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    Chapter 50

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    Chapter 51
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    Origin of the animosity between Sixtus IV. and Lorenzo de' Medici
    --Carlo di Braccio da Perugia attacks the Siennese--Carlo retires
    by desire of the Florentines--Conspiracy against Galeazzo, duke of
    Milan--His vices--He is slain by the conspirators--Their deaths.

    The pope, anxious to retain the territories of the church in
    obedience, had caused Spoleto to be sacked for having, through
    internal factions, fallen into rebellion. Citta di Castello being in
    the same state of contumacy, he besieged that place; and Niccolo
    Vitelli its prince, being on intimate terms with Lorenzo de' Medici,
    obtained assistance from him, which, though inadequate, was quite
    enough to originate that enmity between Sixtus IV. and the Medici
    afterward productive of such unhappy results. Nor would this have been
    so long in development had not the death of Frate Piero, cardinal of
    St. Sixtus, taken place; who, after having traveled over Italy and
    visited Venice and Milan (under the pretense of doing honor to the
    marriage of Ercole, marquis of Ferrara), went about sounding the minds
    of the princes, to learn how they were disposed toward the
    Florentines. But upon his return he died, not without suspicion of
    having been poisoned by the Venetians, who found they would have
    reason to fear Sixtus if he were allowed to avail himself of the
    talents and exertions of Frate Piero. Although of very low extraction,
    and meanly brought up within the walls of a convent, he had no sooner
    attained the distinction of the scarlet hat, than he exhibited such
    inordinate pride and ambition, that the pontificate seemed too little
    for him, and he gave a feast in Rome which would have seemed
    extraordinary even for a king, the expense exceeding twenty thousand
    florins. Deprived of this minister, the designs of Sixtus proceeded
    with less promptitude. The Florentines, the duke, and the Venetians
    having renewed their league, and allowed the pope and the king to join
    them if they thought proper, the two latter also entered into a
    league, reserving an opening for the others if they were desirous to
    become parties to it. Italy was thus divided in two factions; for
    circumstances daily arose which occasioned ill feeling between the two
    leagues; as occurred with respect to the island of Cyprus, to which
    Ferrando laid claim, and the Venetians occupied. Thus the pope and the
    king became more closely united. Federigo, prince of Urbino, was at
    this time one of the first generals of Italy; and had long served the
    Florentines. In order, if possible, to deprive the hostile league of
    their captain, the pope advised, and the king requested him to pay a
    visit to them. To the surprise and displeasure of the Florentines,
    Federigo complied; for they thought the same fate awaited him as had
    befallen Niccolo Piccinino. However, the result was quite different;
    for he returned from Naples and Rome greatly honored, and with the
    appointment of general to their forces. They also endeavored to gain
    over to their interest the lords of Romagna and the Siennese, that
    they might more easily injure the Florentines, who, becoming aware of
    these things, used their utmost endeavors to defend themselves against
    the ambition of their enemies; and having lost Federigo d'Urbino, they
    engaged Roberto da Rimino in his place, renewed the league with the
    Perugini and formed one with the prince of Faenza. The pope and the
    king assigned, as the reasons of their animosity against the
    Florentines, that they wished to withdraw them from the Venetian
    alliance, and associate them with their own league; for the pope did
    not think the church could maintain her reputation, nor the Count
    Girolamo retain the states of Romagna, while the Florentines and the
    Venetians remained united. The Florentines conjectured their design
    was to set them at enmity with the Venetians, not so much for the sake
    of gaining their friendship as to be able the more easily to injure
    them. Two years passed away in these jealousies and discontents before
    any disturbance broke out; but the first which occurred, and that but
    trivial, took place in Tuscany.

    Braccio of Perugia, whom we have frequently mentioned as one of the
    most distinguished warriors of Italy, left two sons, Oddo and Carlo;
    the latter was of tender years; the former, as above related, was
    slain by the people of Val di Lamona; but Carlo, when he came to
    mature age, was by the Venetians, out of respect for the memory of his
    father, and the hopes they entertained from himself, received among
    the condottieri of their republic. The term of his engagement having
    expired, he did not design to renew it immediately, but resolved to
    try if, by his own influence and his father's reputation, he could
    recover possession of Perugia. To this the Venetians willingly
    consented, for they usually extended their dominion by any changes
    that occurred in the neighboring states. Carlo consequently came into
    Tuscany, but found more difficulties in his attempt upon Perugia than
    he had anticipated, on account of its being allied with the
    Florentines; and desirous of doing something worthy of memory, he made
    war upon the Siennese, alleging them to be indebted to him for
    services performed by his father in the affairs of that republic, and
    attacked them with such impetuosity as to threaten the total overthrow
    of their dominion. The Siennese, ever ready to suspect the
    Florentines, persuaded themselves that this outrage had been committed
    with their cognizance, and made heavy complaints to the pope and the
    king against them. They also sent ambassadors to Florence to complain
    of the injuries they had suffered, and adroitly intimated, that if
    Carlo had not been secretly supported he could not have made war upon
    them with such perfect security. The Florentines denied all
    participation in the proceedings of Carlo, expressed their most
    earnest wish to do everything in their power to put a stop to them,
    and allowed the ambassadors to use whatever terms they pleased in the
    name of the Signory, to command him to desist. Carlo complained that
    the Florentines, by their unwillingness to support him, had deprived
    themselves of a most valuable acquisition and him of great glory; for
    he could have insured them the possession of the whole territory in a
    short time, from the want of courage in the people and the ineffectual
    provision they had made for their defense. He then withdrew to his
    engagement under the Venetians; but the Siennese, although delivered
    from such imminent peril by the Florentines, were still very indignant
    against them; considering themselves under no obligation to those who
    had delivered them from an evil to which they had first exposed them.

