The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
Jacob Burckhardt

Part 2 out of 7

commodities doubled in price; how the common people at first would do
no work at all, but simply give themselves up to enjoyment, how in the
city itself servants and maids were not to be had except at extravagant
wages; how the peasants would only hill the best lands, and left the
rest uncultivated; and how the enormous legacies bequeathed to the poor
at the time of the plague seemed afterwards useless, since the poor had
either died or had ceased to be poor. Lastly, on the occasion of a
great bequest, by which a childless philanthropist left six 'denarii'
to every beggar in the city, the attempt is made to give a
comprehensive statistical account of Florentine mendicancy.

This statistical view of things was at a later time still more highly
cultivated at Florence. The noteworthy point about it is that, as a
rule, we can perceive its connection with the higher aspects of
history, with art, and with culture in general. An inventory of the
year 1422 mentions, within the compass of the same document, the
seventy-two exchange offices which surrounded the 'Mercato Nuovo'; the
amount of coined money in circulation (two million golden florins); the
then new industry of gold spinning; the silk wares; Filippo
Brunellesco, then busy in digging classical architecture from its
grave; and Leonardo Aretino, secretary of the republic, at work at the
revival of ancient literature and eloquence; lastly, it speaks of the
general prosperity of the city, then free from political conflicts, and
of the good fortune of Italy, which had rid itself of foreign
mercenaries. The Venetian statistics quoted above which date from about
the same year, certainly give evidence of larger property and profit
and of a more extensive scene of action; Venice had long been mistress
of the seas before Florence sent out its first galleys (1422) to
Alexandria. But no reader can fail to recognize the higher spirit of
the Florentine documents. These and similar lists recur at intervals of
ten years, systematically arranged and tabulated, while elsewhere we
find at best occasional notices. We can form an approximate estimate of
the property and the business of the first Medici; they paid for
charities, public buildings, and taxes from 1434 to 1471 no less than
663,755 gold florins, of which more than 400,000 fell on Cosimo alone,
and Lorenzo Magnifico was delighted that the money had been so well
spent. In 1478 we have again a most important and in its way complete
view of the commerce and trades of this city, some of which may be
wholly or partly reckoned among the fine arts such as those which had
to do with damasks and gold or silver embroidery, with woodcarving and
'intarsia,' with the sculpture of arabesques in marble and sandstone,
with portraits in wax, and with jewelry and work in gold. The inborn
talent of the Florentines for the systematization of outward life is
shown by their books on agriculture, business, and domestic economy,
which are markedly superior to those of other European people in the
fifteenth century. It has been rightly decided to publish selections of
these works, although no little study will be needed to extract clear
and definite results from them. At all events, we have no difficulty in
recognizing the city, where dying parents begged the government in
their wills to fine their sons 1,000 florins if they declined to
practice a regular profession.

For the first half of the sixteenth century probably no State in the
world possesses a document like the magnificent description of Florence
by Varchi. In descriptive statistics, as in so many things besides, yet
another model is left to us, before the freedom a nd greatness of the
city sank into the grave.

This statistical estimate of outward life is, however, uniformly
accompanied by the narrative of political events to which we have
already referred. Florence not only existed under political forms more
varied than those of the free States of Italy and of Europe generally,
but it reflected upon them far more deeply. It is a faithful mirror of
the relations of individuals and classes to a variable whole. The
pictures of the great civic democracies in France and in Flanders, as
they are delineated in Froissart, and the narratives of the German
chroniclers of the fourteenth century, are in truth of high importance;
but in comprehensiveness of thought and in the rational development of
the story, none will bear comparison with the Florentines. The rule of
the nobility, the tyrannies, the struggles of the middle class with the
proletariat, limited and unlimited democracy, pseudo-democracy, the
primacy o? a single house, the theocracy of Savonarola, and the mixed
forms of government which prepared the way for the Medicean despotism
all are so described that the inmost motives of the actors are laid
bare to the light. At length Machiavelli in his Florentine history
(down to 1492) represents his native city as a living organism and its
development as a natural and individual process; he is the first of the
moderns who has risen to such a conception. It lies without our
province to determine whether and in what points Machiavelli may have
done violence to history, as is notoriously the case in his life of
Castruccio Castracani--a fancy picture of the typical despot. We might
find something to say against every line of the 'Storie Fiorentine,'
and yet the great and unique value of the whole would remain
unaffected. And his contemporaries and successors, Jacopo Pitti,
Guicciardini, Segni, Varchi, Vettori, what a circle of illustrious
names! And what a story it is which these masters tell us! The great
and memorable drama of the last decades of the Florentine republic is
here unfolded. The voluminous record of the collapse of the highest and
most original life which the world could then show may appear to one
but as a collection of curiosities, may awaken in another a devilish
delight at the shipwreck of so much nobility and grandeur, to a third
may seem like a great historical assize; for all it will be an object
of thought and study to the end of time. The evil which was for ever
troubling the peace of the city was its rule over once powerful and now
conquered rivals like Pisa-a rule of which the necessary consequence
was a chronic state of violence. The only remedy, certainly an extreme
one and which none but Savonarola could have persuaded Florence to
accept, and that only with the help of favourable chances, would have
been the well-timed dissolution of Tuscany into a federal union of free
cities. At a later period this scheme, then no more than the dream of a
past age, brought (1548) a patriotic citizen of Lucca to the scaffold.

From this evil and from the ill-starred Guelph sympathies of Florence
for a foreign prince, which familiarized it with foreign intervention,
came all the disasters which followed. But who does not admire the
people which was wrought up by its venerated preacher to a mood of such
sustained loftiness that for the first time in Italy it set the example
of sparing a conquered foe while the whole history of its past taught
nothing but vengeance and extermination? The glow which melted
patriotism into one with moral regeneration may seem, when looked at
from a distance, to have soon passed away; but its best results shine
forth again in the memorable siege of 1529-30. They were 'fools,' as
Guicciardini then wrote, who drew down this storm upon Florence, but he
confesses himself that they achieved things which seemed incredible;
and when he declares that sensible people would have got out of the way
of the danger, he means no more than that Florence ought to have
yielded itself silently and ingloriously into the hands of its enemies.
It would no doubt have preserved its splendid suburbs and gardens, and
the lives and prosperity of countless citizens; but it would have been
the poorer by one of its greatest and most ennobling memories.

In many of their chief merits the Florentines are the pattern and the
earliest type of Italians and modern Europeans generally; they are so
also in many of their defects. When Dante compares the city which was
always mending its constitution with the sick man who is continually
changing his posture to escape from pain, he touches with the
comparison a permanent feature of the political life of Florence. The
great modern fallacy that a constitution can be made, can be
manufactured by a combination of existing forces and tendencies, was
constantly cropping up in stormy times; even Machiavelli is not wholly
free from it. Constitutional artists were never wanting who by an
ingenious distribution and division of political power, by indirect
elections of the most complicated kind, by the establishment of nominal
offices, sought to found a lasting order of things, and to satisfy or
to deceive the rich and the poor alike. They naively fetch their
examples from classical antiquity, and borrow the party names
'ottimati,' 'aristocrazia,' as a matter of course. The world since then
has become used to these expressions and given them a conventional
European sense, whereas all former party names were purely national,
and oithor rhnrnotPrimPrl tho rnilqP nt iqqllP or cnrsnz from the
caprice of accident. But how a name colors or discolors a political

But of all who thought it possible to construct a State, the greatest
beyond all comparison was Machiavelli. He treats existing forces as
living and active, takes a large and accurate view of alternative
possibilities, and seeks to mislead neither himself nor others. No man
could be freer from vanity or ostentation; indeed, he does not write
for the public, but either for princes and administrators or for
personal friends. The danger for him does not lie in an affectation of
genius or in a false order of ideas, but rather in a powerful
imagination which he evidently controls with difficulty. The
objectivity of his political Judgement is sometimes appalling in its
sincerity; but it is the sign of a time of no ordinary need and peril,
when it was a hard matter to believe in right, or to credit others with
just dealing Virtuous indignation at his expense is thrown away on us,
who have seen in what sense political morality is understood by the
statesmen of our own century. Machiavelli was at all events able to
forget himself in his cause. In truth, although his writing s, with the
exception of very few words, are altogether destitute of enthusiasm,
and although the Florentines themselves treated him at last as a
criminal, he was a patriot in the fullest meaning of the word. But free
as he was, like most of his contemporaries, in speech and morals, the
welfare of the State was yet his first and last thought.

His most complete program for the construction of a new political
system at Florence is set forth in the memorial to Leo X, composed
after the death of the younger Lorenzo Medici, Duke of Urbino (d.
1519), to whom he had dedicated his 'Prince.' The State was by that
time in extremities and utterly corrupt, and the remedies proposed are
not always morally justifiable; but it is most interesting to see how
he hopes to set up the republic in the form of a moderate democracy, as
heiress to the Medici. A more ingenious scheme of concessions to the
Pope, to the Pope's various adherents, and to the different Florentine
interests, cannot be imagined; we might fancy ourselves looking into
the works of a clock. Principles, observations, comparisons, political
forecasts, and the like are to be found in numbers in the 'Discorsi,'
among them flashes of wonderful insight. He recognizes, for example,
the law of a continuous though not uniform development in republican
institutions, and requires the constitution to be flexible and capable
of change, as the only means of dispensing with bloodshed and
banishments. For a like reason, in order to guard against private
violence and foreign interference--'the death of all freedom'--he
wishes to see introduced a judicial procedure ('accusa') against hated
citizens, in place of which Florence had hitherto had nothing but the
court of scandal. With a masterly hand the tardy and involuntary
decisions are characterized which at critical moments play so important
a part in republican States. Once, it is true, he is misled by his
imagination and the pressure of events into unqualified praise of the
people, which chooses its officers, he says, better than any prince,
and which can be cured of its errors by 'good advice.' With regard to
the Government of Tuscany, he has no doubt that it belongs to his
native city, and maintains, in a special 'Discorso' that the reconquest
of Pisa is a question of life or death; he deplores that Arezzo, after
the rebellion of 1502, was not razed to the ground; he admits in
general that Italian republics must be allowed to expand freely and add
to their territory in order to enjoy peace at home, and not to be
themselves attacked by others, but declares that Florence had un at the
wrong end, and from the first made deadly Pisa, Lucca, and Siena, while
Pistoia, 'treated like a brother,' had voluntarily submitted to her.

It would be unreasonable to draw a parallel between the few other
republics which still existed in the fifteenth century and this unique
city--the most important workshop of the Italian, and indeed of the
modern European spirit. Siena suffered from the gravest organic
maladies, and its relative prosperity in art and industry must not
mislead us on this point. Aeneas Sylvius looks with longing from his
native town over to the 'merry' German imperial cities, where life is
embittered by no confiscations of land and goods, by no arbitrary
officials, and by no political factions. Genoa scarcely comes within
range of our task, as before the time of Andrea Doria it took almost no
part in the Renaissance.

Indeed, the inhabitant of the Riviera was proverbial among Italians for
his contempt of all higher culture. Party conflicts here assumed so
fierce a char- acter, and disturbed so violently the whole course of
life, that we can hardly understand how, after so many revolutions and
invasions, the Genoese ever contrived to return to an endurable
condition. Perhaps it was owing to the fact that all who took part in
public affairs were at the same time almost without exception active
men of business. The example of Genoa shows in a striking manner with
what insecurity wealth and vast commerce, and with what internal
disorder the possession of distant colonies, are compatible.

Foreign Policy

As the majority of the Italian States were in their internal
constitution works of art, that is, the fruit of reflection and careful
adaptation, so was their relation to one another and to foreign
countries also a work of art. That nearly all of them were the result
of recent usurpations, was a fact which exercised as fatal an influence
in their foreign as in their internal policy. Not one of them
recognized another without reserve; the same play of chance which had
helped to found and consolidate one dynasty might upset another. Nor
was it always a matter of choice with the despot whether to keep quiet
or not. The necessity of movement and aggrandizement is common to all
illegitimate powers. Thus Italy became the scene of a 'foreign policy'
which gradually, as in other countries also, acquired the position of a
recognized system of public law. The purely objective treatment of
international affairs, as free from prejudice as from moral scruples,
attained a perfection which sometimes is not without a certain beauty
and grandeur of its own. But as a whole it gives us the impression of a
bottomless abyss.

Intrigues, armaments, leagues, corruption and treason make up the
outward history of Italy at this period. Venice in particular was long
accused on all hands of seeking to conquer the whole peninsula, or
gradually so to reduce its strength that one State after another must
fall into her hands. But on a closer view it is evident that this
complaint did not come from the people, but rather from the courts and
official classes, which were commonly abhorred by their subjects, while
the mild government of Venice had secured for it general confidence
Even Florence, with its restive subject cities, found itself in a false
position with regard to Venice, apart from all commercial jealousy and
from the progress of Venice in Romagna. At last the League of Cambrai
actually did strike a serious blow at the State which all Italy ought
to have supported with united strength.

