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    Chapter 48

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    Chapter 49
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    War between the Venetians and the Florentines--Peace
    re-established--Death of Niccolo Soderini--His character--Excesses
    in Florence--Various external events from 1468 to 1471--Accession
    of Sixtus IV.--His character--Grief of Piero de' Medici for the
    violence committed in Florence--His speech to the principal
    citizens--Plans of Piero de' Medici for the restoration of order--
    His death and character--Tommaso Soderini, a citizen of great
    reputation, declares himself in favor of the Medici--Disturbances
    at Prato occasioned by Bernardo Nardi.

    The concluding words of the Florentine exiles produced the utmost
    excitement among the Venetian senators, and they resolved to send
    Bernardo Coglione, their general, to attack the Florentine territory.
    The troops were assembled, and joined by Ercole da Esti, who had been
    sent by Borgo, marquis of Ferrara. At the commencement of hostilities,
    the Florentines not being prepared, their enemies burned the Borgo of
    Dovadola, and plundered the surrounding country. But having expelled
    the enemies of Piero, renewed their league with Galeazzo, duke of
    Milan, and Ferrando, king of Naples, they appointed to the command of
    their forces Federigo, count of Urbino; and being thus on good terms
    with their friends, their enemies occasioned them less anxiety.
    Ferrando sent Alfonso, his eldest son, to their aid, and Galeazzo came
    in person, each at the head of a suitable force, and all assembled at
    Castrocaro, a fortress belonging to the Florentines, and situated
    among the roots of the Appennines which descend from Tuscany to
    Romagna. In the meantime, the enemy withdrew toward Imola. A few
    slight skirmishes took place between the armies; yet, in accordance
    with the custom of the times, neither of them acted on the offensive,
    besieged any town, or gave the other an opportunity of coming to a
    general engagement; but each kept within their tents, and conducted
    themselves with most remarkable cowardice. This occasioned general
    dissatisfaction among the Florentines; for they found themselves
    involved in an expensive war, from which no advantage could be
    derived. The magistrates complained of these spiritless proceedings to
    those who had been appointed commissaries to the expedition; but they
    replied, that the entire evil was chargeable upon the Duke Galeazzo,
    who possessing great authority and little experience, was unable to
    suggest useful measures, and unwilling to take the advice of those who
    were more capable; and therefore any demonstration of courage or
    energy would be impracticable so long as he remained with the army.
    Hereupon the Florentines intimated to the duke, that his presence with
    the force was in many ways advantageous and beneficial, and of itself
    sufficient to alarm the enemy; but they considered his own safety and
    that of his dominions, much more important than their own immediate
    convenience; because so long as the former were safe, the Florentines
    had nothing to fear, and all would go well; but if his dominions were
    to suffer, they might then apprehend all kinds of misfortune. They
    assured him they did not think it prudent for him to be absent so long
    from Milan, having recently succeeded to the government, and being
    surrounded by many powerful enemies and suspected neighbors; while any
    who were desirous of plotting against him, had an opportunity of doing
    so with impunity. They would, therefore, advise him to return to his
    territories, leaving part of his troops with them for the use of the
    expedition. This advice pleased Galeazzo, who, in consequence,
    immediately withdrew to Milan. The Florentine generals being now left
    without any hindrance, to show that the cause assigned for their
    inaction was the true one, pressed the enemy more closely, so that
    they came to a regular engagement, which continued half a day, without
    either party yielding. Some horses were wounded and prisoners taken,
    but no death occurred. Winter having arrived, and with it the usual
    time for armies to retire into quarters, Bartolommeo Coglione withdrew
    to Ravenna, the Florentine forces into Tuscany, and those of the king
    and duke, each to the territories of their sovereign. As this attempt
    had not occasioned any tumult in Florence, contrary to the rebels'
    expectation, and the troops they had hired were in want of pay, terms
    of peace were proposed, and easily arranged. The revolted Florentines,
    thus deprived of hope, dispersed themselves in various places.
    Diotisalvi Neroni withdrew to Ferrara, where he was received and
    entertained by the Marquis Borso. Niccolo Soderini went to Ravenna,
    where, upon a small pension allowed by the Venetians, he grew old and
    died. He was considered a just and brave man, but over-cautious and
    slow to determine, a circumstance which occasioned him, when
    Gonfalonier of Justice, to lose the opportunity of victory which he
    would have gladly recovered when too late.

