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Chapter 31



The vicissitudes of empires--The state of Italy--The military
factions of Sforza and Braccio--The Bracceschi and the Sforzeschi
attack the pope, who is expelled by the Romans--War between the
pope and the duke of Milan--The Florentines and the Venetians
assist the pope--Peace between the pope and the duke of Milan--
Tyranny practiced by the party favorable to the Medici.

It may be observed, that provinces amid the vicissitudes to which they
are subject, pass from order into confusion, and afterward recur to a
state of order again; for the nature of mundane affairs not allowing
them to continue in an even course, when they have arrived at their
greatest perfection, they soon begin to decline. In the same manner,
having been reduced by disorder, and sunk to their utmost state of
depression, unable to descend lower, they, of necessity, reascend; and
thus from good they gradually decline to evil, and from evil again
return to good. The reason is, that valor produces peace; peace,
repose; repose, disorder; disorder, ruin; so from disorder order
springs; from order virtue, and from this, glory and good fortune.
Hence, wise men have observed, that the age of literary excellence is
subsequent to that of distinction in arms; and that in cities and
provinces, great warriors are produced before philosophers. Arms
having secured victory, and victory peace, the buoyant vigor of the
martial mind cannot be enfeebled by a more excusable indulgence than
that of letters; nor can indolence, with any greater or more dangerous
deceit, enter a well regulated community. Cato was aware of this when
the philosophers, Diogenes and Carneades, were sent ambassadors to the
senate by the Athenians; for perceiving with what earnest admiration
the Roman youth began to follow them, and knowing the evils that might
result to his country from this specious idleness, he enacted that no
philosopher should be allowed to enter Rome. Provinces by this means
sink to ruin, from which, men's sufferings having made them wiser,
they again recur to order, if they be not overwhelmed by some
extraordinary force. These causes made Italy, first under the ancient
Tuscans, and afterward under the Romans, by turns happy and unhappy;
and although nothing has subsequently arisen from the ruins of Rome at
all corresponding to her ancient greatness (which under a well-
organized monarchy might have been gloriously effected), still there
was so much bravery and intelligence in some of the new cities and
governments that afterward sprang up, that although none ever acquired
dominion over the rest, they were, nevertheless, so balanced and
regulated among themselves, as to enable them to live in freedom, and
defend their country from the barbarians.

Among these governments, the Florentines, although they possessed a
smaller extent of territory, were not inferior to any in power and
authority; for being situated in the middle of Italy, wealthy, and
prepared for action, they either defended themselves against such as
thought proper to assail them, or decided victory in favor of those to
whom they became allies. From the valor, therefore, of these new
governments, if no seasons occurred of long-continued peace, neither
were any exposed to the calamities of war; for that cannot be called
peace in which states frequently assail each other with arms, nor can
those be considered wars in which no men are slain, cities plundered,
or sovereignties overthrown; for the practice of arms fell into such a
state of decay, that wars were commenced without fear, continued
without danger, and concluded without loss. Thus the military energy
which is in other countries exhausted by a long peace, was wasted in
Italy by the contemptible manner in which hostilities were carried on,
as will be clearly seen in the events to be described from 1434 to
1494, from which it will appear how the barbarians were again admitted
into Italy, and she again sunk under subjection to them. Although the
transactions of our princes at home and abroad will not be viewed with
admiration of their virtue and greatness like those of the ancients,
perhaps they may on other accounts be regarded with no less interest,
seeing what masses of high spirited people were kept in restraint by
such weak and disorderly forces. And if, in detailing the events which
took place in this wasted world, we shall not have to record the
bravery of the soldier, the prudence of the general, or the patriotism
of the citizen, it will be seen with what artifice, deceit, and
cunning, princes, warriors, and leaders of republics conducted
themselves, to support a reputation they never deserved. This,
perhaps, will not be less useful than a knowledge of ancient history;
for, if the latter excites the liberal mind to imitation, the former
will show what ought to be avoided and decried.

