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Chapter 9


New form of government in Florence--Military establishments--The
greatness of Florence--Movements of the Ghibellines--Ghibellines
driven out of the city--Guelphs routed by the forces of the king
of Naples--Florence in the power of the king of Naples--Project of
the Ghibellines to destroy Florence opposed by Farinata degli
Uberti--Adventures of the Guelphs of Florence--The pope gives his
standard to the Guelphs--Fears of the Ghibellines and their
preparations for the defense of their power--Establishment of
trades' companies, and their authority--Count Guido Novello
expelled--He goes to Prato--The Guelphs restored to the city--The
Ghibellines quit Florence--The Florentines reform the government
in favor of the Guelphs--The pope endeavors to restore the
Ghibellines and excommunicates Florence--Pope Nicholas III.
endeavors to abate the power of Charles king of Naples.

Being united, the Florentines thought the time favorable for the
ordination of a free government, and that it would be desirable to
provide their means of defense before the new emperor should acquire
strength. They therefore divided the city into six parts, and elected
twelve citizens, two for each sixth, to govern the whole. These were
called Anziani, and were elected annually. To remove the cause of
those enmities which had been observed to arise from judicial
decisions, they provided two judges from some other state,--one called
captain of the people, the other podesta, or provost,--whose duty it
was to decide in cases, whether civil or criminal, which occurred
among the people. And as order cannot be preserved without a
sufficient force for the defense of it, they appointed twenty banners
in the city, and seventy-six in the country, upon the rolls of which
the names of all the youth were armed; and it was ordered that
everyone should appear armed, under his banner, whenever summoned,
whether by the captain of the people or the Anziani. They had ensigns
according to the kind of arms they used, the bowmen being under one
ensign, and the swordsmen, or those who carried a target, under
another; and every year, upon the day of Pentecost, ensigns were given
with great pomp to the new men, and new leaders were appointed for the
whole establishment. To give importance to their armies, and to serve
as a point of refuge for those who were exhausted in the fight, and
from which, having become refreshed, they might again make head
against the enemy, they provided a large car, drawn by two oxen,
covered with red cloth, upon which was an ensign of white and red.
When they intended to assemble the army, this car was brought into the
New Market, and delivered with pomp to the heads of the people. To
give solemnity to their enterprises, they had a bell called
Martinella, which was rung during a whole month before the forces left
the city, in order that the enemy might have time to provide for his
defense; so great was the virtue then existing among men, and with so
much generosity of mind were they governed, that as it is now
considered a brave and prudent act to assail an unprovided enemy, in
those days it would have been thought disgraceful, and productive only
of a fallacious advantage. This bell was also taken with the army, and
served to regulate the keeping and relief of guard, and other matters
necessary in the practice of war.

With these ordinations, civil and military, the Florentines
established their liberty. Nor is it possible to imagine the power and
authority Florence in a short time acquired. She became not only the
head of Tuscany, but was enumerated among the first cities of Italy,
and would have attained greatness of the most exalted kind, had she
not been afflicted with the continual divisions of her citizens. They
remained under the this government ten years, during which time they
compelled the people of Pistoria, Arezzo, and Sienna, to enter into
league with them; and returning with the army from Sienna, they took
Volterra, destroyed some castles, and led the inhabitants to Florence.
All these enterprises were effected by the advice of the Guelphs, who
were much more powerful than the Ghibellines, for the latter were
hated by the people as well on account of their haughty bearing while
in power, during the time of Frederick, as because the church party
was in more favor than that of the emperor; for with the aid of the
church they hoped to preserve their liberty, but, with the emperor,
they were apprehensive of losing it.

The Ghibellines, in the meantime, finding themselves divested of
authority, could not rest, but watched for an occasion of repossessing
the government; and they thought the favorable moment come, when they
found that Manfred, son of Frederick, had made himself sovereign of
Naples, and reduced the power of the church. They, therefore, secretly
communicated with him, to resume the management of the state, but
could not prevent their proceedings from coming to the knowledge of
the Anziani, who immediately summoned the Uberti to appear before
them; but instead of obeying, they took arms and fortified themselves
in their houses. The people, enraged at this, armed themselves, and
with the assistance of the Guelphs, compelled them to quit the city,
and, with the whole Ghibelline party, withdraw to Sienna. They then
asked assistance of Manfred king of Naples, and by the able conduct of
Farinata degli Uberti, the Guelphs were routed by the king's forces
upon the river Arbia, with so great slaughter, that those who escaped,
thinking Florence lost, did not return thither, but sought refuge at

