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Chapter 8



The custom of ancient republics to plant colonies, and the
advantage of it--Increased population tends to make countries more
healthy--Origin of Florence--Aggrandizement of Florence--Origin of
the name of Florence--Destruction of Florence by Totila--The
Florentines take Fiesole--The first division in Florence, and the
cause of it--Buondelmonti--Buondelmonti slain--Guelphs and
Ghibellines in Florence--Guelphic families--Ghibelline families--
The two factions come to terms.

Among the great and wonderful institutions of the republics and
principalities of antiquity that have now gone into disuse, was that
by means of which towns and cities were from time to time established;
and there is nothing more worthy the attention of a great prince, or
of a well-regulated republic, or that confers so many advantages upon
a province, as the settlement of new places, where men are drawn
together for mutual accommodation and defense. This may easily be
done, by sending people to reside in recently acquired or uninhabited
countries. Besides causing the establishment of new cities, these
removals render a conquered country more secure, and keep the
inhabitants of a province properly distributed. Thus, deriving the
greatest attainable comfort, the inhabitants increase rapidly, are
more prompt to attack others, and defend themselves with greater
assurance. This custom, by the unwise practice of princes and
republics, having gone into desuetude, the ruin and weakness of
territories has followed; for this ordination is that by which alone
empires are made secure, and countries become populated. Safety is the
result of it; because the colony which a prince establishes in a newly
acquired country, is like a fortress and a guard, to keep the
inhabitants in fidelity and obedience. Neither can a province be
wholly occupied and preserve a proper distribution of its inhabitants
without this regulation; for all districts are not equally healthy,
and hence some will abound to overflowing, while others are void; and
if there be no method of withdrawing them from places in which they
increase too rapidly, and planting them where they are too few the
country would soon be wasted; for one part would become a desert, and
the other a dense and wretched population. And, as nature cannot
repair this disorder, it is necessary that industry should effect it,
for unhealthy localities become wholesome when a numerous population
is brought into them. With cultivation the earth becomes fruitful, and
the air is purified with fires--remedies which nature cannot provide.
The city of Venice proves the correctness of these remarks. Being
placed in a marshy and unwholesome situation, it became healthy only
by the number of industrious individuals who were drawn together.
Pisa, too, on account of its unwholesome air, was never filled with
inhabitants, till the Saracens, having destroyed Genoa and rendered
her rivers unnavigable, caused the Genoese to migrate thither in vast
numbers, and thus render her populous and powerful. Where the use of
colonies is not adopted, conquered countries are held with great
difficulty; districts once uninhabited still remain so, and those
which populate quickly are not relieved. Hence it is that many places
of the world, and particularly in Italy, in comparison of ancient
times, have become deserts. This has wholly arisen and proceeded from
the negligence of princes, who have lost all appetite for true glory,
and of republics which no longer possess institutions that deserve
praise. In ancient times, by means of colonies, new cities frequently
arose, and those already begun were enlarged, as was the case with
Florence, which had its beginning from Fiesole, and its increase from

It is exceedingly probable, as Dante and Giovanni Villani show, that
the city of Fiesole, being situate upon the summit of the mountain, in
order that her markets might be more frequented, and afford greater
accommodation for those who brought merchandise, would appoint the
place in which to told them, not upon the hill, but in the plain,
between the foot of the mountain and the river Arno. I imagine these
markets to have occasioned the first erections that were made in those
places, and to have induced merchants to wish for commodious
warehouses for the reception of their goods, and which, in time,
became substantial buildings. And afterward, when the Romans, having
conquered the Carthaginians, rendered Italy secure from foreign
invasion, these buildings would greatly increase; for men never endure
inconveniences unless some powerful necessity compels them. Thus,
although the fear of war induces a willingness to occupy places strong
and difficult of access, as soon as the cause of alarm is removed, men
gladly resort to more convenient and easily attainable localities.
Hence, the security to which the reputation of the Roman republic gave
birth, caused the inhabitants, having begun in the manner described,
to increase so much as to form a town, this was at first called the
Villa Arnina. After this occurred the civil wars between Marius and
Sylla; then those of Csar, and Pompey; and next those of the
murderers of Csar, and the parties who undertook to avenge his death.
Therefore, first by Sylla, and afterward by the three Roman citizens,
who, having avenged the death of Csar, divided the empire among
themselves, colonies were sent to Fiesole, which, either in part or in
whole, fixed their habitations in the plain, near to the then rising
town. By this increase, the place became so filled with dwellings,
that it might with propriety be enumerated among the cities of Italy.

