Castruccio Castracani Of Lucca

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THE LIFE OF
CASTRUCCIO CASTRACANI OF LUCCA

WRITTEN BY NICOLO MACHIAVELLI

And sent to his friends
ZANOBI BUONDELMONTI
And
LUIGI ALAMANNI



CASTRUCCIO CASTRACANI
1284-1328

It appears, dearest Zanobi and Luigi, a wonderful thing to those who
have considered the matter, that all men, or the larger number of
them, who have performed great deeds in the world, and excelled all
others in their day, have had their birth and beginning in baseness
and obscurity; or have been aggrieved by Fortune in some outrageous
way. They have either been exposed to the mercy of wild beasts, or
they have had so mean a parentage that in shame they have given
themselves out to be sons of Jove or of some other deity. It would be
wearisome to relate who these persons may have been because they are
well known to everybody, and, as such tales would not be particularly
edifying to those who read them, they are omitted. I believe that
these lowly beginnings of great men occur because Fortune is desirous
of showing to the world that such men owe much to her and little to
wisdom, because she begins to show her hand when wisdom can really
take no part in their career: thus all success must be attributed to
her. Castruccio Castracani of Lucca was one of those men who did great
deeds, if he is measured by the times in which he lived and the city
in which he was born; but, like many others, he was neither fortunate
nor distinguished in his birth, as the course of this history will
show. It appeared to be desirable to recall his memory, because I have
discerned in him such indications of valour and fortune as should make
him a great exemplar to men. I think also that I ought to call your
attention to his actions, because you of all men I know delight most
in noble deeds.

The family of Castracani was formerly numbered among the noble
families of Lucca, but in the days of which I speak it had somewhat
fallen in estate, as so often happens in this world. To this family
was born a son Antonio, who became a priest of the order of San
Michele of Lucca, and for this reason was honoured with the title of
Messer Antonio. He had an only sister, who had been married to
Buonaccorso Cenami, but Buonaccorso dying she became a widow, and not
wishing to marry again went to live with her brother. Messer Antonio
had a vineyard behind the house where he resided, and as it was
bounded on all sides by gardens, any person could have access to it
without difficulty. One morning, shortly after sunrise, Madonna
Dianora, as the sister of Messer Antonio was called, had occasion to
go into the vineyard as usual to gather herbs for seasoning the
dinner, and hearing a slight rustling among the leaves of a vine she
turned her eyes in that direction, and heard something resembling the
cry of an infant. Whereupon she went towards it, and saw the hands and
face of a baby who was lying enveloped in the leaves and who seemed to
be crying for its mother. Partly wondering and partly fearing, yet
full of compassion, she lifted it up and carried it to the house,
where she washed it and clothed it with clean linen as is customary,
and showed it to Messer Antonio when he returned home. When he heard
what had happened and saw the child he was not less surprised or
compassionate than his sister. They discussed between themselves what
should be done, and seeing that he was priest and that she had no
children, they finally determined to bring it up. They had a nurse for
it, and it was reared and loved as if it were their own child. They
baptized it, and gave it the name of Castruccio after their father. As
the years passed Castruccio grew very handsome, and gave evidence of
wit and discretion, and learnt with a quickness beyond his years those
lessons which Messer Antonio imparted to him. Messer Antonio intended
to make a priest of him, and in time would have inducted him into his
canonry and other benefices, and all his instruction was given with
this object; but Antonio discovered that the character of Castruccio
was quite unfitted for the priesthood. As soon as Castruccio reached
the age of fourteen he began to take less notice of the chiding of
Messer Antonio and Madonna Dianora and no longer to fear them; he left
off reading ecclesiastical books, and turned to playing with arms,
delighting in nothing so much as in learning their uses, and in
running, leaping, and wrestling with other boys. In all exercises he
far excelled his companions in courage and bodily strength, and if at
any time he did turn to books, only those pleased him which told of
wars and the mighty deeds of men. Messer Antonio beheld all this with
vexation and sorrow.

There lived in the city of Lucca a gentleman of the Guinigi family,
named Messer Francesco, whose profession was arms and who in riches,
bodily strength, and valour excelled all other men in Lucca. He had
often fought under the command of the Visconti of Milan, and as a
Ghibelline was the valued leader of that party in Lucca. This
gentleman resided in Lucca and was accustomed to assemble with others
most mornings and evenings under the balcony of the Podesta, which is
at the top of the square of San Michele, the finest square in Lucca,
and he had often seen Castruccio taking part with other children of
the street in those games of which I have spoken. Noticing that
Castruccio far excelled the other boys, and that he appeared to
exercise a royal authority over them, and that they loved and obeyed
him, Messer Francesco became greatly desirous of learning who he was.
Being informed of the circumstances of the bringing up of Castruccio
he felt a greater desire to have him near to him. Therefore he called
him one day and asked him whether he would more willingly live in the
house of a gentleman, where he would learn to ride horses and use
arms, or in the house of a priest, where he would learn nothing but
masses and the services of the Church. Messer Francesco could see that
it pleased Castruccio greatly to hear horses and arms spoken of, even
though he stood silent, blushing modestly; but being encouraged by
Messer Francesco to speak, he answered that, if his master were
agreeable, nothing would please him more than to give up his priestly
studies and take up those of a soldier. This reply delighted Messer
Francesco, and in a very short time he obtained the consent of Messer
Antonio, who was driven to yield by his knowledge of the nature of the
lad, and the fear that he would not be able to hold him much longer.

Thus Castruccio passed from the house of Messer Antonio the priest to
the house of Messer Francesco Guinigi the soldier, and it was
astonishing to find that in a very short time he manifested all that
virtue and bearing which we are accustomed to associate with a true
gentleman. In the first place he became an accomplished horseman, and
could manage with ease the most fiery charger, and in all jousts and
tournaments, although still a youth, he was observed beyond all
others, and he excelled in all exercises of strength and dexterity.
But what enhanced so much the charm of these accomplishments, was the
delightful modesty which enabled him to avoid offence in either act or
word to others, for he was deferential to the great men, modest with
his equals, and courteous to his inferiors. These gifts made him
beloved, not only by all the Guinigi family, but by all Lucca. When
Castruccio had reached his eighteenth year, the Ghibellines were
driven from Pavia by the Guelphs, and Messer Francesco was sent by the
Visconti to assist the Ghibellines, and with him went Castruccio, in
charge of his forces. Castruccio gave ample proof of his prudence and
courage in this expedition, acquiring greater reputation than any
other captain, and his name and fame were known, not only in Pavia,
but throughout all Lombardy.