Manfred sent the Count Giordano, a man of considerable reputation in
arms, to command his forces. He after the victory, went with the
Ghibellines to Florence, and reduced the city entirely to the king's
authority, annulling the magistracies and every other institution that
retained any appearance of freedom. This injury, committed with little
prudence, excited the ardent animosity of the people, and their enmity
against the Ghibellines, whose ruin it eventually caused, was
increased to the highest pitch. The necessities of the kingdom
compelling the Count Giordano to return to Naples, he left at Florence
as regal vicar the Count Guido Novallo, lord of Casentino, who called
a council of Ghibellines at Empoli. There it was concluded, with only
one dissenting voice, that in order to preserve their power in
Tuscany, it would be necessary to destroy Florence, as the only means
of compelling the Guelphs to withdraw their support from the party of
the church. To this so cruel a sentence, given against such a noble
city, there was not a citizen who offered any opposition, except
Farinata degli Uberti, who openly defended her, saying he had not
encountered so many dangers and difficulties, but in the hope of
returning to his country; that he still wished for what he had so
earnestly sought, nor would he refuse the blessing which fortune now
presented, even though by using it, he were to become as much an enemy
of those who thought otherwise, as he had been of the Guelphs; and
that no one need be afraid the city would occasion the ruin of their
country, for he hoped that the valor which had expelled the Guelphs,
would be sufficient to defend her. Farinata was a man of undaunted
resolution, and excelled greatly in military affairs: being the head
of the Ghibelline party, and in high estimation with Manfred, his
authority put a stop to the discussion, and induced the rest to think
of some other means of preserving their power.

The Lucchese being threatened with the anger of the count, for
affording refuge to the Guelphs after the battle of the Arbia, could
allow them to remain no longer; so leaving Lucca, they went to
Bologna, from whence they were called by the Guelphs of Parma against
the Ghibellines of that city, where, having overcome the enemy, the
possessions of the latter were assigned to them; so that having
increased in honors and riches, and learning that Pope Clement had
invited Charles of Anjou to take the kingdom from Manfred, they sent
ambassadors to the pope to offer him their services. His holiness not
only received them as friends, but gave them a standard upon which his
insignia were wrought. It was ever after borne by the Guelphs in
battle, and is still used at Florence. Charles having taken the
kingdom from Manfred, and slain him, to which success the Guelphs of
Florence had contributed, their party became more powerful, and that
of the Ghibellines proportionately weaker. In consequence of this,
those who with Count Novello governed the city, thought it would be
advisable to attach to themselves, with some concession, the people
whom they had previously aggravated with every species of injury; but
these remedies which, if applied before the necessity came would have
been beneficial, being offered when they were no longer considered
favors, not only failed of producing any beneficial results to the
donors, but hastened their ruin. Thinking, however, to win them to
their interests, they restored some of the honors of which they had
deprived them. They elected thirty-six citizens from the higher rank
of the people, to whom, with two cavaliers, knights or gentlemen,
brought from Bologna, the reformation of the government of the city
was confided. As soon as they met, they classed the whole of the
people according to their arts or trades, and over each art appointed
a magistrate, whose duty was to distribute justice to those placed
under him. They gave to each company or trade a banner, under which
every man was expected to appear armed, whenever the city required it.
These arts were at first twelve, seven major and five minor. The minor
arts were afterward increased to fourteen, so that the whole made, as
at present, twenty-one. The thirty-six reformers also effected other
changes for the common good.

