Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 42

CHAPTER V

Prosecution of the war between the count and the Milanese--The
Milanese reduced to extremity--The people rise against the
magistrates--Milan surrenders to the count--League between the new
duke of Milan and the Florentines, and between the king of Naples
and the Venetians--Venetian and Neapolitan ambassadors at Florence
--Answer of Cosmo de' Medici to the Venetian ambassador--
Preparations of the Venetians and the king of Naples for the war--
The Venetians excite disturbances in Bologna--Florence prepares
for war--The emperor, Frederick III. at Florence--War in Lombardy
between the duke of Milan and the Venetians--Ferrando, son of the
king of Naples, marches into Tuscany against the Florentines.

The ambassadors were at Reggio when they heard that the count had
become lord of Milan; for as soon as the truce had expired, he
approached the city with his forces, hoping quickly to get possession
of it in spite of the Venetians, who could bring no relief except from
the side of the Adda, which route he could easily obstruct, and
therefore had no apprehension (being then winter) of their arrival,
and he trusted that, before the return of spring, he would be
victorious, particularly, as by the death of Francesco Piccinino,
there remained only Jacopo his brother, to command the Milanese. The
Venetians had sent an ambassador to Milan to confirm the citizens in
their resolution of defense, promising them powerful and immediate
aid. During the winter a few slight skirmishes had taken place between
the count and the Venetians; but on the approach of milder weather,
the latter, under Pandolfo Malatesti, halted with their army upon the
Adda, and considering whether, in order to succor the Milanese, they
ought to risk a battle, Pardolfo, their general, aware of the count's
abilities, and the courage of his army, said it would be unadvisable
to do so, and that, under the circumstances, it was needless, for the
count, being in great want of forage, could not keep the field, and
must soon retire. He therefore advised them to remain encamped, to
keep the Milanese in hope, and prevent them from surrendering. This
advice was approved by the Venetians, both as being safe, and because,
by keeping the Milanese in this necessity, they might be the sooner
compelled to submit to their dominion; for they felt quite sure that
the injuries they had received would always prevent their submission
to the count.

In the meantime, the Milanese were reduced to the utmost misery; and
as the city usually abounded with poor, many died of hunger in the
streets; hence arose complaints and disturbances in several parts,
which alarmed the magistrates, and compelled them to use their utmost
exertions to prevent popular meetings. The multitude are always slow
to resolve on commotion; but the resolution once formed, any trivial
circumstance excites it to action. Two men in humble life, talking
together near the Porta Nuova of the calamities of the city, their own
misery, and the means that might be adopted for their relief, others
beginning to congregate, there was soon collected a large crowd; in
consequence of it a report was spread that the neighborhood of Porta
Nuova had risen against the government. Upon this, all the lower
orders, who only waited for an example, assembled in arms, and chose
Gasparre da Vicomercato to be their leader. They then proceeded to the
place where the magistrates were assembled, and attacked them so
impetuously that all who did not escape by flight were slain: among
the number, as being considered a principal cause of the famine, and
gratified at their distress, fell Lionardo Veniero, the Venetian
ambassador. Having thus almost become masters of the city, they
considered what course was next to be adopted to escape from the
horrors surrounding them, and to procure peace. A feeling universally
prevailed, that as they could not preserve their own liberty, they
ought to submit to a prince who could defend them. Some proposed King
Alfonso, some the duke of Savoy, and others the king of France, but
none mentioned the count, so great was the general indignation against
him. However, disagreeing with the rest, Gasparre da Vicomercato
proposed him, and explained in detail that if they desired relief from
war, no other plan was open, since the people of Milan required a
certain and immediate peace, and not a distant hope of succor. He
apologized for the count's proceedings, accused the Venetians, and all
the powers of Italy, of which some from ambition and others from
avarice were averse to their possessing freedom. Having to dispose of
their liberty, it would be preferable, he said, to obey one who knew
and could defend them; so that, by their servitude they might obtain
peace, and not bring upon themselves greater evils and more dangerous
wars. He was listened to with the most profound attention; and, having
concluded his harangue, it was unanimously resolved by the assembly,
that the count should be called in, and Gasparre was appointed to wait
upon him and signify their desire. By the people's command he conveyed
the pleasing and happy intelligence to the count, who heard it with
the utmost satisfaction, and entered Milan as prince on the twenty-
sixth of February, 1450, where he was received with the greatest
possible joy by those who, only a short time previously had heaped on
him all the slanders that hatred could inspire.