Castruccio, having returned to Lucca in far higher estimation that he
left it, did not omit to use all the means in his power to gain as
many friends as he could, neglecting none of those arts which are
necessary for that purpose. About this time Messer Francesco died,
leaving a son thirteen years of age named Pagolo, and having appointed
Castruccio to be his son's tutor and administrator of his estate.
Before he died Francesco called Castruccio to him, and prayed him to
show Pagolo that goodwill which he (Francesco) had always shown to
HIM, and to render to the son the gratitude which he had not been able
to repay to the father. Upon the death of Francesco, Castruccio became
the governor and tutor of Pagolo, which increased enormously his power
and position, and created a certain amount of envy against him in
Lucca in place of the former universal goodwill, for many men
suspected him of harbouring tyrannical intentions. Among these the
leading man was Giorgio degli Opizi, the head of the Guelph party.
This man hoped after the death of Messer Francesco to become the chief
man in Lucca, but it seemed to him that Castruccio, with the great
abilities which he already showed, and holding the position of
governor, deprived him of his opportunity; therefore he began to sow
those seeds which should rob Castruccio of his eminence. Castruccio at
first treated this with scorn, but afterwards he grew alarmed,
thinking that Messer Giorgio might be able to bring him into disgrace
with the deputy of King Ruberto of Naples and have him driven out of
Lucca.

The Lord of Pisa at that time was Uguccione of the Faggiuola of
Arezzo, who being in the first place elected their captain afterwards
became their lord. There resided in Paris some exiled Ghibellines from
Lucca, with whom Castruccio held communications with the object of
effecting their restoration by the help of Uguccione. Castruccio also
brought into his plans friends from Lucca who would not endure the
authority of the Opizi. Having fixed upon a plan to be followed,
Castruccio cautiously fortified the tower of the Onesti, filling it
with supplies and munitions of war, in order that it might stand a
siege for a few days in case of need. When the night came which had
been agreed upon with Uguccione, who had occupied the plain between
the mountains and Pisa with many men, the signal was given, and
without being observed Uguccione approached the gate of San Piero and
set fire to the portcullis. Castruccio raised a great uproar within
the city, calling the people to arms and forcing open the gate from
his side. Uguccione entered with his men, poured through the town, and
killed Messer Giorgio with all his family and many of his friends and
supporters. The governor was driven out, and the government reformed
according to the wishes of Uguccione, to the detriment of the city,
because it was found that more than one hundred families were exiled
at that time. Of those who fled, part went to Florence and part to
Pistoia, which city was the headquarters of the Guelph party, and for
this reason it became most hostile to Uguccione and the Lucchese.

As it now appeared to the Florentines and others of the Guelph party
that the Ghibellines absorbed too much power in Tuscany, they
determined to restore the exiled Guelphs to Lucca. They assembled a
large army in the Val di Nievole, and seized Montecatini; from thence
they marched to Montecarlo, in order to secure the free passage into
Lucca. Upon this Uguccione assembled his Pisan and Lucchese forces,
and with a number of German cavalry which he drew out of Lombardy, he
moved against the quarters of the Florentines, who upon the appearance
of the enemy withdrew from Montecarlo, and posted themselves between
Montecatini and Pescia. Uguccione now took up a position near to
Montecarlo, and within about two miles of the enemy, and slight
skirmishes between the horse of both parties were of daily occurrence.
Owing to the illness of Uguccione, the Pisans and Lucchese delayed
coming to battle with the enemy. Uguccione, finding himself growing
worse, went to Montecarlo to be cured, and left the command of the
army in the hands of Castruccio. This change brought about the ruin of
the Guelphs, who, thinking that the hostile army having lost its
captain had lost its head, grew over-confident. Castruccio observed
this, and allowed some days to pass in order to encourage this belief;
he also showed signs of fear, and did not allow any of the munitions
of the camp to be used. On the other side, the Guelphs grew more
insolent the more they saw these evidences of fear, and every day they
drew out in the order of battle in front of the army of Castruccio.
Presently, deeming that the enemy was sufficiently emboldened, and
having mastered their tactics, he decided to join battle with them.
First he spoke a few words of encouragement to his soldiers, and
pointed out to them the certainty of victory if they would but obey
his commands. Castruccio had noticed how the enemy had placed all his
best troops in the centre of the line of battle, and his less reliable
men on the wings of the army; whereupon he did exactly the opposite,
putting his most valiant men on the flanks, while those on whom he
could not so strongly rely he moved to the centre. Observing this
order of battle, he drew out of his lines and quickly came in sight of
the hostile army, who, as usual, had come in their insolence to defy
him. He then commanded his centre squadrons to march slowly, whilst he
moved rapidly forward those on the wings. Thus, when they came into
contact with the enemy, only the wings of the two armies became
engaged, whilst the center battalions remained out of action, for
these two portions of the line of battle were separated from each
other by a long interval and thus unable to reach each other. By this
expedient the more valiant part of Castruccio's men were opposed to
the weaker part of the enemy's troops, and the most efficient men of
the enemy were disengaged; and thus the Florentines were unable to
fight with those who were arrayed opposite to them, or to give any
assistance to their own flanks. So, without much difficulty,
Castruccio put the enemy to flight on both flanks, and the centre
battalions took to flight when they found themselves exposed to
attack, without having a chance of displaying their valour. The defeat
was complete, and the loss in men very heavy, there being more than
ten thousand men killed with many officers and knights of the Guelph
party in Tuscany, and also many princes who had come to help them,
among whom were Piero, the brother of King Ruberto, and Carlo, his
nephew, and Filippo, the lord of Taranto. On the part of Castruccio
the loss did not amount to more than three hundred men, among whom was
Francesco, the son of Uguccione, who, being young and rash, was killed
in the first onset.

