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    Chapter 43

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    Chapter 44
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    CHAPTER VI

    Conspiracy of Stefano Porcari against the papal government--The
    conspirators discovered and punished--The Florentines recover the
    places they had lost--Gherardo Gambacorti, lord of Val di Bagno,
    endeavors to transfer his territories to the king of Naples--
    Gallant conduct of Antonio Gualandi, who counteracts the design of
    Gambacorti--René of Anjou is called into Italy by the Florentines
    --René returns to France--The pope endeavors to restore peace--
    Peace proclaimed--Jacopo Piccinino attacks the Siennese.

    The pontiff did not interfere in these affairs further than to
    endeavor to bring the parties to a mutual accommodation; but while he
    refrained from external wars he incurred the danger of more serious
    troubles at home. Stefano Porcari was a Roman citizen, equally
    distinguished for nobility of birth and extent of learning, but still
    more by the excellence of his character. Like all who are in pursuit
    of glory, he resolved either to perform or to attempt something worthy
    of memory, and thought he could not do better than deliver his country
    from the hands of the prelates, and restore the ancient form of
    government; hoping, in the event of success, to be considered a new
    founder or second father of the city. The dissolute manners of the
    priesthood, and the discontent of the Roman barons and people,
    encouraged him to look for a happy termination of his enterprise; but
    he derived his greatest confidence from those verses of Petrarch in
    the canzone which begins, "Spirto gentil che quelle membra reggi,"
    where he says,--

    "Sopra il Monte Tarpejo canzon vedra,
    Un cavalier, ch' Italia tutta onora,
    Pensoso piu d'altrui, che di se stesso."

    Stefano, believing poets are sometimes endowed with a divine and
    prophetic spirit, thought the event must take place which Petrarch in
    this canzone seemed to foretell, and that he was destined to effect
    the glorious task; considering himself in learning, eloquence,
    friends, and influence, superior to any other citizen of Rome. Having
    taken these impressions, he had not sufficient prudence to avoid
    discovering his design by his discourse, demeanor, and mode of living;
    so that the pope becoming acquainted with it, in order to prevent the
    commission of some rash act, banished him to Bologna and charged the
    governor of the city to compel his appearance before him once every
    day. Stefano was not daunted by this first check, but with even
    greater earnestness prosecuted his undertaking, and, by such means as
    were available, more cautiously corresponded with his friends, and
    often went and returned from Rome with such celerity as to be in time
    to present himself before the governor within the limit allowed for
    his appearance. Having acquired a sufficient number of partisans, he
    determined to make the attempt without further delay, and arranged
    with his friends at Rome to provide an evening banquet, to which all
    the conspirators were invited, with orders that each should bring with
    him his most trust-worthy friends, and himself promised to be with him
    before the entertainment was served. Everything was done according to
    this orders, and Stefano Porcari arrived at the place appointed.
    Supper being brought in, he entered the apartment dressed in cloth of
    gold, with rich ornaments about his neck, to give him a dignified
    appearance and commanding aspect. Having embraced the company, he
    delivered a long oration to dispose their minds to the glorious
    undertaking. He then arranged the measures to be adopted, ordering
    that one part of them should, on the following morning, take
    possession of the pontiff's palace, and that the other should call the
    people of Rome to arms. The affair came to the knowledge of the pope
    the same night, some say by treachery among the conspirators, and
    others that he knew of Porcari's presence at Rome. Be this as it may,
    on the night of the supper Stefano, and the greater part of his
    associates, were arrested, and afterward expiated their crime by
    death. Thus ended his enterprise; and though some may applaud his
    intentions, he must stand charged with deficiency of understanding;
    for such undertakings, though possessing some slight appearance of
    glory, are almost always attended with ruin.