    Upon the restoration of peace, those who remained victorious in
    Florence, as if unable to convince themselves they had conquered,
    unless they oppressed not merely their enemies, but all whom they
    suspected, prevailed upon Bardo Altoviti, then Gonfalonier of Justice,
    to deprive many of the honors of government, and to banish several
    more. They exercised their power so inconsiderately, and conducted
    themselves in such an arbitrary manner, that it seemed as if fortune
    and the Almighty had given the city up to them for a prey. Piero knew
    little of these things, and was unable to remedy even the little he
    knew, on account of his infirmities; his body being so contracted that
    he could use no faculty but that of speech. All he could do was to
    admonish the leading men, and beg they would conduct themselves with
    greater moderation, and not by their violence effect their country's
    ruin. In order to divert the city, he resolved to celebrate the
    marriage of his son Lorenzo with Clarice degli Orsini with great
    splendor; and it was accordingly solemnized with all the display
    suitable to the exalted rank of the parties. Feasts, dancing, and
    antique representations occupied many days; at the conclusion of
    which, to exhibit the grandeur of the house of Medici and of the
    government, two military spectacles were presented, one performed by
    men on horseback, who went through the evolutions of a field
    engagement, and the other representing the storming of a town;
    everything being conducted with admirable order and the greatest
    imaginable brilliancy.

    During these transactions in Florence, the rest of Italy, though at
    peace, was filled with apprehension of the power of the Turks, who
    continued to attack the Christians, and had taken Negropont, to the
    great disgrace and injury of the Christian name. About this time died
    Borso, marquis of Ferrara, who was succeeded by his brother Ercole.
    Gismondo da Rimini, the inveterate enemy of the church also expired,
    and his natural brother Roberto, who was afterward one of the best
    generals of Italy, succeeded him. Pope Paul died, and was succeeded by
    Sixtus IV. previously called Francesco da Savona, a man of the very
    lowest origin, who by his talents had become general of the order of
    St. Francis, and afterward cardinal. He was the first who began to
    show how far a pope might go, and how much that which was previously
    regarded as sinful lost its iniquity when committed by a pontiff.
    Among others of his family were Piero and Girolamo, who, according to
    universal belief, were his sons, though he designated them by terms
    reflecting less scandal on his character. Piero being a priest, was
    advanced to the dignity of a cardinal, with the title of St. Sixtus.
    To Girolamo he gave the city of Furli, taken from Antonio Ordelaffi,
    whose ancestors had held that territory for many generations. This
    ambitious method of procedure made him more regarded by the princes of
    Italy, and all sought to obtain his friendship. The duke of Milan gave
    his natural daughter Caterina to Girolamo, with the city of Imola,
    which he had taken from Taddeo degli Alidossi, as her portion. New
    matrimonial alliances were formed between the duke and king Ferrando;
    Elisabetta, daughter of Alfonso, the king's eldest son, being united
    to Giovan Galeazzo, the eldest son of the duke.

    Italy being at peace, the principal employment of her princes was to
    watch each other, and strengthen their own influence by new alliances,
    leagues, or friendships. But in the midst of this repose, Florence
    endured great oppression from her principal citizens, and the
    infirmities of Piero incapacitated him from restraining their
    ambition. However, to relieve his conscience, and, if possible, to
    make them ashamed of their conduct, he sent for them to his house, and
    addressed them in the following words: "I never thought a time would
    come when the behavior of my friends would compel me to esteem and
    desire the society of my enemies, and wish that I had been defeated
    rather than victorious; for I believed myself to be associated with
    those who would set some bounds to their avarice, and who, after
    having avenged themselves on their enemies, and lived in their country
    with security and honor, would be satisfied. But now I find myself
    greatly deceived, unacquainted with the ambition of mankind, and least
    of all with yours; for, not satisfied with being masters of so great a
    city, and possessing among yourselves those honors, dignities, and
    emoluments which used to be divided among many citizens; not contented
    with having shared among a few the property of your enemies, or with
    being able to oppress all others with public burdens, while you
    yourselves are exempt from them, and enjoy all the public offices of
    profit you must still further load everyone with ill usage. You
    plunder your neighbors of their wealth; you sell justice; you evade
    the law; you oppress the timid and exalt the insolent. Nor is there,
    throughout all Italy, so many and such shocking examples of violence
    and avarice as in this city. Has our country fostered us only to be
    her destroyer? Have we been victorious only to effect her ruin? Has
    she honored us that we may overwhelm her with disgrace? Now, by that
    faith which is binding upon all good men, I promise you, that if you
    still conduct yourselves so as to make me regret my victory, I will
    adopt such measures as shall cause you bitterly to repent of having
    misused it." The reply of the citizens accorded with the time and
    circumstances, but they did not forego their evil practices; so that,
    in consequence, Piero sent for Agnolo Acciajuoli to come secretly to
    Cafaggiolo, and discussed with him at great length the condition of
    the city; and doubtless, had he not been prevented by death, he would
    have called home the exiles as a check upon the rapine of the opposite
    party. But these honorable designs were frustrated; for, sinking under
    bodily infirmities and mental anguish, he expired in the fifty-third
    year of his age. His goodness and virtue were not duly appreciated by
    his country, principally from his having, until almost the close of
    his life, been associated with Cosmo, and the few years he survived
    being spent in civil discord and constant debility. Piero was buried
    in the church of St. Lorenzo, near his father, and his obsequies were
    performed with all the pomp and solemnity due to his exalted station.
    He left two sons, Lorenzo and Guiliano, whose extreme youth excited
    alarm in the minds of thinking men, though each gave hopes of future
    usefulness to the republic.

