History of Florence, by Niccolo Machiavelli

Chapter III

The Florentines prepare for war against the pope — They appeal to a future council — Papal and Neapolitan movements against the Florentines — The Venetians refuse to assist the Florentines — Disturbances in Milan — Genoa revolts from the duke — Futile endeavors to effect peace with the pope — The Florentines repulse their enemies from the territory of Pisa — They attack the papal states — The papal forces routed upon the borders of the Lake of Perugia.

The Florentines now prepared for war, by raising money and collecting as large a force as possible. Being in league with the duke of Milan and the Venetians, they applied to both for assistance. As the pope had proved himself a wolf rather than a shepherd, to avoid being devoured under false accusations, they justified their cause with all available arguments, and filled Italy with accounts of the treachery practiced against their government, exposing the impiety and injustice of the pontiff, and assured the world that the pontificate which he had wickedly attained, he would as impiously fill; for he had sent those whom he had advanced to the highest order of prelacy, in the company of traitors and parricides, to commit the most horrid treachery in the church in the midst of divine service and during the celebration of the holy sacrament, and that then, having failed to murder the citizens, change the government, and plunder the city, according to his intention, he had suspended the performance of all religious offices, and injuriously menaced and injured the republic with pontifical maledictions. But if God was just, and violence was offensive to him, he would be displeased with that of his viceregent, and allow his injured people who were not admitted to communion with the latter, to offer up their prayers to himself. The Florentines, therefore, instead of receiving or obeying the interdict, compelled the priests to perform divine service, assembled a council in Florence of all the Tuscan prelates under their jurisdiction, and appealed against the injuries suffered from the pontiff to a future general council.

The pope did not neglect to assign reasons in his own justification, and maintained it was the duty of a pontiff to suppress tyranny, depress the wicked, and exalt the good; and that this ought to be done by every available means; but that secular princes had no right to detain cardinals, hang bishops, murder, mangle, and drag about the bodies of priests, destroying without distinction the innocent with the guilty.

Notwithstanding these complaints and accusations, the Florentines restored to the pope the cardinal whom they had detained, in return for which he immediately assailed them with his own forces and those of the king. The two armies, under the command of Alfonso, eldest son of Ferrando, and duke of Calabria, who had as his general, Federigo, count of Urbino, entered the Chianti, by permission of the Siennese, who sided with the enemy, occupied Radda with many other fortresses, and having plundered the country, besieged the Castellina. The Florentines were greatly alarmed at these attacks, being almost destitute of forces, and finding their friends slow to assist; for though the duke sent them aid, the Venetians denied all obligation to support the Florentines in their private quarrels, since the animosities of individuals were not to be defended at the public expense. The Florentines, in order to induce the Venetians to take a more correct view of the case, sent Tommaso Soderini as their ambassador to the senate, and, in the meantime, engaged forces, and appointed Ercole, marquis of Ferrara, to the command of their army. While these preparations were being made, the Castellina was so hard pressed by the enemy, that the inhabitants, despairing of relief, surrendered, after having sustained a siege of forty-two days. The enemy then directed their course toward Arezzo, and encamped before San Savino. The Florentine army being now in order, went to meet them, and having approached within three miles, caused such annoyance, that Federigo d’Urbino demanded a truce for a few days, which was granted, but proved so disadvantageous to the Florentines, that those who had made the request were astonished at having obtained it; for, had it been refused, they would have been compelled to retire in disgrace. Having gained these few days to recruit themselves, as soon as they were expired, they took the castle in the presence of their enemies. Winter being now come, the forces of the pope and king retired for convenient quarters to the Siennese territory. The Florentines also withdrew to a more commodious situation, and the marquis of Ferrara, having done little for himself and less for others, returned to his own territories.

At this time, Genoa withdrew from the dominion of Milan, under the following circumstances. Galeazzo, at his death, left a son, Giovan Galeazzo, who being too young to undertake the government, dissensions arose between Sforza, Lodovico, Ottaviano, and Ascanio, his uncles, and the lady Bona, his mother, each of whom desired the guardianship of the young duke. By the advice and mediation of Tommaso Soderini, who was then Florentine ambassador at the court of Milan, and of Cecco Simonetta, who had been secretary to Galeazzo, the lady Bona prevailed. The uncles fled, Ottaviano was drowned in crossing the Adda; the rest were banished to various places, together with Roberto da San Severino, who in these disputes had deserted the duchess and joined the uncles of the duke. The troubles in Tuscany, which immediately followed, gave these princes hope that the new state of things would present opportunities for their advantage; they therefore quitted the places to which their exile limited them, and each endeavored to return home. King Ferrando, finding the Florentines had obtained assistance from none but the Milanese, took occasion to give the duchess so much occupation in her own government, as to render her unable to contribute to their assistance. By means of Prospero Adorno, the Signor Roberto, and the rebellious uncles of the duke, he caused Genoa to throw off the Milanese yoke. The Castelletto was the only place left; confiding in which, the duchess sent a strong force to recover the city, but it was routed by the enemy; and perceiving the danger which might arise to her son and herself if the war were continued, Tuscany being in confusion, and the Florentines, in whom alone she had hope, themselves in trouble, she determined, as she could not retain Genoa in subjection, to secure it as an ally; and agreed with Battistino Fregoso, the enemy of Prospero Adorno, to give him the Castelletto, and make him prince of Genoa, on condition that he should expel Prospero, and do nothing in favor of her son’s uncles. Upon this agreement, Battistino, by the assistance of the Castelletto and of his friends, became lord of Genoa; and according to the custom of the city, took the title of Doge. The Sforzeschi and the Signor Roberto, being thus expelled by the Genoese, came with their forces into Lunigiana, and the pope and the king, perceiving the troubles of Lombardy to be composed, took occasion with them to annoy Tuscany in the Pisan territory, that the Florentines might be weakened by dividing their forces. At the close of winter they ordered Roberto da San Severino to leave Lunigiana and march thither, which he did, and with great tumult plundered many fortresses, and overran the country around Pisa.

