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    Chapter 36

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    Chapter 37
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    The pope imprisons the cardinal and assists the Florentines--
    Difference of opinion between the count and the Venetians
    respecting the management of the war. The Florentines reconcile
    them--The count wishes to go into Tuscany to oppose Piccinino, but
    is prevented by the Venetians--Niccolo Piccinino in Tuscany--He
    takes Marradi, and plunders the neighborhood of Florence--
    Description of Marradi--Cowardice of Bartolomeo Orlandini--Brave
    resistance of Castel San Niccolo--San Niccolo surrenders--
    Piccinino attempts to take Cortona, but fails.

    While the Florentines were thus anxious, fortune disclosed the means
    of securing themselves against the patriarch's malevolence. The
    republic everywhere exercised the very closest espionage over
    epistolary communication, in order to discover if any persons were
    plotting against the state. It happened that letters were intercepted
    at Monte Pulciano, which had been written by the patriarch to Niccolo
    without the pope's knowledge; and although they were written in an
    unusual character, and the sense so involved that no distinct idea
    could be extracted, the obscurity itself, and the whole aspect of the
    matter so alarmed the pontiff, that he resolved to seize the person of
    the cardinal, a duty he committed to Antonio Rido, of Padua, who had
    the command of the castle of St. Angelo, and who, after receiving his
    instructions, soon found an opportunity of carrying them into effect.
    The patriarch, having determined to go into Tuscany, prepared to leave
    Rome on the following day, and ordered the castellan to be upon the
    drawbridge of the fortress in the morning, for he wished to speak with
    him as he passed. Antonio perceived this to be the favorable moment,
    informed his people what they were to do, and awaited the arrival of
    the patriarch upon the bridge, which adjoined the building, and might
    for the purpose of security be raised or lowered as occasion required.
    The appointed time found him punctual; and Antonio, having drawn him,
    as if for the convenience of conversation, on to the bridge, gave a
    signal to his men, who immediately raised it, and in a moment the
    cardinal, from being a commander of armies, found himself a prisoner
    of the castellan. The patriarch's followers at first began to use
    threats, but being informed of the pope's directions they were
    appeased. The castellan comforting him with kind words, he replied,
    that "the great do not make each other prisoners to let them go again;
    and that those whom it is proper to take, it is not well to set free."
    He shortly afterward died in prison. The pope appointed Lodovico,
    patriarch of Aquileia, to command his troops; and, though previously
    unwilling to interfere in the wars of the league and the duke, he was
    now content to take part in them, and engaged to furnish four thousand
    horse and two thousand foot for the defense of Tuscany.

    The Florentines, freed from this cause for anxiety, were still
    apprehensive of Niccolo, and feared confusion in the affairs of
    Lombardy, from the differences of opinion that existed between the
    count and the Venetians. In order the better to become acquainted with
    the intentions of the parties, they sent Neri di Gini Capponi and
    Giuliano Davanzati to Venice, with instructions to assist in the
    arrangement of the approaching campaign; and ordered that Neri, having
    discovered how the Venetians were disposed, should proceed to the
    count, learn his designs, and induce him to adopt the course that
    would be most advantageous to the League. The ambassadors had only
    reached Ferrara, when they were told that Niccolo Piccinino had
    crossed the Po with six thousand horse. This made them travel with
    increased speed; and, having arrived at Venice, they found the Signory
    fully resolved that Brescia should be relieved without waiting for the
    return of spring; for they said that "the city would be unable to hold
    out so long, the fleet could not be in readiness, and that seeing no
    more immediate relief, she would submit to the enemy; which would
    render the duke universally victorious, and cause them to lose the
    whole of their inland possessions." Neri then proceeded to Verona to
    ascertain the count's opinion, who argued, for many reasons, that to
    march to Brescia before the return of spring would be quite useless,
    or even worse; for the situation of Brescia, being considered in
    conjunction with the season, nothing could be expected to result but
    disorder and fruitless toil to the troops; so that, when the suitable
    period should arrive, he would be compelled to return to Verona with
    his army, to recover from the injuries sustained in the winter, and
    provide necessaries for the summer; and thus the time available for
    the war would be wasted in marching and countermarching. Orsatto
    Justiniani and Giovanni Pisani were deputed on the part of Venice to
    the count at Verona, having been sent to consider these affairs, and
    with them it was agreed that the Venetians should pay the count ninety
    thousand ducats for the coming year, and to each of the soldiers forty
    ducats; that he should set out immediately with the whole army and
    attack the duke, in order to compel him, for his own preservation, to
    recall Niccolo into Lombardy. After this agreement the ambassadors
    returned to Venice; and the Venetians, having so large an amount of
    money to raise, were very remiss with their commissariat.