Count Guido proposed to lay a tax upon the citizens for the support of
the soldiery; but during the discussion found so much difficulty, that
he did not dare to use force to obtain it; and thinking he had now
lost the government, called together the leaders of the Ghibellines,
and they determined to wrest from the people those powers which they
had with so little prudence conceded. When they thought they had
sufficient force, the thirty-six being assembled, they caused a tumult
to be raised, which so alarmed them that they retired to their houses,
when suddenly the banners of the Arts were unfurled, and many armed
men drawn to them. These, learning that Count Guido and his followers
were at St. John's, moved toward the Holy Trinity, and chose Giovanni
Soldanieri for their leader. The count, on the other hand, being
informed where the people were assembled, proceeded in that direction;
nor did the people shun the fight, for, meeting their enemies where
now stands the residence of the Tornaquinci, they put the count to
flight, with the loss of many of his followers. Terrified with this
result, he was afraid his enemies would attack him in the night, and
that his own party, finding themselves beaten, would murder him. This
impression took such hold of his mind that, without attempting any
other remedy, he sought his safety rather in flight than in combat,
and, contrary to the advice of the rectors, went with all his people
to Prato. But, on finding himself in a place of safety, his fears
fled; perceiving his error he wished to correct it, and on the
following day, as soon as light appeared, he returned with his people
to Florence, to enter the city by force which he had abandoned in
cowardice. But his design did not succeed; for the people, who had had
difficulty in expelling him, kept him out with facility; so that with
grief and shame he went to the Casentino, and the Ghibellines withdrew
to their villas.

The people being victorious, by the advice of those who loved the good
of the republic, determined to reunite the city, and recall all the
citizens as well Guelph as Ghibelline, who yet remained without. The
Guelphs returned, after having been expelled six years; the recent
offences of the Ghibellines were forgiven, and themselves restored to
their country. They were, however, most cordially hated, both by the
people and the Guelphs, for the latter could not forget their exile,
and the former but too well remembered their tyranny when they were in
power; the result was, that the minds of neither party became settled.

While affairs were in this state at Florence, a report prevailed that
Corradino, nephew of Manfred, was coming with a force from Germany,
for the conquest of Naples; this gave the Ghibellines hope of
recovering power, and the Guelphs, considering how they should provide
for their security, requested assistance from Charles for their
defense, in case of the passage of Corradino. The coming of the forces
of Charles rendered the Guelphs insolent, and so alarmed the
Ghibellines that they fled the city, without being driven out, two
days before the arrival of the troops.

The Ghibellines having departed, the Florentines reorganized the
government of the city, and elected twelve men who, as the supreme
power, were to hold their magistracy two months, and were not called
Anziani or "ancients," but Buono Uomini or "good men." They also
formed a council of eighty citizens, which they called the Credenza.
Besides these, from each sixth, thirty citizens were chosen, who, with
the Credenza and the twelve Buono Uomini, were called the General
Council. They also appointed another council of one hundred and twenty
citizens, elected from the people and the nobility, to which all those
things were finally referred that had undergone the consideration of
the other councils, and which distributed the offices of the republic.
Having formed this government, they strengthened the Guelphic party by
appointing its friends to the principal offices of state, and a
variety of other measures, that they might be enabled to defend
themselves against the Ghibellines, whose property they divided into
three parts, one of which was applied to the public use, another to
the Capitani, and the third was assigned to the Guelphs, in
satisfaction of the injuries they had received. The pope, too, in
order to keep Tuscany in the Guelphic interest, made Charles imperial
vicar over the province. While the Florentines, by virtue of the new
government, preserved their influence at home by laws, and abroad with
arms, the pope died, and after a dispute, which continued two years,
Gregory X. was elected, being then in Syria, where he had long lived;
but not having witnessed the working of parties, he did not estimate
them in the manner his predecessors had done, and passing through
Florence on his way to France, he thought it would be the office of a
good pastor to unite the city, and so far succeeded that the
Florentines consented to receive the Syndics of the Ghibellines in
Florence to consider the terms of their recall. They effected an
agreement, but the Ghibellines without were so terrified that they did
not venture to return. The pope laid the whole blame upon the city,
and being enraged excommunicated her, in which state of contumacy she
remained as long as the pontiff lived; but was reblessed by his
successor Innocent V.

The pontificate was afterward occupied by Nicholas III. of the Orsini
family. It has to be remarked that it was invariably the custom of the
popes to be jealous of those whose power in Italy had become great,
even when its growth had been occasioned by the favors of the church;
and as they always endeavored to destroy it, frequent troubles and
changes were the result. Their fear of a powerful person caused them
to increase the influence of one previously weak; his becoming great
caused him also to be feared, and his being feared made them seek the
means of destroying him. This mode of thinking and operation
occasioned the kingdom of Naples to be taken from Manfred and given to
Charles, but as soon as the latter became powerful his ruin was
resolved upon. Actuated by these motives, Nicholas III. contrived
that, with the influence of the emperor, the government of Tuscany
should be taken from Charles, and Latino his legate was therefore sent
into the province in the name of the empire.

Niccolo Machiavelli