There are various opinions concerning the derivation of the word
Florentia. Some suppose it to come from Florinus, one of the principal
persons of the colony; others think it was originally not Florentia,
but Fluentia, and suppose the word derived from /fluente/, or flowing
of the Arno; and in support of their opinion, adduce a passage from
Pliny, who says, "the Fluentini are near the flowing of the Arno."
This, however, may be incorrect, for Pliny speaks of the locality of
the Florentini, not of the name by which they were known. And it seems
as if the word Fluentini were a corruption, because Frontinus and
Cornelius Tacitus, who wrote at nearly the same period as Pliny, call
them Florentia and Florentini; for, in the time of Tiberius, they were
governed like the other cities of Italy. Besides, Cornelius refers to
the coming of ambassadors from the Florentines, to beg of the emperor
that the waters of the Chiane might not be allowed to overflow their
country; and it is not at all reasonable that the city should have two
names at the same time. Therefore I think that, however derived, the
name was always Florentia, and that whatever the origin might be, it
occurred under the Roman empire, and began to be noticed by writers in
the times of the first emperors.

When the Roman empire was afflicted by the barbarians, Florence was
destroyed by Totila, king of the Ostrogoths; and after a period of two
hundred and fifty years, rebuilt by Charlemagne; from whose time, till
the year 1215, she participated in the fortune of the rest of Italy;
and, during this period, first the descendants of Charles, then the
Berengarii, and lastly the German emperors, governed her, as in our
general treatise we have shown. Nor could the Florentines, during
those ages, increase in numbers, or effect anything worthy of memory,
on account of the influence of those to whom they were subject.
Nevertheless, in the year 1010, upon the feast of St. Romolo, a solemn
day with the Fiesolani, they took and destroyed Fiesole, which must
have been performed either with the consent of the emperors, or during
the interim from the death of one to the creation of his successor,
when all assumed a larger share of liberty. But then the pontiffs
acquired greater influence, and the authority of the German emperors
was in its wane, all the places of Italy governed themselves with less
respect for the prince; so that, in the time of Henry III. the mind of
the country was divided between the emperor and the church. However,
the Florentines kept themselves united until the year 1215, rendering
obedience to the ruling power, and anxious only to preserve their own
safety. But, as the diseases which attack our bodies are more
dangerous and mortal in proportion as they are delayed, so Florence,
though late to take part in the sects of Italy, was afterward the more
afflicted by them. The cause of her first division is well known,
having been recorded by Dante and many other writers; I shall,
however, briefly notice it.

