History of Florence, by Niccolo Machiavelli

Chapter VII

Schism in the church — Ambitious views of Giovanni Galeazzo Visconti — The pope and the Romans come to an agreement — Boniface IX. introduces the practice of Annates — Disturbance in Lombardy — The Venetians acquire dominion on terra firma — Differences between the pope and the people of Rome — Council of Pisa — Council of Constance — Filippo Visconti recovers his dominion — Giovanna II. of Naples — Political condition of Italy.

A schism having thus arisen in the church, Queen Joan favored the schismatic pope, upon which Urban caused Charles of Durazzo, descended from the kings of Naples, to undertake the conquest of her dominions. Having succeeded in his object, she fled to France, and he assumed the sovereignty. The king of France, being exasperated, sent Louis of Anjou into Italy to recover the kingdom for the queen, to expel Urban from Rome, and establish the anti-pope. But in the midst of this enterprise Louis died, and his people being routed returned to France. In this conjuncture the pope went to Naples, where he put nine cardinals into prison for having taken the part of France and the anti-pope. He then became offended with the king, for having refused to make his nephew prince of Capua; and pretending not to care about it, requested he would grant him Nocera for his habitation, but, having fortified it, he prepared to deprive the king of his dominions. upon this the king pitched his camp before the place, and the pope fled to Naples, where he put to death the cardinals whom he had imprisoned. From thence he proceeded to Rome, and, to acquire influence, created twenty-nine cardinals. At this time Charles, king of Naples, went to Hungary, where, having been made king, he was shortly afterward killed in battle, leaving a wife and two children at Naples. About the same time Giovanni Galeazzo Visconti murdered Bernabo his uncle and took the entire sovereignty upon himself; and, not content with being duke of Milan and sovereign of the whole of Lombardy, designed to make himself master of Tuscany; but while he was intent upon occupying the province with the ultimate view of making himself king of Italy, he died. Boniface IX. succeeded Urban VI. The anti-pope, Clement VI., also died, and Benedict XIII. was appointed his successor.

Many English, Germans, and Bretons served at this period in the armies of Italy, commanded partly by those leaders who had from time to time authority in the country, and partly by such as the pontiffs sent, when they were at Avignon. With these warriors the princes of Italy long carried on their wars, till the coming of Lodovico da Cento of Romagna, who formed a body of Italian soldiery, called the Company of St. George, whose valor and discipline soon caused the foreign troops to fall into disrepute, and gave reputation to the native forces of the country, of which the princes afterward availed themselves in their wars with each other. The pope, Boniface IX., being at enmity with the Romans, went to Scesi, where he remained till the jubilee of 1400, when the Romans, to induce him to return to the city, consented to receive another foreign senator of his appointing, and also allowed him to fortify the castle of Saint Angelo: having returned upon these conditions, in order to enrich the church, he ordained that everyone, upon vacating a benefice, should pay a year’s value of it to the Apostolic Chamber.

After the death of Giovanni Galeazzo, duke of Milan, although he left two children, Giovanmaria and Filippo, the state was divided into many parts, and in the troubles which ensued Giovanmaria was slain. Filippo remained some time in the castle of Pavia, from which, through the fidelity and virtue of the castellan, he escaped. Among others who occupied cities possessed by his father, was Guglielmo della Scala, who, being banished, fell into the hands of Francesco de Carrera, lord of Padua, by whose means he recovered the state of Verona, in which he only remained a short time, for he was poisoned, by order of Francesco, and the city taken from him. These things occasioned the people of Vicenza, who had lived in security under the protection of the Visconti, to dread the greatness of the lord of Padua, and they placed themselves under the Venetians, who, engaging in arms with him, first took Verona and then Padua.

