Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 28


The inhabitants of Seravezza appeal to the Signory--Complaints
against Rinaldo degli Albizzi--The commissaries changed--Filippo
Brunelleschi proposes to submerge the country about Lucca--Pagolo
Guinigi asks assistance of the duke of Milan--The duke sends
Francesco Sforza--Pagolo Guinigi expelled--The Florentines routed
by the forces of the duke--The acquisitions of the Lucchese after
the victory--Conclusion of the war.

A few of the inhabitants of the valley of Seravezza, having escaped
the hands of the commissary, came to Florence and acquainted every one
in the streets with their miserable situation; and by the advice of
those who, either through indignation at his wickedness or from being
of the opposite party, wished to punish the commissary, they went to
the Council of Ten, and requested an audience. This being granted, one
of them spoke to the following effect: "We feel assured, magnificent
lords, that we shall find credit and compassion from the Signory, when
you learn how your commissary has taken possession of our country, and
in what manner he has treated us. Our valley, as the memorials of your
ancient houses abundantly testify, was always Guelphic, and has often
proved a secure retreat to your citizens when persecuted by the
Ghibellines. Our forefathers, and ourselves too, have always revered
the name of this noble republic as the leader and head of their party.
While the Lucchese were Guelphs we willingly submitted to their
government; but when enslaved by the tyrant, who forsook his old
friends to join the Ghibelline faction, we have obeyed him more
through force than good will. And God knows how often we have prayed,
that we might have an opportunity of showing our attachment to our
ancient party. But how blind are mankind in their wishes! That which
we desired for our safety has proved our destruction. As soon as we
learned that your ensigns were approaching, we hastened to meet your
commissary, not as an enemy, but as the representative of our ancient
lords; placed our valley, our persons, and our fortunes in his hands,
and commended them to his good faith, believing him to possess the
soul, if not of a Florentine, at least of a man. Your lordships will
forgive us; for, unable to support his cruelties, we are compelled to
speak. Your commissary has nothing of the man but the shape, nor of a
Florentine but the name; a more deadly pest, a more savage beast, a
more horrid monster never was imagined in the human mind; for, having
assembled us in our church under pretense of wishing to speak with us,
he made us prisoners. He then burned and destroyed the whole valley,
carried off our property, ravaged every place, destroyed everything,
violated the women, dishonored the virgins, and dragging them from the
arms of their mothers, gave them up to the brutality of his soldiery.
If by any injury to the Florentine people we merited such treatment,
or if he had vanquished us armed in our defense, we should have less
reason for complaint; we should have accused ourselves, and thought
that either our mismanagement or our arrogance had deservedly brought
the calamity upon us; but after having freely presented ourselves to
him unarmed, to be robbed and plundered with such unfeeling barbarity,
is more than we can bear. And though we might have filled Lombardy
with complaints and charges against this city, and spread the story of
our misfortunes over the whole of Italy, we did not wish to slander so
just and pious a republic, with the baseness and perfidy of one wicked
citizen, whose cruelty and avarice, had we known them before our ruin
was complete, we should have endeavored to satiate (though indeed they
are insatiable), and with one-half of our property have saved the
rest. But the opportunity is past; we are compelled to have recourse
to you, and beg that you will succor the distresses of your subjects,
that others may not be deterred by our example from submitting
themselves to your authority. And if our extreme distress cannot
prevail with you to assist us, be induced, by your fear of the wrath
of God, who has seen his temple plundered and burned, and his people
betrayed in his bosom." Having said this they threw themselves on the
ground, crying aloud, and praying that their property and their
country might be restored to them; and that if the Signory could not
give them back their honor, they would, at least, restore husbands to
their wives, and children to their fathers. The atrocity of the affair
having already been made known, and now by the living words of the
sufferers presented before them, excited the compassion of the
magistracy. They ordered the immediate return of Astorre, who being
tried, was found guilty, and admonished. They sought the goods of the
inhabitants of Seravezza; all that could be recovered was restored to
them, and as time and circumstance gave opportunity, they were
compensated for the rest.