This victory so greatly increased the reputation of Castruccio that
Uguccione conceived some jealousy and suspicion of him, because it
appeared to Uguccione that this victory had given him no increase of
power, but rather than diminished it. Being of this mind, he only
waited for an opportunity to give effect to it. This occurred on the
death of Pier Agnolo Micheli, a man of great repute and abilities in
Lucca, the murderer of whom fled to the house of Castruccio for
refuge. On the sergeants of the captain going to arrest the murderer,
they were driven off by Castruccio, and the murderer escaped. This
affair coming to the knowledge of Uguccione, who was than at Pisa, it
appeared to him a proper opportunity to punish Castruccio. He
therefore sent for his son Neri, who was the governor of Lucca, and
commissioned him to take Castruccio prisoner at a banquet and put him
to death. Castruccio, fearing no evil, went to the governor in a
friendly way, was entertained at supper, and then thrown into prison.
But Neri, fearing to put him to death lest the people should be
incensed, kept him alive, in order to hear further from his father
concerning his intentions. Ugucionne cursed the hesitation and
cowardice of his son, and at once set out from Pisa to Lucca with four
hundred horsemen to finish the business in his own way; but he had not
yet reached the baths when the Pisans rebelled and put his deputy to
death and created Count Gaddo della Gherardesca their lord. Before
Uguccione reached Lucca he heard of the occurrences at Pisa, but it
did not appear wise to him to turn back, lest the Lucchese with the
example of Pisa before them should close their gates against him. But
the Lucchese, having heard of what had happened at Pisa, availed
themselves of this opportunity to demand the liberation of Castruccio,
notwithstanding that Uguccione had arrived in their city. They first
began to speak of it in private circles, afterwards openly in the
squares and streets; then they raised a tumult, and with arms in their
hands went to Uguccione and demanded that Castruccio should be set at
liberty. Uguccione, fearing that worse might happen, released him from
prison. Whereupon Castruccio gathered his friends around him, and with
the help of the people attacked Uguccione; who, finding he had no
resource but in flight, rode away with his friends to Lombardy, to the
lords of Scale, where he died in poverty.

But Castruccio from being a prisoner became almost a prince in Lucca,
and he carried himself so discreetly with his friends and the people
that they appointed him captain of their army for one year. Having
obtained this, and wishing to gain renown in war, he planned the
recovery of the many towns which had rebelled after the departure of
Uguccione, and with the help of the Pisans, with whom he had concluded
a treaty, he marched to Serezzana. To capture this place he
constructed a fort against it, which is called to-day Zerezzanello; in
the course of two months Castruccio captured the town. With the
reputation gained at that siege, he rapidly seized Massa, Carrara, and
Lavenza, and in a short time had overrun the whole of Lunigiana. In
order to close the pass which leads from Lombardy to Lunigiana, he
besieged Pontremoli and wrested it from the hands of Messer Anastagio
Palavicini, who was the lord of it. After this victory he returned to
Lucca, and was welcomed by the whole people. And now Castruccio,
deeming it imprudent any longer to defer making himself a prince, got
himself created the lord of Lucca by the help of Pazzino del Poggio,
Puccinello dal Portico, Francesco Boccansacchi, and Cecco Guinigi, all
of whom he had corrupted; and he was afterwards solemnly and
deliberately elected prince by the people. At this time Frederick of
Bavaria, the King of the Romans, came into Italy to assume the
Imperial crown, and Castruccio, in order that he might make friends
with him, met him at the head of five hundred horsemen. Castruccio had
left as his deputy in Lucca, Pagolo Guinigi, who was held in high
estimation, because of the people's love for the memory of his father.
Castruccio was received in great honour by Frederick, and many
privileges were conferred upon him, and he was appointed the emperor's
lieutenant in Tuscany. At this time the Pisans were in great fear of
Gaddo della Gherardesca, whom they had driven out of Pisa, and they
had recourse for assistance to Frederick. Frederick created Castruccio
the lord of Pisa, and the Pisans, in dread of the Guelph party, and
particularly of the Florentines, were constrained to accept him as
their lord.

Frederick, having appointed a governor in Rome to watch his Italian
affairs, returned to Germany. All the Tuscan and Lombardian
Ghibellines, who followed the imperial lead, had recourse to
Castruccio for help and counsel, and all promised him the governorship
of his country, if enabled to recover it with his assistance. Among
these exiles were Matteo Guidi, Nardo Scolari, Lapo Uberti, Gerozzo
Nardi, and Piero Buonaccorsi, all exiled Florentines and Ghibellines.
Castruccio had the secret intention of becoming the master of all
Tuscany by the aid of these men and of his own forces; and in order to
gain greater weight in affairs, he entered into a league with Messer
Matteo Visconti, the Prince of Milan, and organized for him the forces
of his city and the country districts. As Lucca had five gates, he
divided his own country districts into five parts, which he supplied
with arms, and enrolled the men under captains and ensigns, so that he
could quickly bring into the field twenty thousand soldiers, without
those whom he could summon to his assistance from Pisa. While he
surrounded himself with these forces and allies, it happened at Messer
Matteo Visconti was attacked by the Guelphs of Piacenza, who had
driven out the Ghibellines with the assistance of a Florentine army
and the King Ruberto. Messer Matteo called upon Castruccio to invade
the Florentines in their own territories, so that, being attacked at
home, they should be compelled to draw their army out of Lombardy in
order to defend themselves. Castruccio invaded the Valdarno, and
seized Fucecchio and San Miniato, inflicting immense damage upon the
country. Whereupon the Florentines recalled their army, which had
scarcely reached Tuscany, when Castruccio was forced by other
necessities to return to Lucca.

