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FLORENTINE 

HISTORIES 


by 

NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI 

A New Translation by 

LAURA F. BANFIELD 

and 

HARVEY C. MANSFIELD, JR. 

With an Introduction by Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr. 



PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS 
PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY 



COPYRIGHT © 1988 BY PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS 
PUBLISHED BY PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS, 

41 WILLIAM STREET, PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY 08540 
IN THE UNITED KINGDOM: 

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS, CHICHESTER, WEST SUSSEX 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA 
MACHIAVELLI, NICCOLd, I469-I527. 

FLORENTINE HISTORIES. 

TRANSLATION OF: ISTORIE FIORENTINE. 

bibliography: p. 

INCLUDES INDEX. 

I. FLORENCE (ITALY)-HISTORY-TO 1 42 I. 2 . FLORENCE 

(ITALY)-HISTORY-I42I-I737. I. TITLE. 

DG736.3.M3313 1988 945 - 5 1 87-38503 

(alk. paper) 

ISBN O-69I-O552I-I 
ISBN O-69I-OO863-9 (PBK.) 

FIRST PRINCETON PAPERBACK PRINTING, I 990 

THIS BOOK HAS BEEN COMPOSED IN LINOTRON BEMBO 

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS BOOKS ARE PRINTED ON 
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PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 


10 9 


CONTENTS 


Translators' Introduction 

vii 

A Note on the Translation 

xvii 

Abbreviations 

xix 



FLORENTINE HISTORIES 

Letter dedicatory 

3 


Preface 

6 

BOOK I, 

Chapters 1-39 

9 

BOOK II, 

Chapters 1-42 

52 

BOOK III, 

Chapters 1-29 

105 

BOOK IV, 

Chapters 1-33 

146 

BOOK V, 

Chapters 1-35 

185 

BOOK VI, 

Chapters 1-38 

230 

BOOK VII, 

Chapters 1-34 

276 

BOOK VIII, 

Chapters 1-36 

317 

Bibliography 


365 

Index 


369 


v 


translators’ introduction 


we have translated Machiavelli’s title for this work as Florentine Histories 
rather than the more usual, and less accurate, History of Florence. This 
choice accords with our general inclination to literalness in translation, 
but it is also intended to indicate a specific doubt as to whether Machia- 
velli is writing “history” as we know it in the Florentine Histories. 

Machiavelli’s work does resemble a present-day history book in certain 
respects. It selects an object of narration, Florence; it describes a particular 
period, from the origins of the city to the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici in 
1492; and it presents a problem or theme, the causes of the remarkable 
hatreds and divisions within Florence. But it is not a history of Florence 
in the sense we are accustomed to, which requires that Florence have or 
have had a history. Machiavelli does not use the word istoria to refer to an 
object of study; he uses it to mean only the study itself. Whereas for us 
history is both the object of study and the study itself, for Machiavelli 
history is a study, apparently, of something other than history. Thus, 
when he speaks of “our history” or “my history,” he refers to a study or 
an inquiry that he also calls “my narrations” or “my description” or “my 
undertaking” (see the Letter dedicatory). And since he does not have in 
mind history as an object, he can say “Florentine histories” in the plural 
if he wishes, contrary to usage today, which admits that many histories 
of Florence have been written but denies that Florence could have had 
more than one history. Further contrary to current practice, Machiavelli 
does not speak of “historiography”: for him, history is historiography. 

Machiavelli’s usage of the word “history,” therefore, is enough to make 
us doubt that the Florentine Histories is history as we know it. But perhaps 
history as we know it would never have allowed us to suppose otherwise. 
History as we know it, in the sense of an object as well as a study, em¬ 
braces Machiavelli in a context that could not fail to differ profoundly 
from our context, from our history. His historical context includes both 
the facts of his time, which would have influenced his writing of history, 
and the historiography characteristic of his time, together with the con¬ 
ception of history underlying those historiographic methods. 

To begin with the latter, we find humanist historians (as well as chron¬ 
iclers) preceding Machiavelli who titled their works histories in the plural, 
above all, Leonardi Bruni’s Historiae Florentini Populi. More important, 

vii 


translators’ introduction 

their histories incorporate certain features that do not appear in today’s 
history books: the division of the history into books with general, non- 
historical introductions; invented speeches presented as if they were ac¬ 
tual speeches taken down verbatim or paraphrased; and the presentation 
of a political history so much to the neglect of economic, cultural, social, 
and intellectual history as to imply that political history is the chief or 
even the only history. Machiavelli’s adoption of these conventions of hu¬ 
manist historiography suggests that his conception of history and even of 
historical context differs from ours. 

In the Preface, Machiavelli says that his purpose in this work is “to 
write down the things done at home and abroad [or, inside and outside] 
by the Florentine people.” In the first book, as he says in the Preface, he 
narrates “all the unforeseen events in Italy following upon the decline of 
the Roman Empire up to 1434.” He shows how Italy from the time of the 
barbarian invasions “came to be under those powers that governed it” in 
1434. Florence had its origin earlier than the barbarian invasions, we learn 
in 11 2, at the time when the Roman Republic was dissolving; but we 
would say, and Machiavelli seems to mean, that his first book sets Flor¬ 
ence “in context.” The difficulty is that he calls this context “our universal 
treatise” (11 2). Although the first book appears to be merely a narration 
of events in Italy, Machiavelli invests it with a significance more than his¬ 
torical. Also, each of the following seven books begins with a chapter that 
discusses some general topic nonhistorically: colonies, natural enmities 
between men of the people and the nobles, liberty and license, the natural 
cycle of order and disorder, the advantage of victory in war, the difference 
between divisions with “sects” and those without them, and conspiracies. 
To be sure, Machiavelli typically contrasts the ancients and the moderns 
in each regard in a way that might seem historical, but he does so to ex¬ 
plain the superior virtue of the ancients, not merely to adduce a difference 
in historical context. 

In the broad sweep of his outlook, and in his attention both to the rise 
and fall of states and to their internal divisions, Machiavelli is alive to the 
fact of “historical change,” as we would say. But he interprets it differ¬ 
ently. For him, historical change is either the motion of nature—not per¬ 
haps random but not intended by men—or the order and ordering (“or¬ 
ders and modes” in the Preface and vm 29) that men intend. Since nature’s 
motions do not make men feel safe or grateful, they appear to men as 
“fortune,” sometimes good and sometimes bad but never reliable. Be¬ 
cause nature looks to us like fortune, it is in effect reducible to fortune. 
Instead of the classical opposition, first discerned by philosophers, be¬ 
tween nature as unchanging and fortune as fickle, Machiavelli adopts the 
popular attitude, as he sees it, that neither nature nor fortune can be 


Vlll 


translators’ introduction 

trusted. And since human order made by human virtue is designed to 
overcome this sense of lack of support, and to create reliable principles 
and states, the context of history must be understood as a contest between 
virtue and fortune. Possibly this contest may be won definitively by vir¬ 
tue, that is, at some historical time. But the contest itself, because it ex¬ 
plains history, is not historical and will not be decided by history. If the 
contest between virtue and fortune is the context of history, then the con¬ 
text of history is not history. That is why the word “history” for Machi- 
avelli means a study or an inquiry and does not refer to history as an 
object. 