Complaints were made against Rinaldo degli Albizzi, that he carried on
the war, not for the advantage of the Florentine people, but his own
private emolument; that as soon as he was appointed commissary, he
lost all desire to take Lucca, for it was sufficient for him to
plunder the country, fill his estates with cattle, and his house with
booty; and, not content with what his own satellites took, he
purchased that of the soldiery, so that instead of a commissary he
became a merchant. These calumnies coming to his ears, disturbed the
temper of this proud but upright man, more than quite became his
dignity. He was so exasperated against the citizens and magistracy,
that without waiting for or asking permission, he returned to
Florence, and, presenting himself before the Council of Ten, he said
that he well knew how difficult and dangerous a thing it was to serve
an unruly people and a divided city, for the one listens to every
report, the other pursues improper measures; they neglect to reward
good conduct, and heap censure upon whatever appears doubtful; so that
victory wins no applause, error is accused by all, and if vanquished,
universal condemnation is incurred; from one's own party through envy,
and from enemies through hatred, persecution results. He confessed
that the baseness of the present calumnies had conquered his patience
and changed the temper of his mind; but he would say, he had never,
for fear of a false accusation, avoided doing what appeared to him
beneficial to the city. However, he trusted the magistrates would in
future be more ready to defend their fellow-citizens, so that the
latter might continue anxious to effect the prosperity of their
country; that as it was not customary at Florence to award triumphs
for success, they ought at least to be protected from calumny; and
that being citizens themselves, and at any moment liable to false
accusations, they might easily conceive how painful it is to an
upright mind to be oppressed with slander. The Ten endeavored, as well
as circumstances would admit, to soothe the acerbity of his feelings,
and confided the care of the expedition to Neri di Gino and Alamanno
Salviati, who, instead of overrunning the country, advanced near to
Lucca. As the weather had become extremely cold, the forces
established themselves at Campannole, which seemed to the commissaries
waste of time; and wishing to draw nearer the place, the soldiery
refused to comply, although the Ten had insisted they should pitch
their camp before the city, and would not hear of any excuse.

At that time there lived at Florence, a very distinguished architect,
named Filippo di Ser Brunelleschi, of whose works our city is full,
and whose merit was so extraordinary, that after his death his statue
in marble was erected in the principal church, with an inscription
underneath, which still bears testimony to those who read it, of his
great talents. This man pointed out, that in consequence of the
relative positions of the river Serchio and the city of Lucca, the
wastes of the river might be made to inundate the surrounding country,
and place the city in a kind of lake. His reasoning on this point
appeared so clear, and the advantage to the besiegers so obvious and
inevitable, that the Ten were induced to make the experiment. The
result, however, was quite contrary to their expectation, and produced
the utmost disorder in the Florentine camp; for the Lucchese raised
high embankments in the direction of the ditch made by our people to
conduct the waters of the Serchio, and one night cut through the
embankment of the ditch itself, so that having first prevented the
water from taking the course designed by the architect, they now
caused it to overflow the plain, and compelled the Florentines,
instead of approaching the city as they wished, to take a more remote

The design having failed, the Council of Ten, who had been re-elected,
sent as commissary, Giovanni Guicciardini, who encamped before Lucca,
with all possible expedition. Pagolo Guinigi finding himself thus
closely pressed, by the advice of Antonio del Rosso, then
representative of the Siennese at Lucca, sent Salvestro Trento and
Leonardo Bonvisi to Milan, to request assistance from the duke; but
finding him indisposed to comply, they secretly engaged, on the part
of the people, to deliver their governor up to him and give him
possession of the place; at the same time intimating, that if he did
not immediately follow this advice, he would not long have the
opportunity, since it was the intention of Pagolo to surrender the
city to the Florentines, who were very anxious to obtain it. The duke
was so much alarmed with this idea, that, setting aside all other
considerations, he caused Count Francesco Sforza, who was engaged in
his service, to make a public request for permission to go to Naples;
and having obtained it, he proceeded with his forces directly to
Lucca, though the Florentines, aware of the deception, and
apprehensive of the consequences, had sent to the count, Boccacino
Alamanni, his friend, to frustrate this arrangement. Upon the arrival
of the count at Lucca, the Florentines removed their camp to
Librafatta, and the count proceeded immediately to Pescia, where
Pagolo Diacceto was lieutenant governor, who, promoted by fear rather
than any better motive, fled to Pistoia, and if the place had not been
defended by Giovanni Malavolti, to whom the command was intrusted, it
would have been lost. The count failing in his attempt went to Borgo a
Buggiano which he took, and burned the castle of Stigliano, in the
same neighborhood.