    In the meantime, Niccolo Piccinino pursued his route, and arrived in
    Romagna, where he prevailed upon the sons of Pandolfo Malatesti to
    desert the Venetians and enter the duke's service. This circumstance
    occasioned much uneasiness in Venice, and still more at Florence; for
    they thought that with the aid of the Malatesti they might resist
    Niccolo; but finding them gone over to the enemy, they were in fear
    lest their captain, Piero Giampagolo Orsini, who was in the
    territories of the Malatesti, should be disarmed and rendered
    powerless. The count also felt alarmed, for, through Niccolo's
    presence in Tuscany, he was afraid of losing La Marca; and, urged by a
    desire to look after his own affairs, he hastened to Venice, and being
    introduced to the Doge, informed him that the interests of the League
    required his presence in Tuscany; for the war ought to be carried on
    where the leader and forces of the enemy were, and not where his
    garrisons and towns were situated; for when the army is vanquished the
    war is finished; but to take towns and leave the armament entire,
    usually allowed the war to break out again with greater virulence;
    that Tuscany and La Marca would be lost if Niccolo were not vigorously
    resisted, and that, if lost, there would be no possibility of the
    preservation of Lombardy. But supposing the danger to Lombardy not so
    imminent, he did not intend to abandon his own subjects and friends,
    and that having come into Lombardy as a prince, he did not intend to
    return a mere condottiere. To this the Doge replied, it was quite
    manifest that, if he left Lombardy, or even recrossed the Po, all
    their inland territories would be lost; in that case they were
    unwilling to spend any more money in their defense. For it would be
    folly to attempt defending a place which must, after all, inevitably
    be lost; and that it is less disgraceful and less injurious to lose
    dominions only, then to lose both territory and money. That if the
    loss of their inland possessions should actually result, it would then
    be seen how highly important to the preservation of Romagna and
    Tuscany the reputation of the Venetians had been. On these accounts
    they were of quite a different opinion from the count; for they saw
    that whoever was victor in Lombardy would be so everywhere else, that
    conquest would be easily attainable now, when the territories of the
    duke were left almost defenseless by the departure of Niccolo, and
    that he would be ruined before he could order Niccolo's recall, or
    provide himself with any other remedy; that whoever attentively
    considered these things would see, that the duke had sent Niccolo into
    Tuscany for no other reason than to withdraw the count from his
    enterprise, and cause the war, which was now at his own door, to be
    removed to a greater distance. That if the count were to follow
    Niccolo, unless at the instigation of some very pressing necessity, he
    would find his plan successful, and rejoice in the adoption of it; but
    if he were to remain in Lombardy, and allow Tuscany to shift for
    herself, the duke would, when too late, see the imprudence of his
    conduct, and find that he had lost his territories in Lombardy and
    gained nothing in Tuscany. Each party having spoken, it was determined
    to wait a few days to see what would result from the agreement of the
    Malatesti with Niccolo; whether the Florentines could avail themselves
    of Piero Giampagolo, and whether the pope intended to join the League
    with all the earnestness he had promised. Not many days after these
    resolutions were adopted, it was ascertained that the Malatesti had
    made the agreement more from fear than any ill-will toward the League;
    that Piero Giampagolo had proceeded with his force toward Tuscany, and
    that the pope was more disposed than ever to assist them. This
    favorable intelligence dissipated the count's fears, and he consented
    to remain in Lombardy, and that Neri Capponi should return to Florence
    with a thousand of his own horse, and five hundred from the other
    parties. It was further agreed, that if the affairs of Tuscany should
    require the count's presence, Neri should write to him, and he would
    proceed thither to the exclusion of every other consideration. Neri
    arrived at Florence with his forces in April, and Giampagolo joined
    them the same day.