At this time Pope Boniface died, and was succeeded by Innocent VII. The people of Rome supplicated him to restore to them their fortresses and their liberty; but as he would not consent to their petition, they called to their assistance Ladislaus, king of Naples. Becoming reconciled to the people, the pope returned to Rome, and made his nephew Lodovico count of La Marca. Innocent soon after died, and Gregory XII. was created, upon the understanding to renounce the papacy whenever the anti-pope would also renounce it. By the advice of the cardinals, in order to attempt the reunion of the church, Benedict, the anti-pope, came to Porto Venere, and Gregory to Lucca, where they made many endeavors, but effected nothing. Upon this, the cardinals of both the popes abandoned them, Benedict going to Spain, and Gregory to Rimini. On the other hand, the cardinals, with the favor of Balthazar Cossa, cardinal and legate of Bologna, appointed a council at Pisa, where they created Alexander V., who immediately excommunicated King Ladislaus, and invested Louis of Anjou with the kingdom; this prince, with the Florentines, Genoese, and Venetians, attacked Ladislaus and drove him from Rome. In the head of the war Alexander died, and Balthazar Cossa succeeded him, with the title of John XXIII. Leaving Bologna, where he was elected, he went to Rome, and found there Louis of Anjou, who had brought the army from Provence, and coming to an engagement with Ladislaus, routed him. But by the mismanagement of the leaders, they were unable to prosecute the victory, so that the king in a short time gathered strength and retook Rome. Louis fled to Provence, the pope to Bologna; where, considering how he might diminish the power of Ladislaus, he caused Sigismund, king of Hungary, to be elected emperor, and advised him to come to Italy. Having a personal interview at Mantua, they agreed to call a general council, in which the church should be united; and having effected this, the pope thought he should be fully enabled to oppose the forces of his enemies.

At this time there were three popes, Gregory, Benedict, and Giovanni, which kept the church weak and in disrepute. The city of Constance, in Germany, was appointed for the holding of the council, contrary to the expectation of Pope John. And although the death of Ladislaus had removed the cause which induced the pope to call the council, still, having promised to attend, he could not refuse to go there. In a few months after his arrival at Constance he discovered his error, but it was too late; endeavoring to escape, he was taken, put into prison, and compelled to renounce the papacy. Gregory, one of the anti-popes, sent his renunciation; Benedict, the other, refusing to do the same, was condemned as a heretic; but, being abandoned by his cardinals, he complied, and the council elected Oddo, of the Colonnesi family, pope, by the title of Martin V. Thus the church was united under one head, after having been divided by many pontiffs.

Filippo Visconti was, as we have said, in the fortress of Pavia. But Fazino Cane, who in the affairs of Lombardy had become lord of Vercelli, Alessandria, Novara, and Tortona, and had amassed great riches, finding his end approach, and having no children, left his wife Beatrice heiress of his estates, and arranged with his friends that a marriage should be effected between her and Filippo. By this union Filippo became powerful, and reacquired Milan and the whole of Lombardy. By way of being grateful for these numerous favors, as princes commonly are, he accused Beatrice of adultery and caused her to be put to death. Finding himself now possessed of greater power, he began to think of warring with Tuscany and of prosecuting the designs of Giovanni Galeazzo, his father.

Ladislaus, king of Naples, at his death, left to his sister Giovanna the kingdom and a large army, under the command of the principal leaders of Italy, among the first of whom was Sforza of Cotignuola, reputed by the soldiery of that period to be a very valiant man. The queen, to shun the disgrace of having kept about her person a certain Pandolfello, whom she had brought up, took for her husband Giacopo della Marca, a Frenchman of the royal line, on the condition that he should be content to be called Prince of Tarento, and leave to her the title and government of the kingdom. But the soldiery, upon his arrival in Naples, proclaimed him king; so that between the husband and the wife wars ensued; and although they contended with varying success, the queen at length obtained the superiority, and became an enemy of the pope. Upon this, in order to reduce her to necessity, and that she might be compelled to throw herself into his lap, Sforza suddenly withdrew from her service without giving her any pervious notice of his intention to do so. She thus found herself at once unarmed, and not having any other source, sought the assistance of Alfonzo, king of Aragon and Sicily, adopted him as her son, and engaged Braccio of Montone as her captain, who was of equal reputation in arms with Sforza, and inimical to the pope, on account of his having taken possession of Perugia and some other places belonging to the church. After this, peace was made between the queen and the pontiff; but King Alfonzo, expecting she would treat him as she had her husband, endeavored secretly to make himself master of the strongholds; but, possessing acute observation, she was beforehand with him, and fortified herself in the castle of Naples. Suspicions increasing between them, they had recourse to arms, and the queen, with the assistance of Sforza, who again resumed her service, drove Alfonzo out of Naples, deprived him of his succession, and adopted Louis of Anjou in his stead. Hence arose new contests between Braccio, who took the part of Alfonzo, and Sforza, who defended the cause of the queen. In the course of the war, Sforza was drowned in endeavoring to pass the river Pescara; the queen was thus again unarmed, and would have been driven out of the kingdom, but for the assistance of Filippo Visconti, the duke of Milan, who compelled Alfonzo to return to Aragon. Braccio, undaunted at the departure of Alfonzo, continued the enterprise against the queen, and besieged L’Aquilla; but the pope, thinking the greatness of Braccio injurious to the church, received into his pay Francesco, the son of Sforza, who went in pursuit of Braccio to L’Aquilla, where he routed and slew him. Of Braccio remained Oddo, his son, from whom the pope took Perugia, and left him the state of Montone alone; but he was shortly afterward slain in Romagna, in the service of the Florentines; so that of those who had fought under Braccio, Niccolo Piccinino remained of greatest reputation.