To vaunt the worth of his history, Machiavelli makes a statement in the 
Preface that we would regard today as unhistorical, but one that fits the 
practices of humanist historiography. “And if every example of a republic 
is moving,” he says, “those which one reads concerning one’s own are 
much more so and much more useful; and if in any other republic were 
there ever notable divisions, those of Florence are most notable. . . .” He 
offers a practical and a theoretical inducement to his readers, neither of 
which resembles a question of historical interest in our regard. A histo¬ 
rian, for us, is supposed to be above concern for “one’s own” and would 
not admit to choosing a topic for its utility to his own country. Yet he is 
not so abstracted from historical fact as to believe that his topic is a mere 
“example” out of some general category, whose selection must be justi¬ 
fied by a theoretical interest, say, in republics. If Florence is merely an 
example of a republic, then it is hard to find a boundary between the 
Florentine Histories and Machiavelli’s apparently more theoretical works, 
The Prince and the Discourses on Livy —that is, between history and polit¬ 
ical science. True, the Florentine Histories is devoted mainly to a republic, 
not to both republics and principalities as a work of political science 
might require. But the Discourses on Livy is also devoted mainly to a re¬ 
public (the Roman), and The Prince is mainly about principalities. More 
important, the reader soon discovers that the Florentine republic, whose 
leaders are frequently called “princes” by Machiavelli and which is once 
referred to as a principality (i 26), shares many of the institutions and 
much of the behavior of principalities. It is no wonder that many scholars 
have sought to find Machiavelli’s political science in his Florentine Histo¬ 
ries: it is left quite visible in the beginning chapters of its books and in 
many pungent judgments throughout. In vm 1 Machiavelli refers his 
readers to the Discourses on Livy for a longer discussion of conspiracies, 
not for a more abstract or scientific one. 

Thus Machiavelli, as author of the Florentine Histories and in common 
with humanist historians, has two different but not exclusive motives— 
practical and theoretical—the first of which seems to us beneath history 


IX 


translators’ introduction 

and the second above it. From this double motive for history, Machia- 
velli’s concentration on the political can be derived. Historians today, 
rightly doubting that politics can explain all human activities, are drawn 
beyond political history to establish and investigate social, economic, cul¬ 
tural, and intellectual history. Confident that history exists as an object, 
they look for another kind of history if the dominant one seems unsatis¬ 
factory. But for Machiavelli, as we have seen, history is not an object; 
rather, the object of history is the contest between virtue and nature or 
fortune. To go beyond or beneath political history is to leave the realm of 
what we can do with “our own arms” and to enter that of nature or for¬ 
tune, where we seem powerless. Machiavelli would want to know from 
the modern historian whether social, economic, cultural, and intellectual 
history could come under human control, that is, under politics. He 
would want to know whether the other kinds of history could become 
political history by being raised to our awareness or lowered to our reach. 

In the Florentine Histories Machiavelli does not disregard the other kinds 
so much as he politicizes them. In what might be social history, he con¬ 
siders divisions among various classes of the “people” and dwells on the 
rise of the guilds (Book n) and the revolt of the plebs (Book hi), but al¬ 
ways for their political consequences. For economic history, he discusses 
the opening of an alum mine in Volterra (vn 29) as the cause of war and 
the operations of the bank of San Giorgio in Genoa (vm 29) as an instance 
of free government amidst corruption. To keep up with culture, he men¬ 
tions the “most excellent” architect Brunelleschi (iv 23), but then relates 
how an experiment of his at a siege of Lucca backfired (or backwatered) 
against the Florentine army (see also his political comment on the archi¬ 
tecture of the Pitti Palace in vn 4). Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, 
and some others are mentioned as recipients of Medici patronage and thus 
as occasions of praise for the Medici (vii 6, vm 36). Dante appears in the 
role of historian of Florence’s origins and of the cause of its parties (11 2), 
as the man who had the prudence to call the people to arms (11 18), and as 
one of those expelled from Florence (11 24)—whether justly or not, Mach¬ 
iavelli does not say. Donato Acciaiuoli, “a man very learned in Greek and 
Latin,” is mentioned as spokesman for the Florentines on one occasion 
(viii 14). 

Besides the uncertainty as to whether his work is history or political 
science, and in addition to the concentration on politics, Machiavelli 
shares with humanist historians the device of inventing speeches. Even 
though he was not present and could not have been present, he puts ap¬ 
propriate speeches into the mouths of actual historical figures as if they 
were characters in a play of his. In “my history,” as he calls it, he even 
provides “private reasonings” that no one could have overheard (Letter 


x 


translators’ introduction 

dedicatory). Sometimes he introduces the speeches with the formula “in 
this sense”; often there is no such announcement. Sometimes the speeches 
are given indirectly, sometimes directly, as if these were the exact words. 
Such license on Machiavelli’s part seems to defy the obligation binding 
historians to respect historical fact and to leave his history to wander in 
the neighborhood of poetry and rhetoric. But Machiavelli is so far from 
casual or forgetful in his use of invented speeches that this technique ap¬ 
pears to be one of his themes or preoccupations. The phrase “in the 
mouth of” someone, though not occurring in the Florentine Histories, is 
one of his favorites elsewhere. In the Discourses on Livy he refers nearly a 
dozen times to instances in which Livy makes someone say or do some¬ 
thing. The practice he discovers in the historian Livy seems difficult to 
distinguish from that of the poet Virgil, who, according to Machiavelli 
in The Prince (ch. 17), says something interesting “in the mouth of Dido.” 

And yet Machiavelli prides himself on “the dignity and truthfulness of 
the history” (Letter dedicatory), as did the humanist historians, who ex¬ 
pressly claimed to be speaking truth. It might be better to infer, then, that 
Machiavelli and the humanists have a notion of the truth of history that 
does not concede the sovereignty of historical fact. Fact, in their view, 
needs to be filled out with opinion, and it is the duty of the historian, in 
the absence of scribes and witnesses, to infer human intention and to 
make it explicit in speeches, adding sense to actions in order to arrive at 
truth. And if the speeches had been recorded, he might even have been 
compelled to change them for their own good. Thus, in the humanist 
(as well as the classical) conception, historical truth is not only compatible 
with patriotism and rhetoric but in need of them. Historical truth is not 
simply opposed to what historians today call “myth”; somehow it must 
be reconciled with myth because everyone, even the historian, has a 
fatherland (patria ) and because all facts need to be interpreted with speech 
to gain significance. On behalf of truth, the historian may—or must— 
criticize the actions he relates. But if his criticism is to serve a practical 
end and is to be accepted by the citizens to whom it is directed, it must 
appear to be patriotic. Judged by the sovereignty of historical fact, this 
conception does not allow, much less encourage, historical research as 
practiced today. But before dismissing this conception of historical truth 
as odd and primitive, we should be sure that our historians can meet, or 
successfully evade, the requirements that history be patriotic and in¬ 
terpretive. 

The facts of Machiavelli’s time—the pressures and influences of power 
bearing on his writing—are the other element of his historical context, in 
addition to the dominant forms of discourse. These facts come to a focus 
in Machiavelli’s relationship with the Medici, the ruling family in Flor- 


xi 


translators’ introduction 

ence when he wrote the Florentine Histories. Machiavelli was commis¬ 
sioned to write this work on November 8, 1520, at the instance of Car¬ 
dinal Giulio de’ Medici, who had become Pope Clement VII by the time 
Machiavelli finished. When Machiavelli presented eight books of the Flor¬ 
entine Histories to the pope in May 1525 (from the second sentence of the 
Letter dedicatory it seems he may have intended to write more), he was 
paying homage to the ruling power in both his city and the Church. In 
his Letter dedicatory, introducing himself as a humble servant, Machia¬ 
velli acknowledges the problem of flattery when one writes by commis¬ 
sion. He nonetheless proudly proclaims “the dignity and the truthfulness 
of the history.” He begins the Letter by saying that he was commissioned 
for the work, at the end he calls it “my undertaking,” and next he begins 
the Preface very firmly in his own name: “My purpose, when I first de¬ 
cided to write. . . .” Then, grasping his commission as if it were his own 
idea, he proceeds to reveal in the outline of his history that it centers on 
“the year of the Christian religion 1434,” the year when the Medici family 
gained the greatest authority in Florence. Machiavelli is so far from un¬ 
aware of his historical context that he makes it the crux of his work, and 
we learn of his context from the text. Indeed, a survey of all his works 
might lead one to say that the Florentine Histories is his most contextual 
work, the one where he makes the powers impinging on him, which he 
is neither free of nor subservient to, the subject of his reflection. That is 
perhaps why the Florentine Histories, as opposed to The Prince and the 
Discourses on Livy, makes so little of innovation and founding in politics 
and does not dwell on the “new prince” or “new modes and orders.” 
These are the themes, respectively, of the two works into which he said 
he put everything he knows. In the Florentine Histories, by contrast, he 
says he has striven to satisfy everyone “while not staining the truth.” 

