The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
Jacob Burckhardt

Part 1 out of 7

Redactor's Note: This version of Burckhardt is from the 2nd edition.
Many later editions were issued, but this is the last with Burckhardt's
own input. Burckhardt received nothing for his labors for this book,
and so it is fitting that it is returned to the public domain.
Italics are preserved and are bracketed by underscores (_).

The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy

by Jacob Burckhardt

Table of Contents
Part One: The State as a Work of Art
1-1 Introduction
1-2 Despots of the Fourteenth Century
1-3 Despots of the Fifteenth Century
1-4 The Smaller Despotisms
1-5 The Greater Dynasties
1-6 The Opponents of the Despots
1-7 The Republics: Venice and Florence
1-8 Foreign Policy
1-9 War as a Work of Art
1-10 The Papacy
1-11 Patriotism
Part Two: The Development of the Individual
2-1 Personality
2-2 Glory
2-3 Ridicule and Wit
Part Three: The Revival of Antiquity
3-1 Introductory
3-2 The Ruins of Rome
3-3 The Classics
3-4 The Humanists
3-5 Universities and Schools
3-6 Propagators of Antiquity
3-7 Epistolography: Latin Orators
3-8 The Treatise, and History in Latin
3-9 Antiquity as the Common Source
3-10 Neo-Latin Poetry
3-11 Fall of the Humanists in the Sixteenth Century
Part Four: The Discovery of the World and of Man
4-1 Journeys of the Italians
4-2 The Natural Sciences in Italy
4-3 Discovery of the Beauty of the Landscape
4-4 Discovery of Man
4-5 Biography in the Middle Ages
4-6 Description of the Outward Man
4-7 Description of Human Life
Part Five: Society and Festivals
5-1 Equality of Classes
5-2 Costumes and Fashions
5-3 Language and Society
5-4 Social Etiquette
5-5 Education of the 'Cortigiano'
5-6 Music
5-7 Equality of Men and Women
5-8 Domestic Life
5-9 Festivals
Part Six: Morality and Religion
6-1 Morality and Judgement
6-2 Morality and Immorality
6-3 Religion in Daily Life
6-4 Strength of the Old Faith
6-5 Religion and the Spirit of the Renaissance
6-6 Influence of Ancient Superstition
6-7 General Spirit of Doubt


By Jacob Burckhardt

Translated by S. G. C. Middlemore, 1878

Part I



This work bears the title of an essay in the strictest sense of the
word. No one is more conscious than the writer with what limited means
and strength he has addressed himself to a task so arduous. And even if
he could look with greater confidence upon his own researches, he would
hardly thereby feel more assured of the approval of competent judges.
To each eye, perhaps, the outlines of a given civilization present a
different picture; and in treating of a civilization which is the
mother of our own, and whose influence is still at work among us, it is
unavoidable that individual judgement and feeling should tell every
moment both on the writer and on the reader. In the wide ocean upon
which we venture, the possible ways and directions are many; and the
same studies which have served for this work might easily, in other
hands, not only receive a wholly different treatment and application,
but lead also to essentially different conclusions. Such indeed is the
importance of the subject that it still calls for fresh investigation,
and may be studied with advantage from the most varied points of view.
Meanwhile we are content if a patient hearing is granted us, and if
this book be taken and judged as a whole. It is the most serious
difficulty of the history of civilization that a great intellectual
process must be broken up into single, and often into what seem
arbitrary categories in order to be in any way intelligible. It was
formerly our intention to fill up the gaps in this book by a special
work on the 'Art of the Renaissance'--an intention, however, which we
have been able to fulfill only in part.

The struggle between the Popes and the Hohenstaufen left Italy in a
political condition which differed essentially from that of other
countries of the West. While in France, Spain and England the feudal
system was so organized that, at the close of its existence, it was
naturally transformed into a unified monarchy, and while in Germany it
helped to maintain, at least outwardly, the unity of the empire, Italy
had shaken it off almost entirely. The Emperors of the fourteenth
century, even in the most favourable case, were no longer received and
respected as feudal lords, but as possible leaders and supporters of
powers already in existence; while the Papacy, with its creatures and
allies, was strong enough to hinder national unity in the future, but
not strong enough itself to bring about that unity. Between the two lay
a multitude of political units--republics and despots--in part of long
standing, in part of recent origin, whose existence was founded simply
on their power to maintain it. In them for the first time we detect the
modern political spirit of Europe, surrendered freely to its own
instincts. Often displaying the worst features of an unbridled egotism,
outraging every right, and killing every germ of a healthier culture.
But, wherever this vicious tendency is overcome or in any way
compensated, a new fact appears in history--the State as the outcome of
reflection and calculation, the State as a work of art. This new life
displays itself in a hundred forms, both in the republican and in the
despotic States, and determines their inward constitution, no less than
their foreign policy. We shall limit ourselves to the consideration of
the completer and more clearly defined type, which is offered by the
despotic States.

The internal condition of the despotically governed States had a
memorable counterpart in the Norman Empire of Lower Italy and Sicily,
after its transformation by the Emperor Frederick Il. Bred amid treason
and peril in the neighbourhood of the Saracens, Frederick, the first
ruler of the modern type who sat upon a throne, had early accustomed
himself to a thoroughly objective treatment of affairs. His
acquaintance with the internal condition and administration of the
Saracenic States was close and intimate; and the mortal struggle in
which he was engaged with the Papacy compelled him, no less than his
adversaries, to bring into the field all the resources at his command.
Frederick's measures (especially after the year 1231) are aimed at the
complete destruction of the feudal State, at the transformation of the
people into a multitude destitute of will and of the means of
resistance, but profitable in the utmost degree to the exchequer. He
centralized, in a manner hitherto unknown in the West, the whole
judicial and political administration. No office was henceforth to be
filled by popular election, under penalty of the devastation of the
offending district and of the enslavement of its inhabitants. The
taxes, based on a comprehensive assessment, and distributed in
accordance with Mohammedan usages, were collected by those cruel and
vexatious methods without which, it is true, it is impossible to obtain
any money from Orientals. Here, in short, we find, not a people, but
simply a disciplined multitude of subjects; who were forbidden, for
example, to marry out of the country without special permission, and
under no circumstances were allowed to study abroad. The University of
Naples was the first we know of to restrict the freedom of study, while
the East, in these respects at all events, left its youth unfettered.
It was after the examples of Mohammedan rules that Frederick traded on
his own account in all parts of the Mediterranean, reserving to himself
the monopoly of many commodities, and restricting in various ways the
commerce of his subjects. The Fatimite Caliphs, with all their esoteric
unbelief, were, at least in their earlier history, tolerant of all the
differences in the religious faith of their people; Frederick, on the
other hand, crowned his system of government by a religious
inquisition, which will seem the more reprehensible when we remember
that in the persons of the heretics he was persecuting the
representatives of a free municipal life. Lastly, the internal police,
and the kernel of the army for foreign service, was composed of
Saracens who had been brought over from Sicily to Nocera and Lucera--
men who were deaf to the cry of misery and careless of the ban of the
Church. At a later period the subjects, by whom the use of weapons had
long been forgotten, were passive witnesses of the fall of Manfred and
of the seizure of the government by Charles of Anjou; the latter
continued to use the system which he found already at work.

At the side of the centralizing Emperor appeared a usurper of the most
peculiar kind; his vicar and son-in-law, Ezzelino da Romano. He stands
as the representative of no system of government or administration, for
all his activity was wasted in struggles for supremacy in the eastern
part of Upper Italy; but as a political type he was a figure of no less
importance for the future than his imperial protector Frederick. The
conquests and usurpations which had hitherto taken place in the Middle
Ages rested on real or pretended inheritance and other such claims, or
else were effected against unbelievers and excommunicated persons. Here
for the first time the attempt was openly made to found a throne by
wholesale murder and endless barbarities, by the adoption in short, of
any means with a view to nothing but the end pursued. None of his
successors, not even Cesare Borgia, rivalled the colossal guilt of
Ezzelino; but the example once set was not forgotten, and his fall led
to no return of justice among the nations and served as no warning to
future transgressors.

It was in vain at such a time that St. Thomas Aquinas, born subject of
Frederick, set up the theory of a constitutional monarchy, in which the
prince was to be supported by an upper house named by himself, and a
representative body elected by the people. Such theories found no echo
outside the lecture - room, and Frederick and Ezzelino were and remain
for Italy the great political phenomena of the thirteenth century.
Their personality, already half legendary, forms the most important
subject of 'The Hundred Old Tales,' whose original composition falls
certainly within this century. In them Ezzelino is spoken of with the
awe which all mighty impressions leave behind them. His person became
the centre of a whole literature from the chronicle of eye-witnesses to
the half-mythical tragedy of later poets.

Despots of the Fourteenth Century

The tyrannies, great and small, of the fourteenth century afford
constant proof that examples such as these were not thrown away. Their
misdeeds cried forth loudly and have been circumstantially told by
historians. As States depending for existence on themselves alone, and
scientifically organized with a view to this object, they present to us
a higher interest than that of mere narrative.

The deliberate adaptation of means to ends, of which no prince out of
Italy had at that time a conception, joined to almost absolute power
within the limits of the State, produced among the despots both men and
modes of life of a peculiar character. The chief secret of government
in the hands of the prudent ruler lay in leaving the incidence of
taxation as far as possible where he found it, or as he had first
arranged it. The chief sources of income were: a land tax, based on a
valuation; definite taxes on articles of consumption and duties on
exported and imported goods: together with the private fortune of the
ruling house. The only possible increase was derived from the growth of
business and of general prosperity. Loans, such as we find in the free
cities, were here unknown; a well-planned confiscation was held a
preferable means of raising money, provided only that it left public
credit unshaken--an end attained, for example, by the truly Oriental
practice of deposing and plundering the director of the finances.

Out of this income the expenses of the little court, of the bodyguard,
of the mercenary troops, and of the public buildings were met, as well
as of the buffoons and men of talent who belonged to the personal
attendants of the prince. The illegitimacy of his rule isolated the
tyrant and surrounded him with constant danger, the most honorable
alliance which he could form was with intellectual merit, without
regard to its origin. The liberality of the northern princes of the
thirteenth century was confined to the knights, to the nobility which
served and sang. It was otherwise with the Italian despot. With his
thirst for fame and his passion for monumental works, it was talent,
not birth, which he needed. In the company of the poet and the scholar
he felt himself in a new position, almost, indeed, in possession of a
new legitimacy.

No prince was more famous in this respect than the ruler of Verona, Can
Grande della Scala, who numbered among the illustrious exiles whom he
entertained at his court representatives of the whole of Italy. The men
of letters were not ungrateful. Petrarch, whose visits at the courts of
such men have been so severely censured, sketched an ideal picture of a
prince of the fourteenth century. He demands great things from his
patron, the lord of Padua, but in a manner which shows that he holds
him capable of them. 'Thou must not be the master but the father of thy
subjects, and must love them as thy children; yea, as members of thy
body. Weapons, guards, and soldiers thou mayest employ against the
enemy---with thy subjects goodwill is sufficient. By citizens, of
course, I mean those who love the existing order; for those who daily
desire change are rebels and traitors, and against such a stern justice
may take its course.'

Here follows, worked out in detail, the purely modern fiction of the
omnipotence of the State. The prince is to take everything into his
charge, to maintain and restore churches and public buildings, to keep
up the municipal police, to drain the marshes, to look after the supply
of wine and corn; so to distribute the taxes that the people can
recognize their necessity; he is to support the sick and the helpless,
and to give his protection and society to distinguished scholars, on
whom his fame in after ages will depend.

But whatever might be the brighter sides of the system, and the merits
of individual rulers, yet the men of the fourteenth century were not
without a more or less distinct consciousness of the brief and
uncertain tenure of most of these despotisms. Inasmuch as political
institutions like these are naturally secure in proportion to the size
of the territory in which they exist, the larger principalities were
constantly tempted to swallow up the smaller. Whole hecatombs of petty
rulers were sacrificed at this time to the Visconti alone. As a result
of this outward danger an inward ferment was in ceaseless activity; and
the effect of the situation on the character of the ruler was generally
of the most sinister kind. Absolute power, with its temptations to
luxury and unbridled selfishness, and the perils to which he was
exposed from enemies and conspirators, turned him almost inevitably
into a tyrant in the worst sense of the word. Well for him if he could
trust his nearest relations! But where all was illegitimate, there
could be no regular law of inheritance, either with regard to the
succession or to the division of the ruler's property; and consequently
the heir, if incompetent or a minor, was liable in the interest of the
family itself to be supplanted by an uncle or cousin of more resolute
character. The acknowledgment or exclusion of the bastards was a
fruitful source of contest and most of these families in consequence
were plagued with a crowd of discontented and vindictive kinsmen. This
circumstance gave rise to continual outbreaks of treason and to
frightful scenes of domestic bloodshed. Sometimes the pretenders lived
abroad in exile, like the Visconti, who practiced the fisherman's craft
on the Lake of Garda, viewed the situation with patient indifference.
When asked by a messenger of his rival when and how he thought of
returning to Milan, he gave the reply, 'By the same means as those by
which I was expelled, but not till his crimes have outweighed my own.'
Sometimes, too, the despot was sacrificed by his relations, with the
view of saving the family, to the public conscience which he had too
grossly outraged. In a few cases the government was in the hands of the
whole family, or at least the ruler was bound to take their advice; and
here, too, the distribution of property and influence often led to
bitter disputes.

