By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy
Author: Burckhardt, Jacob
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

produced from images available at The Internet Archive)

                          CIVILISATION OF THE
                               IN ITALY

                           JACOB BURCKHARDT
                       AUTHORISED TRANSLATION BY
                          S. G. C. MIDDLEMORE

                   LONDON: GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD.


Dr. BURCKHARDT’S work on the Renaissance in Italy is too well known, not
only to students of the period, but now to a wider circle of readers,
for any introduction to be necessary. The increased interest which has
of late years, in England, been taken in this and kindred subjects, and
the welcome which has been given to the works of other writers upon
them, encourage me to hope that in publishing this translation I am
meeting a want felt by some who are either unable to read German at all,
or to whom an English version will save a good deal of time and trouble.

The translation is made from the third edition of the original, recently
published in Germany, with slight additions to the text, and large
additions to the notes, by Dr. LUDWIG GEIGER, of Berlin. It also
contains some fresh matter communicated by Dr. BURCKHARDT to Professor
DIEGO VALBUSA of Mantua, the Italian translator of the book. To all
three gentlemen my thanks are due for courtesy shown, or help given to
me in the course of my work.

In a few cases, where Dr. GEIGER’S view differs from that taken by Dr.
BURCKHARDT, I have called attention to the fact by bracketing Dr.
GEIGER’S opinion and adding his initials.








Political condition of Italy in the thirteenth century                 4

The Norman State under Frederick II.                                   5

Ezzelino da Romano                                                     7



Finance and its relation to culture                                    8

The ideal of the absolute ruler                                        9

Inward and outward dangers                                            10

Florentine estimate of the tyrants                                    11

The Visconti                                                          12



Intervention and visits of the emperors                               18

Want of a fixed law of succession. Illegitimacy                       20

Founding of States by Condottieri                                     22

Relations of Condottieri to their employers                           23

The family of Sforza                                                  24

Giacomo Piccinino                                                     25

Later attempts of the Condottieri                                     26



The Baglioni of Perugia                                               28

Massacre in the year 1500                                             31

Malatesta, Pico, and Petrucci                                         33



The Aragonese at Naples                                               35

The last Visconti at Milan                                            38

Francesco Sforza and his luck                                         39

Galeazzo Maria and Ludovic Moro                                       40

The Gonzaga at Mantua                                                 43

Federigo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino                               44

The Este at Ferrara                                                   46



The later Guelphs and Ghibellines                                     55

The conspirators                                                      56

Murders in church                                                     57

Influence of ancient tyrannicide                                      57

Catiline as an ideal                                                  59

Florentine view of tyrannicide                                        59

The people and tyrannicide                                            60



Venice in the fifteenth century                                       62

The inhabitants                                                       63

Dangers from the poor nobility                                        64

Causes of the stability of Venice                                     65

The Council of Ten and political trials                               66

Relations with the Condottieri                                        67

Optimism of Venetian foreign policy                                   68

Venice as the home of statistics                                      69

Retardation of the Renaissance                                        71

Mediæval devotion to reliques                                         72

Florence from the fourteenth century                                  73

Objectivity of political intelligence                                 74

Dante as a politician                                                 75

Florence as the home of statistics: the two Villanis                  76

Higher form of statistics                                             77

Florentine constitutions and the historians                           82

Fundamental vice of the State                                         82

Political theorists                                                   83

Macchiavelli and his views                                            84

Siena and Genoa                                                       86



Envy felt towards Venice                                              88

Relations to other countries: sympathy with France                    89

Plan for a balance of power                                           90

Foreign intervention and conquests                                    91

Alliances with the Turks                                              92

Counter-influence of Spain                                            94

Objective treatment of politics                                       95

Art of diplomacy                                                      96



Firearms                                                              98

Professional warriors and dilettanti                                  99

Horrors of war                                                       101



Relation of the Papacy to Italy and foreign countries                103

Disturbances in Rome from the time of Nicholas V.                    104

Sixtus IV. master of Rome                                            105

States of the Nipoti in Romagna                                      107

Cardinals belonging to princely houses                               107

Innocent VIII. and his son                                           108

Alexander VI. as a Spaniard                                          109

Relations with foreign countries                                     110

Simony                                                               111

Cæsar Borgia and his relations to his father                         111

Cæsar’s plans and acts                                               112

Julius II. as Saviour of the Papacy                                  117

Leo X. His relations with other States                               120

Adrian VI.                                                           121

Clement VII. and the sack of Rome                                    122

Reaction consequent on the latter                                    123

The Papacy of the Counter-Reformation                                124

Conclusion. The Italian patriots                                     125





The mediæval man                                                     129

The awakening of personality                                         129

The despot and his subjects                                          130

Individualism in the Republics                                       131

Exile and cosmopolitanism                                            132



The many-sided men                                                   134

The universal men                                                    136



Dante’s feeling about fame                                           139

The celebrity of the Humanists: Petrarch                             141

Cultus of birthplace and graves                                      142

Cultus of the famous men of antiquity                                143

Literature of local fame: Padua                                      143

Literature of universal fame                                         146

Fame given or refused by the writers                                 150

Morbid passion for fame                                              152



Its connection with individualism                                    154

Florentine wit: the novel                                            155

Jesters and buffoons                                                 156

Leo X. and his witticisms                                            157

Poetical parodies                                                    158

Theory of wit                                                        159

Railing and reviling                                                 161

Adrian VI. as scapegoat                                              162

Pietro Aretino                                                       164





Widened application of the word ‘Renaissance’                        171

Antiquity in the Middle Ages                                         172

Latin poetry of the twelfth century in Italy                         173

The spirit of the fourteenth century                                 175



Dante, Petrarch, Uberti                                              177

Rome at the time of Poggio                                           179

Nicholas V., and Pius II. as an antiquarian                          180

Antiquity outside Rome                                               181

Affiliation of families and cities on Rome                           182

The Roman corpse                                                     183

Excavations and architectural plans                                  184

Rome under Leo X.                                                    184

Sentimental effect of ruins                                          185



Their diffusion in the fourteenth century                            187

Discoveries in the fifteenth century                                 188

The libraries                                                        189

Copyists and ‘Scrittori’                                             192

Printing                                                             194

Greek scholarship                                                    195

Oriental scholarship                                                 197

Pico’s view of antiquity                                             202



Its inevitable victory                                               203

Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio                                       205

Coronation of the poets                                              207



Position of the Humanists at the Universities                        211

Latin schools                                                        213

Freer education: Vittorino da Feltre                                 213

Guarino of Verona                                                    215

The education of princes                                             216



Florentine citizens: Niccoli and Manetti                             217

The earlier Medici                                                   220

Humanism at the Courts                                               222

The Popes from Nicholas V. onwards                                   223

Alfonso of Naples                                                    225

Frederick of Urbino                                                  227

The Houses of Sforza and Este                                        227

Sigismodo Malatesta                                                  228



The Papal Chancery                                                   230

Letter-writing                                                       232

The orators                                                          233

Political, diplomatic, and funeral orations                          236

Academic and military speeches                                       237

Latin sermons                                                        238

Form and matter of the speeches                                      239

Passion for quotation                                                240

Imaginary speeches                                                   241

Decline of eloquence                                                 242



Value of Latin                                                       243

Researches on the Middle Ages: Blondus                               245

Histories in Italian; their antique spirit                           246



Ancient names                                                        250

Latinised social relations                                           251

Claims of Latin to supremacy                                         252

Cicero and the Ciceronians                                           253

Latin conversation                                                   254



Epic poems on ancient history: The ‘Africa’                          258

Mythic poetry                                                        259

Christian epics: Sannazaro                                           260

Poetry on contemporary subjects                                      261

Introduction of mythology                                            262

Didactic poetry: Palingenius                                         263

Lyric poetry and its limits                                          264

Odes on the saints                                                   265

Elegies and the like                                                 266

The epigram                                                          267



The accusations and the amount of truth they contained               272

Misery of the scholars                                               277

Type of the happy scholar                                            278

Pomponius Laetus                                                     279

The Academies                                                        280





Columbus                                                             286

Cosmographical purpose in travel                                     287



Empirical tendency of the nation                                     289

Dante and astronomy                                                  290

Attitude of the Church towards natural science                       290

Influence of Humanism                                                291

Botany and gardens                                                   292

Zoology and collections of foreign animals                           293

Human menagerie of Ippolito Medici                                   296



Landscapes in the Middle Ages                                        299

Petrarch and his ascents of mountains                                301

Uberti’s ‘Dittamondo’                                                302

The Flemish school of painting                                       302

Æneas Sylvius and his descriptions                                   303

Nature in the poets and novelists                                    305



Popular psychological ground-work. The temperaments                  309

Value of unrhymed poetry                                             310

Value of the Sonnet                                                  310

Dante and the ‘Vita Nuova’                                           312

The ‘Divine Comedy’                                                  312

Petrarch as a painter of the soul                                    314

Boccaccio and the Fiammetta                                          315

Feeble development of tragedy                                        315

Scenic splendour, the enemy of the drama                             316

The intermezzo and the ballet                                        317

Comedies and masques                                                 320

Compensation afforded by music                                       321

Epic romances                                                        321

Necessary subordination of the descriptions of character             323

Pulci and Bojardo                                                    323

Inner law of their compositions                                      324

Ariosto and his style                                                325

Folengo and parody                                                   326

Contrast offered by Tasso                                            327



Advance of Italy on the Middle Ages                                  328

Tuscan biographers                                                   330

Biography in other parts of Italy                                    332

Autobiography; Æneas Sylvius                                         333

Benvenuto Cellini                                                    333

Girolamo Cardano                                                     334

Luigi Cornaro                                                        335



The ‘Dittamondo’                                                     339

Descriptions in the sixteenth century                                339



Boccaccio on Beauty                                                  344

Ideal of Firenzuola                                                  345

His general definitions                                              345



Æneas Sylvius and others                                             349

Conventional bucolic poetry from the time of Petrarch                350

Genuine poetic treatment of country life                             351

Battista Mantovano, Lorenzo Magnifico, Pulci                         352

Angelo Poliziano                                                     353

Man, and the conception of humanity                                  354

Pico della Mirandola on the dignity of man                           354





Contrast to the Middle Ages                                          359

Common life of nobles and burghers in the cities                     359

Theoretical criticism of noble birth                                 360

The nobles in different parts of Italy                               362

The nobility and culture                                             363

Bad influence of Spain                                               363

Knighthood since the Middle Ages                                     364

The tournaments and the caricature of them                           365

Noble birth as a requisite of the courtier                           367



Costume and fashions                                                 369

The toilette of women                                                371

Cleanliness                                                          374

The ‘Galateo’ and good manners                                       375

Comfort and elegance                                                 376



Development of an ideal language                                     378

Its wide diffusion                                                   379

The Purists                                                          379

Their want of success                                                382

Conversation                                                         383



Rules and statutes                                                   384

The novelists and their society                                      384

The great lady and the drawing-room                                  385

Florentine society                                                   386

Lorenzo’s descriptions of his own circle                             387



His love-making                                                      388

His outward and spiritual accomplishments                            389

Bodily exercises                                                     389

Music                                                                390

The instruments and the Virtuosi                                     392

Musical dilettantism in society                                      393



Their masculine education and poetry                                 396

Completion of their personality                                      397

The Virago                                                           398

Women in society                                                     399

The culture of the prostitutes                                       399



Contrast to the Middle Ages                                          402

Agnolo Pandolfini (L. B. Alberti)                                    402

The villa and country life                                           404



Their origin in the mystery and the procession                       406

Advantages over foreign countries                                    408

Historical representatives of abstractions                           409

The Mysteries                                                        411

Corpus Christi at Viterbo                                            414

Secular representations                                              415

Pantomimes and princely receptions                                   417

Processions and religious Trionfi                                    419

Secular Trionfi                                                      420

Regattas and processions on water                                    424

The Carnival at Rome and Florence                                    426





Limits of criticism                                                  431

Italian consciousness of demoralization                              432

The modern sense of honour                                           433

Power of the imagination                                             435

The passion for gambling and for vengeance                           436

Breach of the marriage tie                                           441

Position of the married woman                                        442

Spiritualization of love                                             445

General emancipation from moral restraints                           446

Brigandage                                                           448

Paid assassination: poisoning                                        450

Absolute wickedness                                                  453

Morality and individualism                                           454



Lack of a reformation                                                457

Relations of the Italian to the Church                               457

Hatred of the hierarchy and the monks                                458

The mendicant orders                                                 462

The Dominican Inquisition                                            462

The higher monastic orders                                           463

Sense of dependence on the Church                                    465

The preachers of repentance                                          466

Girolamo Savonarola                                                  473

Pagan elements in popular belief                                     479

Faith in reliques                                                    481

Mariolatry                                                           483

Oscillations in public opinion                                       485

Epidemic religious revivals                                          485

Their regulation by the police at Ferrara                            487



Inevitable subjectivity                                              490

Worldliness                                                          492

Tolerance of Mohammedanism                                           492

Equivalence of all religions                                         494

Influence of antiquity                                               495

The so-called Epicureans                                             496

The doctrine of free will                                            497

The pious Humanists                                                  499

The less pronounced Humanists                                        499

Codrus Urceus                                                        500

The beginnings of religious criticism                                501

Fatalism of the Humanists                                            503

Their pagan exterior                                                 504



Astrology                                                            507

Its extension and influence                                          508

Its opponents in Italy                                               515

Pico’s opposition and influence                                      516

Various superstitions                                                518

Superstition of the Humanists                                        519

Ghosts of the departed                                               522

Belief in dæmons                                                     523

The Italian witch                                                    524

Witches’ nest at Norcia                                              526

Influence and limits of Northern witchcraft                          528

Witchcraft of the prostitutes                                        529

The magicians and enchanters                                         530

The dæmons on the way to Rome                                        531

Special forms of magic: the Telesmata                                533

Magic at the laying of foundation-stones                             534

The necromancer in poetry                                            535

Benvenuto Cellini’s tale                                             536

Decline of magic                                                     537

Special branches of the superstition                                 538



Last confession of Boscoli                                           543

Religious disorder and general scepticism                            543

Controversy as to immortality                                        545

The pagan heaven                                                     545

The Homeric life to come                                             546

Evaporation of Christian doctrine                                    547

Italian Thei                                                         548





This work bears the title of an essay in the strictest sense of the
word. No one is more conscious than the writer with what limited means
and strength he has addressed himself to a task so arduous. And even if
he could look with greater confidence upon his own researches, he would
hardly thereby feel more assured of the approval of competent judges. To
each eye, perhaps, the outlines of a given civilisation present a
different picture; and in treating of a civilisation which is the mother
of our own, and whose influence is still at work among us, it is
unavoidable that individual judgment and feeling should tell every
moment both on the writer and on the reader. In the wide ocean upon
which we venture, the possible ways and directions are many; and the
same studies which have served for this work might easily, in other
hands, not only receive a wholly different treatment and application,
but lead also to essentially different conclusions. Such indeed is the
importance of the subject, that it still calls for fresh investigation,
and may be studied with advantage from the most varied points of view.
Meanwhile we are content if a patient hearing be granted us, and if this
book be taken and judged as a whole. It is the most serious difficulty
of the history of civilisation that a great intellectual process must be
broken up into single, and often into what seem arbitrary categories, in
order to be in any way intelligible. It was formerly our intention to
fill up the gaps in this book by a special work on the ‘Art of the
Renaissance,’--an intention, however, which we have been able only to
fulfil[1] in part.

The struggle between the Popes and the Hohenstaufen left Italy in a
political condition which differed essentially from that of other
countries of the West. While in France, Spain and England the feudal
system was so organised that, at the close of its existence, it was
naturally transformed into a unified monarchy, and while in Germany it
helped to maintain, at least outwardly, the unity of the empire, Italy
had shaken it off almost entirely. The Emperors of the fourteenth
century, even in the most favourable case, were no longer received and
respected as feudal lords, but as possible leaders and supporters of
powers already in existence; while the Papacy,[2] with its creatures and
allies, was strong enough to hinder national unity in the future, not
strong enough itself to bring about that unity. Between the two lay a
multitude of political units--republics and despots--in part of long
standing, in part of recent origin, whose existence was founded simply
on their power to maintain it.[3] In them for the first time we detect
the modern political spirit of Europe, surrendered freely to its own
instincts, often displaying the worst features of an unbridled egoism,
outraging every right, and killing every germ of a healthier culture.
But, wherever this vicious tendency is overcome or in any way
compensated, a new fact appears in history--the state as the outcome of
reflection and calculation, the state as a work of art. This new life
displays itself in a hundred forms, both in the republican and in the
despotic states, and determines their inward constitution, no less than
their foreign policy. We shall limit ourselves to the consideration of
the completer and more clearly defined type, which is offered by the
despotic states.

The internal condition of the despotically governed states had a
memorable counterpart in the Norman Empire of Lower Italy and Sicily,
after its transformation by the Emperor Frederick II.[4] Bred amid
treason and peril in the neighbourhood of the Saracens, Frederick, the
first ruler of the modern type who sat upon a throne, had early
accustomed himself, both in criticism and action, to a thoroughly
objective treatment of affairs. His acquaintance with the internal
condition and administration of the Saracenic states was close and
intimate; and the mortal struggle in which he was engaged with the
Papacy compelled him, no less than his adversaries, to bring into the
field all the resources at his command. Frederick’s measures (especially
after the year 1231) are aimed at the complete destruction of the feudal
state, at the transformation of the people into a multitude destitute of
will and of the means of resistance, but profitable in the utmost degree
to the exchequer. He centralised, in a manner hitherto unknown in the
West, the whole judicial and political administration by establishing
the right of appeal from the feudal courts, which he did not, however,
abolish, to the imperial judges. No office was henceforth to be filled
by popular election, under penalty of the devastation of the offending
district and of the enslavement of its inhabitants. Excise duties were
introduced; the taxes, based on a comprehensive assessment, and
distributed in accordance with Mohammedan usages, were collected by
those cruel and vexatious methods without which, it is true, it is
impossible to obtain any money from Orientals. Here, in short, we find,
not a people, but simply a disciplined multitude of subjects; who were
forbidden, for example, to marry out of the country without special
permission, and under no circumstances were allowed to study abroad. The
University of Naples was the first we know of to restrict the freedom of
study, while the East, in these respects at all events, left its youth
unfettered. It was after the example of Mohammedan rulers that Frederick
traded on his own account in all parts of the Mediterranean, reserving
to himself the monopoly of many commodities, and restricting in various
ways the commerce of his subjects. The Fatimite Caliphs, with all their
esoteric unbelief, were, at least in their earlier history, tolerant of
the differences in the religious faith of their people; Frederick, on
the other hand, crowned his system of government by a religious
inquisition, which will seem the more reprehensible when we remember
that in the persons of the heretics he was persecuting the
representatives of a free municipal life. Lastly, the internal police,
and the kernel of the army for foreign service, was composed of Saracens
who had been brought over from Sicily to Nocera and Luceria--men who
were deaf to the cry of misery and careless of the ban of the Church. At
a later period the subjects, by whom the use of weapons had long been
forgotten, were passive witnesses of the fall of Manfred and of the
seizure of the government by Charles of Anjou; the latter continued to
use the system which he found already at work.

At the side of the centralising Emperor appeared an usurper of the most
peculiar kind: his vicar and son-in-law, Ezzelino da Romano. He stands
as the representative of no system of government or administration, for
all his activity was wasted in struggles for supremacy in the eastern
part of Upper Italy; but as a political type he was a figure of no less
importance for the future than his imperial protector Frederick. The
conquests and usurpations which had hitherto taken place in the Middle
Ages rested on real or pretended inheritance and other such claims, or
else were effected against unbelievers and excommunicated persons. Here
for the first time the attempt was openly made to found a throne by
wholesale murder and endless barbarities, by the adoption, in short, of
any means with a view to nothing but the end pursued. None of his
successors, not even Cæsar Borgia, rivalled the colossal guilt of
Ezzelino; but the example once set was not forgotten, and his fall led
to no return of justice among the nations, and served as no warning to
future transgressors.

It was in vain at such a time that St. Thomas Aquinas, a born subject of
Frederick, set up the theory of a constitutional monarchy, in which the
prince was to be supported by an upper house named by himself, and a
representative body elected by the people; in vain did he concede to
the people the right of revolution.[5] Such theories found no echo
outside the lecture-room, and Frederick and Ezzelino were and remain for
Italy the great political phenomena of the thirteenth century. Their
personality, already half legendary, forms the most important subject of
‘The Hundred Old Tales,’ whose original composition falls certainly
within this century.[6] In them Frederick is already represented as
possessing the right to do as he pleased with the property of his
subjects, and exercises on all, even on criminals, a profound influence
by the force of his personality; Ezzelino is spoken of with the awe
which all mighty impressions leave behind them. His person became the
centre of a whole literature from the chronicle of eyewitnesses to the
half-mythical tragedy[7] of later poets.

Immediately after the fall of Frederick and Ezzelino, a crowd of tyrants
appeared upon the scene. The struggle between Guelph and Ghibelline was
their opportunity. They came forward in general as Ghibelline leaders,
but at times and under conditions so various that it is impossible not
to recognise in the fact a law of supreme and universal necessity. The
means which they used were those already familiar in the party struggles
of the past--the banishment or destruction of their adversaries and of
their adversaries’ households.



The tyrannies, great and small, of the fourteenth century afford
constant proof that examples such as these were not thrown away. Their
misdeeds cried forth loudly and have been circumstantially told by
historians. As states depending for existence on themselves alone, and
scientifically organised with a view to this object, they present to us
a higher interest than that of mere narrative.

The deliberate adaptation of means to ends, of which no prince out of
Italy had at that time a conception, joined to almost absolute power
within the limits of the state, produced among the despots both men and
modes of life of a peculiar character.[8] The chief secret of government
in the hands of the prudent ruler lay in leaving the incidence of
taxation so far as possible where he found it, or as he had first
arranged it. The chief sources of income were: a land tax, based on a
valuation; definite taxes on articles of consumption and duties on
exported and imported goods; together with the private fortune of the
ruling house. The only possible increase was derived from the growth of
business and of general prosperity. Loans, such as we find in the free
cities, were here unknown; a well-planned confiscation was held a
preferable means of raising money, provided only that it left public
credit unshaken--an end attained, for example, by the truly Oriental
practice of deposing and plundering the director of the finances.[9]

Out of this income the expenses of the little court, of the body-guard,
of the mercenary troops, and of the public buildings were met, as well
as of the buffoons and men of talent who belonged to the personal
attendants of the prince. The illegitimacy of his rule isolated the
tyrant and surrounded him with constant danger; the most honourable
alliance which he could form was with intellectual merit, without regard
to its origin. The liberality of the northern princes of the thirteenth
century was confined to the knights, to the nobility which served and
sang. It was otherwise with the Italian despot. With his thirst of fame
and his passion for monumental works, it was talent, not birth, which he
needed. In the company of the poet and the scholar he felt himself in a
new position, almost, indeed, in possession of a new legitimacy.

No prince was more famous in this respect than the ruler of Verona, Can
Grande della Scala, who numbered among the illustrious exiles whom he
entertained at his court representatives of the whole of Italy.[10] The
men of letters were not ungrateful. Petrarch, whose visits at the courts
of such men have been so severely censured, sketched an ideal picture of
a prince of the fourteenth century.[11] He demands great things from his
patron, the lord of Padua, but in a manner which shows that he holds him
capable of them. ‘Thou must not be the master but the father of thy
subjects, and must love them as thy children; yea, as members of thy
body.[12] Weapons, guards, and soldiers thou mayest employ against the
enemy--with thy subjects goodwill is sufficient. By citizens, of course,
I mean those who love the existing order; for those who daily desire
change are rebels and traitors, and against such a stern justice may
take its course.’

Here follows, worked out in detail, the purely modern fiction of the
omnipotence of the state. The prince is to be independent of his
courtiers, but at the same time to govern with simplicity and modesty;
he is to take everything into his charge, to maintain and restore
churches and public buildings, to keep up the municipal police,[13] to
drain the marshes, to look after the supply of wine and corn; he is to
exercise a strict justice, so to distribute the taxes that the people
can recognise their necessity and the regret of the ruler to be
compelled to put his hands in the pockets of others; he is to support
the sick and the helpless, and to give his protection and society to
distinguished scholars, on whom his fame in after ages will depend.

But whatever might be the brighter sides of the system, and the merits
of individual rulers, yet the men of the fourteenth century were not
without a more or less distinct consciousness of the brief and uncertain
tenure of most of these despotisms. Inasmuch as political institutions
like these are naturally secure in proportion to the size of the
territory in which they exist, the larger principalities were constantly
tempted to swallow up the smaller. Whole hecatombs of petty rulers were
sacrificed at this time to the Visconti alone. As a result of this
outward danger an inward ferment was in ceaseless activity; and the
effect of the situation on the character of the ruler was generally of
the most sinister kind. Absolute power, with its temptations to luxury
and unbridled selfishness, and the perils to which he was exposed from
enemies and conspirators, turned him almost inevitably into a tyrant in
the worst sense of the word. Well for him if he could trust his nearest
relations! But where all was illegitimate, there could be no regular law
of inheritance, either with regard to the succession or to the division
of the ruler’s property; and consequently the heir, if incompetent or a
minor, was liable in the interest of the family itself to be supplanted
by an uncle or cousin of more resolute character. The acknowledgment or
exclusion of the bastards was a fruitful source of contest; and most of
these families in consequence were plagued with a crowd of discontented
and vindictive kinsmen. This circumstance gave rise to continual
outbreaks of treason and to frightful scenes of domestic bloodshed.
Sometimes the pretenders lived abroad in exile, and like the Visconti,
who practised the fisherman’s craft on the Lake of Garda,[14] viewed the
situation with patient indifference. When asked by a messenger of his
rival when and how he thought of returning to Milan, he gave the reply,
‘By the same means as those by which I was expelled, but not till his
crimes have outweighed my own.’ Sometimes, too, the despot was
sacrificed by his relations, with the view of saving the family, to the
public conscience which he had too grossly outraged.[15] In a few cases
the government was in the hands of the whole family, or at least the
ruler was bound to take their advice; and here, too, the distribution of
property and influence often led to bitter disputes.

The whole of this system excited the deep and persistent hatred of the
Florentine writers of that epoch. Even the pomp and display with which
the despot was perhaps less anxious to gratify his own vanity than to
impress the popular imagination, awakened their keenest sarcasm. Woe to
an adventurer if he fell into their hands, like the upstart Doge Aguello
of Pisa (1364), who used to ride out with a golden sceptre, and show
himself at the window of his house, ‘as relics are shown.’ reclining on
embroidered drapery and cushions, served like a pope or emperor, by
kneeling attendants.[16] More often, however, the old Florentines speak
on this subject in a tone of lofty seriousness. Dante saw and
characterised well the vulgarity and commonplace which mark the ambition
of the new princes.[17] ‘What mean their trumpets and their bells,
their horns and their flutes; but come, hangman--come, vultures?’ The
castle of the tyrant, as pictured by the popular mind, is a lofty and
solitary building, full of dungeons and listening-tubes,[18] the home of
cruelty and misery. Misfortune is foretold to all who enter the service
of the despot,[19] who even becomes at last himself an object of pity:
he must needs be the enemy of all good and honest men; he can trust no
one, and can read in the faces of his subjects the expectation of his
fall. ‘As despotisms rise, grow, and are consolidated, so grows in their
midst the hidden element which must produce their dissolution and
ruin.’[20] But the deepest ground of dislike has not been stated;
Florence was then the scene of the richest development of human
individuality, while for the despots no other individuality could be
suffered to live and thrive but their own and that of their nearest
dependents. The control of the individual was rigorously carried out,
even down to the establishment of a system of passports.[21]

The astrological superstitions and the religious unbelief of many of the
tyrants gave, in the minds of their contemporaries, a peculiar colour to
this awful and God-forsaken existence. When the last Carrara could no
longer defend the walls and gates of the plague-stricken Padua, hemmed
in on all sides by the Venetians (1405), the soldiers of the guard heard
him cry to the devil ‘to come and kill him.’

The most complete and instructive type of the tyranny of the fourteenth
century is to be found unquestionably among the Visconti of Milan, from
the death of the Archbishop Giovanni onwards (1354). The family likeness
which shows itself between Bernabò and the worst of the Roman Emperors
is unmistakable;[22] the most important public object was the prince’s
boar-hunting; whoever interfered with it was put to death with torture;
the terrified people were forced to maintain 5,000 boar-hounds, with
strict responsibility for their health and safety. The taxes were
extorted by every conceivable sort of compulsion; seven daughters of the
prince received a dowry of 100,000 gold florins apiece; and an enormous
treasure was collected. On the death of his wife (1384) an order was
issued ‘to the subjects’ to share his grief, as once they had shared his
joy, and to wear mourning for a year. The _coup de main_ (1385) by which
his nephew Giangaleazzo got him into his power--one of those brilliant
plots which make the heart of even late historians beat more
quickly[23]--was strikingly characteristic of the man. Giangaleazzo,
despised by his relations on account of his religion and his love of
science, resolved on vengeance, and, leaving the city under pretext of a
pilgrimage, fell upon his unsuspecting uncle, took him prisoner, forced
his way back into the city at the head of an armed band, seized on the
government, and gave up the palace of Bernabò to general plunder.

In Giangaleazzo that passion for the colossal which was common to most
of the despots shows itself on the largest scale. He undertook, at the
cost of 300,000 golden florins, the construction of gigantic dykes, to
divert in case of need the Mincio from Mantua and the Brenta from Padua,
and thus to render these cities defenceless.[24] It is not impossible,
indeed, that he thought of draining away the lagoons of Venice. He
founded that most wonderful of all convents, the Certosa of Pavia,[25]
and the cathedral of Milan, ‘which exceeds in size and splendour all
the churches of Christendom.’ The Palace in Pavia, which his father
Galeazzo began and which he himself finished, was probably by far the
most magnificent of the princely dwellings of Europe. There he
transferred his famous library, and the great collection of relics of
the saints, in which he placed a peculiar faith. King Winceslaus made
him Duke (1395); he was hoping for nothing less than the Kingdom of
Italy[26] or the Imperial crown, when (1402) he fell ill and died. His
whole territories are said to have paid him in a single year, besides
the regular contribution of 1,200,000 gold florins, no less than 800,000
more in extraordinary subsidies. After his death the dominions which he
had brought together by every sort of violence fell to pieces; and for a
time even the original nucleus could with difficulty be maintained by
his successors. What might have become of his sons Giovanni Maria (died
1412) and Filippo Maria (died 1417), had they lived in a different
country and among other traditions, cannot be said. But, as heirs of
their house, they inherited that monstrous capital of cruelty and
cowardice which had been accumulated from generation to generation.

Giovanni Maria, too, is famed for his dogs, which were no longer,
however, used for hunting, but for tearing human bodies. Tradition has
preserved their names, like those of the bears of the Emperor
Valentinian I.[27] In May, 1409, when war was going on, and the starving
populace cried to him in the streets, _Pace! Pace!_ he let loose his
mercenaries upon them, and 200 lives were sacrificed; under penalty of
the gallows it was forbidden to utter the words _pace_ and _guerra_, and
the priests were ordered, instead of _dona nobis pacem_, to say
_tranquillitatem_! At last a band of conspirators took advantage of the
moment when Facino Cane, the chief Condottiere of the insane ruler, lay
ill at Pavia, and cut down Giovan Maria in the church of San Gottardo at
Milan; the dying Facino on the same day made his officers swear to stand
by the heir Filippo Maria, whom he himself urged his wife[28] to take
for a second husband. His wife, Beatrice di Tenda, followed his advice.
We shall have occasion to speak of Filippo Maria later on.

And in times like these Cola di Rienzi was dreaming of founding on the
rickety enthusiasm of the corrupt population of Rome a new state which
was to comprise all Italy. By the side of rulers such as those whom we
have described, he seems no better than a poor deluded fool.



The despotisms of the fifteenth century show an altered character. Many
of the less important tyrants, and some of the greater, like the Scala
and the Carrara, had disappeared, while the more powerful ones,
aggrandized by conquest, had given to their systems each its
characteristic development. Naples for example received a fresh and
stronger impulse from the new Arragonese dynasty. A striking feature of
this epoch is the attempt of the Condottieri to found independent
dynasties of their own. Facts and the actual relations of things, apart
from traditional estimates, are alone regarded; talent and audacity win
the great prizes. The petty despots, to secure a trustworthy support,
begin to enter the service of the larger states, and become themselves
Condottieri, receiving in return for their services money and impunity
for their misdeeds, if not an increase of territory. All, whether small
or great, must exert themselves more, must act with greater caution and
calculation, and must learn to refrain from too wholesale barbarities;
only so much wrong is permitted by public opinion as is necessary for
the end in view, and this the impartial bystander certainly finds no
fault with. No trace is here visible of that half-religious loyalty by
which the legitimate princes of the West were supported; personal
popularity is the nearest approach we can find to it. Talent and
calculation are the only means of advancement. A character like that of
Charles the Bold, which wore itself out in the passionate pursuit of
impracticable ends, was a riddle to the Italian. ‘The Swiss were only
peasants, and if they were all killed, that would be no satisfaction for
the Burgundian nobles who might fall in the war. If the Duke got
possession of all Switzerland without a struggle, his income would not
be 5,000 ducats the greater.’[29] The mediæval features in the
character of Charles, his chivalrous aspirations and ideals, had long
become unintelligible to the Italian. The diplomatists of the South,
when they saw him strike his officers and yet keep them in his service,
when he maltreated his troops to punish them for a defeat, and then
threw the blame on his counsellors in the presence of the same troops,
gave him up for lost.[30] Louis XI., on the other hand, whose policy
surpasses that of the Italian princes in their own style, and who was an
avowed admirer of Francesco Sforza, must be placed in all that regards
culture and refinement far below these rulers.

Good and evil lie strangely mixed together in the Italian States of the
fifteenth century. The personality of the ruler is so highly developed,
often of such deep significance, and so characteristic of the conditions
and needs of the time, that to form an adequate moral judgment on it is
no easy task.[31]

The foundation of the system was and remained illegitimate, and nothing
could remove the curse which rested upon it. The imperial approval or
investiture made no change in the matter, since the people attached
little weight to the fact, that the despot had bought a piece of
parchment somewhere in foreign countries, or from some stranger passing
through his territory.[32] If the Emperor had been good for anything--so
ran the logic of uncritical common sense--he would never have let the
tyrant rise at all. Since the Roman expedition of Charles IV., the
emperors had done nothing more in Italy than sanction a tyranny which
had arisen without their help; they could give it no other practical
authority than what might flow from an imperial charter. The whole
conduct of Charles in Italy was a scandalous political comedy. Matteo
Villani[33] relates how the Visconti escorted him round their territory,
and at last out of it; how he went about like a hawker selling his wares
(privileges, etc.) for money; what a mean appearance he made in Rome,
and how at the end, without even drawing the sword, he returned with
replenished coffers across the Alps. Nevertheless, patriotic enthusiasts
and poets, full of the greatness of the past, conceived high hopes at
his coming, which were afterwards dissipated by his pitiful conduct.
Petrarch, who had written frequent letters exhorting the Emperor to
cross the Alps, to give back to Rome its departed greatness, and to set
up a new universal empire, now, when the Emperor, careless of these
high-flying projects, had come at last, still hoped to see his dreams
realized, strove unweariedly, by speech and writing, to impress the
Emperor with them, but was at length driven away from him with disgust
when he saw the imperial authority dishonoured by the submission of
Charles to the Pope.[34] Sigismund came, on the first occasion at least
(1414), with the good intention of persuading John XXIII. to take part
in his council; it was on that journey, when Pope and Emperor were
gazing from the lofty tower of Cremona on the panorama of Lombardy, that
their host, the tyrant Gabino Fondolo, was seized with the desire to
throw them both over. On his second visit Sigismund came as a mere
adventurer, giving no proof whatever of his imperial prerogative, except
by crowning Beccadelli as a poet; for more than half a year he remained
shut up in Siena, like a debtor in gaol, and only with difficulty, and
at a later period, succeeded in being crowned in Rome. And what can be
thought of Frederick III.? His journeys to Italy have the air of
holiday-trips or pleasure-tours made at the expense of those who wanted
him to confirm their prerogatives, or whose vanity it flattered to
entertain an emperor. The latter was the case with Alfonso of Naples,
who paid 150,000 florins for the honour of an imperial visit.[35] At
Ferrara,[36] on his second return from Rome (1469), Frederick spent a
whole day without leaving his chamber, distributing no less than eighty
titles; he created knights, counts, doctors, notaries--counts, indeed,
of different degrees, as, for instance, counts palatine, counts with the
right to create doctors up to the number of five, counts with the right
to legitimatise bastards, to appoint notaries, and so forth. The
Chancellor, however, expected in return for the patents in question a
gratuity which was thought excessive at Ferrara.[37] The opinion of
Borso, himself created Duke of Modena and Reggio in return for an annual
payment of 4,000 gold florins, when his imperial patron was distributing
titles and diplomas to all the little court, is not mentioned. The
humanists, then the chief spokesmen of the age, were divided in opinion
according to their personal interests, while the Emperor was greeted by
some[38] of them with the conventional acclamations of the poets of
imperial Rome. Poggio[39] confessed that he no longer knew what the
coronation meant; in the old times only the victorious Inperator was
crowned, and then he was crowned with laurel.[40]

With Maximilian I. begins not only the general intervention of foreign
nations, but a new imperial policy with regard to Italy. The first
step--the investiture of Ludovico Moro with the duchy of Milan and the
exclusion of his unhappy nephew--was not of a kind to bear good fruits.
According to the modern theory of intervention, when two parties are
tearing a country to pieces, a third may step in and take its share, and
on this principle the empire acted. But right and justice were appealed
to no longer. When Louis XII. was expected in Genoa (1502), and the
imperial eagle was removed from the hall of the ducal palace and
replaced by painted lilies, the historian, Senarega[41] asked what after
all, was the meaning of the eagle which so many revolutions had spared,
and what claims the empire had upon Genoa. No one knew more about the
matter than the old phrase that Genoa was a _camera imperii_. In fact,
nobody in Italy could give a clear answer to any such questions. At
length, when Charles V. held Spain and the empire together, he was able
by means of Spanish forces to make good imperial claims; but it is
notorious that what he thereby gained turned to the profit, not of the
empire, but of the Spanish monarchy.

Closely connected with the political illegitimacy of the dynasties of
the fifteenth century, was the public indifference to legitimate birth,
which to foreigners--for example, to Comines--appeared so remarkable.
The two things went naturally together. In northern countries, as in
Burgundy, the illegitimate offspring were provided for by a distinct
class of appanages, such as bishoprics and the like; in Portugal an
illegitimate line maintained itself on the throne only by constant
effort; in Italy, on the contrary, there no longer existed a princely
house where, even in the direct line of descent, bastards were not
patiently tolerated. The Aragonese monarchs of Naples belonged to the
illegitimate line, Aragon itself falling to the lot of the brother of
Alfonso I. The great Frederick of Urbino was, perhaps, no Montefeltro at
all. When Pius II. was on his way to the Congress of Mantua (1459),
eight bastards of the house of Este rode to meet him at Ferrara, among
them the reigning duke Borso himself and two illegitimate sons of his
illegitimate brother and predecessor Leonello.[42] The latter had also
had a lawful wife, herself an illegitimate daughter of Alfonso I. of
Naples by an African woman.[43] The bastards were often admitted to the
succession where the lawful children were minors and the dangers of the
situation were pressing; and a rule of seniority became recognised,
which took no account of pure or impure birth. The fitness of the
individual, his worth and his capacity, were of more weight than all the
laws and usages which prevailed elsewhere in the West. It was the age,
indeed, in which the sons of the Popes were founding dynasties. In the
sixteenth century, through the influence of foreign ideas and of the
counter-reformation which then began, the whole question was judged more
strictly: Varchi discovers that the succession of the legitimate
children ‘is ordered by reason, and is the will of heaven from
eternity.’[44] Cardinal Ippolito de’ Medici founded his claim to the
lordship of Florence on the fact that he was perhaps the fruit of a
lawful marriage, and at all events son of a gentlewoman, and not, like
Duke Alessandro, of a servant girl.[45] At this time began those
morganatic marriages of affection which in the fifteenth century, on
grounds either of policy or morality, would have had no meaning at all.

But the highest and the most admired form of illegitimacy in the
fifteenth century was presented by the Condottiere, who, whatever may
have been his origin, raised himself to the position of an independent
ruler. At bottom, the occupation of Lower Italy by the Normans in the
eleventh century was of this character. Such attempts now began to keep
the peninsula in a constant ferment.

It was possible for a Condottiere to obtain the lordship of a district
even without usurpation, in the case when his employer, through want of
money or troops, provided for him in this way;[46] under any
circumstances the Condottiere, even when he dismissed for the time the
greater part of his forces, needed a safe place where he could establish
his winter quarters, and lay up his stores and provisions. The first
example of a captain thus portioned is John Hawkwood, who was invested
by Gregory XI. with the lordship of Bagnacavallo and Cotignola.[47] When
with Alberigo da Barbiano Italian armies and leaders appeared upon the
scene, the chances of founding a principality, or of increasing one
already acquired, became more frequent. The first great bacchanalian
outbreak of military ambition took place in the duchy of Milan after the
death of Giangaleazzo (1402). The policy of his two sons was chiefly
aimed at the destruction of the new despotisms founded by the
Condottieri; and from the greatest of them, Facino Cane, the house of
Visconti inherited, together with his widow, a long list of cities, and
400,000 golden florins, not to speak of the soldiers of her first
husband whom Beatrice di Tenda brought with her.[48] From henceforth
that thoroughly immoral relation between the governments and their
Condottieri, which is characteristic of the fifteenth century, became
more and more common. An old story[49]--one of those which are true and
not true, everywhere and nowhere--describes it as follows: The citizens
of a certain town (Siena seems to be meant) had once an officer in their
service who had freed them from foreign aggression; daily they took
counsel how to recompense him, and concluded that no reward in their
power was great enough, not even if they made him lord of the city. At
last one of them rose and said, ‘Let us kill him and then worship him as
our patron saint.’ And so they did, following the example set by the
Roman senate with Romulus. In fact, the Condottieri had reason to fear
none so much as their employers; if they were successful, they became
dangerous, and were put out of the way like Robert Malatesta just after
the victory he had won for Sixtus IV. (1482); if they failed, the
vengeance of the Venetians on Carmagnola[50] showed to what risks they
were exposed (1432). It is characteristic of the moral aspect of the
situation, that the Condottieri had often to give their wives and
children as hostages, and notwithstanding this, neither felt nor
inspired confidence. They must have been heroes of abnegation, natures
like Belisarius himself, not to be cankered by hatred and bitterness;
only the most perfect goodness could save them from the most monstrous
iniquity. No wonder then if we find them full of contempt for all sacred
things, cruel and treacherous to their fellows--men who cared nothing
whether or no they died under the ban of the Church. At the same time,
and through the force of the same conditions, the genius and capacity
of many among them attained the highest conceivable development, and won
for them the admiring devotion of their followers; their armies are the
first in modern history in which the personal credit of the leader is
the one moving power. A brilliant example is shown in the life of
Francesco Sforza;[51] no prejudice of birth could prevent him from
winning and turning to account when he needed it a boundless devotion
from each individual with whom he had to deal; it happened more than
once that his enemies laid down their arms at the sight of him, greeting
him reverently with uncovered heads, each honouring in him ‘the common
father of the men-at-arms.’ The race of the Sforza has this special
interest, that from the very beginning of its history we seem able to
trace its endeavours after the crown.[52] The foundation of its fortune
lay in the remarkable fruitfulness of the family; Francesco’s father,
Jacopo, himself a celebrated man, had twenty brothers and sisters, all
brought up roughly at Cotignola, near Faenza, amid the perils of one of
the endless Romagnole ‘vendette’ between their own house and that of the
Pasolini. The family dwelling was a mere arsenal and fortress; the
mother and daughters were as warlike as their kinsmen. In his thirteenth
year Jacopo ran away and fled to Panicale to the Papal Condottiere
Boldrino--the man who even in death continued to lead his troops, the
word of order being given from the bannered tent in which the embalmed
body lay, till at last a fit leader was found to succeed him. Jacopo,
when he had at length made himself a name in the service of different
Condottieri, sent for his relations, and obtained through them the same
advantages that a prince derives from a numerous dynasty. It was these
relations who kept the army together when he lay a captive in the Castel
dell’Uovo at Naples; his sister took the royal envoys prisoners with her
own hands, and saved him by this reprisal from death. It was an
indication of the breadth and the range of his plans that in monetary
affairs Jacopo was thoroughly trustworthy; even in his defeats he
consequently found credit with the bankers. He habitually protected the
peasants against the licence of his troops, and reluctantly destroyed or
injured a conquered city. He gave his well-known mistress, Lucia, the
mother of Francesco, in marriage to another in order to be free from a
princely alliance. Even the marriages of his relations were arranged on
a definite plan. He kept clear of the impious and profligate life of his
contemporaries, and brought up his son Francesco to the three rules:
‘Let other men’s wives alone; strike none of your followers, or, if you
do, send the injured man far away; don’t ride a hard-mouthed horse, or
one that drops his shoe.’ But his chief source of influence lay in the
qualities, if not of a great general, at least of a great soldier. His
frame was powerful, and developed by every kind of exercise; his
peasant’s face and frank manners won general popularity; his memory was
marvellous, and after the lapse of years could recall the names of his
followers, the number of their horses, and the amount of their pay. His
education was purely Italian: he devoted his leisure to the study of
history, and had Greek and Latin authors translated for his use.
Francesco, his still more famous son, set his mind from the first on
founding a powerful state, and through brilliant generalship and a
faithlessness which hesitated at nothing, got possession of the great
city of Milan (1447-1450).

His example was contagious. Æneas Sylvius wrote about this time:[53] ‘In
our change-loving Italy, where nothing stands firm, and where no ancient
dynasty exists, a servant can easily become a king.’ One man in
particular, who styled himself ‘the man of fortune,’ filled the
imagination of the whole country: Giacomo Piccinino, the son of Niccolò.
It was a burning question of the day if he, too, would succeed in
founding a princely house. The greater states had an obvious interest in
hindering it, and even Francesco Sforza thought it would be all the
better if the list of self-made sovereigns were not enlarged. But the
troops and captains sent against him, at the time, for instance, when
he was aiming at the lordship of Siena, recognised their interest in
supporting him:[54] ‘If it were all over with him, we should have to go
back and plough our fields.’ Even while besieging him at Orbetello, they
supplied him with provisions; and he got out of his straits with honour.
But at last fate overtook him. All Italy was betting on the result, when
(1465), after a visit to Sforza at Milan, he went to King Ferrante at
Naples. In spite of the pledges given, and of his high connections, he
was murdered in the Castel dell’Uovo.[55] Even the Condottieri, who had
obtained their dominions by inheritance, never felt themselves safe.
When Roberto Malatesta and Frederick of Urbino died on the same day
(1482), the one at Rome, the other at Bologna, it was found[56] that
each had recommended his state to the care of the other. Against a class
of men who themselves stuck at nothing, everything was held to be
permissible. Francesco Sforza, when quite young, had married a rich
Calabrian heiress, Polissena Russa, Countess of Montalto, who bore him a
daughter; an aunt poisoned both mother and child, and seized the

From the death of Piccinino onwards, the foundations of new States by
the Condottieri became a scandal not to be tolerated. The four great
Powers, Naples, Milan, the Papacy, and Venice, formed among themselves a
political equilibrium which refused to allow of any disturbance. In the
States of the Church, which swarmed with petty tyrants, who in part
were, or had been, Condottieri, the nephews of the Popes, since the time
of Sixtus IV., monopolised the right to all such undertakings. But at
the first sign of a political crisis, the soldiers of fortune appeared
again upon the scene. Under the wretched administration of Innocent
VIII. it was near happening that a certain Boccalino, who had formerly
served in the Burgundian army, gave himself and the town of Osimo, of
which he was master, up to the Turkish forces;[58] fortunately, through
the intervention of Lorenzo the Magnificent, he proved willing to be
paid off, and took himself away. In the year 1495, when the wars of
Charles VIII. had turned Italy upside down, the Condottiere Vidovero, of
Brescia, made trial of his strength:[59] he had already seized the town
of Cesena and murdered many of the nobles and the burghers; but the
citadel held out, and he was forced to withdraw. He then, at the head of
a band lent him by another scoundrel, Pandolfo Malatesta of Rimini, son
of the Roberto already spoken of, and Venetian Condottiere, wrested the
town of Castelnuovo from the Archbishop of Ravenna. The Venetians,
fearing that worse would follow, and urged also by the Pope, ordered
Pandolfo, ‘with the kindest intentions,’ to take an opportunity of
arresting his good friend: the arrest was made, though ‘with great
regret,’ whereupon the order came to bring the prisoner to the gallows.
Pandolfo was considerate enough to strangle him in prison, and then show
his corpse to the people. The last notable example of such usurpers is
the famous Castellan of Musso, who during the confusion in the Milanese
territory which followed the battle of Pavia (1525), improvised a
sovereignty on the Lake of Como.



It may be said in general of the despotisms of the fifteenth century
that the greatest crimes are most frequent in the smallest states. In
these, where the family was numerous and all the members wished to live
in a manner befitting their rank, disputes respecting the inheritance
were unavoidable. Bernardo Varano of Camerino put (1434) two of his
brothers to death,[60] wishing to divide their property among his sons.
Where the ruler of a single town was distinguished by a wise, moderate,
and humane government, and by zeal for intellectual culture, he was
generally a member of some great family, or politically dependent on it.
This was the case, for example, with Alessandro Sforza,[61] Prince of
Pesaro, brother of the great Francesco, and stepfather of Frederick of
Urbino (d. 1473). Prudent in administration, just and affable in his
rule, he enjoyed, after years of warfare, a tranquil reign, collected a
noble library, and passed his leisure in learned or religious
conversation. A man of the same class was Giovanni II., Bentivoglio of
Bologna (1462-1506), whose policy was determined by that of the Este and
the Sforza. What ferocity and bloodthirstiness is found, on the other
hand, among the Varani of Camerino, the Malatesta of Rimini, the
Manfreddi of Faenza, and above all among the Baglioni of Perugia. We
find a striking picture of the events in the last-named family towards
the close of the fifteenth century, in the admirable historical
narratives of Graziani and Materazzo.[62]

The Baglioni were one of those families whose rule never took the shape
of an avowed despotism. It was rather a leadership exercised by means
of their vast wealth and of their practical influence in the choice of
public officers. Within the family one man was recognised as head; but
deep and secret jealousy prevailed among the members of the different
branches. Opposed to the Baglioni stood another aristocratic party, led
by the family of the Oddi. In 1487 the city was turned into a camp, and
the houses of the leading citizens swarmed with bravos; scenes of
violence were of daily occurrence. At the burial of a German student,
who had been assassinated, two colleges took arms against one another;
sometimes the bravos of the different houses even joined battle in the
public square. The complaints of the merchants and artisans were vain;
the Papal Governors and _Nipoti_ held their tongues, or took themselves
off on the first opportunity. At last the Oddi were forced to abandon
Perugia, and the city became a beleaguered fortress under the absolute
despotism of the Baglioni, who used even the cathedral as barracks.
Plots and surprises were met with cruel vengeance; in the year 1491,
after 130 conspirators, who had forced their way into the city, were
killed and hung up at the Palazzo Comunale, thirty-five altars were
erected in the square, and for three days mass was performed and
processions held, to take away the curse which rested on the spot. A
nephew of Innocent VIII. was in open day run through in the street. A
nephew of Alexander VI., who was sent to smooth matters over, was
dismissed with public contempt. All the while the two leaders of the
ruling house, Guido and Ridolfo, were holding frequent interviews with
Suor Colomba of Rieti, a Dominican nun of saintly reputation and
miraculous powers, who under penalty of some great disaster ordered them
to make peace--naturally in vain. Nevertheless the chronicle takes the
opportunity to point out the devotion and piety of the better men in
Perugia during this reign of terror. When in 1494 Charles VIII.
approached, the Baglioni from Perugia and the exiles encamped in and
near Assisi conducted the war with such ferocity, that every house in
the valley was levelled to the ground. The fields lay untilled, the
peasants were turned into plundering and murdering savages, the
fresh-grown bushes were filled with stags and wolves, and the beasts
grew fat on the bodies of the slain, on so-called ‘Christian flesh.’
When Alexander VI. withdrew (1495) into Umbria before Charles VIII.,
then returning from Naples, it occurred to him, when at Perugia, that he
might now rid himself of the Baglioni once for all; he proposed to Guido
a festival or tournament, or something else of the same kind, which
would bring the whole family together. Guido, however, was of opinion,
‘that the most impressive spectacle of all would be to see the whole
military force of Perugia collected in a body,’ whereupon the Pope
abandoned his project. Soon after, the exiles made another attack, in
which nothing but the personal heroism of the Baglioni won them the
victory. It was then that Simonetto Baglione, a lad of scarcely
eighteen, fought in the square with a handful of followers against
hundreds of the enemy: he fell at last with more than twenty wounds, but
recovered himself when Astorre Baglione came to his help, and mounting
on horseback in gilded armour with a falcon on his helmet, ‘like Mars in
bearing and in deeds, plunged into the struggle.’

At that time Raphael, a boy of twelve years of age, was at school under
Pietro Perugino. The impressions of these days are perhaps immortalised
in the small, early pictures of St. Michael and St. George: something of
them, it may be, lives eternally in the great painting of St. Michael:
and if Astorre Baglione has anywhere found his apotheosis, it is in the
figure of the heavenly horseman in the Heliodorus.

The opponents of the Baglioni were partly destroyed, partly scattered in
terror, and were henceforth incapable of another enterprise of the kind.
After a time a partial reconciliation took place, and some of the exiles
were allowed to return. But Perugia became none the safer or more
tranquil: the inward discord of the ruling family broke out in frightful
excesses. An opposition was formed against Guido and Ridolfo and their
sons Gianpaolo, Simonetto, Astorre, Gismondo, Gentile, Marcantonio and
others, by two great-nephews, Grifone and Carlo Barciglia; the latter of
the two was also nephew of Varano, Prince of Camerino, and brother of
one of the former exiles, Ieronimo della Penna. In vain did Simonetto,
warned by sinister presentiment, entreat his uncle on his knees to allow
him to put Penna to death: Guido refused. The plot ripened suddenly on
the occasion of the marriage of Astorre with Lavinia Colonna, at
Midsummer 1500. The festival began and lasted several days amid gloomy
forebodings, whose deepening effect is admirably described by Matarazzo.
Varano fed and encouraged them with devilish ingenuity: he worked upon
Grifone by the prospect of undivided authority, and by stories of an
imaginary intrigue of his wife Zenobia with Gianpaolo. Finally each
conspirator was provided with a victim. (The Baglioni lived all of them
in separate houses, mostly on the site of the present castle.) Each
received fifteen of the bravos at hand; the remainder were set on the
watch. In the night of July 15 the doors were forced, and Guido,
Astorre, Simonetto, and Gismondo were murdered; the others succeeded in

As the corpse of Astorre lay by that of Simonetto in the street, the
spectators, ‘and especially the foreign students,’ compared him to an
ancient Roman, so great and imposing did he seem. In the features of
Simonetto could still be traced the audacity and defiance which death
itself had not tamed. The victors went round among the friends of the
family, and did their best to recommend themselves; they found all in
tears and preparing to leave for the country. Meantime the escaped
Baglioni collected forces without the city, and on the following day
forced their way in, Gianpaolo at their head, and speedily found
adherents among others whom Barciglia had been threatening with death.
When Grifone fell into their hands near S. Ercolono. Gianpaolo handed
him over for execution to his followers. Barciglia and Penna fled to
Varano, the chief author of the tragedy, at Camerino; and in a moment,
almost without loss, Gianpaolo became master of the city.

Atalanta, the still young and beautiful mother of Grifone, who the day
before had withdrawn to a country house with the latter’s wife Zenobia
and two children of Gianpaolo, and more than once had repulsed her son
with a mother’s curse, now returned with her step-daughter in search of
the dying man. All stood aside as the two women approached, each man
shrinking from being recognised as the slayer of Grifone, and dreading
the malediction of the mother. But they were deceived: she herself
besought her son to pardon him who had dealt the fatal blow, and he died
with her blessing. The eyes of the crowd followed the two women
reverently as they crossed the square with blood-stained garments. It
was Atalanta for whom Raphael afterwards painted the world-famed
‘Deposition,’ with which she laid her own maternal sorrows at the feet
of a yet higher and holier suffering.

The cathedral, in the immediate neighbourhood of which the greater part
of this tragedy had been enacted, was washed with wine and consecrated
afresh. The triumphal arch, erected for the wedding, still remained
standing, painted with the deeds of Astorre and with the laudatory
verses of the narrator of these events, the worthy Matarazzo.

A legendary history, which is simply the reflection of these atrocities,
arose out of the early days of the Baglioni. All the members of this
family from the beginning were reported to have died an evil
death--twenty-seven on one occasion together; their houses were said to
have been once before levelled to the ground, and the streets of Perugia
paved with the bricks--and more of the same kind. Under Paul III. the
destruction of their palaces really took place.[63]

For a time they seem to have formed good resolutions, to have brought
their own party into order, and to have protected the public officials
against the arbitrary acts of the nobility. But the old curse broke out
again like a smouldering fire. Gianpaolo was enticed to Rome under Leo
X., and there beheaded; one of his sons, Orazio, who ruled in Perugia
for a short time only, and by the most violent means, as the partisan of
the Duke of Urbino (himself threatened by the Pope), once more repeated
in his own family the horrors of the past. His uncle and three cousins
were murdered, whereupon the Duke sent him word that enough had been
done.[64] His brother, Malatesta Baglione, the Florentine general, has
made himself immortal by the treason of 1530; and Malatesta’s son
Ridolfo, the last of the house, attained, by the murder of the legate
and the public officers in the year 1534, a brief but sanguinary

Here and there we meet with the names of the rulers of Rimini.
Unscrupulousness, impiety, military skill, and high culture, have been
seldom so combined in one individual as in Sigismondo Malatesta (d.
1467).[65] But the accumulated crimes of such a family must at last
outweigh all talent, however great, and drag the tyrant into the abyss.
Pandolfo, Sigismondo’s nephew, who has been mentioned already, succeeded
in holding his ground, for the sole reason that the Venetians refused to
abandon their Condottiere, whatever guilt he might be chargeable with;
when his subjects (1497), after ample provocation,[66] bombarded him in
his castle at Rimini, and afterwards allowed him to escape, a Venetian
commissioner brought him back, stained as he was with fratricide and
every other abomination. Thirty years later the Malatesta were penniless
exiles. In the year 1527, as in the time of Cæsar Borgia, a sort of
epidemic fell on the petty tyrants: few of them outlived this date, and
none to their own good. At Mirandola, which was governed by
insignificant princes of the house of Pico, lived in the year 1533 a
poor scholar, Lilio Gregorio Giraldi, who had fled from the sack of Rome
to the hospitable hearth of the aged Giovanni Francesco Pico, nephew of
the famous Giovanni; the discussions as to the sepulchral monument which
the prince was constructing for himself gave rise to a treatise, the
dedication of which bears the date of April in this year. The postscript
is a sad one.[67]--‘In October of the same year the unhappy prince was
attacked in the night and robbed of life and throne by his brother’s
son; and I myself escaped narrowly, and am now in the deepest misery.’

A pseudo-despotism without characteristic features, such as Pandolfo
Petrucci exercised from the year 1490 in Siena, then torn by faction, is
hardly worth a closer consideration. Insignificant and malicious, he
governed with the help of a professor of jurisprudence and of an
astrologer, and frightened his people by an occasional murder. His
pastime in the summer months was to roll blocks of stone from the top of
Monte Amiata, without caring what or whom they hit. After succeeding,
where the most prudent failed, in escaping from the devices of Cæsar
Borgia, he died at last forsaken and despised. His sons maintained a
qualified supremacy for many years afterwards.



In treating of the chief dynasties of Italy, it is convenient to discuss
the Aragonese, on account of its special character, apart from the rest.
The feudal system, which from the days of the Normans had survived in
the form of a territorial supremacy of the Barons, gave a distinctive
colour to the political constitution of Naples; while elsewhere in
Italy, excepting only in the southern part of the ecclesiastical
dominion, and in a few other districts, a direct tenure of land
prevailed, and no hereditary powers were permitted by the law. The great
Alfonso, who reigned in Naples from 1435 onwards (d. 1458), was a man of
another kind than his real or alleged descendants. Brilliant in his
whole existence, fearless in mixing with his people, mild and generous
towards his enemies, dignified and affable in intercourse, modest
notwithstanding his legitimate royal descent, admired rather than blamed
even for his old man’s passion for Lucrezia d’Alagna, he had the one bad
quality of extravagance,[68] from which, however, the natural
consequence followed. Unscrupulous financiers were long omnipotent at
Court, till the bankrupt king robbed them of their spoils; a crusade was
preached, as a pretext for taxing the clergy; the Jews were forced to
save themselves from conversion and other oppressive measures by
presents and the payment of regular taxes; when a great earthquake
happening in the Abruzzi, the survivors were compelled to make good the
contributions of the dead. On the other hand, he abolished unreasonable
taxes, like that on dice, and aimed at relieving his poorer subjects
from the imposts which pressed most heavily upon them. By such means
Alfonso was able to entertain distinguished guests with unrivalled
splendour; he found pleasure in ceaseless expense, even for the benefit
of his enemies, and in rewarding literary work knew absolutely no
measure. Poggio received 500 pieces of gold for translating Xenophon’s

Ferrante,[69] who succeeded him, passed as his illegitimate son by a
Spanish lady, but was not improbably the son of a half-caste Moor of
Valentia. Whether it was his blood or the plots formed against his life
by the barons which embittered and darkened his nature, it is certain
that he was equalled in ferocity by none among the princes of his time.
Restlessly active, recognised as one of the most powerful political
minds of the day, and free from the vices of the profligate, he
concentrated all his powers, among which must be reckoned profound
dissimulation and an irreconcileable spirit of vengeance, on the
destruction of his opponents. He had been wounded in every point in
which a ruler is open to offence; for the leaders of the barons, though
related to him by marriage, were yet the allies of his foreign enemies.
Extreme measures became part of his daily policy. The means for this
struggle with his barons, and for his external wars, were exacted in the
same Mohammedan fashion which Frederick II. had introduced: the
Government alone dealt in oil and wine; the whole commerce of the
country was put by Ferrante into the hands of a wealthy merchant,
Francesco Coppola, who had entire control of the anchorage on the coast,
and shared the profits with the King. Deficits were made up by forced
loans, by executions and confiscations, by open simony, and by
contributions levied on the ecclesiastical corporations. Besides
hunting, which he practised regardless of all rights of property, his
pleasures were of two kinds: he liked to have his opponents near him,
either alive in well-guarded prisons, or dead and embalmed, dressed in
the costume which they wore in their lifetime.[70] He would chuckle in
talking of the captives with his friends, and made no secret whatever of
the museum of mummies. His victims were mostly men whom he had got into
his power by treachery; some were even seized while guests at the royal
table. His conduct to his first minister, Antonello Petrucci, who had
grown sick and grey in his service, and from whose increasing fear of
death he extorted present after present, was literally devilish. At
length the suspicion of complicity with the last conspiracy of the
barons gave the pretext for his arrest and execution. With him died
Coppola. The way in which all this is narrated in Caracciolo and Porzio
makes one’s hair stand on end. The elder of the King’s sons, Alfonso,
Duke of Calabria, enjoyed in later years a kind of co-regency with his
father. He was a savage, brutal profligate--described by Comines as ‘the
cruelest, worst, most vicious and basest man ever seen’--who in point of
frankness alone had the advantage of Ferrante, and who openly avowed his
contempt for religion and its usages.[71] The better and nobler features
of the Italian despotisms are not to be found among the princes of this
line; all that they possessed of the art and culture of their time
served the purposes of luxury or display. Even the genuine Spaniards
seem to have almost always degenerated in Italy; but the end of this
cross-bred house (1494 and 1503) gives clear proof of a want of blood.
Ferrante died of mental care and trouble; Alfonso accused his brother
Federigo, the only honest member of the family, of treason, and insulted
him in the vilest manner. At length, though he had hitherto passed for
one of the ablest generals in Italy, he lost his head and fled to
Sicily, leaving his son, the younger Ferrante, a prey to the French and
to domestic treason. A dynasty which had ruled as this had done must at
least have sold its life dear, if its children were ever to hope for a
restoration. But, as Comines one-sidedly, and yet on the whole rightly
observes on this occasion, ‘_Jamais homme cruel ne fut hardi_.’

The despotism of the Dukes of Milan, whose government from the time of
Giangaleazzo onwards was an absolute monarchy of the most thorough-going
sort, shows the genuine Italian character of the fifteenth century. The
last of the Visconti, Filippo Maria (1412-1447), is a character of
peculiar interest, and of which fortunately an admirable description[72]
has been left us. What a man of uncommon gifts and high position can be
made by the passion of fear, is here shown with what may be called a
mathematical completeness. All the resources of the State were devoted
to the one end of securing his personal safety, though happily his cruel
egoism did not degenerate into a purposeless thirst for blood. He lived
in the Citadel of Milan, surrounded by magnificent gardens, arbours, and
lawns. For years he never set foot in the city, making his excursions
only in the country, where lay several of his splendid castles; the
flotilla which, drawn by the swiftest horses, conducted him to them
along canals constructed for the purpose, was so arranged as to allow of
the application of the most rigorous etiquette. Whoever entered the
citadel was watched by a hundred eyes; it was forbidden even to stand at
the window, lest signs should be given to those without. All who were
admitted among the personal followers of the Prince were subjected to a
series of the strictest examinations; then, once accepted, were charged
with the highest diplomatic commissions, as well as with the humblest
personal services--both in this Court being alike honourable. And this
was the man who conducted long and difficult wars, who dealt habitually
with political affairs of the first importance, and every day sent his
plenipotentiaries to all parts of Italy. His safety lay in the fact that
none of his servants trusted the others, that his Condottieri were
watched and misled by spies, and that the ambassadors and higher
officials were baffled and kept apart by artificially nourished
jealousies, and in particular by the device of coupling an honest man
with a knave. His inward faith, too, rested upon opposed and
contradictory systems; he believed in blind necessity, and in the
influence of the stars, and offering prayers at one and the same time to
helpers of every sort;[73] he was a student of the ancient authors, as
well as of French tales of chivalry. And yet the same man, who would
never suffer death to be mentioned in his presence,[74] and caused his
dying favourites to be removed from the castle, that no shadow might
fall on the abode of happiness, deliberately hastened his own death by
closing up a wound, and, refusing to be bled, died at last with dignity
and grace.

His step-son and successor, the fortunate Condottiere Francesco Sforza
(1450-1466, see p. 24), was perhaps of all the Italians of the fifteenth
century the man most after the heart of his age. Never was the triumph
of genius and individual power more brilliantly displayed than in him;
and those who would not recognise his merit were at least forced to
wonder at him as the spoilt child of fortune. The Milanese claimed it
openly as an honour to be governed by so distinguished a master; when he
entered the city the thronging populace bore him on horseback into the
cathedral, without giving him the chance to dismount.[75] Let us listen
to the balance-sheet of his life, in the estimate of Pope Pius II., a
judge in such matters:[76] ‘In the year 1459, when the Duke came to the
congress at Mantua, he was 60 (really 58) years old; on horseback he
looked like a young man; of a lofty and imposing figure, with serious
features, calm and affable in conversation, princely in his whole
bearing, with a combination of bodily and intellectual gifts unrivalled
in our time, unconquered on the field of battle,--such was the man who
raised himself from a humble position to the control of an empire. His
wife was beautiful and virtuous, his children were like the angels of
heaven; he was seldom ill, and all his chief wishes were fulfilled. And
yet he was not without misfortune. His wife, out of jealousy, killed his
mistress; his old comrades and friends, Troilo and Brunoro, abandoned
him and went over to King Alfonso; another, Ciarpollone, he was forced
to hang for treason; he had to suffer it that his brother Alessandro set
the French upon him; one of his sons formed intrigues against him, and
was imprisoned; the March of Ancona, which he had won in war, he lost
again in the same way. No man enjoys so unclouded a fortune, that he has
not somewhere to struggle with adversity. He is happy who has but few
troubles.’ With this negative definition of happiness the learned Pope
dismisses the reader. Had he been able to see into the future, or been
willing to stop and discuss the consequences of an uncontrolled
despotism, one prevading fact would not have escaped his notice--the
absence of all guarantee for the future. Those children, beautiful as
angels, carefully and thoroughly educated as they were, fell victims,
when they grew up, to the corruption of a measureless egoism. Galeazzo
Maria (1466-1476), solicitous only of outward effect, took pride in the
beauty of his hands, in the high salaries he paid, in the financial
credit he enjoyed, in his treasure of two million pieces of gold, in the
distinguished people who surrounded him, and in the army and birds of
chase which he maintained. He was fond of the sound of his own voice,
and spoke well, most fluently, perhaps, when he had the chance of
insulting a Venetian ambassador.[77] He was subject to caprices, such as
having a room painted with figures in a single night; and, what was
worse, to fits of senseless debauchery and of revolting cruelty to his
nearest friends. To a handful of enthusiasts, at whose head stood Giov.
Andrea di Lampugnano, he seemed a tyrant too bad to live; they murdered
him,[78] and thereby delivered the State into the power of his brothers,
one of whom, Ludovico il Moro, threw his nephew into prison, and took
the government into his own hands. From this usurpation followed the
French intervention, and the disasters which befell the whole of Italy.

The Moor is the most perfect type of the despot of that age, and, as a
kind of natural product, almost disarms our moral judgment.
Notwithstanding the profound immorality of the means he employed, he
used them with perfect ingenuousness; no one would probably have been
more astonished than himself to learn, that for the choice of means as
well as of ends a human being is morally responsible; he would rather
have reckoned it as a singular virtue that, so far as possible, he had
abstained from too free a use of the punishment of death. He accepted as
no more than his due the almost fabulous respect of the Italians for his
political genius.[79] In 1496 he boasted that the Pope Alexander was his
chaplain, the Emperor Maximilian his Condottiere, Venice his
chamberlain, and the King of France his courier, who must come and go at
his bidding.[80] With marvellous presence of mind he weighed, even in
his last extremity, all possible means of escape, and at length decided,
to his honour, to trust to the goodness of human nature; he rejected the
proposal of his brother, the Cardinal Ascanio, who wished to remain in
the Citadel of Milan, on the ground of a former quarrel: ‘Monsignore,
take it not ill, but I trust you not, brother though you be;’ and
appointed to the command of the castle, ‘that pledge of his return,’ a
man to whom he had always done good, but who nevertheless betrayed
him.[81] At home the Moor was a good and useful ruler, and to the last
he reckoned on his popularity both in Milan and in Como. In former years
(after 1496) he had overstrained the resources of his State, and at
Cremona had ordered, out of pure expediency, a respectable citizen, who
had spoken against the new taxes, to be quietly strangled. Since that
time, in holding audiences, he kept his visitors away from his person by
means of a bar, so that in conversing with him they were compelled to
speak at the top of their voices.[82] At his court, the most brilliant
in Europe, since that of Burgundy had ceased to exist, immorality of the
worst kind was prevalent: the daughter was sold by the father, the wife
by the husband, the sister by the brother.[83] The Prince himself was
incessantly active, and, as son of his own deeds, claimed relationship
with all who, like himself, stood on their personal merits--with
scholars, poets, artists, and musicians. The academy which he
founded[84] served rather for his own purposes than for the instruction
of scholars; nor was it the fame of the distinguished men who surrounded
him which he heeded, so much as their society and their services. It is
certain that Bramante was scantily paid at first;[85] Lionardo, on the
other hand, was up to 1496 suitably remunerated--and besides, what kept
him at the court, if not his own free will? The world lay open to him,
as perhaps to no other mortal man of that day; and if proof were wanting
of the loftier element in the nature of Ludovico Moro, it is found in
the long stay of the enigmatic master at his court. That afterwards
Lionardo entered the service of Cæsar Borgia and Francis I. was probably
due to the interest he felt in the unusual and striking character of the
two men.

After the fall of the Moor--he was captured in April 1500 by the French,
after his return from his flight to Germany--his sons were badly brought
up among strangers, and showed no capacity for carrying out his
political testament. The elder, Massimiliano, had no resemblance to him;
the younger, Francesco, was at all events not without spirit. Milan,
which in those years changed its rulers so often, and suffered so
unspeakably in the change, endeavoured to secure itself against a
reaction. In the year 1512 the French, retreating before the arms of
Maximilian and the Spaniards, were induced to make a declaration that
the Milanese had taken no part in their expulsion, and, without being
guilty of rebellion, might yield themselves to a new conqueror.[86] It
is a fact of some political importance that in such moments of
transition the unhappy city, like Naples at the flight of the Aragonese,
was apt to fall a prey to gangs of (often highly aristocratic)

       *       *       *       *       *

The house of Gonzaga at Mantua and that of Montefeltro of Urbino were
among the best ordered and richest in men of ability during the second
half of the fifteenth century. The Gonzaga were a tolerably harmonious
family; for a long period no murder had been known among them, and their
dead could be shown to the world without fear. The Marquis Francesco
Gonzaga[87] and his wife, Isabella of Este, in spite of some few
irregularities, were a united and respectable couple, and brought up
their sons to be successful and remarkable men at a time when their
small but most important State was exposed to incessant danger. That
Francesco, either as statesman or as soldier, should adopt a policy of
exceptional honesty, was what neither the Emperor, nor Venice, nor the
King of France could have expected or desired; but certainly since the
battle at Taro (1495), so far as military honour was concerned, he felt
and acted as an Italian patriot, and imparted the same spirit to his
wife. Every deed of loyalty and heroism, such as the defence of Faenza
against Cæsar Borgia, she felt as a vindication of the honour of Italy.
Our judgment of her does not need to rest on the praises of the artists
and writers who made the fair princess a rich return for her patronage;
her own letters show her to us as a woman of unshaken firmness, full of
kindliness and humorous observation. Bembo, Bandello, Ariosto, and
Bernardo Tasso sent their works to this court, small and powerless as it
was, and empty as they found its treasury. A more polished and charming
circle was not to be seen in Italy, since the dissolution (1508) of the
old Court of Urbino; and in one respect, in freedom of movement, the
society of Ferrara was inferior to that of Mantua. In artistic matters
Isabella had an accurate knowledge, and the catalogue of her small but
choice collection can be read by no lover of art without emotion.

In the great Federigo (1444-1482), whether he were a genuine Montefeltro
or not, Urbino possessed a brilliant representative of the princely
order. As a Condottiere--and in this capacity he served kings and popes
for thirty years after he became prince--he shared the political
morality of soldiers of fortune, a morality of which the fault does not
rest with them alone; as ruler of his little territory he adopted the
plan of spending at home the money he had earned abroad, and taxing his
people as lightly as possible. Of him and his two successors, Guidobaldo
and Francesco Maria, we read: ‘They erected buildings, furthered the
cultivation of the land, lived at home, and gave employment to a large
number of people: their subjects loved them.’[88] But not only the
state, but the court too, was a work of art and organization, and this
in every sense of the word. Federigo had 500 persons in his service; the
arrangements of the court were as complete as in the capitals of the
greatest monarchs, but nothing was wasted; all had its object, and all
was carefully watched and controlled. The court was no scene of vice and
dissipation: it served as a school of military education for the sons of
other great houses, the thoroughness of whose culture and instruction
was made a point of honour by the Duke. The palace which he built, if
not one of the most splendid, was classical in the perfection of its
plan; there was placed the greatest of his treasures, the celebrated
library.[89] Feeling secure in a land where all gained profit or
employment from his rule, and where none were beggars, he habitually
went unarmed and almost unaccompanied; alone among the princes of his
time he ventured to walk in an open park, and to take his frugal meals
in an open chamber, while Livy, or in time of fasting, some devotional
work, was read to him. In the course of the same afternoon he would
listen to a lecture on some classical subject, and thence would go to
the monastery of the Clarisse and talk of sacred things through the
grating with the abbess. In the evening he would overlook the martial
exercises of the young people of his court on the meadow of St.
Francesco, known for its magnificent view, and saw to it well that all
the feats were done in the most perfect manner. He strove always to be
affable and accessible to the utmost degree, visiting the artisans who
worked for him in their shops, holding frequent audiences, and, if
possible, attending to the requests of each individual on the same day
that they were presented. No wonder that the people, as he walked along
the street, knelt down and cried: ‘Dio ti mantenga, signore!’ He was
called by thinking people ‘the light of Italy.’[90] His gifted son
Guidobaldo,[91] visited by sickness and misfortune of every kind, was
able at the last (1508) to give his state into the safe hands of his
nephew Francesco Maria (nephew also of Pope Julius II.), who, at least,
succeeded in preserving the territory from any permanent foreign
occupation. It is remarkable with what confidence Guidobaldo yielded and
fled before Cæsar Borgia and Francesco before the troops of Leo X.; each
knew that his restoration would be all the easier and the more popular
the less the country suffered through a fruitless defence. When Ludovico
made the same calculation at Milan, he forgot the many grounds of hatred
which existed against him. The court of Guidobaldo has been made
immortal as the high school of polished manners by Baldassar
Castiglione, who represented his eclogue Thyrsis before, and in honour
of that society (1506), and who afterwards (1518) laid the scena of the
dialogue of his ‘Cortigiano’ in the circle of the accomplished Duchess
Elisabetta Gonzaga.

The government of the family of Este at Ferrara, Modena, and Reggio
displays curious contrasts of violence and popularity.[92] Within the
palace frightful deeds were perpetrated; a princess was beheaded (1425)
for alleged adultery with a step-son;[93] legitimate and illegitimate
children fled from the court, and even abroad their lives were
threatened by assassins sent in pursuit of them (1471). Plots from
without were incessant; the bastard of a bastard tried to wrest the
crown from the lawful heir, Hercules I.: this latter is said afterwards
(1493) to have poisoned his wife on discovering that she, at the
instigation of her brother Ferrante of Naples, was going to poison him.
This list of tragedies is closed by the plot of two bastards against
their brothers, the ruling Duke Alfonso I. and the Cardinal Ippolito
(1506), which was discovered in time, and punished with imprisonment for
life. The financial system in this State was of the most perfect kind,
and necessarily so, since none of the large or second-rate powers of
Italy were exposed to such danger and stood in such constant need of
armaments and fortifications. It was the hope of the rulers that the
increasing prosperity of the people would keep pace with the increasing
weight of taxation, and the Marquis Niccolò (d. 1441) used to express
the wish that his subjects might be richer than the people of other
countries. If the rapid increase of the population be a measure of the
prosperity actually attained, it is certainly a fact of importance that
in the year 1497, notwithstanding the wonderful extension of the
capital, no houses were to be let.[94] Ferrara is the first really
modern city in Europe; large and well-built quarters sprang up at the
bidding of the ruler: here, by the concentration of the official classes
and the active promotion of trade, was formed for the first time a true
capital; wealthy fugitives from all parts of Italy, Florentines
especially, settled and built their palaces at Ferrara. But the indirect
taxation, at all events, must have reached a point at which it could
only just be borne. The Government, it is true, took measures of
alleviation which were also adopted by other Italian despots, such as
Galeazzo Maria Sforza: in time of famine corn was brought from a
distance and seems to have been distributed gratuitously;[95] but in
ordinary times it compensated itself by the monopoly, if not of corn, of
many other of the necessaries of life--fish, salt meat, fruit, and
vegetables, which last were carefully planted on and near the walls of
the city. The most considerable source of income, however, was the
annual sale of public offices, a usage which was common throughout
Italy, and about the working of which at Ferrara we have more precise
information. We read, for example, that at the new year 1502 the
majority of the officials bought their places at ‘prezzi salati;’ public
servants of the most various kinds, custom-house officers, bailiffs
(massari), notaries, ‘podestà,’ judges, and even captains, _i.e._,
lieutenant-governors of provincial towns, are quoted by name. As one of
the ‘devourers of the people’ who paid dearly for their places, and who
were ‘hated worse than the devil,’ Tito Strozza--let us hope not the
famous Latin poet--is mentioned. About the same time every year the
dukes were accustomed to make a round of visits in Ferrara, the so
called ‘andar per ventura,’ in which they took presents from, at any
rate, the more wealthy citizens. The gifts, however, did not consist of
money, but of natural products.

It was the pride of the duke[96] for all Italy to know that at Ferrara
the soldiers received their pay and the professors of the University
their salary not a day later than it was due; that the soldiers never
dared lay arbitrary hands on citizen or peasant; that the town was
impregnable to assault; and that vast sums of coined money were stored
up in the citadel. To keep two sets of accounts seemed unnecessary; the
Minister of Finance was at the same time manager of the ducal household.
The buildings erected by Borso (1430-1471), by Hercules I. (till 1505),
and by Alfonso I. (till 1534), were very numerous, but of small size:
they are characteristic of a princely house which, with all its love of
splendour--Borso never appeared but in embroidery and jewels--indulged
in no ill-considered expense. Alfonso may perhaps have foreseen the fate
which was in store for his charming little villas, the Belvedere with
its shady gardens, and Montana with its fountains and beautiful

It is undeniable that the dangers to which these princes were constantly
exposed developed in them capacities of a remarkable kind. In so
artificial a world only a man of consummate address could hope to
succeed; each candidate for distinction was forced to make good his
claims by personal merit and show himself worthy of the crown he sought.
Their characters are not without dark sides; but in all of them lives
something of those qualities which Italy then pursued as its ideal. What
European monarch of the time so laboured for his own culture as, for
instance, Alfonso I.? His travels in France, England, and the
Netherlands were undertaken for the purpose of study: by means of them
he gained an accurate knowledge of the industry and commerce of these
countries.[97] It is ridiculous to reproach him with the turner’s work
which he practised in his leisure hours, connected as it was with his
skill in the casting of cannon, and with the unprejudiced freedom with
which he surrounded himself by masters of every art. The Italian princes
were not, like their contemporaries in the North, dependent on the
society of an aristocracy which held itself to be the only class worth
consideration, and which infected the monarch with the same conceit. In
Italy the prince was permitted and compelled to know and to use men of
every grade in society; and the nobility, though by birth a caste, were
forced in social intercourse to stand upon their personal qualifications
alone. But this is a point which we shall discuss more fully in the

The feeling of the Ferrarese towards the ruling house was a strange
compound of silent dread, of the truly Italian sense of well-calculated
interest, and of the loyalty of the modern subject: personal admiration
was transformed into a new sentiment of duty. The city of Ferrara raised
in 1451 a bronze equestrian statue to their Prince Niccolò, who had died
ten years earlier; Borso (1454) did not scruple to place his own statue,
also of bronze, but in a sitting posture, hard by in the market; in
addition to which the city, at the beginning of his reign, decreed to
him a ‘marble triumphal pillar.’ And when he was buried the whole people
felt as if God himself had died a second time.[98] A citizen, who, when
abroad from Venice, had spoken ill of Borso in public, was informed on
his return home, and condemned to banishment and the confiscation of his
goods; a loyal subject was with difficulty restrained from cutting him
down before the tribunal itself, and with a rope round his neck the
offender went to the duke and begged for a full pardon. The government
was well provided with spies, and the duke inspected personally the
daily list of travellers which the innkeepers were strictly ordered to
present. Under Borso,[99] who was anxious to leave no distinguished
stranger unhonoured, this regulation served a hospitable purpose;
Hercules I.[100] used it simply as a measure of precaution. In Bologna,
too, it was then the rule, under Giovanni II. Bentivoglio, that every
passing traveller who entered at one gate must obtain a ticket in order
to go out at another.[101] An unfailing means of popularity was the
sudden dismissal of oppressive officials. When Borso arrested in person
his chief and confidential counsellors, when Hercules I. removed and
disgraced a tax-gatherer, who for years had been sucking the blood of
the people, bonfires were lighted and the bells were pealed in their
honour. With one of his servants, however, Hercules let things go too
far. The director of the police, or by whatever name we should choose to
call him (Capitano di Giustizia), was Gregorio Zampante of Lucca--a
native being unsuited for an office of this kind. Even the sons and
brothers of the duke trembled before this man; the fines he inflicted
amounted to hundreds and thousands of ducats, and torture was applied
even before the hearing of a case: bribes were accepted from wealthy
criminals, and their pardon obtained from the duke by false
representations. Gladly would the people have paid any sum to this ruler
for sending away the ‘enemy of God and man.’ But Hercules had knighted
him and made him godfather to his children; and year by year Zampante
laid by 2,000 ducats. He dared only eat pigeons bred in his own house,
and could not cross the street without a band of archers and bravos. It
was time to get rid of him; in 1490 two students and a converted Jew
whom he had mortally offended, killed him in his house while taking his
siesta, and then rode through the town on horses held in waiting,
raising the cry, ‘Come out! come out! we have slain Zampante!’ The
pursuers came too late, and found them already safe across the frontier.
Of course it now rained satires--some of them in the form of sonnets,
others of odes.

It was wholly in the spirit of this system that the sovereign imposed
his own respect for useful servants on the court and on the people. When
in 1469 Borso’s privy councillor Ludovico Casella died, no court of law
or place of business in the city, and no lecture-room at the University,
was allowed to be open: all had to follow the body to S. Domenico, since
the duke intended to be present. And, in fact, ‘the first of the house
of Este who attended the corpse of a subject’ walked, clad in black,
after the coffin, weeping, while behind him came the relatives of
Casella, each conducted by one of the gentlemen of the Court: the body
of the plain citizen was carried by nobles from the church into the
cloister, where it was buried. Indeed this official sympathy with
princely emotion first came up in the Italian States.[102] At the root
of the practice may be a beautiful, humane sentiment; the utterance of
it, especially in the poets, is, as a rule, of equivocal sincerity. One
of the youthful poems of Ariosto,[103] on the Death of Lionora of
Aragon, wife of Hercules I., contains besides the inevitable graveyard
flowers, which are scattered in the elegies of all ages, some thoroughly
modern features: ‘This death had given Ferrara a blow which it would not
get over for years: its benefactress was now its advocate in heaven,
since earth was not worthy of her; truly, the angel of Death did not
come to her, as to us common mortals, with blood-stained scythe, but
fair to behold (onesta), and with so kind a face that every fear was
allayed.’ But we meet, also, with a sympathy of a different kind.
Novelists, depending wholly on the favour of their patrons, tell us the
love-stories of the prince, even before his death, in a way which, to
later times, would seem the height of indiscretion, but which then
passed simply as an innocent compliment. Lyrical poets even went so far
as to sing the illicit flames of their lawfully married lords, _e.g._
Angelo Poliziano, those of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and Gioviano
Pontano, with a singular gusto, those of Alfonso of Calabria. The poem
in question[105] betrays unconsciously the odious disposition of the
Aragonese ruler; in these things too, he must needs be the most
fortunate, else woe be to those who are more successful! That the
greatest artists, for example Lionardo, should paint the mistresses of
their patrons was no more than a matter of course.

But the house of Este was not satisfied with the praises of others; it
undertook to celebrate them itself. In the Palazzo Schifanoja Borso
caused himself to be painted in a series of historical representations,
and Hercules kept the anniversary of his accession to the throne by a
procession which was compared to the feast of Corpus Christi; shops were
closed as on Sunday; in the centre of the line walked all the members of
the princely house (bastards included) clad in embroidered robes. That
the crown was the fountain of honour and authority, that all personal
distinction flowed from it alone, had been long[106] expressed at this
court by the Order of the Golden Spur--an order which had nothing in
common with mediæval chivalry. Hercules I. added to the spur a sword, a
gold-laced mantle, and a grant of money, in return for which there is no
doubt that regular service was required.

The patronage of art and letters for which this court has obtained a
world-wide reputation, was exercised through the University, which was
one of the most perfect in Italy, and by the gift of places in the
personal or official service of the prince; it involved consequently no
additional expense. Bojardo, as a wealthy country gentleman and high
official, belonged to this class. At the time when Ariosto began to
distinguish himself, there existed no court, in the true sense of the
word, either at Milan or Florence, and soon there was none either at
Urbino or at Naples. He had to content himself with a place among the
musicians and jugglers of Cardinal Ippolito till Alfonso took him into
his service. It was otherwise at a later time with Torquato Tasso, whose
presence at court was jealously sought after.



In face of this centralised authority, all legal opposition within the
borders of the state was futile. The elements needed for the restoration
of a republic had been for ever destroyed, and the field prepared for
violence and despotism. The nobles, destitute of political rights, even
where they held feudal possessions, might call themselves Guelphs or
Ghibellines at will, might dress up their bravos in padded hose and
feathered caps[107] or how else they pleased; thoughtful men like
Macchiavelli[108] knew well enough that Milan and Naples were too
‘corrupt’ for a republic. Strange judgments fall on these two so-called
parties, which now served only to give an official sanction to personal
and family disputes. An Italian prince, whom Agrippa of Nettesheim[109]
advised to put them down, replied that their quarrels brought him in
more than 12,000 ducats a year in fines. And when in the year 1500,
during the brief return of Ludovico Moro to his States, the Guelphs of
Tortona summoned a part of the neighbouring French army into the city,
in order to make an end once for all of their opponents, the French
certainly began by plundering and ruining the Ghibellines, but finished
by doing the same to their hosts, till Tortona was utterly laid
waste.[110] In Romagna, the hotbed of every ferocious passion, these two
names had long lost all political meaning. It was a sign of the
political delusion of the people that they not seldom believed the
Guelphs to be the natural allies of the French and the Ghibellines of
the Spaniards. It is hard to see that those who tried to profit by this
error got much by doing so. France, after all her interventions, had to
abandon the peninsula at last, and what became of Spain, after she had
destroyed Italy, is known to every reader.

But to return to the despots of the Renaissance. A pure and simple mind,
we might think, would perhaps have argued that, since all power is
derived from God, these princes, if they were loyally and honestly
supported by all their subjects, must in time themselves improve and
lose all traces of their violent origin. But from characters and
imaginations inflamed by passion and ambition, reasoning of this kind
could not be expected. Like bad physicians, they thought to cure the
disease by removing the symptoms, and fancied that if the tyrant were
put to death, freedom would follow of itself. Or else, without
reflecting even to this extent, they sought only to give a vent to the
universal hatred, or to take vengeance for some family misfortune or
personal affront. Since the governments were absolute, and free from all
legal restraints, the opposition chose its weapons with equal freedom.
Boccaccio declares openly[111] ‘Shall I call the tyrant king or prince,
and obey him loyally as my lord? No, for he is the enemy of the
commonwealth. Against him I may use arms, conspiracies, spies, ambushes
and fraud; to do so is a sacred and necessary work. There is no more
acceptable sacrifice than the blood of a tyrant.’ We need not occupy
ourselves with individual cases; Macchiavelli,[112] in a famous chapter
of his ‘Discorsi,’ treats of the conspiracies of ancient and modern
times from the days of the Greek tyrants downwards, and classifies them
with cold-blooded indifference according to their various plans and
results. We need make but two observations, first on the murders
committed in church, and next on the influence of classical antiquity.
So well was the tyrant guarded that it was almost impossible to lay
hands upon him elsewhere than at solemn religious services; and on no
other occasion was the whole family to be found assembled together. It
was thus that the Fabrianese[113] murdered (1435) the members of their
ruling house, the Chiavistelli, during high mass, the signal being given
by the words of the Creed, ‘Et incarnatus est.’ At Milan the Duke Giovan
Maria Visconti (1412) was assassinated at the entrance of the church of
San Gottardo, Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1476) in the church of Santo
Stefano, and Ludovico Moro only escaped (1484) the daggers of the
adherents of the widowed Duchess Bona, through entering the church of
Sant’ Ambrogio by another door than that by which he was expected. There
was no intentional impiety in the act; the assassins of Galeazzo did not
fail to pray before the murder to the patron saint of the church, and to
listen devoutly to the first mass. It was, however, one cause of the
partial failure of the conspiracy of the Pazzi against Lorenzo and
Guiliano Medici (1478), that the brigand Montesecco, who had bargained
to commit the murder at a banquet, declined to undertake it in the
Cathedral of Florence. Certain of the clergy ‘who were familiar with the
sacred place, and consequently had no fear’ were induced to act in his

As to the imitation of antiquity, the influence of which on moral, and
more especially on political, questions we shall often refer to, the
example was set by the rulers themselves, who, both in their conception
of the state and in their personal conduct, took the old Roman empire
avowedly as their model. In like manner their opponents, when they set
to work with a deliberate theory, took pattern by the ancient
tyrannicides. It may be hard to prove that in the main point--in forming
the resolve itself--they consciously followed a classical example; but
the appeal to antiquity was no mere phrase. The most striking
disclosures have been left us with respect to the murderers of Galeazzo
Sforza--Lampugnani, Olgiati, and Visconti.[115] Though all three had
personal ends to serve, yet their enterprise may be partly ascribed to a
more general reason. About this time Cola de’ Montani, a humanist and
professor of eloquence, had awakened among many of the young Milanese
nobility a vague passion for glory and patriotic achievements, and had
mentioned to Lampugnani and Olgiati his hope of delivering Milan.
Suspicion was soon aroused against him: he was banished from the city,
and his pupils were abandoned to the fanaticism he had excited. Some ten
days before the deed they met together and took a solemn oath in the
monastery of Sant’ Ambrogio. ‘Then,’ says Olgiati, ‘in a remote corner I
raised my eyes before the picture of the patron saint, and implored his
help for ourselves and for all _his_ people.’ The heavenly protector of
the city was called on to bless the undertaking, as was afterwards St.
Stephen, in whose church it was fulfilled. Many of their comrades were
now informed of the plot, nightly meetings were held in the house of
Lampugnani, and the conspirators practised for the murder with the
sheaths of their daggers. The attempt was successful, but Lampugnani was
killed on the spot by the attendants of the duke; the others were
captured: Visconti was penitent, but Olgiati through all his tortures
maintained that the deed was an acceptable offering to God, and
exclaimed while the executioner was breaking his ribs, ‘Courage,
Girolamo! thou wilt long be remembered; death is bitter, but glory is

But however idealistic the object and purpose of such conspiracies may
appear, the manner in which they were conducted betrays the influence of
that worst of all conspirators, Catiline--a man in whose thoughts
freedom had no place whatever. The annals of Siena tells us expressly
that the conspirators were students of Sallust, and the fact is
indirectly confirmed by the confession of Olgiati.[117] Elsewhere, too,
we meet with the name of Catiline, and a more attractive pattern of the
conspirator, apart from the end he followed, could hardly be discovered.

Among the Florentines, whenever they got rid of, or tried to get rid of,
the Medici, tyrannicide was a practice universally accepted and
approved. After the flight of the Medici in 1494, the bronze group of
Donatello[118]--Judith with the dead Holofernes--was taken from their
collection and placed before the Palazzo della Signoria, on the spot
where the ‘David’ of Michael Angelo now stands, with the inscription,
‘Exemplum salutis publicæ cives posuere 1495.’[119] No example was more
popular than that of the younger Brutus, who, in Dante,[120] lies with
Cassius and Judas Iscariot in the lowest pit of hell, because of his
treason to the empire. Pietro Paolo Boscoli, whose plot against
Guiliano, Giovanni, and Guilio Medici failed (1513), was an enthusiastic
admirer of Brutus, and in order to follow his steps, only waited to find
a Cassius. Such a partner he met with in Agostino Capponi. His last
utterances in prison[121]--a striking evidence of the religious feeling
of the time--show with what an effort he rid his mind of these classical
imaginations, in order to die like a Christian. A friend and the
confessor both had to assure him that St. Thomas Aquinas condemned
conspirators absolutely; but the confessor afterwards admitted to the
same friend that St. Thomas drew a distinction and permitted
conspiracies against a tyrant who had forced himself on a people against
their will. After Lorenzino Medici had murdered the Duke Alessandro
(1537), and then escaped, an apology for the deed appeared,[122] which
is probably his own work, and certainly composed in his interest, and in
which he praises tyrannicide as an act of the highest merit; on the
supposition that Alessandro was a legitimate Medici, and, therefore,
related to him, if only distantly, he boldly compares himself with
Timoleon, who slew his brother for his country’s sake. Others, on the
same occasion, made use of the comparison with Brutus, and that Michael
Angelo himself, even late in life, was not unfriendly to ideas of this
kind, may be inferred from his bust of Brutus in the Uffizi. He left it
unfinished, like nearly all his works, but certainly not because the
murder of Cæsar was repugnant to his feeling, as the couplet beneath

A popular radicalism in the form in which it is opposed to the
monarchies of later times, is not to be found in the despotic states of
the Renaissance. Each individual protested inwardly against despotism,
but was rather disposed to make tolerable or profitable terms with it,
than to combine with others for its destruction. Things must have been
as bad as at Camerino, Fabriano, or Rimini (p. 28), before the citizens
united to destroy or expel the ruling house. They knew in most cases
only too well that this would but mean a change of masters. The star of
the Republics was certainly on the decline.



The Italian municipalities had, in earlier days, given signal proof of
that force which transforms the city into the state. It remained only
that these cities should combine in a great confederation; and this idea
was constantly recurring to Italian statesmen, whatever differences of
form it might from time to time display. In fact, during the struggles
of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, great and formidable leagues
actually were formed by the cities; and Sismondi (ii. 174) is of opinion
that the time of the final armaments of the Lombard confederation
against Barbarossa was the moment when a universal Italian league was
possible. But the more powerful states had already developed
characteristic features which made any such scheme impracticable. In
their commercial dealings they shrank from no measures, however extreme,
which might damage their competitors; they held their weaker neighbours
in a condition of helpless dependence--in short, they each fancied they
could get on by themselves without the assistance of the rest, and thus
paved the way for future usurpation. The usurper was forthcoming when
long conflicts between the nobility and the people, and between the
different factions of the nobility, had awakened the desire for a strong
government, and when bands of mercenaries ready and willing to sell
their aid to the highest bidder had superseded the general levy of the
citizens which party leaders now found unsuited to their purposes.[123]
The tyrants destroyed the freedom of most of the cities; here and there
they were expelled, but not thoroughly, or only for a short time; and
they were always restored, since the inward conditions were favourable
to them, and the opposing forces were exhausted.

Among the cities which maintained their independence are two of deep
significance for the history of the human race: Florence, the city of
incessant movement, which has left us a record of the thoughts and
aspirations of each and all who, for three centuries, took part in this
movement, and Venice, the city of apparent stagnation and of political
secrecy. No contrast can be imagined stronger than that which is offered
us by these two, and neither can be compared to anything else which the
world has hitherto produced.

       *       *       *       *       *

Venice recognised itself from the first as a strange and mysterious
creation--the fruits of a higher power than human ingenuity. The solemn
foundation of the city was the subject of a legend. On March 25, 413, at
mid-day the emigrants from Padua laid the first stone at the Rialto,
that they might have a sacred, inviolable asylum amid the devastations
of the barbarians. Later writers attributed to the founders the
presentiment of the future greatness of the city; M. Antonio Sabellico,
who has celebrated the event in the dignified flow of his hexameters,
makes the priest, who completes the act of consecration, cry to heaven,
‘When we hereafter attempt great things, grant us prosperity! Now we
kneel before a poor altar; but if our vows are not made in vain, a
hundred temples, O God, of gold and marble shall arise to Thee.’[124]
The island city at the end of the fifteenth century was the jewel-casket
of the world. It is so described by the same Sabellico,[125] with its
ancient cupolas, its leaning towers, its inlaid marble façades, its
compressed splendour, where the richest decoration did not hinder the
practical employment of every corner of space. He takes us to the
crowded Piazza before S. Giacometto at the Rialto, where the business of
the world is transacted, not amid shouting and confusion, but with the
subdued hum of many voices; where in the porticos round the square[126]
and in those of the adjoining streets sit hundreds of money-changers and
goldsmiths, with endless rows of shops and warehouses above their heads.
He describes the great Fondaco of the Germans beyond the bridge, where
their goods and their dwellings lay, and before which their ships are
drawn up side by side in the canal; higher up is a whole fleet laden
with wine and oil, and parallel with it, on the shore swarming with
porters, are the vaults of the merchants; then from the Rialto to the
square of St. Mark come the inns and the perfumers’ cabinets. So he
conducts the reader from one quarter of the city to another till he
comes at last to the two hospitals which were among those institutions
of public utility nowhere so numerous as at Venice. Care for the people,
in peace as well as in war, was characteristic of this government, and
its attention to the wounded, even to those of the enemy, excited the
admiration of other states.[127] Public institutions of every kind found
in Venice their pattern; the pensioning of retired servants was carried
out systematically, and included a provision for widows and orphans.
Wealth, political security, and acquaintance with other countries, had
matured the understanding of such questions. These slender fair-haired
men,[128] with quiet cautious steps, and deliberate speech, differed but
slightly in costume and bearing from one another; ornaments, especially
pearls, were reserved for the women and girls. At that time the general
prosperity, notwithstanding the losses sustained from the Turks, was
still dazzling; the stores of energy which the city possessed and the
prejudice in its favour diffused throughout Europe, enabled it at a much
later time to survive the heavy blows which were inflicted by the
discovery of the sea route to the Indies, by the fall of the Mamelukes
in Egypt, and by the war of the League of Cambray.

Sabellico, born in the neighbourhood of Tivoli, and accustomed to the
frank loquacity of the scholars of his day, remarks elsewhere[129] with
some astonishment, that the young nobles who came of a morning to hear
his lectures could not be prevailed on to enter into political
discussions: ‘When I ask them what people think, say, and expect about
this or that movement in Italy, they all answer with one voice that they
know nothing about the matter.’ Still, in spite of the strict
inquisition of the state, much was to be learned from the more corrupt
members of the aristocracy by those who were willing to pay enough for
it. In the last quarter of the fifteenth century there were traitors
among the highest officials;[130] the popes, the Italian princes, and
even second-rate Condottieri in the service of the government had
informers in their pay, sometimes with regular salaries; things went so
far that the Council of Ten found it prudent to conceal important
political news from the Council of the Pregadi, and it was even supposed
that Ludovico Moro had control of a definite number of votes among the
latter. Whether the hanging of single offenders and the high
rewards--such as a life-pension of sixty ducats paid to those who
informed against them--were of much avail, it is hard to decide; one of
the chief causes of this evil, the poverty of many of the nobility,
could not be removed in a day. In the year 1492 a proposal was urged by
two of that order, that the state should annually spend 70,000 ducats
for the relief of those poorer nobles who held no public office; the
matter was near coming before the Great Council, in which it might have
had a majority, when the Council of Ten interfered in time and banished
the two proposers for life to Nicosia in Cyprus.[131] About this time a
Soranzo was hung, though not at Venice itself, for sacrilege, and a
Contarini put in chains for burglary; another of the same family came in
1499 before the Signory, and complained that for many years he had been
without an office, that he had only sixteen ducats a year and nine
children, that his debts amounted to sixty ducats, that he knew no trade
and had lately been turned on to the streets. We can understand why some
of the wealthier nobles built houses, sometimes whole rows of them, to
provide free lodging for their needy comrades. Such works figure in
wills among deeds of charity.[132]

But if the enemies of Venice ever founded serious hopes upon abuses of
this kind, they were greatly in error. It might be thought that the
commercial activity of the city, which put within reach of the humblest
a rich reward for their labour, and the colonies on the Eastern shores
of the Mediterranean, would have diverted from political affairs the
dangerous elements of society. But had not the political history of
Genoa, notwithstanding similar advantages, been of the stormiest? The
cause of the stability of Venice lies rather in a combination of
circumstances which were found in union nowhere else. Unassailable from
its position, it had been able from the beginning to treat of foreign
affairs with the fullest and calmest reflection, and ignore nearly
altogether the parties which divided the rest of Italy, to escape the
entanglement of permanent alliances, and to set the highest price on
those which it thought fit to make. The keynote of the Venetian
character was, consequently, a spirit of proud and contemptuous
isolation, which, joined to the hatred felt for the city by the other
states of Italy, gave rise to a strong sense of solidarity within. The
inhabitants meanwhile were united by the most powerful ties of interest
in dealing both with the colonies and with the possessions on the
mainland, forcing the population of the latter, that is, of all the
towns up to Bergamo, to buy and sell in Venice alone. A power which
rested on means so artificial could only be maintained by internal
harmony and unity; and this conviction was so widely diffused among the
citizens that the conspirator found few elements to work upon. And the
discontented, if there were such, were held so far apart by the division
between the noble and the burgher, that a mutual understanding was not
easy. On the other hand, within the ranks of the nobility itself,
travel, commercial enterprise, and the incessant wars with the Turks
saved the wealthy and dangerous from that fruitful source of
conspiracies--idleness. In these wars they were spared, often to a
criminal extent, by the general in command, and the fall of the city was
predicted by a Venetian Cato, if this fear of the nobles ‘to give one
another pain’ should continue at the expense of justice.[133]
Nevertheless this free movement in the open air gave the Venetian
aristocracy, as a whole, a healthy bias.

