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Chapter 40


Death of Filippo Visconti, duke of Milan--The Milanese appoint
Sforza their captain--Milan becomes a republic--The pope endeavors
to restore peace to Italy--The Venetians oppose this design--
Alfonso attacks the Florentines--The neighborhood of Piombino
becomes the principal theater of war--Scarcity in the Florentine
camp--Disorders occur in the Neapolitan and Florentine armies--
Alfonso sues for peace and is compelled to retreat--Pavia
surrenders to the count--Displeasure of the Milanese--The count
besieges Caravaggio--The Venetians endeavor to relieve the place--
They are routed by the count before Caravaggio.

Pope Eugenius being dead, was succeeded by Nicholas V. The count had
his whole army at Cotignola, ready to pass into Lombardy, when
intelligence was brought him of the death of Filippo, which happened
on the last day of August, 1447. This event greatly afflicted him, for
he doubted whether his troops were in readiness, on account of their
arrears of pay; he feared the Venetians, who were his armed enemies,
he having recently forsaken them and taken part with the duke; he was
in apprehension from Alfonso, his inveterate foe; he had no hope from
the pontiff or the Florentines; for the latter were allies of the
Venetians, and he had seized the territories of the former. However,
he resolved to face his fortune and be guided by circumstances; for it
often happens, that when engaged in business valuable ideas are
suggested, which in a state of inaction would never have occurred. He
had great hopes, that if the Milanese were disposed to defend
themselves against the ambition of the Venetians, they could make use
of no other power but his. Therefore, he proceeded confidently into
the Bolognese territory, thence to Modena and Reggio, halted with his
forces upon the Lenza, and sent to offer his services at Milan. On the
death of the duke, part of the Milanese were inclined to establish a
republic; others wished to choose a prince, and of these, one part
favored the count, and another Alfonso. However, the majority being in
favor of freedom, they prevailed over the rest, and organized a
republic, to which many cities of the Duchy refused obedience; for
they, too, desired to live in the enjoyment of their liberty, and even
those who did not embrace such views, refused to submit to the
sovereignty of the Milanese. Lodi and Piacenza surrendered themselves
to the Venetians; Pavia and Parma became free. This confused state of
things being known to the count, he proceeded to Cremona, where his
ambassadors and those of the Milanese arranged for him to command the
forces of the new republic, with the same remuneration he had received
from the duke at the time of his decease. To this they added the
possession of Brescia, until Verona was recovered, when he should have
that city and restore Brescia to the Milanese.

Before the duke's death, Pope Nicholas, after his assumption of the
pontificate, sought to restore peace among the princes of Italy, and
with this object endeavored, in conjunction with the ambassadors sent
by the Florentines to congratulate him on his accession, to appoint a
diet at Ferrara to attempt either the arrangement of a long truce, or
the establishment of peace. A congress was accordingly held in that
city, of the pope's legate and the Venetian, ducal, and Florentine
representatives. King Alfonso had no envoy there. He was at Tivoli
with a great body of horse and foot, and favorable to the duke; both
having resolved, that having gained the count over to their side, they
would openly attack the Florentines and Venetians, and till the
arrival of the count in Lombardy, take part in the treaty for peace at
Ferrara, at which, though the king did not appear, he engaged to
concur in whatever course the duke should adopt. The conference lasted
several days, and after many debates, resolved on either a truce for
five years, or a permanent peace, whichsoever the duke should approve;
and the ducal ambassadors, having returned to Milan to learn his
decision, found him dead. Notwithstanding this, the Milanese were
disposed to adopt the resolutions of the assembly, but the Venetians
refused, indulging great hopes of becoming masters of Lombardy,
particularly as Lodi and Piacenza, immediately after the duke's death,
had submitted to them. They trusted that either by force or by treaty
they could strip Milan of her power; and then so press her, as to
compel her also to surrender before any assistance could arrive; and
they were the more confident of this from seeing the Florentines
involved in war with King Alfonso.