    In the meantime, Niccolo Piccinino, the affairs of Romagna being
    settled, purposed making a descent into Tuscany, and designing to go
    by the mountain passes of San Benedetto and the valley of Montone,
    found them so well guarded by the contrivance of Niccolo da Pisa, that
    his utmost exertions would be useless in that direction. As the
    Florentines, upon this sudden attack, were unprovided with troops and
    officers, they had sent into the defiles of these hills many of their
    citizens, with infantry raised upon the emergency to guard them, among
    whom was Bartolomeo Orlandini, a cavaliere, to whom was intrusted the
    defense of the castle of Marradi and the adjacent passes. Niccolo
    Piccinino, finding the route by San Benedetto impracticable, on
    account of the bravery of its commander, thought the cowardice of the
    officer who defended that of Marradi would render the passage easy.
    Marradi is a castle situated at the foot of the mountains which
    separate Tuscany from Romagna; and, though destitute of walls, the
    river, the mountains, and the inhabitants, make it a place of great
    strength; for the peasantry are warlike and faithful, and the rapid
    current undermining the banks has left them of such tremendous height
    that it is impossible to approach it from the valley if a small bridge
    over the stream be defended; while on the mountain side the precipices
    are so steep and perpendicular as to render it almost impregnable. In
    spite of these advantages, the pusillanimity of Bartolomeo Orlandini
    rendered the men cowardly and the fortress untenable; for as soon as
    he heard of the enemy's approach he abandoned the place, fled with all
    his forces, and did not stop till he reached the town of San Lorenzo.
    Niccolo, entering the deserted fortress, wondered it had not been
    defended, and, rejoicing over his acquisition, descended into the
    valley of the Mugello, where he took some castles, and halted with his
    army at Pulicciano. Thence he overran the country as far as the
    mountains of Fiesole; and his audacity so increased that he crossed
    the Arno, plundering and destroying everything to within three miles
    of Florence.

    The Florentines, however, were not dismayed. Their first concern was
    to give security to the government, for which they had no cause for
    apprehension, so universal was the good will of the people toward
    Cosmo; and besides this, they had restricted the principal offices to
    a few citizens of the highest class, who with their vigilance would
    have kept the populace in order, even if they had been discontented or
    desirous of change. They also knew by the compact made in Lombardy
    what forces Neri would bring with him, and expected the troops of the
    pope. These prospects sustained their courage till the arrival of Neri
    di Gino, who, on account of the disorders and fears of the city,
    determined to set out immediately and check Niccolo. With the cavalry
    he possessed, and a body of infantry raised entirely from the people,
    he recovered Remole from the hands of the enemy, where having
    encamped, he put a stop to all further depredations, and gave the
    inhabitants hopes of repelling the enemy from the neighborhood.
    Niccolo finding that, although the Florentines were without troops, no
    disturbance had arisen, and learning what entire composure prevailed
    in the city, thought he was wasting time, and resolved to undertake
    some other enterprise to induce them to send forces after him, and
    give him a chance of coming to an engagement, by means of which, if
    victorious, he trusted everything would succeed to his wishes.