The news of this event reaching Florence, orders were immediately sent
to the envoys who were upon the way to Milan, that instead of treating
for his alliance with the count, they should congratulate the duke
upon his victory; they, arranging accordingly, had a most honorable
reception, and were treated with all possible respect; for the duke
well knew that in all Italy he could not find braver or more faithful
friends, to defend him against the power of the Venetians, than the
Florentines, who, being no longer in fear of the house of Visconti,
found themselves opposed by the Aragonese and Venetians; for the
Aragonese princes of Naples were jealous of the friendship which the
Florentines had always evinced for the family of France; and the
Venetians seeing the ancient enmity of the Florentines against the
Visconti transferred to themselves, resolved to injure them as much as
possible; for they knew how pertinaciously and invariably they had
persecuted the Lombard princes. These considerations caused the new
duke willingly to join the Florentines, and united the Venetians and
King Alfonso against their common enemies; impelling them at the same
time to hostilities, the king against the Florentines, and the
Venetians against the duke, who, being fresh in the government, would,
they imagined, be unable to resist them, even with all the aid he
could obtain.

But as the league between the Florentines and the Venetians still
continued, and as the king, after the war of Piombino, had made peace
with the former, it seemed indecent to commence an open rupture until
some plausible reason could be assigned in justification of offensive
measures. On this account each sent ambassadors to Florence, who, on
the part of their sovereigns, signified that the league formed between
them was made not for injury to any, but solely for the mutual defense
of their states. The Venetian ambassador then complained that the
Florentines had allowed Alessandro, the duke's brother, to pass into
Lombardy with his forces; and besides this, had assisted and advised
in the treaty made between the duke and the marquis of Mantua, matters
which he declared to be injurious to the Venetians, and inconsistent
with the friendship hitherto subsisting between the two governments;
amicably reminding them, that one who inflicts unmerited injury, gives
others just ground of hostility, and that those who break a peace may
expect war. The Signory appointed Cosmo de' Medici to reply to what
had been said by the Venetian ambassador, and in a long and excellent
speech he recounted the numerous advantages conferred by the city on
the Venetian republic; showed what an extent of dominion they had
acquired by the money, forces, and counsel of the Florentines, and
reminded him that, although the friendship had originated with the
Florentines, they had never given occasion of enmity; and as they
desired peace, they greatly rejoiced when the treaty was made, if it
had been entered into for the sake of peace, and not of war. True it
was, he wondered much at the remarks which had been made, seeing that
such light and trivial matters should give offense to so great a
republic; but if they were worthy of notice he must have it
universally understood, that the Florentines wished their country to
be free and open to all; and that the duke's character was such, that
if he desired the friendship of the marquis of Mantua, he had no need
of anyone's favor or advice. He therefore feared that these cavils
were produced by some latent motive, which it was not thought proper
to disclose. Be this as it might, they would freely declare to all,
that in the same proportion as the friendship of the Florentines was
beneficial their enmity could be destructive.

The matter was hushed up; and the ambassadors, on their departure,
appeared perfectly satisfied. But the league between the king and the
Venetians made the Florentines and the duke rather apprehend war than
hope for a long continuance of peace. They therefore entered into an
alliance, and at the same time the enmity of the Venetians transpired
by a treaty with the Siennese, and the expulsion of all Florentine
subjects from their cities and territories. Shortly after this,
Alfonso did the same, without any consideration of the peace made the
year previous, and not having even the shadow of an excuse. The
Venetians attempted to take Bologna, and having armed the emigrants,
and united to them a considerable force, introduced them into the city
by night through one of the common sewers. No sooner had they entered,
than they raised a cry, by which Santi Bentivogli, being awakened, was
told that the whole city was in possession of the rebels. But though
many advised him to escape, saying that he could not save the city by
his stay, he determined to confront the danger, and taking arms
encouraged his followers, assembled a few friends, attacked and routed
part of the rebels, slew many more, and drove the remainder out of the
city. By this act of bravery all agreed he had fully proved himself a
genuine scion of the house of the Bentivogli.

These events and demonstrations gave the Florentines an earnest of
approaching war; they consequently followed their usual practice on
similar occasions, and created the Council of Ten. They engaged new
condottieri, sent ambassadors to Rome, Naples, Venice, Milan, and
Sienna, to demand assistance from their friends, gain information
about those they suspected, decide such as were wavering, and discover
the designs of the foe. From the pope they obtained only general
expressions of an amicable disposition and admonitions to peace; from
the king, empty excuses for having expelled the Florentines, and
offers of safe conduct for whoever should demand it; and although he
endeavored, as much as possible, to conceal every indication of his
hostile designs, the ambassadors felt convinced of his unfriendly
disposition, and observed many preparations tending to the injury of
the republic. The League with the duke was strengthened by mutual
obligations, and through his means they became friends with the
Genoese, the old differences with them respecting reprisals, and other
small matters of dispute, being composed, although the Venetians used
every possible means to prevent it, and entreated the emperor of
Constantinople to expel all Florentines from his dominions; so fierce
was the animosity with which they entered on this war, and so powerful
their lust of dominion, that without the least hesitation they sought
the destruction of those who had been the occasion of their own power.
The emperor, however, refused to listen to them. The Venetian senate
forbade the Florentine ambassadors to enter their territories,
alleging, that being in league with the king, they could not entertain
them without his concurrence. The Siennese received the ambassadors
with fair words, fearing their own ruin before the League could assist
them, and therefore endeavored to appease the powers whose attack they
were unable to resist. The Venetians and the king (as was then
conjectured) were disposed to send ambassadors to Florence to justify
the war. But the Venetian envoy was not allowed to enter the
Florentine dominions, and the king's ambassador, being unwilling to
perform his office alone, the embassy was not completed; and thus the
Venetians learned, that however little they might esteem the
Florentines, the latter had still less respect for them.

