History of Florence, by Niccolo Machiavelli

Chapter VI

Affairs of the pope — He is reconciled to Niccolo Vitelli — Discords between the Colonnesi and the Orsini — Various events — The war of Serezana — Genoa occupied by her archbishop — Death of Sixtus IV. — Innocent VIII. elected — Agostino Fregoso gives Serezana to the bank of St. Giorgio — Account of the bank of St. Giorgio — War with the Genoese for Serezana — Stratagem of the Florentines to attack Pietra Santa — Difficulties and final surrender of Pietra Santa — The Lucchese lay claim to Pietra Santa — The city of L’Aquila revolts against the king of Naples — War between him and the pope — The Florentines take the king’s party — Peace between the pope and the king.

During these events in Lombardy, the pope sent Lorenzo to invest Citta di Castello, for the purpose of expelling Niccolo Vitelli, the place having been abandoned to him by the League, for the purpose of inducing the pontiff to join them. During the siege, Niccolo’s troops were led out against the papal forces and routed them. Upon this the pope recalled the Count Girolamo from Lombardy with orders first to recruit his army at Rome, and then proceed against Citta di Castello. But thinking afterward, that it would be better to obtain Niccolo Vitello as his friend than to renew hostilities with him, an arrangement was entered into by which the latter retained Citta di Castello, and the pope pacified Lorenzo as well as he could. He was induced to both these measures rather by his apprehension of fresh troubles than by his love of peace, for he perceived dissensions arising between the Colonessi and the Orsini.

In the war between the king of Naples and the pope, the former had taken the district of Tagliacozzo from the Orsini, and given it to the Colonnesi, who had espoused his cause. Upon the establishment of peace, the Orsini demanded its restoration by virtue of the treaty. The pope had frequently intimated to the Colonnesi that it ought to be restored; but they, instead of complying with the entreaties of the Orsini, or being influenced by the pope’s threats, renewed hostilities against the former. Upon this the pontiff, unable to endure their insolence, united his own forces with those of the Orsini, plundered the houses they possessed in Rome, slew or made prisoners all who defended them, and seized most of their fortresses. So that when these troubles were composed, it was rather by the complete subjugation of one party than from any desire for peace in the other.

Nor were the affairs of Genoa or of Tuscany in repose, for the Florentines kept the Count Antonio da Marciano on the borders of Serezana; and while the war continued in Lombardy, annoyed the people of Serezana by inroads and light skirmishes. Battistino Fregoso, doge of Genoa, trusting to Pagolo Fregoso, the archbishop, was taken prisoner, with his wife and children, by the latter, who assumed the sovereignty of the city. The Venetian fleet had attacked the kingdom of Naples, taken Gallipoli, and harassed the neighboring places. But upon the peace of Lombardy, all tumults were hushed except those of Tuscany and Rome; for the pope died in five days after its declaration, either in the natural course of things, or because his grief for peace, to which he was always opposed, occasioned his end.

Upon the decease of the pontiff, Rome was immediately in arms. The Count Girolamo withdrew his forces into the castle; and the Orsini feared the Colonnesi would avenge the injuries they had recently sustained. The Colonnesi demanded the restitution of their houses and castles, so that in a few days robberies, fires, and murders prevailed in several parts of the city. The cardinals entreated the count to give the castle into the hands of the college, withdraw his troops, and deliver Rome from the fear of his forces, and he, by way of ingratiating himself with the future pontiff obeyed, and retired to Imola. The cardinals, being thus divested of their fears, and the barons hopeless of assistance in their quarrels, proceeded to create a new pontiff, and after some discussion, Giovanni Batista Cibo, a Genoese, cardinal of Malfetta, was elected, and took the name of Innocent VIII. By the mildness of his disposition (for he was peaceable and humane) he caused a cessation of hostilities, and for the present restored peace to Rome.