And when envy and ambition called for satisfaction an official victim
was forthcoming, and legal means and authorities were ready. The moral
torture, which for years the Doge Francesco Foscari (d. 1457) suffered
before the eyes of all Venice, is a frightful example of a vengeance
possible only in an aristocracy. The Council of Ten, which had a hand in
everything, which disposed without appeal of life and death, of
financial affairs and military appointments, which included the
Inquisitors among its number, and which overthrew Foscari, as it had
overthrown so many powerful men before,--this Council was yearly chosen
afresh from the whole governing body, the Gran Consilio, and was
consequently the most direct expression of its will. It is not probable
that serious intrigues occurred at these elections, as the short
duration of the office and the accountability which followed rendered it
an object of no great desire. But violent and mysterious as the
proceedings of this and other authorities might be, the genuine Venetian
courted rather than fled their sentence, not only because the Republic
had long arms, and if it could not catch him might punish his family,
but because in most cases it acted from rational motives and not from a
thirst for blood.[134] No state, indeed, has ever exercised a greater
moral influence over its subjects, whether abroad or at home. If
traitors were to be found among the Pregadi, there was ample
compensation for this in the fact that every Venetian away from home was
a born spy for his government. It was a matter of course that the
Venetian cardinals at Rome sent home news of the transactions of the
secret papal consistories. The Cardinal Domenico Grimani had the
despatches intercepted in the neighbourhood of Rome (1500) which Ascanio
Sforza was sending to his brother Ludovico Moro, and forwarded them to
Venice; his father, then exposed to a serious accusation, claimed public
credit for this service of his son before the Gran Consilio; in other
words, before all the world.[135]

The conduct of the Venetian government to the Condottieri in its pay has
been spoken of already. The only further guarantee of their fidelity
which could be obtained lay in their great number, by which treachery
was made as difficult as its discovery was easy. In looking at the
Venetian army list, one is only surprised that among forces of such
miscellaneous composition any common action was possible. In the
catalogue for the campaign of 1495 we find 15,526 horsemen, broken up
into a number of small divisions.[136] Gonzaga of Mantua alone had as
many as 1,200, and Gioffredo Borgia 740; then follow six officers with a
contingent of 600 to 700, ten with 400, twelve with 400 to 200, fourteen
or thereabouts with 200 to 100, nine with 80, six with 50 to 60, and so
forth. These forces were partly composed of old Venetian troops, partly
of veterans led by Venetian city or country nobles; the majority of the
leaders were, however, princes and rulers of cities or their relatives.
To these forces must be added 24,000 infantry--we are not told how they
were raised or commanded--with 3,300 additional troops, who probably
belonged to the special services. In time of peace the cities of the
mainland were wholly unprotected or occupied by insignificant garrisons.
Venice relied, if not exactly on the loyalty, at least on the good sense
of its subjects; in the war of the League of Cambray (1509) it absolved
them, as is well known, from their oath of allegiance, and let them
compare the amenities of a foreign occupation with the mild government
to which they had been accustomed. As there had been no treason in their
desertion of St. Mark, and consequently no punishment was to be feared,
they returned to their old masters with the utmost eagerness. This war,
we may remark parenthetically, was the result of a century’s outcry
against the Venetian desire for aggrandisement. The Venetians, in fact,
were not free from the mistake of those over-clever people who will
credit their opponents with no irrational and inconsiderate
conduct.[137] Misled by this optimism, which is, perhaps, a peculiar
weakness of aristocracies, they had utterly ignored not only the
preparations of Mohammed II. for the capture of Constantinople, but even
the armaments of Charles VIII., till the unexpected blow fell at
last.[138] The League of Cambray was an event of the same character, in
so far as it was clearly opposed to the interest of the two chief
members, Louis XII. and Julius II. The hatred of all Italy against the
victorious city seemed to be concentrated in the mind of the Pope, and
to have blinded him to the evils of foreign intervention; and as to the
policy of Cardinal Amboise and his king, Venice ought long before to
have recognised it as a piece of malicious imbecility, and to have been
thoroughly on its guard. The other members of the League took part in it
from that envy which may be a salutary corrective to great wealth and
power, but which in itself is a beggarly sentiment. Venice came out of
the conflict with honour, but not without lasting damage.

A power, whose foundations were so complicated, whose activity and
interests filled so wide a stage, cannot be imagined without a
systematic oversight of the whole, without a regular estimate of means
and burdens, of profits and losses. Venice can fairly make good its
claim to be the birthplace of statistical science, together, perhaps,
with Florence, and followed by the more enlightened despotisms. The
feudal state of the Middle Ages knew of nothing more than catalogues of
signorial rights and possessions (Urbaria); it looked on production as a
fixed quantity, which it approximately is, so long as we have to do with
landed property only. The towns, on the other hand, throughout the West
must from very early times have treated production, which with them
depended on industry and commerce, as exceedingly variable; but, even in
the most flourishing times of the Hanseatic League, they never got
beyond a simple commercial balance-sheet. Fleets, armies, political
power and influence fall under the debit and credit of a trader’s
ledger. In the Italian States a clear political consciousness, the
pattern of Mohammedan administration, and the long and active exercise
of trade and commerce, combined to produce for the first time a true
science of statistics.[139] The absolute monarchy of Frederick II. in
Lower Italy was organised with the sole object of securing a
concentrated power for the death-struggle in which he was engaged. In
Venice, on the contrary, the supreme objects were the enjoyment of life
and power, the increase of inherited advantages, the creation of the
most lucrative forms of industry, and the opening of new channels for

The writers of the time speak of these things with the greatest
freedom.[140] We learn that the population of the city amounted in the
year 1422 to 190,000 souls; the Italians were, perhaps, the first to
reckon, not according to hearths, or men able to bear arms, or people
able to walk, and so forth, but according to ‘animæ,’ and thus to get
the most neutral basis for further calculation. About this time,[141]
when the Florentines wished to form an alliance with Venice against
Filippo Maria Visconti, they were for the moment refused, in the belief,
resting on accurate commercial returns, that a war between Venice and
Milan, that is, between seller and buyer, was foolish. Even if the duke
simply increased his army, the Milanese, through the heavier taxation
they must pay, would become worse customers. ‘Better let the Florentines
be defeated, and then, used as they are to the life of a free city, they
will settle with us and bring their silk and woollen industry with them,
as the Lucchese did in their distress.’ The speech of the dying Doge
Mocenigo (1423) to a few of the senators whom he had sent for to his
bedside[142] is still more remarkable. It contains the chief elements of
a statistical account of the whole resources of Venice. I cannot say
whether or where a thorough elucidation of this perplexing document
exists; by way of illustration, the following facts may be quoted. After
repaying a war-loan of four million ducats, the public debt (‘il monte’)
still amounted to six million ducats; the current trade reached (so it
seems) ten millions, which yielded, the text informs us, a profit of
four millions. The 3,000 ‘navigli,’ the 300 ‘navi,’ and the 45 galleys
were manned respectively by 17,000, 8,000, and 11,000 seamen (more than
200 for each galley). To these must be added 16,000 shipwrights. The
houses in Venice were valued at seven millions, and brought in a rent of
half a million.[143] There were 1,000 nobles whose income ranged from 70
to 4,000 ducats. In another passage the ordinary income of the state in
that same year is put at 1,100,000 ducats; through the disturbance of
trade caused by the wars it sank about the middle of the century to
800,000 ducats.[144]

If Venice, by this spirit of calculation, and by the practical turn
which she gave it, was the first fully to represent one important side
of modern political life, in that culture, on the other hand, which
Italy then prized most highly she did not stand in the front rank. The
literary impulse, in general, was here wanting, and especially that
enthusiasm for classical antiquity which prevailed elsewhere.[145] The
aptitude of the Venetians, says Sabellico, for philosophy and eloquence
was in itself not less remarkable than for commerce and politics; but
this aptitude was neither developed in themselves nor rewarded in
strangers as it was rewarded elsewhere in Italy. Filelfo, summoned to
Venice not by the state, but by private individuals, soon found his
expectations deceived; and George of Trebizond, who, in 1459, laid the
Latin translation of Plato’s Laws at the feet of the Doge, and was
appointed professor of philology with a yearly salary of 150 ducats, and
finally dedicated his ‘Rhetoric’ to the Signoria,[146] soon left the
city in dissatisfaction. Literature, in fact, like the rest at Venice,
had mostly a practical end in view. If, accordingly, we look through the
history of Venetian literature which Francesco Sansovino has appended to
his well-known book,[147] we shall find in the fourteenth century almost
nothing but history, and special works on theology, jurisprudence, and
medicine; and in the fifteenth century, till we come to Ermolao Barbaro
and Aldo Manucci, humanistic culture is, for a city of such importance,
most scantily represented. Similarly we find comparatively few traces of
the passion, elsewhere so strong, for collecting books and manuscripts;
and the valuable texts which formed part of Petrarch’s legacies were so
badly preserved that soon all traces of them were lost. The library
which Cardinal Bessarion bequeathed to the state (1468) narrowly escaped
dispersion and destruction. Learning was certainly cultivated at the
University of Padua, where, however, the physicians and the jurists--the
latter as the authors of legal opinions--received by far the highest
pay. The share of Venice in the poetical creations of the country was
long insignificant, till, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, her
deficiences were made good.[148] Even the art of the Renaissance was
imported into the city from without, and it was not before the end of
the fifteenth century that she learned to move in this field with
independent freedom and strength. But we find more striking instances
still of intellectual backwardness. This Government, which had the
clergy so thoroughly in its control, which reserved to itself the
appointment to all important ecclesiastical offices, and which, one time
after another, dared to defy the court of Rome, displayed an official
piety of a most singular kind.[149] The bodies of saints and other
reliques imported from Greece after the Turkish conquest were bought at
the greatest sacrifices and received by the Doge in solemn
procession.[150] For the coat without a seam it was decided (1455) to
offer 10,000 ducats, but it was not to be had. These measures were not
the fruit of any popular excitement, but of the tranquil resolutions of
the heads of the Government, and might have been omitted without
attracting any comment, and at Florence, under similar circumstances,
would certainly have been omitted. We shall say nothing of the piety of
the masses, and of their firm belief in the indulgences of an Alexander
VI. But the state itself, after absorbing the Church to a degree unknown
elsewhere, had in truth a certain ecclesiastical element in its
composition, and the Doge, the symbol of the state, appeared in twelve
great processions (‘andate’)[151] in a half-clerical character. They
were almost all festivals in memory of political events, and competed in
splendour with the great feasts of the Church; the most brilliant of
all, the famous marriage with the sea, fell on Ascension Day.

The most elevated political thought and the most varied forms of human
development are found united in the history of Florence, which in this
sense deserves the name of the first modern state in the world. Here the
whole people are busied with what in the despotic cities is the affair
of a single family. That wondrous Florentine spirit, at once keenly
critical and artistically creative, was incessantly transforming the
social and political condition of the state, and as incessantly
describing and judging the change. Florence thus became the home of
political doctrines and theories, of experiments and sudden changes, but
also, like Venice, the home of statistical science, and alone and above
all other states in the world, the home of historical representation in
the modern sense of the phrase. The spectacle of ancient Rome and a
familiarity with its leading writers were not without influence;
Giovanni Villani[152] confesses that he received the first impulse to
his great work at the jubilee of the year 1300, and began it immediately
on his return home. Yet how many among the 200,000 pilgrims of that year
may have been like him in gifts and tendencies and still did not write
the history of their native cities! For not all of them could encourage
themselves with the thought: ‘Rome is sinking; my native city is rising,
and ready to achieve great things, and therefore I wish to relate its
past history, and hope to continue the story to the present time, and
as long as my life shall last.’ And besides the witness to its past,
Florence obtained through its historians something further--a greater
fame than fell to the lot of any other city of Italy.[153]

Our present task is not to write the history of this remarkable state,
but merely to give a few indications of the intellectual freedom and
independence for which the Florentines were indebted to this

In no other city of Italy were the struggles of political parties so
bitter, of such early origin, and so permanent. The descriptions of
them, which belong, it is true, to a somewhat later period, give clear
evidence of the superiority of Florentine criticism.

And what a politician is the great victim of these crises, Dante
Alighieri, matured alike by home and by exile! He uttered his scorn of
the incessant changes and experiments in the constitution of his native
city in verses of adamant, which will remain proverbial so long as
political events of the same kind recur;[155] he addressed his home in
words of defiance and yearning which must have stirred the hearts of his
countrymen. But his thoughts ranged over Italy and the whole world; and
if his passion for the Empire, as he conceived it, was no more than an
illusion, it must yet be admitted that the youthful dreams of a new-born
political speculation are in his case not without a poetical grandeur.
He is proud to be the first who had trod this path,[156] certainly in
the footsteps of Aristotle, but in his own way independently. His ideal
emperor is a just and humane judge, dependent on God only, the heir of
the universal sway of Rome to which belonged the sanction of nature, of
right and of the will of God. The conquest of the world was, according
to this view, rightful, resting on a divine judgment between Rome and
the other nations of the earth, and God gave his approval to this
empire, since under it he became Man, submitting at his birth to the
census of the Emperor Augustus, and at his death to the judgment of
Pontius Pilate. We may find it hard to appreciate these and other
arguments of the same kind, but Dante’s passion never fails to carry us
with him. In his letters he appears as one of the earliest
publicists,[157] and is perhaps the first layman to publish political
tracts in this form. He began early. Soon after the death of Beatrice he
addressed a pamphlet on the state of Florence ‘to the Great ones of the
Earth,’ and the public utterances of his later years, dating from the
time of his banishment, are all directed to emperors, princes, and
cardinals. In these letters and in his book ‘De Vulgari Eloquio’ the
feeling, bought with such bitter pains, is constantly recurring that
the exile may find elsewhere than in his native place an intellectual
home in language and culture, which cannot be taken from him. On this
point we shall have more to say in the sequel.

To the two Villani, Giovanni as well as Matteo, we owe not so much deep
political reflexion as fresh and practical observations, together with
the elements of Florentine statistics and important notices of other
states. Here too trade and commerce had given the impulse to economical
as well as political science. Nowhere else in the world was such
accurate information to be had on financial affairs. The wealth of the
Papal court at Avignon, which at the death of John XXII. amounted to
twenty-five millions of gold florins, would be incredible on any less
trustworthy authority.[158] Here only, at Florence, do we meet with
colossal loans like that which the King of England contracted from the
Florentine houses of Bardi and Peruzzi, who lost to his Majesty the sum
of 1,365,000 gold florins (1338)--their own money and that of their
partners--and nevertheless recovered from the shock.[159] Most important
facts are here recorded as to the condition of Florence at this
time:[160] the public income (over 300,000 gold florins) and
expenditure; the population of the city, here only roughly estimated,
according to the consumption of bread, in ‘bocche,’ _i.e._ mouths, put
at 90,000, and the population of the whole territory; the excess of 300
to 500 male children among the 5,800 to 6,000 annually baptized;[161]
the school-children, of whom 8,000 to 10,000 learned reading, 1,000 to
1,200 in six schools arithmetic; and besides these, 600 scholars who
were taught Latin grammar and logic in four schools. Then follow the
statistics of the churches and monasteries; of the hospitals, which held
more than a thousand beds; of the wool-trade, with its most valuable
details; of the mint, the provisioning of the city, the public
officials, and so on.[162] Incidentally we learn many curious facts;
how, for instance, when the public funds (‘monte’) were first
established, in the year 1353, the Franciscans spoke from the pulpit in
favour of the measure, the Dominicans and Augustinians against it.[163]
The economical results of the black death were and could be observed and
described nowhere else in all Europe as in this city.[164] Only a
Florentine could have left it on record how it was expected that the
scanty population would have made everything cheap, and how instead of
that labour and commodities doubled in price; how the common people at
first would do no work at all, but simply give themselves up to
enjoyment; how in the city itself servants and maids were not to be had
except at extravagant wages; how the peasants would only till the best
lands, and left the rest uncultivated; and how the enormous legacies
bequeathed to the poor at the time of the plague seemed afterwards
useless, since the poor had either died or had ceased to be poor.
Lastly, on the occasion of a great bequest, by which a childless
philanthropist left six ‘danari’ to every beggar in the city, the
attempt is made to give a comprehensive statistical account of
Florentine mendicancy.[165]

This statistical view of things was at a later time still more highly
cultivated at Florence. The noteworthy point about it is that, as a
rule, we can perceive its connection with the higher aspects of history,
with art, and with culture in general. An inventory of the year
1422[166] mentions, within the compass of the same document, the
seventy-two exchange offices which surrounded the ‘Mercato Nuovo;’ the
amount of coined money in circulation (two million golden florins); the
then new industry of gold spinning; the silk wares; Filippo Brunellesco,
then busy in digging classical architecture from its grave; and Lionardo
Aretino, secretary of the republic, at work at the revival of ancient
literature and eloquence; lastly, it speaks of the general prosperity of
the city, then free from political conflicts, and of the good fortune of
Italy, which had rid itself of foreign mercenaries. The Venetian
statistics quoted above (p. 70), which date from about the same year,
certainly give evidence of larger property and profits and of a more
extensive scene of action; Venice had long been mistress of the seas
before Florence sent out its first galleys (1422) to Alexandria. But no
reader can fail to recognise the higher spirit of the Florentine
documents. These and similar lists recur at intervals of ten years,
systematically arranged and tabulated, while elsewhere we find at best
occasional notices. We can form an approximate estimate of the property
and the business of the first Medici; they paid for charities, public
buildings, and taxes from 1434 to 1471 no less than 663,755 gold
florins, of which more than 400,000 fell on Cosimo alone, and Lorenzo
Magnifico was delighted that the money had been so well spent.[167] In
1472 we have again a most important and in its way complete view of the
commerce and trades of this city,[168] some of which may be wholly or
partly reckoned among the fine arts--such as those which had to do with
damasks and gold or silver embroidery, with woodcarving and ‘intarsia,’
with the sculpture of arabesques in marble and sandstone, with portraits
in wax, and with jewellery and work in gold. The inborn talent of the
Florentines for the systematisation of outward life is shown by their
books on agriculture, business, and domestic economy, which are markedly
superior to those of other European people in the fifteenth century. It
has been rightly decided to publish selections of these works,[169]
although no little study will be needed to extract clear and definite
results from them. At all events, we have no difficulty in recognising
the city, where dying parents begged the Government in their wills to
fine their sons 1,000 florins if they declined to practise a regular

For the first half of the sixteenth century probably no state in the
world possesses a document like the magnificent description of Florence
by Varchi.[171] In descriptive statistics, as in so many things besides,
yet another model is left to us, before the freedom and greatness of the
city sank into the grave.[172]

This statistical estimate of outward life is, however, uniformly
accompanied by the narrative of political events to which we have
already referred.

Florence not only existed under political forms more varied than those
of the free states of Italy and of Europe generally, but it reflected
upon them far more deeply. It is a faithful mirror of the relations of
individuals and classes to a variable whole. The pictures of the great
civic democracies in France and in Flanders, as they are delineated in
Froissart, and the narratives of the German chroniclers of the
fourteenth century, are in truth of high importance; but in
comprehensiveness of thought and in the rational development of the
story, none will bear comparison with the Florentines. The rule of the
nobility, the tyrannies, the struggles of the middle class with the
proletariate, limited and unlimited democracy, pseudo-democracy, the
primacy of a single house, the theocracy of Savonarola, and the mixed
forms of government which prepared the way for the Medicean
despotism--all are so described that the inmost motives of the actors
are laid bare to the light.[173] At length Macchiavelli in his
Florentine history (down to 1492) represents his native city as a living
organism and its development as a natural and individual process; he is
the first of the moderns who has risen to such a conception. It lies
without our province to determine whether and in what points
Macchiavelli may have done violence to history, as is notoriously the
case in his life of Castruccio Castracane--a fancy picture of the
typical despot. We might find something to say against every line of the
‘Istorie Fiorentine,’ and yet the great and unique value of the whole
would remain unaffected. And his contemporaries and successors, Jacopo
Pitti, Guicciardini, Segni, Varchi, Vettori, what a circle of
illustrious names! And what a story it is which these masters tell us!
The great and memorable drama of the last decades of the Florentine
republic is here unfolded. The voluminous record of the collapse of the
highest and most original life which the world could then show may
appear to one but as a collection of curiosities, may awaken in another
a devilish delight at the shipwreck of so much nobility and grandeur, to
a third may seem like a great historical assize; for all it will be an
object of thought and study to the end of time. The evil, which was for
ever troubling the peace of the city, was its rule over once powerful
and now conquered rivals like Pisa--a rule of which the necessary
consequence was a chronic state of violence. The only remedy, certainly
an extreme one and which none but Savonarola could have persuaded
Florence to accept, and that only with the help of favourable chances,
would have been the well-timed resolution of Tuscany into a federal
union of free cities. At a later period this scheme, then no more than
the dream of a past age, brought (1548) a patriotic citizen of Lucca to
the scaffold.[174] From this evil and from the ill-starred Guelph
sympathies of Florence for a foreign prince, which familiarised it with
foreign intervention, came all the disasters which followed. But who
does not admire the people, which was wrought up by its venerated
preacher to a mood of such sustained loftiness, that for the first time
in Italy it set the example of sparing a conquered foe, while the whole
history of its past taught nothing but vengeance and extermination? The
glow which melted patriotism into one with moral regeneration may seem,
when looked at from a distance, to have soon passed away; but its best
results shine forth again in the memorable siege of 1529-30. They were
‘fools,’ as Guicciardini then wrote, who drew down this storm upon
Florence, but he confesses himself that they achieved things which
seemed incredible; and when he declares that sensible people would have
got out of the way of the danger, he means no more than that Florence
ought to have yielded itself silently and ingloriously into the hands of
its enemies. It would no doubt have preserved its splendid suburbs and
gardens, and the lives and prosperity of countless citizens; but it
would have been the poorer by one of its greatest and most ennobling

In many of their chief merits the Florentines are the pattern and the
earliest type of Italians and modern Europeans generally; they are so
also in many of their defects. When Dante compares the city which was
always mending its constitution with the sick man who is continually
changing his posture to escape from pain, he touches with the comparison
a permanent feature of the political life of Florence. The great modern
fallacy that a constitution can be made, can be manufactured by a
combination of existing forces and tendencies,[175] was constantly
cropping up in stormy times; even Macchiavelli is not wholly free from
it. Constitutional artists were never wanting who by an ingenious
distribution and division of political power, by indirect elections of
the most complicated kind, by the establishment of nominal offices,
sought to found a lasting order of things, and to satisfy or to deceive
the rich and the poor alike. They naïvely fetch their examples from
classical antiquity, and borrow the party names ‘ottimati,’
‘aristocrazia,’[176] as a matter of course. The world since then has
become used to these expressions and given them a conventional European
sense, whereas all former party names were purely national, and either
characterised the cause at issue or sprang from the caprice of accident.
But how a name colours or discolours a political cause!

But of all who thought it possible to construct a state, the greatest
beyond all comparison was Macchiavelli.[177] He treats existing forces
as living and active, takes a large and an accurate view of alternative
possibilities, and seeks to mislead neither himself nor others. No man
could be freer from vanity or ostentation; indeed, he does not write for
the public, but either for princes and administrators or for personal
friends. The danger for him does not lie in an affectation of genius or
in a false order of ideas, but rather in a powerful imagination which he
evidently controls with difficulty. The objectivity of his political
judgment is sometimes appalling in its sincerity; but it is the sign of
a time of no ordinary need and peril, when it was a hard matter to
believe in right, or to credit others with just dealing. Virtuous
indignation at his expense is thrown away upon us who have seen in what
sense political morality is understood by the statesmen of our own
century. Macchiavelli was at all events able to forget himself in his
cause. In truth, although his writings, with the exception of very few
words, are altogether destitute of enthusiasm, and although the
Florentines themselves treated him at last as a criminal,[178] he was a
patriot in the fullest meaning of the word. But free as he was, like
most of his contemporaries, in speech and morals, the welfare of the
state was yet his first and last thought.

His most complete programme for the construction of a new political
system at Florence is set forth in the memorial to Leo X.,[179] composed
after the death of the younger Lorenzo Medici, Duke of Urbino (d. 1519),
to whom he had dedicated his ‘Prince.’ The state was by that time in
extremities and utterly corrupt, and the remedies proposed are not
always morally justifiable; but it is most interesting to see how he
hopes to set up the republic in the form of a moderate democracy, as
heiress to the Medici. A more ingenious scheme of concessions to the
Pope, to the Pope’s various adherents, and to the different Florentine
interests, cannot be imagined; we might fancy ourselves looking into the
works of a clock. Principles, observations, comparisons, political
forecasts, and the like are to be found in numbers in the ‘Discorsi,’
among them flashes of wonderful insight. He recognises, for example, the
law of a continuous though not uniform development in republican
institutions, and requires the constitution to be flexible and capable
of change, as the only means of dispensing with bloodshed and
banishments. For a like reason, in order to guard against private
violence and foreign interference--‘the death of all freedom’--he wishes
to see introduced a judicial procedure (‘accusa’) against hated
citizens, in place of which Florence had hitherto had nothing but the
court of scandal. With a masterly hand the tardy and involuntary
decisions are characterised, which at critical moments play so important
a part in republican states. Once, it is true, he is misled by his
imagination and the pressure of events into unqualified praise of the
people, which chooses its officers, he says, better than any prince, and
which can be cured of its errors by ‘good advice.’[180] With regard to
the government of Tuscany, he has no doubt that it belongs to his native
city, and maintains, in a special ‘Discorso’ that the reconquest of Pisa
is a question of life or death; he deplores that Arezzo, after the
rebellion of 1502, was not razed to the ground; he admits in general
that Italian republics must be allowed to expand freely and add to their
territory in order to enjoy peace at home, and not to be themselves
attacked by others, but declares that Florence had always begun at the
wrong end, and from the first made deadly enemies of Pisa, Lucca, and
Siena, while Pistoja, ‘treated like a brother,’ had voluntarily
submitted to her.[181]

It would be unreasonable to draw a parallel between the few other
republics which still existed in the fifteenth century and this unique
city--the most important workshop of the Italian, and indeed of the
modern European spirit. Siena suffered from the gravest organic
maladies, and its relative prosperity in art and industry must not
mislead us on this point. Æneas Sylvius[182] looks with longing from his
native town over to the ‘merry’ German imperial cities, where life is
embittered by no confiscations of land and goods, by no arbitrary
officials, and by no political factions.[183] Genoa scarcely comes
within range of our task, as before the time of Andrea Doria it took
almost no part in the Renaissance. Indeed, the inhabitant of the Riviera
was proverbial among Italians for his contempt of all higher
culture.[184] Party conflicts here assumed so fierce a character, and
disturbed so violently the whole course of life, that we can hardly
understand how, after so many revolutions and invasions, the Genoese
ever contrived to return to an endurable condition. Perhaps it was owing
to the fact that nearly all who took part in public affairs were at the
same time almost without exception active men of business.[185] The
example of Genoa shows in a striking manner with what insecurity wealth
and vast commerce, and with what internal disorder the possession of
distant colonies, are compatible.

Lucca is of small significance in the fifteenth century.



As the majority of the Italian states were in their internal
constitution works of art, that is, the fruit of reflection and careful
adaptation, so was their relation to one another and to foreign
countries also a work of art. That nearly all of them were the result of
recent usurpations, was a fact which exercised as fatal an influence in
their foreign as in their internal policy. Not one of them recognised
another without reserve; the same play of chance which had helped to
found and consolidate one dynasty might upset another. Nor was it always
a matter of choice with the despot whether to keep quiet or not. The
necessity of movement and aggrandisement is common to all illegitimate
powers. Thus Italy became the scene of a ‘foreign policy’ which
gradually, as in other countries also, acquired the position of a
recognised system of public law. The purely objective treatment of
international affairs, as free from prejudice as from moral scruples,
attained a perfection which sometimes is not without a certain beauty
and grandeur of its own. But as a whole it gives us the impression of a
bottomless abyss.

Intrigues, armaments, leagues, corruption and treason make up the
outward history of Italy at this period. Venice in particular was long
accused on all hands of seeking to conquer the whole peninsula, or
gradually so to reduce its strength that one state after another must
fall into her hands.[186] But on a closer view it is evident that this
complaint did not come from the people, but rather from the courts and
official classes, which were commonly abhorred by their subjects, while
the mild government of Venice had secured for it general confidence.
Even Florence,[187] with its restive subject cities, found itself in a
false position with regard to Venice, apart from all commercial jealousy
and from the progress of Venice in Romagna. At last the League of
Cambray actually did strike a serious blow at the state (p. 68), which
all Italy ought to have supported with united strength.

The other states, also, were animated by feelings no less unfriendly,
and were at all times ready to use against one another any weapon which
their evil conscience might suggest. Ludovico Moro, the Aragonese kings
of Naples, and Sixtus IV.--to say nothing of the smaller powers--kept
Italy in a state of constant and perilous agitation. It would have been
well if the atrocious game had been confined to Italy; but it lay in the
nature of the case that intervention and help should at last be sought
from abroad--in particular from the French and the Turks.

The sympathies of the people at large were throughout on the side of
France. Florence had never ceased to confess with shocking _naïveté_ its
old Guelph preference for the French.[188] And when Charles VIII.
actually appeared on the south of the Alps, all Italy accepted him with
an enthusiasm which to himself and his followers seemed
unaccountable.[189] In the imagination of the Italians, to take
Savonarola for an example, the ideal picture of a wise, just, and
powerful saviour and ruler was still living, with the difference that he
was no longer the emperor invoked by Dante, but the Capetian king of
France. With his departure the illusion was broken; but it was long
before all understood how completely Charles VIII., Louis XII., and
Francis I. had mistaken their true relation to Italy, and by what
inferior motives they were led. The princes, for their part, tried to
make use of France in a wholly different way. When the Franco-English
wars came to an end, when Louis XI. began to cast about his diplomatic
nets on all sides, and Charles of Burgundy to embark on his foolish
adventures, the Italian Cabinets came to meet them at every point. It
became clear that the intervention of France was only a question of
time, even though the claims on Naples and Milan had never existed, and
that the old interference with Genoa and Piedmont was only a type of
what was to follow. The Venetians, in fact, expected it as early as
1642.[190] The mortal terror of the Duke Galeazzo Maria of Milan during
the Burgundian war, in which he was apparently the ally of Charles as
well as of Louis, and consequently had reason to dread an attack from
both, is strikingly shown in his correspondence.[191] The plan of an
equilibrium of the four chief Italian powers, as understood by Lorenzo
the Magnificent, was but the assumption of a cheerful optimistic spirit,
which had outgrown both the recklessness of an experimental policy and
the superstitions of Florentine Guelphism, and persisted in hoping the
best. When Louis XI. offered him aid in the war against Ferrante of
Naples and Sixtus IV., he replied, ‘I cannot set my own advantage above
the safety of all Italy; would to God it never came into the mind of the
French kings to try their strength in this country! Should they ever do
so, Italy is lost.’[192] For the other princes, the King of France was
alternately a bugbear to themselves and their enemies, and they
threatened to call him in whenever they saw no more convenient way out
of their difficulties. The Popes, in their turn, fancied that they could
make use of France without any danger to themselves, and even Innocent
VIII. imagined that he could withdraw to sulk in the North, and return
as a conqueror to Italy at the head of a French army.[193]

Thoughtful men, indeed, foresaw the foreign conquest long before the
expedition of Charles VIII.[194] And when Charles was back again on the
other side of the Alps, it was plain to every eye that an era of
intervention had begun. Misfortune now followed on misfortune; it was
understood too late that France and Spain, the two chief invaders, had
become great European powers, that they would be no longer satisfied
with verbal homage, but would fight to the death for influence and
territory in Italy. They had begun to resemble the centralised Italian
states, and indeed to copy them, only on a gigantic scale. Schemes of
annexation or exchange of territory were for a time indefinitely
multiplied. The end, as is well known, was the complete victory of
Spain, which, as sword and shield of the counter-reformation, long held
the Papacy among its other subjects. The melancholy reflections of the
philosophers could only show them how those who had called in the
barbarians all came to a bad end.

Alliances were at the same time formed with the Turks too, with as
little scruple or disguise; they were reckoned no worse than any other
political expedients. The belief in the unity of Western Christendom had
at various times in the course of the Crusades been seriously shaken,
and Frederick II. had probably outgrown it. But the fresh advance of the
Oriental nations, the need and the ruin of the Greek Empire, had revived
the old feeling, though not in its former strength, throughout Western
Europe. Italy, however, was a striking exception to this rule. Great as
was the terror felt for the Turks, and the actual danger from them,
there was yet scarcely a government of any consequence which did not
conspire against other Italian states with Mohammed II. and his
successors. And when they did not do so, they still had the credit of
it; nor was it worse than the sending of emissaries to poison the
cisterns of Venice, which was the charge brought against the heirs of
Alfonso King of Naples.[195] From a scoundrel like Sigismondo Malatesta
nothing better could be expected than that he should call the Turks
into Italy.[196] But the Aragonese monarchs of Naples, from whom
Mohammed--at the instigation, we read, of other Italian governments,
especially of Venice[197]--had once wrested Otranto (1480), afterwards
hounded on the Sultan Bajazet II. against the Venetians.[198] The same
charge was brought against Ludovico Moro. ‘The blood of the slain, and
the misery of the prisoners in the hands of the Turks, cry to God for
vengeance against him,’ says the state historian. In Venice, where the
government was informed of everything, it was known that Giovanni
Sforza, ruler of Pesaro, the cousin of the Moor, had entertained the
Turkish ambassadors on their way to Milan.[199] The two most respectable
among the Popes of the fifteenth century, Nicholas V. and Pius II., died
in the deepest grief at the progress of the Turks, the latter indeed
amid the preparations for a crusade which he was hoping to lead in
person; their successors embezzled the contributions sent for this
purpose from all parts of Christendom, and degraded the indulgences
granted in return for them into a private commercial speculation.[200]
Innocent VIII. consented to be gaoler to the fugitive Prince Djem, for a
salary paid by the prisoner’s brother Bajazet II., and Alexander VI.
supported the steps taken by Ludovico Moro in Constantinople to further
a Turkish assault upon Venice (1498), whereupon the latter threatened
him with a Council.[201] It is clear that the notorious alliance
between Francis I. and Soliman II. was nothing new or unheard of.

Indeed, we find instances of whole populations to whom it seemed no
particular crime to go over bodily to the Turks. Even if it were only
held out as a threat to oppressive governments, this is at least a proof
that the idea had become familiar. As early as 1480 Battista Mantovano
gives us clearly to understand that most of the inhabitants of the
Adriatic coast foresaw something of this kind, and that Ancona in
particular desired it.[202] When Romagna was suffering from the
oppressive government of Leo X., a deputy from Ravenna said openly to
the Legate, Cardinal Guilio Medici: ‘Monsignore, the honourable Republic
of Venice will not have us, for fear of a dispute with the Holy See; but
if the Turk comes to Ragusa we will put ourselves into his hands.’[203]

It was a poor but not wholly groundless consolation for the enslavement
of Italy then begun by the Spaniards, that the country was at least
secured from the relapse into barbarism which would have awaited it
under the Turkish rule.[204] By itself, divided as it was, it could
hardly have escaped this fate.

If, with all these drawbacks, the Italian statesmanship of this period
deserves our praise, it is only on the ground of its practical and
unprejudiced treatment of those questions which were not affected by
fear, passion, or malice. Here was no feudal system after the northern
fashion, with its artificial scheme of rights; but the power which each
possessed he held in practice as in theory. Here was no attendant
nobility to foster in the mind of the prince the mediæval sense of
honour, with all its strange consequences; but princes and counsellors
were agreed in acting according to the exigencies of the particular case
and to the end they had in view. Towards the men whose services were
used and towards allies, come from what quarter they might, no pride of
caste was felt which could possibly estrange a supporter; and the class
of the Condottieri, in which birth was a matter of indifference, shows
clearly enough in what sort of hands the real power lay; and lastly, the
Government, in the hands of an enlightened despot, had an incomparably
more accurate acquaintance with its own country and that of its
neighbours, than was possessed by northern contemporaries, and estimated
the economical and moral capacities of friend and foe down to the
smallest particular. The rulers were, notwithstanding grave errors, born
masters of statistical science. With such men negotiation was possible;
it might be presumed that they would be convinced and their opinion
modified when practical reasons were laid before them. When the great
Alfonso of Naples was (1434) a prisoner of Filippo Maria Visconti, he
was able to satisfy his gaoler that the rule of the House of Anjou
instead of his own at Naples would make the French masters of Italy;
Filippo Maria set him free without ransom and made an alliance with
him.[205] A northern prince would scarcely have acted in the same way,
certainly not one whose morality in other respects was like that of
Visconti. What confidence was felt in the power of self-interest is
shown by the celebrated visit which Lorenzo the Magnificent, to the
universal astonishment of the Florentines, paid the faithless Ferrante
at Naples--a man who would be certainly tempted to keep him a prisoner,
and was by no means too scrupulous to do so.[206] For to arrest a
powerful monarch, and then to let him go alive, after extorting his
signature and otherwise insulting him, as Charles the Bold did to Louis
XI. at Péronne (1468), seemed madness to the Italians;[207] so that
Lorenzo was expected to come back covered with glory, or else not to
come back at all. The art of political persuasion was at this time
raised to a point--especially by the Venetian ambassadors--of which
northern nations first obtained a conception from the Italians, and of
which the official addresses give a most imperfect idea. These are mere
pieces of humanistic rhetoric. Nor, in spite of an otherwise ceremonious
etiquette, was there in case of need any lack of rough and frank
speaking in diplomatic intercourse.[208] A man like Macchiavelli appears
in his ‘Legazioni’ in an almost pathetic light. Furnished with scanty
instructions, shabbily equipped, and treated as an agent of inferior
rank, he never loses his gift of free and wide observation or his
pleasure in picturesque description. From that time Italy was and
remained the country of political ‘Istruzioni’ and ‘Relazioni.’ There
was doubtless plenty of diplomatic ability in other states, but Italy
alone at so early a period has preserved documentary evidence of it in
considerable quantity. The long despatch on the last period of the life
of Ferrante of Naples (January 17, 1494), written by the hand of Pontano
and addressed to the Cabinet of Alexander VI., gives us the highest
opinion of this class of political writing, although it is only quoted
incidentally and as one of many written. And how many other despatches,
as important and as vigorously written, in the diplomatic intercourse of
this and later times, still remain unknown or unedited![209]

A special division of this work will treat of the study of man
individually and nationally, which among the Italians went hand in hand
with the study of the outward conditions of human life.



It must here be briefly indicated by what steps the art of war assumed
the character of a product of reflection.[210] Throughout the countries
of the West the education of the individual soldier in the middle ages
was perfect within the limits of the then prevalent system of defence
and attack: nor was there any want of ingenious inventors in the arts of
besieging and of fortification. But the development both of strategy and
of tactics was hindered by the character and duration of military
service, and by the ambition of the nobles, who disputed questions of
precedence in the face of the enemy, and through simple want of
discipline caused the loss of great battles like Crécy and Maupertuis.
Italy, on the contrary, was the first country to adopt the system of
mercenary troops, which demanded a wholly different organisation; and
the early introduction of fire-arms did its part in making war a
democratic pursuit, not only because the strongest castles were unable
to withstand a bombardment, but because the skill of the engineer, of
the gun-founder, and of the artillerist--men belonging to another class
than the nobility--was now of the first importance in a campaign. It was
felt, with regret, that the value of the individual, which had been the
soul of the small and admirably-organised bands of mercenaries, would
suffer from these novel means of destruction, which did their work at a
distance; and there were Condottieri who opposed to the utmost the
introduction at least of the musket, which had been lately invented in
Germany.[211] We read that Paolo Vitelli,[212] while recognising and
himself adopting the cannon, put out the eyes and cut off the hands of
the captured ‘schioppettieri,’ of the enemy, because he held it unworthy
that a gallant, and it might be noble, knight should be wounded and laid
low by a common, despised foot soldier. On the whole, however, the new
discoveries were accepted and turned to useful account, till the
Italians became the teachers of all Europe, both in the building of
fortifications and in the means of attacking them.[213] Princes like
Federigo of Urbino and Alfonso of Ferrara acquired a mastery of the
subject compared to which the knowledge even of Maximilian I. appears
superficial. In Italy, earlier than elsewhere, there existed a
comprehensive science and art of military affairs; here, for the first
time, that impartial delight is taken in able generalship for its own
sake, which might, indeed, be expected from the frequent change of party
and from the wholly unsentimental mode of action of the Condottieri.
During the Milano-Venetian war of 1451 and 1452, between Francesco
Sforza and Jacopo Piccinino, the headquarters of the latter were
attended by the scholar Gian Antonio Porcello dei Pandoni, commissioned
by Alfonso of Naples to write a report of the campaign.[214] It is
written, not in the purest, but in a fluent Latin, a little too much in
the style of the humanistic bombast of the day, is modelled on Cæsar’s
Commentaries, and interspersed with speeches, prodigies, and the like.
Since for the past hundred years it had been seriously disputed whether
Scipio Africanus or Hannibal was the greater,[215] Piccinino through
the whole book must needs be called Scipio and Sforza Hannibal. But
something positive had to be reported too respecting the Milanese army;
the sophist presented himself to Sforza, was led along the ranks,
praised highly all that he saw, and promised to hand it down to
posterity.[216] Apart from him the Italian literature of the day is rich
in descriptions of wars and strategic devices, written for the use of
educated men in general as well as of specialists, while the
contemporary narratives of northerners, such as the ‘Burgundian War’ by
Diebold Schelling, still retain the shapelessness and matter-of-fact
dryness of a mere chronicle. The greatest _dilettante_ who has ever
treated in that character[217] of military affairs, was then busy
writing his ‘Arte della Guerra.’ But the development of the individual
soldier found its most complete expression in those public and solemn
conflicts between one or more pairs of combatants which were practised
long before the famous ‘Challenge of Barletta’[218] (1503). The victor
was assured of the praises of poets and scholars, which were denied to
the Northern warrior. The result of these combats was no longer regarded
as a Divine judgment, but as a triumph of personal merit, and to the
minds of the spectators seemed to be both the decision of an exciting
competition and a satisfaction for the honour of the army or the

It is obvious that this purely rational treatment of warlike affairs
allowed, under certain circumstances, of the worst atrocities, even in
the absence of a strong political hatred, as, for instance, when the
plunder of a city had been promised to the troops. After the four days’
devastation of Piacenza, which Sforza was compelled to permit to his
soldiers (1447), the town long stood empty, and at last had to be
peopled by force.[220] Yet outrages like these were nothing compared
with the misery which was afterwards brought upon Italy by foreign
troops, and most of all by the Spaniards, in whom perhaps a touch of
Oriental blood, perhaps familiarity with the spectacles of the
Inquisition, had unloosed the devilish element of human nature. After
seeing them at work at Prato, Rome, and elsewhere, it is not easy to
take any interest of the higher sort in Ferdinand the Catholic and
Charles V., who knew what these hordes were, and yet unchained them. The
mass of documents which are gradually brought to light from the cabinets
of these rulers will always remain an important source of historical
information; but from such men no fruitful political conception can be
looked for.



The Papacy and the dominions of the Church[221] are creations of so
peculiar a kind, that we have hitherto, in determining the general
characteristics of Italian states, referred to them only occasionally.
The deliberate choice and adaptation of political expedients, which
gives so great an interest to the other states, is what we find least of
all at Rome, since here the spiritual power could constantly conceal or
supply the defects of the temporal. And what fiery trials did this state
undergo in the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century,
when the Papacy was led captive to Avignon! All, at first, was thrown
into confusion; but the Pope had money, troops, and a great statesman
and general, the Spaniard Alboronoz, who again brought the
ecclesiastical state into complete subjection. The danger of a final
dissolution was still greater at the time of the schism, when neither
the Roman nor the French Pope was rich enough to reconquer the
newly-lost state; but this was done under Martin V., after the unity of
the Church was restored, and done again under Eugenius IV., when the
same danger was renewed. But the ecclesiastical state was and remained a
thorough anomaly among the powers of Italy; in and near Rome itself, the
Papacy was defied by the great families of the Colonna, Orsini, Savelli,
and Anguillara; in Umbria, in the Marches, and in Romagna, those civic
republics had almost ceased to exist, for whose devotion the Papacy had
showed so little gratitude; their place had been taken by a crowd of
princely dynasties, great or small, whose loyalty and obedience
signified little. As self-dependent powers, standing on their own
merits, they have an interest of their own; and from this point of view
the most important of them have been already discussed (pp. 28 sqq., 44

Nevertheless, a few general remarks on the Papacy can hardly be
dispensed with. New and strange perils and trials came upon it in the
course of the fifteenth century, as the political spirit of the nation
began to lay hold upon it on various sides, and to draw it within the
sphere of its action. The least of these dangers came from the populace
or from abroad; the most serious had their ground in the characters of
the Popes themselves.

Let us, for this moment, leave out of consideration the countries beyond
the Alps. At the time when the Papacy was exposed to mortal danger in
Italy, it neither received nor could receive the slightest assistance
either from France, then under Louis XI., or from England, distracted by
the wars of the Roses, or from the then disorganized Spanish monarchy,
or from Germany, but lately betrayed at the Council of Basel. In Italy
itself there were a certain number of instructed and even uninstructed
people, whose national vanity was flattered by the Italian character of
the Papacy; the personal interests of very many depended on its having
and retaining this character; and vast masses of the people still
believed in the virtue of the Papal blessing and consecration;[222]
among them notorious transgressors like that Vitellozzo Vitelli, who
still prayed to be absolved by Alexander VI., when the Pope’s son had
him slaughtered.[223] But all these grounds of sympathy put together
would not have sufficed to save the Papacy from its enemies, had the
latter been really in earnest, and had they known how to take advantage
of the envy and hatred with which the institution was regarded.

And at the very time when the prospect of help from without was so
small, the most dangerous symptoms appeared within the Papacy itself.
Living, as it now did, and acting in the spirit of the secular Italian
principalities, it was compelled to go through the same dark experiences
as they; but its own exceptional nature gave a peculiar colour to the

As far as the city of Rome itself is concerned, small account was taken
of its internal agitations, so many were the Popes who had returned
after being expelled by popular tumult, and so greatly did the presence
of the Curia minister to the interests of the Roman people. But Rome not
only displayed at times a specific anti-papal radicalism,[224] but in
the most serious plots which were then contrived, gave proof of the
working of unseen hands from without. It was so in the case of the
conspiracy of Stefano Porcaro against Nicholas V. (1453), the very Pope
who had done most for the prosperity of the city, but who, by enriching
the cardinals, and transforming Rome into a papal fortress, had aroused
the discontent of the people.[225] Porcaro aimed at the complete
overthrow of the papal authority, and had distinguished accomplices,
who, though their names are not handed down to us,[226] are certainly
to be looked for among the Italian governments of the time. Under the
pontificate of the same man, Lorenzo Valla concluded his famous
declamation against the gift of Constantine, with the wish for the
speedy secularisation of the States of the Church.[227]

The Catilinarian gang, with which Pius II. had to contend[228] (1460),
avowed with equal frankness their resolution to overthrow the government
of the priests, and its leader, Tiburzio, threw the blame on the
soothsayers, who had fixed the accomplishment of his wishes for this
very year. Several of the chief men of Rome, the Prince of Tarentum, and
the Condottiere Jacopo Piccinino, were accomplices and supporters of
Tiburzio. Indeed, when we think of the booty which was accumulated in
the palaces of wealthy prelates--the conspirators had the Cardinal of
Aquileia especially in view--we are surprised that, in an almost
unguarded city, such attempts were not more frequent and more
successful. It was not without reason that Pius II. preferred to reside
anywhere rather than in Rome, and even Paul II.[229] was exposed to no
small anxiety through a plot formed by some discharged abbreviators,
who, under the command of Platina, besieged the Vatican for twenty days.
The Papacy must sooner or later have fallen a victim to such
enterprises, if it had not stamped out the aristocratic factions under
whose protection these bands of robbers grew to a head.

This task was undertaken by the terrible Sixtus IV. He was the first
Pope who had Rome and the neighbourhood thoroughly under his control,
especially after his successful attack on the House of Colonna, and
consequently, both in his Italian policy and in the internal affairs of
the Church, he could venture to act with a defiant audacity, and to set
at nought the complaints and threats to summon a council which arose
from all parts of Europe. He supplied himself with the necessary funds
by simony, which suddenly grew to unheard-of proportions, and which
extended from the appointment of cardinals down to the granting of the
smallest favours.[230] Sixtus himself had not obtained the papal dignity
without recourse to the same means.

A corruption so universal might sooner or later bring disastrous
consequences on the Holy See, but they lay in the uncertain future. It
was otherwise with nepotism, which threatened at one time to destroy the
Papacy altogether. Of all the ‘nipoti,’ Cardinal Pietro Riario enjoyed
at first the chief and almost exclusive favour of Sixtus. He soon drew
upon him the eyes of all Italy,[231] partly by the fabulous luxury of
his life, partly through the reports which were current of his
irreligion and his political plans. He bargained with Duke Galeazzo
Maria of Milan (1473), that the latter should become King of Lombardy,
and then aid him with money and troops to return to Rome and ascend the
papal throne; Sixtus, it appears, would have voluntarily yielded it to
him.[232] This plan, which, by making the Papacy hereditary, would have
ended in the secularization of the papal state, failed through the
sudden death of Pietro. The second ‘nipote,’ Girolamo Riario, remained a
layman, and did not seek the Pontificate. From this time the ‘nipoti,’
by their endeavours to found principalities for themselves, became a new
source of confusion to Italy. It had already happened that the Popes
tried to make good their feudal claims on Naples in favour of their
relatives;[233] but since the failure of Calixtus III. such a scheme was
no longer practicable, and Girolamo Riario, after the attempt to conquer
Florence (and who knows how many other places) had failed, was forced to
content himself with founding a state within the limits of the papal
dominions themselves. This was, in so far, justifiable, as Romagna, with
its princes and civic despots, threatened to shake off the papal
supremacy altogether, and ran the risk of shortly falling a prey to
Sforza or the Venetians, when Rome interfered to prevent it. But who, at
times and in circumstances like these, could guarantee the continued
obedience of ‘nipoti’ and their descendants, now turned into sovereign
rulers, to Popes with whom they had no further concern? Even in his
lifetime the Pope was not always sure of his own son or nephew, and the
temptation was strong to expel the ‘nipote’ of a predecessor and replace
him by one of his own. The reaction of the whole system on the Papacy
itself was of the most serious character; all means of compulsion,
whether temporal or spiritual, were used without scruple for the most
questionable ends, and to these all the other objects of the Apostolic
See were made subordinate. And when they were attained, at whatever cost
of revolutions and proscriptions, a dynasty was founded which had no
stronger interest than the destruction of the Papacy.

At the death of Sixtus, Girolamo was only able to maintain himself in
his usurped principality of Forli and Imola by the utmost exertions of
his own, and by the aid of the House of Sforza. He was murdered in 1488.
In the conclave (1484) which followed the death of Sixtus--that in which
Innocent VIII. was elected--an incident occurred which seemed to furnish
the Papacy with a new external guarantee. Two cardinals, who, at the
same time, were princes of ruling houses, Giovanni d’Aragona, son of
King Ferrante, and Ascanio Sforza, brother of the Moor, sold their votes
with the most shameless effrontery;[234] so that, at any rate, the
ruling houses of Naples and Milan became interested, by their
participation in the booty, in the continuance of the papal system. Once
again, in the following Conclave, when all the cardinals but five sold
themselves, Ascanio received enormous sums in bribes, not without
cherishing the hope that at the next election he would himself be the
favoured candidate.[235]

Lorenzo the Magnificent, on his part, was anxious that the House of
Medici should not be sent away with empty hands. He married his daughter
Maddalena to the son of the new Pope--the first who publicly
acknowledged his children--Franceschetto Cybò, and expected not only
favours of all kinds for his own son, Cardinal Giovanni, afterwards Leo
X., but also the rapid promotion of his son-in-law.[236] But with
respect to the latter, he demanded impossibilities. Under Innocent VIII.
there was no opportunity for the audacious nepotism by which states had
been founded, since Franceschetto himself was a poor creature who, like
his father the Pope, sought power only for the lowest purpose of
all--the acquisition and accumulation of money.[237] The manner,
however, in which father and son practised this occupation must have led
sooner or later to a final catastrophe--the dissolution of the state. If
Sixtus had filled his treasury by the rule of spiritual dignities and
favours, Innocent and his son, for their part, established an office for
the sale of secular favours, in which pardons for murder and
manslaughter were sold for large sums of money. Out of every fine 150
ducats were paid into the papal exchequer, and what was over to
Franceschetto. Rome, during the latter part of this pontificate, swarmed
with licensed and unlicensed assassins; the factions, which Sixtus had
begun to put down, were again as active as ever; the Pope, well guarded
in the Vatican, was satisfied with now and then laying a trap, in which
a wealthy misdoer was occasionally caught. For Franceschetto the chief
point was to know by what means, when the Pope died, he could escape
with well-filled coffers. He betrayed himself at last, on the occasion
of a false report (1490) of his father’s death; he endeavoured to carry
off all the money in the papal treasury, and when this proved
impossible, insisted that, at all events, the Turkish prince, Djem,
should go with him, and serve as a living capital, to be advantageously
disposed of, perhaps to Ferrante of Naples.[238] It is hard to estimate
the political possibilities of remote periods, but we cannot help asking
ourselves the question, if Rome could have survived two or three
pontificates of this kind. Even with reference to the believing
countries of Europe, it was imprudent to let matters go so far that not
only travellers and pilgrims, but a whole embassy of Maximilian, King of
the Romans, were stripped to their shirts in the neighbourhood of Rome,
and that envoys had constantly to turn back without setting foot within
the city.

Such a condition of things was incompatible with the conception of power
and its pleasures which inspired the gifted Alexander VI. (1492-1503),
and the first event that happened was the restoration, at least
provisionally, of public order, and the punctual payment of every

Strictly speaking, as we are now discussing phases of Italian
civilization, this pontificate might be passed over, since the Borgias
are no more Italian than the House of Naples. Alexander spoke Spanish in
public with Cæsar; Lucretia, at her entrance to Ferrara, where she wore
a Spanish costume, was sung to by Spanish buffoons; their confidential
servants consisted of Spaniards, as did also the most ill-famed company
of the troops of Cæsar in the war of 1500; and even his hangman, Don
Micheletto, and his poisoner, Sebastian Pinzon,[239] seem to have been
of the same nation. Among his other achievements, Cæsar, in true Spanish
fashion, killed, according to the rules of the craft, six wild bulls in
an enclosed court. But the Roman corruption, which seemed to culminate
in this family, was already far advanced when they came to the city.

What they were and what they did has been often and fully
described.[240] Their immediate purpose, which, in fact, they attained,
was the complete subjugation of the pontifical state. All the petty
despots,[241] who were mostly more or less refractory vassals of the
Church, were expelled or destroyed; and in Rome itself the two great
factions were annihilated, the so-called Guelph Orsini as well as the
so-called Ghibelline Colonna. But the means employed were of so
frightful a character, that they must certainly have ended in the ruin
of the Papacy, had not the contemporaneous death of both father and son
by poison suddenly intervened to alter the whole aspect of the
situation. The moral indignation of Christendom was certainly no great
source of danger to Alexander; at home he was strong enough to extort
terror and obedience; foreign rulers were won over to his side, and
Louis XII. even aided him to the utmost of his power. The mass of the
people throughout Europe had hardly a conception of what was passing in
Central Italy. The only moment which was really fraught with
danger--when Charles VIII. was in Italy--went by with unexpected
fortune, and even then it was not the Papacy as such that was in peril,
but Alexander, who risked being supplanted by a more respectable
Pope.[242] The great, permanent, and increasing danger for the Papacy
lay in Alexander himself, and, above all, in his son Cæsar Borgia.

In the nature of the father, ambition, avarice, and sensuality were
combined with strong and brilliant qualities. All the pleasures of power
and luxury he granted himself from the first day of his pontificate in
the fullest measure. In the choice of means to this end he was wholly
without scruple; it was known at once that he would more than compensate
himself for the sacrifices which his election had involved,[243] and
that the simony of the seller would far exceed the simony of the buyer.
It must be remembered that the vice-chancellorship and other offices
which Alexander had formerly held had taught him to know better and turn
to more practical account the various sources of revenue than any other
member of the Curia. As early as 1494, a Carmelite, Adam of Genoa, who
had preached at Rome against simony, was found murdered in his bed with
twenty wounds. Hardly a single cardinal was appointed without the
payment of enormous sums of money.

But when the Pope in course of time fell under the influence of his son
Cæsar Borgia, his violent measures assumed that character of devilish
wickedness which necessarily reacts upon the ends pursued. What was done
in the struggle with the Roman nobles and with the tyrants of Romagna
exceeded in faithlessness and barbarity even that measure to which the
Aragonese rulers of Naples had already accustomed the world; and the
genius for deception was also greater. The manner in which Cæsar
isolated his father, murdering brother, brother-in-law, and other
relations or courtiers, whenever their favour with the Pope or their
position in any other respect became inconvenient to him, is literally
appalling. Alexander was forced to acquiesce in the murder of his
best-loved son, the Duke of Gandia, since he himself lived in hourly
dread of Cæsar.[244]

What were the final aims of the latter? Even in the last months of his
tyranny, when he had murdered the Condottieri at Sinigaglia, and was to
all intents and purposes master of the ecclesiastical state (1503) those
who stood near him gave the modest reply, that the Duke merely wished to
put down the factions and the despots, and all for the good of the
Church only; that for himself he desired nothing more than the lordship
of the Romagna, and that he had earned the gratitude of all the
following Popes by ridding them of the Orsini and Colonna.[245] But no
one will accept this as his ultimate design. The Pope Alexander himself,
in his discussions with the Venetian ambassador, went farther than this,
when committing his son to the protection of Venice: ‘I will see to it,’
he said, ‘that one day the Papacy shall belong either to him or to
you.’[246] Cæsar certainly added that no one could become Pope without
the consent of Venice, and for this end the Venetian cardinals had only
to keep well together. Whether he referred to himself or not we are
unable to say; at all events, the declaration of his father is
sufficient to prove his designs on the pontifical throne. We further
obtain from Lucrezia Borgia a certain amount of indirect evidence, in so
far as certain passages in the poems of Ercole Strozza may be the echo
of expressions which she as Duchess of Ferrara may easily have permitted
herself to use. Here too Cæsar’s hopes of the Papacy are chiefly spoken
of;[247] but now and then a supremacy over all Italy is hinted at,[248]
and finally we are given to understand that as temporal ruler Cæsar’s
projects were of the greatest, and that for their sake he had formerly
surrendered his cardinalate.[249] In fact, there can be no doubt
whatever that Cæsar, whether chosen Pope or not after the death of
Alexander, meant to keep possession of the pontifical state at any cost,
and that this, after all the enormities he had committed, he could not
as Pope have succeeded in doing permanently. He, if anybody, could have
secularised the States of the Church, and he would have been forced to
do so in order to keep them.[250] Unless we are much deceived, this is
the real reason of the secret sympathy with which Macchiavelli treats
the great criminal; from Cæsar, or from nobody, could it be hoped that
he ‘would draw the steel from the wound,’ in other words, annihilate the
Papacy--the source of all foreign intervention and of all the divisions
of Italy. The intriguers who thought to divine Cæsar’s aims, when
holding out to him hopes of the kingdom of Tuscany, seem to have been
dismissed with contempt.[251]

But all logical conclusions from his premisses are idle, not because of
the unaccountable genius which in fact characterized him as little as it
did the Duke of Friedland, but because the means which he employed were
not compatible with any large and consistent course of action. Perhaps,
indeed, in the very excess of his wickedness some prospect of salvation
for the Papacy may have existed even without the accident which put an
end to his rule.

Even if we assume that the destruction of the petty despots in the
pontifical state had gained for him nothing but sympathy, even if we
take as proof of his great projects the army, composed of the best
soldiers and officers in Italy, with Lionardo da Vinci as chief
engineer, which followed his fortunes in 1503, other facts nevertheless
wear such a character of unreason that our judgment, like that of
contemporary observers, is wholly at a loss to explain them. One fact of
this kind is the devastation and maltreatment of the newly won state,
which Cæsar still intended to keep and to rule over.[252] Another is
the condition of Rome and of the Curia in the last decades of the
pontificate. Whether it were that father and son had drawn up a formal
list of proscribed persons,[253] or that the murders were resolved upon
one by one, in either case the Borgias were bent on the secret
destruction of all who stood in their way or whose inheritance they
coveted. Of this money and movable goods formed the smallest part; it
was a much greater source of profit for the Pope that the incomes of the
clerical dignitaries in question were suspended by their death, and that
he received the revenues of their offices while vacant, and the price of
these offices when they were filled by the successors of the murdered
men. The Venetian ambassador, Paolo Capello[254] announces in the year
1500: ‘Every night four or five murdered men are discovered--bishops,
prelates and others--so that all Rome is trembling for fear of being
destroyed by the Duke (Cæsar).’ He himself used to wander about Rome in
the night time with his guards,[255] and there is every reason to
believe that he did so not only because, like Tiberius, he shrank from
showing his now repulsive features by daylight, but also to gratify his
insane thirst for blood, perhaps even on the persons of those unknown to

As early as the year 1499 the despair was so great and so general that
many of the Papal guards were waylaid and put to death.[256] But those
whom the Borgias could not assail with open violence, fell victims to
their poison. For the cases in which a certain amount of discretion
seemed requisite, a white powder[257] of an agreeable taste was made use
of, which did not work on the spot, but slowly and gradually, and which
could be mixed without notice in any dish or goblet. Prince Djem had
taken some of it in a sweet draught, before Alexander surrendered him to
Charles VIII. (1495), and at the end of their career father and son
poisoned themselves with the same powder by accidentally tasting a
sweetmeat intended for a wealthy cardinal, probably Adrian of
Corneto.[258] The official epitomiser of the history of the Popes,
Onufrio Panvinio,[259] mentions three cardinals, Orsini, Ferrerio, and
Michiel, whom Alexander caused to be poisoned, and hints at a fourth,
Giovanni Borgia, whom Cæsar took into his own charge--though probably
wealthy prelates seldom died in Rome at that time without giving rise to
suspicions of this sort. Even tranquil students who had withdrawn to
some provincial town were not out of reach of the merciless poison. A
secret horror seemed to hang about the Pope; storms and thunderbolts,
crushing in walls and chambers, had in earlier times often visited and
alarmed him; in the year 1500,[260] when these phenomena were repeated,
they were held to be ‘cosa diabolica.’ The report of these events seems
at last, through the well-attended jubilee[261] of 1500, to have been
carried far and wide throughout the countries of Europe, and the
infamous traffic in indulgences did what else was needed to draw all
eyes upon Rome.[262] Besides the returning pilgrims, strange white-robed
penitents came from Italy to the North, among them disguised fugitives
from the Papal State, who are not likely to have been silent. Yet none
can calculate how far the scandal and indignation of Christendom might
have gone, before they became a source of pressing danger to Alexander.
‘He would,’ says Panvinio elsewhere,[263] ‘have put all the other rich
cardinals and prelates out of the way, to get their property, had he
not, in the midst of his great plans for his son, been struck down by
death.’ And what might not Cæsar have achieved if, at the moment when
his father died, he had not himself been laid upon a sick-bed! What a
conclave would that have been, in which, armed with all his weapons, he
had extorted his election from a college whose numbers he had
judiciously reduced by poison--and this at a time when there was no
French army at hand! In pursuing such a hypothesis the imagination loses
itself in an abyss.

Instead of this followed the conclave in which Pius III. was elected,
and, after his speedy death, that which chose Julius II.--both elections
the fruits of a general reaction.

Whatever may have been the private morals of Julius II. in all essential
respects he was the saviour of the Papacy. His familiarity with the
course of events since the pontificate of his uncle Sixtus had given him
a profound insight into the grounds and conditions of the Papal
authority. On these he founded his own policy, and devoted to it the
whole force and passion of his unshaken soul. He ascended the steps of
St. Peter’s chair without simony and amid general applause, and with him
ceased, at all events, the undisguised traffic in the highest offices of
the Church. Julius had favourites, and among them were some the reverse
of worthy, but a special fortune put him above the temptation to
nepotism. His brother, Giovanni della Rovere, was the husband of the
heiress of Urbino, sister of the last Montefeltro Guidobaldo, and from
this marriage was born, in 1491, a son, Francesco Maria della Rovere,
who was at the same time Papal ‘nipote’ and lawful heir to the duchy of
Urbino. What Julius elsewhere acquired, either on the field of battle or
by diplomatic means, he proudly bestowed on the Church, not on his
family; the ecclesiastical territory, which he found in a state of
dissolution, he bequeathed to his successor completely subdued, and
increased by Parma and Piacenza. It was not his fault that Ferrara too
was not added to the dominions of the Church. The 700,000 ducats, which
were stored up in the castle of St. Angelo, were to be delivered by the
governor to none but the future Pope. He made himself heir of the
cardinals, and, indeed, of all the clergy who died in Rome, and this by
the most despotic means; but he murdered or poisoned none of them.[264]
That he should himself lead his forces to battle was for him an
unavoidable necessity, and certainly did him nothing but good at a time
when a man in Italy was forced to be either hammer or anvil, and when
personality was a greater power than the most indisputable right. If,
despite all his high-sounding ‘Away with the barbarians!’ he
nevertheless contributed more than any man to the firm settlement of the
Spaniards in Italy, he may have thought it a matter of indifference to
the Papacy, or even, as things stood, a relative advantage. And to whom,
sooner than to Spain, could the Church look for a sincere and lasting
respect,[265] in an age when the princes of Italy cherished none but
sacrilegious projects against her? Be this as it may, the powerful,
original nature, which could swallow no anger and conceal no genuine
good-will, made on the whole the impression most desirable in his
situation--that of the ‘Pontefice terribile.’ He could even, with a
comparatively clear conscience, venture to summon a council to Rome, and
so bid defiance to that outcry for a council which was raised by the
opposition all over Europe. A ruler of this stamp needed some great
outward symbol of his conceptions; Julius found it in the reconstruction
of St. Peter’s. The plan of it, as Bramante wished to have it, is
perhaps the grandest expression of power in unity which can be imagined.
In other arts besides architecture the face and the memory of the Pope
live on in their most ideal form, and it is not without significance
that even the Latin poetry of those days gives proof of a wholly
different enthusiasm for Julius than that shown for his predecessors.
The entrance into Bologna, at the end of the ‘Iter Julii Secundi,’ by
the Cardinal Adriano da Corneto, has a splendour of its own, and Giovan
Antonio Flaminio,[266] in one of the finest elegies, appealed to the
patriot in the Pope to grant his protection to Italy.

In a constitution of his Lateran Council, Julius had solemnly denounced
the simony of the Papal elections.[267] After his death in 1513, the
money-loving cardinals tried to evade the prohibition by proposing that
the endowments and offices hitherto held by the chosen candidate should
be equally divided among themselves, in which case they would have
elected the best-endowed cardinal, the incompetent Rafael Riario.[268]
But a reaction, chiefly arising from the younger members of the Sacred
College, who, above all things, desired a liberal Pope, rendered the
miserable combination futile; Giovanni Medici was elected--the famous
Leo X.

We shall often meet with him in treating of the noonday of the
Renaissance; here we wish only to point out that under him the Papacy
was again exposed to great inward and outward dangers. Among these we
do not reckon the conspiracy of the Cardinals Petrucci, De Saulis,
Riario, and Corneto (1517) which at most could have occasioned a change
of persons, and to which Leo found the true antidote in the unheard-of
creation of thirty-nine new cardinals, a measure which had the
additional advantage of rewarding, in some cases at least, real

But some of the paths which Leo allowed himself to tread during the
first two years of his office were perilous to the last degree. He
seriously endeavoured to secure, by negotiation, the kingdom of Naples
for his brother Giuliano, and for his nephew Lorenzo a powerful North
Italian state, to comprise Milan, Tuscany, Urbino, and Ferrara.[270] It
is clear that the Pontifical State, thus hemmed in on all sides, would
have become a mere Medicean appanage, and that, in fact, there would
have been no further need to secularise it.

The plan found an insuperable obstacle in the political conditions of
the time. Giuliano died early. To provide for Lorenzo, Leo undertook to
expel the Duke Francesco Maria della Rovere from Urbino, but reaped from
the war nothing but hatred and poverty, and was forced, when in 1519
Lorenzo followed his uncle to the grave, to hand over the hardly-won
conquests to the Church.[271] He did on compulsion and without credit
what, if it had been done voluntarily, would have been to his lasting
honour. What, partly alone, and partly in alternate negotiations with
Francis I. and Charles V., he attempted against Alfonso of Ferrara, and
actually achieved against a few petty despots and Condottieri, was
assuredly not of a kind to raise his reputation. And this was at a time
when the monarchs of the West were yearly growing more and more
accustomed to political gambling on a colossal scale, of which the
stakes were this or that province of Italy.[272] Who could guarantee
that, since the last decades had seen so great an increase of their
power at home, their ambition could stop short of the States of the
Church? Leo himself witnessed the prelude of what was fulfilled in the
year 1527; a few bands of Spanish infantry appeared--of their own
accord, it seems--at the end of 1520, on the borders of the Pontifical
territory, with a view of laying the Pope under contribution,[273] but
were driven back by the Papal forces. The public feeling, too, against
the corruptions of the hierarchy had of late years been drawing rapidly
to a head, and men with an eye for the future, like the younger Pico
della Mirandola, called urgently for reform.[274] Meantime Luther had
already appeared upon the scene.

Under Adrian VI. (1522-1523), the few and timid improvements, carried
out in the face of the great German Reformation, came too late. He could
do little more than proclaim his horror of the course which things had
taken hitherto, of simony, nepotism, prodigality, brigandage, and
profligacy. The danger from the side of the Lutherans was by no means
the greatest; an acute observer from Venice, Girolamo Negro, uttered his
fears that a speedy and terrible disaster would befall the city of Rome

Under Clement VII. the whole horizon of Rome was filled with vapours,
like that leaden veil which the scirocco draws over the Campagna, and
which makes the last months of summer so deadly. The Pope was no less
detested at home than abroad. Thoughtful people were filled with
anxiety,[276] hermits appeared upon the streets and squares of Rome,
foretelling the fate of Italy and of the world, and calling the Pope by
the name of Antichrist;[277] the faction of the Colonna raised its head
defiantly; the indomitable Cardinal Pompeo Colonna, whose mere
existence[278] was a permanent menace to the Papacy, ventured to
surprise the city in 1526, hoping with the help of Charles V., to become
Pope then and there, as soon as Clement was killed or captured. It was
no piece of good fortune for Rome that the latter was able to escape to
the Castle of St. Angelo, and the fate for which himself was reserved
may well be called worse than death.

By a series of those falsehoods, which only the powerful can venture on,
but which bring ruin upon the weak, Clement brought about the advance of
the Germano-Spanish army under Bourbon and Frundsberg (1527). It is
certain[279] that the Cabinet of Charles V. intended to inflict on him a
severe castigation, and that it could not calculate beforehand how far
the zeal of its unpaid hordes would carry them. It would have been vain
to attempt to enlist men in Germany without paying any bounty, if it had
not been well known that Rome was the object of the expedition. It may
be that the written orders to Bourbon will be found some day or other,
and it is not improbable that they will prove to be worded mildly. But
historical criticism will not allow itself to be led astray. The
Catholic King and Emperor owed it to his luck and nothing else, that
Pope and cardinals were not murdered by his troops. Had this happened,
no sophistry in the world could clear him of his share in the guilt. The
massacre of countless people of less consequence, the plunder of the
rest, and all the horrors of torture and traffic in human life, show
clearly enough what was possible in the ‘Sacco di Roma.’

Charles seems to have wished to bring the Pope, who had fled a second
time to the Castle of St. Angelo, to Naples, after extorting from him
vast sums of money, and Clement’s flight to Orvieto must have happened
without any connivance on the part of Spain.[280] Whether the Emperor
ever thought seriously of the secularisation of the States of the
Church,[281] for which everybody was quite prepared, and whether he was
really dissuaded from it by the representations of Henry VIII. of
England, will probably never be made clear.

But if such projects really existed, they cannot have lasted long: from
the devastated city arose a new spirit of reform both in Church and
State. It made itself felt in a moment. Cardinal Sadoleto, one witness
of many, thus writes: ‘If through our suffering a satisfaction is made
to the wrath and justice of God, if these fearful punishments again open
the way to better laws and morals, then is our misfortune perhaps not of
the greatest.... What belongs to God He will take care of; before us
lies a life of reformation, which no violence can take from us. Let us
so rule our deeds and thoughts as to seek in God only the true glory of
the priesthood and our own true greatness and power.’[282]

In point of fact, this critical year, 1527, so far bore fruit, that the
voices of serious men could again make themselves heard. Rome had
suffered too much to return, even under a Paul III., to the gay
corruption of Leo X.

The Papacy, too, when its sufferings became so great, began to excite a
sympathy half religious and half political. The kings could not tolerate
that one of their number should arrogate to himself the rights of Papal
gaoler, and concluded (August 18, 1527) the Treaty of Amiens, one of the
objects of which was the deliverance of Clement. They thus, at all
events, turned to their own account the unpopularity which the deeds of
the Imperial troops had excited. At the same time the Emperor became
seriously embarrassed, even in Spain, where the prelates and grandees
never saw him without making the most urgent remonstrances. When a
general deputation of the clergy and laity, all clothed in mourning, was
projected, Charles, fearing that troubles might arise out of it, like
those of the insurrection quelled a few years before, forbad the
scheme.[283] Not only did he not dare to prolong the maltreatment of the
Pope, but he was absolutely compelled, even apart from all
considerations of foreign politics, to be reconciled with the Papacy
which he had so grievously wounded. For the temper of the German people,
which certainly pointed to a different course, seemed to him, like
German affairs generally, to afford no foundation for a policy. It is
possible, too, as a Venetian maintains,[284] that the memory of the sack
of Rome lay heavy on his conscience, and tended to hasten that expiation
which was sealed by the permanent subjection of the Florentines to the
Medicean family of which the Pope was a member. The ‘nipote’ and new
Duke, Alessandro Medici, was married to the natural daughter of the

In the following years the plan of a Council enabled Charles to keep the
Papacy in all essential points under his control, and at one and the
same time to protect and to oppress it. The greatest danger of
all--secularisation--the danger which came from within, from the Popes
themselves and their ‘nipoti,’ was adjourned for centuries by the German
Reformation. Just as this alone had made the expedition against Rome
(1527) possible and successful, so did it compel the Papacy to become
once more the expression of a world-wide spiritual power, to raise
itself from the soulless debasement in which it lay, and to place itself
at the head of all the enemies of this reformation. The institution thus
developed during the latter years of Clement VII., and under Paul III.,
Paul IV., and their successors, in the face of the defection of half
Europe, was a new, regenerated hierarchy, which avoided all the great
and dangerous scandals of former times, particularly nepotism, with its
attempts at territorial aggrandisement,[285] and which, in alliance with
the Catholic princes, and impelled by a new-born spiritual force, found
its chief work in the recovery of what had been lost. It only existed
and is only intelligible in opposition to the seceders. In this sense it
can be said with perfect truth that, the moral salvation of the Papacy
is due to its mortal enemies. And now its political position, too,
though certainly under the permanent tutelage of Spain, became
impregnable; almost without effort it inherited, on the extinction of
its vassals, the legitimate line of Este and the house of Della Rovere,
the duchies of Ferrara and Urbino. But without the Reformation--if,
indeed, it is possible to think it away--the whole ecclesiastical State
would long ago have passed into secular hands.

       *       *       *       *       *

In conclusion, let us briefly consider the effect of these political
circumstances on the spirit of the nation at large.

It is evident that the general political uncertainty in Italy during the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, was of a kind to excite in the
better spirits of the time a patriotic disgust and opposition. Dante and
Petrarch,[286] in their day, proclaimed loudly a common Italy, the
object of the highest efforts of all her children. It may be objected
that this was only the enthusiasm of a few highly-instructed men, in
which the mass of the people had no share; but it can hardly have been
otherwise even in Germany, although in name at least that country was
united, and recognised in the Emperor one supreme head. The first
patriotic utterances of German Literature, if we except some verses of
the ‘Minnesänger,’ belong to the humanists of the time of Maximilian
I.[287] and after, and read like an echo of Italian declamations, or
like a reply to Italian criticism on the intellectual immaturity of
Germany. And yet, as a matter of fact, Germany had been long a nation in
a truer sense than Italy ever was since the Roman days. France owes the
consciousness of its national unity mainly to its conflicts with the
English, and Spain has never permanently succeeded in absorbing
Portugal, closely related as the two countries are. For Italy, the
existence of the ecclesiastical State, and the conditions under which
alone it could continue, were a permanent obstacle to national unity, an
obstacle whose removal seemed hopeless. When, therefore, in the
political intercourse of the fifteenth century, the common fatherland is
sometimes emphatically named, it is done in most cases to annoy some
other Italian State.[288] The first decades of the sixteenth century,
the years when the Renaissance attained its fullest bloom, were not
favourable to a revival of patriotism; the enjoyment of intellectual and
artistic pleasures, the comforts and elegancies of life, and the supreme
interests of self-development, destroyed or hampered the love of
country. But those deeply serious and sorrowful appeals to national
sentiment were not heard again till later, when the time for unity had
gone by, when the country was inundated with Frenchmen and Spaniards,
and when a German army had conquered Rome. The sense of local patriotism
may be said in some measure to have taken the place of this feeling,
though it was but a poor equivalent for it.





In the character of these states, whether republics or despotisms, lies,
not the only, but the chief reason for the early development of the
Italian. To this it is due that he was the first-born among the sons of
modern Europe.

In the Middle Ages both sides of human consciousness--that which was
turned within as that which was turned without--lay dreaming or half
awake beneath a common veil. The veil was woven of faith, illusion, and
childish prepossession, through which the world and history were seen
clad in strange hues. Man was conscious of himself only as member of a
race, people, party, family, or corporation--only through some general
category. In Italy this veil first melted into air; an _objective_
treatment and consideration of the state and of all the things of this
world became possible. The _subjective_ side at the same time asserted
itself with corresponding emphasis; man became a spiritual
_individual_,[289] and recognised himself as such. In the same way the
Greek had once distinguished himself from the barbarian, and the Arabian
had felt himself an individual at a time when other Asiatics knew
themselves only as members of a race. It will not be difficult to show
that this result was owing above all to the political circumstances of

In far earlier times we can here and there detect a development of free
personality which in Northern Europe either did not occur at all, or
could not display itself in the same manner. The band of audacious
wrongdoers in the sixteenth century described to us by Luidprand, some
of the contemporaries of Gregory VII., and a few of the opponents of the
first Hohenstaufen, show us characters of this kind. But at the close of
the thirteenth century Italy began to swarm with individuality; the
charm laid upon human personality was dissolved; and a thousand figures
meet us each in its own special shape and dress. Dante’s great poem
would have been impossible in any other country of Europe, if only for
the reason that they all still lay under the spell of race. For Italy
the august poet, through the wealth of individuality which he set forth,
was the most national herald of his time. But this unfolding of the
treasures of human nature in literature and art--this many-sided
representation and criticism--will be discussed in separate chapters;
here we have to deal only with the psychological fact itself. This fact
appears in the most decisive and unmistakeable form. The Italians of the
fourteenth century knew little of false modesty or of hypocrisy in any
shape; not one of them was afraid of singularity, of being and
seeming[290] unlike his neighbours.[291]

Despotism, as we have already seen, fostered in the highest degree the
individuality not only of the tyrant or Condottiere himself,[292] but
also of the men whom he protected or used as his tools--the secretary,
minister, poet, and companion. These people were forced to know all the
inward resources of their own nature, passing or permanent; and their
enjoyment of life was enhanced and concentrated by the desire to obtain
the greatest satisfaction from a possibly very brief period of power and

But even the subjects whom they ruled over were not free from the same
impulse. Leaving out of account those who wasted their lives in secret
opposition and conspiracies, we speak of the majority who were content
with a strictly private station, like most of the urban population of
the Byzantine empire and the Mohammedan states. No doubt it was often
hard for the subjects of a Visconti to maintain the dignity of their
persons and families, and multitudes must have lost in moral character
through the servitude they lived under. But this was not the case with
regard to individuality; for political impotence does not hinder the
different tendencies and manifestations of private life from thriving in
the fullest vigour and variety. Wealth and culture, so far as display
and rivalry were not forbidden to them, a municipal freedom which did
not cease to be considerable, and a Church which, unlike that of the
Byzantine or of the Mohammedan world, was not identical with the
State--all these conditions undoubtedly favoured the growth of
individual thought, for which the necessary leisure was furnished by the
cessation of party conflicts. The private man, indifferent to politics,
and busied partly with serious pursuits, partly with the interests of a
_dilettante_, seems to have been first fully formed in these despotisms
of the fourteenth century. Documentary evidence cannot, of course, be
required on such a point. The novelists, from whom we might expect
information, describe to us oddities in plenty, but only from one point
of view and in so far as the needs of the story demand. Their scene,
too, lies chiefly in the republican cities.

In the latter, circumstances were also, but in another way, favourable
to the growth of individual character. The more frequently the governing
party was changed, the more the individual was led to make the utmost of
the exercise and enjoyment of power. The statesmen and popular leaders,
especially in Florentine history,[293] acquired so marked a personal
character, that we can scarcely find, even exceptionally, a parallel to
them in contemporary history, hardly even in Jacob von Arteveldt.

The members of the defeated parties, on the other hand, often came into
a position like that of the subjects of the despotic States, with the
difference that the freedom or power already enjoyed, and in some cases
the hope of recovering them, gave a higher energy to their
individuality. Among these men of involuntary leisure we find, for
instance, an Agnolo Pandolfini (d. 1446), whose work on domestic
economy[294] is the first complete programme of a developed private
life. His estimate of the duties of the individual as against the
dangers and thanklessness of public life[295] is in its way a true
monument of the age.

Banishment, too, has this effect above all, that it either wears the
exile out or develops whatever is greatest in him. ‘In all our more
populous cities,’ says Giovanni Pontano,[296] ‘we see a crowd of people
who have left their homes of their own free-will; but a man takes his
virtues with him wherever he goes.’ And, in fact, they were by no means
only men who had been actually exiled, but thousands left their native
place voluntarily, because they found its political or economical
condition intolerable. The Florentine emigrants at Ferrara and the
Lucchese in Venice formed whole colonies by themselves.

The cosmopolitanism which grew up in the most gifted circles is in
itself a high stage of individualism. Dante, as we have already said,
finds a new home in the language and culture of Italy, but goes beyond
even this in the words, ‘My country is the whole world.’[297] And when
his recall to Florence was offered him on unworthy conditions, he wrote
back: ‘Can I not everywhere behold the light of the sun and the stars;
everywhere meditate on the noblest truths, without appearing
ingloriously and shamefully before the city and the people. Even my
bread will not fail me.’[298] The artists exult no less defiantly in
their freedom from the constraints of fixed residence. ‘Only he who has
learned everything,’ says Ghiberti,[299] ‘is nowhere a stranger; robbed
of his fortune and without friends, he is yet the citizen of every
country, and can fearlessly despise the changes of fortune.’ In the same
strain an exiled humanist writes: ‘Wherever a learned man fixes his
seat, there is home.[300]



An acute and practised eye might be able to trace, step by step, the
increase in the number of complete men during the fifteenth century.
Whether they had before them as a conscious object the harmonious
development of their spiritual and material existence, is hard to say;
but several of them attained it, so far as is consistent with the
imperfection of all that is earthly. It may be better to renounce the
attempt at an estimate of the share which fortune, character, and talent
had in the life of Lorenzo Magnifico. But look at a personality like
that of Ariosto, especially as shown in his satires. In what harmony are
there expressed the pride of the man and the poet, the irony with which
he treats his own enjoyments, the most delicate satire, and the deepest

When this impulse to the highest individual development[301] was
combined with a powerful and varied nature, which had mastered all the
elements of the culture of the age, then arose the ‘all-sided
man’--‘l’uomo universale’--who belonged to Italy alone. Men there were
of encyclopædic knowledge in many countries during the Middle Ages, for
this knowledge was confined within narrow limits; and even in the
twelfth century there were universal artists, but the problems of
architecture were comparatively simple and uniform, and in sculpture and
painting the matter was of more importance than the form. But in Italy
at the time of the Renaissance, we find artists who in every branch
created new and perfect works, and who also made the greatest
impression as men. Others, outside the arts they practised, were masters
of a vast circle of spiritual interests.

Dante, who, even in his lifetime, was called by some a poet, by others a
philosopher, by others a theologian,[302] pours forth in all his
writings a stream of personal force by which the reader, apart from the
interest of the subject, feels himself carried away. What power of will
must the steady, unbroken elaboration of the ‘Divine Comedy’ have
required! And if we look at the matter of the poem, we find that in the
whole spiritual or physical world there is hardly an important subject
which the poet has not fathomed, and on which his utterances--often only
a few words--are not the most weighty of his time. For the plastic arts
he is of the first importance, and this for better reasons than the few
references to contemporary artists--he soon became himself the source of

The fifteenth century is, above all, that of the many-sided men. There
is no biography which does not, besides the chief work of its hero,
speak of other pursuits all passing beyond the limits of dilettantism.
The Florentine merchant and statesman was often learned in both the
classical languages; the most famous humanists read the ethics and
politics of Aristotle to him and his sons;[304] even the daughters of
the house were highly educated. It is in these circles that private
education was first treated seriously. The humanist, on his side, was
compelled to the most varied attainments, since his philological
learning was not limited, as it now is, to the theoretical knowledge of
classical antiquity, but had to serve the practical needs of daily life.
While studying Pliny,[305] he made collections of natural history; the
geography of the ancients was his guide in treating of modern geography,
their history was his pattern in writing contemporary chronicles, even
when composed in Italian; he not only translated the comedies of
Plautus, but acted as manager when they were put on the stage; every
effective form of ancient literature down to the dialogues of Lucian he
did his best to imitate; and besides all this, he acted as magistrate,
secretary, and diplomatist--not always to his own advantage.

But among these many-sided men, some who may truly be called all-sided,
tower above the rest. Before analysing the general phases of life and
culture of this period, we may here, on the threshold of the fifteenth
century, consider for a moment the figure of one of these giants--Leon
Battista Alberti (b. 1404? d. 1472).[306] His biography,[307] which is
only a fragment, speaks of him but little as an artist, and makes no
mention at all of his great significance in the history of architecture.
We shall now see what he was, apart from these special claims to

In all by which praise is won, Leon Battista was from his childhood the
first. Of his various gymnastic feats and exercises we read with
astonishment how, with his feet together, he could spring over a man’s
head; how, in the cathedral, he threw a coin in the air till it was
heard to ring against the distant roof; how the wildest horses trembled
under him. In three things he desired to appear faultless to others, in
walking, in riding, and in speaking. He learned music without a master,
and yet his compositions were admired by professional judges. Under the
pressure of poverty, he studied both civil and canonical law for many
years, till exhaustion brought on a severe illness. In his
twenty-fourth year, finding his memory for words weakened, but his sense
of facts unimpaired, he set to work at physics and mathematics. And all
the while he acquired every sort of accomplishment and dexterity,
cross-examining artists, scholars, and artisans of all descriptions,
down to the cobblers, about the secrets and peculiarities of their
craft. Painting and modelling he practised by the way, and especially
excelled in admirable likenesses from memory. Great admiration was
excited by his mysterious ‘camera obscura,’[308] in which he showed at
one time the stars and the moon rising over rocky hills, at another wide
landscapes with mountains and gulfs receding into dim perspective, and
with fleets advancing on the waters in shade or sunshine. And that which
others created he welcomed joyfully, and held every human achievement
which followed the laws of beauty for something almost divine.[309] To
all this must be added his literary works, first of all those on art,
which are landmarks and authorities of the first order for the
Renaissance of Form, especially in architecture; then his Latin prose
writings--novels and other works--of which some have been taken for
productions of antiquity; his elegies, eclogues, and humorous
dinner-speeches. He also wrote an Italian treatise on domestic life[310]
in four books; various moral, philosophical, and historical works; and
many speeches and poems, including a funeral oration on his dog.
Notwithstanding his admiration for the Latin language, he wrote in
Italian, and encouraged others to do the same; himself a disciple of
Greek science, he maintained the doctrine, that without Christianity the
world would wander in a labyrinth of error. His serious and witty
sayings were thought worth collecting, and specimens of them, many
columns long, are quoted in his biography. And all that he had and knew
he imparted, as rich natures always do, without the least reserve,
giving away his chief discoveries for nothing. But the deepest spring of
his nature has yet to be spoken of--the sympathetic intensity with which
he entered into the whole life around him. At the sight of noble trees
and waving corn-fields he shed tears; handsome and dignified old men he
honoured as ‘a delight of nature,’ and could never look at them enough.
Perfectly-formed animals won his goodwill as being specially favoured by
nature; and more than once, when he was ill, the sight of a beautiful
landscape cured him.[311] No wonder that those who saw him in this close
and mysterious communion with the world ascribed to him the gift of
prophecy. He was said to have foretold a bloody catastrophe in the
family of Este, the fate of Florence, and the death of the Popes years
before they happened, and to be able to read into the countenances and
the hearts of men. It need not be added that an iron will pervaded and
sustained his whole personality; like all the great men of the
Renaissance, he said, ‘Men can do all things if they will.’

And Lionardo da Vinci was to Alberti as the finisher to the beginner, as
the master to the _dilettante_. Would only that Vasari’s work were here
supplemented by a description like that of Alberti! The colossal
outlines of Lionardo’s nature can never be more than dimly and distantly



To this inward development of the individual corresponds a new sort of
outward distinction--the modern form of glory.[312]

In the other countries of Europe the different classes of society lived
apart, each with its own mediæval caste sense of honour. The poetical
fame of the Troubadours and Minnesänger was peculiar to the knightly
order. But in Italy social equality had appeared before the time of the
tyrannies or the democracies. We there find early traces of a general
society, having, as will be shown more fully later on, a common ground
in Latin and Italian literature; and such a ground was needed for this
new element in life to grow in. To this must be added that the Roman
authors, who were now zealously studied, and especially Cicero, the most
read and admired of all, are filled and saturated with the conception of
fame, and that their subject itself--the universal empire of Rome--stood
as a permanent ideal before the minds of Italians. From henceforth all
the aspirations and achievements of the people were governed by a moral
postulate, which was still unknown elsewhere in Europe.

Here, again, as in all essential points, the first witness to be called
is Dante. He strove for the poet’s garland[313] with all the power of
his soul. As publicist and man of letters, he laid stress on the fact
that what he did was new, and that he wished not only to be, but to be
esteemed the first in his own walks.[314] But even in his prose writings
he touches on the inconveniences of fame; he knows how often personal
acquaintance with famous men is disappointing, and explains how this is
due partly to the childish fancy of men, partly to envy, and partly to
the imperfections of the hero himself.[315] And in his great poem he
firmly maintains the emptiness of fame, although in a manner which
betrays that his heart was not set free from the longing for it. In
Paradise the sphere of Mercury is the seat of such blessed ones[316] as
on earth strove after glory and thereby dimmed ‘the beams of true love.’
It is characteristic that the lost souls in hell beg of Dante to keep
alive for them their memory and fame on earth,[317] while those in
Purgatory only entreat his prayers and those of others for their
deliverance.[318] And in a famous passage,[319] the passion for
fame--‘lo gran desio dell’eccellenza’--is reproved for the reason that
intellectual glory is not absolute, but relative to the times, and may
be surpassed and eclipsed by greater successors.

The new race of poet-scholars which arose soon after Dante quickly made
themselves masters of this fresh tendency. They did so in a double
sense, being themselves the most acknowledged celebrities of Italy, and
at the same time, as poets and historians, consciously disposing of the
reputation of others. An outward symbol of this sort of fame was the
coronation of the poets, of which we shall speak later on.

A contemporary of Dante, Albertinus Musattus or Mussattus, crowned poet
at Padua by the bishop and rector, enjoyed a fame which fell little
short of deification. Every Christmas Day the doctors and students of
both colleges at the University came in solemn procession before his
house with trumpets and, as it seems, with burning tapers, to salute
him[320] and bring him presents. His reputation lasted till, in 1318, he
fell into disgrace with the ruling tyrant of the House of Carrara.

This new incense, which once was offered only to saints and heroes, was
given in clouds to Petrarch, who persuaded himself in his later years
that it was but a foolish and troublesome thing. His letter ‘To
Posterity’[321] is the confession of an old and famous man, who is
forced to gratify the public curiosity. He admits that he wishes for
fame in the times to come, but would rather be without it in his own
day.[322] In his dialogue on fortune and misfortune,[323] the
interlocutor, who maintains the futility of glory, has the best of the
contest. But, at the same time, Petrarch is pleased that the autocrat of
Byzantium[324] knows him as well by his writings as Charles IV.[325]
knows him. And in fact, even in his lifetime, his fame extended far
beyond Italy. And the emotion which he felt was natural when his
friends, on the occasion of a visit to his native Arezzo (1350), took
him to the house where he was born, and told him how the city had
provided that no change should be made in it.[326] In former times the
dwellings of certain great saints were preserved and revered in this
way, like the cell of St. Thomas Aquinas in the Dominican convent at
Naples, and the Portiuncula of St. Francis near Assisi; and one or two
great jurists also enjoyed the half-mythical reputation which led to
this honour. Towards the close of the fourteenth century the people at
Bagnolo, near Florence, called an old building the ‘Studio’ of Accursius
(b. about 1150), but, nevertheless, suffered it to be destroyed.[327] It
is probable that the great incomes and the political influence which
some jurists obtained as consulting lawyers made a lasting impression on
the popular imagination.

To the cultus of the birthplaces of famous men must be added that of
their graves,[328] and, in the case of Petrarch, of the spot where he
died. In memory of him Arquà became a favourite resort of the Paduans,
and was dotted with graceful little villas.[329] At this time there were
no ‘classic spots’ in Northern Europe, and pilgrimages were only made to
pictures and relics. It was a point of honour for the different cities
to possess the bones of their own and foreign celebrities; and it is
most remarkable how seriously the Florentines, even in the fourteenth
century--long before the building of Santa Croce--laboured to make their
cathedral a Pantheon. Accorso, Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, and the
jurist Zanobi della Strada were to have had magnificent tombs there
erected to them.[330] Late in the fifteenth century, Lorenzo Magnifico
applied in person to the Spoletans, asking them to give up the corpse of
the painter Fra Filippo Lippi for the cathedral, and received the answer
that they had none too many ornaments to the city, especially in the
shape of distinguished people, for which reason they begged him to spare
them; and, in fact, he had to be contented with erecting a
cenotaph.[331] And even Dante, in spite of all the applications to which
Boccaccio urged the Florentines with bitter emphasis,[332] remained
sleeping tranquilly by the side of San Francesco at Ravenna, ‘among
ancient tombs of emperors and vaults of saints, in more honourable
company than thou, O Home, couldst offer him.’ It even happened that a
man once took away unpunished the lights from the altar on which the
crucifix stood, and set them by the grave, with the words, ‘Take them;
thou art more worthy of them than He, the Crucified One!’[333]

And now the Italian cities began again to remember their ancient
citizens and inhabitants. Naples, perhaps, had never forgotten its tomb
of Virgil, since a kind of mythical halo had become attached to the
name, and the memory of it had been revived by Petrarch and Boccaccio,
who both stayed in the city.

The Paduans, even in the sixteenth century, firmly believed that they
possessed not only the genuine bones of their founder Antenor, but also
those of the historian Livy.[334] ‘Sulmona,’ says Boccaccio,[335]
‘bewails that Ovid lies buried far away in exile; and Parma rejoices
that Cassius sleeps within its walls.’ The Mantuans coined a medal in
1257 with the bust of Virgil, and raised a statue to represent him. In
a fit of aristocratic insolence,[336] the guardian of the young Gonzaga,
Carlo Malatesta, caused it to be pulled down in 1392, and was
afterwards forced, when he found the fame of the old poet too strong
for him, to set it up again. Even then, perhaps, the grotto, a couple of
miles from the town, where Virgil was said to have meditated,[337] was
shown to strangers, like the ‘Scuola di Virgilio’ at Naples. Como
claimed both the Plinys[338] for its own, and at the end of the
fifteenth century erected statues in their honour, sitting under
graceful baldachins on the façade of the cathedral.

History and the new topography were now careful to leave no local
celebrity unnoticed. At the same period the northern chronicles only
here and there, among the list of popes, emperors, earthquakes, and
comets, put in the remark, that at such a time this or that famous man
‘flourished.’ We shall elsewhere have to show how, mainly under the
influence of this idea of fame, an admirable biographical literature was
developed. We must here limit ourselves to the local patriotism of the
topographers who recorded the claims of their native cities to

In the Middle Ages, the cities were proud of their saints and of the
bones and relics in their churches.[339] With these the panegyrist of
Padua in 1440, Michele Savonarola,[340] begins his list; from them he
passes to ‘the famous men who were no saints, but who, by their great
intellect and force (_virtus_) deserve to be added (_adnecti_) to the
saints’--just as in classical antiquity the distinguished man came close
upon the hero.[341] The further enumeration is most characteristic of
the time. First comes Antenor, the brother of Priam, who founded Padua
with a band of Trojan fugitives; King Dardanus, who defeated Attila in
the Euganean hills, followed him in pursuit, and struck him dead at
Rimini with a chess-board; the Emperor Henry IV., who built the
cathedral; a King Marcus, whose head was preserved in Monselice (_monte
silicis arce_); then a couple of cardinals and prelates as founders of
colleges, churches, and so forth; the famous Augustinian theologian, Fra
Alberto; a string of philosophers beginning with Paolo Veneto and the
celebrated Pietro of Albano; the jurist Paolo Padovano; then Livy and
the poets Petrarch, Mussato, Lovato. If there is any want of military
celebrities in the list, the poet consoles himself for it by the
abundance of learned men whom he has to show, and by the more durable
character of intellectual glory; while the fame of the soldier is buried
with his body, or, if it lasts, owes its permanence only to the
scholar.[342] It is nevertheless honourable to the city that foreign
warriors lie buried here by their own wish, like Pietro de Rossi of
Parma, Filippo Arcelli of Piacenza, and especially Gattamelata of Narni
(d. 1642),[343] whose brazen equestrian statue, ‘like a Cæsar in
triumph,’ already stood by the church of the Santo. The author then
names a crowd of jurists and physicians, among the latter two friends of
Petrarch, Johannes ab Horologio and Jacob de Dondis, nobles ‘who had not
only, like so many others, received, but deserved, the honour of
knighthood.’ Then follows a list of famous mechanicians, painters, and
musicians, which is closed by the name of a fencing-master Michele
Rosso, who, as the most distinguished man in his profession, was to be
seen painted in many places.

By the side of these local temples of fame, which myth, legend, popular
admiration, and literary tradition combined to create, the poet-scholars
built up a great Pantheon of worldwide celebrity. They made collections
of famous men and famous women, often in direct imitation of Cornelius
Nepos, the pseudo-Suetonius, Valerius Maximus, Plutarch (_Mulierum_
_virtutes_), Hieronymus (_De Viris Illustribus_), and others: or they
wrote of imaginary triumphal processions and Olympian assemblies, as was
done by Petrarch in his ‘Trionfo della Fama,’ and Boccaccio in the
‘Amorosa Visione,’ with hundreds of names, of which three-fourths at
least belong to antiquity and the rest to the Middle Ages.[344]
By-and-by this new and comparatively modern element was treated with
greater emphasis; the historians began to insert descriptions of
character, and collections arose of the biographies of distinguished
contemporaries, like those of Filippo Villani, Vespasiano Fiorentino,
Bartolommeo Facio, Paolo Cortese,[345] and lastly of Paolo Giovio.[346]

The North of Europe, until Italian influence began to tell upon its
writers--for instance, on Trithemius, the first German who wrote the
lives of famous men--possessed only either legends of the saints, or
descriptions of princes and churchmen partaking largely of the character
of legends and showing no traces of the idea of fame, that is, of
distinction won by a man’s personal efforts. Poetical glory was still
confined to certain classes of society, and the names of northern
artists are only known to us at this period in so far as they were
members of certain guilds or corporations.

The poet-scholar in Italy had, as we have already said, the fullest
consciousness that he was the giver of fame and immortality, or, if he
chose, of oblivion.[347] Petrarch, notwithstanding all the idealism of
his love to Laura, gives utterance to the feeling, that his sonnets
confer immortality on his beloved as well as on himself.[348] Boccaccio
complains of a fair one to whom he had done homage, and who remained
hard-hearted in order that he might go on praising her and making her
famous, and he gives her a hint that he will try the effect of a little
blame.[349] Sannazaro, in two magnificent sonnets, threatens Alfonso of
Naples with eternal obscurity on account of his cowardly flight before
Charles VIII.[350] Angelo Poliziano seriously exhorts (1491) King John
of Portugal[351] to think betimes of his immortality in reference to the
new discoveries in Africa, and to send him materials to Florence, there
to be put into shape (_operosius excolenda_), otherwise it would befall
him as it had befallen all the others whose deeds, unsupported by the
help of the learned, ‘lie hidden in the vast heap of human frailty.’ The
king, or his humanistic chancellor, agreed to this, and promised that at
least the Portuguese chronicles of African affairs should be translated
into Italian, and sent to Florence to be done into Latin. Whether the
promise was kept is not known. These pretensions are by no means so
groundless as they may appear at first sight; for the form in which
events, even the greatest, are told to the living and to posterity is
anything but a matter of indifference. The Italian humanists, with their
mode of exposition and their Latin style, had long the complete control
of the reading world of Europe, and till last century the Italian poets
were more widely known and studied than those of any other nation. The
baptismal name of the Florentine Amerigo Vespucci was given, on account
of his book of travels--certainly at the proposal of its German
translator into Latin, Martin Waldseemüller (Hylacomylus)[352]--to a new
quarter of the globe, and if Paolo Giovio, with all his superficiality
and graceful caprice, promised himself immortality,[353] his expectation
has not altogether been disappointed.

Amid all these preparations outwardly to win and secure fame, the
curtain is now and then drawn aside, and we see with frightful evidence
a boundless ambition and thirst after greatness, independent of all
means and consequences. Thus, in the preface to Macchiavelli’s
Florentine history, in which he blames his predecessors Lionardo Aretino
and Poggio for their too considerate reticence with regard to the
political parties in the city: ‘They erred greatly and showed that they
understood little the ambition of men and the desire to perpetuate a
name. How many who could distinguish themselves by nothing praiseworthy,
strove to do so by infamous deeds! Those writers did not consider that
actions which are great in themselves, as is the case with the actions
of rulers and of states, always seem to bring more glory than blame, of
whatever kind they are and whatever the result of them may be.’[354] In
more than one remarkable and dreadful undertaking the motive assigned by
serious writers is the burning desire to achieve something great and
memorable. This motive is not a mere extreme case of ordinary vanity,
but something demonic, involving a surrender of the will, the use of any
means, however atrocious, and even an indifference to success itself. In
this sense, for example, Macchiavelli conceives the character of Stefano
Porcaro (p. 104);[355] of the murderers of Galeazzo Maria Sforza (p.
57), the documents tell us about the same; and the assassination of Duke
Alessandro of Florence (1537) is ascribed by Varchi himself to the
thirst for fame which tormented the murderer Lorenzino Medici (p. 60).
Still more stress is laid on this motive by Paolo Giovio.[356]
Lorenzino, according to him, pilloried by a pamphlet of Molza on
account of the mutilation of some ancient statues at Rome, broods over
a deed whose novelty shall make his disgrace forgotten, and ends by
murdering his kinsman and prince. These are characteristic features of
this age of overstrained and despairing passions and forces, and remind
us of the burning of the temple of Diana at Ephesus in the time of
Philip of Macedon.



