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Chapter 32


Death of Giovanni II.--René of Anjou and Alfonso of Aragon aspire
to the kingdom--Alfonso is routed and taken by the Genoese--
Alfonso being a prisoner of the duke of Milan, obtains his
friendship--The Genoese disgusted with the duke of Milan--
Divisions among the Genoese--The Genoese, by means of Francesco
Spinola, expel the duke's governor--League against the duke of
Milan--Rinaldo degli Albizzi advises the duke to make war against
the Florentines--His discourse to the duke--The duke adopts
measures injurious to the Florentines--Niccolo Piccinino appointed
to command the duke's forces--Preparations of the Florentines--
Piccinino routed before Barga.

The affairs of Florence being in this condition, Giovanna, queen of
Naples, died, and by her will appointed René of Anjou to be her
successor. Alfonso, king of Aragon, was at this time in Sicily, and
having obtained the concurrence of many barons, prepared to take
possession of the kingdom. The Neapolitans, with whom a greater number
of barons were also associated, favored René. The pope was unwilling
that either of them should obtain it; but desired the affairs of
Naples to be administered by a governor of his own appointing.

In the meantime Alfonso entered the kingdom, and was received by the
duke of Sessa; he brought with him some princes, whom he had engaged
in his service, with the design (already possessing Capua, which the
prince of Taranto held in his name) of subduing the Neapolitans, and
sent his fleet to attack Gaeta, which had declared itself in their
favor. They therefore demanded assistance of the duke of Milan, who
persuaded the Genoese to undertake their defense; and they, to satisfy
the duke their sovereign, and protect the merchandise they possessed,
both at Naples and Gaeta, armed a powerful fleet. Alfonso hearing of
this, augmented his own naval force, went in person to meet the
Genoese, and coming up with them near the island of Ponzio, an
engagement ensued, in which the Aragonese were defeated, and Alfonso,
with many of the princes of his suite, made prisoners, and sent by the
Genoese to the Filippo.

This victory terrified the princes of Italy, who, being jealous of the
duke's power, thought it would give him a great opportunity of being
sovereign of the whole country. But so contrary are the views of men,
that he took a directly opposite course. Alfonso was a man of great
sagacity, and as soon as an opportunity presented itself of
communicating with Filippo, he proved to him how completely he
contravened his own interests, by favoring René and opposing himself;
for it would be the business of the former, on becoming king of
Naples, to introduce the French into Milan; that in an emergency he
might have assistance at hand, without the necessity of having to
solicit a passage for his friends. But he could not possibly secure
this advantage without effecting the ruin of the duke, and making his
dominions a French province; and that the contrary of all this would
result from himself becoming lord of Naples; for having only the
French to fear, he would be compelled to love and caress, nay even to
obey those who had it in their power to open a passage for his
enemies. That thus the title of king of king of Naples would be with
himself (Alfonso), but the power and authority with Filippo; so that
it was much more the duke's business than his own to consider the
danger of one course and the advantage of the other; unless he rather
wished to gratify his private prejudices than to give security to his
dominions. In the one case he would be a free prince, in the other,
placed between two powerful sovereigns, he would either be robbed of
his territories or live in constant fear, and have to obey them like a
slave. These arguments so greatly influenced the duke, that, changing
his design, he set Alfonso at liberty, sent him honorably to Genoa and
then to Naples. From thence the king went to Gaeta, which as soon as
his liberation had become known, was taken possession of by some
nobles of his party.

The Genoese, seeing that the duke, without the least regard for them,
had liberated the king, and gained credit to himself through the
dangers and expense which they had incurred; that he enjoyed all the
honor of the liberation, and they were themselves exposed to the odium
of the capture, and the injuries consequent upon the king's defeat,
were greatly exasperated. In the city of Genoa, while in the enjoyment
of her liberty, a magistrate is created with the consent of the
people, whom they call the Doge; not that he is absolutely a prince,
or that he alone has the power of determining matters of government;
but that, as the head of the state, he proposes those questions or
subjects which have to be considered and determined by the magistrates
and the councils. In that city are many noble families so powerful,
that they are with great difficulty induced to submit to the authority
of the law. Of these, the most powerful are the Fregosa and the
Adorna, from whom arise the dissensions of the city, and the impotence
of her civil regulations; for the possession of this high office being
contested by means inadmissible in well-regulated communities, and
most commonly with arms in their hands, it always occurs that one
party is oppressed and the other triumphant; and sometimes those who
fail in the pursuit have recourse to the arms of strangers, and the
country they are not allowed to rule they subject to foreign
authority. Hence it happens, that those who govern in Lombardy most
commonly command in Genoa, as occurred at the time Alfonso of Aragon
was made prisoner. Among the leading Genoese who had been instrumental
in subjecting the republic to Filippo, was Francesco Spinola, who,
soon after he had reduced his country to bondage, as always happens in
such cases, became suspected by the duke. Indignant at this, he
withdrew to a sort of voluntary exile at Gaeta, and being there when
the naval expedition was in preparation, and having conducted himself
with great bravery in the action, he thought he had again merited so
much of the duke's confidence as would obtain for him permission to
remain undisturbed at Genoa. But the duke still retained his
suspicions; for he could not believe that a vacillating defender of
his own country's liberty would be faithful to himself; and Francesco
Spinola resolved again to try his fortune, and if possible restore
freedom to his country, and honorable safety for himself; for he was
there was no probability of regaining the forfeited affection of his
fellow-citizens, but by resolving at his own peril to remedy the
misfortunes which he had been so instrumental in producing. Finding
the indignation against the duke universal, on account of the
liberation of the king, he thought the moment propitious for the
execution of his design. He communicated his ideas to some whom he
knew to be similarly inclined, and his arguments ensured their

