History of Florence, by Niccolo Machiavelli

Book VI

Chapter I

Reflections on the object of war and the use of victory — Niccolo reinforces his army — The duke of Milan endeavors to recover the services of Count Francesco Sforza — Suspicions of the Venetians — They acquire Ravenna — The Florentines purchase the Borgo San Sepolcro of the pope — Piccinino makes an excursion during the winter — The count besieged in his camp before Martinengo — The insolence of Niccolo Piccinino — The duke in revenge makes peace with the league — Sforza assisted by the Florentines.

Those who make war have always and very naturally designed to enrich themselves and impoverish the enemy; neither is victory sought or conquest desirable, except to strengthen themselves and weaken the enemy. Hence it follows, that those who are impoverished by victory or debilitated by conquest, must either have gone beyond, or fallen short of, the end for which wars are made. A republic or a prince is enriched by the victories he obtains, when the enemy is crushed and possession is retained of the plunder and ransom. Victory is injurious when the foe escapes, or when the soldiers appropriate the booty and ransom. In such a case, losses are unfortunate, and conquests still more so; for the vanquished suffers the injuries inflicted by the enemy, and the victor those occasioned by his friends, which being less justifiable, must cause the greater pain, particularly from a consideration of his being thus compelled to oppress his people by an increased burden of taxation. A ruler possessing any degree of humanity, cannot rejoice in a victory that afflicts his subjects. The victories of the ancient and well organized republics, enabled them to fill their treasuries with gold and silver won from their enemies, to distribute gratuities to the people, reduce taxation, and by games and solemn festivals, disseminate universal joy. But the victories obtained in the times of which we speak, first emptied the treasury, and then impoverished the people, without giving the victorious party security from the enemy. This arose entirely from the disorders inherent in their mode of warfare; for the vanquished soldiery, divesting themselves of their accoutrements, and being neither slain nor detained prisoners, only deferred a renewed attack on the conqueror, till their leader had furnished them with arms and horses. Besides this, both ransom and booty being appropriated by the troops, the victorious princes could not make use of them for raising fresh forces, but were compelled to draw the necessary means from their subjects’ purses, and this was the only result of victory experienced by the people, except that it diminished the ruler’s reluctance to such a course, and made him less particular about his mode of oppressing them. To such a state had the practice of war been brought by the sort of soldiery then on foot, that the victor and the vanquished, when desirous of their services, alike needed fresh supplies of money; for the one had to re-equip them, and the other to bribe them; the vanquished could not fight without being remounted, and the conquerors would not take the field without a new gratuity. Hence it followed, that the one derived little advantage from the victory, and the other was the less injured by defeat; for the routed party had to be re-equipped, and the victorious could not pursue his advantage.

From this disorderly and perverse method of procedure, it arose, that before Niccolo’s defeat became known throughout Italy, he had again reorganized his forces, and harassed the enemy with greater vigor than before. Hence, also, it happened, that after his disaster at Tenna, he so soon occupied Verona: that being deprived of his army at Verona, he was shortly able to appear with a large force in Tuscany; that being completely defeated at Anghiari, before he reached Tuscany, he was more powerful in the field than ever. He was thus enabled to give the duke of Milan hopes of defending Lombardy, which by his absence appeared to be lost; for while Niccolo spread consternation throughout Tuscany, disasters in the former province so alarmed the duke, that he was afraid his utter ruin would ensue before Niccolo, whom he had recalled, could come to his relief, and check the impetuous progress of the count. Under these impressions, the duke, to insure by policy that success which he could not command by arms, had recourse to remedies, which on similar occasions had frequently served his turn. He sent Niccolo da Esti, prince of Ferrara, to the count who was then at Peschiera, to persuade him, “That this war was not to his advantage; for if the duke became so ruined as to be unable to maintain his position among the states of Italy, the count would be the first to suffer; for he would cease to be of importance either with the Venetians or the Florentines; and to prove the sincerity of his wish for peace, he offered to fulfill the engagement he had entered into with regard to his daughter, and send her to Ferrara; so that as soon as peace was established, the union might take place.” The count replied, “That if the duke really wished for peace, he might easily be gratified, as the Florentines and the Venetians were equally anxious for it. True, it was, he could with difficulty credit him, knowing that he had never made peace but from necessity, and when this no longer pressed him, again desired war. Neither could he give credence to what he had said concerning the marriage, having been so repeatedly deceived; yet when peace was concluded, he would take the advice of his friends upon that subject.”