The other States, also, were animated by feelings no less unfriendly,
and were at all times ready to use against one another any weapon which
their evil conscience might suggest. Lodovico il Moro, the Aragonese
kings of Naples, and Sixtus IV--to say nothing of the smaller powers--
kept Italy in a constant perilous agitation. It would have been well if
the atrocious game had been confined to Italy; but it lay in the nature
of the case that intervention sought from abroad--in particular the
French and the Turks.

The sympathies of the people at large were throughout on the side of
France. Florence had never ceased to confess with shocking _naivete
_its old Guelph preference for the French. And when Charles VIII
actually appeared on the south of the Alps, all Italy accepted him with
an enthusiasm which to himself and his followers seemed unaccountable.
In the imagination of the Italians, to take Savonarola for an example
the ideal picture of a wise, just, and powerful savior and ruler was
still living, with the difference that he was no longer the emperor
invoked by Dante, but the Capetian king of France. With his departure
the illusion was broken; but it was long before all understood how
completely Charles VIII, Louis XII, and Francis I had mistaken their
true relation to Italy, and by what inferior motives they were led. The
princes, for their part, tried to make use of France in a wholly
different way. When the Franco-English wars came to an end, when Louis
XI began to cast about his diplomatic nets on all sides, and Charles of
Burgundy to embark on his foolish adventures, the Italian Cabinets came
to meet them at every point. It became clear that the intervention of
France was only a question of time, even if the claims on Naples and
Milan had never existed, and that the old interference with Genoa and
Piedmont was only a type of what was to follow. The Venetians, in fact,
expected it as early as 1462. The mortal terror of the Duke Galeazzo
Maria of Milan during the Burgundian war, in which he was apparently
the ally of Charles as well as of Louis, and consequently had reason to
dread an attack from both, is strikingly shown in his correspondence.
The plan of an equilibrium of the four chief Italian powers, as
understood by Lorenzo the Magnificent, was but the assumption of a
cheerful optimistic spirit, which had outgrown both the recklessness of
an experimental policy and the superstitions of Florentine Guelphism,
and persisted in hoping for the best. When Louis XI offered him aid in
the war against Ferrante of Naples and Sixtus IV, he replied, 'I cannot
set my own advantage above the safety of all Italy; would to God it
never came into the mind of the French kings to try their strength in
this country! Should they ever do so, Italy is lost.' For the other
princes, the King of France was alternately a bugbear to themselves and
their enemies, and they threatened to call him in whenever they saw no
more convenient way out of their difficulties. The Popes, in their
turn, fancied that they could make use of France without any danger to
themselves, and even Innocent VIII imagined that he could withdraw to
sulk in the North, and return as a conqueror to Italy at the head of a
French army.

Thoughtful men, indeed, foresaw the foreign conquest long before the
expedition of Charles VIII. And when Charles was back again on the
other side of the Alps, it was plain to every eye that an era of
intervention had begun. Misfortune now followed on misfortune; it was
understood too late that France and Spain, the two chief invaders, had
become great European powers, that they would be no longer satisfied
with verbal homage, but would fight to the death for influence and
territory in Italy. They had begun to resemble the centralized Italian
States, and indeed to copy them, only on a gigantic scale. Schemes of
annexation or exchange of territory were for a time indefinitely
multiplied. The end, as is well known, was the complete victory of
Spain, which, as sword and shield of the counter-reformation, long held
Papacy among its other subjects. The melancholy reflections of the
philosophers could only show them how those who had called in the
barbarians all came to a bad end.

Alliances were at the same time formed with the Turks too, with as
little scruple or disguise; they were reckoned no worse than any other
political expedients. The belief in the unity of Western Christendom
had at various times in the course of the Crusades been seriously
shaken, and Frederick II had probably outgrown it. But the fresh
advance of the Oriental nations, the need and the ruin of the Greek
Empire, had revived the old feeling, though not in its former strength,
throughout Western Europe. Italy, however, was a striking exception to
this rule. Great as was the terror felt for the Turks, and the actual
danger from them, there was yet scarcely a government of any
consequence which did not conspire against other Italian States with
Mohammed II and his successors. And when they did not do so, they still
had the credit of it; nor was it worse than the sending of emissaries
to poison the cisterns of Venice, which was the charge brought against
the heirs of Alfonso, King of Naples. From a scoundrel like Sigismondo
Malatesta nothing better could be expected than that he should call the
Turks into Italy. But the Aragonese monarchs of Naples, from whom
Mohammed--at the instigation, we read, of other Italian governments,
especially of Venice--had once wrested Otranto (1480), afterwards
hounded on the Sultan Bajazet II against the Venetians. The same charge
was brought against Lodovico il Moro. 'The blood of the slain, and the
misery of the prisoners in the hands of the Turks, cry to God for
vengeance against him,' says the State historian. In Venice, where the
government was informed of everything, it was known that Giovanni
Sforza, ruler of Pesaro, the cousin of Lodovico, had entertained the
Turkish ambassadors on their way to Milan. The two most respectable
among the Popes of the fifteenth century, Nicholas V and Pius II, died
in the deepest grief at the progress of the Turks, the latter indeed
amid the preparations for a crusade which he was hoping to lead in
person; their successors embezzled the contributions sent for this
purpose from all parts of Christendom, and degraded the indulgences
granted in return for them into a private commercial speculation.
Innocent VIII consented to be gaoler to the fugitive Prince Djem, for a
salary paid by the prisoner's brother Bajazet II, and Alexander VI
supported the steps taken by Lodovico il Moro in Constantinople to
further a Turkish assault upon Venice (1498), whereupon the latter
threatened him with a Council. It is clear that the notorious alliance
between Francis I and Soliman II was nothing new or unheard of.

Indeed, we find instances of whole populations to whom it seemed no
particular crime to go over bodily to the Turks. Even if it were held
out as a threat to oppressive governments, this is at least a proof
that the idea had become familiar. As early as 1480 Battista Mantovano
gives us clearly to understand that most of the inhabitants of the
Adriatic coast foresaw something o f this kind, and that Ancona in
particular desired it. When Romagna was suffering from the oppressive
government of Leo X, a deputy from Ravenna said openly to the Legate,
Cardinal Giulio Medici: 'Monsignore, the honorable Republic of Venice
will not have us, for fear of a dispute with the Holy See; but if the
Turk comes to Ragusa we will put ourselves into his hands.'

It was a poor but not wholly groundless consolation for the enslavement
of Italy then begun by the Spaniards, that the country was at least
secured from the relapse into barbarism which would have awaited it
under the Turkish rule. By itself, divided as it was, it could hardly
have escaped this fate.

If, with all these drawbacks, the Italian statesmanship of this period
deserves our praise, it is only on the ground of its practical and
unprejudiced treatment of those questions which were not affected by
fear, passion, or malice. Here was no feudal system after the northern
fashion, with its artificial scheme of rights; but the power which each
possessed he held in practice as in theory. Here was no attendant
nobility to foster in the mind of the prince the mediaeval sense of
honour with all its strange consequences; but princes and counsellors
were agreed in acting according to the exigencies of the particular
case and to the end they had in view. Towards the men whose services
were used and towards allies, come from what quarter they might, no
pride of caste was felt which could possibly estrange a supporter; and
the class of the Condottieri, in which birth was a matter of
indifference, shows clearly enough in what sort of hands the real power
lay; and lastly, the government, in the hands of an enlightened despot,
had an incomparably more accurate acquaintance with its own country and
with that of its neighbors than was possessed by northern
contemporaries, and estimated the economical and moral capacities of
friend and foe down to the smallest particular. The rulers were,
notwithstanding grave errors, born masters of statistical science. With
such men negotiation was possible; it might be presumed that they would
be convinced and their opinion modified when practical reasons were
laid before them. When the great Alfonso of Naples was (1434) a
prisoner of Filippo Maria Visconti, he was able to satisfy his gaoler
that the rule of the House of Anjou instead of his own at Naples would
make the French masters of Italy; Filippo Maria set him free without
ransom and made an alliance with him. A northern prince would scarcely
have acted in the same way, certainly not one whose morality in other
respects was like that of Visconti. What confidence was felt in the
power of self-interest is shown by the celebrated visit (1478) which
Lorenzo Magnifico, to the universal astonishment of the Florentines,
paid the faithless Ferrante at Naples--a man who would certainly be
tempted to keep him a prisoner, and was by no means too scrupulous to
do so. For to arrest a powerful monarch, and then to let him go alive,
after extorting his signature and otherwise insulting him, as Charles
the Bold did to Louis XI at Peronne (1468), seemed madness to the
Italians; so that Lorenzo was expected to come back covered with glory,
or else not to come back at all. The art of political persuasion was at
this time raised to a point--especially by the Venetian ambassadors of
which northern nations first obtained a conception from the Italians,
and of which the official addresses give a most imperfect idea. These
are mere pieces of humanistic rhetoric. Nor, in spite of an otherwise
ceremonious etiquette was there in case of need any lack of rough and
frank speaking in diplomatic intercourse. A man like Machiavelli
appears in his 'Legazioni' in an almost pathetic light. Furnished with
scanty instructions, shabbily equipped, and treated as an agent of
inferior rank, he never loses his gift of free and wide observation or
his pleasure in picturesque description.

A special division of this work will treat of the study of man
individually and nationally, which among the Italians went hand in hand
with the study of the outward conditions of human life.

War as a Work of Art

It must here be briefly indicated by what steps the art of war assumed
the character of a product of reflection. Throughout the countries of
the West the education of the individual soldier in the Middle Ages was
perfect within the limits of the then prevalent system of defence and
attack: nor was there any want of ingenious inventors in the arts of
besieging and of fortification. But the development both of strategy
and of tactics was hindered by the character and duration of military
service, and by the ambition of the nobles, who disputed questions of
precedence in the face of the enemy, and through simple want of
discipline caused the loss of great battles like Crecy and Maupertuis.
Italy, on the contrary, was the first country to adopt the system of
mercenary troops, which demanded a wholly different organization; and
the early intro- duction of firearms did its part in making war a
democratic pursuit, not only because the strongest castles were unable
to withstand a bombardment, but because the skill of the engineer, of
the gunfounder, and of the artillerist-- men belonging to another class
than the nobility--was now of the first importance in a campaign. It
was felt, with regret, that the value of the individual, which had been
the soul of the small and admirably organized bands of mercenaries,
would suffer from these novel means of destruction, which did their
work at a distance; and there were Condottieri who opposed to the
utmost the introduction at least of the musket, which had lately been
invented in Germany. We read that Paolo Vitelli, while recognizing and
himself adopting the cannon, put out the eyes and cut off the hands of
the captured 'schioppettieri' (arquebusiers) because he held it
unworthy that a gallant, and it might be noble, knight should be
wounded and laid low by a common, despised foot soldier. On the whole,
however, the new discoveries were accepted and turned to useful
account, till the Italians became the teachers of all Europe, both in
the build- ing of fortifications and in the means of attacking them.
Princes like Federigo of Urbino and Alfonso of Ferrara acquired a
mastery of the subject compared to which the knowledge even of
Maximilian I appears superficial. In Italy, earlier than elsewhere,
there existed a comprehensive science and art of military affairs;
here, for the first time, that impartial delight is taken in able
generalship for its own sake, which might, indeed, be expected from the
frequent change of party and from the wholly unsentimental mode of
action of the Condottieri. During the Milano-Venetian war of 1451 and
1452, between Francesco Sforza and Jacopo Piccinino, the headquarters
of the latter were attended by the scholar Gian Antonio Porcellio dei
Pandoni, commissioned by Alfonso of Naples to write a report of the
campaign. It is written, not in the purest, but in a fluent Latin, a
little too much in the style of the humanistic bombast of the day, is
modelled on Caesar's Commentaries, and interspersed with speeches,
prodigies, and the like. Since for the past hundred years it had been
seriously disputed whether Scipio Africanus or Hannibal was the
greater, Piccinino through the whole book must needs be called Scipio
and Sforza Hannibal. But something positive had to be reported too
respecting the Milanese army; the sophist presented himself to Sforza,
was led along the ranks, praised highly all that he saw, and promised
to hand it down to posterity. Apart from him the Italian literature of
the day is rich in descriptions of wars and strategic devices, written
for the use of educated men in general as well as of specialists, while
the contemporary narratives of northerners, such as the 'Burgundian
War' by Diebold Schilling, still retain the shapelessness and matter-
of-fact dryness of a mere chronicle. The greatest _dilettante _who has
ever treated in that character of military affairs, Machiavelli, was
then busy writing his 'Arte della Guerra.' But the development of the
individual soldier found its most complete expression in those public
and solemn conflicts between one or more pairs of combatants which were
practiced long before the famous 'Challenge of Barletta' (1503). The
victor was assured of the praises of poets and scholars, which were
denied to the northern warrior. The result of these combats was no
longer regarded as a Divine judgement, but as a triumph of personal
merit, and to the minds of the spectators seemed to be both the
decision of an exciting competition and a satisfaction for the honour
of the army or the nation.