The great festival of St. John the Baptist being come, when Arismeno,
the new governor sent by the duke, was to enter Genoa, and he being
already arrived, accompanied by Opicino, the former governor, and many
Genoese citizens, Francesco Spinola thought further delay improper;
and, issuing from his house with those acquainted with his design, all
armed, they raised the cry of liberty. It was wonderful to see how
eagerly the citizens and people assembled at the word; so that those
who for any reason might be favorable to Filippo, not only had no time
to arm, but scarcely to consider the means of escape. Arismeno, with
some Genoese, fled to the fortress which was held for the duke,
Opicino, thinking that if he could reach the palace, where two
thousand men were in arms, and at his command, he might be able either
to effect his own safety, or induce his friends to defend themselves,
took that direction; but before he arrived at the piazza he was slain,
his body divided into many pieces and scattered about the city. The
Genoese having placed the government in the hands of free magistrates,
in a few days recovered the castle, and the other strongholds
possessed by the duke, and delivered themselves entirely from his

These transactions, though at first they had alarmed the princes of
Italy with the apprehension that the duke would become too powerful,
now gave them hope, seeing the turn they had taken, of being able to
restrain him; and, notwithstanding the recent league, the Florentines
and Venetians entered into alliance with the Genoese. Rinaldo degli
Albizzi and the other leading Florentine exiles, observing the altered
aspect of affairs, conceived hopes of being able to induce the duke to
make war against Florence, and having arrived at Milan, Rinaldo
addressed him in the following manner: "If we, who were once your
enemies, come now confidently to supplicate your assistance to enable
us to return to our country, neither you, nor anyone, who considers
the course and vicissitudes of human affairs, can be at all surprised;
for of our past conduct toward yourself and our present intentions
toward our country, we can adduce palpable and abundant reasons. No
good man will ever reproach another who endeavors to defend his
country, whatever be his mode of doing so; neither have we had any
design of injuring you, but only to preserve our country from
detriment; and we appeal to yourself, whether, during the greatest
victories of our league, when you were really desirous of peace, we
were not even more anxious for it than yourself; so that we do not
think we have done aught to make us despair altogether of favor from
you. Nor can our country itself complain that we now exhort you to use
those arms against her, from which we have so pertinaciously defended
her; for that state alone merits the love of all her citizens, which
cares with equal affection for all; not one that favors a few, and
casts from her the great mass of her children. Nor are the arms that
men use against their country to be universally condemned; for
communities, although composed of many, resemble individual bodies;
and as in these, many infirmities arise which cannot be cured without
the application of fire or of steel, so in the former, there often
occur such numerous and great evils, that a good and merciful citizen,
when there is a necessity for the sword, would be much more to blame
in leaving her uncured, than by using this remedy for her
preservation. What greater disease can afflict a republic than
slavery? and what remedy is more desirable for adoption than the one
by which alone it can be effectually removed? No wars are just but
those that are necessary; and force is merciful when it presents the
only hope of relief. I know not what necessity can be greater than
ours, or what compassion can exceed that which rescues our country
from slavery. Our cause is therefore just, and our purpose merciful,
as both yourself and we may be easily convinced. The amplest justice
is on your side; for the Florentines have not hesitated, after a peace
concluded with so much solemnity, to enter into league with those who
have rebelled against you; so that if our cause is insufficient to
excite you against them, let your own just indignation do so; and the
more so, seeing the facility of the undertaking. You need be under no
apprehension from the memory of the past, in which you may have
observed the power of that people and their pertinency in self-
defense; though these might reasonably excite fear, if they were still
animated by the valor of former times. But now, all is entirely the
reverse; for what power can be expected in a city that has recently
expelled the greatest part of her wealth and industry? What
indomitable resolution need be apprehended from the people whom so
many and such recent enmities have disunited? The disunion which still
prevails will prevent wealthy citizens advancing money as they used to
do on former occasions; for though men willingly contribute according
to their means, when they see their own credit, glory, and private
advantage dependent upon it, or when there is a hope of regaining in
peace what has been spent in war, but not when equally oppressed under
all circumstances, when in war they suffer the injuries of the enemy,
and in peace, the insolence of those who govern them. Besides this,
the people feel more deeply the avarice of their rulers, than the
rapacity of the enemy; for there is hope of being ultimately relieved
from the latter evil, but none from the former. Thus, in the last war,
you had to contend with the whole city; but now with only a small
portion. You attempted to take the government from many good citizens;
but now you oppose only a few bad ones. You then endeavored to deprive
a city of her liberty, now you come to restore it. As it is
unreasonable to suppose that under such disparity of circumstances,
the result should be the same, you have now every reason to anticipate
an easy victory; and how much it will strengthen your own government,
you may easily judge; having Tuscany friendly, and bound by so
powerful an obligation, in your enterprises, she will be even of more
service to you than Milan. And, although, on former occasions, such an
acquisition might be looked upon as ambitious and unwarrantable, it
will now be considered merciful and just. Then do not let this
opportunity escape, and be assured, that although your attempts
against the city have been attended with difficulty, expense, and
disgrace, this will with facility procure you incalculable advantage
and an honorable renown."