Two of Machiavellfs surviving letters contain remarks about the Flor¬ 
entine Histories, and another comment was reported after his death by his 
young friend Donato Giannotti. All three tell of his concern with his con¬ 
text and suggest how he may have dealt with it. In his letter'to Guicciar¬ 
dini of May 19, 1521, he says: 

Concerning the Histories and the republic of wooden sandals [the. monastery 
where he was staying], I do not believe I have lost anything by coming here, 
because I have learned of many of their institutions and orders that have good 
in them; so I believe I can make use of them for some purposes, especially in 
comparisons. For where I have to reason about silence, I will be able to say: 
“They stay more quiet than the brothers when they eat.” And so one will be 
able to adduce many other things through me by the means that this bit of 
experience has taught me. 


Xll 


translators’ introduction 

In a fragment of another letter to Guicciardini of August 30, 1524, Mach- 
iavelli says: 

I have been staying and stay now at the villa to write the history, and I would 
pay ten soldi, I will not say more, to have you at my side so that I could show 
you where I am; for, having to come to certain particulars, I would need to 
learn from you whether I offend too much either by exalting or by abasing 
things. Yet I shall keep on considering by myself and shall strive to act so 
that, while I am speaking the truth, no one will be able to complain. 

Giannotti reports that Machiavelli said to him: 

I cannot write this History from when Cosimo took the state until Lorenzo’s 
death as I would write it if I were free from all hesitations [respetti]. The 
actions will be true, and I shall not leave anything undone; only I shall not 
tell in what mode or by what means and tricks one arrives at so great a height. 
And whoever wants to learn this also may note very well what I will make 
his adversaries say, because that which I will not want to say myself, as from 
me, I will make his adversaries say . 1 

Thus by the first remark it would seem that Machiavelli lets actions speak 
louder than words; by the second, that he exaggerates and understates so 
as to forestall complaints; and by the third, that he criticizes indirectly by 
speaking through adversaries. 

We cannot say, however, that Machiavelli was unwilling to flatter the 
Medici because he put virtue above power and success. For him truth was 
not so distant from flattery as to leave him serenely unconcerned with the 
causes of greatness. Nor can we say that Machiavelli’s attention to his 
own city comes from a desire, both responsible and patriotic, to improve 
its virtue, as virtue is ordinarily understood. It is time to take notice of 
Machiavelli’s rebellious criticism of his two humanist predecessors as his¬ 
torians of the Florentine people, Leonardo Bruni and Poggio Bracciolini. 
They were, he says in the Preface, “two very excellent historians” and 
“very diligent” in describing the wars of the Florentine people. But they 
went wrong in regard to “civil discords and internal enmities, and the 
effects arising from them.” Believing that these divisions were unimpor¬ 
tant and that to describe them might offend the living, they failed to see 
that discord revealed the greatness of Florence, and they failed to under¬ 
stand that greatness. For they did not consider that “actions that have 
greatness in themselves, as do those of governments and states, however 
they are treated, or whatever end they may have, always appear to bring 

1 L. A. Ferrai, “Lettere inedite di Donato Giannotti,” Atti del R. Istituto Veneto di Scienze, 
Lettere ed Arti, ser. 6, 3 (1884-1885), 1582. 

xiii 


translators’ introduction 

men more honor than blame” (Preface). In cruder words, Bruni and Pog- 
gio overestimated the power of morality in determining reputation, and 
the particular inadequacy of their histories in regard to civil discords is 
the result of a deep and general mistake that infected their work as a 
whole and rendered them incapable of understanding human ambition 
and the desire men have to perpetuate their names. 

However much Machiavelli’s methods resemble those of the humanist 
historians, he separates himself deliberately and decisively from them by 
basing his advice on what is done rather than what should be done. (He 
took the same departure in Chapter 15 of The Prince.) When reading the 
humanist historians, one breathes the spirit of Cicero, and one is partic¬ 
ularly reminded of the second book of De Republica (a work they did not 
know), where Cicero, with fine irony and careful responsibility, blends 
an account of the origin of his own republic with the development of the 
features of the best regime. This kind of history is both theoretical and 
practical because it supposes that nature and virtue are not so much in 
contest as in cooperation. Machiavelli, on the other hand, who did not 
think highly of Cicero (see especially Discourses on Livy 152), was no mere 
observer of the contest between nature or fortune and virtue; he was no 
Stoic nobly but passively resigned to the limits of politics. For him the 
end and consequence of theory are to expand the possibilities of practice. 
To attempt this “undertaking,” he opposed himself to the entire tradition 
preceding him—classical, medieval, and humanist—as too dependent on 
the force of morality. Whatever he borrowed from that tradition was used 
against it. 


To conclude, we may briefly suggest what follows upon Machiavelli. If 
Machiavelli does not accept the sovereignty of historical fact, he does ap¬ 
pear to set forth the sovereignty of historical effects. When virtue is under¬ 
stood not as acting in accordance with moral precepts but as producing 
impressive effects, we are, perhaps, on the way toward the sovereignty of 
fact and the study of history as an object. As long as Machiavelli’s effects 
are products of human virtue and his “actions that have greatness in 
themselves” are human actions, then what men do matters more than 
what happens to them. And Machiavelli’s peculiar humanism, however 
morally dubious, survives. But as soon as the effects are thought to come 
from forces larger than human, though less than divine, then human for¬ 
tune subsumes human virtue and acquires patterns of its own. In these 
patterns the historian’s facts come to life and quickly learn to speak for 
themselves. History is no longer an opposition between virtue and for¬ 
tune; it has become a mixture of the two, in which virtue is diminished 


xiv 


translators’ introduction 

by its historical conditions and fortune is enhanced by a new predictabil¬ 
ity, even rationality, when seen in the guise of those same conditions. 
With a view to Machiavelli, one might be induced to doubt that our no¬ 
tion of history was made for us by history. 

It is enough for an introduction to introduce; to begin here an interpre¬ 
tation of this marvelously intricate work would in some degree usurp the 
right of the reader. Having seen that the Florentine Histories is not the sort 
of history we today might expect, we are left in pleasurable bewilderment 
as to what sort of history it may be. To echo the recent question of one 
scholar: What, then, did Machiavelli want to teach with his Florentine 
Histories ? 

HARVEY C. MANSFIELD, JR. 


XV 


A NOTE ON THE TRANSLATION 


in this translation we have sought to be as literal and exact as is consistent 
with readable English. We consider readable English to be language that is 
perfectly well understood today even if particular words and expressions 
are not familiar. For example, we translate ragionare as “reason about” and 
modo as “mode” instead of the usual “discuss” and “way.” The reason for 
this departure is precisely to enable the reader to recognize that Machia- 
velli used these words differently from us. Yet since these words and their 
context are still understandable, the reader can ponder, as well as register, 
the difference. 

With other words of obvious importance, where the discrepancy be¬ 
tween the familiar and the readable is not so great—such as “nature,” 
“sect,” “order,” “form,” “matter,” “spirit,” and “state”—we have done 
our best to be consistent; occasionally we have stated our decision in a 
footnote. Above all, we have translated virtu as “virtue,” so that the reader 
can form his own opinion of Machiavelli’s meaning and not have to re¬ 
main a captive of the translator’s. 

We have also resisted the temptation to indulge in elegant variation. 
Since Machiavelli does not define his key terms explicitly and systemati¬ 
cally, it is often as difficult to know which they are as what they mean. 
But he sometimes indicates the importance of a word in a certain context 
by using it densely there (for example, chiamare, “to call” or “to call in,” 
in Book i). These indications must not be covered over with fussy trans¬ 
lation. We know that certain theories (which in effect deny the possibility 
of translation) regard these practices as unsophisticated. With us, they are 
intended simply to show respect for a great writer and thinker whom we 
wish to make accessible to readers of English without legislating the 
terms under which he will be accessible. Most bad translation results 
from feelings of superiority, whether innocent or unintentional, on the 
part of translators—superiority toward the original author and toward the 
reader. 