It is obvious that this purely rational treatment of warlike affairs
allowed, under certain circumstances, of the worst atrocities, even in
the absence of a strong political hatred, as, for instance, when the
plunder of a city had been promised to the troops. After the forty
days' devastation of Piacenza, which Sforza was compelled to permit to
his soldiers (1477), the town long stood empty, and at last had to be
peopled by force. Yet outrages like these were nothing compared with
the misery which was afterwards brought upon Italy by foreign troops,
and most of all by the Spaniards, in whom perhaps a touch of oriental
blood, perhaps familiarity with the spectacles of the Inquisition, had
unloosed the devilish element of human nature. After seeing them at
work at Prato, Rome, and elsewhere, it is not easy to take any interest
of the higher sort in Ferdinand the Catholic and Charles V who knew
what these hordes were, and yet unchained them. The mass of documents
which are gradually brought to light from the cabinets of these rulers
will always remain an important source of historical information; but
from such men no fruitful political conception can be looked for.

The Papacy

The Papacy and the dominions of the Church are creations of so peculiar
a kind that we have hitherto, in determining the general
characteristics of Italian States, referred to them only occasionally.
The deliberate choice and adaptation of political] expedients, which
gives so great an interest to the other States is what we find least of
all at Rome, since here the spiritual power could constantly conceal or
supply the defects of the temporal. And what fiery trials did this
State undergo in the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth
century, when the Papacy was led captive to Avignon! All, at first, was
thrown into confusion; but the Pope had money, troops, and a great
statesman and general, the Spaniard Albornoz, who again brought the
ecclesiastical State into complete subjection. The danger of a final
dissolution was still greater at the time of the schism, when neither
the Roman nor the French Pope was rich enough to reconquer the newly-
lost State; but this was done under Martin V, after the unity of the
Church was restored, and done again under Eugenius IV, when the same
danger was renewed. But the ecclesiastical State was and remained a
thorough anomaly among the powers of Italy; in and near Rome itself,
the Papacy was defied by the great families of the Colonna, Orsini,
Savelli and Anguillara; in Umbria, in the Marches, and in Romagna,
those civic republics had almost ceased to exist, for whose devotion
the Papacy had shown so little gratitude; their place had been taken by
a crowd of princely dynasties, great or small, whose loyalty and
obedience signified little. As self-dependent powers, standing on their
own merits, they have an interest of their own; and from this point of
view the most important of them have already been discussed.

Nevertheless, a few general remarks on the Papacy can hardly be
dispensed with. New and strange perils and trials came upon it in the
course of the fifteenth century, as the political spirit of the nation
began to lay hold upon it on various sides, and to draw it within the
sphere of its action. The least of these dangers came from the populace
or from abroad; the most serious had their ground in the characters of
the Popes themselves.

Let us, for this moment, leave out of consideration the countries
beyond the Alps. At the time when the Papacy was exposed to mortal
danger in Italy, it neither received nor could receive the slightest
assistance either from France, then under Louis XI, or from England,
distracted by the Wars of the Roses, or from the then disorganized
Spanish monarchy, or from Germany, but lately betrayed at the Council
of Basle. In Italy itself there was a certain number of instructed and
even uninstructed people whose national vanity was flattered by the
Italian character of the Papacy; the personal interests of very many
depended on its having and retaining this character; and vast masses of
the people still believed in the virtue of the Papal blessing and
consecration; among them notorious transgressors like Vitelozzo
Vitelli, who still prayed to be absolved by Alexander VI, when the
Pope's son had him strangled. But all these grounds of sympathy put
together would not have sufficed to save the Papacy from its enemies,
had the latter been really in earnest, and had they known how to take
advantage of the envy and hatred with which the institution was

And at the very time when the prospect of help from without was so
small, the most dangerous symptoms appeared within the Papacy itself.
Living as it now did, and acting in the spirit of the secular Italian
principalities, it was compelled to go through the same dark
experiences as they; but its own exceptional nature gave a peculiar
color to the shadows.

As far as the city of Rome itself is concerned, small account was taken
of its internal agitations, so many were the Popes who had returned
after being expelled by popular tumult, and so greatly did the presence
of the Curia minister to the interests of the Roman people. But Rome
not only displayed at times a specific anti-papal radicalism, but in
the most serious plots which were then contrived, gave proof of the
working of unseen hands from without. It was so in the case of the
conspiracy of Stefano Porcari against Nicholas V (1453), the very Pope
who had done most for the prosperity of the city. Porcari aimed at the
complete overthrow of the papal authority, and had distinguished
accomplices, who, though their names are not handed down to us, are
certainly to be looked for among the Italian governments of the time.
Under the pontificate of the same man, Lorenzo Valla concluded his
famous declamation against the gift of Constantine with the wish for
the speedy secularization of the States of the Church.

The Catilinarian gang with which Pius II had to (1460) avowed with
equal frankness their resolution to overthrow the government of the
priests, and its leader, Tiburzio, threw the blame on the soothsayers,
who had fixed the accom- plishment of his wishes for this very year.
Several of the chief men of Rome, the Prince of Taranto, and the
Condottiere Jacopo Piccinino, were accomplices and supporters of
Tiburzio. Indeed, when we think of the booty which was accumulated in
the palaces of wealthy prelates--the conspirators had the Car- dinal of
Aquileia especially in view--we are surprised that, in an almost
unguarded city, such attempts were not more frequent and more
successful. It was not without reason that Pius II preferred to reside
anywhere rather than in Rome, and even Paul II was exposed to no small
anxiety through a plot formed by some discharged abbreviators, who,
under the command of Platina, besieged the Vatican for twenty days. The
Papacy must sooner or later have fallen a victim to such enterprises,
if it had not stamped out the aristocratic factions under whose
protection these bands of robbers grew to a head.

This task was undertaken by the terrible Sixtus IV. He was the first
Pope who had Rome and the neighbourhood thoroughly under his control,
especially after his successful attack on the House of Colonna, and
consequently, both in his Italian policy and in the internal affairs of
the Church, he could venture to act with a defiant audacity, and to set
at nought the complaints and threats to summon a council which arose
from all parts of Europe. He supplied himself with the necessary funds
by simony, which suddenly grew to unheard-of proportions, and which
extended from the appointment of cardinals down to the granting of the
smallest favours. Sixtus himself had not obtained the papal dignity
without recourse to the same means.

A corruption so universal might sooner or later bring disastrous
consequences on the Holy See, but they lay in the uncertain future. It
was otherwise with nepotism, which threatened at one time to destroy
the Papacy altogether. Of all the 'nipoti,' Cardinal Pietro Riario
enjoyed at first the chief and almost exclusive favour of Sixtus. He
soon drew upon him the eyes of all Italy, partly by the fabulous luxury
of his life, partly through the reports which were current of his
irreligion and his political plans. He bargained with Duke Galeazzo
Maria of Milan (1473), that the latter should become King of Lombardy,
and then aid him with money and troops to return to Rome and ascend the
papal throne; Sixtus, it appears, would have voluntarily yielded to
him. This plan, which, by making the Papacy hereditary, would have
ended in the secularization of the papal State, failed through the
sudden death of Pietro. The second 'nipote,' Girolamo Riario, remained
a layman, and did not seek the Pontificate. From this time the
'nipoti,' by their endeavors to found principalities for themselves,
became a new source of confusion to Italy. It had already happened that
the Popes tried to make good their feudal claims on Naples un favour of
their relatives, but since the failure of Calixtus III. such a scheme
was no longer practicable, and Girolamo Riario, after the attempt to
conquer Florence (and who knows how many others places) had failed, was
forced to content himself with founding a State within the limits of
the papal dominions themselves. This was in so far justifiable as
Romagna, with its princes and civic despots, threatened to shake off
the papal supremacy altogether, and ran the risk of shortly falling a
prey to Sforza or the Venetians, when Rome interfered to prevent it.
But who, at times and in circumstances like these, could guarantee the
continued obedience of 'nipoti' and their descendants, now turned into
sovereign rulers, to Popes with whom they had no further concern? Even
in his lifetime the Pope was not always sure of his own son or nephew,
and the temptation was strong to expel the 'nipote' of a predecessor
and replace him by one of his own. The reaction of the whole system on
the Papacy itself was of the most serious character; all means of
compulsion, whether temporal or spiritual, were used without scruple
for the most questionable ends, and to these all the other objects of
the Apostolic See were made subordinate. And when they were attained,
at whatever cost of revolutions and proscriptions, a dynasty was
founded which had no stronger interest than the destruction of the

At the death of Sixtus, Girolamo was only able to maintain himself in
his usurped principality of Forli and Imola by the utmost exertions of
his own, and by the aid of the House of Sforza, to which his wife
belonged. In the conclave (1484) which followed the death of Sixtus--
that in which Innocent VIII was elected--an incident occurred which
seemed to furnish the Papacy with a new external guarantee. Two
cardinals, who, at the same time, were princes of ruling houses,
Giovanni d'Aragona, son of King Ferrante, and Ascanio Sforza, brother
of Lodovico il Moro, sold their votes with shameless effrontery; so
that, at any rate, the ruling houses of Naples and Milan became
interested, by their participation in the booty, in the continuance of
the papal system. Once again, in the following conclave, when all the
cardinals but five sold themselves, Ascanio received enormous sums in
bribes, not without cherishing the hope that at the next election he
would himself be the favored candidate.

Lorenzo the Magnificent, on his part, was anxious that the House of
Medici should not be sent away with empty hands. He married his
daughter Maddalena to the son of the new Pope-- the first who publicly
acknowledged his children-- Franceschetto Cibo, and expected not only
favours of all kinds for his own son, Cardinal Giovanni, afterwards Leo
X, but also the rapid promotion of his son-in-law. But with respect to
the latter, he demanded impossibilities. Under Innocent VIII there was
no opportunity for the audacious nepotism by which States had been
founded, since Franceschetto himself was a poor creature who, like his
father the Pope, sought power only for the lowest purpose of all--the
acquisition and accumulation of money. The manner, however, in which
father and son practiced this occupation must have led sooner or later
to a final catastrophe--the dissolution of the State. If Sixtus had
filled his treasury by the sale of spiritual dignities and favours,
Innocent and his son, for their part, established an office for the
sale of secular favours, in which pardons for murder and manslaughter
were sold for large sums of money. Out of every fine 150 ducats were
paid into the papal exchequer, and what was over to Franceschetto.
Rome, during the latter part of this pontificate, swarmed with licensed
and unlicensed assassins; the factions, which Sixtus had begun to put
down, were again as active as ever; the Pope, well guarded in the
Vatican, was satisfied with now and then laying a trap, in which a
wealthy misdoer was occasionally caught. For Franceschetto the chief
point was to know by what means, when the Pope died, he could escape
with well-filled coffers. He betrayed himself at last, on the occasion
of a false report (1490) of his father's death; he endeavored to carry
off all the money in the papal treasury, and when this proved
impossible, insisted that, at all events, the Turkish prince, Djem,
should go with him, and serve as a living capital, to be advantageously
disposed of, perhaps to Ferrante of Naples. It is hard to estimate the
political possibilities of remote periods, but we cannot help asking
ourselves the question if Rome could have survived two or three
pontificates of this kind. Also with reference to the believing
countries of Europe, it was imprudent to let matters go so far that not
only travellers and pilgrims, but a whole embassy of Maximilian, King
of the Romans, were stripped to their shirts in the neighbourhood of
Rome, and that envoys had constantly to turn back without setting foot
within the city.

Such a condition of things was incompatible with the conception of
power and its pleasures which inspired the gifted Alexander VI (1492-
1503), and the first event that happened was the restoration, at least
provisionally, of public order, and the punctual payment of every

Strictly speaking, as we are now discussing phases of Italian
civilization, this pontificate might be passed over, since the Borgias
are no more Italian than the House of Naples. Alexander spoke Spanish
in public with Cesare; Lucrezia, at her entrance to Ferrara, where she
wore a Spanish costume, was sung to by Spanish buffoons; their
confidential servants consisted of Spaniards, as did also the most ill-
famed company of the troops of Cesare in the war of 1500; and even his
hangman, Don Micheletto, and his poisoner, Sebastiano Pinzon Cremonese,
seem to have been of the same nation. Among his other achievements,
Cesare, in true Spanish fashion, killed, according to the rules of the
craft, six wild bulls in an enclosed court. But the Roman corruption,
which seemed to culminate in this family, was already far advanced when
they came to the city.

