolic Scribe,
    forged bulls by which the Pope granted indulgences for the
    commission of the worst scandals. His father tried to buy him
    off for 5,000 ducats. Innocent replied that, as his honor was
    concerned, he must have 6,000. The poor father could not scrape
    so much money together; so the bargain fell through, and
    Dominico was executed. A Roman who had killed two of his own
    daughters bought his pardon for 800 ducats.

    [3] Guicciardini, i. 1., points out that Lorenzo, having the
    Pope for his ally, was able to create that balance of power in
    Italy which it was his chief political merit to have maintained
    until his death.

    [4] It is only by reading the pages of Infessura's Diary
    (Eccardus vol. ii. pp. 2003-2005) that any notion of the mixed
    debauchery and violence of Rome at this time can be formed.

Meanwhile the Cardinals had not been idle. The tedious leisure of
Innocent's long lethargy was employed by them in active simony. Simony,
it may be said in passing, gave the great Italian families a direct
interest in the election of the richest and most paying candidate. It
served the turn of a man like Ascanio Sforza to fatten the golden goose
that laid such eggs, before he killed it--in other words, to take the
bribes of Innocent and Alexander, while deferring for a future time his
own election. All the Cardinals, with the exception of Roderigo
Borgia,[1] were the creatures of Sixtus or of Innocent. Having bought
their hats with gold, they were now disposed to sell their votes to the
highest bidder. The Borgia was the richest, strongest, wisest, and most
worldly of them all. He ascertained exactly what the price of each
suffrage would be, and laid his plans accordingly. The Cardinal Ascanio
Sforza, brother of the Duke of Milan, would accept the lucrative post of
Vice-Chancellor. The Cardinal Orsini would be satisfied with the Borgia
Palaces at Rome and the Castles of Monticello and Saviano. The Cardinal
Colonna had a mind for the Abbey of Subbiaco with its fortresses. The
Cardinal of S. Angelo preferred the comfortable Bishopric of Porto with
its palace stocked with choice wines. The Cardinal of Parma would take
Nepi. The Cardinal of Genoa was bribable with the Church of S. Maria in
Via Lata. Less influential members of the Conclave sold themselves for
gold; to meet their demands the Borgia sent Ascanio Sforza four mules
laden with coin in open day, requesting him to distribute it in proper
portions to the voters. The fiery Giuliano della Rovere remained
implacable and obdurate. In the Borgia his vehement temperament
perceived a fit antagonist. The armor which he donned in their first
encounters he never doffed, but waged fierce war with the whole brood of
Borgias at Ostia, at the French Court, in Romagna, wherever and whenever
he found opportunity.[2] He and five other Cardinals--among them his
cousin Raphael Riario--refused to sell their votes. But Roderigo Borgia,
having corrupted the rest of the college, assumed the mantle of S. Peter
in 1492, with the ever-memorable title of Alexander VI.

    [1] Roderigo was the son of Isabella Borgia, niece of Pope
    Calixtus III., by her marriage with Joffré Lenzuoli. He took
    the name of Borgia, when he came to Rome to be made Cardinal,
    and to share in his uncle's greatness.

    [2] The marriage of his nephew Nicolo della Rovere to Laura,
    the daughter of Alexander VI. by Giulia Bella, in 1505, long
    after the Borgia family had lost its hold on Italy, is a
    curious and unexplained incident.

Rome rejoiced. The Holy City attired herself in festival array,
exhibiting on every flag and balcony the Bull of the house of Borgia,
and crying like the Egyptians when they found Apis:--

  Vive diu Bos! Vive diu Bos! Borgia vive!
    Vivit Alexander: Roma beata manet.

In truth there was nothing to convince the Romans of the coming woe, or
to raise suspicion that a Pope had been elected who would deserve the
execration of succeeding centuries. In Roderigo Borgia the people only
saw, as yet, a man accomplished at all points, of handsome person, royal
carriage, majestic presence, affable address. He was a brilliant orator,
a passionate lover, a demigod of court pageantry and ecclesiastic
parade--qualities which, though they do not suit our notions of a
churchman, imposed upon the taste of the Renaissance. As he rode in
triumph toward the Lateran, voices were loud in his praise. 'He sits
upon a snow-white horse,' writes one of the humanists of the century,[1]
'with serene forehead, with commanding dignity. As he distributes his
blessing to the crowd, all eyes are fixed upon him, and all hearts
rejoice. How admirable is the mild composure of his mien! how noble his
countenance! his glance how free! His stature and carriage, his beauty
and the full health of his body, how they enhance the reverence which he
inspires!' Another panegyrist[2] describes his 'broad forehead, kingly
brow, free countenance full of majesty,' adding that 'the heroic beauty
of his whole body' was given him by nature in order that he might 'adorn
the seat of the Apostles with his divine form in the place of God.' How
little in the early days of his Pontificate the Borgia resembled that
Alexander with whom the legend of his subsequent life has familiarized
our fancy, may be gathered from the following account:[3] 'He is
handsome, of a most glad countenance and joyous aspect, gifted with
honeyed and choice eloquence; the beautiful women on whom his eyes are
cast he lures to love him, and moves them in a wondrous way, more
powerfully than the magnet influences iron.' These, we must remember,
are the testimonies of men of letters, imbued with the Pagan sentiments
of the fifteenth century, and rejoicing in the advent of a Pope who
would, they hoped, make Rome the capital of luxury and license.
Therefore they require to be received with caution. Yet there is no
reason to suppose that the majority of the Italians regarded the
elevation of the Borgia with peculiar horror. As a Cardinal he had given
proof of his ability, but shown no signs of force or cruelty or fraud.
Nor were his morals worse than those of his colleagues. If he was the
father of several children, so was Giuliano della Rovere, and so had
been Pope Innocent before him. This mattered but little in an age when
the Primate of Christendom had come to be regarded as a secular
potentate, less fortunate than other princes inasmuch as his rule was
not hereditary, but more fortunate in so far as he could wield the
thunders and dispense the privileges of the Church. A few men of
discernment knew what had been done, and shuddered. 'The king of
Naples,' says Guicciardini, 'though he dissembled his grief, told the
queen, his wife, with tears--tears which he was wont to check even at
the death of his own sons--that a Pope had been made who would prove
most pestilent to the whole Christian commonwealth.' The young Cardinal
Giovanni de' Medici, again, showed his discernment of the situation by
whispering in the Conclave to his kinsman Cibo: 'We are in the wolf's
jaws; he will gulp us down, unless we make our flight good.' Besides,
there was in Italy a widely spread repugnance to the Spanish
intruders--Marrani, or renegade Moors, as they were properly called--who
crowded the Vatican and threatened to possess the land of their adoption
like conquerors. 'Ten Papacies would not suffice to satiate the greed of
all this kindred,' wrote Giannandrea Boccaccio to the Duke of Ferrara in
1492: and events proved that these apprehensions were justified; for
during the Pontificate of Alexander eighteen Spanish Cardinals were
created, five of whom belonged to the house of the Borgias.

    [1] See Michael Fernus, quoted by Greg. _Lucrezia Borgia_, p.

    [2] Jason Mainus, quoted by Greg, _Stadt Rom._ p. 314, note.

    [3] Gasp. Ver., quoted by Greg. _Stadt Rom._ p. 208, note.

It is certain, however, that the profound horror with which the name of
Alexander VI. strikes a modern ear was not felt among the Italians at
the time of his election. The sentiment of hatred with which he was
afterwards regarded arose partly from the crimes by which his
Pontificate was rendered infamous, partly from the fear which his son
Cesare inspired, and partly from the mysteries of his private life,
which revolted even the corrupt conscience of the sixteenth century.
This sentiment of hatred had grown to universal execration at the date
of his death. In course of time, when the attention of the Northern
nations had been directed to the iniquities of Rome, and when the
glaring discrepancy between Alexander's pretension as a Pope and his
conduct as a man had been apprehended, it inspired a legend which, like
all legends, distorts the facts which it reflects.

Alexander was, in truth, a man eminently fitted to close an old age and
to inaugurate a new, to demonstrate the paradoxical situation of the
Popes by the inexorable logic of his practical impiety, and to fuse two
conflicting world-forces in the cynicism of supreme corruption. The
Emperors of the Julian house had exhibited the extreme of sensual
insolence in their autocracy. What they desired of strange and sweet and
terrible in the forbidden fruits of lust, they had enjoyed. The Popes of
the Middle Ages--Hildebrand and Boniface--had displayed the extreme of
spiritual insolence in their theocracy. What they desired of tyrannous
and forceful in the exercise of an usurped despotism over souls, they
had enjoyed. The Borgia combined both impulses toward the illimitable.
To describe him as the Genius of Evil, whose sensualities, as
unrestrained as Nero's, were relieved against the background of flame
and smoke which Christianity had raised for fleshly sins, is
justifiable. His spiritual tyranny, that arrogated Jus, by right of
which he claimed the hemisphere revealed by Christopher Columbus, and
imposed upon the press of Europe the censure of the Church of Rome, was
rendered ten times monstrous by the glare reflected on it from the
unquenched furnace of a godless life. The universal conscience of
Christianity is revolted by those unnamable delights, orgies of blood
and festivals of lust, which were enjoyed in the plenitude of his green
and vigorous old age by this versatile diplomatist and subtle priest,
who controlled the councils of kings, and who chanted the sacramental
service for a listening world on Easter Day in Rome. Rome has never been
small or weak or mediocre. And now in the Pontificate of Alexander 'that
memorable scene' presented to the nations of the modern world a pageant
of Antichrist and Antiphysis--the negation of the Gospel and of nature;
a glaring spectacle of discord between humanity as it aspires to be at
its best, and humanity as it is at its worst; a tragi-comedy composed by
some infernal Aristophanes, in which the servant of servants, the
anointed of the Lord, the lieutenant upon earth of Christ, played the
chief part. It may be objected that this is the language not of history
but of the legend. I reply that there are occasions when the legend has
caught the spirit of the truth.

Alexander was a stronger and a firmer man than his immediate
predecessors. 'He combined,' says Guicciardini, 'craft with singular
sagacity, a sound judgment with extraordinary powers of persuasion; and
to all the grave affairs of life he applied ability and pains beyond
belief.'[1] His first care was to reduce Rome to order. The old
factions of Colonna and Orsini, which Sixtus had scotched, but which had
raised their heads again during the dotage of Innocent, were destroyed
in his Pontificate. In this way, as Machiavelli observed,[2] he laid the
real basis for the temporal power of the Papacy. Alexander, indeed, as a
sovereign, achieved for the Papal See what Louis XI. had done for the
throne of France, and made Rome on its small scale follow the type of
the large European monarchies. The faithlessness and perjuries of the
Pope, 'who never did aught else but deceive, nor ever thought of
anything but this, and always found occasion for his frauds,'[3] when
combined with his logical intellect and persuasive eloquence, made him a
redoubtable antagonist. All considerations of religion and morality were
subordinated by him with strict impartiality to policy: and his policy
he restrained to two objects--the advancement of his family, and the
consolidation of the temporal power. These were narrow aims for the
ambition of a potentate who with one stroke of his pen pretended to
confer the new-found world on Spain. Yet they taxed his whole strength,
and drove him to the perpetration of enormous crimes.

    [1] It is but fair to Guicciardini to complete his sentence in
    a note: 'These good qualities were far surpassed by his vices;
    private habits of the utmost obscenity, no shame nor sense of
    truth, no fidelity to his engagements, no religious sentiment;
    insatiable avarice, unbridled ambition, cruelty beyond the
    cruelty of barbarous races, burning desire to elevate his sons
    by any means: of these there were many, and among them--in
    order that he might not lack vicious instruments for effecting
    his vicious schemes--one not less detestable in any way than
    his father.' _St. d'It._ vol. i. p. 9. I shall translate and
    put into the appendix Guicciardini's character of Alexander
    from the _Storia di Firenze_.

    [2] In the sentences which close the 11th chapter of the

    [3] Mach. _Prince_, ch. xvii. In the Satires of Ariosto (Satire
    i. 208-27) there is a brilliant and singularly outspoken
    passage on the nepotism of the Popes and its ruinous results
    for Italy.

Former Pontiffs had raised money by the sale of benefices and
indulgences: this, of course, Alexander also practiced--to such an
extent, indeed, that an epigram gained currency: 'Alexander sells the
keys, the altars, Christ. Well, he bought them; so he has a right to
sell them.' But he went further and took lessons from Tiberius. Having
sold the scarlet to the highest bidder, he used to feed his prelate with
rich benefices. When he had fattened him sufficiently, he poisoned him,
laid hands upon his hoards, and recommenced the game. Paolo Capello, the
Venetian Ambassador, wrote in the year 1500: 'Every night they find in
Rome four or five murdered men, Bishops and Prelates and so forth.'
Panvinius mentions three Cardinals who were known to have been poisoned
by the Pope; and to their names may be added those of the Cardinals of
Capua and of Verona.[1] To be a prince of the Church was dangerous in
those days; and if the Borgia had not at last poisoned himself by
mistake, he must in the long-run have had to pay people to accept so
perilous a privilege. His traffic in Church dignities was carried on
upon a grand scale: twelve Cardinals' hats, for example, were put to
auction in a single day in 1500.[2] This was when he wished to pack the
Conclave with votes in favor of the cession of Romagna to Cesare Borgia,
as well as to replenish his exhausted coffers. Forty-three Cardinals
were created by him in eleven promotions: each of these was worth on an
average 10,000 florins; while the price paid by Francesco Soderini
amounted to 20,000 and that paid by Domenico Grimani reached the sum of

    [1] See the authorities in Burckhardt, pp. 93, 94.

    [2] Guicc. _St. d'It._ vol. iii. p. 15.

Former Popes had preached crusades against the Turk, languidly or
energetically according as the coasts of Italy were threatened.
Alexander frequently invited Bajazet to enter Europe and relieve him of
the princes who opposed his intrigues in the favor of his children. The
fraternal feeling which subsisted between the Pope and the Sultan was to
some extent dependent on the fate of Prince Djem, a brother of Bajazet
and son of the conqueror of Constantinople, who had fled for protection
to the Christian powers, and whom the Pope kept prisoner, receiving
40,000 ducats yearly from the Porte for his jail fee. Innocent VIII. had
been the first to snare this lucrative guest in 1489. The Lance of
Longinus was sent him as a token of the Sultan's gratitude, and
Innocent, who built an altar for the relique, caused his own tomb to be
raised close by. His effigy in bronze by Pollajuolo still carries in its
hand this blood-gift from the infidel to the High Priest of Christendom.

Djem meanwhile remained in Rome, and held his Moslem Court side by side
with the Pontiff in the Vatican. Dispatches are extant in which
Alexander and Bajazet exchange terms of the warmest friendship, the Turk
imploring his Greatness--so he addressed the Pope--to put an end to the
unlucky Djem, and promising as the price of this assassination a sum of
300,000 ducats and the tunic worn by Christ, presumably that very
seamless coat over which the soldiers of Calvary had cast their
dice.[1] The money and the relique arrived in Italy and were intercepted
by the partisans of Giuliano della Rovere. Alexander, before the bargain
with the Sultan had been concluded by the murder of Djem, was forced to
hand him over to the French king. But the unlucky Turk carried in his
constitution the slow poison of the Borgias, and died in Charles's camp
between Rome and Naples. Whatever crimes may be condoned in Alexander,
it is difficult to extenuate this traffic with the Turks. By his appeal
from the powers of Europe to the Sultan, at a time when the peril to the
Western world was still most serious, he stands attained for high
treason against Christendom, of which he professed to be the chief;
against civilization, which the Church pretended to protect; against
Christ, whose vicar he presumed to style himself.

    [1] See the letters in the 'Preuves et Observations,' printed
    at the end of the _Mémoires de Comines_.

Like Sixtus, Alexander combined this deadness to the spirit and the
interests of Christianity with zeal for dogma. He never flinched in
formal orthodoxy, and the measures which he took for riveting the chains
of superstition on the people were calculated with the military firmness
of a Napoleon. It was he who established the censure of the press, by
which printers were obliged, under pain of excommunication, to submit
the books they issued to the control of the Archbishops and their
delegates. The Brief of June 1, 1501, which contains this order, may be
reasonably said to have retarded civilization, at least in Italy and

Carnal sensuality was the besetting vice of this Pope throughout his
life.[1] This, together with his almost insane weakness for his
children, whereby he became a slave to the terrible Cesare, caused all
the crimes which he committed. At the same time, though sensual,
Alexander was not gluttonous. Boccaccio, the Ferrarese Ambassador,
remarks: 'The Pope eats only of one dish. It is, therefore, disagreeable
to have to dine with him.' In this respect he may be favorably
contrasted with the Roman prelates of the age of Leo. His relations to
Vannozza Catanei, the titular wife first of Giorgio de Croce, and then
of Carlo Canale, and to Giulia Farnese,[2] surnamed La Bella, the
titular wife of Orsino Orsini, were open and acknowledged. These two
sultanas ruled him during the greater portion of his career, conniving
meanwhile at the harem, which, after truly Oriental fashion, he
maintained in the Vatican. An incident which happened during the French
invasion of 1494 brings the domestic circumstances of a Pope of the
Renaissance vividly before us. Monseigneur d'Allegre caught the ladies
Giulia and Girolama Farnese, together with the lady Adriana de Mila, who
was employed as their duenna, near Capodimonte, on November 29, and
carried them to Montefiascone. The sum fixed for their ransom was 3,000
ducats. This the Pope paid, and on December 1 they were released.
Alexander met them outside Rome, attired like a layman in a black jerkin
trimmed with gold brocade, and fastened round his waist by a Spanish
girdle, from which hung his dagger. Lodovico Sforza, when he heard what
had happened, remarked that it was weak to release these ladies, who
were 'the very eyes and heart' of his Holiness, for so small a
ransom--if 50,000 ducats had been demanded, they would have been paid.
This and a few similar jokes, uttered at the Pope's expense, make us
understand to what extent the Italians were accustomed to regard their
high priest as a secular prince. Even the pageant of Alexander seated in
S. Peter's, with his daughter Lucrezia on one side of his throne and his
daughter-in-law Sancia upon the other, moved no moral indignation; nor
were the Romans astonished when Lucrezia was appointed Governor of
Spoleto, and plenipotentiary Regent of the Vatican in her father's
absence. These scandals, however, created a very different impression in
the north, and prepared the way for the Reformation.

    [1] Guicciardini (_St. Fior._ cap. 27) writes: 'Fu
    lussoriosissimo nell' uno e nell' altro sesso, tenendo
    publicamente femine e garzoni, ma più ancora nelle femine.' A
    notion of the public disorders connected with his dissolute
    life may be gained from this passage in Sanuto's Diary
    (Gregorovius, _Lucrezia Borgia_, p. 88): 'Da Roma per le
    lettere del orator nostro se intese et etiam de private persone
    cossa assai abominevole in le chiesa di Dio, che al papa erra
    nato un fiolo di una dona romana maritata, ch' el padre l'
    havea rufianata, e di questa il marito invitò il suocero a la
    vigna e lo uccise tagliandoli el capo, ponendo quello sopra uno
    legno con letere che diceva questo è il capo de mio suocero che
    a rufianato sua fiola al papa, et che inteso questo il papa
    fece metter el dito in exilio di Roma con taglia. Questa nova
    venne per letere particular; etiam si godea con la sua spagnola
    menatali per suo fiol duca di Gandia novamente li venuto.'

    [2] Her brother Alexander, afterwards Paul III., owed his
    promotion to the purple to this liaison, which was, therefore,
    the origin of the greatness of the Farnesi. The tomb of Paul
    III. in the Tribune of S. Peter's has three notable family
    portraits--the Pope himself in bronze; his sister Giulia, naked
    in marble, as Justice; and their old mother, Giovanna Gaetani,
    the bawd, as Prudence.

The nepotism of Sixtus was like water to the strong wine of Alexander's
paternal ambition. The passion of paternity, exaggerated beyond the
bounds of natural affection, and scandalous in a Roman Pontiff, was the
main motive of the Borgia's action. Of his children by Vannozza, he
caused the eldest son to be created Duke of Gandia; the youngest he
married to Donna Sancia, a daughter of Alfonso of Aragon, by whom the
boy was honored with the Dukedom of Squillace. Cesare, the second of
this family, was appointed Bishop of Valentia, and Cardinal. The
Dukedoms of Camerino and Nepi were given to another John, whom Alexander
first declared to be his grandson through Cesare, and afterwards
acknowledged as his son. This John may possibly have been Lucrezia's
child. The Dukedom of Sermoneta, wrenched for a moment from the hands of
the Gaetani family, who still own it, was conferred upon Lucrezia's son,
Roderigo. Lucrezia, the only daughter of Alexander by Vannozza, took
three husbands in succession, after having been formally betrothed to
two Spanish nobles, Don Cherubino Juan de Centelles, and Don Gasparo da
Procida, son of the Count of Aversa. These contracts, made before her
father became Pope, were annulled as not magnificent enough for the
Pontiff's daughter. In 1492 she was married to Giovanni Sforza, Lord of
Pesaro. But in 1497 the pretensions of the Borgias had outgrown this
alliance, and their public policy was inclining to relations with the
Southern Courts of Italy. Accordingly she was divorced and given to
Alfonso, Prince of Biseglia, a natural son of the King of Naples. When
this man's father lost his crown, the Borgias, not caring to be
connected with an ex-royal family, caused Alfonso to be stabbed on the
steps of S. Peter's in 1501; and while he lingered between life and
death, they had him strangled in his sick-bed, by Michellozzo, Cesare's
assassin in chief. Finally Lucrezia was wedded to Alfonso, crown-prince
of Ferrara, in 1502.[1] The proud heir of the Este dynasty was forced by
policy, against his inclination, to take to his board and bed a Pope's
bastard, twice divorced, once severed from her husband by murder, and
soiled, whether justly or not, by atrocious rumors, to which her
father's and her brother's conduct gave but too much color. She proved a
model princess after all, and died at last in childbirth, after having
been praised by Ariosto as a second Lucrece, brighter for her virtues
than the star of regal Rome.

    [1] Her dowry was 300,000 ducats, besides wedding presents, and
    certain important immunities and privileges granted to Ferrara
    by the Pope.

History has at last done justice to the memory of this woman, whose long
yellow hair was so beautiful, and whose character was so colorless. The
legend which made her a poison-brewing Mænad has been proved a lie--but
only at the expense of the whole society in which she lived. The simple
northern folk, familiar with the tales of Chriemhild, Brynhild, and
Gudrun, who helped to forge this legend, could not understand that a
woman should be irresponsible for all the crimes and scandals
perpetrated in her name. Yet it seems now clear enough that not hers,
but her father's and her brother's, were the atrocities which made her
married life in Rome a byword. She sat and smiled through all the
tempests which tossed her to and fro, until she found at last a fair
port in the Duchy of Ferrara. Nursed in the corruption of Papal Rome,
which Lorenzo de' Medici described to his son Giovanni as 'a sink of all
the vices,' consorting habitually with her father's concubines, and
conscious that her own mother had been married for show to two
successive husbands, it is not possible that Lucrezia ruled her conduct
at any time with propriety. It is even probable that the darkest tales
about her are true. The Lord of Pesaro, we must remember, told his
kinsman, the Duke of Milan, that the assigned reasons for his divorce
were false, and that the fact was what can scarcely be recorded.[1]
Still, there is no ground for supposing that, in the matter of her
first husband's divorce and the second's murder, she was more than a
passive agent in the hands of Alexander and Cesare. The pleasure-loving,
careless woman of the Renaissance is very different from the Medea of
Victor Hugo's romance; and what remains most revolting to the modern
conscience in her conduct is complacent acquiescence in scenes of
debauchery devised for her amusement.[2] Instead of viewing her with
dread as a potent and malignant witch, we have to regard her with
contempt as a feeble woman, soiled with sensual foulness from the
cradle. It is also due to truth to remember that at Ferrara she won the
esteem of a husband who had married her unwillingly, attached the whole
state to her by her sweetness of temper, and received the panegyrics of
the two Strozzi, Bembo, Ariosto, Aldo Manuzio, and many other men of
note. Foreigners who saw her surrounded by her brilliant Court
exclaimed, like the French biographer of Bayard: 'J'ose bien dire que,
de son temps, ni beau coup avant, il ne s'est point trouvé de plus
triomphante princesse; car elle était belle, bonne douce, et courtoise à
toutes gens.'

    [1] The whole question of Lucrezia's guilt has been ably
    investigated by Gregorovius (_Lucrezia Borgia_, pp. 101,
    159-64). Charity suggests that the dreadful tradition of her
    relation to her father and brothers is founded less upon fact
    than upon the scandals current after her divorce. What Giovanni
    Sforza said was this: '_anzi haverla conosciuta infinite volte,
    ma chel Papa non gelha tolta per altro se non per usare con
    lei_.' This confession of the injured husband went the round of
    all the Courts of Italy, was repeated by Malipiero and Paolo
    Capello, formed the substance of the satires of Sannazaro and
    Pontano, crept into the chronicle of Matarazzo, and survived in
    the histories of Machiavelli and Guicciardini. There was
    nothing in his words to astonish men who were cognizant of the
    acts of Gianpaolo Baglioni and Sigismondo Malatesta; while the
    frantic passion of Alexander for his children, closely allied
    as this feeling was in him to excessive sensuality, gave them
    confirmation. Were they, however, true; or were they a
    malevolent lie? That is the real point at issue. Psychological
    speculation will help but little here. It is true that Lucrezia
    in after-life showed all the signs of a clear conscience. But
    so also did Alexander, whose buoyancy of spirits lasted till
    the very day of his death. Yet he was stained with crimes foul
    enough to darken the conscience of any man, at any period of
    life, and in any position.

    [2] See Burchard, ed. Leibnitz, pp. 77 and 78.

Yet even at Ferrara tragedies which might remind her of the Vatican
continued to surround her path. Alfonso, rude in manners and devoted to
gun-foundry, interfered but little with the life she led among the wits
and scholars who surrounded her. One day, however, in 1508, the poet
Ercole Strozzi, who had sung her praises, was found dead, wrapped in his
mantle, and pierced with two-and-twenty wounds. No judicial inquiry into
this murder was made. Rumor credited both Alfonso and Lucrezia with the
deed--Alfonso, because he might be jealous of his wife--Lucrezia,
because her poet had recently married Barbara Torelli. Two years earlier
another dark crime at Ferrara brought the name of Borgia before the
public. One of Lucrezia's ladies, Angela Borgia, was courted by both
Giulio d' Este and the Cardinal Ippolito. The girl praised the eyes of
Giulio in the hearing of the Cardinal, who forthwith hired assassins to
mutilate his brother's face. Giulio escaped from their hands with the
loss of one of his eyes, and sought justice from the Duke against the
Cardinal in vain. Thereupon he vowed to be revenged on both Ippolito and
Alfonso. His plot was to murder them, and to place Ferdinand of Este on
the throne. The treason was discovered; the conspirators appeared before
Alfonso: he rushed upon Ferdinand, and with his dagger stabbed him in
the face. Both Giulio and Ferdinand were thrown into the dungeons of the
palace at Ferrara, where they languished for years, while the Duke and
Lucrezia enjoyed themselves in its spacious halls and su ny loggie
among their courtiers. Ferdinand died in prison, aged sixty-three, in
1540. Giulio was released in 1559 and died, aged eighty-three, in 1561.
These facts deserve to be recorded in connection with Lucrezia's married
life at Ferrara, lest we should pay too much attention to the flatteries
of Ariosto. At the same time her history as Duchess consists, for the
most part, in the record of the birth of children. Like her mother
Vannozza, she gave herself, in the decline of life, to works of charity
and mercy. After this fashion the bright and baleful dames of the
Renaissance saved their souls.

But to return to the domestic history of Alexander. The murder of the
Duke of Gandia brings the whole Borgia family upon the scene. It is
related with great circumstantiality and with surprising sangfroid by
Burchard, the Pope's Master of the Ceremonies. The Duke with his brother
Cesare, then Cardinal Valentino, supped one night at the house of their
mother Vannozza. On their way home the Duke said that he should visit a
lady of their acquaintance. He parted from Cesare and was never seen
again alive. When the news of his disappearance spread abroad, a
boatman of the Tiber deposed to having watched the body of a man thrown
into the river on the night of the Duke's death, the 14th of June; he
had not thought it worth while to report this fact, for he had seen 'a
hundred bodies in his day thrown into the water at the said spot, and no
questions asked about them afterwards.' The Pope had the Tiber dragged
for some hours, while the wits of Rome made epigrams upon this true
successor of S. Peter, this new fisher of men. At last the body of the
Duke of Gandia was hauled up: nine wounds, one in the throat, the others
in the head and legs and trunk, were found upon the corpse. From the
evidence accumulated on the subject of the murder it appeared that
Cesare had planned it; whether, as some have supposed, out of a jealousy
of his brother too dreadful to describe, or, as is more probable,
because he wished to take the first place in the Borgia family, we do
not know exactly. The Pontiff in his rage and grief was like a wild
beast driven to bay. He shut himself up in a private room, refused food,
and howled with so terrible a voice that it was heard in the streets
beyond his palace. When he rose up from this agony, remorse seemed to
have struck him. He assembled a Conclave of the Cardinals, wept before
them, rent his robes, confessed his sins, and instituted a commission
for the reform of the abuses he had sanctioned in the Church. But the
storm of anguish spent its strength at last. A visit from Vannozza, the
mother of his children, wrought a sudden change from fury to
reconcilement. What passed between them is not known for certain;
Vannozza is supposed, however, to have pointed out, what was
indisputably true, that Cesare was more fitted to support the dignity of
the family by his abilities than had been the weak and amiable Duke of
Gandia. The miserable father rose from the earth, dried his eyes, took
food, put from him his remorse, and forgot together with his grief for
Absalom the reforms which he had promised for the Church.

Henceforth he devoted himself with sustained energy to building up the
fortunes of Cesare, whom he released from all ecclesiastical
obligations, and to whose service he seemed bound by some mysterious
power. Nor did he even resent the savageness and cruelty which this
young hell-cat vented in his presence on the persons of his favorites.
At one time Cesare stabbed Perotto, the Pope's minion, with his own
hand, when the youth had taken refuge in Alexander's arms: the blood
spirted out upon the priestly mantle, and the young man died there.[1]
At another time he employed the same diabolical temper for the
delectation of his father. He turned out some prisoners sentenced to
death in a court-yard of the palace, arrayed himself in fantastic
clothes, and amused the papal party by shooting the unlucky criminals.
They ran round and round the court crouching and doubling to avoid his
arrows. He showed his skill by hitting each where he thought fit. The
Pope and Lucrezia looked on applaudingly. Other scenes, not of
bloodshed, but of groveling sensuality, devised for the entertainment of
his father and his sister, though described by the dry pen of Burchard,
can scarcely be transferred to these pages.

    [1] The account is given by Capello, the Venetian envoy.

The history of Cesare's attempt to found a principality belongs properly
to another chapter.[1] But the assistance rendered by his father is
essential to the biography of Alexander. The vision of an Italian
sovereignty which Charles of Anjou, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, and Galeazzo
Maria Sforza had successively entertained, now fascinated the
imagination of the Borgias. Having resolved to make Cesare a prince,
Alexander allied himself with Louis XII. of France, promising to annul
his first marriage and to sanction his nuptials with Ann of Brittany, if
he would undertake the advancement of his son. This bribe induced Louis
to create Cesare Duke of Valence and to confer on him the hand of
Charlotte of Navarre. He also entered Italy and with his arms enabled
Cesare to subdue Romagna. The system adopted by Alexander and his son in
their conquests was a simple one. They took the capitals and murdered
the princes. Thus Cesare strangled the Varani at Camerino in 1502, and
the Vitelli and Orsini at Sinigaglia in the same year: by his means the
Marcscotti had been massacred wholesale in Bologna; Pesaro, Rimini, and
Forli had been treated in like manner; and after the capture of Faenpza
in 1501, the two young Manfredi had been sent to Rome; where they were
exposed to the worst insults, drowned or strangled.[2] A system of equal
simplicity kept their policy alive in foreign Courts. The Bishop of
Cette in France was poisoned for hinting at a secret of Cesare's (1498);
the Cardinal d'Amboise was bribed to maintain the credit of the Borgias
with Louis XII.; the offer of a red hat to Briçonnet saved Alexander
from a general council in 1494. The historical interest of Alexander's
method consists of its deliberate adaptation of all the means in his
power to one end--the elevation of his family. His spiritual authority,
the wealth of the Church, the honors of the Holy College, the arts of an
assassin, the diplomacy of a despot, were all devoted systematically and
openly to the purpose in view. Whatever could be done to weaken Italy by
foreign invasions and internal discords, so as to render it a prey for
his poisonous son, he attempted. When Louis XII. made his infamous
alliance with Ferdinand the Catholic for the spoliation of the house of
Aragon in Naples, the Pope gladly gave it his sanction. The two kings
quarreled over their prey: then Alexander fomented their discord in
order that Cesare might have an opportunity of carrying on his
operations in Tuscany unchecked. Patriotism in his breast, whether the
patriotism of a born Spaniard or the patriotism of an Italian potentate,
was as dead as Christianity. To make profit for the house of Borgia by
fraud, sacrilege, and the dismemberment of nations, was the Papal

    [1] See Chapter VI.

    [2] Their father, Galeotto Manfredi, had been murdered in 1488
    by their mother, Francesca Bentivogli. Of Astorre's death
    Guicciardini writes: 'Astorre, che era minore di diciotto anni
    e di forma eccellente ... condotto a Roma, saziata prima
    (secondo che si disse) la libidine di qualcuno, fu occultamente
    insieme con un suo fratello naturale privato della vita.' Nardi
    (_Storie Florentine_, lib. iv. 13) credits Cesare with the
    violation and murder of the boy. How far, we may ask, were
    these dark crimes of violence actuated by astrological
    superstition? This question is raised by Burckhardt (p. 363)
    apropos of Sigismondo Malatesta's assault upon his son, and
    Pier Luigi Farnese's violation of the Bishop of Fano. To a
    temperament like Alexander's, however, mere lust enhanced by
    cruelty, and seasoned with the joy of insult to an enemy, was a
    sufficient motive for the commission of monstrous crime.

It is wearisome to continue to the end the catalogue of his misdoings.
We are relieved when at last the final crash arrives. The two Borgias,
so runs the legend of their downfall, invited themselves to dine with
the Cardinal Adriano of Corneto in a vineyard of the Vatican belonging
to their host. Thither by the hands of Alexander's butler they
previously conveyed some poisoned wine. By mistake, or by the
contrivance of the Cardinal, who may have bribed this trusted agent,
they drank the death-cup mingled for their victim. Nearly all
contemporary Italian annalists, including Guicciardini, Paolo Giovio,
and Sanudo, gave currency to this version of the tragedy, which became
the common property of historians, novelists, and moralists.[1] Yet
Burchard who was on the spot, recorded in his diary that both father and
son were attacked by a malignant fever; and Giustiniani wrote to his
masters in Venice that the Pope's physician ascribed his illness to
apoplexy.[2] The season was remarkably unhealthy, and deaths from fever
had been frequent. A circular letter to the German Princes, written
probably by the Cardinal of Gurk, and dated August 31, 1503, distinctly
mentioned fever as the cause of the Pope's sudden decease, _ex hoc
seculo horrendâ febrium incensione absorptum_.[3] Machiavelli, again,
who conversed with Cesare Borgia about this turning-point in his career,
gave no hint of poison, but spoke only of son and father being
simultaneously prostrated by disease.

    [1] The story is related by Cinthio in his _Ecatommithi_,
    December 9, November 10.

    [2] The various accounts of Alexander's death have been
    epitomized by Gregorovius (_Stadt Rom_, vol. vii.), and have
    been discussed by Villari in his edition of the Giustiniani
    Dispatches, 2 vols. Florence, Le Monnier. Gregorovius thinks
    the question still open. Villari decides in favor of fever
    against poison.

    [3] Reprinted by R. Garnett in _Athenæum_, Jan. 16, 1875.

At this distance of time, and without further details of evidence, we
are unable to decide whether Alexander's death was natural, or whether
the singularly circumstantial and commonly accepted story of the
poisoned wine contained the truth. On the one side, in favor of the
hypothesis of fever, we have Burchard's testimony, which does not,
however, exactly agree with Giustiniani's, who reported apoplexy to the
Venetian senate as the cause of death, and whose report, even at Venice,
was rejected by Sanudo for the hypothesis of poison. On the other side,
we have the consent of all contemporary historians, with the single and,
it must be allowed, remarkable exception of Machiavelli. Paolo Giovio
goes even so far as to assert that the Cardinal Corneto told him he had
narrowly escaped from the effects of antidotes taken in his extreme
terror to counteract the possibility of poison.

Whatever may have been the proximate cause of his sickness, Alexander
died, a black and swollen mass, hideous to contemplate, after a sharp
struggle with the venom he had absorbed.[1] 'All Rome,' says
Guicciardini, 'ran with indescribable gladness to view the corpse. Men
could not satiate their eyes with feeding on the carcass of a serpent
who, by his unbounded ambition and pestiferous perfidy, by every
demonstration of horrible cruelty, monstrous lust, and unheard-of
avarice, selling without distinction things sacred and profane, had
filled the world with venom.' Cesare languished for some days on a sick
bed; but in the end, by the aid of a powerful constitution, he
recovered, to find his claws cut and his plans in irretrievable
confusion. 'The state of the Duke of Valence,' says Filippo Nerli,[2]
'vanished even as smoke in air, or foam upon the water.'

    [1] 'Morto chel fu, il corpo cominciò a bollire, e la bocca a
    spumare come faria uno caldaro al focho, assì perseverò mentre
    che fu sopra terra; divenne anchor ultra modo grosso in tanto
    che in lui non apparea forma di corpo humano, ne dala larghezza
    ala lunghezza del corpo suo era differenzia alcuna' (letter of
    Marquis of Mantua).