Italy was reduced to such a condition by her rulers, that when, by
consent of her princes, peace was restored, it was soon disturbed by
those who retained their armies, so that glory was not gained by war
nor repose by peace. Thus when the league and the duke of Milan agreed
to lay aside their arms in 1433, the soldiers, resolved upon war,
directed their efforts against the church. There were at this time two
factions or armed parties in Italy, the Sforzesca and the Braccesca.
The leader of the former was the Count Francesco, the son of Sforza,
and of the latter, Niccolo Piccinino and Niccolo Fortebraccio. Under
the banner of one or other of these parties almost all the forces of
Italy were assembled. Of the two, the Sforzesca was in greatest
repute, as well from the bravery of the count himself, as from the
promise which the duke of Milan had made him of his natural daughter,
Madonna Bianca, the prospect of which alliance greatly strengthened
his influence. After the peace of Lombardy, these forces, from various
causes attacked Pope Eugenius. Niccolo Fortebraccio was instigated by
the ancient enmity which Braccio had always entertained against the
church; the count was induced by ambition: so that Niccolo assailed
Rome, and the count took possession of La Marca.

The Romans, in order to avoid the war, drove Pope Eugenius from their
city: and he, having with difficulty escaped, came to Florence, where
seeing the imminent danger of his situation, being abandoned by the
princes (for they were unwilling again to take up arms in his cause,
after having been so anxious to lay them aside), he came to terms with
the count, and ceded to him the sovereignty of La Marca, although, to
the injury of having occupied it, he had added insult; for in signing
the place, from which he addressed letters to his agents, he said in
Latin, according to the Latin custom, /Ex Girfalco nostro Firmiano,
invito Petro et Paulo/. Neither was he satisfied with this concession,
but insisted upon being appointed Gonfalonier of the church, which was
also granted; so much more was Eugenius alarmed at the prospect of a
dangerous war than of an ignominious peace. The count, having been
thus been reconciled to the pontiff, attacked Niccolo Fortebraccio,
and during many months various encounters took place between them,
from all which greater injury resulted to the pope and his subjects,
than to either of the belligerents. At length, by the intervention of
the duke of Milan, an arrangement, by way of a truce, was made, by
which both became princes in the territories of the church.

The war thus extinguished at Rome was rekindled in Romagna by Batista
da Canneto, who at Bologna slew some of the family of the Grifoni, and
expelled from the city the governor who resided there for the pope,
along with others who were opposed to him. To enable himself to retain
the government, he applied for assistance to Filippo; and the pope, to
avenge himself for the injury, sought the aid of the Venetians and
Florentines. Both parties obtained assistance, so that very soon two
large armies were on foot in Romagna. Niccolo Piccinino commanded for
the duke, Gattamelata and Niccolo da Tolentino for the Venetians and
Florentines. They met near Imola, where a battle ensued, in which the
Florentines and Venetians were routed, and Niccolo da Tolentino was
sent prisoner to Milan where, either through grief for his loss or by
some unfair means, he died in a few days.

The duke, on this victory, either being exhausted by the late wars, or
thinking the League after their defeat would not be in haste to resume
hostilities, did not pursue his good fortune, and thus gave the pope
and his colleagues time to recover themselves. They therefore
appointed the Count Francesco for their leader, and undertook to drive
Niccolo Fortebraccio from the territories of the church, and thus
terminate the war which had been commenced in favor of the pontiff.
The Romans, finding the pope supported by so large an army, sought a
reconciliation with him, and being successful, admitted his commissary
into the city. Among the places possessed by Niccolo Fortebraccio,
were Tivoli, Montefiascone, Citta di Castello, and Ascesi, to the last
of which, not being able to keep the field, he fled, and the count
besieged him there. Niccolo's brave defense making it probable that
the war would be of considerable duration, the duke deemed to
necessary to prevent the League from obtaining the victory, and said
that if this were not effected he would very soon have to look at the
defense of his own territories. Resolving to divert the count from the
siege, he commanded Niccolo Piccinino to pass into Tuscany by way of
Romagna; and the League, thinking it more important to defend Tuscany
than to occupy Ascesi, ordered the count to prevent the passage of
Niccolo, who was already, with his army, at Furli. The count
accordingly moved with his forces, and came to Cesena, having left the
war of La Marca and the care of his own territories to his brother
Lione; and while Niccolo Piccinino was endeavoring to pass by, and the
count to prevent him, Fortebraccio attacked Lione with great bravery,
made him prisoner, routed his forces, and pursuing the advantage of
his victory, at once possessed himself of many places in La Marca.
This circumstance greatly perplexed the count, who thought he had lost
all his territories; so, leaving part of his force to check Piccinino,
with the remainder he pursued Fortebraccio, whom he attacked and
conquered. Fortebraccio was taken prisoner in the battle, and soon
after died of his wounds. This victory restored to the pontiff all the
places that had been taken from him by Fortebraccio, and compelled the
duke of Milan to sue for peace, which was concluded by the
intercession of Niccolo da Esta, marquis of Ferrara; the duke
restoring to the church the places he had taken from her, and his
forces retiring into Lombardy. Batista da Canneto, as in the case with
all who retain authority only by the consent and forces of another,
when the duke's people had quitted Romagna, unable with his own power
to keep possession of Bologna, fled, and Antonio Bentivogli, the head
of the opposite party, returned to his country.