In the same spirit of caution, we have provided only slight and occa¬ 
sional historical annotation. As explained in the introduction, it would be 
hasty to assume that Machiavelli shares our appetite and esteem for his¬ 
torical information. He even appears to have departed sometimes from 
the facts available to him from his own sources. Likewise, we did not 


XVII 


NOTE ON THE TRANSLATION 


want to distract the reader by frequently whispering dates in his ear when 
Machiavelli does not provide them. We did not want to distract him, that 
is, from noticing when and how Machiavelli gives dates and from think¬ 
ing over the modern “mode” of dating, in which Machiavelli takes an 
obvious interest. 

We have followed the text of the Florentine Histories in the Casella edi¬ 
tion, but with constant reference to the Carli edition. We have profited 
from the annotation by Franco Gaeta and from the translation by Allan 
Gilbert. We would like to acknowledge the help of Mary C. Mansfield, 
Dain Trafton, and Elizabeth Vangel, and a fellowship granted to Mans¬ 
field at the National Humanities Center. The map was contributed by 
Elliott Banfield. 

h. c. M. 


xvm 


ABBREVIATIONS 


AW The Art of War 
D Discourses on Livy 
FH Florentine Histories 
NM Niccolo Machiavelli 
P The Prince 


xix 


Florentine Histories 


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TO THE MOST HOLY 


AND BLESSED 

FATHER 

OUR LORD CLEMENT 
THE seventh: 

HIS HUMBLE SERVANT 
NICCOLd MACHIAVELLI 


after I was commissioned by your Holiness, Most Blessed and Holy 
Father, when your fortune was lower, 1 that I might write about the things 
done by the Florentine people, I used all the diligence and art lent to me 
by nature and experience to satisfy you. And since I have come now, in 
my writing, to those times which, through the death of the Magnificent 
Lorenzo de’ Medici, 2 brought a change of form in Italy, and because the 
things that followed afterwards were higher and greater and are to be de¬ 
scribed in a higher and greater spirit, I judged it would be well to reduce 
to one volume all that I had described up to those times and to present it 
to Your Most Holy Blessedness, so that you may begin to taste in some 
part the fruits of your seeds and of my labors. 

So in reading this, Your Holy Blessedness will see first, after the Ro¬ 
man Empire began to lose its power 3 in the West, with how many disas¬ 
ters and how many princes over many centuries Italy overturned its 
states. 4 You will see how the pontiff, the Venetians, the kingdom of Na- 

1 This work was commissioned on November 8, 1520, by Pope Leo X (Giovanni de’ 
Medici) through the intervention of Giulio de’ Medici, then a cardinal, who became Pope 
Clement VII in 1523. Eight books of the Florentine Histones (no more were completed) were 
presented to Clement VII in Rome by Machiavelli in May 1525. 

2 In 1492; see FH viii 36, the last chapter. 

1 NM does not use one word for “power,” such as potere in modern Italian; rather, he uses 
two words, potesta and potenza. In this he follows the Latin usage of Thomas Aquinas and 
Marsilius, as well as the Italian of Dante. In their writings potesta an dpotestas appear to mean 
a power (sometimes legal) that may be exercised, as opposed to potenza and potentia for 
power that must be exercised. In this translation the less frequent potesta will be footnoted. 

4 Stato means both status and state, as today, but the meanings are more closely con- 


3 


LETTER DEDICATORY 


pies, and the duchy of Milan took the first ranks and commands in the 
land; * * * * 5 you will see how your fatherland, which had removed itself be¬ 
cause of its division from submission to the emperors, remained divided 
until the time when it began to govern itself under the shelter of Your 
House. 6 And because I was particularly charged and commanded by Your 
Holy Blessedness that I write about the things done by your ancestors in 
such a mode that it might be seen I was far from all flattery (for just as 
you like to hear true praise of men, so does feigned praise presented for 
the sake of favor 7 displease you), I very much fear that in describing the 
goodness of Giovanni, the wisdom of Cosimo, the humanity of Piero, 
and the magnificence and prudence of Lorenzo, 8 it may appear to Your 
Holiness that I have transgressed your commands. For this I excuse my¬ 
self to you and to anyone to whom such descriptions are displeasing as 
hardly faithful, because, when I found that the records of those who de¬ 
scribed them at various times were full of praise for them, I was obliged 
either to describe them as I found them, or out of envy to be silent about 
them. And if under those remarkable deeds of theirs was hidden an am¬ 
bition contrary to the common utility, as some say, I who do not know 
it am not bound to write about it; for in all my narrations I have never 
wished to conceal an indecent deed with a decent cause, or to obscure a 
praiseworthy deed as if it were done for a contrary end. 

But how far I am from flattery may be known from all parts of my 
history, and especially in speeches and in private reasonings, direct as well 
as indirect, which with their judgments and their order preserve the 
proper humor of the person speaking without any reservation. I shun 
hateful words in all places as of little need to the dignity and truthfulness 
of the history. Thus no one who correctly considers my writings can re¬ 
proach me as a flatterer, especially when they see how I have not said very 
much in memory of the father of Your Holiness, 9 the cause of this being 
his short life, during which he could not have made himself known; nor 
could I have rendered him illustrious by writing. Nonetheless, his deeds 

nected. Stato is the status of a person or group while dominating someone else (in this case, 

the states of Italy dominating Italians). Although NM sometimes speaks of “the state,” he 
always means someone’s state and does not refer to an impersonal state. See Harvey C. 

Mansfield, Jr., “On the Impersonality of the Modern State: A Comment on Machiavelli’s 

Use of Stato." 

5 Lit.: province. 

6 The Medici House; see FH iv 11, 16. 

7 Lit.: grace. 

K On Giovanni de’ Medici (1360—1429), see FFl iv 16; on Cosimo de’ Medici (1389—1464), 
FH vii 5; on Piero de’ Medici (1416—1469), FH vii 5, 10, 23; on Lorenzo de’ Medici (1448- 
1492), FH viii 36. 

9 Giuliano de’ Medici (1453—1478), killed in the Pazzi conspiracy; see FH viii 6. 


4 



LETTER DEDICATORY 


were sufficiently great and magnificent for having fathered Your Holi¬ 
ness—a deed which outweighs those of his ancestors by a great deal and 
which will add more centuries to his fame than his stingy fortune denied 
him years of life. I have striven, meanwhile, Most Holy and Blessed Fa¬ 
ther, in this description of mine, while not staining the truth, to satisfy 
everyone; and perhaps I will not have satisfied anyone; nor would I won¬ 
der if this were to be the case, because I judge it impossible without of¬ 
fending many to describe things in their times. Nonetheless, I come hap¬ 
pily to the task, hoping that just as I am honored and nourished by the 
humanity of Your Blessedness, so will I be helped and defended by the 
armed legions of your most holy judgment; and with the same spirit 10 
and confidence with which I have written until now will I pursue my 
undertaking, 11 so long as life does not leave me and Your Holiness does 
not abandon me. 

10 Animo refers to the “spirit” with which human beings defend themselves, as opposed 
to the “higher and greater spirit” ( spirito) they may rise to; see the first paragraph above and 
P, Let. Ded. Animo can also mean “mind” in the sense of “intent,” but not in the sense of 
“intellect”; see the first words of the Preface, below. 

" Impresa will be translated as “undertaking,” “enterprise,” or “campaign.” 