Many words were not requisite to induce the duke to hostilities
against the Florentines, for he was incited to it by hereditary hatred
and blind ambition, and still more, by the fresh injuries which the
league with the Genoese involved; yet his past expenses, the dangerous
measures necessary, the remembrance of his recent losses, and the vain
hopes of the exiles, alarmed him. As soon as he had learned the revolt
of Genoa, he ordered Niccolo Piccinino to proceed thither with all his
cavalry and whatever infantry he could raise, for the purpose of
recovering her, before the citizens had time to become settled and
establish a government; for he trusted greatly in the fortress within
the city, which was held for him. And although Niccolo drove the
Genoese from the mountains, took from them the valley of Pozeveri,
where they had entrenched themselves, and obliged them to seek refuge
within the walls of the city, he still found such an insurmountable
obstacle in the resolute defense of the citizens, that he was
compelled to withdraw. On this, at the suggestion of the Florentine
exiles, he commanded Niccolo to attack them on the eastern side, upon
the confines of Pisa in the Genoese territory, and to push the war
with his utmost vigor, thinking this plan would manifest and develop
the course best to be adopted. Niccolo therefore besieged and took
Serezana, and having committed great ravages, by way of further
alarming the Florentines he proceeded to Lucca, spreading a report
that it was his intention to go to Naples to render assistance to the
king of Aragon. Upon these new events Pope Eugenius left Florence and
proceeded to Bologna, where he endeavored to effect an amicable
arrangement between the league and the duke, intimating to the latter,
that if he would not consent to some treaty, the pontiff must send
Francesco Sforza to assist the league, for the latter was now his
confederate, and served in his pay. Although the pope greatly exerted
himself in this affair, his endeavors were unavailing; for the duke
would not listen to any proposal that did not leave him the possession
of Genoa, and the league had resolved that she should remain free;
and, therefore, each party, having no other resource, prepared to
continue the war.

In the meantime Niccolo Piccinino arrived at Lucca, and the
Florentines, being doubtful what course to adopt, ordered Neri di Gino
to lead their forces into the Pisan territory, induced the pontiff to
allow Count Francesco to join him, and with their forces they halted
at San Gonda. Piccinino then demanded admission into the kingdom of
Naples, and this being refused, he threatened to force a passage. The
armies were equal, both in regard of numbers and the capacity of their
leaders, and unwilling to tempt fortune during the bad weather, it
being the month of December, they remained several days without
attacking each other. The first movement was made by Niccolo
Piccinino, who being informed that if he attacked Vico Pisano by
night, he could easily take possession of the place, made the attempt,
and having failed, ravaged the surrounding country, and then burned
and plundered the town of San Giovanni alla Vena. This enterprise,
though of little consequence, excited him to make further attempts,
the more so from being assured that the count and Neri were yet in
their quarters, and he attacked Santa Maria in Castello and Filetto,
both which places he took. Still the Florentine forces would not stir;
not that the count entertained any fear, but because, out of regard to
the pope, who still labored to effect an accommodation, the government
of Florence had deferred giving their final consent to the war. This
course, which the Florentines adopted from prudence, was considered by
the enemy to be only the result of timidity, and with increased
boldness they led their forces up to Barga, which they resolved to
besiege. This new attack made the Florentines set aside all other
considerations, and resolve not only to relieve Barga, but to invade
the Lucchese territory. Accordingly the count proceeded in pursuit of
Niccolo, and coming up with him before Barga, an engagement took
place, in which Piccinino was overcome, and compelled to raise the

The Venetians considering the duke to have broken the peace, send
Giovan Francesco da Gonzaga, their captain, to Ghiaradadda, who, by
severely wasting the duke's territories, induced him to recall Niccolo
Piccinino from Tuscany. This circumstance, together with the victory
obtained over Niccolo, emboldened the Florentines to attempt the
recovery of Lucca, since the duke, whom alone they feared, was engaged
with the Venetians, and the Lucchese having received the enemy into
their city, and allowed him to attack them, would have no ground of

Niccolo Machiavelli