    [2] _Commentari_, lib, v.

The moral sense of the Italians expressed itself after Alexander's death
in the legend of a devil, who had carried off his soul. Burchard,
Giustiniani, Sanudo, and others mention this incident with apparent
belief. But a letter from the Marquis of Mantua to his wife, dated
September 22, 1503, gives the fullest particulars: 'In his sickness the
Pope talked in such a way that those who did not know what was in his
mind thought him wandering, though he spoke with great feeling, and his
words were: _I will come; it is but right; wait yet a little while_.
Those who were privy to his secret thought, explained that, after the
death of Innocent, while the Conclave was sitting, he bargained with the
devil for the Papacy at the price of his soul; and among the agreements
was this, that he should hold the See twelve years, which he did, with
the addition of four days; and some attest they saw seven devils in the
room at the moment that he breathed his last.' Mere old wives' tales;
yet they mark the point to which the credit of the Borgia had fallen,
even in Italy, since the hour when the humanists had praised his godlike
carriage and heroic mien upon the day of his election.

Thus, overreaching themselves, ended this pair of villains--the most
notable adventurers who ever played their part upon the stage of the
great world. The fruit of so many crimes and such persistent effort was
reaped by their enemy, Giuliano della Rovere, for whose benefit the
nobles of the Roman state and the despots of Romagna had been
extirpated.[1] Alexander had proved the old order of Catholicity to be
untenable. The Reformation was imperiously demanded. His very vices
spurred the spirit of humanity to freedom. Before a saintly Pontiff the
new age might still have trembled in superstitious reverence. The Borgia
to all logical intellects rendered the pretensions of a Pope to sway the
souls of men ridiculous. This is an excuse for dwelling so long upon the
spectacle of his enormities. Better than any other series of facts, they
illustrate, not only the corruption of society, and the separation
between morality and religion in Italy, but also the absurdity of that
Church policy which in the age of the Renaissance confined the action of
the head of Christendom to the narrow interests of a brood of parvenus
and bastards.

    [1] Cesare, it must be remembered, had ostensibly reduced the
    cities of Lombardy, Romagna, and the March, as Gonfalonier of
    the Church.

Of Pius III., who reigned for a few days after Alexander, no account
need be taken. Giuliano della Rovere was made Pope in 1503. Whatever
opinion may be formed of him considered as the high-priest of the
Christian faith, there can be no doubt that Julius II. was one of the
greatest figures of the Renaissance, and that his name, instead of that
of Leo X., should by right be given to the golden age of letters and of
arts in Rome. He stamped the century with the impress of a powerful
personality. It is to him we owe the most splendid of Michael Angelo's
and Raphael's masterpieces. The Basilica of S. Peter's, that
materialized idea, which remains to symbolize the transition from the
Church of the Middle Ages to the modern semi-secular supremacy of Papal
Rome, was his thought. No nepotism, no loathsome sensuality, no
flagrant violation of ecclesiastical justice, stain his pontificate. His
one purpose was to secure and extend the temporal authority of the
Popes; and this he achieved by curbing the ambition of the Venetians,
who threatened to absorb Romagna, by reducing Perugia and Bologna to the
Papal sway, by annexing Parma and Piacenza, and by entering on the
heritage bequeathed to him by Cesare Borgia. At his death he transmitted
to his successors the largest and most solid sovereignty in Italy. But
restless, turbid, never happy unless fighting, Julius drowned the
peninsula in blood. He has been called a patriot, because from time to
time he raised the cry of driving the barbarians from Italy: it must,
however, be remembered that it was he, while still Cardinal di San
Pietro in Vincoli, who finally moved Charles VIII. from Lyons; it was he
who stirred up the League of Cambray against Venice, and who invited the
Swiss mercenaries into Lombardy; in each case adding the weight of the
Papal authority to the forces which were enslaving his country. Julius,
again, has been variously represented as the saviour of the Papacy, and
as the curse of Italy.[1] He was emphatically both. In those days of
national anarchy it was perhaps impossible for Julius to magnify the
Church except at the expense of the nation, and to achieve the purpose
of his life without inflicting the scourge of foreign war upon his
countrymen. The powers of Europe had outgrown the Papal discipline.
Italian questions were being decided in the cabinets of Louis,
Maximilian, and Ferdinand. Instead of controlling the arbiters of Italy,
a Pope could only play off one against another.

    [1] 'Fatale instrumento e allora e prima e poi de' mali
    d'Italia,' says Guicciardini, _Storia d'Italia_, vol. i. p. 84.
    'Der Retter des Papstthums,' says Burckhardt, p. 95.

Leo X. succeeded Julius in 1513, to the great relief of the Romans,
wearied with the continual warfare of the old _Pontifice terribile_. In
the gorgeous pageant of his triumphal procession to the Lateran, the
streets were decked with arches, emblems, and inscriptions. Among these
may be noticed the couplet emblazoned by the banker Agostino Chigi
before his palace:

  Olim habuit Cypris sua tempora; tempora Mavors
    Olim habuit; sua nunc tempora Pallas habet.

'Venus ruled here with Alexander; Mars with Julius; now Pallas enters on
her reign with Leo.' To this epigram the goldsmith Antonio di San Marco
answered with one pithy line:

  Mars fuit; est Pallas; Cypria semper ero:

'Mars reigned; Pallas reigns; Venus' own I shall always be.'

This first Pope of the house of Medici enjoyed at Rome the fame of his
father Lorenzo the Magnificent at Florence. Extolled as an Augustus in
his lifetime, he has given his name to what is called the golden age of
Italian culture. As a man, he was well qualified to represent the
neo-pagan freedom of the Renaissance. Saturated with the spirit of his
period, he had no sympathy with religious earnestness, no conception of
moral elevation, no aim beyond a superficial polish of the understanding
and the taste. Good Latinity seemed to him of more importance than true
doctrine: Jupiter sounded better in a sermon than Jehovah; the
immortality of the soul was an open topic for debate. At the same time
he was extravagantly munificent to men of culture, and hearty in his
zeal for the diffusion of liberal knowledge. But what was reasonable in
the man was ridiculous in the pontiff. There remained an irreconcilable
incongruity between his profession of the Primacy of Christianity and
his easy epicurean philosophy.

Leo, like all the Medici after the first Cosimo, was a bad financier.
His reckless expenditure contributed in no small measure to the
corruption of Rome and to the ruin of the Latin Church, while it won the
praises of the literary world. Julius, who had exercised rigid economy,
left 700,000 ducats in the coffers of S. Angelo. The very jewels of
Leo's tiara were pledged to pay his debts, when he died suddenly in
1521. During the heyday of his splendor he spent 8,000 ducats monthly
on presents to his favorites and on his play-debts. His table, which
was open to all the poets, singers, scholars, and buffoons of Rome,
cost half the revenues of Romagna and the March. He founded the
knightly Order of S. Peter to replenish his treasury, and turned the
conspiracy of the Cardinal Petrucci against his life to such good
account--extorting from the Cardinal Riario a fine of 5,000 ducats, and
from the Cardinals Soderini and Hadrian the sum of 125,000--that Von
Hutten was almost justified in treating the whole of that dark business
as a mere financial speculation. The creation of thirty-nine Cardinals
in 1517 brought him in above 500,000 ducats. Yet, in spite of these
expedients for getting gold, the bankers of Rome were half ruined when
he died. The Bini had lent him 200,000 ducats; the Gaddi, 32,000; the
Ricasoli, 10,000; the Cardinal Salviati claimed a debt of 80,000; the
Cardinals Santi Quattro and Armellini, each 150,000.[1] These figures
are only interesting when we remember that the mountains of gold which
they denote were squandered in æsthetic sensuality.

When the Pope was made, he said to Giuliano (Duke of Nemours): 'Let us
enjoy the Papacy since God has given it us--_godiamoci il Papato, poichè
Dio ce l' ha dato_.[2]' It was in this spirit that Leo administered the
Holy See. The keynote which he struck dominated the whole society of
Rome. At Agostine Chigi's banquets, prelates of the Church and Apostolic
secretaries sat side by side with beautiful Imperias and smooth-cheeked
singing-boys; fishes from Byzantium and ragouts of parrots' tongues were
served on golden platters, which the guests threw from the open windows
into the Tiber. Masques and balls, comedies and carnival processions
filled the streets and squares and palaces of the Eternal City with a
mimicry of pagan festivals, while art went hand in hand with luxury. It
seemed as though Bacchus and Pallas and Priapus would be reinstated in
their old realm, and yet Rome had not ceased to call herself Christian.
The hoarse rhetoric of friars in the Coliseum, and the drone of
pifferari from the Ara Coeli, mingled with the Latin declamations
of the Capitol and the twang of lute-strings in the Vatican. Meanwhile,
amid crowds of Cardinals in hunting-dress, dances of half-naked girls,
and masques of Carnival Bacchantes, moved pilgrims from the North with
wide, astonished, woeful eyes--disciples of Luther, in whose soul, as in
a scabbard, lay sheathed the sword of the Spirit, ready to flash forth
and smite.

    [1] See Gregorovius, _Stadt Rom_, book xiv. ch. 3.

    [2] 'Relazione di Marino Giorgi,' March 17, 1517. Alberi,
    series ii. vol. iii. p. 51.

A more complete conception may be formed of Leo by comparing him with
Julius. Julius disturbed the peace of Italy with a view to establishing
the temporal power of his see. Leo returned to the old nepotism of the
previous Popes, and fomented discord for the sake of the Medici. It was
at one time his project to secure the kingdom of Naples for his brother
Giuliano, and a Milanese sovereignty for his nephew Lorenzo. On the
latter he succeeded in conferring the Duchy of Urbino, to the prejudice
of its rightful owners.[1] With Florence in their hands and the Papacy
under their control, the Medici might have swayed all Italy. Such plans,
however, in the days of Francis I. and Charles V. had become
impracticable; nor had any of the Medicean family stuff to undertake
more than the subjugation of their native city. Julius was violent in
temper, but observant of his promises. Leo was suave and slippery. He
lured Gianpaolo Baglioni to Rome by a safe-conduct, and then had him
imprisoned and beheaded in the Castle of S. Angelo. Julius delighted in
war and was never happier than when the cannons roared around him at
Mirandola. Leo vexed the soul of his master of the ceremonies because he
would ride out a-hunting in topboots. Julius designed S. Peter's and
comprehended Michael Angelo. Leo had the wit to patronize the poets,
artists and historians who added luster to his Court; but he brought no
new great man of genius to the front. The portraits of the two Popes,
both from the hand of Raphael, are exceedingly characteristic. Julius,
bent and emaciated, has the nervous glance of a passionate and energetic
temperament; though the brand is hoar with ashes and more than half
burned out, it glows and can inflame a conflagration. Leo, heavy jawed,
dull-eyed, with thick lips and a brawny jowl, betrays the coarser fiber
of a sensualist.

    [1] He would have given it to Giuliano, but Giuliano was an
    honest man and remembered what he owed to the della Rovere
    family. See the 'Relazione' of Marino Giorgi (_Rel. Ven._ ser.
    ii. vol. iii. p. 51).

It has often been remarked that both Julius and Leo raised money by the
sale of indulgences with a view to the building of S. Peter's, thus
aggravating one of the chief scandals which provoked the Reformation.
In that age of maladjusted impulses the desire to execute a great work
of art, combined with the cynical resolve to turn the superstitions of
the people to account, forced rebellion to a head. Leo was unconscious
of the magnitude of Luther's movement. If he thought at all seriously of
the phenomenon, it stirred his wonder. Nor did he feel the necessity of
reformation in the Church of Italy. The rich and many-sided life of Rome
and the diplomatic interests of Italian despotism absorbed his whole
attention. It was but a small matter what barbarians thought or did.

The sudden death of Leo threw the Holy College into great perplexity. To
choose the new Pope without reference to political interests was
impossible; and these were divided between Charles V. and Francis I.
After twelve days spent by the Cardinals in conclave, the result of
their innumerable schemes and counter-schemes was the election of the
Cardinal of Tortosa. No one knew him; and his elevation to the Papacy,
due to the influence of Charles, was almost as great a surprise to the
electors as to the Romans. In their rage and horror at having chosen
this barbarian, the College began to talk about the inspiration of the
Holy Ghost, seeking the most improbable of all excuses for the mistake
to which intrigue had driven them. 'The courtiers of the Vatican and
chief officers of the Church,' says an eyewitness, 'wept and screamed
and cursed and gave themselves up to despair.' Along the blank walls of
the city was scrawled: 'Rome to let.' Sonnets fell in showers, accusing
the cardinals of having delivered over 'the fair Vatican to a German's
fury.'[1] Adrian VI. came to Rome for the first time as Pope.[2] He knew
no Italian, and talked Latin with an accent unfamiliar to southern ears.
His studies had been confined to scholastic philosophy and theology.
With courts he had no commerce; and he was so ignorant of the state a
Pope should keep in Rome, that he wrote beforehand requesting that a
modest house and garden might be hired for his abode. When he saw the
Vatican, he exclaimed that here the successors, not of Peter, but of
Constantine should dwell. Leo kept one hundred grooms for the service of
his stable; Adrian retained but four. Two Flemish valets sufficed for
his personal attendance, and to these he gave each evening one ducat for
the expenses of the next day's living. A Flemish serving woman cooked
his food, made his bed and washed his linen. Rome, with its splendid
immorality, its classic art and pagan culture, made the same impression
on him that it made on Luther. When his courtiers pointed to the Laocoon
as the most illustrious monument of ancient sculpture, he turned away
with horror, murmuring: 'Idols of the Pagans!' The Belvedere, which was
fast becoming the first statue-gallery in Europe, he walled up and never
entered. At the same time he set himself with earnest purpose, so far as
his tied hands and limited ability would go, to reform the more patent
abuses of the Church. Leo had raised about three million ducats by the
sale of offices, which represented an income of 348,000 ducats to the
purchasers, and provided places for 2,550 persons. By a stroke of his
pen Adrian canceled these contracts and threw upon the world a crowd of
angry and defrauded officials. It was but poor justice to remind them
that their bargain with his predecessor had been illegal. Such attempts,
however, at a reformation of ecclesiastical society were as ineffectual
as pin-pricks in the cure of a fever which demands blood-letting. The
real corruption of Rome, deeply seated in high places, remained
untouched. Luther meanwhile had carried all before him in the North, and
accurate observers in Rome itself dreaded some awful catastrophe for the
guilty city. 'This state is set upon the razor-edge of peril; God grant
we have not soon to take flight to Avignon or to the ends of the ocean.
I see the downfall of this spiritual monarchy at hand. Unless God help,
it is all over with us.'[3] Adrian met the emergency, and took up arms
against the sea of troubles by expressing his horror of simony,
sensuality, thievery and so forth. The result was that he was simply
laughed at. Pasquin made so merry with his name that Adrian vowed he
would throw the statue into the Tiber; whereupon the Duke of Sessa
wittily replied: 'Throw him to the bottom, and, like a frog, he'll go on
croaking.' Berni, again, wrote one of his cleverest Capitoli upon the
dunce who could not comprehend his age; and when he died, his doctor's
door was ornamented with this inscription: _Liberatori patriæ Senatus
Populusque Romanus_.

    [1] See Greg. _Stadt Rom_, vol. viii. pp. 382, 383. The details
    about Adriano are chiefly taken from the _Relazioni_ of the
    Venetian embassadors, series ii. vol. iii. pp. 75-120.

    [2] His father's name was Florus or Flerentius, of the Flemish
    family, it is supposed, of Dedel. Berni calls him a
    carpet-maker. Other accounts represent him as a ship's
    carpenter. The Pope's baptismal name was Adrian.

    [3] See the passage quoted from the _Lettere de Principi_,
    Rome, March 17, 1523, by Burckhardt, p. 99, note.

Great was the rejoicing when another Medici was made Pope in 1523.
People hoped that the merry days of Leo would return. But things had
gone too far toward dissolution. Clement VII. failed to give
satisfaction to the courtiers whom his more genial cousin had delighted:
even the scholars and the poets grumbled.[1] His rule was weak and
vacillating, so that the Colonna faction raised its head again and drove
him to the Castle of S. Angelo. The political horizon of Italy grew
darker and more sullen daily, as before some dreadful storm. Over Rome
itself impended ruin--

                              as when God
  Will o'er some high-viced city hang his poison
  In the sick air.[2]

At last the crash came. Clement by a series of treaties, treacheries,
and tergiversations had deprived himself of every friend and exasperated
every foe. Italy was so worn out with warfare, so accustomed to the
anarchy of aimless revolutions and to the trampling to and fro of
stranger squadrons on her shores, that the news of a Lutheran troop,
levied with the express object of pillaging Rome, and reinforced with
Spanish ruffians and the scum of every nation, scarcely roused her
apathy. The so-called army of Frundsberg--a horde of robbers held
together by the hope of plunder--marched without difficulty to the gates
of Rome. So low had the honor of Italian princes fallen that the Duke of
Ferrara, by direct aid given, and the Duke of Urbino, by counter-force
withheld, opened the passes of the Po and of the Apennines to these
marauders. They lost their general in Lombardy. The Constable Bourbon,
who succeeded him, died in the assault of the city. Then Rome for nine
months was abandoned to the lust, rapacity, and cruelty of some 30,000
brigands without a leader. It was then discovered to what lengths of
insult, violence, and bestiality the brutal barbarism of Germans and the
avarice of Spaniards could be carried. Clement, beleaguered in the
Castle of S. Angelo, saw day and night the smoke ascend from desolated
palaces and desecrated temples, heard the wailing of women and the
groans of tortured men mingle with the jests of Lutheran drunkards and
the curses of Castilian bandits. Roaming its galleries and leaning from
its windows he exclaimed with Job:[3] '_Quare de vulvâ eduxisti me? qui
utinam consumptus essem, ne oculus me videret_.' What the Romans,
emasculated by luxury and priest rule, what the Cardinals and prelates,
lapped in sensuality and sloth, were made to suffer during this long
agony, can scarcely be described. It is too horrible. When at last the
barbarians, sated with blood, surfeited with lechery, glutted with gold,
and decimated by pestilence, withdrew, Rome raised her head a widow.
From the shame and torment of that sack she never recovered, never
became again the gay licentious lovely capital of arts and letters, the
glittering gilded Rome of Leo. But the kings of the earth took pity on
her desolation. The treaty of Amiens (August 18, 1527), concluded
between Francis I. and Henry VIII. against Charles V., in whose name
this insult had been offered to the Holy City of Christendom, together
with Charles's own tardy willingness to make amends, restored the Papacy
to the respect of Europe.

    [1] See, for instance, Berni's sonnets. In one of these, Berni
    very powerfully describes the vacillation and irresolution of
    Clement's state-policy.

    [2] See Varchi's picture of the state of Rome, _St. Fior._ ii.

    [3] So Luigi Guicciardini in his account of the sack of Rome

It is well known that at this crisis the Emperor seriously thought of
putting an end to the State of the Church. His councilors advised him to
restore the Pope to his original rank of Bishop, and to make Rome again
the seat of Empire.[1] But to have done this would have been impossible
under the political conditions of the sixteenth century, and in the face
of Christendom still Catholic. His deliberations, therefore, cost Rome
the miseries of the sack; but they were speedily superseded by the
determination to strengthen the Papal by means of the Imperial
authority in Italy. Florence was given as a make-peace offering to the
contemptible Medici; and it remains the worst shame of Clement that he
used the dregs of the army that had sacked Rome for the enslavement of
his mother-city.

    [1] See the authorities in Greg. _Stadt Rom_, vol. viii. pp.
    569, 575.

Internally, the Papal State had learned by its misfortunes the necessity
of a reform. Sadoleto, writing in the September of that memorable year
to Clement, reminds him that the sufferings of Rome have satisfied the
wrath of God, and that the way was now open for an amelioration of
manners and laws.[1] No force of arms could prevent the Holy City from
returning to a better life, and proving that the Christian priesthood
was not a mere mockery and sham.[2] In truth the Counter-Reformation may
be said to date historically from 1527.

    [1] It was universally recognized in Italy that the sack of
    Rome was a punishment inflicted by Providence upon the godless
    city. Without quoting great authorities like Sadoleto or the
    Bishop of Fossombrone, one of whose letters gives a really
    awful picture of Roman profligacy (_Opere di M.G. Guidiccioni_,
    Barbera, vol. i. p. 193), we find abundant testimony to this
    persuasion regarding the intolerible vice of Rome, even in men
    devoid of moral conscience. Aretino (_La Cortegiana_, end of
    Act i. Sc. xxiii.) writes: 'Io mic redeva che il castigo, che
    l' ha dato Cristo per mano degli Spagnuoli, l'avesse fatta
    migliore, et è più scellerata che mai.' Bandello (_Novelle_,
    Parte ii. xxxvii.) alluding to the sack, remarks in a
    parenthesis, 'benche i peccati di quella città meritassero
    esser castigati.' After adducing two such witnesses, it would
    weaken the case to cite Trissino or Vettori, both of whom
    expressed themselves with force upon the iniquities of Papal

    [2] Compare _Lettere de' Princ._ ii. 77; Cardinal Cajetanus,
    and other testimonies quoted by Greg. _Stadt Rom_, vol. viii.
    pp. 568, 578.



Corruption of the Church--Degradation and Division of Italy--Opinions of
Machiavelli, Guicciardini, and King Ferdinand of Naples--Incapacity of
the Italians for thorough Reformation--The Worldliness and Culture of
the Renaissance--Witness of Italian Authors against the Papal Court and
the Convents--Superstitious Respect for Relics--Separation between
Religion and Morality--Mixture of Contempt and Reverence for the
Popes--Gianpaolo Baglioni--Religious Sentiments of the
Tyrannicides--Pietro Paolo Boscoli--Tenacity of Religions--The direct
Interest of the Italians in Rome--Reverence for the Sacraments of the
Church--Opinions pronounced by Englishmen on Italian Immorality--Bad
Faith and Sensuality--The Element of the Fancy in Italian Vice--The
Italians not Cruel, or Brutal, or Intemperate by Nature--Domestic
Murders--Sense of Honor in Italy--Onore and Onesta--General
Refinement--Good Qualities of the People--Religious Revivalism.

The corruption of the Papal Court involved a corresponding moral
weakness throughout Italy. This makes the history of the Popes of the
Renaissance important precisely in those details which formed the
subject of the preceding chapter. Morality and religion suffered an
almost complete separation in the fifteenth century. The chiefs of the
Church with cynical effrontery violated every tradition of Christ and
the Apostles, so that the example of Rome was in some sense the
justification of fraud, violence, lust, filthy living, and ungodliness
to the whole nation.

The contradiction between the spiritual pretensions of the Popes and
their actual worldliness was not so glaring to the men of the
Renaissance, accustomed by long habit to the spectacle of this anomaly,
as it is to us. Nor would it be scientific to imagine that any Italian
in that age judged by moral standards similar to ours. Æsthetic
propriety rather than strict conceptions of duty ruled the conduct even
of the best, and it is wonderful to observe with what artless simplicity
the worst sinners believed they might make peace in time of need with
heaven. Yet there were not wanting profound thinkers who traced the
national decay of the Italians to the corruption of the Church. Among
these Machiavelli stands foremost. In a celebrated passage of the
_Discorsi_,[1] after treating the whole subject of the connection
between good government and religion, he breaks forth into this fiery
criticism of the Papacy: 'Had the religion of Christianity been
preserved according to the ordinances of its founder, the states and
commonwealths of Christendom would have been far more united and far
happier than they are. Nor is it possible to form a better estimate of
its decay than by observing that, in proportion as we approach nearer to
the Roman Church, the head of this religion, we find less piety prevail
among the nations. Considering the primitive constitution of that
Church, and noting how diverse are its present customs, we are forced to
judge that without doubt either ruin or a scourge is now impending over
it. And since some men are of opinion that the welfare of Italy depends
upon the Church, I wish to put forth such arguments as occur to my mind
to the contrary; and of these I will adduce two, which, as I think, are
irrefutable. The first is this: that owing to the evil ensample of the
Papal Court, Italy has lost all piety and all religion: whence follow
infinite troubles and disorders; for as religion implies all good, so
its absence implies the contrary. Consequently, to the Church and
priests of Rome we Italians owe this obligation first--that we have
become void of religion and corrupt. But we also owe them another, even
greater, which is the cause of our ruin. I mean that the Church has
maintained and still maintains Italy divided. Of a truth no province
ever was united and prosperous, unless it were reduced beneath the sway
of one republic or one monarch, as is the case with France and Spain.
And the reason why Italy is not in this condition, but has neither
commonwealth nor monarch for her head, is none other than the Church:
for the Church, established in our midst and exercising a temporal
authority, has never had the force or vigor to extend its sway over the
whole country and to become the ruling power in Italy. Nor on the other
hand has it been so feeble as not to be able, when afraid of losing its
temporalities, to call in a foreign potentate, as a counterpoise in its
defense against those powers which threatened to become supreme. Of the
truth of this, past history furnishes many instances; as when, by the
help of Charlemagne, the Popes expelled the Lombards; and when in our
own days they humbled Venice by the aid of France, and afterwards drove
out the French by calling in the Swiss. So then the Church, being on the
one hand too weak to grasp the whole of Italy, and at the same time too
jealous to allow another power to do so, has prevented our union beneath
one head, and has kept us under scattered lords and princes. These have
caused so much discord and debility that Italy has become the prey not
only of powerful barbarians, but also of every assailant. And this we
owe solely and entirely to the Church. In order to learn by experience
the truth of what I say, one ought to be able to send the Roman Court,
armed with like authority to that it wields in Italy, to take up its
abode among the Swiss, who at the present moment are the only nation
living, as regards religion and military discipline, according to the
antique fashion; he would then see that the evil habits of that Court
would in no long space of time create more disorders than any other
misfortune that could arise there in any period whatever.' In this
scientific and deliberate opinion pronounced by the profoundest thinker
of the sixteenth century, the Papacy is accused of having caused both
the moral depravation and the political disunion of Italy. The second of
these points, which belongs to the general history of the Italian
nation, might be illustrated abundantly: but one other sentence from the
pen of Machiavelli exposes the ruinous and selfish policy of the Church
more forcibly than could be done by copious examples:[2] 'In this way
the Pontiffs at one time by love of their religion, at other times for
the furtherance of their ambitious schemes, have never ceased to sow the
seeds of disturbance and to call foreigners into Italy, spreading wars,
making and unmaking princes, and preventing stronger potentates from
holding the province they were too feeble to rule.'

    [1] Lib. i. cap. 12.

    [2] _Ist. Fior._ lib. i.

Guicciardini, commenting upon the _Discorsi_ of Machiavelli, begins his
gloss upon the passage I have just translated, with these emphatic
words:[1] 'It would be impossible to speak so ill of the Roman Court but
that more abuse would not be merited, seeing it is an infamy, an example
of all the shames and scandals of the world.' He then proceeds to argue,
like Machiavelli, that the greatness of the Church prevented Italy from
becoming a nation under one head, showing, however, at the same time
that the Italians had derived much benefit from their division into
separate states.[2] To the concurrent testimony of these great
philosophic writers may be added the evidence of a practical statesman,
Ferdinand, king of Naples, who in 1493 wrote as follows:[3] 'From year
to year up to this time we have seen the Popes seeking to hurt and
hurting their neighbors, without having to act on the defensive or
receiving any injury. Of this we are ourselves the witness, by reason of
things they have done and attempted against us through their inborn
ambition; and of the many misfortunes which have happened of late in
Italy it is clear that the Popes are authors.' It is not so much however
with the political as with the moral aspect of the Church that we are at
present concerned: and on the latter point Guicciardini may once more be
confronted with his illustrious contemporary. In his aphorisms he
says:[4] 'No man hates the ambition, avarice, and effeminacy of the
priests more than I do; for these vices, odious in themselves, are most
unseemly in men who make a profession of living in special dependence on
the Deity. Besides, they are so contradictory that they cannot be
combined except in a very extraordinary subject. My position under
several Popes has compelled me to desire their aggrandizement for the
sake of my own profit.[5] Otherwise, I should have loved Martin Luther
like myself--not that I might break loose from the laws which
Christianity, as it is usually interpreted and comprehended, imposes on
us, but that I might see that horde of villains reduced within due
limits, and forced to live either without vices or without power.'

    [1] Guicc. _Op. Ined._ vol. i. p. 27.

    [2] In another place (_Op. Ined._ vol. i. p. 104) Guicciardini
    describes the rule of priests as founded on violence of two
    sorts; 'perchè ci sforzano con le armi temporali e con le
    spirituali.' It may be well to collect the chief passages in
    Machiavelli and Guicciardini, besides those already quoted,
    which criticise the Papacy in relation to Italian politics. The
    most famous is at the end of the fourth book of the _Istoria d'
    Italia_ (Edn. Rosini, vol. ii. pp. 218-30). Next may be placed
    the sketch of Papal History in Machiavelli's _Istorie
    Fiorentine_ (lib. i. cap. 9-25). The eleventh chapter of the
    _Principe_ gives a short sketch of the growth of the temporal
    power, so framed as to be acceptable to the Medici, but steeped
    in the most acid irony. See, in particular, the sentence
    'Costoro solo hanno stati e non li difendono, hanno sudditi e
    non li governano,' etc.

    [3] See the dispatch quoted by Gregorovius, _Stadt Rom_, vol.
    vii. p. 7, note.

    [4] _Op. Ined. Ricordi_ No. 28. Compare Ariosto, Satire i.

    [5] Guicciardini had been secretary and vicegerent of the
    Medicean Popes. See back, p. 206.

These utterances are all the more remarkable because they do not proceed
from the deep sense of holiness which animated reformers like
Savonarola. Machiavelli was not zealous for the doctrines of
Christianity so much as for the decencies of an established religion. In
one passage of the _Discorsi_ he even pronounces his opinion that the
Christian faith compared with the creeds of antiquity, had enfeebled
national spirit.[1] Privately, moreover, he was himself stained with the
moral corruption which he publicly condemned. Guicciardini, again, in
the passage before us, openly avows his egotism. Keen-sighted as they
were in theory, these politicians suffered in their own lives from that
gangrene which had penetrated the upper classes of Italy to the marrow.
Their patriotism and their desire for righteousness were not strong
enough to make them relinquish the pleasure and the profit they derived
from the existing state of things. Nor had they the energy or the
opportunity to institute a thorough revolution. Italy, as Machiavelli
pointed out in another passage of the _Discorsi_, had become too
prematurely decrepit for reinvigorating changes;[2] and the splendid
appeal with which the _Principe_ is closed must even to its author have
sounded like a flourish of rhetorical trumpets.

    [1] _Discorsi_, ii. 2, iii. 1. These chapters breathe the
    bitterest contempt for Christianity, the most undisguised
    hatred for its historical development, the intensest rancor
    against Catholic ecclesiastics.

    [2] _Discorsi_, i. 55.

Moreover, it seemed impossible for an Italian to rise above the
conception of a merely formal reformation, or to reach that higher
principle of life which consists in the enunciation of a new religious
truth. The whole argument in the _Discorsi_ which precedes the chapter I
have quoted, treats religion not in its essence as pure Christianity,
but as a state engine for the maintenance of public order and national
well-being.[1] That Milton and Cromwell may have so regarded religion is
true: but they had, besides, a personal sense of the necessity of
righteousness, the fear of God, at the root of their political
convictions. While Machiavelli and Guicciardini wished to deprive the
Popes of temporal sovereignty, in order that the worst scandals of their
Court might be suppressed, and that the peace of Italy might be secured,
Savonarola desired to purge the Church of sin, but to retain its
hierarchy and its dogmas inviolate. Neither the politicians nor the
prophet had discerned, what Luther and the nations of the North saw
clearly, that a fresh element of spiritual vitality was necessary for
the regeneration of society; or in other words, that good government
presupposes living religion, and not that religion should be used as an
engine for the consolidation of empire over the people.[2]

    [1] Mach. _Disc._ i. 12, after exposing the shams on which, as
    he believed, the religious institutions of Numa rested, asserts
    that, however much governors may be persuaded of the falseness
    of religions, it is their duty to maintain them: 'e debbono ...
    come che le giudicassero false, favorirle e accrescerle.'

    [2] Yet read the curious passage (_Disc_. iii. 1) in which
    Machiavelli discusses the regeneration of religion by a return
    to its vital principle, and shows how S. Francis and S. Dominic
    had done this in the thirteenth century. It was precisely what
    Luther was designing while Machiavelli was writing.

The inherent feebleness of Italy in this respect proceeded from an
intellectual apathy toward religious questions, produced partly by the
stigma attaching to unorthodoxy, partly by the absorbing interests of
secular culture, partly by the worldliness of the Renaissance, partly by
the infamy of the ecclesiastics, and partly by the enervating influence
of tyrannies. However bold a man might be, he dread of heretic; the term
_paterino_, originally applied to religious innovators, had become
synonymous in common phraseology with rogue. It was a point of good
society and refined taste to support the Church. Again, the mental
faculties of Italy had for three centuries been taxed to the utmost in
studies wide apart from the field of religious faith. Art, scholarship,
philosophy, and meditation upon politics had given a definite direction
to the minds of thinking men, so that little energy was left for those
instinctive movements of the spirit which produced the German
Reformation. The great work of Italy had been the genesis of the
Renaissance, the development of modern culture. And the tendencies of
the Renaissance were worldly: its ideal of human life left no room for a
pure, and ardent intuition into spiritual truth. Scholars occupied with
the interpretation of classic authors, artists bent upon investing
current notions with the form of beauty, could hardly be expected to
exclaim: 'The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil,
that is understanding.'[1] Materialism ruled the speculations no less
than the conduct of the age. Pamponazzo preached an atheistic doctrine,
with the plausible reservation of _Salva Fide_, which then covered all.
The more delicate thinkers, Pico and Ficino, sought to reconcile
irreconcilables by fusing philosophy and theology, while they
distinguished truths of science from truths of revelation. It seems
meanwhile to have occurred to no one in Italy that the liberation of the
reason necessitated an abrupt departure from Catholicism. They did not
perceive that a power antagonistic to mediæval orthodoxy had been
generated. This was in great measure due to indifference; for the Church
herself had taught her children by example to regard her dogmas and her
discipline as a convenient convention. It required all the scourges of
the Inquisition to flog the nation back, not to lively faith, but to
hypocrisy. Furthermore, the political conditions of Italy were highly
unfavorable to a profound religious revolution. The thirst for national
liberty which inspired England in the sixteenth century, impelling the
despotic Tudors to cast off the yoke of Rome, arming Howard the Catholic
against the holy fleet of Philip, and joining prince and people in one
aspiration after freedom, was impossible in Italy. The tone of
Machiavelli's _Principe_, the whole tenor of Castiglione's _Cortigiano_,
prove this without the need of further demonstration.

    [1] It is well known that Savonarola's objection to classical
    culture was based upon his perception of its worldliness. It is
    very remarkable to note the feeling on this point of some of
    the greatest northern scholars. Erasmus, for example, writes:
    'unus adhuc scrupulus habet animum meum, ne sub obtentu priscæ
    literaturæ renascentis caput erigere conetur Paganismus, ut
    sunt inter Christianos qui titulo pæne duntaxat Christum
    agnoscunt, ceterum intus Gentilitatem spirant'--Letter 207
    (quoted by Milman in his Quarterly article on Erasmus). Ascham
    and Melanchthon passed similar judgments upon the Italian
    scholars. The nations of the north had the Italians at a
    disadvantage, for they entered into their labors, and all the
    dangerous work of sympathy with the ancient world, upon which
    modern scholarship was based, had been done in Italy before
    Germany and England came into the field.

Few things are more difficult than to estimate the exact condition of a
people at any given period with regard to morality and religion. And
this difficulty is increased tenfold when the age presents such rapid
transitions and such bewildering complexities as mark the Renaissance.
Yet we cannot omit to notice the attitude of the Italians at large in
relation to the Church, and to determine in some degree the character of
their national morality. Against the corruption of Rome one cry of
hatred and contempt arises from a crowd of witnesses. Dante's fiery
denunciations, Jacopone's threats, the fierce invectives of Petrarch,
and the thundering prophecies of Joachim lead the chorus. Boccaccio
follows with his scathing irony. 'Send the most obstinate Jew to Rome,'
he says, 'and the profligacy of the Papal Court will not fail to convert
him to the faith that can resist such obloquy.'[1] Another glaring
scandal was the condition of the convents. All novelists combine in
painting the depravity of the religious houses as a patent fact in
social life. Boccaccio, Sacchetti, Bandello, and Masuccio may be
mentioned in particular for their familiar delineation of a profligacy
which was interwoven with the national existence.[2] The comic poets
take the same course, and delight in ridiculing the gross manners of the
clergy. Nor do the ecclesiasties spare themselves. Poggio, the author
of the _Facetiæ_, held benefices and places at the Papal Court. Bandello
was a Dominican and nephew of the General of his order. Folengo was a
Benedictine. Bibbiena became a cardinal. Berni received a Canonry in the
Cathedral of Florence. Such was the open and acknowledged immorality of
the priests in Rome that more than one Papal edict was issued forbidding
them to keep houses of bad repute or to act as panders.[3] Among the
aphorisms of Pius II. is recorded the saying that if there were good
reasons for enjoining celibacy on the clergy, there were far better and
stronger arguments for insisting on their marriage.[4]

    [1] We may compare this Umbrian Rispetto for the opposite view.

          A Roma Santa ce so gito anch'io,
          E ho visto co'miei occhi il fatto mio:
          E quando a Roma ce s'e posto il piede,
          Resta la rabbia e se ne va la fede.