5 


PREFACE 


my intent, when I at first decided to write down the things done at home 
and abroad 1 by the Florentine people, was to begin my narration with the 
year of the Christian religion 1434, at which time the Medici family, 
through the merits of Cosimo and his father Giovanni, gained more au¬ 
thority than anyone else in Florence; for I thought that Messer Leonardo 
d’Arezzo and Messer Poggio, two very excellent historians, had told 
everything in detail that had happened from that time backwards. 2 But 
when I had read their writings diligently so as to see with what orders 
and modes they proceeded in writing, so that by imitating them our his¬ 
tory might be better approved by readers, I found that in the descriptions 
of the wars waged by the Florentines with foreign princes and peoples 
they had been very diligent, but as regards civil discords and internal 
enmities, and the effects arising from them, they were altogether silent 
about the one and so brief about the other as to be of no use to readers or 
pleasure to anyone. I believe they did this either because these actions 
seemed to them so feeble that they judged them unworthy of being com¬ 
mitted to memory by written word, or because they feared that they 
might offend the descendants of those they might have to slander in their 
narrations. These two causes (may it be said by their leave) appear to me 
altogether unworthy of great men, for if nothing else delights or instructs 
in history, it is that which is described in detail; if no other lesson is useful 
to the citizens who govern republics, it is that which shows the causes of 
the hatreds and divisions in the city, so that when they have become wise 
through the dangers of others, they may be able to maintain themselves 
united. And if every example of a republic is moving, those which one 
reads concerning one’s own are much more so and much more useful; 
and if in any other republic there were ever notable divisions, those of 
Florence are most notable. For most other republics about which we have 
any information have been content with one division by which, depend¬ 
ing on accidents, they have sometimes expanded and sometimes ruined 
their city; but Florence, not content with one, made many. In Rome, as 
everyone knows, after the kings were driven out, disunion between the 

1 Lit.: inside and outside. 

2 Leonardo Bruni of Arezzo (1374-1444) and Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1454), authors of 
histories of Florence; see the introduction. 


6 


PREFACE 


nobles and the plebs arose and Rome was maintained by it until its ruin. 3 
So it was in Athens, and so in all the other republics flourishing in those 
times. But in Florence the nobles were, first, divided among themselves; 
then the nobles and the people; and in the end the people and the plebs: 
and it happened many times that the winning party was divided in two. 
From such divisions came as many dead, as many exiles, and as many 
families destroyed as ever occurred in any city in memory. And truly, in 
my judgment no other instance appears to me to show so well the power 
of our city as the one derived from these divisions, which would have had 
the force to annihilate any great and very powerful city. Nonetheless 
ours, it appeared, became ever greater from them; so great was the virtue 
of those citizens and the power of their genius and their spirit to make 
themselves and their fatherland great that as many as remained free from 
so many evils were more able by their virtue to exalt it, than could the 
malice of those accidents that had diminished it overwhelm it. And there 
is no doubt that had Florence enjoyed such prosperity after it had freed 
itself from the Empire as to have obtained a form of government to main¬ 
tain it united, I know no republic either modern or ancient that would 
have been its superior, so full of virtue, of arms, and of industry would it 
have been. For one sees that after it had driven out the Ghibellines in such 
numbers that Tuscany and Lombardy were filled with them, the Guelfs, 
together with those who remained inside, drew off 1,200 men of arms 
and 12,000 infantry from the city’s own citizens in the war against 
Arezzo, a year before the battle of Campaldino. 4 Afterwards in the war 
waged against Filippo Visconti, duke of Milan, when the Florentines had 
to make trial of their industry rather than rely on their own arms (for 
these had been exhausted at the time), one may see that in the five years 
the war lasted, 5 they spent 3,500,000 florins. When it was over, they were 
not content with peace, and to show further the power of their city, they 
went into the field at Lucca. 6 

I do not know, therefore, what cause would make these divisions un¬ 
worthy of being described in detail. And if those very noble writers were 
restrained so as not to offend the memories of those whom they had to 
reason about, they were deceived and showed they knew little about the 
ambition of men and the desire they have to perpetuate the name of their 
ancestors as well as their own: nor did they remember that many who 
have not had the opportunity to acquire fame through some praiseworthy 
deed have contrived to acquire it with despicable things. Nor did they 

3 See D 1 4-6. 

4 A victory of the Guelfs in Florence over the Ghibellines in Arezzo, June 11, 1289. 

5 1423-1428; see FH iv 15. 

6 1430—1438. 


7 


PREFACE 


consider that actions that have greatness in themselves, as do those of 
governments and states, however they are treated or whatever end they 
may have, always appear to bring men more honor than blame. When I 
had considered these things, they made me change my plan, and I decided 
to begin my history from the beginning of our city. And because it is not 
my intention to take the place of others, I will describe in detail until 1434 
only things happening inside the city, and of those outside I will tell only 
what is necessary to a knowledge of the things inside. After having passed 
1434, I will write in detail about both. Furthermore, in order that this 
history may be better understood in all times, before I deal with Florence 
I will describe by what means Italy came to be under those powers that 
governed it in that time. All of these things, Italian as well as Florentine, 
will take up four books. The first will narrate briefly all the unforeseen 
events 7 in Italy following upon the decline of the Roman Empire up to 
1434. The second will carry the narration from the beginning of the city 
of Florence to the war which, after the expulsion of the duke of Athens, 
was waged against the pontiff. 8 The third will end in 1414 with the death 
of King Ladislas of Naples; and with the fourth we will come to 1434, 9 
from which time onward the things that happened inside Florence and 
outside, until our present times, will be described in detail. 

7 Lit.: accidents. Accidenti will be translated as “accidents” or as “unforeseen events.” 

8 The duke of Athens was expelled from Florence in 1343, and the war of the Otto Santi 
took place in 1375. It is described not in Book 11 but in FH hi 7. 

9 The date of the return of Cosimo de’ Medici to Florence. 


8 


BOOK I 


I 

the peoples who live in northern parts beyond the Rhine and the Dan¬ 
ube rivers, having been born in a productive and healthful region, often 
increase to such a multitude that it becomes necessary for a part of them 
to abandon their fathers’ lands and to seek new countries to inhabit. The 
order they follow, when one of those provinces wishes to unburden itself 
of inhabitants, is to divide into three parts and assign each person a place 
so that each part may be equally supplied with nobles and base, with rich 
and poor; then the part to which the lot falls goes to seek its fortune, and 
the two parts, unburdened of the third, remain to enjoy their fathers’ 
goods. These are the populations that destroyed the Roman Empire; the 
opportunity was given to them by the emperors when they abandoned 
Rome, the ancient seat of the Empire, and retired to live in Constantino¬ 
ple. The emperors had weakened the western part of the Empire because 
they watched over it less and left it more exposed to pillage by their min¬ 
isters and their enemies. And truly, for the ruin of such an empire 
founded on the blood of so many virtuous men, there could not have been 
less indolence in princes nor less infidelity in ministers, nor less force nor 
less obstinacy in those who attacked it; for not one but many populations 
conspired in its ruin. The first from these northern parts to come against 
the Empire, after the Cimbri, who were defeated by the Roman citizen 
Marius, 1 were the Visigoths—whose name means in their language no 
otherwise than in ours, Western Goths. After some engagements at the 
borders of the Empire, they held their seat on the Danube for a long time 
by permission of the emperors. Then it happened that for various causes 
and at various periods they attacked the Roman provinces many times 
but were nonetheless always checked by the power of the emperors. The 
last who defeated them gloriously was Theodosius: 2 so much so that since 
they were reduced to obedience to him they did not again choose a king 
to rule them but, remaining content with the stipend allowed them, lived 
and fought under his government and his ensigns. 

