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Chapter 36


The pope imprisons the cardinal and assists the Florentines--
Difference of opinion between the count and the Venetians
respecting the management of the war. The Florentines reconcile
them--The count wishes to go into Tuscany to oppose Piccinino, but
is prevented by the Venetians--Niccolo Piccinino in Tuscany--He
takes Marradi, and plunders the neighborhood of Florence--
Description of Marradi--Cowardice of Bartolomeo Orlandini--Brave
resistance of Castel San Niccolo--San Niccolo surrenders--
Piccinino attempts to take Cortona, but fails.

While the Florentines were thus anxious, fortune disclosed the means
of securing themselves against the patriarch's malevolence. The
republic everywhere exercised the very closest espionage over
epistolary communication, in order to discover if any persons were
plotting against the state. It happened that letters were intercepted
at Monte Pulciano, which had been written by the patriarch to Niccolo
without the pope's knowledge; and although they were written in an
unusual character, and the sense so involved that no distinct idea
could be extracted, the obscurity itself, and the whole aspect of the
matter so alarmed the pontiff, that he resolved to seize the person of
the cardinal, a duty he committed to Antonio Rido, of Padua, who had
the command of the castle of St. Angelo, and who, after receiving his
instructions, soon found an opportunity of carrying them into effect.
The patriarch, having determined to go into Tuscany, prepared to leave
Rome on the following day, and ordered the castellan to be upon the
drawbridge of the fortress in the morning, for he wished to speak with
him as he passed. Antonio perceived this to be the favorable moment,
informed his people what they were to do, and awaited the arrival of
the patriarch upon the bridge, which adjoined the building, and might
for the purpose of security be raised or lowered as occasion required.
The appointed time found him punctual; and Antonio, having drawn him,
as if for the convenience of conversation, on to the bridge, gave a
signal to his men, who immediately raised it, and in a moment the
cardinal, from being a commander of armies, found himself a prisoner
of the castellan. The patriarch's followers at first began to use
threats, but being informed of the pope's directions they were
appeased. The castellan comforting him with kind words, he replied,
that "the great do not make each other prisoners to let them go again;
and that those whom it is proper to take, it is not well to set free."
He shortly afterward died in prison. The pope appointed Lodovico,
patriarch of Aquileia, to command his troops; and, though previously
unwilling to interfere in the wars of the league and the duke, he was
now content to take part in them, and engaged to furnish four thousand
horse and two thousand foot for the defense of Tuscany.

The Florentines, freed from this cause for anxiety, were still
apprehensive of Niccolo, and feared confusion in the affairs of
Lombardy, from the differences of opinion that existed between the
count and the Venetians. In order the better to become acquainted with
the intentions of the parties, they sent Neri di Gini Capponi and
Giuliano Davanzati to Venice, with instructions to assist in the
arrangement of the approaching campaign; and ordered that Neri, having
discovered how the Venetians were disposed, should proceed to the
count, learn his designs, and induce him to adopt the course that
would be most advantageous to the League. The ambassadors had only
reached Ferrara, when they were told that Niccolo Piccinino had
crossed the Po with six thousand horse. This made them travel with
increased speed; and, having arrived at Venice, they found the Signory
fully resolved that Brescia should be relieved without waiting for the
return of spring; for they said that "the city would be unable to hold
out so long, the fleet could not be in readiness, and that seeing no
more immediate relief, she would submit to the enemy; which would
render the duke universally victorious, and cause them to lose the
whole of their inland possessions." Neri then proceeded to Verona to
ascertain the count's opinion, who argued, for many reasons, that to
march to Brescia before the return of spring would be quite useless,
or even worse; for the situation of Brescia, being considered in
conjunction with the season, nothing could be expected to result but
disorder and fruitless toil to the troops; so that, when the suitable
period should arrive, he would be compelled to return to Verona with
his army, to recover from the injuries sustained in the winter, and
provide necessaries for the summer; and thus the time available for
the war would be wasted in marching and countermarching. Orsatto
Justiniani and Giovanni Pisani were deputed on the part of Venice to
the count at Verona, having been sent to consider these affairs, and
with them it was agreed that the Venetians should pay the count ninety
thousand ducats for the coming year, and to each of the soldiers forty
ducats; that he should set out immediately with the whole army and
attack the duke, in order to compel him, for his own preservation, to
recall Niccolo into Lombardy. After this agreement the ambassadors
returned to Venice; and the Venetians, having so large an amount of
money to raise, were very remiss with their commissariat.