The king being at Tivoli, and designing to pursue his enterprise
against Tuscany, as had been arranged between himself and Filippo,
judging that the war now commenced in Lombardy would give him both
time and opportunity, and wishing to have a footing in the Florentine
state before he openly commenced hostilities, opened a secret
understanding with the fortress of Cennina, in the Val d'Arno
Superiore, and took possession of it. The Florentines, surprised with
this unexpected event, perceiving the king already in action, and
resolved to do them all the injury in his power, hired forces, created
a council of ten for management of the war, and prepared for the
conflict in their usual manner. The king was already in the Siennese,
and used his utmost endeavors to reduce the city, but the inhabitants
of Sienna were firm in their attachment to the Florentines, and
refused to receive him within their walls or into any of their
territories. They furnished him with provisions, alleging in excuse,
the enemy's power and their inability to resist. The king, finding he
could not enter by the Val d'Arno, as he had first intended, both
because Cennina had been already retaken, and because the Florentines
were now in some measure prepared for their defense, turned toward
Volterra, and occupied many fortresses in that territory. Thence he
proceeded toward Pisa, and with the assistance of Fazio and Arrigo de'
Conti, of the Gherardesca, took some castles, and issuing from them,
assailed Campiglia, but could not take it, the place being defended by
the Florentines, and it being now in the depth of winter. Upon this
the king, leaving garrisons in the places he had taken to harass the
surrounding country, withdrew with the remainder of his army to
quarters in the Siennese. The Florentines, aided by the season, used
the most active exertions to provide themselves troops, whose captains
were Federigo, lord of Urbino, and Gismondo Malatesti da Rimino, who,
though mutual foes, were kept so united by the prudence of the
commissaries, Neri di Gino and Bernardetto de' Medici, that they broke
up their quarters while the weather was still very severe and
recovered not only the places that had been taken in the territory of
Pisa, but also the Pomerancie in the neighborhood of Volterra, and so
checked the king's troops, which at first had overrun the Maremma,
that they could scarcely retain the places they had been left to

Upon the return of the spring the commissaries halted with their whole
force, consisting of five thousand horse and two thousand foot, at the
Spedaletto. The king approached with his army, amounting to fifteen
thousand men, within three miles of Campiglia, but when it was
expected he would attack the place he fell upon Piombino, hoping, as
it was insufficiently provided, to take it with very little trouble,
and thus acquire a very important position, the loss of which would be
severely felt by the Florentines; for from it he would be able to
exhaust them with a long war, obtain his own provision by sea, and
harass the whole territory of Pisa. They were greatly alarmed at this
attack, and, considering that if they could remain with their army
among the woods of Campiglia, the king would be compelled to retire
either in defeat or disgrace. With this view they equipped four
galleys at Livorno, and having succeeded in throwing three hundred
infantry into Piombino, took up their own position at the Caldane, a
place where it would be difficult to attack them; and they thought it
would be dangerous to encamp among the thickets of the plain.

The Florentine army depended for provisions on the surrounding places,
which, being poor and thinly inhabited, had difficulty in supplying
them. Consequently the troops suffered, particularly from want of
wine, for none being produced in that vicinity, and unable to procure
it from more distant places, it was impossible to obtain a sufficient
quantity. But the king, though closely pressed by the Florentines, was
well provided except in forage, for he obtained everything else by
sea. The Florentines, desirous to supply themselves in the same
manner, loaded four vessels with provisions, but, upon their approach,
they were attacked by seven of the king's galleys, which took two of
them and put the rest to flight. This disaster made them despair of
procuring provisions, so that two hundred men of a foraging party,
principally for want of wine, deserted to the king, and the rest
complained that they could not live without it, in a situation where
the heat was so excessive and the water bad. The commissaries
therefore determined to quit the place, and endeavor to recover those
castles which still remained in the enemy's power; who, on his part,
though not suffering from want of provisions, and greatly superior in
numbers, found his enterprise a failure, from the ravages made in his
army by those diseases which the hot season produces in marshy
localities; and which prevailed to such an extent that many died
daily, and nearly all were affected. These circumstances occasioned
overtures of peace. The king demanded fifty thousand florins, and the
possession of Piombino. When the terms were under consideration, many
citizens, desirous of peace, would have accepted them, declaring there
was no hope of bringing to a favorable conclusion a war which required
so much money to carry it on. But Neri Capponi going to Florence,
placed the matter in a more correct light, and it was then unanimously
determined to reject the proposal, and take the lord of Piombino under
their protection, with an alliance offensive and defensive, provided
he did not abandon them, but assist in their defense as hitherto. The
king being informed of this resolution, saw that, with his reduced
army, he could not gain the place, and withdrew in the same condition
as if completely routed, leaving behind him two thousand dead. With
the remainder of his sick troops he retired to the Siennese territory,
and thence to his kingdom, incensed against the Florentines, and
threatening them with new wars upon the return of spring.