The Venetians, who were sometimes needlessly jealous of their soldiery, became greatly alarmed at these proceedings; and not without reason. The count was aware of this, and wishing to remove their apprehensions, pursued the war with unusual vigor; but his mind had become so unsettled by ambition, and the Venetians’ by jealousy, that little further progress was made during the remainder of the summer, and upon the return of Niccolo into Lombardy, winter having already commenced, the armies withdrew into quarters, the count to Verona, the Florentine forces to Tuscany, the duke’s to Cremona, and those of the pope to Romagna. The latter, after having been victorious at Anghiari, made an unsuccessful attack upon Furli and Bologna, with a view to wrest them from Niccolo Piccinino; but they were gallantly defended by his son Francesco. However, the arrival of the papal forces so alarmed the people of Ravenna with the fear of becoming subject to the church, that, by consent of Ostasio di Polenta their lord, they placed themselves under the power of the Venetians; who, in return for the territory, and that Ostasio might never retake by force what he had imprudently given them, sent him and his son to Candia, where they died. In the course of these affairs, the pope, notwithstanding the victory at Anghiari, became so in want of money, that he sold the fortress of Borgo San Sepolcro to the Florentines for 25,000 ducats.

Affairs being thus situated, each party supposed winter would protect them from the evils of war, and thought no more of peace. This was particularly the case with the duke, who, being rendered doubly secure by the season and by the presence of Niccolo, broke off all attempts to effect a reconciliation with the count, reorganized Niccolo’s forces, and made every requisite preparation for the future struggle. The count being informed of this, went to Venice to consult with the senate on the course to be pursued during the next year. Niccolo, on the other hand, being quite prepared, and seeing the enemy unprovided, did not await the return of spring, but crossed the Adda during severe weather, occupied the whole Brescian territory, except Oddula and Acri, and made prisoners two thousand horse belonging to Francesco’s forces, who had no apprehension of an attack. But the greatest source of anxiety to the count, and alarm to the Venetians, was the desertion of his service by Ciarpellone, one of his principal officers. Francesco, on learning these matters, immediately left Venice, and, arriving at Brescia, found that Niccolo, after doing all the mischief he could, had retired to his quarters; and therefore, finding the war concluded for the present was not disposed to rekindle it, but rather to use the opportunity afforded by the season and his enemies, of reorganizing his forces, so as to be able, when spring arrived, to avenge himself for his former injuries. To this end he induced the Venetians to recall the forces they had in Tuscany, in the Florentine service, and to order that to succeed Gattamelata, who was dead, Micheletto Attendulo should take the command.

On the approach of spring, Niccolo Piccinino was the first to take the field, and encamped before Cignano, a fortress twelve miles from Brescia; the count marched to its relief, and the war between them was conducted in the usual manner. The count, apprehensive for the city of Bergamo, besieged Martinengo, a castle so situated that the possession of it would enable him to relieve the former, which was closely pressed by Niccolo, who, having foreseen that the enemy could impede him only from the direction of Martinengo, had put the castle into a complete state of defense, so that the count was obliged to lend his whole force to the siege. Upon this, Niccolo placed his troops in a situation calculated to intercept the count’s provisions, and fortified himself with trenches and bastions in such a manner that he could not be attacked without the most manifest hazard to his assailant. Hence the besiegers were more distressed than the people of Martinengo whom they besieged. The count could not hold his position for want of food, nor quit it without imminent danger; so that the duke’s victory appeared certain, and defeat equally inevitable to the count and the Venetians.