    Gherardo Gambacorti was lord of Val di Bagno, and his ancestors as
    well as himself had always been in the pay or under the protection of
    the Florentines. Alfonso endeavored to induce him to exchange his
    territory for another in the kingdom of Naples. This became known to
    the Signory, who, in order to ascertain his designs, sent an
    ambassador to Gambacorti, to remind him of the obligations of his
    ancestors and himself to their republic, and induce him to continue
    faithful to them. Gherardo affected the greatest astonishment, assured
    the ambassador with solemn oaths that no such treacherous thought had
    ever entered his mind, and that he would gladly go to Florence and
    pledge himself for the truth of his assertions; but being unable, from
    indisposition, he would send his son as an hostage. These assurances,
    and the proposal with which they were accompanied, induced the
    Florentines to think Gherardo had been slandered, and that his accuser
    must be alike weak and treacherous. Gherardo, however, hastened his
    negotiation with redoubled zeal, and having arranged the terms,
    Alfonso sent Frate Puccio, a knight of Jerusalem, with a strong body
    of men to the Val di Bagno, to take possession of the fortresses and
    towns, the people of which, being attached to the Florentine republic,
    submitted unwillingly.

    Frate Puccio had already taken possession of nearly the whole
    territory, except the fortress of Corzano. Gambacorti was accompanied,
    while transferring his dominions, by a young Pisan of great courage
    and address, named Antonio Gualandi, who, considering the whole
    affair, the strength of the place, the well known bravery of the
    garrison, their evident reluctance to give it up, and the baseness of
    Gambacorti, at once resolved to make an effort to prevent the
    fulfillment of his design; and Gherardo being at the entrance, for the
    purpose of introducing the Aragonese, he pushed him out with both his
    hands, and commanded the guards to shut the gate upon such a
    scoundrel, and hold the fortress for the Florentine republic. When
    this circumstance became known in Bagno and the neighboring places,
    the inhabitants took up arms against the king's forces, and, raising
    the Florentine standard, drove them out. The Florentines learning
    these events, imprisoned Gherardo's son, and sent troops to Bagno for
    the defense of the territory, which having hitherto been governed by
    its own prince, now became a vicariate. The traitor Gherardo escaped
    with difficulty, leaving his wife, family, and all his property, in
    the hands of those whom he had endeavored to betray. This affair was
    considered by the Florentines of great importance; for had the king
    succeeded in securing the territory, he might have overrun the Val di
    Tavere and the Casentino at his pleasure, and would have caused so
    much annoyance, that they could no longer have allowed their whole
    force to act against the army of the Aragonese at Sienna.

    In addition to the preparations made by the Florentines in Italy to
    resist the hostile League, they sent as ambassador, Agnolo Acciajuoli,
    to request that the king of France would allow René of Anjou to enter
    Italy in favor of the duke and themselves, and also, that by his
    presence in the country, he might defend his friends and attempt the
    recovery of the kingdom of Naples; for which purpose they offered him
    assistance in men and money. While the war was proceeding in Lombardy
    and Tuscany, the ambassador effected an arrangement with King René,
    who promised to come into Italy during the month of June, the League
    engaging to pay him thirty thousand florins upon his arrival at
    Alexandria, and ten thousand per month during the continuance of the
    war. In pursuance of this treaty, King René commenced his march into
    Italy, but was stopped by the duke of Savoy and the marquis of
    Montferrat, who, being in alliance with the Venetians, would not allow
    him to pass. The Florentine ambassador advised, that in order to
    uphold the influence of his friends, he should return to Provence, and
    conduct part of his forces into Italy by sea, and, in the meantime,
    endeavor, by the authority of the king of France, to obtain a passage
    for the remainder through the territories of the duke. This plan was
    completely successful; for René came into Italy by sea, and his
    forces, by the mediation of the king of France, were allowed a passage
    through Savoy. King René was most honorably received by Duke
    Francesco, and joining his French with the Italian forces, they
    attacked the Venetians with so much impetuosity, that they shortly
    recovered all the places which had been taken in the Cremonese. Not
    content with this, they occupied nearly the whole Brescian territory;
    so that the Venetians, unable to keep the field, withdrew close to the
    walls of Brescia.

    Winter coming on, the duke deemed it advisable to retire into
    quarters, and appointed Piacenza for the forces of René, where, having
    passed the whole of the cold season of 1453, without attempting
    anything, the duke thought of taking the field, on the approach of
    spring, and stripping the Venetians of the remainder of their
    possessions by land, but was informed by the king that he was obliged
    of necessity to return to France. This determination was quite new and
    unexpected to the duke, and caused him the utmost concern; but though
    he immediately went to dissuade René from carrying it into effect, he
    was unable either by promises or entreaties to divert him from his
    purpose. He engaged, however, to leave part of his forces, and send
    his son for the service of the League. The Florentines were not
    displeased at this; for having recovered their territories and
    castles, they were no longer in fear of Alfonso, and on the other
    hand, they did not wish the duke to obtain any part of Lombardy but
    what belonged to him. René took his departure, and send his son John
    into Italy, according to his promise, who did not remain in Lombardy,
    but came direct to Florence, where he was received with the highest
    respect.