The whole of this system excited the deep and persistent hatred of the
Florentine writers of that epoch. Even the pomp and display with which
the despot was perhaps less anxious to gratify his own vanity than to
impress the popular imagination, awakened their keenest sarcasm. Woe to
an adventurer if he fell into their hands, like the upstart Doge
Agnello of Pisa (1364), who used to ride out with a golden scepter, and
show himself at the window of his house, 'as relics are shown,'
reclining on embroidered drapery and cushions, served like a pope or
emperor, by kneeling attendants. More often, however, the old
Florentines speak on this subject in a tone of lofty seriousness. Dante
saw and characterized well the vulgarity and commonplace which marked
the ambition of the new princes. 'What else mean their trumpets and
their bells, their horns and their flutes, but "come, hangmen come,
vultures!"' The castle of the tyrant, as pictured by the popular mind,
is lofty and solitary, full of dungeons and listening-tubes, the home
of cruelty and misery. Misfortune is foretold to all who enter the
service of the despot, who even becomes at last himself an object of
pity: he must needs be the enemy of all good and honest men: he can
trust no one and can read in the faces of his subjects the expectation
of his fall. 'As despotisms rise, grow, and are consolidated, so grows
in their midst the hidden element which must produce their dissolution
and ruin.' But the deepest ground of dislike has not been stated;
Florence was then the scene of the richest development of human
individuality, while for the despots no other individuality could be
suffered to live and thrive but their own and that of their nearest
dependents. The control of the individual was rigorously carried out,
even down to the establishment of a system of passports.

The astrological superstitions and the religious unbelief of many of
the tyrants gave, in the minds of their contemporaries, a peculiar
color to this awful and God-forsaken existence. When the last Carrara
could no longer defend the walls and gates of the plague-stricken
Padua, hemmed in on all sides by the Venetians (1405), the soldiers of
the guard heard him cry to the devil 'to come and kill him.'

* * *

The most complete and instructive type of the tyranny of the fourteenth
century is to be found unquestionably among the Visconti of Milan, from
the death of the Archbishop Giovanni onwards (1354). The family
likeness which shows itself between Bernabo and the worst of the Roman
Emperors is unmistakable; the most important public object was the
prince's boar-hunting; whoever interfered with it was put to death with
torture, the terrified people were forced to maintain 5,000 boar
hounds, with strict responsibility for their health and safety. The
taxes were extorted by every conceivable sort of compulsion; seven
daughters of the prince received a dowry of 100,000 gold florins
apiece; and an enormous treasure was collected. On the death of his
wife (1384) an order was issued 'to the subjects' to share his grief,
as once they had shared his joy, and to wear mourning for a year. The
_coup de main_ (1385) by which his nephew Giangaleazzo got him into his
power--one of those brilliant plots which make the heart of even late
historians beat more quickly was strikingly characteristic of the man .

In Giangaleazzo that passion for the colossal which was common to most
of the despots shows itself on the largest scale. He undertook, at the
cost of 300,000 golden florins, the construction of gigantic dikes, to
divert in case of need the Mincio from Mantua and the Brenta from
Padua, and thus to render these cities defenseless. It is not
impossible, indeed, that he thought of draining away the lagoons of
Venice. He founded that most wonderful of all convents, the Certosa of
Pavia and the cathedral of Milan, 'which exceeds in size and splendor
all the churches of Christendom.' The palace in Pavia, which his father
Galeazzo began and which he himself finished, was probably by far the
most magnificent of the princely dwellings of Europe. There he
transferred his famous library, and the great collection of relics of
the saints, in which he placed a peculiar faith. It would have been
strange indeed if a prince of this character had not also cherished the
highest ambitions in political matters. King Wenceslaus made him Duke
(1395); he was hoping for nothing less than the Kingdom of Italy or the
Imperial crown, when (1402) he fell ill and died. His whole territories
are said to have paid him in a single year, besides the regular
contribution of 1,200,000 gold florins, no less than 800,000 more in
extraordinary subsidies. After his death the dominions which he had
brought together by every sort of violence fell to pieces: and for a
time even the original nucleus could with difficulty be maintained by
his successors. What might have become of his sons Giovanni Maria (died
1412) and Filippo Maria (died 1447), had they lived in a different
country and under other traditions, cannot be said. But, as heirs of
their house, they inherited that monstrous capital of cruelty and
cowardice which had been accumulated from generation to generation.

Giovanni Maria, too, is famed for his dogs, which were no longer,
however, used for hunting but for tearing human bodies. Tradition has
preserved their names, like those of the bears of Emperor Valentinian
I. In May, 1409, when war was going on, and the starving populace cried
to him in the streets, _Pace! Pace!_ he let loose his mercenaries upon
them, and 200 lives were sacrificed; under penalty of the gallows it
was forbidden to utter the words pace and guerra, and the priests were
ordered, instead of _dona nobis pacem_, to say _tranquillitatem_! At
last a band of conspirators took advantage of the moment when Facino
Cane, the chief Condotierre of the insane ruler, lay in at Pavia, and
cut down Giovanni Maria in the church of San Gottardo at Milan; the
dying Facino on the same day made his officers swear to stand by the
heir Filippo Maria, whom he himself urged his wife to take for a second
husband. His wife, Beatrice di Tenda, followed his advice. We shall
have occasion to speak of Filippo Maria later on.

And in times like these Cola di Rienzi was dreaming of founding on the
rickety enthusiasm of the corrupt population of Rome a new State which
was to comprise all Italy. By the side of rulers such as those whom we
have described, he seems no better than a poor deluded fool.

Despots of the Fifteenth Century

The despotisms of the fifteenth century show an altered character. Many
of the less important tyrants, and some of the greater, like the Scala
and the Carrara had disappeared, while the more powerful ones,
aggrandized by conquest, had given to their systems each its
characteristic development. Naples for example received a fresh and
stronger impulse from the new Aragonese dynasty. A striking feature of
this epoch is the attempt of the Condottieri to found independent
dynasties of their own. Facts and the actual relations of things, apart
from traditional estimates, are alone regarded; talent and audacity win
the great prizes. The petty despots, to secure a trustworthy support,
begin to enter the service of the larger States, and become themselves
Condottieri, receiving in return for their services money and immunity
for their misdeeds, if not an increase of territory. All, whether small
or great, must exert themselves more, must act with greater caution and
calculation, and must learn to refrain from too wholesale barbarities;
only so much wrong is permitted by public opinion as is necessary for
the end in view, and this the impartial bystander certainly finds no
fault with. No trace is here visible of that half-religious loyalty by
which the legitimate princes of the West were supported; personal
popularity is the nearest approach we can find to it. Talent and
calculation are the only means of advancement. A character like that of
Charles the Bold, which wore itself out in the passionate pursuit of
impracticable ends, was a riddle to the Italians. 'The Swiss were only
peasants, and if they were all killed, that would be no satisfaction
for the Burgundian nobles who might fall in the war. If the Duke got
possession of all Switzerland without a struggle, his income would not
be 5,000 ducats the greater.' The mediaeval features in the character
of Charles, his chivalrous aspirations and ideals, had long become
unintelligible to the Italians. The diplomatists of the South. when
they saw him strike his officers and yet keep them in his service, when
he maltreated his troops to punish them for a defeat, and then threw
the blame on his counsellors in the presence of the same troops, gave
him up for lost. Louis XI, on the other hand, whose policy surpasses
that of the Italian princes in their own style, and who was an avowed
admirer of Francesco Sforza, must be placed in all that regards culture
and refinement far below these rulers.

Good and evil lie strangely mixed together in the Italian States of the
fifteenth century. The personality of the ruler is so highly developed,
often of such deep significance, and so characteristic of the
conditions and needs of the time, that to form an adequate moral
judgement on it is no easy task.

The foundation of the system was and remained illegitimate, and nothing
could remove the curse which rested upon it. The imperial approval or
investiture made no change in the matter, since the people attached
little weight to the fact that the despot had bought a piece of
parchment somewhere in foreign countries, or from some stranger passing
through his territory. If the Emperor had been good for anything, so
ran the logic of uncritical common sense, he would never have let the
tyrant rise at all. Since the Roman expedition of Charles IV, the
emperors had done nothing more in Italy than sanction a tyranny which
had arisen without their help; they could give it no other practical
authority than what might flow from an imperial charter. The whole
conduct of Charles in Italy was a scandalous political comedy. Matteo
Villani relates how the Visconti escorted him round their territory,
and at last out of it; how he went about like a hawker selling his
wares (privileges, etc.) for money; what a mean appearance he made in
Rome, and how at the end, without even drawing the sword, he returned
with replenished coffers across the Alps. Sigismund came, on the first
occasion at least (1414), with the good intention of persuading John
XXIII to take part in his council; it was on that journey, when Pope
and Emperor were gazing from the lofty tower of Cremona on the panorama
of Lombardy, that their host, the tyrant Gabrino Fondolo, was seized
with the desire to throw them both over. On his second visit Sigismund
came as a mere adventurer; for more than half a year he remained shut
up in Siena, like a debtor in gaol, and only with difficulty, and at a
later period, succeeded in being crowned in Rome. And what can be
thought of Frederick III? His journeys to Italy have the air of
holiday-trips or pleasure-tours made at the expense of those who wanted
him to confirm their prerogatives, or whose vanity is flattered to
entertain an emperor. The latter was the case with Alfonso of Naples,
who paid 150,000 florins for the honour of an imperial visit. At
Ferrara, on his second return from Rome (1469), Frederick spent a whole
day without leaving his chamber, distributing no less than eighty
titles; he created knights, counts, doctors. notaries--counts, indeed,
of different degrees, as, for instance, counts palatine, counts with
the right to create doctors up to the number of five, counts with the
rights to legitimatize bastards, to appoint notaries, and so forth. The
Chancellor, however, expected in return for the patents in question a
gratuity which was thought excessive at Ferrara. The opinion of Borso,
himself created Duke of Modena and Reggio in return for an annual
payment of 4,000 gold florins, when his imperial patron was
distributing titles and diplomas to all the little court, is not
mentioned. The humanists, then the chief spokesmen of the age, were
divided in opinion according to their personal interests, while the
Emperor was greeted by some of them with the conventional acclamations
of the poets of imperial Rome. Poggio confessed that he no longer knew
what the coronation meant: in the old times only the victorious
Imperator was crowned, and then he was crowned with laurel.

With Maximilian I begins not only the general intervention of foreign
nations, but a new imperial policy with regard to Italy. The first step
-- the investiture of Lodovico il Moro with the duchy of Milan and the
exclusion of his unhappy nephew -- was not of a kind to bear good
fruits. According to the modern theory of intervention when two parties
are tearing a country to pieces, a third may step in and take its
share, and on this principle the empire acted. But right and justice
could be involved no longer. When Louis XI was expected in Genoa
(1507), and the imperial eagle was removed from the hall of the ducal
palace and replaced by painted lilies, the historian Senarega asked
what, after all, was the meaning of the eagle which so many revolutions
had spared, and what claims the empire had upon Genoa. No one knew more
about the matter than the old phrase that Genoa was a _camera imperii_.
In fact, nobody in Italy could give a clear answer to any such
questions. At length when Charles V held Spain and the empire together,
he was able by means of Spanish forces to make good imperial claims:
but it is notorious that what he thereby gained turned to the profit,
not of the empire, but of the Spanish monarchy.