But when death came to Theodosius, and his sons Arcadius and Hon- 

1 The Cimbri invaded Italy in 102 b.c. and were defeated by Marius the next year. 

2 In a.d. 382. 


9 


I • 2 


orius were left heirs of his empire but not of his virtue and fortune, the 
times changed with the prince. Theodosius had placed three governors 
over the three parts of the Empire: Rufinus in the East, in the West Stili- 
cho, and Gildo in Africa. All of them, after the death of the prince, 
thought not of governing their parts but of possessing them as princes. 
Gildo and Rufinus were crushed right at the beginning; but Stilicho, who 
knew better how to conceal his intent, sought on the one hand to acquire 
the trust of the new emperors and on the other to stir up the state so that 
it would be easier afterwards for him to seize it. And to make the Visi¬ 
goths enemies of the emperors, he advised the emperors not to give the 
Visigoths their accustomed subsidy. Furthermore, as it appeared to him 
that these enemies would not be enough to stir up the Empire, he ordered 
that the Burgundians, Franks, Vandals, and Alans—likewise northern 
peoples and already on the move to seek new towns 3 —should attack the 
Roman provinces. Since the Visigoths were deprived now of their sub¬ 
sidy, they made Alaric their king so as to be in better order to seek re¬ 
venge for their injury. They attacked the Empire and after many unfore¬ 
seen events devastated Italy, and seized and sacked Rome . 4 After this 
victory Alaric died and was succeeded by Ataulf, who took for his wife 
Placidia, sister of the emperors ; 5 and because of this relationship he agreed 
with them to go to the aid of Gaul and Spain, provinces that had been 
attacked by the Vandals, Burgundians, Alans, and Franks for the causes 
given above. From this it followed that the Vandals, who had occupied 
that part of Spain called Betica , 6 were fought strongly by the Visigoths 
and, having no recourse, were called by Boniface, who was governing 
Africa for the Empire, to come and occupy that province. For Boniface, 
having rebelled himself, feared lest his error be noticed by the emperor. 
The Vandals took up this enterprise willingly for the causes given and, 
under their king Genseric, made themselves lords of Africa. In the mean¬ 
time, Theodosius son of Arcadius succeeded to the Empire ; 7 and because 
he thought little about things in the West, he made these populations 
think that they could keep the things they had acquired. 


2 

and thus the Vandals were lords of Africa, the Alans and the Visigoths 
of Spain; the Franks and the Burgundians not only took Gaul but also 

3 Terre will be translated “towns” throughout. 

4 In 410. 

5 Gallia Placidia, sister of Honorius, in 414. 

6 Now called Andalusia. 

7 Theodosius II (408-450). 


10 


i * 3 

gave their own names to those parts they had occupied, whence one part 
is called France and the other Burgundy. Their prosperous successes 
spurred new populations to the destruction of the Empire; and other peo¬ 
ples called Huns occupied Pannonia, situated on the far shore of the Dan¬ 
ube River, a province which having taken its name from the Huns is today 
called Hungary. The emperor added to these disorders, as he saw himself 
attacked on so many sides; so as to have fewer enemies, he began to make 
accords, now with the Vandals, now with the Franks, things which in¬ 
creased the authority and the power of the barbarians and diminished 
those of the Empire. Nor was the island of Britain, which today is called 
England, secure from much ruin, because the Britons, fearing the peoples 
who had occupied France and not seeing how the emperor could defend 
them, called the Angles, peoples of Germany, to their aid. The Angles 
accepted the undertaking under Vortigern their king; first they defended 
the Britons and then expelled them from their island, remaining to live 
there themselves, and they called it Anglia after their name. But the [for¬ 
mer] inhabitants, dispossessed of their fatherland, became ferocious 
through necessity and thought that although they had not been able to 
defend their own country they might seize one belonging to others. Thus 
they crossed the sea with their families and seized those places which they 
found nearest the shore and called that country Brittany after their name. 


3 

the Huns, who as we said above had occupied Pannonia, mingled to¬ 
gether with other peoples termed 1 Gepidae, Heruli, Thuringi, and Ostro¬ 
goths (for so the Eastern Goths are called in their language) and set out to 
seek new countries; and since they could not enter France, which was 
defended by barbarian forces, they came to Italy under Attila their king. 
A short time before, he had killed his brother Bleda so as to be alone in 
the kingdom . 2 Since he became very powerful through this thing, An- 
daric, king of the Gepidae, and Gelimer, king of the Ostrogoths, were 
left his subjects. When Attila had come thus to Italy, he besieged Aqui- 
leia, where he stayed for two years without hindrance; and during the 
siege he laid waste all the surrounding countryside and dispersed all its 
inhabitants. This, as we shall tell in its place , 3 gave the city of Venice its 
beginning. After the capture and ruin of Aquileia and of many other cit¬ 
ies, he turned toward Rome, but refrained from ruining it because of the 

1 Detto will be translated “termed” or “dubbed,” as distinguished from nominato, 
“named,” and chiamato, “called.” 

2 See D i 9, 18, for another instance of killing one’s brother in order to “be alone.” 

3 FH i 29. 


11 


i • 3 

prayers of the pontiff , 4 reverence for whom had such power over Attila 
that he left Italy and withdrew to Austria, where he died. After his death, 
Gelimer, king of the Ostrogoths, and other heads of other nations took 
up arms against Henry and Euric, Attila’s sons: they killed one and forced 
the other to go with the Huns back across the Danube to return to their 
fatherland. The Ostrogoths and the Gepidae settled in Pannonia, and the 
Heruli and Thuringi remained on the other bank of the Danube. Attila 
having left Italy, Valentinian, the Western emperor, decided to restore it; 
and to make it more convenient for him to defend it from the barbarians, 
he abandoned Rome and located his residence in Ravenna. 

These adversities, which the Western Empire had suffered, had been 
the cause that the emperor, living in Constantinople, had many times 
yielded possession of the Empire to others, as a thing full of dangers and 
expense. And many times even without his permission the Romans, 
seeing themselves abandoned, would themselves create an emperor for 
their own defense; or someone on his own authority would usurp the 
Empire. So it happened in these times that the Empire was seized by the 
Roman Maximus after the death of Valentinian , 5 and he forced Valentin- 
ian’s widow Eudoxia to take him for a husband. Desiring to avenge such 
an injury, since she was born of imperial blood and could not suffer mar¬ 
riage to a private citizen, she secretly exhorted Genseric, king of the Van¬ 
dals and lord of Africa, to come to Italy, pointing out to him the ease and 
usefulness of acquiring it. He, enticed by the booty, came quickly and, 
finding Rome abandoned, sacked it and stayed for fourteen days. He also 
seized and sacked still more towns in Italy; then with himself and his 
army stuffed with booty, he returned to Africa. The Romans returned to 
Rome and, Maximus having died, created the Roman Avitus Emperor. 
Then, after many things took place inside Italy and outside, and after the 
deaths of more emperors, the Empire of Constantinople came to Zeno 
and the Roman Empire to Orestes and his son Augustulus, who seized it 
by deceit. While they were planning to hold it by force, the Heruli and 
Thuringi, who I said had been settled after the death of Attila on the other 
bank of the Danube, leagued together and under Odovacar, their captain, 
came into Italy; and into the places left vacant by them came the Longo- 
bards, likewise northern peoples, led by their king Godogo; and they 
were, as we shall say in its place , 6 the last plague in Italy. Thus Odovacar 
came into Italy, conquered and killed Orestes near Pavia, and Augustulus 
fled. After this victory, so that Rome might change its title with the 

4 Leo I (440-461). 

5 ^ 455. 

6 FH 18. 


12 


I • 4 

change of power, Odovacar dropped the name of empire and had himself 
called king of Rome. And of all the heads of the peoples that were over¬ 
running the world at that time, he was the first to settle down to live in 
Italy; for the others, either from fear of being unable to hold it because it 
could be helped easily by the Eastern emperor or for some other hidden 
cause, had despoiled it and afterwards sought other countries in which to 
establish their seats. 


4 

in these times, therefore, the ancient Roman Empire was brought under 
these princes: Zeno, reigning in Constantinople, commanded the whole 
Eastern Empire; the Ostrogoths were lords of Moesia and Pannonia; the 
Visigoths, the Suevi, and the Alans held Gascony and Spain; the Vandals, 
Africa; the Franks and the Burgundians, France; the Heruli and the Thu- 
ringi, Italy. The kingdom of the Ostrogoths had come to Theodoric, 
nephew of Gelimer, who kept up a friendship with Zeno, the Eastern 
emperor, and wrote to him that it appeared to his Ostrogoths an unjust 
thing that they who were superior in virtue to all other peoples should be 
inferior in empire, and that it would be impossible for him to be able to 
restrain them within the confines of Pannonia. And so, seeing how it was 
necessary for him to allow them to take up arms and to go to seek new 
towns, he wished to let Zeno know first so that he might be able to pro¬ 
vide for them by ceding to them some country where, by his good grace, 
they could live more decently and more comfortably. So Zeno, partly 
from fear and partly from his desire to expel Odovacar from Italy, al¬ 
lowed Theodoric to attack Odovacar and take possession of Italy. Theo¬ 
doric quickly departed from Pannonia, where he left behind his friends, 
the Gepidae peoples; and coming into Italy, he killed Odovacar and his 
son and, following the example of Odovacar, took the title of king of 
Italy. Fie established his seat in Ravenna, moved by the same causes that 
had already made Emperor Valentinian live there. 