    [2] It may not be out of place to collect some passages from
    Masuccio's Novelle on the Clergy, premising that what he writes
    with the fierceness of indignation is repeated with the
    cynicism of indulgence by contemporary novelists. Speaking of
    the Popes, he says (ed, Napoli, Morano, 1874): 'me tacerò non
    solo de loro scelesti ed enormissimi vizi e pubblici e occulti
    adoperati, e de li officii, de beneficil, prelature, i vermigli
    cappelli, che all' incanto per loro morte vendono, ma del
    camauro del principe San Pietro che ne è gia stato latto
    partuito baratto non farò alcuna mentione.' Descending to
    prelates, he uses similar language (p. 64): 'non possa mai
    pervenire ad alcun grado di prelatura se non col favore del
    maestro della zecca, e quelle conviensela comprare all' incanto
    come si fa dei cavalli in fiera.' A priest is (p. 31) 'il
    venerabile lupo.' The members of religious orders are (p. 534)
    'ministri de satanasso ... soldati del gran diavolo: (p. 25)
    'piu facilmente tra cento soldati se ne trovarebbero la meta
    buoni, che tra tutto un capitolo de frati ne fosse uno senza
    bruttissima macchia.' It is perilous to hold any communication
    with them (p. 39): 'Con loro non altri che usurai, fornicatori,
    e omini di mala sorte conversare si vedeno.' Their sins against
    nature (p. 65), the secret marriages of monks and nuns (p. 83),
    the 'fetide cioache oi monache,' choked with the fruits of
    infanticide (p. 81), not to mention their avarice (p. 55) and
    gross impiety (p. 52), are described with a naked sincerity
    that bears upon its face the stamp of truth.

    [3] A famous passage from Agrippa (De Vanitate Scientiarum)
    deserves a place here. After alluding to Sixtus IV, he says
    that many state officers 'in civitatibus suis lupanaria
    construunt foventque, non nihil ex meretricio questu etiam
    ærario suo accumulantes emolumenti; quod quidem in Italiâ non
    rarum est, ubi etiam Romana scorta in singulas hebdomadas
    Julium pendent Pontifici, qui census annuus nonnunquam viginti
    millia ducatos excedit, adeoque Ecclesiæ procerum id munus est,
    ut una cum Ecclesiarum proventibus etiam lenociniorum numerent
    mercedem. Sic enim ego illos supputantes aliquando audivi:
    Habet, inquientes, ille duo beneficia, unum curaturn aureorum
    viginti, alterum prioratum ducatorum quadraginta, el tres
    putanas in burdello, quæ reddunt singulis hebdomadibus Julios

    [4] Very few ecclesiastics of high rank escaped the contagion
    of Roman society. It was fashionable for men like Bembo and La
    Casa to form connections with women of the _demi-monde_ and to
    recognize their children, whose legitimation they frequently
    procured. The Capitoli of the burlesque poets show that this
    laxity of conduct was pardonable, when compared with other
    laughingly avowed and all but universal indulgences. Once more,
    compare Guidiccioni's letter to M. Giamb. Bernardi Opp. vol. i.
    p. 102.

Some of the contempt and hatred expressed by the Italian satirists for
the two great orders of S. Francis and S. Dominic may perhaps be due to
an ancient grudge against them as a Papal police founded in the
interests of orthodoxy. But the chief point aimed at is the mixture of
hypocrisy with immorality, which rendered them odious to all classes of
society. At the same time the Franciscans embraced among their lay
brethren nearly all the population of Italy, and to die in the habit of
the order was thought the safest way of cheating the devil of his due.
Corruption had gone so far and deep that it was universally recognized
and treated with the sarcasm of levity. It roused no sincere reaction,
and stimulated no persistent indignation. Every one acknowledged it; yet
every one continued to live indolently according to the fashion of his
forefathers, acting up to Ovid's maxim--

                Pro magna parte vetustas
  Creditur; acceptam parce movere fidem.

It is only this incurable indifference that renders Machiavelli's comic
portraits of Fra Alberigo and Fra Timoteo at all intelligible. They are
neither satires nor caricatures, but simple pictures drawn for the
amusement of contemporaries and the stupefaction of posterity.

The criticism of the Italian writers, so far as we have yet followed it,
was directed against two separate evils--the vicious worldliness of
Rome, and the demoralization of the clergy both in their dealings with
the people and in their conventual life. Contempt for false miracles and
spurious reliques, and the horror of the traffic in indulgences,
swelled the storm of discontent among the more enlightened. But the
people continued to make saints, to adore wonder-working shrines, and to
profit by the spiritual advantages which could be bought. Pius II.,
mindful of the honor of his native city, canonized S. Bernardine and S.
Catherine of Siena. Innocent VIII consecrated a chapel for the Lance of
Longinus, which he had received from the Turk as part-payment for the
guardianship of Djem. The Venetian Senate offered 10,000 ducats for the
seamless coat of Christ (1455). The whole of Italy was agitated by the
news that S. Andrew's head had arrived from Patras (1462). The Pope and
his Cardinals went forth to meet it near the Milvian bridge. There Pius
II. pronounced a Latin speech of welcome, while Bessarion delivered an
oration when the precious member was deposited in S. Peter's. In this
passion for reliques two different sentiments seem to have been
combined--the merely superstitious belief in the efficacy of charms,
which caused the Venetians to guard the body of S. Mark so jealously,
and the Neapolitans to watch the liqifaction of the blood of S.
Januarius with a frenzy of excitement--and that nobler respect for the
persons of the mighty dead which induced Sigismondo Malatesta to
transport the body of Gemistus Pletho to Rimini, and which rendered the
supposed coffin of Aristotle at Palermo an object of admiration to
Mussulman and Christian alike. The bones of Virgil, it will be
remembered, had been built into the walls of Naples, while those of Livy
were honored with splendid sepulture at Padua.

Owing to the separation between religion and morality which existed in
Italy under the influence of Papal and monastic profligacy, the Italians
saw no reason why spiritual benefits should not be purchased from a
notoriously rapacious Pontiff, or why the penalty of hell should not
depend upon the mere word of a consecrated monster. The Pope as
successor of S. Peter, and the Pope as Roman sovereign, were two
separate beings. Many curious indications of the mixed feeling of the
people upon this point, and of the advantage which the Pope derived from
his anomalous position, may be gathered from the historians of the
period. Machiavelli, in his narrative of the massacre at Sinigaglia,
relates that Vitellozzo Vitelli, while being strangled by Cesare
Borgia's assassin, begged hard that the father of his murderer, the
horrible Alexander, might be entreated to pronounce his absolution. The
same Alexander was nearly suffocated in the Vatican by the French
soldiers who crowded round to kiss his mantle, and who had made him
tremble for his life a few days previously. Cellini on his knees
implored Pope Clement to absolve him from the guilt of homicide and
theft, yet spoke of him as 'transformed to a savage beast' by a sudden
access of fury. At one time he trembled before the awful Majesty of
Christ's Vicar, revealed in Paul III.; at another he reviled him as a
man 'who neither believed in God nor in any other article of religion.
A mysterious sanctity environed the person of the Pontiff. When
Gianpaolo Baglioni held Julius II. in his power in Perugia, he respected
the Pope's freedom, though he knew that Julius would overthrow his
tyranny. Machiavelli condemns this as cowardice, but it was wholly
consistent with the sentiment of the age. 'It cannot have been goodness
or conscience which restrained him,' writes the philosopher of Florence,
'for the heart of a man who cohabited with his sister, and had massacred
his cousins and his nephews, could not have harbored any piety. We must
conclude that men know not how to be either guilty in a noble manner, or
entirely good. Although crime may have a certain grandeur of its own, or
at least a mixture of more generous motives, they do not attain to this.
Gianpaolo, careless though he was about incest and parricide, could not,
or dared not, on a just occasion, achieve an exploit for which the whole
world would have admired his spirit, and by which he would have won
immortal glory: for he would have been the first to show how little
prelates, living and ruling as they do, deserve to be esteemed, and
would have done a deed superior in its greatness to all the infamy, to
all the peril, that it might have brought with it.'[1] It is difficult
to know which to admire most, the superstition of Gianpaolo, or the
cynicism of the commentary, the spurious piety which made the tyrant
miss his opportunity, or the false standard of moral sublimity by which
the half-ironical critic measures his mistake. In combination they
produce a lively impression of the truth of what I have attempted to
establish--that in Italy at this period religion survived as
superstition even among the most depraved, and that the crimes of the
Church had produced a schism between this superstition and morality.

    [1] _Discorsi_, i. 27. This episode in Gianpaolo Baglioni's
    life may be illustrated by the curious story told about Gabrino
    Fondulo, the tyrant of Cremona. The Emperor Sigismund and Pope
    John XXIII. were his guests together in the year 1414. Part of
    their entertainment consisted in visiting the sights of Cremona
    with their host, who took them up the great Tower (396 feet
    high) without any escort. They all three returned safely, but
    when Gabrino was executed at Milan in 1425, he remarked that he
    only regretted one thing in the course of his life--namely,
    that he had not pitched Pope and Emperor together from the
    Torazzo. What a golden opportunity to have let slip! The story
    is told by Antonio Campo, _Historia di Cremona_ (Milan, 1645),
    p. 114.

While the Church was thus gradually deviating more and more directly
from the Christian ideal, and was exhibiting to Italy an ensample of
worldliness and evil living, the Italians, earlier than any other
European nation, had become imbued with the spirit of the ancient world.
Instead of the Gospel and the Lives of the Saints, men studied Plutarch
and Livy with avidity. The tyrannicides of Greece and the suicides of
the Roman Empire, patriots like Harmodius and Brutus, philosophers like
Seneca and Pætus Thrasea, seemed to the humanists of the fifteenth
century more admirable than the martyrs and confessors of the faith.
Pagan virtues were strangely mingled with confused and ill-assimilated
precepts of the Christian Church, while pagan vices wore a halo borrowed
from the luster of the newly found and passionately welcomed poets of
antiquity. Blending the visionary intuitions of the Middle Ages with the
positive and mundane ethics of the ancients, the Italians of the
Renaissance strove to adopt the sentiments and customs of an age long
dead and not to be resuscitated. At the same time the rhetorical taste
of the nation inclined the more adventurous and passionate natures to
seek glory by dramatic exhibitions of personal heroism. The Greek ideal
of [Greek: _to êalon_], the Roman conception of _Virtus_, agitated the
imagination of a people who had been powerfully influenced by professors
of eloquence, by public orators, by men of letters, masters in the arts
of style and of parade. Painting and sculpture, and that magnificence of
public life which characterized the fifteenth century, contributed to
the substitution of æsthetic for moral or religious standards. Actions
were estimated by the effect which they produced; and to sin against the
laws of culture was of more moment than to transgress the code of
Christianity. Still, the men of the Renaissance could not forget the
creed which they had drawn in with their mothers' milk, but which the
Church had not adjusted to the new conditions of the growing age. The
result was a wild phantasmagoric chaos of confused and clashing

Of this peculiar moral condition the records of the numerous
tyrannicides supply many interesting examples.[1] Girolamo Olgiati
offered prayers to S. Ambrose for protection before he stabbed the Duke
of Milan in S. Stephen's Church.[2] The Pazzi conspirators, intimidated
by the sanctity of the Florentine Duomo, had to employ a priest to wield
the sacrilegious dagger.[3] Pietro Paolo Boscoli's last confession,
after the failure of his attempt to assassinate the Medici in 1513, adds
further details in illustration of the mixture of religious feeling with
patriotic paganism. Luca della Robbia, the nephew of the great sculptor
of that name, and himself no mean artist, visited his friend Boscoli on
the night of his execution, and wrote a minute account of their
interview. Both of these men were members of the Confraternità de' Neri,
who assumed the duty of comforting condemned prisoners with spiritual
counsel, prayer, and exhortation. The narrative, dictated in the
choicest vernacular Tuscan, by an artist whose charity and beauty of
soul transpire in every line in contrast with the fiercer fortitude of
Boscoli, is one of the most valuable original documents for this period
which we possess.[4] What is most striking is the combination of deeply
rooted and almost infantine piety with antique heroism in the young
patriot. He is greatly concerned because, ignorant of his approaching
end, he had eaten a hearty supper: 'Son troppo carico di cibo, et ho
mangiatccose insalate; in modo che non mi pare poter unir Io spirito a
Dio ... Iddio abbi di me misericordia, che costoro m' hanno carico di
cibo. Oh indiscrezione!'[5] Then he expresses a vehement desire for the
services of a learned confessor, to resolve his intellectual doubts,
pleading with all the earnestness of desperate conviction that the
salvation of his soul must depend upon his orthodoxy at the last. He
complains that he ought to have been allowed at least a month's
seclusion with good friars before he was brought face to face with
death. At another time he is chiefly anxious to free himself from
classic memories: 'Deh! Luca, cavatemi della testa quel Bruto, acciò ch'
io faccia questo passo interamente da Cristiano'.[6] Then again it
grieves him that the tears of compunction, which he has been taught to
regard as the true sign of a soul at one with God, will not flow. About
the mere fact of dying he has no anxiety. The philosophers have
strengthened him upon that point. He is only eager to die piously. When
he tries to pray, he can barely remember the Paternoster and the Ave
Maria. That reminds him how easy it would have been to have spent his
time better, and he bids Luca remember that the mind a man makes for
himself in life, will be with him in death. When they bring him a
picture of Christ, he asks whether he needs _that_ to fix his soul upon
his Saviour. Throughout this long contention of so many varying
thoughts, he never questions the morality of the act for which he is
condemned to die. Luca, however, has his doubts, and privately asks the
confessor whether S. Thomas Aquinas had not discountenanced tyrannicide.
'Yes,' answers the monk, 'in case the people have elected their own
tyrant, but not when he has imposed himself on them by force.' This
casuistical answer satisfies Luca that his friend may reasonably be held
blameless. After confessing, Boscoli received the sacrament with great
piety, and died bravely. The confessor told Luca, weeping, that he was
sure the young man's soul had gone straight to Paradise, and that he
might be reckoned a real martyr. His head after death was like that of
an angel; and Luca was, we know, a connoisseur in angels' heads. Boscoli
was only thirty-two years of age; he had light hair, and was

    [1] For the Italian ethics of tyrannicide, see back, pp. 169,

    [2] See p. 166.

    [3] See p. 398.

    [4] It is printed in _Arch. Stor_, vol. i.

    [5] 'I am over-burdened with food, and I have eaten salt meats;
    so that I do not seem able to join my spirit to God.... God
    have pity on me, for they have burdened me with food. Oh, how
    thoughtless of them!' His words cannot be translated. Naïf in
    the extreme, they become ludicrous in English.

    [6] 'Ah, Luca, turn that Brutus out of my head, in order that I
    may take this last step wholly as a Christian man!'

To this narrative might be added the apology written by Lorenzino de'
Medici, after the murder of his cousin Alessandro in 1536.[1] He relies
for his defense entirely upon arguments borrowed from Pagan ethics, and
by his treatment of the subject vindicates for himself that name of
Brutus with which Filippo Strozzi in person at Venice, and Varchi and
Molsa in Latin epigrams, saluted him. There is no trace of Christian
feeling in this strong and splendid display of rhetorical ability; nor
does any document of the age more forcibly exhibit the extent to which
classical studies had influenced the morality of the Renaissance.
Lorenzino, however, when he wrote it, was not, like Boscoli, upon the
point of dying.

    [1] It is printed at the end of the third volume of Varchi, pp.
    283-95; compare p. 210. A medal in honor of Lorenzino's
    tyrannicide was struck with a profile copied from Michael
    Angelo's bust of Brutus.

The last thing to perish in a nation is its faith. The whole history of
the world proves that no anomalies are so glaring, no inconsistencies so
paradoxical, as to sap the credit of a religious system which has once
been firmly rooted in the habits, instincts, and traditions of a race:
and what remains longest is often the least rational portion. Religions
from the first are not the product of logical reflection or experiment,
but of sentiment and aspiration. They come into being as simple
intuitions, and afterwards invade the province of the reason and
assimilate the thought of centuries to their own conceptions. This is
the secret of their strength as well as the source of their weakness. It
is only a stronger enthusiasm, a new intuition, a fresh outburst of
emotional vitality, that can supplant the old:--

  'Cotal rimedio ha questo aspro furore,
    Tale acqua suole spegner questo fuoco,
    Come d'asse si trae chiodo con chiodo.'

Criticism from without, internal corruption, patent absurdity, are
comparatively powerless to destroy those habits of belief which once
have taken hold upon the fancy and the feeling of a nation. The work of
dissolution proceeds in silence and in secret. But the established
order subsists until the moment comes for a new synthesis. And in the
sixteenth century the necessary impulse of regeneration was to come, not
from Italy, satisfied with the serenity of her art, preoccupied with her
culture, and hardened to the infamy of her corruption, but from the
Germany of the barbarians she despised.

These considerations will help to explain how it was that the Church, in
spite of its corruption, stood its ground and retained the respect of
the people in Italy. We must moreover bear in mind that, bad as it was,
it still to some extent maintained the Christian verity. Apart from the
Roman Curia and the Convents, there existed a hierarchy of able and
God-fearing men, who by the sanctity of their lives, by the gravity of
their doctrine, by the eloquence of their preaching, by their
ministration to the sick, by the relief of the poor, by the maintenance
of hospitals, Monti di Pietà, schools and orphanages, kept alive in the
people of Italy the ideal at least of a religion pure and undefiled
before God.[1] In the tottering statue of the Church some true metal
might be found between the pinchbeck at the summit and the clay of the

    [1] See the life of S. Antonino, the good Archbishop of

It must also be remembered how far the worldly interests and domestic
sympathies of the Italians were engaged in the maintenance of their
Church system. The fibers of the Church were intertwined with the very
heartstrings of the people. Few families could not show one or more
members who had chosen the clerical career, and who looked to Rome for
patronage, employment, and perhaps advancement to the highest honors.
The whole nation felt a pride in the Eternal City: patriotic vanity and
personal interest were alike involved in the maintenance of the
metropolis of Christendom, which drew the suites of ambassadors,
multitudes of pilgrims, and the religious traffic of the whole of Europe
to the shores of Italy. It was easy for Germans and Englishmen to reason
calmly about dethroning the Papal hierarchy. Italians, however they
might loathe the temporal power, could not willingly forego the
spiritual primacy of the civilized world.

Moreover, the sacraments of the Church, the absolutions, consecrations,
and benedictions which priests dispensed or withheld at pleasure, had by
no means lost their power. To what extent even the nations of the north
still clung to them is proved by our own Liturgy, framed in the tumult
of war with Rome, yet so worded as to leave the utmost resemblance to
the old ritual consistent with the spirit of the Reformation. Far more
imposing were they in their effect upon the imagination of Italians, who
had never dreamed of actual rebellion, who possessed the fountain of
Apostolical privileges in the person of the Pope, and whose southern
temperament inclined them to a more sensuous and less metaphysical
conception of Christianity than the Germans or the English. The dread of
the Papal Interdict was still a reality. Though the clergy of Florence,
roused to retaliative fury, might fling back in the teeth of Sixtus such
words as _leno matris suæ, adulterorum minister, diaboli vicarius_, yet
the people could not long endure 'the niggardly and imperfect rites, the
baptism sparingly administered, the extreme unction or the last
sacrament coldly vouchsafed to the chosen few, the churchyard closed
against the dead,' which, to quote the energetic language of Dean
Milman,[1] were the proper fruits of the Papal ban, however unjustly
issued and however manfully resisted.

    [1] Latin Christianity, vol. vi. p. 361.

The history of the despots and the Popes, together with the analysis of
Machiavelli's political ethics, prove the demoralization of a society in
which crimes so extravagant could have their origin, and cynicism so
deliberate could be accepted as a system. Yet it remains in estimating
the general character of Italian morality to record the judgment passed
upon it by foreign nations of a different complexion. The morality of
races, as of individuals, is rarely otherwise than mixed--virtue
balancing vice and evil vitiating goodness. Still the impression
produced by Renaissance Italy upon observers from the North was almost
wholly bad. Our own ancestors returned from their Italian travels either
horrified with what they had witnessed, or else contaminated. Ascham
writes:[1] 'I was once in Italy myself; but I thank God my abode there
was but nine days; and yet I saw in that little time, in one city, more
liberty to sin than ever I heard tell of in our noble City of London in
nine years. I saw it was there as free to sin, not only without all
punishment, but also without any man's marking, as it is free in the
City of London to choose without all blame whether a man lust to wear
shoe or pantocle.' Robert Greene, who did so much to introduce the
novels of Italy into England, confesses that during his youthful travels
in the south he 'saw and practiced such villany as it is abominable to
declare.'[2] The whole of our dramatic literature corroborates these
witnesses, while the proverb, _Inglese Italianato è un diavolo
incarnato_, quoted by Sidney, Howell, Parker, Ascham, shows how
pernicious to the coarser natures of the north were the refined vices of
the south. What principally struck our ancestors in the morality of the
Italians was the license allowed in sensual indulgences, and the bad
faith which tainted all public and private dealings. In respect to the
latter point, what has already been said about Machiavelli is
enough.[3] Loyalty was a virtue but little esteemed in Italy:
engagements seemed made to be broken; even the crime of violence was
aggravated by the crime of perfidy, a bravo's stiletto or a slow poison
being reckoned among the legitimate means for ridding men of rivals or
for revenging a slight. Yet it must not be forgotten that the commercial
integrity of the Italians ranked high. In all countries of Europe they
carried on the banking business of monarchs, cities, and private

    [1] _The Schoolmaster;_ edn. 1863, p. 87. The whole discourse
    on Italian traveling and Italian influence is very curious,
    when we reflect that at this time contact with Italy was
    forming the chief culture of the English in literature and
    social manners. The ninth satire in Marston's _Scourge of
    Villanie_ contains much interesting matter on the same point.
    Howell's _Instructions for forreine Travell_ furnishes the
    following illustration: 'And being in Italy, that great
    limbique of working braines, he must be very circumspect in his
    carriage, for she is able to turne a Saint into a devill, and
    deprave the best natures, if one will abandon himself, and
    become a prey to dissolute courses and wantonnesse.'

    [2] _The Repentance of Robert Greene_, quoted in the memoir to
    Dyce's edition of his Dramatic Works.

    [3] See chapter v.

With reference to carnal vice, it cannot be denied that the corruption
of Italy was shameful. Putting aside the profligacy of the convents, the
City of Rome in 1490 is reported to have held as many as 6,800 public
prostitutes, besides those who practiced their trade under the cloak of
concubinage.[1] These women were accompanied by confederate ruffians,
ready to stab, poison, and extort money; thus violence and lust went
hand in hand, and to this profligate lower stratum of society may be
ascribed the crimes of lawlessness which rendered Rome under Innocent
VIII. almost uninhabitable. Venice, praised for its piety by De
Comines,[2] was the resort of all the debauchees of Europe who could
afford the time and money to visit this modern Corinth. Tom Coryat, the
eccentric English traveler, gives a curious account of the splendor and
refinement displayed by the demi-monde of the lagoons, and Marston
describes Venice as a school of luxury in which the monstrous Aretine
played professor.[3] Of the state of morals in Florence Savonarola's
sermons give the best picture.

    [1] Infessura, p. 1997. He adds: 'Consideratur modo qualiter
    vivatur Romæ ubi caput fidei est.' From what Parent Duchatelet
    _(Prostitution dans la Ville de Paris,_ p. 27) has noted
    concerning the tendency to exaggerate the numbers of
    prostitutes in any given town, we have every reason to regard
    the estimate of Infessura as excessive. In Paris, in 1854,
    there were only 4,206 registered 'filles publiques,' when the
    population of the city numbered 1,500,000 persons; while those
    who exercised their calling clandestinely were variously
    computed at 20,000 or 40,000 and upwards to 60,000. Accurate
    statistics relating to the population of any Italian city in
    the fifteenth century do not, unfortunately, exist.

    [2] _Memoirs,_ lib. vii. 'C'est la plus triomphante cité que
    j'ai jamais vue, et qui plus fait d'honneur à ambassadeurs et
    étrangers, et qui plus sagement se gouverne, _et ou le service
    de Dieu est le plus solemnellement faict.'_ The prostitutes of
    Venice were computed to number 11,654 so far back as the end of
    the 14th century. See Filiasi, quoted by Mutinelli in his
    _Annali urbani di Venezia._

    [3] Satires, ii.

But the characteristic vice of the Italian was not coarse sensuality. He
required the fascination of the fancy to be added to the allurement of
the senses.[1] It is this which makes the Capitoli of the burlesque
poets, of men of note like Berni, La Casa, Varchi, Mauro, Molsa, Dolce,
Bembo, Firenzuola, Bronzino, Aretino, and de' Medici, so amazing. The
crudest forms of debauchery receive the most refined and highly finished
treatment in poems which are as remarkable for their wit as for their
cynicism. A like vein of elaborate innuendo runs through the _Canti
Carnascialeschi_ of Florence, proving that however profligate the people
might have been, they were not contented with grossness unless seasoned
with wit. The same excitement of the fancy, playing freely in the
lawlessness of sensual self-indulgence and heightening the consciousness
of personal force in the agent, rendered the exercise of ingenuity or
the avoidance of peril an enhancement of pleasure to the Italians. This
is perhaps one of the reasons why all the imaginative compositions of
the Renaissance, especially the _Novelle,_ turn upon adultery. Judging
by the majority of these romances, by the comedies of the time, and by
the poetry of Ariosto, we are compelled to believe that such illicit
love was merely sensual, and owed its principal attractions to the scope
it afforded for whimsical adventures. Yet Bembo's _Asolani,_
Castiglione's panegyric of Platonic Love, and much of the lyrical poetry
in vogue warn us to be cautious. The old romantic sentiment expressed by
the Florentines of the thirteenth century still survived to some extent,
adding a sort of dignity in form at least to these affections.

    [1] Much might be written about the play of the imagination
    which gave a peculiar complexion to the profligacy, the
    jealousy, and the vengeance of the Italians. I shall have
    occasion elsewhere to maintain that in their literature at
    least the Italians were not a highly imaginative race; nor were
    they subject to those highly wrought conditions of the brooding
    fancy, termed by the northern nations Melancholy, which Dürer
    has personified in his celebrated etching, and Burton has
    described in his _Anatomy._ But in their love and hatred, their
    lust and their cruelty, the Italians required an intellectual
    element which brought the imaginative faculty into play.

It was due again in a great measure to their demand for imaginative
excitement in all matters of the sense, to their desire for the
extravagant and extraordinary as a seasoning of pleasure, that the
Italians came to deserve so terrible a name among the nations for
unnatural passions.[1] This is a subject which can hardly be touched in
passing: yet the opinion may be recorded that it belongs rather to the
science of psychopathy than to the chronicle of vulgar lusts. English
poets have given us the right key to the Italian temperament, on this as
on so many other points. Shelley in his portrait of Francesco Cenci has
drawn a man in whom cruelty and incest have become appetites of the
distempered soul; the love of Giovanni and Annabella in Ford's tragedy
is rightly depicted as more imaginative than sensual. It is no excuse
for the Italians to say that they had spiritualized abominable vices.
What this really means is that their immorality was nearer that of
devils than of beasts. But in seeking to distinguish its true character,
we must take notice of the highly wrought fantasy which seasoned both
their luxury and their jealousy, their vengeance and their lust.

    [1] Italian literature is loud-voiced on this topic. The
    concluding stanzas of Poliziano's _Orfeo_, recited before the
    Cardinal of Mantua, the Capitoli of Berni, Bronzino, La Casa,
    and some of the _Canti Carnasialeschi_, might be cited. We
    might add Varchi's express testimony as to the morals of
    Filippo Strozzi, Lorenzino de' Medici, Pier Luigi Farnese, and
    Clement VII. What Segni (lib. x. p. 409) tells us about the
    brave Giovanni Bandini is also very significant. In the Life of
    San Bernardino of Siena, Vespasiano (_Vite di Illustri Uomini_,
    p. 186) writes: 'L'Italia, ch' era piena di queste tenebre, e
    aveva lasciata ogni norma di buoni costumi, e non era più chi
    conoscesse Iddio. Tanto erano sommersi e sepulti ne' maladetti
    e abbominevoli vizi nefandi! Gli avevano in modo messi in uso,
    che non temevano nè Iddio nè l'onore del mondo. Maladetta
    cecità! In tanto eccesso era venuto ogni cosa, che gli
    scellerati ed enormi vizi non era più chi gli stimasse, per lo
    maladetto uso che n'avevano fatto ... massime il maladetto e
    abominando e detestando peccato della sodomia. Erano in modo
    stracorsi in questa cecità, che bisognava che l'onnipotente
    Iddio facesse un' altra volta piovere dal cielo zolfo e fuoco
    come egli fece a Sodoma e Gomorra.' Compare Savonarola passim,
    the inductions to the Sacre Rappresentazioni, the familiar
    letters of Machiavelli, and the statute of Cosimo against this
    vice (year 1542, Sabellii Summa. Venice, 1715; vol. v. p. 287).

The same is to some extent true of their cruelty. The really cruel
nation of the Renaissance was Spain, not Italy.[1] The Italians, as a
rule, were gentle and humane, especially in warfare.[2] No Italian army
would systematically have tortured the whole population of a captured
city day after day for months, as the Spaniards did in Rome and Milan,
to satisfy their avarice and glut their stolid appetite for blood. Their
respect for human life again was higher than that of the French or
Swiss. They gave quarter to their foes upon the battle-field, and were
horrified with the massacres in cold blood perpetrated at Fivizzano and
Rapallo by the army of Charles VIII. But when the demon of cruelty
possessed the imagination of an Italian, when, like Gian Maria Visconti,
he came to relish the sight of torment for its own sake, or when he
sought to inspire fear by the spectacle of pain, then no Spaniard
surpassed him in the ingenuity of his devices. In gratifying his thirst
for vengeance he was never contented with mere murder. To obtain a
personal triumph at the expense of his enemy by the display of superior
cunning, by rendering him ridiculous, by exposing him to mental as well
as physical anguish, by wounding him through his affections or his sense
of honor, was the end which he pursued. This is why so many acts of
violence in Italy assumed fantastic forms. Even the country folk showed
an infernal art in the execution of their _vendette_. To serve the flesh
of children up to their fathers at a meal of courtesy is mentioned, for
example, as one mode of wreaking vengeance in country villages. Thus the
high culture and æsthetic temperament of the Italians gave an
intellectual quality to their vices. Crude lust and bloodshed were
insipid to their palates: they required the pungent sauce of a
melodramatic catastrophe.

    [1] Those who wish to gain a lively notion of Spanish cruelty
    in Italy should read, besides the accounts of the Sacco di Roma
    by Guicciardini and Buonaparte, the narrative of the Sacco di
    Prato in the _Archivio Storico Italiano_, vol. i., and
    Cagnola's account of the Spanish occupation of Milan, ib. vol.

    [2] De Comines more than once notices the humanity shown by the
    Italian peasants to the French army.

The drunkenness and gluttony of northern nations for a like reason found
no favor in Italy. It disgusted the Romans beyond measure to witness the
swinish excesses of the Germans. Their own sensuality prompted them to a
refined Epicureanism in food and drink; on this point, however, it must
be admitted that the prelates, here as elsewhere foremost in profligacy,
disgraced the age of Leo with banquets worthy of Vitellius.[1] We trace
the same play of the fancy, the same promptitude to quicken and
intensify the immediate sense of personality at any cost of
after-suffering, in another characteristic vice of the Italians.
Gambling among them was carried further and produced more harm than it
did in the transalpine cities. This we gather from Savonarola's
denunciations, from the animated pictures drawn by Alberti in his
_Trattato della Famiglia_ and _Cena della Famiglia_ and also from the
inductions to many of the _Sacre Rappresentazioni_.[2]

    [1] See Gregorovius, _Stadt Rom_, vol. viii. p. 225: 'E li
    cardinali comenzarono a vomitar e cussi li altri,' quoted from

    [2] One of the excellent characteristics of Alfonso the Great
    (_Vespasiano_, p. 49) was his abhorrence of gambling.

Another point which struck a northern visitor in Italy was the frequency
of private and domestic murders.[1] The Italians had and deserved a bad
reputation for poisoning and assassination. To refer to the deeds of
violence in the history of a single family, the Baglioni of Perugia, as
recorded by their chronicler Matarazzo; to cite the passages in which
Varchi relates the deaths by poison of Luisa Strozzi, Cardinal Ippolito
de' Medici, and Sanga; or to translate the pages of annalists, who
describe the palaces of nobles swarming with _bravi_, would be a very
easy task.[2] But the sketch of Benvenuto Cellini's autobiography, which
will form part of my third volume, gives so lively a picture of this
aspect of Italian life, that there is no reason to enlarge upon the
topic now. It is enough to observe that, in their employment of poison
and of paid assassins, the Italians were guided by those habits of
calculation which distinguished their character.[3] They thought nothing
of removing an enemy by craft or violence: but they took no pleasure in
murder for its own sake.[4] The object which they had in view prompted
them to take a man's life; the mere delight in brawls and bloodshed of
Switzers, Germans, and Spaniards offended their taste.

    [1] See Guicc. _St. Il._ vol. i. p. 101, for the impression
    produced upon the army of Charles by the murder by poison of
    Gian Galeazzo Sforza.

    [2] A vivid illustration of the method adopted by hired
    assassins in tracking and hunting down their victims is
    presented by Francesco Bibboni's narrative of his murder of
    Lorenzino de' Medici at Venice. It casts much curious light,
    moreover, on the relations between paid _bravi_ and their
    employers, the esteem in which professional cutthroats were
    held, and their connection with the police of the Italian
    towns. It is published in a tract concerning Lorenzino, Milano,
    Daelli, 1862.

    [3] See the instructions given by the Venetian government to
    their agents for the purchase of poison and the hiring of
    secret murderers. See also the Maxims laid down by Sarpi.

    [4] This at least was accounted eccentric and barbarous in the
    extreme. See Pontano, _de Immanitate_, vol. i. p. 326,
    concerning Niccolo Fortibraccio, Antonio, Pontadera, and the
    Riccio Montechiaro, who stabbed and strangled for the pleasure
    of seeing men die. I have already discussed the blood-madness
    of some of the despots.

While the imagination played so important a part in the morality of the
Italians, it must be remembered that they were deficient in that which
is the highest imaginative safeguard against vice, a scrupulous sense of
honor. It is true that the Italian authors talk much about _Onore_.
Pandolfini tells his sons that _Onore_ is one of the qualities which
require the greatest thrift in keeping, and Machiavelli asserts that it
is almost as dangerous to attack men in their _Onore_ as in their
property. But when we come to analyze the word, we find that it means
something different from that mixture of conscience, pride, and
self-respect which makes a man true to a high ideal in all the possible
circumstances of life. The Italian _Onore_ consisted partly of the
credit attaching to public distinction, and partly of a reputation for
_Virtù_, understanding that word in its Machiavellian usage, as force,
courage, ability, virility. It was not incompatible with craft and
dissimulation, or with the indulgence of sensual vices. Statesmen like
Guicciardini, who, by the way, has written a fine paragraph upon the
very word in question,[1] did not think it unworthy of their honor to
traffic in affairs of state for private profit. Machiavelli not only
recommended breaches of political faith, but sacrificed his principles
to his pecuniary interests with the Medici. It would be curious to
inquire how far the obtuse sensibility of the Italians on this point was
due to their freedom from vanity.[2] No nation is perhaps less
influenced by mere opinion, less inclined to value men by their
adventitious advantages: the Italian has the courage and the
independence of his personality. It is, however, more important to take
notice that Chivalry never took a firm root in Italy; and honor, as
distinguished from vanity, _amour propre_, and credit, draws its life
from that ideal of the knightly character which Chivalry established.
The true knight was equally sensitive upon the point of honor, in all
that concerned the maintenance of an unsullied self, whether he found
himself in a king's court or a robber's den. Chivalry, as epitomized in
the celebrated oath imposed by Arthur on his peers of the Round Table,
was a northern, a Teutonic, institution. The sense of honor which formed
its very essence was further developed by the social atmosphere of a
monarch's court. It became the virtue of the nobly born and chivalrously
nurtured, as appears very remarkably in this passage from Rabelais[3]:
'En leur reigle n'estoit que ceste clause: Fay ce que vouldras. Parce
que gens liberes, bien nayz, bien instruictz, conversans en compaignies
honnesties, ont par nature ung instinct et aguillon qui toujours les
poulse à faitctz vertueux, et retire de vice: lequel ils nommoyent
honneur.' Now in Italy not only was Chivalry as an institution weak; but
the feudal courts in which it produced its fairest flower, the knightly
sense of honor, did not exist.[4] Instead of a circle of peers gathered
from all quarters of the kingdom round the font of honor in the person
of the sovereign, commercial republics, forceful tyrannies, and the
Papal Curia gave the tone to society. In every part of the peninsula
rich bankers who bought and sold cities, adventurers who grasped at
principalities by violence or intrigue, and priests who sought the
aggrandizement of a sacerdotal corporation, were brought together in the
meshes of diplomacy. The few noble families which claimed a feudal
origin carried on wars for pay by contract in the interest of burghers,
popes, or despots. Of these conditions not one was conducive to the
sense of honor as conceived in France or England. Taken altogether and
in combination, they could not fail to be eminently unfavorable to its
development. In such a society Bayard and Sir Walter Manny would have
been out of place: the motto _noblesse oblige_ would have had but little
meaning.[5] Instead of Honor, Virtù ruled the world in Italy. The moral
atmosphere again was critical and highly intellectualized. Mental
ability combined with personal daring gave rank. But the very subtlety
and force of mind which formed the strength of the Italians proved
hostile to any delicate sentiment of honor. Analysis enfeebles the tact
and spontaneity of feeling which constitute its strongest safeguard. All
this is obvious in the ethics of the _Principe_. What most astounds us
in that treatise is the assumption that no men will be bound by laws of
honor when utility or the object in view require their sacrifice. In
conclusion; although the Italians were not lacking in integrity,
honesty, probity, or pride, their positive and highly analytical genius
was but little influenced by that chivalrous honor which was an
enthusiasm and a religion to the feudal nations, surviving the decay of
chivalry as a preservative instinct more undefinable than absolute
morality. Honor with the northern gentry was subjective; with the
Italians _Onore_ was objective--an addition conferred from without, in
the shape of reputation, glory, titles of distinction, or offices of

    [1] Ricordi politici e civili, No. 118, _Op. Ined._ vol. i.