* * *

Closely connected with the political illegitimacy of the dynasties of
the fifteenth century was the public indifference to legitimate birth,
which to foreigners -- for example, to Commines -- appeared so
remarkable. The two things went naturally together. In northern
countries, as in Burgundy, the illegitimate offspring were provided for
by a distinct class of appanages, such as bishoprics and the like: in
Portugal an illegitimate line maintained itself on the throne only by
constant effort; in Italy. on the contrary, there no longer existed a
princely house where even in the direct line of descent, bastards were
not patiently tolerated. The Aragonese monarchs of Naples belonged to
the illegitimate line, Aragon itself falling to the lot of the brother
of Alfonso I. The great Federigo of Urbino was, perhaps, no Montefeltro
at all. When Pius II was on his way to the Congress of Mantua (1459),
eight bastards of the house of Este rode to meet him at Ferrara, among
them the reigning duke Borso himself and two illegitimate sons of his
illegitimate brother and predecessor Lionello. The latter had also had
a lawful wife, herself an illegitimate daughter of Alfonso I of Naples
by an African woman. The bastards were often admitted to the succession
where the lawful children were minors and the dangers of the situation
were pressing; and a rule of seniority became recognized, which took no
account of pure or impure birth. The fitness of the individual, his
worth and capacity, were of more weight than all the laws and usages
which prevailed elsewhere in the West. It was the age, indeed, in which
the sons of the Popes were founding dynasties. In the sixteenth
century, through the influence of foreign ideas and of the counter-
reformation which then began, the whole question was judged more
strictly: Varchi discovers that the succession of the legitimate
children 'is ordered by reason, and is the will of heaven from
eternity.' Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici founded his claim to the
lordship of Florence on the fact that he was perhaps the fruit of a
lawful marriage, and at all events son of a gentlewoman, and not, like
Duke Alessandro, of a servant girl. At this time began those morganatic
marriages of affection which in the fifteenth century, on grounds
either of policy or morality, would have had no meaning at all.

But the highest and the most admired form of illegitimacy in the
fifteenth century was presented by the Condottiere, who whatever may
have been his origin, raised himself to the position of an independent
ruler. At bottom, the occupation of Lower Italy by the Normans in the
eleventh century was of this character. Such attempts now began to keep
the peninsula in a constant ferment.

It was possible for a Condottiere to obtain the lordship of a district
even without usurpation, in the case when his employer, through want of
money or troops, provided for him in this way; under any circumstances
the Condottiere, even when he dismissed for the time the greater part
of his forces, needed a safe place where he could establish his winter
quarters, and lay up his stores and provisions. The first example of a
captain thus portioned is John Hawkwood, who was invested by Gregory XI
with the lordship of Bagnacavallo and Cotignola. When with Alberigo da
Barbiano Italian armies and leaders appeared upon the scene, the
chances of founding a principality, or of increasing one already
acquired, became more frequent. The first great bacchanalian outbreak
of military ambition took place in the duchy of Milan after the death
of Giangaleazzo (1402). The policy of his two sons was chiefly aimed at
the destruction of the new despotisms founded by the Condottieri; and
from the greatest of them, Facino Cane, the house of Visconti
inherited, together with his widow, a long list of cities, and 400,000
golden florins, not to speak of the soldiers of her first husband whom
Beatrice di Tenda brought with her. From henceforth that thoroughly
immoral relation between the governments and their Condottieri, which
is characteristic of the fifteenth century, became more and more
common. An old story--one of those which are true and not true,
everywhere and nowhere--describes it as follows: The citizens of a
certain town (Siena seems to be meant) had once an officer in their
service who had freed them from foreign aggression; daily they took
counsel how to recompense him, and concluded that no reward in their
power was great enough, not even if they made him lord of the city. At
last one of them rose and said, 'Let us kill him and then worship him
as our patron saint.' And so they did, following the example set the
Roman senate with Romulus. In fact the Condottieri had reason to fear
none so much as their employers: if they were successful, they became
dangerous, and were put out of the way like Roberto Malatesta just
after the victory he had won for Sixtus IV (1482); if they failed, the
vengeance of the Venetians on Carmagnola showed to what risks they were
exposed (1432). It is characteristic of the moral aspect of the
situation that the Condottieri had often to give their wives and
children as hostages, and notwithstanding this, neither felt nor
inspired confidence. They must have been heroes of abnegation, natures
like Belisarius himself, not to be cankered by hatred and bitterness;
only the most perfect goodness could save them from the most monstrous
iniquity. No wonder then if we find them full of contempt for all
sacred things, cruel and treacher- ous to their fellows men who cared
nothing whether or no they died under the ban of the Church. At the
same time, and through the force of the same conditions, the genius and
capacity of many among them attained the highest conceivable
development, and won for them the admiring devotion of their followers;
their armies are the first in modern history in which the personal
credit of the leader is the one moving power. A brilliant example is
shown in the life of Francesco Sforza; no prejudice of birth could
prevent him from winning and turning to account when he needed it a
boundless devotion from each individual with whom he had to deal; it
happened more than once that his enemies laid down their arms at the
sight of him, greeting him reverently with uncovered heads, each
honoring in him 'the common father of the men-at-arms.' The race of the
Sforza has this special interest that from the very beginning of its
history we seem able to trace its endeavors after the crown. The
foundation of its fortune lay in the remarkable fruitfulness of the
family; Francesco's father, Jacopo, himself a celebrated man, had
twenty brothers and sisters, all brought up roughly at Cotignola, near
Faenza, amid the perils of one of the endless Romagnole 'vendette'
between their own house and that of the Pasolini. The family dwelling
was a mere arsenal and fortress; the mother and daughters were as
warlike as their kinsmen. In his thirtieth year Jacopo ran away and
fled to Panicale to the Papal Condottiere Boldrino -- the man who even
in death continued to lead his troops, the word of order being given
from the bannered tent in which the embalmed body lay, till at last a
fit leader was found to succeed him. Jacopo, when he had at length made
himself a name in the service of different Condottieri, sent for his
relations, and obtained through them the same advantages that a prince
derives from a numerous dynasty. It was these relations who kept the
army together when he lay a captive in the Castel dell'Uovo at Naples;
his sister took the royal envoys prisoners with her own hands, and
saved him by this reprisal from death. It was an indication of the
breadth and the range of his plans that in monetary affairs Jacopo was
thoroughly trustworthy: even in his defeats he consequently found
credit with the bankers. He habitually protected the peasants against
the license of his troops, and reluctantly destroyed or injured a
conquered city. He gave his well-known mistress, Lucia, the mother of
Francesco, in marriage to another, in order to be free for a princely
alliance. Even the marriages of his relations were arranged on a
definite plan. He kept clear of the impious and profligate life of his
contemporaries, and brought up his son Francesco to the three rules:
'Let other men's wives alone; strike none of your followers, or, if you
do, send the injured man far away; don't ride a hard-mouthed horse, or
one that drops his shoe.' But his chief source of influence lay in the
qualities, if not of a great general, at least of a great soldier. His
frame was powerful, and developed by every kind of exercise; his
peasant's face and frank manners won general popularity; his memory was
marvelous, and after the lapse of years could recall the names of his
followers, the number of their horses, and the amount of their pay. His
education was purely Italian: he devoted his leisure to the study of
history, and had Greek and Latin authors translated for his use.
Francesco, his still more famous son, set his mind from the first on
founding a powerful State, and through brilliant generalship and a
faithlessness which hesitated at nothing, got possession of the great
city of Milan (1450).

His example was contagious. Aeneas Sylvius wrote about this time: 'In
our change-loving Italy, where nothing stands firm, and where no
ancient dynasty exists, a servant can easily become a king.' One man in
particular, who styles himself 'the man of fortune,' filled the
imagination of the whole country: Giacomo Piccinino, the son of
Niccolo;. It was a burning question of the day if he, too, would
succeed in founding a princely house. The greater States had an obvious
interest in hindering it, and even Francesco Sforza thought it would be
all the better if the list of self-made sovereigns were not enlarged.
But the troops and captains sent against him, at the time, for
instance, when he was aiming at the lordship of Siena, recognized their
interest in supporting him: 'If it were all over with him, we should
have to go back and plough our fields.' Even while besieging him at
Orbetello, they supplied him with provisions: and he got out of his
straits with honour. But at last fate overtook him. All Italy was
betting on the result, when (1465) after a visit to Sforza at Milan, he
went to King Ferrante at Naples. In spite of the pledges given, and of
his high connections, he was murdered in the Castel Nuovo. Even the
Condottieri who had obtained their dominions by inheritance, never felt
themselves safe. When Roberto Malatesta and Federigo of Urbino died on
the same day (1482), the one at Rome, the other at Bologna, it was
found that each had recommended his State to the care of the other.
Against a class of men who themselves stuck at nothing, everything was
held to be permissible. Francesco Sforza, when quite young, had married
a rich Calabrian heiress, Polissella Ruffo, Countess of Montalto, who
bore him a daughter; an aunt poisoned both mother and child, and seized
the inheritance.

From the death of Piccinino onwards, the foundations of new States by
the Condottieri became a scandal not to be tolerated. The four great
Powers, Naples, Milan, the Papacy, and Venice, formed among themselves
a political equilibrium which refused to allow of any disturbance. In
the States of the Church, which swarmed with petty tyrants, who in part
were, or had been, Condottieri, the nephews of the Popes, since the
time of Sixtus IV, monopolized the right to all such undertakings. But
at the first sign of a political crisis, the soldiers of fortune
appeared again upon the scene. Under the wretched administration of
Innocent VIII it was near happening that a certain Boccalino, who had
formerly served in the Burgundian army, gave himself and the town of
Osimo, of which he was master, up to the Turkish forces; fortunately,
through the intervention of Lorenzo the Magnificent, he proved willing
to be paid off, and took himself away. In the year 1495, when the wars
of Charles VIII had turned Italy upside down, the Condottiere Vidovero,
of Brescia, made trial of his strength; he had already seized the town
of Cesena and murdered many of the nobles and the burghers; but the
citadel held out, and he was forced to withdraw. He then, at the head
of a band lent him by another scoundrel, Pandolfo Malatesta of Rimini,
son of the Roberto already spoken of, and Venetian Condottiere, wrested
the town of Castelnuovo from the Archbishop of Ravenna. The Venetians,
fearing that worse would follow, and urged also by the Pope, ordered
Pandolfo, 'with the kindest intentions,' to take an opportunity of
arresting his good friend: the arrest was made, though 'with great
regret,' whereupon the order came to bring the prisoner to the gallows.
Pandolfo was considerate enough to strangle him in prison, and then
show his corpse to the people. The last notable example of such
usurpers is the famous Castellan of Musso, who during the confusion in
the Milanese territory which followed the battle of Pavia (1525),
improvised a sovereignty on the Lake of Como.

The Smaller Despotisms

It may be said in general of the despotisms of the fifteenth century
that the greatest crimes are most frequent in the smallest States. In
these, where the family was numerous and all the members wished to live
in a manner befitting their rank, disputes respecting the inheritance
were unavoidable. Bernardo Varano of Camerino put (1434) two of his
brothers to death, wishing to divide their property among his sons.
Where the ruler of a single town was distinguished by a wise, moderate,
and humane government, and by zeal for intellectual culture, he was
generally a member of some great family, or politically [ dependent on
it. This was the case, for example, with Alessandro Sforza, Prince of
Pesaro, brother of the great Francesco, and stepfather of Federigo of
Urbino (d. 1473). Prudent in administration, just and affable in his
rule, he enjoyed, after ; years of warfare, a tranquil reign, collected
a noble library, and passed his leisure in learned or religious
conversation. A man of the same class was Giovanni II Bentivoglio of
Bologna (1463-1508), whose policy was determined by that of the Este
and the Sforza. What ferocity and bloodthirstiness is found, on the
other hand, among the Varani of Camerino, the Malatesta of Rimini, the
Manfreddi of Faenza, and above all among the Baglioni of Perugia. We
find a striking picture of the events in the last-named family towards
the close of the fifteenth century, in the admirable historical
narratives of Graziani and Matarazzo.

The Baglioni were one of those families whose rule never took the shape
of an avowed despotism. It was rather a leadership exercised by means
of their vast wealth and of their practical influence in the choice of
public officers. Within the family one man was recognized as head; but
deep and secret jealousy prevailed among the members of the different
branches. Opposed to the Baglioni stood another aristocratic party, led
by the family of the Oddi. In 1487 the city was turned into a camp, and
the houses of the leading citizens swarmed with bravos; scenes of
violence were of daily occurrence. At t he burial of a German student,
who had been assassinated, two colleges took arms against one another;
sometimes the bravos of the different houses even joined battle in the
public square. The complaints of the merchants and artisans were vain;
the Papal Governors and nipoti held their tongues, or took themselves
off on the first opportunity. At last the Oddi were forced to abandon
Perugia, and the city became a beleaguered fortress under the absolute
despotism of the Baglioni, who used even the cathedral as barracks.
Plots and surprises were met with cruel vengeance; in the year 1491
after 130 conspirators, who had forced their way into the city, were
killed and hung up at the Palazzo Communale, thirty-five altars were
erected in the square, and for three days mass was performed and
processions held, to take away the curse which rested on the spot. A
nipote of Innocent VIII was in open day run through in the street. A
nipote of Alexander VI, who was sent to smooth matters over, was
dismissed with public contempt. All the while the two leaders of the
ruling house, Guido and Ridolfo, were holding frequent interviews with
Suor Colomba of Rieti, a Dominican nun of saintly reputation and
miraculous powers, who under penalty of some great disaster ordered
them to make peace naturally in vain. Nevertheless the chronicle takes
the opportunity to point out the devotion and piety of the better men
in Perugia during this reign of terror. When in 1494 Charles VIII
approached, the Baglioni from Perugia and the exiles encamped in and
near Assisi conducted the war with such ferocity that every house in
the valley was levelled to the ground. The fields lay untilled. the
peasants were turned into plundering and murdering savages, the fresh-
grown bushes were filled with stags and wolves, and the beasts grew fat
on the bodies of the slain, on so-called 'Christian flesh.' When
Alexander VI withdrew (1495) into Umbria before Charles VIII, then
returning from Naples, it occurred to him, when at Perugia, that he
might now rid himself of the Baglioni once for all; he proposed to
Guido a festival or tournament, or something else of the same kind,
which would bring the whole family together. Guido, however, was of
opinion 'that the most impressive spectacle of all would be to see the
whole military force of Perugia collected in a body,' whereupon the
Pope abandoned his project. Soon after, the exiles made another attack
in which nothing but the personal heroism of the Baglioni won them the
victory. It was then that Simonetto Baglione, a lad of scarcely
eighteen, fought in the square with a handful of followers against
hundreds of the enemy: he fell at last with more than twenty wounds,
but recovered himself when Astorre Baglione came to his help, and
mounting on horseback in gilded amour with a falcon on his helmet,
'like Mars in bearing and in deeds, plunged into the struggle.'