The corrective, not only of this modern desire for fame, but of all
highly developed individuality, is found in ridicule, especially when
expressed in the victorious form of wit.[357] We read in the Middle Ages
how hostile armies, princes, and nobles, provoked one another with
symbolical insult, and how the defeated party was loaded with symbolical
outrage. Here and there, too, under the influence of classical
literature, wit began to be used as a weapon in theological disputes,
and the poetry of Provence produced a whole class of satirical
compositions. Even the Minnesänger, as their political poems show, could
adopt this tone when necessary.[358] But wit could not be an independent
element in life till its appropriate victim, the developed individual
with personal pretentions, had appeared. Its weapons were then by no
means limited to the tongue and the pen, but included tricks and
practical jokes--the so-called ‘burle’ and ‘beffe’--which form a chief
subject of many collections of novels.

The ‘Hundred Old Novels,’ which must have been composed about the end of
the thirteenth century, have as yet neither wit, the fruit of contrast,
nor the ‘burla,’ for their subject;[359] their aim is merely to give
simple and elegant expression to wise sayings and pretty stories or
fables. But if anything proves the great antiquity of the collection, it
is precisely this absence of satire. For with the fourteenth century
comes Dante, who, in the utterance of scorn, leaves all other poets in
the world far behind, and who, if only on account of his great picture
of the deceivers,[360] must be called the chief master of colossal
comedy. With Petrarch[361] begin the collections of witty sayings after
the pattern of Plutarch (Apophthegmata, etc.).

What stores of wit were concentrated in Florence during this century, is
most characteristically shown in the novels of Franco Sacchetti. These
are, for the most part, not stories but answers, given under certain
circumstances--shocking pieces of _naïveté_, with which silly folks,
court-jesters, rogues, and profligate women make their retort. The
comedy of the tale lies in the startling contrast of this real or
assumed _naïveté_ with conventional morality and the ordinary relations
of the world--things are made to stand on their heads. All means of
picturesque representation are made use of, including the introduction
of certain North Italian dialects. Often the place of wit is taken by
mere insolence, clumsy trickery, blasphemy, and obscenity; one or two
jokes told of Condottieri[362] are among the most brutal and malicious
which are recorded. Many of the ‘burle’ are thoroughly comic, but many
are only real or supposed evidence of personal superiority, of triumph
over another. How much people were willing to put up with, how often the
victim was satisfied with getting the laugh on his side by a retaliatory
trick, cannot be said; there was much heartless and pointless malice
mixed up with it all, and life in Florence was no doubt often made
unpleasant enough from this cause.[363] The inventors and retailers of
jokes soon became inevitable figures,[364] and among them there must
have been some who were classical--far superior to all the mere
court-jesters, to whom competition, a changing public, and the quick
apprehension of the audience, all advantages of life in Florence, were
wanting. Some Florentine wits went starring among the despotic courts of
Lombardy and Romagna,[365] and found themselves much better rewarded
than at home, where their talent was cheap and plentiful. The better
type of these people is the amusing man (l’uomo piacevole), the worse is
the buffoon and the vulgar parasite who presents himself at weddings and
banquets with the argument, ‘If I am not invited, the fault is not
mine.’ Now and then the latter combine to pluck a young
spendthrift,[366] but in general they are treated and despised as
parasites, while wits of higher position bear themselves like princes,
and consider their talent as something sovereign. Dolcibene, whom
Charles IV., ‘Imperator di Buem,’ had pronounced to be the ‘king of
Italian jesters,’ said to him at Ferrara: ‘You will conquer the world,
since you are my friend and the Pope’s; you fight with the sword, the
Pope with his bulls, and I with my tongue.’[367] This is no mere jest,
but a foreshadowing of Pietro Aretino.

The two most famous jesters about the middle of the fifteenth century
were a priest near Florence, Arlotto (1483), for more refined wit
(‘facezie’), and the court-fool of Ferrara, Gonnella, for buffoonery.
We can hardly compare their stories with those of the Parson of
Kalenberg and Till Eulenspiegel, since the latter arose in a different
and half-mythical manner, as fruits of the imagination of a whole
people, and touch rather on what is general and intelligible to all,
while Arlotto and Gonnella were historical beings, coloured and shaped
by local influences. But if the comparison be allowed, and extended to
the jests of the non-Italian nations, we shall find in general that the
joke in the French _fabliaux_,[368] as among the Germans, is chiefly
directed to the attainment of some advantage or enjoyment; while the wit
of Arlotto and the practical jokes of Gonnella are an end in themselves,
and exist simply for the sake of the triumph of production. (Till
Eulenspiegel again forms a class by himself, as the personified quiz,
mostly pointless enough, of particular classes and professions). The
court-fool of the Este saved himself more than once by his keen satire
and refined modes of vengeance.[369]

The type of the ‘uomo piacevole’ and the ‘buffone’ long survived the
freedom of Florence. Under Duke Cosimo flourished Barlacchia, and at the
beginning of the seventeenth century Francesco Ruspoli and Curzio
Marignolli. In Pope Leo X., the genuine Florentine love of jesters
showed itself strikingly. This prince, whose taste for the most refined
intellectual pleasures was insatiable, endured and desired at his table
a number of witty buffoons and jack-puddings, among them two monks and a
cripple;[370] at public feasts he treated them with deliberate scorn as
parasites, setting before them monkeys and crows in the place of savoury
meats. Leo, indeed, showed a peculiar fondness for the ‘burla’; it
belonged to his nature sometimes to treat his own favourite
pursuits--music and poetry--ironically, parodying them with his
factotum, Cardinal Bibbiena.[371] Neither of them found it beneath him
to fool an honest old secretary till he thought himself a master of the
art of music. The Improvisatore, Baraballo of Gaeta, was brought so far
by Leo’s flattery, that he applied in all seriousness for the poet’s
coronation on the Capitol. On the anniversary of S. Cosmas and S.
Damian, the patrons of the House of Medici, he was first compelled,
adorned with laurel and purple, to amuse the papal guests with his
recitations, and at last, when all were ready to split with laughter, to
mount a gold-harnessed elephant in the court of the Vatican, sent as a
present to Rome by Emanuel the Great of Portugal, while the Pope looked
down from above through his eye-glass.[372] The brute, however, was so
terrified by the noise of the trumpets and kettle-drums, and the cheers
of the crowd, that there was no getting him over the bridge of S.

The parody of what is solemn or sublime, which here meets us in the case
of a procession, had already taken an important place in poetry.[373] It
was naturally compelled to choose victims of another kind than those of
Aristophanes, who introduced the great tragedian into his plays. But the
same maturity of culture which at a certain period produced parody among
the Greeks, did the same in Italy. By the close of the fourteenth
century, the love-lorn wailings of Petrarch’s sonnets and others of the
same kind were taken off by caricaturists; and the solemn air of this
form of verse was parodied in lines of mystic twaddle. A constant
invitation to parody was offered by the ‘Divine Comedy,’ and Lorenzo
Magnifico wrote the most admirable travesty in the style of the
‘Inferno’ (‘Simposio’ or ‘I Beoni’). Luigi Pulei obviously imitates the
Improvisatori in his ‘Morgante,’ and both his poetry and Bojardo’s are
in part, at least, a half-conscious parody of the chivalrous poetry of
the Middle Ages. Such a caricature was deliberately undertaken by the
great parodist Teofilo Folengo (about 1520). Under the name of Limerno
Pitocco, he composed the ‘Orlandino,’ in which chivalry appears only as
a ludicrous setting for a crowd of modern figures and ideas. Under the
name of Merlinus Coccajus he described the journeys and exploits of his
phantastic vagabonds (also in the same spirit of parody) in half-Latin
hexameters, with all the affected pomp of the learned Epos of the day.
(‘Opus Macaronicorum’). Since then caricature has been constantly, and
often brilliantly, represented on the Italian Parnassus.

About the middle period of the Renaissance a theoretical analysis of wit
was undertaken, and its practical application in good society was
regulated more precisely. The theorist was Gioviano Pontano.[374] In his
work on speaking, especially in the third and fourth books, he tries by
means of the comparison of numerous jokes or ‘facetiæ’ to arrive at a
general principle. How wit should be used among people of position is
taught by Baldassar Castiglione in his ‘Cortigiano.’[375] Its chief
function is naturally to enliven those present by the repetition of
comic or graceful stories and sayings; personal jokes, on the contrary,
are discouraged on the ground that they wound unhappy people, show too
much honour to wrong-doers, and make enemies of the powerful and the
spoiled children of fortune;[376] and even in repetition, a wide reserve
in the use of dramatic gestures is recommended to the gentleman. Then
follows, not only for purposes of quotation, but as patterns for future
jesters, a large collection of puns and witty sayings, methodically
arranged according to their species, among them some that are admirable.
The doctrine of Giovanni della Casa, some twenty years later, in his
guide to good manners, is much stricter and more cautious;[377] with a
view to the consequences, he wishes to see the desire of triumph
banished altogether from jokes and ‘burle.’ He is the herald of a
reaction, which was certain sooner or later to appear.

Italy had, in fact, become a school for scandal, the like of which the
world cannot show, not even in France at the time of Voltaire. In him
and his comrades there was assuredly no lack of the spirit of negation;
but where, in the eighteenth century, was to be found the crowd of
suitable victims, that countless assembly of highly and
characteristically-developed human beings, celebrities of every kind,
statesmen, churchmen, inventors, and discoverers, men of letters, poets
and artists, all of whom then gave the fullest and freest play to their
individuality? This host existed in the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries, and by its side the general culture of the time had educated
a poisonous brood of impotent wits, of born critics and railers, whose
envy called for hecatombs of victims; and to all this was added the envy
of the famous men among themselves. In this the philologists notoriously
led the way--Filelfo, Poggio, Lorenzo Valla, and others--while the
artists of the fifteenth century lived in peaceful and friendly
competition with one another. The history of art may take note of the

Florence, the great market of fame, was in this point, as we have said,
in advance of other cities. ‘Sharp eyes and bad tongues’ is the
description given of the inhabitants.[378] An easy-going contempt of
everything and everybody was probably the prevailing tone of society.
Macchiavelli, in the remarkable prologue to his ‘Mandragola,’ refers
rightly or wrongly the visible decline of moral force to the general
habit of evil speaking, and threatens his detractors with the news that
he can say sharp things as well as they. Next to Florence comes the
Papal court, which had long been a rendezvous of the bitterest and
wittiest tongues. Poggio’s ‘Facetiæ’ are dated from the Chamber of Lies
(_bugiale_) of the apostolic notaries; and when we remember the number
of disappointed place-hunters, of hopeless competitors and enemies of
the favourites, of idle, profligate prelates there assembled, it is
intelligible how Rome became the home of the savage pasquinade as well
as of more philosophical satire. If we add to this the wide-spread
hatred borne to the priests, and the well-known instinct of the mob to
lay any horror to the charge of the great, there results an untold mass
of infamy.[379] Those who were able protected themselves best by
contempt both of the false and true accusations, and by brilliant and
joyous display.[380] More sensitive natures sank into utter despair when
they found themselves deeply involved in guilt, and still more deeply in
slander.[381] In course of time calumny became universal, and the
strictest virtue was most certain of all to challenge the attacks of
malice. Of the great pulpit orator, Fra Egidio of Viterbo, whom Leo made
a cardinal on account of his merits, and who showed himself a man of the
people and a brave monk in the calamity of 1527,[382] Giovio gives us to
understand that he preserved his ascetic pallor by the smoke of wet
straw and other means of the same kind. Giovio is a genuine Curial in
these matters.[383] He generally begins by telling his story, then adds
that he does not believe it, and then hints at the end that perhaps
after all there may be something in it. But the true scape-goat of Roman
scorn was the pious and moral Adrian VI. A general agreement seemed to
be made to take him only on the comic side. Adrian had contemptuously
referred to the Laöcoon group as ‘idola antiquorum,’ had shut up the
entrance to the Belvedere, had left the works of Raphael unfinished, and
had banished the poets and players from the court; it was even feared
that he would burn some ancient statues to lime for the new church of
St. Peter. He fell out from the first with the formidable Francesco
Berni, threatening to have thrown into the Tiber not, as people
said,[384] the statue of Pasquino, but the writers of the satires
themselves. The vengeance for this was the famous ‘Capitolo’ against
Pope Adriano, inspired not exactly by hatred, but by contempt for the
comical Dutch barbarian;[385] the more savage menaces were reserved for
the cardinals who had elected him. The plague, which then was prevalent
in Rome, was ascribed to him;[386] Berni and others[387] sketch the
environment of the Pope--the Germans by whom he was governed[388]--with
the same sparkling untruthfulness with which the modern _feuilletoniste_
turns black into white, and everything into anything. The biography
which Paolo Giovio was commissioned to write by the Cardinal of Tortosa,
and which was to have been a eulogy, is for any one who can read between
the lines an unexampled piece of satire. It sounds ridiculous--at least
for the Italians of that time--to hear how Adrian applied to the Chapter
of Saragossa for the jaw-bone of St. Lambert; how the devout Spaniards
decked him out till he looked ‘like a right well-dressed Pope;’ how he
came in a confused and tasteless procession from Ostia to Rome, took
counsel about burning or drowning Pasquino, would suddenly break off the
most important business when dinner was announced; and lastly, at the
end of an unhappy reign, how he died of drinking too much
beer--whereupon the house of his physician was hung with garlands by
midnight revellers, and adorned with the inscription, ‘Liberatori Patriæ
S. P. Q. R.’ It is true that Giovio had lost his money in the general
confiscation of public funds, and had only received a benefice by way of
compensation because he was ‘no poet,’ that is to say. no pagan.[389]
But it was decreed that Adrian should be the last great victim. After
the disaster which befell Rome in 1527, slander visibly declined along
with the unrestrained wickedness of private life.

       *       *       *       *       *

But while it was still flourishing was developed, chiefly in Rome, the
greatest railer of modern times, Pietro Aretino. A glance at his life
and character will save us the trouble of noticing many less
distinguished members of his class.

We know him chiefly in the last thirty years of his life (1527-1557),
which he passed in Venice, the only asylum possible for him. From hence
he kept all that was famous in Italy in a kind of state of siege, and
here were delivered the presents of the foreign princes who needed or
dreaded his pen. Charles V. and Francis I. both pensioned him at the
same time, each hoping that Aretino would do some mischief to the other.
Aretino flattered both, but naturally attached himself more closely to
Charles, because he remained master in Italy. After the Emperor’s
victory at Tunis in 1535, this tone of adulation passed into the most
ludicrous worship, in observing which it must not be forgotten that
Aretino constantly cherished the hope that Charles would help him to a
cardinal’s hat. It is probable that he enjoyed special protection as
Spanish agent, as his speech or silence could have no small effect on
the smaller Italian courts and on public opinion in Italy. He affected
utterly to despise the Papal court because he knew it so well; the true
reason was that Rome neither could nor would pay him any longer.[390]
Venice, which sheltered him, he was wise enough to leave unassailed. The
rest of his relations with the great is mere beggary and vulgar

Aretino affords the first great instance of the abuse of publicity to
such ends. The polemical writings which a hundred years earlier Poggio
and his opponents interchanged, are just as infamous in their tone and
purpose, but they were not composed for the press, but for a sort of
private circulation. Aretino made all his profit out of a complete
publicity, and in a certain sense may be considered the father of modern
journalism. His letters and miscellaneous articles were printed
periodically, after they had already been circulated among a tolerably
extensive public.[391]

Compared with the sharp pens of the eighteenth century, Aretino had the
advantage that he was not burdened with principles, neither with
liberalism nor philanthropy nor any other virtue, nor even with science;
his whole baggage consisted of the well-known motto, ‘Veritas odium
parit.’ He never, consequently, found himself in the false position of
Voltaire, who was forced to disown his ‘Pucelle’ and conceal all his
life the authorship of other works. Aretino put his name to all he
wrote, and openly gloried in his notorious ‘Ragionamenti.’ His literary
talent, his clear and sparkling style, his varied observation of men and
things, would have made him a considerable writer under any
circumstances destitute as he was of the power of conceiving a genuine
work of art, such as a true dramatic comedy; and to the coarsest as well
as the most refined malice he added a grotesque wit so brilliant that in
some cases it does not fall short of that of Rabelais.[392]

In such circumstances, and with such objects and means, he set to work
to attack or circumvent his prey. The tone in which he appealed to
Clement VII. not to complain or to think of vengeance,[393] but to
forgive, at the moment when the wailings of the devastated city were
ascending to the Castle of St. Angelo, where the Pope himself was a
prisoner, is the mockery of a devil or a monkey. Sometimes, when he is
forced to give up all hope of presents, his fury breaks out into a
savage howl, as in the ‘Capitolo’ to the Prince of Salerno, who after
paying him for some time refused to do so any longer. On the other
hand, it seems that the terrible Pierluigi Farnese, Duke of Parma,
never took any notice of him at all. As this gentleman had probably
renounced altogether the pleasures of a good reputation, it was not easy
to cause him any annoyance; Aretino tried to do so by comparing his
personal appearance to that of a constable, a miller, and a baker.[394]
Aretino is most comical of all in the expression of whining mendicancy,
as in the ‘Capitolo’ to Francis I.; but the letters and poems made up of
menaces and flattery cannot, notwithstanding all that is ludicrous in
them, be read without the deepest disgust. A letter like that one of his
written to Michelangelo in November 1545[395] is alone of its kind;
along with all the admiration he expresses for the ‘Last Judgment’ he
charges him with irreligion, indecency, and theft from the heirs of
Julius II., and adds in a conciliating postscript, ‘I only want to show
you that if you are “divino,” I am not “d’acqua.”’ Aretino laid great
stress upon it--whether from the insanity of conceit or by way of
caricaturing famous men--that he himself should be called divine, as one
of his flatterers had already begun to do; and he certainly attained so
much personal celebrity that his house at Arezzo passed for one of the
sights of the place.[396] There were indeed whole months during which he
never ventured to cross his threshold at Venice, lest he should fall in
with some incensed Florentine like the younger Strozzi. Nor did he
escape the cudgels and the daggers of his enemies,[397] although they
failed to have the effect which Berni prophesied him in a famous sonnet.
Aretino died in his house, of apoplexy.

The differences he made in his modes of flattery are remarkable: in
dealing with non-Italians he was grossly fulsome;[398] people like Duke
Cosimo of Florence he treated very differently. He praised the beauty of
the then youthful prince, who in fact did share this quality with
Augustus in no ordinary degree; he praised his moral conduct, with an
oblique reference to the financial pursuits of Cosimo’s mother Maria
Salviati, and concluded with a mendicant whine about the bad times and
so forth. When Cosimo pensioned him,[399] which he did liberally,
considering his habitual parsimony--to the extent, at last, of 160
ducats a year--he had doubtless an eye to Aretino’s dangerous character
as Spanish agent. Aretino could ridicule and revile Cosimo, and in the
same breath threaten the Florentine agent that he would obtain from the
Duke his immediate recall; and if the Medicean prince felt himself at
last to be seen through by Charles V. he would naturally not be anxious
that Aretino’s jokes and rhymes against him should circulate at the
Imperial court. A curiously qualified piece of flattery was that
addressed to the notorious Marquis of Marignano, who as Castellan of
Musso (p. 27) had attempted to found an independent state. Thanking him
for the gift of a hundred crowns, Aretino writes: ‘All the qualities
which a prince should have are present in you, and all men would think
so, were it not that the acts of violence inevitable at the beginning of
all undertakings cause you to appear a trifle rough (_aspro_).’[400]

It has often been noticed as something singular that Aretino only
reviled the world, and not God also. The religious belief of a man who
lived as he did is a matter of perfect indifference, as are also the
edifying writings which he composed for reasons of his own.[401] It is
in fact hard to say why he should have been a blasphemer. He was no
professor, or theoretical thinker or writer; and he could extort no
money from God by threats or flattery, and was consequently never goaded
into blasphemy by a refusal. A man like him does not take trouble for

It is a good sign of the present spirit of Italy that such a character
and such a career have become a thousand times impossible. But
historical criticism will always find in Aretino an important study.





Now that this point in our historical view of Italian civilization has
been reached, it is time to speak of the influence of antiquity, the
‘new birth’ of which has been one-sidedly chosen as the name to sum up
the whole period. The conditions which have been hitherto described
would have sufficed, apart from antiquity, to upturn and to mature the
national mind; and most of the intellectual tendencies which yet remain
to be noticed would be conceivable without it. But both what has gone
before and what we have still to discuss are coloured in a thousand ways
by the influence of the ancient world; and though the essence of the
phenomena might still have been the same without the classical revival,
it is only with and through this revival that they are actually
manifested to us. The Renaissance would not have been the process of
worldwide significance which it is, if its elements could be so easily
separated from one another. We must insist upon it, as one of the chief
propositions of this book, that it was not the revival of antiquity
alone, but its union with the genius of the Italian people, which
achieved the conquest of the western world. The amount of independence
which the national spirit maintained in this union varied according to
circumstances. In the modern Latin literature of the period, it is very
small, while in plastic art, as well as in other spheres, it is
remarkably great; and hence the alliance between two distant epochs in
the civilisation of the same people, because concluded on equal terms,
proved justifiable and fruitful. The rest of Europe was free either to
repel or else partly or wholly to accept the mighty impulse which came
forth from Italy. Where the latter was the case we may as well be spared
the complaints over the early decay of mediæval faith and civilisation.
Had these been strong enough to hold their ground, they would be alive
to this day. If those elegiac natures which long to see them return
could pass but one hour in the midst of them, they would gasp to be back
in modern air. That in a great historical process of this kind flowers
of exquisite beauty may perish, without being made immortal in poetry or
tradition is undoubtedly true; nevertheless, we cannot wish the process
undone. The general result of it consists in this--that by the side of
the Church which had hitherto held the countries of the West together
(though it was unable to do so much longer) there arose a new spiritual
influence which, spreading itself abroad from Italy, became the breath
of life for all the more instructed minds in Europe. The worst that can
be said of the movement is, that it was anti-popular, that through it
Europe became for the first time sharply divided into the cultivated and
uncultivated classes. The reproach will appear groundless when we
reflect that even now the fact, though clearly recognised, cannot be
altered. The separation, too, is by no means so cruel and absolute in
Italy as elsewhere. The most artistic of her poets, Tasso, is in the
hands of even the poorest.

The civilisation of Greece and Rome, which, ever since the fourteenth
century, obtained so powerful a hold on Italian life, as the source and
basis of culture, as the object and ideal of existence, partly also as
an avowed reaction against preceding tendencies--this civilisation had
long been exerting a partial influence on mediæval Europe, even beyond
the boundaries of Italy. The culture of which Charles the Great was a
representative was, in face of the barbarism of the seventh and eighth
centuries, essentially a Renaissance, and could appear under no other
form. Just as in the Romanesque architecture of the North, beside the
general outlines inherited from antiquity, remarkable direct imitations
of the antique also occur, so too monastic scholarship had not only
gradually absorbed an immense mass of materials from Roman writers, but
the style of it, from the days of Eginhard onwards shows traces of
conscious imitations.

But the resuscitation of antiquity took a different form in Italy from
that which it assumed in the North. The wave of barbarism had scarcely
gone by before the people, in whom the former life was but half effaced,
showed a consciousness of its past and a wish to reproduce it. Elsewhere
in Europe men deliberately and with reflection borrowed this or the
other element of classical civilisation; in Italy the sympathies both of
the learned and of the people were naturally engaged on the side of
antiquity as a whole, which stood to them as a symbol of past greatness.
The Latin language, too, was easy to an Italian, and the numerous
monuments and documents in which the country abounded facilitated a
return to the past. With this tendency other elements--the popular
character which time had now greatly modified, the political
institutions imported by the Lombards from Germany, chivalry and other
northern forms of civilisation, and the influence of religion and the
Church--combined to produce the modern Italian spirit, which was
destined to serve as the model and ideal for the whole western world.

How antiquity began to work in plastic art, as soon as the flood of
barbarism had subsided, is clearly shown in the Tuscan buildings of the
twelfth and in the sculptures of the thirteenth centuries. In poetry,
too, there will appear no want of similar analogies to those who hold
that the greatest Latin poet of the twelfth century, the writer who
struck the key-note of a whole class of Latin poems, was an Italian. We
mean the author of the best pieces in the so-called ‘Carmina Burana.’ A
frank enjoyment of life and its pleasures, as whose patrons the gods of
heathendom are invoked, while Catos and Scipios hold the place of the
saints and heroes of Christianity, flows in full current through the
rhymed verses. Reading them through at a stretch, we can scarcely help
coming to the conclusion that an Italian, probably a Lombard, is
speaking; in fact, there are positive grounds for thinking so.[402] To a
certain degree these Latin poems of the ‘Clerici vagantes’ of the
twelfth century, with all their remarkable frivolity, are, doubtless, a
product in which the whole of Europe had a share; but the writer of the
song ‘De Phyllide et Flora’[403] and the ‘Æstuans Interius’ can have
been a northerner as little as the polished Epicurean observer to whom
we owe ‘Dum Dianæ vitrea sero lampas oritur.’ Here, in truth, is a
reproduction of the whole ancient view of life, which is all the more
striking from the mediæval form of the verse in which it is set forth.
There are many works of this and the following centuries, in which a
careful imitation of the antique appears both in the hexameter and
pentameter of the metre in the classical, often mythological, character
of the subject, and which yet have not anything like the same spirit of
antiquity about them. In the hexameter chronicles and other works of
Gulielmus Apuliensis and his successors (from about 1100), we find
frequent traces of a diligent study of Virgil, Ovid, Lucan, Statius, and
Claudian; but this classical form is after all here a mere matter of
archæology, as is the classical subject in collectors like Vincent of
Beauvais, or in the mythological and allegorical writer, Alanus ab
Insulis. The Renaissance is not a mere fragmentary imitation or
compilation, but a new birth; and the signs of this are visible in the
poems of the unknown ‘Clericus’ of the twelfth century.

But the great and general enthusiasm of the Italians for classical
antiquity did not display itself before the fourteenth century. For this
a development of civic life was required, which took place only in
Italy, and there not till then. It was needful that noble and burgher
should first learn to dwell together on equal terms, and that a social
world should arise (see p. 139) which felt the want of culture, and had
the leisure and the means to obtain it. But culture, as soon as it freed
itself from the fantastic bonds of the Middle Ages, could not at once
and without help find its way to the understanding of the physical and
intellectual world. It needed a guide, and found one in the ancient
civilisation, with its wealth of truth and knowledge in every spiritual
interest. Both the form and the substance of this civilisation were
adopted with admiring gratitude; it became the chief part of the culture
of the age.[404] The general condition of the country was favourable to
this transformation. The mediæval empire, since the fall of the
Hohenstaufen, had either renounced, or was unable to make good, its
claims on Italy. The Popes had migrated to Avignon. Most of the
political powers actually in existence owed their origin to violent and
illegitimate means. The spirit of the people, now awakened to
self-consciousness, sought for some new and stable ideal on which to
rest. And thus the vision of the world-wide empire of Italy and Rome so
possessed the popular mind, that Cola di Rienzi could actually attempt
to put it in practice. The conception he formed of his task,
particularly when tribune for the first time, could only end in some
extravagant comedy; nevertheless, the memory of ancient Rome was no
slight support to the national sentiment. Armed afresh with its culture,
the Italian soon felt himself in truth citizen of the most advanced
nation in the world.

It is now our task to sketch this spiritual movement, not indeed in all
its fulness, but in its most salient features, and especially in its
first beginnings.[405]



Rome itself, the city of ruins, now became the object of a wholly
different sort of piety from that of the time when the ‘Mirabilia Romæ’
and the collection of William of Malmesbury were composed. The
imaginations of the devout pilgrim, or of the seeker after marvels[406]
and treasures, are supplanted in contemporary records by the interests
of the patriot and the historian. In this sense we must understand
Dante’s words,[407] that the stones of the walls of Rome deserve
reverence, and that the ground on which the city is built is more worthy
than men say. The jubilees, incessant as they were, have scarcely left a
single devout record in literature properly so called. The best thing
that Giovanni Villani (p. 73) brought back from the jubilee of the year
1300 was the resolution to write his history which had been awakened in
him by the sight of the ruins of Rome. Petrarch gives evidence of a
taste divided between classical and Christian antiquity. He tells us how
often with Giovanni Colonna he ascended the mighty vaults of the Baths
of Diocletian,[408] and there in the transparent air, amid the wide
silence, with the broad panorama stretching far around them, they spoke,
not of business, or political affairs, but of the history which the
ruins beneath their feet suggested, Petrarch appearing in their
dialogues as the partisan of classical, Giovanni of Christian antiquity;
then they would discourse of philosophy and of the inventors of the
arts. How often since that time, down to the days of Gibbon and Niebuhr,
have the same ruins stirred men’s minds to the same reflections!

This double current of feeling is also recognisable in the ‘Dittamondo’
of Fazio degli Uberti, composed about the year 1360--a description of
visionary travels, in which the author is accompanied by the old
geographer Solinus, as Dante was by Virgil. They visit Bari in memory of
St. Nicholas, and Monte Gargano of the archangel Michael, and in Rome
the legends of Araceli and of Santa Maria in Trastevere are mentioned.
Still, the pagan splendour of ancient Rome unmistakably exercises a
greater charm upon them. A venerable matron in torn garments--Rome
herself is meant--tells them of the glorious past, and gives them a
minute description of the old triumphs;[409] she then leads the
strangers through the city, and points out to them the seven hills and
many of the chief ruins--‘che comprender potrai, quanto fui bella.’

Unfortunately this Rome of the schismatic and Avignonese popes was no
longer, in respect of classical remains, what it had been some
generations earlier. The destruction of 140 fortified houses of the
Roman nobles by the senator Brancaleone in 1257 must have wholly altered
the character of the most important buildings then standing; for the
nobles had no doubt ensconced themselves in the loftiest and
best-preserved of the ruins.[410] Nevertheless, far more was left than
we now find, and probably many of the remains had still their marble
incrustation, their pillared entrances, and their other ornaments, where
we now see nothing but the skeleton of brickwork. In this state of
things, the first beginnings of a topographical study of the old city
were made.

In Poggio’s walks through Rome[411] the study of the remains themselves
is for the first time more intimately combined with that of the ancient
authors and inscriptions--the latter he sought out from among all the
vegetation in which they were imbedded[412]--the writer’s imagination is
severely restrained, and the memories of Christian Rome carefully
excluded. The only pity is that Poggio’s work was not fuller and was not
illustrated with sketches. Far more was left in his time than was found
by Raphael eighty years later. He saw the tomb of Cæcilia Metella and
the columns in front of one of the temples on the slope of the Capitol
first in full preservation, and then afterwards half destroyed, owing to
that unfortunate quality which marble possesses of being easily burnt
into lime. A vast colonnade near the Minerva fell piecemeal a victim to
the same fate. A witness in the year 1443 tells us that this manufacture
of lime still went on; ‘which is a shame, for the new buildings are
pitiful, and the beauty of Rome is in its ruins.’[413] The inhabitants
of that day, in their peasants’ cloaks and boots, looked to foreigners
like cowherds; and in fact the cattle were pastured in the city up to
the Banchi. The only opportunities for social gatherings were the
services at church, on which occasion it was possible to get a sight of
the beautiful women.

In the last years of Eugenius IV. (d. 1447) Blondus of Forli wrote his
‘Roma Instaurata,’ making use of Frontinus and of the old ‘Libri
Regionali,’ as well as, it seems, of Anastasius. His object is not only
the description of what existed, but still more the recovery of what was
lost. In accordance with the dedication to the Pope, he consoles himself
for the general ruin by the thought of the precious relics of the saints
in which Rome was so rich.[414]

With Nicholas V. (1447-1455) that new monumental spirit which was
distinctive of the age of the Renaissance appeared on the papal throne.
The new passion for embellishing the city brought with it on the one
hand a fresh danger for the ruins, on the other a respect for them, as
forming one of Rome’s claims to distinction. Pius II. was wholly
possessed by antiquarian enthusiasm, and if he speaks little of the
antiquities of Rome,[415] he closely studied those of all other parts of
Italy, and was the first to know and describe accurately the remains
which abounded in the districts for miles around the capital.[416] It is
true that, both as priest and cosmographer, he is interested alike in
classical and Christian monuments and in the marvels of nature. Or was
he doing violence to himself when he wrote that Nola was more highly
honoured by the memory of St. Paulinus than by all its classical
reminiscences and by the heroic struggle of Marcellus? Not, indeed, that
his faith in relics was assumed; but his mind was evidently rather
disposed to an inquiring interest in nature and antiquity, to a zeal for
monumental works, to a keen and delicate observation of human life. In
the last years of his Papacy, afflicted with the gout and yet in the
most cheerful mood, he was borne in his litter over hill and dale to
Tusculum, Alba, Tibur, Ostia, Falerii, and Ocriculum, and whatever he
saw he noted down. He followed the line of the Roman roads and
aqueducts, and tried to fix the boundaries of the old tribes who dwelt
round the city. On an excursion to Tivoli with the great Federigo of
Urbino the time was happily spent in talk on the military system of the
ancients, and particularly on the Trojan war. Even on his journey to the
Congress of Mantua (1459) he searched, though unsuccessfully, for the
labyrinth of Clusium mentioned by Pliny, and visited the so-called villa
of Virgil on the Mincio. That such a Pope should demand a classical
Latin style from his abbreviators, is no more than might be expected. It
was he who, in the war with Naples, granted an amnesty to the men of
Arpinum, as countrymen of Cicero and Marius, after whom many of them
were named. It was to him alone, as both judge and patron, that Blondus
could dedicate his ‘Roma Triumphans,’ the first great attempt at a
complete exposition of Roman antiquity.[417]

Nor was the enthusiasm for the classical past of Italy confined at this
period to the capital. Boccaccio[418] had already called the vast ruins
of Baiæ ‘old walls, yet new for modern spirits;’ and since this time
they were held to be the most interesting sight near Naples. Collections
of antiquities of all sorts now became common. Ciriaco of Ancona (d.
1457), who explained (1433) the Roman monuments to the Emperor
Sigismund, travelled, not only through Italy, but through other
countries of the old world, Hellas, and the islands of the Archipelago,
and even parts of Asia and Africa, and brought back with him countless
inscriptions and sketches. When asked why he took all this trouble, he
replied, ‘To wake the dead.’[419] The histories of the various cities of
Italy had from the earliest times laid claim to some true or imagined
connection with Rome, had alleged some settlement or colonisation which
started from the capital;[420] and the obliging manufacturers of
pedigrees seem constantly to have derived various families from the
oldest and most famous blood of Rome. So highly was the distinction
valued, that men clung to it even in the light of the dawning criticism
of the fifteenth century. When Pius II. was at Viterbo[421] he said
frankly to the Roman deputies who begged him to return, ‘Rome is as much
at home as Siena, for my House, the Piccolomini, came in early times
from the capital to Siena, as is proved by the constant use of the names
Æneas and Sylvius in my family.’ He would probably have had no objection
to be held a descendant of the Julii. Paul II., a Barbo of Venice, found
his vanity flattered by deducing his House, notwithstanding an adverse
pedigree, according to which it came from Germany, from the Roman
Ahenobarbus, who led a colony to Parma, and whose successors were driven
by party conflicts to migrate to Venice.[421A] That the Massimi claimed
descent from Q. Fabius Maximus, and the Cornaro from the Cornelii,
cannot surprise us. On the other hand, it is a strikingly exceptional
fact for the sixteenth century that the novellist Bandello tried to
connect his blood with a noble family of Ostrogoths (i. nov. 23).

To return to Rome. The inhabitants, ‘who then called themselves Romans,’
accepted greedily the homage which was offered them by the rest of
Italy. Under Paul II., Sixtus IV., and Alexander VI. magnificent
processions formed part of the Carnival, representing the scene most
attractive to the imagination of the time--the triumph of the Roman
Imperator. The sentiment of the people expressed itself naturally in
this shape and others like it. In this mood of public feeling, a report
arose, that on April 15, 1485, the corpse of a young Roman lady of the
classical period--wonderfully beautiful and in perfect preservation--had
been discovered.[422] Some Lombard masons digging out an ancient tomb on
an estate of the convent of Santa Maria Novella, on the Appian Way
beyond the Cæcilia Metella, were said to have found a marble sarcophagus
with the inscription, ‘Julia, daughter of Claudius.’ On this basis the
following story was built. The Lombards disappeared with the jewels and
treasure which were found with the corpse in the sarcophagus. The body
had been coated with an antiseptic essence, and was as fresh and
flexible as that of a girl of fifteen the hour after death. It was said
that she still kept the colours of life, with eyes and mouth half open.
She was taken to the palace of the ‘Conservatori’ on the Capitol; and
then a pilgrimage to see her began. Among the crowd were many who came
to paint her; ‘for she was more beautiful than can be said or written,
and, were it said or written, it would not be believed by those who had
not seen her.’ By the order of Innocent VIII. she was secretly buried
one night outside the Pincian Gate; the empty sarcophagus remained in
the court of the ‘Conservatori.’ Probably a coloured mask of wax or some
other material was modelled in the classical style on the face of the
corpse, with which the gilded hair of which we read would harmonise
admirably. The touching point in the story is not the fact itself, but
the firm belief that an ancient body, which was now thought to be at
last really before men’s eyes, must of necessity be far more beautiful
than anything of modern date.

Meanwhile the material knowledge of old Rome was increased by
excavations. Under Alexander VI. the so-called ‘Grotesques,’ that is,
the mural decorations of the ancients, were discovered, and the Apollo
of the Belvedere was found at Porto d’Anzo. Under Julius II. followed
the memorable discoveries of the Laöcoon, of the Venus of the Vatican,
of the Torso, of the Cleopatra.[423] The palaces of the nobles and the
cardinals began to be filled with ancient statues and fragments. Raphael
undertook for Leo X. that ideal restoration of the whole ancient city
which his celebrated letter (1518 or 1519) speaks of.[424] After a
bitter complaint over the devastations which had not even then ceased,
and which had been particularly frequent under Julius II., he beseeches
the Pope to protect the few relics which were left to testify to the
power and greatness of that divine soul of antiquity whose memory was
inspiration to all who were capable of higher things. He then goes on
with penetrating judgment to lay the foundations of a comparative
history of art, and concludes by giving the definition of an
architectural survey which has been accepted since his time; he requires
the ground plan, section, and elevation separately of every building
that remained. How archæology devoted itself after his day to the study
of the venerated city and grew into a special science, and how the
Vitruvian Academy at all events proposed to itself great aims,[425]
cannot here be related. Let us rather pause at the days of Leo X., under
whom the enjoyment of antiquity combined with all other pleasures to
give to Roman life a unique stamp and consecration.[426] The Vatican
resounded with song and music, and their echoes were heard through the
city as a call to joy and gladness, though Leo did not succeed thereby
in banishing care and pain from his own life, and his deliberate
calculation to prolong his days by cheerfulness was frustrated by an
early death.[427] The Rome of Leo, as described by Paolo Giovio, forms a
picture too splendid to turn away from, unmistakable as are also its
darker aspects--the slavery of those who were struggling to rise; the
secret misery of the prelates, who, notwithstanding heavy debts, were
forced to live in a style befitting their rank; the system of literary
patronage, which drove men to be parasites or adventurers; and, lastly,
the scandalous maladministration of the finances of the state.[428] Yet
the same Ariosto who knew and ridiculed all this so well, gives in the
sixth satire a longing picture of his expected intercourse with the
accomplished poets who would conduct him through the city of ruins, of
the learned counsel which he would there find for his own literary
efforts, and of the treasures of the Vatican library. These, he says,
and not the long-abandoned hope of Medicean protection, were the real
baits which attracted him, when he was asked to go as Ferrarese
ambassador to Rome.

But the ruins within and outside Rome awakened not only archæological
zeal and patriotic enthusiasm, but an elegiac or sentimental melancholy.
In Petrarch and Boccaccio we find touches of this feeling (pp. 177,
181). Poggio (p. 181) often visited the temple of Venus and Rome, in the
belief that it was that of Castor and Pollux, where the senate used so
often to meet, and would lose himself in memories of the great orators
Crassus, Hortensius, Cicero. The language of Pius II., especially in
describing Tivoli, has a thoroughly sentimental ring,[429] and soon
afterwards (1467) appeared the first pictures of ruins, with, a
commentary by Polifilo.[430] Ruins of mighty arches and colonnades, half
hid in plane-trees, laurels, cypresses, and brushwood, figure in his
pages. In the sacred legends it became the custom, we can hardly say
how, to lay the scene of the birth of Christ in the ruins of a
magnificent palace.[431] That artificial ruins became afterwards a
necessity of landscape gardening, is only a practical consequence of
this feeling.



But the literary bequests of antiquity, Greek as well as Latin, were of
far more importance than the architectural, and indeed than all the
artistic remains which it had left. They were held in the most absolute
sense to be the springs of all knowledge. The literary conditions of
that age of great discoveries have been often set forth; no more can be
here attempted than to point out a few less-known features of the

Great as was the influence of the old writers on the Italian mind in the
fourteenth century and before, yet that influence was due rather to the
wide diffusion of what had long been known, than to the discovery of
much that was new. The most popular Latin poets, historians, orators,
and letter-writers, together with a number of Latin translations of
single works of Aristotle, Plutarch, and a few other Greek authors,
constituted the treasure from which a few favoured individuals in the
time of Petrarch and Boccaccio drew their inspiration. The former, as is
well known, owned and kept with religious care a Greek Homer, which he
was unable to read. A complete Latin translation of the ‘Iliad’ and
‘Odyssey,’ though a very bad one, was made at Petrarch’s suggestion and
with Boccaccio’s help by a Calabrian Greek, Leonzio Pilato.[433] But
with the fifteenth century began the long list of new discoveries, the
systematic creation of libraries by means of copies, and the rapid
multiplication of translations from the Greek.[434]

Had it not been for the enthusiasm of a few collectors of that age, who
shrank from no effort or privation in their researches, we should
certainly possess only a small part of the literature, especially that
of the Greeks, which is now in our hands. Pope Nicholas V., when only a
simple monk, ran deeply into debt through buying manuscripts or having
them copied. Even then he made no secret of his passion for the two
great interests of the Renaissance, books and buildings.[435] As Pope he
kept his word. Copyists wrote and spies searched for him through half
the world. Perotto received 500 ducats for the Latin translation of
Polybius; Guarino, 1,000 gold florins for that of Strabo, and he would
have been paid 500 more but for the death of the Pope. Filelfo was to
have received 10,000 gold florins for a metrical translation of Homer,
and was only prevented by the Pope’s death from coming from Milan to
Rome. Nicholas left a collection of 5,000, or, according to another way
of calculating, of 9,000 volumes,[436] for the use of the members of the
Curia, which became the foundation of the library of the Vatican. It was
to be preserved in the palace itself, as its noblest ornament, like the
library of Ptolemy Philadelphus at Alexandria. When the plague (1450)
drove him and his court to Fabriano, whence then, as now, the best paper
was procured, he took his translators and compilers with him, that he
might run no risk of losing them.

The Florentine Niccolò Niccoli,[437] a member of that accomplished
circle of friends which surrounded the elder Cosimo de Medici, spent his
whole fortune in buying books. At last, when his money was all gone, the
Medici put their purse at his disposal for any sum which his purpose
might require. We owe to him the completion of Ammianus Marcellinus, of
the ‘De Oratore’ of Cicero, the text of Lucretius which still has most
authority, and other works; he persuaded Cosimo to buy the best
manuscript of Pliny from a monastery at Lübeck. With noble confidence he
lent his books to those who asked for them, allowed all comers to study
them in his own house, and was ready to converse with the students on
what they had read. His collection of 800 volumes, valued at 6,000 gold
florins, passed after his death, through Cosimo’s intervention, to the
monastery of San Marco, on the condition that it should be accessible to
the public, and is now one of the jewels of the Laurentian library.

Of the two great book-finders, Guarino and Poggio, the latter,[438] on
the occasion of the Council of Constanz and acting partly as the agent
of Niccoli, searched industriously among the abbeys of South Germany. He
there discovered six orations of Cicero, and the first complete
Quintilian, that of St. Gall, now at Zürich; in thirty-two days he is
said to have copied the whole of it in a beautiful handwriting. He was
able to make important additions to Silius Italicus, Manilius,
Lucretius, Valerius, Flaccus, Asconius, Pedianus, Columella, Celsus,
Aulus, Gellius, Statius, and others; and with the help of Lionardo
Aretino he unearthed the last twelve comedies of Plautus, as well as the
Verrine orations, the ‘Brutus’ and the ‘De Oratore’ of Cicero.

The famous Greek, Cardinal Bessarion,[439] in whom patriotism was
mingled with a zeal for letters, collected, at a great sacrifice (30,000
gold florins), 600 manuscripts of pagan and Christian authors. He then
looked round for some receptacle where they could safely lie until his
unhappy country, if she ever regained her freedom, could reclaim her
lost literature. The Venetian government declared itself ready to erect
a suitable building, and to this day the library of St. Mark retains a
part of these treasures.[440]

The formation of the celebrated Medicean library has a history of its
own, into which we cannot here enter. The chief collector for Lorenzo
Magnifico was Johannes Lascaris. It is well known that the collection,
after the plundering in the year 1494, had to be recovered piecemeal by
the Cardinal Giovanni Medici, afterwards Leo X.

The library of Urbino,[441] now in the Vatican, was wholly the work of
the great Frederick of Montefeltro (p. 44 sqq.). As a boy he had begun
to collect; in after years he kept thirty or forty ‘scrittori’ employed
in various places, and spent in the course of time no less than 30,000
ducats on the collection. It was systematically extended and completed,
chiefly by the help of Vespasiano, and his account of it forms an ideal
picture of a library of the Renaissance. At Urbino there were catalogues
of the libraries of the Vatican, of St. Mark at Florence, of the
Visconti at Pavia, and even of the library at Oxford. It was noted with
pride that in richness and completeness none could rival Urbino.
Theology and the Middle Ages were perhaps most fully represented. There
was a complete Thomas Aquinas, a complete Albertus Magnus, a complete
Buenaventura. The collection, however, was a many-sided one, and
included every work on medicine which was then to be had. Among the
‘moderns’ the great writers of the fourteenth century--Dante and
Boccaccio, with their complete works--occupied the first place. Then
followed twenty-five select humanists, invariably with both their Latin
and Italian writings and with all their translations. Among the Greek
manuscripts the Fathers of the Church far outnumbered the rest; yet in
the list of the classics we find all the works of Sophocles, all of
Pindar, and all of Menander. The last must have quickly disappeared from
Urbino,[442] else the philologists would have soon edited it. There were
men, however, in this book-collecting age who raised a warning voice
against the vagaries of the passion. These were not the enemies of
learning, but its friends, who feared that harm would come from a
pursuit which had become a mania. Petrarch himself protested against the
fashionable folly of a useless heaping up of books; and in the same
century Giovanni Manzini ridiculed Andreolo de Ochis, a septuagenarian
from Brescia, who was ready to sacrifice house and land, his wife and
himself, to add to the stores of his library.

We have, further, a good deal of information as to the way in which
manuscripts and libraries were multiplied.[443] The purchase of an
ancient manuscript, which contained a rare, or the only complete, or the
only existing text of an old writer, was naturally a lucky accident of
which we need take no further account. Among the professional copyists
those who understood Greek took the highest place, and it was they
especially who bore the honourable name of ‘scrittori.’ Their number was
always limited, and the pay they received very large.[444] The rest,
simply called ‘copisti,’ were partly mere clerks who made their living
by such work, partly schoolmasters and needy men of learning, who
desired an addition to their income, partly monks, or even nuns, who
regarded the pursuit as a work pleasing to God. In the early stages of
the Renaissance the professional copyists were few and untrustworthy;
their ignorant and dilatory ways were bitterly complained of by
Petrarch. In the fifteenth century they were more numerous, and brought
more knowledge to their calling, but in accuracy of work they never
attained the conscientious precision of the old monks. They seem to have
done their work in a sulky and perfunctory fashion, seldom putting their
signatures at the foot of the codices, and showed no traces of that
cheerful humour, or of that proud consciousness of a beneficent
activity, which often surprises us in the French and German manuscripts
of the same period. This is more curious, as the copyists at Rome in the
time of Nicholas V. were mostly Germans or Frenchmen[445]--‘barbarians’
as the Italian humanists called them, probably men who were in search of
favours at the papal court, and who kept themselves alive meanwhile by
this means. When Cosimo de’ Medici was in a hurry to form a library for
his favourite foundation, the Badia below Fiesole, he sent for
Vespasiano, and received from him the advice to give up all thoughts of
purchasing books, since those which were worth getting could not be had
easily, but rather to make use of the copyists; whereupon Cosimo
bargained to pay him so much a day, and Vespasiano, with forty-five
writers under him, delivered 200 volumes in twenty-two months.[446] The
catalogue of the works to be copied was sent to Cosimo by Nicholas
V.[447] who wrote it with his own hand. Ecclesiastical literature and
the books needed for the choral services naturally held the chief place
in the list.

The handwriting was that beautiful modern Italian which was already in
use in the preceding century, and which makes the sight of one of the
books of that time a pleasure. Pope Nicholas V., Poggio, Giannozzo
Manetti, Niccolò Niccoli, and other distinguished scholars, themselves
wrote a beautiful hand, and desired and tolerated none other. The
decorative adjuncts, even when miniatures formed no part of them, were
full of taste, as may be seen especially in the Laurentian manuscripts,
with the light and graceful scrolls which begin and end the lines. The
material used to write on, when the work was ordered by great or wealthy
people, was always parchment; the binding, both in the Vatican and at
Urbino, was a uniform crimson velvet with silver clasps. Where there was
so much care to show honour to the contents of a book by the beauty of
its outward form, it is intelligible that the sudden appearance of
printed books was greeted at first with anything but favour. The envoys
of Cardinal Bessarion, when they saw for the first time a printed book
in the house of Constantino Lascaris, laughed at the discovery ‘made
among the barbarians in some German city,’ and Frederick of Urbino
‘would have been ashamed to own a printed book.’[448]

But the weary copyists--not those who lived by the trade, but the many
who were forced to copy a book in order to have it--rejoiced at the
German invention,[449] ‘notwithstanding the praises and encouragements
which the poets awarded to caligraphy.’ It was soon applied in Italy to
the multiplication first of the Latin and then of the Greek authors, and
for a long period nowhere but in Italy, yet it spread with by no means
the rapidity which might have been expected from the general enthusiasm
for these works. After a while the modern relation between author and
publisher began to develop itself,[450] and under Alexander VI., when it
was no longer easy to destroy a book, as Cosimo could make Filelfo
promise to do,[451] the prohibitive censorship made its appearance.

The growth of textual criticism which accompanied the advancing study of
languages and antiquity, belongs as little to the subject of this book
as the history of scholarship in general. We are here occupied, not with
the learning of the Italians in itself, but with the reproduction of
antiquity in literature and life. One word more on the studies
themselves may still be permissible.

Greek scholarship was chiefly confined to Florence and to the fifteenth
and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries. It was never so general as
Latin scholarship, partly because of the far greater difficulties which
it involved, partly and still more because of the consciousness of Roman
supremacy and an instinctive hatred of the Greeks more than
counterbalanced the attractions which Greek literature had for the

The impulse which proceeded from Petrarch and Boccaccio, superficial as
was their own acquaintance with Greek, was powerful, but did not tell
immediately on their contemporaries;[453] on the other hand, the study
of Greek literature died out about the year 1520[454] with the last of
the colony of learned Greek exiles, and it was a singular piece of
fortune that northerners like Agricola, Reuchlin, Erasmus, the Stephani,
and Budæus had meanwhile made themselves masters of the language. That
colony had begun with Manuel Chrysoloras and his relation John, and with
George of Trebizond. Then followed, about and after the time of the
conquest of Constantinople, John Argyropulos, Theodore Gaza, Demetrios
Chalcondylas, who brought up his sons Theophilos and Basilios to be
excellent Hellenists, Andronikos Kallistos, Marcos Musuros and the
family of the Lascaris, not to mention others. But after the subjection
of Greece by the Turks was completed, the succession of scholars was
maintained only by the sons of the fugitives and perhaps here and there
by some Candian or Cyprian refugee. That the decay of Hellenistic
studies began about the time of the death of Leo X. was owing partly to
a general change of intellectual attitude,[455] and to a certain satiety
of classical influences which now made itself felt; but its coincidence
with the death of the Greek fugitives was not wholly a matter of
accident. The study of Greek among the Italians appears, if we take the
year 1500 as our standard, to have been pursued with extraordinary zeal.
The youths of that day learned to speak the language, and half a century
later, like the Popes Paul III. and Paul IV., they could still do so in
their old age.[456] But this sort of mastery of the study presupposes
intercourse with native Greeks.

Besides Florence, Rome and Padua nearly always maintained paid teachers
of Greek, and Verona, Ferrara, Venice, Perugia, Pavia and other cities
occasional teachers.[457] Hellenistic studies owed a priceless debt to
the press of Aldo Manucci at Venice, where the most important and
voluminous writers were for the first time printed in the original. Aldo
ventured his all in the enterprise; he was an editor and publisher whose
like the world has rarely seen.[458]

Along with this classical revival, Oriental studies now assumed
considerable proportions.[459] Dante himself set a high value on Hebrew,
though we cannot suppose that he understood it. From the fifteenth
century onwards scholars were no longer content merely to speak of it
with respect, but applied themselves to a thorough study of it. This
scientific interest in the language was, however, from the beginning
either furthered or hindered by religious considerations. Poggio, when
resting from the labours of the Council of Constance, learnt Hebrew at
that place and at Baden from a baptized Jew, whom he describes as
‘stupid, peevish, and ignorant, like most converted Jews;’ but he had to
defend his conduct against Lionardo Bruni, who endeavoured to prove to
him that Hebrew was useless or even injurious. The controversial
writings of the great Florentine statesman and scholar, Giannozzo
Manetti[460] (d. 1459) against the Jews afford an early instance of a
complete mastery of their language and science. His son Agnolo was from
his childhood instructed in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. The father, at the
bidding of Nicholas V., translated the Psalms, but had to defend the
principles of his translation in a work addressed to Alfonso.
Commissioned by the same Pope, who had offered a reward of 5,000 ducats
for the discovery of the original Hebrew text of the Evangelist Matthew,
he made a collection of Hebrew manuscripts, which is still preserved in
the Vatican, and began a great apologetic work against the Jews.[461]
The study of Hebrew was thus enlisted in the service of the Church. The
Camaldolese monk Ambrogio Traversari learnt the language,[462] and Pope
Sixtus IV., who erected the building for the Vatican library, and added
to the collection extensive purchases of his own, took into his service
‘scrittori’ (_librarios_) for Hebrew as well as for Greek and
Latin.[463] The study of the language now became more general; Hebrew
manuscripts were collected, and in some libraries, like that of Urbino,
formed a specially valuable part of the rich treasure there stored up;
the printing of Hebrew books began in Italy in 1475, and made the study
easier both to the Italians themselves and to the other nations of
Europe, who for many years drew their supply from Italy. Soon there was
no good-sized town where there were not individuals who were masters of
the language and many anxious to learn it, and in 1488 a chair for
Hebrew was founded at Bologna, and another in 1514 at Rome. The study
became so popular that it was even preferred to Greek.[464][465]

Among all those who busied themselves with Hebrew in the fifteenth
century, no one was of more importance than Pico della Mirandola. He was
not satisfied with a knowledge of the Hebrew grammar and Scriptures, but
penetrated into the Jewish Cabbalah and even made himself familiar with
the literature of the Talmud. That such pursuits, though they may not
have gone very far, were at all possible to him, he owed to his Jewish
teachers. Most of the instruction in Hebrew was in fact given by Jews,
some of whom, though generally not till after conversion to
Christianity, became distinguished University professors and
much-esteemed writers.[466]

Among the Oriental languages, Arabic was studied as well as Hebrew. The
science of medicine, no longer satisfied with the older Latin
translations of the great Arabian physicians, had constant recourse to
the originals, to which an easy access was offered by the Venetian
consulates in the East, where Italian doctors were regularly kept. But
the Arabian scholarship of the Renaissance is only a feeble echo of the
influence which Arabian civilisation in the Middle Ages exercised over
Italy and the whole cultivated world--an influence which not only
preceded that of the Renaissance, but in some respects was hostile to
it, and which did not surrender without a struggle the place which it
had long and vigorously asserted. Hieronimo Ramusio, a Venetian
physician, translated a great part of Avicenna from the Arabic and died
at Damascus in 1486. Andrea Mongajo of Belluno,[467] a disciple of the
same Avicenna, lived long at Damascus, learnt Arabic, and improved on
his master. The Venetian government afterwards appointed him as
professor of this subject at Padua. The example set by Venice was
followed by other governments. Princes and wealthy men rivalled one
another in collecting Arabic manuscripts. The first Arabian
printing-press was begun at Fano under Julius II. and consecrated in
1514 under Leo X.[468]

We must here linger for a moment over Pico della Mirandola, before
passing on to the general effects of humanism. He was the only man who
loudly and vigorously defended the truth and science of all ages against
the one-sided worship of classical antiquity.[469] He knew how to value
not only Averroes and the Jewish investigators, but also the scholastic
writers of the Middle Ages, according to the matter of their writings.
He seems to hear them say, ‘We shall live for ever, not in the schools
of word-catchers, but in the circle of the wise, where they talk not of
the mother of Andromache or of the sons of Niobe, but of the deeper
causes of things human and divine; he who looks closely will see that
even the barbarians had intelligence (_mercurium_), not on the tongue
but in the breast.’ Himself writing a vigorous and not inelegant Latin,
and a master of clear exposition, he despised the purism of pedants and
the current over-estimate of borrowed forms, especially when joined, as
they often are, with one-sidedness, and involving indifference to the
wider truth of the things themselves. Looking at Pico, we can guess at
the lofty flight which Italian philosophy would have taken had not the
counter-reformation annihilated the higher spiritual life of the



Who now were those who acted as mediators between their own age and a
venerated antiquity, and made the latter a chief element in the culture
of the former?

They were a crowd of the most miscellaneous sort, wearing one face
to-day and another to-morrow; but they clearly felt themselves, and it
was fully recognised by their time, that they formed a wholly new
element in society. The ‘clerici vagantes’ of the twelfth century, whose
poetry we have already referred to (p. 174), may perhaps be taken as
their forerunner--the same unstable existence, the same free and more
than free views of life, and the germs at all events of the same pagan
tendencies in their poetry. But now, as competitor with the whole
culture of the Middle Ages, which was essentially clerical and was
fostered by the Church, there appeared a new civilisation, founding
itself on that which lay on the other side of the Middle Ages. Its
active representatives became influential[470] because they knew what
the ancients knew, because they tried to write as the ancients wrote,
because they began to think, and soon to feel, as the ancients thought
and felt. The tradition to which they devoted themselves passed at a
thousand points into genuine reproduction.

Some modern writers deplore the fact that the germs of a far more
independent and essentially national culture, such as appeared in
Florence about the year 1300, were afterwards so completely swamped by
the humanists.[471] There was then, we are told, nobody in Florence who
could not read; even the donkey-men sang the verses of Dante; the best
Italian manuscripts which we possess belonged originally to Florentine
artisans; the publication of a popular encyclopædia, like the ‘Tesoro’
of Brunette Latini, was then possible; and all this was founded on a
strength and soundness of character due to the universal participation
in public affairs, to commerce and travel, and to the systematic
reprobation of idleness. The Florentines, it is urged, were at that time
respected and influential throughout the whole world, and were called in
that year, not without reason, by Pope Boniface VIII., ‘the fifth
element.’ The rapid progress of humanism after the year 1400 paralysed
native impulses. Henceforth men looked to antiquity only for the
solution of every problem, and consequently allowed literature to sink
into mere quotation. Nay, the very fall of civil freedom is partly to be
ascribed to all this, since the new learning rested on obedience to
authority, sacrificed municipal rights to Roman law, and thereby both
sought and found the favour of the despots.

These charges will occupy us now and then at a later stage of our
inquiry, when we shall attempt to reduce them to their true value, and
to weigh the losses against the gains of this movement. For the present
we must confine ourselves to showing how the civilisation even of the
vigorous fourteenth century necessarily prepared the way for the
complete victory of humanism, and how precisely the greatest
representatives of the national Italian spirit were themselves the men
who opened wide the gate for the measureless devotion to antiquity in
the fifteenth century.

To begin with Dante. If a succession of men of equal genius had presided
over Italian culture, whatever elements their natures might have
absorbed from the antique, they still could not fail to retain a
characteristic and strongly-marked national stamp. But neither Italy nor
Western Europe produced another Dante, and he was and remained the man
who first thrust antiquity into the foreground of national culture. In
the ‘Divine Comedy’ he treats the ancient and the Christian worlds, not
indeed as of equal authority, but as parallel to one another. Just as,
at an earlier period of the Middle Ages types and antitypes were sought
in the history of the Old and New Testaments, so does Dante constantly
bring together a Christian and a pagan illustration of the same
fact.[472] It must be remembered that the Christian cycle of history and
legend was familiar, while the ancient was relatively unknown, was full
of promise and of interest, and must necessarily have gained the upper
hand in the competition for public sympathy when there was no longer a
Dante to hold the balance between the two.

Petrarch, who lives in the memory of most people nowadays chiefly as a
great Italian poet, owed his fame among his contemporaries far rather to
the fact that he was a kind of living representative of antiquity, that
he imitated all styles of Latin poetry, endeavoured by his voluminous
historical and philosophical writings not to supplant but to make known
the works of the ancients, and wrote letters that, as treatises on
matters of antiquarian interest, obtained a reputation which to us is
unintelligible, but which was natural enough in an age without
handbooks. Petrarch himself trusted and hoped that his Latin writings
would bring him fame with his contemporaries and with posterity, and
thought so little of his Italian poems that, as he often tell us, he
would gladly have destroyed them if he could have succeeded thereby in
blotting them out from the memory of men.

It was the same with Boccaccio. For two centuries, when but little was
known of the ‘Decameron’[473] north of the Alps, he was famous all over
Europe simply on account of his Latin compilations on mythology,
geography, and biography.[474] One of these, ‘De Genealogia Deorum,’
contains in the fourteenth and fifteenth books a remarkable appendix, in
which he discusses the position of the then youthful humanism with
regard to the age. We must not be misled by his exclusive references to
‘poesia,’ as closer observation shows that he means thereby the whole
mental activity of the poet-scholars.[475] This it is whose enemies he
so vigorously combats--the frivolous ignoramuses who have no soul for
anything but debauchery; the sophistical theologian, to whom Helicon,
the Castalian fountain, and the grove of Apollo were foolishness; the
greedy lawyers, to whom poetry was a superfluity, since no money was to
be made by it; finally the mendicant friars, described periphrastically,
but clearly enough, who made free with their charges of paganism and
immorality.[476] Then follows the defence of poetry, the proof that the
poetry of the ancients and of their modern followers contains nothing
mendacious, the praise of it, and especially of the deeper and
allegorical meanings which we must always attribute to it, and of that
calculated obscurity which is intended to repel the dull minds of the

And finally, with a clear reference to his own scholarly work,[477] the
writer justifies the new relation in which his age stood to paganism.
The case was wholly different, he pleads, when the Early Church had to
fight its way among the heathen. Now--praised be Jesus Christ!--true
religion was strengthened, paganism destroyed, and the victorious Church
in possession of the hostile camp. It was now possible to touch and
study paganism almost (_fere_) without danger. Boccaccio, however, did
not hold this liberal view consistently. The ground of his apostasy lay
partly in the mobility of his character, partly in the still powerful
and widespread prejudice that classical pursuits were unbecoming in a
theologian. To these reasons must be added the warning given him in the
name of the dead Pietro Petroni by the monk Gioacchino Ciani to give up
his pagan studies under pain of early death. He accordingly determined
to abandon them, and was only brought back from this cowardly resolve by
the earnest exhortations of Petrarch, and by the latter’s able
demonstration that humanism was reconcileable with religion.[478]

There was thus a new cause in the world and a new class of men to
maintain it. It is idle to ask if this cause ought not to have stopped
short in its career of victory, to have restrained itself deliberately,
and conceded the first place to purely national elements of culture. No
conviction was more firmly rooted in the popular mind, than that
antiquity was the highest title to glory which Italy possessed.

There was a symbolical ceremony familiar to this generation of
poet-scholars which lasted on into the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries, though losing the higher sentiment which inspired it--the
coronation of the poets with the laurel wreath. The origin of this
system in the Middle Ages is obscure, and the ritual of the ceremony
never became fixed. It was a public demonstration, an outward and
visible expression of literary enthusiasm,[479] and naturally its form
was variable. Dante, for instance, seems to have understood it in the
sense of a half-religious consecration; he desired to assume the wreath
in the baptistery of San Giovanni, where, like thousands of other
Florentine children, he had received baptism.[480] He could, says his
biographer, have anywhere received the crown in virtue of his fame, but
desired it nowhere but in his native city, and therefore died uncrowned.
From the same source we learn that the usage was till then uncommon, and
was held to be inherited by the ancient Romans from the Greeks. The
most recent source to which the practices could be referred is to be
found in the Capitoline contests of musicians, poets, and other artists,
founded by Domitian in imitation of the Greeks and celebrated every five
years, which may possibly have survived for a time the fall of the Roman
Empire; but as few other men would venture to crown themselves, as Dante
desired to do, the question arises, to whom did this office belong?
Albertino Mussato (p. 140) was crowned at Padua in 1310 by the bishop
and the rector of the University. The University of Paris, the rector of
which was then a Florentine (1341), and the municipal authorities of
Rome, competed for the honour of crowning Petrarch. His self-elected
examiner, King Robert of Anjou, would gladly have performed the ceremony
at Naples, but Petrarch preferred to be crowned on the Capitol by the
senator of Rome. This honour was long the highest object of ambition,
and so it seemed to Jacobus Pizinga, an illustrious Sicilian
magistrate.[481] Then came the Italian journey of Charles IV., whom it
amused to flatter the vanity of ambitious men, and impress the ignorant
multitude by means of gorgeous ceremonies. Starting from the fiction
that the coronation of poets was a prerogative of the old Roman
emperors, and consequently was no less his own, he crowned (May 15,
1355) the Florentine scholar, Zanobi della Strada, at Pisa, to the
annoyance of Petrarch, who complained that ‘the barbarian laurel had
dared adorn the man loved by the Ausonian Muses,’ and to the great
disgust of Boccaccio, who declined to recognise this ‘laurea Pisana’ as
legitimate.[482] Indeed it might be fairly asked with what right this
stranger, half Slavonic by birth, came to sit in judgment on the merits
of Italian poets. But from henceforth the emperors crowned poets
wherever they went on their travels; and in the fifteenth century the
popes and other princes assumed the same right, till at last no regard
whatever was paid to place or circumstances. In Rome, under Sixtus IV.,
the academy[483] of Pomponius Lætus gave the wreath on its own
authority. The Florentines had the good taste not to crown their famous
humanists till after death. Carlo Aretino and Lionardo Aretino were thus
crowned; the eulogy of the first was pronounced by Matteo Palmieri, of
the latter by Giannozzo Manetti, before the members of the council and
the whole people, the orator standing at the head of the bier, on which
the corpse lay clad in a silken robe.[484] Carlo Aretino was further
honoured by a tomb in Santa Croce, which is among the most beautiful in
the whole course of the Renaissance.



The influence of antiquity on culture, of which we have now to speak,
presupposes that the new learning had gained possession of the
universities. This was so, but by no means to the extent and with the
results which might have been expected.

Few of the Italian universities[485] show themselves in their full
vigour till the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when the increase
of wealth rendered a more systematic care for education possible. At
first there were generally three sorts of professorships--one for civil
law, another for canonical law, the third for medicine; in course of
time professorships of rhetoric, of philosophy, and of astronomy were
added, the last commonly, though not always, identical with astrology.
The salaries varied greatly in different cases. Sometimes a capital sum
was paid down. With the spread of culture competition became so active
that the different universities tried to entice away distinguished
teachers from one another, under which circumstances Bologna is said to
have sometimes devoted the half of its public income (20,000 ducats) to
the university. The appointments were as a rule made only for a certain
time,[486] sometimes for only half a year, so that the teachers were
forced to lead a wandering life, like actors. Appointments for life
were, however, not unknown. Sometimes the promise was exacted not to
teach elsewhere what had already been taught at one place. There were
also voluntary, unpaid professors.

Of the chairs which have been mentioned, that of rhetoric was especially
sought by the humanist; yet it depended only on his familiarity with the
matter of ancient learning whether or no he could aspire to those of
law, medicine, philosophy, or astronomy. The inward conditions of the
science of the day were as variable as the outward conditions of the
teacher. Certain jurists and physicians received by far the largest
salaries of all, the former chiefly as consulting lawyers for the suits
and claims of the state which employed them. In Padua a lawyer of the
fifteenth century received a salary of 1,000 ducats,[487] and it was
proposed to appoint a celebrated physician with a yearly payment of
2,000 ducats, and the right of private practice,[488] the same man
having previously received 700 gold florins at Pisa. When the jurist
Bartolommeo Socini, professor at Pisa, accepted a Venetian appointment
at Padua, and was on the point of starting on his journey, he was
arrested by the Florentine government and only released on payment of
bail to the amount of 18,000 gold florins.[489] The high estimation in
which these branches of science were held makes it intelligible why
distinguished philologists turned their attention to law and medicine,
while on the other hand specialists were more and more compelled to
acquire something of a wide literary culture. We shall presently have
occasion to speak of the work of the humanists in other departments of
practical life.

Nevertheless, the position of the philologists, as such, even where the
salary was large,[490] and did not exclude other sources of income, was
on the whole uncertain and temporary, so that one and the same teacher
could be connected with a great variety of institutions. It is evident
that change was desired for its own sake, and something fresh expected
from each new comer, as was natural at a time when science was in the
making, and consequently depended to no small degree on the personal
influence of the teacher. Nor was it always the case that a lecturer on
classical authors really belonged to the university of the town where he
taught. Communication was so easy, and the supply of suitable
accommodation, in monasteries and elsewhere, was so abundant, that a
private undertaking was often practicable. In the first decades of the
fifteenth century,[491] when the University of Florence was at its
greatest brilliance, when the courtiers of Eugenius IV., and perhaps
even of Martin V. thronged to the lecture-rooms, when Carlo Aretino and
Filelfo were competing for the largest audience, there existed, not only
an almost complete university among the Augustinians of Santo Spirito,
not only an association of scholars among the Camaldolesi of the Angeli,
but individuals of mark, either singly or in common, arranged to provide
philosophical and philological teaching for themselves and others.
Linguistic and antiquarian studies in Rome had next to no connection
with the university (Sapienza), and depended almost exclusively either
on the favour of individual popes and prelates, or on the appointments
made in the Papal chancery. It was not till Leo X. (1513) that the great
reorganisation of the Sapienza took place, with its eighty-eight
lecturers, among whom there were able men, though none of the first
rank, at the head of the archæological department. But this new
brilliancy was of short duration. We have already spoken briefly of the
Greek and Hebrew professorships in Italy (pp. 195 sqq.).

To form an accurate picture of the method of scientific instruction,
then pursued, we must turn away our eyes as far as possible from our
present academic system. Personal intercourse between the teachers and
the taught, public disputations, the constant use of Latin and often of
Greek, the frequent changes of lecturers and the scarcity of books, gave
the studies of that time a colour which we cannot represent to
ourselves without effort.

There were Latin schools in every town of the least importance, not by
any means merely as preparatory to higher education, but because, next
to reading, writing, and arithmetic, the knowledge of Latin was a
necessity; and after Latin came logic. It is to be noted particularly
that these schools did not depend on the Church, but on the
municipality; some of them, too, were merely private enterprises.

This school system, directed by a few distinguished humanists, not only
attained a remarkable perfection of organisation, but became an
instrument of higher education in the modern sense of the phrase. With
the education of the children of two princely houses in North Italy
institutions were connected which may be called unique of their kind.

At the court of Giovan Francesco Gonzaga at Mantua (reg. 1407 to 1444)
appeared the illustrious Vittorino da Feltre[492] (b. 1397, d. 1446),
otherwise Vittore dai Rambaldoni--he preferred to be called a Mantuan
rather than a Feltrese--one of those men who devote their whole life to
an object for which their natural gifts constitute a special vocation.
He wrote almost nothing, and finally destroyed the few poems of his
youth which he had long kept by him. He studied with unwearied industry;
he never sought after titles, which, like all outward distinctions, he
scorned; and he lived on terms of the closest friendship with teachers,
companions, and pupils, whose goodwill he knew how to preserve. He
excelled in bodily no less than in mental exercises, was an admirable
rider, dancer, and fencer, wore the same clothes in winter as in summer,
walked in nothing but sandals even during the severest frost, and lived
so that till his old age he was never ill. He so restrained his
passions, his natural inclination to sensuality and anger, that he
remained chaste his whole life through, and hardly ever hurt any one by
a hard word.

He directed the education of the sons and daughters of the princely
house, and one of the latter became under his care a woman of learning.
When his reputation extended far and wide over Italy, and members of
great and wealthy families came from long distances, even from Germany,
in search of his instructions, Gonzaga was not only willing that they
should be received, but seems to have held it an honour for Mantua to be
the chosen school of the aristocratic world. Here for the first time
gymnastics and all noble bodily exercises were treated along with
scientific instruction as indispensable to a liberal education. Besides
these pupils came others, whose instruction Vittorino probably held to
be his highest earthly aim, the gifted poor, often as many as seventy
together, whom he supported in his house and educated, ‘per l’amore di
Dio,’ along with the high-born youths who here learned to live under the
same roof with untitled genius. The greater the crowd of pupils who
flocked to Mantua, the more teachers were needed to impart the
instruction which Vittorino only directed--an instruction which aimed at
giving each pupil that sort of learning which he was most fitted to
receive. Gonzaga paid him a yearly salary of 240 gold florins, built him
besides a splendid house, ‘La Giocosa,’ in which the master lived with
his scholars, and contributed to the expenses caused by the poorer
pupils. What was still further needed Vittorino begged from princes and
wealthy people, who did not always, it is true, give a ready ear to his
entreaties, and forced him by their hardheartedness to run into debt.
Yet in the end he found himself in comfortable circumstances, owned a
small property in town and an estate in the country, where he stayed
with his pupils during the holidays, and possessed a famous collection
of books which he gladly lent or gave away, though he was not a little
angry when they were taken without leave. In the early morning he read
religious books, then scourged himself and went to church; his pupils
were also compelled to go to church, like him, to confess once a month,
and to observe fast days most strictly. His pupils respected him, but
trembled before his glance. When they did anything wrong, they were
punished immediately after the offence. He was honoured by all
contemporaries no less than by his pupils, and people took the journey
to Mantua merely to see him.

More stress was laid on pure scholarship by Guarino of Verona[493]
(1370-1460), who in the year 1429 was called to Ferrara by Niccolò
d’Este to educate his son Lionello, and who, when his pupil was nearly
grown up in 1436, began to teach at the university as professor of
eloquence and of the ancient languages. While still acting as tutor to
Lionello, he had many other pupils from various parts of the country,
and in his own house a select class of poor scholars, whom he partly or
wholly supported. His evening hours till far into the night were devoted
to hearing lessons or to instructive conversation. His house, too, was
the home of a strict religion and morality. Guarino was a student of the
Bible, and lived in friendly intercourse with pious contemporaries,
though he did not hesitate to write a defence of pagan literature
against them. It signified little to him or to Vittorino that most of
the humanists of their day deserved small praise in the matter of morals
or religion. It is inconceivable how Guarino, with all the daily work
which fell upon him, still found time to write translations from the
Greek and voluminous original works.[494] He was wanting in that wise
self-restraint and kindly sweetness which graced the character of
Vittorino, and was easily betrayed into a violence of temper which led
to frequent quarrels with his learned contemporaries.

Not only in these two courts, but generally throughout Italy, the
education of the princely families was in part and for certain years in
the hands of the humanists, who thereby mounted a step higher in the
aristocratic world. The writing of treatises on the education of
princes, formerly the business of theologians, fell now within their

From the time of Pier Paolo Vergerio the Italian princes were well taken
care of in this respect, and the custom was transplanted into Germany by
Æneas Sylvius, who addressed detailed exhortations to two young German
princes of the House of Habsburg[495] on the subject of their further
education, in which they are both urged, as might be expected, to
cultivate and nurture humanism, but are chiefly bidden to make
themselves able rulers and vigorous, hardy warriors. Perhaps Æneas was
aware that in addressing these youths he was talking in the air, and
therefore took measures to put his treatise into public circulation. But
the relations of the humanists to the rulers will be discussed



We have here first to speak of those citizens, mostly Florentines, who
made antiquarian interests one of the chief objects of their lives, and
who were themselves either distinguished scholars, or else distinguished
_dilettanti_ who maintained the scholars. (Comp. pp. 193 sqq.) They were
of peculiar significance during the period of transition at the
beginning of the fifteenth century, since it was in them that humanism
first showed itself practically as an indispensable element in daily
life. It was not till after this time that the popes and princes began
seriously to occupy themselves with it.

Niccolò Niccoli and Giannozzo Manetti have been already spoken of more
than once. Niccoli is described to us by Vespasiano[496] as a man who
would tolerate nothing around him out of harmony with his own classical
spirit. His handsome long-robed figure, his kindly speech, his house
adorned with the noblest remains of antiquity, made a singular
impression. He was scrupulously cleanly in everything, most of all at
table, where ancient vases and crystal goblets stood before him on the
whitest linen.[497] The way in which he won over a pleasure-loving young
Florentine to intellectual interests is too charming not to be here
described.[498] Piero de’ Pazzi, son of a distinguished merchant, and
himself destined to the same calling, fair to behold, and much given to
the pleasures of the world, thought about anything rather than
literature. One day, as he was passing the Palazzo del Podestà,[499]
Niccolò called the young man to him, and although they had never before
exchanged a word, the youth obeyed the call of one so respected. Niccolò
asked him who his father was. He answered, ‘Messer Andrea de’ Pazzi.’
When he was further asked what his pursuit was, Piero replied, as young
people are wont to do, ‘I enjoy myself’ (‘attendo a darmi buon tempo’).
Niccolò said to him, ‘As son of such a father, and so fair to look upon,
it is a shame that thou knowest nothing of the Latin language, which
would be so great an ornament to thee. If thou learnest it not, thou
wilt be good for nothing, and as soon as the flower of youth is over,
wilt be a man of no consequence’ (_virtù_). When Piero heard this, he
straightway perceived that it was true, and said that he would gladly
take pains to learn, if only he had a teacher. Whereupon Niccolò
answered that he would see to that. And he found him a learned man for
Latin and Greek, named Pontano, whom Piero treated as one of his own
house, and to whom he paid 100 gold florins a year. Quitting all the
pleasures in which he had hitherto lived, he studied day and night, and
became a friend of all learned men and a noble-minded statesman. He
learned by heart the whole ‘Æneid’ and many speeches of Livy, chiefly on
the way between Florence and his country house at Trebbio.[500]
Antiquity was represented in another and higher sense by Giannozzo
Manetti (1393-1459).[501] Precocious from his first years, he was
hardly more than a child when he had finished his apprenticeship in
commerce, and became book-keeper in a bank. But soon the life he led
seemed to him empty and perishable, and he began to yearn after science,
through which alone man can secure immortality. He then busied himself
with books as few laymen had done before him, and became, as has been
said (p. 209), one of the most profound scholars of his time. When
appointed by the government as its representative magistrate and
tax-collector at Pescia and Pistoja, he fulfilled his duties in
accordance with the lofty ideal with which his religious feeling and
humanistic studies combined to inspire him. He succeeded in collecting
the most unpopular taxes which the Florentine state imposed, and
declined payment for his services. As provincial governor he refused all
presents, abhorred all bribes, checked gambling, kept the country well
supplied with corn, required from his subordinates strict obedience and
thorough disinterestedness, was indefatigable in settling law-suits
amicably, and did wonders in calming inflamed passions by his goodness.
The Pistojese loved and reverenced him as a saint, and were never able
to discover to which of the two political parties he leaned; when his
term of office was over, both sent ambassadors to Florence to beg that
it might be prolonged. As if to symbolise the common rights and
interests of all, he spent his leisure hours in writing the history of
the city, which was preserved, bound in a purple cover, as a sacred
relic in the town-hall.[502] When he took his leave the city presented
him with a banner bearing the municipal arms and a splendid silver
helmet. On diplomatic missions to Venice, Rome, and King Alfonso,
Manetti represented, as at Pistoja, the interests of his native city,
watching vigilantly over its honour, but declining the distinctions
which were offered to him, obtained great glory by his speeches and
negotiations, and acquired by his prudence and foresight the name of a

For further information as to the learned citizens of Florence at this
period the reader must all the more be referred to Vespasiano, who knew
them all personally, because the tone and atmosphere in which he writes,
and the terms and conditions on which he mixed in their society, are of
even more importance than the facts which he records. Even in a
translation, and still more in the brief indications to which we are
here compelled to limit ourselves, this chief merit of his book is lost.
Without being a great writer, he was thoroughly familiar with the
subject he wrote on, and had a deep sense of its intellectual

If we seek to analyse the charm which the Medici of the fifteenth
century, especially Cosimo the Elder (d. 1464) and Lorenzo the
Magnificent (d. 1492) exercised over Florence and over all their
contemporaries, we shall find that it lay less in their political
capacity than in their leadership in the culture of the age. A man in
Cosimo’s position--a great merchant and party leader, who also had on
his side all the thinkers, writers, and investigators, a man who was the
first of the Florentines by birth and the first of the Italians by
culture--such a man was to all intents and purposes already a prince. To
Cosimo belongs the special glory of recognising in the Platonic
philosophy the fairest flower of the ancient world of thought,[503] of
inspiring his friends with the same belief, and thus of fostering within
humanistic circles themselves another and a higher resuscitation of
antiquity. The story is known to us minutely.[504] It all hangs on the
calling of the learned Johannes Argyropulos, and on the personal
enthusiasm of Cosimo himself in his last years, which was such, that the
great Marsilio Ficino could style himself, as far as Platonism was
concerned, the spiritual son of Cosimo. Under Pietro Medici, Ficino was
already at the head of a school; to him Pietro’s son and Cosimo’s
grandson, the illustrious Lorenzo, came over from the Peripatetics.
Among his most distinguished fellow-scholars were Bartolommeo Valori,
Donato Acciajuoli, and Pierfilippo Pandolfini. The enthusiastic teacher
declares in several passages of his writings that Lorenzo had sounded
all the depths of the Platonic philosophy, and had uttered his
conviction that without Plato it would be hard to be a good Christian or
a good citizen. The famous band of scholars which surrounded Lorenzo was
united together, and distinguished from all other circles of the kind,
by this passion for a higher and idealistic philosophy. Only in such a
world could a man like Pico della Mirandola feel happy. But perhaps the
best thing of all that can be said about it is, that, with all this
worship of antiquity, Italian poetry found here a sacred refuge, and
that of all the rays of light which streamed from the circle of which
Lorenzo was the centre, none was more powerful than this. As a
statesman, let each man judge him as he pleases; a foreigner will
hesitate to pronounce what was due to human guilt and what to
circumstances in the fate of Florence, but no more unjust charge was
ever made than that in the field of culture Lorenzo was the protector of
Mediocrity, that through his fault Lionardo da Vinci and the
mathematician Fra Luca Pacciolo lived abroad, and that Toscanella,
Vespucci, and others at least remained unsupported. He was not, indeed,
a man of universal mind; but of all the great men who have striven to
favour and promote spiritual interests, few certainly have been so
many-sided, and in none probably was the inward need to do so equally

The age in which we live is loud enough in proclaiming the worth of
culture, and especially of the culture of antiquity. But the
enthusiastic devotion to it, the recognition that the need of it is the
first and greatest of all needs, is nowhere to be found but among the
Florentines of the fifteenth and the early part of the sixteenth
centuries. On this point we have indirect proof which precludes all
doubt. It would not have been so common to give the daughters of the
house a share in the same studies, had they not been held to be the
noblest of earthly pursuits; exile would not have been turned into a
happy retreat, as was done by Palla Strozzi; nor would men who indulged
in every conceivable excess have retained the strength and the spirit to
write critical treatises on the ‘Natural History’ of Pliny like Filippo
Strozzi.[505] Our business here is not to deal out either praise or
blame, but to understand the spirit of the age in all its vigorous

Besides Florence, there were many cities of Italy where individuals and
social circles devoted all their energies to the support of humanism and
the protection of the scholars who lived among them. The correspondence
of that period is full of references to personal relations of this
kind.[506] The feeling of the instructed classes set strongly and almost
exclusively in this direction.

But it is now time to speak of humanism at the Italian courts. The
natural alliance between the despot and the scholar, each relying solely
on his personal talent, has already been touched upon (p. 9); that the
latter should avowedly prefer the princely courts to the free cities,
was only to be expected from the higher pay which they there received.
At a time when the great Alfonso of Aragon seemed likely to become
master of all Italy, Æneas Sylvius wrote to another citizen of
Siena:[507] ‘I had rather that Italy attained peace under his rule than
under that of the free cities, for kingly generosity rewards excellence
of every kind.[508] Too much stress has latterly been laid on the
unworthy side of this relation, and the mercenary flattery to which it
gave rise, just as formerly the eulogies of the humanists led to a too
favourable judgment on their patrons. Taking all things together, it is
greatly to the honour of the latter that they felt bound to place
themselves at the head of the culture of their age and country,
one-sided though this culture was. In some of the popes,[509] the
fearlessness of the consequences to which the new learning might lead
strikes us as something truly, but unconsciously, imposing. Nicholas V.
was confident of the future of the Church, since thousands of learned
men supported her. Pius II. was far from making such splendid sacrifices
for humanism as were made by Nicholas, and the poets who frequented his
court were few in number; but he himself was much more the personal head
of the republic of letters than his predecessor, and enjoyed his
position without the least misgiving. Paul II. was the first to dread
and mistrust the culture of his secretaries, and his three successors,
Sixtus, Innocent, and Alexander, accepted dedications and allowed
themselves to be sung to the hearts’ content of the poets--there even
existed a ‘Borgiad,’ probably in hexameters[510]--but were too busy
elsewhere, and too occupied in seeking other foundations for their
power, to trouble themselves much about the poet-scholars. Julius II.
found poets to eulogise him, because he himself was no mean subject for
poetry (p. 117), but he does not seem to have troubled himself much
about them. He was followed by Leo X., ‘as Romulus by Numa’--in other
words after the warlike turmoil of the first pontificate, a new one was
hoped for wholly given to the muses. The enjoyment of elegant Latin
prose and melodious verse was part of the programme of Leo’s life, and
his patronage certainly had the result that his Latin poets have left us
a living picture of that joyous and brilliant spirit of the Leonine
days, with which the biography of Jovius is filled, in countless
epigrams, elegies, odes, and orations.[511] Probably in all European
history there is no prince who, in proportion to the few striking events
of his life, has received such manifold homage. The poets had access to
him chiefly about noon, when the musicians had ceased playing;[512] but
one of the best among them[513] tells us how they also pursued him when
he walked in his garden or withdrew to the privacy of his chamber, and
if they failed to catch him there, would try to win him with a mendicant
ode or elegy, filled, as usual, with the whole population of
Olympus.[514] For Leo, prodigal of his money, and disliking to be
surrounded by any but cheerful faces, displayed a generosity in his
gifts which was fabulously exaggerated in the hard times that
followed.[515] His reorganisation of the Sapienza (p. 212) has been
already spoken of. In order not to underrate Leo’s influence on humanism
we must guard against being misled by the toy-work that was mixed up
with it, and must not allow ourselves to be deceived by the apparent
irony with which he himself sometimes treated these matters (p. 157).
Our judgment must rather dwell on the countless spiritual possibilities
which are included in the word ‘stimulus,’ and which, though they cannot
be measured as a whole, can still, on closer study, be actually followed
out in particular cases. Whatever influence in Europe the Italian
humanists have had since 1520 depends in some way or other on the
impulse which was given by Leo. He was the Pope who in granting
permission to print the newly found Tacitus,[516] could say that the
great writers were a rule of life and a consolation in misfortune; that
helping learned men and obtaining excellent books had ever been one of
his highest aims; and that he now thanked heaven that he could benefit
the human race by furthering the publication of this book.

The sack of Rome in the year 1527 scattered the scholars no less than
the artists in every direction, and spread the fame of the great
departed Mæcenas to the furthest boundaries of Italy.

Among the secular princes of the fifteenth century, none displayed such
enthusiasm for antiquity as Alfonso the Great of Aragon, King of Naples
(see p. 35). It appears that his zeal was thoroughly unaffected, and
that the monuments and writings of the ancient world made upon him, from
the time of his arrival in Italy, an impression deep and powerful enough
to reshape his life. Possibly he was influenced by the example of his
ancestor Robert, Petrarch’s great patron, whom he may have wished to
rival or surpass. With strange readiness he surrendered the stubborn
Aragon to his brother, and devoted himself wholly to his new
possessions. He had in his service,[517] either successively or
together, George of Trebizond, the younger Chrysoloras, Lorenzo Valla,
Bartolommeo Facio and Antonio Panormita, of whom the two latter were his
historians; Panormita daily instructed the King and his court in Livy,
even during military expeditions. These men cost him yearly 20,000 gold
florins. He gave Panormita 1,000 for his work: Facio received for the
‘Historia Alfonsi,’ besides a yearly income of 500 ducats, a present of
1,500 more when it was finished, with the words, ‘It is not given to pay
you, for your work would not be paid for if I gave you the fairest of my
cities; but in time I hope to satisfy you.’[518] When he took Giannozzo
Manetti as his secretary on the most brilliant conditions, he said to
him, ‘My last crust I will share with you.’ When Giannozzo first came to
bring the congratulations of the Florentine government on the marriage
of Prince Ferrante, the impression he made was so great, that the King
sat motionless on the throne, ‘like a brazen statue, and did not even
brush away a fly, which had settled on his nose at the beginning of the
oration.’ In restoring the castle, he took Vitruvius as his guide;
wherever he went, he had the ancient classics with him; he looked on a
day as lost in which he had read nothing; when he was reading, he
suffered no disturbance, not even the sound of music; and he despised
all contemporary princes who were not either scholars or the patrons of
learning. His favourite haunt seems to have been the library of the
castle at Naples, which he opened himself if the librarian was absent,
and where he would sit at a window overlooking the bay, and listen to
learned debates on the Trinity. For he was profoundly religious, and had
the Bible, as well as Livy and Seneca, read to him, till after fourteen
perusals he knew it almost by heart. He gave to those who wished to be
nuns the money for their entrance to the monastery, was a zealous
churchgoer, and listened with great attention to the sermon. Who can
fully understand the feeling with which he regarded the supposititious
remains (p. 143) of Livy at Padua? When, by dint of great entreaties, he
obtained an arm-bone of the skeleton from the Venetians, and received it
with solemn pomp at Naples, how strangely Christian and pagan sentiment
must have been blended in his heart! During a campaign in the Abruzzi,
when the distant Sulmona, the birthplace of Ovid, was pointed out to
him, he saluted the spot and returned thanks to its tutelary genius. It
gladdened him to make good the prophecy of the great poet as to his
future fame.[519] Once indeed, at his famous entry into the conquered
city of Naples (1443), he himself chose to appear before the world in
ancient style. Not far from the market a breach forty ells wide was made
in the wall, and through this he drove in a gilded chariot like a Roman
Triumphator.[520] The memory of the scene is preserved by a noble
triumphal arch of marble in the Castello Nuovo. His Neapolitan
successors (p. 37) inherited as little of this passion for antiquity as
of his other good qualities.

Alfonso was far surpassed in learning by Frederick of Urbino[521]--the
great pupil of the great teacher Vittorino da Feltre--who had but few
courtiers around him, squandered nothing, and in his appropriation of
antiquity, as in all other things, went to work considerately. It was
for him and for Nicholas V. that most of the translations from the
Greek, and a number of the best commentaries and other such works, were
written. He spent much on the scholars whose services he used, but spent
it to good purpose. There were no traces of the official poet at Urbino,
where the Duke himself was the most learned in the whole court.
Classical antiquity, indeed, only formed a part of his culture. An
accomplished ruler, captain, and gentleman, he had mastered the greater
part of the science of the day, and this with a view to its practical
application. As a theologian, he was able to compare Scotus with
Aquinas, and was familiar with the writings of the old fathers of the
Eastern and Western Churches, the former in Latin translations. In
philosophy, he seems to have left Plato altogether to his contemporary
Cosimo, but he knew thoroughly not only the ‘Ethics’ and ‘Politics’ of
Aristotle but the ‘Physics’ and some other works. The rest of his
reading lay chiefly among the ancient historians, all of whom he
possessed; these, and not the poets, ‘he was always reading and having
read to him.’

The Sforza,[522] too, were all of them men of more or less learning and
patrons of literature; they have been already referred to in passing
(pp. 38 sqq.). Duke Francesco probably looked on humanistic culture as a
matter of course in the education of his children, if only for
political reasons. It was felt universally to be an advantage if the
Prince could mix with the most instructed men of his time on an equal
footing. Ludovico Moro, himself an excellent Latin scholar, showed an
interest in intellectual matters which extended far beyond classical
antiquity (p. 41 sqq.).

Even the petty despots strove after similar distinctions, and we do them
injustice by thinking that they only supported the scholars at their
courts as a means of diffusing their own fame. A ruler like Borso of
Ferrara (p. 49), with all his vanity, seems by no means to have looked
for immortality from the poets, eager as they were to propitiate him
with a ‘Borseid’ and the like. He had far too proud a sense of his own
position as a ruler for that. But intercourse with learned men, interest
in antiquarian matters, and the passion for elegant Latin correspondence
were a necessity for the princes of that age. What bitter complaints are
those of Duke Alfonso, competent as he was in practical matters, that
his weakliness in youth had forced him to seek recreation in manual
pursuits only![523] or was this merely an excuse to keep the humanists
at a distance? A nature like his was not intelligible even to

Even the most insignificant despots of Romagna found it hard to do
without one or two men of letters about them. The tutor and secretary
were often one and the same person, who sometimes, indeed, acted as a
kind of court factotum.[524] We are apt to treat the small scale of
these courts as a reason for dismissing them with a too ready contempt,
forgetting that the highest spiritual things are not precisely matters
of measurement.

Life and manners at the court of Rimini must have been a singular
spectacle under the bold pagan Condottiere Sigismondo Malatesta. He had
a number of scholars around him, some of whom he provided for liberally,
even giving them landed estates, while others earned at least a
livelihood as officers in his army.[525] In his citadel--‘arx
Sismundea’--they used to hold discussions, often of a very venomous
kind, in the presence of the ‘rex,’ as they termed him. In their Latin
poems they sing his praises and celebrate his amour with the fair
Isotta, in whose honour and as whose monument the famous rebuilding of
San Francesco at Rimini took place--‘Divæ Isottæ Sacrum.’ When the
humanists themselves came to die, they were laid in or under the
sarcophagi with which the niches of the outside walls of the church were
adorned, with an inscription testifying that they were laid here at the
time when Sigismundus, the son of Pandulfus, ruled.[526] It is hard for
us nowadays to believe that a monster like this prince felt learning and
the friendship of cultivated people to be a necessity of life; and yet
the man who excommunicated him, made war upon him, and burnt him in
effigy, Pope Pius II., says: ‘Sigismund knew history and had a great
store of philosophy; he seemed born to all that he undertook.[527]



There were two purposes, however, for which the humanist was as
indispensable to the republics as to princes or popes, namely, the
official correspondence of the state, and the making of speeches on
public and solemn occasions.

Not only was the secretary required to be a competent Latinist, but
conversely, only a humanist was credited with the knowledge and ability
necessary for the post of secretary. And thus the greatest men in the
sphere of science during the fifteenth century mostly devoted a
considerable part of their lives to serve the state in this capacity. No
importance was attached to a man’s home or origin. Of the four great
Florentine secretaries who filled the office between 1427 and 1465,[528]
three belonged to the subject city of Arezzo, namely, Lionardo (Bruni),
Carlo (Marsuppini), and Benedetto Accolti; Poggio was from Terra Nuova,
also in Florentine territory. For a long period, indeed, many of the
highest officers of state were on principle given to foreigners.
Lionardo, Poggio, and Giannozzo Manetti were at one time or another
private secretaries to the popes, and Carlo Aretino was to have been so.
Blondus of Forli, and, in spite of everything, at last even Lorenzo
Valla, filled the same office. From the time of Nicholas V. and Pius II.
onwards,[529] the Papal chancery continued more and more to attract the
ablest men, and this was still the case even under the last popes of
the fifteenth century, little as they cared for letters. In Platina’s
‘History of the Popes,’ the life of Paul II. is a charming piece of
vengeance taken by a humanist on the one Pope who did not know how to
behave to his chancery--to that circle ‘of poets and orators who
bestowed on the Papal court as much glory as they received from it.’ It
is delightful to see the indignation of these haughty and wealthy
gentlemen, who knew as well as the Pope himself how to use their
position to plunder foreigners,[530] when some squabble about precedence
happened, when, for instance, the ‘Advocati consistoriales’ claimed
equal or superior rank to theirs.[531] The Apostle John, to whom the
‘Secreta cœlestia’ were revealed; the secretary of Porsenna, whom Mucius
Scævola mistook for the king; Mæcenas, who was private secretary to
Augustus; the archbishops, who in Germany were called chancellors, are
all appealed to in turn.[532] ‘The apostolic secretaries have the most
weighty business of the world in their hands. For who but they decide on
matters of the Catholic faith, who else combat heresy, re-establish
peace, and mediate between great monarchs? who but they write the
statistical accounts of Christendom? It is they who astonish kings,
princes, and nations by what comes forth from the Pope. They write
commands and instructions for the legates, and receive their orders only
from the Pope, on whom they wait day and night.’ But the highest summit
of glory was only attained by the two famous secretaries and stylists of
Leo X.: Pietro Bembo and Jacopo Sadoleto.[533]

All the chanceries did not turn out equally elegant documents. A
leathern official style, in the impurest of Latin, was very common. In
the Milanese documents preserved by Corio there is a remarkable contrast
between this sort of composition and the few letters written by members
of the princely house, which must have been written, too, in moments of
critical importance.[534] They are models of pure Latinity. To maintain
a faultless style under all circumstances was a rule of good breeding,
and a result of habit. Besides these officials, private scholars of all
kinds naturally had correspondence of their own. The object of
letter-writing was seldom what it is nowadays, to give information as to
the circumstances of the writer, or news of other people; it was rather
treated as a literary work done to give evidence of scholarship and to
win the consideration of those to whom it was addressed. These letters
began early to serve the purpose of learned disquisition; and Petrarch,
who introduced this form of letter-writing, revived the forms of the old
epistolary style, putting the classical ‘thou’ in place of the ‘you’ of
mediæval Latin. At a later period letters became collections of
neatly-turned phrases, by which subjects were encouraged or humiliated,
colleagues flattered or insulted, and patrons eulogised or begged

The letters of Cicero, Pliny, and others, were at this time diligently
studied as models. As early as the fifteenth century a mass of forms and
instructions for Latin correspondence had appeared, as accessory to the
great grammatical and lexicographic works, the mass of which is
astounding to us even now when we look at them in the libraries. But
just as the existence of these helps tempted many to undertake a task to
which they had no vocation, so were the really capable men stimulated to
a more faultless excellence, till at length the letters of Politian, and
at the beginning of the sixteenth century those of Pietro Bembo,
appeared, and took their place as unrivalled masterpieces, not only of
Latin style in general, but also of the more special art of

Together with these there appeared in the sixteenth century the
classical style of Italian correspondence, at the head of which stands
Bembo again.[536] Its form is wholly modern, and deliberately kept free
from Latin influence, and yet its spirit is thoroughly penetrated and
possessed by the ideas of antiquity. These letters, though partly of a
confidential nature, are mostly written with a view to possible
publication in the future, and always on the supposition that they might
be worth showing on account of their elegance. After the year 1530,
printed collections began to appear, either the letters of miscellaneous
correspondents in irregular succession, or of single writers; and the
same Bembo whose fame was so great as a Latin correspondent won as high
a position in his own language.[537]

But, at a time and among a people where ‘listening’ was among the chief
pleasures of life, and where every imagination was filled with the
memory of the Roman senate and its great speakers, the orator occupied a
far more brilliant place than the letter-writer.[538] Eloquence had
shaken off the influence of the Church, in which it had found a refuge
during the Middle Ages, and now became an indispensable element and
ornament of all elevated lives. Many of the social hours which are now
filled with music were then given to Latin or Italian oratory; and yet
Bartolommeo Fazio complained that the orators of his time were at a
disadvantage compared with those of antiquity; of three kinds of oratory
which were open to the latter, one only was left to the former, since
forensic oratory was abandoned to the jurists, and the speeches in the
councils of the government had to be delivered in Italian.[539]

The social position of the speaker was a matter of perfect indifference;
what was desired was simply the most cultivated humanistic talent. At
the court of Borso of Ferrara, the Duke’s physician, Jeronimo da
Castello, was chosen to deliver the congratulatory address on the visits
of Frederick III. and of Pius II.[540] Married laymen ascended the
pulpits of the churches at any scene of festivity or mourning, and even
on the feast-days of the saints. It struck the non-Italian members of
the Council of Basel as something strange, that the Archbishop of Milan
should summon Æneas Sylvius, who was then unordained, to deliver a
public discourse at the feast of Saint Ambrogius; but they suffered it
in spite of the murmurs of the theologians, and listened to the speaker
with the greatest curiosity.[541]

Let us glance for a moment at the most frequent and important occasions
of public speaking.

It was not for nothing, in the first place, that the ambassadors from
one state to another received the title of orators. Whatever else might
be done in the way of secret negotiation, the envoy never failed to make
a public appearance and deliver a public speech, under circumstances of
the greatest possible pomp and ceremony.[542] As a rule, however
numerous the embassy might be, one individual spake for all; but it
happened to Pius II., a critic before whom all were glad to be heard, to
be forced to sit and listen to a whole deputation, one after
another.[543] Learned princes who had the gift of speech were themselves
fond of discoursing in Latin or Italian. The children of the House of
Sforza were trained to this exercise. The boy Galeazzo Maria delivered
in 1455 a fluent speech before the Great Council at Venice,[544] and his
sister Ippolita saluted Pope Pius II. with a graceful address at the
Congress of Mantua.[545] Pius himself through all his life did much by
his oratory to prepare the way for his final elevation to the Papal
chair. Great as he was both as scholar and diplomatist, he would
probably never have become Pope without the fame and the charm of his
eloquence. ‘For nothing was more lofty than the dignity of his
oratory.’[546] Without doubt this was a reason why multitudes held him
to be the fittest man for the office, even before his election.

Princes were also commonly received on public occasions with speeches,
which sometimes lasted for hours. This happened of course only when the
prince was known as a lover of eloquence,[547] or wished to pass for
such, and when a competent speaker was present, whether university
professor, official, ecclesiastic, physician, or court-scholar.

Every other political opportunity was seized with the same eagerness,
and according to the reputation of the speaker, the concourse of the
lovers of culture was great or small. At the yearly change of public
officers, and even at the consecration of new bishops, a humanist was
sure to come forward, and sometimes addressed his audience in hexameters
or Sapphic verses.[548] Often a newly appointed official was himself
forced to deliver a speech more or less relevant to his department, as
for instance, on justice; and lucky for him if he were well up in his
part! At Florence even the Condottieri, whatever their origin or
education might be, were compelled to accommodate themselves to the
popular sentiment, and on receiving the insignia of their office, were
harangued before the assembled people by the most learned secretary of
state.[549] It seems that beneath or close to the Loggia dei Lanzi--the
porch where the government was wont to appear solemnly before the
people--a tribune or platform (_rostra ringhiera_) was erected for such

Anniversaries, especially those of the death of princes, were commonly
celebrated by memorial speeches. Even the funeral oration strictly
so-called was generally entrusted to a humanist, who delivered it in
church, clothed in a secular dress; nor was it only princes, but
officials, or persons otherwise distinguished, to whom this honour was
paid.[550] This was also the case with the speeches delivered at
weddings or betrothals, with the difference that they seem to have been
made in the palace, instead of in church, like that of Filelfo at the
betrothal of Anna Sforza with Alfonso of Este in the castle of Milan. It
is still possible that the ceremony may have taken place in the chapel
of the castle. Private families of distinction no doubt also employed
such wedding orators as one of the luxuries of high life. At Ferrara,
Guarino was requested on these occasions to send some one or other of
his pupils.[551] The church simply took charge of the religious
ceremonies at weddings and funerals.