The Florentines being informed of these disasters, found they must
have recourse to those remedies which upon former occasions had often
proved useful. Knowing that with mercenary soldiers, when force is
insufficient, corruption commonly prevails, they offered the count a
large sum of money on condition that he should quit the city, and give
it up to them. The count finding that no more money was to be had from
Lucca, resolved to take it of those who had it to dispense, and agreed
with the Florentines, not to give them Lucca, which for decency he
could not consent to, but to withdraw his troops, and abandon it, on
condition of receiving fifty thousand ducats; and having made this
agreement, to induce the Lucchese to excuse him to the duke, he
consented that they should expel their tyrant.

Antonio del Rosso, as we remarked above, was Siennese ambassador at
Lucca, and with the authority of the count he contrived the ruin of
Pagolo Guinigi. The heads of the conspiracy were Pierro Cennami and
Giovanni da Chivizzano. The count resided upon the Serchio, at a short
distance from the city, and with him was Lanzilao, the son of Pagolo.
The conspirators, about forty in number, went armed at night in search
of Pagolo, who, on hearing the noise they made, came toward them quite
astonished, and demanded the cause of their visit; to which Piero
Cennami replied, that they had long been governed by him, and led
about against the enemy, to die either by hunger or the sword, but
were resolved to govern themselves for the future, and demanded the
keys of the city and the treasure. Pagolo said the treasure was
consumed, but the keys and himself were in their power; he only begged
that as his command had begun and continued without bloodshed, it
might conclude in the same manner. Count Francesco conducted Pagolo
and his son to the duke, and they afterward died in prison.

The departure of the count having delivered Lucca from her tyrant, and
the Florentines from their fear of his soldiery, the former prepared
for her defense, and the latter resumed the siege. They appointed the
count of Urbino to conduct their forces, and he pressed the Lucchese
so closely, that they were again compelled to ask the assistance of
the duke, who dispatched Niccolo Piccinino, under the same pretense as
he previously sent Count Francesco. The Florentine forces met him on
his approach to Lucca, and at the passage of the Serchio a battle
ensued, in which they were routed, the commissary with a few of his
men escaping to Pisa. This defeat filled the Florentines with dismay,
and as the enterprise had been undertaken with the entire approbation
of the great body of the people, they did not know whom to find fault
with, and therefore railed against those who had been appointed to the
management of the war, reviving the charges made against Rinaldo. They
were, however, more severe against Giovanni Guicciardini than any
other, declaring that if he had wished, he might have put a period to
the war at the departure of Count Francesco, but that he had been
bribed with money, for he had sent home a large sum, naming the party
who had been intrusted to bring it, and the persons to whom it had
been delivered. These complaints and accusations were carried to so
great a length that the captain of the people, induced by the public
voice, and pressed by the party opposed to the war, summoned him to
trial. Giovanni appeared, though full of indignation. However his
friends, from regard to their own character, adopted such a course
with the Capitano as induced him to abandon the inquiry.

After this victory, the Lucchese not only recovered the places that
had belonged to them, but occupied all the country of Pisa except
Beintina, Calcinaja, Livorno, and Librafatta; and, had not a
conspiracy been discovered that was formed in Pisa, they would have
secured that city also. The Florentines again prepared for battle, and
appointed Micheletto, a pupil of Sforza, to be their leader. The duke,
on the other hand, followed up this victory, and that he might bring a
greater power against the Florentines, induced the Genoese, the
Siennese, and the governor of Piombino, to enter into a league for the
defense of Lucca, and to engage Niccolo Piccinino to conduct their
forces. Having by this step declared his design, the Venetians and the
Florentines renewed their league, and the war was carried on openly in
Tuscany and Lombardy, in each of which several battles were fought
with variety of fortune. At length, both sides being wearied out, they
came to terms for the cessation of hostilities, in May, 1433. By this
arrangement the Florentines, Lucchese, and Siennese, who had each
occupied many fortresses belonging to the others, gave them all up,
and each party resumed its original possessions.

Niccolo Machiavelli