At that time Raphael, a boy of twelve years of age, was at school under
Pietro Perugino. The impressions of these days are perhaps immortalized
in the small, early pictures of St. Michael and St. George: something
of them, it may be, lives eternally in the large painting of St.
Michael: and if Astorre Baglione has anywhere found his apotheosis, it
is in the figure of the heavenly horseman in the Heliodorus.

The opponents of the Baglioni were partly destroyed, partly scattered
in terror, and were henceforth incapable of another enterprise of the
kind. After a time a partial reconciliation took place, and some of the
exiles were allowed to return. But Perugia became none the safer or
more tranquil: the inward discord of the ruling family broke out in
frightful excesses. An opposition was formed against Guido and Ridolfo
and their sons Gianpaolo, Simonetto, Astorre, Gismondo, Gentile,
Marcantonio and others, by two great-nephews, Grifone and Carlo
Barciglia; the latter of the two was also nephew of Varano Prince of
Camerino, and brother-in-law of one of the former exiles, Gerolamo
della Penna. In vain did Simonetto, warned by sinister presentiment,
entreat his uncle on his knees to allow him to put Penna to death:
Guido refused. The plot ripened suddenly on the occasion of the
marriage of Astorre with Lavinia Colonna, at Midsummer, 1500. The
festival began and lasted several days amid gloomy forebodings, whose
deepening effect is admirably described by Matarazzo. Varano himself
encouraged them with devilish ingenuity: he worked upon Grifone by the
prospect of undivided authority, and by stories of an imaginary
intrigue of his wife Zenobia with Gianpaolo. Finally each conspirator
was provided with a victim. (The Baglioni lived all of them in separate
houses, mostly on the site of the pre sent castle.) Each received
fifteen of the bravos at hand; the remainder were set on the watch. In
the night of July 15 the doors were forced, and Guido, Astorre,
Simonetto, and Gismondo were murdered; the others succeeded in

As the corpse of Astorre lay by that of Simonetto in the street, the
spectators, 'and especially the foreign students,' compared him to an
ancient Roman, so great and imposing did he seem. In the features of
Simonetto could still be traced the audacity and defiance which death
itself had not tamed. The victors went round among the friends of the
family, and did their best to recommend themselves; they found all in
tears and preparing to leave for the country. Meantime the escaped
Baglioni collected forces without the city, and on the following day
forced their way in, Gianpaolo at their head, and speedily found
adherents among others whom Barciglia had been threatening with death.
When Grifone fell into their hands near Sant' Ercolano, Gianpaolo
handed him over for execution to his followers. Barciglia and Penna
fled to Varano, the chief author of the tragedy, at Camerino; and in a
moment, almost without loss, Gianpaolo became master of the city.

Atalanta, the still young and beautiful mother of Grifone, who the day
before had withdrawn to a country house with the latter's wife Zenobia
and two children of Gianpaolo, and more than once had repulsed her son
with a mother's curse, now returned with her daughter-in-law in search
of the dying man. All stood aside as the two women approached, each man
shrinking from being recognized as the slayer of Grifone, and dreading
the malediction of the mother. But they were deceived: she herself
besought her son to pardon him who had dealt the fatal blow, and he
died with her blessing. The eyes of the crowd followed the two women
reverently as they crossed the square with blood-stained garments. It
was Atalanta for whom Raphael afterwards painted the world-famous
'Deposition,' with which she laid her own maternal sorrows at the feet
of a yet higher and holier suffering.

The cathedral, in the immediate neighbourhood of which the greater part
of this tragedy had been enacted, was washed with wine and consecrated
afresh. The triumphal arch, erected for the wedding, still remained
standing, painted with the deeds of Astorre and with the laudatory
verses of the narrator of these events, the worthy Matarazzo.

A legendary history, which is simply the reflection of these
atrocities, arose out of the early days of the Baglioni. All the
members of this family from the beginning were reported to have died an
evil death twenty-seven on one occasion together; their houses were
said to have been once before levelled to the ground, and the streets
of Perugia paved with the bricks and more of the same kind. Under Paul
III the destruction of their palaces really took place.

For a time they seemed to have formed good resolutions, to have brought
their own party into power, and to have protected the public officials
against the arbitrary acts of the nobility. But the old curse broke out
again like a smoldering fire. In 1520 Gianpaolo was enticed to Rome
under Leo X, and there beheaded; one of his sons, Orazio, who ruled in
Perugia for a short time only, and by the most violent means, as the
partisan of the Duke of Urbino (himself threatened by the Pope), once
before repeated in his own family the horrors of the past. His uncle
and three cousins were murdered, whereupon the Duke sent him word that
enough had been done. His brother, Malatesta Baglione, the Florentine
general, has made himself immortal by the treason of 1530; and
Malatesta's son Ridolfo, the last of the house, attained, by the murder
of the legate and the public officers in the year 1534, a brief but
sanguinary authority. We shall meet again with the names of the rulers
of Rimini. Unscrupulousness, impiety, military skill, and high culture
have been seldom combined in one individual as in Sigismondo Malatesta
(d. 1467). But the accumulated crimes of such a family must at last
outweigh all talent, however great, and drag the tyrant into the abyss.
Pandolfo, Sigismondo's nephew, who has been mentioned already,
succeeded in holding his ground, for the sole reason that the Venetians
refused to abandon their Condottiere, whatever guilt he might be
chargeable with; when his subjects (1497), after ample provocation,
bombarded him in his castle at Rimini, and afterwards allowed him to
escape, a Venetian commissioner brought him back, stained as he was
with fratricide and every other abomination. Thirty years later the
Malatesta were penniless exiles. In the year 1527, as in the time of
Cesare Borgia, a sort of epidemic fell on the petty tyrants; few of
them outlived this date, and none to t heir own good. At Mirandola,
which was governed by insignificant princes of the house of Pico, lived
in the year 1533 a poor scholar, Lilio Gregorio Giraldi, who had fled
from the sack of Rome to the hospitable hearth of the aged Giovanni
Francesco Pico, nephew of the famous Giovanni; the discussions as to
the sepulchral monument which the prince was constructing f or himself
gave rise to a treatise, the dedication of which bears the date of
April of this year. The postscript is a sad one. In October of the same
year the unhappy prince was attacked in the night and robbed of life
and throne by his brother's son; and I myself escaped narrowly, and am
now in the deepest misery.'

A near-despotism, without morals or principles, such as Pandolfo
Petrucci exercised from after 1490 in Siena, then torn by faction, is
hardly worth a closer consideration. Insignificant and malicious, he
governed with the help of a professor of juris prudence and of an
astrologer, and frightened his people by an occasional murder. His
pastime in the summer months was to roll blocks of stone from the top
of Monte Amiata, without caring what or whom they hit. After
succeeding, where the most prudent failed, in escaping from the devices
of Cesare Borgia, he died at last forsaken and despised. His sons
maintained a qualified supremacy for many years afterwards.

The Greater Dynasties

In treating of the chief dynasties of Italy, it is convenient t discuss
the Aragonese, on account of its special character, apart from the
rest. The feudal system, which from the days of the Nor mans had
survived in the form of a territorial supremacy of the Barons, gave a
distinctive color to the political constitution of Naples; while
elsewhere in Italy, excepting only in the southern part of the
ecclesiastical dominion, and in a few other districts, a direct tenure
of land prevailed, and no hereditary powers were permitted by the law.
The great Alfonso, who reigned in Naples from 1435 onwards (d. 1458),
was a man of another kind than his real or alleged descendants.
Brilliant in his whole existence, fearless in mixing with his people,
dignified and affable in intercourse, admired rather than blamed even
for his old man's passion for Lucrezia d'Alagno, he had the one bad
quality of extravagance, from which, however, the natural consequence
followed. Unscrupulous financiers were long omnipotent at Court, till
the bankrupt king robbed them of their spoils; a crusade was preached
as a pretext for taxing the clergy; when a great earthquake happened in
the Abruzzi, the survivors were compelled to make good the
contributions of the dead. By such means Alfonso was able to entertain
distinguished guests with unrivalled splendor; he found pleasure in
ceaseless expense, even for the benefit of his enemies, and in
rewarding literary work knew absolutely no measure. Poggio received 500
pieces of gold for translating Xenophon's 'Cyropaedeia' into Latin.

Ferrante, who succeeded him, passed as his illegitimate son by a
Spanish lady, but was not improbably the son of a half-caste Moor of
Valencia. Whether it was his blood or the plots formed against his life
by the barons which embittered and darkened his nature, it is certain
that he was equalled in ferocity by none among the princes of his time.
Restlessly active, recognized as one of the most powerful political
minds of the day, and free from the vices of the profligate, he
concentrated all his powers, among which must be reckoned profound
dissimulation and an irreconcilable spirit of vengeance, on the
destruction of his opponents. He had been wounded in every point in
which a ruler is open to offence; for the leaders of the barons, though
related to him by marriage, were yet the allies of his foreign enemies.
Extreme measures became part of his daily policy. The means for this
struggle with his barons, and for his external wars, were exacted in
the same Mohammedan fashion which Frederick II had introduced: the
Government alone dealt in oil and corn; the whole commerce of the
country was put by Ferrante into the hands of a wealthy merchant,
Francesco Coppola, who had entire control of the anchorage on the
coast, and shared the profits with the King. Deficits were made up by
forced loans, by executions and confiscations, by open simony, and by
contributions levied on the ecclesiastical corporations. Besides
hunting, which he practiced regardless of all rights of property, his
pleasures were of two kinds: he liked to have his opponents near him,
either alive in well-guarded prisons, or dead and embalmed, dressed in
the costume which they wore in their lifetime. He would chuckle in
talking of the captives with his friends, and make no secret whatever
of the museum of mummies. His victims were mostly men whom he had got
into his power by treachery; some w ere even seized while guests at the
royal table. His conduct to his prime minister, Antonello Petrucci, who
had grown sick and grey in his service, and from whose increasing fear
of death he extorted 'present after present,' was literally devilish.
At length a suspicion of complicity with the last conspiracy of the
barons gave the pretext for his arrest and execution. With him died
Coppola. The way in which all this is narrated in Caracciolo and Porzio
makes one's hair stand on end.

The elder of the King's sons, Alfonso, Duke of Calabria, enjoyed in
later years a kind of co-regency with his father. He was a savage,
brutal profligate, who in point of frankness alone had the advantage of
Ferrante, and who openly avowed his contempt for religion and its
usages . The better and nobler features of the Italian despotisms are
not to be found among the princes of this line; all that they possessed
of the art and culture of their time served the purpose of luxury or
display. Even the genuine Spaniards seem to have almost always
degenerated in Italy; but the end of this cross-bred house (1494 and
1503) gives clear proof of a want of blood. Ferrante died of mental
care and trouble; Alfonso accused his brother Federigo, the only honest
member of the family, of treason, and insulted him in the vilest
manner. At length, though he had hitherto passed for one of the ablest
generals in Italy, he lost his head and fled to Sicily, leaving his
son, the younger Ferrante, a prey to the French and to domestic
treason. A dynasty which had ruled as this had done must at least have
sold its life dear, if its children were ever to hope for a
restoration. But, as Comines one-sidedly, and yet on the whole rightly
observes on this occasion, '_Jamais homme cruel ne fut hardi_': there
was never a more cruel man.