    [2] See De Stendhal, _Histoire de la peinture en Italie_, pp.
    285-91, for a curious catalogue of examples. The modern sense
    of honor is based, no doubt, to some extent on a delicate
    _amour propre_, which makes a man desirous of winning the
    esteem of his neighbors for its own sake. Granting that
    conscience, pride, vanity, and self-respect are all
    constituents of honor, we may, perhaps, find more pride in the
    Spanish, more _amour propre_ in the French, and more conscience
    in the English.

    [3] Gargantua, lib. 1. ch. 57.

    [4] See, however, what I have already said about Castiglione
    and his ideal of the courtier in Chapter III. We must remember
    that he represents a late period of the Renaissance.

    [5] It is curious to compare, for example, the part played by
    Italians, especially by Venice, Pisa, Genoa, Amalfi, as
    contractors and merchants in the Crusades, with the enthusiasm
    of the northern nations.

    [6] In confirmation of this view I may call attention to
    Giannotti's critique of the Florentine constitution (Florence,
    1850, vol. i. pp. 15 and 156), and to what Machiavelli says
    about Gianpaolo Baglioni (_Disc_. i. 27), 'Gli uomini non sanno
    essere _onorevolmente_ tristi'; men know not how to be bad with
    credit to themselves. The context proves that Gianpaolo failed
    to win the honor of a signal crime. Compare the use of the word
    _onore_ in Lorinzino de' Medici's 'Apologia.'

With the Italian conception of _Onore_ we may compare their view of
_Onestà_ in the female sex. This is set forth plainly by Piccolomini in
_La Bella Creanza delle Donne_.[1] As in the case of _Onore_, we have
here to deal, not with an exquisite personal ideal, but with something
far more material and external. The _onestà_ of a married woman is
compatible with secret infidelity, provided she does not expose herself
to ridicule and censure by letting her amour be known. Here again,
therefore, the proper translation of the word seems to be credit.
Finally, we may allude to the invective against honor which Tasso puts
into the mouths of his shepherds in _Aminta_[2] Though at this period
the influence of France and Spain had communicated to aristocratic
society in Italy an exotic sense of honor, yet a court poet dared to
condemn it as unworthy of the _Bell' età dell' oro_, because it
interfered with pleasure and introduced disagreeable duties into life.
Such a tirade would not have been endured in the London of Elizabeth or
in the Paris of Louis XIV. Tasso himself, it may be said in passing, was
almost feverishly punctilious in matters that touched his reputation.

    [1] _La Raffaella, ovvero Delia bella Creanza delle Donne_
    (Milano, Daelli). Compare the statement of the author in his
    preface, p. 4, where he speaks in his own person, with the
    definition of _Onore_ given by Raffaella, pp. 50 and 51 of the
    Dialogue: 'l'onore non è riposto in altro, se non nella
    stimazione appresso agli uomini ... l'onor della donna non
    consiste, come t'ho detto, nel fare o non fare, chè questo
    importa poco, ma nel credersi o non credersi.'

    [2] This invective might be paralleled from one ot Masuccio's
    Novelle (ed. Napoli, pp. 389, 390), in which he almost
    cynically exposes the inconvenience of self-respect and
    delicacy. The situation of two friends, who agree that honor is
    a nuisance and share their wives in common, is a favorite of
    the Novelists.

An important consideration, affecting the whole question of Italian
immorality, is this. Whereas the northern races had hitherto remained in
a state of comparative poverty and barbarism, distributed through
villages and country districts, the people of Italy had enjoyed
centuries of wealth and civilization in great cities. Their towns were
the centers of luxurious life. The superfluous income of the rich was
spent in pleasure, nor had modern decorum taught them to conceal the
vices of advanced culture beneath the cloak of propriety. They were at
the same time both indifferent to opinion and self-conscious in a high
degree. The very worst of them was seen at a glance and recorded with
minute particularity. The depravity of less cultivated races remained
unnoticed because no one took the trouble to describe mere barbarism.[1]
Vices of the same sort, but less widely dispersed, perhaps, throughout
the people, were notorious in Italy, because they were combined with so
much that was beautiful and splendid. In a word, the faults of the
Italians were such as belong to a highly intellectualized society, as
yet but imperfectly penetrated with culture, raised above the
brutishness of barbarians, but not advanced to the self-control of
civilization, hampered by the corruption of a Church that trafficked in
crime, tainted by uncritical contact with pagan art and literature, and
emasculated by political despotism. Their vices, bad as they were in
reality, seemed still worse because they attacked the imagination
instead of merely exercising the senses. As a correlative to their
depravity, we find a sobriety of appetite, a courtesy of behavior, a
mildness and cheerfulness of disposition, a widely diffused refinement
of sentiment and manners, a liberal spirit of toleration, which can
nowhere else be paralleled in, Europe at that period. It was no small
mark of superiority to be less ignorant and gross than England, less
brutal and stolid than Germany, less rapacious than Switzerland, less
cruel than Spain, less vain and inconsequent than France.

    [1] Read, however, the Saxon Chronicles or the annals of
    Ireland in Froude.

Italy again was the land of emancipated individuality. What Mill in his
Essay on Liberty desired, what seems every day more unattainable in
modern life, was enjoyed by the Italians. There was no check to the
growth of personality, no grinding of men down to match the average. If
great vices emerged more openly than they did elsewhere in Europe, great
qualities also had the opportunity of free development in heroes like
Ferrucci, in saints like Savonarola, in artists like Michael Angelo.
While the social atmosphere of the Papal and despotic courts was
unfavorable to the highest type of character, we find at least no
external engine of repression, no omnipotent inquisition, no
overpowering aristocracy.[1] False political systems and a corrupt
Church created a malaria, which poisoned the noble spirits of
Machiavelli, Ariosto, Guicciardini, Giuliano della Rovere. It does not,
however, follow therefore that the humanities of the race at large, in
spite of superstition and bad government, were vitiated.

    [1] I am of course speaking of the Renaissance as distinguished
    from that new phase of Italian history which followed the
    Council of Trent and the Spanish despotism.

We have positive proofs to the contrary in the art of the Italians. The
April freshness of Giotto, the piety of Fra Angelico, the virginal
purity of the young Raphael, the sweet gravity of John Bellini, the
philosophic depth of Da Vinci, the sublime elevation of Michael Angelo,
the suavity of Fra Bartolommeo, the delicacy of the Della Robbia, the
restrained fervor of Rosellini, the rapture of the Sienese and the
reverence of the Umbrian masters, Francia's pathos, Mantegna's dignity,
and Luini's divine simplicity, were qualities which belonged not only to
these artists but also to the people of Italy from whom they sprang. If
men not few of whom were born in cottages and educated in workshops
could feel and think and fashion as they did, we cannot doubt that their
mothers and their friends were pure and pious, and that the race which
gave them to the world was not depraved. Painting in Italy, it must be
remembered, was nearer to the people than literature: it was less a
matter of education than instinct, a product of temperament rather than
of culture.

Italian art alone suffices to prove to my mind that the immorality of
the age descended from the upper stratum of society downwards. Selfish
despots and luxurious priests were the ruin of Italy; and the bad
qualities of the princes, secular and ecclesiastical, found expression
in the literature of poets and humanists, their parasites. But in what
other nation of the fifteenth century can we show the same of social
urbanity and intellectual light diffused throughout all classes from the
highest to the lowest? It is true that the sixteenth century cast a
blight upon their luster. But it was not until Italian taste had been
impaired by the vices of Papal Rome and by contact with the Spaniards
that the arts became either coarse or sensual. Giulio Romano (1492-1546)
and Benvenuto Cellini (1500-70) mark the beginning of the change. In
Riberia, a Spaniard, in Caravaggio, and in the whole school of Bologna,
it was accomplished. Yet never at any period did the native Italian
masters learn to love ugliness with the devotion that reveals innate
grossness. It remained for Dürer, Rembrandt, and Hogarth to elevate the
grotesque into the region of high art, for Rubens to achieve the
apotheosis of pure animalism, for Teniers to devote distinguished genius
to the service of the commonplace.

In any review of Italian religion and morality, however fragmentary it
may be, as this indeed is, one feature which distinguishes the acute
sensibility of the race ought not to be omitted. Deficient in profound
intellectual convictions, incapable of a fixed and radical determination
towards national holiness, devoid of those passionate and imaginative
intuitions into the mysteries of the world which generate religions and
philosophies, the Italians were at the same time keenly susceptible to
the beauty of the Christian faith revealed to them by inspired orators.
What we call Revivalism was an institution in Italy, which the Church
was too wise to discountenance or to suppress, although the preachers of
repentance were often insubordinate and sometimes even hostile to the
Papal system. The names of Arnold of Brescia, San Bernardino of Siena,
John of Vicenza, Jacopo Bussolari, Alberto da Lecce, Giovanni
Capistrano, Jacopo della Marca, Girolamo Savonarola, bring before the
memory of those who are acquainted with Italian history innumerable
pictures of multitudes commoved to tears, of tyrannies destroyed and
constitutions founded by tumultuous assemblies, of hostile parties and
vindictive nobles locked in fraternal embraces, of cities clothed in
sackcloth for their sins, of exhortations to peace echoing by the banks
of rivers swollen with blood, of squares and hillsides resonant with
sobs, of Lenten nights illuminated with bonfires of Vanity.[1] In the
midst of these melodramatic scenes towers the single form of a Dominican
or Franciscan friar: while one voice thundering woe or pleading peace
dominates the crowd. Of the temporary effects produced by these
preachers there can be no question. The changes which they wrought in
states and cities prove that the enthusiasm they aroused was more than
merely hysterical. Savonarola, the greatest of his class, founded not
only a transient commonwealth in Florence, but also a political party of
importance, and left his lasting impress on the greatest soul of the
sixteenth century in Italy--Michael Angelo Buonarroti. There was a real
religious vigor in the people corresponding to the preacher's zeal. But
the action of this earnest mood was intermittent and spasmodic. It
coexisted with too much superstition and with passions too vehemently
restless to form a settled tone of character. In this respect the
Italian nation stands not extravagantly pictured in the life of Cellini,
whose violence, self-indulgence, keen sense of pleasure, and pagan
delight in physical beauty were interrupted at intervals by inexplicable
interludes of repentance, Bible-reading, psalm-singing, and visions. To
delineate Cellini will be the business of a distant chapter. The form of
the greatest of Italian preachers must occupy the foreground of the

    [1] I have thrown into an appendix some of the principal
    passages from the chronicles about revivals in mediæval Italy.

Before closing the imperfect and scattered notices collected in this
chapter, it will be well to attempt some recapitulation of the points
already suggested. Without committing ourselves to the dogmatism of a
theory, we are led to certain general conclusions on the subject of
Italian society in the sixteenth century. The fierce party quarrels
which closed the Middle Ages had accustomed the population to violence,
and this violence survived in the too frequent occurrence of brutal
crimes. The artificial sovereignty of the despots being grounded upon
perfidy, it followed that guile and fraud came to be recognized in
private no less than public life. With the emergence of the bourgeois
classes a self-satisfied positivism, vividly portrayed in the person of
Cosimo de' Medici, superseded the passions and enthusiasms of a previous
age. Thus force, craft, and practical materialism formed the basis of
Italian immorality. Vehement contention in the sphere of politics,
restless speculation, together with the loosening of every tie that
bound society together in the Middle Ages, emancipated personality and
substituted the freedom of self-centered vigor and virility (Virtù) for
the prescriptions of civil or religions order. In the nation that had
shaken off both Papal and Imperial authority no conception of law
remained to control caprice. Instead of law men obeyed the instincts of
their several characters, swayed by artistic taste or tyrannous
appetite, or by the splendid heroism of extinct antiquity. The Church
had alienated the people from true piety. Yet no new form of religious
belief arose; and partly through respect for the past, partly through
the convenience of clinging to existing institutions, Catholicism was
indulgently tolerated. At the same time the humanists introduced an
ideal antagonistic to Christianity of the monastic type. Without
abruptly severing themselves from the communion of the Church, and while
in form at least observing all its ordinances, they thought, wrote,
spoke, felt, and acted like Pagans. To the hypocrisies of obsolete
asceticism were added the affectations of anachronistic license.
Meanwhile, the national genius for art attained its fullest development,
simultaneously with the decay of faith, the extinction of political
liberty, and the anarchy of ethics. So strong was the æsthetic impulse
that it seemed for a while capable of drawing all the forces of the
nation to itself. A society that rested upon force and fraud, corroded
with cynicism, cankered with hypocrisy recognizing no standard apart
from success in action and beauty in form, so conscious of its own
corruption that it produced no satirist among the many who laughed
lightly at its vices, wore the external aspect of exquisite refinement,
and was delicately sensitive to every discord. Those who understood the
contradictions of the age most deeply were the least capable of rising
above them Consequently we obtain in Machiavelli's works the ideal
picture of personal character, moving to calculated ends by
scientifically selected means, none of which are sanctioned by the
unwritten code of law that governs human progress. Cosimo's positivism
is reduced to theory. Fraud becomes a rule of conduct. Force is
advocated, when the dagger or the poisoned draught or the extermination
of a city may lead the individual straight forward to his object.
Religion is shown to be a political engine. Hypocrisy is a mask that
must be worn. The sanctities of ancient use and custom controlling
appetite have no place assigned them in the system. Action is analyzed
as a branch of the fine arts; and the spirit of the age, of which the
philosopher makes himself the hierophant, compels him to portray it as a
sinister and evil art.

In the civilization of Italy, carried prematurely beyond the conditions
of the Middle Ages, before the institutions of mediævalism had been
destroyed or its prejudices had been overcome, we everywhere discern
the want of a co-ordinating principle. The old religion has died; but
there is no new faith. The Communes have been proved inadequate; but
there is no nationality. Practical positivism has obliterated the
virtues of a chivalrous and feudal past; but science has not yet been
born. Scholarship floods the world with the learning of antiquity; but
this knowledge is still undigested. Art triumphs; but the æsthetic
instinct has invaded the regions of politics and ethics, owing to
defective analysis in theory, and in practice to over-confident reliance
on personal ability. The individual has attained to freedom; but he has
not learned the necessity of submitting his volition to law. At all
points the development of the Italians strikes us as precocious, with
the weakness of precocity scarcely distinguishable from the decay of old
age. A transition from the point attained in the Renaissance to some
firmer and more solid ground was imperatively demanded. But the fatality
of events precluded the Italians from making it. Their evolution,
checked in mid career by the brilliant ambition of France and the
cautious reactionary despotism of Spain, remained suspended. Students
are left, face to face with the sixteenth century, to decipher an
inscription that lacks its leading verb, to puzzle over a riddle whereof
the solution is hidden from us by the ruin of a people. It must ever be
an undecided question whether the Italians, undisturbed by foreign
interference, could have passed beyond the artificial and exceptional
stage of the Renaissance to a sounder and more substantial phase of
national vitality; or whether, as their inner conscience seems to have
assured them, their disengagement from moral obligation and their mental
ferment foreboded an inevitable catastrophe.



The Attitude of Savonarola toward the Renaissance--His Parentage, Birth,
and Childhood at Ferrara--His Poem on the Ruin of the World--Joins the
Dominicans at Bologna--Letter to his Father--Poem on the Ruin of the
Church--Begins to preach in 1482--First Visit to Florence--San
Gemignano--His Prophecy--Brescia in 1486--Personal Appearance and Style
of Oratory--Effect on his audience--The three Conclusions--His
Visions--Savonarola's Shortcomings as a patriotic Statesman--His sincere
Belief in his prophetic Calling--Friendship with Pico della
Mirandola--Settles in Florence, 1490--Convent of San Marco--Savonarola's
Relation to Lorenzo de' Medici--The death of Lorenzo--Sermons of 1493
and 1494--the Constitution of 1495--Theocracy in Florence--Piagnoni,
Bigi, and Arrabbiati--War between Savonarola and Alexander VI.--The
Signory suspends him from preaching in the Duomo in 1498--Attempts to
call a Council--The Ordeal by Fire--San Marco stormed by the Mob--Trial
and Execution of Savonarola.

Nothing is more characteristic of the sharp contrasts of the Italian
Renaissance than the emergence not only from the same society, but also
from the bosom of the same Church, of two men so diverse as the Pope
Alexander VI. and the Prophet Girolamo Savonarola. Savonarola has been
claimed as a precursor of the Lutheran Reformers, and as an inspired
exponent of the spirit of the fifteenth century. In reality he neither
shared the revolutionary genius of Luther, which gave a new vitality to
the faiths of Christendom, nor did he sympathize with that free
movement of the modern mind which found its first expression in the arts
and humanistic studies of Renaissance Italy. Both toward Renaissance and
Reform he preserved the attitude of a monk, showing on the one hand an
austere mistrust of pagan culture, and on the other no desire to alter
either the creeds or the traditions of the Romish Church. Yet the
history of Savonarola is not to be dissociated from that of the Italian
Renaissance. He more clearly than any other man discerned the moral and
political situation of his country. When all the states of Italy seemed
sunk in peace and cradled in prosperity, he predicted war, and felt the
imminence of overwhelming calamity. The purification of customs which he
preached was demanded by the flagrant vices of the Popes and by the
wickedness of the tyrants. The scourge which he prophesied did in fact
descend upon Italy. In addition to this clairvoyance by right of which
we call him prophet, the hold he took on Florence at a critical moment
of Italian history is alone enough to entitle him to more than merely
passing notice.

Girolamo Savonarola was born at Ferrara in 1452.[1] His grandfather
Michele, a Paduan of noble family, had removed to the capital of the
Este princes at the beginning of the fifteenth century. There he held
the office of court physician; and Girolamo was intended for the same
profession. But early in his boyhood the future prophet showed signs of
disinclination for a worldly life, and an invincible dislike of the
court. Under the House of Este, Ferrara was famous throughout Italy for
its gayety and splendor. No city enjoyed more brilliant and more
frequent public shows. Nowhere did the aristocracy maintain so much of
feudal magnificence and chivalrous enjoyment. The square castle of red
brick, which still stands in the middle of the town, was thronged with
poets, players, fools who enjoyed an almost European reputation, court
flatterers, knights, pages, scholars and fair ladies. But beneath its
cube of solid masonry, on a level with the moat, shut out from daylight
by a sevenfold series of iron bars, lay dungeons in which the objects of
the Duke's displeasure clanked chains and sighed their lives away.[2]
Within the precincts of this palace the young Savonarola learned to hate
alike the worldly vices and the despotic cruelty against which in
after-life he prophesied and fought unto the death.

    [1] In this chapter on Savonarola I have made use of Villari's
    _Life_ (translated by Leonard Horner, Longmans, 1863, 2 vols.),
    Michelet's _Histoire de France_, vol. vii., Milman's article on
    Savonarola (John Murray, 1870), Nardi's _Istoria Fiorentina_,
    book ii., and the _Memoirs_ of De Comines.

    [2] See p. 424.

Of his boyhood we know but little. His biographers only tell us that he
was grave and solitary, frequenting churches, praying with passionate
persistence, obstinately refusing, though otherwise docile, to join his
father in his visits to the court. Aristotle and S. Thomas Aquinas seem
to have been the favorite masters of his study. In fact he refused the
new lights of the humanists, and adhered to the ecclesiastical training
of the schoolmen. Already at the age of twenty we find him composing a
poem in Italian on the Ruin of the World, in which he cries: 'The whole
world is in confusion: all virtue is extinguished, and all good manners;
I find no living light abroad, nor one who blushes for his vices.' His
point of departure had been taken, and the keynote of his life had been
struck. The sense of intolerable sin that came upon him in Ferrara
haunted him through manhood, set his hand against the Popes and despots
of Italy, and gave peculiar tone to his prophetic utterances.

The attractions of the cloister, as a refuge from the storms of the
world, and as a rest from the torments of the sins of others, now began
to sway his mind.[1] But he communicated his desire to no one. It would
have grieved his father and his mother to find that their son, who was,
they hoped, to be a shining light at the court of Ferrara, had
determined to assume the cowl. At length, however, came the time at
which he felt that leave the world he must. 'It was on the 23d of April
1475,' says Villari; 'he was sitting with his lute and playing a sad
melody; his mother, as if moved by a spirit of divination, turned
suddenly round to him, and exclaimed mournfully, My son, that is a sign
we are soon to part. He roused himself, and continued, but with a
trembling hand, to touch the strings of the lute, without raising his
eyes from the ground.' This would make a picture: spring twilight in
the quaint Italian room, with perhaps a branch of fig-tree or of bay
across the open window; the mother looking up with anxious face from her
needlework; the youth, with those terrible eyes and tense lips and
dilated nostrils of the future prophet, not yet worn by years of care,
but strongly marked and unmistakable, bending over the melancholy chords
of the lute, dressed almost for the last time in secular attire.

    [1] Often in later life Savonarola cried that he had sought the
    cloister to find rest, but that God had chosen, instead of
    bringing him into calm waters, to cast him on a tempest-swollen
    sea. See the Sermon quoted by Villari, vol. i. p. 298.

On the very next day Girolamo left Ferrara in secret and journeyed to
Bologna. There he entered the order of S. Dominic, the order of the
Preachers, the order of his master S. Thomas, the order too, let us
remember, of inquisitorial crusades. The letter written to his father
after taking this step is memorable. In it he says: 'The motives by
which I have been led to enter into a religious life are these: the
great misery of the world; the iniquities of men, their rapes,
adulteries, robberies, their pride, idolatry, and fearful blasphemies:
so that things have come to such a pass that no one can be found acting
righteously. Many times a day have I repeated with tears the verse:

  Heu, fuge crudeles terras, fuge littus avarum!

I could not endure the enormous wickedness of the blinded people of
Italy; and the more so because I saw everywhere virtue despised and vice
honored.' We see clearly that Savonarola's vocation took its origin in a
deep sense of the wickedness of the world. It was the same spirit as
that which drove the early Christians of Alexandria into the Thebaid.
Austere and haggard, consumed with the zeal of the Lord, he had moved
long enough among the Ferrarese holiday-makers. Those elegant young men
in tight hose and particolored jackets, with oaths upon their lips and
deeds of violence and lust within their hearts, were no associates for
him. It is touching, however, to note that no text of Ezekiel or
Jeremiah, but Virgil's musical hexameter, sounded through his soul the
warning to depart.

In this year Savonarola composed another poem, this time on the Ruin of
the Church. In his boyhood he had witnessed the pompous shows which
greeted Æneas Sylvius, more like a Roman general than a new-made Pope,
on his entrance into Ferrara. Since then he had seen the monster Sixtus
mount the Papal throne. No wonder if he, who had fled from the world to
the Church for purity and peace, should need to vent his passion in a
song. 'Where,' he cries, 'are the doctors of old times, the saints, the
learning, charity, chastity of the past?' The Church answers by
displaying her rent raiment and wounded body, and by pointing to the
cavern in which she has to make her home. 'Who,' exclaims the poet, 'has
wrought this wrong?' _Una fallace, superba meretrice_--Rome! Then indeed
the passion of the novice breaks in fire:--

        Deh! per Dio, donna,
  Se romper si potria quelle grandi ale!

The Church replies:--

  Tu píangi e taci: e questo meglio parmi.

No other answer could be given to Savonarola's impatient yearnings even
by his own hot heart, while he yet remained a young and unknown monk in
Bologna. Nor, strive as he might strive through all his life, was it
granted to him to break those outspread wings of arrogant Rome.

The career of Savonarola as a preacher began in 1482, when he was sent
first to Ferrara and then to Florence on missions by his superiors. But
at neither place did he find acceptance. A prophet has no honor in his
own country; and for pagan-hearted Florence, though destined to be the
theater of his life-drama, Savonarola had as yet no thundrous burden of
invective to utter. Besides, his voice was sharp and thin; his face and
person were not prepossessing. The style of his discourse was adapted to
cloisteral disputations, and overloaded with scholastic distinctions.
The great orator had not yet arisen in him. The friar, with all his
dryness and severity, was but too apparent. With what strange feelings
must the youth have trodden the streets of Florence! In after-days he
used to say that he foreknew those streets and squares were destined to
be the scene of his labors. But then, voiceless, powerless, without
control of his own genius, without the consciousness of his prophetic
mission, he brooded alone and out of harmony with the beautiful and
mundane city. The charm of the hills and gardens of Valdarno, the
loveliness of Giotto's tower, the amplitude of Brunelleschi's
dome--these may have sunk deep into his soul. And the subtle temper of
the Florentine intellect must have attracted his own keen spirit by a
secret sympathy. For Florence erelong became the city of his love, the
first-born of his yearnings.

In the cloisters of San Marco, enriched with splendid libraries by the
liberality of the Medicean princes, he was at peace. The walls of that
convent had recently been decorated with frescoes by Fra Angelico, even
as a man might crowd the leaves of a missal with illuminations. Among
these Savonarola meditated and was happy. But in the pulpit and in
contact with the holiday folk of Florence he was ill at ease. Lorenzo
de' Medici overshadowed the whole city. Lorenzo, in whom the pagan
spirit of the Renaissance, the spirit of free culture, found a proper
incarnation, was the very opposite of Savonarola, who had already judged
the classical revival by its fruits, and had conceived a spiritual
resurrection for his country. At Florence a passionate love of art and
learning--the enthusiasm which prompted men to spend their fortunes upon
MSS. and statues, the sensibility to beauty which produced the
masterworks of Donatello and Ghiberti, the thirst for knowledge which
burned in Pico and Poliziano and Ficino--existed side by side with
impudent immorality, religious deadness, cold contempt for truth, and
cynical admiration of successful villainy. Both the good and the evil
which flourished on this fertile soil so luxuriantly were combined in
the versatile genius of the merchant prince, whose policy it was to
stifle freedom by caressing the follies, vices, and intellectual tastes
of his people.

The young Savonarola was as yet no match for Lorenzo. And whither could
he look for help? The reform of morals he so ardently desired was not to
be expected from the Church. Florence well knew that Sixtus had plotted
to murder the Medici before the altar at the moment of the elevation of
the Host. Excommunicated for a deed of justice after the failure of this
Popish plot, the city had long been at war with the pontiff. If anywhere
it was in the cells of the philosophers, in that retreat where Ficino
burned his lamp to Plato, in that hall where the Academy crowned their
master's bust with laurels, that the more sober-minded citizens found
ghostly comfort and advice. But from this philosophy the fervent soul of
Savonarola turned with no less loathing, and with more contempt, than
from the Canti Carnascialeschi and Aristophanic pageants of Lorenzo,
which made Florence at Carnival time affect the fashions of Athens
during the Dionysia. It is true that Italy owed much to the elevated
theism developed by Platonic students. While the humanists were exalting
pagan license, and while the Church was teaching the worst kinds of
immorality, the philosophers kept alive in cultivated minds a sense of

But the monk, nourished on the Bible and S. Thomas, valued this
confusion of spirits and creeds in a chaos of indiscriminate erudition,
at a small price. He had the courage in the fifteenth century at
Florence to proclaim that the philosophers were in hell, and that an old
woman knew more of saving faith than Plato. Savonarola and Lorenzo were
opposed as champions of two hostile principles alike emergent from the
very life of the Renaissance: paganism reborn in the one, the spirit of
the gospel in the other. Both were essentially modern; for it was the
function of the Renaissance to restore to the soul of man its double
heritage of the classic past and Christian liberty, freeing it from the
fetters which the Middle Ages had forged. Not yet, however, were Lorenzo
and Savonarola destined to clash. The obscure friar at this time was
preaching to an audience of some thirty persons in San Lorenzo, while
Poliziano and all the fashion of the town crowded to the sermons of Fra
Mariano da Genezzano in Santo Spirito. This man flattered the taste of
the moment by composing orations on the model of Ficino's addresses to
the Academy, and by complimenting Christianity upon its similarity to
Platonism. Who could then have guessed that beneath the cowl of the
harsh-voiced Dominican, his rival, burned thoughts that in a few years
would inflame Florence with a conflagration powerful enough to destroy
the fabric of the Medicean despotism?

From Florence, where he had met with no success, Savonarola was sent to
San Gemignano, a little town on the top of a high hill between Florence
and Siena. We now visit San Gemignano in order to study some fading
frescoes of Gozzoli and Ghirlandajo, or else for the sake of its strange
feudal towers, tall pillars of brown stone, crowded together within the
narrow circle of the town walls. Very beautiful is the prospect from
these ramparts on a spring morning, when the song of nightingales and
the scent of acacia flowers ascend together from the groves upon the
slopes beneath. The gray Tuscan landscape for scores and scores of miles
all round melts into blueness, like the blueness of the sky, flecked
here and there with wandering cloud-shadows. Let those who pace the
grass-grown streets of the hushed city remember that here the first
flash of authentic genius kindled in Savonarola's soul. Here for the
first time he prophesied: 'The church will be scourged, then
regenerated, and this quickly.' These are the celebrated three
conclusions, the three points to which Savonarola in all his prophetic
utterances adhered.

But not yet had he fully entered on his vocation. His voice was weak;
his style uncertain; his soul, we may believe, still wavering between
strange dread and awful joy, as he beheld, through many a backward
rolling mist of doubt, the mantle of the prophets descend upon him.
Already he had abandoned the schoolmen for the Bible. Already he had
learned by heart each verse of the Old and New Testaments. Pondering on
their texts, he had discovered four separate interpretations for every
suggestion of Sacred Writ. For some of the pregnant utterances of the
prophets he found hundreds, pouring forth metaphor and illustration in
wild and dazzling profusion of audacious, uncouth imagery. The flame
which began to smoulder in him at San Gemignano burst forth into a blaze
at Brescia, in 1486. Savonarola was now aged thirty-four. 'Midway upon
the path of life' he opened the Book of Revelation: he figured to the
people of Brescia the four-and-twenty elders rising to denounce the sins
of Italy, and to declare the calamities that must ensue. He pictured to
them their city flowing with blood. His voice, which now became the
interpreter of his soul, in its resonance and earnestness and piercing
shrillness, thrilled his hearers with strange terror. Already they
believed his prophecy; and twenty-six years later, when the soldiers of
Gaston de Foix slaughtered six thousand souls in the streets of Brescia,
her citizens recalled the Apocalyptic warnings of the Dominican monk.

As Savonarola is now launched upon his vocation of prophecy, this is the
right moment to describe his personal appearance and his style of
preaching. We have abundant material for judging what his features were,
and how they flashed beneath the storm of inspiration.[1] Fra
Bartolommeo, one of his followers, painted a profile of him in the
character of S. Peter Martyr. This shows all the benignity and grace of
expression which his stern lineaments could assume. It is a picture of
the sweet and gentle nature latent within the fiery arraigner of his
nation at the bar of God. In contemporary medals the face appears hard,
keen, uncompromising, beneath its heavy cowl. But the noblest portrait
is an intaglio engraved by Giovanni della Corniole, now to be seen in
the Uffizzi at Florence. Of this work Michael Angelo, himself a disciple
of Savonarola, said that art could go no further. We are therefore
justified in assuming that the engraver has not only represented
faithfully the outline of Savonarola's face, but has also indicated his
peculiar expression. A thick hood covers the whole head and shoulders.
Beneath it can be traced the curve of a long and somewhat flat skull,
rounded into extraordinary fullness at the base and side. From a deeply
sunken eye-socket emerges, scarcely seen, but powerfully felt, the eye
that blazed with lightning. The nose is strong, prominent, and aquiline,
with wide nostrils, capable of terrible dilation under the stress of
vehement emotion. The mouth has full, compressed, projecting lips. It is
large, as if made for a torrent of eloquence: it is supplied with
massive muscles, as if to move with energy and calculated force and
utterance. The jawbone is hard and heavy; the cheekbone emergent:
between the two the flesh is hollowed, not so much with the emaciation
of monastic vigils as with the athletic exercise of wrestlings in the
throes of prophecy. The face, on the whole, is ugly, but not repellent;
and, in spite of its great strength, it shows signs of feminine
sensibility. Like the faces of Cicero and Demosthenes, it seems the fit
machine for oratory. But the furnaces hidden away behind that skull,
beneath that cowl, have made it haggard with a fire not to be found in
the serener features of the classic orators. Savonarola was a visionary
and a monk. The discipline of the cloister left its trace upon him. The
wings of dreams have winnowed and withered that cheek as they passed
over it. The spirit of prayer quivers upon those eager lips. The color
of Savonarola's flesh was brown: his nerves were exquisitely sensitive
yet strong; like a network of wrought steel, elastic, easily
overstrained, they recovered their tone and temper less by repose than
by the evolution of fresh electricity. With Savonarola fasts were
succeeded by trances, and trances by tempests of vehement improvization.
From the midst of such profound debility that he could scarcely crawl up
the pulpit steps, he would pass suddenly into the plenitude of power,
filling the Dome of Florence with denunciations, sustaining his
discourse by no mere trick of rhetoric that flows to waste upon the lips
of shallow preachers, but marshaling the phalanx of embattled arguments
and pointed illustrations, pouring his thought forth in columns of
continuous flame, mingling figures of sublimest imagery with reasonings
severest accuracy, at one time melting his audience tears, at another
freezing them with terror, again quickening their souls with prayers
and pleadings and blessings that had in them the sweetness of the very
spirit of Christ. His sermons began with scholastic exposition; as they
advanced, the ecstasy of inspiration fell upon the preacher, till the
sympathies of the whole people of Florence gathered round him,[2] met
and attained, as it were, to single consciousness in him. He then no
longer restrained the impulse of his oratory, but became the mouthpiece
of God, the interpreter to themselves of all that host. In a fiery
crescendo, never flagging, never losing firmness of grasp or lucidity of
vision, he ascended the altar steps of prophecy, and, standing like
Moses on the mount between the thunders of God and the tabernacles of
the plain, fulminated period after period of impassioned eloquence. The
walls of the church re-echoed with sobs and wailings dominated by one
ringing voice. The scribe to whom we owe the fragments of these sermons,
at times breaks off with these words: 'Here I was so overcome with
weeping that I could not go on.' Pico della Mirandola tells us that the
mere sound of Savonarola's voice, startling the stillness of the Duomo,
thronged through all its space with people, was like a clap of doom: a
cold shiver ran through the marrow of his bones, the hairs of his head
stood on end, as he listened. Another witness reports: 'These sermons
caused such terror, alarm, sobbing, and tears that every one passed
through the streets without speaking, more dead than alive.'

    [1] Engravings of the several portraits may be seen in
    Harford's _Life of Michael Angelo Buonarroti_ (Longmans, 1857
    vol. i.), and also in Villari.

    [2] Nardi, in his _Istorie di Firenze_ (lib. ii. cap. 16),
    describes the crowd assembled in the Duomo to hear Savonarola
    preach: 'Per la moltitudine degli uditori non essendo quasi
    bastante la chiesa cattedrale di santa Maria del Fiore, ancora
    che molto grande e capace sia, fu necessario edificar dentro
    lungo i pareti di quella, dirempetto al pergamo, certi gradi di
    legname rilevati con ordine di sederi, a guisa di teatro, e
    così dalla parte di sopra all' entrata del coro e dalla parte
    di sotto in verso le porte della detta chiesa.'

Such was the preacher: and such was the effect of his oratory. The theme
on which he loved to dwell was this. Repent! A judgment of God is at
hand. A sword is suspended over you. Italy is doomed for her
iniquity--for the sins of the Church, whose adulteries have filled the
world--for the sins of the tyrants, who encourage crime and trample upon
souls--for the sins of you people, you fathers and mothers, you young
men, you maidens, you children that lisp blasphemy! Nor did Savonarola
deal in generalities. He described in plain language every vice; he laid
bare every abuse; so that a mirror was held up to the souls of his
hearers, in which they saw their most secret faults appallingly
portrayed and ringed around with fire. He entered with particularity
into the details of the coming woes. One by one he enumerated the
bloodshed, the ruin of cities, the trampling down of provinces, the
passage of armies, the desolating wars that were about to fall on
Italy.[1] You may read pages of his sermons which seem like vivid
narratives of what afterwards took place in the sack of Prato, in the
storming of Brescia, in the battle of the Ronco, in the cavern-massacre
of Vicenza. No wonder that he stirred his audience to their center. The
hell within them was revealed. The coming doom above them was made
manifest. Ezekiel and Jeremiah were not more prophetic. John crying to a
generation of vipers, 'Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!'
was not more weighty with the mission of authentic inspiration.

    [1] Savonarola's whole view of the situation and of the perils
    of Italy was that of a prophet. He saw more clearly than other
    people what was inevitable. But his disciples and the vulgar
    believed implicitly in his prophetic gift in the narrower
    sense, that is, in his power to predict events, such as the
    deaths of Lorenzo and the King of Naples, the punishment of
    Charles VIII, in the loss of the dauphin, etc. Pico says:
    'Savonarola could read the future as clearly as one sees the
    whole is greater than the part.' And there is no doubt that, as
    time went on, Savonarola came to believe himself that he
    possessed this faculty. After his trial and execution a very
    uncomfortable sense of doubt remained upon the minds of those
    who had been witnesses of his life-drama. Upon this topic
    Guicciardini, _Stor. Fior., Op. Ined._ vol. iii. p. 179; Nardi,
    _Stor. Fior._ lib. ii. caps. 16 and 36, may be read with

'I began'--Savonarola writes himself with reference to a course of
sermons delivered in 1491--'I began publicly to expound the Revelation
in our Church of S. Mark. During the course of the year I continued to
develop to the Florentines these three propositions: That the Church
would be renewed in our time; that before that renovation God would
strike all Italy with a fearful chastisement; that these things would
happen shortly.' It is by right of the foresight of a new age contained
in these three famous so-called conclusions that Savonarola deserves to
be named the Prophet of the Renaissance. He was no apostle of reform: it
did not occur to him to reconstruct the creed, to dispute the
discipline, or to criticise the authority of the Church. He was no
founder of a new order: unlike his predecessors, Dominic and Francis, he
never attempted to organize a society of saints or preachers; unlike his
successors, Caraffa the Theatine and Loyola the Jesuit, he enrolled no
militia for the defense of the faith, constructed no machinery for
education. Starting with simple horror at the wickedness of the world,
he had recourse to the old prophets. He steeped himself in Bible
studies. He caught the language of Malachi and Jeremiah. He became
convinced that for the wickedness of Italy a judgment was imminent. From
that conclusion he rose upon the wings of faith to the belief that a new
age would dawn. The originality of his intuition consisted in this, that
while Italy was asleep, and no man trembled for the future, he alone
felt that the stillness of the air was fraught with thunder, that its
tranquillity was like that which precedes a tempest blown from the very
nostrils of the God of Hosts.