There resided in the city of Lucca the Poggio family, who were so
powerful that they could not only elevate Castruccio, but even advance
him to the dignity of prince; and it appearing to them they had not
received such rewards for their services as they deserved, they
incited other families to rebel and to drive Castruccio out of Lucca.
They found their opportunity one morning, and arming themselves, they
set upon the lieutenant whom Castruccio had left to maintain order and
killed him. They endeavoured to raise the people in revolt, but
Stefano di Poggio, a peaceable old man who had taken no hand in the
rebellion, intervened and compelled them by his authority to lay down
their arms; and he offered to be their mediator with Castruccio to
obtain from him what they desired. Therefore they laid down their arms
with no greater intelligence than they had taken them up. Castruccio,
having heard the news of what had happened at Lucca, at once put
Pagolo Guinigi in command of the army, and with a troop of cavalry set
out for home. Contrary to his expectations, he found the rebellion at
an end, yet he posted his men in the most advantageous places
throughout the city. As it appeared to Stefano that Castruccio ought
to be very much obliged to him, he sought him out, and without saying
anything on his own behalf, for he did not recognize any need for
doing so, he begged Castruccio to pardon the other members of his
family by reason of their youth, their former friendships, and the
obligations which Castruccio was under to their house. To this
Castruccio graciously responded, and begged Stefano to reassure
himself, declaring that it gave him more pleasure to find the tumult
at an end than it had ever caused him anxiety to hear of its
inception. He encouraged Stefano to bring his family to him, saying
that he thanked God for having given him the opportunity of showing
his clemency and liberality. Upon the word of Stefano and Castruccio
they surrendered, and with Stefano were immediately thrown into prison
and put to death. Meanwhile the Florentines had recovered San Miniato,
whereupon it seemed advisable to Castruccio to make peace, as it did
not appear to him that he was sufficiently secure at Lucca to leave
him. He approached the Florentines with the proposal of a truce, which
they readily entertained, for they were weary of the war, and desirous
of getting rid of the expenses of it. A treaty was concluded with them
for two years, by which both parties agreed to keep the conquests they
had made. Castruccio thus released from this trouble, turned his
attention to affairs in Lucca, and in order that he should not again
be subject to the perils from which he had just escaped, he, under
various pretences and reasons, first wiped out all those who by their
ambition might aspire to the principality; not sparing one of them,
but depriving them of country and property, and those whom he had in
his hands of life also, stating that he had found by experience that
none of them were to be trusted. Then for his further security he
raised a fortress in Lucca with the stones of the towers of those whom
he had killed or hunted out of the state.

Whilst Castruccio made peace with the Florentines, and strengthened
his position in Lucca, he neglected no opportunity, short of open war,
of increasing his importance elsewhere. It appeared to him that if he
could get possession of Pistoia, he would have one foot in Florence,
which was his great desire. He, therefore, in various ways made
friends with the mountaineers, and worked matters so in Pistoia that
both parties confided their secrets to him. Pistoia was divided, as it
always had been, into the Bianchi and Neri parties; the head of the
Bianchi was Bastiano di Possente, and of the Neri, Jacopo da Gia. Each
of these men held secret communications with Castruccio, and each
desired to drive the other out of the city; and, after many
threatenings, they came to blows. Jacopo fortified himself at the
Florentine gate, Bastiano at that of the Lucchese side of the city;
both trusted more in Castruccio than in the Florentines, because they
believed that Castruccio was far more ready and willing to fight than
the Florentines, and they both sent to him for assistance. He gave
promises to both, saying to Bastiano that he would come in person, and
to Jacopo that he would send his pupil, Pagolo Guinigi. At the
appointed time he sent forward Pagolo by way of Pisa, and went himself
direct to Pistoia; at midnight both of them met outside the city, and
both were admitted as friends. Thus the two leaders entered, and at a
signal given by Castruccio, one killed Jacopo da Gia, and the other
Bastiano di Possente, and both took prisoners or killed the partisans
of either faction. Without further opposition Pistoia passed into the
hands of Castruccio, who, having forced the Signoria to leave the
palace, compelled the people to yield obedience to him, making them
many promises and remitting their old debts. The countryside flocked
to the city to see the new prince, and all were filled with hope and
quickly settled down, influenced in a great measure by his great
valour.

About this time great disturbances arose in Rome, owing to the
dearness of living which was caused by the absence of the pontiff at
Avignon. The German governor, Enrico, was much blamed for what
happened--murders and tumults following each other daily, without his
being able to put an end to them. This caused Enrico much anxiety lest
the Romans should call in Ruberto, the King of Naples, who would drive
the Germans out of the city, and bring back the Pope. Having no nearer
friend to whom he could apply for help than Castruccio, he sent to
him, begging him not only to give him assistance, but also to come in
person to Rome. Castruccio considered that he ought not to hesitate to
render the emperor this service, because he believed that he himself
would not be safe if at any time the emperor ceased to hold Rome.
Leaving Pagolo Guinigi in command at Lucca, Castruccio set out for
Rome with six hundred horsemen, where he was received by Enrico with
the greatest distinction. In a short time the presence of Castruccio
obtained such respect for the emperor that, without bloodshed or
violence, good order was restored, chiefly by reason of Castruccio
having sent by sea from the country round Pisa large quantities of
corn, and thus removed the source of the trouble. When he had
chastised some of the Roman leaders, and admonished others, voluntary
obedience was rendered to Enrico. Castruccio received many honours,
and was made a Roman senator. This dignity was assumed with the
greatest pomp, Castruccio being clothed in a brocaded toga, which had
the following words embroidered on its front: "I am what God wills."
Whilst on the back was: "What God desires shall be."