The despotism of the Dukes of Milan, whose government from the time of
Giangaleazzo onwards was an absolute monarchy of the most thorough-
going sort, shows the genuine Italian character of the fifteenth
century. The last of the Visconti Filippo Maria (1412-1447), is a
character of peculiar interest, and of which fortunately an admirable
description has been left us. What a man of uncommon gifts and high
position can be made by the passion of fear, is here shown with what
may be called a mathematical completeness. All the resources of the
State were devoted to the one end of securing his personal safety,
though happily his cruel egotism did not degenerate into a purposeless
thirst for blood. He lived in the Citadel of Milan, surrounded by
magnificent gardens, arbors, and lawns. For years he never set foot in
the city, making his excursions only in the country, where lay several
of his splendid castles; the flotilla which, drawn by the swiftest
horses, conducted him to them along canals constructed for the purpose,
was so arranged as to allow of the application of the most rigorous
etiquette. Whoever entered the citadel was watched by a hundred eyes;
it was forbidden even to stand at the window, lest signs should be
given to those without. All who were admitted among the personal
followers of the Prince were subjected to a series of the strictest
examinations; then, once accepted, were charged with the highest
diplomatic commissions, as well as with the humblest personal services
both in this Court being alike honorable. And this was the man who
conducted long and difficult wars, who dealt habitually with political
affairs of the first importance, and every day sent his
plenipotentiaries to all parts of Italy. His safety lay in the fact
that none of his servants trusted the others, that his Condottieri were
watched and misled by spies, and that the ambassadors and higher
officials were baffled and kept apart by artificially nourished
jealousies, and in particular by the device of coupling an honest man
with a knave. His inward faith, too, rested upon opposed and
contradictory systems; he believed in blind necessity, and in the
influence of the stars, and offering prayers at one and the same time
to helpers of every sort; he was a student of the ancient authors, as
well as of French tales of chivalry. And yet the same man, who would
never suffer death to be mentioned in his presence, and caused his
dying favorites to be removed from the castle, that no shadow might
fall on the abode of happiness, deliberately hastened his own death by
closing up a wound, and, refusing to be bled, died at last with dignity
and grace.

His son-in-law and successor, the fortunate Condottiere Francesco
Sforza (1450- 1466), was perhaps of all the Italians of the fifteenth
century the man most after the heart of his age. Never was the triumph
of genius and individual power more brilliantly displayed than in him;
and those who would recognize his merit were at least forced to
wonder at him as the spoilt child of fortune. The Milanese claimed it
openly as an honour to be governed by so distinguished a master; when
he entered the city the thronging populace bore him on horseback into
the cathedral, without giving him the chance to dismount. Let us listen
t o the balance-sheet of his life, in the estimate of Pope Pius II, a
judge in such matters: 'In the year 1459, when the Duke came to the
congress at Mantua, he was 60 (really 58) years old; on horseback he
looked like a young man; of a lofty and imposing figure, with serious
features, calm and affable in conversation, princely in his whole
bearing, with a combination of bodily and intellectual gifts unrivalled
in our time, unconquered on the field of battle - such was the man who
raised himself from a humble position to the control of an empire. His
wife was beautiful and virtuous, his children were like the angels of
heaven; he was seldom ill, and all his chief wishes were fulfilled. And
yet he was not without misfortune. His wife, out of jealousy, killed
his mistress; his old comrades and friends, Troilo and Brunoro,
abandoned him and went over to King Alfonso; another, Ciarpollone, he
was forced to hang for treason; he had to suffer it that his brother
Alessandro set the French upon him; one of his sons formed intrigues
against him, and was imprisoned; the March of Ancona, which he h ad won
in war, he lost again the same way. No man enjoys so unclouded a
fortune that he has not somewhere to struggle with adversity. He is
happy who has but few troubles.' With this negative definition of
happiness the learned Pope dismisses the reader. Had he been able to
see into the future, or been willing to stop and discuss the
consequences of an uncontrolled despotism, one pervading fact would not
have escaped his notice the absence of all guarantee for the future.
Those children, beautiful as angels, carefully and thoroughly educated
as they were, fell victims, when they grew up, to the corruption of a
measureless egotism. Galeazzo Maria (1466-1476), solicitous only of
outward effect, too k pride in the beauty of his hands, in the high
salaries he paid, in the financial credit he enjoyed, in his treasure
of two million pieces of gold, in the distinguished people who
surrounded him, and in the army and birds of chase which he maintained.
He was fond of the sound of his own voice, and spoke well, most
fluently, perhaps, when he had the chance of insulting a Venetian
ambassador. He was subject to caprices, such as having a room painted
with figures in a single night; and, what was worse, to fits of
senseless debauchery and of revolting cruelty to his nearest friends.
To a handful of enthusiasts, he seemed a tyrant too bad to live; they
murdered him, and thereby delivered the State into the power of his
brothers, one of whom, Lodovico il Moro, threw his nephew into prison,
and took the government into his own hands. From this usurpation
followed the French intervention, and the disasters which befell the
whole of Italy.

Lodovico Sforza, called 'il Moro,' the Moor, is the most perfect type
of the despot of that age, and, as a kind of natural product, almost
disarms our moral judgement. Notwithstanding the profound immorality of
the means he employed, he used them with perfect ingenuousness; no o ne
would probably have been more astonished than himself to learn that for
the choice of means as well as of ends a human being is
morally.responsible; he would rather have reckoned it as a singular
virtue that, so far as possible, he had abstained from too free a use
of the punishment of death. He accepted as no more than his due the
almost fabulous respect of the Italians for his political genius. In
1486 he boasted that the Pope Alexander was his chaplain, the Emperor
Maximilian his Condottiere, Venice his chamberlain, and the King of
France his courier, who must come and go at his bidding. With marvelous
presence of mind he weighed, even in his last extremity (1499), a
possible means of escape, and at length he decided, to his honour, to
trust to the goodness of human nature; he rejected the proposal of his
brother, the Cardinal Ascanio, who wished to remain in the Citadel of
Milan, on the ground of a former quarrel: 'Monsignore, take it not ill,
but I trust you not, brother though you be'; and appointed to the
command of the castle, 'that pledge of his return ,' a man to whom he
had always done good, but who nevertheless betrayed him. At home the
Moor was a good and useful ruler, and to the last he reckoned on his
popularity both in Milan and in Como. In later years (after 1496) he
had overstrained the resources of his State, and at Cremona had
ordered, out of pure expediency, a respectable citizen, who had spoken
again st the new taxes, to be quietly strangled. Since that time, in
holding audiences, he kept his visitors away from his person by means
of a bar, so that in conversing with him they were compelled to speak
at the top of their voices. At his court, the most brilliant in Europe,
since that of Burgundy had ceased to exist, immorality of the worst
kind was prevalent; the daughter was sold by the father, the wife by
the husband, the sister by the brother. The Prince himself was
incessantly active, and, as son of his own deeds, claimed relationship
with all who, like himself, stood on their personal merits with
scholars, poets, artists, and musicians. The academy which he founded 6
served rather for his own purposes than for the instruction of
scholars; nor was it the fame of the distinguished men who surrounded
him which he heeded, so much as their society and their services. It is
certain that Bramante was scantily paid at first; Leonardo, on the
other hand, was up to 1496 suitably remunerated and besides, what kept
him at the court, if not his own free will The world lay open to him,
as perhaps to no other mortal man of that day; and if proof were
wanting of the loftier element in the nature of Lodovico il Moro, it is
found in the long stay of the enigmatic master at his court. That
afterwards Leonardo entered the service of Cesare Borgia and Francis I
was probably due to the interest he felt in the unusual and striking
character of the two men.

After the fall of the Moor, his sons were badly brought up among
strangers. The elder, Massimiliano, had no resemblance to him; the
younger, Francesco, was at all events not without spirit. Milan, which
in those years changed its rulers so often, and suffered so unspeakably
in t he change, endeavored to secure itself against a reaction. In the
year 1512 the French, retreating before the arms of Maximilian and the
Spaniards, were induced to make a declaration that the Milanese had
taken no part in their expulsion, and, without being guilty of
rebellion, might yield themselves to a new conqueror. It is a f act of
some political importance that in such moments of transition the
unhappy city, like Naples at the flight of the Aragonese, was apt to
fall a prey to gangs of (often highly aristocratic) scoundrels.

The house of Gonzaga at Mantua and that of Montefeltro of Urbino were
among the best ordered and richest in men of ability during the second
half of the fifteenth century. The Gonzaga were a tolerably harmonious
family; for a long period no murder had been known among them, and
their dead could be shown to the world without fear.7 The Marquis
Francesco Gonzaga and his wife, Isabella of Este, in spite of some few
irregularities, were a united and respectable couple, and brought up
their sons to be successful and remarkable men at a time when their
small but most important State was exposed to incessant danger. That
Francesco, either as statesman or as soldier, should adopt a policy of
exceptional honesty, was what neither the Emperor, nor Venice, nor the
King of France could have expected or desired; but certainly since the
battle of the Taro (1495), so far as military honour was concerned, he
felt and acted as an Italian patriot, and imparted the same spirit to
his wife. Every deed of loyalty and heroism, such as the defence of
Faenza against Cesare Borgia, she felt as a vindication of the honour
of Italy. Our judgement of her does not need to rest on the praises of
the artists and writers who made the fair princess a rich return for
her patronage; her own letters show her to us as a woman of unshaken
firmness, full of kindliness and humorous observation. Bembo, Bandello,
Ariosto, and Bernardo Tasso sent their works to this court, small and
powerless as it was, and empty as they found its treasury. A more
polished and charming circle was not to be seen in Italy, since the
dissolution (1508) of the old Court of Urbino; and in one respect, in
freedom of movement, the society of Ferrara was inferior to that of
Mantua. In artistic matters Isabella had an accurate knowledge, and the
catalogue of her small but choice collection can be read by no lover of
art without emotion.

In the great Federigo (1444-1482), whether he were a genuine
Montefeltro or not, Urbino possessed a brilliant representative of the
princely order. As a Condottiere he shared the political morality of
soldiers of fortune, a morality of which the fault does not rest with
them alone; as ruler of his little territory he adopted the plan of
spending at home the money he had earned abroad, and taxing his people
as lightly as possible. Of him and his two successors, Guidobaldo and
Francesco Maria, we read: 'They erected buildings, furthered the
cultivation of the land, lived at home, and gave employment to a large
number of people: their subjects loved them.' But not only the State,
but the court too, was a work of art and organization, and this in
every sense of the word. Federigo had 500 persons in his service; the
arrangements of the court were as complete as in the capitals of the
greatest monarchs, but nothing was built quarters sprang up at the
bidding of the ruler: here, by the concentration of the official
classes and the active promotion of trade, was formed for the first
time a true capital; wealthy fugitives from all parts of Italy,
Florentines especially, settled and built their palaces at Ferrara. But
the indirect taxation, at all events, must have reached a point at
which it could only just be borne. The Government, it is true, took
measures of alleviation which were also adopted by other Italian
despots, such as Galeazzo Maria Sforza: in time of famine, corn was
brought from a distance and seems to have been distributed
gratuitously; but in ordinary times it compensated itself by the
monopoly, if not of corn, of many other of the necessaries of life
fish, salt, meat, fruit and vegetables, which last were carefully
planted on and ne ar the walls of the city. The most considerable
source of income, however, was the annual sale of public offices, a
usage which was common throughout Italy, and about the working of which
at Ferrara we have more precise information. We read, for example, that
at the new year 1502 the majority of the officials bought their places
at 'prezzi salati' (pungent prices); public servants of the most
various kinds, custom-house officers, bailiffs (massari), notaries,
'podesta,' judges, and even governors of provincial towns are quoted by
name. As one of the 'devourers of the people' who paid dearly for their
places, and who were 'hated worse than the devil,' Tito Strozza let us
hope not the famous Latin poet is mentioned. About the same time every
year the dukes were accustomed to make a round of visits in Ferrara,
the so-called 'andar per ventura,' in which they took presents from, at
any rate, the more wealthy citizens. The gifts, however, did not
consist of money, but of natural products.

It was the pride of the duke for all Italy to know that at Ferrara the
soldiers received their pay and the professors at the University their
salary not a day later than it was due; that the soldiers never dared
lay arbitrary hands on citizen or peasant; that the town was
impregnable to assault; and that vast sums of coined money were stored
up in the citadel. To keep two sets of accounts seemed unnecessary: the
Minister of Finance was at the same time manager of the ducal
household. The buildings erected by Borso (1430-1471), by Ercole I
(till 1505), and by Alfonso I (till 1534), were very numerous, but of
small size; they are characteristic of a princely house which, with all
its love of splendor Borso never appeared but in embroidery and jewels
indulged in no ill-considered expense. Alfonso may perhaps have
foreseen the fate which was in store for his charming little villas,
the Belvedere with its shady gardens, and Montana with its fountains
and beautiful frescoes.