What they were and what they did has been often and fully described.
Their immediate purpose, which, in fact, they attained, was the
complete subjugation of the pontifical State. All the petty despots,
who were mostly more or less refractory vassals of the Church, were
expelled or destroyed; and in Rome itself the two great factions were
annihilated, the so-called Guelph Orsini as well as the so-called
Ghibelline Colonna. But the means employed were of so frightful a
character that they must certainly have ended in the ruin of the
Papacy, had not the contemporaneous death of both father and son by
poison suddenly intervened to alter the whole aspect of the situation.
The moral indignation of Christendom was certainly no great source of
danger to Alexander; at home he was strong enough to extort terror and
obedience; foreign rulers were won over to his side, and Louis XII even
aided him to the utmost of his power. The mass of the people throughout
Europe had hardly a conception of what was passing in Central Italy.
The only moment which was really fraught with danger--when Charles VIII
was in Italy--went by with unexpected fortune, and even then it was not
the Papacy as such that was in peril, but Alexander, who risked being
supplanted by a more respectable Pope. The great, permanent, and
increasing danger for the Papacy lay in Alexander himself, and, above
all, in his son Cesare Borgia.

In the nature of the father, ambition, avarice, and sensuality were
combined with strong and brilliant qualities. All the pleasures of
power and luxury he granted himself from the first day of his
pontificate in the fullest measure. In the choice of means to this end
he was wholly without scruple; it was known at once that he would more
than compensate himself for the sacrifices which his election had
involved, and that the seller would far exceed the simony of the buyer.
It must be remembered that the vice-chancellorship and other offices
which Alexander had formerly held had taught him to know better and
turn to more practical account the various sources of revenue than any
other member of the Curia. As early as 1494, a Carmelite, Adam of
Genoa, who had preached at Rome against simony, was found murdered in
his bed with twenty wounds. Hardly a single cardinal was appointed
without the payment of enormous sums of money.

But when the Pope in course of time fell under the influence of his son
Cesare Borgia, his violent measures assumed that character of devilish
wickedness which necessarily reacts upon the ends pursued. What was
done in the struggle with the Roman nobles and with the tyrants of
Romagna exceeded in faithlessness and barbarity even that measure to
which the Aragonese rulers of Naples had already accustomed the world;
and the genius for deception was also greater. The manner in which
Cesare isolated his father, murdering brother, brother-in-law, and
other relations or courtiers, whenever their favour with the Pope or
their position in any other respect became inconvenient to him, is
literally appalling. Alexander was forced to acquiesce in the murder of
his best-loved son, the Duke of Gandia, since he himself lived in
hourly dread of Cesare.

What were the final aims of the latter? Even in the last months of his
tyranny, when he had murdered the Condottieri at Sinigaglia, and was to
all intents and purposes master of the ecclesiastical State (1503),
those who stood near him gave the modest reply that the Duke merely
wished to put down the factions and the despots, and all for the good
of the Church only; that for himself he desired nothing more than the
lordship of the Romagna, and that he had earned the gratitude of all
the following Popes by ridding them of the Orsini and Colonna. But no
one will accept this as his ultimate design. The Pope Alexander
himself, in his discussions with the Venetian ambassador, went further
than this, when committing his son to the protection of Venice: 'I will
see to it,' he said, that one day the Papacy shall belong either to him
or to you.' Cesare indeed added that no one could become Pope without
the consent of Venice, and for this end the Venetian cardinals had only
to keep well together. Whether he referred to himself or not we are
unable to say; at all events, the declaration of his father is
sufficient to prove his designs on the pontifical throne. We further
obtain from Lucrezia Borgia a certain amount of indirect evidence, in
so far as certain passages in the poems of Ercole Strozza may be the
echo of expressions which she as Duchess of Ferrara may easily have
permitted herself to use. Here, too, Cesare's hopes of the Papacy are
chiefly spoken of; but now and then a supremacy over all Italy is
hinted at, and finally we are given to understand that as temporal
ruler Cesare's projects were of the greatest, and that for their sake
he had formerly surrendered his cardinalate. In fact, there can be no
doubt whatever that Cesare, whether chosen Pope or not after the death
of Alexander, meant to keep possession of the pontifical State at any
cost, and that this, after all the enormities he had committed, he
could not as Pope have succeeded in doing permanently. He, if anybody,
could have secularized the States of the Church, and he would have been
forced to do so in order to keep them. Unless we are much deceived,
this is the real reason of the secret sympathy with which Machiavelli
treats the great criminal; from Cesare, or from nobody, could it be
hoped that he 'would draw the steel from the wound,' in other words,
annihilate the Papacy--the source of all foreign intervention and of
all the divisions of Italy. The intriguers who thought to divine
Cesare's aims, when holding out to him hopes of the Kingdom of Tuscany,
seem to have been dismissed with contempt.

But all logical conclusions from his premises are idle, not because of
the unaccountable genius, which in fact characterized him as little as
it did Wallenstein, but because the means which he employed were not
compatible with any large and consistent course of action. Perhaps,
indeed, in the very excess of his wickedness some prospect of salvation
for the Papacy may have existed even without the accident which put an
end to his rule.

Even if we assume that the destruction of the petty despots in the
pontifical State had gained for him nothing but sympathy, even if we
take as proof of his great projects the army composed of the best
soldiers and officers in Italy, with Leonardo da Vinci as chief
engineer, which followed his fortunes in 1502, other facts nevertheless
bear such a character of unreason that our judgement, like that of
contemporary observers, is wholly at a loss to explain them. One fact
of this kind is the devastation and maltreatment of the newly-won
State, which Cesare still intended to keep and to rule over. Another is
the condition of Rome and of the Curia in the last decades of the
pontificate. Whether it were that father and son had drawn up a formal
list of proscribed persons, or that the murders were resolved upon one
by one, in either case the Borgias were bent on the secret destruction
of all who stood in their way or whose inheritance they coveted. Of
this, money and movable goods formed the smallest part; it was a much
greater source of profit for the Pope that the incomes of the clerical
dignitaries in question were suspended by their death, and that he
received the revenues of their offices while vacant, and the price of
these offices when they were filled by the successors of the murdered
men. The Venetian ambassador Paolo Capello reported in the year 1500:
'Every night four or five murdered men are discovered--bishops,
prelates and others--so that all Rome is trembling for fear of being
destroyed by the Duke (Cesare).' He himself used to wander about Rome
in the night-time with his guards, and there is every reason to believe
that he did so not only because, like Tiberius, he shrank from showing
his now repulsive features by daylight, but also to gratify his insane
thirst for blood, perhaps even on persons unknown to him.

As early as the year 1499 the despair was so great and so general that
many of the Papal guards were waylaid and put to death- But those whom
the Borgias could not assail with open violence fell victims to their
poison. For the cases in which a certain amount of discretion seemed
requisite, a white powder of an agreeable taste was made use of, which
did not work on the spot, but slowly and gradually, and which could be
mixed without notice in any dish or goblet. Prince Djem had taken some
of it in a sweet draught, before Alexander surrendered him to Charles
VIII (1495), and at the end of their career father and son poisoned
themselves with the same powder by accidentally tasting a sweetmeat
intended for a wealthy cardinal. The official epitomizer of the history
of the Popes, Onofrio Panvinio, mentions three cardinals, Orsini,
Ferrerio and Michiel, whom Alexander caused to be poisoned, and hints
at a fourth, Giovanni Borgia, whom Cesare took into his own charge--
though probably wealthy prelates seldom died in Rome at that time
without giving rise to suspicions of this sort. Even tranquil scholars
who had withdrawn to some provincial town were not out of reach of the
merciless poison. A secret horror seemed to hang about the Pope; storms
and thunderbolts, crushing in walls and chambers, had in earlier times
often visited and alarmed him; in the year I 500, when these phenomena
were repeated, they were held to be 'cosa diabolica.' The report of
these events seems at last, through the well-attended jubilee of 1500,
to have been carried far and wide throughout the countries of Europe,
and the infamous traffic in indulgences did what else was needed to
draw all eyes upon Rome. Besides the returning pilgrims, strange white-
robed penitents came from Italy to the North, among them disguised
fugitives from the Papal State, who are not likely to have been silent.
Yet none can calculate how far the scandal and indignation of
Christendom might have gone, before they became a source of pressing
danger to Alexander. 'He would,' says Panvinio elsewhere, 'have put all
the other rich cardinals and prelates out of the way, to get their
property, had he not, in the midst of his great plans for his son, been
struck down by death.' And what might not Cesare have achieved if, at
the moment when his father died, he had not himself been laid upon a
sickbed! What a conclave would that have been, in which, armed with all
his weapons, he had extorted his election from a college whose numbers
he had judiciously reduced by poison--and this at a time when there was
no French army at hand! In pursuing such a hypothesis the imagination
loses itself in an abyss.

Instead of this followed the conclave in which Pius III was elected,
and, after his speedy death, that which chose Julius II --both
elections the fruits of a general reaction.

Whatever may have been the private morals of Julius II, in all
essential respects he was the savior of the Papacy. His familiarity
with the course of events since the pontificate of his uncle Sixtus had
given him a profound insight into the grounds and conditions of the
Papal authority. On these he founded his own policy, and devoted to it
the whole force and passion of his unshaken soul. He ascended the steps
of St. Peter's chair without simony and amid general applause, and with
him ceased, at all events, the undisguised traffic in the highest
offices of the Church. Julius had favorites, and among them were some
the reverse of worthy, but a special fortune put him above the
temptation to nepotism. His brother, Giovanni della Rovere, was the
husband of the heiress of Urbino, sister of the last Montefeltro,
Guidobaldo, and from this marriage was born, in 1491, a son, Francesco
Maria della Rovere, who was at the same time Papal 'nipote' and lawful
heir to the duchy of Urbino. What Julius elsewhere acquired, either on
the field of battle or by diplomatic means, he proudly bestowed on the
Church, not on his family; the ecclesiastical territory, which he found
in a state of dissolution, he bequeathed to his successor completely
subdued, and increased by Parma and Piacenza. It was not his fault that
Ferrara too was not added the Church. The 700,000 ducats which were
stored up in the Castel Sant' Angelo were to be delivered by the
governor to none but the future Pope. He made himself heir of the
cardinals, and, indeed, of all the clergy who died in Rome, and this by
the most despotic means; but he murdered or poisoned none of them. That
he should himself lead his forces to battle was for him an unavoidable
necessity, and certainly did him nothing but good at a time when a man
in Italy was forced to be either hammer or anvil, and when per-
sonality was a greater power than the most indisputable right. If
despite all his high-sounding 'Away with the barbarians! ' he
nevertheless contributed more than any man to the firm settlement of
the Spaniards in Italy, he may have thought it a matter of indifference
to the Papacy, or even, as things stood, a relative advantage. And to
whom, sooner than to Spain, could the Church look for a sincere and
lasting respect, in an age when the princes of Italy cherished none but
sacrilegious projects against her? Be this as it may, the powerful,
original nature, which could swallow no anger and conceal no genuine
good-will, made on the whole the impression most desirable in his
situation--that of the 'Pontefice terribile.' 26 He could even, with
comparatively clear conscience, venture to summon a council to Rome,
and so bid defiance to that outcry for a council which was raised by
the opposition all over Europe. A ruler of this stamp needed some great
outward symbol of his conceptions; Julius found it in the
reconstruction of St. Peter's. The plan of it, as Bramante wished to
have it, is perhaps the grandest expression of power in unity which can
be imagined. In other arts besides architecture the face and the memory
of the Pope live on in their most ideal form, and it is not without
significance that even the Latin poetry of those days gives proof of a
wholly different enthusiasm for Julius than that shown for his
predecessors. The entry into Bologna, at the end of the 'Iter Julii
Secundi' by the Cardinal Adriano da Corneto, has a splendor of its own,
and Giovan Antonio Flaminio, in one of the finest elegies, appealed to
the patriot in the Pope to grant his protection to Italy.

In a constitution of his Lateran Council, Julius had solemnly denounced
the simony of the Papal elections. After his death in 1513, the money-
loving cardinals tried to evade the prohibition by proposing that the
endowments and offices hitherto held by the chosen candidate should be
equally divided among themselves, in which case they would have elected
the best-endowed cardinal, the incompetent Raphael Riario. But a
reaction, chiefly arising from the younger members of the Sacred
College, who, above all things, desired a liberal Pope, rendered the
miserable combination futile; Giovanni Medici was elected --the famous
Leo X.

We shall often meet with him in treating of the noonday of the
Renaissance; here we wish only to point out that under him the Papacy
was again exposed to great inward and outward dangers. Among these we
do not reckon the conspiracy of the Cardinals Petrucci, De Sauli,
Riario, and Corneto (1517), which at most could have occasioned a
change of and to which Leo found the true antidote in the un-heard-of
creation of thirty-one new cardinals, a measure which additional
advantage of rewarding, in some cases at least, real merit.

But some of the paths which Leo allowed himself to tread during the
first two years of his office were perilous to the last degree. He
seriously endeavored to secure, by negotiation, the kingdom of Naples
for his brother Giuliano, and for his nephew Lorenzo a powerful North
Italian State, to comprise Milan, Tuscany, Urbino and Ferrara. It is
clear that the Pontifical State, thus hemmed in on all sides, would
have become a mere Medicean appanage, and that, in fact, there would
have been no further need to secularize it.