During this time the Florentines, who were much enraged that
Castruccio should have seized Pistoia during the truce, considered how
they could tempt the city to rebel, to do which they thought would not
be difficult in his absence. Among the exiled Pistoians in Florence
were Baldo Cecchi and Jacopo Baldini, both men of leading and ready to
face danger. These men kept up communications with their friends in
Pistoia, and with the aid of the Florentines entered the city by
night, and after driving out some of Castruccio's officials and
partisans, and killing others, they restored the city to its freedom.
The news of this greatly angered Castruccio, and taking leave of
Enrico, he pressed on in great haste to Pistoia. When the Florentines
heard of his return, knowing that he would lose no time, they decided
to intercept him with their forces in the Val di Nievole, under the
belief that by doing so they would cut off his road to Pistoia.
Assembling a great army of the supporters of the Guelph cause, the
Florentines entered the Pistoian territories. On the other hand,
Castruccio reached Montecarlo with his army; and having heard where
the Florentines' lay, he decided not to encounter it in the plains of
Pistoia, nor to await it in the plains of Pescia, but, as far as he
possibly could, to attack it boldly in the Pass of Serravalle. He
believed that if he succeeded in this design, victory was assured,
although he was informed that the Florentines had thirty thousand men,
whilst he had only twelve thousand. Although he had every confidence
in his own abilities and the valour of his troops, yet he hesitated to
attack his enemy in the open lest he should be overwhelmed by numbers.
Serravalle is a castle between Pescia and Pistoia, situated on a hill
which blocks the Val di Nievole, not in the exact pass, but about a
bowshot beyond; the pass itself is in places narrow and steep, whilst
in general it ascends gently, but is still narrow, especially at the
summit where the waters divide, so that twenty men side by side could
hold it. The lord of Serravalle was Manfred, a German, who, before
Castruccio became lord of Pistoia, had been allowed to remain in
possession of the castle, it being common to the Lucchese and the
Pistoians, and unclaimed by either--neither of them wishing to
displace Manfred as long as he kept his promise of neutrality, and
came under obligations to no one. For these reasons, and also because
the castle was well fortified, he had always been able to maintain his
position. It was here that Castruccio had determined to fall upon his
enemy, for here his few men would have the advantage, and there was no
fear lest, seeing the large masses of the hostile force before they
became engaged, they should not stand. As soon as this trouble with
Florence arose, Castruccio saw the immense advantage which possession
of this castle would give him, and having an intimate friendship with
a resident in the castle, he managed matters so with him that four
hundred of his men were to be admitted into the castle the night
before the attack on the Florentines, and the castellan put to death.

Castruccio, having prepared everything, had now to encourage the
Florentines to persist in their desire to carry the seat of war away
from Pistoia into the Val di Nievole, therefore he did not move his
army from Montecarlo. Thus the Florentines hurried on until they
reached their encampment under Serravalle, intending to cross the hill
on the following morning. In the meantime, Castruccio had seized the
castle at night, had also moved his army from Montecarlo, and marching
from thence at midnight in dead silence, had reached the foot of
Serravalle: thus he and the Florentines commenced the ascent of the
hill at the same time in the morning. Castruccio sent forward his
infantry by the main road, and a troop of four hundred horsemen by a
path on the left towards the castle. The Florentines sent forward four
hundred cavalry ahead of their army which was following, never
expecting to find Castruccio in possession of the hill, nor were they
aware of his having seized the castle. Thus it happened that the
Florentine horsemen mounting the hill were completely taken by
surprise when they discovered the infantry of Castruccio, and so close
were they upon it they had scarcely time to pull down their visors. It
was a case of unready soldiers being attacked by ready, and they were
assailed with such vigour that with difficulty they could hold their
own, although some few of them got through. When the noise of the
fighting reached the Florentine camp below, it was filled with
confusion. The cavalry and infantry became inextricably mixed: the
captains were unable to get their men either backward or forward,
owing to the narrowness of the pass, and amid all this tumult no one
knew what ought to be done or what could be done. In a short time the
cavalry who were engaged with the enemy's infantry were scattered or
killed without having made any effective defence because of their
unfortunate position, although in sheer desperation they had offered a
stout resistance. Retreat had been impossible, with the mountains on
both flanks, whilst in front were their enemies, and in the rear their
friends. When Castruccio saw that his men were unable to strike a
decisive blow at the enemy and put them to flight, he sent one
thousand infantrymen round by the castle, with orders to join the four
hundred horsemen he had previously dispatched there, and commanded the
whole force to fall upon the flank of the enemy. These orders they
carried out with such fury that the Florentines could not sustain the
attack, but gave way, and were soon in full retreat--conquered more by
their unfortunate position than by the valour of their enemy. Those in
the rear turned towards Pistoia, and spread through the plains, each
man seeking only his own safety. The defeat was complete and very
sanguinary. Many captains were taken prisoners, among whom were
Bandini dei Rossi, Francesco Brunelleschi, and Giovanni della Tosa,
all Florentine noblemen, with many Tuscans and Neapolitans who fought
on the Florentine side, having been sent by King Ruberto to assist the
Guelphs. Immediately the Pistoians heard of this defeat they drove out
the friends of the Guelphs, and surrendered to Castruccio. He was not
content with occupying Prato and all the castles on the plains on both
sides of the Arno, but marched his army into the plain of Peretola,
about two miles from Florence. Here he remained many days, dividing
the spoils, and celebrating his victory with feasts and games, holding
horse races, and foot races for men and women. He also struck medals
in commemoration of the defeat of the Florentines. He endeavoured to
corrupt some of the citizens of Florence, who were to open the city
gates at night; but the conspiracy was discovered, and the
participators in it taken and beheaded, among whom were Tommaso
Lupacci and Lambertuccio Frescobaldi. This defeat caused the
Florentines great anxiety, and despairing of preserving their liberty,
they sent envoys to King Ruberto of Naples, offering him the dominion
of their city; and he, knowing of what immense importance the
maintenance of the Guelph cause was to him, accepted it. He agreed
with the Florentines to receive from them a yearly tribute of two
hundred thousand florins, and he send his son Carlo to Florence with
four thousand horsemen.