All this took place during the exile of Cosmo, after whose return,
those who had restored him, and a great number of persons injured by
the opposite party, resolved at all events to make themselves sure of
the government; and the Signory for the months of November and
December, not content with what their predecessors had done in favor
of their party extended the term and changed the residences of several
who were banished, and increased the number of exiles. In addition to
these evils, it was observed that citizens were more annoyed on
account of their wealth, their family connections or private
animosities, than for the sake of the party to which they adhered, so
that if these prescriptions had been accompanied with bloodshed, they
would have resembled those of Octavius and Sylla, though in reality
they were not without some stains; for Antonio di Bernardo Guadagni
was beheaded, and four other citizens, among whom were Zanobi dei
Belfratelli and Cosmo Barbadori, passing the confines to which they
were limited, proceeded to Venice, where the Venetians, valuing the
friendship of Cosmo de' Medici more than their own honor, sent them
prisoners to him, and they were basely put to death. This circumstance
greatly increased the influence of that party, and struck their
enemies with terror, finding that such a powerful republic would so
humble itself to the Florentines. This, however, was supposed to have
been done, not so much out of kindness to Cosmo, as to excite
dissensions in Florence, and by means of bloodshed make greater
certainty of division among the citizens, for the Venetians knew there
was no other obstacle to their ambition so great as the union of her

The city being cleared of the enemies, or suspected enemies of the
state, those in possession of the government now began to strengthen
their party by conferring benefits upon such as were in a condition to
serve them, and the family of the Alberti, with all who had been
banished by the former government, were recalled. All the nobility,
with few exceptions, were reduced to the ranks of the people, and the
possessions of the exiles were divided among themselves, upon each
paying a small acknowledgment. They then fortified themselves with new
laws and provisos, made new Squittini, withdrawing the names of their
adversaries from the purses, and filling them with those of their
friends. Taking advice from the ruin of their enemies, they considered
that to allow the great offices to be filled by mere chance of
drawing, did not afford the government sufficient security, they
therefore resolved that the magistrates possessing the power of life
and death should always be chosen from among the leaders of their own
party, and therefore that the /Accoppiatori/, or persons selected for
the imborsation of the new Squittini, with the Signory who had to
retire from office, should make the new appointments. They gave to
eight of the guard authority to proceed capitally, and provided that
the exiles, when their term of banishment was complete, should not be
allowed to return, unless from the Signory and Colleagues, which were
thirty-seven in number, the consent of thirty-four was obtained. It
was made unlawful to write to or to receive letters from them; every
word, sign, or action that gave offense to the ruling party was
punished with the utmost rigor; and if there was still in Florence any
suspected person whom these regulations did not reach, he was
oppressed with taxes imposed for the occasion. Thus in a short time,
having expelled or impoverished the whole of the adverse party, they
established themselves firmly in the government. Not to be destitute
of external assistance, and to deprive others of it, who might use it
against themselves, they entered into a league, offensive and
defensive, with the pope, the Venetians, and the duke of Milan.

Niccolo Machiavelli