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Chapter 34

CHAPTER IV

New wars in Italy--Niccolo Piccinino, in concert with the duke of
Milan, deceives the pope, and takes many places from the church--
Niccolo attacks the Venetians--Fears and precautions of the
Florentines--The Venetians request assistance of the Florentines
and of Sforza--League against the duke of Milan--The Florentines
resolve to send the count to assist the Venetians--Neri di Gino
Capponi at Venice--His discourse to the senate--Extreme joy of the
Venetians.

Peace being restored between the Lucchese and Florentines, and the
duke and the count having become friends, hopes were entertained that
the arms of Italy would be laid aside, although those in the kingdom
of Naples, between René of Anjou and Alfonso of Aragon, could find
repose only by the ruin of one party or the other. And though the pope
was dissatisfied with the loss of so large a portion of his
territories, and the ambition of the duke and the Venetians was
obvious, still it was thought that the pontiff, from necessity, and
the others from weariness, would be advocates of peace. However, a
different state of feeling prevailed, for neither the duke nor the
Venetians were satisfied with their condition; so that hostilities
were resumed, and Lombardy and Tuscany were again harassed by the
horrors of war. The proud mind of the duke could not endure that the
Venetians should possess Bergamo and Brescia, and he was still further
annoyed, by hearing, that they were constantly in arms, and in the
daily practice of annoying some portion of his territories. He
thought, however, that he should not only be able to restrain them,
but to recover the places he had lost, if the pope, the Florentines,
and the count could be induced to forego the Venetian alliance. He
therefore resolved to take Romagna from the pontiff, imagining that
his holiness could not injure him, and that the Florentines, finding
the conflagration so near, either for their own sake would refrain
from interference, or if they did not, could not conveniently attack
him. The duke was also aware of the resentment of the Florentines
against the Venetians, on account of the affair of Lucca, and he
therefore judged they would be the less eager to take arms against him
on their behalf. With regard to the Count Francesco, he trusted that
their new friendship, and the hope of his alliance would keep him
quiet. To give as little color as possible for complaint, and to lull
suspicion, particularly, because in consequence of his treaty with the
count, the latter could not attack Romagna, he ordered Niccolo
Piccinino, as if instigated by his own ambition to do so.

When the agreement between the duke and the count was concluded,
Niccolo was in Romagna, and in pursuance of his instructions from the
duke, affected to be highly incensed, that a connection had been
established between him and the count, his inveterate enemy. He
therefore withdrew himself and his forces to Camurata, a place between
Furli and Ravenna, which he fortified, as if designing to remain there
some time, or till a new enterprise should present itself. The report
of his resentment being diffused, Niccolo gave the pope to understand
how much the duke was under obligation to him, and how ungrateful he
proved; and he was persuaded that, possessing nearly all the arms of
Italy, under the two principal generals, he could render himself sole
ruler: but if his holiness pleased, of the two principal generals whom
he fancied he possessed, one would become his enemy, and the other be
rendered useless; for, if money were provided him, and he were kept in
pay, he would attack the territories held of the church by the count,
who being compelled to look to his own interests, could not subserve
the ambition of Filippo. The pope giving entire credence to this
representation, on account of its apparent reasonableness, sent
Niccolo five thousand ducats and loaded him with promises of states
for himself and his children. And though many informed him of the
deception, he could not give credit to them, nor would he endure the
conversation of any who seemed to doubt the integrity of Niccolo's
professions. The city of Ravenna was held for the church by Ostasio da
Polenta. Niccolo finding further delay would be detrimental, since his
son Francesco had, to the pope's great dishonor, pillaged Spoleto,
determined to attack Ravenna, either because he judged the enterprise
easy, or because he had a secret understanding with Ostasio, for in a
few days after the attack, the place capitulated. He then took
Bologna, Imola, and Furli; and (what is worthy of remark) of twenty
fortresses held in that country for the pope, not one escaped falling
into his hands. Not satisfied with these injuries inflicted on the
pontiff, he resolved to banter him by his words as well as ridicule
him by his deeds, and wrote, that he had only done as his holiness
deserved, for having unblushingly attempted to divide two such
attached friends as the duke and himself, and for having dispersed
over Italy letters intimating that he had quitted the duke to take
part with the Venetians. Having taken possession of Romagna, Niccolo
left it under the charge of his son, Francesco, and with the greater
part of his troops, went into Lombardy, where joining the remainder of
the duke's forces, he attacked the country about Brescia, and having
soon completely conquered it, besieged the city itself.