Shortly after this the Florentines were relieved in some degree of the
pressure of Castruccio's army, owing to his being compelled to leave
his positions before Florence and march on Pisa, in order to suppress
a conspiracy that had been raised against him by Benedetto Lanfranchi,
one of the first men in Pisa, who could not endure that his fatherland
should be under the dominion of the Lucchese. He had formed this
conspiracy, intending to seize the citadel, kill the partisans of
Castruccio, and drive out the garrison. As, however, in a conspiracy
paucity of numbers is essential to secrecy, so for its execution a few
are not sufficient, and in seeking more adherents to his conspiracy
Lanfranchi encountered a person who revealed the design to Castruccio.
This betrayal cannot be passed by without severe reproach to Bonifacio
Cerchi and Giovanni Guidi, two Florentine exiles who were suffering
their banishment in Pisa. Thereupon Castruccio seized Benedetto and
put him to death, and beheaded many other noble citizens, and drove
their families into exile. It now appeared to Castruccio that both
Pisa and Pistoia were thoroughly disaffected; he employed much thought
and energy upon securing his position there, and this gave the
Florentines their opportunity to reorganize their army, and to await
the coming of Carlo, the son of the King of Naples. When Carlo arrived
they decided to lose no more time, and assembled a great army of more
than thirty thousand infantry and ten thousand cavalry--having called
to their aid every Guelph there was in Italy. They consulted whether
they should attack Pistoia or Pisa first, and decided that it would be
better to march on the latter--a course, owing to the recent
conspiracy, more likely to succeed, and of more advantage to them,
because they believed that the surrender of Pistoia would follow the
acquisition of Pisa.

In the early part of May 1328, the Florentines put in motion this army
and quickly occupied Lastra, Signa, Montelupo, and Empoli, passing
from thence on to San Miniato. When Castruccio heard of the enormous
army which the Florentines were sending against him, he was in no
degree alarmed, believing that the time had now arrived when Fortune
would deliver the empire of Tuscany into his hands, for he had no
reason to think that his enemy would make a better fight, or had
better prospects of success, than at Pisa or Serravalle. He assembled
twenty thousand foot soldiers and four thousand horsemen, and with
this army went to Fucecchio, whilst he sent Pagolo Guinigi to Pisa
with five thousand infantry. Fucecchio has a stronger position than
any other town in the Pisan district, owing to its situation between
the rivers Arno and Gusciana and its slight elevation above the
surrounding plain. Moreover, the enemy could not hinder its being
victualled unless they divided their forces, nor could they approach
it either from the direction of Lucca or Pisa, nor could they get
through to Pisa, or attack Castruccio's forces except at a
disadvantage. In one case they would find themselves placed between
his two armies, the one under his own command and the other under
Pagolo, and in the other case they would have to cross the Arno to get
to close quarters with the enemy, an undertaking of great hazard. In
order to tempt the Florentines to take this latter course, Castruccio
withdrew his men from the banks of the river and placed them under the
walls of Fucecchio, leaving a wide expanse of land between them and
the river.

The Florentines, having occupied San Miniato, held a council of war to
decide whether they should attack Pisa or the army of Castruccio, and,
having weighed the difficulties of both courses, they decided upon the
latter. The river Arno was at that time low enough to be fordable, yet
the water reached to the shoulders of the infantrymen and to the
saddles of the horsemen. On the morning of 10 June 1328, the
Florentines commenced the battle by ordering forward a number of
cavalry and ten thousand infantry. Castruccio, whose plan of action
was fixed, and who well knew what to do, at once attacked the
Florentines with five thousand infantry and three thousand horsemen,
not allowing them to issue from the river before he charged them; he
also sent one thousand light infantry up the river bank, and the same
number down the Arno. The infantry of the Florentines were so much
impeded by their arms and the water that they were not able to mount
the banks of the river, whilst the cavalry had made the passage of the
river more difficult for the others, by reason of the few who had
crossed having broken up the bed of the river, and this being deep
with mud, many of the horses rolled over with their riders and many of
them had stuck so fast that they could not move. When the Florentine
captains saw the difficulties their men were meeting, they withdrew
them and moved higher up the river, hoping to find the river bed less
treacherous and the banks more adapted for landing. These men were met
at the bank by the forces which Castruccio had already sent forward,
who, being light armed with bucklers and javelins in their hands, let
fly with tremendous shouts into the faces and bodies of the cavalry.
The horses, alarmed by the noise and the wounds, would not move
forward, and trampled each other in great confusion. The fight between
the men of Castruccio and those of the enemy who succeeded in crossing
was sharp and terrible; both sides fought with the utmost desperation
and neither would yield. The soldiers of Castruccio fought to drive
the others back into the river, whilst the Florentines strove to get a
footing on land in order to make room for the others pressing forward,
who if they could but get out of the water would be able to fight, and
in this obstinate conflict they were urged on by their captains.
Castruccio shouted to his men that these were the same enemies whom
they had before conquered at Serravalle, whilst the Florentines
reproached each other that the many should be overcome by the few. At
length Castruccio, seeing how long the battle had lasted, and that
both his men and the enemy were utterly exhausted, and that both sides
had many killed and wounded, pushed forward another body of infantry
to take up a position at the rear of those who were fighting; he then
commanded these latter to open their ranks as if they intended to
retreat, and one part of them to turn to the right and another to the
left. This cleared a space of which the Florentines at once took
advantage, and thus gained possession of a portion of the battlefield.
But when these tired soldiers found themselves at close quarters with
Castruccio's reserves they could not stand against them and at once
fell back into the river. The cavalry of either side had not as yet
gained any decisive advantage over the other, because Castruccio,
knowing his inferiority in this arm, had commanded his leaders only to
stand on the defensive against the attacks of their adversaries, as he
hoped that when he had overcome the infantry he would be able to make
short work of the cavalry. This fell out as he had hoped, for when he
saw the Florentine army driven back across the river he ordered the
remainder of his infantry to attack the cavalry of the enemy. This
they did with lance and javelin, and, joined by their own cavalry,
fell upon the enemy with the greatest fury and soon put him to flight.
The Florentine captains, having seen the difficulty their cavalry had
met with in crossing the river, had attempted to make their infantry
cross lower down the river, in order to attack the flanks of
Castruccio's army. But here, also, the banks were steep and already
lined by the men of Castruccio, and this movement was quite useless.
Thus the Florentines were so completely defeated at all points that
scarcely a third of them escaped, and Castruccio was again covered
with glory. Many captains were taken prisoners, and Carlo, the son of
King Ruberto, with Michelagnolo Falconi and Taddeo degli Albizzi, the
Florentine commissioners, fled to Empoli. If the spoils were great,
the slaughter was infinitely greater, as might be expected in such a
battle. Of the Florentines there fell twenty thousand two hundred and
thirty-one men, whilst Castruccio lost one thousand five hundred and
seventy men.