While these events were proceeding in Tuscany the Count Sforza, having
become leader of the Milanese forces, strenuously endeavored to secure
the friendship of Francesco Piccinino, who was also in their service,
that he might support him in his enterprises, or be less disposed to
do him injury. He then took the field with his army, upon which the
people of Pavia, conscious of their inability to resist him, and
unwilling to obey the Milanese, offered to submit themselves to his
authority, on condition that he should not subject them to the power
of Milan. The count desired the possession of Pavia, and considered
the circumstance a happy omen, as it would enable him to give a color
to his designs. He was not restrained from treachery either by fear or
shame; for great men consider failure disgraceful,--a fraudulent
success the contrary. But he was apprehensive that his possession of
the city would excite the animosity of the Milanese, and perhaps
induce them to throw themselves under the power of the Venetians. If
he refused to accept the offer, he would have occasion to fear the
duke of Savoy, to whom many citizens were inclined to submit
themselves; and either alternative would deprive him of the
sovereignty of Lombardy. Concluding there was less danger in taking
possession of the city than in allowing another to have it, he
determined to accept the proposal of the people of Pavia, trusting he
would be able to satisfy the Milanese, to whom he pointed out the
danger they must have incurred had he not complied with it; for her
citizens would have surrendered themselves to the Venetians or to the
duke of Savoy; so that in either case they would have been deprived of
the government, and therefore they ought to be more willing to have
himself as their neighbor and friend, than a hostile power such as
either of the others, and their enemy. The Milanese were upon this
occasion greatly perplexed, imagining they had discovered the count's
ambition, and the end he had in view; but they thought it desirable to
conceal their fears, for they did not know, if the count were to
desert them, to whom they could have recourse except the Venetians,
whose pride and tyranny they naturally dreaded. They therefore
resolved not to break with the count, but by his assistance remedy the
evils with which they were threatened, hoping that when freed from
them they might rescue themselves from him also; for at that time they
were assailed not only by the Venetians but by the Genoese and the
duke of Savoy, in the name of Charles of Orleans, the son of a sister
of Filippo, but whom the count easily vanquished. Thus their only
remaining enemies were the Venetians, who, with a powerful army,
determined to occupy their territories, and had already taken
possession of Lodi and Piacenza, before which latter place the count
encamped; and, after a long siege, took and pillaged the city. Winter
being set in, he led his forces into quarters, and then withdrew to
Cremona, where, during the cold season, he remained in repose with his

In the spring, the Venetian and Milanese armies again took the field.
It was the design of the Milanese, first to recover Lodi and then to
come to terms with the Venetians; for the expenses of the war had
become very great, and they were doubtful of their general's
sincerity, so that they were anxious alike for the repose of peace,
and for security against the count. They therefore resolved that the
army should march to the siege of Carravaggio, hoping that Lodi would
surrender, on that fortress being wrested from the enemy's hands. The
count obeyed, though he would have preferred crossing the Adda and
attacking the Brescian territory. Having encamped before Caravaggio,
he so strongly entrenched himself, that if the enemy attempted to
relieve the place, they would have to attack him at a great
disadvantage. The Venetian army, led by Micheletto, approached within
two bowshots of the enemy's camp, and many skirmishes ensued. The
count continued to press the fortress, and reduced it to the very last
extremity, which greatly distressed the Venetians, since they knew the
loss of it would involve the total failure of their expedition. Very
different views were entertained by their military officers respecting
the best mode of relieving the place, but they saw no course open
except to attack the enemy in his trenches, in spite of all obstacles.
The castle was, however, considered of such paramount importance, that
the Venetian senate, though naturally timid, and averse to all
hazardous undertakings, chose rather to risk everything than allow it
to fall into the hands of the enemy.

They therefore resolved to attack the count at all events, and early
the next morning commenced their assault upon a point which was least
defended. At the first charge, as commonly happens in a surprise,
Francesco's whole army was thrown into dismay. Order, however, was
soon so completely restored by the count, that the enemy, after
various efforts to gain the outworks, were repulsed and put to flight;
and so entirely routed, that of twelve thousand horse only one
thousand escaped the hands of the Milanese, who took possession of all
the carriages and military stores; nor had the Venetians ever before
suffered such a thorough rout and overthrow. Among the plunder and
prisoners, crouching down, as if to escape observation, was found a
Venetian commissary, who, in the course of the war and before the
fight, had spoken contemptuously of the count, calling him "bastard,"
and "base-born." Being made prisoner, he remembered his faults, and
fearing punishment, being taken before the count, was agonized with
terror; and, as is usual with mean minds (in prosperity insolent, in
adversity abject and cringing), prostrated himself, weeping and
begging pardon for the offenses he had committed. The count, taking
him by the arm, raised him up, and encouraged him to hope for the
best. He then said he wondered how a man so prudent and respectable as
himself, could so far err as to speak disparagingly of those who did
not merit it; and as regarded the insinuations which he had made
against him, he really did not know how Sforza his father, and Madonna
Lucia his mother, had proceeded together, not having been there, and
having no opportunity of interfering in the matter, so that he was not
liable either to blame or praise. However, he knew very well, that in
regard to his own actions he had conducted himself so that no one
could blame him; and in proof of this he would refer both the Venetian
senate and himself to what had happened that day. He then advised him
in future to be more respectful in speaking of others, and more
cautious in regard to his own proceedings.

Niccolo Machiavelli