Theodoric was in war and peace a most excellent man, for in the one 
he was always the victor, in the other he benefited greatly his cities and 
peoples. Fie distributed the Ostrogoths throughout the towns with their 
own heads so that he might command them in war and correct them in 
peace; he enlarged Ravenna, restored Rome, and, except for military 
training, allowed the Romans every other honor. Fie contained within 
their borders all the barbarian kings living in the Empire without the tu¬ 
mult of war, but by his authority alone; he built towns and fortresses 
from the head of the Adriatic Sea to the Alps in order to impede more 


13 


i • 5 

easily the passage of new barbarians who might wish to attack Italy. And 
if so many virtues had not been sullied at the end of his life by some 
cruelties 1 caused by various suspicions about his kingdom—as the deaths 
of Symmachus and Boethius, most holy men, demonstrate—his memory 
would be in every way worthy of any honor whatever from every side, 
because through his virtue and goodness not only Rome and Italy but all 
the other parts of the Western Empire, free of the continual battering they 
had suffered for so many years from so many barbarian inundations, re¬ 
covered and settled down into good order and a very prosperous state. 


5 

and truly, if ever times were miserable in Italy and in the provinces over¬ 
run by the barbarians, they were those from Arcadius and Honorius until 
Theodoric . 1 For if one considers how much harm is caused to a republic 
or a kingdom by a change of prince or government, and not through any 
extrinsic force but solely through civil discords (where one sees how a 
few changes ruin every republic and every kingdom, even the most pow¬ 
erful), it can easily be imagined how much Italy and the other Roman 
provinces suffered in those times; for not only did the government and 
princes vary, but the laws, the customs, the mode of life, the religion, the 
language, the dress, the names. Each one of these things by itself, to say 
nothing of all of them together, would terrify every firm and steady spirit 
thinking about them, to say nothing of seeing and enduring them. From 
this arose the ruin, the birth, and the expansion of many cities: Among 
those that were ruined were Aquileia, Luni, Chiusi, Popolonia, Fiesole, 
and many others; among the new cities built were Venice, Siena, Ferrara, 
l’Aquila, and many other towns and fortified places 2 omitted for brevity; 
those which became great from small were Florence, Genoa, Pisa, Milan, 
Naples, and Bologna. To all of these must be added the destruction and 
remaking of Rome and many that were varyingly unmade and remade. 
From among these ruins and new peoples sprang new languages, as ap¬ 
pears in the speech used now in France, Spain, and Italy: the native lan¬ 
guage of the new peoples mixed with the ancient Roman to make a new 
order of speech. Moreover, not only have the names of provinces changed, 
but the names of lakes, rivers, seas, and men: for France, Italy, and Spain 
are filled with new names altogether foreign to the ancient. Thus one 

1 Cf. PS, 17, on the relationship between virtue and cruelty. 

1 From A.d. 395 to 493. 

2 Castella (castello) will be translated “fortified place,” “fortified town,” or occasionally 
“castle.” 


14 


I • 6 


sees, leaving aside many others, that the Po, Garda, the Archipelago 3 do 
not conform to the old names; men too, once Caesars and Pompeys, have 
become Peters, Johns, and Matthews. 

But among so many changes, change of religion was not of lesser mo¬ 
ment, because in the struggle between the custom of the ancient faith and 
the miracles of the new, the gravest tumults and discords were generated 
among men. If indeed the Christian religion had been united, fewer dis¬ 
orders would have followed; but the struggles among the Greek Church, 
the Roman Church, and the Church at Ravenna—and even more, the 
struggle between the heretical and the catholic sects—afflicted the world 
in many modes. Witness to this is Africa, which suffered more anguish 
on account of the Arian sect believed in by the Vandals than through their 
avarice or natural cruelty. Living thus, among so many persecutions, men 
bore the terror of their spirit written in their eyes, because, aside from the 
infinite evils they endured, for a good part of them the possibility of seek¬ 
ing refuge in God, in whom all the miserable are wont to hope, was lack¬ 
ing. Therefore, as the greater part of them were uncertain as to which 
God they ought to turn to, they died miserably, deprived of all help and 
all hope. 


6 

theodoric, therefore, merited no small praise for having been the first 
one to still so many evils. In consequence, during the thirty-eight years 
he reigned in Italy , 1 he brought it to such greatness that the former 
afflictions 2 were no longer known there. But when he died, the kingdom 
was left to Athalaric, born of his daughter Amalasuntha, and in a little 
while, fortune being not yet played out, Italy returned to its former anx¬ 
ieties. For Athalaric died shortly after his grandfather, and the kingdom 
was left to his mother; she was betrayed by Theodatus, whom she had 
called upon to help her govern it. But when he had killed her and made 
himself king—for which he became hated by the Ostrogoths—he in¬ 
spired in Emperor Justinian the belief that he could drive Theodatus out 
of Italy. As captain of this undertaking the emperor appointed Belisarius, 
who had already conquered Africa, driven out the Vandals, and brought 
it back into the Empire. Belisarius then took Sicily; from there he passed 
into Italy and seized Naples and Rome. The Goths, having seen this dis- 


3 The Tuscan Archipelago. 

1 In fact, thirty-three years: 493-526. 

2 Lit.: battering; see FH 1 4, end. 


15 


i • 6 


aster, killed their king Theodatus as the cause of it, and in his place they 
elected Witigis, who, after some engagements, was besieged and taken in 
Ravenna by Belisarius. Before his victory was complete, however, Beli- 
sarius was recalled by Justinian, who replaced him with Giovanni and 
Vitales. They were altogether unlike him in virtue and customs, so that 
the Goths recovered their spirits and created Hildibad, then governor of 
Verona, their king. 

After Hildibad—for he was killed—the kingdom came to Totila. He 
crushed the emperor’s men, then recovered Tuscany and Naples and 
drove back their captains almost to the last of all the states that Belisarius 
had recovered. Because of this, it appeared to Justinian that he should 
send Belisarius back into Italy. But as Belisarius returned with scanty 
forces, he lost the reputation for the things he had done there first instead 
of acquiring any more; for when Belisarius was with his men at Ostia, 
Totila snatched Rome away right before his eyes. And seeing that he could 
neither let it go nor hold it, Totila destroyed the greater part, drove out 
the people, and led the senators out with them. Then, as he deemed Bel¬ 
isarius of little account, he led his army away to Calabria to engage the 
men who were coming from Greece in aid of Belisarius. Meanwhile, Bel¬ 
isarius, seeing that Rome had been abandoned, turned to an honorable 
enterprise: for he entered Rome, now in ruins, and, as quickly as he 
could, rebuilt the walls of the city and summoned its inhabitants back in. 
But fortune was opposed to this praiseworthy enterprise, for Justinian 
was attacked just then by the Parthians and recalled Belisarius; and he, so 
as to obey his lord, abandoned Italy, leaving that province to the discre¬ 
tion of Totila, who again took Rome. But Rome was not treated with the 
same cruelty as before because, at the prayer of Saint Benedict, who at 
that time had a very great reputation for holiness, Totila turned to re¬ 
building it instead. Justinian, meanwhile, had made an accord with the 
Parthians, and just as he was thinking that he might send new men to the 
aid of Italy, he was prevented by the Slavs, new northern peoples who 
had crossed the Danube and attacked Illyria and Thrace; so Totila occu¬ 
pied nearly the whole of Italy. But when Justinian had conquered the 
Slavs, he sent the eunuch Narses into Italy with armies. A most excellent 
man in war, Narses arrived in Italy, crushed and killed Totila; and the 
remnants of the Goths left after that defeat withdrew to Pavia, where they 
created Teias their king. Narses for his part took Rome after the victory 
and in the end came to battle with Teias near Nocera, and killed and 
crushed him. By this victory the name of the Goths was altogether elim¬ 
inated from Italy, where they had ruled for seventy years 3 from their king 
Theodoric through Teias. 