But Fortune growing envious of the glory of Castruccio took away his
life just at the time when she should have preserved it, and thus
ruined all those plans which for so long a time he had worked to carry
into effect, and in the successful prosecution of which nothing but
death could have stopped him. Castruccio was in the thick of the
battle the whole of the day; and when the end of it came, although
fatigued and overheated, he stood at the gate of Fucecchio to welcome
his men on their return from victory and personally thank them. He was
also on the watch for any attempt of the enemy to retrieve the
fortunes of the day; he being of the opinion that it was the duty of a
good general to be the first man in the saddle and the last out of it.
Here Castruccio stood exposed to a wind which often rises at midday on
the banks of the Arno, and which is often very unhealthy; from this he
took a chill, of which he thought nothing, as he was accustomed to
such troubles; but it was the cause of his death. On the following
night he was attacked with high fever, which increased so rapidly that
the doctors saw it must prove fatal. Castruccio, therefore, called
Pagolo Guinigi to him, and addressed him as follows:

"If I could have believed that Fortune would have cut me off in the
midst of the career which was leading to that glory which all my
successes promised, I should have laboured less, and I should have
left thee, if a smaller state, at least with fewer enemies and perils,
because I should have been content with the governorships of Lucca and
Pisa. I should neither have subjugated the Pistoians, nor outraged the
Florentines with so many injuries. But I would have made both these
peoples my friends, and I should have lived, if no longer, at least
more peacefully, and have left you a state without a doubt smaller,
but one more secure and established on a surer foundation. But
Fortune, who insists upon having the arbitrament of human affairs, did
not endow me with sufficient judgment to recognize this from the
first, nor the time to surmount it. Thou hast heard, for many have
told thee, and I have never concealed it, how I entered the house of
thy father whilst yet a boy--a stranger to all those ambitions which
every generous soul should feel--and how I was brought up by him, and
loved as though I had been born of his blood; how under his governance
I learned to be valiant and capable of availing myself of all that
fortune, of which thou hast been witness. When thy good father came to
die, he committed thee and all his possessions to my care, and I have
brought thee up with that love, and increased thy estate with that
care, which I was bound to show. And in order that thou shouldst not
only possess the estate which thy father left, but also that which my
fortune and abilities have gained, I have never married, so that the
love of children should never deflect my mind from that gratitude
which I owed to the children of thy father. Thus I leave thee a vast
estate, of which I am well content, but I am deeply concerned,
inasmuch as I leave it thee unsettled and insecure. Thou hast the city
of Lucca on thy hands, which will never rest contented under they
government. Thou hast also Pisa, where the men are of nature
changeable and unreliable, who, although they may be sometimes held in
subjection, yet they will ever disdain to serve under a Lucchese.
Pistoia is also disloyal to thee, she being eaten up with factions and
deeply incensed against thy family by reason of the wrongs recently
inflicted upon them. Thou hast for neighbours the offended
Florentines, injured by us in a thousand ways, but not utterly
destroyed, who will hail the news of my death with more delight than
they would the acquisition of all Tuscany. In the Emperor and in the
princes of Milan thou canst place no reliance, for they are far
distant, slow, and their help is very long in coming. Therefore, thou
hast no hope in anything but in thine own abilities, and in the memory
of my valour, and in the prestige which this latest victory has
brought thee; which, as thou knowest how to use it with prudence, will
assist thee to come to terms with the Florentines, who, as they are
suffering under this great defeat, should be inclined to listen to
thee. And whereas I have sought to make them my enemies, because I
believed that war with them would conduce to my power and glory, thou
hast every inducement to make friends of them, because their alliance
will bring thee advantages and security. It is of the greatest
important in this world that a man should know himself, and the
measure of his own strength and means; and he who knows that he has
not a genius for fighting must learn how to govern by the arts of
peace. And it will be well for thee to rule they conduct by my
counsel, and to learn in this way to enjoy what my life-work and
dangers have gained; and in this thou wilt easily succeed when thou
hast learnt to believe that what I have told thee is true. And thou
wilt be doubly indebted to me, in that I have left thee this realm and
have taught thee how to keep it."

After this there came to Castruccio those citizens of Pisa, Pistoia,
and Lucca, who had been fighting at his side, and whilst recommending
Pagolo to them, and making them swear obedience to him as his
successor, he died. He left a happy memory to those who had known him,
and no prince of those times was ever loved with such devotion as he
was. His obsequies were celebrated with every sign of mourning, and he
was buried in San Francesco at Lucca. Fortune was not so friendly to
Pagolo Guinigi as she had been to Castruccio, for he had not the
abilities. Not long after the death of Castruccio, Pagolo lost Pisa,
and then Pistoia, and only with difficulty held on to Lucca. This
latter city continued in the family of Guinigi until the time of the
great-grandson of Pagolo.