The Florentines, after the pacification of Lombardy, could not remain quiet; for it appeared disgraceful that a private gentleman should deprive them of the fortress of Serezana; and as it was allowed by the conditions of peace, not only to demand lost places, but to make war upon any who should impede their restoration, they immediately provided men and money to undertake its recovery. Upon this, Agostino Fregoso, who had seized Serezana, being unable to defend it, gave the fortress to the Bank of St. Giorgio. As we shall have frequent occasion to speak of St. Giorgio and the Genoese, it will not be improper, since Genoa is one of the principal cities of Italy, to give some account of the regulations and usages prevailing there. When the Genoese had made peace with the Venetians, after the great war, many years ago, the republic, being unable to satisfy the claims of those who had advanced large sums of money for its use, conceded to them the revenue of the Dogano or customhouse, so that each creditor should participate in the receipts in proportion to his claim, until the whole amount should be liquidated, and as a suitable place for their assembling, the palace over the Dogano was assigned for their use. These creditors established a form of government among themselves, appointing a council of one hundred persons for the direction of their affairs, and a committee of eight, who, as the executive body, should carry into effect the determinations of the council. Their credits were divided into shares, called Luoghi, and they took the title of the Bank, or Company of St. Giorgio. Having thus arranged their government, the city fell into fresh difficulties, and applied to San Giorgio for assistance, which, being wealthy and well managed, was able to afford the required aid. On the other hand, as the city had at first conceded the customs, she next began to assign towns, castles, or territories, as security for moneys received; and this practice has proceeded to such a length, from the necessities of the state, and the accommodation by the San Giorgio, that the latter now has under its administration most of the towns and cities in the Genoese dominion. These the Bank governs and protects, and every year sends its deputies, appointed by vote, without any interference on the part of the republic. Hence the affections of the citizens are transferred from the government to the San Giorgio, on account of the tyranny of the former, and the excellent regulations adopted by the latter. Hence also originate the frequent changes of the republic, which is sometimes under a citizen, and at other times governed by a stranger; for the magistracy, and not the San Giorgio, changes the government. So when the Fregosi and the Adorni were in opposition, as the government of the republic was the prize for which they strove, the greater part of the citizens withdrew and left it to the victor. The only interference of the Bank of St. Giorgio is when one party has obtained a superiority over the other, to bind the victor to the observance of its laws, which up to this time have not been changed; for as it possesses arms, money, and influence, they could not be altered without incurring the imminent risk of a dangerous rebellion. This establishment presents an instance of what in all the republics, either described or imagined by philosophers, has never been thought of; exhibiting within the same community, and among the same citizens, liberty and tyranny, integrity and corruption, justice and injustice; for this establishment preserves in the city many ancient and venerable customs; and should it happen (as in time it easily may) that the San Giorgio should have possession of the whole city, the republic will become more distinguished than that of Venice.

Agostino Fregoso conceded Serezana to the San Giorgio, which readily accepted it, undertook its defense, put a fleet to sea, and sent forces to Pietra Santa to prevent all attempts of the Florentines, whose camp was in the immediate vicinity. The Florentines found it would be essentially necessary to gain possession of Pietra Santa, for without it the acquisition of Serezana lost much of its value, being situated between the latter place and Pisa; but they could not, consistently with the treaty, besiege it, unless the people of Pietra Santa, or its garrison, were to impede their acquisition of Serezana. To induce the enemy to do this, the Florentines sent from Pisa to the camp a quantity of provisions and military stores, accompanied by a very weak escort; that the people of Pietra Santa might have little cause for fear, and by the richness of the booty be tempted to the attack. The plan succeeded according to their expectation; for the inhabitants of Pietra Santa, attracted by the rich prize took possession of it.

This gave legitimate occasion to the Florentines to undertake operations against them; so leaving Serezana they encamped before Pietra Santa, which was very populous, and made a gallant defense. The Florentines planted their artillery in the plain, and formed a rampart upon the hill, that they might also attack the place on that side. Jacopo Guicciardini was commissary of the army; and while the siege of Pietra Santa was going on, the Genoese took and burned the fortress of Vada, and, landing their forces, plundered the surrounding country. Biongianni Gianfigliazzi was sent against them, with a body of horse and foot, and checked their audacity, so that they pursued their depredations less boldly. The fleet continuing its efforts went to Livorno, and by pontoons and other means approached the new tower, playing their artillery upon it for several days, but being unable to make any impression they withdrew.

In the meantime the Florentines proceeded slowly against Pietra Santa, and the enemy taking courage attacked and took their works upon the hill. This was effected with so much glory, and struck such a panic into the Florentines, that they were almost ready to raise the siege, and actually retreated a distance of four miles; for their generals thought that they would retire to winter quarters, it being now October, and make no further attempt till the return of spring.

When the discomfiture was known at Florence, the government was filled with indignation; and, to impart fresh vigor to the enterprise, and restore the reputation of their forces, they immediately appointed Antonio Pucci and Bernardo del Neri commissaries, who, with vast sums of money, proceeded to the army, and intimated the heavy displeasure of the Signory, and of the whole city, if they did not return to the walls; and what a disgrace, if so large an army and so many generals, having only a small garrison to contend with, could not conquer so poor and weak a place. They explained the immediate and future advantages that would result from the acquisition, and spoke so forcibly upon the subject, that all became anxious to renew the attack. They resolved, in the first place, to recover the rampart upon the hill; and here it was evident how greatly humanity, affability, and condescension influence the minds of soldiers; for Antonio Pucci, by encouraging one and promising another, shaking hands with this man and embracing that, induced them to proceed to the charge with such impetuosity, that they gained possession of the rampart in an instant. However, the victory was not unattended by misfortune, for Count Antonio da Marciano was killed by a cannon shot. This success filled the townspeople with so much terror, that they began to make proposals for capitulation; and to invest the surrender with imposing solemnity, Lorenzo de’ Medici came to the camp, when, after a few days, the fortress was given up. It being now winter, the leaders of the expedition thought it unadvisable to make any further effort until the return of spring, more particularly because the autumnal air had been so unhealthy that numbers were affected by it. Antonio Pucci and Biongianni Gianfigliazzi were taken ill and died, to the great regret of all, so greatly had Antonio’s conduct at Pietra Santa endeared him to the army.