    Francesco, Count di Poppi, was in the army of Niccolo, having deserted
    the Florentines, with whom he was in league, when the enemy entered
    the Mugello; and though with the intention of securing him as soon as
    they had an idea of his design, they increased his appointments, and
    made him commissary over all the places in his vicinity; still, so
    powerful is the attachment to party, that no benefit or fear could
    eradicate the affection he bore toward Rinaldo and the late
    government; so that as soon as he knew Niccolo was at hand he joined
    him, and with the utmost solicitude entreated him to leave the city
    and pass into the Casentino, pointing out to him the strength of the
    country, and how easily he might thence harass his enemies. Niccolo
    followed his advice, and arriving in the Casentino, took Romena and
    Bibbiena, and then pitched his camp before Castel San Niccolo. This
    fortress is situated at the foot of the mountains which divide the
    Casentino from the Val d'Arno; and being in an elevated situation, and
    well garrisoned, it was difficult to take, though Niccolo, with
    catapults and other engines, assailed it without intermission. The
    siege had continued more than twenty days, during which the
    Florentines had collected all their forces, having assembled under
    several leaders, three thousand horse, at Fegghine, commanded by Piero
    Giampagolo Orsini, their captain, and Neri Capponi and Bernardo de'
    Medici, commissaries. Four messengers, from Castel San Niccolo, were
    sent to them to entreat succor. The commissaries having examined the
    site, found it could not be relieved, except from the Alpine regions,
    in the direction of the Val d'Arno, the summit of which was more
    easily attainable by the enemy than by themselves, on account of their
    greater proximity, and because the Florentines could not approach
    without observation; so that it would be making a desperate attempt,
    and might occasion the destruction of the forces. The commissaries,
    therefore, commended their fidelity, and ordered that when they could
    hold out no longer, they should surrender. Niccolo took the fortress
    after a siege of thirty-two days; and the loss of so much time, for
    the attainment of so small an advantage, was the principle cause of
    the failure of his expedition; for had he remained with his forces
    near Florence, he would have almost deprived the government of all
    power to compel the citizens to furnish money: nor would they so
    easily have assembled forces and taken other precautions, if the enemy
    had been close upon them, as they did while he was at a distance.
    Besides this, many would have been disposed to quiet their
    apprehensions of Niccolo, by concluding a peace; particularly, as the
    contest was likely to be of some duration. The desire of the Count di
    Poppi to avenge himself on the inhabitants of San Niccolo, long his
    enemies, occasioned his advice to Piccinino, who adopted it for the
    purpose of pleasing him; and this caused the ruin of both. It seldom
    happens, that the gratification of private feelings, fails to be
    injurious to the general convenience.

    Niccolo, pursuing his good fortune, took Rassina and Chiusi. The Count
    di Poppi advised him to halt in these parts, arguing that he might
    divide his people between Chiusi, Caprese, and the Pieve, render
    himself master of this branch of the Apennines, and descend at
    pleasure into the Casentino, the Val d'Arno, the Val di Chiane, or the
    Val di Tavere, as well as be prepared for every movement of the enemy.
    But Niccolo, considering the sterility of these places, told him, "his
    horses could not eat stones," and went to the Borgo San Sepolcro,
    where he was amicably received, but found that the people of Citta di
    Castello, who were friendly to the Florentines, could not be induced
    to yield to his overtures. Wishing to have Perugia at his disposal, he
    proceeded thither with forty horse, and being one of her citizens, met
    with a kind reception. But in a few days he became suspected, and
    having attempted unsuccessfully to tamper with the legate and people
    of Perugia, he took eight thousand ducats from them, and returned to
    his army. He then set on foot secret measures, to seduce Cortona from
    the Florentines, but the affair being discovered, his attempts were
    fruitless. Among the principal citizens was Bartolomeo di Senso, who
    being appointed to the evening watch of one of the gates, a
    countryman, his friend, told him, that if he went he would be slain.
    Bartolomeo, requesting to know what was meant, he became acquainted
    with the whole affair, and revealed it to the governor of the place,
    who, having secured the leaders of the conspiracy, and doubled the
    guards at the gates, waited till the time appointed for the coming of
    Niccolo, who finding his purpose discovered, returned to his
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