From what has been related here it will be seen that Castruccio was a
man of exceptional abilities, not only measured by men of his own
time, but also by those of an earlier date. In stature he was above
the ordinary height, and perfectly proportioned. He was of a gracious
presence, and he welcomed men with such urbanity that those who spoke
with him rarely left him displeased. His hair was inclined to be red,
and he wore it cut short above the ears, and, whether it rained or
snowed, he always went without a hat. He was delightful among friends,
but terrible to his enemies; just to his subjects; ready to play false
with the unfaithful, and willing to overcome by fraud those whom he
desired to subdue, because he was wont to say that it was the victory
that brought the glory, not the methods of achieving it. No one was
bolder in facing danger, none more prudent in extricating himself. He
was accustomed to say that men ought to attempt everything and fear
nothing; that God is a lover of strong men, because one always sees
that the weak are chastised by the strong. He was also wonderfully
sharp or biting though courteous in his answers; and as he did not
look for any indulgence in this way of speaking from others, so he was
not angered with others did not show it to him. It has often happened
that he has listened quietly when others have spoken sharply to him,
as on the following occasions. He had caused a ducat to be given for a
partridge, and was taken to task for doing so by a friend, to whom
Castruccio had said: "You would not have given more than a penny."
"That is true," answered the friend. Then said Castruccio to him: "A
ducat is much less to me." Having about him a flatterer on whom he had
spat to show that he scorned him, the flatterer said to him:
"Fisherman are willing to let the waters of the sea saturate them in
order that they make take a few little fishes, and I allow myself to
be wetted by spittle that I may catch a whale"; and this was not only
heard by Castruccio with patience but rewarded. When told by a priest
that it was wicked for him to live so sumptuously, Castruccio said:
"If that be a vice than you should not fare so splendidly at the
feasts of our saints." Passing through a street he saw a young man as
he came out of a house of ill fame blush at being seen by Castruccio,
and said to him: "Thou shouldst not be ashamed when thou comest out,
but when thou goest into such places." A friend gave him a very
curiously tied knot to undo and was told: "Fool, do you think that I
wish to untie a thing which gave so much trouble to fasten."
Castruccio said to one who professed to be a philosopher: "You are
like the dogs who always run after those who will give them the best
to eat," and was answered: "We are rather like the doctors who go to
the houses of those who have the greatest need of them." Going by
water from Pisa to Leghorn, Castruccio was much disturbed by a
dangerous storm that sprang up, and was reproached for cowardice by
one of those with him, who said that he did not fear anything.
Castruccio answered that he did not wonder at that, since every man
valued his soul for what is was worth. Being asked by one what he
ought to do to gain estimation, he said: "When thou goest to a banquet
take care that thou dost not seat one piece of wood upon another." To
a person who was boasting that he had read many things, Castruccio
said: "He knows better than to boast of remembering many things."
Someone bragged that he could drink much without becoming intoxicated.
Castruccio replied: "An ox does the same." Castruccio was acquainted
with a girl with whom he had intimate relations, and being blamed by a
friend who told him that it was undignified for him to be taken in by
a woman, he said: "She has not taken me in, I have taken her." Being
also blamed for eating very dainty foods, he answered: "Thou dost not
spend as much as I do?" and being told that it was true, he continued:
"Then thou art more avaricious than I am gluttonous." Being invited by
Taddeo Bernardi, a very rich and splendid citizen of Luca, to supper,
he went to the house and was shown by Taddeo into a chamber hung with
silk and paved with fine stones representing flowers and foliage of
the most beautiful colouring. Castruccio gathered some saliva in his
mouth and spat it out upon Taddeo, and seeing him much disturbed by
this, said to him: "I knew not where to spit in order to offend thee
less." Being asked how Caesar died he said: "God willing I will die as
he did." Being one night in the house of one of his gentlemen where
many ladies were assembled, he was reproved by one of his friends for
dancing and amusing himself with them more than was usual in one of
his station, so he said: "He who is considered wise by day will not be
considered a fool at night." A person came to demand a favour of
Castruccio, and thinking he was not listening to his plea threw
himself on his knees to the ground, and being sharply reproved by
Castruccio, said: "Thou art the reason of my acting thus for thou hast
thy ears in thy feet," whereupon he obtained double the favour he had
asked. Castruccio used to say that the way to hell was an easy one,
seeing that it was in a downward direction and you travelled
blindfolded. Being asked a favour by one who used many superfluous
words, he said to him: "When you have another request to make, send
someone else to make it." Having been wearied by a similar man with a
long oration who wound up by saying: "Perhaps I have fatigued you by
speaking so long," Castruccio said: "You have not, because I have not
listened to a word you said." He used to say of one who had been a
beautiful child and who afterwards became a fine man, that he was
dangerous, because he first took the husbands from the wives and now
he took the wives from their husbands. To an envious man who laughed,
he said: "Do you laugh because you are successful or because another
is unfortunate?" Whilst he was still in the charge of Messer Francesco
Guinigi, one of his companions said to him: "What shall I give you if
you will let me give you a blow on the nose?" Castruccio answered: "A
helmet." Having put to death a citizen of Lucca who had been
instrumental in raising him to power, and being told that he had done
wrong to kill one of his old friends, he answered that people deceived
themselves; he had only killed a new enemy. Castruccio praised greatly
those men who intended to take a wife and then did not do so, saying
that they were like men who said they would go to sea, and then
refused when the time came. He said that it always struck him with
surprise that whilst men in buying an earthen or glass vase would
sound it first to learn if it were good, yet in choosing a wife they
were content with only looking at her. He was once asked in what
manner he would wish to be buried when he died, and answered: "With
the face turned downwards, for I know when I am gone this country will
be turned upside down." On being asked if it had ever occurred to him
to become a friar in order to save his soul, he answered that it had
not, because it appeared strange to him that Fra Lazerone should go to
Paradise and Uguccione della Faggiuola to the Inferno. He was once
asked when should a man eat to preserve his health, and replied: "If
the man be rich let him eat when he is hungry; if he be poor, then
when he can." Seeing on of his gentlemen make a member of his family
lace him up, he said to him: "I pray God that you will let him feed
you also." Seeing that someone had written upon his house in Latin the
words: "May God preserve this house from the wicked," he said, "The
owner must never go in." Passing through one of the streets he saw a
small house with a very large door, and remarked: "That house will fly
through the door." He was having a discussion with the ambassador of
the King of Naples concerning the property of some banished nobles,
when a dispute arose between them, and the ambassador asked him if he
had no fear of the king. "Is this king of yours a bad man or a good
one?" asked Castruccio, and was told that he was a good one, whereupon
he said, "Why should you suggest that I should be afraid of a good
man?"

I could recount many other stories of his sayings both witty and
weighty, but I think that the above will be sufficient testimony to
his high qualities. He lived forty-four years, and was in every way a
prince. And as he was surrounded by many evidences of his good
fortune, so he also desired to have near him some memorials of his bad
fortune; therefore the manacles with which he was chained in prison
are to be seen to this day fixed up in the tower of his residence,
where they were placed by him to testify for ever to his days of
adversity. As in his life he was inferior neither to Philip of
Macedon, the father of Alexander, nor to Scipio of Rome, so he died in
the same year of his age as they did, and he would doubtless have
excelled both of them had Fortune decreed that he should be born, not
in Lucca, but in Macedonia or Rome.


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