To the astonishment of his hearers, and perhaps also of himself, his
prophecies began to fulfill themselves. Within three years after his
first sermon in S. Mark's, Charles VIII. had entered Italy, Lorenzo de'
Medici was dead, and politicians no less than mystics felt that a new
chapter had been opened in the book of the world's history. The Reform
of the Church was also destined to follow. What Savonarola had foreseen,
here too happened; but not in the way he would have wished, nor by the
means he would have used. It is one thing to be a prophet in the sense
of discerning the catastrophe to which circumstances must inevitably
lead, another thing to trace beforehand the path which will be taken by
the hurricanes that change the face of the world. Remaining in his soul
a monk, attached by education and by natural sympathy to the past rather
than the future, he felt in spite of himself the spirit of the coming
age. Had he lived but one century earlier, we should not have called him
prophet. It was the Renaissance which set the seal of truth upon his
utterances. Yet in his vision of the world to be, he was like Balaam
prophesying blindly of a star.

Sixtus IV. had died and been succeeded by Innocent VIII. Innocent had
given place to Alexander. The very nadir of the abyss had been reached.
Then Savonarola saw a vision and heard a voice: _Ecce gladius Domini
super terram cito et velociter._ The sword turned earthward; the air was
darkened with fiery sleet and arrows; thunders rolled; the world was
filled with pestilences, wars, famines. At another time he dreamed and
looked toward Rome. From the Eternal City there rose a black cross,
reaching to heaven, and on it was inscribed _Crux iræ Dei._ Then too the
skies were troubled; clouds rushed through the air discharging darts and
fire and swords, and multitudes below were dying. These visions he
published in sermons and in print. Pictures were made from them. They
and the three conclusions went abroad through Italy. Again, Charles was
preparing for his expedition. Savonarola took the Ark of Noah for his
theme. The deluge was at hand; he bade his hearers enter the ship of
refuge before the terrible and mighty nation came: 'O Italy! O Rome! I
give you over to the hands of a people who will wipe you out from among
the nations! I see them descending like lions. Pestilence comes marching
hand in hand with war. The deaths will be so many that the buriers shall
go through the streets crying out: Who hath dead, who hath dead? and one
will bring his father, and another his son. O Rome! I cry again to you
to repent, Repent, Venice! Milan, repent!' 'The prophets a hundred years
ago proclaimed to you the flagellation of the Church. For five years I
have been announcing it: and now again I cry to you. The Lord is full of
wrath. The angels on their knees cry to Him: Strike, strike! The good
sob and groan: We can no more. The orphans, the widows say: We are
devoured, we cannot go on living. All the Church triumphant hath cried
to Christ: Thou diedst in vain. It is heaven which is in combat. The
saints of Italy, the angels, are leagued with the barbarians. Those who
called them in have put the saddles to the horses. Italy is in
confusion, saith the Lord; this time she shall be yours. And the Lord
cometh above his saints, above the blessed ones who march in
battle-array, who are drawn up in squadrons. Whither are they bound? S.
Peter is for Rome, crying: To Rome, to Rome! and S. Paul and S. Gregory
march, crying: To Rome! And behind them go the sword, the pestilence,
the famine. S. John cries: Up, up, to Florence! And the plague follows
him. S. Anthony cries: Ho for Lombardy! S. Mark cries: Haste we to the
city that is throned upon the waters! And all the angels of heaven,
sword in hand, and all the celestial consistory, march on unto this

Then he speaks of his own fate: 'What shall be the end of our war, you
ask? If this be a general question, I shall answer Victory! If you ask
it of myself in particular, I answer, Death, or to be hewn in pieces.
This is our faith, this is our guerdon, this is our reward! We ask for
no more than this. But when you see me dead, be not then troubled. All
those who have prophesied have suffered and been slain. To make my word
prevail, there is needed the blood of many.'

These are the prophecies with which Savonarola anticipated the coming of
a foreign conqueror. It is interesting to trace in his apostrophes the
double feeling of the prophet. Desire for the advent of Charles as a
Messiah, liberator, and purifier of the Church, contends with an
instinctive horror of the barbarian. Savonarola, like Dante, like all
Italian patriots, except only Machiavelli, who too late had been
lessoned by bitter experience to put no trust in foreign princes, could
not refrain from hoping even against hope that good might come from
beyond the Alps. Yet when the foreigners appeared, he trembled at the
violence they wrought upon the ancient liberties of Italy. Savonarola's
chief shortcoming as a patriot consisted in this, that he strengthened
the old folly of the Florentines in leaning upon strangers.[1] Had he
taught the Italians to work out their self-regeneration from within,
instead of preparing them to accept an alien's yoke, he would have won a
far more lasting meed of fame. As it was, together with the passion for
liberty which became a religion with his followers, he strove to revive
the obsolete tactics of an earlier age, and bequeathed to Florence the
weak policy of waiting upon France. This legacy bore bitter fruits in
the next century. If it was the memory of the Friar which nerved the
citizens of Florence to sustain the siege of 1528, the same memory bound
them to seek aid from inconsequent Francis, and to hope that at the last
moment a cohort of seraphim would defend their walls.[2]

    [1] Segni, _Ist. Fior._ lib. i. p. 23, records a saying of
    Savonarola's, _Gigli con gigli dover fiorire_, as one of the
    causes of the obstinate French partiality of the Florentines in

    [2] See Varchi, Segni, and Nardi, who agree on these points.

That Savonarola believed in his own prophecies there is no doubt. They
were in fact, as I have already tried to show, a view of the political
and moral situation of Italy, expressed with the force of profound
religious conviction and based upon a theory of the divine government of
the world. But now far he allowed himself to be guided by visions and by
words uttered to his soul in trance, is a somewhat different question.
It is just at this point that a man possessed of acute insight and
trusting to the truth of his instincts may be tempted under strong
devotional excitement to pass the border land which separates healthy
intuition from hallucination. If Savonarola's studies of the Hebrew
prophets inclined him to believe in dreams and revelations, yet on the
other hand the strong logic of his intellect, trained in scholastic
distinctions, taught him to mistrust the promptings of a power that
spoke to him when he was somewhat more or less than his prosaic self.
How could he be sure that the spirit came from God? We know for certain
that he struggled against the impulse of divination and refused at times
to obey it. But it overcame him. Like the Cassandra of Æschylus, he
panted in the grasp of one mightier than himself. 'An inward fire,' he
cried, 'consumes my bones and forces me to speak out' And again: 'I
have, O Lord, burnt my wings of contemplation, and I have launched into
a tempestuous sea, where I have found contrary winds in every quarter. I
wished to reach a harbor, but could not find the way thither; I wished
to lay me down, but could meet with no resting-place. I longed to be
silent and to utter not a word. But the word of the Lord is in my heart;
and if it does not come forth, it must consume the marrow of my bones.
Thus, O Lord, if it be Thy will that I should navigate in deep waters,
Thy will, be done.'

At another time he says: 'I remember well that upon one occasion, in
the year 1491, when I was preaching in the Duomo, having composed my
sermon entirely upon these visions, I determined to abstain from all
allusion to them, and in future to adhere to this resolution. God is my
witness that the whole of Saturday and the whole of the succeeding night
I lay awake, and could see no other course, no other doctrine. At
daybreak, worn out and depressed by the many hours I had lain awake,
while I was praying I heard a voice that said to me: "Fool that thou
art, dost thou not see that it is God's will that thou shouldst keep to
the same path?" The consequence of which was that on the same day I
preached a tremendous sermon.'

These passages leave upon the mind no doubt of Savonarola's sincerity.
If he deceived others, he was himself the first to be deceived, and that
too not before he had subjected himself to the most searching
examination, seeking in vain to escape from the force which compelled
him to play the part of prophet. Terrible, indeed, must have been the
wrestlings and questionings of this strong-fibered intellect, alone and
diffident, within the toils of ecstasy.

Returning to the details of Savonarola's biography, we find him still in
Lombardy in 1486. After leaving Brescia he moved to Reggio, where he
made the friendship of the famous Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. They
continued intimate till the death of the latter in 1494; it was his
nephew, Giovanni Francesco Pico della Mirandola, who afterwards wrote
the Life of Savonarola. From Reggio the friar went to Genoa; and by this
time his fame as a prophet in the north of Lombardy was well
established. Now came the turning-point in his life. Fourteen hundred
and ninety is the date which determined his public action as a man of
power in Italy. Lorenzo de' Medici, strangely enough, was the instrument
of his recall in this year to Florence. Lorenzo, who, if he could have
foreseen the future of his own family in Florence, would rather have
stifled this monk's voice in his cowl, took pains to send for him and
bring him to S. Mark's, the convent upon which his father had lavished
so much wealth. He hoped to add luster to his capital by the preaching
of the most eloquent friar in Italy. Clear-sighted as he was, he could
not discern the flame of liberty which burned in Savonarola's soul.
Savonarola, the democratic party leader, was a force in politics as
incalculable beforehand as Ferrucci the hero. On August 1, 1490, the
monk ascended the pulpit of S. Mark's, and delivered a tremendous sermon
on a passage from the Apocalypse. On the eve of this commencement he is
reported to have said: 'Tomorrow I shall begin to preach, and I shall
preach for eight years.' The Florentines were greatly moved. Savonarola
had to remove from the Church of S. Mark to the Duomo; and thus began
the spiritual dictatorship which he exercised thenceforth without
intermission till his death.

Lorenzo soon began to resent the influence of this uncompromising monk,
who, not content with moral exhortations, confidently predicted the
coming of a foreign conqueror, the fall of the Magnificent, the peril of
the Pope, and the ruin of the King of Naples. Yet it was no longer easy
to suppress the preacher. Very early in his Florentine career Savonarola
had proved himself to be fully as great an administrator as an orator.
The Convent of San Marco dominated by his personal authority, had made
him Prior in 1491, and he was already engaged in a thorough reform of
all the Dominican monasteries of Tuscany. It was usual for the Priors
elect of S. Mark to pay a complimentary visit to the Medici, their
patrons. Savonarola, thinking this a worldly and unseemly custom,
omitted to observe it. Lorenzo, noticing the discourtesy, is reported to
have said, with a smile: 'See now! here is a stranger who has come into
_my house_, and will not deign to visit me.' He forgot that Savonarola
looked upon his convent as a house of God. At the same time the prince
made overtures of goodwill to the Prior, frequently attended his
services, and dropped gold into the alms-box of S. Mark's. Savonarola
took no notice of him, and handed his florins over to the poor of the
city. Then Lorenzo stirred up Fra Mariano da Genezzano, Savonarola's old
rival, against him; but the clever rhetorician was no longer a match for
the full-grown athlete of inspired eloquence. Da Genezzano was forced to
leave Florence in angry discomfiture. With such unbending haughtiness
did Savonarola already dare to brave the powers that be. He had
recognized the oppressor of liberty, the corrupter of morality, the
opponent of true religion, in Lorenzo. He hated him as a tyrant. He
would not give him the right hand of friendship or the salute of
civility. In the same spirit he afterwards denounced Alexander, scorned
his excommunication, and plotted with the kings of Christendom for the
convening of a Council. Lorenzo, however, was a man of supreme insight
into character, and knew how to value his antagonist. Therefore, when
the hour for dying came, and when, true child of the Renaissance that he
was, he felt the need of sacraments and absolution, he sent for
Savonarola, saying that he was the only honest friar he knew. The
magnanimity of the Medici was only equaled by the firmness of the monk.
Standing by the bedside of the dying man, who had confessed his sins,
Savonarola said: 'Three things are required of you: to have a full and
lively faith in God's mercy; to restore what you have unjustly gained;
to give back liberty to Florence.' Lorenzo assented readily to the two
first requisitions. At the third he turned his face in silence to the
wall. He must indeed have felt that to demand and promise this was
easier than to carry it into effect. Savonarola left him without
absolution. Lorenzo died.[1]

    [1] It is just to observe that great doubt has been thrown on
    the facts above related concerning Lorenzo's death. Poliziano,
    who was with Lorenzo during his last illness, does not mention
    them in his letter to Jacobus Antiquarius (xv. Kal. Jun. 1492).
    But Burlmacchi, Pico, Barsanti, Razzi, and others of the
    Frate's party, agree in the story. What Poliziano wrote was
    that Savonarola confessed Lorenzo and retired without
    volunteering the blessing. Razzi says the interview between
    Savonarola and Lorenzo took place without witnesses; Pico and
    Burlamacchi relate the event as they heard of it from the lips
    of Savonarola. We have therefore to judge between the testimony
    of Poliziano, who held no communication with the friar, and the
    veracity of several narrators, biassed indeed by hostility
    toward the Medici, but in direct intercourse with the only man
    who could tell the exact truth of what passed--the confessor,
    Savonarola, who had been alone with Lorenzo. Villari, after
    sifting the evidence, arrives at the conclusion that we may
    believe Burlamacchi. The Baron Reumont, in his recent _Life of
    Lorenzo_, vol. ii. p. 590, gives some solid reasons for
    accepting this conclusion with caution, and Gino Capponi
    expresses a distinct disbelief in Burlamacchi's narration.

The third point insisted upon by the friar, Restore liberty to Florence,
not only broke the peace of the dying prince, but it also afterwards for
ever ruled the conduct of Savonarola. From this time his life is that of
a statesman no less than of a preacher. What Lorenzo refused, or was
indeed upon his deathbed quite unable to perform, the monk determined to
achieve. Henceforth he became the champion of popular liberty in the
pulpit. Feeling that in the people alone lay any hope of regeneration
for Italy, he made it the work of his whole life to give the strength
and sanction of religion to republican freedom. This work he sealed with
martyrdom. The spirit of the creed which he bequeathed to his partisans
in Florence was political no less than pious. Whether Savonarola was
right to embark upon the perilous sea of statecraft cannot now be
questioned. What prophet of Israel from Samuel to Isaiah was not the
maker and destroyer of kings and constitutions? When we call him by
their title, we mean to say that he, like them, controlled by spiritual
force the fortunes of his people. Whether he sought it or not, this
rôle of politician was thrust upon him by the course of events: nor was
the history of Italian cities deficient in precedents of similar
functions assumed by preaching friars.[1]

    [1] It is enough to allude to Arnold of Brescia in Rome, to Fra
    Bussolari in Pavia, ami to John of Vicenza. Sec Appendix iv.

To Lorenzo succeeded the incompetent Piero de' Medici, who surrendered
the fortresses of Tuscany to the French army. While Savonarola was
prophesying a sword, a scourge, a deluge, Charles VIII. rode at the head
of his knighthood into Florence. The city was leaderless, unused to
liberty. Who but the monk who had predicted the invasion should now
attempt to control it? Who but he whose voice alone had power to
assemble and to sway the Florentines should now direct them? His
administrative faculty in a narrow sphere had been proved by his reform
of the Dominican Convents. His divine mission was authenticated by the
arrival of the French. The Lord had raised him up to act as well as to
utter. He felt this: the people felt it. He was not the man to refuse

During the years of 1493 and 1494, when Florence together with Italy was
in imminent peril, the voice of Savonarola never ceased to ring. His
sermons on the psalm 'Quam bonus' and on the Ark of Noah are among the
most stupendous triumphs of his eloquence. From his pulpit beneath the
somber dome of Brunelleschi he kept pouring forth words of power to
resuscitate the free spirit of his Florentines. In 1495, when the
Medici had been expelled and the French army had gone upon its way to
Naples, Savonarola was called upon to reconstitute the state. He bade
the people abandon their old system of Parlamenti and Balia, and
establish a Grand Council after the Venetian type.[1] This institution,
which seemed to the Florentines the best they had ever adopted, might be
regarded by the historian as only one among their many experiments in
constitution-making, if Savonarola had not stamped it with his peculiar
genius by announcing that Christ was to be considered the Head of the
State.[2] This step at once gave a theocratic bias to the government,
which determined all the acts of the monk's administration. Not content
with political organization, too impatient to await the growth of good
manners from sound institutions, he set about a moral and religious
reformation. Pomps, vanities, and vices were to be abandoned.
Immediately the women and the young men threw aside their silks and fine
attire. The Carnival songs ceased. Hymns and processions took the place
of obscene choruses and pagan triumphs. The laws were remodeled in the
same severe and abrupt spirit. Usury was abolished. Whatever Savonarola
ordained, Florence executed. By the magic of his influence the city for
a moment assumed a new aspect. It seemed as though the old austerity
which Dante and Villani praised were about to return without the
factious hate and pride that ruined medæival Tuscany. In everything done
by Savonarola at this epoch there was a strange combination of political
sagacity with monastic zeal. Neither Guicciardini nor Machiavelli,
writing years afterwards, when Savonarola had fallen and Florence was
again enslaved, could propose anything wiser than his Consiglio Grande.
Yet the fierce revivalism advocated by the friar--the bonfire of Lorenzo
di Credi's and Fra Bartolommeo's pictures, of MSS, of Boccaccio and
classic poets, and of all those fineries which a Venetian Jew is said to
have valued in one heap at 22,000 florins--the recitation of such
Bacchanalian songs as this--

  Never was there so sweet a gladness,
  Joy of so pure and strong a fashion,
  As with zeal and love and passion
  Thus to embrace Christ's holy madness!
  Cry with me, cry as I now cry,
  Madness, madness, holy madness!

--the procession of boys and girls through the streets, shaming their
elders into hypocritical piety, and breeding in their own hearts the
intolerable priggishness of premature pietism--could not bring forth
excellent and solid fruits. The change was far too violent. The temper
of the race was not prepared for it. It clashed too rudely with
Renaissance culture. It outraged the sense of propriety in the more
moderate citizens, and roused to vindictive fury the worst passions of
the self-indulgent and the worldly. A reaction was inevitable.[3]

    [1] This change was certainly wrought out by the influence of
    the friar and approved by him. Segni, lib. i. p. 15, speaks
    clearly on the point, and says that the friar for this service
    to the city 'debbe esser messo tra buoni datori di leggi, e
    debbe essere amato e onorato da' Fiorentini non altrimenti che
    Numa dai Romani e Solone dagli Ateniesi e Licurgo da'
    Lacedemoni.' The evil of the old system was that the
    Parlamento, which consisted of the citizens assembled in the
    Piazza, was exposed to intimidation, and had no proper
    initiative, while the Balia, or select body, to whom they then
    intrusted plenipotentiary authority, was always the faction for
    the moment uppermost. For the mode of working the Parlamento
    and Balia, see Segni, p. 199; Nardi, lib. vi. cap. 4; Varchi,
    vol. ii. p. 372. Savonarola inscribed this octave stanza on the
    wall of the Consiglio Grande:

     'Se questo popolar consiglio e certo
      Governo, popol, de la tua cittate
      Conservi, che da Dio t'e stato offerto,
      In pace starai sempre e libertate:
      Tien dunque l'occhio della mente aperto,
      Chè molte insidie ognor ti fien parate;
      E sappi che chi vuol far parlamento
      Vuol tórti dalle mani il reggimento.'

    [2] See Varchi, vol. i. p. 169. Niccolo Capponi, in 1527,
    returning to the policy of Savonarola, caused the Florentines
    to elect Christ for their king, and inscribed upon the door of
    the Palazzo Pubblico:--


    [3] The position of the Puritan leaders in England was somewhat
    similar to Savonarola's. But they had at the end of a long war,
    the majority of the nation with them. Besides, the English
    temperament was more adapted to Puritanism than the Italian,
    nor were the manifestations of piety prescribed by Parliament
    so extravagant. And yet even in England a reaction took place
    under the Restoration.

Meanwhile the strong wine of prophecy intoxicated Savonarola. His fiery
temperament, strained to the utmost by the dead weight of Florentine
affairs that pressed upon him, became more irritable day by day. Vision
succeeded vision; trance followed upon trance; agonies of dejection were
suddenly transformed into outbursts of magnificent and soul-sustaining
enthusiasm. It was no wonder if, passing as he had done from the
discipline of the cloister to the dictatorship of a republic, he should
make extravagant mistakes. The tension of this abnormal situation in the
city grew to be excessive, and cool thinkers predicted that Savonarola's
position would become untenable. Parties began to form and gather to a
head. The followers of the monk, by far the largest section of the
people, received the name of Piagnoni or Frateschi. The friends of the
Medici, few at first and cautious, were called Bigi. The opponents of
Savonarola and of the Medici, who hated his theocracy, but desired to
see an oligarchy and not a tyranny in Florence, were known as the

The discontent which germinated in Florence displayed itself in Rome.
Alexander found it intolerable to be assailed as Antichrist by a monk
who had made himself master of the chief Italian republic. At first he
used his arts of blandishment and honeyed words in order to lure
Savonarola to Rome. The friar refused to quit Florence. Then Alexander
suspended him from preaching. Savonarola obeyed, but wrote at the same
time to Charles VIII. denouncing his indolence and calling upon him to
reform the Church. At the request of the Florentine Republic, though
still suffering from the Pope's interdict, he then resumed his
preaching. Alexander sought next to corrupt the man he could not
intimidate. To the suggestion that a Cardinal's hat might be offered
him, Savonarola replied that he preferred the red crown of martyrdom.
Ascending the pulpit of the Duomo in 1496, he preached the most fiery of
all his Lenten courses. Of this series of orations Milman writes: 'His
triumphal career began with the Advent of 1494 on Haggai and the Psalms.
But it is in the Carême of 1496 on Amos and Zechariah that the preacher
girds himself to his full strength, when he had attained his full
authority, and could not but be conscious that there was a deep and
dangerous rebellion brooding in the hearts of the hostile factions at
Florence, and when already ominous rumors began to be heard from Rome.
He that would know the power, the daring, the oratory of Savonarola,
must study this volume.'[1]

    [1] These sermons were printed from the notes taken by Lorenzo
    Violi in one volume at Venice, 1534.

Very terrific indeed are the denunciations contained in these
discourses--denunciations fulminated without disguise against the Pope
and priests of Rome, against the Medici, against the Florentines
themselves, in whom the traces of rebellion were beginning to appear.
Mingled with these vehement invectives, couched in Savonarola's most
impassioned style and heightened by his most impressive imagery, are
political harangues and polemical arguments against the Pope. The
position assumed by the friar in his war with Rome was not a strong one,
and the reasoning by which he supported it was marked by curious
self-deception mingled with apparent efforts to deceive his audience. He
had not the audacious originality of Luther. He never went to the length
of braving Alexander by burning his bulls and by denying the authority
of popes in general. Not daring to break all connection with the Holy
See, he was driven to quibble about the distinction between the office
and the man, assuming a hazardous attitude of obedience to the Church
whose head and chief he daily outraged. At the same time he took no
pains to enlist the sympathies of the Italian princes, many of whom
might presumably have been hostile to the Pope, on his side of the
quarrel. All the tyrants came in for a share of his prophetic
indignation. Lodovico Sforza, the lord of Mirandola, and Piero de'
Medici felt themselves specially aggrieved, and kept urging Alexander to
extinguish this source of scandal to established governments. Against so
great and powerful a host one man could not stand alone. Savonarola's
position became daily more dangerous in Florence. The merchants,
excommunicated by the Pope and thus exposed to pillage in foreign
markets, grumbled at the friar who spoiled their trade. The ban of
interdiction lay upon the city, where the sacraments could no longer be
administered or the dead be buried with the rites of Christians.
Meanwhile a band of high-spirited and profligate young men, called
Compagnacci, used every occasion to insult and interrupt him. At last in
March 1498 his staunch friends, the Signory, or supreme executive of
Florence, suspended him from preaching in the Duomo. Even the populace
were weary of the protracted quarrel with the Holy See: nor could any
but his own fanatical adherents anticipate the wars which threatened the
state, with equanimity.

Savonarola himself felt that the supreme hour was come. One more
resource was left; to that he would now betake himself: he could
afterwards but die. This last step was the convening of a general
council.[1] Accordingly he addressed letters to all the European
potentates. One of these, inscribed to Charles VIII., was dispatched,
intercepted, and conveyed to Alexander. He wrote also to the Pope and
warned him of his purpose. The termination of that epistle is
noteworthy: 'I can thus have no longer any hope in your Holiness, but
must turn to Christ alone, who chooses the weak of this world to
confound the strong lions among the perverse generations. He will assist
me to prove and sustain, in the face of the world, the holiness of the
work for the sake of which I so greatly suffer: and He will inflict a
just punishment on those who persecute me and would impede its progress.
As for myself, I seek no earthly glory, but long eagerly for death. May
your Holiness no longer delay but look to your salvation.'

    [1] This scheme was by no means utterly unpractical. The Borgia
    had only just escaped deposition in 1495 by the gift of a
    Cardinal's hat to the Bishop of S. Malo. He was hated no less
    than feared through the length and breadth of Italy. But
    Savonarola had allowed the favorable moment to pass by.

But while girding on his armor for this singlehanded combat with the
Primate of Christendom and the Princes of Italy, the martyrdom to which
Savonarola now looked forward fell upon him. Growing yearly more
confident in his visions and more willing to admit his supernatural
powers, he had imperceptibly prepared the pit which finally ingulfed
him. Often had he professed his readiness to prove his vocation by fire.
Now came the moment when this defiance to an ordeal was answered.[1] A
Franciscan of Apulia offered to meet him in the flames and see whether
he were of God or not. Fra Domenico, Savonarola's devoted friend, took
up the gauntlet and proposed himself as champion. The furnace was
prepared: both monks stood ready to enter it: all Florence was assembled
in the Piazza to witness what should happen. Various obstacles, however,
arose; and after waiting a whole day for the friar's triumph, the people
had to retire to their homes under a pelting shower of rain,
unsatisfied, and with a dreary sense that after all their prophet was
but a mere man. The Compagnacci got the upper hand. S. Mark's convent
was besieged. Savonarola was led to prison, never to issue till the day
of his execution by the rope and faggot. We may draw a veil over those
last weeks. Little indeed is known about them, except that in his cell
the Friar composed his meditations on the the 31st and 51st Psalms, the
latter of which was published in Germany with a preface by Luther in
1573. Of the rest we hear only of prolonged torture before stupid and
malignant judges, of falsified evidence and of contradictory
confessions. What he really said and chose to stand by, what he
retracted, what he shrieked out in the delirium of the rack, and what
was falsely imputed to him, no one now can settle.[2] Though the spirit
was strong, the flesh was weak; he had the will but not the nerve to be
a martyr. At ten o'clock on the 23d of May 1498 he was led forth
together with brother Salvestro, the confidant of his visions, and
brother Domenico, his champion in the affair of the ordeal, to a stage
prepared in the Piazza.[3] These two men were hanged first. Savonarola
was left till the last. As the hangman tied the rope round his neck, a
voice from the crowd shouted: 'Prophet, now is the time to perform a
miracle!' The Bishop of Vasona, who conducted the execution, stripped
his friar's frock from him, and said, 'I separate thee from the Church
militant and triumphant.' Savonarola, firm and combative even at the
point of death, replied, 'Militant yes: triumphant, no: _that_ is not
yours.' The last words he uttered were, 'The Lord has suffered as much
for me.' Then the noose was tightened round his neck. The fire beneath
was lighted. The flames did not reach his body while life was in it; but
those who gazed intently thought they saw the right hand give the sign
of benediction. A little child afterwards saw his heart still whole
among the ashes cast into the Arno; and almost to this day flowers have
been placed every morning of the 23d of May upon the slab of the Piazza
where his body fell.

    [1] There seems to be no doubt that this Ordeal by Fire was
    finally got up by the Compagnacci with the sanction of the
    Signory, who were anxious to relieve themselves by any means of
    Savonarola. The Franciscan chosen to enter the flames together
    with Fra Domenico was a certain Giuliano Rondinelli. Nardi
    calls him Andrea Rondinelli.

    [2] Nardi, lib. ii. vol. i. p. 128, treats the whole matter of
    Savonarola's confessions under torture with good sense. He
    says: 'Avendo domandato il frate quello che diceva e affermava
    delle sue esamine fatte infino a quel di, rispose, che ciò ch'
    egli aveva ne' tempi passati detto e predetto era la pura
    verita, e che quello di che s'era ridetto e aveva ritratto, era
    tutto falso e era seguito per il dolor grande e per la paura
    che egli aveva de' tormenti, e che di nuovo si ridirebbe e
    ritratterebbe tante volte, quante ci fusse di nuovo tormentato,
    perciò che si conosceva molto debole e inconstante nel
    sopportare i supplicii.' Burchard, in his Diary, reports the
    childish, foul, malignant gossip current in Rome. This may be
    read in the 'Preuves et Observations' appended to the _Memoirs_
    of De Comines, vol. v. p. 512. See the Marchese Gino Capponi's
    _Storia della Firenze_ (tom. ii. pp. 248-51) for a critical
    analysis of the depositions falsely ascribed to Savonarola.

    [3] There is a curious old picture in the Pinacoteca of Perugia
    which represents the burning of the three friars. The whole
    Piazza della Signoria is shown, with the houses of the
    fifteenth century, and without the statues which afterwards
    adorned it. The spectator fronts the Palazzo, and has to his
    extreme right the Loggia de' Lanzi. The center of the square is
    occupied by a great circular pile of billets and fagots, to
    which a wooden bridge of scaffolding leads from the left angle
    of the Polazzo. From the middle of the pile rises a pole, to
    which the bodies of the friars in their white clothes are
    suspended. Sta Maria del Fiore, the Badia tower, and the
    distant hills above Fiesole complete a scene which is no doubt
    accurate in detail.

Thus died Savonarola: and immediately he became a saint. His sermons and
other works were universally distributed. Medals in his honor were
struck. Raphael painted him among the Doctors of the Church in the
Camera della Segnatura of the Vatican. The Church, with strange
inconsistency, proposed to canonize the man whom she had burned as a
contumacious heretic and a corrupter of the people. This canonization
never took place: but many Dominican Churches used a special office
with his name and in his honor.[1] A legend similar to that of S.
Francis in its wealth of mythical details embalmed the memory of even
the smallest details of his life. But, above all, he lived in the hearts
of the Florentines. For many years to come his name was the watchword of
their freedom; his prophecies sustained their spirit during the siege of
1528;[2] and it was only by returning to his policy that Niccolo Capponi
and Francesco Carducci ruled the people through those troublous times.
The political action of Savonarola forms but a short episode in the
history of Florence. His moral revival belongs to the history of popular
enthusiasm. His philosophical and theological writings are chiefly
interesting to the student of post-medæival scholasticism. His attitude
as a monastic leader of the populace, attempting to play the old game
whereby the factious warfare of a previous age had been suspended by
appeals to piety, and politicians had looked for aid outside the nation,
was anachronistic. But his prophecy, his insight into the coming of a
new era for the Church and for Italy, is a main fact in the psychology
of the Renaissance.

    [1] _Officio del Savonarola_, with preface by Cesare Guasti.
    Firenze, 1863.

    [2] Guicciardini, in his _Ricordt_, No. i., refers the
    incredible obstinacy of the Florentines at this period in
    hoping against all hope and reason to Savonarola: 'questa
    ostinazione ha causata in gran parte a fede di non potere
    perire, secondo le predicazioni di Fra Jeronirno da Ferrara.'



The Italian States confront the Great Nations of Europe--Policy of Louis
XI. of France--Character of Charles VIII.--Preparations for the Invasion
of Italy--Position of Lodovico Sforza--Diplomatic Difficulties in Italy
after the Death of Lorenzo de' Medici--Weakness of the Republics--II
Moro--The year 1494--Alfonso of Naples--Inefficiency of the Allies to
cope with France--Charles at Lyons is stirred up to the Invasion of
Italy by Giuliano della Rovere--Charles at Asti and Pavia--Murder of
Gian Galeazzo Sforza--Mistrust in the French Army--Rapallo and
Fivizzano--The Entrance into Tuscany--Part played by Piero de'
Medici--Charles at Pisa--His Entrance into Florence--Piero Capponi--The
March on Rome--Entry into Rome--Panic of Alexander VI.--The March on
Naples--The Spanish Dynasty: Alfonso and Ferdinand--Alfonso II. escapes
to Sicily--Ferdinand II. takes Refuge in Ischia--Charles at Naples--The
League against the French--De Comines at Venice--Charles makes his
Retreat by Rome, Siena, Pisa, and Pontremoli--The Battle of
Fornovo--Charles reaches Asti and returns to France--Italy becomes the
Prize to be fought for by France, Spain, and Germany--Importance of the
Expedition of Charles VIII.

One of the chief features of the Renaissance was the appearance for the
first time on the stage of history of full-formed and colossal nations.
France, Spain, Austria, and England are now to measure their strength.
Venice, Florence, Milan, Naples, even Rome, are destined in the period
that is opening for Europe to play but secondary parts. Italy, incapable
of coping with these great powers, will become the mere arena of their
contests, the object of their spoliations. Yet the Italians themselves
were far from being conscious of this change. Accustomed through three
centuries to a system of diplomacy and intrigue among their own small
states, they still thought more of the balance of power within the
peninsula than of the means to be adopted for repelling foreign force.
Their petty jealousies kept them disunited at an epoch when the best
chance of national freedom lay in a federation. Firmly linked together
in one league, or subject to a single prince, the Italians might not
only have met their foes on equal ground, but even have taken a foremost
place among the modern nations.[1] Instead of that, their princes were
foolish enough to think that they could set France, Germany, or Spain in
motion for the attainment of selfish objects within the narrow sphere of
Italian politics, forgetting the disproportion between these huge
monarchies and a single city like Florence, a mere province like the
Milanese. It was just possible for Lorenzo de' Medici to secure the
tranquillity of Italy by combining the Houses of Sforza and of Aragon
with the Papal See in the chains of the same interested policy with the
Commonwealth of Florence. It was ridiculous of Lodovico Sforza to fancy
that he could bring the French into the game of peninsular intrigue
without irrevocably ruining its artificial equilibrium. The first
sign of the alteration about to take place in European history was the
invasion of Italy by Charles VIII. This holiday excursion of a
hairbrained youth was as transient as a border-foray on a large scale.
The so-called conquest was only less sudden than the subsequent loss of
Italy by the French. Yet the tornado which swept the peninsula from
north to south, and returned upon its path from south to north within
the space of a few months, left ineffaceable traces on the country which
it traversed, and changed the whole complexion of the politics of

    [1] Read, however, Sismondi's able argument against the view
    that Italy, united as a single nation under a sovereign, would
    have been better off, vol. vii. p. 298 et seq. He is of opinion
    that her only chance lay in a Confederation. See chapter ii.
    above, for a discussion of this chance.

The invasion of Italy had been long prepared in the counsels of Louis
XI. After spending his lifetime in the consolidation of the French
monarchy, he constructed an inheritance of further empire for his
successors by dictating to the old King Réné of Anjou (1474) and to the
Count of Maine (1481) the two wills by which the pretensions of the
House of Anjou to the Crown of Naples were transmitted to the royal
family of France.[1] On the death of Louis, Charles VIII. became King in
1483. He was then aged only thirteen, and was still governed by his
elder sister, Anne de Beaujeu.[2] It was not until 1492 that he
actually took the reins of the kingdom into his own hands. This year, we
may remark, is one of the most memorable dates in history. In 1492
Columbus discovered America: in 1492 Roderigo Borgia was made Pope: in
1492 Spain became a nation by the conquest of Granada. Each of these
events was no less fruitful of consequences to Italy than was the
accession of Charles VIII. The discovery of America, followed in another
six years by Vasco de' Gama's exploration of the Indian seas, diverted
the commerce of the world into new channels; Alexander VI. made the
Reformation and the Northern Schism certainties; the consolidation of
Spain prepared a way for the autocracy of Charles V. Thus the
commercial, the spiritual, and the political scepter fell in this one
year from the grasp of the Italians.

    [1] Sismondi, vol. vi. p. 285. The Appendix of Pièces
    Justificatives to Philip de Comines' _Memoirs_ contains the
    will of Réné King of Sicily, Count of Provence, dated July 22,
    1474, by which he constitutes his nephew, Charles of Anjou,
    Duke of Calabria, Count of Maine, his heir-in-chief; as well as
    the will of Charles of Anjou, King of Sicily, Count of
    Provence, dated December 10, 1481, by which he makes Louis XI.
    his heir, naming Charles the Dauphin next in succession.

    [2] Her husband was a cadet of the House of Bourbon.

Both Philip de Comines and Guicciardini have described the appearance
and the character of the prince who was destined to play a part so
prominent, so pregnant of results, and yet so trivial in the affairs of
Europe. Providence, it would seem, deigns frequently to use for the most
momentous purposes some pantaloon or puppet, environing with special
protection and with the prayers and aspirations of whole peoples a mere
manikin. Such a puppet was Charles. 'From infancy he had been weak in
constitution and subject to illness. His stature was short, and his face
very ugly, if you except the dignity and vigor of his glance. His limbs
were so disproportioned that he had less the appearance of a man than
of a monster. Not only was he ignorant of liberal arts, but he hardly
knew his letters. Though eager to rule, he was in truth made for
anything but that; for while surrounded by dependents, he exercised no
authority over them and preserved no kind of majesty. Hating business
and fatigue, he displayed in such matters as he took in hand a want of
prudence and of judgment. His desire for glory sprang rather from
impulse than from reason. His liberality was inconsiderate, immoderate,
promiscuous. When he displayed inflexibility of purpose, it was more
often an ill-founded obstinacy than firmness, and that which many people
called his goodness of nature rather deserved the name of coldness and
feebleness of spirit.' This is Guicciardini's portrait. De Comines is
more brief: 'The king was young, a fledgling from the nest; provided
neither with money nor with good sense; weak, willful, and surrounded by
foolish counselors.'