The academical speeches, both those made at the installation of a new
teacher and at the opening of a new course of lectures,[552] were
delivered by the professor himself, and treated as occasions of great
rhetorical display. The ordinary university lectures also usually had an
oratorical character.[553]

With regard to forensic eloquence, the quality of the audience
determined the form of speech. In case of need it was enriched with all
sorts of philosophical and antiquarian learning.

As a special class of speeches we may mention the addresses made in
Italian on the battle-field, either before or after the combat.
Frederick of Urbino[554] was esteemed a classic in this style; he used
to pass round among his squadrons as they stood drawn up in order of
battle, inspiring them in turn with pride and enthusiasm. Many of the
speeches in the military historians of the fifteenth century, as for
instance in Porcellius (p. 99), may be, in fact at least, imaginary, but
may be also in part faithful representations of words actually spoken.
The addresses again which were delivered to the Florentine Militia,[555]
organised in 1506 chiefly through the influence of Macchiavelli, and
which were spoken first at reviews, and afterwards at special annual
festivals, were of another kind. They were simply general appeals to the
patriotism of the hearers, and were addressed to the assembled troops in
the church of each quarter of the city by a citizen in armour, sword in

Finally, the oratory of the pulpit began in the fifteenth century to
lose its distinctive peculiarities. Many of the clergy had entered into
the circle of classical culture, and were ambitious of success in it.
The street-preacher Bernardino da Siena, who even in his lifetime passed
for a saint and who was worshipped by the populace, was not above taking
lessons in rhetoric from the famous Guarino, although he had only to
preach in Italian. Never indeed was more expected from preachers than at
that time--especially from the Lenten preachers; and there were not a
few audiences which could not only tolerate, but which demanded a strong
dose of philosophy from the pulpit.[556] But we have here especially to
speak of the distinguished occasional preachers in Latin. Many of their
opportunities had been taken away from them, as has been observed, by
learned laymen. Speeches on particular saints’ days, at weddings and
funerals, or at the installation of a bishop, and even the introductory
speech at the first mass of a clerical friend, or the address at the
festival of some religious order, were all left to laymen.[557] But at
all events at the Papal court in the fifteenth century, whatever the
occasion might be, the preachers were generally monks. Under Sixtus IV.,
Giacomo da Volterra regularly enumerates these preachers, and criticises
them according to the rules of the art.[558] Fedra Inghirami, famous as
an orator under Julius II., had at least received holy orders and was
canon at St. John Lateran; and besides him, elegant Latinists were now
common enough among the prelates. In this matter, as in others, the
exaggerated privileges of the profane humanists appear lessened in the
sixteenth century--on which point we shall presently speak more fully.

What now was the subject and general character of these speeches? The
national gift of eloquence was not wanting to the Italians of the Middle
Ages, and a so-called ‘rhetoric’ belonged from the first to the seven
liberal arts; but so far as the revival of the ancient methods is
concerned, this merit must be ascribed, according to Filippo
Villani,[559] to the Florentine Bruno Casini, who died of the plague in
1348. With the practical purpose of fitting his countrymen to speak with
ease and effect in public, he treated, after the pattern of the
ancients, invention, declamation, bearing, and gesticulation, each in
its proper connection. Elsewhere too we read of an oratorical training
directed solely to practical application. No accomplishment was more
highly esteemed than the power of elegant improvisation in Latin.[560]
The growing study of Cicero’s speeches and theoretical writings, of
Quintilian and of the imperial panegyrists, the appearance of new and
original treatises,[561] the general progress of antiquarian learning,
and the stores of ancient matter and thought which now could and must
be drawn from--all combined to shape the character of the new eloquence.

This character nevertheless differed widely according to the individual.
Many speeches breathe a spirit of true eloquence, especially those which
keep to the matter treated of; of this kind is the mass of what is left
to us of Pius II. The miraculous effects produced by Giannozzo
Manetti[562] point to an orator the like of whom has not been often
seen. His great audiences as envoy before Nicholas V. and before the
Doge and Council of Venice were events not to be soon forgotten. Many
orators, on the contrary, would seize the opportunity, not only to
flatter the vanity of distinguished hearers, but to load their speeches
with an enormous mass of antiquarian rubbish. How it was possible to
endure this infliction for two and even three hours, can only be
understood when we take into account the intense interest then felt in
everything connected with antiquity, and the rarity and defectiveness of
treatises on the subject at a time when printing was but little
diffused. Such orations had at least the value which we have claimed (p.
232) for many of Petrarch’s letters. But some speakers went too far.
Most of Filelfo’s speeches are an atrocious patchwork of classical and
biblical quotations, tacked on to a string of commonplaces, among which
the great people he wishes to flatter are arranged under the head of the
cardinal virtues, or some such category, and it is only with the
greatest trouble, in his case and in that of many others, that we can
extricate the few historical notices of value which they really contain.
The speech, for instance, of a scholar and professor of Piacenza at the
reception of the Duke Galeazzo Maria, in 1467, begins with Julius Cæsar,
then proceeds to mix up a mass of classical quotations with a number
from an allegorical work by the speaker himself, and concludes with
some exceedingly indiscreet advice to the ruler.[563] Fortunately it was
late at night, and the orator had to be satisfied with handing his
written panegyric to the prince. Filelfo begins a speech at a betrothal
with the words: ‘Aristotle, the peripatetic.’ Others start with P.
Cornelius Scipio, and the like, as though neither they nor their hearers
could wait a moment for a quotation. At the end of the fifteenth century
public taste suddenly improved, chiefly through Florentine influence,
and the practice of quotation was restricted within due limits. Many
works of reference were now in existence, in which the first comer could
find as much as he wanted of what had hitherto been the admiration of
princes and people.

As most of the speeches were written out beforehand in the study, the
manuscripts served as a means of further publicity afterwards. The great
extemporaneous speakers, on the other hand, were attended by shorthand
writers.[564] We must further remember, that all the orations which have
come down to us were not intended to be actually delivered. The
panegyric, for example, of the elder Beroaldus on Ludovico Moro was
presented to him in manuscript.[565] In fact, just as letters were
written addressed to all conceivable persons and parts of the world as
exercises, as formularies, or even to serve a controversial end, so
there were speeches for imaginary occasions[566] to be used as models
for the reception of princes, bishops, and other dignitaries.

For oratory, as for the other arts, the death of Leo X. (1521) and the
sack of Rome (1527) mark the epoch of decadence. Giovio,[567] but just
escaped from the desolation of the eternal city, describes, not
exhaustively, but on the whole truly, the causes of this decline.

‘The plays of Plautus and Terence, once a school of Latin style for the
educated Romans, are banished to make room for Italian comedies.
Graceful speakers no longer find the recognition and reward which they
once did. The Consistorial advocates no longer prepare anything but the
introductions to their speeches, and deliver the rest--a confused
muddle--on the inspiration of the moment. Sermons and occasional
speeches have sunk to the same level. If a funeral oration is wanted for
a cardinal or other great personage, the executors do not apply to the
best orators in the city, to whom they would have to pay a hundred
pieces of gold, but they hire for a trifle the first impudent pedant
whom they come across, and who only wants to be talked of whether for
good or ill. The dead, they say, is none the wiser if an ape stands in a
black dress in the pulpit, and beginning with a hoarse, whimpering
mumble, passes little by little into a loud howling. Even the sermons
preached at great papal ceremonies are no longer profitable, as they
used to be. Monks of all orders have again got them into their hands,
and preach as if they were speaking to the mob. Only a few years ago a
sermon at mass before the Pope, might easily lead the way to a



From the oratory and the epistolary writings of the humanists, we shall
here pass on to their other creations, which were all, to a greater or
less extent, reproductions of antiquity.

Among these must be placed the treatise, which often took the shape of a
dialogue.[568] In this case it was borrowed directly from Cicero. In
order to do anything like justice to this class of literature--in order
not to throw it aside at first sight as a bore--two things must be taken
into consideration. The century which escaped from the influence of the
Middle Ages felt the need of something to mediate between itself and
antiquity in many questions of morals and philosophy; and this need was
met by the writer of treatises and dialogues. Much which appears to us
as mere commonplace in their writings, was for them and their
contemporaries a new and hardly-won view of things upon which mankind
had been silent since the days of antiquity. The language too, in this
form of writing, whether Italian or Latin, moved more freely and
flexibly than in historical narrative, in letters, or in oratory, and
thus became in itself the source of a special pleasure. Several Italian
compositions of this kind still hold their place as patterns of style.
Many of these works have been, or will be mentioned on account of their
contents; we here refer to them as a class. From the time of Petrarch’s
letters and treatises down to near the end of the fifteenth century, the
heaping up of learned quotations, as in the case of the orators, is the
main business oi most of these writers. The whole style, especially in
Italian, was then suddenly clarified, till, in the ‘Asolani,’ of Bembo,
and the ‘Vita Sobria,’ of Luigi Cornaro,[569] a classical perfection was
reached. Here too the decisive fact was, that antiquarian matter of
every kind had meantime begun to be deposited in encyclopædic works (now
printed), and no longer stood in the way of the essayist.

It was inevitable too that the humanistic spirit should control the
writing of history. A superficial comparison of the histories of this
period with the earlier chronicles, especially with works so full of
life, colour, and brilliancy as those of the Villani, will lead us
loudly to deplore the change. How insipid and conventional appear by
their side the best of the humanists, and particularly their immediate
and most famous successors among the historians of Florence, Lionardo
Aretino and Poggio![570] The enjoyment of the reader is incessantly
marred by the sense that, in the classical phrases of Facius,
Sabellicus, Folieta, Senarega, Platina in the chronicles of Mantua,
Bembo in the annals of Venice, and even of Giovio in his histories, the
best local and individual colouring and the full sincerity of interest
in the truth of events have been lost. Our mistrust is increased when we
hear that Livy, the pattern of this school of writers, was copied just
where he is least worthy of imitation--on the ground, namely,[571] ‘that
he turned a dry and naked tradition into grace and richness.’ In the
same place we meet with the suspicious declaration, that it is the
function of the historian--just as if he were one with the poet--to
excite, charm, or overwhelm the reader. We must further remember that
many humanistic historians knew but little of what happened outside
their own sphere, and this little they were often compelled to adapt to
the taste of their patrons and employers. We ask ourselves finally,
whether the contempt for modern things, which these same humanists
sometimes avowed openly[572] must not necessarily have had an
unfortunate influence on their treatment of them. Unconsciously the
reader finds himself looking with more interest and confidence on the
unpretending Latin and Italian annalists, like those of Bologna and
Ferrara, who remained true to the old style, and still more grateful
does he feel to the best of the genuine chroniclers who wrote in
Italian--to Marin Sanudo, Corio, and Infessura--who were followed at the
beginning of the sixteenth century by that new and illustrious band of
great national historians who wrote in their mother tongue.

Contemporary history, no doubt, was written far better in the language
of the day than when forced into Latin. Whether Italian was also more
suitable for the narrative of events long past, or for historical
research, is a question which admits, for that period, of more answers
than one. Latin was, at that time, the ‘Lingua franca’ of instructed
people, not only in an international sense, as a means of intercourse
between Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Italians, but also in an
interprovincial sense. The Lombard, the Venetian, and the Neapolitan
modes of writing, though long modelled on the Tuscan, and bearing but
slight traces of the dialect, were still not recognised by the
Florentines. This was of less consequence in local contemporary
histories, which were sure of readers at the place where they were
written, than in the narratives of the past, for which a larger public
was desired. In these the local interests of the people had to be
sacrificed to the general interests of the learned. How far would the
influence of a man like Blondus of Forli have reached if he had written
his great monuments of learning in the dialect of the Romagna? They
would have assuredly sunk into neglect, if only through the contempt of
the Florentines, while written in Latin they exercised the profoundest
influence on the whole European world of learning. And even the
Florentines in the fifteenth century wrote Latin, not only because their
minds were imbued with humanism, but in order to be more widely read.

Finally, there exist certain Latin essays in contemporary history, which
stand on a level with the best Italian works of the kind. When the
continuous narrative after the manner of Livy--that Procrustean bed of
so many writers--is abandoned, the change is marvellous. The same
Platina and Giovio, whose great histories we only read because and so
far as we must, suddenly come forward as masters in the biographical
style. We have already spoken of Tristan Caracciolo, of the biographical
works of Facius and of the Venetian topography of Sabellico, and others
will be mentioned in the sequel. Historical composition, like letters
and oratory, soon had its theory. Following the example of Cicero, it
proclaims with pride the worth and dignity of history, boldly claims
Moses and the Evangelists as simple historians, and concludes with
earnest exhortations to strict impartiality and love of truth.[573]

The Latin treatises on past history were naturally concerned, for the
most part, with classical antiquity. What we are more surprised to find
among these humanists are some considerable works on the history of the
Middle Ages. The first of this kind was the chronicle of Matteo Palmieri
(449-1449), beginning where Prosper Aquitanus ceases, the style of which
was certainly an offence to later critics like Paolo Cortese. On opening
the ‘Decades’ of Blondus of Forli, we are surprised to find a universal
history, ‘ab inclinatione Romanorum imperii,’ as in Gibbon, full of
original studies on the authors of each century, and occupied, through
the first 300 folio pages, with early mediæval history down to the death
of Frederick II. And this when in Northern countries nothing more was
wanted than chronicles of the popes and emperors, and the ‘Fasciculus
temporum.’ We cannot here stay to show what writings Blondus made use
of, and where he found his materials, though this justice will some day
be done to him by the historians of literature. This book alone would
entitle us to say that it was the study of antiquity which made the
study of the Middle Ages possible, by first training the mind to habits
of impartial historical criticism. To this must be added, that the
Middle Ages were now over for Italy, and that the Italian mind could the
better appreciate them, because it stood outside them. It cannot,
nevertheless, be said that it at once judged them fairly, and still less
that it judged them with piety. In art a fixed prejudice showed itself
against all that those centuries had created, and the humanists date the
new era from the time of their own appearance. ‘I begin,’ says
Boccaccio,[574] ‘to hope and believe that God has had mercy on the
Italian name, since I see that His infinite goodness puts souls into the
breasts of the Italians like those of the ancients--souls which seek
fame by other means than robbery and violence, but rather, on the path
of poetry, which makes men immortal.’ But this narrow and unjust temper
did not preclude investigation in the minds of the more gifted men, at a
time, too, when elsewhere in Europe any such investigation would have
been out of the question. A historical criticism[575] of the Middle Ages
was practicable, just because the rational treatment of all subjects by
the humanists had trained the historical spirit. In the fifteenth
century this spirit had so far penetrated the history even of the
individual cities of Italy, that the stupid fairy tales about the origin
of Florence, Venice, and Milan vanished, while at the same time, and
long after, the chronicles of the North were stuffed with this fantastic
rubbish, destitute for the most part of all poetical value, and invented
as late as the fourteenth century.

The close connection between local history and the sentiment of glory
has already been touched on in reference to Florence (part i. chap.
vii.). Venice would not be behind-hand. Just as a great rhetorical
triumph of the Florentines[576] would cause a Venetian embassy to write
home post-haste for an orator to be sent after them, so too the
Venetians felt the need of a history which would bear comparison with
those of Lionardo Aretino and Poggio. And it was to satisfy this
feeling that, in the fifteenth century, after negotiations with Giovanni
Maria Filelfo and others had failed, the ‘Decades’ of Sabellico
appeared, and in the sixteenth the ‘Historia rerum Venetarum’ of Pietro
Bembo, both written at the express charge of the republic, the latter a
continuation of the former.

The great Florentine historians at the beginning of the sixteenth
century (pp. 81 sqq.) were men of a wholly different kind from the
Latinists Bembo and Giovio. They wrote Italian, not only because they
could not vie with the Ciceronian elegance of the philologists, but
because, like Macchiavelli, they could only record in a living tongue
the living results of their own immediate observations--and we may add
in the case of Macchiavelli, of his observation of the past--and
because, as in the case of Guicciardini, Varchi, and many others, what
they most desired was, that their view of the course of events should
have as wide and deep a practical effect as possible. Even when they
only write for a few friends, like Francesco Vettori, they feel an
inward need to utter their testimony on men and events, and to explain
and justify their share in the latter.

And yet, with all that is characteristic in their language and style,
they were powerfully affected by antiquity, and, without its influence,
would be inconceivable. They were not humanists, but they had passed
through the school of humanism, and they have in them more of the spirit
of the ancient historians than most of the imitators of Livy. Like the
ancients, they were citizens who wrote for citizens.



We cannot attempt to trace the influence of humanism in the special
sciences. Each has its own history, in which the Italian investigators
of this period, chiefly through their rediscovery of the results
attained by antiquity,[577] mark a new epoch, with which the modern
period of the science in question begins with more or less distinctness.
With regard to philosophy, too, we must refer the reader to the special
historical works on the subject. The influence of the old philosophers
on Italian culture will appear at times immense, at times
inconsiderable; the former, when we consider how the doctrines of
Aristotle, chiefly drawn from the Ethics[578] and Politics--both widely
diffused at an early period--became the common property of educated
Italians, and how the whole method of abstract thought was governed by
him;[579] the latter, when we remember how slight was the dogmatic
influence of the old philosophies, and even of the enthusiastic
Florentine Platonists, on the spirit of the people at large. What looks
like such an influence is generally no more than a consequence of the
new culture in general, and of the special growth and development of the
Italian mind. When we come to speak of religion, we shall have more to
say on this head. But in by far the greater number of cases, we have to
do, not with the general culture of the people, but with the utterances
of individuals or of learned circles; and here, too, a distinction must
be drawn between the true assimilation of ancient doctrines and
fashionable make-believe. For with many antiquity was only a fashion,
even among very learned people.

Nevertheless, all that looks like affectation to our age, need not then
have been actually so. The giving of Greek and Latin names to children,
for example, is better and more respectable than the present practice of
taking them, especially the female names, from novels. When the
enthusiasm for the ancient world was greater than for the saints, it was
simple and natural enough that noble families called their sons
Agamemnon, Tydeus, and Achilles,[580] and that a painter named his son
Apelles and his daughter Minerva.[581] Nor will it appear unreasonable
that, instead of a family name, which people were often glad to get rid
of, a well-sounding ancient name was chosen. A local name, shared by all
residents in the place, and not yet transformed into a family name, was
willingly given up, especially when its religious associations made it
inconvenient; Filippo da San Gemignano called himself Callimachus. The
man, misunderstood and insulted by his family, who made his fortune as a
scholar in foreign cities, could afford, even if he were a Sanseverino,
to change his name to Julius Pomponius Laetus. Even the simple
translation of a name into Latin or Greek, as was almost uniformly the
custom in Germany, may be excused to a generation which spoke and wrote
Latin, and which needed names that could be not only declined, but used
with facility in verse and prose. What was blameworthy and ridiculous
was, the change of half a name, baptismal or family, to give it a
classical sound and a new sense. Thus Giovanni was turned into Jovianus
or Janus, Pietro to Petreius or Pierius, Antonio to Aonius, Sannazzaro
to Syncerus, Luca Grasso to Lucius Crassus. Ariosto, who speaks with
such derision of all this,[582] lived to see children called after his
own heroes and heroines.[583]

Nor must we judge too severely the Latinisation of many usages of social
life, such as the titles of officials, of ceremonies, and the like, in
the writers of the period. As long as people were satisfied with a
simple, fluent Latin style, as was the case with most writers from
Petrarch to Æneas Sylvius, this practice was not so frequent and
striking; it became inevitable when a faultless, Ciceronian Latin was
demanded. Modern names and things no longer harmonised with the style,
unless they were first artificially changed. Pedants found a pleasure in
addressing municipal counsellors as ‘Patres Conscripti,’ nuns as
‘Virgines Vestales,’ and entitling every saint ‘Divus’ or ‘Deus;’ but
men of better taste, such as Paolo Giovio, only did so when and because
they could not help it. But as Giovio does it naturally, and lays no
special stress upon it, we are not offended if, in his melodious
language, the cardinals appear as ‘Senatores,’ their dean as ‘Princeps
Senatus,’ excommunication as ‘Dirae,’[584] and the carnival as
‘Lupercalia.’ This example of this author alone is enough to warn us
against drawing a hasty inference from these peculiarities of style as
to the writer’s whole mode of thinking.

The history of Latin composition cannot here be traced in detail. For
fully two centuries the humanists acted as if Latin were, and must
remain, the only language worthy to be written. Poggio[585] deplores
that Dante wrote his great poem in Italian; and Dante, as is well known,
actually made the attempt in Latin, and wrote the beginning of the
‘Inferno’ first in hexameters. The whole future of Italian poetry hung
on his not continuing in the same style,[586] but even Petrarch relied
more on his Latin poetry than on the Sonnets and ‘Canzoni,’ and Ariosto
himself was desired by some to write his poem in Latin. A stronger
coercion never existed in literature;[587] but poetry shook it off for
the most part, and it may be said, without the risk of too great
optimism, that it was well for Italian poetry to have had both means of
expressing itself. In both something great and characteristic was
achieved, and in each we can see the reason why Latin or Italian was
chosen. Perhaps the same may be said of prose. The position and
influence of Italian culture throughout the world depended on the fact
that certain subjects were treated in Latin[588]--‘urbi et orbi’--while
Italian prose was written best of all by those to whom it cost an inward
struggle not to write in Latin.

From the fourteenth century Cicero was recognised universally as the
purest model of prose. This was by no means due solely to a
dispassionate opinion in favour of his choice of language, of the
structure of his sentences, and of his style of composition, but rather
to the fact that the Italian spirit responded fully and instinctively to
the amiability of the letter-writer, to the brilliancy of the orator,
and to the lucid exposition of the philosophical thinker. Even Petrarch
recognised clearly the weakness of Cicero as a man and a statesman,[589]
though he respected him too much to rejoice over them. After Petrarch’s
time, the epistolary style was formed entirely on the pattern of Cicero;
and the rest, with the exception of the narrative style, followed the
same influence. Yet the true Ciceronianism, which rejected every phrase
which could not be justified out of the great authority, did not appear
till the end of the fifteenth century, when the grammatical writings of
Lorenzo Valla had begun to tell on all Italy, and when the opinions of
the Roman historians of literature had been sifted and compared.[590]
Then every shade of difference in the style of the ancients was studied
with closer and closer attention, till the consoling conclusion was at
last reached, that in Cicero alone was the perfect model to be found,
or, if all forms of literature were to be embraced, in ‘that immortal
and almost heavenly age of Cicero.’[591] Men like Pietro Bembo and
Pierio Valeriano now turned all their energies to this one object. Even
those who had long resisted the tendency, and had formed for themselves
an archaic style from the earlier authors,[592] yielded at last, and
joined in the worship of Cicero. Longolius, at Bembo’s advice,
determined to read nothing but Cicero for five years long, and finally
took an oath to use no word which did not occur in this author. It was
this temper which broke out at last in the great war among the scholars,
in which Erasmus and the elder Scaliger led the battle.

For all the admirers of Cicero were by no means so one-sided as to
consider him the only source of language. In the fifteenth century,
Politian and Ermolao Barbaro made a conscious and deliberate effort to
form a style of their own,[593] naturally on the basis of their
‘overflowing’ learning, though they failed to inspire their pupils with
a similar desire for independence; and our informant of this fact, Paolo
Giovio, pursued the same end. He first attempted, not always
successfully, but often with remarkable power and elegance, and at no
small cost of effort, to reproduce in Latin a number of modern,
particularly of æsthetic, ideas. His Latin characteristics of the great
painters and sculptors of his time contain a mixture of the most
intelligent and of the most blundering interpretation.[594] Even Leo X.,
who placed his glory in the fact, ‘ut lingua latina nostra pontificatu
dicatur factu auctior,’[595] was inclined to a liberal and not too
exclusive Latinity, which, indeed, was in harmony with his
pleasure-loving nature. He was satisfied when the Latin which he had to
read and hear was lively, elegant, and idiomatic. Then, too, Cicero
offered no model for Latin conversation, so that here other gods had to
be worshipped beside him. The want was supplied by representations of
the comedies of Plautus and Terence, frequent both in and out of Rome,
which for the actors were an incomparable exercise in Latin as the
language of daily life. The impulse to the study of the old Latin
comedies and to modern imitations of them was given by the discovery of
plays by Plautus in the ‘Cod. Ursinianus,’ which was brought to Rome in
1428 or 1429. A few years later, in the pontificate of Paul II., the
learned Cardinal of Teano[596] (probably Niccolò Forteguerra of Pistoja)
became famous for his critical labours in this branch of scholarship. He
set to work upon the most defective plays of Plautus, which were
destitute even of the list of the characters, and went carefully through
the whole remains of this author, chiefly with an eye to the language.
Possibly it was he who gave the first impulse for the public
representations of these plays. Afterwards Pomponius Laetus took up the
same subject, and acted as manager when Plautus was put on the stage in
the houses of great churchmen.[597] That these representations became
less common after 1520, is mentioned by Giovio, as we have seen (p.
242), among the causes of the decline of eloquence.

We may mention, in conclusion, the analogy between Ciceronianism in
literature and the revival of Vitruvius by the architects in the sphere
of art.[598] And here, too, the law holds good which prevails elsewhere
in the history of the Renaissance, that each artistic movement is
preceded by a corresponding movement in the general culture of the age.
In this case, the interval is not more than about twenty years, if we
reckon from Cardinal Hadrian of Corneto (1505?) to the first avowed



The chief pride of the humanists is, however, their modern Latin poetry.
It lies within the limits of our task to treat of it, at least in so far
as it serves to characterise the humanistic movement.

How favourable public opinion was to that form of poetry, and how nearly
it supplanted all others, has been already shown (p. 252). We may be
very sure that the most gifted and highly developed nation then existing
in the world did not renounce the use of a language such as the Italian
out of mere folly and without knowing what they were doing. It must have
been a weighty reason which led them to do so.

This cause was the devotion to antiquity. Like all ardent and genuine
devotion it necessarily prompted men to imitation. At other times and
among other nations we find many isolated attempts of the same kind. But
only in Italy were the two chief conditions present which were needful
for the continuance and development of neo-Latin poetry: a general
interest in the subject among the instructed classes, and a partial
reawakening of the old Italian genius among the poets themselves--the
wondrous echo of a far-off strain. The best of what is produced under
these conditions is not imitation, but free production. If we decline to
tolerate any borrowed forms in art, if we either set no value on
antiquity at all, or attribute to it some magical and unapproachable
virtue, or if we will pardon no slips in poets who were forced, for
instance, to guess or to discover a multitude of syllabic quantities,
then we had better let this class of literature alone. Its best works
were not created in order to defy criticism, but to give pleasure to the
poet and to thousands of his contemporaries.[599]

The least success of all was attained by the epic narratives drawn from
the history or legends of antiquity. The essential conditions of a
living epic poetry were denied, not only to the Romans who now served as
models, but even to the Greeks after Homer. They could not be looked for
among the Latins of the Renaissance. And yet the ‘Africa’ of
Petrarch[600] probably found as many and as enthusiastic readers and
hearers as any epos of modern times. The purpose and origin of the poem
are not without interest. The fourteenth century recognised with sound
historical tact the time of the second Punic war as the noon-day of
Roman greatness; and Petrarch could not resist writing of this time. Had
Silius Italicus been then discovered, Petrarch would probably have
chosen another subject; but, as it was, the glorification of Scipio
Africanus the Elder was so much in accordance with the spirit of the
fourteenth century, that another poet, Zanobi di Strada, also proposed
to himself the same task, and only from respect for Petrarch withdrew
the poem with which he had already made great progress.[601] If any
justification were needed for the ‘Africa,’ it lies in the fact that in
Petrarch’s time and afterwards Scipio was as much an object of public
interest as if he were then alive, and that he was held by many to be a
greater man than Alexander, Pompey, and Cæsar.[602] How many modern
epics treat of a subject at once so popular, so historical in its basis,
and so striking to the imagination? For us, it is true, the poem is
unreadable. For other themes of the same kind the reader may be referred
to the histories of literature.

A richer and more fruitful vein was discovered in expanding and
completing the Greco-Roman mythology. In this too Italian poetry began
early to take a part, beginning with the ‘Teseide’ of Boccaccio, which
passes for his best poetical work. Under Martin V. Maffeo Vegio wrote in
Latin a thirteenth book to the Æneid; besides which we meet with many
less considerable attempts, especially in the style of Claudian--a
‘Meleagris,’ a ‘Hesperis,’ and so forth. Still more curious were the
newly-invented myths, which peopled the fairest regions of Italy with a
primæval race of gods, nymphs, genii, and even shepherds, the epic and
bucolic styles here passing into one another. In the narrative or
conversational eclogue after the time of Petrarch, pastoral life was
treated in a purely conventional manner,[603] as a vehicle of all
possible feelings and fancies; and this point will be touched on again
in the sequel. For the moment, we have only to do with the new myths. In
them, more clearly than anywhere else, we see the double significance of
the old gods to the men of the Renaissance. On the one hand, they
replace abstract terms in poetry, and render allegorical figures
superfluous; and, on the other, they serve as free and independent
elements in art, as forms of beauty which can be turned to some account
in any and every poem. The example was boldly set by Boccaccio, with his
fanciful world of gods and shepherds who people the country round
Florence in his ‘Ninfale d’Ameto’ and ‘Ninfale Fiesolano.’ Both these
poems were written in Italian. But the masterpiece in this style was the
‘Sarca’ of Pietro Bembo,[604] which tells how the rivergod of that name
wooed the nymph Garda; of the brilliant marriage feast in a cave of
Monte Baldo; of the prophecies of Manto, daughter of Tiresias; of the
birth of the child Mincius; of the founding of Mantua; and of the future
glory of Virgil, son of Mincius and of Maia, nymph of Andes. This
humanistic rococo is set forth by Bembo in verses of great beauty,
concluding with an address to Virgil, which any poet might envy him.
Such works are often slighted as mere declamation. This is a matter of
taste on which we are all free to form our own opinion.

Further, we find long epic poems in hexameters on biblical or
ecclesiastical subjects. The authors were by no means always in search
of preferment or of papal favour. With the best of them, and even with
less gifted writers, like Battista Mantovano, the author of the
‘Parthenice,’ there was probably an honest desire to serve religion by
their Latin verses--a desire with which their half-pagan conception of
Catholicism harmonised well enough. Gyraldus goes through a list of
these poets, among whom Vida, with his ‘Christiad’ and Sannazaro, with
his three books, ‘De partu Virginis,’[605] hold the first place.
Sannazaro (b. 1458, d. 1530) is impressive by the steady and powerful
flow of his verse, in which Christian and pagan elements are mingled
without scruple, by the plastic vigour of his description, and by the
perfection of his workmanship. He could venture to introduce Virgil’s
fourth eclogue into his song of the shepherds at the manger (III. 200
sqq.) without fearing a comparison. In treating of the unseen world, he
sometimes gives proofs of a boldness worthy of Dante, as when King David
in the Limbo of the Patriarchs rises up to sing and prophesy (I. 236
sqq.), or when the Eternal, sitting on the throne clad in a mantle
shining with pictures of all the elements, addresses the heavenly host
(III. 17 sqq). At other times he does not hesitate to weave the whole
classical mythology into his subject, yet without spoiling the harmony
of the whole, since the pagan deities are only accessory figures, and
play no important part in the story. To appreciate the artistic genius
of that age in all its bearings, we must not refuse to notice such works
as these. The merit of Sannazaro will appear the greater, when we
consider that the mixture of Christian and pagan elements is apt to
disturb us much more in poetry than in the plastic arts. The latter can
still satisfy the eye by beauty of form and colour, and in general are
much more independent of the significance of the subject than poetry.
With them, the imagination is interested chiefly in the form, with
poetry, in the matter. Honest Battista Mantovano in his calendar of the
festivals,[606] tried another expedient. Instead of making the gods and
demigods serve the purposes of sacred history, he put them, as the
Fathers of the Church did, in active opposition to it. When the angel
Gabriel salutes the Virgin at Nazareth, Mercury flies after him from
Carmel, and listens at the door. He then announces the result of his
eavesdropping to the assembled gods, and stimulates them thereby to
desperate resolutions. Elsewhere,[607] it is true, in his writings,
Thetis, Ceres, Æolus, and other pagan deities pay willing homage to the
glory of the Madonna.

The fame of Sannazaro, the number of his imitators, the enthusiastic
homage which was paid to him by the greatest men--by Bembo, who wrote
his epitaph, and by Titian, who painted his portrait--all show how dear
and necessary he was to his age. On the threshold of the Reformation he
solved for the Church the problem, whether it were possible for a poet
to be a Christian as well as a classic; and both Leo and Clement were
loud in their thanks for his achievements.

And, finally, contemporary history was now treated in hexameters or
distichs, sometimes in a narrative and sometimes in a panegyrical style,
but most commonly to the honour of some prince or princely family. We
thus meet with a Sforziad,[608] a Borseid, a Laurentiad, a Borgiad (see
p. 223), a Triulziad, and the like. The object sought after was
certainly not attained; for those who became famous and are now immortal
owe it to anything rather than to this sort of poems, to which the world
has always had an ineradicable dislike, even when they happen to be
written by good poets. A wholly different effect is produced by smaller,
simpler and more unpretentious scenes from the lives of distinguished
men, such as the beautiful poem on Leo X.’s ‘Hunt at Palo,’[609] or the
‘Journey of Julius II.’ by Hadrian of Corneto (p. 119). Brilliant
descriptions of hunting-parties are found in Ercole Strozza, in the
above-mentioned Hadrian, and in others; and it is a pity that the modern
reader should allow himself to be irritated or repelled by the adulation
with which they are doubtless filled. The masterly treatment and the
considerable historical value of many of these most graceful poems,
guarantee to them a longer existence than many popular works of our own
day are likely to attain.

In general, these poems are good in proportion to the sparing use of the
sentimental and the general. Some of the smaller epic poems, even of
recognised masters, unintentionally produce, by the ill-timed
introduction of mythological elements, an impression that is
indescribably ludicrous. Such, for instance, is the lament of Ercole
Strozza[610] on Cæsar Borgia. We there listen to the complaint of Rome,
who had set all her hopes on the Spanish Popes Calixtus III. and
Alexander VI., and who saw her promised deliverer in Cæsar. His history
is related down to the catastrophe of 1503. The poet then asks the Muse
what were the counsels of the gods at that moment,[611] and Crato tells
how, upon Olympus, Pallas took the part of the Spaniards, Venus of the
Italians, how both then embrace the knees of Jupiter, how thereupon he
kisses them, soothes them, and explains to them that he can do nothing
against the fate woven by the Parcæ, but that the divine promises will
be fulfilled by the child of the House of Este-Borgia.[612] After
relating the fabulous origin of both families, he declares that he can
confer immortality on Cæsar as little as he could once, in spite of all
entreaties, on Memnon or Achilles; and concludes with the consoling
assurance that Cæsar, before his own death, will destroy many people in
war. Mars then hastens to Naples to stir up war and confusion, while
Pallas goes to Nepi, and there appears to the dying Cæsar under the form
of Alexander VI. After giving him the good advice to submit to his fate
and be satisfied with the glory of his name, the papal goddess vanishes
‘like a bird.’

Yet we should needlessly deprive ourselves of an enjoyment, which is
sometimes very great, if we threw aside everything in which classical
mythology plays a more or less appropriate part. Here, as in painting
and sculpture, art has often ennobled what is in itself purely
conventional. The beginnings of parody are also to be found by lovers of
that class of literature (pp. 159 sqq.) _e.g._ in the Macaroneid--to
which the comic Feast of the Gods, by Giovanni Bellini, forms an early

Many, too, of the narrative poems in hexameters are merely exercises, or
adaptations of histories in prose, which latter the reader will prefer,
where he can find them. At last, everything--every quarrel and every
ceremony--came to be put into verse, and this even by the German
humanists of the Reformation.[613] And yet it would be unfair to
attribute this to mere want of occupation, or to an excessive facility
in stringing verses together. In Italy, at all events, it was rather due
to an abundant sense of style, as is further proved by the mass of
contemporary reports, histories, and even pamphlets, in the ‘terza
rima.’ Just as Niccolò da Uzzano published his scheme for a new
constitution, Macchiavelli his view of the history of his own time, a
third, the life of Savonarola, and a fourth, the siege of Piombino by
Alfonso the Great,[614] in this difficult metre, in order to produce a
stronger effect, so did many others feel the need of hexameters, in
order to win their special public. What was then tolerated and demanded,
in this shape, is best shown by the didactic poetry of the time. Its
popularity in the fifteenth century is something astounding. The most
distinguished humanists were ready to celebrate in Latin hexameters the
most commonplace, ridiculous, or disgusting themes, such as the making
of gold, the game of chess, the management of silkworms, astrology, and
venereal diseases (_morbus gallicus_), to say nothing of many long
Italian poems of the same kind. Nowadays this class of poems is
condemned unread, and how far, as a matter of fact, they are really
worth the reading, we are unable to say.[615] One thing is certain, that
epochs far above our own in the sense of beauty--the Renaissance and the
Greco-Roman world--could not dispense with this form of poetry. It may
be urged in reply, that it is not the lack of a sense of beauty, but the
greater seriousness and the altered method of scientific treatment which
renders the poetical form inappropriate, on which point it is
unnecessary to enter.

One of these didactic works has of late years been occasionally
republished[616]--the ‘Zodiac of Life,’ by Marcellus Palingenius (Pier
Angello Manzolli), a secret adherent of Protestantism at Ferrara,
written about 1528. With the loftiest speculations on God, virtue, and
immortality, the writer connects the discussion of many questions of
practical life, and is, on this account, an authority of some weight in
the history of morals. On the whole, however, his work must be
considered as lying outside the boundaries of the Renaissance, as is
further indicated by the fact that, in harmony with the serious didactic
purpose of the poem, allegory tends to supplant mythology.

But it was in lyric, and more particularly in elegiac poetry, that the
poet-scholar came nearest to antiquity; and next to this, in epigram.

In the lighter style, Catullus exercised a perfect fascination over the
Italians. Not a few elegant Latin madrigals, not a few little satires
and malicious epistles, are mere adaptations from him; and the death of
parrots and lapdogs is bewailed, even where there is no verbal
imitation, in precisely the tone and style of the verses on Lesbia’s
Sparrow. There are short poems of this sort, the date of which even a
critic would be unable to fix,[617] in the absence of positive evidence
that they are works of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

On the other hand, we can find scarcely an ode in the Sapphic or Alcaic
metre, which does not clearly betray its modern origin. This is shown
mostly by a rhetorical verbosity, rare in antiquity before the time of
Statius, and by a singular want of the lyrical concentration which is
indispensable to this style of poetry. Single passages in an ode,
sometimes two or three strophes together, may look like an ancient
fragment; but a longer extract will seldom keep this character
throughout. And where it does so, as, for instance, in the fine Ode to
Venus, by Andrea Navagero, it is easy to detect a simple paraphrase of
ancient masterpieces.[618] Some of the ode-writers take the saints for
their subject, and invoke them in verses tastefully modelled after the
pattern of analogous odes of Horace and Catullus. This is the manner of
Navagero, in the Ode to the Archangel Gabriel, and particularly of
Sannazaro (p. 260), who goes still further in his appropriation of pagan
sentiment. He celebrates above all his patron saint,[619] whose chapel
was attached to his lovely villa on the shores of Posilippo, ‘there
where the waves of the sea drink up the stream from the rocks, and surge
against the walls of the little sanctuary.’ His delight is in the annual
feast of S. Nazzaro, and the branches and garlands with which the chapel
is hung on this day, seem to him like sacrificial gifts. Full of sorrow,
and far off in exile, at St. Nazaire, on the banks of the Loire, with
the banished Frederick of Aragon, he brings wreaths of box and oak
leaves to his patron saint on the same anniversary, thinking of former
years, when all the youth of Posilippo used to come forth to greet him
on flower-hung boats, and praying that he may return home.[620]

Perhaps the most deceptive likeness to the classical style is borne by a
class of poems in elegiacs or hexameters, whose subject ranges from
elegy, strictly so-called, to epigram. As the humanists dealt most
freely of all with the text of the Roman elegiac poets, so they felt
themselves most at home in imitating them. The elegy of Navagero
addressed to the night, like other poems of the same age and kind, is
full of points which remind us of his models; but it has the finest
antique ring about it. Indeed Navagero[621] always begins by choosing a
truly poetical subject, which he then treats, not with servile
imitation, but with masterly freedom, in the style of the Anthology, of
Ovid, of Catullus, or of the Virgilian eclogues. He makes a sparing use
of mythology, only, for instance, to introduce a sketch of country life,
in a prayer to Ceres and other rural divinities. An address to his
country, on his return from an embassy to Spain, though left unfinished,
might have been worthy of a place beside the ‘Bella Italia, amate
sponde’ of Vincenzo Monti, if the rest had been equal to this beginning:

    ‘Salve, cura Deûm, mundi felicior ora,
     Formosae Veneris dulces salvete recessus;
     Ut vos post tantos animi mentisque labores
     Aspicio lustroque libens, ut munere vestro
     Sollicitas toto depello e pectore curas!’[622]

The elegiac or hexametral form was that in which all higher sentiment
found expression, both the noblest patriotic enthusiasm (see p. 119, the
elegy on Julius II.) and the most elaborate eulogies on the ruling
houses,[623] as well as the tender melancholy of a Tibullus. Francesco
Mario Molza, who rivals Statius and Martial in his flattery of Clement
VII. and the Farnesi, gives us in his elegy to his ‘comrades,’ written
from a sick-bed, thoughts on death as beautiful and genuinely antique as
can be found in any of the poets of antiquity, and this without
borrowing anything worth speaking of from them.[624] The spirit and
range of the Roman elegy were best understood and reproduced by
Sannazaro, and no other writer of his time offers us so varied a choice
of good poems in this style as he. We shall have occasion now and then
to speak of some of these elegies in reference to the matter they treat

The Latin epigram finally became in those days an affair of serious
importance, since a few clever lines, engraved on a monument or quoted
with laughter in society, could lay the foundation of a scholar’s
celebrity. This tendency showed itself early in Italy. When it was known
that Guido della Polenta wished to erect a monument at Dante’s grave,
epitaphs poured in from all directions,[625] ‘written by such as wished
to _show themselves_, or to honour the dead poet, or to win the favour
of Polenta.’ On the tomb of the Archbishop Giovanni Visconti (d. 1354),
in the Cathedral at Milan, we read at the foot of 36 hexameters: ‘Master
Gabrius de Zamoreis of Parma, Doctor of Laws, wrote these verses.’ In
course of time, chiefly under the influence of Martial, and partly of
Catullus, an extensive literature of this sort was formed. It was held
the greatest of all triumphs, when an epigram was mistaken for a genuine
copy from some old marble,[626] or when it was so good that all Italy
learned it by heart, as happened in the case of some of Bembo’s. When
the Venetian government paid Sannazaro 600 ducats for a eulogy in three
distichs,[627] no one thought it an act of generous prodigality. The
epigram was prized for what it was, in truth, to all the educated
classes of that age--the concentrated essence of fame. Nor, on the other
hand, was any man then so powerful as to be above the reach of a
satirical epigram, and even the most powerful needed, for every
inscription which they set before the public eye, the aid of careful and
learned scholars, lest some blunder or other should qualify it for a
place in the collections of ludicrous epitaphs.[628] The epigraph and
the epigram were branches of the same pursuit; the reproduction of the
former was based on a diligent study of ancient monuments.

The city of epigrams and inscriptions was, above all others, Rome. In
this state without hereditary honours, each man had to look after his
own immortality, and at the same time found the epigram an effective
weapon against his competitors. Pius II. counts with satisfaction the
distichs which his chief poet Campanus wrote on any event of his
government which could be turned to poetical account. Under the
following popes satirical epigrams came into fashion, and reached, in
the opposition to Alexander VI. and his family, the highest pitch of
defiant invective. Sannazaro, it is true, wrote his verses in a place of
comparative safety, but others in the immediate neighbourhood of the
court ventured on the most reckless attacks (p. 112). On one occasion
when eight threatening distichs were found fastened to the door of the
library,[629] Alexander strengthened his guard by 800 men; we can
imagine what he would have done to the poet if he had caught him. Under
Leo X., Latin epigrams were like daily bread. For complimenting or for
reviling the pope, for punishing enemies and victims, named or unnamed,
for real or imaginary subjects of wit, malice, grief, or contemplation,
no form was held more suitable. On the famous group of the Virgin with
Saint Anna and the Child, which Andrea Sansovino carved for S. Agostino,
no less than 120 persons wrote Latin verses, not so much, it is true,
from devotion, as from regard for the patron who ordered the work.[630]
This man, Johann Goritz of Luxemburg, papal referendary of petitions,
not only held a religious service on the feast of Saint Anna, but gave a
great literary dinner in his garden on the slopes of the Capitol. It was
then worth while to pass in review, in a long poem ‘De poetis urbanis,’
the whole crowd of singers who sought their fortune at the court of Leo.
This was done by Franciscus Arsillus[631]--a man who needed the
patronage neither of pope nor prince, and who dared to speak his mind,
even against his colleagues. The epigram survived the pontificate of
Paul III. only in a few rare echoes, while the epigraph continued to
flourish till the seventeenth century, when it perished finally of

In Venice, also, this form of poetry had a history of its own, which we
are able to trace with the help of the ‘Venezia’ of Francesco Sansovino.
A standing task for the epigram-writers was offered by the mottos
(Brievi) on the pictures of the Doges in the great hall of the ducal
palace--two or four hexameters, setting forth the most noteworthy facts
in the government of each.[632] In addition to this, the tombs of the
Doges in the fourteenth century bore short inscriptions in prose,
recording merely facts, and beside them turgid hexameters or leonine
verses. In the fifteenth century more care was taken with the style; in
the sixteenth century it is seen at its best; and then soon after came
pointless antithesis, prosopopœia, false pathos, praise of abstract
qualities--in a word, affectation and bombast. A good many traces of
satire can be detected, and veiled criticism of the living is implied in
open praise of the dead. At a much later period we find a few instances
of a deliberate recurrence to the old, simple style.

Architectural works and decorative works in general were constructed
with a view to receiving inscriptions, often in frequent repetition;
while the Northern Gothic seldom, and with difficulty, offered a
suitable place for them, and in sepulchral monuments, for example, left
free only the most exposed parts--namely the edges.

By what has been said hitherto we have, perhaps, failed to convince the
reader of the characteristic value of this Latin poetry of the Italians.
Our task was rather to indicate its position and necessity in the
history of civilisation. In its own day, a caricature of it
appeared[633]--the so-called maccaronic poetry. The masterpiece of this
style, the ‘opus maccaronicorum,’ was written by Merlinus Coccaius
(Teofilo Folengo of Mantua). We shall now and then have occasion to
refer to the matter of this poem. As to the form--hexameter and other
verses, made up of Latin words and Italian words with Latin endings--its
comic effect lies chiefly in the fact that these combinations sound
like so many slips of the tongue, or the effusions of an over-hasty
Latin ‘improvisatore.’ The German imitations do not give the smallest
notion of this effect.



After a brilliant succession of poet-scholars had, since the beginning
of the fourteenth century, filled Italy and the world with the worship
of antiquity, had determined the forms of education and culture, had
often taken the lead in political affairs and had, to no small extent,
reproduced ancient literature--at length in the sixteenth century,
before their doctrines and scholarship had lost hold of the public mind,
the whole class fell into deep and general disgrace. Though they still
served as models to the poets, historians, and orators, personally no
one would consent to be reckoned of their number. To the two chief
accusations against them--that of malicious self-conceit, and that of
abominable profligacy--a third charge of irreligion was now loudly added
by the rising powers of the Counter-reformation.

Why, it may be asked, were not these reproaches, whether true or false,
heard sooner? As a matter of fact, they were heard at a very early
period, but the effect they produced was insignificant, for the plain
reason that men were far too dependent on the scholars for their
knowledge of antiquity--that the scholars were personally the possessors
and diffusers of ancient culture. But the spread of printed editions of
the classics,[634] and of large and well-arranged hand-books and
dictionaries, went far to free the people from the necessity of personal
intercourse with the humanists, and, as soon as they could be but partly
dispensed with, the change in popular feeling became manifest. It was a
change under which the good and bad suffered indiscriminately.

The first to make these charges were certainly the humanists
themselves. Of all men who ever formed a class, they had the least sense
of their common interests, and least respected what there was of this
sense. All means were held lawful, if one of them saw a chance of
supplanting another. From literary discussion they passed with
astonishing suddenness to the fiercest and the most groundless
vituperation. Not satisfied with refuting, they sought to annihilate an
opponent. Something of this must be put to the account of their position
and circumstances; we have seen how fiercely the age, whose loudest
spokesmen they were, was borne to and fro by the passion for glory and
the passion for satire. Their position, too, in practical life was one
that they had continually to fight for. In such a temper they wrote and
spoke and described one another. Poggio’s works alone contain dirt
enough to create a prejudice against the whole class--and these ‘Opera
Poggii’ were just those most often printed, on the north, as well as on
the south, side of the Alps. We must take care not to rejoice too soon,
when we meet among these men a figure which seems immaculate; on further
inquiry there is always a danger of meeting with some foul charge,
which, even when it is incredible, still discolours the picture. The
mass of indecent Latin poems in circulation, and such things as the
ribaldry on the subject of his own family, in Pontano’s dialogue,
‘Antonius,’ did the rest to discredit the class. The sixteenth century
was not only familiar with all these ugly symptoms, but had also grown
tired of the type of the humanist. These men had to pay both for the
misdeeds they had done, and for the excess of honour which had hitherto
fallen to their lot. Their evil fate willed it that the greatest poet of
the nation wrote of them in a tone of calm and sovereign contempt.[635]

Of the reproaches which combined to excite so much hatred, many were
only too well founded. Yet a clear and unmistakable tendency to
strictness in matters of religion and morality was alive in many of the
philologists, and it is a proof of small knowledge of the period, if the
whole class is condemned. Yet many, and among them the loudest speakers,
were guilty.

Three facts explain, and perhaps diminish their guilt: the overflowing
excess of favour and fortune, when the luck was on their side: the
uncertainty of the future, in which luxury or misery depended on the
caprice of a patron or the malice of an enemy; and finally, the
misleading influence of antiquity. This undermined their morality,
without giving them its own instead; and in religious matters, since
they could never think of accepting the positive belief in the old gods,
it affected them only on the negative and sceptical side. Just because
they conceived of antiquity dogmatically--that is, took it as the model
for all thought and action--its influence was here pernicious. But that
an age existed, which idolised the ancient world and its products with
an exclusive devotion, was not the fault of individuals. It was the work
of a historical providence, and all the culture of the ages which have
followed, and of the ages to come, rests upon the fact that it was so,
and that all the ends of life but this one were then deliberately put

The career of the humanists was, as a rule, of such a kind that only the
strongest characters could pass through it unscathed. The first danger
came, in some cases, from the parents, who sought to turn a precocious
child into a miracle of learning,[636] with an eye to his future
position in that class which then was supreme. Youthful prodigies,
however, seldom rise above a certain level; or, if they do, are forced
to achieve their further progress and development at the cost of the
bitterest trials. For an ambitious youth, the fame and the brilliant
position of the humanists were a perilous temptation; it seemed to him
that he too ‘through inborn pride could no longer regard the low and
common things of life.’ He was thus led to plunge into a life of
excitement and vicissitude, in which exhausting studies, tutorships,
secretaryships, professorships, offices in princely households, mortal
enmities and perils, luxury and beggary, boundless admiration and
boundless contempt, followed confusedly one upon the other, and in which
the most solid worth and learning were often pushed aside by superficial
impudence. But the worst of all was, that the position of the humanist
was almost incompatible with a fixed home, since it either made frequent
changes of dwelling necessary for a livelihood, or so affected the mind
of the individual that he could never be happy for long in one place. He
grew tired of the people, and had no peace among the enmities which he
excited, while the people themselves in their turn demanded something
new (p. 211). Much as this life reminds us of the Greek sophists of the
Empire, as described to us by Philostratus, yet the position of the
sophists was more favourable. They often had money, or could more easily
do without it than the humanists, and as professional teachers of
rhetoric, rather than men of learning, their life was freer and simpler.
But the scholar of the Renaissance was forced to combine great learning
with the power of resisting the influence of ever-changing pursuits and
situations. Add to this the deadening effect of licentious excess,
and--since do what he might, the worst was believed of him--a total
indifference to the moral laws recognised by others. Such men can hardly
be conceived to exist without an inordinate pride. They needed it, if
only to keep their heads above water, and were confirmed in it by the
admiration which alternated with hatred in the treatment they received
from the world. They are the most striking examples and victims of an
unbridled subjectivity.

The attacks and the satirical pictures began, as we have said, at an
early period. For all strongly marked individuality, for every kind of
distinction, a corrective was at hand in the national taste for
ridicule. And in this case the men themselves offered abundant and
terrible materials which satire had but to make use of. In the fifteenth
century, Battista Mantovano, in discoursing of the seven monsters,[637]
includes the humanists, with many others, under the head ‘Superbia.’ He
describes how, fancying themselves children of Apollo, they walk along
with affected solemnity and with sullen, malicious looks, now gazing at
their own shadow, now brooding over the popular praise they hunted
after, like cranes in search of food. But in the sixteenth century the
indictment was presented in full. Besides Ariosto, their own historian
Gyraldus[638] gives evidence of this, whose treatise, written under Leo
X., was probably revised about the year 1540. Warning examples from
ancient and modern times of the moral disorder and the wretched
existence of the scholars meet us in astonishing abundance, and along
with these accusations of the most serious nature are brought formally
against them. Among these are anger, vanity, obstinacy, self-adoration,
a dissolute private life, immorality of all descriptions, heresy,
atheism; further, the habit of speaking without conviction, a sinister
influence on government, pedantry of speech, thanklessness towards
teachers, and abject flattery of the great, who first give the scholar a
taste of their favours and then leave him to starve. The description is
closed by a reference to the golden age, when no such thing as science
existed on the earth. Of these charges, that of heresy soon became the
most dangerous, and Gyraldus himself, when he afterwards republished a
perfectly harmless youthful work,[639] was compelled to take refuge
beneath the mantle of Duke Hercules II. of Ferrara,[640] since men now
had the upper hand who held that people had better spend their time on
Christian themes than on mythological researches. He justifies himself
on the ground that the latter, on the contrary, were at such a time
almost the only harmless branches of study, as they deal with subjects
of a perfectly neutral character.

But if it is the duty of the historian to seek for evidence in which
moral judgment is tempered by human sympathy, he will find no authority
comparable in value to the work so often quoted of Pierio
Valeriano,[641] ‘On the Infelicity of the Scholar.’ It was written
under the gloomy impressions left by the sack of Rome, which seems to
the writer, not only the direct cause of untold misery to the men of
learning, but, as it were, the fulfilment of an evil destiny which had
long pursued them. Pierio is here led by a simple and, on the whole,
just feeling. He does not introduce a special power, which plagued the
men of genius on account of their genius, but he states facts, in which
an unlucky chance often wears the aspect of fatality. Not wishing to
write a tragedy or to refer events to the conflict of higher powers, he
is content to lay before us the scenes of every-day life. We are
introduced to men, who in times of trouble lose, first their incomes,
and then their places; to others, who in trying to get two appointments,
miss both; to unsociable misers, who carry about their money sewn into
their clothes, and die mad when they are robbed of it; to others, who
accept well-paid offices, and then sicken with a melancholy, longing for
their lost freedom. We read how some died young of a plague or fever,
and how the writings which had cost them so much toil were burnt with
their bed and clothes; how others lived in terror of the murderous
threats of their colleagues; how one was slain by a covetous servant,
and another caught by highwaymen on a journey, and left to pine in a
dungeon, because unable to pay his ransom. Many died of unspoken grief
for the insults they received and the prizes of which they were
defrauded. We are told of the death of a Venetian, because his son, a
youthful prodigy, was dead; and the mother and brothers followed, as if
the lost child drew them all after him. Many, especially Florentines,
ended their lives by suicide;[642] others through the secret justice of
a tyrant. Who, after all, is happy?--and by what means? By blunting all
feeling for such misery? One of the speakers in the dialogue in which
Pierio clothed his argument, can give an answer to these questions--the
illustrious Gasparo Contarini, at the mention of whose name we turn with
the expectation to hear at least something of the truest and deepest
which was then thought on such matters. As a type of the happy scholar,
he mentions Fra Urbano Valeriano of Belluno,[643] who was for years
teacher of Greek at Venice, who visited Greece and the East, and towards
the close of his life travelled, now through this country, now through
that, without ever mounting a horse; who never had a penny of his own,
rejected all honours and distinctions, and after a gay old age, died in
his eighty-fourth year, without, if we except a fall from a ladder,
having ever known an hour of sickness. And what was the difference
between such a man and the humanists? The latter had more free will,
more subjectivity, than they could turn to purposes of happiness. The
mendicant friar, who had lived from his boyhood in the monastery, and
never eaten or slept except by rule, ceased to feel the compulsion under
which he lived. Through the power of this habit he led, amid all outward
hardships, a life of inward peace, by which he impressed his hearers far
more than by his teaching. Looking at him, they could believe that it
depends on ourselves whether we bear up against misfortune or surrender
to it. ‘Amid want and toil he was happy, because he willed to be so,
because he had contracted no evil habits, was not capricious,
inconstant, immoderate; but was always contented with little or
nothing.’ If we heard Contarini himself, religious motives would no
doubt play a part in the argument--but the practical philosopher in
sandals speaks plainly enough. An allied character, but placed in other
circumstances, is that of Fabio Calvi of Ravenna, the commentator of
Hippocrates.[644] He lived to a great age in Rome, eating only pulse
‘like the Pythagoreans,’ and dwelt in a hovel little better than the tub
of Diogenes. Of the pension, which Pope Leo gave him, he spent enough to
keep body and soul together, and gave the rest away. He was not a
healthy man, like Fra Urbano, nor is it likely that, like him, he died
with a smile on his lips. At the age of ninety, in the sack of Rome, he
was dragged away by the Spaniards, who hoped for a ransom, and died of
hunger in a hospital. But his name has passed into the kingdom of the
immortals, for Raphael loved the old man like a father, and honoured him
as a teacher, and came to him for advice in all things. Perhaps they
discoursed chiefly of the projected restoration of ancient Rome (p.
184), perhaps of still higher matters. Who can tell what a share Fabio
may have had in the conception of the School of Athens, and in other
great works of the master?

We would gladly close this part of our essay with the picture of some
pleasing and winning character. Pomponius Laetus, of whom we shall
briefly speak, is known to us principally through the letter of his
pupil Sabellicus,[645] in which an antique colouring is purposely given
to his character. Yet many of its features are clearly recognisable. He
was (p. 251) a bastard of the House of the Neapolitan Sanseverini,
princes of Salerno, whom he nevertheless refused to recognise, writing,
in reply to an invitation to live with them, the famous letter:
‘Pomponius Laetus cognatis et propinquis suis, salutem. Quod petitis
fieri non potest. Valete.’ An insignificant little figure, with small,
quick eyes, and quaint dress, he lived during the last decades of the
fifteenth century, as professor in the University of Rome, either in his
cottage in a garden on the Esquiline hill, or in his vineyard on the
Quirinal. In the one he bred his ducks and fowls; the other he
cultivated according to the strictest precepts of Cato, Varro, and
Columella. He spent his holidays in fishing or bird-catching in the
Campagna, or in feasting by some shady spring or on the banks of the
Tiber. Wealth and luxury he despised. Free himself from envy and
uncharitable speech, he would not suffer them in others. It was only
against the hierarchy that he gave his tongue free play, and passed,
till his latter years, for a scorner of religion altogether. He was
involved in the persecution of the humanists begun by Pope Paul II., and
surrendered to this pontiff by the Venetians; but no means could be
found to wring unworthy confessions from him. He was afterwards
befriended and supported by popes and prelates, and when his house was
plundered in the disturbances under Sixtus IV., more was collected for
him than he had lost. No teacher was more conscientious. Before daybreak
he was to be seen descending the Esquiline with his lantern, and on
reaching his lecture-room found it always filled to overflowing with
pupils who had come at midnight to secure a place. A stutter compelled
him to speak with care, but his delivery was even and effective. His few
works give evidence of careful writing. No scholar treated the text of
ancient authors more soberly and accurately. The remains of antiquity
which surrounded him in Rome touched him so deeply, that he would stand
before them as if entranced, or would suddenly burst into tears at the
sight of them. As he was ready to lay aside his own studies in order to
help others, he was much loved and had many friends; and at his death,
even Alexander VI. sent his courtiers to follow the corpse, which was
carried by the most distinguished of his pupils. The funeral service in
the Araceli was attended by forty bishops and by all the foreign

It was Laetus who introduced and conducted the representations of
ancient, chiefly Plautine, plays in Rome (p. 255). Every year, he
celebrated the anniversary of the foundation of the city by a festival,
at which his friends and pupils recited speeches and poems. Such
meetings were the origin of what acquired, and long retained, the name
of the Roman Academy. It was simply a free union of individuals, and was
connected with no fixed institution. Besides the occasions mentioned, it
met[646] at the invitation of a patron, or to celebrate the memory of a
deceased member, as of Platina. At such times, a prelate belonging to
the academy would first say mass; Pomponio would then ascend the pulpit
and deliver a speech; some one else would then follow him and recite an
elegy. The customary banquet, with declamations and recitations,
concluded the festival, whether joyous or serious, and the academicians,
notably Platina himself, early acquired the reputation of epicures.[647]
At other times, the guests performed farces in the old Atellan style. As
a free association of very varied elements, the academy lasted in its
original form down to the sack of Rome, and included among its guests
Angelus Coloccius, Joh. Corycius (p. 269) and others. Its precise value
as an element in the intellectual life of the people is as hard to
estimate as that of any other social union of the same kind; yet a man
like Sadoleto[648] reckoned it among the most precious memories of his
youth. A large number of other academies appeared and passed away in
many Italian cities, according to the number and significance of the
humanists living in them, and to the patronage bestowed by the great and
wealthy. Of these we may mention the Academy of Naples, of which
Jovianus Pontanus was the centre, and which sent out a colony to
Lecce,[649] and that of Pordenone, which formed the court of the
Condottiere Alviano. The circle of Ludovico Moro, and its peculiar
importance for that prince, has been already spoken of (p. 42).

About the middle of the sixteenth century, these associations seem to
have undergone a complete change. The humanists, driven in other spheres
from their commanding position, and viewed askance by the men of the
Counter-reformation, lost the control of the academies: and here, as
elsewhere, Latin poetry was replaced by Italian. Before long every town
of the least importance had its academy, with some strange, fantastic
name,[650] and its own endowment and subscriptions. Besides the
recitation of verses, the new institutions inherited from their
predecessors the regular banquets and the representation of plays,
sometimes acted by the members themselves, sometimes under their
direction by young amateurs, and sometimes by paid players. The fate of
the Italian stage, and afterwards of the opera, was long in the hands of
these associations.





Freed from the countless bonds which elsewhere in Europe checked
progress, having reached a high degree of individual development and
been schooled by the teachings of antiquity, the Italian mind now turned
to the discovery of the outward universe, and to the representation of
it in speech and in form.

On the journeys of the Italians to distant parts of the world, we can
here make but a few general observations. The crusades had opened
unknown distances to the European mind, and awakened in all the passion
for travel and adventure. It may be hard to indicate precisely the point
where this passion allied itself with, or became the servant of, the
thirst for knowledge; but it was in Italy that this was first and most
completely the case. Even in the crusades the interest of the Italians
was wider than that of other nations, since they already were a naval
power and had commercial relations with the East. From time immemorial
the Mediterranean sea had given to the nations that dwelt on its shores
mental impulses different from those which governed the peoples of the
North; and never, from the very structure of their character, could the
Italians be adventurers in the sense which the word bore among the
Teutons. After they were once at home in all the eastern harbours of the
Mediterranean, it was natural that the most enterprising among them
should be led to join that vast international movement of the
Mohammedans which there found its outlet. A new half of the world lay,
as it were, freshly discovered before them. Or, like Polo of Venice,
they were caught in the current of the Mongolian peoples, and carried on
to the steps of the throne of the Great Khan. At an early period, we
find Italians sharing in the discoveries made in the Atlantic ocean; it
was the Genoese who, in the 13th century, found the Canary
Islands.[651] In the same year, 1291, when Ptolemais, the last remnant
of the Christian East, was lost, it was again the Genoese who made the
first known attempt to find a sea-passage to the East Indies.[652]
Columbus himself is but the greatest of a long list of Italians who, in
the service of the western nations, sailed into distant seas. The true
discoverer, however, is not the man who first chances to stumble upon
anything, but the man who finds what he has sought. Such a one alone
stands in a link with the thoughts and interests of his predecessors,
and this relationship will also determine the account he gives of his
search. For which reason the Italians, although their claim to be the
first comers on this or that shore may be disputed, will yet retain
their title to be pre-eminently the nation of discoverers for the whole
latter part of the Middle Ages. The fuller proof of this assertion
belongs to the special history of discoveries.[653] Yet ever and again
we turn with admiration to the august figure of the great Genoese, by
whom a new continent beyond the ocean was demanded, sought and found;
and who was the first to be able to say: ‘il mondo è poco’--the world is
not so large as men have thought. At the time when Spain gave Alexander
VI. to the Italians, Italy gave Columbus to the Spaniards. Only a few
weeks before the death of that pope (July 7th, 1503), Columbus wrote
from Jamaica his noble letter to the thankless Catholic kings, which the
ages to come can never read without profound emotion. In a codicil to
his will, dated Valladolid, May 4th, 1506, he bequeathed to ‘his beloved
home, the Republic of Genoa, the prayer-book which Pope Alexander had
given him, and which in prison, in conflict, and in every kind of
adversity had been to him the greatest of comforts.’ It seems as if
these words cast upon the abhorred name of Borgia one last gleam of
grace and mercy.

The development of geographical and the allied sciences among the
Italians must, like the history of their voyages, be touched upon but
very briefly. A superficial comparison of their achievements with those
of other nations shows an early and striking superiority on their part.
Where, in the middle of the fifteenth century, could be found, anywhere
but in Italy, such an union of geographical, statistical, and historical
knowledge as was found in Æneas Sylvius? Not only in his great
geographical work, but in his letters and commentaries, he describes
with equal mastery landscapes, cities, manners, industries and products,
political conditions and constitutions, wherever he can use his own
observation or the evidence of eye-witnesses. What he takes from books
is naturally of less moment. Even the short sketch[654] of that valley
in the Tyrolese Alps, where Frederick III. had given him a benefice, and
still more his description of Scotland, leaves untouched none of the
relations of human life, and displays a power and method of unbiassed
observation and comparison impossible in any but a countryman of
Columbus, trained in the school of the ancients. Thousands saw and, in
part, knew what he did, but they felt no impulse to draw a picture of
it, and were unconscious that the world desired such pictures.

In geography[655] as in other matters, it is vain to attempt to
distinguish how much is to be attributed to the study of the ancients,
and how much to the special genius of the Italians. They saw and treated
the things of this world from an objective point of view, even before
they were familiar with ancient literature, partly because they were
themselves a half-ancient people, and partly because their political
circumstances predisposed them to it; but they would not so rapidly have
attained to such perfection had not the old geographers showed them the
way. The influence of the existing Italian geographies on the spirit and
tendencies of the travellers and discoverers was also inestimable. Even
the simple ‘dilettante’ of a science--if in the present case we should
assign to Æneas Sylvius so low a rank--can diffuse just that sort of
general interest in the subject which prepares for new pioneers the
indispensable groundwork of a favourable predisposition in the public
mind. True discoverers in any science know well what they owe to such



For the position of the Italians in the sphere of the natural sciences,
we must refer the reader to the special treatises on the subject, of
which the only one with which we are familiar is the superficial and
depreciatory work of Libri.[656] The dispute as to the priority of
particular discoveries concerns us all the less, since we hold that, at
any time, and among any civilised people, a man may appear who, starting
with very scanty preparation, is driven by an irresistible impulse into
the path of scientific investigation, and through his native gifts
achieves the most astonishing success. Such men were Gerbert of Rheims
and Roger Bacon. That they were masters of the whole knowledge of the
age in their several departments, was a natural consequence of the
spirit in which they worked. When once the veil of illusion was torn
asunder, when once the dread of nature and the slavery to books and
tradition were overcome, countless problems lay before them for
solution. It is another matter when a whole people takes a natural
delight in the study and investigation of nature, at a time when other
nations are indifferent, that is to say, when the discoverer is not
threatened or wholly ignored, but can count on the friendly support
of congenial spirits. That this was the case in Italy, is
unquestionable.[657] The Italian students of nature trace with pride in
the ‘Divine Comedy’ the hints and proofs of Dante’s scientific interest
in nature.[658] On his claim to priority in this or that discovery or
reference, we must leave the men of science to decide; but every layman
must be struck by the wealth of his observations on the external world,
shown merely in his pictures and comparisons. He, more than any other
modern poet, takes them from reality, whether in nature or human life,
and uses them, never as mere ornament, but in order to give the reader
the fullest and most adequate sense of his meaning. It is in astronomy
that he appears chiefly as a scientific specialist, though it must not
be forgotten that many astronomical allusions in his great poem, which
now appear to us learned, must then have been intelligible to the
general reader. Dante, learning apart, appeals to a popular knowledge of
the heavens, which the Italians of his day, from the mere fact that they
were a nautical people, had in common with the ancients. This knowledge
of the rising and setting of the constellations has been rendered
superfluous to the modern world by calendars and clocks, and with it has
gone whatever interest in astronomy the people may once have had.
Nowadays, with our schools and hand-books, every child knows--what Dante
did not know--that the earth moves round the sun; but the interest once
taken in the subject itself has given place, except in the case of
astronomical specialists, to the most absolute indifference.

The pseudo-science, which also dealt with the stars, proves nothing
against the inductive spirit of the Italians of that day. That spirit
was but crossed, and at times overcome, by the passionate desire to
penetrate the future. We shall recur to the subject of astrology when we
come to speak of the moral and religious character of the people.

The Church treated this and other pseudo-sciences nearly always with
toleration; and showed itself actually hostile even to genuine science
only when a charge of heresy or necromancy was also in question--which
certainly was often the case. A point which it would be interesting to
decide is this: whether, and in what cases, the Dominican (and also the
Franciscan) Inquisitors in Italy, were conscious of the falsehood of the
charges, and yet condemned the accused, either to oblige some enemy of
the prisoner or from hatred to natural science, and particularly to
experiments. The latter doubtless occurred, but it is not easy to prove
the fact. What helped to cause such persecutions in the North, namely,
the opposition made to the innovators by the upholders of the received
official, scholastic system of nature, was of little or no weight in
Italy. Pietro of Albano, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, is
well known to have fallen a victim to the envy of another physician, who
accused him before the Inquisition of heresy and magic;[659] and
something of the same kind may have happened in the case of his Paduan
contemporary, Giovannino Sanguinnacci, who was known as an innovator in
medical practice. He escaped, however, with banishment. Nor must it be
forgotten that the inquisitorial power of the Dominicans was exercised
less uniformly in Italy than in the North. Tyrants and free cities in
the fourteenth century treated the clergy at times with such sovereign
contempt, that very different matters from natural science went
unpunished.[660] But when, with the fifteenth century, antiquity became
the leading power in Italy, the breach it made in the old system was
turned to account by every branch of secular science. Humanism,
nevertheless, attracted to itself the best strength of the nation, and
thereby, no doubt, did injury to the inductive investigation of
nature.[661] Here and there the Inquisition suddenly started into life,
and punished or burned physicians as blasphemers or magicians. In such
cases it is hard to discover what was the true motive underlying the
condemnation. And after all, Italy, at the close of the fifteenth
century, with Paolo Toscanelli, Luca Paccioli and Lionardo da Vinci,
held incomparably the highest place among European nations in
mathematics and the natural sciences, and the learned men of every
country, even Regiomontanus and Copernicus, confessed themselves its

A significant proof of the wide-spread interest in natural history is
found in the zeal which showed itself at an early period for the
collection and comparative study of plants and animals. Italy claims to
be the first creator of botanical gardens, though possibly they may have
served a chiefly practical end, and the claim to priority may be itself
disputed.[663] It is of far greater importance that princes and wealthy
men in laying out their pleasure-gardens, instinctively made a point of
collecting the greatest possible number of different plants in all their
species and varieties. Thus in the fifteenth century the noble grounds
of the Medicean Villa Careggi appear from the descriptions we have of
them to have been almost a botanical garden,[664] with countless
specimens of different trees and shrubs. Of the same kind was a villa of
the Cardinal Triulzio, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, in the
Roman Campagna towards Tivoli,[665] with hedges made up of various
species of roses, with trees of every description--the fruit-trees
especially showing an astonishing variety--with twenty different sorts
of vines and a large kitchen-garden. This is evidently something very
different from the score or two of familiar medicinal plants, which were
to be found in the garden of any castle or monastery in Western Europe.
Along with a careful cultivation of fruit for the purposes of the table,
we find an interest in the plant for its own sake, on account of the
pleasure it gives to the eye. We learn from the history of art at how
late a period this passion for botanical collections was laid aside, and
gave place to what was considered the picturesque style of

The collections, too, of foreign animals not only gratified curiosity,
but served also the higher purposes of observation. The facility of
transport from the southern and eastern harbours of the Mediterranean
and the mildness of the Italian climate, made it practicable to buy the
largest animals of the south, or to accept them as presents from the
Sultans.[666] The cities and princes were especially anxious to keep
live lions, even when the lion was not, as in Florence, the emblem of
the state.[667] The lions’ den was generally in or near the government
palace, as in Perugia and Florence; in Rome, it lay on the slope of the
Capitol. The beasts sometimes served as executioners of political
judgments,[668] and no doubt, apart from this, they kept alive a certain
terror in the popular mind. Their condition was also held to be ominous
of good or evil. Their fertility, especially, was considered a sign of
public prosperity, and no less a man than Giovanni Villani thought it
worth recording that he was present at the delivery of a lioness.[669]
The cubs were often given to allied states and princes, or to
Condottieri, as a reward of valour.[670] In addition to the lions, the
Florentines began very early to keep leopards, for which a special
keeper was appointed.[671] Borso[672] of Ferrara used to set his lions
to fight with bulls, bears, and wild boars.

By the end of the fifteenth century, however, true menageries
(serragli), now reckoned part of the suitable appointments of a court,
were kept by many of the princes. ‘It belongs to the position of the
great,’ says Matarazzo,[673] ‘to keep horses, dogs, mules, falcons, and
other birds, court-jesters, singers, and foreign animals.’ The menagerie
at Naples, in the time of Ferrante and others, contained a giraffe and a
zebra, presented, it seems, by the ruler of Bagdad.[674] Filippo Maria
Visconti possessed not only horses which cost him each 500 or 1,000
pieces of gold, and valuable English dogs, but a number of leopards
brought from all parts of the East; the expense of his hunting-birds
which were collected from the countries of Northern Europe, amounted to
3,000 pieces of gold a month.[675] ‘The Cremonese say that the Emperor
Frederick II. brought an elephant into their city, sent him from India
by Prester John,’ we read in Brunetto Latini; Petrarch records the dying
out of the elephants in Italy.[676] King Emanuel the Great of Portugal
knew well what he was about when he presented Leo X. with an elephant
and a rhinoceros.[677] It was under such circumstances that the
foundations of a scientific zoology and botany were laid.

A practical fruit of these zoological studies was the establishment of
studs, of which the Mantuan, under Francesco Gonzaga, was esteemed the
first in Europe.[678] All interest in, and knowledge of the different
breeds of horses is as old, no doubt, as riding itself, and the
crossing of the European with the Asiatic must have been common from the
time of the crusades. In Italy, a special inducement to perfect the
breed was offered by the prizes at the horse-races held in every
considerable town in the peninsula. In the Mantuan stables were found
the infallible winners in these contests, as well as the best military
chargers, and the horses best suited by their stately appearance for
presents to great people. Gonzaga kept stallions and mares from Spain,
Ireland, Africa, Thrace, and Cilicia, and for the sake of the last he
cultivated the friendship of the Sultan. All possible experiments were
here tried, in order to produce the most perfect animals.

Even human menageries were not wanting. The famous Cardinal Ippolito
Medici,[679] bastard of Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, kept at his strange
court a troop of barbarians who talked no less than twenty different
languages, and who were all of them perfect specimens of their races.
Among them were incomparable _voltigeurs_ of the best blood of the North
African Moors, Tartar bowmen, Negro wrestlers, Indian divers, and Turks,
who generally accompanied the Cardinal on his hunting expeditions. When
he was overtaken by an early death (1535), this motley band carried the
corpse on their shoulders from Itri to Rome, and mingled with the
general mourning for the open-handed Cardinal their medley of tongues
and violent gesticulations.[680]

These scattered notices of the relations of the Italians to natural
science, and their interest in the wealth and variety of the products of
nature, are only fragments of a great subject. No one is more conscious
than the author of the defects in his knowledge on this point. Of the
multitude of special works in which the subject is adequately treated,
even the names are but imperfectly known to him.



But, outside the sphere of scientific investigation, there is another
way to draw near to nature. The Italians are the first among modern
peoples by whom the outward world was seen and felt as something

The power to do so is always the result of a long and complicated
development, and its origin is not easily detected, since a dim feeling
of this kind may exist long before it shows itself in poetry and
painting, and thereby becomes conscious of itself. Among the ancients,
for example, art and poetry had gone through the whole circle of human
interests, before they turned to the representation of nature, and even
then the latter filled always a limited and subordinate place. And yet,
from the time of Homer downwards, the powerful impression made by nature
upon man is shown by countless verses and chance expressions. The
Germanic races, which founded their states on the ruins of the Roman
Empire, were thoroughly and specially fitted to understand the spirit of
natural scenery; and though Christianity compelled them for a while to
see in the springs and mountains, in the lakes and woods, which they had
till then revered, the working of evil demons, yet this transitional
conception was soon outgrown. By the year 1200, at the height of the
Middle Ages, a genuine, hearty enjoyment of the external world was again
in existence, and found lively expression in the minstrelsy of different
nations,[682] which gives evidence of the sympathy felt with all the
simple phenomena of nature--spring with its flowers, the green fields
and the woods. But these pictures are all foreground without
perspective. Even the crusaders, who travelled so far and saw so much,
are not recognisable as such in these poems. The epic poetry, which
describes armour and costumes so fully, does not attempt more than a
sketch of outward nature; and even the great Wolfram von Eschenbach
scarcely anywhere gives us an adequate picture of the scene on which his
heroes move. From these poems it would never be guessed that their noble
authors in all countries inhabited or visited lofty castles, commanding
distant prospects. Even in the Latin poems of the wandering clerks (p.
174), we find no traces of a distant view--of landscape properly so
called--but what lies near is sometimes described with a glow and
splendour which none of the knightly minstrels can surpass. What picture
of the Grove of Love can equal that of the Italian poet--for such we
take him to be--of the twelfth century?

    ‘Immortalis fieret
     Ibi manens homo;
     Arbor ibi quaelibet
     Suo gaudet pomo;
     Viae myrrha, cinnamo
     Fragrant, et amomo--
     Conjectari poterat
     Dominus ex domo,’[683] etc.

To the Italian mind, at all events, nature had by this time lost its
taint of sin, and had shaken off all trace of demoniacal powers. Saint
Francis of Assisi, in his Hymn to the Sun, frankly praises the Lord for
creating the heavenly bodies and the four elements.

But the unmistakable proofs of a deepening effect of nature on the human
spirit begin with Dante. Not only does he awaken in us by a few vigorous
lines the sense of the morning airs and the trembling light on the
distant ocean, or of the grandeur of the storm-beaten forest, but he
makes the ascent of lofty peaks, with the only possible object of
enjoying the view[684]--the first man, perhaps, since the days of
antiquity who did so. In Boccaccio we can do little more than infer how
country scenery affected him;[685] yet his pastoral romances show his
imagination to have been filled with it. But the significance of nature
for a receptive spirit is fully and clearly displayed by Petrarch--one
of the first truly modern men. That clear soul--who first collected from
the literature of all countries evidence of the origin and progress of
the sense of natural beauty, and himself, in his ‘Ansichten der Natur,’
achieved the noblest masterpiece of description--Alexander von Humboldt,
has not done full justice to Petrarch; and, following in the steps of
the great reaper, we may still hope to glean a few ears of interest and

Petrarch was not only a distinguished geographer--the first map of Italy
is said to have been drawn by his direction[686]--and not only a
reproducer of the sayings of the ancients,[687] but felt himself the
influence of natural beauty. The enjoyment of nature is, for him, the
favourite accompaniment of intellectual pursuits; it was to combine the
two that he lived in learned retirement at Vaucluse and elsewhere, that
he from time to time fled from the world and from his age.[688] We
should do him wrong by inferring from his weak and undeveloped power of
describing natural scenery that he did not feel it deeply. His picture,
for instance, of the lovely Gulf of Spezzia and Porto Venere, which he
inserts at the end of the sixth book of the ‘Africa,’ for the reason
that none of the ancients or moderns had sung of it,[689] is no more
than a simple enumeration, but the descriptions in letters to his
friends of Rome, Naples, and other Italian cities in which he willingly
lingered, are picturesque and worthy of the subject. Petrarch is also
conscious of the beauty of rock scenery, and is perfectly able to
distinguish the picturesqueness from the utility of nature.[690] During
his stay among the woods of Reggio, the sudden sight of an impressive
landscape so affected him that he resumed a poem which he had long laid
aside.[691] But the deepest impression of all was made upon him by the
ascent of Mont Ventoux, near Avignon.[692] An indefinable longing for a
distant panorama grew stronger and stronger in him, till at length the
accidental sight of a passage in Livy, where King Philip, the enemy of
Rome, ascends the Hæmus, decided him. He thought that what was not
blamed in a grey-headed monarch, might be well _excused_ in a young man
of private station. The ascent of a mountain for its own sake was
unheard of, and there could be no thought of the companionship of
friends or acquaintances. Petrarch took with him only his younger
brother and two country people from the last place where he halted. At
the foot of the mountain an old herdsman besought him to turn back,
saying that he himself had attempted to climb it fifty years before, and
had brought home nothing but repentance, broken bones, and torn clothes,
and that neither before nor after had anyone ventured to do the same.
Nevertheless, they struggled forward and upward, till the clouds lay
beneath their feet, and at last they reached the top. A description of
the view from the summit would be looked for in vain, not because the
poet was insensible to it, but, on the contrary, because the impression
was too over-whelming. His whole past life, with all its follies, rose
before his mind; he remembered that ten years ago that day he had
quitted Bologna a young man, and turned a longing gaze towards his
native country; he opened a book which then was his constant companion,
the ‘Confessions of St. Augustine,’ and his eye fell on the passage in
the tenth chapter, ‘and men go forth, and admire lofty mountains and
broad seas, and roaring torrents, and the ocean, and the course of the
stars, and forget their own selves while doing so.’ His brother, to whom
he read these words, could not understand why he closed the book and
said no more.

Some decades later, about 1360, Fazio degli Uberti describes in his
rhyming geography[693] (p. 178), the wide panorama from the mountains of
Auvergne, with the interest, it is true, of the geographer and
antiquarian only, but still showing clearly that he himself had seen it.
He must, however, have ascended far higher peaks, since he is familiar
with facts which only occur at a height of 10,000 feet or more above the
sea--mountain-sickness and its accompaniments--of which his imaginary
comrade Solinus tries to cure him with a sponge dipped in an essence.
The ascents of Parnassus and Olympus,[694] of which he speaks, are
perhaps only fictions.

In the fifteenth century, the great masters of the Flemish school,
Hubert and Johann van Eyck, suddenly lifted the veil from nature. Their
landscapes are not merely the fruit of an endeavour to reflect the real
world in art, but have, even if expressed conventionally, a certain
poetical meaning--in short, a soul. Their influence on the whole art of
the West is undeniable, and extended to the landscape-painting of the
Italians, but without preventing the characteristic interest of the
Italian eye for nature from finding its own expression.

On this point, as in the scientific description of nature, Æneas Sylvius
is again one of the most weighty voices of his time. Even if we grant
the justice of all that has been said against his character, we must
nevertheless admit that in few other men was the picture of the age and
its culture so fully reflected, and that few came nearer to the normal
type of the men of the early Renaissance. It may be added
parenthetically, that even in respect to his moral character he will not
be fairly judged, if we listen solely to the complaints of the German
Church, which his fickleness helped to baulk of the Council it so
ardently desired.[695]

He here claims our attention as the first who not only enjoyed the
magnificence of the Italian landscape, but described it with enthusiasm
down to its minutest details. The ecclesiastical State and the south of
Tuscany--his native home--he knew thoroughly, and after he became pope
he spent his leisure during the favourable season chiefly in excursions
to the country. Then at last the gouty man was rich enough to have
himself carried in a litter through the mountains and valleys; and when
we compare his enjoyments with those of the popes who succeeded him,
Pius, whose chief delight was in nature, antiquity, and simple, but
noble, architecture, appears almost a saint. In the elegant and flowing
Latin of his ‘Commentaries’ he freely tells us of his happiness.[696]

His eye seems as keen and practised as that of any modern observer. He
enjoys with rapture the panoramic splendour of the view from the summit
of the Alban Hills--from the Monte Cavo--whence he could see the shores
of St. Peter from Terracina and the promontory of Circe as far as Monte
Argentaro, and the wide expanse of country round about, with the ruined
cities of the past, and with the mountain-chains of central Italy
beyond; and then his eye would turn to the green woods in the hollows
beneath and the mountain-lakes among them. He feels the beauty of the
position of Todi, crowning the vineyards and olive-clad slopes, looking
down upon distant woods and upon the valley of the Tiber, where towns
and castles rise above the winding river. The lovely hills about Siena,
with villas and monasteries on every height, are his own home, and his
descriptions of them are touched with a peculiar feeling. Single
picturesque glimpses charm him too, like the little promontory of Capo
di Monte that stretches out into the Lake of Bolsena. ‘Rocky steps,’ we
read, ‘shaded by vines, descend to the water’s edge, where the evergreen
oaks stand between the cliffs, alive with the song of thrushes.’ On the
path round the Lake of Nemi, beneath the chestnuts and fruit-trees, he
feels that here, if anywhere, a poet’s soul must awake--here in the
hiding-place of Diana! He often held consistories or received
ambassadors under huge old chestnut-trees, or beneath the olives on the
green sward by some gurgling spring. A view like that of a narrowing
gorge, with a bridge arched boldly over it, awakens at once his artistic
sense. Even the smallest details give him delight through something
beautiful, or perfect, or characteristic in them--the blue fields of
waving flax, the yellow gorse which covers the hills, even tangled
thickets, or single trees, or springs, which seem to him like wonders of

The height of his enthusiasm for natural beauty was reached during his
stay on Monte Amiata, in the summer of 1462, when plague and heat made
the lowlands uninhabitable. Half-way up the mountain, in the old Lombard
monastery of San Salvatore, he and his court took up their quarters.
There, between the chestnuts which clothe the steep declivity, the eye
may wander over all southern Tuscany, with the towers of Siena in the
distance. The ascent of the highest peak he left to his companions, who
were joined by the Venetian envoy; they found at the top two vast blocks
of stone one upon the other--perhaps the sacrificial altar of a
pre-historical people--and fancied that in the far distance they saw
Corsica and Sardinia[697] rising above the sea. In the cool air of the
hills, among the old oaks and chestnuts, on the green meadows where
there were no thorns to wound the feet, and no snakes or insects to hurt
or to annoy, the pope passed days of unclouded happiness. For the
‘Segnatura,’ which took place on certain days of the week, he selected
on each occasion some new shady retreat[698] ‘novas in convallibus
fontes et novas inveniens umbras, quæ dubiam facerent electionem.’ At
such times the dogs would perhaps start a great stag from his lair, who,
after defending himself a while with hoofs and antlers, would fly at
last up the mountain. In the evening the pope was accustomed to sit
before the monastery on the spot from which the whole valley of the
Paglia was visible, holding lively conversations with the cardinals. The
courtiers, who ventured down from the heights on their hunting
expeditions, found the heat below intolerable, and the scorched plains
like a very hell, while the monastery, with its cool, shady woods,
seemed like an abode of the blessed.

All this is genuine modern enjoyment, not a reflection of antiquity. As
surely as the ancients themselves felt in the same manner, so surely,
nevertheless, were the scanty expressions of the writers whom Pius knew
insufficient to awaken in him such enthusiasm.[699]

The second great age of Italian poetry, which now followed at the end of
the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries, as well as
the Latin poetry of the same period, is rich in proofs of the powerful
effect of nature on the human mind. The first glance at the lyric poets
of that time will suffice to convince us. Elaborate descriptions, it is
true, of natural scenery, are very rare, for the reason that, in this
energetic age, the novels and the lyric or epic poetry had something
else to deal with. Bojardo and Ariosto paint nature vigorously, but as
briefly as possible, and with no effort to appeal by their descriptions
to the feelings of the reader,[700] which they endeavour to reach solely
by their narrative and characters. Letter-writers and the authors of
philosophical dialogues are, in fact, better evidence of the growing
love of nature than the poets. The novelist Bandello, for example,
observes rigorously the rules of his department of literature; he gives
us in his novels themselves not a word more than is necessary on the
natural scenery amid which the action of his tales takes place,[701] but
in the dedications which always precede them we meet with charming
descriptions of nature as the setting for his dialogues and social
pictures. Among letter-writers, Aretino[702] unfortunately must be named
as the first who has fully painted in words the splendid effect of light
and shadow in an Italian sunset.

We sometimes find the feeling of the poets, also, attaching itself with
tenderness to graceful scenes of country life. Tito Strozza, about the
year 1480, describes in a Latin elegy[703] the dwelling of his mistress.
We are shown an old ivy-clad house, half hidden in trees, and adorned
with weather-stained frescoes of the saints, and near it a chapel, much
damaged by the violence of the river Po, which flowed hard by; not far
off, the priest ploughs his few barren roods with borrowed cattle. This
is no reminiscence of the Roman elegists, but true modern sentiment; and
the parallel to it--a sincere, unartificial description of country life
in general--will be found at the end of this part of our work.

It may be objected that the German painters at the beginning of the
sixteenth century succeed in representing with perfect mastery these
scenes of country life, as, for instance, Albrecht Dürer, in his
engraving of the Prodigal Son.[704] But it is one thing if a painter,
brought up in a school of realism, introduces such scenes, and quite
another thing if a poet, accustomed to an ideal or mythological
framework, is driven by inward impulse into realism. Besides which,
priority in point of time is here, as in the descriptions of country
life, on the side of the Italian poets.



To the discovery of the outward world the Renaissance added a still
greater achievement, by first discerning and bringing to light the full,
whole nature of man.[705]

This period, as we have seen, first gave the highest development to
individuality, and then led the individual to the most zealous and
thorough study of himself in all forms and under all conditions. Indeed,
the development of personality is essentially involved in the
recognition of it in oneself and in others. Between these two great
processes our narrative has placed the influence of ancient literature,
because the mode of conceiving and representing both the individual and
human nature in general was defined and coloured by that influence. But
the power of conception and representation lay in the age and in the

The facts which we shall quote in evidence of our thesis will be few in
number. Here, if anywhere in the course of this discussion, the author
is conscious that he is treading on the perilous ground of conjecture,
and that what seems to him a clear, if delicate and gradual, transition
in the intellectual movement of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries,
may not be equally plain to others. The gradual awakening of the soul of
a people is a phenomenon which may produce a different impression on
each spectator. Time will judge which impression is the most faithful.

Happily the study of the intellectual side of human nature began, not
with the search after a theoretical psychology--for that, Aristotle
still sufficed--but with the endeavour to observe and to describe. The
indispensable ballast of theory was limited to the popular doctrine of
the four temperaments, in its then habitual union with the belief in the
influence of the planets. Such conceptions may remain ineradicable in
the minds of individuals, without hindering the general progress of the
age. It certainly makes on us a singular impression, when we meet them
at a time when human nature in its deepest essence and in all its
characteristic expressions was not only known by exact observation, but
represented by an immortal poetry and art. It sounds almost ludicrous
when an otherwise competent observer considers Clement VII. to be of a
melancholy temperament, but defers his judgment to that of the
physicians, who declare the pope of a sanguine-choleric nature;[706] or
when we read that the same Gaston de Foix, the victor of Ravenna, whom
Giorgione painted and Bambaja carved, and whom all the historians
describe, had the saturnine temperament.[707] No doubt those who use
these expressions mean something by them; but the terms in which they
tell us their meaning are strangely out of date in the Italy of the
sixteenth century.

As examples of the free delineation of the human spirit, we shall first
speak of the great poets of the fourteenth century.

If we were to collect the pearls from the courtly and knightly poetry of
all the countries of the West during the two preceding centuries, we
should have a mass of wonderful divinations and single pictures of the
inward life, which at first sight would seem to rival the poetry of the
Italians. Leaving lyrical poetry out of account, Godfrey of Strasburg
gives us, in ‘Tristram and Isolt,’ a representation of human passion,
some features of which are immortal. But these pearls lie scattered in
the ocean of artificial convention, and they are altogether something
very different from a complete objective picture of the inward man and
his spiritual wealth.

Italy, too, in the thirteenth century had, through the ‘Trovatori,’ its
share in the poetry of the courts and of chivalry. To them is mainly due
the ‘Canzone,’ whose construction is as difficult and artificial as that
of the songs of any northern minstrel. Their subject and mode of thought
represents simply the conventional tone of the courts, be the poet a
burgher or a scholar.

But two new paths at length showed themselves, along which Italian
poetry could advance to another and a characteristic future. They are
not the less important for being concerned only with the formal and
external side of the art.

To the same Brunetto Latini--the teacher of Dante--who, in his
‘Canzoni,’ adopts the customary manner of the ‘Trovatori,’ we owe the
first-known ‘Versi Sciolti,’ or blank hendecasyllabic verses,[708] and
in his apparent absence of form, a true and genuine passion suddenly
showed itself. The same voluntary renunciation of outward effect,
through confidence in the power of the inward conception, can be
observed some years later in fresco-painting, and later still in
painting of all kinds, which began to cease to rely on colour for its
effect, using simply a lighter or darker shade. For an age which laid so
much stress on artificial form in poetry, these verses of Brunetto mark
the beginning of a new epoch.[709]

About the same time, or even in the first half of the thirteenth
century, one of the many strictly-balanced forms of metre, in which
Europe was then so fruitful, became a normal and recognised form in
Italy--the sonnet. The order of rhymes and even the number of the lines
varied for a whole century,[710] till Petrarch fixed them permanently.
In this form all higher lyrical or meditative subjects, and at a later
time subjects of every possible description, were treated, and the
madrigals, the sestine, and even the ‘Canzoni’ were reduced to a
subordinate place. Later Italian writers complain, half jestingly, half
resentfully, of this inevitable mould, this Procrustean bed, to which
they were compelled to make their thoughts and feelings fit. Others
were, and still are, quite satisfied with this particular form of verse,
which they freely use to express any personal reminiscence or idle
sing-song without necessity or serious purpose. For which reason there
are many more bad or insignificant sonnets than good ones.

Nevertheless, the sonnet must be held to have been an unspeakable
blessing for Italian poetry. The clearness and beauty of its structure,
the invitation it gave to elevate the thought in the second and more
rapidly moving half, and the ease with which it could be learned by
heart, made it valued even by the greatest masters. In fact, they would
not have kept it in use down to our own century, had they not been
penetrated with a sense of its singular worth. These masters could have
given us the same thoughts in other and wholly different forms. But when
once they had made the sonnet the normal type of lyrical poetry, many
other writers of great, if not the highest, gifts, who otherwise would
have lost themselves in a sea of diffusiveness, were forced to
concentrate their feelings. The sonnet became for Italian literature a
condenser of thoughts and emotions such as was possessed by the poetry
of no other modern people.

Thus the world of Italian sentiment comes before us in a series of
pictures, clear, concise, and most effective in their brevity. Had other
nations possessed a form of expression of the same kind, we should
perhaps have known more of their inward life; we might have had a number
of pictures of inward and outward situations--reflexions of the national
character and temper--and should not be dependent for such knowledge on
the so-called lyrical poets of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries,
who can hardly ever be read with any serious enjoyment. In Italy we can
trace an undoubted progress from the time when the sonnet came into
existence. In the second half of the thirteenth century the ‘Trovatori
della transizione,’ as they have been recently named,[711] mark the
passage from the Troubadours to the poets--that is, to those who wrote
under the influence of antiquity. The simplicity and strength of their
feeling, the vigorous delineation of fact, the precise expression and
rounding off of their sonnets and other poems, herald the coming of a
Dante. Some political sonnets of the Guelphs and Ghibellines (1260-1270)
have about them the ring of his passion, and others remind us of his
sweetest lyrical notes.

Of his own theoretical view of the sonnet, we are unfortunately
ignorant, since the last books of his work, ‘De vulgari eloquio,’ in
which he proposed to treat of ballads and sonnets, either remained
unwritten or have been lost. But, as a matter of fact, he has left us in
his Sonnets and ‘Canzoni,’ a treasure of inward experience. And in what
a framework he has set them! The prose of the ‘Vita Nuova,’ in which he
gives an account of the origin of each poem, is as wonderful as the
verses themselves, and forms with them a uniform whole, inspired with
the deepest glow of passion. With unflinching frankness and sincerity he
lays bare every shade of his joy and his sorrow, and moulds it
resolutely into the strictest forms of art. Reading attentively these
Sonnets and ‘Canzoni,’ and the marvellous fragments of the diary of his
youth which lie between them, we fancy that throughout the Middle Ages
the poets have been purposely fleeing from themselves, and that he was
the first to seek his own soul. Before his time we meet with many an
artistic verse; but he is the first artist in the full sense of the
word--the first who consciously cast immortal matter into an immortal
form. Subjective feeling has here a full objective truth and greatness,
and most of it is so set forth that all ages and peoples can make it
their own.[712] Where he writes in a thoroughly objective spirit, and
lets the force of his sentiment be guessed at only by some outward fact,
as in the magnificent sonnets ‘Tanto gentile,’ etc., and ‘Vedi
perfettamente,’ etc., he seems to feel the need of excusing
himself.[713] The most beautiful of these poems really belongs to this
class--the ‘Deh peregrini che pensosi andate.’

Even apart from the ‘Divine Comedy,’ Dante would have marked by these
youthful poems the boundary between mediævalism and modern times. The
human spirit had taken a mighty step towards the consciousness of its
own secret life.

The revelations in this matter which are contained in the ‘Divine
Comedy’ itself are simply immeasurable; and it would be necessary to go
through the whole poem, one canto after another, in order to do justice
to its value from this point of view. Happily we have no need to do
this, as it has long been a daily food of all the countries of the West.
Its plan, and the ideas on which it is based, belong to the Middle Ages,
and appeal to our interest only historically; but it is nevertheless the
beginning of all modern poetry, through the power and richness shown in
the description of human nature in every shape and attitude.[714]

From this time forwards poetry may have experienced unequal fortunes,
and may show, for half a century together, a so-called relapse. But its
nobler and more vital principle was saved for ever; and whenever in the
fourteenth, fifteenth, and in the beginning of the sixteenth centuries,
an original mind devotes himself to it, he represents a more advanced
stage than any poet out of Italy, given--what is certainly not always
easy to settle satisfactorily--an equality of natural gifts to start

Here, as in other things, in Italy, culture--to which poetry
belongs--precedes the plastic arts and, in fact, gives them their chief
impulse. More than a century elapsed before the spiritual element in
painting and sculpture attained a power of expression in any way
analogous to that of the ‘Divine Comedy.’ How far the same rule holds
good for the artistic development of other nations,[715] and of what
importance the whole question may be, does not concern us here. For
Italian civilisation it is of decisive weight.

The position to be assigned to Petrarch in this respect must be settled
by the many readers of the poet. Those who come to him in the spirit of
a cross-examiner, and busy themselves in detecting the contradictions
between the poet and the man, his infidelities in love, and the other
weak sides of his character, may perhaps, after sufficient effort, end
by losing all taste for his poetry. In place, then, of artistic
enjoyment, we may acquire a knowledge of the man in his ‘totality.’ What
a pity that Petrarch’s letters from Avignon contain so little gossip to
take hold of, and that the letters of his acquaintances and of the
friends of these acquaintances have either been lost or never existed!
Instead of Heaven being thanked when we are not forced to enquire how
and through what struggles a poet has rescued something immortal from
his own poor life and lot, a biography has been stitched together for
Petrarch out of these so-called ‘remains,’ which reads like an
indictment. But the poet may take comfort. If the printing and editing
of the correspondence of celebrated people goes on for another
half-century as it has begun in England and Germany, he will have
illustrious company enough sitting with him on the stool of repentance.

Without shutting our eyes to much that is forced and artificial in his
poetry, where the writer is merely imitating himself and singing on in
the old strain, we cannot fail to admire the marvellous abundance of
pictures of the inmost soul--descriptions of moments of joy and sorrow
which must have been thoroughly his own, since no one before him gives
us anything of the kind, and on which his significance rests for his
country and for the world. His verse is not in all places equally
transparent; by the side of his most beautiful thoughts, stand at times
some allegorical conceit, or some sophistical trick of logic, altogether
foreign to our present taste. But the balance is on the side of

Boccaccio, too, in his imperfectly-known Sonnets,[716] succeeds
sometimes in giving a most powerful and effective picture of his
feeling. The return to a spot consecrated by love (Son. 22), the
melancholy of spring (Son. 33), the sadness of the poet who feels
himself growing old (Son. 65), are admirably treated by him. And in the
‘Ameto’ he has described the ennobling and transfiguring power of love
in a manner which would hardly be expected from the author of the
‘Decamerone.’[717] In the ‘Fiammetta’ we have another great and
minutely-painted picture of the human soul, full of the keenest
observation, though executed with anything but uniform power, and in
parts marred by the passion for high-sounding language and by an unlucky
mixture of mythological allusions and learned quotations. The
‘Fiammetta,’ if we are not mistaken, is a sort of feminine counterpart
to the ‘Vita Nuova’ of Dante, or at any rate owes its origin to it.

That the ancient poets, particularly the elegists, and Virgil, in the
fourth book of the Æneid, were not without influence[718] on the
Italians of this and the following generation is beyond a doubt; but the
spring of sentiment within the latter was nevertheless powerful and
original. If we compare them in this respect with their contemporaries
in other countries, we shall find in them the earliest complete
expression of modern European feeling. The question, be it remembered,
is not to know whether eminent men of other nations did not feel as
deeply and as nobly, but who first gave documentary proof of the widest
knowledge of the movements of the human heart.

Why did the Italians of the Renaissance do nothing above the second rank
in tragedy? That was the field on which to display human character,
intellect, and passion, in the thousand forms of their growth, their
struggles, and their decline. In other words: why did Italy produce no
Shakespeare? For with the stage of other northern countries besides
England the Italians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had no
reason to fear a comparison; and with the Spaniards they could not enter
into competition, since Italy had long lost all traces of religious
fanaticism, treated the chivalrous code of honour only as a form, and
was both too proud and too intelligent to bow down before its tyrannical
and illegitimate masters.[719] We have therefore only to consider the
English stage in the period of its brief splendour.

It is an obvious reply that all Europe produced but one Shakespeare, and
that such a mind is the rarest of Heaven’s gifts. It is further possible
that the Italian stage was on the way to something great when the
Counter-reformation broke in upon it, and, aided by the Spanish rule
over Naples and Milan, and indirectly over the whole peninsula, withered
the best flowers of the Italian spirit. It would be hard to conceive of
Shakespeare himself under a Spanish viceroy, or in the neighbourhood of
the Holy Inquisition at Rome, or even in his own country a few decades
later, at the time of the English Revolution. The stage, which in its
perfection is a late product of every civilisation, must wait for its
own time and fortune.

