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Chapter 50


Origin of the animosity between Sixtus IV. and Lorenzo de' Medici
--Carlo di Braccio da Perugia attacks the Siennese--Carlo retires
by desire of the Florentines--Conspiracy against Galeazzo, duke of
Milan--His vices--He is slain by the conspirators--Their deaths.

The pope, anxious to retain the territories of the church in
obedience, had caused Spoleto to be sacked for having, through
internal factions, fallen into rebellion. Citta di Castello being in
the same state of contumacy, he besieged that place; and Niccolo
Vitelli its prince, being on intimate terms with Lorenzo de' Medici,
obtained assistance from him, which, though inadequate, was quite
enough to originate that enmity between Sixtus IV. and the Medici
afterward productive of such unhappy results. Nor would this have been
so long in development had not the death of Frate Piero, cardinal of
St. Sixtus, taken place; who, after having traveled over Italy and
visited Venice and Milan (under the pretense of doing honor to the
marriage of Ercole, marquis of Ferrara), went about sounding the minds
of the princes, to learn how they were disposed toward the
Florentines. But upon his return he died, not without suspicion of
having been poisoned by the Venetians, who found they would have
reason to fear Sixtus if he were allowed to avail himself of the
talents and exertions of Frate Piero. Although of very low extraction,
and meanly brought up within the walls of a convent, he had no sooner
attained the distinction of the scarlet hat, than he exhibited such
inordinate pride and ambition, that the pontificate seemed too little
for him, and he gave a feast in Rome which would have seemed
extraordinary even for a king, the expense exceeding twenty thousand
florins. Deprived of this minister, the designs of Sixtus proceeded
with less promptitude. The Florentines, the duke, and the Venetians
having renewed their league, and allowed the pope and the king to join
them if they thought proper, the two latter also entered into a
league, reserving an opening for the others if they were desirous to
become parties to it. Italy was thus divided in two factions; for
circumstances daily arose which occasioned ill feeling between the two
leagues; as occurred with respect to the island of Cyprus, to which
Ferrando laid claim, and the Venetians occupied. Thus the pope and the
king became more closely united. Federigo, prince of Urbino, was at
this time one of the first generals of Italy; and had long served the
Florentines. In order, if possible, to deprive the hostile league of
their captain, the pope advised, and the king requested him to pay a
visit to them. To the surprise and displeasure of the Florentines,
Federigo complied; for they thought the same fate awaited him as had
befallen Niccolo Piccinino. However, the result was quite different;
for he returned from Naples and Rome greatly honored, and with the
appointment of general to their forces. They also endeavored to gain
over to their interest the lords of Romagna and the Siennese, that
they might more easily injure the Florentines, who, becoming aware of
these things, used their utmost endeavors to defend themselves against
the ambition of their enemies; and having lost Federigo d'Urbino, they
engaged Roberto da Rimino in his place, renewed the league with the
Perugini and formed one with the prince of Faenza. The pope and the
king assigned, as the reasons of their animosity against the
Florentines, that they wished to withdraw them from the Venetian
alliance, and associate them with their own league; for the pope did
not think the church could maintain her reputation, nor the Count
Girolamo retain the states of Romagna, while the Florentines and the
Venetians remained united. The Florentines conjectured their design
was to set them at enmity with the Venetians, not so much for the sake
of gaining their friendship as to be able the more easily to injure
them. Two years passed away in these jealousies and discontents before
any disturbance broke out; but the first which occurred, and that but
trivial, took place in Tuscany.

Braccio of Perugia, whom we have frequently mentioned as one of the
most distinguished warriors of Italy, left two sons, Oddo and Carlo;
the latter was of tender years; the former, as above related, was
slain by the people of Val di Lamona; but Carlo, when he came to
mature age, was by the Venetians, out of respect for the memory of his
father, and the hopes they entertained from himself, received among
the condottieri of their republic. The term of his engagement having
expired, he did not design to renew it immediately, but resolved to
try if, by his own influence and his father's reputation, he could
recover possession of Perugia. To this the Venetians willingly
consented, for they usually extended their dominion by any changes
that occurred in the neighboring states. Carlo consequently came into
Tuscany, but found more difficulties in his attempt upon Perugia than
he had anticipated, on account of its being allied with the
Florentines; and desirous of doing something worthy of memory, he made
war upon the Siennese, alleging them to be indebted to him for
services performed by his father in the affairs of that republic, and
attacked them with such impetuosity as to threaten the total overthrow
of their dominion. The Siennese, ever ready to suspect the
Florentines, persuaded themselves that this outrage had been committed
with their cognizance, and made heavy complaints to the pope and the
king against them. They also sent ambassadors to Florence to complain
of the injuries they had suffered, and adroitly intimated, that if
Carlo had not been secretly supported he could not have made war upon
them with such perfect security. The Florentines denied all
participation in the proceedings of Carlo, expressed their most
earnest wish to do everything in their power to put a stop to them,
and allowed the ambassadors to use whatever terms they pleased in the
name of the Signory, to command him to desist. Carlo complained that
the Florentines, by their unwillingness to support him, had deprived
themselves of a most valuable acquisition and him of great glory; for
he could have insured them the possession of the whole territory in a
short time, from the want of courage in the people and the ineffectual
provision they had made for their defense. He then withdrew to his
engagement under the Venetians; but the Siennese, although delivered
from such imminent peril by the Florentines, were still very indignant
against them; considering themselves under no obligation to those who
had delivered them from an evil to which they had first exposed them.