The plan found an insuperable obstacle in the political conditions of
the time. Giuliano died early. To provide for Lorenzo, Leo undertook to
expel the Duke Francesco Maria della Rovere from Urbino, but reaped
from the war nothing but hatred and poverty, and was forced, when in
1519 Lorenzo followed his uncle to the grave, to hand over the hard-won
conquests to the Church. He did on compulsion and without credit what,
if it had been done voluntarily, would have been to his lasting honour.
What he attempted against Alfonso of Ferrara, and actually achieved
against a few petty despots and Condottieri, was assuredly not of a
kind to raise his reputation. And this was at a time when the monarchs
of the West were yearly growing more and more accustomed to political
gambling on a colossal scale, of which the stakes were this or that
province of Italy. Who could guarantee that, since the last decades had
seen so great an increase of their power at home, their ambition would
stop short of the States of the Church? Leo himself witnessed the
prelude of what was fulfilled in the year 1527; a few bands of Spanish
infantry appeared of their own accord, it seems-- at the end of 1520,
on the borders of the Pontifical territory, with a view to laying the
Pope under contribution, but were driven back by the Papal forces. The
public feeling, too, against the corruptions of the hierarchy had of
late years been drawing rapidly to a head, and men with an eye for the
future, like the younger Pico della Mirandola, called urgently for
reform. Meantime Luther had already appeared upon the scene.

Under Adrian VI (1521-1523), the few and timid improvements, carried
out in the face of the great German Reformation, came too late. He
could do little more than proclaim his horror of the course which
things had taken hitherto, of simony, nepotism, prodigality,
brigandage, and profligacy. The danger from the side of the Lutherans
was by no means the greatest; an acute observer from Venice, Girolamo
Negro, uttered his fears that a speedy and terrible disaster would
befall the city of Rome itself.

Under Clement VII the whole horizon of Rome was filled with vapors,
like that leaden veil which the sirocco drew over the Campagna, and
which made the last months of summer so deadly. The Pope was no less
detested at home than abroad. Thoughtful people were filled with
anxiety, hermits appeared upon the streets and squares of Rome,
foretelling the fate of Italy and of the world, and calling the Pope by
the name of Antichrist; the faction of the Colonna raised its head
defiantly; the indomitable Cardinal Pompeo Colonna, whose mere
existence was a permanent menace to the Papacy, ventured to surprise
the city in 1526, hoping with the help of Charles V, to become Pope
then and there, as soon as Clement was killed or captured. It was no
piece of good fortune for Rome that the latter was able to escape to
the Castel Sant' Angelo, and the fate for which he himself was reserved
may well be called worse than death. By a series of those falsehoods
which only the powerful can venture on, but which bring ruin upon the
weak, Clement brought about the advance of the Germano-Spanish army
under Bourbon and Frundsberg (1527). It is certain that the Cabinet of
Charles V intended to inflict on him a severe castigation, and that it
could not calculate beforehand how far the zeal of its unpaid hordes
would carry them. It would have been vain to attempt to enlist men in
Germany without paying any bounty, if it had not been well known that
Rome was the object of the expedition. It may be that the written
orders to Bourbon will be found some day or other, and it is not
improbable that they will prove to be worded mildly. But historical
criticism will not allow itself to be led astray. The Catholic King and
Emperor owed it to his luck and nothing else that Pope and cardinals
were not murdered by his troops. Had this happened, no sophistry in the
world could clear him of his share in the guilt. The massacre of
countless people of less consequence, the plunder of the rest, and all
the horrors of torture and traffic in human life, show clearly enough
what was possible in the 'Sacco di Roma.'

Charles seems to have wished to bring the Pope, who had fled a second
time to the Castel Sant' Angelo, to Naples, after extorting from him
vast sums of money, and Clement's flight to Orvieto must have happened
without any connivance on the part of Spain. Whether the Emperor ever
thought seriously of the secularization of the States of the Church,
for which every body was quite prepared, and whether he was really
dissuaded from it by the representations of Henry VIII of England, will
probably never be made clear.

But if such projects really existed, they cannot have lasted long: from
the devastated city arose a new spirit of reform both in Church and
State. It made itself felt in a moment. Cardinal Sadoleto, one witness
of many, thus writes: 'If through our suffering a satisfaction is made
to the wrath and justice of God, if these fearful punishments again
open the way to better laws and morals, then is our misfortune perhaps
not of the greatest.... What belongs to God He will take care of;
before us lies a life of reformation, which no violence can take from
us. Let us so rule our deeds and thoughts as to seek in God only the
true glory of the priesthood and our own true greatness and power.'

In point of fact, this critical year, 1527, so far bore fruit that the
voices of serious men could again make themselves heard. Rome had
suffered too much to return, even under a Paul III, to the gay
corruption of Leo X.

The Papacy, too, when its sufferings became so great, began to excite a
sympathy half religious and half political. The kings could not
tolerate that one of their number should arrogate to himself the right
of Papal gaoler, and concluded (August 18, 1527) the Treaty of Amiens,
one of the objects of which was the deliverance of Clement. They thus,
at all events, turned to their own account the unpopularity which the
deeds of the Imperial troops had excited. At the same time the Emperor
became seriously embarrassed, even in Spain, where the prelates and
grandees never saw him without making the most urgent remonstrances.
When a general deputation of the clergy and laity, all clothed in
mourning, was projected, Charles, fearing that troubles might arise out
of it, like those of the insurrection quelled a few years before,
forbade the scheme. Not only did he not dare to prolong the
maltreatment of the Pope, but he was absolutely compelled, even apart
from all considerations of foreign politics, to be reconciled with the
Papacy, which he had so grievously wounded. For the temper of the
German people, which certainly pointed to a different course, seemed to
him, like German affairs generally, to afford no foundation for a
policy. It is possible, too, as a Venetian maintains, that the memory
of the sack of Rome lay heavy on his conscience, and tended to hasten
that expiation which was sealed by the permanent subjection of the
Florentines to the Medicean family of which the Pope was a member. The
'nipote' and new Duke, Alessandro Medici, was married to the natural
daughter of the Emperor.

In the following years the plan of a Council enabled Charles to keep
the Papacy in all essential points under his control, and at one and
the same time to protect and to oppress it. The greatest danger of all-
-secularization--the danger which came from within, from the Popes
themselves and their 'nipoti,' was adjourned for centuries by the
German Reformation. Just as this alone had made the expedition against
Rome (1527) possible and successful, so did it compel the Papacy to
become once more the expression of a world-wide spiritual power, to
raise itself from the soulless debasement in which it lay, and to place
itself at the head of all the enemies of this reformation. The
institution thus developed during the latter years of Clement VII, and
under Paul III, Paul IV, and their successors, in the face of the
defection of half Europe, was a new, regenerated hierarchy, which
avoided all the great and dangerous scandals of former times,
particularly nepotism, with its attempts at territorial aggrandizement,
and which, in alliance with the Catholic princes, and impelled by a
newborn spiritual force, found its chief work in the recovery of what
had been lost. It only existed and is only intelligible in opposition
to the seceders. In this sense it can be said with perfect truth that
the moral salvation of the Papacy is due to its mortal enemies. And now
its political position, too, though certainly under the permanent
tutelage of Spain, became impregnable; almost without effort it
inherited, on the extinction of its vassals, the legitimate line of
Este and the house of Della Rovere, the duchies of Ferrara and Urbino.
But without the Reformation--if, indeed, it is possible to think it
away--the whole ecclesiastical State would long ago have passed into
secular hands.


In conclusion, let us briefly consider the effect of these political
circumstances on the spirit of the nation at large.

It is evident that the general political uncertainty in Italy, during
the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, was of a kind to excite in the
better spirits of the time a patriotic disgust and opposition. Dante
and Petrarch, in their day, proclaimed loudly a common Italy, the
object of the highest efforts of all her children. It may be objected
that this was only the enthusiasm of a few highly instructed men, in
which the mass of the people had no share; but it can hardly have been
otherwise even in Germany, although in name at least that country was
united, and recognized in the Emperor one supreme head. The first
patriotic utterances of German literature, if we except some verses of
the 'Minnesanger,' belong to the humanists of the time of Maximilian I
and after, and read like an echo of Italian declamations. And yet, as a
matter of fact, Germany had been long a nation in a truer sense than
Italy ever was since the Roman days. France owes the consciousness of
its national unity mainly to its conflicts with the English, and Spain
has never permanently succeeded in absorbing Portugal, closely related
as the two countries are. For Italy, the existence of the
ecclesiastical State, and the conditions under which alone it could
continue, were a permanent obstacle to national unity, an obstacle
whose removal seemed hopeless. When, therefore, in the political
intercourse of the fifteenth century, the common fatherland is
sometimes emphatically named, it is done in most cases to annoy some
other Italian State. But those deeply serious and sorrowful appeals to
national sentiment were not heard again till later, when the time for
unity had gone by, when the country was inundated with Frenchmen and
Spaniards. The sense of local patriotism may be said in some measure to
have taken the place of this feeling, though it was but a poor
equivalent for it.

Part Two



In the character of these States, whether republics or despotisms,
lies, not the only, but the chief reason for the early development of
the Italian. To this it is due that he was the firstborn among the sons
of modern Europe.

In the Middle Ages both sides of human consciousness--that which was
turned within as that which was turned without-- lay dreaming or half
awake beneath a common veil. The veil was woven of faith, illusion, and
childish prepossession, through which the world and history were seen
clad in strange hues. Man was conscious of himself only as a member of
a race, people, party, family, or corporation--only through some
general category. In Italy this veil first melted into air; an
_objective _treatment and consideration of the State and of all the
things of this world became possible. The subjective side at the same
time asserted itself with corresponding emphasis; man became a
spiritual _individual, _recognized himself as such. In the same way the
Greek had once distinguished himself from the barbarian, and the Arab
had felt himself an individual at a time when other Asiatics knew
themselves only as members of a race. It will not be difficult to show
that this result was due above all to the political circumstances of

In far earlier times we can here and there detect a development of free
personality which in Northern Europe either did not occur at all, or
could not display itself in the same manner. The band of audacious
wrongdoers in the tenth century described to us by Liudprand, some of
the contemporaries of Gregory VII (for example, Benzo of Alba), and a
few of the opponents of the first Hohenstaufen, show us characters of
this kind. But at the close of the thirteenth century Italy began to
swarm with individuality; the ban laid upon human personality was
dissolved; and a thousand figures meet us each in its own special shape
and dress. Dante's great poem would have been impossible in any other
country of Europe, if only for the reason that they all still lay under
the spell of race. For Italy the august poet, through the wealth of
individuality which he set forth, was the most national herald of his
time. But this unfolding of the treasures of human nature in literature
and art--this many-sided representation and criticism--will be
discussed in separate chapters; here we have to deal only with the
psychological fact itself. This fact appears in the most decisive and
unmistakable form. The Italians of the fourteenth century knew little
of false modesty or of hypocrisy in any shape; not one of them was
afraid of singularity, of being and seeming unlike his neighbors.

Despotism, as we have already seen, fostered in the highest degree the
individuality not only of the tyrant or Condottiere himself, but also
of the men whom he protected or used as his tools--the secretary,
minister, poet, and companion. These people were forced to know all the
inward resources of their own nature, passing or permanent; and their
enjoyment of life was enhanced and concentrated by the desire to obtain
the greatest satisfaction from a possibly very brief period of power
and influence.

But even the subjects whom they ruled over were not free from the same
impulse. Leaving out of account those who wasted their lives in secret
opposition and conspiracies, we speak of the majority who were content
with a strictly private station, like most of the urban population of
the Byzantine empire and the Mohammedan States. No doubt it was often
hard for the subjects of a Visconti to maintain the dignity of their
persons and families, and multitudes must have lost in moral character
through the servitude they lived under. But this was not the case with
regard to individuality; for political impotence does not hinder the
different tendencies and manifestations of private life from thriving
in the fullest vigor and variety. Wealth and culture, so far as display
and rivalry were not forbidden to them, a municipal freedom which did
not cease to be considerable, and a Church which, unlike that of the
Byzantine or of the Mohammedan world, was not identical with the State-
-all these conditions undoubtedly favored the growth of individual
thought, for which the necessary leisure was furnished by the cessation
of party conflicts. The private man, indifferent to politics, and
busied partly with serious pursuits, partly with the interests of a
_dilettante, _seems to have been first fully formed in these despotisms
of the fourteenth century. Documentary evidence cannot, of course, be
required on such a point. The novelists, from whom we might expect
information, describe to us oddities in plenty, but only from one point
of view and in so far as the needs of the story demand. Their scene,
too, lies chiefly in the republican cities.