Upon the taking of Pietra Santa, the Lucchese sent ambassadors to Florence, to demand its surrender to their republic, on account of its having previously belonged to them, and because, as they alleged, it was in the conditions that places taken by either party were to be restored to their original possessors. The Florentines did not deny the articles, but replied that they did not know whether, by the treaty between themselves and the Genoese, which was then under discussion, it would have to be given up or not, and therefore could not reply to that point at present; but in case of its restitution, it would first be necessary for the Lucchese to reimburse them for the expenses they had incurred and the injury they had suffered, in the death of so many citizens; and that when this was satisfactorily arranged, they might entertain hopes of obtaining the place.

The whole winter was consumed in negotiations between the Florentines and Genoese, which, by the pope’s intervention, were carried on at Rome; but not being concluded upon the return of spring, the Florentines would have attacked Serezana had they not been prevented by the illness of Lorenzo de’ Medici, and the war between the pope and King Ferrando; for Lorenzo was afflicted not only by the gout, which seemed hereditary in his family, but also by violent pains in the stomach, and was compelled to go the baths for relief.

The more important reason was furnished by the war, of which this was the origin. The city of L’Aquila, though subject to the kingdom of Naples, was in a manner free; and the Count di Montorio possessed great influence over it. The duke of Calabria was upon the banks of the Tronto with his men-at-arms, under pretense of appeasing some disturbances among the peasantry; but really with a design of reducing L’Aquila entirely under the king’s authority, and sent for the Count di Montorio, as if to consult him upon the business he pretended then to have in hand. The count obeyed without the least suspicion, and on his arrival was made prisoner by the duke and sent to Naples. When this circumstance became known at L’Aquila, the anger of the inhabitants arose to the highest pitch; taking arms they killed Antonio Cencinello, commissary for the king, and with him some inhabitants known partisans of his majesty. The L’Aquilani, in order to have a defender in their rebellion, raised the banner of the church, and sent envoys to the pope, to submit their city and themselves to him, beseeching that he would defend them as his own subjects against the tyranny of the king. The pontiff gladly undertook their defense, for he had both public and private reasons for hating that monarch; and Signor Roberto of San Severino, an enemy of the duke of Milan, being disengaged, was appointed to take the command of his forces, and sent for with all speed to Rome. He entreated the friends and relatives of the Count di Montorio to withdraw their allegiance from the king, and induced the princes of Altimura, Salerno, and Bisignano to take arms against him. The king, finding himself so suddenly involved in war, had recourse to the Florentines and the duke of Milan for assistance. The Florentines hesitated with regard to their own conduct, for they felt all the inconvenience of neglecting their own affairs to attend to those of others, and hostilities against the church seemed likely to involve much risk. However, being under the obligation of a League, they preferred their honor to convenience or security, engaged the Orsini, and sent all their own forces under the Count di Pitigliano toward Rome, to the assistance of the king. The latter divided his forces into two parts; one, under the duke of Calabria, he sent toward Rome, which, being joined by the Florentines, opposed the army of the church; with the other, under his own command, he attacked the barons, and the war was prosecuted with various success on both sides. At length, the king, being universally victorious, peace was concluded by the intervention of the ambassadors of the king of Spain, in August, 1486, to which the pope consented; for having found fortune opposed to him he was not disposed to tempt it further. In this treaty all the powers of Italy were united, except the Genoese, who were omitted as rebels against the republic of Milan, and unjust occupiers of territories belonging to the Florentines. Upon the peace being ratified, Roberto da San Severino, having been during the war a treacherous ally of the church, and by no means formidable to her enemies, left Rome; being followed by the forces of the duke and the Florentines, after passing Cesena, found them near him, and urging his flight reached Ravenna with less than a hundred horse. Of his forces, part were received into the duke’s service, and part were plundered by the peasantry. The king, being reconciled with his barons, put to death Jacopo Coppola and Antonello d’Aversa and their sons, for having, during the war, betrayed his secrets to the pope.

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