It is undeniable that the dangers to which these princes were
constantly exposed developed in them capacities of a remarkable kind.
In so artificial a world only a man of consummate address could hope to
succeed; each candidate for distinction was forced to make good his
claims by personal merit and show himself worthy of the crown he
sought. Their characters are not without dark sides; but in all of them
lives something of those qualities which Italy then pursued as its
ideal. What European monarch of the time labored for his own culture
as, for instance, Alfonso I? His travels in France, England, and the
Netherlands we re undertaken for the purpose of study: by means of them
he gained an accurate knowledge of the industry and commerce of these
countries. It is ridiculous to reproach him with the turner's work
which he practiced in his leisure hours, connected as it was with his
skill in the casting of cannon, and with the unprejudiced freedom with
which he surrounded himself by masters of every art. The Italian
princes were not, like their contemporaries in the North, dependent on
the society of an aristocracy which held itself to be the only class
worth consideration, and which infected the monarch with the same
conceit. In Italy the prince was permitted and compelled to know and to
use men of every grade in society; and the nobility, though by birth a
caste, were forced in social intercourse to stand up on their personal
qualifications alone. But this is a point which we shall discuss more
fully in the sequel. The feeling of the Ferrarese towards the ruling
house was a strange compound of silent dread, of the truly Italian
sense of well-calculated interest, and of the loyalty of the modern
subject: personal admiration was transferred into a new sentiment of
duty. The city of Ferrara raised in 1451 a bronze equestrian statue to
their Prince Niccolo, who had died ten years earlier; Borso (1454) did
not scruple to place his own statue, also of bronze, but in a sitting
posture, hard by in the market; in addition to which the city, at the
beginning of his reign, decreed to him a 'marble triumphal pillar .' A
citizen who, when abroad in Venice, had spoken ill of Borso in public,
was informed against on his return home, and condemned to banishment
and the confiscation of his goods; a loyal subject was with difficulty
restrained from cutting him down before the tribunal itself, and with a
rope round his neck the offender went to the duke and begged for a full
pardon. The government was well provided with spies, and the duke
inspected personally the daily list of travellers which the innkeepers
were strictly ordered to present. Under Borso, who was anxious to leave
no distinguished stranger unhonored, this regulation served a
hospitable purpose; Ercole I used it simply as a measure of precaution.
In Bologna, too, it was then the rule, under Giovanni II Bentivoglio,
that every passing traveller who entered at one gate must obtain a
ticket in order to go out at another. An unfailing means of popularity
was the sudden dismissal of oppressive officials. When Borso arrested
in person his chief and confidential counsellors, when Ercole I removed
and disgraced a tax-gatherer who for years had been sucking the blood
of the people, bonfires were lighted and the bells were pealed in their
honour. With one of his servants, however, Ercole let things go too
far. The director of the police, or by whatever name we should choose
to call him (Capitano di Giustizia), was Gregorio Zampante of Lucca, a
native being unsuited for an office of this kind. Even the sons and
brothers of the duke trembled before this man; the fines he inflicted
amounted to hundreds and thousands of ducats, and torture was applied
even before the hearing of a case: bribes were accepted from wealthy
criminals, and their pardon obtained from the duke by false
representations. Gladly would the people have paid any sum to their
ruler for sending away the 'enemy of God and man.' But Ercole had
knighted him and made him godfather to his children; and year by year
Zampante laid by 2,000 ducats. He dared only eat pigeons bred in his
own house, and could not cross the street without a band of archers and
bravos. It was time to get rid of him; in 1496 two students, and a
converted Jew whom he had mortally offended, killed him in his house
while taking his siesta, and then rode through the town on horses held
in waiting, raising the cry, 'Come out! come out! we have slain
Zampante!' The pursuers came too late, and found them already safe
across the frontier. Of course it now rained satires some of them in
the form of sonnets, others of odes.

It was wholly in the spirit of this system that the sovereign imposed
his own respect for useful servants on the court and on the people.
When in 1469 Borso's privy councillor Lodovico Casella died, no court
of law or place of business in the city, and no lecture-room at the
University, was allowed to be open: all had to follow the body to San
Domenico, since the duke intended to be present. And, in fact, 'the
first of the house of Este who attended the corpse of a subject'
walked, clad in black, after the coffin, weeping, while behind him came
the relatives of Casella, each conducted by one of the gentlemen of the
court: the body of the plain citizen was carried by nobles from the
church into the cloister, where it was buried. Indeed this official
sympathy with princely emotion first came up in the Italian States. At
the root of the practice may be a beautiful, humane sentiment; the
utterance of it, especially in the poets, is, as a rule, of equivocal
sincerity. One of the youthful poems of Ariosto, on the Death of
Leonora of Aragon, wife of Ercole I, contains besides the inevitable
graveyard flowers, which are scattered in the elegies of all ages, some
thoroughly modern features: This death had given Ferrara a blow which
it would not get over for years: its benefactress was now its advocate
in heaven, since earth was not worthy of her; truly the angel of Death
did not come to her, as to us common mortals, with blood-stained
scythe, but fair to behold (onesta), and with so kind a face that every
fear was allayed.' But we meet, also, with sympathy of a different
kind. Novelists, depending wholly on the favour of their patrons, tell
us the love stories of the prince, even before his death, in a way
which, to later times, would seem the height of indiscretion, but which
then passed simply as an innocent compliment. Lyrical poets even went
so far as to sing the illicit flames of their lawfully married lords,
e.g. Angelo Poliziano, those of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and Gioviano
Pontano, with a singular gusto, those of Alfonso of Calabria. The poem
in question betrays unconsciously the odious disposition of the
Aragonese ruler; in these things too, he must needs be the most
fortunate, else woe be to those who are more successful! That the
greatest artists, for example Leonardo, should paint the mistresses of
their patrons was no more than a matter of course.

But the house of Este was not satisfied with the praises of others; it
undertook to celebrate itself. In the Palazzo Schifanoia Borso caused
himself to be painted in a series of historical representations, and
Ercole (from 1472 on) kept the anniversary of his accession to the
throne by a procession which was compared to the feast of Corpus
Christi; shops were closed as on Sunday; in the centre of the line
walked all the members of the princely house (bastards included) clad
in embroidered robes. That the crown was the fountain of honour and
authority, that all personal distinction flowed from it alone, had been
long expressed at this court by the Order of the Golden Spur, an order
which had nothing in common with medieval chivalry. Ercole I added to
the spur a sword, a goldlaced mantle, and a grant of money, in return
for which there is no doubt that regular service was required.

The patronage of art and letters for which this court has obtained a
world-wide reputation, was exercised through the University, which was
one of the most perfect in Italy, and by the gift of places in the
personal or official service of the prince; it involved consequently no
additional expense. Boiardo, as a wealthy country gentleman and high
official, belonged to this class. At the time when Ariosto began to
distinguish himself, there existed no court, in the true sense of the
word, either at Milan or Florence, and soon there was none either at
Urbino or at Naples. He had to content himself with a place among the
musicians and jugglers of Cardinal Ippolito till Alfonso took him into
his service. It was otherwise at a later time with Torquato Tasso,
whose presence at court was jealously sought after.

The Opponents of the Despots

In face of this centralized authority, all legal opposition within the
borders of the State was futile. The elements needed for the
restoration of a republic had been for ever destroyed, and the field
prepared for violence and despotism. The nobles, destitute of political
rights, even where they held feudal possessions, might call themselves
Guelphs or Ghibellines at will, might dress up their bravos in padded
hose and feathered caps or how else they pleased; thoughtful men like
Machiavelli knew well enough that Milan and Naples were too 'corrupt'
for a republic. Strange judgements fell on these two so-called parties,
which now served only to give official sanction to personal and f
family disputes.

An Italian prince, whom Agrippa of Nettesheim advised to put them down,
replied that their quarrels brought him in more than 12,000 ducats a
year in fines. And when in the year 1500, during the brief return of
Lodovico il Moro to his States, the Guelphs of Tortona summoned a part
of the neighbouring French army into the city, in order to make an end
once for all of their opponents, the French certainly began by
plundering and ruining the Ghibellines, but finished by doing the same
to the Guelphs, till Tortona was utterly laid waste. In Romagna, the
hotbed of every ferocious passion, these two names had long lost all
political meaning. It was a sign of the political delusion of the
people that they not seldom believed the Guelphs to be the natural
allies of the French and the Ghibellines of the Spaniards. It is hard
to see that those who tried to profit by this error got much by doing
so. France, after all her interventions, had to abandon the peninsula
at last, and what became of Spain, after she had destroyed Italy, is
known to every reader.

But to return to the despots of the Renaissance. A pure and simple
mind, we might think, would perhaps have argued that, since all power
is derived from God, these princes, if they were loyally and honestly
supported by all their subjects, must in time themselves improve and
los e all traces of their violent origin. But from characters and
imaginations inflamed by passion and ambition, reasoning of this kind
could not be expected. Like bad physicians, they thought to cure the
disease by removing the symptoms, and fancied that if the tyrant were
put to death, freedom would follow of itself. Or else, without
reflecting even to this extent, they sought only to give a vent to the
universal hatred, or to take vengeance for some family misfortune or
personal affront. Since the governments were absolute, and free from
all legal restraints, the opposition chose its weapons with equal
freedom. Boccaccio declares openly: 'Shall I call the tyrant king or
prince, and obey him loyally as my lord? No, for he is the enemy of the
commonwealth. Against him I may use arms, conspiracies, spies, ambushes
and fraud; to do so is a sacred and necessary work. There is no more
acceptable sacrifice than the blood of a tyrant.' We need not occupy
ourselves with individual cases; Machiavelli, in a famous chapter of
his 'Discorsi,' treats of the conspiracies of ancient and modern times
from the days of the Greek tyrants downwards, and classifies them with
cold-blooded indifference according to their various plans and results.
We need make but two observations, first on the murders committed in
church, and next on the influence of classical antiquity. So well was
the tyrant guarded that it was almost impossible to lay hands upon him
elsewhere than at solemn religious services; and on no other occasion
was the whole family to be found assembled together. It was thus that
the Fabrianese murdered (1435) the members of their ruling house, the
Chiavelli, during high mass, the signal being given by the words of the
Creed, 'Et incarnatus est.' At Milan the Duke Giovan Maria Visconti
(1412) was assassinated at the entrance of the church of San Gottardo
Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1476) in the church of Santo Stefano, and
Lodovico il Moro only escaped (1484) the daggers of the adherents of
the widowed Duchess Bona, through entering the church of Sant' Ambrogio
by another door than that by which he was expected. There was no
intentional impiety in the act; the assassins of Galeazzo did not fail
to pray before the murder to the patron saint of the church, and to
listen devoutly to the first mass. It was, however, one cause of the
partial failure of the conspiracy of the Pazzi against Lorenzo and
Giuliano Medici (1478), that the brigand Montesecco, who had bargained
to commit the murder at a banquet, declined to undertake it in the
Cathedral of Florence. Certain of the clergy 'who were familiar with
the sacred place, and consequently had no fear' were induced to act in
his stead.

As to the imitation of antiquity, the influence of which on moral, and
more especially on political, questions we shall often refer to, the
example was set by the rulers themselves, who, both in their conception
of the State and in their personal conduct, took t he old Roman empire
avowedly as their model. In like manner their opponents, when they set
to work with a deliberate theory, took pattern by the ancient
tyrannicides. It may be hard to prove that in the main point in forming
the resolve itself they consciously followed a classical example; but
the appeal to antiquity was no mere phrase. The most striking
disclosures have been left us with respect to the murderers of Galeazzo
Sforza, Lampugnani, Olgiati, and Visconti. Though all three had
personal ends to serve, yet their enterprise may be partly ascribed to
a more general reason. About this time Cola de' Montani, a humanist and
professor of eloquence, had awakened among many of the young Milanese
nobility a vague passion for glory and patriotic achievements, and had
mentioned to Lampugnani and Olgiati his hope of delivering Milan.
Suspicion was soon aroused against him: he was banished from the city,
and his pupils were abandoned to the fanaticism he had excited. Some
ten days before the deed they met together and took a solemn oath in
the monastery of Sant' Ambrogio. 'Then,' says Olgiati, 'in a remote
corner I raised my eyes before the picture of the patron saint, and
implored his help for ourselves and for all h* people.' The heavenly
protector of the city was called on to bless the undertaking, as was
afterwards St. Stephen, in whose church it was fulfilled. Many of their
comrades were now informed of the plot, nightly meetings were held in
the house of Lampugnani, and the conspirators practiced for the murder
with the sheaths of their daggers. The attempt was successful, but
Lampugnani was killed on the spot by the attendants of the duke; the
others were captured: Visconti was penitent, but Olgiati through all
his tortures maintained that the deed was an acceptable offering to
God, and exclaimed while the executioner was breaking his ribs,
'Courage, Girolamo! thou wilt long be remembered; death is bitter, but
glory is eternal.'