In the latter, circumstances were also, but in another way, favourable
to the growth of individual character. The more frequently the
governing party was changed, the more the individual was led to make
the utmost of the exercise and enjoyment of power. The statesmen and
popular leaders, especially in Florentine history, acquired so marked a
personal character that we can scarcely find, even exceptionally, a
parallel to them in contemporary history, hardly even in Jacob van

The members of the defeated parties, on the other hand, often came into
a position like that of the subjects of the despotic States, with the
difference that the freedom or power already enjoyed, and in some cases
the hope of recovering them, gave a higher energy to their
individuality. Among these men of involuntary leisure we find, for
instance, an Agnolo Pandolfini (d. 1446), whose work on domestic
economy is the first complete programme of a developed private life.
His estimate of the duties of the individual as against the dangers and
thanklessness of public life is in its way a true monument of the age.

Banishment, too, has this effect above all, that it either wears the
exile out or develops whatever is greatest in him. 'In all our more
populous cities,' says Gioviano Pontano, 'we see a crowd of people who
have left their homes of their own free will; but a man takes his
virtues with him wherever he goes.' And, in fact, they were by no means
only men who had been actually exiled, but thousands left their native
place voluntarily, be cause they found its political or economic
condition intolerable. The Florentine emigrants at Ferrara and the
Lucchese in Venice formed whole colonies by themselves.

The cosmopolitanism which grew up in the most gifted circles is in
itself a high stage of individualism. Dante, as we have already said,
finds a new home in the language and culture of Italy, but goes beyond
even this in the words, 'My country is the whole world.' And when his
recall to Florence was offered him on unworthy conditions, he wrote
back: 'Can I not everywhere behold the light of the sun and the stars;
everywhere meditate on the noblest truths, without appearing
ingloriously and shamefully before the city and the people? Even my
bread will not fail me.' The artists exult no less defiantly in their
freedom from the constraints of fixed residence. 'Only he who has
learned everything,' says Ghiberti,'is nowhere a stranger; robbed of
his fortune and without friends, he is yet the citizen of every
country, and can fearlessly despise the changes of fortune.' In the
same strain an exiled humanist writes: 'Wherever a learned man fixes
his seat, there is home.'

An acute and practiced eye might be able to trace, step by step, the
increase in the number of complete men during the fifteenth century.
Whether they had before them as a conscious object the harmonious
development of their spiritual and material existence, is hard to say;
but several of them attained it, so far as is consistent with the
imperfection of all that is earthly. It may be better to renounce the
attempt at an estimate of the share which fortune, character, and
talent had in the life of Lorenzo il Magnifico. But look at a
personality like that of Ariosto, especially as shown in his satires.
In what harmony are there expressed the pride of the man and the poet,
the irony with which he treats his own enjoyments, the most delicate
satire, and the deepest goodwill!

When this impulse to the highest individual development was combined
with a powerful and varied nature, which had mastered all the elements
of the culture of the age, then arose the 'all-sided man'--'l'uomo
universale'--who belonged to Italy alone. Men there were of
encyclopedic knowledge _, in many countries during the Middle Ages, for
this knowledge was confined within narrow limits; and even in the
twelfth century there were universal artists, but the problems of
architecture were comparatively simple and uniform, and in sculpture
and painting the matter was of more importance than the form. But in
Italy at the time of the Renaissance, we find artists who in every
branch created new and perfect works, and who also made the greatest
impression as men. Others, outside the arts they practiced, were
masters of a vast circle of spiritual interests.

Dante, who, even in his lifetime, was called by some a poet, by others
a philosopher, by others a theologian, pours forth in all his writings
a stream of personal force by which the reader, apart from the interest
of the subject, feels himself carried away. What power of will must the
steady, unbroken elaboration of the _Divine Comedy _have required! And
if we look at the matter of the poem, we find that in the whole
spiritual or physical world there is hardly an important subject which
the poet has not fathomed, and on which his utterances --often only a
few words--are not the most weighty of his time. For the visual arts he
is of the first importance, and this for better reasons than the few
references to contemporary artists--he soon became himself the source
of inspiration.

The fifteenth century is, above all, that of the many-sided men. There
is no biography which does not, besides the chief work of its hero,
speak of other pursuits all passing beyond the limits of dilettantism.
The Florentine merchant and statesman was often learned in both the
classical languages; the most famous humanists read the Ethics and
Politics of Aristotle to him and his sons; even the daughters of the
house were highly educated. It is in these circles that private
education was first treated seriously. The humanist, on his side, was
compelled to the most varied attainments, since his philological
learning was not limited, as it is now, to the theoretical knowledge of
classical antiquity, but had to serve the practical needs of daily
life. While studying Pliny, he made collections of natural history; the
geography of the ancients was his guide in treating of modern
geography, their history was his pattern in writing contemporary
chronicles, even when composed in Italian; he Dot only translated the
comedies of Plautus, but acted as manager when they were put on the
stage; every effective form of ancient literature down to the dialogues
of Lucian he did his best to imitate; and besides all this, he acted as
magistrate, secretary and diplomatist--not always to his own advantage.

But among these many-sided men, some, who may truly be called all-
sided, tower above the rest. Before analyzing the general phases of
life and culture of this period, we may here, on the threshold of the
fifteenth century, consider for a moment the figure of one of these
giants -- Leon Battista Alberti (b. 1404, d. 1472). His biography,
which is only a fragment, speaks of him but little as an artist , and
makes no mention at all of his great significance in the history of
architecture. We shall now see what he was, apart from these special
claims to distinction.

In all by which praise is won, Leon Battista was from his childhood the
first. Of his various gymnastic feats and exercises we read with
astonishment how, with his feet together, he could spring over a man's
head; how in the cathedral, he threw a coin in the air till it was
heard to ring against the distant roof; how the wildest horses trembled
under him. In three things he desired to appear faultless to others, in
walking, in riding, and in speaking. He learned music without a master,
and yet his compositions were admired by professional judges. Under the
pressure of poverty, he studied both civil and canonical law for many
years, till exhaustion brought on a severe illness. In his twenty-
fourth year, finding his memory for words weakened, but his sense of
facts unimpaired, he set to work at physics and mathematics. And all
the while he acquired every sort of accomplishment and dexterity,
cross-examining artists, scholars and artisans of all descriptions,
down to the cobblers, about the secrets and peculiarities of their
craft. Painting and modelling he practiced by the way, and especially
excelled in admirable likenesses from memory. Great admiration was
excited by his mysterious 'camera obscura,' in which he showed at one
time the stars and the moon rising over rocky hills, at another wide
landscapes with mountains and gulfs receding into dim perspective, and
with fleets advancing on the waters in shade or sunshine. And that
which others created he welcomed joyfully, and held every human
achievement which followed the laws of beauty for something almost
divine. To all this must be added his literary works, first of all
those on art, which are landmarks and authorities of the first order
for the Renaissance of Form, especially in architecture; then his Latin
prose writings -- novels and other works -- of which some have been
taken for productions of antiquity; his elegies, eclogues, and humorous
dinner-speeches. He also wrote an Italian treatise on domestic life in
four books; and even a funeral oration on his dog. His serious and
witty sayings were thought worth collecting, and specimens of them,
many columns long, are quoted in his biography. And all that he had and
knew he imparted, as rich natures always do, without the least reserve,
giving away his chief discoveries for nothing. But the deepest spring
of his nature has yet to be spoken of -- the sympathetic intensity with
which he entered into the whole life around him. At the sight of noble
trees and waving cornfields he shed tears; handsome and dignified old
men he honored as 'a delight of nature,' and could never look at them
enough. Perfectly formed animals won his goodwill as being specially
favored by nature; and more than once, when he was ill, the sight of a
beautiful landscape cured him. No wonder that those who saw him in this
close and mysterious communion with the world ascribed to him the gift
of prophecy. He was said to have foretold a bloody catastrophe in the
family of Este, the fate of Florence and that of the Popes many years
beforehand, and to be able to read in the countenances and the hearts
of men. It need not be added that an iron will pervaded and sustained
his whole personality; like all the great men of the Renaissance, he
said, 'Men can do all things if they will.'

And Leonardo da Vinci was to Alberti as the finisher to the beginner,
as the master to the _dilettante_. Would only that Vasari's work were
here supplemented by a description like that of Alberti! The colossal
outlines of Leonardo's nature can never be more than dimly and
distantly conceived.


To this inward development of the individual corresponds a new sort of
outward distinction--the modern form of glory.

In the other countries of Europe the different classes of society lived
apart, each with its own medieval caste sense of honour. The poetical
fame of the Troubadours and Minnesanger was peculiar to the knightly
order. But in Italy social equality had appeared before the time of the
tyrannies or the democracies. We there find early traces of a general
society, having, as will be shown more fully later on, a common ground
in Latin and Italian literature; and such a ground was needed for this
new element in life to grow in. To this must be added that the Roman
authors, who were not zealously studied, are filled and saturated with
the conception of fame, and that their subject itself--the universal
empire of Rome-- stood as a permanent ideal before the minds of
Italians. From henceforth all the aspirations and achievements of the
people were governed by a moral postulate, which was still unknown
elsewhere in Europe.

Here, again, as in all essential points, the first witness to be called
is Dante. He strove for the poet's garland with all the power of his
soul.33 As publicist and man of letters, he laid stress on the fact
that what he did was new, and that he wished not only to be, but to be
esteemed the first in his own walks.34 But in his prose writings he
touches also on the inconveniences of fame; he knows how often personal
acquaintance with famous men is disappointing, and explains how this is
due partly to the childish fancy of men, partly to envy, and partly to
the imperfections of the hero himself. And in his great poem he firmly
maintains the emptiness of fame, although in a manner which betrays
that his heart was not free from the longing for it. In Paradise the
sphere of Mercury is the seat of such blessed ones as on earth strove
after glory and thereby dimmed 'the beams of true love.' It is
characteristic that the lost souls in hell beg of Dante to keep alive
for them their memory and fame on earth, while those in Purgatory only
entreat his prayers and those of others for their deliverance.37 And in
a famous passage, the passion for fame--'lo gran disio dell'eccellenza'
(the great desire of excelling)--is reproved for the reason that
intellectual glory is not absolute, but relative to the times, and may
be surpassed and eclipsed by greater successors.

The new race of poet-scholars which arose soon after Dante quickly made
themselves masters of this fresh tendency. They did so in a double
sense, being themselves the most acknowledged celebrities of Italy, and
at the same time, as poets and historians, consciously disposing of the
reputation of others. An outward symbol of this sort of fame was the
coronation of the poets, of which we shall speak later on.

A contemporary of Dante, Albertinus Musattus or Mussatus, crowned poet
at Padua by the bishop and rector, enjoyed a fame which fell little
short of deification. Every Christmas Day the doctors and students of
both colleges at the University came in solemn procession before his
house with trumpets and, it seems, with burning tapers, to salute him
and bring him presents. His reputation lasted till, in 1318, he fell
into disgrace with the ruling tyrant of the House of Carrara.

This new incense, which once was offered only to saints and heroes, was
given in clouds to Petrarch, who persuaded himself in his later years
that it was but a foolish and troublesome thing. His letter 'To
Posterity' is the confession of an old and famous man, who is forced to
gratify the public curiosity. He admits that he wishes for fame in the
times to come, but would rather be without it in his own day. In his
dialogue on fortune and misfortune, the interlocutor, who maintains the
futility of glory, has the best of the contest. But, at the same time,
Petrarch is pleased that the autocrat of Byzantium knows him as well by
his writings as Charles IV knows him. And in fact, even in his
lifetime, his fame extended far beyond Italy. And the emotion which he
felt was natural when his friends, on the occasion of a visit to his
native Arezzo (1350), took him to the house where he was born, and told
him how the city had provided that no change should be made in it. In
former times the dwellings of certain great saints were preserved and
revered in this way, like the cell of St. Thomas Aquinas in the
Dominican convent at Naples, and the Portincula of St. Francis near
Assisi; and one or two great jurists so enjoyed the half-mythical
reputation which led to this honour. Towards the close of the
fourteenth century the people at Bagnolo, near Florence, called an old
building the 'Studio of Accursius' (died in 1260), but, nevertheless,
suffered it to be destroyed. It is probable that the great incomes and
the political influence which some jurists obtained as consulting
lawyers made a lasting impression on the popular imagination.