In the meantime, Niccolo Piccinino pursued his route, and arrived in
Romagna, where he prevailed upon the sons of Pandolfo Malatesti to
desert the Venetians and enter the duke's service. This circumstance
occasioned much uneasiness in Venice, and still more at Florence; for
they thought that with the aid of the Malatesti they might resist
Niccolo; but finding them gone over to the enemy, they were in fear
lest their captain, Piero Giampagolo Orsini, who was in the
territories of the Malatesti, should be disarmed and rendered
powerless. The count also felt alarmed, for, through Niccolo's
presence in Tuscany, he was afraid of losing La Marca; and, urged by a
desire to look after his own affairs, he hastened to Venice, and being
introduced to the Doge, informed him that the interests of the League
required his presence in Tuscany; for the war ought to be carried on
where the leader and forces of the enemy were, and not where his
garrisons and towns were situated; for when the army is vanquished the
war is finished; but to take towns and leave the armament entire,
usually allowed the war to break out again with greater virulence;
that Tuscany and La Marca would be lost if Niccolo were not vigorously
resisted, and that, if lost, there would be no possibility of the
preservation of Lombardy. But supposing the danger to Lombardy not so
imminent, he did not intend to abandon his own subjects and friends,
and that having come into Lombardy as a prince, he did not intend to
return a mere condottiere. To this the Doge replied, it was quite
manifest that, if he left Lombardy, or even recrossed the Po, all
their inland territories would be lost; in that case they were
unwilling to spend any more money in their defense. For it would be
folly to attempt defending a place which must, after all, inevitably
be lost; and that it is less disgraceful and less injurious to lose
dominions only, then to lose both territory and money. That if the
loss of their inland possessions should actually result, it would then
be seen how highly important to the preservation of Romagna and
Tuscany the reputation of the Venetians had been. On these accounts
they were of quite a different opinion from the count; for they saw
that whoever was victor in Lombardy would be so everywhere else, that
conquest would be easily attainable now, when the territories of the
duke were left almost defenseless by the departure of Niccolo, and
that he would be ruined before he could order Niccolo's recall, or
provide himself with any other remedy; that whoever attentively
considered these things would see, that the duke had sent Niccolo into
Tuscany for no other reason than to withdraw the count from his
enterprise, and cause the war, which was now at his own door, to be
removed to a greater distance. That if the count were to follow
Niccolo, unless at the instigation of some very pressing necessity, he
would find his plan successful, and rejoice in the adoption of it; but
if he were to remain in Lombardy, and allow Tuscany to shift for
herself, the duke would, when too late, see the imprudence of his
conduct, and find that he had lost his territories in Lombardy and
gained nothing in Tuscany. Each party having spoken, it was determined
to wait a few days to see what would result from the agreement of the
Malatesti with Niccolo; whether the Florentines could avail themselves
of Piero Giampagolo, and whether the pope intended to join the League
with all the earnestness he had promised. Not many days after these
resolutions were adopted, it was ascertained that the Malatesti had
made the agreement more from fear than any ill-will toward the League;
that Piero Giampagolo had proceeded with his force toward Tuscany, and
that the pope was more disposed than ever to assist them. This
favorable intelligence dissipated the count's fears, and he consented
to remain in Lombardy, and that Neri Capponi should return to Florence
with a thousand of his own horse, and five hundred from the other
parties. It was further agreed, that if the affairs of Tuscany should
require the count's presence, Neri should write to him, and he would
proceed thither to the exclusion of every other consideration. Neri
arrived at Florence with his forces in April, and Giampagolo joined
them the same day.

In the meantime, Niccolo Piccinino, the affairs of Romagna being
settled, purposed making a descent into Tuscany, and designing to go
by the mountain passes of San Benedetto and the valley of Montone,
found them so well guarded by the contrivance of Niccolo da Pisa, that
his utmost exertions would be useless in that direction. As the
Florentines, upon this sudden attack, were unprovided with troops and
officers, they had sent into the defiles of these hills many of their
citizens, with infantry raised upon the emergency to guard them, among
whom was Bartolomeo Orlandini, a cavaliere, to whom was intrusted the
defense of the castle of Marradi and the adjacent passes. Niccolo
Piccinino, finding the route by San Benedetto impracticable, on
account of the bravery of its commander, thought the cowardice of the
officer who defended that of Marradi would render the passage easy.
Marradi is a castle situated at the foot of the mountains which
separate Tuscany from Romagna; and, though destitute of walls, the
river, the mountains, and the inhabitants, make it a place of great
strength; for the peasantry are warlike and faithful, and the rapid
current undermining the banks has left them of such tremendous height
that it is impossible to approach it from the valley if a small bridge
over the stream be defended; while on the mountain side the precipices
are so steep and perpendicular as to render it almost impregnable. In
spite of these advantages, the pusillanimity of Bartolomeo Orlandini
rendered the men cowardly and the fortress untenable; for as soon as
he heard of the enemy's approach he abandoned the place, fled with all
his forces, and did not stop till he reached the town of San Lorenzo.
Niccolo, entering the deserted fortress, wondered it had not been
defended, and, rejoicing over his acquisition, descended into the
valley of the Mugello, where he took some castles, and halted with his
army at Pulicciano. Thence he overran the country as far as the
mountains of Fiesole; and his audacity so increased that he crossed
the Arno, plundering and destroying everything to within three miles
of Florence.