These foolish counselors, or, as Guicciardini calls them, 'men of low
estate, body-servants for the most part of the king,' were headed by
Stephen de Vesc, who had been raised from the post of the king's valet
de chambre to be the Seneschal de Beaucaire, and by William Briçonnet,
formerly a merchant, now Bishop of S. Malo. These men had everything to
gain by an undertaking which would flatter the vanity of their master,
and draw him into still closer relations with themselves. Consequently,
when the Count of Belgioioso arrived at the French Court from Milan,
urging the king to press his claims on Naples, and promising him a free
entrance into Italy through the province of Lombardy and the port of
Genoa, he found ready listeners. Anne de Beaujeu in vain opposed the
scheme. The splendor and novelty of the proposal to conquer such a realm
as Italy inflamed the imagination of Charles, the cupidity of his
courtiers, the ambition of de Vesc and Briçonnet. In order to assure his
situation at home, Charles concluded treaties with the neighboring great
powers. He bought peace with Henry VII. of England by the payment of
large sums of money. The Emperor Maximilian, whose resentment he had
aroused by sending back his daughter Margaret after breaking his promise
to marry her, and by taking to wife Anne of Brittany, who was already
engaged to the Austrian, had to be appeased by the cession of provinces.
Ferdinand of Spain received as the price of his neutrality the strong
places of the Pyrenees which formed the key to France upon that side.
Having thus secured tranquillity at home by ruinous concessions, Charles
was free to turn his attention to Italy. He began by concentrating
stores and ships on the southern ports of Marseilles and Genoa; then he
moved downward with his army, to Lyons, in 1494.

At this point we are called to consider the affairs of Italy, which led
the Sforza to invite his dangerous ally. Lorenzo de' Medici during his
lifetime had maintained a balance of power between the several states
by his treaties with the Courts of Milan, Naples, and Ferrara. When he
died, Piero at once showed signs of departure from his father's policy.
The son and husband of Orsini,[1] he embraced the feudal pride and
traditional partialities of the great Roman house who had always been
devoted to the cause of Naples. The suspicions of Lodovico Sforza were
not unreasonably aroused by noticing that the tyrant of Florence
inclined to the alliance of King Ferdinand rather than to his own
friendship. At this same time Alfonso, the Duke of Calabria, heir to the
throne of Naples, was pressing the rights of his son-in-law, Gian
Galeazzo Sforza, on the attention of Italy, complaining loudly that his
uncle Lodovico ought no longer to withhold from him the reins of
government.[2] Gian Galcazzo was in fact the legitimate successor of
Galeazzo Maria Sforza, who had been murdered in Santo Stefano in 1476.
After this assassination Madonna Bona of Savoy and Cecco Simonetta, who
had administered the Duchy as grand vizier during three reigns extending
over a period of half a century, governed Milan as regents for the young
Duke. But Lodovico, feeling himself powerful enough to assume the
tyranny, beheaded Simonetta at Pavia in 1480, and caused Madonna Bona,
the Duke's mother, on the pretext of her immorality, to quit the
regency. Thus he took the affairs of Milan into his own hands, confined
his nephew in an honorable prison, and acted in a way to make it clear
that he intended thenceforth to be Duke in fact.[3] It was the bad
conscience inseparable from this usurpation which made him mistrust the
princes of the house of Aragon, whose rights in Isabella, wife of the
young Duke, were set at nought by him. The same uneasy sense of wrong
inclined him to look with dread upon the friendship of the Medici for
the ruling family of Naples.

    [1] His mother Clarice and his wife Alfonsina were both of them
    Orsini. Guicciardini, in his 'Dialogo del Reggimento di
    Firenze' (_Op. Ined._ vol. ii. p. 46), says of him: 'sendo nato
    di madre forestiera, era imbastardito in lui il sangue
    Fiorentino, e degenerato in costumi esterni, e troppo insolenti
    e altieri al nostro vivere.' Piero, nevertheless, refused to
    accept estates from King Alfonso which would have made him a
    Baron and feudatory of Naples. See _Arch. Stor._ vol. i. p. 347.

    [2] The young Duke was aged twenty-four in 1493.

    [3] Lodovico had taken measures for cloaking his usurpation
    with the show of legitimate right. He betrothed his niece
    Bianca Maria, in 1494, to the Emperor Maximilian, with a dower
    of 400,000 ducats, receiving in return an investiture of the
    Duchy, which, however, he kept secret.

While affairs were in this state, and as yet no open disturbance in
Lorenzo's balance of power had taken place, Alexander VI. was elected to
the Papacy. It was usual for the princes and cities of Italy to
compliment the Pope with embassies on his assumption of the tiara; and
Lodovico suggested that the representatives of Milan, Florence, Ferrara,
and Naples should enter Rome together in a body. The foolish vanity of
Piero, who wanted to display the splendor of his own equipage without
rivals, induced him to refuse this proposal, and led to a similar
refusal on the part of Ferdinand. This trivial circumstance confirmed
the suspicions of Lodovico, who, naturally subtle and intriguing,
thought that he discerned a deep political design in what was really
little more than the personal conceit of a broad-shouldered
simpleton.[1] He already foresaw that the old system of alliances
established by Lorenzo must be abandoned. Another slight incident
contributed to throw the affairs of Italy into confusion by causing a
rupture between Rome and Naples. Lorenzo, by the marriage of his
daughter to Franceschetto Cibo, had contrived to engage Innocent VIII.
in the scheme of policy which he framed for Florence, Naples, Milan, and
Ferrara. But on the accession of Alexander, Franceschetto Cibo
determined to get rid of Anguillara, Cervetri, and other fiefs, which he
had taken with his father's connivance from the Church. He found a
purchaser in Virginio Orsini. Alexander complained that the sale was an
infringement of his rights. Ferdinand supported the title of the Orsini
to his new acquisitions. This alienated the Pope from the King of
Naples, and made him willing to join with Milan and Venice in a new
league formed in 1493.

    [1] Piero de' Medici was what the French call a _bel homme_,
    and little more. He was tall, muscular, and well-made, the best
    player at _pallone_ in Italy, a good horseman, fluent and
    agreeable in conversation, and excessively vain of these

Thus the old equilibrium was destroyed, and fresh combinations between
the disunited powers of Italy took place. Lodovico, however, dared not
trust his new friends. Venice had too long hankered after Milan to be
depended upon for real support; and Alexander was known to be in treaty
for a matrimonial alliance between his son Geoffrey and Donna Sancia of
Aragon. Lodovico was therefore alone, without a firm ally in Italy, and
with a manifestly fraudulent title to maintain. At this juncture he
turned his eyes towards France; while his father-in-law, the Duke of
Ferrara, who secretly hated him, and who selfishly hoped to secure his
own advantage in the general confusion which he anticipated, urged him
to this fatal course. Alexander at the same time, wishing to frighten
the princes of Naples into a conclusion of the projected marriage,
followed the lead of Lodovico, and showed himself at this moment not
averse to a French invasion.

It was in this way that the private cupidities and spites of princes
brought woe on Italy: Lodovico's determination to secure himself in the
usurped Duchy of Milan, Ercole d' Este's concealed hatred, and
Alexander's unholy eagerness to aggrandize his bastards, were the vile
and trivial causes of an event which, however inevitable, ought to have
been as long as possible deferred by all true patriots in Italy. But in
Italy there was no zeal for freedom left, no honor among princes, no
virtue in the Church. Italy, which in the thirteenth century numbered
1,800,000 citizens--that is, members of free cities, exercising the
franchise in the government of their own states--could show in the
fifteenth only about 18,000 such burghers:[1] and these in Venice were
subject to the tyranny of the Council of Ten, in Florence had been
enervated by the Medici, in Siena were reduced by party feuds and vulgar
despotism to political imbecility. Amid all the splendors of revived
literature and art, of gorgeous courts and refined societies, this
indeed was the right moment for the Dominican visionary to publish his
prophecies, and for the hunchback puppet of destiny to fulfill them.
Guicciardini deplores, not without reason, the bitter sarcasm of fate
which imposed upon his country the insult of such a conqueror as
Charles. He might with equal justice have pointed out in Lodovico Sforza
the actor of a tragi-comic part upon the stage of Italy. Lodovico,
called II Moro, not, as the great historian asserts, because he was of
dark complexion, but because he had adopted the mulberry-tree for his
device,[2] was in himself an epitome of all the qualities which for the
last two centuries had contributed to the degradation of Italy in the
persons of the despots. Gifted originally with good abilities, he had
so accustomed himself to petty intrigues that he was now incapable of
taking a straightforward step in any direction. While he boasted himself
the Son of Fortune and listened with complacency to a foolish rhyme that
ran: _God only and the Moor foreknow the future safe and sure_, he never
acted without blundering, and lived to end his days in the intolerable
tedium of imprisonment at Loches. He was a thoughtful and painstaking
ruler; yet he so far failed to win the affection of his subjects that
they tossed up their caps for joy at the first chance of getting rid of
him. He disliked bloodshed; but the judicial murder of Simonetta, and
the arts by which he forced his nephew into an early grave, have left an
ineffaceable stain upon his memory. His court was adorned by the
presence of Lionardo da Vinci; but at the same time it was so corrupt
that, as Corio tells us,[3] fathers sold their daughters, brothers their
sisters, and husbands their wives there. In a word Lodovico, in spite of
his boasted prudence, wrought the ruin of Italy and himself by his
tortuous policy, and contributed by his private crimes and dissolute
style of living no little to the general depravity of his country.[4]

    [1] This is Sismondi's calculation (vol. vii. p. 305). It must
    be taken as a rough one. Still students who have weighed the
    facts presented in Ferrari's _Rivoluzioni d' Italia_ will not
    think the estimate exaggerated. In the municipal and civil
    wars, free burghs were extinguished by the score.

    [2] See Varchi, vol. i. p. 49. Also the _Elogia_ of Paulus
    Jovius, who remarks that the complexion of Lodovico was fair.
    His surname, however, provoked puns. Me had, for example, a
    picture painted, in which Italy, dressed like a queen, is
    having her robe brushed by a Moorish page. A motto ran beneath,
    _Per Italia nettar d' ogni bruttura_. He adopted the mulberry
    because Pliny called it the most prudent of all trees, inasmuch
    as it waits till winter is well over to put forth its leaves,
    and Lodovico piqued himself on his sagacity in choosing the
    right moment for action.

    [3] _L' Historia di Milano_, Vinegia, 1554, p. 448: 'A quella
    (scola di Venere) per ogni canto vi si convenivan bellissimi
    giovani. I padri vi concedevano le figliuole, i mariti le
    mogliere, i fratelli le sorelle; e per sifatto modo senz' alcun
    riguardo molti concorreano all' amoroso ballo, che cosa
    stupendissima era riputata per qualunque l' intendeva.'

    [4] Guicciardini, _Storia d' Italia_, lib. iii. p. 35, sums up
    the character of Lodovico with masterly completeness.

Amid this general perturbation of the old political order the year
1494, marked in its first month by the death of King Ferdinand,
began--'a year,' to quote from Guicciardini, 'the most unfortunate for
Italy, the very first in truth of our disastrous years, since it opened
the door to numberless and horrible calamities, in which it may be said
that a great portion of the world has subsequently shared.' The
expectation and uneasiness of the whole nation were proportioned to the
magnitude of the coming change. On every side the invasion of the
French was regarded with that sort of fascination which a very new and
exciting event is wont to inspire. In one mood the Italians were
inclined to hail Charles as a general pacificator and restorer of old
liberties.[1] Savonarola had preached of him as the _flagellum Dei_,
the minister appointed to regenerate the Church and purify the font of
spiritual life in the peninsula. In another frame of mind they
shuddered to think what the advent of the barbarians--so the French
were called--might bring upon them. It was universally agreed that
Lodovico by his invitation had done no more than bring down, as it
were, by a breath the avalanche which had been long impending. 'Not
only the preparations made by land and sea, but also the consent of the
heavens and of men, announced the woes in store for Italy. Those who
pretend either by art or divine inspiration to the knowledge of the
future, proclaimed unanimously that greater and more frequent changes,
occurrences more strange and awful than had for many centuries been
seen in any part of the world, were at hand.' After enumerating divers
signs and portents, such as the passing day after day in the region
round Arezzo of innumerable armed men mounted on gigantic horses with a
hideous din of drums and trumpets, the great historian resumes: 'These
things filled the people with incredible fear; for, long before, they
had been terrified by the reputation of the power of the French and of
their fierceness, seeing that histories are full of their deeds--how
they had already overrun the whole of Italy, sacked the city of Rome
with fire and sword, subdued many provinces of Asia, and at one time or
another smitten with their arms all quarters of the world.'

    [1] This was the strictly popular as opposed to the
    aristocratic feeling. The common folk, eager for novelty and
    smarting under the bad rule of monsters like the Aragonese
    princes, expected in Charles VIII. a Messiah, and cried
    'Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.' See passages quoted in
    a note below.

Among all the potentates of Italy, Alfonso of Naples had the most to
dread; for against him the invasion was specially directed. No time was
to be lost. He assembled his allies at Vicovaro near Tivoli in July and
explained to them his theory of resistance. The allies were Florence,
Rome, Bologna, and all the minor powers of Romagna.[1] For once the
southern and the middle states of Italy were united against a common
foe. After Alfonso, Alexander felt himself in greatest peril, for he
dreaded the assembly of a Council which might depose him from the throne
he had bought by simony. So strong was his terror that he had already
sent ambassadors to the Sultan imploring him for aid against the Most
Christian King, and had entreated Ferdinand the Catholic, instead of
undertaking a crusade against the Turk, to employ his arms in opposition
to the French. But Bajazet was too far off to be of use; and Ferdinand
was prudent. It remained for the allies to repel the invader by their
unassisted force. This might have been done if Alfonso's plan had been
adhered to. He designed sending a fleet, under his brother Don Federigo,
to Genoa, and holding with his own troops the passes of the Apennines to
the North, while Piero de' Medici undertook to guard the entrances to
Tuscany on the side of Lunigiana. The Duke of Calabria meanwhile was to
raise Gian Galeazzo's standard in Lombardy. But that absolute agreement
which is necessary in the execution of a scheme so bold and
comprehensive was impossible in Italy. The Pope insisted that attention
should first be paid to the Colonnesi--Prospero and Fabrizio being
secret friends of France, and their castles offering a desirable booty.
Alfonso, therefore, determined to occupy the confines of the Roman
territory on the side of the Abruzzi, while he sent his son, with the
generals Giovan Jacopo da Trivulzi and the Count of Pitigliano, into
Lombardy. They never advanced beyond Cesena, where the troops of the
Sforza, in conjunction with the French, held them at bay. The fleet
under Don Federigo sailed too late to effect the desired rising in
Genoa. The French, forewarned, had thrown 2,000 Swiss under the Baily of
Dijon and the Duke of Orleans into the city, and the Neapolitan admiral
fell back upon Leghorn. The forces of the league were further enfeebled
and divided by the necessity of leaving Virginio Orsini to check the
Colonnesi in the neighborhood of Rome. How utterly Piero de' Medici by
his folly and defection ruined what remained of the plan will be seen in
the sequel. This sluggishness in action and dismemberment of
forces--this total inability to strike a sudden blow--sealed beforehand
the success of Charles. Alfonso, a tyrant afraid of his own subjects,
Alexander, a Pope who had bought the tiara to the disgust of
Christendom, Piero, conscious that his policy was disapproved by the
Florentines, together with a parcel of egotistical petty despots, were
not the men to save a nation. Italy was conquered, not by the French
king, but by the vices of her own leaders. The whole history of
Charles's expedition is one narrative of headlong rashness triumphing
over difficulties and dangers which only the discord of tyrants and the
disorganization of peoples rendered harmless. The Atè of the gods had
descended upon Italy, as though to justify the common belief that the
expedition of Charles was divinely sustained and guided.[2]

    [1] Venice remained neutral. She had refused to side with
    Charles, on the pretext that the fear of the Turk kept her
    engaged. She declined to join the league of Alfonso by saying
    it was mad to save others at the risk of drawing the war into
    your own territory. Nothing is more striking than the want of
    patriotic sentiment or generous concurrence to a common end in
    Italy at this time. Florence, by temper and tradition favorable
    to France, had been drawn into the league by Piero de' Medici,
    whose sympathies were firm for the Aragonese princes.

    [2] This, of course, was Savonarola's prophecy. But both
    Guicciardini and De Comities use invariably the same language.
    The phrase _Dieu monstroit conduire l'entreprise_ frequently
    recurs in the _Memoirs_ of De Comines.

While Alfonso and Alexander were providing for their safety in the
South, Charles remained at Lyons, still uncertain whether he should
enter Italy by sea or land, or indeed whether he should enter it at all.
Having advanced so far as the Rhone valley, he felt satisfied with his
achievement and indulged himself in a long bout of tournaments and
pastimes. Besides, the want of money, which was to be his chief
embarrassment throughout the expedition, had already made itself
felt.[1] It was an Italian who at length roused him to make good his
purpose against Italy--Giuliano della Rovere,[2] the haughty nephew of
Sixtus, the implacable foe of Alexander, whom he was destined to succeed
in course of time upon the Papal throne. Burning to punish the Marrano,
or apostate Moor, as he called Alexander, Giuliano stirred the king with
taunts and menaces until Charles felt he could delay his march no
longer. When once the French army got under weigh, it moved rapidly.
Leaving Vienne on August 23, 1494, 3,600 men at arms, the flower of the
French chivalry, 6,000 Breton archers, 6,000 crossbowmen, 8,000 Gascon
infantry, 8,000 Swiss and German lances, crossed the Mont Genevre,
debouched on Susa, passed through Turin, and entered Asti on September
19.[3] Neither Piedmont nor Montferrat stirred to resist them. Yet at
almost any point upon the route they might have been at least delayed by
hardy mountaineers until the commissariat of so large a force had proved
an insurmountable difficulty. But before this hunchback conqueror with
the big head and little legs, the valleys had been exalted and the rough
places had been made plain. The princes whose interest it might have
been to throw obstacles in the way of Charles were but children. The
Duke of Savoy was only twelve years old, the Marquis of Montferrat
fourteen; their mothers and guardians made terms with the French king,
and opened their territories to his armies.

    [1] 'La despense de ces navires estoit fort grande, et suis
    d'advis qu'elle cousta trois cens mille francs, et si ne servit
    de rien, et y alla tout l'argent contant que le Roy peut finer
    de ses finances: car comme j'ay dit, il n'estoit point pourveu
    ne de sens, ne d'argent, oy d'autre chose nécessaire à telle
    entreprise, et si en vint bien à bout, moyennant la grâce de
    Dieu, qui clairement le donna ainsi à cognoistre.' De Comines,
    lib. vii.

    [2] Guicciardini calls him on this occasion 'fatale instrumento
    e allora e prima e poi de' mali d' Italia.' Lib. i. cap. 3.

    [3] I have followed the calculation of Sismondi (vol. vii. p.
    383), to which should be added perhaps another 10,000 in all
    attached to the artillery, and 2,000 for sappers, miners,
    carpenters, etc. See Dennistoun, _Dukes of Urbino_, vol. i. p.
    433, for a detailed list of Charles's armaments by land and

At Asti Charles was met by Lodovico Sforza and his father-in-law, Ercole
d' Este. The whole of that Milanese Court which Corio describes[1]
followed in their train. It was the policy of the Italian princes to
entrap their conqueror with courtesies, and to entangle in silken
meshes the barbarian they dreaded. What had happened already at Lyons,
what was going to repeat itself at Naples, took place at Asti. The
French king lost his heart to ladies, and confused his policy by
promises made to Delilahs in the ballroom. At Asti he fell ill of the
small-pox, but after a short time he recovered his health, and proceeded
to Pavia. Here a serious entanglement of interests arose. Charles was
bound by treaties and engagements to Lodovico and his proud wife
Beatrice d' Este; the very object of his expedition was to dethrone
Alfonso and to assume the crown of Naples; yet at Pavia he had to endure
the pathetic spectacle of his forlorn cousin[2] the young Giovanni
Galeazzo Sforza in prison, and to hear the piteous pleadings of the
beautiful Isabella of Aragon. Nursed in chivalrous traditions, incapable
of resisting a woman's tears, what was Charles to do, when this princess
in distress, the wife of his first cousin, the victim of his friend
Lodovico, the sister of his foe Alfonso, fell at his feet and besought
him to have mercy on her husband, on her brother, on herself? The
situation was indeed enough to move a stouter heart than that of the
feeble young king. For the moment Charles returned evasive answers to
his petitioners; but the trouble of his soul was manifest, and no sooner
had he set forth on his way to Piacenza than the Moor resolved to
remove the cause of further vacillation. Sending to Pavia, Lodovico had
his nephew poisoned.[3] When the news of Gian Galeazzo's death reached
the French camp, it spread terror and imbittered the mistrust which was
already springing up between the frank cavaliers and the plausible
Italians with whom they had to deal.

    [1] See above, p. 548.

    [2] The mothers of Charles VIII. and Gian Galeazzo were
    sisters, princesses of Savoy.

    [3] Sismondi does not discuss the fact minutely, but he
    inclines to believe that Gian Galeazzo was murdered. Michelet
    raises a doubt about it, though the evidence is such as he
    would have accepted without question in the case of a Borgia.
    Guicciardini, who recounts the whole matter at length, says
    that all Italy believed the Duke had been murdered, and quotes
    Teodoro da Pavia, one of the royal physicians, who attested to
    having seen clear signs of a slow poison in the young man.
    Pontano, _de Prudentiâ_, lib. 4, repeats the accusation.
    Guicciardini only doubts Lodovico's motives. He inclines to
    think the murder had been planned long before, and that Charles
    was invited into Italy in order that Lodovico might have a good
    opportunity for effecting it, while at the same time he had
    taken care to get the investiture of the Duchy from the Emperor
    ready against the event.

What was this beautiful land in the midst of which they found
themselves, a land whose marble palaces were thronged with cut-throats
in disguise, whose princes poisoned while they smiled, whose luxuriant
meadows concealed fever, whose ladies carried disease upon their lips?
To the captains and the soldiery of France, Italy already appeared a
splendid and fascinating Circe, arrayed with charms, surrounded with
illusions, hiding behind perfumed thickets her victims changed to
brutes, and building the couch of her seduction on the bones of murdered
men. Yet she was so beautiful that, halt as they might for a moment and
gaze back with yearning on the Alps that they had crossed, they found
themselves unable to resist her smile. Forward they must march through
the garden of enchantment, henceforth taking the precaution to walk with
drawn sword, and, like Orlando in Morgana's park, to stuff their casques
with roses that they might not hear the siren's voice too clearly. It
was thus that Italy began the part she played through the Renaissance
for the people of the North. _The White Devil of Italy_ is the title of
one of Webster's best tragedies. A white Devil, a radiant daughter of
sin and death, holding in her hands the fruit of the knowledge of good
and evil, and tempting the nations to eat: this is how Italy struck the
fancy of the men of the sixteenth century. She was feminine, and they
were virile; but she could teach and they must learn. She gave them
pleasure; they brought force. The fruit of her embraces with the nations
was the spirit of modern culture, the genius of the age in which we

Two terrible calamities warned the Italians with what new enemies they
had to deal. Twice at the commencement of the invasion did the French
use the sword which they had drawn to intimidate the sorceress. These
terror-striking examples were the massacres of the inhabitants of
Rapallo on the Genoese Riviera, and of Fivizzano in Lunigiana. Soldiers
and burghers, even prisoners and wounded men in the hospitals, were
butchered, first by the Swiss and German guards, and afterwards by the
French, who would not be outdone by them in energy. It was thus that the
Italians, after a century of bloodless battles and parade campaigning,
learned a new art of war, and witnessed the first act of those
Apocalyptic tragedies which were destined to drown the peninsula with
French, Spanish, German, Swiss, and native blood.

Meanwhile the French host had reached Parma, traversing, all through the
golden autumn weather, those plains where mulberry and elm are married
by festoons of vines above a billowy expanse of maize and corn. From
Parma, placed beneath the northern spurs of the Apennines, to Sarzana,
on the western coast of Italy, where the marbles of Carrara build their
barrier against the Tyrrhene Sea, there leads a winding barren mountain
pass. Charles took this route with his army, and arrived in the
beginning of November before the walls of Sarzana. Meanwhile we may well
ask what Piero de' Medici had been doing, and how he had fulfilled his
engagement with Alfonso. He had undertaken, it will be remembered, to
hold the passes of the Apennines upon this side. To have embarrassed the
French troops among those limestone mountains, thinly forested with pine
and chestnut-trees, and guarded here and there with ancient fortresses,
would have been a matter of no difficulty. With like advantages 2,000
Swiss troops during their wars of independence would have laughed to
scorn the whole forces of Burgundy and Austria. But Piero, a feeble and
false tyrant, preoccupied with Florentine factions, afraid of Lucca, and
disinclined to push forward into the territory of the Sforza, had as yet
done nothing when the news arrived that Sarzana was on the point of
capitulation. In this moment of peril he rode as fast as horses could
carry him to the French camp, besought an interview with Charles, and
then and there delivered up to him the keys of Sarzana and its citadel,
together with those of Pietra Santa, Librafratta, Pisa, and Leghorn. Any
one who has followed the sea-coast between Pisa and Sarzana can
appreciate the enormous value of these concessions to the invader. They
relieved him of the difficulty of forcing his way along a narrow belt of
land, which is hemmed in on one side by the sea and on the other by the
highest and most abrupt mountain range in Italy. To have done this in
the teeth of a resisting army and beneath the walls of hostile castles
would have been all but impossible. As it was, Piero cut the Gordian
knot by his incredible cowardice, and for himself gained only ruin and
dishonor. Charles, the foe against whom he had plotted with Alfonso and
Alexander, laughed in his face and marched at once into Pisa. The
Florentines, whom he had hitherto engaged in ah unpopular policy, now
rose in fury, expelled him from the city, sacked his palace, and erased
from their memory the name of Medici except for execration. The
unsuccessful tyrant, who had proved a traitor to his allies, to his
country, and to himself, saved his life by flying first to Bologna and
thence to Venice, where he remained in a sort of polite captivity--safe,
but a slave, until the Doge and his council saw which way affairs would

On the 9th of November Florence after a tyranny of fifty years, and Pisa
after the servitude of a century, recovered their liberties and were
able to reconstitute republican governments. But the situation of the
two states was very different. The Florentines had never lost the name
of liberty, which in Italy at that period meant less the freedom of the
inhabitants to exercise self-government than the independence of the
city in relation to its neighbors. The Pisans on the other hand had been
reduced to subjection by Florence: their civic life had been stifled,
their pride wounded in the tenderest point of honor, their population
decimated by proscription and exile. The great sin of Florence was the
enslavement of Pisa: and Pisa in this moment of anarchy burned to
obliterate her shame with bloodshed. The French, understanding none of
the niceties of Italian politics, and ignorant that in giving freedom to
Pisa they were robbing Florence of her rights, looked on with wonder at
the citizens who tossed the lion of the tyrant town into the Arno and
took up arms against its officers. It is sad to witness this last spasm
of the long-suppressed passion for liberty in the Pisans, while we know
how soon they were reduced again to slavery by the selfish sister state,
herself too thoroughly corrupt for liberty. The part of Charles, who
espoused the cause of the Pisans with blundering carelessness,
pretended to protect the new republic, and then abandoned it a few
months later to its fate, provokes nothing but the languid contempt
which all his acts inspire.

After the flight of Piero and the proclamation of Pisan liberty the King
of France was hailed as saviour of the free Italian towns. Charles
received a magnificent address from Savonarola, who proceeded to Pisa,
and harangued him as the chosen vessel of the Lord and the deliverer of
the Church from anarchy. At the same time the friar conveyed to the
French king a courteous invitation from the Florentine republic to enter
their city and enjoy their hospitality. Charles, after upsetting Piero
de' Medici with the nonchalance of a horseman in the tilting yard, and
restoring the freedom of Pisa for a caprice, remained as devoid of
policy and indifferent to the part assigned him by the prophet as he was
before. He rode, armed at all points, into Florence on November 17, and
took up his residence in the palace of the Medici. Then he informed the
elders of the city that he had come as conqueror and not as guest, and
that he intended to reserve to himself the disposition of the state.

It was a dramatic moment. Florence, with the Arno flowing through her
midst, and the hills around her gray with olive-trees, was then even
more lovely than we see her now. The whole circuit of her walls
remained, nor had their crown of towers been leveled yet to make
resistance of invading force more easy Brunelleschi's dome and Giotto's
tower and Arnolfo's Palazzo and the Loggie of Orcagna gave distinction
to her streets and squares. Her churches were splendid with frescoes in
their bloom, and with painted glass, over which as yet the injury of but
a few brief years had passed. Her palaces, that are as strong as
castles, overflowed with a population cultivated, polished, elegant,
refined, and haughty. This Florence, the city of scholars, artists,
intellectual sybarites, and citizens in whom the blood of the old
factions beat, found herself suddenly possessed as a prey of war by
flaunting Gauls in their outlandish finery, plumed Germans, kilted
Celts, and particolored Swiss. On the other hand these barbarians awoke
in a terrestrial paradise of natural and æsthetic beauty. Which of us
who has enjoyed the late gleams of autumn in Valdarno, but can picture
to himself the revelation of the inner meaning of the world,
incomprehensible yet soul-subduing, which then first dawned upon the
Breton bowmen and the bulls of Uri? Their impulse no doubt was to
pillage and possess the wealth before them, as a child pulls to pieces
the wonderful flower that has surprised it on some mountain meadow. But
in the very rudeness of desire they paid a homage to the new-found
loveliness of which they had not dreamed before.

Charles here as elsewhere showed his imbecility. He had entered and laid
hands on hospitable Florence like a foe. What would he now do with
her--reform the republic--legislate--impose a levy on the citizens, and
lead them forth to battle? No. He asked for a huge sum of money, and
began to bargain. The Florentine secretaries refused his terms. He
insisted. Then Piero Capponi snatched the paper on which they were
written, and tore it in pieces before his eyes. Charles cried: 'I shall
sound my trumpets.' Capponi answered: 'We will ring our bells.'
Beautiful as a dream is Florence; but her somber streets, overshadowed
by gigantic belfries and masked by grim brown palace-fronts, contained a
menace that the French king could not face. Let Capponi sound the
tocsin, and each house would become a fortress, the streets would be
barricaded with iron chains, every quarter would pour forth men by
hundreds well versed in the arts of civic warfare. Charles gave way,
covering with a bad joke the discomfiture he felt: _Ah, Ciappon,
Ciappon, voi siete un mal Ciappon!_ The secretaries beat down his terms.
All he cared for was to get money.[1] He agreed to content himself with
120,000 florins. A treaty was signed, and in two days he quitted

Hitherto Charles had met with no serious obstacle. His invasion had
fallen like the rain from heaven, and like rain, as far as he was
concerned, it ran away to waste. Lombardy and Tuscany, the two first
scenes in the pageant displayed by Italy before the French army, had
been left behind. Rome now lay before them, magnificent in desolation;
not the Rome which the Farnesi and Chigi and Barberini have built up
from the quarried ruins of amphitheaters and baths, but the Rome of the
Middle Ages, the city crowned with relics of a pagan past, herself still
pagan, and holding in her midst the modern Antichrist. The progress of
the French was a continued triumph. They reached Siena on the second of
December. The Duke of Urbino and the lords of Pesaro and Bologna laid
down their arms at their approach. The Orsini opened their castles:
Virginio, the captain-general of the Aragonese army and grand constable
of the kingdom of Naples, hastened to win for himself favorable terms
from the French sovereign. The Baglioni betook themselves to their own
rancors in Perugia. The Duke of Calabria retreated. Italy seemed bent on
proving that cowardice and selfishness and incapacity had conquered her.
Viterbo was gained: the Ciminian heights were traversed: the Campagna,
bounded by the Alban and the Sabine hills, with Rome, a bluish cloud
upon the lowlands of the Tiber, spread its solemn breadth of beauty at
the invader's feet. Not a blow had been struck, when he reached the
Porta del Popolo upon the 31st of December 1494. At three o'clock in the
afternoon began the entry of the French army. It was nine at night
before the last soldiers, under the flaring light of torches and
flambeaux, defiled through the gates, and took their quarters in the
streets of the Eternal City. The gigantic barbarians of the cantons,
flaunting with plumes and emblazoned surcoats, the chivalry of France,
splendid with silk mantles and gilded corselets, the Scotch guard in
their wild costume of kilt and philibeg, the scythe-like halberds of the
German lanz-knechts, the tangled elf-locks of stern-featured Bretons,
stamped an ineffaceable impression on the people of the South. On this
memorable occasion, as in a show upon some holiday, marched past before
them specimens and vanguards of all those legioned races which were soon
to be too well at home in every fair Italian dwelling-place. Nothing was
wanting to complete the symbol of the coming doom but a representative
of the grim, black, wiry infantry of Spain.

    [1] The want of money determined all Charles's operations in
    this expedition. Borrowing from Lodovico, laying requisitions
    on Piero and the Florentines, pawning the jewels of the Savoy
    princesses, he passed from place to place, bargaining and
    contracting debts instead of dictating laws and founding
    constitutions. _La carestia dei danari_ is a phrase continually
    recurring in Guicciardini. Speaking of the jewels lent to
    Charles by the royal families of Savoy and Montferrat at Turin,
    de Comines exclaims: 'Et pouvez voir quel commencement de
    guerre c'estoit, si Dieu n'eut guidé l'oeuvre.'

The Borgia meanwhile crouched within the Castle of S. Angelo. How would
the Conqueror, now styled Flagellum Dei, deal with the abomination of
desolation seated in the holy place of Christendom? At the side of
Charles were the Cardinals Ascanio Sforza and Giuliano della Rovere,
urging him to summon a council and depose the Pope. But still closer to
his ear was Briçonnet, the _ci-devant_ tradesman, who thought it would
become his dignity to wear a cardinal's hat. On this trifle turned the
destinies of Rome, the doom of Alexander, the fate of the Church.
Charles determined to compromise matters. He demanded a few fortresses,
a red hat for Briçonnet, Cesare Borgia as a hostage for four months, and
Djem, the brother of the Sultan.[1] After these agreements had been made
and ratified, Alexander ventured to leave his castle and receive the
homage of the faithful.

Charles staid* a month in Rome, and then set out for Naples. The fourth
and last scene in the Italian pageant was now to be displayed. After the
rich plain and proud cities of Lombardy, beneath their rampart of
perpetual snow; after the olive gardens and fair towns of Tuscany; after
the great name of Rome; Naples, at length, between Vesuvius and the sea,
that first station of the Greeks in Italy, world-famed for its legends
of the Sibyl and the sirens and the sorcerer Virgil, received her king.
The very names of Parthenope, Posilippo, Inarime, Sorrento, Capri, have
their fascination. There too the orange and lemon groves are more
luxuriant; the grapes yield sweeter and more intoxicating wine; the
villagers are more classically graceful; the volcanic soil is more
fertile; the waves are bluer and the sun is brighter than elsewhere in
the land. None of the conquerors of Italy have had the force to resist
the allurements of the bay of Naples. The Greeks lost their native
energy upon these shores and realized in the history of their colonies
the myth of Ulysses' comrades in the gardens of Circe. Hannibal was
tamed by Capua. The Romans in their turn dreamed away their vigor at
Baiæ, at Pompeii at Capreæ, until the whole region became a byword for
voluptuous living. Here the Saracens were subdued to mildness, and
became physicians instead of pirates. Lombards and Normans alike were
softened down, and lost their barbarous fierceness amid the enchantments
of the southern sorceress.

    [1] See above, p. 416, for the history of this unfortunate
    prince. When Alexander ceded Djem, whom he held as a captive
    for the Sultan at a yearly revenue of 40,000 ducats, he was
    under engagements with Bajazet to murder him. Accordingly Djem
    died of slow poison soon after he became the guest of Charles.
    The Borgia preferred to keep faith with the Turk.