To the cult of the birthplaces of famous men must be added that of
their graves, and, in the case of Petrarch, of the spot where he died.
In memory of him Arqua became a favorite resort of the Paduans, and was
dotted with graceful little villas. At this time there were no 'classic
spots' in Northern Europe, and pilgrimages were only made to pictures
and relics. It was a point of honour for the different cities to
possess the bones of their own and foreign celebrities; and it is most
remarkable how seriously the Florentines, even in the fourteenth
century-- long before the building of Santa Croce--labored to make
their cathedral a Pantheon. Accorso, Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, and
the jurist Zanobi della Strada were to have had magnificent tombs there
erected to them. Late in the fifteenth century, Lorenzo il Magnifico
applied in person to the Spoletans, asking them to give up the corpse
of the painter Fra Filippo Lippi for the cathedral, and received the
answer that they had none too many ornaments to the city, especially in
the shape of distinguished people, for which reason they begged him to
spare them; and, in fact, he had to be content with erecting a
cenotaph. And even Dante, in spite of all the applications to which
Boccaccio urged the Florentines with bitter emphasis, remained sleeping
tranquilly in San Francesco at Ravenna, 'among ancient tombs of
emperors and vaults of saints, in more honorable company than thou, O
Florence, couldst offer him.' It even happened that a man once took
away unpunished the lights from the altar on which the crucifix stood,
and set there by the grave, with the words, 'Take them; thou art more
worthy of them than He, the Crucified One! ' (Franco Sacchetti, Novella

And now the Italian cities began again to remember their ancient
citizens and inhabitants. Naples, perhaps, had never forgotten its tomb
of Virgil, since a kind of mythical halo had become attached to the

The Paduans, even in the sixteenth century, firmly believed that they
possessed not only the genuine bones of their founder, Antenor, but
also those of the historian Livy. 'Sulmona,' says Boccaccio, 'bewails
that Ovid lies buried far away in exile; and Parma rejoices that
Cassius sleeps within its walls.' The Mantuans coined a medal in 1257
with the bust of Virgil, and raised a statue to represent him. In a fit
of aristocratic insolence, the guardian of the young Gonzaga, Carlo
Malatesta, caused it to be pulled down in 1392, and was afterwards
forced, when he found the fame of the old poet too strong for him, to
set it up again. Even then, perhaps, the grotto, a couple of miles from
the town, where Virgil was said to have meditated, was shown to
strangers, like the 'Scuola di Virgilio' at Naples. Como claimed both
the Plinys for its own, and at the end of the fifteenth century erected
statues in their honour, sitting under graceful baldachins on the
facade of the cathedral.

History and the new topography were now careful to leave no local
celebrity unnoticed. At the same period the northern chronicles only
here and there, among the list of popes, emperors, earthquakes, and
comets, put in the remark, that at such a time this or that famous man
'flourished.' We shall elsewhere have to show how, mainly under the
influence of this idea of fame, an admirable biographical literature
was developed. We must here limit ourselves to the local patriotism of
the topographers who recorded the claims of their native cities to

In the Middle Ages, the cities were proud of their saints and of the
bones and relics in their churches. With these the panegyrist of Padua
in 1450, Michele Savonarola, begins his list; from them he passes to
'the famous men who were no saints, but who, by their great intellect
and force (virtus) deserve to be added _(adnecti) _to the saints'--just
as in classical antiquity the distinguished man came close upon the
hero. The further enumeration is most characteristic of the time. First
comes Antenor, the brother of Priam, who founded Padua with a band of
Trojan fugitives; King Dardanus, who defeated Attila in the Euganean
hills, followed him in pursuit, and struck him dead at Rimini with a
chessboard; the Emperor Henry IV, who built the cathedral; a King
Marcus, whose head was preserved in Monselice; then a couple of
cardinals and prelates as founders of colleges, churches, and so forth;
the famous Augustinian theologian, Fra Alberto; a string of
philosophers beginning with Paolo Veneto and the celebrated Pietro of
Abano; the jurist Paolo Padovano; then Livy and the poets Petrarch,
Mussato, Lovato. If there is any want of military celebrities in the
list, the poet consoles himself for it by the abundance of learned men
whom he has to show, and by the more durable character of intellectual
glory, while the fame of the soldier is buried with his body, or, if it
lasts, owes its permanence only to the scholar. It is nevertheless
honorable to the city that foreign warriors lie buried here by their
own wish, like Pietro de' Rossi of Parma, Filippo Arcelli of Piacenza,
and especially Gattemelata of Narni (d. 1443), whose brazen equestrian
statue, 'like a Caesar in triumph,' already stood by the church of the
Santo. The author then names a crowd of jurists and physicians, nobles
'who had not only, like so many others, received, but deserved, the
honour of knighthood.' Then follows a list of famous mechanicians,
painters, and musicians, and in conclusion the name of a fencing-master
Michele Rosso, who, as the most distinguished man in his profession,
was to be seen painted in many places.

By the side of these local temples of fame, which myth, legend, popular
admiration, and literary tradition combined to create, the poet-
scholars built up a great Pantheon of worldwide celebrity. They made
collections of famous men and famous women, often in direct imitation
of Cornelius Nepos, the pseudo-Suetonius, Valerius Maximus, Plutarch
_(Mulierum virtutes), _Jerome _(De viris illustribus), _and others: or
they wrote of imaginary triumphal processions and Olympian assemblies,
as was done by Petrarch in his 'Trionfo della Fama,' and Boccaccio in
the 'Amorosa Visione,' with hundreds of names, of which three-fourths
at least belong to antiquity and the rest to the Middle Ages. By and by
this new and comparatively modern element was treated with greater
emphasis; the historians began to insert descriptions of character, and
collections arose of the biographies of distinguished contemporaries,
like those of Filippo Villani, Vespasiano Fiorentino, Bartolommeo I
Fazio, and lastly of Paolo Giovio.

The North of Europe, until Italian influence began to tell upon its
writers-- for instance, on Trithemius, the first German who wrote the
lives of famous men- -possessed only either legends of the saints, or
descriptions of princes and churchmen partaking largely of the
character of legends and showing no traces of the idea of fame, that
is, of distinction won by a man's personal efforts. Poetical glory was
still confined to certain classes of society, and the names of northern
artists are only known to us at this period in so far as they were
members of certain guilds or corporations.

The poet-scholar in Italy had, as we have already said, the fullest
consciousness that he was the giver of fame and immortality, or, if he
chose, of oblivion. Boccaccio complains of a fair one to whom he had
done homage, and who remained hard-hearted in order that he might go on
praising her and making her famous, and he gives her a hint that he
will try the effect of a little blame. Sannazaro, in two magnificent
sonnets, threatens Alfonso of Naples with eternal obscurity on account
of his cowardly flight before Charles VIII. Angelo Poliziano seriously
exhorts (1491) King John of Portugal to think betimes of his
immortality in reference to the new discoveries in Africa, and to send
him materials to Florence, there to be put into shape _(operosius
excolenda), _otherwise it would befall him as it had befallen all the
others whose deeds, unsupported by the help of the learned, 'lie hidden
in the vast heap of human frailty.' The king, or his humanistic
chancellor, agreed to this, and promised that at least the Portuguese
chronicles of African affairs should be translated into Italian, and
sent to Florence to be done into Latin. Whether the promise was kept is
not known. These pretensions are by no means so groundless as they may
appear at first sight; for the form in which events, even the greatest,
are told to the living and to posterity is anything but a matter of
indifference. The Italian humanists, with their mode of exposition and
their Latin style, had long the complete control of the reading world
of Europe, and till last century the Italian poets were more widely
known and studied than those of any other nation. The baptismal name of
the Florentine Amerigo Vespucci was given, on account of his book of
travels, to a new quarter of the globe, and if Paolo Giovio, with all
his superficiality and graceful caprice, promised himself immortality,
his expectation has not altogether been disappointed.

Amid all these preparations outwardly to win and secure fame, the
curtain is now and then drawn aside, and we see with frightful evidence
a boundless ambition and thirst after greatness, regardless of all
means and consequences. Thus, in the preface to Machiavelli's
Florentine history, in which he blames his predecessors Leonardo,
Aretino and Poggio for their too considerate reticence with regard to
the political parties in the city: 'They erred greatly and showed that
they understood little the ambition of men and the desire to perpetuate
a name. How many who could distinguish themselves by nothing
praiseworthy, strove to do so by infamous deeds! ' Those writers did
not consider that actions which are great in themselves, as is the case
with the actions of rulers and of States, always seem to bring more
glory than blame, of whatever kind they are and whatever the result of
them may be. In more than one remarkable and dreadful undertaking the
motive assigned by serious writers is the burning desire to achieve
something great and memorable. This motive is not a mere extreme case
of ordinary vanity, but something demonic, involving a surrender of the
will, the use of any means, however atrocious, and even an indifference
to success itself. In this sense, for example, Machiavelli conceives
the character of Stefano Porcari; of the murderers of Galeazzo Maria
Sforza (1476), the documents tell us about the same; and the
assassination of Duke Alessandro of Florence (1537) is ascribed by
Varchi himself to the thirst for fame which tormented the murderer
Lorenzino Medici. Still more stress is laid on this motive by Paolo
Giovio. Lorenzino, according to him, pilloried by a pamphlet of Molza,
broods over a deed whose novelty shall make his disgrace forgotten, and
ends by murdering his kinsman and prince. These are characteristic
features of this age of overstrained and despairing passions and
forces, and remind us of the burning of the temple of Diana at Ephesus
in the time of Philip of Macedon

Ridicule and Wit

The corrective, not only of this modern desire for fame, but of all
highly developed individuality, is found in ridicule, especially when
expressed in the victorious form of wit. We read in the Middle Ages how
hostile armies, princes, and nobles, provoked one another with
symbolical insult, and how the defeated party was loaded with
symbolical outrage. Here and there, too, under the influence of
classical literature, wit began to be used as a weapon in theological
disputes, and the poetry of Provence produced a whole class of
satirical compositions. Even the Minnesanger, as their political poems
show, could adopt this tone when necessary. But wit could not be an
independent element in life till its appropriate victim, the developed
individual with personal pretensions, had appeared. Its weapons were
then by no means limited to the tongue and the pen, but included tricks
and practical jokes -- the so-called 'burle' and 'beffe'-- which form a
chief subject of many collections of novels.

The 'Hundred Old Novels,' which must have been composed about the end
of the thirteenth century, have as yet neither wit, the fruit of
contrast, nor the 'burla,' for their subject; their aim is merely to
give simple and elegant expression to wise sayings and pretty stories
or fables. But if anything proves the great antiquity of the
collection, it is precisely this absence of satire. For with the
fourteenth century comes Dante, who, in the utterance of scorn, leaves
all other poets in the world far behind, and who, if only on account of
his great picture of the deceivers, must be called the chief master of
colossal comedy. With Petrarch begin the collections of witty sayings
after the pattern of Plutarch (Apophthegmata, etc.).

What stores of wit were concentrated in Florence during this century is
most characteristically shown in the novels of Franco Sacchetti. These
are, for the most part, not stories but answers, given under certain
circumstances-- shocking pieces of _naivete,_with which silly folks,
court jesters, rogues, and profligate women make their retort. The
comedy of the tale lies in the startling contrast of this real or
assumed naivete with conventional morality and the ordinary relations
of the world--things are made to stand on their heads. All means of
picturesque representation are made use of, including the introduction
of certain North Italian dialects. Often the place of wit is taken by
mere insolence, clumsy trickery, blasphemy, and obscenity; one or two
jokes told of Condottieri are among the most brutal and malicious which
are recorded. Many of the 'burle' are thoroughly comic, but many are
only real or supposed evidence of personal superiority, of triumph over
another. How much people were willing to put up with, how often the
victim was satisfied with getting the laugh on his side by a
retaliatory trick, cannot be said; there was much heartless and
pointless malice mixed up with it all, and life in Florence was no
doubt often made unpleasant enough from this cause. The inventors and
retailers of jokes soon became inevitable figures, and among them there
must have been some who were classical-- far superior to all the mere
court-jesters, to whom competition, a changing public, and the quick
apprehension of the audience, all advantages of life in Florence, were
wanting. Some Florentine wits went starring among the despotic courts
of Lombardy and Romagna, and found themselves much better rewarded than
at home, where their talent was cheap and plentiful. The better type of
these people is the amusing man (l'uomo piacevole), the worse is the
buffoon and the vulgar parasite who presents himself at weddings and
banquets with the argument, 'If I am not invited, the fault is not
mine.' Now and then the latter combine to pluck a young spendthrift,
but in general they are treated and despised as parasites, while wits
of higher position bear themselves like princes, and consider their
talent as something sovereign. Dolcibene, whom Charles IV had
pronounced to be the 'king of Italian jesters,' said to him at Ferrara:
'You will conquer the world, since you are my friend and the Pope's;
you fight with the sword, the Pope with his bulls, and I with my
tongue.' This is no mere jest, but the foreshadowing of Pietro Aretino.

The two most famous jesters about the middle of the fifteenth century
were a priest near Florence, Arlotto (1483), for more refined wit
('facezie'), and the court-fool of Ferrara, Gonnella, for buffoonery.
We can hardly compare their stories with those of the Parson of
Kalenberg and Till Eulenspiegel, since the latter arose in a different
and half-mythical manner, as fruits of the imagination of a whole
people, and touch rather on what is general and intelligible to all,
while Arlotto and Gonnella were historical beings, colored and shaped
by local influences. But if the comparison be allowed, and extended to
the jests of the non-Italian nations, we shall find in general that the
joke in the French _fabliaux, _as among the Germans, is chiefly
directed to the attainment of some advantage or enjoyment; while the
wit of Arlotto and the practical jokes of Gonnella are an end in
themselves, and exist simply for the sake of the triumph of production.
(Till Eulenspiegel again forms a class by himself, as the personified
quiz, mostly pointless enough, of particular classes and professions.)
The court-fool of the Este retaliated more than once by his keen satire
and refined modes of vengeance.