    Among the principal citizens in the government of Florence, and very
    superior to the rest, was Tommaso Soderini, whose prudence and
    authority were well known not only at home, but throughout Italy.
    After Piero's death, the whole city looked up to him; many citizens
    waited upon him at his own house, as the head of the government, and
    several princes addressed him by letter; but he, impartially
    estimating his own fortune and that of the house of Medici, made no
    reply to the princes' communications, and told the citizens, it was
    not his house, but that of the Medici they ought to visit. To
    demonstrate by his actions the sincerity and integrity of his advice
    he assembled all the heads of noble families in the convent of St.
    Antonio, whither he also brought Lorenzo and Guiliano de' Medici, and
    in a long and serious speech upon the state of the city, the condition
    of Italy, and the views of her princes, he assured them, that if they
    wished to live in peace and unity in Florence, free both from internal
    dissensions and foreign wars, it would be necessary to respect the
    sons of Piero and support the reputation of their house; for men never
    regret their continuance in a course sanctioned by custom while new
    methods are soon adopted and as speedily set aside; and it has always
    been found easier to maintain a power which by its continuance has
    outlived envy, than to raise a new one, which innumerable unforeseen
    causes may overthrow. When Tommaso had concluded, Lorenzo spoke, and,
    though young, with such modesty and discretion that all present felt a
    presentiment of his becoming what he afterward proved to be; and
    before the citizens departed they swore to regard the youths as their
    sons, and the brothers promised to look upon them as their parents.
    After this, Lorenzo and Guiliano were honored as princes, and resolved
    to be guided by the advice of Tommaso Soderini.

    While profound tranquillity prevailed both at home and abroad, no wars
    disturbing the general repose, there arose an unexpected disturbance,
    which came like a presage of future evils. Among the ruined families
    of the party of Luca Pitti, was that of the Nardi; for Salvestro and
    his brothers, the heads of the house, were banished and afterward
    declared rebels for having taken part in the war under Bartolommeo
    Coglione. Bernardo, the brother of Salvestro, was young, prompt, and
    bold, and on account of his poverty being unable to alleviate the
    sorrows of exile, while the peace extinguished all hopes of his return
    to the city, he determined to attempt some means of rekindling the
    war; for a trifling commencement often produces great results, and men
    more readily prosecute what is already begun than originate new
    enterprises. Bernardo had many acquaintances at Prato, and still more
    in the district of Pistoia, particularly among the Palandra, a family
    which, though rustic, was very numerous, and, like the rest of the
    Pistolesi, brought up to slaughter and war. These he knew to be
    discontented, on account of the Florentine magistrates having
    endeavored, perhaps too severely, to check their partiality for
    inveterate feuds and consequence bloodshed. He was also aware that the
    people of Prato considered themselves injured by the pride and avarice
    of their governors, and that some were ill disposed toward Florence;
    therefore all things considered, he hoped to be able to kindle a fire
    in Tuscany (should Prato rebel) which would be fostered by so many,
    that those who might wish to extinguish it would fail in the attempt.
    He communicated his ideas to Diotisalvi Neroni, and asked him, in case
    they should succeed in taking possession of Prato, what assistance
    might be expected from the princes of Italy, by his means? Diotisalvi
    considered the enterprise as imminently dangerous, and almost
    impracticable; but since it presented a fresh chance of attaining his
    object, at the risk of others, he advised him to proceed, and promised
    certain assistance from Bologna and Ferrara, if he could retain Prato
    not less than fifteen days. Bernardo, whom this promise inspired with
    a lively hope of success, proceeded secretly to Prato, and
    communicated with those most disposed to favor him, among whom were
    the Palandra; and having arranged the time and plan, informed
    Diotisalvi of what had been done.
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