The duke, who desired the Venetians to be left defenseless, excused
himself to the pope, the Florentines, and the count, saying, that if
the doings of Niccolo were contrary to the terms of the treaty, they
were equally contrary to his wishes, and by secret messengers, assured
them that when an occasion presented itself, he would give them a
convincing proof that they had been performed in disobedience to his
instructions. Neither the count nor the Florentines believed him, but
thought, with reason, that these enterprises had been carried on to
keep them at bay, till he had subdued the Venetians, who, being full
of pride, and thinking themselves able alone to resist the duke, had
not deigned to ask for any assistance, but carried on the war under
their captain, Gattamelata.

Count Francesco would have wished, with the consent of the
Florentines, to go to the assistance of king René, if the events of
Romagna and Lombardy had not hindered him; and the Florentines would
willingly have consented, from their ancient friendship to the French
dynasty, but the duke was entirely in favor of Alfonso. Each being
engaged in wars near home, refrained from distant undertakings. The
Florentines, finding Romagna occupied with the duke's forces, and the
Venetians defeated, as if foreseeing their own ruin in that of others,
entreated the count to come to Tuscany, where they might consider what
should be done to resist Filippo's power, which was now greater than
it had ever before been; assuring him that if his insolence were not
in some way curbed, all the powers of Italy would soon have to submit
to him. The count felt the force of the fears entertained by the
Florentines, but his desire to secure the duke's alliance kept him in
suspense; and the duke, aware of this desire, gave him the greatest
assurance that his hopes would be realized as shortly as possible, if
he abstained from hostilities against him. As the lady was now of
marriageable age, the duke had frequently made all suitable
preparations for the celebration of the ceremony, but on one pretext
or another they had always been wholly set aside. He now, to give the
count greater confidence, added deeds to his words, and sent him
thirty thousand florins, which, by the terms of the marriage contract,
he had engaged to pay.

Still the war in Lombardy proceeded with greater vehemence than ever;
the Venetians constantly suffered fresh losses of territory, and the
fleets they equipped upon the rivers were taken by the duke's forces;
the country around Verona and Brescia was entirely occupied, and the
two cities themselves so pressed, that their speedy fall was generally
anticipated. The marquis of Mantua, who for many years had led the
forces of their republic, quite unexpectedly resigned his command, and
went over to the duke's service. Thus the course which pride prevented
them from adopting at the commencement of the war, fear compelled them
to take during its progress; for knowing there was no help for them
but in the friendship of the Florentines and the count, they began to
make overtures to obtain it, though with shame and apprehension; for
they were afraid of receiving a reply similar to that which they had
given the Florentines, when the latter applied for assistance in the
enterprise against Lucca and the count's affairs. However, they found
the Florentines more easily induced to render aid than they expected,
or their conduct deserved; so much more were the former swayed by
hatred of their ancient enemy, than by resentment of the ingratitude
of their old and habitual friends. Having foreseen the necessity into
which the Venetians must come, they had informed the count that their
ruin must involve his own; that he was deceived if he thought the
duke, while fortune, would esteem him more than if he were in
adversity; that the duke was induced to promise him his daughter by
the fear he entertained of him; that what necessity occasions to be
promised, it also causes to be performed; and it was therefore
desirable to keep the duke in that necessity, which could be done
without supporting the power of the Venetians. Therefore he might
perceive, that if the Venetians were compelled to abandon their inland
territories, he would not only lose the advantages derivable from
them, but also those to be obtained from such as feared them; and that
if he considered well the powers of Italy, he would see that some were
poor, and others hostile; that the Florentines alone were not, as he
had often said, sufficient for his support; so that on every account
it was best to keep the Venetians powerful by land. These arguments,
conjoined with the hatred which the count had conceived against
Filippo, by supposing himself duped with regard to the promised
alliance, induced him to consent to a new treaty; but still he would
not consent to cross the Po. The agreement was concluded in February,
1438; the Venetians agreeing to pay two-thirds of the expense of the
war, the Florentines one-third, and each engaging to defend the states
which the count possessed in La Marca. Nor were these the only forces
of the league, for the lord of Faenza, the sons of Pandolfo Malatesti
da Rimino and Pietro Giampagolo Orsini also joined them. They
endeavored, by very liberal offers, to gain over the marquis of
Mantua, but could not prevail against the friendship and stipend of
the duke; and the lord of Faenza, after having entered into compact
with the league, being tempted by more advantageous terms, went over
to him. This made them despair of being able to effect an early
settlement of the troubles of Romagna.