Having continued our general narration nearly to the period which we at first proposed to reach, what remains is of little importance, except the war which the Florentines and Venetians carried on against Filippo duke of Milan, of which an account will be given when we speak particularly of Florence. I shall, therefore, continue it no further, briefly explaining the condition of Italy in respect of her princes and her arms, at the period to which we have now come. Joan II. held Naples, La Marca, the Patrimony and Romagna; some of these places obeyed the church, while others were held by vicars or tyrants, as Ferrara, Modena, and Reggio, by those of the House of Este; Faenza by the Manfredi; Imola by the Alidossi; Furli by the Ordelaffi; Rimini and Psaro by the Malatesti; and Camerino by those of Varano. Part of Lombardy was subject to the Duke Filippo, part to the Venetians; for all those who had held single states were set aside, except the House of Gonzaga, which ruled in Mantua. The greater part of Tuscany was subject to the Florentines. Lucca and Sienna alone were governed by their own laws; Lucca was under the Guinigi; Sienna was free. The Genoese, being sometimes free, at others, subject to the kings of France or the Visconti, lived unrespected, and may be enumerated among the minor powers.

None of the principal states were armed with their own proper forces. Duke Filippo kept himself shut up in his apartments, and would not allow himself to be seen; his wars were managed by commissaries. The Venetians, when they directed their attention to terra firma, threw off those arms which had made them terrible upon the seas, and falling into the customs of Italy, submitted their forces to the direction of others. The practice of arms being unsuitable to priests or women, the pope and Queen Joan of Naples were compelled by necessity to submit to the same system which others practiced from defect of judgment. The Florentines also adopted the same custom, for having, by their frequent divisions, destroyed the nobility, and their republic being wholly in the hands of men brought up to trade, they followed the usages and example of others.

Thus the arms of Italy were either in the hands of the lesser princes, or of men who possessed no state; for the minor princes did not adopt the practice of arms from any desire of glory, but for the acquisition of either property or safety. The others (those who possessed no state) being bred to arms from their infancy, were acquainted with no other art, and pursued war for emolument, or to confer honor upon themselves. The most noticed among the latter were Carmignola, Francesco Sforza, Niccolo Piccinino the pupil of Braccio, Agnolo della Pergola, Lorenzo di Micheletto Attenduli, il Tartaglia, Giacopaccio, Cecolini da Perugia, Niccolo da Tolentino, Guido Torello, Antonia dal Ponte ad Era, and many others. With these, were those lords of whom I have before spoken, to which may be added the barons of Rome, the Colonnesi and the Orsini, with other lords and gentlemen of the kingdoms of Naples and Lombardy, who, being constantly in arms, had such an understanding among themselves, and so contrived to accommodate things to their own convenience, that of those who were at war, most commonly both sides were losers; and they had made the practice of arms so totally ridiculous, that the most ordinary leader, possessed of true valor, would have covered these men with disgrace, whom, with so little prudence, Italy honored.

With these idle princes and such contemptible arms, my history must, therefore, be filled; to which, before I descend, it will be necessary, as was at first proposed, to speak of the origin of Florence, that it may be clearly understood what was the state of the city in those times, and by what means, through the labours of a thousand years, she became so imbecile.

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