    The king's departure made the duke desirous of peace. The Venetians,
    Alfonso, and the Florentines, being all weary of the war, were
    similarly disposed; and the pope continued to wish it as much as ever;
    for during this year the Turkish emperor, Mohammed, had taken
    Constantinople and subdued the whole of Greece. This conquest alarmed
    the Christians, more especially the Venetians and the pope, who
    already began to fancy the Mohammedans at their doors. The pope
    therefore begged the Italian potentates to send ambassadors to
    himself, with authority to negotiate a general peace, with which all
    complied; but when the particular circumstances of each case came to
    be considered, many difficulties were found in the war of effecting
    it. King Alfonso required the Florentines to reimburse the expenses he
    had incurred in the war, and the Florentines demanded some
    compensation from him. The Venetians thought themselves entitled to
    Cremona from the duke; while he insisted upon the restoration of
    Bergamo, Brescia, and Crema; so that it seemed impossible to reconcile
    such conflicting claims. But what could not be effected by a number at
    Rome was easily managed at Milan and Venice by two; for while the
    matter was under discussion at Rome, the duke and the Venetians came
    to an arrangement on the ninth of April, 1454, by virtue of which,
    each party resumed what they possessed before the war, the duke being
    allowed to recover from the princes of Montferrat and Savoy the places
    they had taken. To the other Italian powers a month was allowed to
    ratify the treaty. The pope and the Florentines, and with them the
    Siennese and other minor powers, acceded to it within the time.
    Besides this, the Florentines, the Venetians, and the duke concluded a
    treaty of peace for twenty-five years. King Alfonso alone exhibited
    dissatisfaction at what had taken place, thinking he had not been
    sufficiently considered, that he stood, not on the footing of a
    principal, but only ranked as an auxiliary, and therefore kept aloof,
    and would not disclose his intentions. However, after receiving a
    legate from the pope, and many solemn embassies from other powers, he
    allowed himself to be persuaded, principally by means of the pontiff,
    and with his son joined the League for thirty years. The duke and the
    king also contracted a twofold relationship and double marriage, each
    giving a daughter to a son of the other. Notwithstanding this, that
    Italy might still retain the seeds of war, Alfonso would not consent
    to the peace, unless the League would allow him, without injury to
    themselves, to make war upon the Genoese, Gismondo Malatesti, and
    Astorre, prince of Faenza. This being conceded, his son Ferrando, who
    was at Sienna, returned to the kingdom, having by his coming into
    Tuscany acquired no dominion and lost a great number of his men.

    Upon the establishment of a general peace, the only apprehension
    entertained was, that it would be disturbed by the animosity of
    Alfonso against the Genoese; yet it happened otherwise. The king,
    indeed, did not openly infringe the peace, but it was frequently
    broken by the ambition of the mercenary troops. The Venetians, as
    usual on the conclusion of a war, had discharged Jacopo Piccinino, who
    with some other unemployed condottieri, marched into Romagna, thence
    into the Siennese, and halting in the country, took possession of many
    places. At the commencement of these disturbances, and the beginning
    of the year 1455, Pope Nicholas died, and was succeeded by Calixtus
    III., who, to put a stop to the war newly broken out so near home,
    immediately sent Giovanni Ventimiglia, his general, with what forces
    he could furnish. These being joined by the troops of the Florentines
    and the duke of Milan, both of whom furnished assistance, attacked
    Jacopo, near Bolsena, and though Ventimiglia was taken prisoner, yet
    Jacopo was worsted, and retreated in disorder to Castiglione della
    Pescaia, where, had he not been assisted by Alfonso, his force would
    have been completely annihilated. This made it evident that Jacopo's
    movement had been made by order of Alfonso, and the latter, as if
    palpably detected, to conciliate his allies, after having almost
    alienated them with this unimportant war, ordered Jacopo to restore to
    the Siennese the places he had taken, and they gave him twenty
    thousand florins by way of ransom, after which he and his forces were
    received into the kingdom of Naples.
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