At this time, ambassadors came to Florence from the emperor, the king of France, and the king of Hungary, who were sent by their princes to the pontiff. They solicited the Florentines also to send ambassadors to the pope, and promised to use their utmost exertion to obtain for them an advantageous peace. The Florentines did not refuse to make trial, both for the sake of publicly justifying their proceedings, and because they were really desirous of peace. Accordingly, the ambassadors were sent, but returned without coming to any conclusion of their differences. The Florentines, to avail themselves of the influence of the king of France, since they were attacked by one part of the Italians and abandoned by the other, sent to him as their ambassador, Donato Acciajuoli, a distinguished Latin and Greek scholar, whose ancestors had always ranked high in the city, but while on his journey he died at Milan. To relieve his surviving family and pay a deserved tribute to his memory, he was honorably buried at the public expense, provision was made for his sons, and suitable marriage portions given to his daughters, and Guid’ Antonio Vespucci, a man well acquainted with pontifical and imperial affairs, was sent as ambassador to the king in his stead.

The attack of Signor Roberto upon the Pisan territory, being unexpected, greatly perplexed the Florentines; for having to resist the foe in the direction of Sienna, they knew not how to provide for the places about Pisa. To keep the Lucchese faithful, and prevent them from furnishing the enemy either with money or provisions, they sent as ambassador Piero di Gino Capponi, who was received with so much jealousy, on account of the hatred which that city always cherishes against the Florentines from former injuries and constant fear, that he was on many occasions in danger of being put to death by the mob; and thus his mission gave fresh cause of animosity rather than of union. The Florentines recalled the marquis of Ferrara, and engaged the marquis of Mantua; they also as earnestly requested the Venetians to send them Count Carlo, son of Braccio, and Deifobo, son of Count Jacopo, and after many delays, they complied; for having made a truce with the Turks, they had no excuse to justify a refusal, and could not break through the obligation of the League without the utmost disgrace. The counts, Carlo and Deifobo, came with a good force, and being joined by all that could be spared from the army, which, under the marquis of Ferrara, held in check the duke of Calabria, proceeded toward Pisa, to meet Signor Roberto, who was with his troops near the river Serchio, and who, though he had expressed his intention of awaiting their arrival, withdrew to the camp at Lunigiana, which he had quitted upon coming into the Pisan territory, while Count Carlo recovered all the places that had been taken by the enemy in that district.

The Florentines, being thus relieved from the attack in the direction of Pisa, assembled the whole force between Colle and Santo Geminiano. But the army, on the arrival of Count Carlo, being composed of Sforzeschi and Bracceschi, their hereditary feuds soon broke forth, and it was thought that if they remained long in company, they would turn their arms against each other. It was therefore determined, as the smaller evil, to divide them; to send one party, under Count Carlo, into the district of Perugia, and establish the other at Poggibonzi, where they formed a strong encampment in order to prevent the enemy from penetrating the Florentine territory. By this they also hoped to compel the enemy to divide their forces; for Count Carlo was understood to have many partisans in Perugia, and it was therefore expected, either that he would occupy the place, or that the pope would be compelled to send a large body of men for its defense. To reduce the pontiff to greater necessity, they ordered Niccolo Vitelli, who had been expelled from Citta di Castello, where his enemy Lorenzo Vitelli commanded, to lead a force against that place, with the view of driving out his adversary and withdrawing it from obedience to the pope. At the beginning of the campaign, fortune seemed to favor the Florentines; for Count Carlo made rapid advances in the Perugino, and Niccolo Vitelli, though unable to enter Castello, was superior in the field, and plundered the surrounding country without opposition. The forces also, at Poggibonzi, constantly overran the country up to the walls of Sienna. These hopes, however, were not realized; for in the first place, Count Carlo died, while in the fullest tide of success; though the consequences of this would have been less detrimental to the Florentines, had not the victory to which it gave occasion, been nullified by the misconduct of others. The death of the count being known, the forces of the church, which had already assembled in Perugia, conceived hopes of overcoming the Florentines, and encamped upon the lake, within three miles of the enemy. On the other side, Jacopo Guicciardini, commissary to the army, by the advice of Roberto da Rimino, who, after the death of Count Carlo, was the principal commander, knowing the ground of their sanguine expectations, determined to meet them, and coming to an engagement near the lake, upon the site of the memorable rout of the Romans, by Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, the papal forces were vanquished. The news of the victory, which did great honor to the commanders, diffused universal joy at Florence, and would have ensured a favorable termination of the campaign, had not the disorders which arose in the army at Poggibonzi thrown all into confusion; for the advantage obtained by the valor of the one, was more than counterbalanced by the disgraceful proceedings of the other. Having made considerable booty in the Siennese territory, quarrels arose about the division of it between the marquis of Mantua and the marquis of Ferrara, who, coming to arms, assailed each other with the utmost fury; and the Florentines seeing they could no longer avail themselves of the services of both, allowed the marquis of Ferrara and his men to return home.

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