While the transactions between the king and the pope were in progress,
and those in Tuscany in the manner we have related, an event of
greater importance occurred in Lombardy. Cola Montano, a learned and
ambitious man, taught the Latin language to the youth of the principal
families in Milan. Either out of hatred to the character and manners
of the duke, or from some other cause, he constantly deprecated the
condition of those who live under a bad prince; calling those glorious
and happy who had the good fortune to be born and live in a republic.
He endeavored to show that the most celebrated men had been produced
in republics, and not reared under princes; that the former cherish
virtue, while the latter destroy it; the one deriving advantage from
virtuous men, while the latter naturally fear them. The youths with
whom he was most intimate were Giovanni Andrea Lampognano, Carlo
Visconti, and Girolamo Ogliato. He frequently discussed with them the
faults of their prince, and the wretched condition of those who were
subject to him; and by constantly inculcating his principles, acquired
such an ascendancy over their minds as to induce them to bind
themselves by oath to effect the duke's destruction, as soon as they
became old enough to attempt it. Their minds being fully occupied with
this design, which grew with their years, the duke's conduct and their
own private injuries served to hasten its execution. Galeazzo was
licentious and cruel, of both which vices he had given such repeated
proofs, that he became odious to all. Not content with corrupting the
wives of the nobility, he also took pleasure in making it notorious;
nor was he satisfied with murdering individuals unless he effected
their deaths by some unusual cruelty. He was suspected of having
destroyed his own mother; for, not considering himself prince while
she was present, he conducted himself in such a manner as induced her
to withdraw from his court, and, travelling toward Cremona, which she
obtained as part of her marriage portion, she was seized with a sudden
illness, and died upon the road; which made many think her son had
caused her death. The duke had dishonored both Carlo and Girolamo in
respect to their wives or other female relatives, and had refused to
concede to Giovanandrea possession of the monastery of Miramondo, of
which he had obtained a grant from the pope for a near relative. These
private injuries increased the young men's desire for vengeance, and
the deliverance of their country from so many evils; trusting that
whenever they should succeed in destroying the duke, many of the
nobility and all the people would rise in their defense. Being
resolved upon their undertaking, they were often together, which, on
account of their long intimacy, did not excite any suspicion. They
frequently discussed the subject; and in order to familiarize their
minds with the deed itself, they practiced striking each other in the
breast and in the side with the sheathed daggers intended to be used
for the purpose. On considering the most suitable time and place, the
castle seemed insecure; during the chase, uncertain and dangerous;
while going about the city for his own amusement, difficult if not
impracticable; and, at a banquet, of doubtful result. They, therefore,
determined to kill him upon the occasion of some procession or public
festivity when there would be no doubt of his presence, and where they
might, under various pretexts, assemble their friends. It was also
resolved that if one of their number were prevented from attending, on
any account whatever, the rest should put him to death in the midst of
their armed enemies.