But however idealistic the object and purpose of such conspiracies may
appear, the manner in which they were conducted betrays the influence
of that worst of all conspirators, Catiline, a man in whose thoughts
freedom had no place whatever. The annals of Siena tell us expressly
that the conspirators were students of Sallust, and the fact is
indirectly confirmed by the confession of Olgiati. Elsewhere, too, we
meet with the name of Catiline, and a more attractive pattern of the
conspirator, apart from the end he followed, could hardly be

Among the Florentines, whenever they got rid of, or tried to get rid
of, the Medici, tyrannicide was a practice universally accepted and
approved. After the flight of the Medici in 1494, the bronze group of
Donatello Judith with the dead Holofernes was taken from their
collection and placed before the Palazzo della Signoria, on the spot
where the 'David' of Michelangelo now stands, with the inscription,
'Exemplum salutis publicae cives posuere 1495. No example was more
popular than that of the younger Brutus, who, in Dante, lies with
Cassius and Judas Iscariot in the lowest pit of hell, because of his
treason to the empire. Pietro Paolo Boscoli, whose plot against
Giuliano, Giovanni, and Giulio Medici failed (1513), was an
enthusiastic admirer of Brutus, and in order to follow his steps, only
waited to find a Cassius. Such a partner he met with in Agostino
Capponi. His last utterances in prison a striking evidence of the
religious feeling of the time show with what an effort he rid his mind
of these classical imaginations, in order to die like a Christian. A
friend and the confessor both had to assure him that St. Thomas Aquinas
condemned conspirators absolutely; but the confessor afterwards
admitted to the same friend that St. Thomas drew a distinction and
permitted conspiracies against a tyrant who bad forced himself on a
people against their will.

After Lorenzino Medici had murdered the Duke Alessandro (1537), and
then escaped, an apology for the deed appeared,8 which is probably his
own work, and certainly composed in his interest, and in which he
praises tyrannicide as an act of the highest merit; on the supposition
that Alessandro was a legitimate Medici, and, therefore, related to
him, if only distantly, he boldly compares himself with Timoleon, who
slew his brother for his country's sake. Others, on the same occasion,
made use of the comparison with Brutus, and that Michelangelo himself,
even late in life, was not unfriendly to ideas of this kind, may be
inferred from his bust of Brutus in the Bargello. He left it
unfinished, like nearly all his works, but certainly not because the
murder of Caesar was repugnant to his feeling, as the couplet beneath

A popular radicalism in the form in which it is opposed to the
monarchies of later times, is not to be found in the despotic States of
the Renaissance. Each individual protested inwardly against despotism
but was disposed to make tolerable or profitable terms with it rather
than to combine with others for its destruction. Things must have been
as bad as at Camerino, Fabriano, or Rimini, before the citizens united
to destroy or expel the ruling house. They knew in most cases only too
well that this would but mean a change of masters. The star of the
Republics was certainly on the decline.

The Republics: Venice and Florence

The Italian municipalities had, in earlier days, given signal proof of
that force which transforms the city into the State. It remained only
that these cities should combine in a great confederation; and this
idea was constantly recurring to Italian statesmen, whatever
differences of form it might from time to time display. In fact, during
the struggles of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, great and
formidable leagues actually were formed by the cities; and Sismondi is
of opinion that the time of the final armaments of the Lombard
confederation against Barbarossa (from 1168 on) was the moment when a
universal Italian league was possible. But the more powerful States had
already developed characteristic features which made any such scheme
impracticable. In their commercial dealings they shrank from no
measures, however extreme, which might damage their competitors; they
held their weaker neighbors in a condition of helpless dependence in
short, they each fancied they could get on by themselves without the
assistance of the r est, and thus paved the way for future usurpation.
The usurper was forthcoming when long conflicts between the nobility
and the people, and between the different factions of the nobility, had
awakened the desire for a strong government, and when bands of
mercenaries ready and willing to sell their aid to the highest bidder
had superseded the general levy of the citizens which party leaders now
found unsuited to their purposes. The tyrants destroyed the freedom of
most of the cities; here and there they were expelled, but not
thoroughly, or only for a short time; and they were always restored,
since the inward conditions were favourable to them, and the opposing
forces were exhausted.

Among the cities which maintained their independence are two of deep
significance for the history of the human race: Florence, the city of
incessant movement, which has left us a record of the thoughts and
aspirations of each and all who, for three centuries, took part in this
movement, and Venice, the city of apparent stagnation and of political
secrecy. No contrast can be imagined stronger than that which is
offered us by these two, and neither can be compared to anything else
which the world has hitherto produced.

Venice recognized itself from the first as a strange and mysterious
creation the fruit of a higher power than human ingenuity. The solemn
foundation of the city was the subject of a legend: on March 25, 1413,
at midday, emigrants from Padua laid the first stone at the Rialto,
that they might have a sacred, inviolable asylum amid the devastations
of the barbarians. Later writers attributed to the founders the
presentiment of the future greatness of the city; M. Antonio Sabellico,
t who has celebrated the event in the dignified flow of his hexameters,
makes the priest who completes the act of consecration cry to heaven,
'When we hereafter attempt great things, S grant us prosperity! Now we
kneel before a poor altar; but if [ our vows are not made in vain, a
hundred temples, O God, of 6 gold a nd marble shall arise to Thee.' The
island city at the end [' of the fifteenth century was the jewel-casket
of the world. It ; is so described by the same Sabellico, with its
ancient cupolas, [ its leaning towers, its inlaid marble facades, its
compressed k splendor, where the richest decoration did not hinder the
y practical employment of every corner of space. He takes us to the
crowded Piazza before San Giacometto at the Rialto, where the business
of the world is transacted, not amid shouting and confusion, but with
the subdued bum of many voices; where in the porticoes round the square
and in those of the adjoining streets sit hundreds of money changers
and goldsmiths, with endless rows of shops and warehouses above their
heads. He describes the great Fondaco of the Germans beyond the bridge,
where their goods and their dwellings lay, and before which their ships
are drawn up side by side in the canal; higher up is a whole fleet
laden with wine and oil, and parallel with i t, on the shore swarming
with porters, are the vaults of the merchants; then from the Rialto to
the square of St. Mark come the inns and the perfumers' cabinets. So he
conducts the reader from one quarter of the city to another till he
comes at last to the two hospitals, which were among those institutions
of public utility nowhere so numerous as at Venice. Care for the
people, in peace as well as in war, was characteristic of this
government, and its attention to the wounded, even to those of the
enemy, excited the admiration of other States.

Public institutions of every kind found in Venice their pattern; the
pensioning of retired servants was carried out systematically, and
included a provision for widows and orphans. Wealth, political
security, and acquaintance with other countries, had matured the
understanding of such questions. These slender fair- haired men, with
quiet cautious steps and deliberate speech, differed but slightly in
costume and bearing from one another; ornaments, especially pearls,
were reserved for the women and girls. At that time the general
prosperity, notwithstanding the losses sustained from the Turks, was
still dazzling; the stores of energy which the city possessed, and the
prejudice in its favour diffused throughout Europe, enabled it at a
much later time to survive the heavy blows inflicted upon it by the
discovery of the sea route to the Indies, by the fall of the Mamelukes
in Egypt, and by the war of the League of Cambrai.

Sabellico, born in the neighbourhood of Tivoli, and accustomed to the
frank loquacity of the scholars of his day, remarks elsewhere with some
astonishment, that the young nobles who came of a morning to hear his
lectures could not be prevailed upon to enter into political
discussions: 'When I ask them what people think, say, and expect about
this or that movement in Italy, they all answer with one voice that
they know nothing about the matter.' Still, in spite of the strict
imposition of the State, much was to be learned from the more corrupt
members of the aristocracy by those who were willing to pay enough for
it. In the last quarter of the fifteenth century there were traitors
among the highest officials; the popes, the Italian princes, and even
the second-rate Condottieri in the service of the government had
informers in their pay, sometimes with regular salaries; things went so
far that the Council of Ten found it prudent to conceal important
political news from the Council of the Pregadi, and it was even
supposed that Lodovico il Moro had control of a definite number of
votes among the latter. Whether the hanging of single offenders and the
high rewards such as a life-pension of sixty ducats paid to those who
informed against them were of much avail, it is hard to decide; one of
the chief causes of this evil, the poverty of many of the nobility,
could not be removed in a day. In the year 1492 a proposal was urged by
two of that order, that the State should spend 70,000 ducats for the
relief of those poorer nobles who held no public office; the matter was
near coming before the Great Council, in which it might have had a
majority, when the Council of Ten interfered in time and banished the
two proposers for life to Nicosia in Cyprus. About this time a Soranzo
was hanged, though not in Venice itself, for sacrilege, and a Contarini
put in chains for burglary; another of the same family came in 1499
before the Signory, and complained that for many years he had been
without an office, that he had only sixteen ducats a year and nine
children, that his debts amounted to sixty ducats, that he knew no
trade and had lately been turned into the streets. We can understand
why some of the wealthier nobles built houses, sometimes whole rows of
them, to provide free lodging for their needy comrades. Such works
figure in wills among deeds of charity.

But if the enemies of Venice ever founded serious hopes upon abuses of
this kind, they were greatly in error. It might be thought that the
commercial activity of the city, which put within reach of the humblest
a rich reward for their labor, and the colonies on the eastern shores
of the Mediterranean would have diverted from political affairs the
dangerous elements of society. But had not the political history of
Genoa, notwithstanding similar advantages, been of the stormiest? The
cause of the stability of Venice lies rather in a combination of
circumstances which were found in union nowhere else. Unassailable from
its position, it had been able from the beginning to treat of foreign
affairs with the fullest and calmest reflection, and ignore nearly
altogether the parties which divided the rest of Italy, to escape the
entanglement of permanent alliances, and to set the highest price on
those which it thought fit to make. The keynote of the Venetian
character was, consequently, a spirit of proud and contemptuous
isolation, which, joined to the hatred felt for the city by the other
States of Italy, gave rise to a strong sense of solidarity within The
inhabitants meanwhile were united by the most powerful ties of interest
in dealing both with the colonies and with the possessions on the
mainland, forcing the population of the latter, that is, of all the
towns up to Bergamo, to buy and sell in Venice alone. A power which
rested on means so artificial could only be maintained by internal
harmony and unity; and this conviction was so widely diffused among the
citizens that conspirators found few elements to work upon. And the
discontented, if there were such, were held so far apart by the
division between the noble and the burgher that a mutual understanding
was not easy. On the other hand, within the ranks of the nobility
itself, travel, commercial enterprise, and tb^ incessant wars with the
Turks saved the wealthy and dangerous from that fruitful source of
conspiracies idleness. In these wars they were spared, often to a
criminal extent, by the general in command, and the fall of the city
was predicted by a Venetian Cato, if this fear of the nobles 'to give o
ne another pain' should continue at the expense of justice.
Nevertheless this free movement in the open air gave the Venetian
aristocracy, as a whole, a healthy bias.

And when envy and ambition called for satisfaction, an official victim
was forthcoming and legal means and authorities were ready. The moral
torture which for years the Doge Francesco Foscari (d. 1457) suffered
before the eyes of all Venice is a frightful example of a vengeance
possible only in an aristocracy. The Council of Ten, which had a hand
in everything, which disposed without appeal of life and death, of S
financial affairs and military appointments, which included the
Inquisitors among its number, and which overthrew Foscari, as it had
overthrown so many powerful men before this Council was yearly chosen
afresh from the whole governing body, the Gran Consiglio, and was
consequently the most direct expression of its will. It is not probable
that serious intrigues occurred at these elections, as the short
duration of the office and the accountability which followed rendered
it an object of no great desire. But violent and mysterious as the
proceedings of this and other authorities might be, the genuine
Venetian courted rather than fled their sentence, not only because the
Republic had long arms, and if it could not catch him might punish his
family, but because in most cases it acted from rational motives and
not from a thirst for blood. No State, indeed, has ever exercised a
greater moral influence over its subjects, whether abroad or at home.
If traitors were to be found among the Pregadi, there was ample
compensation for this in the fact that every Venetian away from home
was a born spy for his government. It was a matter of course that the
Venetian cardinals at Rome sent home news of the transactions of the
secret papal consistories. The Cardinal Domenico Grimani had the
dispatches intercepted in the neighbourhood of Rome (1500) which
Ascanio Sforza was sending to his brother Lodovico il Moro, and
forwarded them to Venice; his father, then exposed to a serious
accusation, claimed public credit for this service of his son before
the Gran Consiglio, in other words, before all the world.