The Florentines, however, were not dismayed. Their first concern was
to give security to the government, for which they had no cause for
apprehension, so universal was the good will of the people toward
Cosmo; and besides this, they had restricted the principal offices to
a few citizens of the highest class, who with their vigilance would
have kept the populace in order, even if they had been discontented or
desirous of change. They also knew by the compact made in Lombardy
what forces Neri would bring with him, and expected the troops of the
pope. These prospects sustained their courage till the arrival of Neri
di Gino, who, on account of the disorders and fears of the city,
determined to set out immediately and check Niccolo. With the cavalry
he possessed, and a body of infantry raised entirely from the people,
he recovered Remole from the hands of the enemy, where having
encamped, he put a stop to all further depredations, and gave the
inhabitants hopes of repelling the enemy from the neighborhood.
Niccolo finding that, although the Florentines were without troops, no
disturbance had arisen, and learning what entire composure prevailed
in the city, thought he was wasting time, and resolved to undertake
some other enterprise to induce them to send forces after him, and
give him a chance of coming to an engagement, by means of which, if
victorious, he trusted everything would succeed to his wishes.

Francesco, Count di Poppi, was in the army of Niccolo, having deserted
the Florentines, with whom he was in league, when the enemy entered
the Mugello; and though with the intention of securing him as soon as
they had an idea of his design, they increased his appointments, and
made him commissary over all the places in his vicinity; still, so
powerful is the attachment to party, that no benefit or fear could
eradicate the affection he bore toward Rinaldo and the late
government; so that as soon as he knew Niccolo was at hand he joined
him, and with the utmost solicitude entreated him to leave the city
and pass into the Casentino, pointing out to him the strength of the
country, and how easily he might thence harass his enemies. Niccolo
followed his advice, and arriving in the Casentino, took Romena and
Bibbiena, and then pitched his camp before Castel San Niccolo. This
fortress is situated at the foot of the mountains which divide the
Casentino from the Val d'Arno; and being in an elevated situation, and
well garrisoned, it was difficult to take, though Niccolo, with
catapults and other engines, assailed it without intermission. The
siege had continued more than twenty days, during which the
Florentines had collected all their forces, having assembled under
several leaders, three thousand horse, at Fegghine, commanded by Piero
Giampagolo Orsini, their captain, and Neri Capponi and Bernardo de'
Medici, commissaries. Four messengers, from Castel San Niccolo, were
sent to them to entreat succor. The commissaries having examined the
site, found it could not be relieved, except from the Alpine regions,
in the direction of the Val d'Arno, the summit of which was more
easily attainable by the enemy than by themselves, on account of their
greater proximity, and because the Florentines could not approach
without observation; so that it would be making a desperate attempt,
and might occasion the destruction of the forces. The commissaries,
therefore, commended their fidelity, and ordered that when they could
hold out no longer, they should surrender. Niccolo took the fortress
after a siege of thirty-two days; and the loss of so much time, for
the attainment of so small an advantage, was the principle cause of
the failure of his expedition; for had he remained with his forces
near Florence, he would have almost deprived the government of all
power to compel the citizens to furnish money: nor would they so
easily have assembled forces and taken other precautions, if the enemy
had been close upon them, as they did while he was at a distance.
Besides this, many would have been disposed to quiet their
apprehensions of Niccolo, by concluding a peace; particularly, as the
contest was likely to be of some duration. The desire of the Count di
Poppi to avenge himself on the inhabitants of San Niccolo, long his
enemies, occasioned his advice to Piccinino, who adopted it for the
purpose of pleasing him; and this caused the ruin of both. It seldom
happens, that the gratification of private feelings, fails to be
injurious to the general convenience.

Niccolo, pursuing his good fortune, took Rassina and Chiusi. The Count
di Poppi advised him to halt in these parts, arguing that he might
divide his people between Chiusi, Caprese, and the Pieve, render
himself master of this branch of the Apennines, and descend at
pleasure into the Casentino, the Val d'Arno, the Val di Chiane, or the
Val di Tavere, as well as be prepared for every movement of the enemy.
But Niccolo, considering the sterility of these places, told him, "his
horses could not eat stones," and went to the Borgo San Sepolcro,
where he was amicably received, but found that the people of Citta di
Castello, who were friendly to the Florentines, could not be induced
to yield to his overtures. Wishing to have Perugia at his disposal, he
proceeded thither with forty horse, and being one of her citizens, met
with a kind reception. But in a few days he became suspected, and
having attempted unsuccessfully to tamper with the legate and people
of Perugia, he took eight thousand ducats from them, and returned to
his army. He then set on foot secret measures, to seduce Cortona from
the Florentines, but the affair being discovered, his attempts were
fruitless. Among the principal citizens was Bartolomeo di Senso, who
being appointed to the evening watch of one of the gates, a
countryman, his friend, told him, that if he went he would be slain.
Bartolomeo, requesting to know what was meant, he became acquainted
with the whole affair, and revealed it to the governor of the place,
who, having secured the leaders of the conspiracy, and doubled the
guards at the gates, waited till the time appointed for the coming of
Niccolo, who finding his purpose discovered, returned to his

Niccolo Machiavelli