But fortune, never destitute of means to assist her favorites, or to injure others, caused the hope of victory to operate so powerfully upon Niccolo Piccinino, and made him assume such a tone of unbounded insolence, that, losing all respect for himself and the duke, he sent him word that, having served under his ensign for so long, without obtaining sufficient land to serve him for a grave, he wished to know from himself what was to be the reward of his labors; for it was in his power to make him master of Lombardy, and place all his enemies in his power; and, as a certain victory ought to be attended by a sure remuneration, he desired the duke to concede to him the city of Piacenza, that when weary with his lengthened services he might at last betake himself to repose. Nor did he hesitate, in conclusion, to threaten, if his request were not granted, to abandon the enterprise. This injurious and most insolent mode of proceeding highly offended the duke, and, on further consideration, he determined rather to let the expedition altogether fail, than consent to his general’s demand. Thus, what all the dangers he had incurred, and the threats of his enemies, could not draw from him, the insolent behavior of his friends made him willing to propose. He resolved to come to terms with the count, and sent Antonio Guido Buono, of Tortona, to offer his daughter and conditions of peace, which were accepted with great pleasure by the count, and also by the colleagues as far as themselves were concerned. The terms being secretly arranged, the duke sent to command Niccolo to make a truce with the count for one year; intimating, that being exhausted with the expense, he could not forego a certain peace for a doubtful victory. Niccolo was utterly astonished at this resolution, and could not imagine what had induced the duke to lose such a glorious opportunity; nor could he surmise that, to avoid rewarding his friends, he would save his enemies, and therefore to the utmost of his power he opposed this resolution; and the duke was obliged, in order to induce his compliance, to threaten that if he did not obey he would give him up to his soldiers and his enemies. Niccolo submitted, with the feelings of one compelled to leave country and friends, complaining of his hard fate, that fortune and the duke were robbing him of the victory over his enemies. The truce being arranged, the marriage of the duke’s daughter, Bianca, to the count was solemnized, the duke giving Cremona for her portion. This being over, peace was concluded in November, 1441, at which Francesco Barbadico and Pagolo Trono were present for the Venetians, and for the Florentines Agnolo Acciajuoli. Peschiera, Asola, and Lonato, castles in the Mantuan territory, were assigned to the Venetians.

The war in Lombardy was concluded; but the dissensions in the kingdom of Naples continued, and the inability to compose them occasioned the resumption of those arms which had been so recently laid aside. Alfonso, of Aragon, had, during these wars, taken from René the whole kingdom except Naples; so that, thinking he had the victory in his power, he resolved during the siege of Naples to take Benevento, and his other possessions in that neighborhood, from the count; and thought he might easily accomplish this while the latter was engaged in the wars of Lombardy. Having heard of the conclusion of peace, Alfonso feared the count would not only come for the purpose of recovering his territories, but also to favor René; and René himself had hope of his assistance for the same reason. The latter, therefore, sent to the count, begging he would come to the relief of a friend, and avenge himself of an enemy. On the other hand, Alfonso entreated Filippo, for the sake of the friendship which subsisted between them, to find the count some other occupation, that, being engaged in greater affairs, he might not have an opportunity of interfering between them. Filippo complied with this request, without seeming to be aware that he violated the peace recently made, so greatly to his disadvantage. He therefore signified to pope Eugenius, that the present was a favorable opportunity for recovering the territories which the count had taken from the church; and, that he might be in a condition to use it, offered him the services of Niccolo Piccinino, and engaged to pay him during the war; who, since the peace of Lombardy, had remained with his forces in Romagna. Eugenius eagerly took the advice, induced by his hatred of the count, and his desire to recover his lost possessions; feeling assured that, although on a former occasion he had been duped by Niccolo, it would be improper, now that the duke interfered, to suspect any deceit; and, joining his forces to those of Niccolo, he assailed La Marca. The count, astonished at such an unexpected attack, assembled his troops, and went to meet the enemy. In the meantime, King Alfonso took possession of Naples, so that the whole kingdom, except Castelnuova, was in his power. Leaving a strong guard at Castelnuova René set out and came to Florence, where he was most honorably received; and having remained a few days, finding he could not continue the war, he withdrew to Marseilles.

In the meantime, Alfonso took Castelnuova, and the count found himself assailed in the Marca Inferiore, both by the pope and Niccolo. He applied to the Venetians and the Florentines for assistance, in men and money, assuring them that if they did not determine to restrain the pope and king, during his life, they would soon afterward find their very existence endangered, for both would join Filippo and divide Italy among them. The Florentines and Venetians hesitated for a time, both to consider the propriety of drawing upon themselves the enmity of the pope and the king, and because they were then engaged in the affairs of the Bolognese. Annibale Bentivoglio had driven Francesco Piccinino from Bologna, and for defense against the duke, who favored Francesco, he demanded and received assistance of the Venetians and Florentines; so that, being occupied with these matters they could not resolve to assist the count, but Annibale, having routed Francesco Piccinino, and those affairs seeming to be settled, they resolved to support him. Designing however to make sure of the duke, they offered to renew the league with him, to which he was not averse; for, although he consented that war should be made against the count, while King René was in arms, yet finding him now conquered, and deprived of the whole kingdom, he was not willing that the count should be despoiled of his territories; and therefore, not only consented that assistance should be given him, but wrote to Alfonso to be good enough to retire to his kingdom, and discontinue hostilities against the count; and although reluctantly, yet in acknowledgment of his obligations to the duke, Alfonso determined to satisfy him, and withdrew with his forces beyond the Tronto.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/machiavelli/niccolo/m149h/chapter38.html

Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 17:11