    While the transactions between the king and the pope were in progress,
    and those in Tuscany in the manner we have related, an event of
    greater importance occurred in Lombardy. Cola Montano, a learned and
    ambitious man, taught the Latin language to the youth of the principal
    families in Milan. Either out of hatred to the character and manners
    of the duke, or from some other cause, he constantly deprecated the
    condition of those who live under a bad prince; calling those glorious
    and happy who had the good fortune to be born and live in a republic.
    He endeavored to show that the most celebrated men had been produced
    in republics, and not reared under princes; that the former cherish
    virtue, while the latter destroy it; the one deriving advantage from
    virtuous men, while the latter naturally fear them. The youths with
    whom he was most intimate were Giovanni Andrea Lampognano, Carlo
    Visconti, and Girolamo Ogliato. He frequently discussed with them the
    faults of their prince, and the wretched condition of those who were
    subject to him; and by constantly inculcating his principles, acquired
    such an ascendancy over their minds as to induce them to bind
    themselves by oath to effect the duke's destruction, as soon as they
    became old enough to attempt it. Their minds being fully occupied with
    this design, which grew with their years, the duke's conduct and their
    own private injuries served to hasten its execution. Galeazzo was
    licentious and cruel, of both which vices he had given such repeated
    proofs, that he became odious to all. Not content with corrupting the
    wives of the nobility, he also took pleasure in making it notorious;
    nor was he satisfied with murdering individuals unless he effected
    their deaths by some unusual cruelty. He was suspected of having
    destroyed his own mother; for, not considering himself prince while
    she was present, he conducted himself in such a manner as induced her
    to withdraw from his court, and, travelling toward Cremona, which she
    obtained as part of her marriage portion, she was seized with a sudden
    illness, and died upon the road; which made many think her son had
    caused her death. The duke had dishonored both Carlo and Girolamo in
    respect to their wives or other female relatives, and had refused to
    concede to Giovanandrea possession of the monastery of Miramondo, of
    which he had obtained a grant from the pope for a near relative. These
    private injuries increased the young men's desire for vengeance, and
    the deliverance of their country from so many evils; trusting that
    whenever they should succeed in destroying the duke, many of the
    nobility and all the people would rise in their defense. Being
    resolved upon their undertaking, they were often together, which, on
    account of their long intimacy, did not excite any suspicion. They
    frequently discussed the subject; and in order to familiarize their
    minds with the deed itself, they practiced striking each other in the
    breast and in the side with the sheathed daggers intended to be used
    for the purpose. On considering the most suitable time and place, the
    castle seemed insecure; during the chase, uncertain and dangerous;
    while going about the city for his own amusement, difficult if not
    impracticable; and, at a banquet, of doubtful result. They, therefore,
    determined to kill him upon the occasion of some procession or public
    festivity when there would be no doubt of his presence, and where they
    might, under various pretexts, assemble their friends. It was also
    resolved that if one of their number were prevented from attending, on
    any account whatever, the rest should put him to death in the midst of
    their armed enemies.