We must not, however, quit this subject without mentioning certain
circumstances, which were of a character to hinder or retard a high
development of the drama in Italy, till the time for it had gone by.

As the most weighty of these causes we must mention without doubt that
the scenic tastes of the people were occupied elsewhere, and chiefly in
the mysteries and religious processions. Throughout all Europe dramatic
representations of sacred history and legend form the origin of the
secular drama; but Italy, as it will be shown more fully in the sequel,
had spent on the mysteries such a wealth of decorative splendour as
could not but be unfavourable to the dramatic element. Out of all the
countless and costly representations, there sprang not even a branch of
poetry like the ‘Autos Sagramentales’ of Calderon and other Spanish
poets, much less any advantage or foundation for the legitimate

And when the latter did at length appear, it at once gave itself up to
magnificence of scenic effects, to which the mysteries had already
accustomed the public taste to far too great an extent. We learn with
astonishment how rich and splendid the scenes in Italy were, at a time
when in the North the simplest indication of the place was thought
sufficient. This alone might have had no such unfavourable effect on the
drama, if the attention of the audience had not been drawn away from the
poetical conception of the play partly by the splendour of the costumes,
partly and chiefly by fantastic interludes (Intermezzi).

That in many places, particularly in Rome and Ferrara, Plautus and
Terence, as well as pieces by the old tragedians, were given in Latin or
in Italian (pp. 242, 255), that the academies (p. 280) of which we have
already spoken, made this one of their chief objects, and that the poets
of the Renaissance followed these models too servilely, were all
untoward conditions for the Italian stage at the period in
question. Yet I hold them to be of secondary importance. Had not the
Counter-reformation and the rule of foreigners intervened, these very
disadvantages might have been turned into useful means of transition. At
all events, by the year 1520 the victory of the mother-tongue in tragedy
and comedy was, to the great disgust of the humanists, as good as
won.[721] On this side, then, no obstacle stood in the way of the most
developed people in Europe, to hinder them from raising the drama, in
its noblest forms, to be a true reflexion of human life and destiny. It
was the Inquisitors and Spaniards who cowed the Italian spirit, and
rendered impossible the representation of the greatest and most sublime
themes, most of all when they were associated with patriotic memories.
At the same time, there is no doubt that the distracting ‘Intermezzi’
did serious harm to the drama. We must now consider them a little more

When the marriage of Alfonso of Ferrara with Lucrezia Borgia was
celebrated, Duke Hercules in person showed his illustrious guests the
110 costumes which were to serve at the representation of five comedies
of Plautus, in order that all might see that not one of them was used
twice.[722] But all this display of silk and camlet was nothing to the
ballets and pantomimes which served as interludes between the acts of
the Plautine dramas. That in comparison, Plautus himself seemed mortally
dull to a lively young lady like Isabella Gonzaga, and that while the
play was going on everybody was longing for the interludes, is quite
intelligible, when we think of the picturesque brilliancy with which
they were put on the stage. There were to be seen combats of Roman
warriors, who brandished their weapons to the sound of music,
torch-dances executed by Moors, a dance of savages with horns of plenty,
out of which streamed waves of fire--all as the ballet of a pantomime in
which a maiden was delivered from a dragon. Then came a dance of fools,
got up as punches, beating one another with pigs’ bladders, with more of
the same kind. At the Court of Ferrara they never gave a comedy without
‘its’ ballet (Moresca).[723] In what style the ‘Amphitryo’ of Plautus
was there represented (1491, at the first marriage of Alfonso with Anna
Sforza), is doubtful. Possibly it was given rather as a pantomime with
music, than as a drama.[724] In any case, the accessories were more
considerable than the play itself. There was a choral dance of ivy-clad
youths, moving in intricate figures, done to the music of a ringing
orchestra; then came Apollo, striking the lyre with the plectrum, and
singing an ode to the praise of the House of Este; then followed, as an
interlude within an interlude, a kind of rustic farce, after which the
stage was again occupied by classical mythology--Venus, Bacchus and
their followers--and by a pantomime representing the judgment of Paris.
Not till then was the second half of the fable of Amphitryo performed,
with unmistakable references to the future birth of a Hercules of the
House of Este. At a former representation of the same piece in the
courtyard of the palace (1487), ‘a paradise with stars and other
wheels,’ was constantly burning, by which is probably meant an
illumination with fireworks, that, no doubt, absorbed most of the
attention of the spectators. It was certainly better when such
performances were given separately, as was the case at other courts. We
shall have to speak of the entertainments given by the Cardinal Pietro
Riario, by the Bentivogli at Bologna, and by others, when we come to
treat of the festivals in general.

This scenic magnificence, now become universal, had a disastrous effect
on Italian tragedy. ‘In Venice formerly,’ writes Francesco
Sansovino,[725] ‘besides comedies, tragedies by ancient and modern
writers were put on the stage with great pomp. The fame of the scenic
arrangements (_apparati_) brought spectators from far and near.
Nowadays, performances are given by private individuals in their own
houses, and the custom has long been fixed of passing the carnival in
comedies and other cheerful entertainments.’ In other words, scenic
display had helped to kill tragedy.

The various starts or attempts of these modern tragedians, among which
the ‘Sofonisba’ of Trissino was the most celebrated, belong to the
history of literature. The same may be said of genteel comedy, modelled
on Plautus and Terence. Even Ariosto could do nothing of the first
order in this style. On the other hand, popular prose-comedy, as treated
by Macchiavelli, Bibiena, and Aretino, might have had a future, if its
matter had not condemned it to destruction. This was, on the one hand,
licentious to the last degree, and on the other, aimed at certain
classes in society, which, after the middle of the sixteenth century,
ceased to afford a ground for public attacks. If in the ‘Sofonisba’ the
portrayal of character gave place to brilliant declamation, the latter,
with its half-sister caricature, was used far too freely in comedy also.
Nevertheless, these Italian comedies, if we are not mistaken, were the
first written in prose and copied from real life, and for this reason
deserve mention in the history of European literature.

The writing of tragedies and comedies, and the practice of putting both
ancient and modern plays on the stage, continued without intermission;
but they served only as occasions for display. The national genius
turned elsewhere for living interest. When the opera and the pastoral
fable came up, these attempts were at length wholly abandoned.

One form of comedy only was and remained national--the unwritten,
improvised ‘Commedia dell’Arte.’ It was of no great service in the
delineation of character, since the masks used were few in number and
familiar to everybody. But the talent of the nation had such an affinity
for this style, that often in the middle of written comedies the actors
would throw themselves on their own inspiration,[726] so that a new
mixed form of comedy came into existence in some places. The plays given
in Venice by Burchiello, and afterwards by the company of Armonio, Val.
Zuccato, Lod. Dolce, and others, were perhaps of this character.[727] Of
Burchiello we know expressly that he used to heighten the comic effect
by mixing Greek and Sclavonic words with the Venetian dialect. A
complete ‘Commedia dell’Arte,’ or very nearly so, was represented by
Angelo Beolco, known as ‘Il Ruzzante’ (1502-1542), who enjoyed the
highest reputation as poet and actor, was compared as poet to Plautus,
and as actor to Roscius, and who formed a company with several of his
friends, who appeared in his pieces as Paduan peasants, with the names
Menato, Vezzo, Billora, &c. He studied their dialect when spending the
summer at the villa of his patron Luigi Cornaro (Aloysius Cornelius) at
Codevico.[728] Gradually all the famous local masks made their
appearance, whose remains still delight the Italian populace at our day:
Pantalone, the Doctor, Brighella, Pulcinella, Arlecchino, and the rest.
Most of them are of great antiquity, and possibly are historically
connected with the masks in the old Roman farces; but it was not till
the sixteenth century that several of them were combined in one piece.
At the present time this is less often the case; but every great city
still keeps to its local mask--Naples to the Pulcinella, Florence to the
Stentorello, Milan to its often so admirable Meneghino.[729]

This is indeed scanty compensation for a people which possessed the
power, perhaps to a greater degree than any other, to reflect and
contemplate its own highest qualities in the mirror of the drama. But
this power was destined to be marred for centuries by hostile forces,
for whose predominance the Italians were only in part responsible. The
universal talent for dramatic representation could not indeed be
uprooted, and in music Italy long made good its claim to supremacy in
Europe. Those who can find in this world of sound a compensation for the
drama, to which all future was denied, have, at all events, no meagre
source of consolation.

But perhaps we can find in epic poetry what the stage fails to offer us.
Yet the chief reproach made against the heroic poetry of Italy is
precisely on the score of the insignificance and imperfect
representation of its characters.

Other merits are allowed to belong to it, among the rest, that for three
centuries it has been actually read and constantly reprinted, while
nearly the whole of the epic poetry of other nations has become a mere
matter of literary or historical curiosity. Does this perhaps lie in the
taste of the readers, who demand something different from what would
satisfy a northern public? Certainly, without the power of entering to
some degree into Italian sentiment, it is impossible to appreciate the
characteristic excellence of these poems, and many distinguished men
declare that they can make nothing of them. And in truth, if we
criticise Pulci, Bojardo, Ariosto, and Berni solely with an eye to their
thought and matter, we shall fail to do them justice. They are artists
of a peculiar kind, who write for a people which is distinctly and
eminently artistic.

The mediæval legends had lived on after the gradual extinction of the
poetry of chivalry, partly in the form of rhyming adaptations and
collections, and partly of novels in prose. The latter was the case in
Italy during the fourteenth century; but the newly-awakened memories of
antiquity were rapidly growing up to a gigantic size, and soon cast into
the shade all the fantastic creations of the Middle Ages. Boccaccio, for
example, in his ‘Visione Amorosa,’ names among the heroes in his
enchanted palace Tristram, Arthur, Galeotto, and others, but briefly, as
if he were ashamed to speak of them (p. 206); and following writers
either do not name them at all, or name them only for purposes of
ridicule. But the people kept them in its memory, and from the people
they passed into the hands of the poets of the fifteenth century. These
were now able to conceive and represent their subject in a wholly new
manner. But they did more. They introduced into it a multitude of fresh
elements, and in fact recast it from beginning to end. It must not be
expected of them that they should treat such subjects with the respect
once felt for them. All other countries must envy them the advantage of
having a popular interest of this kind to appeal to; but they could not
without hypocrisy treat these myths with any respect.[730]

Instead of this, they moved with victorious freedom in the new field
which poetry had won. What they chiefly aimed at seems to have been that
their poems, when recited, should produce the most harmonious and
exhilarating effect. These works indeed gain immensely when they are
repeated, not as a whole, but piecemeal, and with a slight touch of
comedy in voice and gesture. A deeper and more detailed portrayal of
character would do little to enhance this effect; though the reader may
desire it, the hearer, who sees the rhapsodist standing before him, and
who hears only one piece at a time, does not think about it at all. With
respect to the figures which the poet found ready made for him, his
feeling was of a double kind; his humanistic culture protested against
their mediæval character, and their combats as counterparts of the
battles and tournaments of the poet’s own age exercised all his
knowledge and artistic power, while at the same time they called forth
all the highest qualities in the reciter. Even in Pulci,[731]
accordingly, we find no parody, strictly speaking, of chivalry, nearly
as the rough humour of his paladins at times approaches it. By their
side stands the ideal of pugnacity--the droll and jovial Morgante--who
masters whole armies with his bell-clapper, and who is himself thrown
into relief by contrast with the grotesque and most interesting monster
Margutte. Yet Pulci lays no special stress on these two rough and
vigorous characters, and his story, long after they had disappeared from
it, maintains its singular course. Bojardo[732] treats his characters
with the same mastery, using them for serious or comic purposes as he
pleases; he has his fun even out of supernatural beings, whom he
sometimes intentionally depicts as louts. But there is one artistic aim
which he pursues as earnestly as Pulci, namely, the lively and exact
description of all that goes forward. Pulci recited his poem, as one
book after another was finished, before the society of Lorenzo
Magnifico, and in the same way Bojardo recited his at the court of
Hercules of Ferrara. It may be easily imagined what sort of excellence
such an audience demanded, and how little thanks a profound exposition
of character would have earned for the poet. Under these circumstances
the poems naturally formed no complete whole, and might just as well be
half or twice as long as they now are. Their composition is not that of
a great historical picture, but rather that of a frieze, or of some rich
festoon entwined among groups of picturesque figures. And precisely as
in the figures or tendrils of a frieze we do not look for minuteness of
execution in the individual forms, or for distant perspectives and
different planes, so we must as little expect anything of the kind from
these poems.

The varied richness of invention which continually astonishes us, most
of all in the case of Bojardo, turns to ridicule all our school
definitions as to the essence of epic poetry. For that age, this form of
literature was the most agreeable diversion from archæological studies,
and, indeed, the only possible means of re-establishing an independent
class of narrative poetry. For the versification of ancient history
could only lead to the false tracks which were trodden by Petrarch in
his ‘Africa,’ written in Latin hexameters, and a hundred and fifty years
later by Trissino in his ‘Italy delivered from the Goths,’ composed in
‘versi sciolti’--a never-ending poem of faultless language and
versification, which only makes us doubt whether an unlucky alliance has
been most disastrous to history or to poetry.[733]

And whither did the example of Dante beguile those who imitated him? The
visionary ‘Trionfi’ of Petrarch were the last of the works written under
this influence which satisfy our taste. The ‘Amorosa Visione’ of
Boccaccio is at bottom no more than an enumeration of historical or
fabulous characters, arranged under allegorical categories.[734] Others
preface what they have to tell with a baroque imitation of Dante’s
first canto, and provide themselves with some allegorical comparison, to
take the place of Virgil. Uberti, for example, chose Solinus for his
geographical poem--the ‘Dittamondo’--and Giovanni Santi, Plutarch for
his encomium on Frederick of Urbino.[735] The only salvation of the time
from these false tendencies lay in the new epic poetry which was
represented by Pulci and Bojardo. The admiration and curiosity with
which it was received, and the like of which will perhaps never fall
again to the lot of epic poetry to the end of time, is a brilliant proof
how great was the need of it. It is idle to ask whether that epic ideal
which our own day has formed from Homer and the ‘Nibelungenlied’ is or
is not realised in these works; an ideal of their own age certainly was.
By their endless descriptions of combats, which to us are the most
fatiguing part of these poems, they satisfied, as we have already said,
a practical interest of which it is hard for us to form a just
conception[736]--as hard, indeed, as of the esteem in which a lively and
faithful reflection of the passing moment was then held.

Nor can a more inappropriate test be applied to Ariosto than the degree
in which his ‘Orlando Furioso’[737] serves for the representation of
character. Characters, indeed, there are, and drawn with an affectionate
care; but the poem does not depend on these for its effect, and would
lose, rather than gain, if more stress were laid upon them. But the
demand for them is part of a wider and more general desire which Ariosto
fails to satisfy as our day would wish it satisfied. From a poet of such
fame and such mighty gifts we would gladly receive something better than
the adventures of Orlando. From him we might have hoped for a work
expressing the deepest conflicts of the human soul, the highest thoughts
of his time on human and divine things--in a word, one of those supreme
syntheses like the ‘Divine Comedy’ or ‘Faust.’ Instead of which he goes
to work like the plastic artists of his own day, not caring for
originality in our sense of the word, simply reproducing a familiar
circle of figures, and even, when it suits his purpose, making use of
the details left him by his predecessors. The excellence which, in spite
of all this, can nevertheless be attained, will be the more
incomprehensible to people born without the artistic sense, the more
learned and intelligent in other respects they are. The artistic aim of
Ariosto is brilliant, living action, which he distributes equally
through the whole of his great poem. For this end he needs to be
excused, not only from all deeper expression of character, but also from
maintaining any strict connection in his narrative. He must be allowed
to take up lost and forgotten threads when and where he pleases; his
heroes must come and go, not because their character, but because the
story requires it. Yet in this apparently irrational and arbitrary style
of composition he displays a harmonious beauty, never losing himself in
description, but giving only such a sketch of scenes and persons as does
not hinder the flowing movement of the narrative. Still less does he
lose himself in conversation and monologue,[738] but maintains the lofty
privilege of the true epos, by transforming all into living narrative.
His pathos does not lie in the words,[739] not even in the famous
twenty-third and following cantos, where Roland’s madness is described.
That the love-stories in the heroic poem are without all lyrical
tenderness, must be reckoned a merit, though from a moral point of view
they cannot be always approved. Yet at times they are of such truth and
reality, notwithstanding all the magic and romance which surrounds them,
that we might think them personal affairs of the poet himself. In the
full consciousness of his own genius, he does not scruple to interweave
the events of his own day into the poem, and to celebrate the fame of
the house of Este in visions and prophecies. The wonderful stream of his
octaves bears it all forwards in even and dignified movement.

With Teofilo Folengo, or, as he here calls himself, Limerno Pitocco, the
parody of the whole system of chivalry attained the end it had so long
desired.[740] But here comedy, with its realism, demanded of necessity a
stricter delineation of character. Exposed to all the rough usage of
the half-savage street-lads in a Roman country town, Sutri, the little
Orlando grows up before our eyes into the hero, the priest-hater, and
the disputant. The conventional world which had been recognised since
the time of Pulci and had served as framework for the epos, falls here
to pieces. The origin and position of the paladins is openly ridiculed,
as in the tournament of donkeys in the second book, where the knights
appear with the most ludicrous armament. The poet utters his ironical
regrets over the inexplicable faithlessness which seems implanted in the
house of Gano of Mainz, over the toilsome acquisition of the sword
Durindana, and so forth. Tradition, in fact, serves him only as a
substratum for episodes, ludicrous fancies, allusions to events of the
time (among which some, like the close of cap. vi. are exceedingly
fine), and indecent jokes. Mixed with all this, a certain derision of
Ariosto is unmistakable, and it was fortunate for the ‘Orlando Furioso’
that the ‘Orlandino,’ with its Lutheran heresies, was soon put out of
the way by the Inquisition. The parody is evident when (cap. v. str. 28)
the house of Gonzaga is deduced from the paladin Guidone, since the
Colonna claimed Orlando, the Orsini Rinaldo, and the house of
Este--according to Ariosto--Ruggiero as their ancestors. Perhaps
Ferrante Gonzaga, the patron of the poet, was a party to this sarcasm on
the house of Este.

That in the ‘Jerusalem Delivered’ of Torquato Tasso the delineation of
character is one of the chief tasks of the poet, proves only how far his
mode of thought differed from that prevalent half a century before. His
admirable work is a true monument of the Counter-reformation which had
been meanwhile accomplished, and of the spirit and tendency of that



Outside the sphere of poetry also, the Italians were the first of all
European nations who displayed any remarkable power and inclination
accurately to describe man as shown in history, according to his inward
and outward characteristics.

It is true that in the Middle Ages considerable attempts were made in
the same direction; and the legends of the Church, as a kind of standing
biographical task, must, to some extent, have kept alive the interest
and the gift for such descriptions. In the annals of the monasteries and
cathedrals, many of the churchmen, such as Meinwerk of Paderborn,
Godehard of Kildesheim, and others, are brought vividly before our eyes;
and descriptions exist of several of the German emperors, modelled after
old authors--particularly Suetonius--which contain admirable features.
Indeed these and other profane ‘vitae’ came in time to form a continuous
counterpart to the sacred legends. Yet neither Einhard nor
Radevicus[741] can be named by the side of Joinville’s picture of St.
Louis, which certainly stands almost alone as the first complete
spiritual portrait of a modern European nature. Characters like St.
Louis are rare at all times, and his was favoured by the rare good
fortune that a sincere and naïve observer caught the spirit of all the
events and actions of his life, and represented it admirably. From what
scanty sources are we left to guess at the inward nature of Frederick
II. or of Philip the Fair. Much of what, till the close of the Middle
Ages, passed for biography, is properly speaking nothing but
contemporary narrative, written without any sense of what is individual
in the subject of the memoir.

Among the Italians, on the contrary, the search for the characteristic
features of remarkable men was a prevailing tendency; and this it is
which separates them from the other western peoples, among whom the same
thing happens but seldom, and in exceptional cases. This keen eye for
individuality belongs only to those who have emerged from the
half-conscious life of the race and become themselves individuals.

Under the influence of the prevailing conception of fame (p. 139, sqq.),
an art of comparative biography arose which no longer found it
necessary, like Anastasius,[742] Agnellus,[743] and their successors, or
like the biographers of the Venetian doges, to adhere to a dynastic or
ecclesiastical succession. It felt itself free to describe a man if and
because he was remarkable. It took as models Suetonius, Nepos (the ‘viri
illustres’), and Plutarch, so far as he was known and translated; for
sketches of literary history, the lives of the grammarians,
rhetoricians, and poets, known to us as the ‘Appendices’ to
Suetonius,[744] seem to have served as patterns, as well as the
widely-read life of Virgil by Donatus.

It has been already mentioned that biographical collections--lives of
famous men and famous women--began to appear in the fourteenth century
(p. 146). Where they do not describe contemporaries, they are naturally
dependent on earlier narratives. The first great original effort is the
life of Dante by Boccaccio. Lightly and rhetorically written, and full,
as it is, of arbitrary fancies, this work nevertheless gives us a lively
sense of the extraordinary features in Dante’s nature.[745] Then follow,
at the end of the fourteenth century, the ‘vite’ of illustrious
Florentines, by Filippo Villani. They are men of every calling: poets,
jurists, physicians, scholars, artists, statesmen, and soldiers, some of
them then still living. Florence is here treated like a gifted family,
in which all the members are noticed in whom the spirit of the house
expresses itself vigorously. The descriptions are brief, but show a
remarkable eye for what is characteristic, and are noteworthy for
including the inward and outward physiognomy in the same sketch.[746]
From that time forward,[747] the Tuscans never ceased to consider the
description of man as lying within their special competence, and to them
we owe the most valuable portraits of the Italians of the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries. Giovanni Cavalcanti, in the appendices to his
Florentine history, written before the year 1450,[748] collects
instances of civil virtue and abnegation, of political discernment and
of military valour, all shown by Florentines. Pius II. gives us in his
‘Commentaries’ valuable portraits of famous contemporaries; and not long
ago a separate work of his earlier years,[749] which seems preparatory
to these portraits, but which has colours and features that are very
singular, was reprinted. To Jacob of Volterra we owe piquant sketches of
members of the Curia[750] in the time of Sixtus IV. Vespasiano
Fiorentino has been often referred to already, and as a historical
authority a high place must be assigned to him; but his gift as a
painter of character is not to be compared with that of Macchiavelli,
Niccolò Valori, Guicciardini, Varchi, Francesco Vettori, and others, by
whom European history has been probably as much influenced in this
direction as by the ancients. It must not be forgotten that some of
these authors soon found their way into northern countries by means of
Latin translations. And without Giorgio Vasari of Arezzo and his
all-important work, we should perhaps to this day have no history of
northern art, or of the art of modern Europe, at all.[751]

Among the biographers of North Italy in the fifteenth century,
Bartolommeo Facio of Spezzia holds a high rank (p. 147). Platina, born
in the territory of Cremona, gives us, in his ‘Life of Paul II.’ (p.
231), examples of biographical caricatures. The description of the last
Visconti,[752] written by Piercandido Decembrio--an enlarged imitation
of Suetonius--is of special importance. Sismondi regrets that so much
trouble has been spent on so unworthy an object, but the author would
hardly have been equal to deal with a greater man, while he was
thoroughly competent to describe the mixed nature of Filippo Maria, and
in and through it to represent with accuracy the conditions, the forms,
and the consequences of this particular kind of despotism. The picture
of the fifteenth century would be incomplete without this unique
biography, which is characteristic down to its minutest details. Milan
afterwards possessed, in the historian Corio, an excellent
portrait-painter; and after him came Paolo Giovio of Como, whose larger
biographies and shorter ‘Elogia’ have achieved a world-wide reputation,
and become models for future writers in all countries. It is easy to
prove by a hundred passages how superficial and even dishonest he was;
nor from a man like him can any high and serious purpose be expected.
But the breath of the age moves in his pages, and his Leo, his Alfonso,
his Pompeo Colonna, live and act before us with such perfect truth and
reality, that we seem admitted to the deepest recesses of their nature.

Among Neapolitan writers, Tristano Caracciolo (p. 36), so far as we are
able to judge, holds indisputably the first place in this respect,
although his purpose was not strictly biographical. In the figures which
he brings before us, guilt and destiny are wondrously mingled. He is a
kind of unconscious tragedian. That genuine tragedy which then found no
place on the stage, ‘swept by’ in the palace, the street, and the public
square. The ‘Words and Deeds of Alfonso the Great,’ written by Antonio
Panormita[753] during the lifetime of the king, and consequently showing
more of the spirit of flattery than is consistent with historical truth,
are remarkable as one of the first of such collections of anecdotes and
of wise and witty sayings.

The rest of Europe followed the example of Italy in this respect but
slowly,[754] although great political and religious movements had broken
so many bands, and had awakened so many thousands to new spiritual life.
Italians, whether scholars or diplomatists, still remained, on the
whole, the best source of information for the characters of the leading
men all over Europe. It is well known how speedily and unanimously in
recent times the reports of the Venetian embassies in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries have been recognised as authorities of the first
order for personal description.[755] Even autobiography takes here and
there in Italy a bold and vigorous flight, and puts before us, together
with the most varied incidents of external life, striking revelations of
the inner man. Among other nations, even in Germany at the time of the
Reformation, it deals only with outward experiences, and leaves us to
guess at the spirit within from the style of the narrative.[756] It
seems as though Dante’s ‘Vita Nuova,’ with the inexorable truthfulness
which runs through it, had shown his people the way.

The beginnings of autobiography are to be traced in the family histories
of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, which are said to be not
uncommon as manuscripts in the Florentine libraries--unaffected
narratives written for the sake of the individual or of his family, like
that of Buonaccorso Pitti.

A profound self-analysis is not to be looked for in the ‘Commentaries’
of Pius II. What we here learn of him as a man seems at first sight to
be chiefly confined to the account which he gives of the different steps
in his career. But further reflexion will lead us to a different
conclusion with regard to this remarkable book. There are men who are by
nature mirrors of what surrounds them. It would be irrelevant to ask
incessantly after their convictions, their spiritual struggles, their
inmost victories and achievements. Æneas Sylvius lived wholly in the
interest which lay near, without troubling himself about the problems
and contradictions of life. His Catholic orthodoxy gave him all the help
of this kind which he needed. And at all events, after taking part in
every intellectual movement which interested his age, and notably
furthering some of them, he still at the close of his earthly course
retained character enough to preach a crusade against the Turks, and to
die of grief when it came to nothing.

Nor is the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, any more than that of
Pius II., founded on introspection. And yet it describes the whole
man--not always willingly--with marvellous truth and completeness. It is
no small matter that Benvenuto, whose most important works have perished
half finished, and who, as an artist, is perfect only in his little
decorative specialty, but in other respects, if judged by the works of
him which remain, is surpassed by so many of his greater
contemporaries--that Benvenuto as a man will interest mankind to the end
of time. It does not spoil the impression when the reader often detects
him bragging or lying; the stamp of a mighty, energetic, and thoroughly
developed nature remains. By his side our northern autobiographers,
though their tendency and moral character may stand much higher, appear
incomplete beings. He is a man who can do all and dares do all, and who
carries his measure in himself.[757] Whether we like him or not, he
lives, such as he was, as a significant type of the modern spirit.

Another man deserves a brief mention in connection with this subject--a
man who, like Benvenuto, was not a model of veracity: Girolamo Cardano
of Milan (b. 1500). His little book, ‘De propria vita’[758] will outlive
and eclipse his fame in philosophy and natural science, just as
Benvenuto’s life, though its value is of another kind, has thrown his
works into the shade. Cardano is a physician who feels his own pulse,
and describes his own physical, moral, and intellectual nature, together
with all the conditions under which it had developed, and this, to the
best of his ability, honestly and sincerely. The work which he avowedly
took as his model--the ‘Confessions’ of Marcus Aurelius--he was able,
hampered as he was by no stoical maxims, to surpass in this particular.
He desires to spare neither himself nor others, and begins the narrative
of his career with the statement that his mother tried, and failed, to
procure abortion. It is worth remark that he attributes to the stars
which presided over his birth only the events of his life and his
intellectual gifts, but not his moral qualities; he confesses (cap. 10)
that the astrological prediction that he would not live to the age of
forty or fifty years did him much harm in his youth. But there is no
need to quote from so well-known and accessible a book; whoever opens it
will not lay it down till the last page. Cardano admits that he cheated
at play, that he was vindictive, incapable of all compunction,
purposely cruel in his speech. He confesses it without impudence and
without feigned contrition, without even wishing to make himself an
object of interest, but with the same simple and sincere love of fact
which guided him in his scientific researches. And, what is to us the
most repulsive of all, the old man, after the most shocking
experiences[759] and with his confidence in his fellow-men gone, finds
himself after all tolerably happy and comfortable. He has still left him
a grandson, immense learning, the fame of his works, money, rank and
credit, powerful friends, the knowledge of many secrets, and, best of
all, belief in God. After this, he counts the teeth in his head, and
finds that he has fifteen.

Yet when Cardano wrote, Inquisitors and Spaniards were already busy in
Italy, either hindering the production of such natures, or, where they
existed, by some means or other putting them out of the way. There lies
a gulf between this book and the memoirs of Alfieri.

Yet it would be unjust to close this list of autobiographers without
listening to a word from one man who was both worthy and happy. This is
the well-known philosopher of practical life, Luigi Cornaro, whose
dwelling at Padua, classical as an architectural work, was at the same
time the home of all the muses. In his famous treatise ‘On the Sober
Life,’[760] he describes the strict regimen by which he succeeded, after
a sickly youth, in reaching an advanced and healthy age, then of
eighty-three years. He goes on to answer those who despise life after
the age of sixty-five as a living death, showing them that his own life
had nothing deadly about it. ‘Let them come and see, and wonder at my
good health, how I mount on horseback without help, how I run upstairs
and up hills, how cheerful, amusing, and contented I am, how free from
care and disagreeable thoughts. Peace and joy never quit me.... My
friends are wise, learned, and distinguished people of good position,
and when they are not with me I read and write, and try thereby, as by
all other means, to be useful to others. Each of these things I do at
the proper time, and at my ease, in my dwelling, which is beautiful and
lies in the best part of Padua, and is arranged both for summer and
winter with all the resources of architecture, and provided with a
garden by the running water. In the spring and autumn, I go for a while
to my hill in the most beautiful part of the Euganean mountains, where I
have fountains and gardens, and a comfortable dwelling; and there I
amuse myself with some easy and pleasant chase, which is suitable to my
years. At other times I go to my villa on the plain;[761] there all the
paths lead to an open space, in the middle of which stands a pretty
church; an arm of the Brenta flows through the plantations--fruitful,
well-cultivated fields, now fully peopled, which the marshes and the
foul air once made fitter for snakes than for men. It was I who drained
the country; then the air became good, and people settled there and
multiplied, and the land became cultivated as it now is, so that I can
truly say: “On this spot I gave to God an altar and a temple, and souls
to worship Him.” This is my consolation and my happiness whenever I come
here. In the spring and autumn, I also visit the neighbouring towns, to
see and converse with my friends, through whom I make the acquaintance
of other distinguished men, architects, painters, sculptors, musicians,
and cultivators of the soil. I see what new things they have done, I
look again at what I know already, and learn much that is of use to me.
I see palaces, gardens, antiquities, public grounds, churches, and
fortifications. But what most of all delights me when I travel, is the
beauty of the country and the cities, lying now on the plain, now on the
slopes of the hills, or on the banks of rivers and streams, surrounded
by gardens and villas. And these enjoyments are not diminished through
weakness of the eyes or the ears; all my senses (thank God!) are in the
best condition, including the sense of taste; for I enjoy more the
simple food which I now take in moderation, than all the delicacies
which I ate in my years of disorder.’

After mentioning the works he had undertaken on behalf of the republic
for draining the marshes, and the projects which he had constantly
advocated for preserving the lagunes, he thus concludes:--

‘These are the true recreations of an old age which God has permitted to
be healthy, and which is free from those mental and bodily sufferings to
which so many young people and so many sickly older people succumb. And
if it be allowable to add the little to the great, to add jest to
earnest, it may be mentioned as a result of my moderate life, that in my
eighty-third year I have written a most amusing comedy, full of
blameless wit. Such works are generally the business of youth, as
tragedy is the business of old age. If it is reckoned to the credit of
the famous Greek that he wrote a tragedy in his seventy-third year, must
I not, with my ten years more, be more cheerful and healthy than he ever
was? And that no consolation may be wanting in the overflowing cup of my
old age, I see before my eyes a sort of bodily immortality in the
persons of my descendants. When I come home I see before me, not one or
two, but eleven grandchildren, between the ages of two and eighteen, all
from the same father and mother, all healthy, and, so far as can already
be judged, all gifted with the talent and disposition for learning and a
good life. One of the younger I have as my playmate (buffoncello), since
children from the third to the fifth year are born to tricks; the elder
ones I treat as my companions, and, as they have admirable voices, I
take delight in hearing them sing and play on different instruments. And
I sing myself, and find my voice better, clearer, and louder than ever.
These are the pleasures of my last years. My life, therefore, is alive,
and not dead; nor would I exchange my age for the youth of such as live
in the service of their passions.

In the ‘Exhortation’ which Cornaro added at a much later time, in his
ninety-fifth year, he reckons it among the elements of his happiness
that his ‘Treatise’ had made many converts. He died at Padua in 1565, at
the age of over a hundred years.



This national gift did not, however, confine itself to the criticism and
description of individuals, but felt itself competent to deal with the
qualities and characteristics of whole peoples. Throughout the Middle
Ages the cities, families, and nations of all Europe were in the habit
of making insulting and derisive attacks on one another, which, with
much caricature, contained commonly a kernel of truth. But from the
first the Italians surpassed all others in their quick apprehension of
the mental differences among cities and populations. Their local
patriotism, stronger probably than in any other mediæval people, soon
found expression in literature, and allied itself with the current
conception of ‘Fame.’ Topography became the counterpart of biography (p.
145); while all the more important cities began to celebrate their own
praises in prose and verse,[762] writers appeared who made the chief
towns and districts the subject partly of a serious comparative
description, partly of satire, and sometimes of notices in which jest
and earnest are not easy to be distinguished. Brunetto Latini must first
be mentioned. Besides his own country, he knew France from a residence
of seven years, and gives a long list of the characteristic differences
in costume and modes of life between Frenchmen and Italians, noticing
the distinction between the monarchical government of France and the
republican constitution of the Italian cities.[763] After this, next to
some famous passages in the ‘Divine Comedy,’ comes the ‘Dittamondo’ of
Uberti (about 1360). As a rule, only single remarkable facts and
characteristics are here mentioned: the Feast of the Crows at Sant’
Apollinare in Ravenna, the springs at Treviso, the great cellar near
Vicenza, the high duties at Mantua, the forest of towers at Lucca. Yet
mixed up with all this, we find laudatory and satirical criticisms of
every kind. Arezzo figures with the crafty disposition of its citizens,
Genoa with the artificially blackened eyes and teeth (?) of its women,
Bologna with its prodigality, Bergamo with its coarse dialect and
hard-headed people.[764] In the fifteenth century the fashion was to
belaud one’s own city even at the expense of others. Michele Savonarola
allows that, in comparison with his native Padua, only Rome and Venice
are more splendid, and Florence perhaps more joyous[765]--by which our
knowledge is naturally not much extended. At the end of the century,
Jovianus Pontanus, in his ‘Antonius,’ writes an imaginary journey
through Italy, simply as a vehicle for malicious observations. But in
the sixteenth century we meet with a series of exact and profound
studies of national characteristics, such as no other people of that
time could rival.[766] Macchiavelli sets forth in some of his valuable
essays the character and the political condition of the Germans and
French in such a way, that the born northerner, familiar with the
history of his own country, is grateful to the Florentine thinker for
his flashes of insight. The Florentines (p. 71 sqq.) begin to take
pleasure in describing themselves;[767] and basking in the well-earned
sunshine of their intellectual glory, their pride seems to attain its
height when they derive the artistic pre-eminence of Tuscany among
Italians, not from any special gifts of nature, but from hard patient
work.[768] The homage of famous men from other parts of Italy, of which
the sixteenth Capitolo of Ariosto is a splendid example, they accepted
as a merited tribute to their excellence.

An admirable description of the Italians, with their various pursuits
and characteristics, though in few words and with special stress laid on
the Lucchese, to whom the work was dedicated, was given by Ortensio
Landi, who, however, is so fond of playing hide-and-seek with his own
name, and fast-and-loose with historical facts, that even when he seems
to be most in earnest, he must be accepted with caution and only after
close examination.[769] The same Landi published an anonymous
‘Commentario’ some ten years later,[770] which contains among many
follies not a few valuable hints on the unhappy ruined condition of
Italy in the middle of the century.[771] Leandro Alberti[772] is not so
fruitful as might be expected in his description of the character of the
different cities.

To what extent this comparative study of national and local
characteristics may, by means of Italian humanism, have influenced the
rest of Europe, we cannot say with precision. To Italy, at all events,
belongs the priority in this respect, as in the description of the world
in general.



But the discoveries made with regard to man were not confined to the
spiritual characteristics of individuals and nations; his outward
appearance was in Italy the subject of an entirely different interest
from that shown in it by northern peoples.[773]

Of the position held by the great Italian physicians with respect to the
progress of physiology, we cannot venture to speak; and the artistic
study of the human figure belongs, not to a work like the present, but
to the history of art. But something must here be said of that universal
education of the eye, which rendered the judgment of the Italians as to
bodily beauty or ugliness perfect and final.

On reading the Italian authors of that period attentively, we are
astounded at the keenness and accuracy with which outward features are
seized, and at the completeness with which personal appearance in
general is described.[774] Even to-day the Italians, and especially the
Romans, have the art of sketching a man’s picture in a couple of words.
This rapid apprehension of what is characteristic is an essential
condition for detecting and representing the beautiful. In poetry, it is
true, circumstantial description may be a fault, not a merit, since a
single feature, suggested by deep passion or insight, will often awaken
in the reader a far more powerful impression of the figure described.
Dante gives us nowhere a more splendid idea of his Beatrice than where
he only describes the influence which goes forth from her upon all
around. But here we have not to treat particularly of poetry, which
follows its own laws and pursues its own ends, but rather of the general
capacity to paint in words real or imaginary forms.

In this Boccaccio is a master--not in the ‘Decameron,’ where the
character of the tales forbids lengthy description, but in the romances,
where he is free to take his time. In his ‘Ameto’[775] he describes a
blonde and a brunette much as an artist a hundred years later would have
painted them--for here, too, culture long precedes art. In the account
of the brunette--or, strictly speaking, of the less blonde of the
two--there are touches which deserve to be called classical. In the
words ‘la spaziosa testa e distesa’ lies the feeling for grander forms,
which go beyond a graceful prettiness; the eyebrows with him no longer
resemble two bows, as in the Byzantine ideal, but a single wavy line;
the nose seems to have been meant to be aquiline;[776] the broad, full
breast, the arms of moderate length, the effect of the beautiful hand,
as it lies on the purple mantle--all both foretells the sense of beauty
of a coming time, and unconsciously approaches to that of classical
antiquity. In other descriptions Boccaccio mentions a flat (not
mediævally rounded) brow, a long, earnest, brown eye, and round, not
hollowed neck, as well as--in a very modern tone--the ‘little feet’ and
the ‘two roguish eyes’ of a black-haired nymph.[777]

Whether the fifteenth century has left any written account of its ideal
of beauty, I am not able to say. The works of the painters and sculptors
do not render such an account as unnecessary as might appear at first
sight, since possibly, as opposed to their realism, a more ideal type
might have been favoured and preserved by the writers.[778] In the
sixteenth century Firenzuola came forward with his remarkable work on
female beauty.[779] We must clearly distinguish in it what he had
learned from old authors or from artists, such as the fixing of
proportions according to the length of the head, and certain abstract
conceptions. What remains, is his own genuine observation, illustrated
with examples of women and girls from Prato. As his little work is a
kind of lecture, delivered before the women of this city--that is to
say, before very severe critics--he must have kept pretty closely to the
truth. His principle is avowedly that of Zeuxis and of Lucian--to piece
together an ideal beauty out of a number of beautiful parts. He defines
the shades of colour which occur in the hair and skin, and gives to the
‘biondo’ the preference, as the most beautiful colour for the hair,[780]
understanding by it a soft yellow, inclining to brown. He requires that
the hair should be thick, long, and locky; the forehead serene, and
twice as broad as high; the skin bright and clear (candida), but not of
a dead white (bianchezza); the eyebrows dark, silky, most strongly
marked in the middle, and shading off towards the ears and the nose; the
white of the eye faintly touched with blue, the iris not actually black,
though all the poets praise ‘occhi neri’ as a gift of Venus, despite
that even goddesses were known for their eyes of heavenly blue, and that
soft, joyous, brown eyes were admired by everybody. The eye itself
should be large and full, and brought well forward; the lids white, and
marked with almost invisible tiny red veins; the lashes neither too
long, nor too thick, nor too dark. The hollow round the eye should have
the same colour as the cheek.[781] The ear, neither too large nor too
small, firmly and neatly fitted on, should show a stronger colour in the
winding than in the even parts, with an edge of the transparent
ruddiness of the pomegranate. The temples must be white and even, and
for the most perfect beauty ought not to be too narrow. The red should
grow deeper as the cheek gets rounder. The nose, which chiefly
determines the value of the profile, must recede gently and uniformly in
the direction of the eyes; where the cartilage ceases, there may be a
slight elevation, but not so marked as to make the nose aquiline, which
is not pleasing in women; the lower part must be less strongly coloured
than the ears, but not of a chilly whiteness, and the middle partition
above the lips lightly tinted with red. The mouth, our author would have
rather small, and neither projecting to a point, nor quite flat, with
the lips not too thin, and fitting neatly together; an accidental
opening, that is, when the woman is neither speaking nor laughing,
should not display more than six upper teeth. As delicacies of detail,
he mentions a dimple in the upper lip, a certain fulness of the under
lip, and a tempting smile in the left corner of the mouth--and so on.
The teeth should not be too small, regular, well marked off from one
another, and of the colour of ivory; and the gums must not be too dark
or even like red velvet. The chin is to be round, neither pointed nor
curved outwards, and growing slightly red as it rises; its glory is the
dimple. The neck should be white and round and rather long than short,
with the hollow and the Adam’s apple but faintly marked; and the skin at
every movement must show pleasing lines. The shoulders he desires broad,
and in the breadth of the bosom sees the first condition of its beauty.
No bone may be visible upon it, its fall and swell must be gentle and
gradual, its colour ‘candidissimo.’ The leg should be long and not too
hard in the lower parts, but still not without flesh on the shin, which
must be provided with white, full calves. He likes the foot small, but
not bony, the instep (it seems) high, and the colour white as alabaster.
The arms are to be white, and in the upper parts tinted with red; in
their consistence fleshy and muscular, but still soft as those of
Pallas, when she stood before the shepherd on Mount Ida--in a word,
ripe, fresh, and firm. The hand should be white, especially towards the
wrist, but large and plump, feeling soft as silk, the rosy palm marked
with a few, but distinct and not intricate lines; the elevations in it
should be not too great, the space between thumb and forefinger brightly
coloured and without wrinkles, the fingers long, delicate, and scarcely
at all thinner towards the tips, with nails clear, even, not too long
nor too square, and cut so as to show a white margin about the breadth
of a knife’s back.

Æsthetic principles of a general character occupy a very subordinate
place to these particulars. The ultimate principles of beauty, according
to which the eye judges ‘senza appello,’ are for Firenzuola a secret, as
he frankly confesses; and his definitions of ‘Leggiadria,’ ‘Grazia,’
‘Vaghezza,’ ‘Venustà,’ ‘Aria,’ ‘Maestà,’ are partly, as has been
remarked, philological, and partly vain attempts to utter the
unutterable. Laughter he prettily defines, probably following some old
author, as a radiance of the soul.

The literature of all countries can, at the close of the Middle Ages,
show single attempts to lay down theoretic principles of beauty;[782]
but no other work can be compared to that of Firenzuola. Brantome, who
came a good half-century later, is a bungling critic by his side,
because governed by lasciviousness and not by a sense of beauty.



Among the new discoveries made with regard to man, we must reckon, in
conclusion, the interest taken in descriptions of the daily course of
human life.

The comical and satirical literature of the Middle Ages could not
dispense with pictures of every-day events. But it is another thing,
when the Italians of the Renaissance dwelt on this picture for its own
sake--for its inherent interest--and because it forms part of that
great, universal life of the world whose magic breath they felt
everywhere around them. Instead of and together with the satirical
comedy, which wanders through houses, villages, and streets, seeking
food for its derision in parson, peasant, and burgher, we now see in
literature the beginnings of a true _genre_, long before it found any
expression in painting. That _genre_ and satire are often met with in
union, does not prevent them from being wholly different things.

How much of earthly business must Dante have watched with attentive
interest, before he was able to make us see with our own eyes all that
happened in his spiritual world.[783] The famous pictures of the busy
movement in the arsenal at Venice, of the blind men laid side by side
before the church door,[784] and the like, are by no means the only
instances of this kind: for the art, in which he is a master, of
expressing the inmost soul by the outward gesture, cannot exist without
a close and incessant study of human life.

The poets who followed rarely came near him in this respect, and the
novelists were forbidden by the first laws of their literary style to
linger over details. Their prefaces and narratives might be as long as
they pleased, but what we understand by _genre_ was outside their
province. The taste for this class of description was not fully awakened
till the time of the revival of antiquity.

And here we are again met by the man who had a heart for
everything--Æneas Sylvius. Not only natural beauty, not only that which
has an antiquarian or a geographical interest, finds a place in his
descriptions (p. 248; ii. p. 28), but any living scene of daily
life.[785] Among the numerous passages in his memoirs in which scenes
are described which hardly one of his contemporaries would have thought
worth a line of notice, we will here only mention the boat-race on the
Lake of Bolsena.[786] We are not able to detect from what old
letter-writer or story-teller the impulse was derived to which we owe
such life-like pictures. Indeed, the whole spiritual communion between
antiquity and the Renaissance is full of delicacy and of mystery.

To this class belong those descriptive Latin poems of which we have
already spoken (p. 262)--hunting-scenes, journeys, ceremonies, and so
forth. In Italian we also find something of the same kind, as, for
example, the descriptions of the famous Medicean tournament by Politian
and Luca Pulci.[787] The true epic poets, Luigi Pulci, Bojardo, and
Ariosto, are carried on more rapidly by the stream of their narrative;
yet in all of them we must recognise the lightness and precision of
their descriptive touch, as one of the chief elements of their
greatness. Franco Sacchetti amuses himself with repeating the short
speeches of a troop of pretty women caught in the woods by a shower of

Other scenes of moving life are to be looked for in the military
historians (p. 99). In a lengthy poem,[789] dating from an earlier
period, we find a faithful picture of a combat of mercenary soldiers in
the fourteenth century, chiefly in the shape of the orders, cries of
battle, and dialogue with which it is accompanied.

But the most remarkable productions of this kind are the realistic
descriptions of country life, which are found most abundantly in Lorenzo
Magnifico and the poets of his circle.

Since the time of Petrarch,[790] an unreal and conventional style of
bucolic poetry had been in vogue, which, whether written in Latin or
Italian, was essentially a copy of Virgil. Parallel to this, we find the
pastoral novel of Boccaccio (p. 259) and other works of the same kind
down to the ‘Arcadia’ of Sannazaro, and later still, the pastoral comedy
of Tasso and Guarini. They are works whose style, whether poetry or
prose, is admirably finished and perfect, but in which pastoral life is
only an ideal dress for sentiments which belong to a wholly different
sphere of culture.[791]

But by the side of all this there appeared in Italian poetry, towards
the close of the fifteenth century, signs of a more realistic treatment
of rustic life. This was not possible out of Italy; for here only did
the peasant, whether labourer or proprietor, possess human dignity,
personal freedom, and the right of settlement, hard as his lot might
sometimes be in other respects.[792] The difference between town and
country is far from being so marked here as in northern countries. Many
of the smaller towns are peopled almost exclusively by peasants who, on
coming home at nightfall from their work, are transformed into
townsfolk. The masons of Como wandered over nearly all Italy; the child
Giotto was free to leave his sheep and join a guild at Florence;
everywhere there was a human stream flowing from the country into the
cities, and some mountain populations seemed born to supply this
current.[793] It is true that the pride and local conceit supplied poets
and novelists with abundant motives for making game of the
‘villano,’[794] and what they left undone was taken charge of by the
comic improvisers (p. 320 sqq.). But nowhere do we find a trace of that
brutal and contemptuous class-hatred against the ‘vilains’ which
inspired the aristocratic poets of Provence, and often, too, the French
chroniclers. On the contrary,[795] Italian authors of every sort gladly
recognise and accentuate what is great or remarkable in the life of the
peasant. Gioviano Pontano mentions with admiration instances of the
fortitude of the savage inhabitants of the Abruzzi;[796] in the
biographical collections and in the novelists we meet with the figure of
the heroic peasant-maiden[797] who hazards her life to defend her family
and her honour.[798]

Such conditions made the poetical treatment of country-life possible.
The first instance we shall mention is that of Battista Mantovano, whose
eclogues, once much read and still worth reading, appeared among his
earliest works about 1480. They are a mixture of real and conventional
rusticity, but the former tends to prevail. They represent the mode of
thought of a well-meaning village clergyman, not without a certain
leaning to liberal ideas. As Carmelite monk, the writer may have had
occasion to mix freely with the peasantry.[799]

But it is with a power of a wholly different kind that Lorenzo
Magnifico transports himself into the peasant’s world His ‘Nencia di
Barberino’[800] reads like a crowd of genuine extracts from the popular
songs of the Florentine country, fused into a great stream of octaves.
The objectivity of the writer is such that we are in doubt whether the
speaker--the young peasant Vallera, who declares his love to
Nencia--awakens his sympathy or ridicule. The deliberate contrast to the
conventional eclogue is unmistakable. Lorenzo surrenders himself
purposely to the realism of simple, rough country-life, and yet his work
makes upon us the impression of true poetry.

The ‘Beca da Dicomano’ of Luigi Pulci[801] is an admitted counterpart to
the ‘Nencia’ of Lorenzo. But the deeper purpose is wanting. The ‘Beca’
is written not so much from the inward need to give a picture of popular
life, as from the desire to win the approbation of the educated
Florentine world by a successful poem. Hence the greater and more
deliberate coarseness of the scenes, and the indecent jokes.
Nevertheless, the point of view of the rustic lover is admirably

Third in this company of poets comes Angelo Poliziano, with his
‘Rusticus’[802] in Latin hexameters. Keeping clear of all imitation of
Virgil’s Georgics, he describes the year of the Tuscan peasant,
beginning with the late autumn, when the countryman gets ready his new
plough and prepares the seed for the winter. The picture of the meadows
in spring is full and beautiful, and the ‘Summer’ has fine passages; but
the vintage-feast in autumn is one of the gems of modern Latin poetry.
Politian wrote poems in Italian as well as Latin, from which we may
infer that in Lorenzo’s circle it was possible to give a realistic
picture of the passionate life of the lower classes. His gipsy’s
love-song[803] is one of the earliest products of that wholly modern
tendency to put oneself with poetic consciousness into the position of
another class. This had probably been attempted for ages with a view to
satire,[804] and the opportunity for it was offered in Florence at every
carnival by the songs of the maskers. But the sympathetic understanding
of the feelings of another class was new; and with it the ‘Nencia’ and
this ‘Canzone zingaresca’ mark a new starting-point in the history of

Here, too, we must briefly indicate how culture prepared the way for
artistic development. From the time of the ‘Nencia,’ a period of eighty
years elapses to the rustic genre-painting of Jacopo Bassano and his

In the next part of this work we shall show how differences of birth had
lost their significance in Italy. Much of this was doubtless owing to
the fact that men and man were here first thoroughly and profoundly
understood. This one single result of the Renaissance is enough to fill
us with everlasting thankfulness. The logical notion of humanity was old
enough--but here the notion became a fact.

The loftiest conceptions on this subject were uttered by Pico della
Mirandola in his speech on the dignity of man,[805] which may justly be
called one of the noblest bequests of that great age. God, he tells us,
made man at the close of the creation, to know the laws of the universe,
to love its beauty, to admire its greatness. He bound him to no fixed
place, to no prescribed form of work, and by no iron necessity, but gave
him freedom to will and to move. ‘I have set thee,’ says the Creator to
Adam, ‘in the midst of the world, that thou mayst the more easily behold
and see all that is therein. I created thee a being neither heavenly nor
earthly, neither mortal nor immortal only, that thou mightest be free to
shape and to overcome thyself. Thou mayst sink into a beast, and be born
anew to the divine likeness. The brutes bring from their mother’s body
what they will carry with them as long as they live; the higher spirits
are from the beginning, or soon after,[806] what they will be for ever.
To thee alone is given a growth and a development depending on thine own
free will. Thou bearest in thee the germs of a universal life.’





Every period of civilisation, which forms a complete and consistent
whole, manifests itself not only in political life, in religion, art,
and science, but also sets its characteristic stamp on social life. Thus
the Middle Ages had their courtly and aristocratic manners and
etiquette, differing but little in the various countries of Europe, as
well as their peculiar forms of middle-class life.

Italian customs at the time of the Renaissance offer in these respects
the sharpest contrast to mediævalism. The foundation on which they rest
is wholly different. Social intercourse in its highest and most perfect
form now ignored all distinctions of caste, and was based simply on the
existence of an educated class as we now understand the word. Birth and
origin were without influence, unless combined with leisure and
inherited wealth. Yet this assertion must not be taken in an absolute
and unqualified sense, since mediæval distinctions still sometimes made
themselves felt to a greater or less degree, if only as a means of
maintaining equality with the aristocratic pretensions of the less
advanced countries of Europe. But the main current of the time went
steadily towards the fusion of classes in the modern sense of the

The fact was of vital importance that, from certainly the twelfth
century onwards, the nobles and the burghers dwelt together within the
walls of the cities.[807] The interests and pleasures of both classes
were thus identified, and the feudal lord learned to look at society
from another point of view than that of his mountain-castle. The
Church, too, in Italy never suffered itself, as in northern countries,
to be used as a means of providing for the younger sons of noble
families. Bishoprics, abbacies, and canonries were often given from the
most unworthy motives, but still not according to the pedigrees of the
applicants; and if the bishops in Italy were more numerous, poorer, and,
as a rule, destitute of all sovereign rights, they still lived in the
cities where their cathedrals stood, and formed, together with their
chapters, an important element in the cultivated society of the place.
In the age of despots and absolute princes which followed, the nobility
in most of the cities had the motives and the leisure to give themselves
up to a private life (p. 131) free from political danger and adorned
with all that was elegant and enjoyable, but at the same time hardly
distinguishable from that of the wealthy burgher. And after the time of
Dante, when the new poetry and literature were in the hands of all
Italy,[808] when to this was added the revival of ancient culture and
the new interest in man as such, when the successful Condottiere became
a prince, and not only good birth, but legitimate birth, ceased to be
indispensable for a throne (p. 21), it might well seem that the age of
equality had dawned, and the belief in nobility vanished for ever.

From a theoretical point of view, when the appeal was made to antiquity,
the conception of nobility could be both justified and condemned from
Aristotle alone. Dante, for example,[809] adapts from the Aristotelian
definition, ‘Nobility rests on excellence and inherited wealth,’ his own
saying, ‘Nobility rests on personal excellence or on that of
predecessors.’ But elsewhere he is not satisfied with this conclusion.
He blames himself,[810] because even in Paradise, while talking with his
ancestor Cacciaguida, he made mention of his noble origin, which is but
as a mantle from which time is ever cutting something away, unless we
ourselves add daily fresh worth to it. And in the ‘Convito’[811] he
disconnects ‘nobile’ and ‘nobiltà’ from every condition of birth, and
identifies the idea with the capacity for moral and intellectual
eminence, laying a special stress on high culture by calling ‘nobiltà’
the sister of ‘filosofia.’

And as time went on, the greater the influence of humanism on the
Italian mind, the firmer and more widespread became the conviction that
birth decides nothing as to the goodness or badness of a man. In the
fifteenth century this was the prevailing opinion. Poggio, in his
dialogue ‘On nobility,’[812] agrees with his interlocutors--Niccolò
Niccoli, and Lorenzo Medici, brother of the great Cosimo--that there is
no other nobility than that of personal merit. The keenest shafts of his
ridicule are directed against much of what vulgar prejudice thinks
indispensable to an aristocratic life. ‘A man is all the farther removed
from true nobility, the longer his forefathers have plied the trade of
brigands. The taste for hawking and hunting savours no more of nobility
than the nests and lairs of the hunted creatures of spikenard. The
cultivation of the soil, as practised by the ancients, would be much
nobler than this senseless wandering through the hills and woods, by
which men make themselves liker to the brutes than to the reasonable
creatures. It may serve well enough as a recreation, but not as the
business of a lifetime.’ The life of the English and French chivalry in
the country or in the woody fastnesses seems to him thoroughly ignoble,
and worst of all the doings of the robber-knights of Germany. Lorenzo
here begins to take the part of the nobility, but not--which is
characteristic--appealing to any natural sentiment in its favour, but
because Aristotle in the fifth book of the ‘Politics’ recognises the
nobility as existent, and defines it as resting on excellence and
inherited wealth. To this Niccoli retorts that Aristotle gives this not
as his own conviction, but as the popular impression; in his ‘Ethics,’
where he speaks as he thinks, he calls him noble who strives after that
which is truly good. Lorenzo urges upon him vainly that the Greek word
for nobility means good birth; Niccoli thinks the Roman word ‘nobilis’
(_i.e._ remarkable) a better one, since it makes nobility depend on a
man’s deeds.[813] Together with these discussions, we find a sketch of
the condition of the nobles in various parts of Italy. In Naples they
will not work, and busy themselves neither with their own estates nor
with trade and commerce, which they hold to be discreditable; they
either loiter at home or ride about on horseback.[814] The Roman
nobility also despise trade, but farm their own property; the
cultivation of the land even opens the way to a title;[815] ‘it is a
respectable but boorish nobility.’ In Lombardy the nobles live upon the
rent of their inherited estates; descent and the abstinence from any
regular calling constitute nobility.[816] In Venice, the ‘nobili,’ the
ruling caste, were all merchants. Similarly in Genoa the nobles and
non-nobles were alike merchants and sailors, and only separated by their
birth; some few of the former, it is true, still lurked as brigands in
their mountain-castles. In Florence a part of the old nobility had
devoted themselves to trade; another, and certainly by far the smaller
part, enjoyed the satisfaction of their titles, and spent their time,
either in nothing at all, or else in hunting and hawking.[817]

The decisive fact was, that nearly everywhere in Italy, even those who
might be disposed to pride themselves on their birth could not make good
the claims against the power of culture and of wealth, and that their
privileges in politics and at court were not sufficient to encourage any
strong feeling of caste. Venice offers only an apparent exception to
this rule, for there the ‘nobili’ led the same life as their
fellow-citizens, and were distinguished by few honorary privileges. The
case was certainly different at Naples, which the strict isolation and
the ostentatious vanity of its nobility excluded, above all other
causes, from the spiritual movement of the Renaissance. The traditions
of mediæval Lombardy and Normandy, and the French aristocratic
influences which followed, all tended in this direction; and the
Aragonese government, which was established by the middle of the
fifteenth century, completed the work, and accomplished in Naples what
followed a hundred years later in the rest of Italy--a social
transformation in obedience to Spanish ideas, of which the chief
features were the contempt for work and the passion for titles. The
effect of this new influence was evident, even in the smaller towns,
before the year 1500. We hear complaints from La Cava that the place had
been proverbially rich, as long at it was filled with masons and
weavers; whilst now, since instead of looms and trowels nothing but
spurs, stirrups and gilded belts was to be seen, since everybody was
trying to become Doctor of Laws or of Medicine, Notary, Officer or
Knight, the most intolerable poverty prevailed.[818] In Florence an
analogous change appears to have taken place by the time of Cosimo, the
first Grand Duke; he is thanked for adopting the young people, who now
despise trade and commerce, as knights of his order of St. Stephen.[819]
This goes straight in the teeth of the good old Florentine custom,[820]
by which fathers left property to their children on the condition that
they should have some occupation (p. 79). But a mania for title of a
curious and ludicrous sort sometimes crossed and thwarted, especially
among the Florentines, the levelling influence of art and culture. This
was the passion for knighthood, which became one of the most striking
follies of the day, at a time when the dignity itself had lost every
shadow of significance.

‘A few years ago,’ writes Franco Sacchetti,[821] towards the end of the
fourteenth century, ‘everybody saw how all the work-people down to the
bakers, how all the wool-carders, usurers, money-changers and
blackguards of all descriptions, became knights. Why should an official
need knighthood when he goes to preside over some little provincial
town? What has this title to do with any ordinary bread-winning pursuit?
How art thou sunken, unhappy dignity! Of all the long list of knightly
duties, what single one do these knights of ours discharge? I wished to
speak of these things that the reader might see that knighthood is
dead.[822] And as we have gone so far as to confer the honour upon dead
men, why not upon figures of wood and stone, and why not upon an ox?’
The stories which Sacchetti tells by way of illustration speak plainly
enough. There we read how Bernabò Visconti knighted the victor in a
drunken brawl, and then did the same derisively to the vanquished; how
German knights with their decorated helmets and devices were
ridiculed--and more of the same kind. At a later period Poggio[823]
makes merry over the many knights of his day without a horse and
without military training. Those who wished to assert the privilege of
the order, and ride out with lance and colours, found in Florence that
they might have to face the government as well as the jokers.[824]

On considering the matter more closely, we shall find that this belated
chivalry, independent of all nobility of birth, though partly the fruit
of an insane passion for title, had nevertheless another and a better
side. Tournaments had not yet ceased to be practised, and no one could
take part in them who was not a knight. But the combat in the lists, and
especially the difficult and perilous tilting with the lance, offered a
favourable opportunity for the display of strength, skill, and courage,
which no one, whatever might be his origin, would willingly neglect in
an age which laid such stress on personal merit.[825]

It was in vain that from the time of Petrarch downwards the tournament
was denounced as a dangerous folly. No one was converted by the pathetic
appeal of the poet: ‘In what book do we read that Scipio and Cæsar were
skilled at the joust?’[826] The practice became more and more popular
in Florence. Every honest citizen came to consider his tournament--now,
no doubt, less dangerous than formerly--as a fashionable sport. Franco
Sacchetti[827] has left us a ludicrous picture of one of these holiday
cavaliers--a notary seventy years old. He rides out on horseback to
Peretola, where the tournament was cheap, on a jade hired from a dyer. A
thistle is stuck by some wag under the tail of the steed, who takes
fright, runs away, and carries the helmeted rider, bruised and shaken,
back into the city. The inevitable conclusion of the story is a severe
curtain-lecture from the wife, who is not a little enraged at these
break-neck follies of her husband.[828]

It may be mentioned in conclusion that a passionate interest in this
sport was displayed by the Medici, as if they wished to show--private
citizens as they were, without noble blood in their veins--that the
society which surrounded them was in no respects inferior to a
Court.[829] Even under Cosimo (1459), and afterwards under the elder
Pietro, brilliant tournaments were held at Florence. The younger Pietro
neglected the duties of government for these amusements, and would never
suffer himself to be painted except clad in armour. The same practice
prevailed at the Court of Alexander VI., and when the Cardinal Ascanio
Sforza asked the Turkish Prince Djem (pp. 109, 115) how he liked the
spectacle, the barbarian replied with much discretion that such combats
in his country only took place among slaves, since then, in the case of
accident, nobody was the worse for it. The oriental was unconsciously in
accord with the old Romans in condemning the manners of the Middle Ages.

Apart, however, from this particular prop of knighthood, we find here
and there in Italy, for example at Ferrara (p. 46 sqq.), orders of court
service, whose members had a right to the title.

       *       *       *       *       *

But, great as were individual ambitions and the vanities of nobles and
knights, it remains a fact that the Italian nobility took its place in
the centre of social life, and not at the extremity. We find it
habitually mixing with other classes on a footing of perfect equality,
and seeking its natural allies in culture and intelligence. It is true
that for the courtier a certain rank of nobility was required,[830] but
this exigence is expressly declared to be caused by a prejudice rooted
in the public mind--‘per l’oppenion universale’--and never was held to
imply the belief that the personal worth of one who was not of noble
blood was in any degree lessened thereby, nor did it follow from this
rule that the prince was limited to the nobility for his society. It was
meant simply that the perfect man--the true courtier--should not be
wanting in any conceivable advantage, and therefore not in this. If in
all the relations of life he was specially bound to maintain a
dignified and reserved demeanour, the reason was not found in the blood
which flowed in his veins, but in the perfection of manner which was
demanded from him. We are here in the presence of a modern distinction,
based on culture and on wealth, but on the latter solely because it
enables men to devote their life to the former, and effectually to
promote its interests and advancement.



But in proportion as distinctions of birth ceased to confer any special
privilege, was the individual himself compelled to make the most of his
personal qualities, and society to find its worth and charm in itself.
The demeanour of individuals, and all the higher forms of social
intercourse, became ends pursued with a deliberate and artistic purpose.

Even the outward appearance of men and women and the habits of daily
life were more perfect, more beautiful, and more polished than among the
other nations of Europe. The dwellings of the upper classes fall rather
within the province of the history of art; but we may note how far the
castle and the city mansion in Italy surpassed in comfort, order, and
harmony the dwellings of the northern noble. The style of dress varied
so continually that it is impossible to make any complete comparison
with the fashions of other countries, all the more because since the
close of the fifteenth century imitations of the latter were frequent.
The costumes of the time, as given us by the Italian painters, are the
most convenient and the most pleasing to the eye which were then to be
found in Europe; but we cannot be sure if they represent the prevalent
fashion, or if they are faithfully reproduced by the artist. It is
nevertheless beyond a doubt that nowhere was so much importance attached
to dress as in Italy. The people was, and is, vain; and even serious men
among it looked on a handsome and becoming costume as an element in the
perfection of the individual. At Florence, indeed, there was a brief
period, when dress was a purely personal matter, and every man set the
fashion for himself (p. 130, note 1), and till far into the sixteenth
century there were exceptional people who still had the courage to do
so;[831] and the majority at all events showed themselves capable of
varying the fashion according to their individual tastes. It is a
symptom of decline when Giovanni della Casa warns his readers not to be
singular or to depart from existing fashions.[832] Our own age, which,
in men’s dress at any rate, treats uniformity as the supreme law, gives
up by so doing far more than it is itself aware of. But it saves itself
much time, and this, according to our notions of business, outweighs all
other disadvantages.

In Venice[833] and Florence at the time of the Renaissance there were
rules and regulations prescribing the dress of the men and restraining
the luxury of the women. Where the fashions were less free, as in
Naples, the moralists confess with regret that no difference can be
observed between noble and burgher.[834] They further deplore the rapid
changes of fashion, and--if we rightly understand their words--the
senseless idolatry of whatever comes from France, though in many cases
the fashions which were received back from the French were originally
Italian. It does not further concern us, how far these frequent changes,
and the adoption of French and Spanish ways,[835] contributed to the
national passion for external display; but we find in them additional
evidence of the rapid movement of life in Italy in the decades before
and after the year 1500. The occupation of different parts of Italy by
foreigners caused the inhabitants not only to adopt foreign fashions,
but sometimes to abandon all luxury in matters of dress. Such a change
in public feeling at Milan is recorded by Landi. But the differences, he
tells us, in costume continued to exist, Naples distinguishing itself by
splendour, and Florence, to the eye of the writer, by absurdity.[836]

We may note in particular the efforts of the women to alter their
appearance by all the means which the toilette could afford. In no
country of Europe since the fall of the Roman empire was so much trouble
taken to modify the face, the colour of skin and the growth of the
hair, as in Italy at this time.[837] All tended to the formation of a
conventional type, at the cost of the most striking and transparent
deceptions. Leaving out of account costume in general, which in the
fourteenth century[838] was in the highest degree varied in colour and
loaded with ornament, and at a later period assumed a character of more
harmonious richness, we here limit ourselves more particularly to the
toilette in the narrower sense.

No sort of ornament was more in use than false hair, often made of white
or yellow silk.[839] The law denounced and forbade it in vain, till some
preacher of repentance touched the worldly minds of the wearers. Then
was seen, in the middle of the public square, a lofty pyre (talamo), on
which, beside lutes, dice-boxes, masks, magical charms, song-books, and
other vanities, lay masses of false hair,[840] which the purging fires
soon turned into a heap of ashes. The ideal colour sought for both in
natural and artificial hair, was blond. And as the sun was supposed to
have the power of making the hair of this colour,[841] many ladies would
pass their whole time in the open air on sunshiny days.[842] Dyes and
other mixtures were also used freely for the same purpose. Besides all
these, we meet with an endless list of beautifying waters, plasters, and
paints for every single part of the face--even for the teeth and
eyelids--of which in our day we can form no conception. The ridicule of
the poets,[843] the invectives of the preachers, and the experience of
the baneful effects of these cosmetics on the skin, were powerless to
hinder women from giving their faces an unnatural form and colour. It is
possible that the frequent and splendid representations of
Mysteries,[844] at which hundreds of people appeared painted and masked,
helped to further this practice in daily life. It is certain that it was
widely spread, and that the countrywomen vied in this respect with their
sisters in the towns.[845] It was vain to preach that such decorations
were the mark of the courtesan; the most honourable matrons, who all the
year round never touched paint, used it nevertheless on holidays when
they showed themselves in public.[846] But whether we look on this bad
habit as a remnant of barbarism, to which the painting of savages is a
parallel, or as a consequence of the desire for perfect youthful beauty
in features and in colour, as the art and complexity of the toilette
would lead us to think--in either case there was no lack of good advice
on the part of the men.

The use of perfumes, too, went beyond all reasonable limits. They were
applied to everything with which human beings came into contact. At
festivals even the mules were treated with scents and ointments,[847]
Pietro Aretino thanks Cosimo I. for a perfumed roll of money.[848]

The Italians of that day lived in the belief that they were more cleanly
than other nations. There are in fact general reasons which speak rather
for than against this claim. Cleanliness is indispensable to our modern
notion of social perfection, which was developed in Italy earlier than
elsewhere. That the Italians were one of the richest of existing
peoples, is another presumption in their favour. Proof, either for or
against these pretensions, can of course never be forthcoming, and if
the question were one of priority in establishing rules of cleanliness,
the chivalrous poetry of the Middle Ages is perhaps in advance of
anything that Italy can produce. It is nevertheless certain that the
singular neatness and cleanliness of some distinguished representatives
of the Renaissance, especially in their behaviour at meals, was noticed
expressly,[849] and that ‘German’ was the synonym in Italy for all that
is filthy.[850] The dirty habits which Massimiliano Sforza picked up in
the course of his German education, and the notice they attracted on his
return to Italy, are recorded by Giovio.[851] It is at the same time
very curious that, at least in the fifteenth century, the inns and
hotels were left chiefly in the hands of Germans,[852] who probably,
however, made their profit mostly out of the pilgrims journeying to
Rome. Yet the statements on this point may refer rather to the country
districts, since it is notorious that in the great cities Italian hotels
held the first place.[853] The want of decent inns in the country may
also be explained by the general insecurity of life and property.

To the first half of the sixteenth century belongs the manual of
politeness which Giovanni della Casa, a Florentine by birth, published
under the title ‘Il Galateo.’ Not only cleanliness in the strict sense
of the word, but the dropping of all the tricks and habits which we
consider unbecoming, is here prescribed with the same unfailing tact
with which the moralist discerns the highest ethical truths. In the
literature of other countries the same lessons are taught, though less
systematically, by the indirect influence of repulsive descriptions.[854]

In other respects also, the ‘Galateo’ is a graceful and intelligent
guide to good manners--a school of tact and delicacy. Even now it may be
read with no small profit by people of all classes, and the politeness
of European nations is not likely to outgrow its precepts. So far as
tact is an affair of the heart, it has been inborn in some men from the
dawn of civilization, and acquired through force of will by others; but
the Italian first recognised it as a universal social duty and a mark of
culture and education. And Italy itself had altered much in the course
of two centuries. We feel at their close that the time for practical
jokes between friends and acquaintances--for ‘burle’ and ‘beffe’ (p. 155
sqq.)--was over in good society,[855] that the people had emerged from
the walls of the cities and had learned a cosmopolitan politeness and
consideration. We shall speak later on of the intercourse of society in
the narrower sense.

Outward life, indeed, in the fifteenth and the early part of the
sixteenth centuries was polished and ennobled as among no other people
in the world. A countless number of those small things and great things
which combine to make up what we mean by comfort, we know to have first
appeared in Italy. In the well-paved streets of the Italian cities,[856]
driving was universal, while elsewhere in Europe walking or riding was
the customs, and at all events no one drove for amusement. We read in
the novelists of soft, elastic beds, of costly carpets and bedroom
furniture, of which we hear nothing in other countries.[857] We often
hear especially of the abundance and beauty of the linen. Much of all
this is drawn within the sphere of art. We note with admiration the
thousand ways in which art ennobles luxury, not only adorning the
massive sideboard or the light brackets with noble vases and clothing
the walls with the moving splendour of tapestry, and covering the
toilet-table with numberless graceful trifles, but absorbing whole
branches of mechanical work--especially carpentering--into its province.
All western Europe, as soon as its wealth enabled it to do so, set to
work in the same way at the close of the Middle Ages. But its efforts
produced either childish and fantastic toy-work, or were bound by the
chains of a narrow and purely Gothic art, while the Renaissance moved
freely, entering into the spirit of every task it undertook and working
for a far larger circle of patrons and admirers than the northern
artist. The rapid victory of Italian decorative art over northern in the
course of the sixteenth century is due partly to this fact, though
partly the result of wider and more general causes.



The higher forms of social intercourse, which here meet us as a work of
art--as a conscious product and one of the highest products of national
life--have no more important foundation and condition than language.

In the most flourishing period of the Middle Ages, the nobility of
Western Europe had sought to establish a ‘courtly’ speech for social
intercourse as well as for poetry. In Italy, too, where the dialects
differed so greatly from one another, we find in the thirteenth century
a so-called ‘Curiale,’ which was common to the courts and to the poets.
It is of decisive importance for Italy that the attempt was there
seriously and deliberately made to turn this into the language of
literature and society. The introduction to the ‘Cento Novelle Antiche,’
which were put into their present shape before 1300, avow this object
openly. Language is here considered apart from its uses in poetry; its
highest function is clear, simple, intelligent utterance in short
speeches, epigrams, and answers. This faculty was admired in Italy, as
nowhere else but among the Greeks and Arabians: ‘how many in the course
of a long life have scarcely produced a single “bel parlare.”’

But the matter was rendered more difficult by the diversity of the
aspects under which it was considered. The writings of Dante transport
us into the midst of the struggle. His work on ‘the Italian
language’[858] is not only of the utmost importance for the subject
itself, but is also the first complete treatise on any modern language.
His method and results belong to the history of linguistic science, in
which they will always hold a high place. We must here content
ourselves with the remark that long before the appearance of this book
the subject must have been one of daily and pressing importance, that
the various dialects of Italy had long been the objects of eager study
and dispute, and that the birth of the one classical language was not
accomplished without many throes.[859]

Nothing certainly contributed so much to this end as the great poem of
Dante. The Tuscan dialect became the basis of the new national
speech.[860] If this assertion may seem to some to go too far, as
foreigners we may be excused, in a matter on which much difference of
opinion prevails, for following the general belief.

Literature and poetry probably lost more than they gained by the
contentious purism which was long prevalent in Italy, and which marred
the freshness and vigour of many an able writer. Others, again, who felt
themselves masters of this magnificent language, were tempted to rely
upon its harmony and flow, apart from the thought which it expressed. A
very insignificant melody, played upon such an instrument, can produce a
very great effect. But however this may be, it is certain that socially
the language had great value. It was, as it were, the crown of a noble
and dignified behaviour, and compelled the gentleman, both in his
ordinary bearing and in exceptional moments to observe external
propriety. No doubt this classical garment, like the language of Attic
society, served to drape much that was foul and malicious; but it was
also the adequate expression of all that is noblest and most refined.
But politically and nationally it was of supreme importance, serving as
an ideal home for the educated classes in all the states of the divided
peninsula.[861] Nor was it the special property of the nobles or of any
one class, but the poorest and humblest might learn it if they would.
Even now--and perhaps more than ever--in those parts of Italy where, as
a rule, the most unintelligible dialect prevails, the stranger is often
astonished at hearing pure and well-spoken Italian from the mouths of
peasants or artisans, and looks in vain for anything analogous in France
or in Germany, where even the educated classes retain traces of a
provincial speech. There are certainly a larger number of people able to
read in Italy than we should be led to expect from the condition of many
parts of the country--as for instance, the States of the Church--in
other respects; but what is of more importance is the general and
undisputed respect for pure language and pronunciation as something
precious and sacred. One part of the country after another came to adopt
the classical dialect officially. Venice, Milan, and Naples did so at
the noontime of Italian literature, and partly through its influences.
It was not till the present century that Piedmont became of its own free
will a genuine Italian province by sharing in this chief treasure of the
people--pure speech.[862] The dialects were from the beginning of the
sixteenth century purposely left to deal with a certain class of
subjects, serious as well as comic,[863] and the style which was thus
developed proved equal to all its tasks. Among other nations a conscious
separation of this kind did not occur till a much later period.

The opinion of educated people as to the social value of language, is
fully set forth in the ‘Cortigiano.’[864] There were then persons, at
the beginning of the sixteenth century, who purposely kept to the
antiquated expressions of Dante and the other Tuscan writers of his
time, simply because they were old. Our author forbids the use of them
altogether in speech, and is unwilling to permit them even in writing,
which he considers a form of speech. Upon this follows the admission
that the best style of speech is that which most resembles good writing.
We can clearly recognise the author’s feeling that people who have
anything of importance to say must shape their own speech, and that
language is something flexible and changing because it is something
living. It is allowable to make use of any expression, however ornate,
as long as it is used by the people; nor are non-Tuscan words, or even
French and Spanish words forbidden, if custom has once applied them to
definite purposes.[865] Thus care and intelligence will produce a
language, which, if not the pure old Tuscan, is still Italian, rich in
flowers and fruit like a well-kept garden. It belongs to the
completeness of the ‘Cortigiano’ that his wit, his polished manners, and
his poetry, must be clothed in this perfect dress.

When style and language had once become the property of a living
society, all the efforts of purists and archaists failed to secure their
end. Tuscany itself was rich in writers and talkers of the first order,
who ignored and ridiculed these endeavours. Ridicule in abundance
awaited the foreign scholar who explained to the Tuscans how little they
understood their own language.[866] The life and influence of a writer
like Macchiavelli was enough to sweep away all these cobwebs. His
vigorous thoughts, his clear and simple mode of expression wore a form
which had any merit but that of the ‘Trecentisti.’ And on the other hand
there were too many North Italians, Romans, and Neapolitans, who were
thankful if the demand for purity of style in literature and
conversation was not pressed too far. They repudiated, indeed, the forms
and idioms of their dialect; and Bandello, with what a foreigner might
suspect to be false modesty, is never tired of declaring: ‘I have no
style; I do not write like a Florentine, but like a barbarian; I am not
ambitious of giving new graces to my language; I am a Lombard, and from
the Ligurian border into the bargain.’[867] But the claims of the
purists were most successfully met by the express renunciation of the
higher qualities of style, and the adoption of a vigorous, popular
language in their stead. Few could hope to rival Pietro Bembo who,
though born in Venice, nevertheless wrote the purest Tuscan, which to
him was a foreign language, or the Neapolitan Sannazaro, who did the
same. But the essential point was that language, whether spoken or
written, was held to be an object of respect. As long as this feeling
was prevalent, the fanaticism of the purists--their linguistic
congresses and the rest of it[868]--did little harm. Their bad influence
was not felt till much later, when the original power of Italian
literature relaxed, and yielded to other and far worse influences. At
last it became possible for the Accademia della Crusca to treat Italian
like a dead language. But this association proved so helpless that it
could not even hinder the invasion of Gallicism in the eighteenth

       *       *       *       *       *

This language--loved, tended, and trained to every use--now served as
the basis of social intercourse. In northern countries, the nobles and
the princes passed their leisure either in solitude, or in hunting,
fighting, drinking, and the like; the burghers in games and bodily
exercises, with a mixture of literary or festive amusement. In Italy
there existed a neutral ground, where people of every origin, if they
had the needful talent and culture, spent their time in conversation and
the polished interchange of jest and earnest. As eating and drinking
formed a small part of such entertainments,[869] it was not difficult to
keep at a distance those who sought society for these objects. If we are
to take the writers of dialogues literally, the loftiest problems of
human existence were not excluded from the conversation of thinking men,
and the production of noble thoughts was not, as was commonly the case
in the North, the work of solitude, but of society. But we must here
limit ourselves to the less serious side of social intercourse--to the
side which existed only for the sake of amusement.



This society, at all events at the beginning of the sixteenth century,
was a matter of art; and had, and rested on, tacit or avowed rules of
good sense and propriety, which are the exact reverse of all mere
etiquette. In less polished circles, where society took the form of a
permanent corporation, we meet with a system of formal rules and a
prescribed mode of entrance, as was the case with those wild sets of
Florentine artists of whom Vasari tells us that they were capable of
giving representations of the best comedies of the day.[870] In the
easier intercourse of society it was not unusual to select some
distinguished lady as president, whose word was law for the evening.
Everybody knows the introduction to Boccaccio’s ‘Decameron,’ and looks
on the presidency of Pampinea as a graceful fiction. That it was so in
this particular case is a matter of course; but the fiction was
nevertheless based on a practice which often occurred in reality.
Firenzuola, who nearly two centuries later (1523) prefaces his
collection of tales in a similar manner, with express reference to
Boccaccio, comes assuredly nearer to the truth when he puts into the
mouth of the queen of the society a formal speech on the mode of
spending the hours during the stay which the company proposed to make in
the country. The day was to begin with a stroll among the hills passed
in philosophical talk; then followed breakfast,[871] with music and
singing, after which came the recitation, in some cool, shady spot, of
a new poem, the subject of which had been given the night before; in the
evening the whole party walked to a spring of water where they all sat
down and each one told a tale; last of all came supper and lively
conversation ‘of such a kind that the women might listen to it without
shame and the men might not seem to be speaking under the influence of
wine.’ Bandello, in the introductions and dedications to single novels,
does not give us, it is true, such inaugural discourses as this, since
the circles before which the stories are told are represented as already
formed; but he gives us to understand in other ways how rich, how
manifold, and how charming the conditions of society must have been.
Some readers may be of opinion that no good was to be got from a world
which was willing to be amused by such immoral literature. It would be
juster to wonder at the secure foundations of a society which,
notwithstanding these tales, still observed the rules of order and
decency, and which knew how to vary such pastimes with serious and solid
discussion. The need of noble forms of social intercourse was felt to be
stronger than all others. To convince ourselves of it, we are not
obliged to take as our standard the idealised society which Castiglione
depicts as discussing the loftiest sentiments and aims of human life at
the court of Guidobaldo of Urbino, and Pietro Bembo at the castle of
Asolo. The society described by Bandello, with all the frivolities which
may be laid to its charge, enables us to form the best notion of the
easy and polished dignity, of the urbane kindliness, of the intellectual
freedom, of the wit and the graceful dilettantism which distinguished
these circles. A significant proof of the value of such circles lies in
the fact that the women who were the centres of them could become famous
and illustrious without in any way compromising their reputation. Among
the patronesses of Bandello, for example, Isabella Gonzaga (born an
Este, p. 44) was talked of unfavourably not through any fault of her
own, but on account of the too free-lived young ladies who filled her
court.[872] Giulia Gonzaga Colonna, Ippolita Sforza married to a
Bentivoglio, Bianca Rangona, Cecilia Gallerana, Camilla Scarampa, and
others were either altogether irreproachable, or their social fame threw
into the shade whatever they may have done amiss. The most famous woman
of Italia, Vittoria Colonna[873] (b. 1490, d. 1547), the friend of
Castiglione and Michelangelo, enjoyed the reputation of a saint. It is
hard to give such a picture of the unconstrained intercourse of these
circles in the city, at the baths, or in the country, as will furnish
literal proof of the superiority of Italy in this respect over the rest
of Europe. But let us read Bandello,[874] and then ask ourselves if
anything of the same kind would have been then possible, say, in France,
before this kind of society was there introduced by people like himself.
No doubt the supreme achievements of the human mind were then produced
independently of the helps of the drawing-room. Yet it would be unjust
to rate the influence of the latter on art and poetry too low, if only
for the reason that society helped to shape that which existed in no
other country--a widespread interest in artistic production and an
intelligent and critical public opinion. And apart from this, society of
the kind we have described was in itself a natural flower of that life
and culture which then was purely Italian, and which since then has
extended to the rest of Europe.

In Florence society was powerfully affected by literature and politics.
Lorenzo the Magnificent was supreme over his circle, not, as we might be
led to believe, through the princely position which he occupied, but
rather through the wonderful tact he displayed in giving perfect freedom
of action to the many and varied natures which surrounded him.[875] We
see how gently he dealt with his great tutor Politian, and how the
sovereignty of the poet and scholar was reconciled, though not without
difficulty, with the inevitable reserve prescribed by the approaching
change in the position of the house of Medici and by consideration for
the sensitiveness of the wife. In return for the treatment he received,
Politian became the herald and the living symbol of Medicean glory.
Lorenzo, after the fashion of a true Medici, delighted in giving an
outward and artistic expression to his social amusements. In his
brilliant improvisation--the Hawking Party--he gives us a humorous
description of his comrades, and in the Symposium a burlesque of them,
but in both cases in such a manner that we clearly feel his capacity for
more serious companionship.[876] Of this intercourse his correspondence
and the records of his literary and philosophical conversation give
ample proof. Some of the social unions which were afterwards formed in
Florence were in part political clubs, though not without a certain
poetical and philosophical character also. Of this kind was the
so-called Platonic Academy which met after Lorenzo’s death in the
gardens of the Ruccellai.[877]

At the courts of the princes, society naturally depended on the
character of the ruler. After the beginning of the sixteenth century
they became few in number, and these few soon lost their importance.
Rome, however, possessed in the unique court of Leo X. a society to
which the history of the world offers no parallel.



It was for this society--or rather for his own sake--that the
‘Cortigiano,’ as described to us by Castiglione, educated himself. He
was the ideal man of society, and was regarded by the civilisation of
that age as its choicest flower; and the court existed for him far
rather than he for the court. Indeed, such a man would have been out of
place at any court, since he himself possessed all the gifts and the
bearing of an accomplished ruler, and because his calm supremacy in all
things, both outward and spiritual, implied a too independent nature.
The inner impulse which inspired him was directed, though our author
does not acknowledge the fact, not to the service of the prince, but to
his own perfection. One instance will make this clear.[878] In time of
war the courtier refuses even useful and perilous tasks, if they are not
beautiful and dignified in themselves, such as for instance the capture
of a herd of cattle; what urges him to take part in war is not duty, but
‘l’onore.’ The moral relation to the prince, as prescribed in the fourth
book, is singularly free and independent. The theory of well-bred
love-making, set forth in the third book, is full of delicate
psychological observation, which perhaps would be more in place in a
treatise on human nature generally; and the magnificent praise of ideal
love, which occurs at the end of the fourth book, and which rises to a
lyrical elevation of feeling, has no connection whatever with the
special object of the work. Yet here, as in the ‘Asolani’ of Bembo, the
culture of the time shows itself in the delicacy with which this
sentiment is represented and analysed. It is true that these writers are
not in all cases to be taken literally; but that the discourses they
give us were actually frequent in good society, cannot be doubted, and
that it was no affectation, but genuine passion, which appeared in this
dress, we shall see further on.

Among outward accomplishments, the so-called knightly exercises were
expected in thorough perfection from the courtier, and besides these
much that could only exist at courts highly organised and based on
personal emulation, such as were not to be found out of Italy. Other
points obviously rest on an abstract notion of individual perfection.
The courtier must be at home in all noble sports, among them running,
leaping, swimming, and wrestling; he must, above all things, be a good
dancer and, as a matter of course, an accomplished rider. He must be
master of several languages; at all events of Latin and Italian; he must
be familiar with literature and have some knowledge of the fine arts. In
music a certain practical skill was expected of him, which he was bound,
nevertheless, to keep as secret as possible. All this is not to be taken
too seriously, except what relates to the use of arms. The mutual
interaction of these gifts and accomplishments results in the perfect
man, in whom no one quality usurps the place of the rest.

So much is certain, that in the sixteenth century the Italians had all
Europe for their pupils both theoretically and practically in every
noble bodily exercise and in the habits and manners of good society.
Their instructions and their illustrated books on riding, fencing, and
dancing served as the model to other countries. Gymnastics as an art,
apart both from military training and from mere amusement, was probably
first taught by Vittorino da Feltre (p. 213) and after his time became
essential to a complete education.[879] The important fact is that they
were taught systematically, though what exercises were most in favour,
and whether they resembled those now in use, we are unable to say. But
we may infer, not only from the general character of the people, but
from positive evidence which has been left for us, that not only
strength and skill, but grace of movement was one of the main objects of
physical training. It is enough to remind the reader of the great
Frederick of Urbino (p. 44) directing the evening games of the young
people committed to his care.

The games and contests of the popular classes did not differ essentially
from those which prevailed elsewhere in Europe. In the maritime cities
boat-racing was among the number, and the Venetian regattas were famous
at an early period.[880] The classical game of Italy was and is the
ball; and this was probably played at the time of the Renaissance with
more zeal and brilliancy than elsewhere. But on this point no distinct
evidence is forthcoming.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few words on music will not be out of place in this part of our
work.[881] Musical composition down to the year 1500 was chiefly in the
hands of the Flemish school, whose originality and artistic dexterity
were greatly admired. Side by side with this, there nevertheless existed
an Italian school, which probably stood nearer to our present taste.
Half a century later came Palestrina, whose genius still works
powerfully among us. We learn among other facts that he was a great
innovator; but whether he or others took the decisive part in shaping
the musical language of the modern world lies beyond the judgment of the
unprofessional critic. Leaving on one side the history of musical
composition, we shall confine ourselves to the position which music held
in the social life of the day.

A fact most characteristic of the Renaissance and of Italy is the
specialisation of the orchestra, the search for new instruments and
modes of sound, and, in close connection with this tendency, the
formation of a class of ‘virtuosi,’ who devoted their whole attention to
particular instruments or particular branches of music.

Of the more complex instruments, which were perfected and widely
diffused at a very early period, we find not only the organ, but a
corresponding string-instrument, the ‘gravicembalo’ or ‘clavicembalo.’
Fragments of these, dating from the beginning of the fourteenth century,
have come down to our own days, adorned with paintings from the hands of
the greatest masters. Among other instruments the first place was held
by the violin, which even then conferred great celebrity on the
successful player. At the court of Leo X., who, when cardinal, had
filled his house with singers and musicians, and who enjoyed the
reputation of a critic and performer, the Jew Giovan Maria and Jacopo
Sansecondo were among the most famous. The former received from Leo the
title of count and a small town;[882] the latter has been taken to be
the Apollo in the Parnassus of Raphael. In the course of the sixteenth
century, celebrities in every branch of music appeared in abundance, and
Lomazzo (about the year 1580) names the then most distinguished masters
of the art of singing, of the organ, the lute, the lyre, the ‘viola da
gamba,’ the harp, the cithern, the horn, and the trumpet, and wishes
that their portraits might be painted on the instruments
themselves.[883] Such many-sided comparative criticism would have been
impossible anywhere but in Italy, although the same instruments were to
be found in other countries.

The number and variety of these instruments is shown by the fact that
collections of them were now made from curiosity. In Venice, which was
one of the most musical cities of Italy,[884] there were several such
collections, and when a sufficient number of performers happened to be
on the spot, a concert was at once improvised. In one of these museums
there were a large number of instruments, made after ancient pictures
and descriptions, but we are not told if anybody could play them, or how
they sounded. It must not be forgotten that such instruments were often
beautifully decorated, and could be arranged in a manner pleasing to the
eye. We thus meet with them in collections of other rarities and works
of art.

The players, apart from the professional performers, were either single
amateurs, or whole orchestras of them, organised into a corporate
Academy.[885] Many artists in other branches were at home in music, and
often masters of the art. People of position were averse to
wind-instruments, for the same reason[886] which made them distasteful
to Alcibiades and Pallas Athene. In good society singing, either alone
or accompanied with the violin, was usual; but quartettes of
string-instruments were also common,[887] and the ‘clavicembalo’ was
liked on account of its varied effects. In singing the solo only was
permitted, ‘for a single voice is heard, enjoyed, and judged far
better.’ In other words, as singing, notwithstanding all conventional
modesty, is an exhibition of the individual man of society, it is better
that each should be seen and heard separately. The tender feelings
produced in the fair listeners are taken for granted, and elderly people
are therefore recommended to abstain from such forms of art, even though
they excel in them. It was held important that the effect of the song
should be enhanced by the impression made on the sight. We hear nothing
however of the treatment in these circles of musical composition as an
independent branch of art. On the other hand it happened sometimes that
the subject of the song was some terrible event which had befallen the
singer himself.[888]

This dilettantism, which pervaded the middle as well as the upper
classes, was in Italy both more widely spread and more genuinely
artistic than in any other country of Europe. Wherever we meet with a
description of social intercourse, there music and singing are always
and expressly mentioned. Hundreds of portraits show us men and women,
often several together, playing or holding some musical instrument, and
the angelic concerts represented in the ecclesiastical pictures prove
how familiar the painters were with the living effects of music. We read
of the lute-player Antonio Rota, at Padua (d. 1549), who became a rich
man by his lessons, and published a handbook to the practice of the

At a time when there was no opera to concentrate and monopolise musical
talent, this general cultivation of the art must have been something
wonderfully varied, intelligent, and original. It is another question
how much we should find to satisfy us in these forms of music, could
they now be reproduced for us.



To understand the higher forms of social intercourse at this period, we
must keep before our minds the fact that women stood on a footing of
perfect equality with men.[890] We must not suffer ourselves to be
misled by the sophistical and often malicious talk about the assumed
inferiority of the female sex, which we meet with now and then in the
dialogues of this time,[891] nor by such satires as the third of
Ariosto,[892] who treats woman as a dangerous grown-up child, whom a man
must learn how to manage, in spite of the great gulf between them.
There is, indeed, a certain amount of truth in what he says. Just
because the educated woman was on a level with the man, that communion
of mind and heart which comes from the sense of mutual dependence and
completion, could not be developed in marriage at this time, as it has
been developed later in the cultivated society of the North.

The education given to women in the upper classes was essentially the
same as that given to men. The Italian, at the time of the Renaissance,
felt no scruple in putting sons and daughters alike under the same
course of literary and even philological instruction (p. 222). Indeed,
looking at this ancient culture as the chief treasure of life, he was
glad that his girls should have a share in it. We have seen what
perfection was attained by the daughters of princely houses in writing
and speaking Latin (p. 234).[893] Many others must at least have been
able to read it, in order to follow the conversation of the day, which
turned largely on classical subjects. An active interest was taken by
many in Italian poetry, in which, whether prepared or improvised, a
large number of Italian women, from the time of the Venetian Cassandra
Fedele onwards (about the close of the fifteenth century), made
themselves famous.[894] One, indeed, Vittoria Colonna, may be called
immortal. If any proof were needed of the assertion made above, it would
be found in the manly tone of this poetry. Even the love-sonnets and
religious poems are so precise and definite in their character, and so
far removed from the tender twilight of sentiment, and from all the
dilettantism which we commonly find in the poetry of women, that we
should not hesitate to attribute them to male authors, if we had not
clear external evidence to prove the contrary.

For, with education, the individuality of women in the upper classes
was developed in the same way as that of men. Till the time of the
Reformation, the personality of women out of Italy, even of the highest
rank, comes forward but little. Exceptions like Isabella of Bavaria,
Margaret of Anjou, and Isabella of Castille, are the forced result of
very unusual circumstances. In Italy, throughout the whole of the
fifteenth century, the wives of the rulers, and still more those of the
Condottieri, have nearly all a distinct, recognisable personality, and
take their share of notoriety and glory. To these came gradually to be
added a crowd of famous women of the most varied kind (i. p. 147, note
1); among them those whose distinction consisted in the fact that their
beauty, disposition, education, virtue, and piety, combined to render
them harmonious human beings.[895] There was no question of ‘woman’s
rights’ or female emancipation, simply because the thing itself was a
matter of course. The educated woman, no less than the man, strove
naturally after a characteristic and complete individuality. The same
intellectual and emotional development which perfected the man, was
demanded for the perfection of the woman. Active literary work,
nevertheless, was not expected from her, and if she were a poet, some
powerful utterance of feeling, rather than the confidences of the novel
or the diary, was looked for. These women had no thought of the
public;[896] their function was to influence distinguished men, and to
moderate male impulse and caprice.

The highest praise which could then be given to the great Italian women
was that they had the mind and the courage of men. We have only to
observe the thoroughly manly bearing of most of the women in the heroic
poems, especially those of Bojardo and Ariosto, to convince ourselves
that we have before us the ideal of the time. The title ‘virago,’ which
is an equivocal compliment in the present day, then implied nothing but
praise. It was borne in all its glory by Caterina Sforza, wife and
afterwards widow of Giroloma Riario, whose hereditary possession, Forli,
she gallantly defended first against his murderers, and then against
Cæsar Borgia. Though finally vanquished, she retained the admiration of
her countrymen and the title ‘prima donna d’Italia.’[897] This heroic
vein can be detected in many of the women of the Renaissance, though
none found the same opportunity of showing their heroism to the world.
In Isabella Gonzaga this type is clearly recognisable, and not less in
Clarice, of the House of Medici, the wife of Filippo Strozzi.[898]

Women of this stamp could listen to novels like those of Bandello,
without social intercourse suffering from it. The ruling genius of
society was not, as now, womanhood, or the respect for certain
presuppositions, mysteries, and susceptibilities, but the consciousness
of energy, of beauty, and of a social state full of danger and
opportunity. And for this reason we find, side by side with the most
measured and polished social forms, something our age would call
immodesty,[899] forgetting that by which it was corrected and
counterbalanced--the powerful characters of the women who were exposed
to it.

That in all the dialogues and treatises together we can find no absolute
evidence on these points is only natural, however freely the nature of
love and the position and capacities of women were discussed.

What seems to have been wanting in this society were the young
girls,[900] who, even when not brought up in the monasteries, were still
carefully kept away from it. It is not easy to say whether their absence
was the cause of the greater freedom of conversation, or whether they
were removed on account of it.

Even the intercourse with courtesans seems to have assumed a more
elevated character, reminding us of the position of the Hetairae in
Classical Athens. The famous Roman courtesan Imperia was a woman of
intelligence and culture, had learned from a certain Domenico
Campana the art of making sonnets, and was not without musical
accomplishments.[901] The beautiful Isabella de Luna, of Spanish
extraction, who was reckoned amusing company, seems to have been an odd
compound of a kind heart with a shockingly foul tongue, which latter
sometimes brought her into trouble.[902] At Milan, Bandello knew the
majestic Caterina di San Celso,[903] who played and sang and recited
superbly. It is clear from all we read on the subject that the
distinguished people who visited these women, and from time to time
lived with them, demanded from them a considerable degree of
intelligence and instruction, and that the famous courtesans were
treated with no slight respect and consideration. Even when relations
with them were broken off, their good opinion was still desired,[904]
which shows that departed passion had left permanent traces behind. But
on the whole this intellectual intercourse is not worth mentioning by
the side of that sanctioned by the recognised forms of social life, and
the traces which it has left in poetry and literature are for the most
part of a scandalous nature. We may well be astonished that among the
6,800 persons of this class, who were to be found in Rome in
1490[905]--that is, before the appearance of syphilis--scarcely a
single woman seems to have been remarkable for any higher gifts. These
whom we have mentioned all belong to the period which immediately
followed. The mode of life, the morals and the philosophy of the public
women, who with all their sensuality and greed were not always incapable
of deeper passions, as well as the hypocrisy and devilish malice shown
by some in their later years, are best set forth by Giraldi, in the
novels which form the introduction to the ‘Hecatommithi.’ Pietro
Aretino, in his ‘Ragionamenti,’ gives us rather a picture of his own
depraved character than of this unhappy class of women as they really

The mistresses of the princes, as has already been pointed out (p. 53),
were sung by poets and painted by artists, and in consequence have been
personally familiar to their contemporaries and to posterity. We hardly
know more than the name of Alice Perrers and of Clara Dettin, the
mistress of Frederick the Victorious, and of Agnes Sorel have only a
half-legendary story. With the monarchs of the age of the
Renaissance--Francis I. and Henry II.--the case is different.



After treating of the intercourse of society, let us glance for a moment
at the domestic life of this period. We are commonly disposed to look on
the family life of the Italians at this time as hopelessly ruined by the
national immorality, and this side of the question will be more fully
discussed in the sequel. For the moment we must content ourselves with
pointing out that conjugal infidelity has by no means so disastrous an
influence on family life in Italy as in the North, so long at least as
certain limits are not overstepped.

The domestic life of the Middle Ages was a product of popular morals, or
if we prefer to put it otherwise, a result of the inborn tendencies of
national life, modified by the varied circumstances which affected them.
Chivalry at the time of its splendour left domestic economy untouched.
The knight wandered from court to court, and from one battle-field to
another. His homage was given systematically to some other woman than
his own wife, and things went how they might at home in the castle.[906]
The spirit of the Renaissance first brought order into domestic life,
treating it as a work of deliberate contrivance. Intelligent economical
views (p. 77), and a rational style of domestic architecture served to
promote this end. But the chief cause of the change was the thoughtful
study of all questions relating to social intercourse, to education, to
domestic service and organisation.

The most precious document on this subject is the treatise on the
management of the home by Agnolo Pandolfini (L. B. Alberti).[907] He
represents a father speaking to his grown-up sons, and initiating them
into his method of administration. We are introduced into a large and
wealthy household, which if governed with moderation and reasonable
economy, promises happiness and prosperity for generations to come. A
considerable landed estate, whose produce furnishes the table of the
house, and serves as the basis of the family fortune, is combined with
some industrial pursuit, such as the weaving of wool or silk. The
dwelling is solid and the food good. All that has to do with the plan
and arrangement of the house is great, durable, and costly, but the
daily life within it is as simple as possible. All other expenses, from
the largest in which the family honour is at stake, down to the
pocket-money of the younger sons, stand to one another in a rational,
not a conventional relation. Nothing is considered of so much importance
as education, which the head of the house gives not only to the
children, but to the whole household. He first develops his wife from a
shy girl, brought up in careful seclusion, to the true woman of the
house, capable of commanding and guiding the servants. The sons are
brought up without any undue severity,[908] carefully watched and
counselled, and controlled ‘rather by authority than by force.’ And
finally the servants are chosen and treated on such principles that
they gladly and faithfully hold by the family.

One feature of this book must be referred to, which is by no means
peculiar to it, but which it treats with special warmth--the love of the
educated Italian for country life.[909] In northern countries the nobles
lived in the country in their castles, and the monks of the higher
orders in their well-guarded monasteries, while the wealthiest burghers
dwelt from one year’s end to another in the cities. But in Italy, so far
as the neighbourhood of certain towns at all events was concerned,[910]
the security of life and property was so great, and the passion for a
country residence was so strong, that men were willing to risk a loss in
time of war. Thus arose the villa, the country-house of the well-to-do
citizen. This precious inheritance of the old Roman world was thus
revived, as soon as the wealth and culture of the people were
sufficiently advanced.