The type of the 'uomo piacevole' and the 'buffone' long survived the
freedom of Florence. Under Duke Cosimo flourished Barlacchia, and at
the beginning of the seventeenth century Francesco Ruspoli and Curzio
Marignolli. In Pope Leo X, the genuine Florentine love of jesters
showed itself strikingly. This prince, whose taste for the most refined
intellectual pleasures was insatiable, endured and desired at his table
a number of witty buffoons and jack-puddings, among them two monks and
a cripple; at public feasts he treated them with deliberate scorn as
parasites, setting before them monkeys and crows in the place of savory
meats. Leo, indeed, showed a peculiar fondness for the 'burla'; it
belonged to his nature sometimes to treat his own favorite pursuits- -
music and poetry--ironically, parodying them with his factotum,
Cardinal Bibbiena. Neither of them found it beneath him to fool an
honest old secretary till he thought himself a master of the art of
music. The Improvisatore, Baraballo of Gaeta, was brought so far by
Leo's flattery that he applied in all seriousness for the poet's
coronation on the Capitol. On the feast of St. Cosmas and St. Damian,
the patrons of the House of Medici, he was first compelled, adorned
with laurel and purple, to amuse the papal guests with his recitations,
and at last, when all were ready to split with laughter, to mount a
gold- harnessed elephant in the court of the Vatican, sent as a present
to Rome by Emmanuel the Great of Portugal, while the Pope looked down
from above through his eye-glass. The brute, however, was so terrified
by the noise of the trumpets and kettledrums, and the cheers of the
crowd, that there was no getting him over the bridge of Sant' Angelo.

The parody of what is solemn or sublime, which here meets us in the
case of a procession, had already taken an important place in poetry.
It was naturally compelled to choose victims of another kind than those
of Aristophanes, who introduced the great tragedians into his plays.
But the same maturity of culture which at a certain period produced
parody among the Greeks, did the same in Italy. By the close of the
fourteenth century, the love-lorn wailings of Petrarch's sonnets and
others of the same kind were taken off by caricaturists; and the solemn
air of this form of verse was parodied in lines of mystic twaddle. A
constant invitation to parody was offered by the 'Divine Comedy,' and
Lorenzo il Magnifico wrote the most admirable travesty in the style of
the 'Inferno' (Simposio or I Beoni). Luigi Pulci obviously imitates the
Improvisatori in his 'Morgante,' and both his poetry and Boiardo's are
in part, at least, a half-conscious parody of the chivalrous poetry of
the Middle Ages. Such a caricature was deliberately undertaken by the
great parodist Teofilo Folengo (about 1520). Under the name of Limerno
Pitocco, he composed the 'Orlandino,' in which chivalry appears only as
a ludicrous setting for a crowd of modern figures and ideas. Under the
name of Merlinus Coccaius he described the journeys and exploits of his
fantastic vagabonds (also in the same spirit of parody) in half-Latin
hexameters, with all the affected pomp of the learned Epos of the day
('Opus Macaronicorum'). Since then caricature has been constantly, and
often brilliantly, represented on the Italian Parnassus.

About the middle period of the Renaissance a theoretical analysis of
wit was undertaken, and its practical application in good society was
regulated more precisely. The theorist was Gioviano Pontano. In his
work on speaking, especially in the third and fourth books, he tries by
means of the comparison of numerous jokes or 'facetiae' to arrive at a
general principle. How wit should be used among people of position is
taught by Baldassare Castiglione in his 'Cortigiano.' Its chief
function is naturally to enliven those present by the repetition of
comic or graceful stories and sayings; personal jokes, on the contrary,
are discouraged on the ground that they wound unhappy people, show too
much honour to wrong-doers, and make enemies of the powerful and the
spoiled children of fortune; and even in repetition, a wide reserve in
the use of dramatic gestures is recommended to the gentleman. Then
follows, not only for purposes of quotation, but as patterns for future
jesters, a large collection of puns and witty sayings, methodically
arranged according to their species, among them some that are
admirable. The doctrine of Giovanni della Casa, some twenty years
later, in his guide to good manners, is much stricter and more
cautious; with a view to the consequences, he wishes to see the desire
of triumph banished altogether from jokes and 'burle.' He is the herald
of a reaction, which was certain sooner or later to appear.

Italy had, in fact, become a school for scandal, the like of which the
world cannot show, not even in France at the time of Voltaire. In him
and his comrades there was assuredly no lack of the spirit of negation;
but where, in the eighteenth century, was to be found the crowd of
suitable victims, that countless assembly of highly and
characteristically developed human beings, celebrities of every kind,
statesmen, churchmen, inventors, and discoverers, men of letters, poets
and artists, all of whom then gave the fullest and freest play to their
individuality. This host existed in the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries, and by its side the general culture of the time had educated
a poisonous brood of impotent wits, of born critics and railers, whose
envy called for hecatombs of victims; and to all this was added the
envy of the famous men among themselves. In this the philologists
notoriously led the way--Filelfo, Poggio, Lorenzo Valla, and others--
while the artists of the fifteenth century lived in peaceful and
friendly competition with one another. The history of art may take note
of the fact.

Florence, the great market of fame, was in this point, as we have said,
in advance of other cities. 'Sharp eyes and bad tongues' is the
description given of the inhabitants. An easygoing contempt of
everything and everybody was probably the prevailing tone of society.
Machiavelli, in the remarkable prologue to his 'Mandragola,' refers
rightly or wrongly the visible decline of moral force to the general
habit of evil-speaking, and threatens his detractors with the news that
he can say sharp things as well as they. Next to Florence comes the
Papal court, which had long been a rendezvous of the bitterest and
wittiest tongues. Poggio's 'Facetiae' are dated from the Chamber of
Lies _(bugiale) _of the apostolic notaries; and when we remember the
number of disappointed place-hunters, of hopeless competitors and
enemies of the favorites, of idle, profligate prelates there assembled,
it is intelligible how Rome became the home of the savage pasquinade as
well as of more philosophical satire. If we add to this the widespread
hatred borne to the priests, and the well-known instinct of the mob to
lay any horror to the charge of the great, there results an untold mass
of infamy. Those who were able, protected themselves best by contempt
both of the false and true accusations, and by brilliant and joyous
display. More sensitive natures sank into utter despair when they found
themselves deeply involved in guilt, and still more deeply in slander.
In course of time calumny became universal, and the strictest virtue
was most certain of all to challenge the attacks of malice. Of the
great pulpit orator, Fra Egidio of Viterbo, whom Leo made a cardinal on
account of his merits, and who showed himself a man of the people and a
brave monk in the calamity of 1527, Giovio gives us to understand that
he preserved his ascetic pallor by the smoke of wet straw and other
means of the same kind. Giovio is a genuine Curial in these matters. He
generally begins by telling his story, then adds that he does not
believe it, and then hints at the end that perhaps after all there may
be something in it. But the true scapegoat of Roman scorn was the pious
and moral Adrian VI. A general agreement seemed to be made to take him
only on the comic side. He fell out from the first with the formidable
Francesco Berni, threatening to have thrown into the Tiber not, as
people said, the statue of Pasquino, but the writers of the satires
themselves. The vengeance for this was the famous 'Capitolo' against
Pope Adriano, inspired not exactly by hatred, but by contempt for the
comical Dutch barbarian; the more savage menaces were reserved for the
cardinals who had elected him. The plague, which then was prevalent in
Rome, was ascribed to him; Berni and others sketch the environment of
the Pope with the same sparkling untruthfulness with which the modern
_feuilletoniste _turns black into white, and everything into anything.
The biography which Paolo Giovio was commissioned to write by the
cardinal of Tortosa, and which was to have been a eulogy, is for anyone
who can read between the lines an unexampled piece of satire. It sounds
ridiculous at least for the Italians of that time--to hear how Adrian
applied to the Chapter of Saragossa for the jawbone of St. Lambert; how
the devout Spaniards decked him out till he looked 'like a right well-
dressed Pope'; how he came in a confused and tasteless procession from
Ostia to Rome, took counsel about burning or drowning Pasquino, would
suddenly break off the most important business when dinner was
announced; and lastly, at the end of an unhappy reign, how be died of
drinking too much beer--whereupon the house of his physician was hung
with garlands by midnight revellers, and adorned with the inscription,
'Liberatori Patriae S.P.Q.R.' It is true that Giovio had lost his money
in the general confiscation of public funds, and had only received a
benefice by way of compensation because he was 'no poet,' that is to
say, no pagan. But it was decreed that Adrian should be the last great
victim. After the disaster which befell Rome in 1527, slander visibly
declined along with the unrestrained wickedness of private life.

* * *

But while it was still flourishing was developed, chiefly in Rome the
greatest railer of modern times, Pietro Aretino. A glance at his life
and character will save us the trouble of noticing many less
distinguished members of his class.

We know him chiefly in the last thirty years of his life, (1527-56),
which he passed in Venice, the only asylum possible for him. From hence
he kept all that was famous in Italy in a kind of state of siege, and
here were delivered the presents of the foreign princes who needed or
dreaded his pen. Charles V and Francis I both pensioned him at the same
time, each hoping that Aretino would do some mischief to the other.
Aretino flattered both, but naturally attached himself more closely to
Charles, because he remained master in Italy. After the Emperor's
victory at Tunis in 1535, this tone of adulation passed into the most
ludicrous worship, in observing which it must not be forgotten that
Aretino constantly cherished the hope that Charles would help him to a
cardinal's hat. It is probable that he enjoyed special protection as
Spanish agent, as his speech or silence could have no small effect on
the smaller Italian courts and on public opinion in Italy. He affected
utterly to despise the Papal court because he knew it so well; the true
reason was that Rome neither could nor would pay him any longer.
Venice, which sheltered him, he was wise enough to leave unassailed.
The rest of his relations with the great is mere beggary and vulgar

Aretino affords the first great instance of the abuse of publicity to
such ends. The polemical writings which a hundred years earlier Poggio
and his opponents interchanged, are just as infamous in their tone and
purpose, but they were not composed for the press, but for a sort of
private circulation. Aretino made all his profit out of a complete
publicity, and in a certain sense may be considered the father of
modern journalism. His letters and miscellaneous articles were printed
periodically, after they had already been circulated among a tolerably
extensive public.

Compared with the sharp pens of the eighteenth century, Aretino had the
advantage that he was not burdened with principles, neither with
liberalism nor philanthropy nor any other virtue, nor even with
science; his whole baggage consisted of the well-known motto, 'Veritas
odium parit.' He never, conse- quently, found himself in the false
position of Voltaire, who was forced to disown his 'Pucelle' and
conceal all his life the authorship of other works. Aretino put his
name to all he wrote, and openly gloried in his notorious
'Ragionamenti.' His literary talent, his clear and sparkling style, his
varied observation of men and things, would have made him a
considerable writer under any circumstances, destitute as he was of the
power of conceiving a genuine work of art, such as a true dramatic
comedy; and to the coarsest as well as the most refined malice he added
a grotesque wit so brilliant that in some cases it does not fall short
of that of Rabelais.

In such circumstances, and with such objects and means, he set to work
to attack or circumvent his prey. The tone in which he appealed to
Clement VII not to complain or to think of vengeance, but to forgive,
at the moment when the wailings of the devastated city were ascending
to the Castel Sant' Angelo, where the Pope himself was a prisoner, is
the mockery of a devil or a monkey. Sometimes, when he is forced to
give up all hope of presents, his fury breaks out into a savage howl,
as in the 'Capitolo' to the Prince of Salerno, who after paying him for
some time refused to do so any longer. On the other hand, it seems that
the terrible Pierluigi Farnese, Duke of Parma, never took any notice of
him at all. As this gentleman had probably renounced altogether the
pleasures of a good reputation, it was not easy to cause him any
annoyance; Aretino tried to do so by comparing his personal appearance
to that of a constable, a miller, and a baker. Aretino is most comical
of all in the expression of whining mendicancy, as in the 'Capitolo' to
Francis I; but the letters and poems made up of menaces and flattery
cannot, notwithstanding all that is ludicrous in them, be read without
the deepest disgust. A letter like that one of his written to
Michelangelo in November, 1545, is alone of its kind; along with all
the admiration he expresses for the 'Last Judgement' he charges him
with irreligion, indecency, and theft from the heirs of Julius II, and
adds in a conciliating postscript, 'I only want to show you that if you
are "divino," I am not "d'acqua." ' Aretino laid great stress upon it--


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