    It was now the close of the year 1476, near Christmas, and as it was
    customary for the duke to go upon St. Stephen's day, in great
    solemnity, to the church of that martyr, they considered this the most
    suitable opportunity for the execution of their design. Upon the
    morning of that day they ordered some of their most trusty friends and
    servants to arm, telling them they wished to go to the assistance of
    Giovanandrea, who, contrary to the wish of some of his neighbors,
    intended to turn a watercourse into his estate; but that before they
    went they wished to take leave of the prince. They also assembled,
    under various pretenses, other friends and relatives, trusting that
    when the deed was accomplished, everyone would join them in the
    completion of their enterprise. It was their intention, after the
    duke's death, to collect their followers together and proceed to those
    parts of the city where they imagined the plebeians would be most
    disposed to take arms against the duchess and the principal ministers
    of state, and they thought the people, on account of the famine which
    then prevailed, would easily be induced to follow them; for it was
    their design to give up the houses of Cecco Simonetta, Giovanni Botti,
    and Francesco Lucani, all leading men in the government, to be
    plundered, and by this means gain over the populace and restore
    liberty to the community. With these ideas, and with minds resolved
    upon their execution, Giovanandrea, together with the rest, were early
    at the church, and heard mass together; after which, Giovanandrea,
    turning to a statue of St. Ambrose, said, "O patron of our city! thou
    knowest our intention, and the end we would attain, by so many
    dangers; favor our enterprise, and prove, by protecting the oppressed,
    that tyranny is offensive to thee." To the duke, on the other hand,
    when intending to go to the church, many omens occurred of his
    approaching death; for in the morning, having put on a cuirass, as was
    his frequent custom, he immediately took it off again, either because
    it inconvenienced him, or that he did not like its appearance. He then
    wished to hear mass in the castle, and found that the priest who
    officiated in the chapel had gone to St. Stephen's, and had taken with
    him the sacred utensils. On this he desired the service to be
    performed by the bishop of Como, who acquainted him with preventing
    circumstances. Thus, almost compelled, he determined to go to the
    church; but before his departure, caused his sons, Giovan Galeazzo and
    Ermes, to be brought to him, whom he embraced and kissed several
    times, seeming reluctant to part with them. He then left the castle,
    and, with the ambassadors of Ferrara and Mantua on either hand,
    proceeded to St. Stephen's. The conspirators, to avoid exciting
    suspicion, and to escape the cold, which was very severe, had
    withdrawn to an apartment of the archpriest, who was a friend of
    theirs, but hearing the duke's approach, they came into the church,
    Giovanandrea and Girolamo placing themselves upon the right hand of
    the entrance, and Carlo on the left. Those who led the procession had
    already entered, and were followed by the duke, surrounded by such a
    multitude as is usual on similar occasions. The first attack was made
    by Lampognano and Girolamo, who, pretending to clear the way for the
    prince, came close to him, and grasping their daggers, which, being
    short and sharp, were concealed in the sleeves of their vests, struck
    at him. Lampognano gave him two wounds, one in the belly, the other in
    the throat. Girolamo struck him in the throat and breast. Carlo
    Visconti, being nearer the door, and the duke having passed, could not
    wound him in front: but with two strokes, transpierced his shoulder
    and spine. These six wounds were inflicted so instantaneously, that
    the duke had fallen before anyone was aware of what had happened, and
    he expired, having only once ejaculated the name of the Virgin, as if
    imploring her assistance. A great tumult immediately ensued, several
    swords were drawn, and as often happens in sudden emergencies, some
    fled from the church, and others ran toward the scene of tumult, both
    without any definite motive or knowledge of what had occurred. Those,
    however, who were nearest the duke and had seen him slain, recognizing
    the murderers, pursued them. Giovanandrea, endeavoring to make his way
    out of the church, proceeded among the women, who being numerous, and
    according to their custom, seated upon the ground, was prevented in
    his progress by their apparel, and being overtaken, he was killed by a
    Moor, one of the duke's footmen. Carlo was slain by those immediately
    around him. Girolamo Olgiato passed through the crowd, and got out of
    the church; but seeing his companions dead, and not knowing where else
    to go, he proceeded home, where his father and brothers refused to
    receive him; his mother only, having compassion on her son recommended
    him to a priest, an old friend of the family, who, disguising him in
    his own apparel, led him to his house. Here he remained two days, not
    without hope that some disturbance might arise in Milan which would
    contribute to his safety. This not occurring, and apprehensive that
    his hiding place would be discovered, he endeavored to escape in
    disguise, but being observed, he was given over to justice, and
    disclosed all the particulars of the conspiracy. Girolamo was twenty-
    three years of age, and exhibited no less composure at his death than
    resolution in his previous conduct, for being stripped of his apparel,
    and in the hands of the executioner, who stood by with the sword
    unsheathed, ready to deprive him of life, he repeated the following
    words, in the Latin tongue, in which he was well versed: "Mors acerba,
    fama perpetua, stabit vetus memoria facti."

    The enterprise of these unfortunate young men was conducted with
    secrecy and executed with resolution; and they failed for want of the
    support of those whom they expected would rise in their defense. Let
    princes therefore learn to live, so as to render themselves beloved
    and respected by their subjects, that none may have hope of safety
    after having destroyed them; and let others see how vain is the
    expectation which induces them to trust so much to the multitude, as
    to believe, that even when discontented, they will either embrace or
    ward off their dangers. This event spread consternation all over
    Italy; but those which shortly afterward occurred in Florence caused
    much more alarm, and terminated a peace of twelve years' continuance,
    as will be shown in the following book; which, having commenced with
    blood and horror, will have a melancholy and tearful conclusion.
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