One author finds at his villa a peace and happiness, for an account of
which the reader must hear him speak himself: ‘While every other
possession causes work and danger, fear and disappointment, the villa
brings a great and honourable advantage; the villa is always true and
kind; if you dwell in it at the right time and with love, it will not
only satisfy you, but add reward to reward. In spring the green trees
and the song of the birds will make you joyful and hopeful; in autumn a
moderate exertion will bring forth fruit a hundredfold; all through the
year melancholy will be banished from you. The villa is the spot where
good and honest men love to congregate. Nothing secret, nothing
treacherous, is done here; all see all; here is no need of judges or
witnesses, for all are kindly and peaceably disposed one to another.
Hasten hither, and fly away from the pride of the rich, and the
dishonour of the bad. O blessed life in the villa, O unknown fortune!’
The economical side of the matter is that one and the same property
must, if possible, contain everything--corn, wine, oil, pasture-land and
woods, and that in such cases the property was paid for well, since
nothing needed then to be got from the market. But the higher enjoyment
derived from the villa is shown by some words of the introduction:
‘Round about Florence lie many villas in a transparent atmosphere, amid
cheerful scenery, and with a splendid view; there is little fog, and no
injurious winds; all is good, and the water pure and healthy. Of the
numerous buildings many are like palaces, many like castles, costly and
beautiful to behold.’ He is speaking of those unrivalled villas, of
which the greater number were sacrificed, though vainly, by the
Florentines themselves in the defence of their city in the year

In these villas, as in those on the Brenta, on the Lombard hills, at
Posilippo and on the Vomero, social life assumed a freer and more rural
character than in the palaces within the city. We meet with charming
descriptions of the intercourse of the guests, the hunting-parties, and
all the open-air pursuits and amusements.[912] But the noblest
achievements of poetry and thought are sometimes also dated from these
scenes of rural peace.



It is by no arbitrary choice that in discussing the social life of this
period, we are led to treat of the processions and shows which formed
part of the popular festivals.[913] The artistic power of which the
Italians of the Renaissance gave proof on such occasions,[914] was
attained only by means of that free intercourse of all classes which
formed the basis of Italian society. In Northern Europe the monasteries,
the courts, and the burghers had their special feasts and shows as in
Italy; but in the one case the form and substance of these displays
differed according to the class which took part in them, in the other an
art and culture common to the whole nation stamped them with both a
higher and a more popular character. The decorative architecture, which
served to aid in these festivals, deserves a chapter to itself in the
history of art, although our imagination can only form a picture of it
from the descriptions which have been left to us. We are here more
especially concerned with the festival as a higher phase in the life of
the people, in which its religious, moral, and poetical ideas took
visible shape. The Italian festivals in their best form mark the point
of transition from real life into the world of art.

The two chief forms of festal display were originally here, as elsewhere
in the West, the Mystery, or the dramatisation of sacred history and
legend, and the Procession, the motive and character of which was also
purely ecclesiastical.

The performances of the Mysteries in Italy were from the first more
frequent and splendid than elsewhere, and were most favourably affected
by the progress of poetry and of the other arts. In the course of time
not only did the farce and the secular drama branch off from the
Mystery, as in other countries of Europe, but the pantomime also, with
its accompaniments of singing and dancing, the effect of which depended
on the richness and beauty of the spectacle.

The Procession, in the broad, level, and well-paved streets of the
Italian cities,[915] was soon developed into the ‘Trionfo,’ or train of
masked figures on foot and in chariots, the ecclesiastical character of
which gradually gave way to the secular. The processions at the Carnival
and at the feast of Corpus Christi[916] were alike in the pomp and
brilliancy with which they were conducted, and set the pattern
afterwards followed by the royal or princely progresses. Other nations
were willing to spend vast sums of money on these shows, but in Italy
alone do we find an artistic method of treatment which arranged the
procession as a harmonious and significative whole.

What is left of these festivals is but a poor remnant of what once
existed. Both religious and secular displays of this kind have abandoned
the dramatic element--the costumes--partly from dread of ridicule, and
partly because the cultivated classes, who formerly gave their whole
energies to these things, have for several reasons lost their interest
in them. Even at the Carnival, the great processions of masks are out of
fashion. What still remains, such as the costumes adopted in imitation
of certain religious confraternities, or even the brilliant festival of
Santa Rosalia at Palermo, shows clearly how far the higher culture of
the country has withdrawn from such interests.

       *       *       *       *       *

The festivals did not reach their full development till after the
decisive victory of the modern spirit in the fifteenth century,[917]
unless perhaps Florence was here, as in other things, in advance of the
rest of Italy. In Florence, the several quarters of the city were, in
early times, organized with a view to such exhibitions, which demanded
no small expenditure of artistic effort. Of this kind was the
representation of Hell, with a scaffold and boats in the Arno, on the
1st of May, 1304, when the Ponte alla Carraja broke down under the
weight of the spectators.[918] That at a later time Florentines used to
travel through Italy as directors of festivals (festaiuoli), shows that
the art was early perfected at home.[919]

In setting forth the chief points of superiority in the Italian
festivals over those of other countries, the first that we shall have to
remark is the developed sense of individual characteristics, in other
words, the capacity to invent a given mask, and to act the part with
dramatic propriety. Painters and sculptors not merely did their part
towards the decoration of the place where the festival was held, but
helped in getting up the characters themselves, and prescribed the
dress, the paints (p. 373), and the other ornaments to be used. The
second fact to be pointed out is the universal familiarity of the people
with the poetical basis of the show. The Mysteries, indeed, were equally
well understood all over Europe, since the biblical story and the
legends of the saints were the common property of Christendom; but in
all other respects the advantage was on the side of Italy. For the
recitations, whether of religious or secular heroes, she possessed a
lyrical poetry so rich and harmonious that none could resist its
charm.[920] The majority, too, of the spectators--at least in the
cities--understood the meaning of mythological figures, and could guess
without much difficulty at the allegorical and historical, which were
drawn from sources familiar to the mass of Italians.

This point needs to be more fully discussed. The Middle Ages were
essentially the ages of allegory. Theology and philosophy treated their
categories as independent beings,[921] and poetry and art had but little
to add, in order to give them personality. Here all the countries of the
West were on the same level. Their world of ideas was rich enough in
types and figures, but when these were put into concrete shape, the
costume and attributes were likely to be unintelligible and unsuited to
the popular taste. This, even in Italy, was often the case, and not only
so during the whole period of the Renaissance, but down to a still later
time. To produce the confusion, it was enough if a predicate of the
allegorical figures was wrongly translated by an attribute. Even Dante
is not wholly free from such errors,[922] and, indeed, he prides himself
on the obscurity of his allegories in general.[923] Petrarch, in his
‘Trionfi,’ attempts to give clear, if short, descriptions of at all
events the figures of Love, of Chastity, of Death, and of Fame. Others
again load their allegories with inappropriate attributes. In the
Satires of Vinciguerra,[924] for example, Envy is depicted with rough,
iron teeth, Gluttony as biting its own lips, and with a shock of tangled
hair, the latter probably to show its indifference to all that is not
meat and drink. We cannot here discuss the bad influence of these
misunderstandings on the plastic arts. They, like poetry, might think
themselves fortunate if allegory could be expressed by a mythological
figure--by a figure which antiquity saved from absurdity--if Mars might
stand for war, and Diana[925] for the love of the chase.

Nevertheless art and poetry had better allegories than these to offer,
and we may assume with regard to such figures of this kind as appeared
in the Italian festivals, that the public required them to be clearly
and vividly characteristic, since its previous training had fitted it to
be a competent critic. Elsewhere, particularly at the Burgundian court,
the most inexpressive figures, and even mere symbols, were allowed to
pass, since to understand, or to seem to understand them, was a part of
aristocratic breeding. On the occasion of the famous ‘Oath of the
Pheasant’ in the year 1453,[926] the beautiful young horsewoman, who
appears as ‘Queen of Pleasure,’ is the only pleasing allegory. The huge
dishes, with automatic or even living figures within them, are either
mere curiosities or are intended to convey some clumsy moral lesson. A
naked female statue guarding a live lion was supposed to represent
Constantinople and its future saviour, the Duke of Burgundy. The rest,
with the exception of a Pantomime--Jason in Colchis--seems either too
recondite to be understood or to have no sense at all. Olivier himself,
to whom we owe the description of the scene, appeared costumed as ‘The
Church,’ in a tower on the back of an elephant, and sang a long elegy on
the victory of the unbelievers.[927]

But although the allegorical element in the poetry, the art, and the
festivals of Italy is superior both in good taste and in unity of
conception to what we find in other countries, yet it is not in these
qualities that it is most characteristic and unique. The decisive point
of superiority[928] lay rather in the fact, that besides the
personifications of abstract qualities, historical representatives of
them were introduced in great number--that both poetry and plastic art
were accustomed to represent famous men and women. The ‘Divine Comedy,’
the ‘Trionfi’ of Petrarch, the ‘Amorosa Visione’ of Boccaccio--all of
them works constructed on this principle--and the great diffusion of
culture which took place under the influence of antiquity, had made the
nation familiar with this historical element. These figures now appeared
at festivals, either individualised, as definite masks, or in groups, as
characteristic attendants on some leading allegorical figure. The art of
grouping and composition was thus learnt in Italy at a time when the
most splendid exhibitions in other countries were made up of
unintelligible symbolism or unmeaning puerilities.

Let us begin with that kind of festival which is perhaps the oldest of
all--the Mysteries.[929] They resembled in their main features those
performed in the rest of Europe. In the public squares, in the churches,
and in the cloisters extensive scaffolds were constructed, the upper
story of which served as a Paradise to open and shut at will, and the
ground-floor often as a Hell, while between the two lay the stage
properly so called, representing the scene of all the earthly events of
the drama. In Italy, as elsewhere, the biblical or legendary play often
began with an introductory dialogue between Apostles, Prophets, Sibyls,
Virtues, and Fathers of the Church, and sometimes ended with a dance. As
a matter of course the half-comic ‘Intermezzi’ of secondary characters
were not wanting in Italy, yet this feature was hardly so broadly marked
as in northern countries.[930] The artificial means by which figures
were made to rise and float in the air--one of the chief delights of
these representations--were probably much better understood in Italy
than elsewhere; and at Florence in the fourteenth century the hitches
in these performances were a stock subject of ridicule.[931] Soon after
Brunellesco invented for the Feast of the Annunciation in the Piazza San
Felice a marvellous apparatus consisting of a heavenly globe surrounded
by two circles of angels, out of which Gabriel flew down in a machine
shaped like an almond. Cecca, too, devised the mechanism for such
displays.[932] The spiritual corporations or the quarters of the city
which undertook the charge and in part the performance of these plays
spared, at all events in the larger towns, no trouble and expense to
render them as perfect and artistic as possible. The same was no doubt
the case at the great court festivals, when Mysteries were acted as well
as pantomimes and secular dramas. The court of Pietro Riario (p. 106),
and that of Ferrara were assuredly not wanting in all that human
invention could produce.[933] When we picture to ourselves the
theatrical talent and the splendid costumes of the actors, the scenes
constructed in the style of the architecture of the period, and hung
with garlands and tapestry, and in the background the noble buildings of
an Italian piazza, or the slender columns of some great courtyard or
cloister, the effect is one of great brilliance. But just as the secular
drama suffered from this passion for display, so the higher poetical
development of the Mystery was arrested by the same cause. In the texts
which are left we find for the most part the poorest dramatic
groundwork, relieved now and then by a fine lyrical or rhetorical
passage, but no trace of the grand symbolic enthusiasm which
distinguishes the ‘Autos Sagramentales’ of Calderon.

In the smaller towns, where the scenic display was less, the effect of
these spiritual plays on the character of the spectators may have been
greater. We read[934] that one of the great preachers of repentance of
whom more will be said later on, Roberto da Lecce, closed his Lenten
sermons during the plague of 1448, at Perugia, with a representation of
the Passion. The piece followed the New Testament closely. The actors
were few, but the whole people wept aloud. It is true that on such
occasions emotional stimulants were resorted to which were borrowed from
the crudest realism. We are reminded of the pictures of Matteo da Siena,
or of the groups of clay-figures by Guido Mazzoni, when we read that the
actor who took the part of Christ appeared covered with wales and
apparently sweating blood, and even bleeding from a wound in the

The special occasions on which these mysteries were performed, apart
from the great festivals of the Church, from princely weddings, and the
like, were of various kinds. When, for example, S. Bernardino of Siena
was canonised by the Pope (1450), a sort of dramatic imitation of the
ceremony took place (rappresentazione), probably on the great square of
his native city, and for two days there was feasting with meat and drink
for all comers.[936] We are told that a learned monk celebrated his
promotion to the degree of Doctor of Theology, by giving a
representation of the legend about the patron saint of the city.[937]
Charles VIII. had scarcely entered Italy before he was welcomed at Turin
by the widowed Duchess Bianca of Savoy with a sort of half-religious
pantomime,[938] in which a pastoral scene first symbolised the Law of
Nature, and then a procession of patriarchs the Law of Grace.
Afterwards followed the story of Lancelot of the Lake, and that ‘of
Athens.’ And no sooner had the King reached Chieri, than he was received
with another pantomime, in which a woman in childbed was shown,
surrounded by distinguished visitors.

If any church festival was held by universal consent to call for
exceptional efforts, it was the feast of Corpus Christi, which in Spain
(p. 413) gave rise to a special class of poetry. We possess a splendid
description of the manner in which that feast was celebrated at Viterbo
by Pius II. in 1482.[939] The procession itself, which advanced from a
vast and gorgeous tent in front of S. Francesco along the main street to
the Cathedral, was the least part of the ceremony. The cardinals and
wealthy prelates had divided the whole distance into parts, over which
they severally presided, and which they decorated with curtains,
tapestry, and garlands.[940] Each of them had also erected a stage of
his own, on which, as the procession passed by, short historical and
allegorical scenes were represented. It is not clear from the account
whether all the characters were living beings or some merely draped
figures;[941] the expense was certainly very great. There was a
suffering Christ amid singing cherubs, the Last Supper with a figure of
St. Thomas Aquinas, the combat between the Archangel Michael and the
devils, fountains of wine and orchestras of angels, the grave of Christ
with all the scene of the Resurrection, and finally, on the square
before the Cathedral, the tomb of the Virgin. It opened after High Mass
and the benediction, and the Mother of God ascended singing to Paradise,
where she was crowned by her Son, and led into the presence of the
Eternal Father.

Among these representations in the public street, that given by the
Cardinal Vice-Chancellor Roderigo Borgia, afterwards Pope Alexander VI.,
was remarkable for its splendour and obscure symbolism.[942] It offers
an early instance of the fondness for salvos of artillery[943] which was
characteristic of the house of Borgia.

The account is briefer which Pius II. gives us of the procession held
the same year in Rome on the arrival of the skull of St. Andrew from
Greece. There, too, Roderigo Borgia distinguished himself by his
magnificence; but this festival had a more secular character than the
other, as, besides the customary choirs of angels, other masks were
exhibited, as well as ‘strong men,’ who seemed to have performed various
feats of muscular prowess.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such representations as were wholly or chiefly secular in their
character were arranged, especially at the more important princely
courts, mainly with a view to splendid and striking scenic effects. The
subjects were mythological or allegorical, and the interpretation
commonly lay on the surface. Extravagancies, indeed, were not
wanting--gigantic animals from which a crowd of masked figures suddenly
emerged, as at Siena[944] in the year 1465, when at a public reception a
ballet of twelve persons came out of a golden wolf; living table
ornaments, not always, however, showing the tasteless exaggeration of
the Burgundian Court (p. 182)--and the like. Most of them showed some
artistic or poetical feeling. The mixture of pantomime and the drama at
the Court of Ferrara has been already referred to in the treating of
poetry (p. 318). The entertainments given in 1473 by the Cardinal Pietro
Riario at Rome when Leonora of Aragon, the destined bride of Prince
Hercules of Ferrara, was passing through the city, were famous far
beyond the limits of Italy.[945] The plays acted were mysteries on some
ecclesiastical subject, the pantomimes on the contrary, were
mythological. There were represented Orpheus with the beasts, Perseus
and Andromeda, Ceres drawn by dragons, Bacchus and Ariadne by panthers,
and finally the education of Achilles. Then followed a ballet of the
famous lovers of ancient times, with a troop of nymphs, which was
interrupted by an attack of predatory centaurs, who in their turn were
vanquished and put to flight by Hercules. The fact, in itself a trifle,
may be mentioned, as characteristic of the taste of the time, that the
human beings who at all the festivals appeared as statues in niches or
on pillars and triumphal arches, and then showed themselves to be alive
by singing or speaking, wore their natural complexion and a natural
costume, and thus the sense of incongruity was removed; while in the
house of Riario there was exhibited a living child, gilt from head to
foot, who showered water round him from a spring.[946]

Brilliant pantomimes of the same kind were given at Bologna, at the
marriage of Annibale Bentivoglio with Lucrezia of Este.[947] Instead of
the orchestra, choral songs were sung, while the fairest of Diana’s
nymphs flew over to the Juno Pronuba, and while Venus walked with a
lion--which in this case was a disguised man--among a troop of savages.
The decorations were a faithful representation of a forest. At Venice,
in 1491, the princesses of the house of Este[948] were met and welcomed
by the Bucentaur, and entertained by boat-races and a splendid
pantomime, called ‘Meleager,’ in the court of the ducal palace. At Milan
Lionardo da Vinci[949] directed the festivals of the Duke and of some
leading citizens. One of his machines, which must have rivalled that of
Brunellesco (p. 411), represented the heavenly bodies with all their
movements on a colossal scale. Whenever a planet approached Isabella,
the bride of the young Duke, the divinity whose name it bore stepped
forth from the globe,[950] and sang some verses written by the
court-poet Bellincioni (1489). At another festival (1493) the model of
the equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza appeared with other objects
under a triumphal arch on the square before the castle. We read in
Vasari of the ingenious automata which Lionardo invented to welcome the
French kings as masters of Milan. Even in the smaller cities great
efforts were sometimes made on these occasions. When Duke Borso came in
1453 to Reggio[951] to receive the homage of the city, he was met at
the door by a great machine, on which S. Prospero, the patron saint of
the town, appeared to float, shaded by a baldachino held by angels,
while below him was a revolving disc with eight singing cherubs, two of
whom received from the saint the sceptre and keys of the city, which
they then delivered to the Duke, while saints and angels held forth in
his praise. A chariot drawn by concealed horses now advanced, bearing an
empty throne, behind which stood a figure of Justice attended by a
genius. At the corners of the chariot sat four grey-headed lawgivers,
encircled by angels with banners; by its side rode standard-bearers in
complete armour. It need hardly be added that the goddess and the genius
did not suffer the Duke to pass by without an address. A second car,
drawn by an unicorn, bore a Caritas with a burning torch; between the
two came the classical spectacle of a car in the form of a ship, moved
by men concealed within it. The whole procession now advanced before the
Duke. In front of the Church of S. Pietro, a halt was again made. The
saint, attended by two angels, descended in an aureole from the façade,
placed a wreath of laurel on the head of the Duke, and then floated back
to his former position.[952] The clergy provided another allegory of a
purely religious kind. Idolatry and Faith stood on two lofty pillars,
and after Faith, represented by a beautiful girl, had uttered her
welcome, the other column fell to pieces with the lay figure upon it.
Further on, Borso was met by Cæsar with seven beautiful women, who were
presented to him as the seven Virtues which he was exhorted to pursue.
At last the Cathedral was reached, but after the service the Duke again
took his seat on a lofty golden throne, and a second time received the
homage of some of the masks already mentioned. To conclude all, three
angels flew down from an adjacent building, and, amid songs of joy,
delivered to him branches of palm, as symbols of peace.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us now give a glance at those festivals the chief feature of which
was the procession itself.

There is no doubt that from an early period of the Middle Ages the
religious processions gave rise to the use of masks. Little angels
accompanied the sacrament or the sacred pictures and reliques on their
way through the streets; or characters in the Passion--such as Christ
with the cross, the thieves and the soldiers, or the faithful
women--were represented for public edification. But the great feasts of
the Church were from an early time accompanied by a civic procession,
and the naïveté of the Middle Ages found nothing unfitting in the many
secular elements which it contained. We may mention especially the naval
car (_carrus navalis_), which had been inherited from pagan times,[953]
and which, as an instance already quoted shows, was admissible at
festivals of very various kinds, and has permanently left its name on
one of them in particular--the Carnival. Such ships, decorated with all
possible splendour, delighted the eyes of spectators long after the
original meaning of them was forgotten. When Isabella of England met her
bridegroom, the Emperor Frederick II., at Cologne, she was met by a
number of such chariots, drawn by invisible horses, and filled with a
crowd of priests who welcomed her with music and singing.

But the religious processions were not only mingled with secular
accessories of all kinds, but were often replaced by processions of
clerical masks. Their origin is perhaps to be found in the parties of
actors who wound their way through the streets of the city to the place
where they were about to act the mystery; but it is possible that at an
early period the clerical procession may have constituted itself as a
distinct species. Dante[954] describes the ‘Trionfo’ of Beatrice, with
the twenty-four Elders of the Apocalypse, with the four mystical Beasts,
with the three Christian and four Cardinal Virtues, and with Saint Luke,
Saint Paul, and other Apostles, in a way which almost forces us to
conclude that such processions actually occurred before his time. We
are chiefly led to this conclusion by the chariot in which Beatrice
drives, and which in the miraculous forest of the vision would have been
unnecessary or rather out of place. It is possible, on the other hand,
that Dante looked on the chariot as a symbol of victory and triumph, and
that his poem rather served to give rise to these processions, the form
of which was borrowed from the triumph of the Roman Emperors. However
this may be, poetry and theology continued to make free use of the
symbol. Savonarola[955] in his ‘Triumph of the Cross’ represents Christ
on a Chariot of Victory, above his head the shining sphere of the
Trinity, in his left hand the Cross, in his right the Old and New
Testaments; below him the Virgin Mary; on both sides the Martyrs and
Doctors of the Church with open books; behind him all the multitude of
the saved; and in the distance the countless host of his
enemies--emperors, princes, philosophers, heretics--all vanquished,
their idols broken, and their books burned. A great picture of Titian,
which is known only as a woodcut, has a good deal in common with this
description. The ninth and tenth of Sabellico’s (p. 62) thirteen Elegies
on the Mother of God contain a minute account of her triumph, richly
adorned with allegories, and especially interesting from that
matter-of-fact air which also characterises the realistic painting of
the fifteenth century.

Nevertheless, the secular ‘Trionfi’ were far more frequent than the
religious. They were modelled on the procession of the Roman Imperator,
as it was known from the old reliefs and from the writings of ancient
authors.[956] The historical conceptions then prevalent in Italy, with
which these shows were closely connected, have been already discussed
(p. 139).

We now and then read of the actual triumphal entrance of a victorious
general, which was organised as far as possible on the ancient pattern,
even against the will of the hero himself. Francesco Sforza had the
courage (1450) to refuse the triumphal chariot which had been prepared
for his return to Milan, on the ground that such things were monarchical
superstitions.[957] Alfonso the Great, on his entrance into Naples
(1443), declined the wreath of laurel,[958] which Napoleon did not
disdain to wear at his coronation in Notre-Dame. For the rest, Alfonso’s
procession, which passed by a breach in the wall through the city to the
cathedral, was a strange mixture of antique, allegorical, and purely
comic elements. The car, drawn by four white horses, on which he sat
enthroned, was lofty and covered with gilding; twenty patricians carried
the poles of the canopy of cloth of gold which shaded his head. The part
of the procession which the Florentines then present in Naples had
undertaken was composed of elegant young cavaliers, skilfully
brandishing their lances, of a chariot with the figure of Fortune, and
of seven Virtues on horseback. The goddess herself,[959] in accordance
with the inexorable logic of allegory to which even the painters at that
time conformed, wore hair only on the front part of her head, while the
back part was bald, and the genius who sat on the lower steps of the
car, and who symbolised the fugitive character of fortune, had his feet
immersed (?) in a basin of water. Then followed, equipped by the same
Florentines, a troop of horsemen in the costumes of various nations,
dressed as foreign princes and nobles, and then, crowned with laurel and
standing above a revolving globe, a Julius Cæsar,[960] who explained to
the king in Italian verse the meaning of the allegories, and then took
his place in the procession. Sixty Florentines, all in purple and
scarlet, closed this splendid display of what their home could achieve.
Then a band of Catalans advanced on foot, with lay figures of horses
fastened on to them before and behind, and engaged in a mock combat with
a body of Turks, as though in derision of the Florentine sentimentalism.
Last of all came a gigantic tower, the door of which was guarded by an
angel with a drawn sword; on it stood four Virtues, who each addressed
the king with a song. The rest of the show had nothing specially
characteristic about it.

At the entrance of Louis XII. into Milan in the year 1507[961] we find,
besides the inevitable chariot with Virtues, a living group representing
Jupiter, Mars, and a figure of Italy caught in a net. After which came a
car laden with trophies, and so forth.

And when there were in reality no triumphs to celebrate, the poets found
a compensation for themselves and their patrons. Petrarch and Boccaccio
had described the representation of every sort of fame as attendants
each of an allegorical figure (p. 409); the celebrities of past ages
were now made attendants of the prince. The poetess Cleofe Gabrielli of
Gubbio paid this honour to Borso of Ferrara.[962] She gave him seven
queens--the seven liberal arts--as his handmaids, with whom he mounted a
chariot; further, a crowd of heroes, distinguished by names written on
their foreheads; then followed all the famous poets; and after them the
gods driving in their chariots. There is, in fact, at this time simply
no end to the mythological and allegorical charioteering, and the most
important work of art of Borso’s time--the frescoes in the Palazzo
Schifanoja--shows us a whole frieze filled with these motives.[963]
Raphael, when he had to paint the Camera della Segnatura, found this
mode of artistic thought completely vulgarised and worn out. The new and
final consecration which he gave to it will remain a wonder to all ages.

The triumphal processions, strictly speaking, of victorious generals,
formed the exception. But all the festive processions, whether they
celebrated any special event or were mainly held for their own sakes,
assumed more or less the character and nearly always the name of a
‘Trionfo.’ It is a wonder that funerals were not also treated in the
same way.[964]

It was the practice, both at the Carnival and on other occasions, to
represent the triumphs of ancient Roman commanders, such as that of
Paulus Æmilius under Lorenzo the Magnificent at Florence, and that of
Camillus on the visit of Leo X. Both were conducted by the painter
Francesco Gronacci.[965] In Rome, the first complete exhibition of this
kind was the triumph of Augustus after the victory over Cleopatra,[966]
under Paul II., where, besides the comic and mythological masks, which,
as a matter of fact, were not wanting in the ancient triumphs, all the
other requisites were to be found--kings in chains, tablets with decrees
of the senate and people, a senate clothed in the ancient costume,
praetors, aediles, and quaestors, four chariots filled with singing
masks, and, doubtless, cars laden with trophies. Other processions
rather aimed at setting forth, in a general way, the universal empire of
ancient Rome; and in answer to the very real danger which threatened
Europe from the side of the Turks, a cavalcade of camels bearing masks
representing Ottoman prisoners, appeared before the people. Later, at
the Carnival of the year 1500, Cæsar Borgia, with a bold allusion to
himself, celebrated the triumph of Julius Cæsar, with a procession of
eleven magnificent chariots,[967] doubtless to the scandal of the
pilgrims who had come for the Jubilee (vol. i. p. 116). Two ‘Trionfi,’
famous for their taste and beauty, were given by rival companies in
Florence, on the election of Leo X. to the Papacy.[968] One of them
represented the three Ages of Man, the other the four Ages of the World,
ingeniously set forth in five scenes of Roman history, and in two
allegories of the golden age of Saturn and of its final return. The
imagination displayed in the adornment of the chariots, when the great
Florentine artists undertook the work, made the scene so impressive that
such representations became in time a permanent element in the popular
life. Hitherto the subject cities had been satisfied merely to present
their symbolical gifts--costly stuffs and wax-candles--on the day when
they annually did homage. The guild of merchants now built ten chariots,
to which others were afterwards to be added, not so much to carry as to
symbolise the tribute, and Andrea del Sarto, who painted some of them,
no doubt did his work to perfection.[969] These cars, whether used to
hold tribute or trophies, now formed a part of all such celebrations,
even when there was not much money to be laid out. The Sienese
announced, in 1477, the alliance between Ferrante and Sixtus IV., with
which they themselves were associated, by driving a chariot round the
city, with ‘one clad as the goddess of peace standing on a hauberk and
other arms.’[970]

At the Venetian festivals the processions, not on land but on water,
were marvellous in their fantastic splendour. The sailing of the
Bucentaur to meet the Princess of Ferrara in the year 1491 (p. 136)
seems to have been something belonging to fairyland.[971] Countless
vessels with garlands and hangings, filled with the richly-dressed youth
of the city, moved in front; genii with attributes symbolising the
various gods, floated on machines hung in the air; below stood others
grouped as tritons and nymphs; the air was filled with music, sweet
odours, and the fluttering of embroidered banners. The Bucentaur was
followed by such a crowd of boats of every sort that for a mile all
round (_octo stadia_) the water could not be seen. With regard to the
rest of the festivities, besides the pantomime mentioned above, we may
notice as something new, a boat-race of fifty powerful girls. In the
sixteenth century,[972] the nobility were divided into corporations with
a view to these festivals, whose most noteworthy feature was some
extraordinary machine placed on a ship. So, for instance, in the year
1541, at the festival of the ‘Sempiterni,’ a round ‘universe’ floated
along the Grand Canal, and a splendid ball was given inside it. The
Carnival, too, in this city was famous for its dances, processions, and
exhibitions of every kind. The Square of St. Mark was found to give
space enough not only for tournaments (p. 390), but for ‘Trionfi,’
similar to those common on the mainland. At a festival held on the
conclusion of peace,[973] the pious brotherhoods (‘scuole’) took each
its part in the procession. There, among golden chandeliers with red
candles, among crowds of musicians and winged boys with golden bowls and
horns of plenty, was seen a car on which Noah and David sat together
enthroned; then came Abigail, leading a camel laden with treasures, and
a second car with a group of political figures--Italy sitting between
Venice and Liguria, the two last with their coats of arms, the former
with a stork, the symbol of unity--and on a raised step three female
symbolical figures with the arms of the allied princes. This was
followed by a great globe with the constellations, as it seems, round
it. The princes themselves, or rather their bodily representatives,
appeared on other chariots with their servants and their coats of arms,
if we have rightly interpreted our author.[974] There was also music at
these and all other similar processions.

The Carnival, properly so called, apart from these great triumphal
marches, had nowhere, perhaps, in the fifteenth century, so varied a
character as in Rome.[975] There were races of every kind--of horses,
asses, buffalos, old men, young men, Jews, and so on. Paul II.
entertained the people in crowds before the Palazzo di Venezia, in which
he lived. The games in the Piazza Navona, which had probably never
altogether ceased since the classical times, were remarkable for their
warlike splendour. We read of a sham fight of cavalry, and a review of
all the citizens in arms. The greatest freedom existed with regard to
the use of masks, which were sometimes allowed for several months
together.[976] Sixtus IV. ventured, in the most populous part of the
city--at the Campofiore and near the Banchi--to make his way through
crowds of masks, though he declined to receive them as visitors in the
Vatican. Under Innocent VIII., a discreditable usage, which had already
appeared among the Cardinals, attained its height. In the Carnival of
1491, they sent one another chariots full of splendid masks, of singers,
and of buffoons, chanting scandalous verses. They were accompanied by
men on horseback.[977] Apart from the Carnival, the Romans seem to have
been the first to discover the effect of a great procession by
torchlight. When Pius II. came back from the Congress of Mantua in
1459,[978] the people waited on him with a squadron of horsemen bearing
torches, who rode in shining circles before his palace. Sixtus IV.,
however, thought it better to decline a nocturnal visit of the people,
who proposed to wait on him with torches and olive-branches.[979]

But the Florentine Carnival surpassed the Roman in a certain class of
processions, which have left their mark even in literature.[980] Among a
crowd of masks on foot and on horseback appeared some huge, fantastic
chariot, and upon it an allegorical figure or group of figures with the
proper accompaniments, such as Jealousy with four spectacled faces on
one head; the four temperaments (p. 309) with the planets belonging to
them; the three Fates; Prudence enthroned above Hope and Fear, which lay
bound before her; the four Elements, Ages, Winds, Seasons, and so on; as
well as the famous chariot of Death with the coffins, which presently
opened. Sometimes we meet with a splendid scene from classical
mythology--Bacchus and Ariadne, Paris and Helen, and others. Or else a
chorus of figures forming some single class or category, as the beggars,
the hunters and nymphs, the lost souls, who in their lifetime were
hard-hearted women, the hermits, the astrologers, the vagabonds, the
devils, the sellers of various kinds of wares, and even on one occasion
‘il popolo,’ the people as such, who all reviled one another in their
songs. The songs, which still remain and have been collected, give the
explanation of the masquerade sometimes in a pathetic, sometimes in a
humorous, and sometimes in an excessively indecent tone. Some of the
worst in this respect are attributed to Lorenzo the Magnificent,
probably because the real author did not venture to declare himself.
However this may be, we must certainly ascribe to him the beautiful song
which accompanied the masque of Bacchus and Ariadne, whose refrain still
echoes to us from the fifteenth century, like a regretful presentiment
of the brief splendour of the Renaissance itself:--

    ‘Quanto è bella giovinezza,
     Che si fugge tuttavia!
     Chi vuol esser lieto, sia:
     Di doman non c’è certezza.’





The relation of the various peoples of the earth to the supreme
interests of life, to God, virtue, and immortality, may be investigated
up to a certain point, but can never be compared to one another with
absolute strictness and certainty. The more plainly in these matters our
evidence seems to speak, the more carefully must we refrain from
unqualified assumptions and rash generalisations.

This remark is especially true with regard to our judgment on questions
of morality. It may be possible to indicate many contrasts and shades of
difference among different nations, but to strike the balance of the
whole is not given to human insight. The ultimate truth with respect to
the character, the conscience, and the guilt of a people remains for
ever a secret; if only for the reason that its defects have another
side, where they reappear as peculiarities or even as virtues. We must
leave those who find a pleasure in passing sweeping censures on whole
nations, to do so as they like. The peoples of Europe can maltreat, but
happily not judge one another. A great nation, interwoven by its
civilisation, its achievements, and its fortunes with the whole life of
the modern world, can afford to ignore both its advocates and its
accusers. It lives on with or without the approval of theorists.

Accordingly, what here follows is no judgment, but rather a string of
marginal notes, suggested by a study of the Italian Renaissance
extending over some years. The value to be attached to them is all the
more qualified as they mostly touch on the life of the upper classes,
with respect to which we are far better informed in Italy than in any
other country in Europe at that period. But though both fame and infamy
sound louder here than elsewhere, we are not helped thereby in forming
an adequate moral estimate of the people.

What eye can pierce the depths in which the character and fate of
nations are determined?--in which that which is inborn and that which
has been experienced combine to form a new whole and a fresh nature?--in
which even those intellectual capacities, which at first sight we should
take to be most original, are in fact evolved late and slowly? Who can
tell if the Italian before the thirteenth century possessed that
flexible activity and certainty in his whole being--that play of power
in shaping whatever subject he dealt with in word or in form, which was
peculiar to him later? And if no answer can be found to these questions,
how can we possibly judge of the infinite and infinitely intricate
channels through which character and intellect are incessantly pouring
their influence one upon the other. A tribunal there is for each one of
us, whose voice is our conscience; but let us have done with these
generalities about nations. For the people that seems to be most sick
the cure may be at hand; and one that appears to be healthy may bear
within it the ripening germs of death, which the hour of danger will
bring forth from their hiding-place.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, when the civilisation of the
Renaissance had reached its highest pitch, and at the same time the
political ruin of the nation seemed inevitable, there were not wanting
serious thinkers who saw a connexion between this ruin and the prevalent
immorality. It was not one of those methodistical moralists who in every
age think themselves called to declaim against the wickedness of the
time, but it was Macchiavelli, who, in one of his most well-considered
works,[981] said openly: ‘We Italians are irreligious and corrupt above
others.’ Another man had perhaps said, ‘We are individually highly
developed; we have outgrown the limits of morality and religion which
were natural to us in our undeveloped state, and we despise outward law,
because our rulers are illegitimate, and their judges and officers
wicked men.’ Macchiavelli adds, ‘because the Church and her
representatives set us the worst example.’

Shall we add also, ‘because the influence exercised by antiquity was in
this respect unfavourable’? The statement can only be received with many
qualifications. It may possibly be true of the humanists (p. 272 sqq.),
especially as regards the profligacy of their lives. Of the rest it may
perhaps be said with some approach to accuracy, that, after they became
familiar with antiquity, they substituted for holiness--the Christian
ideal of life--the cultus of historical greatness (see Part II. chap.
iii.). We can understand, therefore, how easily they would be tempted to
consider those faults and vices to be matters of indifference, in spite
of which their heroes were great. They were probably scarcely conscious
of this themselves, for if we are summoned to quote any statement of
doctrine on this subject, we are again forced to appeal to humanists
like Paolo Giovio, who excuses the perjury of Giangaleazzo Visconti,
through which he was enabled to found an empire, by the example of
Julius Cæsar.[982] The great Florentine historians and statesmen never
stoop to these slavish quotations, and what seems antique in their deeds
and their judgments is so because the nature of their political life
necessarily fostered in them a mode of thought which has some analogy
with that of antiquity.

Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that Italy at the beginning of the
sixteenth century found itself in the midst of a grave moral crisis, out
of which the best men saw hardly any escape.

Let us begin by saying a few words about that moral force which was then
the strongest bulwark against evil. The highly gifted men of that day
thought to find it in the sentiment of honour. This is that enigmatic
mixture of conscience and egoism which often survives in the modern man
after he has lost, whether by his own fault or not, faith, love, and
hope. This sense of honour is compatible with much selfishness and great
vices, and may be the victim of astonishing illusions; yet,
nevertheless, all the noble elements that are left in the wreck of a
character may gather around it, and from this fountain may draw new
strength. It has become, in a far wider sense than is commonly believed,
a decisive test of conduct in the minds of the cultivated Europeans of
our own day, and many of those who yet hold faithfully by religion and
morality are unconsciously guided by this feeling in the gravest
decisions of their lives.[983]

It lies without the limits of our task to show how the men of antiquity
also experienced this feeling in a peculiar form, and how, afterwards,
in the Middle Ages, a special sense of honour became the mark of a
particular class. Nor can we here dispute with those who hold that
conscience, rather than honour, is the motive power. It would indeed be
better and nobler if it were so; but since it must be granted that even
our worthier resolutions result from ‘a conscience more or less dimmed
by selfishness,’ it is better to call the mixture by its right
name.[984] It is certainly not always easy, in treating of the Italian
of this period, to distinguish this sense of honour from the passion for
fame, into which, indeed, it easily passes. Yet the two sentiments are
essentially different.

There is no lack of witnesses on this subject. One who speaks plainly
may here be quoted as a representative of the rest. We read in the
recently-published ‘Aphorisms’ of Guicciardini:[985] ‘He who esteems
honour highly, succeeds in all that he undertakes, since he fears
neither trouble, danger, nor expense; I have found it so in my own case,
and may say it and write it; vain and dead are the deeds of men which
have not this as their motive.’ It is necessary to add that, from what
is known of the life of the writer, he can here be only speaking of
honour, and not of fame. Rabelais has put the matter more clearly than
perhaps any Italian. We quote him, indeed, unwillingly in these pages.
What the great, baroque Frenchman gives us, is a picture of what the
Renaissance would be without form and without beauty.[986] But his
description of an ideal state of things in the Thelemite monastery is
decisive as historical evidence. In speaking of his gentlemen and ladies
of the Order of Free Will,[987] he tells us as follows:--

‘En leur reigle n’estoit que ceste clause: Fay ce que vouldras. Parce
que gens liberes, bien nayz,[988] bien instruictz, conversans en
compaignies honnestes, ont par nature ung instinct et aguillon qui
toujours les poulse à faitz vertueux, et retire de vice; lequel ilz
nommoyent honneur.’

This is that same faith in the goodness of human nature which inspired
the men of the second half of the eighteenth century, and helped to
prepare the way for the French Revolution. Among the Italians, too, each
man appeals to this noble instinct within him, and though with regard to
the people as a whole--chiefly in consequence of the national
disasters--judgments of a more pessimistic sort became prevalent, the
importance of this sense of honour must still be rated highly. If the
boundless development of individuality, stronger than the will of the
individual, be the work of a historical providence, not less so is the
opposing force which then manifested itself in Italy. How often, and
against what passionate attacks of selfishness it won the day, we cannot
tell, and therefore no human judgment can estimate with certainty the
absolute moral value of the nation.

       *       *       *       *       *

A force which we must constantly take into account in judging of the
morality of the more highly-developed Italian of this period, is that
of the imagination. It gives to his virtues and vices a peculiar colour,
and under its influence his unbridled egoism shows itself in its most
terrible shape.

The force of his imagination explains, for example, the fact that he was
the first gambler on a large scale in modern times. Pictures of future
wealth and enjoyment rose in such life-like colours before his eyes,
that he was ready to hazard everything to reach them. The Mohammedan
nations would doubtless have anticipated him in this respect, had not
the Koran, from the beginning, set up the prohibition against gambling
as a chief safeguard of public morals, and directed the imagination of
its followers to the search after buried treasures. In Italy, the
passion for play reached an intensity which often threatened or
altogether broke up the existence of the gambler. Florence had already,
at the end of the fourteenth century, its Casanova--a certain
Buonaccorso Pitti,[989] who, in the course of his incessant journeys as
merchant, political agent, diplomatist and professional gambler, won and
lost sums so enormous that none but princes like the Dukes of Brabant,
Bavaria, and Savoy, were able to compete with him. That great
lottery-bank, which was called the Court of Rome, accustomed people to a
need of excitement, which found its satisfaction in games of hazard
during the intervals between one intrigue and another. We read, for
example, how Franceschetto Cybò, in two games with the Cardinal
Raffaello Riario, lost no less than 14,000 ducats, and afterwards
complained to the Pope that his opponent had cheated him.[990] Italy has
since that time been the home of the lottery.

It was to the imagination of the Italians that the peculiar character of
their vengeance was due. The sense of justice was, indeed, one and the
same throughout Europe, and any violation of it, so long as no
punishment was inflicted, must have been felt in the same manner. But
other nations, though they found it no easier to forgive, nevertheless
forgot more easily, while the Italian imagination kept the picture of
the wrong alive with frightful vividness.[991] The fact that, according
to the popular morality, the avenging of blood is a duty--a duty often
performed in a way to make us shudder--gives to this passion a peculiar
and still firmer basis. The government and the tribunals recognise its
existence and justification, and only attempt to keep it within certain
limits. Even among the peasantry, we read of Thyestean banquets and
mutual assassination on the widest scale. Let us look at an

In the district of Aquapendente three boys were watching cattle, and one
of them said: ‘Let us find out the way how people are hung.’ While one
was sitting on the shoulders of the other, and the third, after
fastening the rope round the neck of the first, was tying it to an oak,
a wolf came, and the two who were free ran away and left the other
hanging. Afterwards they found him dead, and buried him. On the Sunday
his father came to bring him bread, and one of the two confessed what
had happened, and showed him the grave. The old man then killed him with
a knife, cut him up, brought away the liver, and entertained the boy’s
father with it at home. After dinner, he told him whose liver it was.
Hereupon began a series of reciprocal murders between the two families,
and within a month thirty-six persons were killed, women as well as men.

And such ‘vendette,’ handed down from father to son, and extending to
friends and distant relations, were not limited to the lower classes,
but reached to the highest. The chronicles and novels of the period are
full of such instances, especially of vengeance taken for the violation
of women. The classic land for these feuds was Romagna, where the
‘vendetta’ was interwoven with intrigues and party divisions of every
conceivable sort. The popular legends present an awful picture of the
savagery into which this brave and energetic people had relapsed. We are
told, for instance, of a nobleman at Ravenna, who had got all his
enemies together in a tower, and might have burned them; instead of
which he let them out, embraced them, and entertained them sumptuously;
whereupon shame drove them mad, and they conspired against him.[993]
Pious and saintly monks exhorted unceasingly to reconciliation, but they
can scarcely have done more than restrain to a certain extent the feuds
already established; their influence hardly prevented the growth of new
ones. The novelists sometimes describe to us this effect of
religion--how sentiments of generosity and forgiveness were suddenly
awakened, and then again paralysed by the force of what had once been
done and could never be undone. The Pope himself was not always lucky as
a peacemaker. ‘Pope Paul II. desired that the quarrel between Antonio
Caffarello and the family of Alberino should cease, and ordered Giovanni
Alberino and Antonio Caffarello to come before him, and bade them kiss
one another, and promised them a fine of 2,000 ducats in case they
renewed this strife, and two days after Antonio was stabbed by the same
Giacomo Alberino, son of Giovanni, who had wounded him once before; and
the Pope was full of anger, and confiscated the goods of Alberino, and
destroyed his houses, and banished father and son from Rome.’[994] The
oaths and ceremonies by which reconciled enemies attempted to guard
themselves against a relapse, are sometimes utterly horrible. When the
parties of the ‘Nove’ and the ‘Popolari’ met and kissed one another by
twos in the cathedral at Siena on Christmas Eve, 1494,[995] an oath was
read by which all salvation in time and eternity was denied to the
future violator of the treaty--‘an oath more astonishing and dreadful
than had ever yet been heard.’ The last consolations of religion in the
hour of death were to turn to the damnation of the man who should break
it. It is clear, however, that such a ceremony rather represents the
despairing mood of the mediators than offers any real guarantee of
peace, inasmuch as the truest reconciliation is just that one which has
least need of it.

This personal need of vengeance felt by the cultivated and highly placed
Italian, resting on the solid basis of an analogous popular custom,
naturally displays itself under a thousand different aspects, and
receives the unqualified approval of public opinion, as reflected in the
works of the novelists.[996] All are at one on the point, that, in the
case of those injuries and insults for which Italian justice offered no
redress, and all the more in the case of those against which no human
law can ever adequately provide, each man is free to take the law into
his own hands. Only there must be art in the vengeance, and the
satisfaction must be compounded of the material injury and moral
humiliation of the offender. A mere brutal, clumsy triumph of force was
held by public opinion to be no satisfaction. The whole man with his
sense of fame and of scorn, not only his fist, must be victorious.

The Italian of that time shrank, it is true, from no dissimulation in
order to attain his ends, but was wholly free from hypocrisy in matters
of principle. In these he attempted to deceive neither himself nor
others. Accordingly, revenge was declared with perfect frankness to be a
necessity of human nature. Cool-headed people declared that it was then
most worthy of praise, when it was disengaged from passion, and worked
simply from motives of expedience, ‘in order that other men may learn to
leave us unharmed.’[997] Yet such instances must have formed only a
small minority in comparison with those in which passion sought an
outlet. This sort of revenge differs clearly from the avenging of blood,
which has been already spoken of; while the latter keeps more or less
within the limits of retaliation--the ‘jus talionis’--the former
necessarily goes much farther, not only requiring the sanction of the
sense of justice, but craving admiration, and even striving to get the
laugh on its own side.

Here lies the reason why men were willing to wait so long for their
revenge. A ‘bella vendetta’ demanded as a rule a combination of
circumstances for which it was necessary to wait patiently. The gradual
ripening of such opportunities is described by the novelists with
heartfelt delight.

There is no need to discuss the morality of actions in which plaintiff
and judge are one and the same person. If this Italian thirst for
vengeance is to be palliated at all, it must be by proving the existence
of a corresponding national virtue, namely gratitude. The same force of
imagination which retains and magnifies wrong once suffered, might be
expected also to keep alive the memory of kindness received.[998] It is
not possible, however, to prove this with regard to the nation as a
whole, though traces of it may be seen in the Italian character of
to-day. The gratitude shown by the inferior classes for kind treatment,
and the good memory of the upper for politeness in social life, are
instances of this.

This connexion between the imagination and the moral qualities of the
Italian repeats itself continually. If, nevertheless, we find more cold
calculation in cases where the Northerner rather follows his impulses,
the reason is that individual development in Italy was not only more
marked and earlier in point of time, but also far more frequent. Where
this is the case in other countries, the results are also analogous. We
find, for example, that the early emancipation of the young from
domestic and paternal authority is common to North America with Italy.
Later on, in the more generous natures, a tie of freer affection grows
up between parents and children.

It is in fact a matter of extreme difficulty to judge fairly of other
nations in the sphere of character and feeling. In these respects a
people may be developed highly, and yet in a manner so strange that a
foreigner is utterly unable to understand it. Perhaps all the nations of
the West are in this point equally favoured.

       *       *       *       *       *

But where the imagination has exercised the most powerful and despotic
influence on morals is in the illicit intercourse of the two sexes. It
is well known that prostitution was freely practised in the Middle Ages,
before the appearance of syphilis. A discussion, however, on these
questions does not belong to our present work. What seems characteristic
of Italy at this time, is that here marriage and its rights were more
often and more deliberately trampled under foot than anywhere else. The
girls of the higher classes were carefully secluded, and of them we do
not speak. All passion was directed to the married women.

Under these circumstances it is remarkable that, so far as we know,
there was no diminution in the number of marriages, and that family life
by no means underwent that disorganisation which a similar state of
things would have produced in the North. Men wished to live as they
pleased, but by no means to renounce the family, even when they were not
sure that it was all their own. Nor did the race sink, either physically
or mentally, on this account; for that apparent intellectual decline
which showed itself towards the middle of the sixteenth century may be
certainly accounted for by political and ecclesiastical causes, even if
we are not to assume that the circle of achievements possible to the
Renaissance had been completed. Notwithstanding their profligacy, the
Italians continued to be, physically and mentally, one of the healthiest
and best-born populations in Europe,[999] and have retained this
position, with improved morals, down to our own time.

When we come to look more closely at the ethics of love at the time of
the Renaissance, we are struck by a remarkable contrast. The novelists
and comic poets give us to understand that love consists only in sensual
enjoyment, and that to win this, all means, tragic or comic, are not
only permitted, but are interesting in proportion to their audacity and
unscrupulousness. But if we turn to the best of the lyric poets and
writers of dialogues, we find in them a deep and spiritual passion of
the noblest kind, whose last and highest expression is a revival of the
ancient belief in an original unity of souls in the Divine Being. And
both modes of feeling were then genuine, and could co-exist in the same
individual. It is not exactly a matter of glory, but it is a fact, that
in the cultivated man of modern times, this sentiment can be not merely
unconsciously present in both its highest and lowest stages, but may
thus manifest itself openly, and even artistically. The modern man,
like the man of antiquity, is in this respect too a microcosm, which the
mediæval man was not and could not be.

To begin with the morality of the novelists. They treat chiefly, as we
have said, of married women, and consequently of adultery.

The opinion mentioned above (p. 395) of the equality of the two sexes is
of great importance in relation to this subject. The highly developed
and cultivated woman disposes of herself with a freedom unknown in
Northern countries; and her unfaithfulness does not break up her life in
the same terrible manner, so long as no outward consequence follow from
it. The husband’s claim on her fidelity has not that firm foundation
which it acquires in the North through the poetry and passion of
courtship and betrothal. After the briefest acquaintance with her future
husband, the young wife quits the convent or the paternal roof to enter
upon a world in which her character begins rapidly to develop. The
rights of the husband are for this reason conditional, and even the man
who regards them in the light of a ‘jus quaesitum’ thinks only of the
outward conditions of the contract, not of the affections. The beautiful
young wife of an old man sends back the presents and letters of a
youthful lover, in the firm resolve to keep her honour (honesta). ‘But
she rejoices in the love of the youth for the sake of his great
excellence; and she perceives that a noble woman may love a man of merit
without loss to her honour.’[1000] But the way is short from such a
distinction to a complete surrender.

The latter seems indeed as good as justified, when there is
unfaithfulness on the part of the husband. The woman, conscious of her
own dignity, feels this not only as a pain, but also as a humiliation
and deceit, and sets to work, often with the calmest consciousness of
what she is about, to devise the vengeance which the husband deserves.
Her tact must decide as to the measure of punishment which is suited to
the particular case. The deepest wound, for example, may prepare the way
for a reconciliation and a peaceful life in the future, if only it
remain secret. The novelists, who themselves undergo such experiences or
invent them according to the spirit of the age, are full of admiration
when the vengeance is skilfully adapted to the particular case, in fact,
when it is a work of art. As a matter of course, the husband never at
bottom recognises this right of retaliation, and only submits to it from
fear or prudence. Where these motives are absent, where his wife’s
unfaithfulness exposes him or may expose him to the derision of
outsiders, the affair becomes tragical, and not seldom ends in murder or
other vengeance of a violent sort. It is characteristic of the real
motive from which these deeds arise, that not only the husbands, but the
brothers[1001] and the father of the woman feel themselves not only
justified in taking vengeance, but bound to take it. Jealousy,
therefore, has nothing to do with the matter, moral reprobation but
little; the real reason is the wish to spoil the triumph of others.
‘Nowadays,’ says Bandello,[1002] ‘we see a woman poison her husband to
gratify her lusts, thinking that a widow may do whatever she desires.
Another, fearing the discovery of an illicit amour, has her husband
murdered by her lover. And though fathers, brothers, and husbands arise
to extirpate the shame with poison, with the sword, and by every other
means, women still continue to follow their passions, careless of their
honour and their lives.’ Another time, in a milder strain, he exclaims:
‘Would that we were not daily forced to hear that one man has murdered
his wife because he suspected her of infidelity; that another has killed
his daughter, on account of a secret marriage; that a third has caused
his sister to be murdered, because she would not marry as he wished! It
is great cruelty that we claim the right to do whatever we list, and
will not suffer women to do the same. If they do anything which does not
please us, there we are at once with cords and daggers and poison. What
folly it is of men to suppose their own and their house’s honour depends
on the appetite of a woman!’ The tragedy in which such affairs commonly
ended was so well known that the novelist looked on the threatened
gallant as a dead man, even while he went about alive and merry. The
physician and lute-player Antonio Bologna[1003] had made a secret
marriage with the widowed Duchess of Amalfi, of the house of Aragon.
Soon afterwards her brother succeeded in securing both her and her
children, and murdered them in a castle. Antonio, ignorant of their
fate, and still cherishing the hope of seeing them again, was staying at
Milan, closely watched by hired assassins, and one day in the society of
Ippolita Sforza sang to the lute the story of his misfortunes. A friend
of the house, Delio, ‘told the story up to this point to Scipione
Attelano, and added that he would make it the subject of a novel, as he
was sure that Antonio would be murdered.’ The manner in which this took
place, almost under the eyes of Delio and Attelano, is thrillingly
described by Bandello (i. 26).

Nevertheless, the novelists habitually show a sympathy for all the
ingenious, comic, and cunning features which may happen to attend
adultery. They describe with delight how the lover manages to hide
himself in the house, all the means and devices by which he communicates
with his mistress, the boxes with cushions and sweetmeats in which he
can be hidden and carried out of danger. The deceived husband is
described sometimes as a fool to be laughed at, sometimes as a
blood-thirsty avenger of his honour; there is no third situation except
when the woman is painted as wicked and cruel, and the husband or lover
is the innocent victim. It may be remarked, however, that narratives of
the latter kind are not strictly speaking novels, but rather warning
examples taken from real life.[1004]

When in the course of the sixteenth century Italian life fell more and
more under Spanish influence, the violence of the means to which
jealousy had recourse perhaps increased. But this new phase must be
distinguished from the punishment of infidelity which existed before,
and which was founded in the spirit of the Renaissance itself. As the
influence of Spain declined, these excesses of jealousy declined also,
till towards the close of the seventeenth century they had wholly
disappeared, and their place was taken by that indifference which
regarded the ‘Cicisbeo’ as an indispensable figure in every household,
and took no offence at one or two supernumerary lovers (‘Patiti’).

But who can undertake to compare the vast sum of wickedness which all
these facts imply, with what happened in other countries? Was the
marriage-tie, for instance, really more sacred in France during the
fifteenth century than in Italy? The ‘fabliaux’ and farces would lead us
to doubt it, and rather incline us to think that unfaithfulness was
equally common, though its tragic consequences were less frequent,
because the individual was less developed and his claims were less
consciously felt than in Italy. More evidence, however, in favour of the
Germanic peoples lies in the fact of the social freedom enjoyed among
them by girls and women, which impressed Italian travellers so
pleasantly in England and in the Netherlands (p. 399, note 2). And yet
we must not attach too much importance to this fact. Unfaithfulness was
doubtless very frequent, and in certain cases led to a sanguinary
vengeance. We have only to remember how the northern princes of that
time dealt with their wives on the first suspicion of infidelity.

But it was not merely the sensual desire, not merely the vulgar appetite
of the ordinary man, which trespassed upon forbidden ground among the
Italians of that day, but also the passion of the best and noblest; and
this, not only because the unmarried girl did not appear in society, but
also because the man, in proportion to the completeness of his own
nature, felt himself most strongly attracted by the woman whom marriage
had developed. These are the men who struck the loftiest notes of
lyrical poetry, and who have attempted in their treatises and dialogues
to give us an idealised image of the devouring passion--‘l’amor divino.’
When they complain of the cruelty of the winged god, they are not only
thinking of the coyness or hard-heartedness of the beloved one, but also
of the unlawfulness of the passion itself. They seek to raise
themselves above this painful consciousness by that spiritualisation of
love which found a support in the Platonic doctrine of the soul, and of
which Pietro Bembo is the most famous representative. His thoughts on
this subject are set forth by himself in the third book of the
‘Asolani,’ and indirectly by Castiglione, who puts in his mouth the
splendid speech with which the fourth book of the ‘Cortigiano’
concludes; neither of these writers was a stoic in his conduct, but at
that time it meant something to be at once a famous and a good man, and
this praise must be accorded to both of them; their contemporaries took
what these men said to be a true expression of their feeling, and we
have not the right to despise it as affectation. Those who take the
trouble to study the speech in the ‘Cortigiano’ will see how poor an
idea of it can be given by an extract. There were then living in Italy
several distinguished women, who owed their celebrity chiefly to
relations of this kind, such as Giulia Gonzaga, Veronica da Coreggio,
and, above all, Vittoria Colonna. The land of profligates and scoffers
respected these women and this sort of love--and what more can be said
in their favour? We cannot tell how far vanity had to do with the
matter, how far Vittoria was flattered to hear around her the sublimated
utterances of hopeless love from the most famous men in Italy. If the
thing was here and there a fashion, it was still no trifling praise for
Vittoria that she, at least, never went out of fashion, and in her
latest years produced the most profound impressions. It was long before
other countries had anything similar to show.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the imagination then, which governed this people more than any other,
lies one general reason why the course of every passion was violent, and
why the means used for the gratification of passion were often criminal.
There is a violence which cannot control itself because it is born of
weakness; but in Italy what we find is the corruption of powerful
natures. Sometimes this corruption assumes a colossal shape, and crime
seems to acquire almost a personal existence of its own.

The restraints of which men were conscious were but few. Each
individual, even among the lowest of the people, felt himself inwardly
emancipated from the control of the State and its police, whose title to
respect was illegitimate, and itself founded on violence; and no man
believed any longer in the justice of the law. When a murder was
committed, the sympathies of the people, before the circumstances of the
case were known, ranged themselves instinctively on the side of the
murderer.[1005] A proud, manly bearing before and at the execution
excited such admiration that the narrator often forgets to tell us for
what offence the criminal was put to death.[1006] But when we add to
this inward contempt of law and to the countless grudges and enmities
which called for satisfaction, the impunity which crime enjoyed during
times of political disturbance, we can only wonder that the state and
society were not utterly dissolved. Crises of this kind occurred at
Naples during the transition from the Aragonese to the French and
Spanish rule, and at Milan, on the repeated expulsions and returns of
the Sforzas; at such times those men who have never in their hearts
recognised the bonds of law and society, come forward and give free play
to their instincts of murder and rapine. Let us take, by way of example,
a picture drawn from a humbler sphere.

When the Duchy of Milan was suffering from the disorders which followed
the death of Giangaleazzo Sforza, about the year 1480 (pp. 40, 126), all
safety came to an end in the provincial cities. This was the case in
Parma,[1007] where the Milanese Governor, terrified by threats of
murder, and after vainly offering rewards for the discovery of the
offenders, consented to throw open the gaols and let loose the most
abandoned criminals. Burglary, the demolition of houses, shameless
offences against decency, public assassination and murders, especially
of Jews, were events of everyday occurrence. At first the authors of
these deeds prowled about singly, and masked; soon large gangs of armed
men went to work every night without disguise. Threatening letters,
satires, and scandalous jests circulated freely; and a sonnet in
ridicule of the Government seems to have roused its indignation far more
than the frightful condition of the city. In many churches the sacred
vessels with the host were stolen, and this fact is characteristic of
the temper which prompted these outrages. It is impossible to say what
would happen now in any country of the world, if the government and
police ceased to act, and yet hindered by their presence the
establishment of a provisional authority; but what then occurred in
Italy wears a character of its own, through the great share which
personal hatred and revenge had in it. The impression, indeed, which
Italy at this period makes on us is, that even in quiet times great
crimes were commoner than in other countries. We may, it is true, be
misled by the fact that we have far fuller details on such matters here
than elsewhere, and that the same force of imagination, which gives a
special character to crimes actually committed, causes much to be
invented which never really happened. The amount of violence was perhaps
as great elsewhere. It is hard to say for certain, whether in the year
1500 men were any safer, whether human life was after all better
protected, in powerful, wealthy Germany, with its robber knights,
extortionate beggars, and daring highwaymen. But one thing is certain,
that premeditated crimes, committed professionally and for hire by third
parties, occurred in Italy with great and appalling frequency.

So far as regards brigandage, Italy, especially in the more fortunate
provinces, such as Tuscany, was certainly not more, and probably less,
troubled than the countries of the North. But the figures which do meet
us are characteristic of the country. It would be hard, for instance, to
find elsewhere the case of a priest, gradually driven by passion from
one excess to another, till at last he came to head a band of robbers.
That age offers us this example among others.[1008] On August 12, 1495,
the priest Don Niccolò de’ Pelegati of Figarolo was shut up in an iron
cage outside the tower of San Giuliano at Ferrara. He had twice
celebrated his first mass; the first time he had the same day committed
murder, but afterwards received absolution at Rome; he then killed four
people and married two wives, with whom he travelled about. He
afterwards took part in many assassinations, violated women, carried
others away by force, plundered far and wide, and infested the territory
of Ferrara with a band of followers in uniform, extorting food and
shelter by every sort of violence. When we think of what all this
implies, the mass of guilt on the head of this one man is something
tremendous. The clergy and monks had many privileges and little
supervision, and among them were doubtless plenty of murderers and other
malefactors--but hardly a second Pelegati. It is another matter, though
by no means creditable, when ruined characters sheltered themselves in
the cowl in order to escape the arm of the law, like the corsair whom
Massuccio knew in a convent at Naples.[1009] What the real truth was
with regard to Pope John XXIII. in this respect, is not known with

The age of the famous brigand chief did not begin till later, in the
seventeenth century, when the political strife of Guelph and Ghibelline,
of Frenchman and Spaniard, no longer agitated the country. The robber
then took the place of the partisan.

In certain districts of Italy, where civilization had made little
progress, the country people were disposed to murder any stranger who
fell into their hands. This was especially the case in the more remote
parts of the Kingdom of Naples, where the barbarism dated probably from
the days of the Roman ‘latifundia,’ and when the stranger and the enemy
(‘hospes’ and ‘hostis’) were in all good faith held to be one and the
same. These people were far from being irreligious. A herdsman once
appeared in great trouble at the confessional, avowing that, while
making cheese during Lent, a few drops of milk had found their way into
his mouth. The confessor, skilled in the customs of the country,
discovered in the course of his examination that the penitent and his
friends were in the practice of robbing and murdering travellers, but
that, through the force of habit, this usage gave rise to no twinges of
conscience within them.[1011] We have already mentioned (p. 352, note 3)
to what a degree of barbarism the peasants elsewhere could sink in times
of political confusion.

A worse symptom than brigandage of the morality of that time was the
frequency of paid assassination. In that respect Naples was admitted to
stand at the head of all the cities of Italy. ‘Nothing,’ says
Pontano,[1012] ‘is cheaper here than human life.’ But other districts
could also show a terrible list of these crimes. It is hard, of course,
to classify them according to the motives by which they were prompted,
since political expediency, personal hatred, party hostility, fear, and
revenge, all play into one another. It is no small honour to the
Florentines, the most highly-developed people of Italy, that offences of
this kind occurred more rarely among them than anywhere else,[1013]
perhaps because there was a justice at hand for legitimate grievances
which was recognised by all, or because the higher culture of the
individual gave him different views as to the right of men to interfere
with the decrees of fate. In Florence, if anywhere, men were able to
feel the incalculable consequences of a deed of blood, and to
understand how insecure the author of a so-called profitable crime is of
any true and lasting gain. After the fall of Florentine liberty,
assassination, especially by hired agents, seems to have rapidly
increased, and continued till the government of Cosimo I. had attained
such strength that the police[1014] was at last able to repress it.

Elsewhere in Italy paid crimes were probably more or less frequent in
proportion to the number of powerful and solvent buyers. Impossible as
it is to make any statistical estimate of their amount, yet if only a
fraction of the deaths which public report attributed to violence were
really murders, the crime must have been terribly frequent. The worst
example of all was set by princes and governments, who without the
faintest scruple reckoned murder as one of the instruments of their
power. And this, without being in the same category with Cæsar Borgia.
The Sforzas, the Aragonese monarchs, the Republic of Venice,[1015] and
later on, the agents of Charles V. resorted to it whenever it suited
their purpose. The imagination of the people at last became so
accustomed to facts of this kind, that the death of any powerful man was
seldom or never attributed to natural causes.[1016] There were certainly
absurd notions current with regard to the effect of various poisons.
There may be some truth in the story of that terrible white powder used
by the Borgias, which did its work at the end of a definite period (p.
116), and it is possible that it was really a ‘velenum atterminatum’
which the Prince of Salerno handed to the Cardinal of Aragon, with the
words: ‘In a few days you will die, because your father, King Ferrante,
wished to trample upon us all.’[1017] But the poisoned letter which
Caterina Riario sent to Pope Alexander VI.[1018] would hardly have
caused his death even if he had read it; and when Alfonso the Great was
warned by his physicians not to read in the ‘Livy’ which Cosimo de’
Medici had presented to him, he told them with justice not to talk like
fools.[1019] Nor can that poison, with which the secretary of Piccinino
wished to anoint the sedan-chair of Pius II.,[1020] have affected any
other organ than the imagination. The proportion which mineral and
vegetable poisons bore to one another cannot be ascertained precisely.
The poison with which the painter Rosso Fiorentino destroyed himself
(1541) was evidently a powerful acid,[1021] which it would have been
impossible to administer to another person without his knowledge. The
secret use of weapons, especially of the dagger, in the service of
powerful individuals, was habitual in Milan, Naples, and other cities.
Indeed, among the crowds of armed retainers who were necessary for the
personal safety of the great, and who lived in idleness, it was natural
that outbreaks of this mania for blood should from time to time occur.
Many a deed of horror would never have been committed, had not the
master known that he needed but to give a sign to one or other of his

Among the means used for the secret destruction of others--so far, that
is, as the intention goes--we find magic,[1022] practised, however,
sparingly. Where ‘maleficii,’ ‘malie,’ and so forth, are mentioned, they
appear rather as a means of heaping up additional terror on the head of
some hated enemy. At the courts of France and England in the fourteenth
and fifteenth centuries, magic, practised with a view to the death of an
opponent, plays a far more important part in Italy.

In this country, finally, where individuality of every sort attained its
highest development, we find instances of that ideal and absolute
wickedness which delights in crimes for their own sake, and not as means
to an end, or at any rate as means to ends for which our psychology has
no measure.

Among these appalling figures we may first notice certain of the
‘Condottieri,’[1023] such as Braccio di Montone, Tiberto Brandolino, and
that Werner von Urslingen whose silver hauberk bore the inscription:
‘The enemy of God, of pity and of mercy.’ This class of men offers us
some of the earliest instances of criminals deliberately repudiating
every moral restraint. Yet we shall be more reserved in our judgment of
them when we remember that the worst part of their guilt--in the
estimate of those who record it--lay in their defiance of spiritual
threats and penalties, and that to this fact is due that air of horror
with which they are represented as surrounded. In the case of Braccio,
the hatred of the Church went so far that he was infuriated at the sight
of monks at their psalms, and had thrown them down from the top of a
tower;[1024] but at the same time ‘he was loyal to his soldiers and a
great general.’ As a rule, the crimes of the ‘Condottieri’ were
committed for the sake of some definite advantage, and must be
attributed to a position in which men could not fail to be demoralised.
Even their apparently gratuitous cruelty had commonly a purpose, if it
were only to strike terror. The barbarities of the House of Aragon, as
we have seen, were mainly due to fear and to the desire for vengeance.
The thirst for blood on its own account, the devilish delight in
destruction, is most clearly exemplified in the case of the Spaniard
Cæsar Borgia, whose cruelties were certainly out of all proportion to
the end which he had in view (p. 114 sqq.). In Sigismondo Malatesta,
tyrant of Rimini (pp. 32, 228), the same disinterested love of evil may
also be detected. It is not only the Court of Rome,[1025] but the
verdict of history, which convicts him of murder, rape, adultery,
incest, sacrilege, perjury and treason, committed not once but often.
The most shocking crime of all--the unnatural attempt on his own son
Roberto, who frustrated it with his drawn dagger,[1026]--may have been
the result, not merely of moral corruption, but perhaps of some magical
or astrological superstition. The same conjecture has been made to
account for the rape of the Bishop of Fano[1027] by Pierluigi Farnese of
Parma, son of Paul III.

If we now attempt to sum up the principal features in the Italian
character of that time, as we know it from a study of the life of the
upper classes, we shall obtain something like the following result. The
fundamental vice of this character was at the same time a condition of
its greatness, namely, excessive individualism. The individual first
inwardly casts off the authority of a state which, as a fact, is in
most cases tyrannical and illegitimate, and what he thinks and does is,
rightly or wrongly, now called treason. The sight of victorious egoism
in others drives him to defend his own right by his own arm. And, while
thinking to restore his inward equilibrium, he falls, through the
vengeance which he executes, into the hands of the powers of darkness.
His love, too, turns mostly for satisfaction to another individuality
equally developed, namely, to his neighbour’s wife. In face of all
objective facts, of laws and restraints of whatever kind, he retains the
feeling of his own sovereignty, and in each single instance forms his
decision independently, according as honour or interest, passion or
calculation, revenge or renunciation, gain the upper hand in his own

If therefore egoism in its wider as well as narrower sense is the root
and fountain of all evil, the more highly developed Italian was for this
reason more inclined to wickedness than the member of other nations of
that time.

But this individual development did not come upon him through any fault
of his own, but rather through an historical necessity. It did not come
upon him alone, but also, and chiefly by means of Italian culture, upon
the other nations of Europe, and has constituted since then the higher
atmosphere which they breathe. In itself it is neither good nor bad, but
necessary; within it has grown up a modern standard of good and evil--a
sense of moral responsibility--which is essentially different from that
which was familiar to the Middle Ages.

But the Italian of the Renaissance had to bear the first mighty surging
of a new age. Through his gifts and his passions, he has become the most
characteristic representative of all the heights and all the depths of
his time. By the side of profound corruption appeared human
personalities of the noblest harmony, and an artistic splendour which
shed upon the life of man a lustre which neither antiquity nor
mediævalism either could or would bestow upon it.



The morality of a people stands in the closest connection with its
consciousness of God, that is to say, with its firmer or weaker faith in
the divine government of the world, whether this faith looks on
the world as destined to happiness or to misery and speedy
destruction.[1028] The infidelity then prevalent in Italy is notorious,
and whoever takes the trouble to look about for proofs, will find them
by the hundred. Our present task, here as elsewhere, is to separate and
discriminate; refraining from an absolute and final verdict.

The belief in God at earlier times had its source and chief support in
Christianity and the outward symbol of Christianity, the Church. When
the Church became corrupt, men ought to have drawn a distinction, and
kept their religion in spite of all. But this is more easily said than
done. It is not every people which is calm enough, or dull enough, to
tolerate a lasting contradiction between a principle and its outward
expression. But history does not record a heavier responsibility than
that which rests upon the decaying Church. She set up as absolute truth
and by the most violent means, a doctrine which she had distorted to
serve her own aggrandisement. Safe in the sense of her inviolability,
she abandoned herself to the most scandalous profligacy, and, in order
to maintain herself in this state, she levelled mortal blows against the
conscience and the intellect of nations, and drove multitudes of the
noblest spirits, whom she had inwardly estranged, into the arms of
unbelief and despair.

Here we are met by the question: Why did not Italy, intellectually so
great, react more energetically against the hierarchy; why did she not
accomplish a reformation like that which occurred in Germany, and
accomplish it at an earlier date?

A plausible answer has been given to this question. The Italian mind, we
are told, never went further than the denial of the hierarchy, while the
origin and the vigour of the German Reformation was due to its positive
religious doctrines, most of all to the doctrines of justification by
faith and of the inefficacy of good works.

It is certain that these doctrines only worked upon Italy through
Germany, and this not till the power of Spain was sufficiently great to
root them out without difficulty, partly by itself and partly by means
of the Papacy, and its instruments.[1029] Nevertheless, in the earlier
religious movements of Italy, from the Mystics of the thirteenth century
down to Savonarola, there was a large amount of positive religious
doctrine which, like the very definite Christianity of the Huguenots,
failed to achieve success only because circumstances were against it.
Mighty events like the Reformation elude, as respects their details,
their outbreak and their development, the deductions of the
philosophers, however clearly the necessity of them as a whole may be
demonstrated. The movements of the human spirit, its sudden flashes, its
expansions and its pauses, must for ever remain a mystery to our eyes,
since we can but know this or that of the forces at work in it, never
all of them together.

       *       *       *       *       *

The feeling of the upper and middle classes in Italy with regard to the
Church at the time when the Renaissance culminated, was compounded of
deep and contemptuous aversion, of acquiescence in the outward
ecclesiastical customs which entered into daily life, and of a sense of
dependence on sacraments and ceremonies. The great personal influence of
religious preachers may be added as a fact characteristic of Italy.

That hostility to the hierarchy, which displays itself more especially
from the time of Dante onwards in Italian literature and history, has
been fully treated by several writers. We have already (p. 223) said
something of the attitude of public opinion with regard to the Papacy.
Those who wish for the strongest evidence which the best authorities
offer us, can find it in the famous passages of Macchiavelli’s
‘Discorsi,’ and in the unmutilated edition of Guicciardini. Outside the
Roman Curia, some respect seems to have been felt for the best men among
the bishops,[1030] and for many of the parochial clergy. On the other
hand, the mere holders of benefices, the canons, and the monks were held
in almost universal suspicion, and were often the objects of the most
scandalous aspersions, extending to the whole of their order.

It has been said that the monks were made the scapegoats for the whole
clergy, for the reason that none but they could be ridiculed without
danger.[1031] But this is certainly incorrect. They are introduced so
frequently in the novels and comedies, because these forms of literature
need fixed and well-known types where the imagination of the reader can
easily fill up an outline. Besides which, the novelists do not as a fact
spare the secular clergy.[1032] In the third place, we have abundant
proof in the rest of Italian literature that men could speak boldly
enough about the Papacy and the Court of Rome. In works of imagination
we cannot expect to find criticism of this kind. Fourthly, the monks,
when attacked, were sometimes able to take a terrible vengeance.

It is nevertheless true that the monks were the most unpopular class of
all, and that they were reckoned a living proof of the worthlessness of
conventual life, of the whole ecclesiastical organisation, of the system
of dogma, and of religion altogether, according as men pleased, rightly
or wrongly, to draw their conclusions. We may also assume that Italy
retained a clearer recollection of the origin of the two great mendicant
orders than other countries, and had not forgotten that they were the
chief agents in the reaction[1033] against what is called the heresy of
the thirteenth century, that is to say, against an early and vigorous
movement of the modern Italian spirit. And that spiritual police which
was permanently entrusted to the Dominicans certainly never excited any
other feeling than secret hatred and contempt.

After reading the ‘Decameron’ and the novels of Franco Sacchetti, we
might imagine that the vocabulary of abuse directed at the monks and
nuns was exhausted. But towards the time of the Reformation this abuse
became still fiercer. To say nothing of Aretino, who in the
‘Ragionamenti’ uses conventual life merely as a pretext for giving free
play to his own poisonous nature, we may quote one author as typical of
the rest--Massuccio, in the first ten of his fifty novels. They are
written in a tone of the deepest indignation, and with this purpose to
make the indignation general; and are dedicated to men in the highest
position, such as King Ferrante and Prince Alfonso of Naples. The
stories are many of them old, and some of them familiar to readers of
Boccaccio. But others reflect, with a frightful realism, the actual
state of things at Naples. The way in which the priests befool and
plunder the people by means of spurious miracles, added to their own
scandalous lives, is enough to drive any thoughtful observer to despair.
We read of the Minorite friars who travelled to collect alms: ‘They
cheat, steal, and fornicate, and when they are at the end of their
resources, they set up as saints and work miracles, one displaying the
cloak of St. Vincent, another the handwriting[1034] of St. Bernadino, a
third the bridle of Capistrano’s donkey.’ Others ‘bring with them
confederates who pretend to be blind or afflicted with some mortal
disease, and after touching the hem of the monk’s cowl, or the reliques
which he carried, are healed before the eyes of the multitude. All then
shout “Misericordia,” the bells are rung, and the miracle is recorded in
a solemn protocol.’ Or else a monk in the pulpit is denounced as a liar
by another who stands below among the audience; the accuser is
immediately possessed by the devil, and then healed by the preacher. The
whole thing was a pre-arranged comedy, in which, however, the principal
with his assistant made so much money that he was able to buy a
bishopric from a Cardinal, on which the two confederates lived
comfortably to the end of their days. Massuccio makes no great
distinction between Franciscans and Dominicans, finding the one worth as
much as the other. ‘And yet the foolish people lets itself be drawn into
their hatreds and divisions, and quarrels about them in public
places,[1035] and calls itself “franceschino” or “domenichino.”’ The
nuns are the exclusive property of the monks. Those of the former who
have anything to do with the laity, are prosecuted and put in prison,
while others are wedded in due form to the monks, with the
accompaniments of mass, a marriage-contract, and a liberal indulgence in
food and wine. ‘I myself,’ says the author, ‘have been there not once,
but several times, and seen it all with my own eyes. The nuns afterwards
bring forth pretty little monks or else use means to hinder that result.
And if any one charges me with falsehood, let him search the nunneries
well, and he will find there as many little bones as in Bethlehem at
Herod’s time.’[1036] These things, and the like, are among the secrets
of monastic life. The monks are by no means too strict with one another
in the confessional, and impose a Paternoster in cases where they would
refuse all absolution to a layman as if he were a heretic. ‘Therefore
may the earth open and swallow up the wretches alive, with those who
protect them!’ In another place Massuccio, speaking of the fact that the
influence of the monks depends chiefly on the dread of another world,
utters the following remarkable wish: ‘The best punishment for them
would be for God to abolish Purgatory; they would then receive no more
alms, and would be forced to go back to their spades.’

If men were free to write, in the time of Ferrante, and to him, in this
strain, the reason is perhaps to be found in the fact that the king
himself had been incensed by a false miracle which had been palmed off
on him.[1037] An attempt had been made to urge him to a persecution of
the Jews, like that carried out in Spain and imitated by the
Popes,[1038] by producing a tablet with an inscription bearing the name
of St. Cataldus, said to have been buried at Tarentum, and afterwards
dug up again. When he discovered the fraud, the monks defied him. He had
also managed to detect and expose a pretended instance of fasting, as
his father Alfonso had done before him.[1039] The Court, certainly, was
no accomplice in maintaining these blind superstitions.[1040]

We have been quoting from an author who wrote in earnest, and who by no
means stands alone in his judgment. All the Italian literature of that
time is full of ridicule and invective aimed at the begging
friars.[1041] It can hardly have been doubted that the Renaissance would
soon have destroyed these two Orders, had it not been for the German
Reformation, and the Counter-Reformation which that provoked. Their
saints and popular preachers could hardly have saved them. It would only
have been necessary to come to an understanding at a favourable moment
with a Pope like Leo X., who despised the Mendicant Orders. If the
spirit of the age found them ridiculous or repulsive, they could no
longer be anything but an embarrassment to the Church. And who can say
what fate was in store for the Papacy itself, if the Reformation had not
saved it?

The influence which the Father Inquisitor of a Dominican monastery was
able habitually to exercise in the city where it was situated, was in
the latter part of the fifteenth century just considerable enough to
hamper and irritate cultivated people, but not strong enough to extort
any lasting fear or obedience.[1042] It was no longer possible to punish
men for their thoughts, as it once was (p. 290 sqq.), and those whose
tongues wagged most impudently against the clergy could easily keep
clear of heretical doctrine. Except when some powerful party had an end
to serve, as in the case of Savonarola, or when there was a question of
the use of magical arts, as was often the case in the cities of North
Italy, we seldom read at this time of men being burnt at the stake. The
Inquisitors were in some instances satisfied with the most superficial
retractation, in others it even happened that the victim was saved out
of their hands on the way to the place of execution. In Bologna (1452)
the priest Niccolò da Verona had been publicly degraded on a wooden
scaffold in front of San Domenico as a wizard and profaner of the
sacraments, and was about to be led away to the stake, when he was set
free by a gang of armed men, sent by Achille Malvezzi, a noted friend of
heretics and violator of nuns. The legate, Cardinal Bessarion, was only
able to catch and hang one of the party; Malvezzi lived on in

It deserves to be noticed that the higher monastic orders--the
Benedictines, with their many branches--were, notwithstanding their
great wealth and easy lives, far less disliked than the mendicant
friars. For ten novels which treat of ‘frati,’ hardly one can be found
in which a ‘monaco’ is the subject and the victim. It was no small
advantage to this order that it was founded earlier, and not as an
instrument of police, and that it did not interfere with private life.
It contained men of learning, wit, and piety, but the average has been
described by a member of it, Firenzuola,[1044] who says: ‘These well-fed
gentlemen with the capacious cowls do not pass their time in barefooted
journeys and in sermons, but sit in elegant slippers with their hands
crossed over their paunches, in charming cells wainscotted with
cyprus-wood. And when they are obliged to quit the house, they ride
comfortably, as if for their amusement, on mules and sleek, quiet
horses. They do not overstrain their minds with the study of many books,
for fear lest knowledge might put the pride of Lucifer in the place of
monkish simplicity.’

Those who are familiar with the literature of the time, will see that we
have only brought forward what is absolutely necessary for the
understanding of the subject.[1045] That the reputation attaching to the
monks and the secular clergy must have shattered the faith of
multitudes in all that is sacred is, of course obvious.

And some of the judgments which we read are terrible; we will quote one
of them in conclusion, which has been published only lately and is but
little known. The historian Guicciardini, who was for many years in the
service of the Medicean Popes says (1529) in his ‘Aphorisms’[1046]: ‘No
man is more disgusted than I am with the ambition, the avarice, and the
profligacy of the priests, not only because each of these vices is
hateful in itself, but because each and all of them are most unbecoming
in those who declare themselves to be men in special relations with God,
and also because they are vices so opposed to one another, that they can
only co-exist in very singular natures. Nevertheless, my position at the
Court of several Popes forced me to desire their greatness for the sake
of my own interest. But, had it been for this, I should have loved
Martin Luther as myself, not in order to free myself from the laws which
Christianity, as generally understood and explained, lays upon us, but
in order to see this swarm of scoundrels (‘questa caterva di
scellerati’) put back into their proper place, so that they may be
forced to live either without vices or without power.’[1047]

The same Guicciardini is of opinion that we are in the dark as to all
that is supernatural, that philosophers and theologians have nothing but
nonsense to tell us about it, that miracles occur in every religion and
prove the truth of none in particular, and that all of them may be
explained as unknown phenomena of nature. The faith which moves
mountains, then common among the followers of Savonarola, is mentioned
by Guicciardini as a curious fact, but without any bitter remark.

       *       *       *       *       *

Notwithstanding this hostile public opinion, the clergy and the monks
had the great advantage that the people was used to them, and that their
existence was interwoven with the everyday existence of all. This is the
advantage which every old and powerful institution possesses. Everybody
had some cowled or frocked relative, some prospect of assistance or
future gain from the treasure of the Church; and in the centre of Italy
stood the Court of Rome, where men sometimes became rich in a moment.
Yet it must never be forgotten that all this did not hinder people from
writing and speaking freely. The authors of the most scandalous satires
were themselves mostly monks or beneficed priests. Poggio, who wrote the
‘Facetiae,’ was a clergyman; Francesco Berni, the satirist, held a
canonry; Teofilo Folengo, the author of the ‘Orlandino,’ was a
Benedictine, certainly by no means a faithful one; Matteo Bandello, who
held up his own order to ridicule, was a Dominican, and nephew of a
general of this order. Were they encouraged to write by the sense that
they ran no risk? Or did they feel an inward need to clear themselves
personally from the infamy which attached to their order? Or were they
moved by that selfish pessimism which takes for its maxim, ‘it will last
our time’? Perhaps all of these motives were more or less at work. In
the case of Folengo, the unmistakable influence of Lutheranism must be

The sense of dependence on rites and sacraments, which we have already
touched upon in speaking of the Papacy (p. 103), is not surprising among
that part of the people which still believed in the Church. Among those
who were more emancipated, it testifies to the strength of youthful
impressions, and to the magical force of traditional symbols. The
universal desire of dying men for priestly absolution shows that the
last remnants of the dread of hell had not, even in the case of one like
Vitellozzo, been altogether extinguished. It would hardly be possible to
find a more instructive instance than this. The doctrine taught by the
Church of the ‘character indelibilis’ of the priesthood, independently
of the personality of the priest, had so far borne fruit that it was
possible to loathe the individual and still desire his spiritual gifts.
It is true, nevertheless, that there were defiant natures like Galeotto
of Mirandola,[1049] who died unabsolved in 1499, after living for
sixteen years under the ban of the Church. All this time the city lay
under an interdict on his account, so that no mass was celebrated and
no Christian burial took place.

       *       *       *       *       *

A splendid contrast to all this is offered by the power exercised over
the nation by its great Preachers of Repentance. Other countries of
Europe were from time to time moved by the words of saintly monks, but
only superficially, in comparison with the periodical upheaval of the
Italian conscience. The only man, in fact, who produced a similar effect
in Germany during the fifteenth century,[1050] was an Italian, born in
the Abruzzi, named Giovanni Capistrano. Those natures which bear within
them this religious vocation and this commanding earnestness, wore then
in Northern countries an intuitive and mystical aspect. In the South
they were practical and expansive, and shared in the national gift of
language and oratorical skill. The North produced an ‘Imitation of
Christ,’ which worked silently, at first only within the walls of the
monastery, but worked for the ages; the South produced men who made on
their fellows a mighty but passing impression.

This impression consisted chiefly in the awakening of the conscience.
The sermons were moral exhortations, free from abstract notions and full
of practical application, rendered more impressive by the saintly and
ascetic character of the preacher, and by the miracles which, even
against his will, the inflamed imagination of the people attributed to
him.[1051] The most powerful argument used was not the threat of Hell
and Purgatory, but rather the living results of the ‘maledizione,’ the
temporal ruin wrought on the individual by the curse which clings to
wrong-doing. The grieving of Christ and the Saints has its consequences
in this life. And only thus could men, sunk in passion and guilt, be
brought to repentance and amendment--which was the chief object of these

Among these preachers were Bernadino da Siena, and his two pupils,
Alberto da Sarteano and Jacopo della Marca, Giovanni Capistrano, Roberto
da Lecce (p. 413), and finally, Girolamo Savonarola. No prejudice of the
day was stronger than that against the mendicant friar, and this they
overcame. They were criticised and ridiculed by a scornful
humanism;[1052] but when they raised their voices, no one gave heed to
the humanists. The thing was no novelty, and the scoffing Florentines
had already in the fourteenth century learned to caricature it whenever
it appeared in the pulpit.[1053] But no sooner did Savonarola come
forward than he carried the people so triumphantly with him, that soon
all their beloved art and culture melted away in the furnace which he
lighted. Even the grossest profanation done to the cause by hypocritical
monks, who got up an effect in the audience by means of confederates (p.
460), could not bring the thing itself into discredit. Men kept on
laughing at the ordinary monkish sermons, with their spurious miracles
and manufactured reliques;[1054] but did not cease to honour the great
and genuine prophets. These are a true Italian specialty of the
fifteenth century.

The Order--generally that of St. Francis, and more particularly the
so-called Observantines--sent them out according as they were wanted.
This was commonly the case when there was some important public or
private feud in a city, or some alarming outbreak of violence,
immorality, or disease. When once the reputation of a preacher was
made, the cities were all anxious to hear him even without any special
occasion. He went wherever his superiors sent him. A special form of
this work was the preaching of a Crusade against the Turks;[1055] but
here we have to speak more particularly of the exhortations to

The order of these, when they were treated methodically, seems to have
followed the customary list of the deadly sins. The more pressing,
however, the occasion is, the more directly does the preacher make for
his main point. He begins perhaps in one of the great churches of the
Order, or in the cathedral. Soon the largest piazza is too small for the
crowds which throng from every side to hear him, and he himself can
hardly move without risking his life.[1056] The sermon is commonly
followed by a great procession; but the first magistrates of the city,
who take him in their midst, can hardly save him from the multitude of
women who throng to kiss his hands and feet, and cut off fragments from
his cowl.[1057]

The most immediate consequences which follow from the preacher’s
denunciations of usury, luxury, and scandalous fashions, are the opening
of the gaols--which meant no more than the discharge of the poorer
creditors--and the burning of various instruments of luxury and
amusement, whether innocent or not. Among these are dice, cards, games
of all kinds, written incantations,[1058] masks, musical instruments,
song-books, false hair, and so forth. All these would then be
gracefully arranged on a scaffold (‘talamo’), a figure of the devil
fastened to the top, and then the whole set on fire (comp. p. 372).

Then came the turn of the more hardened consciences. Men who had long
never been near the confessional, now acknowledged their sins.
Ill-gotten gains were restored, and insults which might have borne fruit
in blood retracted. Orators like Bernadino of Siena[1059] entered
diligently into all the details of the daily life of men, and the moral
laws which are involved in it. Few theologians nowadays would feel
tempted to give a morning sermon ‘on contracts, restitutions, the public
debt (“monte”), and the portioning of daughters,’ like that which he
once delivered in the Cathedral at Florence. Imprudent speakers easily
fell into the mistake of attacking particular classes, professions, or
offices, with such energy that the enraged hearers proceeded to violence
against those whom the preacher had denounced.[1060] A sermon which
Bernadino once preached in Rome (1424) had another consequence besides a
bonfire of vanities on the Capitol: ‘after this,’[1061] we read, ‘the
witch Finicella was burnt, because by her diabolical arts she had killed
many children and bewitched many other persons; and all Rome went to see
the sight.’

But the most important aim of the preacher was, as has been already
said, to reconcile enemies and persuade them to give up thoughts of
vengeance. Probably this end was seldom attained till towards the close
of a course of sermons, when the tide of penitence flooded the city,
and when the air resounded[1062] with the cry of the whole people:
‘Misericordia!’ Then followed those solemn embracings and treaties of
peace, which even previous bloodshed on both sides could not hinder.
Banished men were recalled to the city to take part in these sacred
transactions. It appears that these ‘Paci’ were on the whole faithfully
observed, even after the mood which prompted them was over; and then the
memory of the monk was blessed from generation to generation. But there
were sometimes terrible crises like those in the families Della Valle
and Croce in Rome (1482), where even the great Roberto da Lecce raised
his voice in vain.[1063] Shortly before Holy Week he had preached to
immense crowds in the square before the Minerva. But on the night before
Maunday Thursday a terrible combat took place in front of the Palazzo
della Valle, near the Ghetto. In the morning Pope Sixtus gave orders for
its destruction, and then performed the customary ceremonies of the day.
On Good Friday Roberto preached again with a crucifix in his hand; but
he and his hearers could do nothing but weep.

Violent natures, which had fallen into contradiction with themselves,
often resolved to enter a convent, under the impression made by these
men. Among such were not only brigands and criminals of every sort, but
soldiers without employment.[1064] This resolve was stimulated by their
admiration of the holy man, and by the desire to copy at least his
outward position.

The concluding sermon is a general benediction, summed up in the words:
‘la pace sia con voi!’ Throngs of hearers accompany the preacher to the
next city, and there listen for a second time to the whole course of

The enormous influence exercised by these preachers made it important,
both for the clergy and for the government, at least not to have them as
opponents; one means to this end was to permit only monks[1065] or
priests who had received at all events the lesser consecration, to enter
the pulpit, so that the Order or Corporation to which they belonged was,
to some extent, responsible for them. But it was not easy to make the
rule absolute, since the Church and pulpit had long been used as a means
of publicity in many ways, judicial, educational, and others, and since
even sermons were sometimes delivered by humanists and other laymen (p.
234 sqq.). There existed, too, in Italy a dubious class of
persons,[1066] who were neither monks nor priests, and who yet had
renounced the world--that is to say, the numerous class of hermits who
appeared from time to time in the pulpit on their own authority, and
often carried the people with them. A case of this kind occurred at
Milan in 1516, after the second French conquest, certainly at a time
when public order was much disturbed. A Tuscan hermit Hieronymus of
Siena, possibly an adherent of Savonarola, maintained his place for
months together in the pulpit of the Cathedral, denounced the hierarchy
with great violence, caused a new chandelier and a new altar to be set
up in the church, worked miracles, and only abandoned the field after a
long and desperate struggle.[1067] During the decades in which the fate
of Italy was decided, the spirit of prophecy was unusually active, and
nowhere where it displayed itself was it confined to any one particular
class. We know with what a tone of true prophetic defiance the hermits
came forward before the sack of Rome (p. 122). In default of any
eloquence of their own, these men made use of messengers with symbols of
one kind or another, like the ascetic near Siena (1429), who sent a
‘little hermit,’ that is a pupil, into the terrified city with a skull
upon a pole, to which was attached a paper with a threatening text from
the Bible.[1068]

Nor did the monks themselves scruple to attack princes, governments, the
clergy, or even their own order. A direct exhortation to overthrow a
despotic house, like that uttered by Jacopo Bussolaro at Pavia in the
fourteenth century,[1069] hardly occurs again in the following period;
but there is no want of courageous reproofs, addressed even to the Pope
in his own chapel (p. 239, note 1), and of naïve political advice given
in the presence of rulers who by no means held themselves in need of
it.[1070] In the Piazza del Castello at Milan, a blind preacher from the
Incoronata--consequently an Augustinian--ventured in 1494 to exhort
Ludovico Moro from the pulpit: ‘My lord, beware of showing the French
the way, else you will repent it.’[1071] There were further prophetic
monks, who, without exactly preaching political sermons, drew such
appalling pictures of the future that the hearers almost lost their
senses. After the election of Leo X. in the year 1513, a whole
association of these men, twelve Franciscan monks in all, journeyed
through the various districts of Italy, of which one or other was
assigned to each preacher. The one who appeared in Florence,[1072] Fra
Francesco di Montepulciano, struck terror into the whole people. The
alarm was not diminished by the exaggerated reports of his prophecies
which reached those who were too far off to hear him. After one of his
sermons he suddenly died ‘of pain in the chest.’ The people thronged in
such numbers to kiss the feet of the corpse that it had to be secretly
buried in the night. But the newly awakened spirit of prophecy, which
seized upon even women and peasants, could not be controlled without
great difficulty. ‘In order to restore to the people their cheerful
humour, the Medici--Giuliano, Leo’s brother, and Lorenzo--gave on St.
John’s Day, 1514, those splendid festivals, tournaments, processions,
and hunting-parties, which were attended by many distinguished persons
from Rome, and among them, though disguised, by no less than six

But the greatest of the prophets and apostles had been already burnt in
Florence in the year 1498--Fra Giorolamo Savonarola of Ferrara. We must
content ourselves with saying a few words respecting him.[1073]

The instrument by means of which he transformed and ruled the city of
Florence (1494-8) was his eloquence. Of this the meagre reports that
are left to us, which were taken down mostly on the spot, give us
evidently a very imperfect notion. It was not that he possessed any
striking outward advantages, for voice, accent, and rhetorical skill
constituted precisely his weakest side; and those who required the
preacher to be a stylist, went to his rival Fra Mariano da Genazzano.
The eloquence of Savonarola was the expression of a lofty and commanding
personality, the like of which was not seen again till the time of
Luther. He himself held his own influence to be the result of a divine
illumination, and could therefore, without presumption, assign a very
high place to the office of the preacher, who, in the great hierarchy of
spirits, occupies the next place below the angels.

This man, whose nature seemed made of fire, worked another and greater
miracle than any of his oratorical triumphs. His own Dominican monastery
of San Marco, and then all the Dominican monasteries of Tuscany, became
like-minded with himself, and undertook voluntarily the work of inward
reform. When we reflect what the monasteries then were, and what
measureless difficulty attends the least change where monks are
concerned, we are doubly astonished at so complete a revolution. While
the reform was still in progress large numbers of Savonarola’s followers
entered the Order, and thereby greatly facilitated his plans. Sons of
the first houses in Florence entered San Marco as novices.

This reform of the Order in a particular province was the first step to
a national Church, in which, had the reformer himself lived longer, it
must infallibly have ended. Savonarola, indeed, desired the regeneration
of the whole Church, and near the end of his career sent pressing
exhortations to the great powers urging them to call together a Council.
But in Tuscany his Order and party were the only organs of his
spirit--the salt of the earth--while the neighbouring provinces remained
in their old condition. Fancy and asceticism tended more and more to
produce in him a state of mind to which Florence appeared as the scene
of the kingdom of God upon earth.

The prophecies, whose partial fulfilment conferred on Savonarola a
supernatural credit, were the means by which the ever-active Italian
imagination seized control of the soundest and most cautious natures. At
first the Franciscans of the Osservanza, trusting in the reputation
which had been bequeathed to them by San Bernadino of Siena, fancied
that they could compete with the great Dominican. They put one of their
own men into the Cathedral pulpit, and outbid the Jeremiads of
Savonarola by still more terrible warnings, till Pietro de’Medici, who
then still ruled over Florence, forced them both to be silent. Soon
after, when Charles VIII. came into Italy and the Medici were expelled,
as Savonarola had clearly foretold, he alone was believed in.

It must be frankly confessed that he never judged his own premonitions
and visions critically, as he did those of others. In the funeral
oration on Pico della Mirandola, he deals somewhat harshly with his dead
friend. Since Pico, notwithstanding an inner voice which came from God,
would not enter the Order, he had himself prayed to God to chasten him
for his disobedience. He certainly had not desired his death, and alms
and prayers had obtained the favour that Pico’s soul was safe in
Purgatory. With regard to a comforting vision which Pico had upon his
sick-bed, in which the Virgin appeared and promised him that he should
not die, Savonarola confessed that he had long regarded it as a deceit
of the Devil, till it was revealed to him that the Madonna meant the
second and eternal death.[1074] If these things and the like are proofs
of presumption, it must be admitted that this great soul at all events
paid a bitter penalty for his fault. In his last days Savonarola seems
to have recognised the vanity of his visions and prophecies. And yet
enough inward peace was left him to enable him to meet death like a
Christian. His partisans held to his doctrine and predictions for thirty
years longer.

He only undertook the reorganisation of the state for the reason that
otherwise his enemies would have got the government into their own
hands. It is unfair to judge him by the semi-democratic constitution (p.
83, note 1) of the beginning of the year 1495. Nor is it either better
or worse than other Florentine constitutions.[1075]

He was at bottom the most unsuitable man who could be found for such a
work. His ideal was a theocracy, in which all men were to bow in blessed
humility before the Unseen, and all conflicts of passion were not even
to be able to arise. His whole mind is written in that inscription on
the Palazzo della Signoria, the substance of which was his maxim[1076]
as early as 1495, and which was solemnly renewed by his partisans in
1527: ‘Jesus Christus Rex populi Florentini S. P. Q. decreto creatus.’
He stood in no more relation to mundane affairs and their actual
conditions than any other inhabitant of a monastery. Man, according to
him, has only to attend to those things which make directly for his

This temper comes out clearly in his opinions on ancient literature:
‘The only good thing which we owe to Plato and Aristotle, is that they
brought forward many arguments which we can use against the heretics.
Yet they and other philosophers are now in Hell. An old woman knows more
about the Faith than Plato. It would be good for religion if many books
that seem useful were destroyed. When there were not so many books and
not so many arguments (“ragioni naturali”) and disputes, religion grew
more quickly than it has done since.’ He wished to limit the classical
instruction of the schools to Homer, Virgil, and Cicero, and to supply
the rest from Jerome and Augustine. Not only Ovid and Catullus, but
Terence and Tibullus, were to be banished. This may be no more than the
expression of a nervous morality, but elsewhere in a special work he
admits that science as a whole is harmful. He holds that only a few
people should have to do with it, in order that the tradition of human
knowledge may not perish, and particularly that there may be no want of
intellectual athletes to confute the sophisms of the heretics. For all
others, grammar, morals, and religious teaching (‘litterae sacrae’)
suffice. Culture and education would thus return wholly into the charge
of the monks, and as, in his opinion, the ‘most learned and the most
pious’ are to rule over the states and empires, these rulers would also
be monks. Whether he really foresaw this conclusion, we need not

A more childish method of reasoning cannot be imagined. The simple
reflection that the new-born antiquity and the boundless enlargement of
human thought and knowledge which was due to it, might give splendid
confirmation to a religion able to adapt itself thereto, seems never
even to have occurred to the good man. He wanted to forbid what he could
not deal with by any other means. In fact, he was anything but liberal,
and was ready, for example, to send the astrologers to the same stake at
which he afterwards himself died.[1077]

How mighty must have been the soul which dwelt side by side with this
narrow intellect! And what a flame must have glowed within him before he
could constrain the Florentines, possessed as they were by the passion
for culture, to surrender themselves to a man who could thus reason!

How much of their heart and their worldliness they were ready to
sacrifice for his sake is shown by those famous bonfires by the side of
which all the ‘talami’ of Bernadino da Siena and others were certainly
of small account.

All this could not, however, be effected without the agency of a
tyrannical police. He did not shrink from the most vexatious
interferences with the much-prized freedom of Italian private life,
using the espionage of servants on their masters as a means of carrying
out his moral reforms. That transformation of public and private life
which the iron Calvin was but just able to effect at Geneva with the aid
of a permanent state of siege necessarily proved impossible at Florence,
and the attempt only served to drive the enemies of Savonarola to a more
implacable hostility. Among his most unpopular measures may be mentioned
those organised parties of boys, who forced their way into the houses
and laid violent hands on any objects which seemed suitable for the
bonfire. As it happened that they were sometimes sent away with a
beating, they were afterwards attended, in order to keep up the figment
of a pious ‘rising generation,’ by a body-guard of grown-up persons.

On the last day of the Carnival in the year 1497, and on the same day
the year after, the great ‘Auto da Fé’ took place on the Piazza della
Signoria. In the centre of it rose a great pyramidal flight of stairs
like the ‘rogus’ on which the Roman Emperors were commonly burned. On
the lowest tier were arranged false beards, masks, and carnival
disguises; above came volumes of the Latin and Italian poets, among
others Boccaccio, the ‘Morgante’ of Pulci, and Petrarch, partly in the
form of valuable printed parchments and illuminated manuscripts; then
women’s ornaments and toilette articles, scents, mirrors, veils, and
false hair; higher up, lutes, harps, chess-boards, playing-cards; and
finally, on the two uppermost tiers, paintings only, especially of
female beauties, partly fancy-pictures, bearing the classical names of
Lucretia, Cleopatra, or Faustina, partly portraits of the beautiful
Bencina, Lena Morella, Bina, and Maria de’Lenzi; all the pictures of
Bartolommeo della Porta, who brought them of his own accord; and, as it
seems, some female heads--masterpieces of ancient sculptors. On the
first occasion a Venetian merchant who happened to be present offered
the Signoria 22,000 gold florins for the objects on the pyramid; but the
only answer he received was that his portrait, too, was taken, and
burned along with the rest. When the pile was lighted, the Signoria
appeared on the balcony, and the air echoed with song, the sound of
trumpets, and the pealing of bells. The people then adjourned to the
Piazza di San Marco, where they danced round in three concentric
circles. The innermost was composed of monks of the monastery,
alternating with boys, dressed as angels; then came young laymen and
ecclesiastics; and on the outside old men, citizens, and priests, the
latter crowned with wreaths of olive.[1078]

All the ridicule of his victorious enemies, who in truth had no lack of
justification or of talent for ridicule, was unable to discredit the
memory of Savonarola. The more tragic the fortunes of Italy became, the
brighter grew the halo which in the recollection of the survivors
surrounded the figure of the great monk and prophet. Though his
predictions may not have been confirmed in detail, the great and
general calamity which he foretold was fulfilled with appalling truth.