Naples was now destined to ruin for Charles whatever nerve yet remained
to his festival army. The witch too, while brewing for the French her
most attractive potions, mixed with them a deadly poison--the virus of a
fell disease, memorable in the annals of the modern world, which was
destined to infect the nations of Europe from this center, and to prove
more formidable to our cities than even the leprosy of the Middle

    [1] Those who are curious to trace the history of the origin of
    syphilis, should study the article upon the subject in Von
    Hirsch, _Historisch-geographische Pathologie_ (Erlangen, 1860),
    and in Rosenbaum _Geschichte der Lustseuche im Alterthum_
    (Halle, 1845). Some curious contemporary observations
    concerning the rapid diffusion of the disease in Italy, its
    symptoms, and its cure, are contained in Matarazzo's _Cronaca
    di Perugia_ (_Arch. Stor. It._ vol. xvi. part ii. pp. 32-36),
    and in Portovenere (_Arch. St._ vol. vi. pt. ii. p. 338). The
    celebrated poem of Fracastorius deserves to be read both for
    its fine Latinity and for its information. One of the earliest
    works issued from the Aldine press in 1497 was the _Libellus de
    Epidemiâ quam vulgo morbum Gallicum vocant_. It was written by
    Nicolas Leoniceno, and dedicated to the Count Francesco de la

The kingdom of Naples, through the frequent uncertainty which attended
the succession to the throne, as well as the suzerainty assumed and
misused by the Popes, had been for centuries a standing cause of discord
in Italy. The dynasty which Charles now hoped to dispossess was Spanish.
After the death of Joanna II. in 1435, Alfonso, King of Aragon and
Sicily, who had no claim to the crown beyond what he derived through a
bastard branch of the old Norman dynasty, conquered Naples, expelled
Count Réné of Anjou, and established himself in this new kingdom, which
he preferred to those he had inherited by right. Alfonso, surnamed the
Magnanimous, was one of the most brilliant and romantic personages of
the fifteenth century. Historians are never weary of relating his
victories over Caldora and Francesco Sforza, the coup-de-main by which
he expelled his rival Réné, and the fascination which he exercised in
Milan, while a captive, over the jealous spirit of Filippo Maria
Visconti.[1] Scholars are no less profuse in their praises of his
virtues, the justice, humanity, religion, generosity, and culture which
rendered him pre-eminent among the princes of that splendid period.[2]
His love of learning was a passion. Whether at home in the retirement of
his palace, or in his tent during war, he was always attended by
students, who read aloud and commented on Livy, Seneca, or the Bible. No
prince was more profuse in his presents to learned men. Bartolommeo
Fazio received 500 ducats a year for the composition of his histories,
and when, at their conclusion, the scholar asked for a further gift of
200 or 300 florins, the prince bestowed upon him 1,500. The year he
died, Alfonso distributed 20,000 ducats to men of letters alone. This
immoderate liberality is the only vice of which he is accused. It bore
its usual fruits in the disorganization of finance.

    [1] Mach. _Ist. Fior._ lib. v. cap. 5. Corio, pp. 332, 333, may
    be consulted upon the difficulties which Alfonso overcame at
    the commencement of his conquest. Defeated by the Genoese near
    the Isle of Ponza, and carried a prisoner to Milan, he
    succeeded in proving to Filippo Visconti that it was more to
    his interest to have him king of Naples than to keep the French
    there. Upon, this the Duke of Milan restored him with honor to
    his throne, and confirmed him in the conquest which before he
    had successfully opposed. It is a singular instance of the
    extent to which Italian princes were controlled by policy and

    [2] Vespasiano's _Life of Alfonso_ (_Vite di Uomini Illustri_,
    pp. 48-72) is a model of agreeable composition and vivid
    delineation. It is written of course from the scholar's more
    than the politician's point of view. Compare with it Giovio,
    _Elogia_, and Pontanus, _de Liberalitate_.

The generous humanity of Alfonso endeared him greatly to the
Neapolitans. During the half-century in which so many Italian princes
succumbed to the dagger of their subjects, he, in Naples, where,
according to Pontano, 'nothing was cheaper than the life of a man,'
walked up and down unarmed and unattended. 'Why should a father fear
among his children?' he was wont to say in answer to suggestions of the
danger of this want of caution. The many splendid qualities by which he
was distinguished were enhanced rather than obscured by the romance of
his private life. Married to Margaret of Castile, he had no legitimate
children; Ferdinand, with whom he shared the government of Naples in
1443, and whom he designated as his successor in 1458, was supposed to
be his son by Margaret de Hijar. It was even whispered that this
Ferdinand was the child of Catherine the wife of Alfonso's brother
Henry, whom Margaret, to save the honor of the king, acknowledged as her
own. Whatever may have been the truth of this dark history, it was known
for certain that the queen had murdered her rival, the unhappy Margaret
de Hijar, and that Alfonso never forgave her or would look upon her from
that day. Pontano, who was Ferdinand's secretary, told a different tale.
He affirmed that the real father of the Duke of Calabria was a Marrano
of Valentia. This last story is rendered probable by the brusque
contrast between the character of Alfonso and that of Ferdinand.

It would be terrible to think that such a father could have been the
parent of such a son. In Ferdinand the instinct of liberal culture
degenerated into vulgar magnificence; courtesy and confidence gave place
to cold suspicion and brutal cruelty. His ferocity bordered upon
madness. He used to keep the victims of his hatred in cages, where their
misery afforded him the same delight as some men derived from watching
the antics of monkeys.[1] In his hunting establishment were repeated
the worst atrocities of Bernabo Visconti: wretches mutilated for neglect
of his hounds extended their handless stumps for charity to the
travelers through his villages.[2] Instead of the generosity for which
Alfonso had been famous, Ferdinand developed all the arts of avarice.
Like Sixtus IV. he made the sale of corn and oil a royal monopoly,
trafficking in the hunger of his subjects.[3] Like Alexander VI. he
fattened his viziers and secretaries upon the profits of extortion which
he shared with them, and when they were fully gorged he cut their
throats and proclaimed himself the heir through their attainder.[4]
Alfonso had been famous for his candor and sincerity. Ferdinand was a
demon of dissimulation and treachery. His murder of his guest Jacopo
Piccinino at the end of a festival, which extended over twenty-seven
days of varied entertainments, won him the applause of Machiavellian
spirits throughout Italy. It realized the ideal of treason conceived as
a fine art. Not less perfect as a specimen of diabolical cunning was the
vengeance which Ferdinand, counseled by his son Alfonso, inflicted on
the barons who conspired against him.[5] Alfonso was a son worthy of his
terrible father. The only difference between them was that Ferdinand
dissembled, while Alfonso, whose bravery at Otranto against the Turks
had surrounded him with military glory, abandoned himself with cynicism
to his passions. Sketching characters of both in the same paragraph, de
Comines writes: 'Never was man more cruel than Alfonso, nor more
vicious, nor more wicked, nor more poisonous, nor more gluttonous. His
father was more dangerous, because he could conceal his mind and even
his anger from sight; in the midst of festivity he would take and
slaughter his victims by treachery. Grace or mercy was never found in
him, nor yet compassion for his poor people. Both of them laid forcible
hands on women. In matters of the Church they observed nor reverence nor
obedience. They sold bishoprics, like that of Tarento, which Ferdinand
disposed of for 13,000 ducats to a Jew in favor of his son whom he
called a Christian.'

    [1] See Pontanus, _de Immanitate,_ Aldus, 1518, vol. 1. p. 318:
    'Ferdinandus Rex Neapolitanorum præclaros etiam viros conclusos
    carcere etiam bene atque abunde pascebat, eandem ex iis
    voluptatem capiens quam pueri e conclusis in caveâ aviculis:
    quâ de re sæpenumero sibi ipsi inter intimos suos diu multumque
    gratulatus subblanditusque in risum tandem ac cachinnos

    [2] See Pontanus, _de Immanitate_, Aldus; 1518, vol. i. p. 320:
    'Ferd. R.N. qui cervum aprumve occidissent furtimve palamve,
    alios remo addixit, alios manibus mutilavit, alios suspendio
    affecit: agros quoque serendos inderdixit dominis, legendasque
    aut glandes aut poma, quæ servari quidem volebat in escam
    feris ad venationis suæ usum.'

    [3] Caracciolo, _de Varietate Fortunæ_, Muratori, vol. xxii. p.
    87, exposes this system in a passage which should be compared
    with Infessura on the practices of Sixtus. De Comines, lib.
    vii. cap. 11, may be read with profit on the same subject.

    [4] See Caracciolo, loc. cit. pp. 88, 89, concerning the
    judicial murder of Francesco Coppola and Antonello Perucci,
    both of whom had been raised to eminence by Ferdinand, used
    through their lives as the instruments of his extortion, and
    murdered by him in their rich old age.

    [5] See De Comines, lib. vii. cap. 11; Sismondi, vol. vii. p.
    229. Read also the short account of the massacre of the Barons
    given in the _Chronicon Venetum_, Muratori, xxiv. p. 15, where
    the intense loathing felt throughout Italy for Ferdinand and
    his son Alfonso is powerfully expressed.

This kind of tyranny carried in itself its own death-warrant. It needed
not the voice of Savonarola to proclaim that God would revenge the
crimes of Ferdinand by placing a new sovereign on his throne. It was
commonly believed that the old king died in 1494 of remorse and
apprehension, when he knew that the French expedition could no longer be
delayed. Alfonso, for his part, bold general in the field and able man
of affairs as he might be, found no courage to resist the conqueror. It
is no fiction of a poet or a moralist, but plain fact of history, that
this King of Naples, grandson of the great Alfonso and father of the
Ferdinand to be, quailed before the myriads of accusing dead that rose
to haunt his tortured fancy in the supreme hour of peril. The chambers
of his palace in Naples were thronged with ghosts by battalions, pale
specters of the thousands he had reduced to starvation, bloody phantoms
of the barons he had murdered after nameless tortures, thin wraiths of
those who had wasted away in dungeons under his remorseless rule. The
people around his gates muttered in rebellion. He abdicated in favor of
his son, took ship for Sicily, and died there conscience-stricken in a
convent ere the year was out.

Ferdinand, a brave youth, beloved by the nation in spite of his father's
and grandfather's tyranny, reigned in his stead. Yet even for him the
situation was untenable. Everywhere he was beset by traitors--by his
whole army at San Germano, by Trivulzi at Capua, by the German guide at
Naples. Without soldiers, without allies, with nothing to rely upon but
the untried goodwill of subjects who had just reason to execrate his
race, and with the conquerors of Italy advancing daily through his
states, retreat alone was left to him. After abandoning his castles to
pillage, burning the ships in the harbor of Naples, and setting Don
Federigo together with the Queen dowager and the princess Joanna upon a
quick-sailing galley, Ferdinand bade farewell to his kingdom. Historians
relate that as the shore receded from his view he kept intoning in a
loud voice this verse of the 127th Psalm: 'Except the Lord keep the
city, the watchman waketh but in vain.' Between the beach of Naples and
the rocky shore of Ischia, for which the exiles were bound, there is
only the distance of some seventeen miles. It was in February, a month
of mild and melancholy sunshine in those southern regions, when the
whole bay of Naples with its belt of distant hills is wont to take one
tint of modulated azure, that the royal fugitives performed this voyage.
Over the sleeping sea they glided; while from the galley's stern the
king with a voice as sad as Boabdil's when he sat down to weep for
Granada, cried: 'Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but
in vain.'

There was no want of courage in the youth. By his simple presence he had
intimidated a mob of rebels in Naples. By the firmness of his carriage
he subdued the insolent governor of Ischia, and made himself master of
the island. There he waited till the storm was overpast. Ten times more
a man than Charles, he watched the French king depart from Naples
leaving scarcely a rack behind--some troops decimated by disease and
unnerved by debauchery, and a general or two without energy or vigor.
Then he returned and entered on a career of greater popularity than
could have been enjoyed by him if the French had never made the fickle
race of Naples feel how far more odious is a foreign than a familiar

Charles entered Naples as a conqueror or liberator on February 22, 1495.
He was welcomed and fêted by the Neapolitans, than whom no people are
more childishly delighted with a change of masters. He enjoyed his usual
sports, and indulged in his usual love-affairs. With suicidal insolence
and want of policy he alienated the sympathies of the noble families by
dividing the titles, offices, and fiefs of the kingdom among his
retinue.[2] Without receiving so much as a provisional investiture from
the Pope, he satisfied his vanity by parading on May 12 as sovereign,
with a ball in one hand and a scepter in the other, through the city.
Then he was forced to return upon his path and to seek France with the
precipitancy he had shown in gaining Naples. Alexander, who was witty,
said the French had conquered Italy with lumps of chalk and wooden
spurs, because they rode unarmed in slippers and sent couriers before
them to select their quarters. It remained to be seen that the
achievements of this conquest could be effaced as easily as a chalk mark
is rubbed out, or a pair of wooden spurs are broken.

    [1] The misfortunes and the bravery of this young prince
    inspire a deep feeling of interest. It is sad to read that
    after recovering his kingdom in 1496, he died in his
    twenty-eighth year, worn out with fatigue and with the
    pleasures of his marriage to his aunt Joanna, whom he loved too
    passionately. His uncle Frederick, the brother of Alfonso II.,
    succeeded to the throne. Thus in three years Naples had five

    [2] 'Tous estats et offices furent donnez aux François, à deux
    ou trois,' says De Comines.

While Charles was amusing himself at Naples, a storm was gathering in
his rear. A league against him had been formed in April by the great
powers of Europe. Venice, alarmed for the independence of Italy, and
urged by the Sultan, who had reason to dread Charles VIII.,[1] headed
the league. Lodovico, now that he had attained his selfish object in the
quiet position of Milan, was anxious for his safety. The Pope still
feared a general council. Maximilian, who could not forget the slight
put upon him in the matter of his daughter and his bride, was willing to
co-operate against his rival. Ferdinand and Isabella, having secured
themselves in Roussillon, thought it behooved them to re-establish
Spaniards of their kith and kin in Naples. Each of the contracting
parties had his rôle assigned to him. Spain undertook to aid Ferdinand
of Aragon in Calabria. Venice was to attack the seaports of the
kingdom; Lodovico Sforza, to occupy Asti; the King of the Romans, to
make a diversion in the North. Florence alone, though deeply injured by
Charles in the matter of Pisa, kept faith with the French.

    [1] Charles, by an act dated A.D. 1494, September 6, had bought
    the title of Emperor of Constantinople and Trebizond from
    Andrew Palæologus (see Gibbon, vol. viii. p. 183, ed. Milman).
    When he took Djem from Alexander in Rome, his object was to
    make use of him in a war against Bajazet; and the Pope was
    always impressing on the Turk the peril of a Frankish crusade.

The danger was imminent. Already Ferdinand the Catholic had disembarked
troops on the shore of Sicily, and was ready to throw an army into the
ports of Reggio and Tropea. Alexander had refused to carry out his
treaty by the surrender of Spoleto. Cesare Borgia had escaped from the
French camp. The Lombards were menacing Asti, which the Duke of Orleans
held, and without the possession of which there was no safe return to
France. Asti indeed at this juncture would have fallen, and Charles
would have been caught in a trap, if the Venetians had only been quick
or wary enough to engage German mercenaries.[1] The danger of the
situation may best be judged by reading the Memoirs of De Comines, who
was then ambassador at Venice. 'The league was concluded very late one
evening. The next morning the Signory sent for me earlier than usual.
They were assembled in great numbers, perhaps a hundred or more, and
held their heads high, made a good cheer, and had not the same
countenance as on the day when they told me of the capture of the
citadel of Naples.[2] My heart was heavy, and I had grave doubts about
the person of the king and about all his company; and I thought their
scheme more ripe than it really was, and feared they might have Germans
ready; and if it had been so, never could the king have got safe out of
Italy.' Nevertheless De Comines put a brave face on the matter, and told
the council that he had already received information of the league and
had sent dispatches to his master on the subject.[3] 'After dinner,'
continues De Comines, 'all the ambassadors of the league met for an
excursion on the water, which is the chief recreation at Venice, where
every one goes according to the retinue he keeps, or at the expense of
the Signory. There may have been as many as forty gondolas, all bearing
displayed the arms of their masters upon banners. I saw the whole of
this company pass before my windows, and there were many minstrels on
board. Those of Milan, one at least of them who had often kept my
company, put on a brave face not to know me; and for three days I
remained without going forth into the town, nor my people, nor was there
all that time a single courteous word said to me or to any of my

    [1] See De Comines, lib. vii. cap. 15, pp. 78, 79.

    [2] De Comines' account of the alarm felt at Venice on that
    occasion is very graphic: 'They sent for me one morning, and I
    found them to the number of fifty or sixty in the Doge's
    bedchamber, for he was ill of colic; and there he told me the
    news with a good countenance. But none of the company knew so
    well how to feign as he. Some were seated on a wooden bench,
    leaning their heads on their hands, and others otherwise; and
    all showed great heaviness at heart. I think that when the news
    reached Rome of the battle of Cannæ, the senators were not more
    confounded or frightened.'

    [3] Bembo, in his _Venetian History_ (lib. ii. p. 32), tells a
    different tale. He represents De Comines quite unnerved by the

Returning northward by the same route, Charles passed Rome and reached
Siena on June 13. The Pope had taken refuge, first at Orvieto, and
afterwards at Perugia, on his approach; but he made no concessions.
Charles could not obtain from him an investiture of the kingdom he
pretended to have conquered, while he had himself to surrender the
fortresses of Civita Vecchia and Terracina. Ostia alone remained in the
clutch of Alexander's implacable enemy, the Cardinal della Rovere. In
Tuscany the Pisan question was again opened. The French army desired to
see the liberties of Pisa established on a solid basis before they
quitted Italy. On their way to Naples the misfortunes of that ancient
city had touched them: now on their return they were clamorous that
Charles should guarantee its freedom. But to secure this object was an
affair of difficulty. The forces of the league had already taken the
field, and the Duke of Orleans was being besieged in Novara. The
Florentines, jealous of the favor shown, in manifest infringement of
their rights, to citizens whom they regarded as rebellious bondsmen,
assumed an attitude of menace. Charles could only reply with vague
promises to the solicitations of the Pisans, strengthen the French
garrisons in their fortresses, and march forward as quickly as possible
into the Apennines. The key of the pass by which he sought to regain
Lombardy is the town of Pontremoli. Leaving that in ashes on June 29,
the French army, distressed for provisions and in peril among those
melancholy hills, pushed onward with all speed. They knew that the
allied forces, commanded by the Marquis of Mantua, were waiting for them
at the other side upon the Taro, near the village of Fornovo. Here, if
anywhere, the French ought to have been crushed. They numbered about
9,000 men in all, while the allies were close upon 40,000. The French
were weary with long marches, insufficient food, and bad lodgings. The
Italians were fresh and well cared for. Yet in spite of all this, in
spite of blind generalship and total blundering, Charles continued to
play his part of fortune's favorite to the end. A bloody battle, which
lasted for an hour, took place upon the banks of the Taro.[1] The
Italians suffered so severely that, though they still far outnumbered
the French, no persuasions could make them rally and renew the fight.
Charles in his own person ran great peril during this battle; and when
it was over, he had still to effect his retreat upon Asti in the teeth
of a formidable army. The good luck of the French and the dilatory
cowardice of their opponents saved them now again for the last time.

    [1] The action at Fornovo lasted a quarter of an hour,
    according to De Comines. The pursuit of the Italians occupied
    about three quarters of an hour more. Unaccustomed to the quick
    tactics of the French, the Italians, when once broken,
    persisted in retreating upon Reggio and Parma. The Gonzaghi
    alone distinguished themselves for obstinate courage, and lost
    four or five members of their princely house. The Stradiots,
    whose scimitars ought to have dealt rudely with the heavy
    French men-at-arms, employed their time in pillaging the Royal
    pavilion, very wisely abandoned to their avarice by the French
    captains. To such an extent were military affairs misconstrued
    in Italy, that, on the strength of this brigandage, the
    Venetians claimed Fornovo for a victory. See my essay
    'Fornovo,' in _Sketches and Studies in Italy_, for a
    description of the ground on which the battle was fought.

On July 15, Charles at the head of his little force marched into Asti
and was practically safe. Here the young king continued to give signal
proofs of his weakness. Though he knew that the Duke of Orleans was hard
pressed in Novara, he made no effort to relieve him; nor did he attempt
to use the 20,000 Switzers who descended from their Alps to aid him in
the struggle with the league. From Asti he removed to Turin, where he
spent his time in flirting with Anna Soléri, the daughter of his host.
This girl had been sent to harangue him with a set oration, and had
fulfilled her task, in the words of an old witness, 'without wavering,
coughing, spitting, or giving way at all.' Her charms delayed the king
in Italy until October 19, when he signed a treaty at Vercelli with the
Duke of Milan. At this moment Charles might have held Italy in his
grasp. His forces, strengthened by the unexpected arrival of so many
Switzers, and by a junction with the Duke of Orleans, would have been
sufficient to overwhelm the army of the league, and to intimidate the
faction of Ferdinand in Naples. Yet so light-minded was Charles, and so
impatient were his courtiers, that he now only cared for a quick return
to France. Reserving to himself the nominal right of using Genoa as a
naval station, he resigned that town to Lodovico Sforza, and confirmed
him in the tranquil possession of his Duchy. On October 22 he left
Turin, and entered his own dominions through the Alps of Dauphiné.
Already his famous conquest of Italy was reckoned among the wonders of
the past, and his sovereignty over Naples had become the shadow of a
name. He had obtained for himself nothing but momentary glory, while he
imposed on France a perilous foreign policy, and on Italy the burden of
bloody warfare in the future.

A little more than a year had elapsed between the first entry of Charles
into Lombardy and his return to France. Like many other brilliant
episodes of history, this conquest, so showy and so ephemeral, was more
important as a sign than as an actual event. 'His passage,' says
Guicciardini, 'was the cause not only of change in states, downfalls of
kingdoms, desolations of whole districts, destructions of cities,
barbarous butcheries; but also of new customs, new modes of conduct, new
and bloody habits of war, diseases hitherto unknown. The organization
upon which the peace and harmony of Italy depended was so upset that,
since that time, other foreign nations and barbarous armies have been
able to trample her under foot and to ravage her at pleasure.' The only
error of Guicciardini is the assumption that the holiday excursion of
Charles VIII. was in any deep sense the cause of these calamities.[1]
In truth the French invasion opened a new era for the Italians, but only
in the same sense as a pageant may form the prelude to a tragedy. Every
monarch of Europe, dazzled by the splendid display of Charles and
forgetful of its insignificant results, began to look with greedy eyes
upon the wealth of the peninsula. The Swiss found in those rich
provinces an inexhaustible field for depredation. The Germans, under the
pretense of religious zeal, gave a loose rein to their animal appetites
in the metropolis of Christendom. France and Spain engaged in a duel to
the death for the possession of so fair a prey. The French, maddened by
mere cupidity, threw away those chances which the goodwill of the race
at large afforded them.[2] Louis XII. lost himself in petty intrigues,
by which he finally weakened his own cause to the profit of the Borgias
and Austria. Francis I. foamed his force away like a spent wave at
Marignano and Pavia. The real conqueror of Italy was Charles V. Italy in
the sixteenth century was destined to receive the impress of the Spanish
spirit, and to bear the yoke of Austrian dukes. Hand in hand with
political despotism marched religious tyranny. The Counter-Reformation
over which the Inquisition presided, was part and parcel of the Spanish
policy for the enslavement of the nation no less than for the
restoration of the Church. Meanwhile the weakness, discord, egotism, and
corruption which prevented the Italians from resisting the French
invasion in 1494, continued to increase. Instead of being lessoned by
experience, Popes, Princes, and Republics vied with each other in
calling in the strangers, pitting Spaniard against Frenchman, and paying
the Germans to expel the Swiss, oblivious that each new army of
foreigners they summoned was in reality a new swarm of devouring
locusts. In the midst of this anarchy it is laughable to hear the shrill
voice of priests, like Julius and Leo, proclaiming before God their vows
to rid Italy of the barbarians. The confusion was tenfold confounded
when the old factions of Guelf and Ghibelline put on a new garb of
French and Spanish partisanship. Town fought with town and family with
family, in the cause of strangers whom they ought to have resisted with
one will and steady hatred. The fascination of fear and the love of
novelty alike swayed the fickle population of Italian cities. The
foreign soldiers who inflicted on the nation such cruel injuries made a
grand show in their streets, and there will always be a mob so childish
as to covet pageants at the expense of freedom and even of safety.

    [1] Guicciardini's _Dialogo del Reggimento di Firenze_ (_Op.
    Ined._ vol. ii. p. 94) sets forth the state of internal anarchy
    and external violence which followed the departure of Charles
    VIII., with wonderful acuteness. 'Se per sorte l' uno
    Oltramontano caccerà l' altro, Italia resterà in estrema
    servitù,' is an exact prophecy of what happened before the end
    of the sixteenth century, when Spain had beaten France in the
    duel for Italy.

    [2] Matarazzo, in his _Cronaca della Città di Perugia_ (_Arch.
    St._, vol. xvi. part 2, p. 23), gives a lively picture of the
    eagerness with which the French were greeted in 1495, and of
    the wanton brutality by which they soon alienated the people.
    In this he agrees almost textually with De Comines, who writes:
    'Le peuple nous advouoit comme Saincts, estimans en nous toute
    foy et bonté; mais ce propos ne leur dura gueres, tant pour
    nostre desordre et pillerie, et qu'aussi les ennemis
    oppreschoient le peuple en tous quartiers,' etc., lib. vii.
    cap. 6. In the first paragraph of the _Chronicon Venetum_
    (_Muratori_, vol. xxlv. p. 5), we read concerning the advent of
    Charles: 'I popoli tutti dicevano _Benedictus qui venit in
    nomine Domini_. Nè v'era alcuno che li potesse contrastare, nè
    resistere, tanto era da tutti i popoli Italiani chiamato.' The
    Florentines, as burghers of a Guelf city, were always loyal to
    the French. Besides, their commerce with France (_e.g._ the
    wealth of Filippo Strozzi) made it to their interest to favor
    the cause of the French. See Guicc. i. 2, p. 62. This loyalty
    rose to enthusiasm under the influence of Savonarola, survived
    the stupidities of Charles VIII. and Louis XII., and committed
    the Florentines in 1328 to the perilous policy of expecting aid
    from Francis I.

In spite of its transitory character the invasion of Charles VIII.,
therefore, was a great fact in the history of the Renaissance. It was,
to use the pregnant phrase of Michelet, no less than the revelation of
Italy to the nations of the North. Like a gale sweeping across a forest
of trees in blossom, and bearing their fertilizing pollen, after it has
broken and deflowered their branches, to far-distant trees that hitherto
have bloomed in barrenness, the storm of Charles's army carried far and
wide through Europe thought-dust, imperceptible, but potent to enrich
the nations. The French alone, says Michelet, understood Italy. How
terrible would have been a conquest by Turks with their barbarism, of
Spaniards with their Inquisition, of Germans with their brutality! But
France, impressible, sympathetic, ardent for pleasure, generous, amiable
and vain, was capable of comprehending the Italian spirit. From the
Italians the French communicated to the rest of Europe what we call the
movement of the Renaissance. There is some truth in this panegyric of
Michelet's. The passage of the army of Charles VIII. marks a
turning-point in modern history, and from this epoch dates the diffusion
of a spirit of culture over Europe. But Michelet forgets to notice that
the French never rightly understood their vocation with regard to Italy.
They had it in their power to foster that free spirit which might have
made her a nation capable, in concert with France, of resisting Charles
V. Instead of doing so, they pursued the pettiest policy of avarice and
egotism. Nor did they prevent that Spanish conquest the horrors of which
their historian has so eloquently described. Again, we must remember
that it was the Spaniards and not the French who saved Italy from being
barbarized by the Turk.

For the historian of Italy it is sad and humiliating to have to
acknowledge that her fate depended wholly on the action of more powerful
nations, that she lay inert and helpless at the discretion of the
conqueror in the duels between Spain and France and Spain and Islam. Yet
this is the truth. It would seem that those peoples to whom we chiefly
owe advance in art and knowledge, are often thus the captives of their
intellectual inferiors. Their spiritual ascendency is purchased at the
expense of political solidity and national prosperity. This was the case
with Greece, with Judah, and with Italy. The civilization of the
Italians, far in advance of that of other European nations, unnerved
them in the conflict with robust barbarian races. Letters and the arts
and the civilities of life were their glory. 'Indolent princes and most
despicable arms' were their ruin. Whether the Renaissance of the modern
world would not have been yet more brilliant if Italy had remained free,
who shall say? The very conditions which produced her culture seem to
have rendered that impossible.



_Blood-madness_. See Chapter iii, p. 109.

One of the most striking instances afforded by history of Hæmatomania in
a tyrant is Ibrahim ibn Ahmed, prince of Africa and Sicily (A.D. 875).
This man, besides displaying peculiar ferocity in his treatment of
enemies and prisoners of war, delighted in the execution of horrible
butcheries within the walls of his own palace. His astrologers having
once predicted that he should die by the hands of a 'small assassin,' he
killed off the whole retinue of his pages, and filled up their places
with a suit of negroes whom he proceeded to treat after the same
fashion. On another occasion, when one of his three hundred eunuchs had
by chance been witness of the tyrant's drunkenness, Ibrahim slaughtered
the whole band. Again, he is said to have put an end to sixty youths,
originally selected for his pleasures, burning them by gangs of five or
six in the furnace, or suffocating them in the hot chambers of his
baths. Eight of his brothers were murdered in his presence; and when
one, who was so diseased that he could scarcely stir, implored to be
allowed to end his days in peace, Ibrahim answered: 'I make no
exceptions.' His own son Abul-Aghlab was beheaded by his orders before
his eyes; and the execution of chamberlains, secretaries, ministers, and
courtiers was of common occurrence. But his fiercest fury was directed
against women. He seems to have been darkly jealous of the perpetuation
of the human race. Wives and concubines were strangled, sawn asunder,
and buried alive, if they showed signs of pregnancy. His female children
were murdered as soon as they saw the light; sixteen of them, whom his
mother managed to conceal and rear at her own peril, were massacred upon
the spot when Ibrahim discovered whom they claimed as father.
Contemporary Arab chroniclers, pondering upon the fierce and gloomy
passions of this man, arrived at the conclusion that he was the subject
of a strange disease, a portentous secretion of black bile producing the
melancholy which impelled him to atrocious crimes. Nor does the
principle on which this diagnosis of his case was founded appear
unreasonable. Ibrahim was a great general, an able ruler, a man of firm
and steady purpose; not a weak and ineffectual libertine whom lust for
blood and lechery had placed below the level of brute beasts. When the
time for his abdication arrived, he threw aside his mantle of state and
donned the mean garb of an Arab devotee, preached a crusade, and led an
army into Italy, where he died of dysentery before the city of Cosenza.
The only way of explaining his eccentric thirst for slaughter is to
suppose that it was a dark monomania, a form of psychopathy analogous to
that which we find in the Maréchal de Retz and the Marquise de
Brinvilliers. One of the most marked symptoms of this disease was the
curiosity which led him to explore the entrails of his victims, and to
feast his eyes upon their quivering hearts. After causing his first
minister Ibn-Semsâma to be beaten to death, he cut his body open, and
with his own knife sliced the brave man's heart. On another occasion he
had 500 prisoners brought before him. Seizing a sharp lance he first
explored the region of the ribs, and then plunged the spear-point into
the heart of each victim in succession. A garland of these hearts was
made and hung up on the gate of Tunis. The Arabs regarded the heart as
the seat of thought in man, the throne of the will, the center of
intellectual existence. In this preoccupation with the hearts of his
victims we may therefore trace the jealousy of human life which Ibrahim
displayed in his murder of pregnant women, as well as a tyrant's fury
against the organ which had sustained his foes in their resistance. We
can only comprehend the combination of sanguinary lust with Ibrahim's
vigorous conduct of civil and military affairs, on the hypothesis that
this man-tiger, as Amari, to whom I owe these details, calls him, was
possessed with a specific madness.


_Nardi, Istorie di Firenze, lib. i. cap. 4._ See Chap. iv. p. 195.

After the freedom regained by the expulsion of the Duke of Athens and
the humbling of the nobles, regularity for the future in the government
might have been expected, since a very great equality among the burghers
had been established in consequence of those troubles. The city too had
been divided into quarters, and the supreme magistracy of the republic
assigned to the eight priors, called _Signori Priori di libertá_,
together with the Gonfalonier of Justice. The eight priors were chosen,
two for each quarter; the Gonfalonier, their chief, differed in no
respect from his colleagues save in precedence of dignity; and as the
fourth part of the honors pertained to the members of the lesser arts,
their turn kept coming round to that quarter to which the Gonfalonier
belonged. This magistracy remained for two whole months, always living
and sleeping in the Palace; in order that, according to the notion of
our ancestors, they might be able to attend with greater diligence to
the affairs of the commonwealth, in concert with their colleagues, who
were the sixteen gonfaloniers of the companies of the people, and the
twelve _buoni uomini_, or special advisers of the Signory. These
magistrates collectively in one body were called the College, or else
the Signory and the Colleagues. After this magistracy came the Senate;
the number of which varied, and the name of which was altered several
times up to the year 1494, according to circumstances. The larger
councils, whose business it was to discuss and make the laws and all
provisions both general and particular, were until that date two; the
one called the Council of the people, formed only by the _cittadini
popolani_, and the other the Council of the Commune, because it embraced
both nobles and plebeians from the-date of the formation of these
councils.[1] The appointment of the magistrates, which of old times and
under the best and most equitable governments was made on the occasion
of each election, in this more modern period was consigned to a special
council called _Squittino_.[2] The mode and act of the election was
termed _Squittinare_, which is equivalent to Scrutinium in the Latin
tongue, because minute investigation was made into the qualities of the
eligible burghers. This method, however, tended greatly to corrupt the
good manners of the city, inasmuch as, the said scrutiny being made
every three or five years, and not on each occasion, as would have been
right, considering the present quality of the burghers and the badness
of the times, those who had once obtained their nomination and been put
into the purses thereto appointed, being certain to arrive some time at
the honors and offices for which they were designed, became careless and
negligent of good customs in their lives. The proper function of the
Gonfaloniers was, in concert with their Gonfalons and companies, to
defend with arms the city from perils foreign and civil, when occasion
rose, and to control the fire-guards specially deputed by that
magistracy in four convenient stations. All the laws and provisions, as
well private as public, proposed by the Signory, had to be approved and
carried by that College, then by the Senate, and lastly by the Councils
named above. Notwithstanding this rule, everything of high importance
pertaining to the state was discussed and carried into execution during
the whole time that the Medici administered the city by the Council
vulgarly called _Balia_, composed of men devoted to that government.
While the Medici held sway, the magistracy of the _Dieci della Guerra_
or of Liberty and Peace were superseded by the _Otto della Pratica_ in
the conduct of all that concerned wars, truces, and treaties of peace,
in obedience to the will of the chief agents of that government. The
_Otto di guardia e balia_ were then as now delegated to criminal
business, but they were appointed by the fore-named Council of Balia,
or rather such authority and commission was assigned them by the
Signory, and this usage was afterwards continued on their entry into
office. Let this suffice upon these matters. Now the burghers who have
the right of discussing and determining the affairs of the republic were
and still are called privileged, _beneficiati_ or _statuali_, of that
quality and condition to which, according to the laws of our city, the
government belongs; in other words they are eligible for office, as
distinguished from those who have not this privilege. Consequently the
_benefiziati_ and _statuali_ of Florence correspond to the
_gentiluomini_ of Venice. Of these burghers there were about 400
families or houses, but at different times the number was larger, and
before the plague of 1527 they made up a total of about 4,000 citizens
eligible for the Consiglio Grande. During the period of freedom between
1494 and 1512 the other or nonprivileged citizens could be elevated to
this rank of enfranchisement according as they were judged worthy by the
Council: at the present time they gain the same distinction by such
merits as may be pleasing to the ruler of the city for the time being:
our commonwealth from the year 1433 having been governed according to
the will of its own citizens, though one faction has from time to time
prevailed over another, and though before that date the republic was
distressed and shaken by the divisions which affected the whole of
Italy, and by many others which are rather to be reckoned as sedition
peculiar and natural to free cities. Seeing that men by good and evil
arts in combination are always striving to attain the summit of human
affairs, together also with the favor of fortune, who ever insists on
having her part in our actions.

    [1] Lorenzo de' Medici superseded these two councils by the
    Council of the Seventy, without, however, suppressing them.

    [2] A corruption of Scrutinio.

_Varchi: Storia Fiorentina, lib. iii. caps. 20, 21, 22._

The whole city of Florence is divided into four quarters, the first of
which takes in the whole of that part which is now called Beyond the
Arno, and the chief church of the district gives it the name of Santo
Spirito. The other three, which embrace all that is called This side the
Arno, also take their names from their chief churches, and are the
Quarters of Sta. Croce, Sta. Maria Novella, and San Giovanni. Each of
these four quarters is divided into four gonfalons, named after the
different animals or other things they carry painted on their ensigns.
The quarter of Santo Spirito includes the gonfalons of the Ladder, the
Shell, the Whip, and the Dragon; that of Santa Croce, the Car, the Ox,
the Golden Lion, and the Wheels; that of Santa Maria Novella, the Viper,
the Unicorn, the Red Lion, and the White Lion; that of San Giovanni, the
Black Lion, the Dragon, the Keys, and the Vair. Now all the households
and families of Florence are included and classified under these four
quarters and sixteen gonfalons, so that there is no burgher of Florence
who does not rank in one of the four quarters and one of the sixteen
gonfalons. Each gonfalon had its standard-bearer, who carried the
standard like captains of bands; and their chief office was to run with
arms whenever they were called by the Gonfalonier of Justice, and to
defend, each under his own ensign, the palace of the Signory, and to
fight for the people's liberty; wherefore they were called Gonfaloniers
of the companies of the people, or, more briefly, from their number, the
Sixteen. Now since they never assembled by themselves alone, seeing that
they could not propose or carry any measure without the Signory, they
were also called the Colleagues, that is, the companions of the Signory,
and their title was venerable. This, after the Signory, was the first
and most honorable magistracy of Florence; and after them came the
Twelve Buonuomini, also called, for the like reason, Colleagues. So the
Signory with the Gonfalonier of Justice, the Sixteen, and the Twelve
were called the Three Greater. No man was said to have the franchise
(_aver lo stato_), and in consequence to frequent the council, or to
exercise any office, whose grandfather or father had not occupied or
been passed for (_seduto o veduto_) one of these three magistracies. To
be passed (_veduto_) Gonfalonier or Colleague meant this: when a man's
name was drawn from the purse of the Gonfaloniers or of the College to
exercise the office of Gonfalonier or Colleague, but by reason of being
below the legal age, or for some other cause, he never sat himself upon
the Board or was in fact Gonfalonier or Colleague, he was then said to
have been passed; and this held good of all the other magistracies of
the city.