The affairs of Lombardy were in this condition: Brescia was so closely
besieged by the duke's forces, that constant apprehensions were
entertained of her being compelled by famine to a surrender; while
Verona was so pressed, that a similar fate was expected to await her,
and if one of these cities were lost, all the other preparations for
the war might be considered useless, and the expenses already incurred
as completely wasted. For this there was no remedy, but to send the
count into Lombardy; and to this measure three obstacles presented
themselves. The first was, to induce him to cross the Po, and
prosecute the war in whatever locality might be found most advisable;
the second, that the count being at a distance, the Florentines would
be left almost at the mercy of the duke, who, issuing from any of his
fortresses, might with part of his troops keep the count at bay, and
with the rest introduce into Tuscany the Florentine exiles, whom the
existing government already dreaded; the third was, to determine what
route the count should take to arrive safely in the Paduan territory,
and join the Venetian forces. Of these three difficulties, the second,
which particularly regarded the Florentines, was the most serious;
but, knowing the necessity of the case, and wearied out by the
Venetians, who with unceasing importunity demanded the count,
intimating that without him they should abandon all hope, they
resolved to relieve their allies rather than listen to the suggestions
of their own fears. There still remained the question about the route
to be taken, for the safety of which they determined the Venetians
should provide; and as they had sent Neri Capponi to treat with the
count and induce him to cross the Po, they determined that the same
person should also proceed to Venice, in order to make the benefit the
more acceptable to the Signory, and see that all possible security
were given to the passage of the forces.

Neri embarked at Cesena and went to Venice; nor was any prince ever
received with so much honor as he was; for upon his arrival, and the
matters which his intervention was to decide and determine, the safety
of the republic seemed to depend. Being introduced to the senate, and
in presence of the Doge, he said, "The Signory of Florence, most
serene prince, has always perceived in the duke's greatness the source
of ruin both to this republic and our own, and that the safety of both
states depends upon their separate strength and mutual confidence. If
such had been the opinion of this illustrious Signory, we should
ourselves have been in better condition, and your republic would have
been free from the dangers that now threaten it. But as at the proper
crisis you withheld from us confidence and aid, we could not come to
the relief of your distress, nor could you, being conscious of this,
freely ask us; for neither in your prosperity nor adversity have you
clearly perceived our motives. You have not observed, that those whose
deeds have once incurred our hatred, can never become entitled to our
regard; nor can those who have once merited our affection ever after
absolutely cancel their claim. Our attachment to your most serene
Signory is well known to you all, for you have often seen Lombardy
filled with our forces and our money for your assistance. Our
hereditary enmity to Filippo and his house is universally known, and
it is impossible that love or hatred, strengthened by the growth of
years, can be eradicated from our minds by any recent act either of
kindness or neglect. We have always thought, and are still of the same
opinion, that we might now remain neutral, greatly to the duke's
satisfaction, and with little hazard to ourselves; for if by your ruin
he were to become lord of Lombardy, we should still have sufficient
influence in Italy in free us from any apprehension on our own
account; for every increase of power and territory augments that
animosity and envy, from which arise wars and the dismemberment of
states. We are also aware what heavy expenses and imminent perils we
should avoid, by declining to involve ourselves in these disputes; and
how easily the field of battle may be transferred from Lombardy to
Tuscany, by our interference in your behalf. Yet all these
apprehensions are at once overborne by our ancient affection for the
senate and people of Venice, and we have resolved to come to your
relief with the same zeal with which we should have armed in our own
defense, had we been attacked. Therefore, the senate of Florence,
judging it primarily necessary to relieve Verona and Brescia, and
thinking this impossible without the count, have sent me, in the first
instance, to persuade him to pass into Lombardy, and carry on the war
wherever it may be most needful; for you are aware he is under no
obligation to cross the Po. To induce him to do so, I have advanced
such arguments as are suggested by the circumstances themselves, and
which would prevail with us. He, being invincible in arms, cannot be
surpassed in courtesy, and the liberality he sees the Florentines
exercise toward you, he has resolved to outdo; for he is well aware to
what dangers Tuscany will be exposed after his departure, and since we
have made your affairs our primary consideration, he has also resolved
to make his own subservient to yours. I come, therefore, to tender his
services, with seven thousand cavalry and two thousand infantry, ready
at once to march against the enemy, wherever he may be. And I beg of
you, so do my lords at Florence and the count, that as his forces
exceed the number he has engaged to furnish you, out of your
liberality, would remunerate him, that he may not repent of having
come to your assistance, nor we, who have prevailed with him to do
so." This discourse of Neri to the senate was listened to with that
profound attention which an oracle might be imagined to command; and
his audience were so moved by it, that they could not restrain
themselves, till the prince had replied, as strict decorum on such
occasions required, but rising from their seats, with uplifted hands,
and most of them with tears in their eyes, they thanked the
Florentines for their generous conduct, and the ambassador for his
unusual dispatch; and promised that time should never cancel the
remembrance of such goodness, either in their own hearts, or their
children's; and that their country, thenceforth, should be common to
the Florentines with themselves.

Niccolo Machiavelli