Great, however, as the influence of all these preachers may have been,
and brilliantly as Savonarola justified the claim of the monks to this
office,[1079] nevertheless the order as a whole could not escape the
contempt and condemnation of the people. Italy showed that she could
give her enthusiasm only to individuals.

       *       *       *       *       *

If, apart from all that concerns the priests and the monks, we attempt
to measure the strength of the old faith, it will be found great or
small according to the light in which it is considered. We have spoken
already of the need felt for the Sacraments as something indispensable
(pp. 103, 464). Let us now glance for a moment at the position of faith
and worship in daily life. Both were determined partly by the habits of
the people and partly by the policy and example of the rulers.

All that has to do with penitence and the attainment of salvation by
means of good works was in much the same stage of development or
corruption as in the North of Europe, both among the peasantry and among
the poorer inhabitants of the cities. The instructed classes were here
and there influenced by the same motives. Those sides of popular
Catholicism which had their origin in the old pagan ways of addressing,
rewarding, and reconciling the gods have fixed themselves ineradicably
in the consciousness of the people. The eighth eclogue of Battista
Mantovano,[1080] which has been already quoted elsewhere, contains the
prayer of a peasant to the Madonna, in which she is called upon as the
special patroness of all rustic and agricultural interests. And what
conceptions they were which the people formed of their protectress in
heaven! What was in the mind of the Florentine woman[1081] who gave ‘ex
voto’ a keg of wax to the Annunziata, because her lover, a monk, had
gradually emptied a barrel of wine without her absent husband finding it
out! Then, too, as still in our own days, different departments of human
life were presided over by their respective patrons. The attempt has
often been made to explain a number of the commonest rites of the
Catholic Church as remnants of pagan ceremonies, and no one doubts that
many local and popular usages, which are associated with religious
festivals, are forgotten fragments of the old pre-christian faiths of
Europe. In Italy, on the contrary, we find instances in which the
affiliation of the new faith on the old seems consciously recognised.
So, for example, the custom of setting out food for the dead four days
before the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, that is to say, on February
18, the date of the ancient Feralia.[1082] Many other practices of this
kind may then have prevailed and have since then been extirpated.
Perhaps the paradox is only apparent if we say that the popular faith in
Italy had a solid foundation just in proportion as it was pagan.

The extent to which this form of belief prevailed in the upper classes
can to a certain point be shown in detail. It had, as we have said in
speaking of the influence of the clergy, the power of custom and early
impressions on its side. The love for ecclesiastical pomp and display
helped to confirm it, and now and then there came one of those epidemics
of revivalism, which few even among the scoffers and the sceptics were
able to withstand.

But in questions of this kind it is perilous to grasp too hastily at
absolute results. We might fancy, for example, that the feeling of
educated men towards the reliques of the saints would be a key by which
some chambers of their religious consciousness might be opened. And in
fact, some difference of degree may be demonstrable, though by no means
as clearly as might be wished. The Government of Venice in the fifteenth
century seems to have fully shared in the reverence felt throughout the
rest of Europe for the remains of the bodies of the saints (p. 72). Even
strangers who lived in Venice found it well to adapt themselves to this
superstition.[1083] If we can judge of scholarly Padua from the
testimony of its topographer Michele Savonarola (p. 145), things must
have been much the same there. With a mixture of pride and pious awe,
Michele tells us how in times of great danger the saints were heard to
sigh at night along the streets of the city, how the hair and nails on
the corpse of a holy nun in Santa Chiara kept on continually growing,
and how the same corpse, when any disaster was impending, used to make a
noise and lift up the arms.[1084] When he sets to work to describe the
chapel of St. Anthony in the Santo, the writer loses himself in
ejaculations and fantastic dreams. In Milan the people at least showed a
fanatical devotion to relics; and when once, in the year 1517, the monks
of San Simpliciano were careless enough to expose six holy corpses
during certain alterations of the high altar, which event was followed
by heavy floods of rain, the people[1085] attributed the visitation to
this sacrilege, and gave the monks a sound beating whenever they met
them in the street. In other parts of Italy, and even in the case of the
Popes themselves, the sincerity of this feeling is much more dubious,
though here, too, a positive conclusion is hardly attainable. It is
well known amid what general enthusiasm Pius II. solemnly deposited the
head of the Apostle Andrew, which had been brought from Greece, and then
from Santa Maura, in the Church of St. Peter (1462); but we gather from
his own narrative that he only did it from a kind of shame, as so many
princes were competing for the relic. It was not till afterwards that
the idea struck him of making Rome the common refuge for all the remains
of the saints which had been driven from their own churches.[1086] Under
Sixtus IV. the population of the city was still more zealous in this
cause than the Pope himself, and the magistracy (1483) complained
bitterly that Sixtus had sent to Louis XI., the dying king of France,
some specimens of the Lateran relics.[1087] A courageous voice was
raised about this time at Bologna, advising the sale of the skull of St.
Dominic to the king of Spain, and the application of the money to some
useful public object.[1088] But those who had the least reverence of all
for the relics were the Florentines. Between the decision to honour
their saint S. Zanobi with a new sarcophagus and the final execution of
the project by Ghiberti nineteen years elapsed (1409-28), and then it
only happened by chance, because the master had executed a smaller order
of the same kind with great skill.[1089]

Perhaps through being tricked by a cunning Neapolitan abbess (1352), who
sent them a spurious arm of the patroness of the Cathedral, Santa
Reparata, made of wood and plaster, they began to get tired of
relics.[1090] Or perhaps it would be truer to say that their æsthetic
sense turned them away in disgust from dismembered corpses and mouldy
clothes. Or perhaps their feeling was rather due to that sense for
glory which thought Dante and Petrarch worthier of a splendid grave than
all the twelve apostles put together. It is probable that throughout
Italy, apart from Venice and from Rome, the condition of which latter
city was exceptional, the worship of relics had been long giving way to
the adoration of the Madonna,[1091] at all events to a greater extent
than elsewhere in Europe; and in this fact lies indirect evidence of an
early development of the æsthetic sense.

It may be questioned whether in the North, where the vastest cathedrals
are nearly all dedicated to Our Lady, and where an extensive branch of
Latin and indigenous poetry sang the praises of the Mother of God, a
greater devotion to her was possible. In Italy, however, the number of
miraculous pictures of the Virgin was far greater, and the part they
played in the daily life of the people much more important. Every town
of any size contained a quantity of them, from the ancient, or
ostensibly ancient, paintings by St. Luke, down to the works of
contemporaries, who not seldom lived to see the miracles wrought by
their own handiwork. The work of art was in these cases by no means as
harmless as Battista Mantovano[1092] thinks; sometimes it suddenly
acquired a magical virtue. The popular craving for the miraculous,
especially strong in women, may have been fully satisfied by these
pictures, and for this reason the relics been less regarded. It cannot
be said with certainty how far the respect for genuine relics suffered
from the ridicule which the novelists aimed at the spurious.[1093]

The attitude of the educated classes towards Mariolatry is more clearly
recognisable than towards the worship of images. One cannot but be
struck with the fact that in Italian literature Dante’s ‘Paradise’[1094]
is the last poem in honour of the Virgin, while among the people hymns
in her praise have been constantly produced down to our own day. The
names of Sannazaro and Sabellico[1095] and other writers of Latin poems
prove little on the other side, since the object with which they wrote
was chiefly literary. The poems written in Italian in the
fifteenth[1096] and at the beginning of the sixteenth centuries, in
which we meet with genuine religious feeling, such as the hymns of
Lorenzo the Magnificent, and the sonnets of Vittoria Colonna and of
Michelangelo, might have been just as well composed by Protestants.
Besides the lyrical expression of faith in God, we chiefly notice in
them the sense of sin, the consciousness of deliverance through the
death of Christ, the longing for a better world. The intercession of the
Mother of God is only mentioned by the way.[1097] The same phenomenon is
repeated in the classical literature of the French at the time of Louis
XIV. Not till the time of the Counter-Reformation did Mariolatry
reappear in the higher Italian poetry. Meanwhile the plastic arts had
certainly done their utmost to glorify the Madonna. It may be added that
the worship of the saints among the educated classes often took an
essentially pagan form (p. 260).

We might thus critically examine the various sides of Italian
Catholicism at this period, and so establish with a certain degree of
probability the attitude of the instructed classes toward popular faith.
Yet an absolute and positive result cannot be reached. We meet with
contrasts hard to explain. While architects, painters, and sculptors
were working with restless activity in and for the churches, we hear at
the beginning of the sixteenth century the bitterest complaints of the
neglect of public worship and of these churches themselves.

    Templa ruunt, passim sordent altaria, cultus
    Paulatim divinus abit.[1098]

It is well known how Luther was scandalised by the irreverence with
which the priests in Rome said Mass. And at the same time the feasts of
the Church were celebrated with a taste and magnificence of which
Northern countries had no conception. It looks as if this most
imaginative of nations was easily tempted to neglect every-day things,
and as easily captivated by anything extraordinary.

It is to this excess of imagination that we must attribute the epidemic
religious revivals, upon which we shall again say a few words. They must
be clearly distinguished from the excitement called forth by the great
preachers. They were rather due to general public calamities, or to the
dread of such.

In the Middle Ages all Europe was from time to time flooded by these
great tides, which carried away whole peoples in their waves. The
Crusades and the Flagellant revival are instances. Italy took part in
both of these movements. The first great companies of Flagellants
appeared, immediately after the fall of Ezzelino and his house, in the
neighbourhood of the same Perugia[1099] which has been already spoken
of (p. 482, note 2), as the head-quarters of the revivalist preachers.
Then followed the Flagellants of 1310 and 1334,[1100] and then the great
pilgrimage without scourging in the year 1399, which Corio has
recorded.[1101] It is not impossible that the Jubilees were founded
partly in order to regulate and render harmless this sinister passion
for vagabondage which seized on whole populations at times of religious
excitement. The great sanctuaries of Italy, such as Loreto and others,
had meantime become famous, and no doubt diverted a certain part of this

But terrible crises had still at a much later time the power to reawaken
the glow of mediæval penitence, and the conscience-stricken people,
often still further appalled by signs and wonders, sought to move the
pity of Heaven by wailings and scourgings, by fasts, processions, and
moral enactments. So it was at Bologna when the plague came in
1457,[1103] so in 1496 at a time of internal discord at Siena,[1104] to
mention two only out of countless instances. No more moving scene can be
imagined than that we read of at Milan in 1529, when famine, plague, and
war conspired with Spanish extortion to reduce the city to the lowest
depths of despair.[1105] It chanced that the monk who had the ear of the
people, Fra Tommaso Nieto, was himself a Spaniard. The Host was borne
along in a novel fashion, amid barefooted crowds of old and young. It
was placed on a decorated bier, which rested on the shoulders of four
priests in linen garments--an imitation of the Ark of the Covenant[1106]
which the children of Israel once carried round the walls of Jericho.
Thus did the afflicted people of Milan remind their ancient God of His
old covenant with man; and when the procession again entered the
cathedral, and it seemed as if the vast building must fall in with the
agonised cry of ‘Misericordia!’ many who stood there may have believed
that the Almighty would indeed subvert the laws of nature and of
history, and send down upon them a miraculous deliverance.

There was one government in Italy, that of Duke Ercole I. of
Ferrara,[1107] which assumed the direction of public feeling, and
compelled the popular revivals to move in regular channels. At the time
when Savonarola was powerful in Florence, and the movement which he
began spread far and wide among the population of central Italy, the
people of Ferrara voluntarily entered on a general fast (at the
beginning of 1496). A Lazarist announced from the pulpit the approach of
a season of war and famine such as the world had never seen; but the
Madonna had assured some pious people[1108] that these evils might be
avoided by fasting. Upon this, the court itself had no choice but to
fast, but it took the conduct of the public devotions into its own
hands. On Easter Day, the 3rd of April, a proclamation on morals and
religion was published, forbidding blasphemy, prohibited games, sodomy,
concubinage, the letting of houses to prostitutes or panders, and the
opening of all shops on feast-days, excepting those of the bakers and
greengrocers. The Jews and Moors, who had taken refuge from the
Spaniards at Ferrara, were now compelled again to wear the yellow O upon
the breast. Contraveners were threatened, not only with the punishments
already provided by law, but also ‘with such severer penalties as the
Duke might think good to inflict,’ of which one-fourth in case of a
pecuniary fine was to be paid to the Duke, and the other three-fourths
were to go to some public institution. After this, the Duke and the
court went several days in succession to hear sermons in church, and on
the 10th of April all the Jews in Ferrara were compelled to do the
same.[1109] On the 3rd of May the director of police--that Zampante who
has been already referred to (p. 50)--sent the crier to announce that
whoever had given money to the police-officers in order not to be
informed against as a blasphemer, might, if he came forward, have it
back with a further indemnification. These wicked officers, he said, had
extorted as much as two or three ducats from innocent persons by
threatening to lodge an information against them. They had then mutually
informed against one another, and so had all found their way into
prison. But as the money had been paid precisely in order not to have to
do with Zampante, it is probable that his proclamation induced few
people to come forward. In the year 1500, after the fall of Ludovico
Moro, when a similar outbreak of popular feeling took place,
Ercole[1110] ordered a series of nine processions, in which there were
4,000 children dressed in white, bearing the standard of Jesus. He
himself rode on horseback, as he could not walk without difficulty. An
edict was afterwards published of the same kind as that of 1496. It is
well known how many churches and monasteries were built by this ruler.
He even sent for a live saint, the Suor Colomba, shortly before he
married his son Alfonso to Lucrezia Borgia (1502). A special
messenger[1111] fetched the saint with fifteen other nuns from Viterbo,
and the Duke himself conducted her on her arrival at Ferrara into a
convent prepared for her reception. We shall probably do him no
injustice if we attribute all these measures very largely to political
calculation. To the conception of government formed by the House of
Este, as indicated above (p. 46, sqq.), this employment of religion for
the ends of statecraft belongs by a kind of logical necessity.



But in order to reach a definite conclusion with regard to the religious
sense of the men of this period, we must adopt a different method. From
their intellectual attitude in general, we can infer their relation both
to the Divine idea and to the existing religion of their age.

These modern men, the representatives of the culture of Italy, were born
with the same religious instincts as other mediæval Europeans. But their
powerful individuality made them in religion, as in other matters,
altogether subjective, and the intense charm which the discovery of the
inner and outer universe exercised upon them rendered them markedly
worldly. In the rest of Europe religion remained, till a much later
period, something given from without, and in practical life egoism and
sensuality alternated with devotion and repentance. The latter had no
spiritual competitors, as in Italy, or only to a far smaller extent.

Further, the close and frequent relations of Italy with Byzantium and
the Mohammedan peoples had produced a dispassionate tolerance which
weakened the ethnographical conception of a privileged Christendom. And
when classical antiquity with its men and institutions became an ideal
of life, as well as the greatest of historical memories, ancient
speculation and scepticism obtained in many cases a complete mastery
over the minds of Italians.

Since, again, the Italians were the first modern people of Europe who
gave themselves boldly to speculations on freedom and necessity, and
since they did so under violent and lawless political circumstances, in
which evil seemed often to win a splendid and lasting victory, their
belief in God began to waver, and their view of the government of the
world became fatalistic. And when their passionate natures refused to
rest in the sense of uncertainty, they made a shift to help themselves
out with ancient, oriental, or mediæval superstition. They took to
astrology and magic.

Finally, these intellectual giants, these representatives of the
Renaissance, show, in respect to religion, a quality which is common in
youthful natures. Distinguishing keenly between good and evil, they yet
are conscious of no sin. Every disturbance of their inward harmony they
feel themselves able to make good out of the plastic resources of their
own nature, and therefore they feel no repentance. The need of salvation
thus becomes felt more and more dimly, while the ambitions and the
intellectual activity of the present either shut out altogether every
thought of a world to come, or else cause it to assume a poetic instead
of a dogmatic form.

When we look on all this as pervaded and often perverted by the
all-powerful Italian imagination, we obtain a picture of that time which
is certainly more in accordance with truth than are vague declamations
against modern paganism. And closer investigation often reveals to us
that underneath this outward shell much genuine religion could still

       *       *       *       *       *

The fuller discussion of these points must be limited to a few of the
most essential explanations.

That religion should again become an affair of the individual and of his
own personal feeling was inevitable when the Church became corrupt in
doctrine and tyrannous in practice, and is a proof that the European
mind was still alive. It is true that this showed itself in many
different ways. While the mystical and ascetical sects of the North lost
no time in creating new outward forms for their new modes of thought and
feeling, each individual in Italy went his own way, and thousands
wandered on the sea of life without any religious guidance whatever. All
the more must we admire those who attained and held fast to a personal
religion. They were not to blame for being unable to have any part or
lot in the old Church, as she then was; nor would it be reasonable to
expect that they should all of them go through that mighty spiritual
labour which was appointed to the German reformers. The form and aim of
this personal faith, as it showed itself in the better minds, will be
set forth at the close of our work.

The worldliness, through which the Renaissance seems to offer so
striking a contrast to the Middle Ages, owed its first origin to the
flood of new thoughts, purposes, and views, which transformed the
mediæval conception of nature and man. This spirit is not in itself more
hostile to religion than that ‘culture’ which now holds its place, but
which can give us only a feeble notion of the universal ferment which
the discovery of a new world of greatness then called forth. This
worldliness was not frivolous, but earnest, and was ennobled by art and
poetry. It is a lofty necessity of the modern spirit that this attitude,
once gained, can never again be lost, that an irresistible impulse
forces us to the investigation of men and things, and that we must hold
this enquiry to be our proper end and work.[1112] How soon and by what
paths this search will lead us back to God, and in what ways the
religious temper of the individual will be affected by it, are questions
which cannot be met by any general answer. The Middle Ages, which spared
themselves the trouble of induction and free enquiry, can have no right
to impose upon us their dogmatical verdict in a matter of such vast

To the study of man, among many other causes, was due the tolerance and
indifference with which the Mohammedan religion was regarded. The
knowledge and admiration of the remarkable civilisation which Islam,
particularly before the Mongol inundation, had attained, was peculiar to
Italy from the time of the Crusades. This sympathy was fostered by the
half-Mohammedan government of some Italian princes, by dislike and even
contempt for the existing Church, and by constant commercial intercourse
with the harbours of the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean.[1113] It
can be shown that in the thirteenth century the Italians recognised a
Mohammedan ideal of nobleness, dignity, and pride, which they loved to
connect with the person of a Sultan. A Mameluke Sultan is commonly
meant; if any name is mentioned, it is the name of Saladin.[1114] Even
the Osmanli Turks, whose destructive tendencies were no secret, gave the
Italians, as we have shown above (p. 92, sqq.), only half a fright, and
a peaceable accord with them was looked upon as no impossibility. Along
with this tolerance, however, appeared the bitterest religious
opposition to Mohammedanism; the clergy, says Filelfo, should come
forward against it, since it prevailed over a great part of the world
and was more dangerous to Christendom than Judaism was;[1115] along with
the readiness to compromise with the Turks, appeared the passionate
desire for a war against them which possessed Pius II. during the whole
of his pontificate, and which many of the humanists expressed in
high-flown declamations.

The truest and most characteristic expression of this religious
indifference is the famous story of the Three Rings, which Lessing has
put into the mouth of his Nathan, after it had been already told
centuries earlier, though with some reserve, in the ‘Hundred Old Novels’
(nov. 72 or 73), and more boldly in Boccaccio.[1116] In what language
and in what corner of the Mediterranean it was first told, can never be
known; most likely the original was much more plain-spoken than the two
Italian adaptations. The religious postulate on which it rests, namely
Deism, will be discussed later on in its wider significance for this
period. The same idea is repeated, though in a clumsy caricature, in the
famous proverb of the ‘three who have deceived the world, that is,
Moses, Christ, and Mohammed.’[1117] If the Emperor Frederick II., in
whom this saying is said to have originated, really thought so, he
probably expressed himself with more wit. Ideas of the same kind were
also current in Islam.

At the height of the Renaissance, towards the close of the fifteenth
century, Luigi Pulci offers us an example of the same mode of thought in
the ‘Morgante Maggiore.’ The imaginary world of which his story treats
is divided, as in all heroic poems of romance, into a Christian and a
Mohammedan camp. In accordance with the mediæval temper, the victory of
the Christian and the final reconciliation among the combatants was
attended by the baptism of the defeated Islamites, and the
Improvisatori, who preceded Pulci in the treatment of these subjects,
must have made free use of this stock incident. It was Pulci’s object to
parody his predecessors, particularly the worst among them, and this he
does by those appeals to God, Christ, and the Madonna, with which each
canto begins; and still more clearly by the sudden conversions and
baptisms, the utter senselessness of which must have struck every reader
or hearer. This ridicule leads him further to the confession of his
faith in the relative goodness of all religions,[1118] which faith,
notwithstanding his professions of orthodoxy,[1119] rests on an
essentially theistic basis. In another point too he departs widely from
mediæval conceptions. The alternatives in past centuries were:
Christian, or else Pagan and Mohammedan; orthodox believer or heretic.
Pulci draws a picture of the Giant Margutte[1120] who, disregarding each
and every religion, jovially confesses to every form of vice and
sensuality, and only reserves to himself the merit of having never
broken faith. Perhaps the poet intended to make something of this--in
his way--honest monster, possibly to have led him into virtuous paths by
Morgante, but he soon got tired of his own creation, and in the next
canto brought him to a comic end.[1121] Margutte has been brought
forward as a proof of Pulci’s frivolity; but he is needed to complete
the picture of the poetry of the fifteenth century. It was natural that
it should somewhere present in grotesque proportions the figure of an
untamed egoism, insensible to all established rule, and yet with a
remnant of honourable feeling left. In other poems sentiments are put
into the mouths of giants, fiends, infidels, and Mohammedans which no
Christian knight would venture to utter.

       *       *       *       *       *

Antiquity exercised an influence of another kind than that of Islam, and
this not through its religion, which was but too much like the
Catholicism of this period, but through its philosophy. Ancient
literature, now worshipped as something incomparable, is full of the
victory of philosophy over religious tradition. An endless number of
systems and fragments of systems were suddenly presented to the Italian
mind, not as curiosities or even as heresies, but almost with the
authority of dogmas, which had now to be reconciled rather than
discriminated. In nearly all these various opinions and doctrines a
certain kind of belief in God was implied; but taken altogether they
formed a marked contrast to the Christian faith in a Divine government
of the world. And there was one central question, which mediæval
theology had striven in vain to solve, and which now urgently demanded
an answer from the wisdom of the ancients, namely, the relation of
Providence to the freedom or necessity of the human will. To write the
history of this question even superficially from the fourteenth century
onwards, would require a whole volume. A few hints must here suffice.

If we take Dante and his contemporaries as evidence, we shall find that
ancient philosophy first came into contact with Italian life in the form
which offered the most marked contrast to Christianity, that is to say,
Epicureanism. The writings of Epicurus were no longer preserved, and
even at the close of the classical age a more or less one-sided
conception had been formed of his philosophy. Nevertheless, that phase
of Epicureanism which can be studied in Lucretius, and especially in
Cicero, is quite sufficient to make men familiar with a godless
universe. To what extent his teaching was actually understood, and
whether the name of the problematic Greek sage was not rather a
catchword for the multitude, it is hard to say. It is probable that the
Dominican Inquisition used it against men who could not be reached by a
more definite accusation. In the case of sceptics born before the time
was ripe, whom it was yet hard to convict of positive heretical
utterances, a moderate degree of luxurious living may have sufficed to
provoke the charge. The word is used in this conventional sense by
Giovanni Villani,[1122] when he explains the Florentine fires of 1115
and 1117 as a Divine judgment on heresies, among others, ‘on the
luxurious and gluttonous sect of Epicureans.’ The same writer says of
Manfred, ‘His life was Epicurean, since he believed neither in God, nor
in the Saints, but only in bodily pleasure.’

Dante speaks still more clearly in the ninth and tenth cantos of the
‘Inferno.’ That terrible fiery field covered with half-opened tombs,
from which issued cries of hopeless agony, was peopled by the two great
classes of those whom the Church had vanquished or expelled in the
thirteenth century. The one were heretics who opposed the Church by
deliberately spreading false doctrine; the other were Epicureans, and
their sin against the Church lay in their general disposition, which was
summed up in the belief that the soul dies with the body.[1123] The
Church was well aware that this one doctrine, if it gained ground, must
be more ruinous to her authority than all the teachings of the
Manichaeans and Paterini, since it took away all reason for her
interference in the affairs of men after death. That the means which she
used in her struggles were precisely what had driven the most gifted
natures to unbelief and despair was what she naturally would not herself

Dante’s loathing of Epicurus, or of what he took to be his doctrine, was
certainly sincere. The poet of the life to come could not but detest the
denier of immortality; and a world neither made nor ruled by God, no
less than the vulgar objects of earthly life which the system appeared
to countenance, could not but be intensely repugnant to a nature like
his. But if we look closer, we find that certain doctrines of the
ancients made even on him an impression which forced the biblical
doctrine of the Divine government into the background, unless, indeed,
it was his own reflection, the influence of opinions then prevalent, or
loathing for the injustice that seemed to rule this world, which made
him give up the belief in a special Providence.[1124] His God leaves all
the details of the world’s government to a deputy, Fortune, whose sole
work it is to change and change again all earthly things, and who can
disregard the wailings of men in unalterable beatitude. Nevertheless,
Dante does not for a moment loose his hold on the moral responsibility
of man; he believes in free will.

The belief in the freedom of the will, in the popular sense of the
words, has always prevailed in Western countries. At all times men have
been held responsible for their actions, as though this freedom were a
matter of course. The case is otherwise with the religious and
philosophical doctrine, which labours under the difficulty of
harmonising the nature of the will with the laws of the universe at
large. We have here to do with a question of more or less, which every
moral estimate must take into account. Dante is not wholly free from
those astrological superstitions which illumined the horizon of his time
with deceptive light, but they do not hinder him from rising to a worthy
conception of human nature. ‘The stars,’ he makes his Marco Lombardo
say,[1125] ‘the stars give the first impulse to your actions,’ but

    Light has been given you for good and evil
    And free volition; which, if some fatigue
    In the first battles with the heavens it suffers,
    Afterwards conquers all, if well ‘tis nurtured.

Others might seek the necessity which annulled human freedom in another
power than the stars, but the question was henceforth an open and
inevitable one. So far as it was a question for the schools or the
pursuit of isolated thinkers, its treatment belongs to the historian of
philosophy. But inasmuch as it entered into the consciousness of a wider
public, it is necessary for us to say a few words respecting it.

The fourteenth century was chiefly stimulated by the writings of Cicero,
who, though in fact an eclectic, yet, by his habit of setting forth the
opinions of different schools, without coming to a decision between
them, exercised the influence of a sceptic. Next in importance came
Seneca, and the few works of Aristotle which had been translated into
Latin. The immediate fruit of these studies was the capacity to reflect
on great subjects, if not in direct opposition to the authority of the
Church, at all events independently of it.

In the course of the fifteenth century the works of antiquity were
discovered and diffused with extraordinary rapidity. All the writings of
the Greek philosophers which we ourselves possess were now, at least in
the form of Latin translations, in everybody’s hands. It is a curious
fact that some of the most zealous apostles of this new culture were men
of the strictest piety, or even ascetics (p. 273). Fra Ambrogio
Camaldolese, as a spiritual dignitary chiefly occupied with
ecclesiastical affairs, and as a literary man with the translation of
the Greek Fathers of the Church, could not repress the humanistic
impulse, and at the request of Cosimo de’Medici, undertook to translate
Diogenes Laertius into Latin.[1126] His contemporaries, Niccolò Niccoli,
Griannozzo Manetti, Donato Acciajuoli, and Pope Nicholas V.,[1127]
united to a many-sided humanism profound biblical scholarship and deep
piety. In Vittorino da Feltre the same temper has been already noticed
(p. 213 sqq.). The same Matthew Vegio, who added a thirteenth book to
the ‘Æneid,’ had an enthusiasm for the memory of St. Augustine and his
mother Monica which cannot have been without a deeper influence upon
him. The result of all these tendencies was that the Platonic Academy at
Florence deliberately chose for its object the reconciliation of the
spirit of antiquity with that of Christianity. It was a remarkable oasis
in the humanism of the period.[1128]

This humanism was in fact pagan, and became more and more so as its
sphere widened in the fifteenth century. Its representatives, whom we
have already described as the advanced guard of an unbridled
individualism, display as a rule such a character that even their
religion, which is sometimes professed very definitely, becomes a matter
of indifference to us. They easily got the name of atheists, if they
showed themselves indifferent to religion, and spoke freely against the
Church; but not one of them ever professed, or dared to profess, a
formal, philosophical atheism.[1129] If they sought for any leading
principle, it must have been a kind of superficial rationalism--a
careless inference from the many and contradictory opinions of antiquity
with which they busied themselves, and from the discredit into which the
Church and her doctrines had fallen. This was the sort of reasoning
which was near bringing Galeottus Martius[1130] to the stake, had not
his former pupil, Pope Sixtus IV., perhaps at the request of Lorenzo
de’Medici, saved him from the hands of the Inquisition. Galeotto had
ventured to write that the man who walked uprightly, and acted according
to the natural law born within him, would go to heaven, whatever nation
he belonged to.

Let us take, by way of example, the religious attitude of one of the
smaller men in the great army. Codrus Urceus[1131] was first the tutor
of the last Ordelaffo, Prince of Forlì, and afterwards for many years
professor at Bologna. Against the Church and the monks his language is
as abusive as that of the rest. His tone in general is reckless to the
last degree, and he constantly introduces himself in all his local
history and gossip. But he knows how to speak to edification of the true
God-Man, Jesus Christ, and to commend himself by letter to the prayers
of a saintly priest.[1132] On one occasion, after enumerating the
follies of the pagan religions, he thus goes on: ‘Our theologians, too,
fight and quarrel “de lana caprina,” about the Immaculate Conception,
Antichrist, Sacraments, Predestination, and other things, which were
better let alone than talked of publicly.’ Once, when he was not at
home, his room and manuscripts were burnt. When he heard the news he
stood opposite a figure of the Madonna in the street, and cried to it:
‘Listen to what I tell you; I am not mad, I am saying what I mean. If I
ever call upon you in the hour of my death, you need not hear me or take
me among your own, for I will go and spend eternity with the
devil.’[1133] After which speech he found it desirable to spend six
months in retirement at the house of a wood-cutter. With all this, he
was so superstitious that prodigies and omens gave him incessant
frights, leaving him no belief to spare for the immortality of the soul.
When his hearers questioned him on the matter, he answered that no one
knew what became of a man, of his soul or his body, after death, and the
talk about another life was only fit to frighten old women. But when he
came to die, he commended in his will his soul or his spirit[1134] to
Almighty God, exhorted his weeping pupils to fear the Lord, and
especially to believe in immortality and future retribution, and
received the Sacrament with much fervour. We have no guarantee that more
famous men in the same calling, however significant their opinions may
be, were in practical life any more consistent. It is probable that most
of them wavered inwardly between incredulity and a remnant of the faith
in which they were brought up, and outwardly held for prudential reasons
to the Church.

Through the connexion of rationalism with the newly born science of
historical investigation, some timid attempts at biblical criticism may
here and there have been made. A saying of Pius II.[1135] has been
recorded, which seems intended to prepare the way for such criticism:
‘Even if Christianity were not confirmed by miracles, it ought still to
be accepted on account of its morality.’ When Lorenzo Valla calls Moses
and the Evangelists historians, he does not seek to diminish their
dignity and reputation; but is nevertheless conscious that in these
words lies as decided a contradiction to the traditional view taken by
the Church, as in the denial that the Apostles’ Creed was the work of
all the Apostles, or that the letter of Abgarus to Christ was
genuine.[1136] The legends of the Church, in so far as they contained
arbitrary versions of the biblical miracles, were freely
ridiculed,[1137] and this reacted on the religious sense of the people.
Where Judaising heretics are mentioned, we must understand chiefly those
who denied the Divinity of Christ, which was probably the offence for
which Giorgio da Novara was burnt at Bologna about the year 1500.[1138]
But again at Bologna in the year 1497 the Dominican Inquisitor was
forced to let the physician Gabrielle da Salò, who had powerful patrons,
escape with a simple expression of penitence,[1139] although he was in
the habit of maintaining that Christ was not God, but son of Joseph and
Mary, and conceived in the usual way; that by his cunning he had
deceived the world to its ruin; that he may have died on the cross on
account of crimes which he had committed; that his religion would soon
come to an end; that his body was not really contained in the sacrament,
and that he performed his miracles, not through any divine power, but
through the influence of the heavenly bodies. This latter statement is
most characteristic of the time, Faith is gone, but magic still holds
its ground.[1140]

A worse fate befell a Canon of Bergamo, Zanino de Solcia, a few years
earlier (1459), who had asserted that Christ did not suffer from love to
man, but under the influence of the stars, and who advanced other
curious scientific and moral ideas. He was forced to abjure his errors,
and paid for them by perpetual imprisonment.[1141]

With respect to the moral government of the world, the humanists seldom
get beyond a cold and resigned consideration of the prevalent violence
and misrule. In this mood the many works ‘On Fate,’ or whatever name
they bear, are written. They tell of the turning of the wheel of
Fortune, and of the instability of earthly, especially political,
things. Providence is only brought in because the writers would still be
ashamed of undisguised fatalism, of the avowal of their ignorance, or of
useless complaints. Gioviano Pontano[1142] ingeniously illustrates the
nature of that mysterious something which men call Fortune by a hundred
incidents, most of which belonged to his own experience. The subject is
treated more humorously by Æneas Sylvius, in the form of a vision seen
in a dream.[1143] The aim of Poggio, on the other hand, in a work
written in his old age,[1144] is to represent the world as a vale of
tears, and to fix the happiness of various classes as low as possible.
This tone became in future the prevalent one. Distinguished men drew up
a debit and credit of the happiness and unhappiness of their lives, and
generally found that the latter outweighed the former. The fate of Italy
and the Italians, so far as it could be told in the year 1510, has been
described with dignity and an almost elegiac pathos by Tristano
Caracciolo.[1145] Applying this general tone of feeling to the
humanists themselves, Pierio Valeriano afterwards composed his famous
treatise (pp. 276-279). Some of these themes, such as the fortunes of
Leo, were most suggestive. All the good that can be said of him
politically has been briefly and admirably summed up by Francesco
Vettori; the picture of Leo’s pleasures is given by Paolo Giovio and in
the anonymous biography;[1146] and the shadows which attended his
prosperity are drawn with inexorable truth by the same Pierio Valeriano.

We cannot, on the other hand, read without a kind of awe how men
sometimes boasted of their fortune in public inscriptions. Giovanni II.
Bentivoglio, ruler of Bologna, ventured to carve in stone on the newly
built tower by his palace, that his merit and his fortune had given him
richly of all that could be desired[1147]--and this a few years before
his expulsion. The ancients, when they spoke in this tone, had
nevertheless a sense of the envy of the gods. In Italy it was probably
the Condottieri (p. 22) who first ventured to boast so loudly of their

But the way in which resuscitated antiquity affected religion most
powerfully, was not through any doctrines or philosophical system, but
through a general tendency which it fostered. The men, and in some
respects the institutions of antiquity were preferred to those of the
Middle Ages, and in the eager attempt to imitate and reproduce them,
religion was left to take care of itself. All was absorbed in the
admiration for historical greatness (part ii. chap. iii., and above,
_passim_). To this the philologians added many special follies of their
own, by which they became the mark for general attention. How far Paul
II. was justified in calling his Abbreviators and their friends to
account for their paganism, is certainly a matter of great doubt, as his
biographer and chief victim, Platina, (pp. 231, 331) has shown a
masterly skill in explaining his vindictiveness on other grounds, and
especially in making him play a ludicrous figure. The charges of
infidelity, paganism,[1148] denial of immortality, and so forth, were
not made against the accused till the charge of high treason had broken
down. Paul, indeed, if we are correctly informed about him, was by no
means the man to judge of intellectual things. He knew little Latin, and
spoke Italian at Consistories and in diplomatic negotiations. It was he
who exhorted the Romans to teach their children nothing beyond reading
and writing. His priestly narrowness of view reminds us of Savonarola
(p. 476), with the difference that Paul might fairly have been told that
he and his like were in great part to blame if culture made men hostile
to religion. It cannot, nevertheless, be doubted that he felt a real
anxiety about the pagan tendencies which surrounded him. And what, in
truth, may not the humanists have allowed themselves at the court of the
profligate pagan, Sigismondo Malatesta? How far these men, destitute for
the most part of fixed principle, ventured to go, depended assuredly on
the sort of influences they were exposed to. Nor could they treat of
Christianity without paganising it (part iii. chap. x.). It is curious,
for instance, to notice how far Gioviano Pontano carried this confusion.
He speaks of a saint not only as ‘divus,’ but as ‘deus;’ the angels he
holds to be identical with the genii of antiquity;[1149] and his notion
of immortality reminds us of the old kingdom of the shades. This spirit
occasionally appears in the most extravagant shapes. In 1526, when Siena
was attacked by the exiled party,[1150] the worthy canon Tizio, who
tells us the story himself, rose from his bed on the 22nd July, called
to mind what is written in the third book of Macrobius,’[1151]
celebrated mass, and then pronounced against the enemy the curse with
which his author had supplied him, only altering ‘Tellus mater teque
Juppiter obtestor’ into ‘Tellus teque Christe Deus obtestor.’ After he
had done this for three days, the enemy retreated. On the one side,
these things strike us an affair of mere style and fashion; on the
other, as a symptom of religious decadence.



But in another way, and that dogmatically, antiquity exercised a
perilous influence. It imparted to the Renaissance its own forms of
superstition. Some fragments of this had survived in Italy all through
the Middle Ages, and the resuscitation of the whole was thereby made so
much the more easy. The part played by the imagination in the process
need not be dwelt upon. This only could have silenced the critical
intellect of the Italians.

The belief in a Divine government of the world was in many minds
destroyed by the spectacle of so much injustice and misery. Others, like
Dante, surrendered at all events this life to the caprices of chance,
and if they nevertheless retained a sturdy faith, it was because they
held that the higher destiny of man would be accomplished in the life to
come. But when the belief in immortality began to waver, then Fatalism
got the upper hand, or sometimes the latter came first and had the
former as its consequence.

The gap thus opened was in the first place filled by the astrology of
antiquity, or even of the Arabians. From the relations of the planets
among themselves and to the signs of the zodiac, future events and the
course of whole lives were inferred, and the most weighty decisions were
taken in consequence. In many cases the line of action thus adopted at
the suggestion of the stars may not have been more immoral than that
which would otherwise have been followed. But too often the decision
must have been made at the cost of honour and conscience. It is
profoundly instructive to observe how powerless culture and
enlightenment were against this delusion; since the latter had its
support in the ardent imagination of the people, in the passionate wish
to penetrate and determine the future. Antiquity, too, was on the side
of astrology.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century this superstition suddenly
appeared in the foreground of Italian life. The Emperor Frederick II.
always travelled with his astrologer Theodorus; and Ezzelino da
Romano[1152] with a large, well-paid court of such people, among them
the famous Guido Bonatto and the long-bearded Saracen, Paul of Bagdad.
In all important undertakings they fixed for him the day and the hour,
and the gigantic atrocities of which he was guilty may have been in part
practical inferences from their prophecies. Soon all scruples about
consulting the stars ceased. Not only princes, but free cities[1153] had
their regular astrologers, and at the universities,[1154] from the
fourteenth to the sixteenth century, professors of this pseudo-science
were appointed, and lectured side by side with the astronomers. It was
well known that Augustine and other Fathers of the Church had combated
astrology, but their old-fashioned notions were dismissed with easy
contempt.[1155] The Popes[1156] commonly made no secret of their
star-gazing, though Pius II., who also despised magic, omens, and the
interpretation of dreams, is an honourable exception.[1157] Julius II.,
on the other hand, had the day for his coronation and the day for his
return from Bologna calculated by the astrologers.[1158] Even Leo X.
seems to have thought the flourishing condition of astrology a credit to
his pontificate,[1159] and Paul III. never held a Consistory till the
star-gazers had fixed the hour.[1160]

It may fairly be assumed that the better natures did not allow their
actions to be determined by the stars beyond a certain point, and that
there was a limit where conscience and religion made them pause. In
fact, not only did pious and excellent people share the delusion, but
they actually came forward to profess it publicly. One of these was
Maestro Pagolo of Florence,[1161] in whom we can detect the same desire
to turn astrology to moral account which meets us in the late Roman
Firmicus Maternus.[1162] His life was that of a saintly ascetic. He ate
almost nothing, despised all temporal goods, and only collected books. A
skilled physician, he only practised among his friends, and made it a
condition of his treatment that they should confess their sins. He
frequented the small but famous circle which assembled in the Monastery
of the Angeli around Fra Ambrogio Camaldolese (p. 463). He also saw much
of Cosimo the Elder, especially in his last years; for Cosimo accepted
and used astrology, though probably only for objects of lesser
importance. As a rule, however, Pagolo only interpreted the stars to his
most confidential friends. But even without this severity of morals, the
astrologers might be highly respected and show themselves everywhere.
There were also far more of them in Italy than in other European
countries, where they only appeared at the great courts, and there not
always. All the great householders in Italy, when the fashion was once
established, kept an astrologer, who, it must be added, was not always
sure of his dinner.[1163] Through the literature of this science, which
was widely diffused even before the invention of printing, a
dilettantism also grew up which as far as possible followed in the steps
of the masters. The worst class of astrologers were those who used the
stars either as an aid or a cloak to magical arts.

Yet apart from the latter, astrology is a miserable feature in the life
of that time. What a figure do all these highly gifted, many-sided,
original characters play, when the blind passion for knowing and
determining the future dethrones their powerful will and resolution! Now
and then, when the stars send them too cruel a message, they manage to
brace themselves up, act for themselves, and say boldly: ‘Vir sapiens
dominabitur astris’--the wise man is master of the stars,[1164] and then
again relapse into the old delusion.

In all the better families the horoscope of the children was drawn as a
matter of course, and it sometimes happened that for half a lifetime men
were haunted by the idle expectation of events which never occurred. The
stars[1165] were questioned whenever a great man had to come to any
important decision, and even consulted as to the hour at which any
undertaking was to be begun. The journeys of princes, the reception of
foreign ambassadors,[1166] the laying of the foundation-stone of public
buildings, depended on the answer. A striking instance of the latter
occurs in the life of the aforenamed Guido Bonatto, who by his personal
activity and by his great systematic work on the subject[1167] deserves
to be called the restorer of astrology in the thirteenth century. In
order to put an end to the struggle of the Guelphs and Ghibellines at
Forli, he persuaded the inhabitants to rebuild the city walls and to
begin the works under a constellation indicated by himself. If then two
men, one from each party, at the same moment put a stone into the
foundation, there would henceforth and for ever be no more party
divisions in Forli. A Guelph and a Ghibelline were selected for this
office; the solemn moment arrived, each held the stone in his hands, the
workmen stood ready with their implements, Bonatto gave the signal and
the Ghibelline threw down his stone on to the foundation. But the Guelph
hesitated, and at last refused to do anything at all, on the ground that
Bonatto himself had the reputation of a Ghibelline and might be
devising some mysterious mischief against the Guelphs. Upon which the
astrologer addressed him: ‘God damn thee and the Guelph party, with your
distrustful malice! This constellation will not appear above our city
for 500 years to come.’ In fact God soon afterwards did destroy the
Guelphs of Forli, but now, writes the chronicler about 1480, the two
parties are thoroughly reconciled, and their very names are heard no

Nothing that depended upon the stars was more important than decisions
in time of war. The same Bonatto procured for the great Ghibelline
leader Guido da Montefeltro a series of victories, by telling him the
propitious hour for marching.[1169] When Montefeltro was no longer
accompanied by him[1170] he lost the courage to maintain his despotism,
and entered a Minorite monastery, where he lived as a monk for many
years till his death. In the war with Pisa in 1362, the Florentines
commissioned their astrologer to fix the hour for the march,[1171] and
almost came too late through suddenly receiving orders to take a
circuitous route through the city. On former occasions they had marched
out by the Via di Borgo S. Apostolo, and the campaign had been
unsuccessful. It was clear that there was some bad omen connected with
the exit through this street against Pisa, and consequently the army was
now led out by the Porta Rossa. But as the tents stretched out there to
dry had not been taken away, the flags--another bad omen--had to be
lowered. The influence of astrology in war was confirmed by the fact
that nearly all the Condottieri believed in it. Jacopo Caldora was
cheerful in the most serious illness, knowing that he was fated to fall
in battle, which in fact happened.[1172] Bartolommeo Alviano was
convinced that his wounds in the head were as much a gift of the stars
as his military command.[1173] Niccolò Orsini Pitigliano asked the
physicist and astrologer Alessandro Benedetto[1174] to fix a favourable
hour for the conclusion of his bargain with Venice (1495). When the
Florentines on June 1, 1498, solemnly invested their new Condottiere
Paolo Vitelli with his office, the Marshal’s staff which they handed
him was, at his own wish, decorated with pictures of the
constellations.[1175] There were nevertheless generals like Alphonso the
Great of Naples who did not allow their march to be settled by the

Sometimes it is not easy to make out whether in important political
events the stars were questioned beforehand, or whether the astrologers
were simply impelled afterwards by curiosity to find out the
constellation which decided the result. When Giangaleazzo Visconti (p.
12) by a master-stroke of policy took prisoners his uncle Bernabò, with
the latter’s family (1385), we are told by a contemporary, that Jupiter,
Saturn, and Mars stood in the house of the Twins,[1177] but we cannot
say if the deed was resolved on in consequence. It is also probable that
the advice of the astrologers was often determined by political
calculation not less than by the course of the planets.[1178]

All Europe, through the latter part of the Middle Ages, had allowed
itself to be terrified by predictions of plagues, wars, floods, and
earthquakes, and in this respect Italy was by no means behind other
countries. The unlucky year 1494, which for ever opened the gates of
Italy to the stranger, was undeniably ushered in by many prophecies of
misfortune[1179]--only we cannot say whether such prophecies were not
ready for each and every year.

This mode of thought was extended with thorough consistency into regions
where we should hardly expect to meet with it. If the whole outward and
spiritual life of the individual is determined by the facts of his
birth, the same law also governs groups of individuals and historical
products--that is to say, nations and religions; and as the
constellation of these things changes, so do the things themselves. The
idea that each religion has its day, first came into Italian culture in
connexion with these astrological beliefs, chiefly from Jewish and
Arabian sources.[1180] The conjunction of Jupiter with Saturn brought
forth, we are told,[1181] the faith of Israel; that of Jupiter and Mars,
the Chaldean; with the Sun, the Egyptian; with Venus, the Mohammedan;
with Mercury, the Christian; and the conjunction of Jupiter with the
Moon will one day bring forth the religion of Antichrist. Checco
d’Ascoli had already blasphemously calculated the nativity of Christ,
and deduced from it his death upon the cross. For this he was burnt at
the stake in 1327, at Florence.[1182] Doctrines of this sort ended by
simply darkening men’s whole perceptions of spiritual things.

So much more worthy then of recognition is the warfare which the clear
Italian spirit waged against this army of delusions. Notwithstanding the
great monumental glorification of astrology, as in the frescos in the
Salone at Padua,[1183] and those in Borso’s summer palace (Schifanoja),
at Ferrara, notwithstanding the shameless praises of even such a man as
the elder Beroaldus,[1184] there was no want of thoughtful and
independent minds to protest against it. Here, too, the way had been
prepared by antiquity, but it was their own common sense and observation
which taught them what to say. Petrarch’s attitude towards the
astrologers, whom he knew by personal intercourse, is one of bitter
contempt;[1185] and no one saw through their system of lies more clearly
than he. The novels, from the time when they first began to appear--from
the time of the ‘Cento novelle antiche,’ are almost always hostile to
the astrologers.[1186] The Florentine chroniclers bravely keep
themselves free from the delusions which, as part of historical
tradition, they are compelled to record. Giovanni Villani says more than
once,[1187] ‘No constellation can subjugate either the free will of man,
or the counsels of God.’ Matteo Villani[1188] declares astrology to be a
vice which the Florentines had inherited, along with other
superstitions, from their pagan ancestors, the Romans. The question,
however, did not remain one for mere literary discussion, but the
parties for and against disputed publicly. After the terrible floods of
1333, and again in 1345, astrologers and theologians discussed with
great minuteness the influence of the stars, the will of God, and the
justice of his punishments.[1189] These struggles never ceased
throughout the whole time of the Renaissance,[1190] and we may conclude
that the protestors were in earnest, since it was easier for them to
recommend themselves to the great by defending, than by opposing

In the circle of Lorenzo the Magnificent, among his most distinguished
Platonists, opinions were divided on this question. That Marsilio Ficino
defended astrology, and drew the horoscope of the children of the house,
promising the little Giovanni, afterwards Leo X., that he would one day
be Pope,[1191] as Giovio would have us believe, is an invention--but
other academicians accepted astrology. Pico della Mirandola,[1192] on
the other hand, made an epoch in the subject by his famous refutation.
He detects in this belief the root of all impiety and immorality. If the
astrologer, he maintains, believes in anything at all, he must worship
not God, but the planets, from which all good and evil are derived. All
other superstitions find a ready instrument in astrology, which serves
as handmaid to geomancy, chiromancy, and magic of every kind. As to
morality, he maintains that nothing can more foster evil than the
opinion that heaven itself is the cause of it, in which case the faith
in eternal happiness and punishment must also disappear. Pico even took
the trouble to check off the astrologers inductively, and found that in
the course of a month three-fourths of their weather prophecies turned
out false. But his main achievement was to set forth, in the Fourth
Book--a positive Christian doctrine of the freedom of the will and the
government of the universe, which seems to have made a greater
impression on the educated classes throughout Italy than all the
revivalist preachers put together. The latter, in fact, often failed to
reach these classes.

The first result of his book was that the astrologers ceased to publish
their doctrines,[1193] and those who had already printed them were more
or less ashamed of what they had done. Gioviano Pontano, for example, in
his book on Fate (p. 503), had recognised the science, and in a great
work of his own,[1194] the several parts of which were dedicated to his
highly-placed friends and fellow-believers, Aldo Manucci, P. Bembo, and
Sandazaro, had expounded the whole theory of it in the style of the old
Firmicus, ascribing to the stars the growth of every bodily and
spiritual quality. He now in his dialogue ‘Ægidius,’ surrendered, if not
astrology, at least certain astrologers, and sounded the praises of free
will, by which man is enabled to know God.[1195] Astrology remained more
or less in fashion, but seems not to have governed human life in the way
it formerly had done. The art of painting, which in the fifteenth
century had done its best to foster the delusion, now expressed the
altered tone of thought. Raphael, in the cupola of the Cappella
Chigi,[1196] represents the gods of the different planets and the starry
firmament, watched, however, and guided by beautiful angel-figures, and
receiving from above the blessing of the Eternal Father. There was also
another cause which now began to tell against astrology in Italy. The
Spaniards took no interest in it, not even the generals, and those who
wished to gain their favour[1197] declared open war against the
half-heretical, half-Mohammedan science. It is true that
Guicciardini[1198] writes in the year 1529: ‘How happy are the
astrologers, who are believed if they tell one truth to a hundred lies,
while other people lose all credit if they tell one lie to a hundred
truths.’ But the contempt for astrology did not necessarily lead to a
return to the belief in Providence. It could as easily lead to an
indefinite Fatalism.

In this respect, as in others, Italy was unable to make its own way
healthily through the ferment of the Renaissance, because the foreign
invasion and the Counter-Reformation came upon it in the middle. Without
such interfering causes its own strength would have enabled it
thoroughly to get rid of these fantastic illusions. Those who hold that
the onslaught of the strangers and the Catholic reactions were
necessities for which the Italian people was itself solely responsible,
will look on the spiritual bankruptcy which they produced as a just
retribution. But it is a pity that the rest of Europe had indirectly to
pay so large a part of the penalty.

The beliefs in omens seems a much more innocent matter than astrology.
The Middle Ages had everywhere inherited them in abundance from the
various pagan religions; and Italy did not differ in this respect from
other countries. What is characteristic of Italy is the support lent by
humanism to the popular superstition. The pagan inheritance was here
backed up by a pagan literary development.

The popular superstition of the Italians rested largely on premonitions
and inferences drawn from ominous occurrences,[1199] with which a good
deal of magic, mostly of an innocent sort, was connected. There was,
however, no lack of learned humanists who boldly ridiculed these
delusions, and to whose attacks we partly owe the knowledge of them.
Gioviano Pontano; the author of the great astrological work already
mentioned (p. 280), enumerates with pity in his ‘Charon,’ a long string
of Neapolitan superstitions--the grief of the women when a fowl or a
goose caught the pip; the deep anxiety of the nobility if a hunting
falcon did not come home, or if a horse sprained his foot; the magical
formulæ of the Apulian peasants, recited on three Saturday evenings,
when mad dogs were at large. The animal kingdom, as in antiquity, was
regarded as specially significant in this respect, and the behaviour of
the lions, leopards, and other beasts kept by the State (p. 293 sqq.)
gave the people all the more food for reflection, because they had come
to be considered as living symbols of the State. During the siege of
Florence, in 1529, an eagle which had been shot at fled into the city,
and the Signoria gave the bearer four ducats, because the omen was
good.[1200] Certain times and places were favourable or unfavourable, or
even decisive one way or the other, for certain actions. The
Florentines, so Varchi tells us, held Saturday to be the fateful day on
which all important events, good as well as bad, commonly happened.
Their prejudice against marching out to war through a particular street
has been already mentioned (p. 512). At Perugia one of the gates, the
‘Porta eburnea,’ was thought lucky, and the Baglioni always went out to
fight through it.[1201] Meteors and the appearance of the heavens were
as significant in Italy as elsewhere in the Middle Ages, and the popular
imagination saw warring armies in an unusual formation of clouds, and
heard the clash of their collision high in the air.[1202] The
superstition became a more serious matter when it attached itself to
sacred things, when figures of the Virgin wept or moved the eyes,[1203]
or when public calamities were associated with some alleged act of
impiety, for which the people demanded expiation. In 1478, when
Piacenza was visited with a violent and prolonged rainfall, it was said
that there would be no dry weather till a certain usurer, who had been
lately buried at San Francesco, had ceased to rest in consecrated earth.
As the bishop was not obliging enough to have the corpse dug up, the
young fellows of the town took it by force, dragged it round the streets
amid frightful confusion, offered it to be insulted and maltreated by
former creditors, and at last threw it into the Po.[1204] Even Politian
accepted this point of view in speaking of Giacomo Pazzi, one of the
chief of the conspiracy of 1478, in Florence, which is called after his
name. When he was put to death, he devoted his soul to Satan with
fearful words. Here, too, rain followed and threatened to ruin the
harvest; here, too, a party of men, mostly peasants, dug up the body in
the church, and immediately the clouds departed and the sun shone--‘so
gracious was fortune to the opinion of the people,’ adds the great
scholar.[1205] The corpse was first cast into unhallowed ground, the
next day again dug up, and after a horrible procession through the city,
thrown into the Arno.

These facts and the like bear a popular character, and might have
occurred in the tenth, just as well as in the sixteenth century. But now
comes the literary influence of antiquity. We know positively that the
humanists were peculiarly accessible to prodigies and auguries, and
instances of this have been already quoted. If further evidence were
needed, it would be found in Poggio. The same radical thinker who denied
the rights of noble birth and the inequality of men (p. 361 sqq.), not
only believed in all the mediæval stories of ghosts and devils (fol.
167, 179), but also in prodigies after the ancient pattern, like those
said to have occurred on the last visit of Eugenius IV. to
Florence.[1206] ‘Near Como there was seen one evening 4,000 dogs, who
took the road to Germany; these were followed by a great herd of cattle,
and these by an army on foot and horseback, some with no heads and some
with almost invisible heads, and then a gigantic horseman with another
herd of cattle behind him.’ Poggio also believes in a battle of magpies
and jackdaws (fol. 180). He even relates, perhaps without being aware of
it, a well-preserved piece of ancient mythology. On the Dalmatian coast
a Triton had appeared, bearded and horned, a genuine sea-satyr, ending
in fins and a tail; he carried away women and children from the shore,
till five stout-hearted washer-women killed him with sticks and
stones.[1207] A wooden model of the monster, which was exhibited at
Ferrara, makes the whole story credible to Poggio. Though there were no
more oracles, and it was no longer possible to take counsel of the gods,
yet it became again the fashion to open Virgil at hazard, and take the
passage hit upon as an omen[1208] (‘Sortes Virgilianae’). Nor can the
belief in dæmons current in the later period of antiquity have been
without influence on the Renaissance. The work of Jamblichus or Abammon
on the Mysteries of the Egyptians, which may have contributed to this
result, was printed in a Latin translation at the end of the fifteenth
century. The Platonic Academy at Florence was not free from these and
other neo-platonic dreams of the Roman decadence. A few words must here
be given to the belief in dæmons and to the magic which was connected
with this belief.

The popular faith in what is called the spirit-world was nearly the
same in Italy as elsewhere in Europe.[1209] In Italy as elsewhere there
were ghosts, that is, reappearances of deceased persons; and if the view
taken of them differed in any respect from that which prevailed in the
North, the difference betrayed itself only in the ancient name ‘ombra.’
Nowadays if such a shade presents itself, a couple of masses are said
for its repose. That the spirits of bad men appear in a dreadful shape,
is a matter of course, but along with this we find the notion that the
ghosts of the departed are universally malicious. The dead, says the
priest in Bandello,[1210] kill the little children. It seems as if a
certain shade was here thought of as separate from the soul, since the
latter suffers in Purgatory, and when it appears, does nothing but wail
and pray. To lay the ghost, the tomb was opened, the corpse pulled to
pieces, the heart burned and the ashes scattered to the four
winds.[1211] At other times what appears is not the ghost of a man, but
of an event--of a past condition of things. So the neighbours explained
the diabolical appearances in the old palace of the Visconti near San
Giovanni in Conca, at Milan, since here it was that Bernabò Visconti had
caused countless victims of his tyranny to be tortured and strangled,
and no wonder if there were strange things to be seen.[1212] One evening
a swarm of poor people with candles in their hands appeared to a
dishonest guardian of the poor at Perugia, and danced round about him; a
great figure spoke in threatening tones on their behalf--it was St.
Alò, the patron saint of the poor-house.[1213] These modes of belief
were so much a matter of course that the poets could make use of them as
something which every reader would understand. The appearance of the
slain Ludovico Pico under the walls of the besieged Mirandola is finely
represented by Castiglione.[1214] It is true that poetry made the freest
use of these conceptions when the poet himself had outgrown them.

Italy, too, shared the belief in dæmons with the other nations of the
Middle Ages. Men were convinced that God sometimes allowed bad spirits
of every class to exercise a destructive influence on parts of the world
and of human life. The only reservation made was that the man to whom
the Evil One came as tempter, could use his free will to resist.[1215]
In Italy the dæmonic influence, especially as shown in natural events,
easily assumed a character of poetical greatness. In the night before
the great inundation of the Val d’Arno in 1333, a pious hermit above
Vallombrosa heard a diabolical tumult in his cell, crossed himself,
stepped to the door, and saw a crowd of black and terrible knights
gallop by in armour. When conjured to stand, one of them said: ‘We go to
drown the city of Florence on account of its sins, if God will let
us.’[1216] With this, the nearly contemporary vision at Venice (1340)
may be compared, out of which a great master of the Venetian school,
probably Giorgione, made the marvellous picture of a galley full of
dæmons, which speeds with the swiftness of a bird over the stormy lagune
to destroy the sinful island-city, till the three saints, who have
stepped unobserved into a poor boatman’s skiff, exorcised the fiends and
sent them and their vessel to the bottom of the waters.[1217]

To this belief the illusion was now added that by means of magical arts
it was possible to enter into relations with the evil ones, and use
their help to further the purposes of greed, ambition, and sensuality.
Many persons were probably accused of doing so before the time when it
was actually attempted by many; but when the so-called magicians and
witches began to be burned, the deliberate practice of the black art
became more frequent. With the smoke of the fires in which the suspected
victims were sacrificed, were spread the narcotic fumes by which numbers
of ruined characters were drugged into magic; and with them many
calculating impostors became associated.

The primitive and popular form in which the superstition had probably
lived on uninterruptedly from the time of the Romans,[1218] was the art
of the witch (Strega). The witch, so long as she limited herself to mere
divination,[1219] might be innocent enough, were it not that the
transition from prophecy to active help could easily, though often
imperceptibly, be a fatal downward step. She was credited in such a case
not only with the power of exciting love or hatred between man and
woman, but also with purely destructive and malignant arts, and was
especially charged with the sickness of little children, even when the
malady obviously came from the neglect and stupidity of the parents. It
is still questionable how far she was supposed to act by mere magical
ceremonies and formulæ, or by a conscious alliance with the fiends,
apart from the poisons and drugs which she administered with a full
knowledge of their effect.

The more innocent form of the superstition, in which the mendicant friar
could venture to appear as the competitor of the witch, is shown in the
case of the witch of Gaeta whom we read of in Pontano.[1220] His
traveller Suppatius reaches her dwelling while she is giving audience to
a girl and a servant-maid, who come to her with a black hen, nine eggs
laid on a Friday, a duck, and some white thread--for it is the third day
since the new moon. They are then sent away, and bidden to come again at
twilight. It is to be hoped that nothing worse than divination is
intended. The mistress of the servant-maid is pregnant by a monk; the
girl’s lover has proved untrue and has gone into a monastery. The witch
complains: ‘Since my husband’s death I support myself in this way, and
should make a good thing of it, since the Gaetan women have plenty of
faith, were it not that the monks baulk me of my gains by explaining
dreams, appeasing the anger of the saints for money, promising husbands
to the girls, men-children to the pregnant women, offspring to the
barren, and besides all this visiting the women at night when their
husbands are away fishing, in accordance with the assignations made in
day-time at church.’ Suppatius warns her against the envy of the
monastery, but she has no fear, since the guardian of it is an old
acquaintance of hers.[1221]

But the superstition further gave rise to a worse sort of witches,
namely those who deprived men of their health and life. In these cases
the mischief, when not sufficiently accounted for by the evil eye and
the like, was naturally attributed to the aid of powerful spirits. The
punishment, as we have seen in the case of Finicella (p. 469), was the
stake; and yet a compromise with fanaticism was sometimes practicable.
According to the laws of Perugia, for example, a witch could settle the
affair by paying down 400 pounds.[1222] The matter was not then treated
with the seriousness and consistency of later times. In the territories
of the Church, at Norcia (Nursia), the home of St. Benedict, in the
upper Apennines, there was a perfect nest of witches and sorcerers, and
no secret was made of it. It is spoken of in one of the most remarkable
letters of Æneas Sylvius,[1223] belonging to his earlier period. He
writes to his brother: ‘The bearer of this came to me to ask if I knew
of a Mount of Venus in Italy, for in such a place magical arts were
taught, and his master, a Saxon and a great astronomer,[1224] was
anxious to learn them. I told him that I knew of a Porto Venere not far
from Carrara, on the rocky coast of Liguria, where I spent three nights
on the way to Basel; I also found that there was a mountain called Eryx
in Sicily, which was dedicated to Venus, but I did not know whether
magic was taught there. But it came into my mind while talking that in
Umbria, in the old Duchy (Spoleto), near the town of Nursia, there is a
cave beneath a steep rock, in which water flows. There, as I remember to
have heard, are witches (striges), dæmons, and nightly shades, and he
that has the courage can see and speak to ghosts (spiritus), and learn
magical arts.[1225] I have not seen it, nor taken any trouble about it,
for that which is learned with sin is better not learned at all.’ He
nevertheless names his informant, and begs his brother to take the
bearer of the letter to him, should he be still alive. Æneas goes far
enough here in his politeness to a man of position, but personally he
was not only freer from superstition than his contemporaries (pp. 481,
508), but he also stood a test on the subject which not every educated
man of our own day could endure. At the time of the Council of Basel,
when he lay sick of the fever for seventy-five days at Milan, he could
never be persuaded to listen to the magic doctors, though a man was
brought to his bedside who a short time before had marvellously cured
2,000 soldiers of fever in the camp of Piccinino. While still an
invalid, Æneas rode over the mountains to Basel, and got well on the

We learn something more about the neighbourhood of Norcia through the
necromancer who tried to get Benvenuto Cellini into his power. A new
book of magic was to be consecrated,[1227] and the best place for the
ceremony was among the mountains in that district. The master of the
magician had once, it is true, done the same thing near the Abbey of
Farfa, but had there found difficulties which did not present themselves
at Norcia; further, the peasants in the latter neighbourhood were
trustworthy people who had practice in the matter, and who could afford
considerable help in case of need. The expedition did not take place,
else Benvenuto would probably have been able to tell us something of the
impostor’s assistants. The whole neighbourhood was then proverbial.
Aretino says somewhere of an enchanted well, ‘there dwell the sisters of
the sibyl of Norcia and the aunt of the Fata Morgana.’ And about the
same time Trissino could still celebrate the place in his great
epic[1228] with all the resources of poetry and allegory as the home of
authentic prophecy.

After the famous Bull of Innocent VIII. (1484),[1229] witchcraft and the
persecution of witches grew into a great and revolting system. The chief
representatives of this system of persecution were German Dominicans;
and Germany and, curiously enough, those parts of Italy nearest Germany
were the countries most afflicted by this plague. The bulls and
injunctions of the Popes themselves[1230] refer, for example, to the
Dominican Province of Lombardy, to Cremona, to the dioceses of Brescia
and Bergamo. We learn from Sprenger’s famous theoretico-practical guide,
the ‘Malleus Maleficarum,’ that forty-one witches were burnt at Como in
the first year after the publication of the bull; crowds of Italian
women took refuge in the territory of the Archduke Sigismund, where they
believed themselves to be still safe. Witchcraft ended by taking firm
root in a few unlucky Alpine valleys, especially in the Val
Camonica;[1231] the system of persecution had succeeded in permanently
infecting with the delusion those populations which were in any way
predisposed for it. This essentially German form of witchcraft is what
we should think of when reading the stories and novels of Milan or
Bologna.[1232] That it did not make further progress in Italy is
probably due to the fact that elsewhere a highly developed ‘Stregheria’
was already in existence, resting on a different set of ideas. The
Italian witch practised a trade, and needed for it money and, above all,
sense. We find nothing about her of the hysterical dreams of the
Northern witch, of marvellous journeys through the air, of Incubus and
Succubus; the business of the ‘Strega’ was to provide for other people’s
pleasure. If she was credited with the power of assuming different
shapes, or of transporting herself suddenly to distant places, she was
so far content to accept this reputation, as her influence was thereby
increased; on the other hand, it was perilous for her when the fear of
her malice and vengeance, and especially of her power for enchanting
children, cattle, and crops, became general. Inquisitors and magistrates
were then thoroughly in accord with popular wishes if they burnt her.

By far the most important field for the activity of the ‘Strega’ lay, as
has been said, in love-affairs, and included the stirring up of love and
of hatred, the producing of abortion, the pretended murder of the
unfaithful man or woman by magical arts, and even the manufacture of
poisons.[1233] Owing to the unwillingness of many persons to have to do
with these women, a class of occasional practitioners arose who secretly
learned from them some one or other of their arts, and then used this
knowledge on their own account. The Roman prostitutes, for example,
tried to enhance their personal attractions by charms of another
description in the style of Horatian Canidia. Aretino[1234] may not only
have known, but have also told the truth about them in this particular.
He gives a list of the loathsome messes which were to be found in their
boxes--hair, skulls, ribs, teeth, dead men’s eyes, human skin, the
navels of little children, the soles of shoes and pieces of clothing
from tombs. They even went themselves to the graveyard and fetched bits
of rotten flesh, which they slily gave their lovers to eat--with more
that is still worse. Pieces of the hair and nails of the lover were
boiled in oil stolen from the ever-burning lamps in the church. The most
innocuous of their charms was to make a heart of glowing ashes, and then
to pierce it while singing--

    Prima che’l fuoco spenghi,
    Fa ch’a mia porta venghi;
    Tal ti punga mio amore
    Quale io fo questo cuore.

There were other charms practised by moonshine, with drawings on the
ground, and figures of wax or bronze, which doubtless represented the
lover, and were treated according to circumstances.

These things were so customary that a woman who, without youth and
beauty, nevertheless exercised a powerful charm on men, naturally became
suspected of witchcraft. The mother of Sanga,[1235] secretary to Clement
VII., poisoned her son’s mistress, who was a woman of this kind.
Unfortunately the son died too, as well as a party of friends who had
eaten of the poisoned salad.

Next come, not as helper, but as competitor to the witch, the magician
or enchanter--‘incantatore’--who was still more familiar with the most
perilous business of the craft. Sometimes he was as much or more of an
astrologer than of a magician; he probably often gave himself out as an
astrologer in order not to be prosecuted as a magician, and a certain
astrology was essential in order to find out the favourable hour for a
magical process.[1236] But since many spirits are good[1237] or
indifferent, the magician could sometimes maintain a very tolerable
reputation, and Sixtus IV. in the year 1474, had to proceed expressly
against some Bolognese Carmelites,[1238] who asserted in the pulpit that
there was no harm in seeking information from the dæmons. Very many
people believed in the possibility of the thing itself; an indirect
proof of this lies in the fact that the most pious men believed that by
prayer they could obtain visions of good spirits. Savonarola’s mind was
filled with these things; the Florentine Platonists speak of a mystic
union with God; and Marcellus Palingenius (p. 264), gives us to
understand clearly enough that he had to do with consecrated
spirits.[1239] The same writer is convinced of the existence of a whole
hierarchy of bad dæmons, who have their seat from the moon downwards,
and are ever on the watch to do some mischief to nature and human
life.[1240] He even tells of his own personal acquaintance with some of
them, and as the scope of the present work does not allow of a
systematic exposition of the then prevalent belief in spirits, the
narrative of Palingenius may be given as one instance out of many.[1241]

At S. Silvestro, on Soracte, he had been receiving instruction from a
pious hermit on the nothingness of earthly things and the worthlessness
of human life; and when the night drew near he set out on his way back
to Rome. On the road, in the full light of the moon, he was joined by
three men, one of whom called him by name, and asked him whence he came.
Palingenius made answer: ‘From the wise man on the mountain.’ ‘O fool,’
replied the stranger, ‘dost thou in truth believe that anyone on earth
is wise? Only higher beings (Divi) have wisdom, and such are we three,
although we wear the shapes of men. I am named Saracil, and these two
Sathiel and Jana. Our kingdom lies near the moon, where dwell that
multitude of intermediate beings who have sway over earth and sea.’
Palingenius then asked, not without an inward tremor, what they were
going to do at Rome. The answer was: ‘One of our comrades, Ammon, is
kept in servitude by the magic arts of a youth from Narni, one of the
attendants of Cardinal Orsini; for mark it, O men, there is proof of
your own immortality therein, that you can control one of us; I myself,
shut up in crystal, was once forced to serve a German, till a bearded
monk set me free. This is the service which we wish to render at Rome to
our friend, and we shall also take the opportunity of sending one or two
distinguished Romans to the nether world.’ At these words a light breeze
arose, and Sathiel said: ‘Listen, our messenger is coming back from
Rome, and this wind announces him.’ And then another being appeared,
whom they greeted joyfully and then asked about Rome. His utterances are
strongly anti-papal: Clement VII. was again allied with the Spaniards
and hoped to root out Luther’s doctrines, not with arguments, but by the
Spanish sword. This is wholly in the interest of the dæmons, whom the
impending bloodshed would enable to carry away the souls of thousands
into hell. At the close of this conversation, in which Rome with all its
guilt is represented as wholly given over to the Evil One, the
apparitions vanish, and leave the poet sorrowfully to pursue his way

Those who would form a conception of the extent of the belief in those
relations to the dæmons which could be openly avowed in spite of the
penalties attaching to witchcraft, may be referred to the much read work
of Agrippa of Nettesheim on ‘Secret Philosophy.’ He seems originally to
have written it before he was in Italy,[1243] but in the dedication to
Trithemius he mentions Italian authorities among others, if only by way
of disparagement. In the case of equivocal persons like Agrippa, or of
the knaves and fools into whom the majority of the rest may be divided,
there is little that is interesting in the system they profess, with its
formulæ, fumigations, ointments, and the rest of it.[1244] But this
system was filled with quotations from the superstitions of antiquity,
the influence of which on the life and the passions of Italians is at
times most remarkable and fruitful. We might think that a great mind
must be thoroughly ruined, before it surrendered itself to such
influences; but the violence of hope and desire led even vigorous and
original men of all classes to have recourse to the magician, and the
belief that the thing was feasible at all weakened to some extent the
faith, even of those who kept at a distance, in the moral order of the
world. At the cost of a little money and danger it seemed possible to
defy with impunity the universal reason and morality of mankind, and to
spare oneself the intermediate steps which otherwise lie between a man
and his lawful or unlawful ends.

Let us here glance for a moment at an older and now decaying form of
superstition. From the darkest period of the Middle Ages, or even from
the days of antiquity, many cities of Italy had kept the remembrance of
the connexion of their fate with certain buildings, statues, or other
material objects. The ancients had left records of consecrating priests
or Telestæ, who were present at the solemn foundation of cities, and
magically guaranteed their prosperity by erecting certain monuments or
by burying certain objects (Telesmata). Traditions of this sort were
more likely than anything else to live on in the form of popular,
unwritten legend; but in the course of centuries the priest naturally
became transformed into the magician, since the religious side of his
function was no longer understood. In some of his Virgilian miracles at
Naples,[1245] the ancient remembrance of one of these Telestæ is clearly
preserved, his name being in course of time supplanted by that of
Virgil. The enclosing of the mysterious picture of the city in a vessel
is neither more nor less than a genuine, ancient Telesma; and Virgil the
founder of Naples is only the officiating priest, who took part in the
ceremony, presented in another dress. The popular imagination went on
working at these themes, till Virgil became also responsible for the
brazen horse, for the heads at the Nolan gate, for the brazen fly over
another gate, and even for the Grotto of Posilippo--all of them things
which in one respect or other served to put a magical constraint upon
fate, and the first two of which seemed to determine the whole fortune
of the city. Mediæval Rome also preserved confused recollections of the
same kind. At the church of S. Ambrogio at Milan, there was an ancient
marble Hercules; so long, it was said, as this stood in its place, so
long would the Empire last. That of the Germans is probably meant, as
the coronation of their Emperors at Milan took place in this
church.[1246] The Florentines[1247] were convinced that the temple of
Mars, afterwards transformed into the Baptistry, would stand to the end
of time, according to the constellation under which it had been built;
they had, as Christians, removed from it the marble equestrian statue;
but since the destruction of the latter would have brought some great
calamity on the city--also according to a constellation--they set it
upon a tower by the Arno. When Totila conquered Florence, the statue
fell into the river, and was not fished out again till Charles the Great
refounded the city. It was then placed on a pillar at the entrance to
the Ponte Vecchio, and on this spot Buondelmente was slain in 1215. The
origin of the great feud between Guelph and Ghibelline was thus
associated with the dreaded idol. During the inundation of 1333 the
statue vanished forever.[1248]

But the same Telesma reappears elsewhere. Guido Bonatto, already
mentioned, was not satisfied, at the refounding of the walls of Forli,
with requiring certain symbolic acts of reconciliation from the two
parties (p. 511). By burying a bronze or stone equestrian statue,[1249]
which he had produced by astro logical or magical arts, he believed
that he had defended the city from ruin, and even from capture and
plunder. When Cardinal Albornoz (p. 102) was governor of Romagna some
sixty years later, the statue was accidentally dug up and then shown to
the people, probably by the order of the Cardinal, that it might be
known by what means the cruel Montefeltro had defended himself against
the Roman Church. And again, half a century later, when an attempt to
surprise Forli had failed, men began to talk afresh of the virtue of the
statue, which had perhaps been saved and reburied. It was the last time
that they could do so; for a year later Forli was really taken. The
foundation of buildings all through the fifteenth century was associated
not only with astrology (p. 511) but also with magic. The large number
of gold and silver medals which Paul II. buried in the foundations of
his buildings[1250] was noticed, and Platina was by no means displeased
to recognise an old pagan Telesma in the fact. Neither Paul nor his
biographer were in any way conscious of the mediæval religious
significance of such an offering.[1251]

But this official magic, which in many cases only rests on hearsay, was
comparatively unimportant by the side of the secret arts practised for
personal ends.

The form which these most often took in daily life is shown by Ariosto
in his comedy of the necromancers.[1252] His hero is one of the many
Jewish exiles from Spain, although he also gives himself out for a
Greek, an Egyptian, and an African, and is constantly changing his name
and costume. He pretends that his incantations can darken the day and
lighten the darkness, that he can move the earth, make himself
invisible, and change men into beasts; but these vaunts are only an
advertisement. His true object is to make his account out of unhappy and
troubled marriages, and the traces which he leaves behind him in his
course are like the slime of a snail, or often like the ruin wrought by
a hail-storm. To attain his ends he can persuade people that the box in
which a lover is hidden is full of ghosts, or that he can make a corpse
talk. It is at all events a good sign that poets and novelists could
reckon on popular applause in holding up this class of men to ridicule.
Bandello not only treats the sorcery of a Lombard monk as a miserable,
and in its consequences terrible, piece of knavery,[1253] but he also
describes with unaffected indignation[1254] the disasters which never
cease to pursue the credulous fool. ‘A man hopes with “Solomon’s Key”
and other magical books to find the treasures hidden in the bosom of the
earth, to force his lady to do his will, to find out the secrets of
princes, and to transport himself in the twinkling of an eye from Milan
to Rome. The more often he is deceived, the more steadfastly he
believes.... Do you remember the time, Signor Carlo, when a friend of
ours, in order to win the favour of his beloved, filled his room with
skulls and bones like a churchyard?’ The most loathsome tasks were
prescribed--to draw three teeth from a corpse or a nail from its finger,
and the like; and while the hocus-pocus of the incantation was going on,
the unhappy participants sometimes died of terror.

Benvenuto Cellini did not die during the well-known incantation (1532)
in the Coliseum at Rome,[1255] although both he and his companions
witnessed no ordinary horrors; the Sicilian priest, who probably
expected to find him a useful coadjutor in the future, paid him the
compliment as they went home of saying that he had never met a man of so
sturdy a courage. Every reader will make his own reflections on the
proceedings themselves. The narcotic fumes and the fact that the
imaginations of the spectators were predisposed for all possible
terrors, are the chief points to be noticed, and explain why the lad who
formed one of the party, and on whom they made most impression, saw
much more than the others. But it may be inferred that Benvenuto himself
was the one whom it was wished to impress, since the dangerous beginning
of the incantation can have had no other aim than to arouse curiosity.
For Benvenuto had to think before the fair Angelica occurred to him; and
the magician told him afterwards that love-making was folly compared
with the finding of treasures. Further, it must not be forgotten that it
flattered his vanity to be able to say, ‘The dæmons have kept their
word, and Angelica came into my hands, as they promised, just a month
later’ (cap. 68). Even on the supposition that Benvenuto gradually lied
himself into believing the whole story, it would still be permanently
valuable as evidence of the mode of thought then prevalent.

As a rule, however, the Italian artists, even ‘the odd, capricious, and
eccentric’ among them, had little to do with magic. One of them, in his
anatomical studies, may have cut himself a jacket out of the skin of a
corpse, but at the advice of his confessor he put it again into the
grave.[1256] Indeed the frequent study of anatomy probably did more than
anything else to destroy the belief in the magical influence of various
parts of the body, while at the same time the incessant observation and
representation of the human form made the artist familiar with a magic
of a wholly different sort.

In general, notwithstanding the instances which have been quoted, magic
seems to have been markedly on the decline at the beginning of the
sixteenth century,--that is to say, at a time when it first began to
flourish vigorously out of Italy; and thus the tours of Italian
sorcerers and astrologers in the North seem not to have begun till their
credit at home was thoroughly impaired. In the fourteenth century it was
thought necessary carefully to watch the lake on Mount Pilatus, near
Scariotto, to hinder the magicians from there consecrating their
books.[1257] In the fifteenth century we find, for example, that the
offer was made to produce a storm of rain, in order to frighten away a
besieged army; and even then the commander of the besieged town--Nicolò
Vitelli in Città di Castello--had the good sense to dismiss the
sorcerers as godless persons.[1258] In the sixteenth century no more
instances of this official kind appear, although in private life the
magicians were still active. To this time belongs the classic figure of
German sorcery, Dr. Johann Faust; the Italian ideal, on the other hand,
Guido Bonatto, dates back to the thirteenth century.

It must nevertheless be added that the decrease of the belief in magic
was not necessarily accompanied by an increase of the belief in a moral
order, but that in many cases, like the decaying faith in astrology, the
delusion left behind it nothing but a stupid fatalism.

One or two minor forms of this superstition, pyromancy, chiromancy[1259]
and others, which obtained some credit as the belief in sorcery and
astrology were declining, may be here passed over, and even the
pseudo-science of physiognomy has by no means the interest which the
name might lead us to expect. For it did not appear as the sister and
ally of art and psychology, but as a new form of fatalistic
superstition, and, what it may have been among the Arabians, as the
rival of astrology. The author of a physiognomical treatise, Bartolommeo
Cocle, who styled himself a ‘metoposcopist,’[1260] and whose science,
according to Giovio, seemed like one of the most respectable of the free
arts, was not content with the prophecies which he made to the many
clever people who daily consulted him, but wrote also a most serious
‘catalogue of such whom great dangers to life were awaiting.’ Giovio,
although grown old in the free thought of Rome--‘in hac luce romana’--is
of opinion that the predictions contained therein had only too much
truth in them.[1261] We learn from the same source how the people aimed
at in these and similar prophecies took vengeance on the seer. Giovanni
Bentivoglio caused Lucas Gauricus to be five times swung to and fro
against the wall, on a rope hanging from a lofty winding staircase,
because Lucas had foretold to him the loss of his authority.[1262] Ermes
Bentivoglio sent an assassin after Cocle, because the unlucky
metoposcopist had unwillingly prophesied to him that he would die an
exile in battle. The murderer seems to have derided the dying man in his
last moments, saying that the prophet had foretold to him that he would
shortly commit an infamous murder. The reviver of chiromancy, Antioco
Tiberto of Cesena,[1263] came by an equally miserable end at the hands
of Pandolfo Malatesta of Rimini, to whom he had prophesied the worst
that a tyrant can imagine, namely, death in exile and in the most
grievous poverty. Tiberto was a man of intelligence, who was supposed to
give his answers less according to any methodical chiromancy than by
means of his shrewd knowledge of mankind; and his high culture won for
him the respect of those scholars who thought little of his

Alchemy, in conclusion, which is not mentioned in antiquity till quite
late under Diocletian, played only a very subordinate part at the best
period of the Renaissance.[1265] Italy went through the disease earlier,
when Petrarch in the fourteenth century confessed, in his polemic
against it, that gold-making was a general practice.[1266] Since then
that particular kind of faith, devotion, and isolation which the
practice of alchemy required became more and more rare in Italy, just
when Italian and other adepts began to make their full profit out of the
great lords in the North.[1267] Under Leo X. the few Italians who busied
themselves with it were called ‘ingenia curiosa,’[1268] and Aurelio
Augurelli, who dedicated to Leo X., the great despiser of gold, his
didactic poem on the making of the metal, is said to have received in
return a beautiful but empty purse. The mystic science which besides
gold sought for the omnipotent philosopher’s stone, is a late northern
growth, which had its rise in the theories of Paracelsus and others.



With these superstitions, as with ancient modes of thought generally,
the decline in the belief of immortality stands in the closest
connection.[1269] This question has the widest and deepest relations
with the whole development of the modern spirit.

One great source of doubt in immortality was the inward wish to be under
no obligations to the hated Church. We have seen that the Church branded
those who thus felt as Epicureans (p. 496 sqq.). In the hour of death
many doubtless called for the sacraments, but multitudes during their
whole lives, and especially during their most vigorous years, lived and
acted on the negative supposition. That unbelief on this particular
point must often have led to a general scepticism, is evident of itself,
and is attested by abundant historical proof. These are the men of whom
Ariosto says: ‘Their faith goes no higher than the roof.’[1270] In
Italy, and especially in Florence, it was possible to live as an open
and notorious unbeliever, if a man only refrained from direct acts of
hostility against the Church.[1271] The confessor, for instance, who was
sent to prepare a political offender for death, began by inquiring
whether the prisoner was a believer, ‘for there was a false report that
he had no belief at all.’[1272]

The unhappy transgressor here referred to--the same Pierpaolo Boscoli
who has been already mentioned (p. 59)--who in 1513 took part in an
attempt against the newly restored family of the Medici, is a faithful
mirror of the religious confusion then prevalent. Beginning as a
partisan of Savonarola, he became afterwards possessed with an
enthusiasm for the ancient ideals of liberty, and for paganism in
general; but when he was in prison his early friends regained the
control of his mind, and secured for him what they considered a pious
ending. The tender witness and narrator of his last hours is one of the
artistic family of the Delia Robbia, the learned philologist Luca. ‘Ah,’
sighs Boscoli, ‘get Brutus out of my head for me, that I may go my way
as a Christian.’ ‘If you will,’ answers Luca, ‘the thing is not
difficult; for you know that these deeds of the Romans are not handed
down to us as they were, but idealised (con arte accresciute).’ The
penitent now forces his understanding to believe, and bewails his
inability to believe voluntarily. If he could only live for a month with
pious monks, he would truly become spiritually minded. It comes out that
these partisans of Savonarola knew their Bible very imperfectly; Boscoli
can only say the Paternoster and Avemaria, and earnestly begs Luca to
exhort his friends to study the sacred writings, for only what a man has
learned in life does he possess in death. Luca then reads and explains
to him the story of the Passion according to the Gospel of St. Matthew;
the poor listener, strange to say, can perceive clearly the Godhead of
Christ, but is perplexed at his manhood; he wishes to get as firm a hold
of it ‘as if Christ came to meet him out of a wood.’ His friend
thereupon exhorts him to be humble, since this was only a doubt sent him
by the Devil. Soon after it occurs to the penitent that he has not
fulfilled a vow made in his youth to go on pilgrimage to the Impruneta;
his friend promises to do it in his stead. Meantime the confessor--a
monk, as was desired, from Savonarola’s monastery--arrives, and after
giving him the explanation quoted above of the opinion of St. Thomas
Aquinas on tyrannicide, exhorts him to bear death manfully. Boscoli
makes answer: ‘Father, waste no time on this; the philosophers have
taught it me already; help me to bear death out of love to Christ.’ What
follows--the communion, the leave-taking and the execution--is very
touchingly described, one point deserves special mention. When Boscoli
laid his head on the block, he begged the executioner to delay the
stroke for a moment: ‘During the whole time since the announcement of
the sentence he had been striving after a close union with God, without
attaining it as he wished, and now in this supreme moment he thought
that by a strong effort he could give himself wholly to God.’ It is
clearly some half-understood expression of Savonarola which was
troubling him.

If we had more confessions of this character the spiritual picture of
the time would be the richer by many important features which no poem or
treatise has preserved for us. We should see more clearly how strong the
inborn religious instinct was, how subjective and how variable the
relation of the individual to religion, and what powerful enemies and
competitors religion had. That men whose inward condition is of this
nature, are not the men to found a new church, is evident; but the
history of the Western spirit would be imperfect without a view of that
fermenting period among the Italians, while other nations, who have had
no share in the evolution of thought, may be passed over without loss.
But we must return to the question of immortality.

If unbelief in this respect made such progress among the more highly
cultivated natures, the reason lay partly in the fact that the great
earthly task of discovering the world and representing it in word and
form, absorbed most of the higher spiritual faculties. We have already
spoken (p. 490) of the inevitable worldliness of the Renaissance. But
this investigation and this art were necessarily accompanied by a
general spirit of doubt and inquiry. If this spirit shows itself but
little in literature, if we find, for example, only isolated instances
of the beginnings of biblical criticism (p. 465), we are not therefore
to infer that it had no existence. The sound of it was only
over-powered by the need of representation and creation in all
departments--that is, by the artistic instinct; and it was further
checked, whenever it tried to express itself theoretically, by the
already existing despotism of the Church. This spirit of doubt must, for
reasons too obvious to need discussion, have inevitably and chiefly
busied itself with the question of the state of man after death.

And here came in the influence of antiquity, and worked in a twofold
fashion on the argument. In the first place men set themselves to master
the psychology of the ancients, and tortured the letter of Aristotle for
a decisive answer. In one of the Lucianic dialogues of the time[1273]
Charon tells Mercury how he questioned Aristotle on his belief in
immortality, when the philosopher crossed in the Stygian boat; but the
prudent sage, although dead in the body and nevertheless living on,
declined to compromise himself by a definite answer--and centuries later
how was it likely to fare with the interpretation of his writings? All
the more eagerly did men dispute about his opinion and that of others on
the true nature of the soul, its origin, its pre-existence, its unity in
all men, its absolute eternity, even its transformations; and there were
men who treated of these things in the pulpit.[1274] The dispute was
warmly carried on even in the fifteenth century; some proved that
Aristotle taught the doctrine of an immortal soul;[1275] others
complained of the hardness of men’s hearts, who would not believe that
there was a soul at all, till they saw it sitting down on a chair before
them;[1276] Filelfo in his funeral oration on Francesco Sforza brings
forward a long list of opinions of ancient and even of Arabian
philosophers in favour of immortality, and closes the mixture, which
covers a folio page and a half of print,[1277] with the words, ‘Besides
all this we have the Old and New Testaments, which are above all truth.’
Then came the Florentine Platonists with their master’s doctrine of the
soul, supplemented at times, as in the case of Pico, by Christian
teaching. But the opposite opinion prevailed in the instructed world. At
the beginning of the sixteenth century the stumbling-block which it put
in the way of the Church was so serious that Leo X. set forth a
Constitution[1278] at the Lateran Council in 1513, in defence of the
immortality and individuality of the soul, the latter against those who
asserted that there was but one soul in all men. A few years later
appeared the work of Pomponazzo, in which the impossibility of a
philosophical proof of immortality is maintained; and the contest was
now waged incessantly with replies and apologies, till it was silenced
by the Catholic reaction. The pre-existence of the soul in God,
conceived more or less in accordance with Plato’s theory of ideas, long
remained a common belief, and proved of service even to the poets.[1279]
The consequences which followed from it as to the mode of the soul’s
continued existence after death, were not more closely considered.

There was a second way in which the influence of antiquity made itself
felt, chiefly by means of that remarkable fragment of the sixth book of
Cicero’s ‘Republic’ known by the name of Scipio’s Dream. Without the
commentary of Macrobius it would probably have perished like the rest of
the second part of the work; it was now diffused in countless manuscript
copies,[1280] and, after the discovery of typography, in a printed form,
and edited afresh by various commentators. It is the description of a
transfigured hereafter for great men, pervaded by the harmony of the
spheres. This pagan heaven, for which many other testimonies were
gradually extracted from the writings of the ancients, came step by step
to supplant the Christian heaven in proportion as the ideal of fame and
historical greatness threw into the shade the ideal of the Christian
life, without, nevertheless, the public feeling being thereby offended
as it was by the doctrine of personal annihilation after death. Even
Petrarch founds his hope chiefly on this Dream of Scipio, on the
declarations found in other Ciceronian works, and on Plato’s ‘Phædo,’
without making any mention of the Bible.[1281] ‘Why,’ he asks elsewhere,
‘should not I as a Catholic share a hope which was demonstrably
cherished by the heathen?’ Soon afterwards Coluccio Salutati wrote his
‘Labours of Hercules’ (still existing in manuscript), in which it is
proved at the end that the valorous man, who has well endured the great
labours of earthly life, is justly entitled to a dwelling among the
stars.[1282] If Dante still firmly maintained that the great pagans,
whom he would have gladly welcomed in Paradise, nevertheless must not
come beyond the Limbo at the entrance to Hell,[1283] the poetry of a
later time accepted joyfully the new liberal ideas of a future life.
Cosimo the Elder, according to Bernardo Pulci’s poem on his death, was
received in heaven by Cicero, who had also been called the ‘Father of
his country,’ by the Fabii, by Curius, Fabricius and many others; with
them he would adorn the choir where only blameless spirits sing.[1284]

But in the old writers there was another and less pleasing picture of
the world to come--the shadowy realms of Homer and of those poets who
had not sweetened and humanised the conception. This made an impression
on certain temperaments. Gioviano Pontano somewhere attributes to
Sannazaro the story of a vision, which he beheld one morning early while
half awake.[1285] He seemed to see a departed friend, Ferrandus
Januarius, with whom he had often discoursed on the immortality of the
soul, and whom he now asked whether it was true that the pains of Hell
were really dreadful and eternal. The shadow gave an answer like that of
Achilles when Odysseus questioned him. ‘So much I tell and aver to thee,
that we who are parted from earthly life have the strongest desire to
return to it again.’ He then saluted his friend and disappeared.

It cannot but be recognised that such views of the state of man after
death partly presuppose and partly promote the dissolution of the most
essential dogmas of Christianity. The notion of sin and of salvation
must have almost entirely evaporated. We must not be misled by the
effects of the great preachers of repentance or by the epidemic revivals
which have been described above (part vi. cap. 2). For even granting
that the individually developed classes had shared in them like the
rest, the cause of their participation was rather the need of emotional
excitement, the rebound of passionate natures, the horror felt at great
national calamities, the cry to heaven for help. The awakening of the
conscience had by no means necessarily the sense of sin and the felt
need of salvation as its consequence, and even a very severe outward
penance did not perforce involve any repentance in the Christian meaning
of the word. When the powerful natures of the Renaissance tell us that
their principle is to repent of nothing,[1286] they may have in their
minds only matters that are morally indifferent, faults of unreason or
imprudence; but in the nature of the case this contempt for repentance
must extend to the sphere of morals, because its origin, namely the
consciousness of individual force, is common to both sides of human
nature. The passive and contemplative form of Christianity, with its
constant reference to a higher world beyond the grave, could no longer
control these men. Macchiavelli ventured still farther, and maintained
that it could not be serviceable to the state and to the maintenance of
public freedom.[1287]

The form assumed by the strong religious instinct which, notwithstanding
all, survived in many natures, was Theism or Deism, as we may please to
call it. The latter name may be applied to that mode of thought which
simply wiped away the Christian element out of religion, without either
seeking or finding any other substitute for the feelings to rest upon.
Theism may be considered that definite heightened devotion to the one
Supreme Being which the Middle Ages were not acquainted with. This mode
of faith does not exclude Christianity, and can either ally itself with
the Christian doctrines of sin, redemption, and immortality, or else
exist and flourish without them.

Sometimes this belief presents itself with childish naïveté and even
with a half-pagan air, God appearing as the almighty fulfiller of human
wishes. Agnolo Pandolfini[1288] tells us how, after his wedding, he shut
himself in with his wife, and knelt down before the family altar with
the picture of the Madonna, and prayed, not to her, but to God that he
would vouchsafe to them the right use of their property, a long life in
joy and unity with one another, and many male descendants: ‘for myself I
prayed for wealth, honour, and friends, for her blamelessness, honesty,
and that she might be a good housekeeper.’ When the language used has a
strong antique flavour, it is not always easy to keep apart the pagan
style and the theistic belief.[1289]

This temper sometimes manifests itself in times of misfortune with a
striking sincerity. Some addresses to God are left us from the latter
period of Firenzuola, when for years he lay ill of fever, in which,
though he expressly declares himself a believing Christian, he shows
that his religious consciousness is essentially theistic.[1290] His
sufferings seem to him neither as the punishment of sin, nor as
preparation for a higher world; they are an affair between him and God
only, who has put the strong love of life between man and his despair.
‘I curse, but only curse Nature, since thy greatness forbids me to utter
thy name.... Give me death, Lord, I beseech thee, give it me now!’

In these utterances and the like, it would be vain to look for a
conscious and consistent Theism; the speakers partly believed themselves
to be still Christians, and for various other reasons respected the
existing doctrines of the Church. But at the time of the Reformation,
when men were driven to come to a distinct conclusion on such points,
this mode of thought was accepted with a fuller consciousness; a number
of the Italian Protestants came forward as Anti-Trinitarians and
Socinians, and even as exiles in distant countries made the memorable
attempt to found a church on these principles. From the foregoing
exposition it will be clear that, apart from humanistic rationalism,
other spirits were at work in this field.

One chief centre of theistic modes of thought lay in the Platonic
Academy at Florence, and especially in Lorenzo Magnifico himself. The
theoretical works and even the letters of these men show us only half
their nature. It is true that Lorenzo, from his youth till he died,
expressed himself dogmatically as a Christian,[1291] and that Pico was
drawn by Savonarola’s influence to accept the point of view of a monkish
ascetic.[1292] But in the hymns of Lorenzo,[1293] which we are tempted
to regard as the highest product of the spirit of this school, an
unreserved Theism is set forth--a Theism which strives to treat the
world as a great moral and physical Cosmos. While the men of the Middle
Ages look on the world as a vale of tears, which Pope and Emperor are
set to guard against the coming of Antichrist; while the fatalists of
the Renaissance oscillate between seasons of overflowing energy and
seasons of superstition or of stupid resignation, here, in this circle
of chosen spirits,[1294] the doctrine is upheld that the visible world
was created by God in love, that it is the copy of a pattern
pre-existing in Him, and that He will ever remain its eternal mover and
restorer. The soul of man can by recognising God draw Him into its
narrow boundaries, but also by love to Him itself expand into the
Infinite--and this is blessedness on earth.

Echoes of mediæval mysticism here flow into one current with Platonic
doctrines, and with a characteristically modern spirit. One of the most
precious fruits of the knowledge of the world and of man here comes to
maturity, on whose account alone the Italian Renaissance must be called
the leader of modern ages.




Academies, educational, 281.

Adrian VI., Pope, 121;
  satires against, 162-164.

‘_Africa_,’ the, of Petrarch, 258.

Aguello of Pisa, 11.

Alberto da Sarteano, 467.

Alberti, Leon Battista, 136-138.

Albertinus, Musattus, fame of, 140-141.

Alboronoz, 102.

Alchemy, 539, 540.

Alexander VI., Pope, 109-117;
  death of, 117.

Alfonso I., 49.

Alfonso of Ferrara, 99.

Alfonso the Great of Naples, 35, 95, 459-461;
  contempt for astrology, 513;
  enthusiasm for antiquity, 225-227, 228.

Alighieri Dante.--_See Dante._

Allegorical representations, 415.

Allegory, age of, 408-410;
  superiority of Italian, 410-411.

Amiens, treaty of, 123.

‘_Amorosá Visione_,’ the, of Boccaccio, 324.

Antiquity, importance of, Dante on, 204-205;
  reproduction of, 230-242.

Anti-Trinitarians, 549.

Apollo Belvedere, discovery of the, 184.

Aquinas, St. Thomas, 6, 7, 60.

Arabic, study of, 200-202.

Aragonese Dynasty, 16, 35.

Aretino, Pietro, the railer, 164-168;
  father of modern journalism, 165.

Ariosto, 134;
  and the Humanists, 273;
  his artistic aim in epic, 326;
  his picture of Roman society, 185;
  ‘_Orlando Furioso_,’ the, of, 325, 326, 327;
  position as a Dramatist, 320;
  style, 306;
  satire on sorcery, 535-536.

Arlotto (jester), 156.

Army list, Venetian, 67.

‘_Asolani_,’ the, of Bembo, 243.

Assassination, paid, 450, 457.

Assassins in Rome, 109.

Astrology, belief in, 507-518;
  protest against, 515.

Auguries, belief in, 520, 521.

Authors, the old, 187-202.

Autobiography in Italy, 332, 333.


Bacchus and Ariadne, song of, by Lorenzo de Medici, 427-428.

Baglioni of Perugia, the, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32;
  and the Oddi, disputes between, 29.

Bandello, as novelist, 306;
  on infidelity, 443-444;
  style of writing, 382.

Baraballe, comic procession of, 158.

Bassano, Jacopo, rustic paintings of, 354.

Belief, general disintegration of, 541-550.

Bembo, Pietro, 231;
  epigrams of, 267;
  his ‘_Historia rerum Venetarum_,’ 248;
  letters of, 233;
  the ‘_Sacra_’ of, 259.

Benedictines, the, 463.

Bernabö, boar hounds of, 13.

Bernadino da Siena, 235, 467, 469.

Bessarion, Cardinal, his collection of Greek MSS., 189.

Biblical criticism, 501.

Biographies, Collective, 330 sqq.

Biography, 328-337;
  comparative, art of, 329.

Blondus of Forli, historical writings of, 245, 246.

Boar-hounds of Bernabö, 13.

Boccaccio, 151;
  life of Dante, 329;
  master of personal description, 344;
  on ‘tyranny,’ 56;
  representative of antiquity, 205;
  sonnets of, 314.

Bojardo, as epic poet, 325;
  inventiveness of, 324;
  style of, 306.

Borgias, the crimes of the, 109-117.

Borgia, Cæsar, 109-117;
  death of, 117.

Borso of Este, 49, 50, 51;
  created duke of Modena and Reggio, 19;
  welcome of, to Reggio, 417, 418.

Boscoli, Pierpaolo, death of, 542-543.

Botanical Gardens, 292.

Brigandage, 449-450.

Burchiello as Comedian, 320.


Calumny at Papal Court, 161.

Calvi Fabio, of Ravenna, 278-279.

Cambray, League of, 68, 89.

Can Grande della Scala, Court of, 9.

Canzone, the, 310.

‘_Canzone Zingaresca_,’ of Politian, 354.

Capistrano, Giovanni, 467.

‘_Capitolo_,’ the, 162-163.

Cardano, Girolamo, of Milan, autobiography of, 334.

Caricaturists, 159.

‘_Carmina Burana_,’ the, 173.

Carnival, the, 407, 425-427.

Castiglione, 388.

Catalogues of Libraries, 190, 191.

Cathedral, Milan, founding of, 14.

Catilinarians, the, 105.

Catullus, as model, 264-265.

Cellini, Benvenuto, autobiography of, 333-334.

Celso, Caterina di San, 400.

Certosa, Convent of, founding of, 13.

Charles V., Emperor, action of, 123, 124.

Charles IV., Emperor, 17, 18.

Charles VIII. in Italy, 89, 90;
  entry into Italy, 413.

Children, naming of, 250-251.

Chroniclers, Italian, 245;
  Florentine, condemn astrology, 515.

Church dignities, not bestowed according to pedigree, 360;
  the corruption of, 456;
  held in contempt, 457-458;
  regeneration of, 125;
  secularization of, proposed by Emperor Charles V., 123;
  spirit of reform in, 123.

Cicero, taken as model for style, 253-54.

Ciceronianism and revival of Vitruvius, analogy between, 256.

Ciriaco of Ancona, an antiquarian, 181.

Class distinction ignored, 359-368.

Clement VII., Pope, detested, 122;
  flight of, 123;
  temperament of, 309.

Cleopatra, the discovery of, 184.

Clubs, political, 387.

Colonna, Giovanne, 177-178;
  Giulia Gonzaga, 385;
  Vittoria, 386, 446.

‘_Commedia dell’Arte_,’ 320, 321.

_Commentaries_, the, of Pius II., 333.

Composition, Latin, history of, 252-253.

Condottieri, the, despotisms founded by, 22, 23, 24.

Convent of Certosa of Pavia, founding of, 13.

Cornaro, Luigi, Autobiography of, 335-337;
  _Vita Sobria_ of, 244.

Corpse of girl, discovery of, 183.

Corpus Christi, feast of, celebration of, 414.

Corruption in Papacy, 106, 107.

‘_Cortigiano_,’ the, by Castiglione, 381, 388, 446.

Cosmetics, use of, 373-374.

Council of Ten, 66.

Country life, descriptions of, 306;
  love of, 404-405.

Crime, for its own sake, 453-454;
  prevalence of, among priests, 448-449.

Criticism, Biblical, 501.

Crusades, the, 485-486;
  influence of, 285.

Culture, general Latinization of, 249-256.

‘_Curiale_,’ the, 378.

Cybò, Franceschetto, 108-109;
  as gambler, 436.