In the midst of these fears, the emperor, Frederick III., came into
Italy to be crowned. On the thirtieth of January, 1451, he entered
Florence with fifteen hundred horse, and was most honorably received
by the Signory. He remained in the city till the sixth of February,
and then proceeded to Rome for his coronation, where, having been
solemnly consecrated, and his marriage celebrated with the empress,
who had come to Rome by sea, he returned to Germany, and again passed
through Florence in May, with the same honors as upon his arrival. On
his return, having derived some benefits from the marquis of Mantua,
he conceded to him Modena and Reggio. In the meantime, the Florentines
did not fail to prepare themselves for immediate war; and to augment
their influence, and strike the enemy with terror, they, in
conjunction with the duke, entered into alliance with the king of
France for the mutual defense of their states. This treaty was
published with great pomp throughout all Italy.

The month of May, 1452, having arrived, the Venetians thought it not
desirable to defer any longer their attack upon the duke, and with
sixteen thousand horse and six thousand foot assailed his territories
in the direction of Lodi, while the marquis of Montferrat, instigated
either by his own ambition or the entreaties of the Venetians, did the
same on the side of Alexandria. The duke assembled a force of eighteen
thousand cavalry and three thousand infantry, garrisoned Alexandria
and Lodi, and all the other places where the enemy might annoy them.
He then attacked the Brescian territory, and greatly harassed the
Venetians; while both parties alike plundered the country and ravaged
the smaller towns. Having defeated the marquis of Montferrat at
Alexandria, the duke was able to unite his whole force against the
Venetians and invade their territory.

While the war in Lombardy proceeded thus, giving rise to various
trifling incidents unworthy of recital, King Alfonso and the
Florentines carried on hostilities in Tuscany, but in a similarly
inefficient manner, evincing no greater talent, and incurring no
greater danger. Ferrando, the illegitimate son of Alfonso, entered the
country with twelve thousand troops, under the command of Federigo,
lord of Urbino. Their first attempt was to attack Fojano, in the Val
di Chiane; for, having the Siennese in their favor, they entered the
Florentine territory in that direction. The walls of the castle were
weak, and it was small, and consequently poorly manned, but the
garrison were, among the soldiers of that period, considered brave and
faithful. Two hundred infantry were also sent by the Signory for its
defense. Before this castle, thus provided, Ferrando sat down, and
either from the valor of its defenders or his own deficiencies,
thirty-six days elapsed before he took it. This interval enabled the
city to make better provision for places of greater importance, to
collect forces and conclude more effective arrangements than had
hitherto been made. The enemy next proceeded into the district of
Chiane, where they attacked two small towns, the property of private
citizens, but could not capture them. They then encamped before the
Castellina, a fortress upon the borders of the Chianti, within ten
miles of Sienna, weak from its defective construction, and still more
so by its situation; but, notwithstanding these defects, the
assailants were compelled to retire in disgrace, after having lain
before it forty-four days. So formidable were those armies, and so
perilous those wars, that places now abandoned as untenable were then
defended as impregnable.

While Ferrando was encamped in the Chianti he made many incursions,
and took considerable booty from the Florentine territories, extending
his depredations within six miles of the city, to the great alarm and
injury of the people, who at this time, having sent their forces to
the number of eight thousand soldiers under Astorre da Faenza and
Gismondo Malatesti toward Castel di Colle, kept them at a distance
from the enemy, lest they should be compelled to an engagement; for
they considered that so long as they were not beaten in a pitched
battle, they could not be vanquished in the war generally; for small
castles, when lost, were recovered at the peace, and larger places
were in no danger, because the enemy would not venture to attack them.
The king had also a fleet of about twenty vessels, comprising galleys
and smaller craft, which lay off Pisa, and during the siege of
Castellina were moored near the Rocca di Vada, which, from the
negligence of the governor, he took, and then harassed the surrounding
country. However, this annoyance was easily removed by a few soldiers
sent by the Florentines to Campiglia, and who confined the enemy to
the coast.

Niccolo Machiavelli