Among the most powerful families of Florence were the Buondelmonti and
the Uberti; next to these were the Amidei and the Donati. Of the
Donati family there was a rich widow who had a daughter of exquisite
beauty, for whom, in her own mind, she had fixed upon Buondelmonti, a
young gentleman, the head of the Buondelmonti family, as her husband;
but either from negligence, or, because she thought it might be
accomplished at any time, she had not made known her intention, when
it happened that the cavalier betrothed himself to a maiden of the
Amidei family. This grieved the Donati widow exceedingly; but she
hoped, with her daughter's beauty, to disturb the arrangement before
the celebration of the marriage; and from an upper apartment, seeing
Buondelmonti approach her house alone, she descended, and as he was
passing she said to him, "I am glad to learn you have chosen a wife,
although I had reserved my daughter for you"; and, pushing the door
open, presented her to his view. The cavalier, seeing the beauty of
the girl, which was very uncommon, and considering the nobility of her
blood, and her portion not being inferior to that of the lady whom he
had chosen, became inflamed with such an ardent desire to possess her,
that, not thinking of the promise given, or the injury he committed in
breaking it, or of the evils which his breach of faith might bring
upon himself, said, "Since you have reserved her for me, I should be
very ungrateful indeed to refuse her, being yet at liberty to choose";
and without any delay married her. As soon as the fact became known,
the Amidei and the Uberti, whose families were allied, were filled
with rage, and having assembled with many others, connections of the
parties, they concluded that the injury could not be tolerated without
disgrace, and that the only vengeance proportionate to the enormity of
the offence would be to put Buondelmonti to death. And although some
took into consideration the evils that might ensue upon it, Mosca
Lamberti said, that those who talk of many things effect nothing,
using that trite and common adage, /Cosa fatta capo ha/. Thereupon,
they appointed to the execution of the murder Mosca himself, Stiatti
Uberti, Lambertuccio Amidei, and Oderigo Fifanti, who, on the morning
of Easter day, concealed themselves in a house of the Amidei, situate
between the old bridge and St. Stephen's, and as Buondelmonti was
passing upon a white horse, thinking it as easy a matter to forget an
injury as reject an alliance, he was attacked by them at the foot of
the bridge, and slain close by a statue of Mars. This murder divided
the whole city; one party espousing the cause of the Buondelmonti, the
other that of the Uberti; and as these families possessed men and
means of defense, they contended with each other for many years,
without one being able to destroy the other.

Florence continued in these troubles till the time of Frederick II.,
who, being king of Naples, endeavored to strengthen himself against
the church; and, to give greater stability to his power in Tuscany,
favored the Uberti and their followers, who, with his assistance,
expelled the Buondelmonti; thus our city, as all the rest of Italy had
long time been, became divided into Guelphs and Ghibellines; and as it
will not be superfluous, I shall record the names of the families
which took part with each faction. Those who adopted the cause of the
Guelphs were the Buondelmonti, Nerli, Rossi, Frescobaldi, Mozzi,
Bardi, Pulci, Gherardini, Foraboschi, Bagnesi, Guidalotti, Sacchetti,
Manieri, Lucardesi, Chiaramontesi, Compiobbesi, Cavalcanti,
Giandonati, Gianfigliazzi, Scali, Gualterotti, Importuni, Bostichi,
Tornaquinci, Vecchietti, Tosinghi, Arrigucci, Agli, Sizi, Adimari,
Visdomini, Donati, Passi, della Bella, Ardinghi, Tedaldi, Cerchi. Of
the Ghibelline faction were the Uberti, Manelli, Ubriachi, Fifanti,
Amidei, Infangati, Malespini, Scolari, Guidi, Galli, Cappiardi,
Lamberti, Soldanieri, Cipriani, Toschi, Amieri, Palermini,
Migliorelli, Pigli, Barucci, Cattani, Agolanti, Brunelleschi,
Caponsacchi, Elisei, Abati, Tidaldini, Giuochi, and Galigai. Besides
the noble families on each side above enumerated, each party was
joined by many of the higher ranks of the people, so that the whole
city was corrupted with this division. The Guelphs being expelled,
took refuge in the Upper Val d'Arno, where part of their castles and
strongholds were situated, and where they strengthened and fortified
themselves against the attacks of their enemies. But, upon the death
of Frederick, the most unbiased men, and those who had the greatest
authority with the people, considered that it would be better to
effect the reunion of the city, than, by keeping her divided, cause
her ruin. They therefore induced the Guelphs to forget their injuries
and return, and the Ghibellines to lay aside their jealousies and
receive them with cordiality.

Niccolo Machiavelli