Daemons, belief in, 521-524, 531.

Dagger, use of the, 452.

Dante, Alighieri, 75, 76, 83, 130, 133, 135;
  as advocate of antiquity, 204-205;
  satirist, 155;
  belief in freedom of the will, 498;
  burial place of, 143;
  desire for fame, his, 139;
  influence of, 324;
  influence of nature shown in works, 299;
  life of, by Boccaccio, 329;
  on Epicureanism, 496-497;
  the Italian language, 378-379;
  nobility, 360-361;
  view of the sonnet, 312;
  ‘_Vita Nuova_’ of, 333.

Decadence of oratory, 241, 242.

‘_Decades_,’ the, of Sabellico, 248.

‘_Decameron_,’ the, 459.

‘_De Genealogia Deorum_,’ 205-207.

Demeanour of individuals, 369.

Descriptions of life in movement, 348-355.

Description of nations and cities, 338-342;
  outward man, 343-347.

Difference of birth, loss of significance of, 354.

Dignities, Church, not bestowed according to pedigree, 360.

‘_Discorsi_,’ the, of Macchiavelli, 458.

Domestic comfort, 376-377;
  economy, 132, 402-405.

Dress, importance attached to, 369-370;
  regulations relating to, 370-371.


Ecloques of Battista Mantovano, 352, 479.

Economy, domestic, 132, 402-405.

Education, equal, of sexes, 396;
  private, 135.

Emperor Charles IV., 17;
  submission to the Pope, 18;
  Frederick II., 5-7, 69;
  III., 19;
  Sigismund, 18, 19.

Epicureanism, 496.

Epigram, 264, 267, 268, 269, 270.

Epigraph, the, 268, 269.

Equalization of classes, 359-368.

Erasmus, 254.

Ercole I., Duke of Ferrara, 487-489.

Este, House of, government of the, 46, 48;
  Isabella of, 43, 44;
  novels relating to, 51, 52, 53;
  popular feeling towards, 49, 50.

Van Eyck, Hubert, 302, 303;
  Johann, 302, 303.

Ezzelino da Romano, 6, 7.


Fame, modern idea of, 139-153;
  thirst for, evils of, 152-153.

Federigo of Urbino, 99.

Feltre, Vittorino da, 213-214.

Female beauty, Firenzuola on, 345-347.

Ferrante of Naples, 36, 37, 459-461.

Ferrara, flourishing state of, 47;
  sale of public offices at, 47, 48.

Festivals, 406-428;
  full development of, 407;
  higher phase in life of people, 406.

Fire-arms, adoption of, 98-99.

Firenzuola on female beauty, 345-347.

Flagellants, the, 485-486.

Flogging, 403.

Florence, 61-87;
  general statistics of, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80;
  home of scandal-mongers, 161;
  life more secure in, 440-451;
  and Venice, birthplaces of science of statistics, 69-72.

Florentines, the, as perfectors of festivals, 408.

Foscari, Francesco, torture of, 66.

France, changed attitude of, 91, 92.

Frederick II., Emperor, 5-7, 69;
  III., 19.

Frederick of Urbino, learning of, 227;
  oratory of, 237.

Freedom of will, belief in, 497.

Friars, mendicant, 462.


Gallerana, Cecilia, 386.

Gamblers, professional, 436.

Gambling on large scale, 436.

Gaston de Foix, 309.

Genoa, 86-87.

Germano-Spanish army, advance of, 122.

Ghibellines and Guelphs, political sonnets of, 312.

Ghosts, 521-523.

Giangaleazzo, 13-14.

Girls, in society, absence of, 399.

Girolamo Savonarola (see Savonarola).

Godfrey of Strasburg, 309.

Golden Spur, order of the, 53.

Gonnella (jester), 157.

Gonzaga, House of, of Mantua, 43;
  Francesco, 43, 44;
  Giovan Francesco, 213-214;
  Isabella, 385.

Government, divine, belief in, destroyed, 507.

‘_Gran Consilio_,’ the, 66.

Gratitude as an Italian virtue, 440.

Greater dynasties, 35-54.

Greek, the study of, 195-197.

Guarino of Verono, 215.

Guelphs and Ghibellines, political sonnets of, 312.

Guicciardini, his opinion of the priesthood, 464.

Gymnastics first taught as an art, 389.

Gyraldus, historian of the humanists, 276.


Hair, false, 372.

Hermits, 471.

Hierarchy, hostility to the, 458.

Hieronymus of Siena, 471-472.

‘_Historia rerum Venetarum_,’ the, of Bembo, 248.

History, treated of in poetry, 261.

Honour, the sentiment of, 433-435.

Horses, breeding of, 295-296.

Humanism in the Fourteenth Century, 203;
  furtherers of, 217-229.

Humanists, fall of, in 16th century, 272-281;
  faults of, 276;
  historian of, 276;
  temptations of, 275-276.

Human Nature, study of intellectual side of, 308-309.

Husband, rights of, 442.

Hypocrisy, freedom of Italians from, 439.


‘_Il Galateo_’ of G. della Casa, 375-376.

Illegitimacy, indifference to, 21, 22.

Immorality, prevalent at beginning of 16th century, 432.

Immortality, decline of belief in, 541.

Individual, the, assertion of, 129, 130, 131;
  the, and the Italian State, 129-138;
  the perfecting of, 134-138.

Individuality, keen perception of Italians for, 329.

Infidelity in marriage, 440-441, 456.

Inn-keepers, German, 375.

Innocent VIII., Pope, election of, 107.

Inquisitors and Science, 291;
  detrimental to development of drama, 317.

Instruments, musical, collections of 393.

Intolerance, religious, 6.

Isabella of Este, 43, 44.

Italians, cleanliness of, 374;
  discoverers of the Middle Ages, 286;
  journeys of, 285-288;
  judges as to personal beauty, 342;
  supremacy of, in literary world, 151;
  writing of, 193.

Italy, a school for scandal, 160;
  subject to Spain, 94.


Jacopo della Marca, 467.

‘_Jerusalem delivered_’ of Tasso, delineation of character in, 327.

Jesting, a profession, 156.

Jews, literary activity of the, 199-201.

Journeys of the Italians, 285-288.

Julius II., Pope, character of, 118;
  election of, 117.


Knighthood, passion for, 364.


Laetus Pomponus, life of, 279-281.

‘_L’amor, diveno_,’ 445, 446.

Language as basis of social intercourse, 378-383.

Laöcoon, the, discovery of, 148.

Latin composition, history of, 252-253;
  treatises, and History, 243-248.

Latini, Brunetto, originator of new epoch in poetry, 310.

Laurel wreath, the, coronation of poets with, 207-209.

Law, absence of belief in, 447.

League of Cambray, 68, 89.

Leo X., Pope, buffoonery of, 157-158;
  influence on humanism, 224-225;
  love of jesters, 157;
  policy of, 119, 120, 121.

Letter-writing, object of, 232.

Library Catalogues, 190, 191.

Life, outward refinement of, 369-377.

Lionardo da Vinci, 114.

Lorenzo the Magnificent, 90, 95, 108;
  as describer of country life, 350, 353;
  parody of ‘_Inferno_’ by, 159;
  song of Bacchus and Ariadne, 427-428;
  tact of, 386-387;
  theistic belief of, 549-550.

Ludovico Casella, death of, 57.

Ludovico il Moro, 41, 42, 64, 93.

Lutherans, danger from the, 121.

Luther, Martin, 121.


Macchiavelli, 81, 82, 84-86, 96;
  as comedian, 320;
  ‘_Discorsi il_’ of, 458;
  metrical history by, 263;
  on Italian immorality, 432.

Madonna, the worship of, 483-485.

Magicians, 530-533;
  burning of, 524.

Magic, decline of, 537;
  official, 533-535, 538;
  practice of, 453.

Malatesta, Pandolfo, 27;
  Robert, 23, 26;
  Sigismondo, 33, 228-229.

Man, the discovery of, 308-327.

Manetti, Giannozzo, 197, 225;
  high character of, 218-220;
  eloquence of, 240.

Mantovano, Battista, eclogues of, 352, 479.

Manucci, Aldo, 197.

Mayia, Galeazzo, of Milan, 40, 41, 106;
  Filippo, of Milan, 38-39.

Mariolatry, 484-485.

Massuccio, novels of, 459-460.

Maximilian I., commencement of new Imperial policy under, 20.

Medici, House of, charm over Florence, 220-221;
  passion for tournaments, 366-367.

Medici Giovanni, 119-121;
  Lorenzo, on ‘nobility,’ 361, 362;
  the younger, 85.

Menageries, 296;
  human, 293-295.

‘_Meneghino_,’ the, Mask of Milan, 321.

Mercenary troops, introduction of, 98.

Middle Ages, works on, by humanists, 246, 247.

Milano-Venetian War, 99.

Mirandola, Pico della, 198-199, 202;
  death of, 465;
  on dignity of man, 354-355;
  free will, 516;
  refutation of astrology, 516.

Mohammedanism, opposition to, 493.

Monks, abuse of, in ‘_Decameron_,’ 459;
  as satirists, 465;
  scandalous lives of, 460-461;
  unpopularity of, 459.

Montefeltro, House of, of Urbino, 43;
  Federigo, 44-46;
  Guido, in relation to astrology, 512.

Montepulciano, Fra Francesco di, 473.

Morality, 431-455.

‘_Morgante Maggiore_,’ the, of Luigi Pulci, 323-324, 494-495.

Murder, public sympathy on side of, 447.

Music, 390-394.

Mystery plays, 406-407, 411-413, 416.

Mythological representations, 415, 416.

Myths, new, 259.


Naming of children, 250-251.

Natural Science in Italy, 289-297.

Nature, beauty in, discovery of, 298-307.

Navagero, style of, 265.

‘_Nencia_,’ the, of Politian, 354.

‘_Nipoti_,’ the, 106, 107.

Niccoli, Niccolo, 188-189, 217;
  on ‘nobility,’ 361-362.

Nicholas V., Pope, faith in higher learning of, 223.

Novels of Bandello, 306;
  of Massuccio, 459, 460.


Oddi, the, and the Baglioni of Perugia, disputes between, 29.

Old writers, influence of, on Italian mind, 187.

Omens, belief in, 518-521.

‘_On the infelicity of the Scholar_,’ by Piero Valeriano, 276-277.

Orator, the, important position of, 233, 234-238.

Oratory, Pulpit, 238.

Oriental Studies, revival of, 197.

‘_Orlando Furioso_,’ the, of Ariosto, 325, 326, 327.

Outward refinement of life, 369-377.


Palingenius, Marcellus, ‘_Zodiac of Life_,’ of, 264.

Painting, rustic, of Jacopo Bassano, 354.

Pandolfini, Agnolo, 132;
  on home management, 402-404.

Pantomime, the, 407, 416, 417.

Papacy, the, and its dangers, 102-125;
  corruption in, 106, 107, 109.

Papal Court, calumny rife at, 161;
  State, spirit of reform in, 123;
  subjection of, 110.

Pardons, sale of, 108.

Parody, beginnings of, 263.

Peasant life, poetical treatment of, 351-352.

Perfect man of society, the, 388-394.

Personal faith, 491-492.

Petrarch and Laura, 151;
  ascent of Mount Ventoux by, 301-302;
  as geographer, 300;
  contempt of astrologers, his, 515;
  fixer of form of sonnet, 310;
  ideal prince of, 9-10;
  influence of nature on, 300, 301;
  in Rome, 177-178;
  life of, 313-314;
  objection to fame, his, 141-142;
  on tournaments, 365;
  representative of antiquity, the, 205.

Petty tyrannies, 28-34.

Piacenza, devastation of, 101.

Piccinino, Giacomo, 25, 26;
  Jacopo, 99.

Plautus, plays of, representations of, 255, 317-319.

Poems, didactic, 264.

Poetry, elegiac, 264, 266, 267;
  epic, 321-323, 325;
  Italian, second great age of, 305-306;
  Latin modern, 257-271;
  lyric, 306;
  Maccaronic, 270, 271;
  precursor of plastic arts, the, 312.

Poggio, on ‘_Knighthood_,’ 365;
  on ‘_Nobility_,’ 361-362.

Policy, Foreign, of Italian states, 88-97.

Politeness, Manual of, by G. della Casa, 375-376.

Politics, Florentine, 73-74.

Politian, as letter writer, 233;
  ‘_Canzone Zingaresca_’ of, 354.

Pope Adrian VI., satires against, 162-164.

Pope Alexander VI., 109-117;
  death of, 117.

Pope Clement VII., deliverance of, 123.

Pope Innocent VIII., election of, 107.

Pope Nicholas V., 188.

Pope Paul II., 105;
  attempts as peacemaker, 438;
  personal head of republic of letters, 223;
  priestly narrowness of, 505.

Pope Paul III., 123.

Pope Pius II., 105;
  as antiquarian, 180-181;
  as descriptive writer, 349;
  believer in witches, 526-527;
  celebration of feast of Corpus Christi by, 414;
  contempt for astrology and magic, 508;
  eloquence of, 235, 240;
  love of nature, 303-305;
  views on miracles, 501.

Pope Sixtus IV., 105, 106, 107.

Porcaro, Stefano, conspiracy of, 104.

Porcello, Gian, Antonio dei Pandori, 99, 100.

Poggio, walks through Rome of, 176.

Preachers of repentance, 466-479;
  personal influence of, 458.

Printing, discovery of, reception of, 194.

Processions, 406-407, 418-425.

Prodigies, belief in, 520-521.

Prophets, honour accorded to genuine, 467.

Public worship, neglect of, 485.

Pulci, epic poet, 323-325.

‘_Pulcinell_,’ the mask of Naples, 321.


Rambaldoni, Vittore dai, 213-214.

Rangona, Bianca, 336.

Raphael, 30;
  appeal of, for restoration of ancient Rome, 184;
  original subject of his picture, ‘_Deposition_,’ 32.

Rationalism, 500, 501.

Reformation, German, 122;
  effects on Papacy, 124.

Regattas, Venetian, 390.

Relics, pride taken in, 142-145.

Religion in daily life, 456-489;
  spirit of the Renaissance, and, 491-506.

Religious tolerance, 490, 492, 493;
  revivals, epidemics of, 485.

Renaissance, the, a new birth, 175;
  and the spirit of religion, 491-506.

Repentance, preachers of, 466-479.

Reproduction of antiquity: Latin correspondence and orations, 230-242.

Republics, the, 61-87.

Revivals, epidemics of religious, 485.

Riario, Girolamo, 107;
  Pietro, Cardinal, 106.

Rienzi, Cola di, 15, 176.

Rimini, House of, the, 29;
  fall of, 33.

Rites, Church, sense of dependence on, 465.

Roberto da Lecce, 467, 470.

Rome, assassins in, 109;
  city of ruins, 177-186;
  first topographical study of, 179;
  Poggio’s walks through, 176.

Ruins in landscape gardening result of Christian legend, 186.


‘_Sacra_,’ the, of Pietro Bembo, 259.

Sadoleto, Jacopo, 231.

Saints, reverence for relics of, 481-482;
  worship of, 485.

Salò, Gabriella da, belief of, 502.

Sannazaro, 151, 260, 265-267;
  fame of, 261, 268.

Sanctuaries of Italy, 486.

Sansecondo, Giovan Maria, 392;
  Jacopo, 392.

Satires, Monks the authors of, 465.

Savonarola, Girolamo, 467, 473-479;
  belief in dæmons, 531;
  eloquence of, 474;
  funeral oration on, 475;
  reform of Dominican monasteries due to, 474.

Scaliger, 254.

Scarampa, Camilla, 386.

Science, national sympathy with, 289-292;
  natural, in Italy, 289-297.

‘_Scrittori_’ (copyists), 192-193.

Secretaries, papal, important position of, 231.

Sforza, house of, 24;
  Alessandro, 28;
  Francesco, 24, 25, 26, 39, 40, 99;
  Galeazzo Maria, assassination of, 57-58.

Sforza, Ippolita, 385;
  Jacopo, 24, 25.

Shakespeare, William, 316.

Siena, 86.

Sigismund, Emperor, 18, 19.

Sixtus IV., Pope, 105, 106, 107.

Slavery in Italy, 296.

Society, higher forms of, 384-387;
  ideal man of, 388-394;
  in, Italian models to other countries, 389.

Sociniaris, 549.

Sonnet, the, 310-311, 312.

Sonnets of Boccaccio, 314;
  of Dante, 312.

Spain, changed attitude of, 91, 92.

Spaniards, detrimental to development of drama, 317.

Spanish-Germano Army, advance of, 122.

Spanish influence, jealousy under, 445.

Speeches, subject of public, 239-241.

Spur, golden, order of, 53.

Spiritual description in poetry, 308-327.

Statistics, science of, birthplace of, 69-72.

St. Peter’s at Rome, reconstruction of., 119.

Stentorello, the mask of Florence, 321.

Superstition, mixture of ancient and modern, 507-540.

Sylvius Æneas, see Pope Pius II.


Taxation, 5, 8, 13, 35, 36, 47.

Teano, Cardinal, 255.

‘_Telesma_,’ the, 533-535.

‘_Telestae_,’ the, 533-535.

Terence, plays of, representation of, 255.

‘_Teseide_,’ the, of Boccaccio, 259.

Tiburzio, 105.

Tolerance, religious, 490, 492, 493.

Torso, the, discovery of, 184.

Tragedy in time of Renaissance, 315-316, 317.

Treatise, the, 243.

‘_Trionfo_,’ the, 407, 419, 420, 423;
  of Beatrice, 419-420.

‘_Trionfi_,’ the, of Petrarch, 324.

‘_Trovatori_,’ the, 310.

_Trovatori della transizione_, the, 311.

Turks, conspiracies with the, 92, 93.

Tuscan dialect basis of new national speech, 379.

Tyranny, opponents of, 55-60.

Tyrannies, petty, 28-34.


Uberti, Fazio degli, vision of, 178.

Universities and Schools, 210-216.


Valeriano, P., on the infelicity of the scholar, 276-277.

Vatican, Library of, founding of, 188.

‘_Vendetta_,’ the, 437-440.

Vengeance, Italian, 436-400.

Venetian-Milano war, 99.

Venice, 61-87;
  and Florence, birthplace of science of statistics, 69-72.

Venice, processions in, 73;
  public institutions in, 63;
  relation of, to literature, 70;
  stability of, cause of, 65-66;
  statistics, general of, 69, 70, 71, 78.

Villani, Giovanni, 73;
  Matteo, 76.

Vinci, Lionardo da, 138.

Violin, the, 392.

Visconti, the, 10, 15, 18, 22, 38, 40;
  Giangaleazzo, 513;
  Giovan Maria, assassination of, 57, 58.

‘_Vita Nuova_,’ the, of Dante, 333.

‘_Vita Sobria_,’ the, of Luigi Cornaro, 244.

Vitelli, Paolo, 99.

Vitruvius, revival of, and Ciceronianism, analogy between, 156.

Venus of the Vatican, discovery of, 184.

‘_Versi Sciolti_,’ the, origin of, 310.


War as a work of art, 98-101.

Wit, analysis of, 159-160;
  first appearance of, in literature, 154;
  modern, and satire, 154-168.

Witch of Gaeta, the, 525.

Witchcraft, 524-530.

Witches, 524, 525, 526;
  burning of, 524, 526, 528.

Women, Ariosto on, 395;
  equality of, with men, 395;
  function of, 398;
  heroism of, 398;
  ideal for, 398;
  position of, 395-401.

Worship, public, neglect of, 485.


Zampante of Lucca, director of police, 50.

‘_Zodiac of Life_,’ of Marcellus Palingenius, 264.

                       GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD.
                   LONDON: 40 MUSEUM STREET, W.C. 1
                   CAPE TOWN: 73 ST. GEORGE’S STREET
                SYDNEY, N.S.W.: 218-222 CLARENCE STREET
                WELLINGTON, N.Z.: 110-112 LAMBTON QUAY


[1] _History of Architecture_, by Franz Kugler. (The first half of the
fourth volume, containing the ‘Architecture and Decoration of the
Italian Renaissance,’ is by the Author.)

[2] Macchiavelli, _Discorsi_, 1. i. c. 12. ‘E la cagione, che la Italia
non sia in quel medesimo termine, ne habbia anch’ ella ò una republica ò
un prencipe che la governi, è solamente la Chiesa; perchè havendovi
habitato e tenuto imperio temporale non è stata si potente ne di tal
virtè, che l’habbia potuto occupare il restante d’Italia e farsene

[3] The rulers and their dependents were together called ‘lo stato,’ and
this name afterwards acquired the meaning of the collective existence of
a territory.

[4] C. Winckelmann, _De Regni Siculi Administratione qualis fuerit
regnante Friderico II._, Berlin. 1859. A. del Vecchio, _La legislazione
di Federico II. imperatore_. Turin, 1874. Frederick II. has been fully
and thoroughly discussed by Winckelmann and Schirrmacher.

[5] Baumann, _Staatslehre des Thomas von Aquino_. Leipzig, 1873, esp.
pp. 136 sqq.

[6] _Cento Novelle Antiche_, ed. 1525. For Frederick, Nov. 2, 21, 22,
23, 24, 30, 53, 59, 90, 100; for Ezzelino, Nov. 31, and esp. 84.

[7] Scardeonius, _De Urbis Patav. Antiqu. in Grævius_, Thesaurus, vi.
iii. p. 259.

[8] Sismondi, _Hist. de Rép. Italiennes_, iv. p. 420; viii. pp. 1 sqq.

[9] Franco Sacchetti, _Novelle_ (61, 62).

[10] Dante, it is true, is said to have lost the favour of this prince,
which impostors knew how to keep. See the important account in Petrarch,
_De Rerum Memorandarum_, lib. ii. 3, 46.

[11] Petrarca, _Epistolæ Seniles_, lib. xiv. 1, to Francesco di Carrara
(Nov. 28, 1373). The letter is sometimes printed separately with the
title, ‘De Republica optime administranda,’ e.g. Bern, 1602.

[12] It is not till a hundred years later that the princess is spoken of
as the mother of the people. Comp. Hieron. Crivelli’s funeral oration on
Bianca Maria Visconti, in Muratori, _Scriptores Rerum Italicarum_, xxv.
col. 429. It was by way of parody of this phrase that a sister of Sixtus
IV. is called in Jac Volateranus (Murat., xxiii. col. 109) ‘mater

[13] With the parenthetical request, in reference to a previous
conversation, that the prince would again forbid the keeping of pigs in
the streets of Padua, as the sight of them was unpleasing, especially
for strangers, and apt to frighten the horses.

[14] Petrarca, _Rerum Memorandar._, lib. iii. 2, 66.--Matteo I. Visconti
and Guido della Torre, then ruling in Milan, are the persons referred

[15] Matteo Villani, v. 81: the secret murder of Matteo II. (Maffiolo)
Visconti by his brother.

[16] Filippo Villani, _Istorie_, xi. 101. Petrarch speaks in the same
tone of the tyrants dressed out ‘like altars at a festival.’--The
triumphal procession of Castracane at Lucca is described minutely in his
life by Tegrimo, in Murat., xi., col, 1340.

[17] _De Vulgari Eloqui_, i. c. 12: ... ‘qui non heroico more, sed
plebeo sequuntur superbiam.’

[18] This we find first in the fifteenth century, but their
representations are certainly based on the beliefs of earlier times: L.
B. Alberti, _De re ædif._, v. 3.--Franc. di Giorgio, ‘Trattato,’ in
Della Valle, Lettere Sanesi, iii. 121.

[19] Franco Sacchetti, Nov. 61.

[20] Matteo Villani, vi. 1.

[21] The Paduan passport office about the middle of the fourteenth
century is referred to by Franco Sacchetti, Nov. 117, in the words,
‘quelli delle bullete.’ In the last ten years of the reign of Frederick
II., when the strictest control was exercised on the personal conduct of
his subjects, this system must have been very highly developed.

[22] Corio, _Storia di Milano_, fol. 247 sqq. Recent Italian writers
have observed that the Visconti have still to find a historian who,
keeping the just mean between the exaggerated praises of contemporaries
(_e.g._ Petrarch) and the violent denunciations of later political
(Guelph) opponents, will pronounce a final judgment upon them.

[23] E.g. of Paolo Giovio: _Elogia Virorum bellicâ virtute illustrium_,
Basel, 1575, p. 85, in the life of Bernabò. Giangal. (_Vita_, pp. 86
sqq.) is for Giovio ‘post Theodoricum omnium præstantissimus.’ Comp.
also Jovius, _Vitæ xii. Vicecomitum Mediolani principum_, Paris, 1549.
pp. 165 sqq.

[24] Corio, fol. 272, 285.

[25] Cagnola, in the _Archiv. Stor._, iii. p. 23.

[26] So Corio, fol. 286, and Poggio, _Hist. Florent._ iv. in Murat. xx.
col 290.--Cagnola (loc. cit.) speaks of his designs on the imperial
crown. See too the sonnet in Trucchi, _Poesie Ital. ined._, ii. p. 118:

    “Stan le città lombarde con le chiave
     In man per darle a voi ... etc.
     Roma vi chiamo: Cesar mio novello
     Io sono ignuda, e l’anima pur vive:
     Or mi coprite col vostro mantello,” etc.

[27] Corio, fol. 301 and sqq. Comp. Ammian. Marcellin., xxix. 3.

[28] So Paul. Jovius, _Elogia_, pp. 88-92, Jo. Maria Philippus.

[29] De Gingins, _Dépêches des Ambassadeurs Milanais_, Paris and Geneva
1858, ii. pp. 200 sqq. (N. 213). Comp. ii. 3 (N. 144) and ii. 212 sqq.
(N. 218).

[30] Paul. Jovius, _Elogia_, pp. 156 sqq. Carolus, Burg. dux.

[31] This compound of force and intellect is called by Macchiavelli
_Virtù_, and is quite compatible with _scelleratezza_. E.g. _Discorsi_,
i. 10. in speaking of Sep. Severus.

[32] On this point Franc. Vettori, _Arch. Stor._ vi. p. 29. 3 sqq.: ‘The
investiture at the hands of a man who lives in Germany, and has nothing
of the Roman Emperor about him but the empty name, cannot turn a
scoundrel into the real lord of a city.’

[33] M. Villani, iv. 38, 39, 44, 56, 74, 76, 92; v. 1, 2, 14-16, 21, 22,
36, 51, 54. It is only fair to consider that dislike of the Visconti may
have led to worse representations than the facts justified. Charles IV.
is once (iv. 74) highly praised by Villani.

[34] It was an Italian, Fazio degli Uberti (_Dittamondo_, l. vi. cap.
5--about 1360) who recommended to Charles IV. a crusade to the Holy
Land. The passage is one of the best in this poem, and in other respects
characteristic. The poet is dismissed from the Holy Sepulchre by an
insolent Turk:

    ‘Con passi lunghi e con la testa bassa
     Oltre passai e dissi: ecco vergogna
     Del cristian che’l saracin qui lassa!
     Poscia al Pastor (the Pope) mi volsi far rampogna
     E tu ti stai, che sei vicar di Cristo,
     Co’ frati tuoi a ingrassar la carogna?

     Similimente dissi a quel sofisto (Charles IV.)
     Che sta in Buemme (Bohemia) a piantar vigne e fichi
     E che non cura di si caro acquisto:
     Che fai? Perchè non segui i primi antichi
     Cesari de’ Romani, e che non segui,
     Dico, gli Otti, i Corradi, i Federichi?
     E che pur tieni questo imperio in tregui?
     E se non hai lo cuor d’esser Augusto,
     Che non rifiuti? o che non ti dilegui?’ etc.

Some eight years earlier, about 1352, Petrarch had written (to Charles
IV., _Epist. Fam._, lib. xii. ep. 1, ed. Fracassetti, vol. ii. p. 160):
‘Simpliciter igitur et aperte ... pro maturando negotio terræ sanctæ ...
oro tuo egentem auxilio quam primum invisere velis Ausoniam.’

[35] See for details Vespasiano Fiorent. ed. Mai, _Specilegium Romanum_,
vol. i. p. 54. Comp. 150 and Panormita, _De Dictis et Factis Alfonsi_,
lib. iv. nro. 4.

[36] _Diario Ferrarese_, in Murat. xxiv. col. 217 sqq.

[37] ‘Haveria voluto scortigare la brigata.’ Giov. Maria Filelfo, then
staying at Bergamo, wrote a violent satire ‘in vulgus equitum auro
notatorum.’ See his biography in Favre, _Mélanges d’Histoire
littéraire_, 1856, i. p. 10.

[38] _Annales Estenses_, in Murat. xx. col. 41.

[39] Poggii, _Hist. Florent. pop._ l. vii. in Murat. col. 381. This view
is in accordance with the anti-monarchical sentiments of many of the
humanists of that day. Comp. the evidence given by Bezold, ‘Lehre von
der Volkssouverainität während des Mittelalters,’ _Hist. Ztschr._ bd.
36, s. 365.

[40] Some years later the Venetian Lionardo Giustiniani blames the word
‘imperator’ as unclassical and therefore unbecoming the German emperor,
and calls the Germans barbarians, on account of their ignorance of the
language and manners of antiquity. The cause of the Germans was defended
by the humanist H. Bebel. See L. Geiger, in the _Allgem. Deutsche
Biogr._ ii. 196.

[41] Senarega, _De reb. Genuens_, in Murat. xxiv. col. 575.

[42] Enumerated in the _Diario Ferrarese_, in Murat. xxiv. col. 203.
Comp. Pic. ii. _Comment._ ii. p. 102, ed. Rome, 1584.

[43] Marin Sanudo, _Vita de’ Duchi di Venezia_, in Murat. xxii. col.

[44] Varchi, _Stor. Fiorent._ i. p. 8.

[45] Soriano, _Relazione di Roma_, 1533, in Tommaso Gar. _Relaz. della
Corte di Roma_, (in Alberi, _Relaz. degli ambasc. Veneti_, ii. ser.

[46] For what follows, see Canestrini, in the Introduction to vol. xv.
of the _Archiv. Stor._

[47] For him, see Shepherd-Tonelli, _Vita di Piggio_, App. pp.

[48] Cagnola, _Archiv. Stor._ iii. p. 28: ‘Et (Filippo Maria) da lei
(Beatr.) ebbe molto tesoro e dinari, e tutte le giente d’arme del dicto
Facino, che obedivano a lei.’

[49] Inpressura, in Eccard, _Scriptores_, ii. col. 1911. For the
alternatives which Macchiavelli puts before the victorious Condottiere,
see _Discorsi_, i. 30. After the victory he is either to hand over the
army to his employer and wait quietly for his reward, or else to win the
soldiers to his own side to occupy the fortresses and to punish the
prince ‘di quella ingratitudine che esso gli userebbe.’

[50] Comp. Barth. Facius, _De Viv. Ill._ p. 64, who tells us that C.
commanded an army of 60,000 men. It is uncertain whether the Venetians
did not poison Alviano in 1516, because he, as Prato says in _Arch.
Stor._ iii. p. 348, aided the French too zealously in the battle of S.
Donato. The Republic made itself Colleoni’s heir, and after his death in
1475 formally confiscated his property. Comp. Malipiero, _Annali
Veneti_, in _Arch. Stor._ vii. i. 244. It was liked when the Condottieri
invested their money in Venice, ibid. p. 351.

[51] Cagnola, in _Arch. Stor._ iii. pp. 121 sqq.

[52] At all events in Paul Jovius, _Vita Magni Sfortiæ_, Rom. 1539,
(dedicated to the Cardinal Ascanio Sforza), one of the most attractive
of his biographies.

[53] Æn. Sylv. _Comment. de Dictis et Factis Alfonsi_, Opera, ed. 1538,
p. 251: Novitate gaudens Italia nihil habet stabile, nullum in eâ vetus
regnum, facile hic ex servis reges videmus.’

[54] Pii, ii. _Comment._ i. 46; comp. 69.

[55] Sismondi, x. 258; Corio. fol. 412, where Sforza is accused of
complicity, as he feared danger to his own son from P.’s popularity.
_Storia Bresciana_, in Murat. xxi. col. 209. How the Venetian
Condottiere Colleoni was tempted in 1466, is told by Malipiero _Annali
Veneti, Arch. Stor._ vii. i. p. 210. The Florentine exiles offered to
make him Duke of Milan if he would expel from Florence their enemy,
Piero de’ Medici.

[56] Allegretti, _Diari Sanesi_, in Murat. xxiii. p. 811.

[57] _Orationes Philelphi_, ed. Venet. 1492, fol. 9, in the funeral
oration on Francesco.

[58] Marin Sanudo, _Vita del Duchi di Venezia_, in Murat. xxii. col.
1241. See Reumont, _Lorenzo von Medici_ (Lpz. 1874), ii. pp. 324-7, and
the authorities there quoted.

[59] Malipiero, _Ann. Venet., Arch. Stor._ vii. i. p. 407.

[60] _Chron. Eugubinum_, in Murat. xxi. col. 972.

[61] _Vespas. Fiorent._ p. 148.

[62] _Archiv. Stor._ xvi., parte i. et ii., ed. Bonaini, Fabretti,

[63] Julius II. conquered Perugia with ease in 1506, and compelled
Gianpaolo Baglione to submit. The latter, as Macchiavelli (_Discorsi_,
i. c. 27) tells us, missed the chance of immortality by not murdering
the Pope.

[64] Varelin _Stor. Fiorent._ i. pp. 242 sqq.

[65] Comp. (inter. al.) Jovian. Pontan. _De Immanitate_, cap. 17.

[66] Malipiero, _Ann. Venet., Archiv. Stor._ vii. i. pp. 498 sqq. After
vainly searching for his beloved, whose father had shut her up in a
monastery he threatened the father, burnt the monastery and other
buildings, and committed many acts of violence.

[67] Lil. Greg. Giraldus, _De Sepulchris ac vario Sepeliendi Ritu_.
_Opera_ ed. Bas. 1580, i. pp. 640 sqq. Later edition by J. Faes,
Helmstädt, 1676 Dedication and postscript of Gir. ‘ad Carolum Miltz
Germanum,’ in these editions without date; neither contains the passage
given in the text.--In 1470 a catastrophe in miniature had already
occurred in the same family (Galeotto had had his brother Antonio Maria
thrown into prison). Comp. _Diario Ferrarese_, in Murat. xxiv. col. 225.

[68] Jovian. Pontan. Opp. ed. Basileæ, 1538, t. i. _De Liberalitate_,
cap. 19, 29, and _De Obedientia_, l. 4. Comp. Sismondi, x. p. 78, and
Panormita, _De Dictis et Factis Alphonsi_, lib. i. nro. 61, iv. nro. 42.

[69] Tristano Caracciolo. ‘De Fernando qui postea rex Aragonum fuit,
ejusque posteris,’ in Muratori XXII.; Jovian Pontanus, _De Prudentia_,
l. iv.; _De Magnanimitate_, l. i.; _De Liberalitate_, cap. 29, 36; _De
Immanitate_, cap. 8. Cam. Porzio, _Congiura dei Baroni del Regno de
Napoli contro il re Ferdinando I._, Pisa, 1818, cap. 29, 36, new
edition, Naples, 1859, _passim_; Comines, Charles VIII., with the
general characteristics of the Arragonese. See for further information
as to Ferrante’s works for his people, the _Regis Ferdinandi primi
Instructionum liber_, 1486-87, edited by Scipione Vopicella, which would
dispose us to moderate to some extent the harsh judgment which has been
passed upon him.

[70] Paul. Jovius. _Histor._ i. p. 14. in the speech of a Milanese
ambassador; _Diario Ferrarese_, in Muratori, xxiv. col. 294.

[71] He lived in the closest intimacy with Jews, e.g. Isaac Abranavel,
who fled with him to Messina. Comp. Zunz, _Zur. Gesch. und Lit._
(Berlin, 1845) s. 529.

[72] Petri Candidi Decembrii Vita Phil. Mariæ Vicecomitis, in Murat.
xx., of which however Jovius (_Vitæ xii. Vicecomitum_ p. 186) says not
without reason: ‘Quum omissis laudibus quæ in Philippo celebrandæ
fuerant, vitia, notaret.’ Guarino praises this prince highly. Rosmino
Guarini, ii. p. 75. Jovius, in the above-mentioned work (p. 186), and
Jov. Pontanus, _De Liberalitate_, ii. cap. 28 and 31, take special
notice of his generous conduct to the captive Alfonso.

[73] Were the fourteen marble statues of the saints in the Citadel of
Milan executed by him? See _History of the Frundsbergs_, fol. 27.

[74] It troubled him: _quod aliquando ‘non esse’ necesse esset_.

[75] Corio, fol. 400; Cagnola, in _Archiv. Stor._ iii. p. 125.

[76] _Pii II. Comment._ iii. p. 130. Comp. ii. 87. 106. Another and
rather darker estimate of Sforza’s fortune is given by Caracciolo, _De
Varietate Fortunæ_, in Murat. xxii. col. 74. See for the opposite view
the praises of Sforza’s luck in the _Oratio parentalis de divi Francesci
Sphortiæ felicitate_, by Filelfo (the ready eulogist of any master who
paid him), who sung, without publishing, the exploits of Francesco in
the Sforziad. Even Decembrio, the moral and literary opponent of
Filelfo, celebrates Sforza’s fortune in his biography (_Vita Franc.
Sphortiæ_, in Murat. xx.). The astrologers said: ‘Francesco Sforza’s
star brings good luck to a man, but ruin to his descendants.’ Arluni,
_De Bello Veneto_, libri vi. in Grævius, _Thes. Antiqu. et Hist.
Italicæ_, v. pars iii. Comp. also Barth. Facius, _De Vir. III._ p. 67.

[77] Malipiero, _Ann. Veneti, Archiv. Stor._ vii. i. pp. 216 sqq. 221-4.

[78] Important documents as to the murder of Galeazzo Maria Sforza are
published by G. D’Adda in the _Archivio Storico Lombardo Giornale della
Società Lombarda_, vol. ii. (1875), pp. 284-94. 1. A Latin epitaph on
the murderer Lampugnano, who lost his life in the attempt, and whom the
writer represents as saying: ‘Hic lubens quiesco, æternum inquam facinus
monumentumque ducibus, principibus, regibus, qui modo sunt quique mox
futura trahantur ne quid adversus justitiam faciant dicantve; 2. A Latin
letter of Domenico de’ Belli, who, when eleven years old, was present at
the murder; 3. The ‘lamento’ of Galeazzo Maria, in which, after calling
upon the Virgin Mary and relating the outrage committed upon him, he
summons his wife and children, his servants and the Italian cities which
obeyed him, to bewail his fate, and sends forth his entreaty to all the
nations of the earth, to the nine muses and the gods of antiquity, to
set up a universal cry of grief.

[79] _Chron. Venetum_, in Murat. xxiv. col. 65.

[80] Malipiero, _Ann. Veneti, Archiv. Stor._ vii. i. p. 492. Comp. 482,

[81] His last words to the same man, Bernardino da Corte, are to be
found, certainty with oratorical decorations, but perhaps agreeing in
the main with the thoughts of the Moor, in Senarega, Murat. xxiv. col.

[82] _Diario Ferrarese_, in Murat. xxiv. col. 336, 367, 369. The people
believed he was forming a treasure.

[83] Corio, fol. 448. The after effects of this state of things are
clearly recognisable in those of the novels and introductions of
Bandello which relate to Milan.

[84] Amoretti, _Memorie Storiche sulla Vita Ecc. di Lionardo da Vinci_,
pp. 35 sqq., pp. 83 sqq. Here we may also mention the Moor’s efforts for
the improvement of the university of Pavia.

[85] See his sonnets in Trucchi, _Poesie inedite_.

[86] Prato, in the _Arch. Stor._ iii. 298. Comp. 302.

[87] Born 1466, betrothed to Isabella, herself six years of age, in
1480, suc. 1484; m. 1490, d. 1519. Isabella’s death, 1539. Her sons,
Federigo (1519-1540), made Duke in 1530, and the famous Ferrante
Gonzaga. What follows is taken from the correspondence of Isabella, with
Appendices, _Archiv. Stor._, append., tom. ii. communicated by d’Arco.
See the same writer, _Delle Arti e degli Artifici di Mantova_, Mant.
1857-59, 2 vols. The catalogue of the collection has been repeatedly
printed. Portrait and biography of Isabella in Didot, _Alde Manuce_,
Paris, 1875, pp. lxi-lxviii. See also below, part ii. chapter 2.

[88] Franc. Vettori, in the _Arch. Stor._ Append., tom. vi. p. 321. For
Federigo, see _Vespas. Fiorent._ pp. 132 sqq. and Prendilacqua, _Vita di
Vittorino da Feltre_, pp. 48-52. V. endeavoured to calm the ambitious
youth Federigo, then his scholar, with the words: ‘Tu quoque Cæsar
eris.’ There is much literary information respecting him in, e.g.,
Favre, _Mélanges d’Hist. Lit._ i. p. 125, note 1.

[89] See below, part iii. chapter 3.

[90] Castiglione, _Cortigiano_, l. i.

[91] Petr. Bembus, _De Guido Ubaldo Feretrio deque Elizabetha Gonzaga
Urbini ducibus_, Venetis, 1530. Also in Bembo’s Works, Basel, 1566, i.
pp. 529-624. In the form of a dialogue; contains among other things, the
letter of Frid. Fregosus and the speech of Odaxius on Guido’s life and

[92] What follows is chiefly taken from the _Annales Estenses_, in
Murat. xx. and the _Diario Ferrarese_, Murat. xxiv

[93] See Bandello, i. nov. 32.

[94] _Diario Ferrar._ l. c. col. 347.

[95] Paul. Jov. _Vita Alfonsi ducis_, ed. Flor. 1550, also an Italian by
Giovanbattista Gelli, Flor. 1553.

[96] Paulus Jovius, l. c.

[97] The journey of Leo X. when Cardinal, may be also mentioned here.
Comp. Paul. Jov. _Vita Leonis X._ lib. i. His purpose was less serious,
and directed rather to amusement and knowledge of the world; but the
spirit is wholly modern. No Northerner then travelled with such objects.

[98] _Diar. Ferr._ in Murat. xxiv. col. 232 and 240.

[99] Jovian. Pontan. _De Liberalitate_, cap. 28.

[100] Giraldi, _Hecatomithi_, vi. nov. 1 (ed. 1565, fol. 223 _a_).

[101] Vasari, xii. 166, _Vita di Michelangelo_.

[102] As early as 1446 the members of the House of Gonzaga followed the
corpse of Vittorino da Feltre.

[103] Capitolo 19, and in the _Opere Minore_, ed. Lemonnier, vol. i. p.
425, entitled Elegia 17. Doubtless the cause of this death (above, p.
46) was unknown to the young poet, then 19 years old.

[104] The novels in the _Hecatomithi_ of Giraldi relating to the House
of Este are to be found, with one exception (i. nov. 8), in the 6th
book, dedicated to Francesco of Este, Marchese della Massa, at the
beginning of the second part of the whole work, which is inscribed to
Alfonso II. ‘the fifth Duke of Ferrara.’ The 10th book, too, is
specially dedicated to him, but none of the novels refer to him
personally, and only one to his predecessor Hercules I.; the rest to
Hercules I. ‘the second Duke,’ and Alfonso I. ‘the third Duke of
Ferrara.’ But the stories told of these princes are for the most part
not love tales. One of them (i. nov. 8) tells of the failure of an
attempt made by the King of Naples to induce Hercules of Este to deprive
Borso of the government of Ferrara; another (vi. nov. 10) describes
Ercole’s high-spirited treatment of conspirators. The two novels that
treat of Alfonso I. (vi. nov. 2, 4), in the latter of which he only
plays a subordinate part, are also, as the title of the book shows and
as the dedication to the above-named Francesco explains more fully,
accounts of ‘atti di cortesía’ towards knights and prisoners, but not
towards women, and only the two remaining tales are love-stories. They
are of such a kind as can be told during the lifetime of the prince;
they set forth his nobleness and generosity, his virtue and
self-restraint. Only one of them (vi. nov. 1) refers to Hercules I., who
was dead long before the novels were compiled, and only one to the
Hercules II. then alive (b. 1508, d. 1568) son of Lucrezia Borgia,
husband of Renata, of whom the poet says: ‘Il giovane, che non meno ha
benigno l’animo, che cortese l’aspetto, come già il vedemmo in Roma, nel
tempo, ch’egli, in vece del padre, venne à Papa Hadriano.’ The tale
about him is briefly as follows:--Lucilla, the beautiful daughter of a
poor but noble widow, loves Nicandro, but cannot marry him, as the
lover’s father forbids him to wed a portionless maiden. Hercules, who
sees the girl and is captivated by her beauty, finds his way, through
the connivance of her mother, into her bedchamber, but is so touched by
her beseeching appeal that he respects her innocence, and, giving her a
dowry, enables her to marry Nicandro.

In Bandello, ii. nov. 8 and 9 refer to Alessandro Medici, 26 to Mary of
Aragon, iii. 26, iv. 13 to Galeazzo Sforza, iii. 36, 37 to Henry VIII.
of England, ii. 27 to the German Emperor Maximilian. The emperor, ‘whose
natural goodness and more than imperial generosity are praised by all
writers,’ while chasing a stag is separated from his followers, loses
his way, and at last emerging from the wood, enquires the way from a
countryman. The latter, busied with lading wood, begs the emperor, whom
he does not know, to help him, and receives willing assistance. While
still at work, Maximilian is rejoined, and, in spite of his signs to the
contrary, respectfully saluted by his followers, and thus recognised by
the peasant, who implores forgiveness for the freedom he has unwittingly
taken. The emperor raises the kneeling suppliant, gives him presents,
appoints him as his attendant, and confers upon him distinguished
privileges. The narrator concludes: ‘Dimostrò Cesare nello smontar da
cavallo e con allegra ciera aiutar il bisognoso contadino, una
indicibile e degna d’ogni lode humanità, e in sollevarlo con danari e
privilegii dalla sua faticosa vita, aperse il suo veramente animo
Cesareo’ (ii. 415). A story in the _Hecatomithi_ (viii. nov. 5) also
treats of Maximilian. It is the same tale which has acquired a
world-wide celebrity through Shakespeare’s _Measure for Measure_ (for
its diffusion see Kirchhof’s _Wendunmuth_, ed. Oesterley, bd. v. s. 152
sqq.), and the scene of which is transferred by Giraldi to Innsbruck.
Maximilian is the hero, and here too receives the highest eulogies.
After being first called ‘Massimiliano il Grande,’ he is designated as
one ‘che fu raro esempio di cortesia, di magnanimità, e di singolare

[105] In the _Deliciæ Poet. Italorum_ (1608), ii. pp. 455 sqq.: ad
Alfonsum ducem Calabriæ. (Yet I do not believe that the above remark
fairly applies to this poem, which clearly expresses the joys which
Alfonso has with Drusula, and describes the sensations of the happy
lover, who in his transports thinks that the gods themselves must envy

[106] Mentioned as early as 1367, in the _Polistore_, in Murat. xxiv.
col. 848, in reference to Niccolò the Elder, who makes twelve persons
knights in honour of the twelve Apostles.

[107] Burigozzo, in the _Archiv. Stor._ iii. p. 432.

[108] _Discorsi_, i. 17, on Milan after the death of Filippo Visconti.

[109] _De Incert. et Vanitate Scientiar._ cap. 55.

[110] Prato, _Archiv. Stor._ iii. p. 241.

[111] _De Casibus Virorum Illustrium_, l. ii. cap. 15.

[112] _Discorsi_, iii. 6; comp. _Storie Fiorent._ l. viii. The
description of conspiracies has been a favourite theme of Italian
writers from a very remote period. Luitprand (of Cremona, _Mon. Germ._,
ss. iii. 264-363) gives us a few, which are more circumstantial than
those of any other contemporary writer of the tenth century; in the
eleventh the deliverance of Messina from the Saracens, accomplished by
calling in Norman Roger (Baluz. _Miscell._ i. p. 184), gives occasion to
a characteristic narrative of this kind (1060); we need hardly speak of
the dramatic colouring given to the stories of the Sicilian Vespers
(1282). The same tendency is well known in the Greek writers.

[113] Corio, fol. 333. For what follows, ibid. fol. 305, 422 sqq. 440.

[114] So in the quotations from Gallus, in Sismondi, xi. 93. For the
whole subject see Reumont, _Lorenzo dei Medici_, pp. 387-97, especially

[115] Corio, fol. 422. Allegretto, _Diari Sanesi_, in Murat. xxiii. col.
777. See above, p. 41.

[116] The enthusiasm with which the Florentine Alamanno Rinuccini (b.
1419) speaks in his _Ricordi_ (ed. by G. Aiazzi, Florence, 1840) of
murderers and their deeds is very remarkable. For a contemporary, though
not Italian, apology for tyrannicide, see Kervyn de Lettenhove, _Jean
sans Peur et l’Apologie du Tyrannicide_, in the _Bulletin de l’Académie
de Bruxelles_, xi. (1861), pp. 558-71. A century later opinion in Italy
had changed altogether. See the condemnation of Lampugnani’s deed in
Egnatius, _De Exemplis Ill. Vir._, Ven. fol. 99 _b_; comp. also 318 _b_.

Petr. Crinitus, also (_De honestâ disciplinâ_, Paris, 1510, fol. 134
_b_), writes a poem _De virtute Jo. Andr. Lamponiani tyrannicidæ_, in
which Lampugnani’s deed is highly praised, and he himself is represented
as a worthy companion of Brutus.

Comp. also the Latin poem: _Bonini Mombritii poetæ Mediol. trenodiæ in
funere illustrissimi D. Gal. Marie Sfor_ (2 Books--Milan, 1504), edited
by Ascalon Vallis (_sic_), who in his dedication to the jurist Jac.
Balsamus praises the poet and names other poems equally worthy to be
printed. In this work, in which Megæra and Mars, Calliope and the poet,
appear as interlocutors, the assassin--not Lampugnano, but a man from a
humble family of artisans--is severely blamed, and he with his fellow
conspirators are treated as ordinary criminals; they are charged with
high treason on account of a projected alliance with Charles of
Burgundy. No less than ten prognostics of the death of Duke Galeazzo are
enumerated. The murder of the Prince, and the punishment of the assassin
are vividly described; the close consists of pious consolations
addressed to the widowed Princess, and of religious meditations.

[117] ‘Con studiare el Catalinario,’ says Allegretto. Comp. (in Corio) a
sentence like the following in the desposition of Olgiati: ‘Quisque
nostrum magis socios potissime et infinitos alios sollicitare,
infestare, alter alteri benevolos se facere cœpit. Aliquid aliquibus
parum donare: simul magis noctu edere, bibere, vigilare, nostra omnia
bona polliceri,’ etc.

[118] Vasari, iii. 251, note to _V. di Donatello_.

[119] It now has been removed to a newly constructed building.

[120] _Inferno_, xxxiv. 64.

[121] Related by a hearer, Luca della Robbia, _Archiv. Stor._ i. 273.
Comp. Paul. Jovius, _Vita Leonis X._ iii. in the _Viri Illustres_.

[122] First printed in 1723, as appendix to Varchi’s History, then in
Roscoe, _Vita di Lorenzo de’ Medici_, vol. iv. app. 12, and often
besides. Comp. Reumont, _Gesch. Toscana’s seit dem Ende des Florent.
Freistaates_, Gotha, 1876, i. p. 67, note. See also the report in the
_Lettere de’ Principi_ (ed. Venez. 1577), iii. fol. 162 sqq.

[123] On the latter point see Jac. Nardi, _Vita di Ant. Giacomini_,
Lucca (1818), p. 18.

[124] ‘Genethliacum Venetæ urbis,’ in the _Carmina_ of Ant. Sabellicus.
The 25th of March was chosen ‘essendo il cielo in singolar disposizione,
si come da gli astronomi è stato calcolato più volte.’ Comp. Sansovino,
_Venezia città nobilissima e singolare, descritta in 14 libri_, Venezia,
1581, fol. 203. For the whole chapter see _Johannis Baptistæ Egnatii
viri doctissimi de exemplis Illustrium Virorum Venetæ civitatis atque
aliarum gentium_, Paris, 1554. The eldest Venetian chronicler, Joh.
Diaconi, _Chron. Venetum_ in Pertz, _Monum._ S.S. vii. pp. 5, 6, places
the occupation of the islands in the time of the Lombards and the
foundation of the Rialto later.

[125] ‘De Venetæ urbis apparatu panagiricum carmen quod oraculum

[126] The whole quarter was altered in the reconstructions of the
sixteenth century.

[127] Benedictus _Carol. VIII._ in Eccard, _Scriptores_, ii. col. 1597,
1601, 1621. In the _Chron. Venetum_, Murat. xxiv. col. 26, the political
virtues of the Venetians are enumerated: ‘bontà, innocenza, zelo di
carità, pietà, misericordia.’

[128] Many of the nobles cropped their hair. See _Erasmi Colloquia_, ed.
Tiguri, a. 1553: miles et carthusianus.

[129] _Epistolæ_, lib. v. fol. 28.

[130] Malipiero, _Ann. Veneti, Archiv. Stor._ vii. i. pp. 377, 431, 481,
493, 530; ii. pp. 661, 668, 679. _Chron. Venetum_, in Muratori, xxiv.
col. 57. _Diario Ferrarese_, ib. col. 240. See also _Dispacci di Antonio
Giustiniani_ (Flor. 1876), i. p. 392.

[131] Malipiero, in the _Archiv. Stor._ vii. ii. p. 691. Comp. 694, 713,
and i. 535.

[132] Marin Sanudo, _Vite dei Duchi_, Murat. xxii. col. 1194.

[133] _Chron. Venetum_, Murat. xxiv. col. 105.

[134] _Chron. Venetum_, Murat. xxiv. col. 123 sqq. and Malipiero, l. c.
vii. i. pp. 175, 187 sqq. relate the significant fall of the Admiral
Antonio Grimani, who, when accused on account of his refusal to
surrender the command in chief to another, himself put irons on his feet
before his arrival at Venice, and presented himself in this condition to
the Senate. For him and his future lot, see Egnatius, fol. 183 _a_ sqq.,
198 _b_ sqq.

[135] _Chron. Ven._ l. c. col. 166.

[136] Malipiero, l. c. vii. i. 349. For other lists of the same kind see
Marin Sanudo, _Vite dei Duchi_, Murat. xxii. col. 990 (year 1426), col.
1088 (year 1440), in Corio, fol. 435-438 (1483), in Guazzo _Historie_,
fol. 151 sqq.

[137] Guicciardini (_Ricordi_, n. 150) is one of the first to remark
that the passion for vengeance can drown the clearest voice of

[138] Malipiero, l. c. vii. i., p. 328.

[139] The statistical view of Milan, in the ‘Manipulus Florum’ (in
Murat. xi. 711 sqq.) for the year 1288, is important, though not
extensive. It includes house-doors, population, men of military age,
‘loggie’ of the nobles, wells, bakeries, wine-shops, butchers’-shops,
fishmongers, the consumption of corn, dogs, birds of chase, the price of
salt, wood, hay, and wines; also the judges, notaries, doctors,
schoolmasters, copying clerks, armourers, smiths, hospitals,
monasteries, endowments, and religious corporations. A list perhaps
still older is found in the ‘Liber de magnalibus Mediolani,’ in _Heinr.
de Hervordia_, ed. Potthast, p. 165. See also the statistical account of
Asti about the year 1250 in Ogerius Alpherius (Alfieri), _De Gestis
Astensium, Histor. patr. Monumenta, Scriptorum_, tom. iii. col. 684.

[140] Especially Marin Sanudo, in the _Vite dei Duchi di Venezia_,
Murat. xxii. _passim_.

[141] See for the marked difference between Venice and Florence, an
important pamphlet addressed 1472 to Lorenzo de’ Medici by certain
Venetians, and the answer to it by Benedetto Dei, in Paganini, _Della
Decima_, Florence, 1763, iii. pp. 135 sqq.

[142] In Sanudo, l. c. col. 958. What relates to trade is extracted in
Scherer, _Allgem. Gesch. des Welthandels_, i. 326, note.

[143] Here all the houses, not merely those owned by the state, are
meant. The latter, however, sometimes yielded enormous rents. See
Vasari, xiii. 83. V. d. Jac. Sansovino.

[144] See Sanudo, col. 963. In the same place a list of the incomes of
the other Italian and European powers is given. An estimate for 1490 is
to be found, col. 1245 sqq.

[145] This dislike seems to have amounted to positive hatred in Paul II.
who called the humanists one and all heretics. Platina, _Vita Pauli_,
ii. p. 323. See also for the subject in general, Voigt, _Wiederbelebung
des classischen Alterthums_, Berlin, 1859, pp. 207-213. The neglect of
the sciences is given as a reason for the flourishing condition of
Venice by Lil. Greg. Giraldus, _Opera_, ii. p. 439.

[146] Sanudo, l. c. col. 1167.

[147] Sansovina, _Venezia_, lib. xiii. It contains the biographies of
the Doges in chronological order, and, following these lives one by one
(regularly from the year 1312, under the heading _Scrittori Veneti_),
short notices of contemporary writers.

[148] Venice was then one of the chief seats of the Petrarchists. See G.
Crespan, _Del Petrarchismo_, in _Petrarca e Venezia_, 1874, pp. 187-253.

[149] See Heinric. de Hervordia ad a. 1293, p. 213, ed. Potthast, who
says: ‘The Venetians wished to obtain the body of Jacob of Forli from
the inhabitants of that place, as many miracles were wrought by it. They
promised many things in return, among others to bear all the expense of
canonising the defunct, but without obtaining their request.’

[150] Sanudo, l. c. col. 1158, 1171, 1177. When the body of St. Luke was
brought from Bosnia, a dispute arose with the Benedictines of S.
Giustina at Padua, who claimed to possess it already, and the Pope had
to decide between the two parties. Comp. Guicciardini, _Ricordi_, n.

[151] Sansovino, _Venezia_, lib. xii. ‘dell’andate publiche del
principe.’ Egnatius, fol. 50_a_. For the dread felt at the papal
interdict see Egnatius, fol. 12 _a_ sqq.

[152] G. Villani, viii. 36. The year 1300 is also a fixed date in the
_Divine Comedy_.

[153] Stated about 1470 in _Vespas. Fiorent._ p. 554.

[154] The passage which followed in former editions referring to the
_Chronicle of Dino Compagni_ is here omitted, since the genuineness of
the _Chronicle_ has been disproved by Paul Scheffer-Boichhorst
(_Florentiner Studien_, Leipzig, 1874, pp. 45-210), and the disproof
maintained (_Die Chronik des D. C._, Leipzig, 1875) against a
distinguished authority (C. Hegel, _Die Chronik des D. C., Versuch einer
Rettung_, Leipzig, 1875). Scheffer’s view is generally received in
Germany (see W. Bernhardi, _Der Stand der Dino-Frage, Hist. Zeitschr.
N.F._, 1877, bd. i.), and even Hegel assumes that the text as we have it
is a later manipulation of an unfinished work of Dino. Even in Italy,
though the majority of scholars have wished to ignore this critical
onslaught, as they have done other earlier ones of the same kind, some
voices have been raised to recognise the spuriousness of the document.
(See especially P. Fanfani in his periodical _Il Borghini_, and in the
book _Dino Campagni Vendicato_, Milano, 1875). On the earliest
Florentine histories in general see Hartwig, _Forschungen_, Marburg,
1876, and C. Hegel in H. von Sybel’s _Historischer Zeitschrift_, b.
xxxv. Since then Isidore del Lungo, who with remarkable decision asserts
its genuineness, has completed his great edition of Dino, and furnished
it with a detailed introduction: _Dino Campagni e la sua cronaca_, 2
vols. Firenze, 1879-80. A manuscript of the history, dating back to the
beginning of the fifteenth century, and consequently earlier than all
the hitherto known references and editions, has been lately found. In
consequence of the discovery of this MS. and of the researches
undertaken by C. Hegel, and especially of the evidence that the style of
the work does not differ from that of the fourteenth century, the
prevailing view of the subject is essentially this, that the Chronicle
contains an important kernel, which is genuine, which, however, perhaps
even in the fourteenth century, was remodelled on the ground-plan of
Villani’s Chronicle. Comp. Gaspary, _Geschichte der italienischen
Literatur_. Berlin, 1885, i. pp. 361-9, 531 sqq.

[155] _Purgatorio_, vi. at the end.

[156] _De Monarchia_, i. 1. (New critical edition by Witte, Halle, 1863,
71; German translation by O. Hubatsch, Berlin, 1872).

[157] _Dantis Alligherii Epistolæ_, cum notis C. Witte, Padua, 1827. He
wished to keep the Pope as well as the Emperor always in Italy. See his
letter, p. 35, during the conclave of Carpentras, 1314. On the first
letter see _Vitæ Nuova_, cap. 31, and _Epist._ p. 9.

[158] Giov. Villani, xi. 20. Comp. Matt. Villani, ix. 93, who says that
John XXII. ‘astuto in tutte sue cose e massime in fare il danaio,’ left
behind him 18 million florins in cash and 6 millions in jewels.

[159] See for this and similar facts Giov. Villani, xi. 87, xii. 54. He
lost his own money in the crash and was imprisoned for debt. See also
Kervyn de Lettenhove, _L’Europe au Siècle de Philippe le Bel, Les
Argentiers Florentins_ in _Bulletin de l’Académie de Bruxelles_ (1861),
vol. xii. pp. 123 sqq.

[160] Giov. Villani, xi. 92, 93. In Macchiavelli, _Stor. Fiorent._ lib.
ii. cap. 42, we read that 96,000 persons died of the plague in 1348.

[161] The priest put aside a black bean for every boy and a white one
for every girl. This was the only means of registration.

[162] There was already a permanent fire brigade in Florence.

[163] Matteo Villani, iii. 106.

[164] Matteo Villani, i. 2-7, comp. 58. The best authority for the
plague itself is the famous description by Boccaccio at the beginning of
the _Decameron_.

[165] Giov. Villani, x. 164.

[166] _Ex Annalibus Ceretani_, in Fabroni, _Magni Cormi Vita_, Adnot.
34. vol. ii. p. 63.

[167] _Ricordi_ of Lorenzo, in Fabroni. _Laur. Med. Magnifici Vita_,
Adnot. 2 and 25. Paul. Jovius, _Elogia_, pp. 131 sqq. Cosmus.

[168] Given by Benedetto Dei, in the passage quoted above (p. 70, note
1). It must be remembered that the account was intended to serve as a
warning to assailants. For the whole subject see Reumont, _Lor. dei
Medici_, ii. p. 419. The financial project of a certain Ludovico Ghetti,
with important facts, is given in Roscoe, _Vita di Lor. Med._ ii.
Append, i.

[169] E. g. in the _Arch. Stor._ iv.(?) See as a contrast the very
simple ledger of Ott. Nuland, 1455-1462 (Stuttg. 1843), and for a rather
later period the day-book of Lukas Rem, 1494-1541, ed. by B. Greiff,
Augsb., 1861.

[170] Libri, _Histoire des Sciences Mathématiques_, ii. 163 sqq.

[171] Varchi, _Stor. Fiorent._ iii. p. 56 and sqq. up to the end of the
9th book. Some obviously erroneous figures are probably no more than
clerical or typographical blunders.

[172] In respect of prices and of wealth in Italy, I am only able, in
default of further means of investigation, to bring together some
scattered facts, which I have picked up here and there. Obvious
exaggerations must be put aside. The gold coins which are worth
referring to are the ducat, the sequin, the ‘fiorino d’oro,’ and the
‘scudo d’oro.’ The value of all is nearly the same, 11 to 12 francs of
our money.

In Venice, for example, the Doge Andrea Vendramin (1476) with 170,000
ducats passed for an exceedingly rich man (Malipiero, l. c. vii. ii. p.
666. The confiscated fortune of Colleoni amounted to 216,000 florins, l.
c. p. 244.

About 1460 the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ludovico Patavino, with 200,000
ducats, was called ‘perhaps the richest of all Italians.’ (Gasp.
Veroneus _Vita Pauli II._, in Murat. iii. ii. col. 1027.) Elsewhere
fabulous statements.

Antonio Grimani paid 30,000 ducats for his son’s election as Cardinal.
His ready money alone was put at 100,000 ducats. (_Chron. Venetum_,
Murat. xxiv. col. 125.)

For notices as to the grain in commerce and on the market at Venice, see
in particular Malipiero, l. c. vii. ii. p. 709 sqq. Date 1498.

In 1522 it is no longer Venice, but Genoa, next to Rome, which ranks as
the richest city in Italy (only credible on the authority of Francesco.
Vettori. See his history in the _Archiv. Stor._ Append. tom. vi. p.
343). Bandello, _parte_ ii. _novello_ 34 and 42, names as the richest
Genoese merchant of his time Ansaldo Grimaldi.

Between 1400 and 1580 Franc. Sansovino assumes a depreciation of 50 per
cent. in the value of money. (_Venezia_, fol. 151 bis.)

In Lombardy it is believed that the relation between the price of corn
about the middle of the fifteenth and that at the middle of the present
century is as 3 to 8. (Sacco di Piacenza, in _Archiv. Stor._ Append.
tom. v. Note of editor Scarabelli.)

At Ferrara there were people at the time of Duke Borso with 50,000 to
60,000 ducats (_Diario Ferrarese_, Murat. xxiv. col. 207, 214, 218; an
extravagant statement, col. 187). In Florence the data are exceptional
and do not justify a conclusion as to averages. Of this kind are the
loans to foreign princes, in which the names of one or two houses only
appear, but which were in fact the work of great companies. So too the
enormous fines levied on defeated parties; we read, e.g. that from 1430
to 1453 seventy-seven families paid 4,875,000 gold florins (Varchi, iii.
p. 115 sqq.), and that Giannozzo Mannetti alone, of whom we shall have
occasion to speak hereafter, was forced to pay a sum of 135,000 gold
florins, and was reduced thereby to beggary (Reumont, i. 157).

The fortune of Giovanni Medici amounted at his death (1428) to 179,221
gold florins, but the latter alone of his two sons Cosimo and Lorenzo
left at his death (1440) as much as 235,137 (Fabroni, _Laur. Med._
Adnot. 2). Cosimo’s son Piero left (1469) 237,982 scudi (Reumont,
_Lorenzo de’ Medici_, i. 286).

It is a proof of the general activity of trade that the forty-four
goldsmiths on the Ponte Vecchio paid in the fourteenth century a rent of
800 florins to the Government (Vasari, ii. 114, _Vita di Taddeo Gaddi_).
The diary of Buonaccorso Pitti (in Delécluze, _Florence et ses
Vicissitudes_, vol. ii.) is full of figures, which, however, only prove
in general the high price of commodities and the low value of money.

For Rome, the income of the Curia, which was derived from all Europe,
gives us no criterion; nor are statements about papal treasures and the
fortunes of cardinals very trustworthy. The well-known banker Agostino
Chigi left (1520) a fortune of in all 800,000 ducats (_Lettere
Pittoriche_, i. Append. 48).

During the high prices of the year 1505 the value of the _staro
ferrarrese del grano_, which commonly weighed from 68 to 70 pounds
(German), rose to 1⅓ ducats. The _semola_ or _remolo_ was sold at
_venti soldi lo staro_; in the following fruitful years the _staro_
fetched six _soldi_. Bonaventura Pistofilo, p. 494. At Ferrara the rent
of a house yearly in 1455 was 25 _Lire_; comp. _Atti e memorie_, Parma,
vi. 250; see 265 sqq. for a documentary statement of the prices which
were paid to artists and amanuenses.

From the inventory of the Medici (extracts in Muntz, _Prècurseurs_, 158
sqq.) it appears that the jewels were valued at 12,205 ducats; the rings
at 1,792; the pearls (apparently distinguished from other jewels,
S.G.C.M.) at 3,512; the medallions, cameos and mosaics at 2,579; the
vases at 4,850; the reliquaries and the like at 3,600; the library at
2,700; the silver at 7,000. Giov. Rucellai reckons that in 1473(?) he
has paid 60,000 gold florins in taxes, 10,000 for the dowries of his
five daughters, 2,000 for the improvement of the church of Santa Maria
Novella. In 1474 he lost 20,000 gold florins through the intrigues of an
enemy. (_Autografo dallo Tibaldone di G.R._, Florence, 1872). The
marriage of Barnardo Rucellai with Nannina, the sister of Lorenzo de’
Medici, cost 3,686 florins (Muntz, _Précurseurs_, 244, i).

[173] So far as Cosimo (1433-1465) and his grandson Lorenzo Magnifico
(d. 1492) are concerned, the author refrains from any criticism on their
internal policy. The exaltation of both, particularly of Lorenzo, by
William Roscoe (_Life of Lorenzo de’ Medici, called the Magnificent_,
1st ed. Liverpool, 1795; 10th ed. London, 1851), seems to have been a
principal cause of the reaction of feeling against them. This reaction
appeared first in Sismondi (_Hist. des Rép. Italiennes_, xi.), in reply
to whose strictures, sometimes unreasonably severe, Roscoe again came
forward (_Illustrations, Historical and Critical, of the Life of Lor. d.
Med._, London, 1822); later in Gino Capponi (_Archiv. Stor. Ital._ i.
(1842), pp. 315 sqq.), who afterwards (_Storia della Rep. di Firenze_, 2
vols. Florence, 1875) gave further proofs and explanations of his
judgment. See also the work of Von Reumont (_Lor. d. Med. il Magn._), 2
vols. Leipzig, 1874, distinguished no less by the judicial calmness of
its views than by the mastery it displays of the extensive materials
used. See also A. Castelman: _Les Medicis_, 2 vols. Paris, 1879. The
subject here is only casually touched upon. Comp. two works of B. Buser
(Leipzig, 1879) devoted to the home and foreign policy of the Medici.
(1) _Die Beziehungen der Medicus zu Frankreich._ 1434-1494, &c. (2)
_Lorenzo de’ Medici als italienischen Staatsman_, &c., 2nd ed., 1883.

[174] Franc. Burlamacchi, father of the head of the Lucchese
Protestants, Michele B. See _Arch. Stor. Ital._ ser. i. tom. x., pp.
435-599; Documenti, pp. 146 sqq.; further Carlo Minutoli, _Storia di Fr.
B._, Lucca, 1844, and the important additions of Leone del Prete in the
_Giornale Storico degli Archiv. Toscani_, iv. (1860), pp. 309 sqq. It is
well known how Milan, by its hard treatment of the neighbouring cities
from the eleventh to the thirteenth century, prepared the way for the
foundation of a great despotic state. Even at the time of the extinction
of the Visconti in 1447, Milan frustrated the deliverance of Upper
Italy, principally through not accepting the plan of a confederation of
equal cities. Comp. Corio, fol. 358 sqq.

[175] On the third Sunday in Advent, 1494, Savonarola preached as
follows on the method of bringing about a new constitution: The sixteen
companies of the city were each to work out a plan, the Gonfalonieri to
choose the four best of these, and the Signory to name the best of all
on the reduced list. Things, however, took a different turn, under the
influence indeed of the preacher himself. See P. Villari, _Savonarola_.
Besides this sermon, S. had written a remarkable _Trattato circa il
regimento di Ferenze_ (reprinted at Lucca, 1817).

[176] The latter first in 1527, after the expulsion of the Medici. See
Varchi, i. 121, &c.

[177] Macchiavelli, _Storie Fior._ l. iii. cap. 1: ‘Un Savio dator di
leggi,’ could save Florence.

[178] Varchi, _Stor. Fior._ i. p. 210.

[179] ‘Discorso sopra il riformar lo Stato di Firenze,’ in the _Opere
Minori_, p. 207.

[180] The same view, doubtless borrowed from here, occurs in

[181] Belonging to a rather later period (1532?). Compare the opinion of
Guicciardini, terrible in its frankness, on the condition and inevitable
organisation of the Medicean party. _Lettere di Principi_, iii. fol.
124, (ediz. Venez. 1577).

[182] Æn. Sylvii, _Apologia ad Martinum Mayer_, p. 701. To the same
effect Macchiavelli, _Discorsi_, i. 55, and elsewhere.

[183] How strangely modern half-culture affected political life is shown
by the party struggles of 1535. Della Valle, _Lettere Sanesi_, iii. p.
317. A number of small shopkeepers, excited by the study of Livy and of
Macchiavelli’s _Discorsi_, call in all seriousness for tribunes of the
people and other Roman magistrates against the misgovernment of the
nobles and the official classes.

[184] Piero Valeriano, _De Infelicitate Literator._, speaking of
Bartolommeo della Rovere. (The work of P. V. written 1527 is quoted
according to the edition by Menken, _Analecta de Calamitate
Literatorum_, Leipz. 1707.) The passage here meant can only be that at
p. 384, from which we cannot infer what is stated in the text, but in
which we read that B. d. R. wished to make his son abandon a taste for
study which he had conceived and put him into business.

[185] Senarega, _De reb. Genuens_, in Murat. xxiv. col. 548. For the
insecurity of the time see esp. col. 519, 525, 528, &c. For the frank
language of the envoy on the occasion of the surrender of the state to
Francesco Sforza (1464), when the envoy told him that Genoa surrendered
in the hope of now living safely and comfortably, see Cagnola, _Archiv.
Stor._ iii. p. 165 sqq. The figures of the Archbishop, Doge, Corsair,
and (later) Cardinal Paolo Fregoso form a notable contrast to the
general picture of the condition of Italy.

[186] So Varchi, at a much later time. _Stor. Fiorent._ i. 57.

[187] Galeazzo Maria Sforza, indeed, declared the contrary (1467) to the
Venetian agent, namely, that Venetian subjects had offered to join him
in making war on Venice; but this is only vapouring. Comp. Malipiero,
_Annali Veneti, Archiv. Stor._ vii. i. p. 216 sqq. On every occasion
cities and villages voluntarily surrendered to Venice, chiefly, it is
true, those that escaped from the hands of some despot, while Florence
had to keep down the neighbouring republics, which were used to
independence, by force of arms, as Guicciardini (_Ricordi_, n. 29)

[188] Most strongly, perhaps, in an instruction to the ambassadors going
to Charles VII. in the year 1452. (See Fabroni, _Cosmus_, Adnot. 107,
fol. ii. pp. 200 sqq.) The Florentine envoys were instructed to remind
the king of the centuries of friendly relations which had subsisted
between France and their native city, and to recall to him that Charles
the Great had delivered Florence and Italy from the barbarians
(Lombards), and that Charles I. and the Romish Church were ‘fondatori
della parte Guelfa. Il qual fundamento fa cagione della ruina della
contraria parte e introdusse lo stato di felicità, in che noi siamo.’
When the young Lorenzo visited the Duke of Anjou, then staying at
Florence, he put on a French dress. Fabroni, ii. p. 9.

[189] Comines, _Charles VIII._ chap. x. The French were considered
‘comme saints.’ Comp. chap. 17; _Chron. Venetum_, in Murat. xxiv. col.
5, 10, 14, 15; Matarazzo, _Cron. di Perugia, Arch. Stor._ xvi. ii. p.
23, not to speak of countless other proofs. See especially the documents
in Desjardins, op. cit. p. 127, note 1.

[190] _Pii II. Commentarii_, x. p. 492.

[191] Gingins, _Dépêches des Ambassadeurs Milanais_, _etc._ i. pp. 26,
153, 279, 283, 285, 327, 331, 345, 359; ii. pp. 29, 37, 101, 217, 306.
Charles once spoke of giving Milan to the young Duke of Orleans.

[192] Niccolò Valori, _Vita di Lorenzo_, Flor. 1568. Italian translation
of the Latin original, first printed in 1749 (later in Galletti, _Phil.
Villani, Liber de Civit. Flor. famosis Civibus_, Florence, 1847, pp.
161-183; passage here referred to p. 171). It must not, however, be
forgotten that this earliest biography, written soon after the death of
Lorenzo, is a flattering rather than a faithful portrait, and that the
words here attributed to Lorenzo are not mentioned by the French
reporter, and can, in fact, hardly have been uttered. Comines, who was
commissioned by Louis XI. to go to Rome and Florence, says (_Mémoires_,
l. vi. chap. 5): ‘I could not offer him an army, and had nothing with me
but my suite.’ (Comp. Reumont, _Lorenzo_, i. p. 197, 429; ii. 598). In a
letter from Florence to Louis XI. we read (Aug. 23, 1478: ‘Omnis spes
nostra reposita est in favoribus suæ majestatis.’ A. Desjardins,
_Négociations Diplomatiques de la France avec la Toscane_ (Paris, 1859),
i. p. 173. Similarly Lorenzo himself in Kervyn de Lettenhove, _Lettres
et Négotiations de Philippe de Comines_, i. p. 190. Lorenzo, we see, is
in fact the one who humbly begs for help, not who proudly declines it.

Dr. Geiger in his appendix maintains that Dr. Burchhardt’s view as to
Lorenzo’s national Italian policy is not borne out by evidence. Into
this discussion the translator cannot enter. It would need strong proof
to convince him that the masterly historical perception of Dr.
Burchhardt was in error as to a subject which he has studied with minute
care. In an age when diplomatic lying and political treachery were
matters of course, documentary evidence loses much of its weight, and
cannot be taken without qualification as representing the real feelings
of the persons concerned, who fenced, turned about, and lied, first on
one side and then on another, with an agility surprising to those
accustomed to live among truth-telling people (S.G.C.M.)

Authorities quoted by Dr. Geiger are: Reumont, _Lorenzo_, 2nd ed., i.
310; ii. 450. Desjardins: _Négociations Diplomatiques de la France avec
la Toscane_ (Paris, 1859), i. 173. Kervyn de Lettenhove, _Lettres et
Négociations de Philippe de Comines_, i. 180.

[193] Fabroni, _Laurentius Magnificus_, Adnot. 205 sqq. In one of his
Briefs it was said literally, ‘Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta
movebo;’ but it is to be hoped that he did not allude to the Turks.
(Villari, _Storia di Savonarola_, ii. p. 48 of the ‘Documenti.’)

[194] E.g. Jovian. Pontan. in his _Charon_. In the dialogue between
Æcus, Minos, and Mercurius (_Op._ ed. Bas. ii. p. 1167) the first says:
‘Vel quod haud multis post sæculis futurum auguror, ut Italia, cujus
intestina te odia male habent Minos, in unius redacta ditionem resumat
imperii majestatem.’ And in reply to Mercury’s warning against the
Turks, Æcus answers: ‘Quamquam timenda hæc sunt, tamen si vetera
respicimus, non ab Asia aut Græcia, verum a Gallis Germanisque timendum
Italiæ semper fuit.’

[195] Comines, _Charles VIII._, chap. 7. How Alfonso once tried in time
of war to seize his opponents at a conference, is told by Nantiporto, in
Murat. iii. ii. col. 1073. He was a genuine predecessor of Cæsar Borgia.

[196] _Pii II. Commentarii_, x. p. 492. See a letter of Malatesta in
which he recommends to Mohammed II. a portrait-painter, Matteo Passo of
Verona, and announces the despatch of a book on the art of war, probably
in the year 1463, in Baluz. _Miscell._ iii. 113. What Galeazzo Maria of
Milan told in 1467 to a Venetian envoy, namely, that he and his allies
would join with the Turks to destroy Venice, was said merely by way of
threat. Comp. Malipiero, _Ann. Veneti, Archiv. Stor._ vii. i. p. 222.
For Boccalino, see page 36.

[197] Porzio, _Congiura dei Baroni_, l. i. p. 5. That Lorenzo, as Porzio
hints, really had a hand in it, is not credible. On the other hand, it
seems only too certain that Venice prompted the Sultan to the deed. See
Romanin, _Storia Documentata di Venezia_, lib. xi. cap. 3. After Otranto
was taken, Vespasiano Bisticci uttered his ‘Lamento d’Italia, _Archiv.
Stor. Ital._ iv. pp. 452 sqq.

[198] _Chron. Venet._ in Murat. xxiv. col. 14 and 76.

[199] Malipiero, l. c. p. 565, 568.

[200] Trithem. _Annales Hirsaug_, ad. a. 1490, tom. ii. pp. 535 sqq.

[201] Malipiero, l. c. 161; comp. p. 152. For the surrender of Djem to
Charles VIII. see p. 145, from which it is clear that a connection of
the most shameful kind existed between Alexander and Bajazet, even if
the documents in Burcardus be spurious. See on the subject Ranke, _Zur
Kritik neuerer Geschichtschreiber_, 2 Auflage, Leipzig, 1874, p. 99, and
Gregorovius, bd. vii. 353, note 1. _Ibid._ p. 353, note 2, a declaration
of the Pope that he was not allied with the Turks.

[202] Bapt. Mantuanus, _De Calamitatibus Temporum_, at the end of the
second book, in the song of the Nereid Doris to the Turkish fleet.

[203] Tommaso Gar, _Relaz. della Corte di Roma_, i. p. 55.

[204] Ranke, _Geschichte der romanischen und germanischen Völker_. The
opinion of Michelet (_Reforme_, p. 467), that the Turks would have
adopted Western civilisation in Italy, does not satisfy me. This mission
of Spain is hinted at, perhaps for the first time, in the speech
delivered by Fedra Inghirami in 1510 before Julius II., at the
celebration of the capture of Bugia by the fleet of Ferdinand the
Catholic. See _Anecdota Litteraria_, ii. p. 419.

[205] Among others Corio, fol. 333. Jov. Pontanus, in his treatise, _De
Liberalitate_, cap. 28, considers the free dismissal of Alfonso as a
proof of the ‘liberalitas’ of Filippo Maria. (See above, p. 38, note 1.)
Compare the line of conduct adopted with regard to Sforza, fol. 329.

[206] Nic. Valori, _Vita di Lorenzo_; Paul Jovius, _Vita Leonis X._ l.
i. The latter certainly upon good authority, though not without
rhetorical embellishment. Comp. Reumont, i. 487, and the passage there

[207] If Comines on this and many other occasions observes and judges as
objectively as any Italian, his intercourse with Italians, particularly
with Angelo Catto, must be taken into account.

[208] Comp. e.g. Malipiero, pp. 216, 221, 236, 237, 468, &c., and above
pp. 88, note 2, and 93, note 1. Comp. Egnatius, fol. 321 _a_. The Pope
curses an ambassador; a Venetian envoy insults the Pope; another, to win
over his hearers, tells a fable.

[209] In Villari, _Storia di Savonarola_, vol. ii. p. xliii. of the
‘Documenti,’ among which are to be found other important political
letters. Other documents, particularly of the end of the fifteenth
century in Baluzius, _Miscellanea_, ed. Mansi, vol. i. See especially
the collected despatches of Florentine and Venetian ambassadors at the
end of the fifteenth and beginning of sixteenth centuries in Desjardins,
_Négotiations diplomatiques de la France avec la Toscane_. vols. i. ii.
Paris. 1859, 1861.

[210] The subject has been lately treated more fully by Max Jähns, _Die
Kriegskunst als Kunst_, Leipzig, 1874.

[211] _Pii II. Comment._ iv. p. 190, ad. a. 1459.

[212] The Cremonese prided themselves on their skill in this department.
See _Cronaca di Cremona_ in the _Bibliotheca Historica Italica_, vol. i.
Milan, 1876, p. 214, and note. The Venetians did the same, Egnatius,
fol. 300 sqq.

[213] To this effect Paul Jovius (_Elogia_, p. 184) who adds: ‘Nondum
enim invecto externarum gentium cruento more, Italia milites sanguinarii
et multæ cædis avidi esse didicerant.’ We are reminded of Frederick of
Urbino, who would have been ‘ashamed’ to tolerate a printed book in his
library. See _Vespas. Fiorent._

[214] _Porcellii Commentaria Jac. Picinini_, in Murat. xx. A
continuation for the war of 1453, _ibid._ xxv. Paul Cortesius (_De
Hominibus Doctis_, p. 33, Florence, 1734) criticises the book severely
on account of the wretched hexameters.

[215] Porcello calls Scipio Æmilianus by mistake, meaning Africanus

[216] Simonetta, _Hist. Fr. Sfortiæ_, in Murat. xxi. col. 630.

[217] So he was considered. Comp. Bandello, parte i. nov. 40.

[218] Comp. e.g. _De Obsidione Tiphernatium_, in vol. 2, of the _Rer.
Italic. Scriptores excodd. Florent._ col. 690. The duel of Marshal
Boucicault with Galeazzo Gonzaga (1406) in Cagnola, _Arch. Stor._ iii.
p. 25. Infessura tells us of the honour paid by Sixtus IV. to the
duellists among his guards. His successors issued bulls against

[219] We may here notice parenthetically (see Jähns, pp. 26, sqq.) the
less favourable side of the tactics of the Condottieri. The combat was
often a mere sham-fight, in which the enemy was forced to withdraw by
harmless manœuvres. The object of the combatants was to avoid bloodshed,
at the worst to make prisoners with a view to the ransom. According to
Macchiavelli, the Florentines lost in a great battle in the year 1440
one man only.

[220] For details, see _Arch. Stor._ Append. tom. v.

[221] Here once for all we refer our readers to Ranke’s _Popes_, vol.
i., and to Sugenheim, _Geschichte der Entstehung und Ausbildung des
Kirchenstaates_. The still later works of Gregorovius and Reumont have
also been made use of, and when they offer new facts or views, are
quoted. See also _Geschichte der römischen Papstthums_, W. Wattenbach,
Berlin, 1876.

[222] For the impression made by the blessing of Eugenius IV. in
Florence, see _Vespasiano Fiorent_, p. 18. See also the passage quoted
in Reumont, _Lorenzo_, i. 171. For the impressive offices of Nicholas
V., see Infessura (Eccard, ii. col. 1883 sqq.) and J. Manetti, _Vita
Nicolai V._ (Murat. iii. ii. col. 923). For the homage given to Pius
II., see _Diario Ferrarese_ (Murat. xxiv. col. 205), and _Pii II.
Commentarii_, _passim_, esp. iv. 201, 204, and xi. 562. For Florence,
see _Delizie degli Eruditi_, xx. 368. Even professional murderers
respect the person of the Pope.

The great offices in church were treated as matters of much importance
by the pomp-loving Paul II. (Platina, l. c. 321) and by Sixtus IV., who,
in spite of the gout, conducted mass at Easter in a sitting posture.
(_Jac. Volaterran. Diarium_, Murat. xxiii. col. 131.) It is curious to
notice how the people distinguished between the magical efficacy of the
blessing and the unworthiness of the man who gave it; when he was unable
to give the benediction on Ascension Day, 1481, the populace murmured
and cursed him. (_Ibid._ col. 133.)

[223] Macchiavelli, _Scritti Minori_, p. 142, in the well-known essay on
the catastrophe of Sinigaglia. It is true that the French and Spanish
soldiers were still more zealous than the Italians. Comp. in Paul. Jov.
_Vita Leonis X._ (l. ii.) the scene before the battle of Ravenna, in
which the Legate, weeping for joy, was surrounded by the Spanish troops,
and besought for absolution. See further (_ibid._) the statements
respecting the French in Milan.

[224] In the case of the heretics of Poli, in the Campagna, who held the
doctrine that a genuine Pope must show the poverty of Christ as the mark
of his calling, we have simply a kind of Waldensian doctrine. Their
imprisonment under Paul II. is related by Infessura (Eccard, ii. col.
1893), Platina, p. 317, &c.

[225] As an illustration of this feeling see the poem addressed to the
Pope, quoted in Gregorovius, vii. 136.

[226] _Dialogus de Conjuratione Stephani de Porcariis_, by his
contemporary Petrus Godes de Vicenza, quoted and used by Gregorovius,
viii. 130. L. B. Alberti, _De Porcaria Conjuratione_, in Murat. xxv.
col. 309. Porcari was desirous ‘omnem pontificiam turbam funditus
exstinguere.’ The author concludes: ‘Video sane, quo stent loco res
Italiæ; intelligo qui sint, quibus hic perturbata esse omnia
conducat....’ He names them ‘Extrinsecus impulsores,’ and is of opinion
that Porcari will find successors in his misdeeds. The dreams of Porcari
certainly bore some resemblance to those of Cola Rienzi. He also
referred to himself the poem ‘Spirto Gentil,’ addressed by Petrarch to

[227] ‘Ut Papa tantum vicarius Christi sit et non etiam Cæsaris.... Tunc
Papa et dicetur et erit pater sanctus, pater omnium, pater ecclesiæ,’
&c. Valla’s work was written rather earlier, and was aimed at Eugenius
IV. See Vahlen, _Lor. Valla_ (Berlin, 1870), pp. 25 sqq., esp. 32.
Nicholas V., on the other hand, is praised by Valla, Gregorovius, vii.

[228] _Pii II. Comment._ iv. pp. 208 sqq. Voigt, _Enea Silvio_, iii. pp.
151 sqq.

[229] Platina, _Vita Pauli II._

[230] Battista Mantovano, _De Calamitatibus Temporum_, l. iii. The
Arabian sells incense, the Tyrian purple, the Indian ivory: ‘Venalia
nobis templa, sacerdotes, altaria sacra, coronæ, ignes, thura, preces,
cælum est venale Deusque.’ _Opera_, ed. Paris, 1507, fol. 302 _b_. Then
follows an exhortation to Pope Sixtus, whose previous efforts are
praised, to put an end to these evils.

[231] See e.g. the _Annales Placentini_, in Murat. xx. col. 943.

[232] Corio, _Storia di Milano_, fol. 416-420. Pietro had already helped
at the election of Sixtus. See Infessura, in Eccard, _Scriptores_, ii.
col. 1895. It is curious that in 1469 it had been prophesied that
deliverance would come from Savona (home of Sixtus, elected in 1471)
within three years. See the letter and date in Baluz. _Miscell._ iii. p.
181. According to Macchiavelli, _Storie Fiorent._ l. vii. the Venetians
poisoned the cardinal. Certainly they were not without motives to do so.

[233] Honorius II. wished, after the death of William I. (1127), to
annex Apulia, as a feof reverted to St. Peter.

[234] Fabroni, _Laurentius Mag._ Adnot. 130. An informer, Vespucci,
sends word of both, ‘Hanno in ogni elezione a mettere a sacco questa
corte, e sono i maggior ribaldi del mondo.’

[235] Corio, fol. 450. Details, partly from unpublished documents, of
these acts of bribery in Gregorovius, vii. 310 sqq.

[236] A most characteristic letter of exhortation by Lorenzo in Fabroni,
_Laurentius Magn._ Adnot. 217, and extracts in Ranke, _Popes_, i. p. 45,
and in Reumont, _Lorenzo_, ii. pp. 482 sqq.

[237] And perhaps of certain Neapolitan feofs, for the sake of which
Innocent called in the Angevins afresh against the immovable Ferrante.
The conduct of the Pope in this affair and his participation in the
second conspiracy of the barons, were equally foolish and dishonest. For
his method of treating with foreign powers, see above p. 127, note 2.

[238] Comp. in particular Infessura, in Eccard. _Scriptores_, ii.

[239] According to the _Dispacci di Antonio Giustiniani_, i. p. 60, and
iii. p. 309, Seb. Pinzon was a native of Cremona.

[240] Recently by Gregorovius, _Lucrezia Borgia_, 2 Bände 3 Aufl.,
Stuttgart, 1875.

[241] Except the Bentivoglio at Bologna, and the House of Este at
Ferrara. The latter was compelled to form a family relationship,
Lucrezia marrying Prince Alfonso.

[242] According to Corio (fol. 479) Charles had thoughts of a Council,
of deposing the Pope, and even of carrying him away to France, this upon
his return from Naples. According to Benedictus, _Carolus VIII._ (in
Eccard, _Scriptores_, ii. col. 1584), Charles, while in Naples, when
Pope and cardinals refused to recognise his new crown, had certainly
entertained the thought ‘de Italiæ imperio deque pontificis statu
mutando,’ but soon after made up his mind to be satisfied with the
personal humiliation of Alexander. The Pope, nevertheless, escaped him.
Particulars in Pilorgerie, _Campagne et Bulletins de la Grande Armée
d’Italie_, 1494, 1495 (Paris, 1866, 8vo.), where the degree of
Alexander’s danger at different moments is discussed (pp. 111, 117,
&c.). In a letter, there printed, of the Archbishop of St. Malo to Queen
Anne, it is expressly stated: ‘Si nostre roy eust voulu obtemperer à la
plupart des Messeigneurs les Cardinaulx, ilz eussent fait ung autre
pappe en intention de refformer l’église ainsi qu’ilz disaient. Le roy
désire bien la reformacion, mais il ne veult point entreprandre de sa

[243] Corio, fol. 450. Malipiero, _Ann. Veneti, Arch. Stor._ vii. i. p.
318. The rapacity of the whole family can be seen in Malipiero, among
other authorities, l. c. p. 565. A ‘nipote’ was splendidly entertained
in Venice as papal legate, and made an enormous sum of money by selling
dispensations; his servants, when they went away, stole whatever they
could lay their hands on, including a piece of embroidered cloth from
the high altar of a church at Murano.

[244] This in Panvinio alone among contemporary historians (Contin.
Platinæ, p. 339), ‘insidiis Cæsaris fratris interfectus ... connivente
... ad scelus patre,’ and to the same effect Jovius, _Elog. Vir. Ill._
p. 302. The profound emotion of Alexander looks like a sign of
complicity. After the corpse was drawn out of the Tiber, Sannazaro wrote
(_Opera Omnia Latine Scripta_ 1535, fol. 41 _a_):

    ‘Piscatorem hominum ne te non, Sixte, putemus
      Piscaris natum retibus, ecce, tuum.’

Besides the epigram quoted there are others (fol. 36 _b_, 42 _b_, 47
_b_, 51 _a_, _b_--in the last passage 5) in Sannazaro on, i.e. against,
Alexander. Among them is a famous one, referred to in Gregorovius i.
314, on Lucrezia Borgia:

    Ergo te semper cupiet Lucretia Sextus?
    O fatum diri nominis: hic pater est?

Others execrate his cruelty and celebrate his death as the beginning of
an era of peace. On the Jubilee (see below, p. 108, note 1), there is
another epigram, fol. 43 _b_. There are others no less severe (fol. 34
_b_, 35 _a_, _b_, 42 _b_, 43 _a_) against Cæsar Borgia, among which we
find in one of the strongest:

    Aut nihil aut Cæsar vult dici Borgia; quidni?
      Cum simul et Cæsar possit, et esse nihil.

(made use of by Bandello, iv. nov. 11). On the murder of the Duke of
Gandia, see especially the admirable collection of the most original
sources of evidence in Gregorovius, vii. 399-407, according to which
Cæsar’s guilt is clear, but it seems very doubtful whether Alexander
knew, or approved, of the intended assassination.

[245] Macchiavelli, _Opere_, ed. Milan, vol. v. pp. 387, 393, 395, in
the _Legazione al Duca Valentino_.

[246] Tommaso Gar, _Relazioni della Corte di Roma_, i. p. 12, in the
_Rel. of P. Capello_. Literally: ‘The Pope has more respect for Venice
than for any other power in the world.’ ‘E però desidera, che ella
(Signoria di Venezia) protegga il figliuolo, e dice voler fare tale
ordine, che il papato o sia suo, ovvero della signoria nostra.’ The word
‘suo’ can only refer to Cæsar. An instance of the uncertainty caused by
this usage is found in the still lively controversy respecting the words
used by Vasari in the _Vita di Raffaello_: ‘A Bindo Altoviti fece il
ritratto suo, &c.’

[247] _Strozzii Poetae_, p. 19, in the ‘Venatio’ of Ercole Strozza: ’
... cui triplicem fata invidere coronam.’ And in the Elegy on Cæsar’s
death, p. 31 sqq.: ‘Speraretque olim solii decora alta paterni.’

[248] _Ibid._ Jupiter had once promised

    ‘Affore Alexandri sobolem, quæ poneret olim
     Italiæ leges, atque aurea sæcla referret,’ etc.

[249] _Ibid._

    ‘Sacrumque decus majora parantem deposuisse.’

[250] He was married, as is well known, to a French princess of the
family of Albret, and had a daughter by her; in some way or other he
would have attempted to found a dynasty. It is not known that he took
steps to regain the cardinal’s hat, although (acc. to Macchiavelli, l.
c. p. 285) he must have counted on the speedy death of his father.

[251] Macchiavelli, l. c. p. 334. Designs on Siena and eventually on all
Tuscany certainly existed, but were not yet ripe; the consent of France
was indispensable.

[252] Macchiavelli, l. c. pp. 326, 351, 414; Matarazzo, _Cronaca di
Perugia, Arch. Stor._ xvi. ii. pp. 157 and 221. He wished his soldiers
to quarter themselves where they pleased, so that they gained more in
time of peace than of war. Petrus Alcyonius, _De Exilio_ (1522), ed.
Mencken, p. 19, says of the style of conducting war: ‘Ea scelera et
flagitia a nostris militibus patrata sunt quæ ne Scythæ quidem aut
Turcæ, aut Pœni in Italia commisissent.’ The same writer (p. 65) blames
Alexander as a Spaniard: ‘Hispani generis hominem, cujus proprium est,
rationibus et commodis Hispanorum consultum velle, non Italorum.’ See
above, p. 109.

[253] To this effect Pierio Valeriano, _De Infelicitate Literat._ ed.
Mencken, p. 282, in speaking of Giovanni Regio: ‘In arcano proscriptorum
albo positus.’

[254] Tommaso Gar, l. c. p. 11. From May 22, 1502, onwards the
_Despatches of Giustiniani_, 3 vols. Florence, 1876, edited by Pasquale
Villari, offer valuable information.

[255] Paulus Jovius, _Elogia_, Cæsar Borgia. In the _Commentarii Urbani_
of Ralph. Volaterianus, lib. xxii. there is a description of Alexander
VI., composed under Julius II., and still written very guardedly. We
here read: ‘Roma ... nobilis jam carneficina facta erat.’

[256] _Diario Ferrarese_, in Muratori, xxiv. col. 362.

[257] Paul. Jovius, _Histor._ ii. fol. 47.

[258] See the passages in Ranke, _Röm. Päpste_; Sämmtl. Werke, Bd.
xxxvii. 35, and xxxix. Anh. Abschn. 1, Nro. 4, and Gregorovius, vii.
497, sqq. Giustiniani does not believe in the Pope’s being poisoned. See
his _Dispacci_, vol. ii. pp. 107 sqq.; Villari’s Note, pp. 120 sqq., and
App. pp. 458 sqq.

[259] Panvinius, _Epitome Pontificum_, p. 359. For the attempt to poison
Alexander’s successor, Julius II., see p. 363. According to Sismondi,
xiii. p. 246, it was in this way that Lopez, Cardinal of Capua, for
years the partner of all the Pope’s secrets, came by his end; according
to Sanuto (in Ranke, _Popes_, i. p. 52, note), the Cardinal of Verona
also. When Cardinal Orsini died, the Pope obtained a certificate of
natural death from a college of physicians.

[260] Prato, _Arch. Stor._ iii. p. 254; comp. Attilio Alessio, in Baluz.
_Miscell._, iv. p. 518 sqq.

[261] And turned to the most profitable account by the Pope. Comp.
_Chron. Venetum_, in Murat. xxiv. col. 133, given only as a report: ‘E
si giudiceva, che il Pontefice dovesse cavare assai danari di questo
Giubileo, che gli tornerà molto a proposito.

[262] Anshelm, _Berner Chronik_, iii. pp. 146-156. Trithem. _Annales
Hirsaug._ tom. ii. pp. 579, 584, 586.

[263] Panvin. _Contin. Platinae_, p. 341.

[264] Hence the splendour of the tombs of the prelates erected during
their lifetime. A part of the plunder was in this way saved from the
hands of the Popes.

[265] Whether Julius really hoped that Ferdinand the Catholic would be
induced to restore to the throne of Naples the expelled Aragonese
dynasty, remains, in spite of Giovio’s declaration (_Vita Alfonsi
Ducis_), very doubtful.

[266] Both poems in Roscoe, _Leone X._ ed. Bossi, iv. 257 and 297. Of
his death the _Cronaca di Cremona_ says: ‘quale fu grande danno per la
Italia, perchè era homo che non voleva tramontani in Italia, ed haveva
cazato Francesi, e l’animo era de cazar le altri.’ _Bibl. Hist. Ital._
(1876) i. 217. It is true that when Julius, in August, 1511, lay one day
for hours in a fainting fit, and was thought to be dead, the more
restless members of the noblest families--Pompeo Colonna and Antimo
Savelli--ventured to call ‘the people’ to the Capitol, and to urge them
to throw off the Papal yoke--‘a vendicarsi in libertà ... a publica
ribellione,’ as Guicciardini tells us in his tenth book. See, too, Paul.
Jov. in the _Vita Pompeji Columnae_, and Gregorovius, viii. 71-75.

[267] _Septimo decretal._ l. i. tit. 3, cap. 1-3.

[268] Franc. Vettori, in the _Arch. Stor._ vi. 297.

[269] Besides which it is said (Paul. Lang. _Chronicon Cilicense_) to
have produced not less than 500,000 gold florins; the order of the
Franciscans alone, whose general was made a cardinal, paid 30,000. For a
notice of the various sums paid, see Sanuto, xxiv. fol. 227; for the
whole subject see Gregorovius, viii. 214 sqq.

[270] Franc. Vettori, l.c. p. 301. _Arch. Stor._ Append. i. p. 293 sqq.
Roscoe, _Leone X._ ed. Bossi, vi. p. 232 sqq. Tommaso Gar, l. c. p. 42.

[271] Ariosto, Sat. vi. v. 106. ‘Tutti morrete, ed è fatal che muoja
Leone appresso.’ Sat. 3 and 7 ridicule the hangers on at Leo’s Court.

[272] One of several instances of such combinations is given in the
_Lettere dei Principi_, i. 65, in a despatch of the Cardinal Bibbiena
from Paris of the year 1518.

[273] Franc. Vettori, l.c. p. 333.

[274] At the time of the Lateran Council, in 1512, Pico wrote an
address: _J. E. P. Oratio ad Leonem X. et Concilium Lateranense de
Reformandis Ecclesiæ Moribus_ (ed. Hagenau, 1512, frequently printed in
editions of his works). The address was dedicated to Pirckheimer and was
again sent to him in 1517. Comp. _Vir. Doct. Epist. ad Pirck._, ed.
Freytag, Leipz. 1838, p. 8. Pico fears that under Leo evil may
definitely triumph over good, ‘et in te bellum a nostræ religionis
hostibus ante audias geri quam pariri.’

[275] _Lettere dei Principi_, i. (Rome. 17th March, 1523): ‘This city
stands on a needle’s point, and God grant that we are not soon driven to
Avignon or to the end of the Ocean. I foresee the early fall of this
spiritual monarchy.... Unless God helps us we are lost.’ Whether Adrian
were really poisoned or not, cannot be gathered with certainty from Blas
Ortiz, _Itinerar. Hadriani_ (Baluz. _Miscell._ ed. Mansi, i. p. 386
sqq.); the worst of it was that everybody believed it.

[276] Negro, l.c. on Oct. 24 (should be Sept.) and Nov. 9, 1526, April
11, 1527. It is true that he found admirers and flatterers. The dialogue
of Petrus Alcyonus ‘De Exilio’ was written in his praise, shortly before
he became Pope.

[277] Varchi, _Stor. Fiorent._ i. 43, 46 sqq.

[278] Paul. Jov., _Vita Pomp. Columnae_.

[279] Ranke, _Deutsche Geschichte_ (4 Aufl.) ii. 262 sqq.

[280] Varchi, _Stor. Fiorent._ ii. 43 sqq.

[281] _Ibid._ and Ranke, _Deutsche Gesch._ ii. 278, note, and iii. 6
sqq. It was thought that Charles would transfer his seat of government
to Rome.

[282] See his letter to the Pope, dated Carpentras, Sept. 1, 1527, in
the _Anecdota litt._ iv. p. 335.

[283] _Lettere dei Principi_, i. 72. Castiglione to the Pope, Burgos,
Dec. 10, 1527.

[284] Tommaso Gar, _Relaz. della Corte di Roma_, i. 299.

[285] The Farnese succeeded in something of the kind, the Caraffa were

[286] Petrarca, _Epist. Fam._ i. 3. p. 574, when he thanks God that he
was born an Italian. And again in the _Apologia contra cujusdam anonymi
Galli Calumnias_ of the year 1367 (_Opp._ ed. Bas. 1581) p. 1068 sqq.
See L. Geiger, _Petrarca_, 12