It was now the close of the year 1476, near Christmas, and as it was
customary for the duke to go upon St. Stephen's day, in great
solemnity, to the church of that martyr, they considered this the most
suitable opportunity for the execution of their design. Upon the
morning of that day they ordered some of their most trusty friends and
servants to arm, telling them they wished to go to the assistance of
Giovanandrea, who, contrary to the wish of some of his neighbors,
intended to turn a watercourse into his estate; but that before they
went they wished to take leave of the prince. They also assembled,
under various pretenses, other friends and relatives, trusting that
when the deed was accomplished, everyone would join them in the
completion of their enterprise. It was their intention, after the
duke's death, to collect their followers together and proceed to those
parts of the city where they imagined the plebeians would be most
disposed to take arms against the duchess and the principal ministers
of state, and they thought the people, on account of the famine which
then prevailed, would easily be induced to follow them; for it was
their design to give up the houses of Cecco Simonetta, Giovanni Botti,
and Francesco Lucani, all leading men in the government, to be
plundered, and by this means gain over the populace and restore
liberty to the community. With these ideas, and with minds resolved
upon their execution, Giovanandrea, together with the rest, were early
at the church, and heard mass together; after which, Giovanandrea,
turning to a statue of St. Ambrose, said, "O patron of our city! thou
knowest our intention, and the end we would attain, by so many
dangers; favor our enterprise, and prove, by protecting the oppressed,
that tyranny is offensive to thee." To the duke, on the other hand,
when intending to go to the church, many omens occurred of his
approaching death; for in the morning, having put on a cuirass, as was
his frequent custom, he immediately took it off again, either because
it inconvenienced him, or that he did not like its appearance. He then
wished to hear mass in the castle, and found that the priest who
officiated in the chapel had gone to St. Stephen's, and had taken with
him the sacred utensils. On this he desired the service to be
performed by the bishop of Como, who acquainted him with preventing
circumstances. Thus, almost compelled, he determined to go to the
church; but before his departure, caused his sons, Giovan Galeazzo and
Ermes, to be brought to him, whom he embraced and kissed several
times, seeming reluctant to part with them. He then left the castle,
and, with the ambassadors of Ferrara and Mantua on either hand,
proceeded to St. Stephen's. The conspirators, to avoid exciting
suspicion, and to escape the cold, which was very severe, had
withdrawn to an apartment of the archpriest, who was a friend of
theirs, but hearing the duke's approach, they came into the church,
Giovanandrea and Girolamo placing themselves upon the right hand of
the entrance, and Carlo on the left. Those who led the procession had
already entered, and were followed by the duke, surrounded by such a
multitude as is usual on similar occasions. The first attack was made
by Lampognano and Girolamo, who, pretending to clear the way for the
prince, came close to him, and grasping their daggers, which, being
short and sharp, were concealed in the sleeves of their vests, struck
at him. Lampognano gave him two wounds, one in the belly, the other in
the throat. Girolamo struck him in the throat and breast. Carlo
Visconti, being nearer the door, and the duke having passed, could not
wound him in front: but with two strokes, transpierced his shoulder
and spine. These six wounds were inflicted so instantaneously, that
the duke had fallen before anyone was aware of what had happened, and
he expired, having only once ejaculated the name of the Virgin, as if
imploring her assistance. A great tumult immediately ensued, several
swords were drawn, and as often happens in sudden emergencies, some
fled from the church, and others ran toward the scene of tumult, both
without any definite motive or knowledge of what had occurred. Those,
however, who were nearest the duke and had seen him slain, recognizing
the murderers, pursued them. Giovanandrea, endeavoring to make his way
out of the church, proceeded among the women, who being numerous, and
according to their custom, seated upon the ground, was prevented in
his progress by their apparel, and being overtaken, he was killed by a
Moor, one of the duke's footmen. Carlo was slain by those immediately
around him. Girolamo Olgiato passed through the crowd, and got out of
the church; but seeing his companions dead, and not knowing where else
to go, he proceeded home, where his father and brothers refused to
receive him; his mother only, having compassion on her son recommended
him to a priest, an old friend of the family, who, disguising him in
his own apparel, led him to his house. Here he remained two days, not
without hope that some disturbance might arise in Milan which would
contribute to his safety. This not occurring, and apprehensive that
his hiding place would be discovered, he endeavored to escape in
disguise, but being observed, he was given over to justice, and
disclosed all the particulars of the conspiracy. Girolamo was twenty-
three years of age, and exhibited no less composure at his death than
resolution in his previous conduct, for being stripped of his apparel,
and in the hands of the executioner, who stood by with the sword
unsheathed, ready to deprive him of life, he repeated the following
words, in the Latin tongue, in which he was well versed: "Mors acerba,
fama perpetua, stabit vetus memoria facti."

The enterprise of these unfortunate young men was conducted with
secrecy and executed with resolution; and they failed for want of the
support of those whom they expected would rise in their defense. Let
princes therefore learn to live, so as to render themselves beloved
and respected by their subjects, that none may have hope of safety
after having destroyed them; and let others see how vain is the
expectation which induces them to trust so much to the multitude, as
to believe, that even when discontented, they will either embrace or
ward off their dangers. This event spread consternation all over
Italy; but those which shortly afterward occurred in Florence caused
much more alarm, and terminated a peace of twelve years' continuance,
as will be shown in the following book; which, having commenced with
blood and horror, will have a melancholy and tearful conclusion.

Niccolo Machiavelli