It should also be known that all the Florentine burghers were obliged to
rank in one of the twenty-one arts: that is, no one could be a burgher
of Florence unless he or his ancestors had been approved and
matriculated in one of these arts, whether they practiced it or no.
Without the proof of such matriculation he could not be drawn for any
office, or exercise any magistracy, or even have his name put into the
bags. The arts were these: i. Judges and Notaries (for the doctors of
the law were styled of old in Florence Judges); Merchants, or the Arts
of; ii. Calimala,[1] iii. Exchange, iv. Wool; Porta Santa Maria, or the
Arts of; v. Silk; vi. Physicians and Apothecaries; vii. Furriers. The
others were viii. Butchers, ix. Shoemakers, x. Blacksmiths, xi.
Linen-drapers and Clothesmen, xii. Masters, or Masons, and
Stone-cutters, xiii. Vintners, xiv. Innkeepers, xv. Oilsellers,
Pork-butchers, and Rope-makers, xvi. Hosiers, xvii. Armorers, xviii.
Locksmiths, xix. Saddlers, xx. Carpenters, xxi. Bakers. The last
fourteen were called Lesser Arts; whoever was enrolled or matriculated
into one of these was said to rank with the lesser (_andare per la
minore_); and though there were in Florence many other trades than
these, yet having no guild of their own they were associated to one or
other of those that I have named. Each art had, as may still be seen, a
house or mansion, large and noble, where they assembled, appointed
officers, and gave account of debit and credit to all the members of the
guild.[2] In processions and other public assemblies the heads (for so
the chiefs of the several arts were called) had their place and
precedence in order. Moreover, these arts at first had each an ensign
for the defense, on occasion, of liberty with arms. Their origin was
when the people in 1282 overcame the nobles (_Grandi_), and passed the
Ordinances of Justice against them, whereby no nobleman could exercise
any magistracy; so that such of the patricians as desired to be able to
hold office had to enter the ranks of the people, as did many great
houses of quality, and matriculate into one of the arts. Which thing,
while it partly allayed the civil strife of Florence, almost wholly
extinguished all noble feeling in the souls of the Florentines; and the
power and haughtiness of the city were no less abated than the insolence
and pride of the nobles, who since then have never lifted up their heads
again. These arts, the greater as well as the lesser, have varied in
numbers at different times; and often have not only been rivals, but
even foes, among themselves; so much so that the lesser arts once got it
passed that the Gonfalonier should be appointed only from their body.
Yet after long dispute it was finally settled that the Gonfalonier could
not be chosen from the lesser, but that he should always rank with the
greater, and that in all other offices and magistracies, the lesser
should always have a fourth and no more. Consequently, of the eight
Priors, two were always of the lesser; of the Twelve, three; of the
Sixteen, four; and so on through all the magistracies.

    [1] The name Calimala was given to a trade in cloth carried on
    at Florence by merchants who bought rough goods in France,
    Flanders, and England, and manufactured them into more delicate

    [2] Marco Foscari, quoted lower down, estimates the property
    the Arts at 200,000 ducats.

As a consequence from what has been said, it is easy to perceive that
all the inhabitants of Florence (by inhabitants I mean those only who
are really settled there, for of strangers, who are passing or
sojourning a while, we need not here take any account) are of two sorts.
The one class are liable to taxation in Florence, that is, they pay
tithes of their goods and are inscribed upon the books of the Commune,
and these are called contributors. The others are not taxed nor
inscribed upon the registers of the Commune, inasmuch as they do not pay
the tithes or other ordinary imposts; and these are called
non-contributors: who, seeing that they live by their hands, and carry
on mechanical arts and the vilest trades, should be called plebeians;
and though they have ruled Florence more than once, ought not even to
entertain a thought about public affairs in a well-governed state. The
contributors are of two sorts: for some, while they pay the taxes, do
not enjoy the citizenship (_i.e._ cannot attend the council or take any
office); either because none of their ancestors, and in particular their
father or their grandfather, has sat or been passed for any of the three
greater magistracies; or else because they have not had themselves
submitted to the scrutiny,[1] or, if they have advanced so far, have not
been approved and nominated for office. These are indeed entitled
citizens: but he who knows what a citizen is really, knows also that,
being unable to share either the honors or the advantages of the city,
they are not truly citizens; therefore let us call them burghers,
without franchise. Those again who pay taxes and enjoy the citizenship
(whom we will therefore call enfranchised burghers) are in like manner
of two kinds. The one class, inscribed and matriculated into one of the
seven first arts, are said to rank with the greater; whence we may call
them Burghers of the Greater: the others, inscribed and matriculated
into the fourteen lesser arts, are said to rank with the lesser; whence
we may call them Burghers of the Lesser. This distinction had the
Romans, but not for the same reason.

_Varchi: Storia Fiorentina, lib. ix. chs. 48, 49, 46._

As for natural abilities, I for my part cannot believe that any one
either could or ought to doubt that the Florentines, even if they do
not excel all other nations, are at least inferior to none in those
things to which they give their minds. In trade, whereon of a truth
their city is founded, and wherein their industry is chiefly exercised,
they ever have been and still are reckoned not less trusty and true than
great and prudent: but besides trade, it is clear that the three most
noble arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture have reached that
degree of supreme excellence in which we find them now, chiefly by the
toil and by the skill of the Florentines, who have beautified and
adorned not only their own city but also very many others, with great
glory and no small profit to themselves and to their country. And,
seeing that the fear of being held a flatterer should not prevent me
from testifying to the truth, though this will turn to the highest fame
and honor of my lords and patrons, I say that all Italy, nay the whole
world, owes it solely to the judgment and the generosity of the Medici
that Greek letters were not extinguished to the great injury of the
human race, and that Latin literature was restored to the incalculable
profit of all men.

    [1] For an explanation of _Squittino_ and _Squittinare_, see
    Nardi, p. 593 above.

I am wholly of opinion opposed to that of some, who, because the
Florentines are merchants, hold them for neither noble nor
high-spirited, but for tame and low.[1] On the contrary, I have often
wondered with myself how it could be that men who have been used from
their childhood upwards for a paltry profit to carry bales of wool and
baskets of silk like porters, and to stand like slaves all day and great
part of the night at the loom, could summon, when and where was need,
such greatness of soul, such high and haughty thoughts, that they have
wit and heart to say and do those many noble things we know of them.
Pondering on the causes of which, I find none truer than this, that the
Florentine climate, between the fine air of Arezzo and the thick air of
Pisa, infuses into their breasts the temperament of which I spoke. And
whoso shall well consider the nature and the ways of the Florentines,
will find them born more apt to rule than to obey. Nor would it be
easily believed how much was gained for the youth of Florence by the
institution of the militia; for whereas many of the young men, heedless
of the commonwealth and careless of themselves, used to spend all the
day in idleness, hanging about places of public resort, girding at one
another, or talking scandal of the passers by, they immediately, like
beasts by some benevolent Circe transformed again to men, gave all their
heart and soul, regardless of peril or loss, to gaining fame and honor
for themselves, and liberty and safety for their country. I do not by
what I have been saying mean to deny that among the Florentines may be
found men proud, ambitious, and greedy of gain; for vices will exist as
long as human nature lasts: nay, rather, the ungrateful, the envious,
the malicious, and the evil-minded among them are so in the highest
degree, just as the virtuous are supremely virtuous. It is indeed a
common proverb that Florentine brains have no mean either way; the fools
are exceeding simple, and the wise exceeding prudent.

    [1] Compare, however, Varchi, quoted above, p. 243. The Report
    of Marco Foscari, _Relazioni Venete_, series ii, vol. i. p. 9
    et seq., contains a remarkable estimate of the Florentine
    character. He attributes the timidity and weakness which he
    observes in the Florentines to their mercantile habits, and
    notices, precisely what Varchi here observes with admiration:
    'li primi che governano lo stato vanno alle loro botteghe di
    seta, e gittati li lembi del mantello sopra le spalle, pongonsi
    alia caviglia e lavorano pubblicamente che ognuno li vede; ed i
    figliuoli loro stanno in bottega con li grembiuli dinanzi, e
    portano il sacco e le sporte alle maestre con la seta e fanno
    gli altri esercizi di bottega.' A strong aristocratic prejudice
    transpires in every line. This report was written early in
    1527. The events of the Siege must have surprised Marco
    Foscari. He notices among other things, as a source of
    weakness, the country villas which were all within a few months
    destroyed by their armies for the public good.

Their mode of life is simple and frugal, but wonderfully and incredibly
clean and neat; and it may be said with truth that the artisans and
handicraftsmen live at Florence even better than the citizens
themselves: for whereas the former change from tavern to tavern,
according as they find good wine, and only think of joyous living; the
latter in their homes, with the frugality of merchants, who for the most
part make but do not spend money, or with the moderation of orderly
burghers, never exceed mediocrity. Nevertheless there are not wanting
families, who keep a splendid table and live like nobles, such as the
Antinori, the Bartolini, the Tornabuoni, the Pazzi, the Borgherini, the
Gaddi, the Rucellai, and among the Salviati, Piero d'Alamanno and
Alamanno d'Jacopo, and some others. At Florence every one is called by
his proper name or his surname; and the common usage, unless there be
some marked distinction of rank or age, is to say _thou_ and not _you_;
only to knights, doctors, and prebendaries is the title of _messere_
allowed; to doctors that of _maestro_, to monks _don_, and to friars
_padre_. True, however, is it that since there was a Court at Florence,
first that of Giulio, the Cardinal de' Medici, then that of the Cardinal
of Cortona, which enjoyed more license than the former, the manners of
the city have become more refined--or shall I say more corrupt?


_The Character of Alexander VI., from Guicciardini's Story,
Fiorentina, cap. 27._ See Chap. vii. p. 412 above.

So died Pope Alexander, at the height of glory and prosperity; about
whom it must be known that he was a man of the utmost power and of great
judgment and spirit, as his actions and behavior showed. But as his
first accession to the Papacy was foul and shameful, seeing he had
bought with gold so high a station, in like manner his government
disagreed not with this base foundation. There were in him, and in full
measure, all vices both of flesh and spirit; nor could there be imagined
in the ordering of the Church a rule so bad but that he put it into
working. He was most sensual toward both sexes, keeping publicly women
and boys, but more especially toward women; and so far did he exceed all
measure that public opinion judged he knew Madonna Lucrezia, his own
daughter, toward whom he bore a most tender and boundless love. He was
exceedingly avaricious, not in keeping what he had acquired, but in
getting new wealth: and where he saw a way toward drawing money, he had
no respect whatever; in his days were sold as at auction all benefices,
dispensations, pardons, bishoprics, cardinalships, and all court
dignities: unto which matters he had appointed two or three men privy to
his thought, exceeding prudent, who let them out to the highest bidder.
He caused the death by poison of many cardinals and prelates, even be
rich in benefices and understood to have hoarded much, with the view of
seizing on their wealth. His cruelty was great, seeing that by his
direction many were put to violent death; nor was the ingratitude less
with which he caused the ruin of the Sforzeschi and Colonnesi, by whose
favor he acquired the Papacy. There was in him no religion, no keeping
of his troth: he promised all things liberally, but stood to nought but
what was useful to himself: no care for justice, since in his days Rome
was like a den of thieves and murderers: his ambition was boundless, and
such that it grew in the same measure as his state increased:
nevertheless, his sins meeting with no due punishment in this world, he
was to the last of his days most prosperous. While young and still
almost a boy, having Calixtus for his uncle, he was made Cardinal and
then Vice-Chancellor: in which high place he continued till his papacy,
with great revenue, good fame, and peace. Having become Pope, he made
Cesare, his bastard son and bishop of Pampeluna, a Cardinal, against the
ordinances and decrees of the Church, which forbid the making of a
bastard Cardinal even with the Pope's dispensation, wherefore he brought
proof by false witnesses that he was born in wedlock. Afterwards he made
him a layman and took away the Cardinal's dignity from him, and turned
his mind to making a realm; wherein he fared far better than he
purposed, and beginning with Rome, after undoing the Orsini, Colonnesi,
Savelli, and those barons who were wont to be held in fear by former
Popes, he was more full master of Rome than ever had been any Pope
before. With greatest ease he got the lordships of Romagna, the March,
and the Duchy; and having made a most fair and powerful state, the
Florentines held him in much fear, the Venetians in jealousy, and the
King of France in esteem. Then having got together a fine army, he
showed how great was the might of a Pontiff when he hath a valiant
general and one in whom he can place faith. At last he grew to that
point that he was counted the balance in the war of France and Spain. In
one word he was more evil and more lucky than ever for many ages
peradventure had been any pope before.


_Religious Revivals in Mediæval Italy._ See Chap. viii. p. 491 above.

It would be unscientific to confound events of such European importance
as the foundation of the orders of S. Francis and S. Dominic with the
phenomena in question. Still it may be remarked, that the sudden rise
and the extraordinary ascendency of the mendicants and preachers were
due in a great measure to the sensitive and lively imagination of the
Italians. The Popes of the first half of the thirteenth century were
shrewd enough to discern the political and ecclesiastical importance of
movements which seemed at first to owe their force to mere fanatical
revivalism. They calculated on the intensely excitable temperament of
the Italian nation, and employed the Franciscans and Dominicans as their
militia in the crusade against the Empire and the heretics. Again, it is
necessary to distinguish what was essentially national from what was
common to all Europeans in the Middle Ages. Every country had its
wandering hordes of flagellants and penitents, its crusaders and its
pilgrims. The vast unsettled populations of mediæval Europe, haunted
with the recurrent instinct of migration, and nightmare-ridden by
imperious religious yearnings, poured flood after flood of fanatics upon
the shores of Palestine. Half-naked savages roamed, dancing and groaning
and scourging their flesh, from city to city, under the stress of
semi-bestial impulses. Then came the period of organized pilgrimages.
The celebrated shrines of Europe--Rome, Compostella, Monte Gargano,
Canterbury--acted like lightning-conductors to the tempestuous devotion
of the mediæval races, like setons to their over-charged imagination. In
all these universal movements the Italians had their share: being more
advanced in civilization than the Northern peoples, they turned the
crusades to commercial count, and maintained some moderation in the
_fakir_ fury of their piety. It is not, therefore, with the general
history of religious enthusiasm in the Middle Ages that we have to do,
but rather with those intermittent manifestations of revivalism which
were peculiar to the Italians. The chief points to be noticed are the
political influence acquired by monks in some of the Italian cities, the
preaching of peace and moral reformation, the panics or superstitious
terror which seized upon wide districts, and the personal ascendency of
hermits unaccredited by the Church, but believed by the people to be
divinely inspired.

One of the most picturesque figures of the first half of the thirteenth
century is the Dominican monk, John of Vicenza. His order, which had
recently been founded, was already engaged in the work of persecution.
France was reeking with the slaughter of the Albigenses, and the stakes
were smoking in the town of Milan, when this friar undertook the noble
task of pacifying Lombardy. Every town in the north of Italy was at that
period torn by the factions of the Guelfs and Ghibellines; private feuds
crossed and intermingled with political discords; and the savage tyranny
of Ezzelino had shaken the fabric of society to its foundations. It
seemed utterly impossible to bring this people for a moment to
agreement. Yet what popes and princes had failed to achieve, the voice
of a single friar accomplished. John of Vicenza began his preaching in
Bologna during the year 1233. The citizens and the country folk of the
surrounding districts flocked to hear him. It was noticed with especial
wonder that soldiers of all descriptions yielded to the magic of his
eloquence. The themes of his discourse were invariably reconciliation
and forgiveness of injuries. The heads of rival houses, who had
prosecuted hereditary feuds for generations, met before his pulpit, and
swore to live thenceforth in amity. Even the magistrates entreated him
to examine the statutes of their city, and to point out any alterations
by which the peace of the commonwealth might be assured. Having done his
best for Bologna, John journeyed to Padua, where the fame of his
sanctity had been already spread abroad. The _carroccio_ of the city, on
which the standard of Padua floated, and which had led the burghers to
many a bloody battle, was sent out to meet him at Monselice, and he
entered the gates in triumph. In Padua the same exhortations to peace
produced the same results. Old enmities were abandoned, and hands were
clasped which had often been raised in fierce fraternal conflict.
Treviso, Feltre, Beliuno, Conegliano, and Romano, the very nests of the
grim brood of Ezzelino, yielded to the charm. Verona, where the Scalas
were about to reign, Vicenza, Mantua, and Brescia, all placed themselves
at the disposition of the monk, and prayed him to reform their
constitution. But it was not enough to restore peace to each separate
community, to reconcile household with household, and to efface the
miseries of civil discord. John of Vicenza aimed at consolidating the
Lombard cities in one common bond. For this purpose he bade the burghers
of all the towns where he had preached to meet him on the plain of
Paquara, in the country of Verona. The 28th of August was the day fixed
for this great national assembly. More than four hundred thousand
persons, according to the computation of Parisio di Cereta, appeared
upon the scene. This multitude included the populations of Verona,
Mantua, Brescia, Padua, and Vicenza, marshaled under their several
standards, together with contingents furnished by Ferrara, Modena,
Reggio, Parma, and Bologna. Nor was the assembly confined to the common
folk. The bishops of these flourishing cities, the haughty Marquis of
Este, the fierce lord of Romano, and the Patriarch of Aquileia, obeyed
the invitation of the friar. There, on the banks of the Adige, and
within sight of the Alps, John of Vicenza ascended a pulpit that had
been prepared for him, and preached a sermon on the text, _Pacem meam do
vobis, pacem relinquo vobis_. The horrors of war, and the Christian duty
of reconciliation, formed the subject of his sermon, at the end of which
he constrained the Lombards to ratify a solemn league of amity, vowing
to eternal perdition all who should venture to break the same, and
imprecating curses on their crops, their vines, their cattle, and
everything they had. Furthermore, he induced the Marquis of Este to take
in marriage a daughter of Alberico da Romano. Up to this moment John of
Vicenza had made a noble use of the strange power which he possessed.
But his success seems to have turned his head. Instead of confining
himself to the work of pacification so well begun, he now demanded to be
made lord of Vicenza, with the titles of Duke and Count, and to receive
the supreme authority in Verona. The people, believing him to be a
saint, readily acceded to his wishes; but one of the first things he
did, after altering the statutes of these burghs, was to burn sixty
citizens of Verona, whom he had himself condemned as heretics. The
Paduans revolted against his tyranny. Obliged to have recourse to arms,
he was beaten and put in prison; and when he was released, at the
intercession of the Pope, he found his wonderful prestige

    [1] The most interesting accounts of Fra Giovanni da Vicenza
    are to be found in Muratori, vol. viii., in the Annals of
    Rolandini and Gerardus Maurisius.

The position of Fra Jacopo del Bussolaro in Pavia differed from that of
Fra Giovanni da Vicenza in Verona. Yet the commencement of his political
authority was very nearly the same. The son of a poor boxmaker of Pavia,
he early took the habit of the Augustines, and acquired a reputation for
sanctity by leading the austere life of a hermit. It happened in the
year 1356 that he was commissioned by the superiors of his order to
preach the Lenten sermons to the people of Pavia. 'Then,' to quote
Matteo Villani, 'it pleased God that this monk should make his sermons
so agreeable to every species of people, that the fame of them and the
devotion they inspired increased marvelously. And he, seeing the
concourse of the people, and the faith they bare him, began to denounce
vice, and specially usury, revenge, and ill-behavior of women; and
thereupon he began to speak against the disorderly lordship of the
tyrants; and in a short time he brought the women to modest manners, and
the men to renunciation of usury and feuds.' The only citizens of Pavia
who resisted his eloquence were the Beccaria family, who at that time
ruled Pavia like despots. His most animated denunciations were directed
against their extortions and excesses. Therefore they sought to slay
him. But the people gave him a bodyguard, and at last he wrought so
powerfully with the burghers that they expelled the house of Beccaria
and established a republican government. At this time the Visconti were
laying siege to Pavia: the passes of the Ticino and the Po were occupied
by Milanese troops, and the city was reduced to a state of blockade.
Fra Jacopo assembled the able-bodied burghers, animated them by his
eloquence, and led them to the attack of their besiegers. They broke
through the lines of the beleaguering camp, and re-established the
freedom of Pavia. What remained, however, of the Beccaria party passed
over to the enemy, and threw the whole weight of their influence into
the scale of the Visconti: so that at the end of a three years' manful
conflict, Pavia was delivered to Galeazzo Visconti in 1359. Fra Jacopo
made the best terms that he could for the city, and took no pains to
secure his own safety. He was consigned by the conquerors to the
superiors of his order, and died in the dungeons of a convent at
Vercelli. In his case, the sanctity of an austere life, and the
eloquence of an authoritative preacher of repentance, had been strictly
subordinated to political aims in the interests of republican liberty.
Fra Jacopo deserves to rank with Savonarola: like Savonarola, he fell a
victim to the selfish and immoral oppressors of his country. As in the
case of Savonarola, we can trace the connection which subsisted in Italy
between a high standard of morality and patriotic heroism.[1]

    [1] The best authorities for the life and actions of Fra Jacopo
    are Matteo Villani, bks. 8 and 9, and Peter Azarius, in his
    Chronicle (Groevius, vol. ix.).

San Bernardino da Massa heads a long list of preachers, who, without
taking a prominent part in contemporary politics, devoted all their
energies to the moral regeneration of the people. His life, written by
Vespasiano da Bisticci, is one of the most valuable documents which we
possess for the religious history of Italy in the first half of the
fifteenth century. His parents, who were people of good condition, sent
him at an early age to study the Canon law at Siena. They designed him
for a lucrative and important office in the Church. But, while yet a
youth, he was seized with a profound conviction of the degradation of
his countrymen. The sense of sin so weighed upon him that he sold all
his substance, entered the order of S. Francis, and began to preach
against the vices which were flagrant in the great Italian cities. After
traveling through the length and breadth of the peninsula, and winning
all men by the magic of his eloquence, he came to Florence. 'There,'
says Vespasiano, 'the Florentines being by nature very well disposed
indeed to truth, he so dealt that he changed the whole State and gave
it, one may say, a second birth. And in order to abolish the false hair
which the women wore, and games of chance, and other vanities, he caused
a sort of large stall to be raised in the Piazza di Santa Croce, and
bade every one who possessed any of these vanities to place them there;
and so they did; and he set fire thereto and burned the whole.' S.
Bernardino preached unremittingly for forty-two years in every quarter
of Italy, and died at last worn out with fatigue and sickness. 'Of many
enmities and deaths of men he wrought peace and removed deadly hatreds;
and numberless princes, who harbored feuds to the death, he reconciled,
and restored tranquillity to many cities and peoples.' A vivid picture
of the method adopted by S. Bernardino in his dealings with these cities
is presented to us by Graziani, the chronicler of Perugia: 'On September
23, 1425, a Sunday, there were, as far as we could reckon, upwards of
3,000 persons in the Cathedral. His sermon was from the Sacred
Scripture, reproving men of every vice and sin, and teaching Christian
living. Then he began to rebuke the women for their paints and
cosmetics, and false hair, and such like wanton customs; and in like
manner the men for their cards and dice-boards and masks and amulets
and charms: insomuch that within a fortnight the women sent all their
false hair and gewgaws to the Convent of S. Francis, and the men their
dice, cards, and such gear, to the amount of many loads. And on October
29 Fra Bernardino collected all these devilish things on the piazza,
where he erected a kind of wooden castle between the fountain and the
Bishop's palace; and in this he put all the said articles, and set fire
to them; and the fire was so great that none durst go near; and in the
fire were burned things of the greatest value, and so great was the
haste of men and women to escape that fire that many would have perished
but for the quick aid of the burghers.' Together with this onslaught
upon vanities, Fra Bernardino connected the preaching of peace and
amity. It is noticeable that while his sermon lasted and the great bell
of S. Lorenzo went on tolling, no man could be taken or imprisoned in
the city of Perugia.[1]

    [1] See Vespasiano, _Vite di Uomini Illustri,_ pp. 185-92.
    Graziani, _Archivio Storico,_ vol. xvi. part i. pp. 313, 314.

The same city was the scene of many similar displays. During the
fifteenth century it remained in a state of the most miserable internal
discord, owing to the feuds of its noble families. Graziani gives an
account of the preaching there of Fra Jacopo della Marca, in 1445: on
this occasion a temporary truce was patched up between old enemies, a
witch was burned for the edification of the burghers, the people were
reproved for their extravagance in dress, and two peacemakers
(_pacieri_) were appointed for each gate. On March 22, after undergoing
this discipline, the whole of Perugia seemed to have repented of its
sins; but the first entry for April 15 is the murder of one of the
Ranieri family by another of the same house. So transitory were the
effects of such revivals.[1] Another entry in Graziani's _Chronicle_
deserves to be noticed. He describes how, in 1448, Fra Roberto da Lecce
(like S. Bernardino and Fra Jacopo della Marca, a Franciscan of the
Order of Observance) came to preach in January. He was only twenty-two
years of age; but his fame was so great that he drew about 15,000
persons into the piazza to listen to him. The stone pulpit, we may say
in passing, is still shown, from which these sermons were delivered. It
is built into the wall of the Cathedral, and commands the whole square.
Roberto da Lecce began by exhibiting a crucifix, which moved the
audience to tears; 'and the weeping and crying, _Jesu misericordia!_
lasted about half an hour. Then he made four citizens be chosen for each
gate as peacemakers.' What follows in Graziani is an account of a
theatrical show, exhibited upon the steps of the Cathedral. On Good
Friday the friar assembled all the citizens, and preached; and when the
moment came for the elevation of the crucifix, 'there issued forth from
San Lorenzo Eliseo di Christoforo, a barber of the quarter of Sant
Angelo, like a naked Christ with the cross on his shoulder, and the
crown of thorns upon his head, and his flesh seemed to be bruised as
when Christ was scourged.' The people were immensely moved by this
sight. They groaned and cried out, _'Misericordia!'_ and many monks were
made upon the spot. At last, on April 7, Fra Roberto took his leave of
the Perugians, crying as he went, _'La pace sia con voi!'_[2] We have a
glimpse of the same Fra Roberto da Lecce at Rome, in the year 1482. The
feuds of the noble families della Croce and della Valle were then raging
in the streets of Rome. On the night of April 3 they fought a pitched
battle in the neighborhood of the Pantheon, the factions of Orsini and
Colonna joining in the fray. Many of the combatants were left dead
before the palaces of the Vallensi; the numbers of the wounded were
variously estimated; and all Rome seemed to be upon the verge of civil
war. Roberto da Lecce, who was drawing large congregations, not only of
the common folk, but also of the Roman prelates, to his sermons at Santa
Maria sopra Minerva, interrupted his discourse upon the following
Friday, and held before the people the image of their crucified Saviour,
entreating them to make peace. As he pleaded with them, he wept; and
they too fell to weeping--fierce satellites of the rival factions and
worldly prelates lifting up their voice in concert with the friar who
had touched their hearts.[3] Another member of the Franciscan Order of
Observance should be mentioned after Fra Roberto. This was Fra Giovanni
da Capistrano, of whose preaching at Brescia in 1451 we have received a
minute account. He brought with him a great reputation for sanctity and
eloquence, and for the miraculous cures which he had wrought. The
Rectors of the city, together with 300 of the most distinguished
burghers upon horseback, and a crowd of well-born ladies on foot, went
out to meet him on February 9. Arrangements were made for the
entertainment of himself and 100 followers, at public cost. Next
morning, three hours before dawn, there were already assembled upwards
of 10,000 people on the piazza, waiting for the preacher. 'Think,
therefore,' says the _Chronicle,_ 'how many there must have been in the
daytime! and mark this, that they came less to hear his sermon than to
see him.' As he made his way through the throng, his frock was almost
torn to pieces on his back, everybody struggling to get a fragment.[4]

    [1] See Graziani, pp. 565-68.

    [2] Graziani, pp, 597-601.

    [3] See Jacobus Volaterranus. Muratori, xxiii. pp. 126, 156,

    [4] See _Istoria Bresciana._ Muratori, xxi. 865.

It did not always need the interposition of a friar to arouse a strong
religious panic in Italian cities. After an unusually fierce bout of
discord the burghers themselves would often attempt to give the sanction
of solemn rites and vows before the altar to their temporary truces.
Siena, which was always more disturbed by civil strife than any of her
neighbors, offered a notable example of this custom in the year 1494.
The factions of the Monti de' Nove and del Popolo had been raging; the
city was full of feud and suspicion, and all Italy was agitated by the
French invasion. It seemed good, therefore, to the heads of the chief
parties that an oath of peace should be taken by the whole body of the
burghers. Allegretti's account of the ceremony, which took place at dead
of night in the beautiful Cathedral of Siena, is worthy to be
translated. 'The conditions of the peace were then read, which took up
eight pages, together with an oath of the most horrible sort, full of
maledictions, imprecations, excommunications, invocations of evil,
renunciation of benefits temporal and spiritual, confiscation of goods,
vows, and so many other woes that to hear it was a terror; _et etiam_
that _in articulo mortis_ no sacrament should accrue to the salvation,
but rather to the damnation of those who might break the said
conditions; insomuch that I, Allegretto di Nanni Allegretti, being
present, believe that never was made or heard a more awful and horrible
oath. Then the notaries of the Nove and the Popolo, on either side of
the altar, wrote down the names of all the citizens, who swore upon the
crucifix, for on each side there was one, and every couple of the one
and the other faction kissed; and the bells clashed, and _Te Deum
laudamus_ was sung with the organs and the choir while the oath was
being taken. All this happened between one and two hours of the night,
with many torches lighted. Now may God will that this be peace indeed,
and tranquillity for all citizens, whereof I doubt.'[1] The doubt of
Allegretti was but too reasonable. Siena profited little by these
dreadful oaths and terrifying functions. Two years later on, the same
chronicler tells how it was believed that blood had rained outside the
Porta a Laterino, and that various visions of saints and specters had
appeared to holy persons, proclaiming changes in the state, and
commanding a public demonstration of repentance. Each parish organized a
procession, and all in turn marched, some by day and some by night,
singing Litanies, and beating and scourging themselves, to the
Cathedral, where they dedicated candles; and 'one ransomed prisoners,
for an offering, and another dowered a girl in marriage.'

In Bologna in 1457 a similar revival took place on the occasion of an
outbreak of the plague. 'Flagellants went round the city, and when they
came to a cross, they all cried with a loud voice: _Misericordia!
misericordia!_ For eight days there was a strict fast; the butchers shut
their shops.' What follows in the Chronicle is comic: 'Meretrices ad
concubita nullum admittebant. Ex eis quâdam quæ cupiditate lucri
adolescentem admiserat, deprehensâ, aliæ meretrices ita illius nates
nudas corrigiis percusserunt, ut sanguinem emitteret.'[2] Ferrara
exhibited a like devotion in 1496, on even a larger scale. About this
time the entire Italian nation was panic-stricken by the passage of
Charles VIII., and by the changes in states and kingdoms which
Savonarola had predicted. The Ferrarese, to quote the language of their
chronicler, expected that 'in this year, throughout Italy, would be the
greatest famine, war, and want that had ever been since the world
began.' Therefore they fasted, and 'the Duke of Ferrara fasted together
with the whole of his court. At the same time a proclamation was made
against swearing, games of hazard, and unlawful trades: and it was
enacted that the Jews should resume their obnoxious yellow gaberdine
with the O upon their breasts. In 1500 these edicts were repeated. The
condition of Italy had grown worse and worse: it was necessary to
besiege the saints with still more energetic demonstrations. Therefore
'the Duke Ercole d' Este, for good reasons to him known, _and because it
is always well to be on good terms with God,_ ordained that processions
should be made every third day in Ferrara, with the whole clergy, and
about 4,000 children or more from twelve years of age upwards, dressed
in white, and each holding a banner with a painted Jesus. His lordship,
and his sons and brothers, followed this procession, namely the Duke on
horseback, because he could not then walk, and all the rest on foot,
behind the Bishop.'[3] A certain amount of irony transpires in this
quotation, which would make one fancy that the chronicler suspected the
Duke of ulterior, and perhaps political, motives.

    [1] See Muratori, vol. xxiii. p. 839.

    [2] _Annales Bononienses._ Mur. xxiii. 890.

    [3] _Diario Ferrarese._ Mur. xxiv. pp. 17-386.

It sometimes happened that the contagion of such devotion spread from
city to city; on one occasion, in 1399, it traveled from Piedmont
through the whole of Italy. The epidemic of flagellants, of which
Giovanni Villani speaks in 1310 (lib. viii. cap. 121), began also in
Piedmont, and spread along the Genoese Riviera. The Florentine
authorities refused entrance to these fanatics into their territory. In
1334, Villani mentions another outburst of the same devotion (lib xi.
cap. 23), which was excited by the preaching of Fra Venturino da
Bergamo. The penitents on this occasion wore for badge a dove with the
olive-branch. They staid fifteen days in Florence, scourging themselves
before the altars of the Dominican churches, and feasting, five hundred
at a time, in the Piazzi di S. M. Novella. Corio, in the _Storia di
Milano_ (p. 281), gives an interesting account of these 'white
penitents,' as they were called, in the year 1399: 'Multitudes of men,
women, girls, boys, small and great, townspeople and countryfolk, nobles
and burghers, laity and clergy, with bare feet and dressed in white
sheets from head to foot,' visited the towns and villages of every
district in succession. 'On their journey, when they came to a
cross-road or to crosses, they threw themselves on the ground, crying
_Misericordia_ three times; then they recited the Lord's Prayer and the
Ave Maria. On their entrance into a city, they walked singing _Stabat
Mater dolorosa_ and other litanies and prayers. The population of the
places to which they came were divided: for some went forth and told
those who staid that they should assume the same habit, so that at one
time there were as many as 10,000, and at another as many as 15,000 of
them.' After admitting that the fruit of this devotion was in many cases
penitence, amity, and alms-giving, Corio goes on to observe: 'However,
men returned to a worse life than ever after it was over.' It is
noticeable that Italy was devastated in 1400 by a horrible plague; and
it is impossible not to believe that the crowding of so many penitents
together on the highways and in the cities led to this result.

During the anarchy of Italy between 1494--the date of the invasion of
Charles VIII.--and 1527--the date of the sack of Rome--the voice of
preaching friars and hermits was often raised, and the effect was always
to drive the people to a frenzy of revivalistic piety. Milan was the
center of the military operations of the French, the Swiss, the
Spaniards, and the Germans. No city suffered more cruelly, and in none
were fanatical prophets received with greater superstition. In 1516
there appeared in Milan 'a layman, large of stature, gaunt, and beyond
measure wild, without shoes, without shirt, bareheaded, with bristly
hair and beard, and so thin that he seemed another Julian the hermit.'
He lived on water and millet-seed, slept on the bare earth, refused alms
of all sorts, and preached with wonderful authority. In spite of the
opposition of the Archbishop and the Chapter, he chose the Duomo for his
theater; and there he denounced the vices of the priests and monks to
vast congregations of eager listeners. In a word, he engaged in open
warfare with the clergy on their own ground. But they of course proved
too strong for him, and he was driven out of the city. He was a native
of Siena, aged 30.[1] We may compare with this picturesque apparition of
Jeronimo in Milan what Varchi says about the prophets who haunted Rome
like birds of evil omen in the first years of the pontificate of Clement
VII. 'Not only friars from the pulpit, but hermits on the piazza, went
about preaching and predicting the ruin of Italy and the end of the
world with wild cries and threats.'[2] In 1523 Milan beheld the
spectacle of a parody of the old preachers. There appeared a certain
Frate di S. Marco, whom the people held for a saint, and who 'encouraged
the Milanese against the French, saying it was a merit with Jesus Christ
to slay those Frenchmen, and that they were pigs.' He seems to have
been a feeble and ignorant fellow, whose head had been turned by the
examples of Bussolaro and Savonarola.[3] Again, in 1529, we find a
certain monk, Tommaso, of the order of S. Dominic, stirring up a great
commotion of piety in Milan. The city had been brought to the very
lowest state of misery by the Spanish occupation; and, strange to say,
this friar was himself a Spaniard. In order to propitiate offended
deities, he organized a procession on a great scale. 700 women, 500 men,
and 2,500 children assembled in the cathedral. The children were dressed
in white, the men and women in sackcloth, and all were barefooted. They
promenaded the streets of Milan, incessantly shouting _Misericordia!_
and besieged the Duomo with the same dismal cry, the Bishop and the
Municipal authorities of Milan taking part in the devotion.[4] These
gusts of penitential piety were matters of real national importance.
Writers imbued with the classic spirit of the Renaissance thought them
worthy of a place in their philosophical histories. Thus we find Pitti,
in the _Storia Fiorentina (Arch. Stor._ vol. i. p. 112), describing what
happened at Florence in 1514: 'There appeared in Santa Croce a Frate
Francesco da Montepulciano, very young, who rebuked vice with severity,
and affirmed that God had willed to scourge Italy, especially Florence
and Rome, in sermons so terrible that the audience kept crying with
floods of tears, _Misericordia!_ The whole people were struck dumb with
horror, for those who could not hear the friar by reason of the crowd,
listened with no less fear to the reports of others. At last he preached
a sermon so awful that the congregation stood like men who had lost
their senses; for he promised to reveal upon the third day how and from
what source he had received this prophecy. However, when he left the
pulpit, worn out and exhausted, he was seized with an illness of the
lungs, which soon put an end to his life. Pitti goes on to relate the
frenzy of revivalism excited by this monk's preaching, which had roused
all the old memories of Savonarola in Florence. It became necessary for
the Bishop to put down the devotion by special edicts, while the Medici
endeavored to distract the minds of the people by tournaments and public

    [1] See Prato and Burigozzo, _Arch. Stor._ vol. iii. pp. 357,
    431. It is here worth noticing that Siena, the city of civil
    discord, was also the city of frenetic piety. The names of S.
    Caterina, S. Bernardino, and Bernardo Tolomei occur to the

    [2] _Storia Fiorintina,_ vol. i. p. 87.

    [3] _Arch. Stor._ vol. iii. p. 443.

    [4] Burigozzo, pp. 485-89.

Enough has now been quoted from various original sources to illustrate
the feverish recurrences