The conduct of the Venetian government to the Condottieri in its pay
has been spoken of already. The only further guarantee of their
fidelity which could be obtained lay in their great number, by which
treachery was made as difficult as its discovery was easy. In looking
at the Venetian army list, one is only surprised that among forces of
such miscellaneous composition any common action was possible. In the
catalogue for the campaign of 1495 we find 15,526 horsemen, broken up
into a number of small divisions. Gonzaga of Mantua alone had as many
as I,200, and Gioffredo Borgia 740; then follow six officers with a
contingent of 600 to 700, ten with 400, twelve with 400 to 200,
fourteen or thereabouts with 200 to 100, nine with 80, six with 50 to
60, and so forth. These forces were partly composed of old Venetian
troops, partly of veterans led by Venetian city or country nobles; the
majority of the leaders were, however, princes and rulers of cities or
their relatives. To these forces must be added 24,000 infantry we are
not told how they were raised or commanded with 3,300 additional
troops, who probably belonged to the special services. In time of peace
the cities of the mainland were wholly unprotected or occupied by
insignificant garrisons. Venice relied, if not exactly on the loyalty,
at least on the good sense of its subjects; in the war of the League of
Cambrai (1509) it absolved them, as is well known, from their oath of
allegiance, and let them compare the amenities of a foreign occupation
with the mild government to which they had been accustomed. As there
had been no treason in their desertion of St. Mark, and consequently no
punishment was to be feared, they returned to their old masters with
the utmost eagerness. This war, we may remark parenthetically, was the
result of a century's outcry against the Venetian desire for
aggrandizement. The Venetians, in fact, were not free from the mistake
of those over-clever people who will credit their opponents with no
irrational and inconsiderate conduct. Misled by this optimism, which
is, perhaps, a peculiar weakness of aristocracies, they had utterly
ignored not only the preparations of Mohammed II for the capture of
Constantinople, but even the armaments of Charles VIII, till the
unexpected blow fell at last. The League of Cambrai was an event of the
same character, in so far as it was clearly opposed to the interests of
the two chief members, Louis XII and Julius II. The hatred of all Italy
against t}e victorious city seemed to be concentrated in the mind of
the Pope, and to have blinded him to the evils of foreign intervention;
and as to the policy of Cardinal d'Amboise and his king, Venice ought
long before to have recognized it as a piece of malicious imbecility,
and to have been thoroughly on its guard. The other members of the
League took part in it from that envy which may be a salutary
corrective to great wealth and power, but which in itself is a beggarly
sentiment. Venice came out of the conflict with honour, but not without
lasting damage.

A power whose foundations were so complicated, whose activity and
interests filled so wide a stage, cannot be imagined without a
systematic oversight of the whole, without a regular estimate of means
and burdens, of profits and losses. Venice can fairly make good its
claim to be the birthplace of statistical science, together, perhaps,
with Florence, and followed by the more enlightened despotisms. The
feudal state of the Middle Ages knew of nothing more than catalogues of
seignorial rights and possessions (urbaria); it looked on production as
a fixed quantity, which it approximately is, so long as we have to do
with landed property only. The towns, on the other hand, throughout the
West must from very early times have treated production, which with
them depended on industry and commerce, as exceedingly variable; but
even in the most flourishing times of the Hanseatic League, they never
got beyond a simple commercial balance-sheet. Fleets, armies, political
power and influence fall under the debit and credit of a trader's
ledger. In the Italian States a clear political consciousness, the
pattern of Mohammedan administration, and the long and active exercise
of trade and commerce, combined to produce for the first time a true
science of statistics. The absolute monarchy of Frederick II in Lower
Italy was organized with the sole object of securing a concentrated
power for the death struggle in which he was engaged. In Venice, on the
contrary, the supreme objects were the enjoyment of life and power, the
increase of inherited advantages, the creation of the most lucrative
forms of industry. and the opening of new channels for commerce.

The writers of the time speak of these things with the greatest
freedom. We learn that the population of the city amounted in the year
1422 to 190,000 souls; the Italians were, perhaps, the first to reckon,
not according to hearths, or men able to bear arms, or people able to
walk, and so forth, but according to 'animae,' and thus to get the most
neutral basis for further calculation. About this time, when the
Florentines wished to form an alliance with Venice against Filippo
Maria Visconti, they were for the moment refused, in the belief,
resting on accurate commercial returns, that a war between Venice and
Milan, that is, between seller and buyer, was foolish. Even if the duke
simply increased his army, the Milanese, through the heavier taxation
they must pay, would become worse customers. 'Better let the
Florentines be defeated, and then, used as they are to the life of a
free city, they will settle with us and bring their silk and woollen
industry with them, as the Lucchese did in their distress.' The speech
of the dying Doge Mocenigo (1423) to a few of the senators whom he had
sent for to his bedside is still more remarkable. It contains the chief
elements of a statistical account of the whole resources of Venice. I
cannot say whether or where a thorough elucidation of this perplexing
document exists; by way of illustration, the following facts may be
quoted. After repaying a war-loan of four million ducats, the public
debt ('il monte') still amounted to six million ducats; the current
trade (it seems) to ten millions, which yielded, the text informs us, a
profit of four millions. The 3,000 'navigli,' the 300 'navi,' and the
45 galleys were manned respectively by 17,000, 8,000 and 11,000 seamen
(more than 200 for each galley). To these must be added 16,000
shipwrights. The houses in Venice were valued at seven millions, and
brought in a rent of half a million. These were 1,000 nobles whose
incomes ranged from 70 to 4,000 ducats. In another passage the ordinary
income of the State in that same year is put at 1,100,000 ducats;
through the disturbance of trade caused by the wars it sank about the
middle of the century to 800,000 ducats.

If Venice, by this spirit of calculation, and by the practical turn
which she gave it, was the first fully to represent one important side
of modern political life, in that culture, on the other hand, which
Italy then prized most highly she did not stand in the front rant. The
literary impulse, in general, was here wanting, and especially that
enthusiasm for classical antiquity which prevailed elsewhere. The
aptitude of the Venetians, says Sabellico, for philosophy and eloquence
was in itself not smaller than that for commerce and politics. George
of Trebizond, who, in 1459, laid the Latin translation of Plato's Laws
at the feet of the Doge, was appointed professor of philology with a
yearly salary of 150 ducats, and finally dedicated his 'Rhetoric' to
the Signoria. If, however, we look through the history of Venetian
literature which Francesco Sansovino has appended to his well-known
book, we shall find in the fourteenth century almost nothing but
history, and special works on theology, jurisprudence, and medicine;
and in the fifteenth century, till we come to Ermolao Barbaro and Aldo
Manuzio, humanistic culture is, for a city of such importance, most
scantily represented. The library which Cardinal Bessarion bequeathed
to the State (1468) narrowly escaped dispersion and destruction.
Learning could be had at the University of Padua, where, however,
physicians and jurists the latter for their opinion on points of law
received by far the highest pay. The share of Venice in the poetical
creations of the country was long insignificant, till, at the beginning
of the sixteenth century, her deficiencies were made good. Even the art
of the Renaissance was imported into the city from without, and it was
not before the end of the fifteenth century that she learned to move in
this field with independent freedom and strength. But we find more
striking instances still of intellectual backwardness. This Government,
which had the clergy so thoroughly in its control, which reserved to
itself the appointment to all important ecclesiastical offices, and
which, one time after another, dared to defy the court of Rome,
displayed an official piety of a most singular kind. The bodies of
saints and other relics imported from Greece after the Turkish conquest
were bought at the greatest sacrifices and received by the Doge in
solemn procession.12 For the coat without a seam it was decided (1455)
to offer 10,000 ducats, but it was not to be had. These measures were
not the fruit of any popular excitement, but of the tranquil
resolutions of the heads of the Government, and might have been omitted
without attracting any comment, and at Florence, under similar
circumstances, would certainly have been omitted. We shall say nothing
of the piety of the masses, and of their firm belief in the indulgences
of an Alexander VI. But the State itself, after absorbing the Church to
a degree unknown elsewhere, had in truth a certain ecclesiastical
element in its composition, and the Doge, the symbol of the State,
appeared in twelve great processions ('andate') in a half-clerical
character. They were almost all festivals in memory of political
events, and competed in splendor with the great feasts of the Church;
the most brilliant of all, the famous marriage with the sea, fell on
Ascension Day.

The most elevated political thought and the most varied forms of human
development are found united in the history of Florence, which in this
sense deserves the name of the first modern State in the world. Here
the whole people are busied with what in the despotic cities is the
affair of a single family. That wondrous Florentine spirit, at once
keenly critical and artistically creative, was incessantly transforming
the social and political condition of the State, and as incessantly
describing and judging the change. Florence thus became the home of
political doctrines and theories, of experiments and sudden changes,
but also, like Venice, the home of statistical science, and alone and
above all other States in the world, the home of historical
representation in the modern sense of the phrase. The spectacle of
ancient Rome and a familiarity with its leading writers were not
without influence; Giovanni Villani confesses that he received the
first impulse to his great work at the jubilee of the year 1300, and
began it immediately on his return home. Yet how many among the 200,000
pilgrims of that year may have been like him in gifts and tendencies
and still did not write the history of their native cities? For not all
of them could encourage themselves with the thought: 'Rome is sinking;
my native city is rising, and ready to achieve great things, and
therefore I wish to relate its past history, and hope to continue the
story to the present time, and as long as any life shall last.' And
besides the witness to its past, Florence obtained through its
historians something further a greater fame than fell to the lot of any
other city of Italy.

Our present task is not to write the history of this remarkable State,
but merely to give a few indications of the intellectual freedom and
independence for which the Florentines were indebted to this history.
In no other city of Italy were the struggles of political parties so
bitter, of such early origin, and so permanent. The descriptions of
them, which belong, it is true, to a somewhat later period, give clear
evidence of the superiority of Florentine criticism.

And what a politician is the great victim of these crises, Dante
Alighieri, matured alike by home and by exile ! He uttered his scorn of
the incessant changes and experiments in the constitution of his native
city in ringing verses, which will remain proverbial so long as
political events of the same kind recur;14 he addressed his home in
words of defiance and yearning which must have stirred the hearts of
his countrymen. But his thoughts ranged over Italy and the whole world;
and if his passion for the Empire, as he conceived it, was no more than
an illusion, it must yet be admitted that the youthful dreams of a
newborn political speculation are in his case not without a poetical
grandeur. He is proud to be the first who trod this path,16 certainly
in the footsteps of Aristotle, but in his own way independently. His
ideal emperor is a just and humane judge, dependent on God only, the
heir of the universal sway of Rome to which belonged the sanction of
nature, of right and of the will of God. The conquest of the world was,
according to this view, rightful, resting on a divine judgement between
Rome and the other nations of the earth, and God gave his approval to
this empire, since under it He became Man, submitting at His birth to
the census of the Emperor Augustus, and at His death to the judgement
of Pontius Pilate. We may find it hard to appreciate these and other
arguments of the same kind, but Dante's passion never fail s to carry
us with him. In his letters he appears as one of the earliest
publicists, and is perhaps the first layman to publish political tracts
in this form. He began early. Soon after the death of Beatrice he
addressed a pamphlet on the State of Florence 'to the Great ones of the
Earth,' and the public utterances of his later years, dating from the
time of his banishment, are all directed to emperors, princes, a nd
cardinals. In these letters and in his book De Vulgari Eloquentia
(About the Vernacular) the feeling, bought with such bitter pains, is
constantly recurring that the exile may find elsewhere than in his
native place an intellectual home in language and culture, which cannot
be taken from him. On this point we shall have more to say in the

To the two Villani, Giovanni as well as Matteo, we owe not so much deep
political reflection as fresh and practical observations, together with
the elements of Florentine statistics and important notices of other
States. Here too trade and commerce had given the impulse to economic
as well as political science. Nowhere else in the world was such
accurate information to be had on financial affairs. The wealth of the
Papal court at Avignon, which at the death of John XXII amounted to
twenty-five millions of gold florins, would be incredible on any less
trustworthy authority. Here only, at Florence, do we meet with colossal
loans like that which the King of England contracted from the
Florentine houses of Bardi and Peruzzi, who lost to his Majesty the sum
of 1,365,000 gold florins (1338) their own money and that of their
partners and nevertheless recovered from the shock. Most important
facts are here recorded as to the condition of Florence at this time:
the public income (over 300,000 gold florins) and expenditure the
population of the city, here only roughly estimated, according to the
consumption of bread, in 'bocche,' i.e. mouths, put at 50,000 and the
population of the whole territory; the excess of 300 to 500 male
children among the 5,800 to 8,000 annually baptized 18 the
schoolchildren, of whom 8,000 to 10,000 learned reading, 1,000 to 1,200
in six schools arithmetic; and besides these, 600 scholars who were
taught Latin grammar and logic in four schools. Then follow the
statistics of the churches and monasteries; of the hospitals, which
held more than a thousand beds; of the wool trade, with most valuable
details; of the mint, the provisioning of the city, the public
officials, and so on. Incidentally we learn many curious facts; how,
for instance, when the public funds ('monte') were first established,
in the year 1353, the Franciscans spoke from the pulpit in favour of
the measure, the Dominicans and Augustinians against it. The economic
results of the black death were and could be observed and described
nowhere else in all Europe as in this city.20 Only a Florentine could
have left it on record how it was expected that the scanty population
would have made everything cheap, and how instead of that labor and


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