3 In fact, sixty years: 493-553. 

16 


I • 8 


7 

but hardly was Italy freed from the Goths when Justinian died and left 
as his successor his son Justin . 1 Acting on the advice of his wife Sophia, 
he recalled Narses from Italy and sent Longinus as his successor. Longi¬ 
nus followed the order of the others by living in Ravenna, but aside from 
this he gave Italy a new form; for he did not appoint provincial governors 
had the Goths, but in all the cities and towns of any importance he 
mad' heads whom he called dukes. Nor in this distribution did he do 
more ho* or to Rome than to other towns, for he abolished the consuls 
and the senate, names which had been maintained there until that time, 
put Rome under one duke who was sent there every year from Ravenna, 
and called it the duchy of Rome. To the one who stayed in Ravenna on 
behalf of the emperor to govern all Italy, he gave the name exarch. This 
division made easier the ruin of Italy and gave opportunity more quickly 
to the Longobards to occupy it. 


8 

narses was highly indignant at the emperor for having taken from him 
the government of that province, which he had acquired by his own vir¬ 
tue and his own blood, for Sophia, not satisfied with injuring him by 
having him recalled, had to add words full of insult, saying that she 
wanted him back to spin with the other eunuchs. So, overflowing with 
indignation, Narses persuaded Alboin, king of the Longobards, then 
reigning in Pannonia, to come and occupy Italy. The Longobards, as was 
shown above , 1 had moved into those places near the Danube that had 
been abandoned by the Heruli and Thuringi when they had been led into 
Italy by their king Odovacar. The Longobards stayed there for some time 
until Alboin, a savage and bold man, acceded to their kingdom, and they 
crossed the Danube, came to battle with Kunimund, king of the Gepidae, 
who held Pannonia, and defeated him. Finding Rosamund, the daughter 
of Kunimund, among the spoils, Alboin took her for his wife and made 
himself lord of Pannonia. Moved by his savage nature, he made a cup of 
Kunimund’s skull, from which he used to drink in memory of that vic¬ 
tory. But when he was called into Italy by Narses, with whom he had 
been friends during the Gothic war, he left Pannonia to the Huns, who, 
as we said , 2 had returned to their fatherland after the death of Attila and 


1 Justin II (565-578). 
' FH 13. 

2 FH 13. 


17 


i • 8 


had come from there into Italy. When he found Italy divided into so many 
parts, he in one stroke occupied Pavia, Milan, Verona, Vicenza, all Tus¬ 
cany, and the larger part of Flaminia today called Romagna. Because he 
had acquired so much so quickly, it appeared to him that victory over 
Italy was already his, and he celebrated with a feast in Verona. And when 
he had drunk much he became merry; as Kunimund’s skull was filled 
with wine, he had it offered to Queen Rosamund, who was eating across 
from him, and in a loud voice so that she could hear he said that amidst 
such merriment he wanted her to drink with her father. That speech was 
like a stab in the breast of the woman, and she decided to get revenge. 
Knowing that Helmechis, a noble Lombard, young and fierce, loved her 
maidservant, Rosamund arranged with her that she would secretly see to 
it that Helmechis sleep with the queen in her place. Helmechis, coming 
according to plan 3 to find her in the dark, and believing himself to be with 
the maidservant, lay with Rosamund. After the fact, she revealed herself 
to him and showed him that it was now his choice either to kill Alboin 
and ever after enjoy her and the kingdom or to be killed by him as the 
violator of his wife. Helmechis agreed to kill Alboin. But after they had 
killed him they saw that they would not succeed in seizing the kingdom; 
and indeed, not doubting that they would be killed by the Longobards 
for the love the Longobards bore to Alboin, they fled with the royal treas¬ 
ure to Ravenna and to Longinus, who received them honorably. During 
these travails Emperor Justin died, and in his place was put Tiberius, who 
was engaged in a war with the Parthians and was unable to assist Italy. 
Therefore, to Longinus the time seemed opportune for him, through Ro¬ 
samond and her treasure, to become king of the Longobards and of all 
Italy; he discussed his design with her and persuaded her to kill Helmechis 
and take himself for a husband. Having accepted the plan, she ordered a 
goblet of poisoned wine, which she gave from her own hand to Helme¬ 
chis, thirsty as he was leaving the bath. He had drunk half of it when he 
felt his insides turn over, and realizing what it was, he forced Rosamund 
to drink the rest; and so in a few hours, both of them died, and Longinus 
was deprived of the hope of becoming king. 

The Longobards meanwhile gathered in Pavia, which they had made 
the chief seat of their kingdom, and appointed Cleph to be their king. He 
rebuilt Imola, which had been destroyed by Narses, and occupied nearly 
every place from Rimini as far as Rome, but in the course of his victories 
he died. This Cleph was so cruel, not only to outsiders but even to his 
own Longobards, that, frightened by royal power , 4 they desired to have 
kings no longer. Instead, they appointed thirty dukes from among them- 


3 Lit.: her order. 

4 Potesta. 


l8 


I • 9 

selves to govern the rest. This council was the cause that the Longobards 
never occupied all of Italy, that their rule was never to extend beyond 
Benevento, and that Rome, Ravenna, Cremona, Mantua, Padua, Mon- 
selice, Parma, Bologna, Faenza, Forli, Cesena might at times have to de¬ 
fend themselves but would never be occupied by them. For not having a 
king made them less ready for war; and after they reinstated one, they 
became, since they had been free for a time, less submissive and more 
inclined toward discords among themselves: it was this which at first de¬ 
layed their victory and finally drove them out of Italy. As the Longobards 
stayed within these limits, the Romans and Longinus made an accord 
with them that everyone should lay down his arms and enjoy what he 
possessed. 


9 

in these times the pontiffs began to come into greater authority than they 
had ever had before. For the first ones after Saint Peter had been revered 
by men for the holiness of their lives and for the miracles, and their ex¬ 
amples so extended the Christian religion that princes had necessarily to 
submit to it so as to dispel the great confusion abroad in the world. Thus, 
since the emperor had become Christian, left Rome, and gone off to Con¬ 
stantinople, it followed, as we said at the beginning , 1 that the Roman 
Empire fell more quickly into ruin and the Roman Church grew more 
quickly. Still, as the whole of Italy was subject to either emperors or kings 
until the arrival of the Longobards, the pontiffs never obtained during 
those times any other authority than reverence for their customs and their 
learning gave them; in other things they submitted to either the emperors 
or the kings, and sometimes were killed by them and sometimes used by 
them as ministers in their actions. But the one who made the pontiffs 
become of greater moment in the affairs of Italy was Theodoric, king of 
the Goths, when he established his seat in Ravenna. Since Rome was left 
without a prince, the Romans for their own safety had cause to give 
greater obedience to the pope. Nonetheless, their [his] authority did not 
increase much by this, except that it did gain for the church of Rome a 
place ahead of the one in Ravenna. But when the Lombards 2 came and 
divided Italy into more parts, they gave the pope cause to be more active. 
Because he was now almost the head of Rome, the emperor of Constan¬ 
tinople and the Lombards respected him, so that the Romans, through 
the pope, joined not as subjects but as partners with the Longobards and 

• FH ii. 

2 The Longobards; NM uses both names in this chapter and the next; see FH i 11. 


19 


I • I 0 


Longinus. And thus as the popes continued to be friends now of the Lom¬ 
bards, now of the Greeks, they added to their dignity. 

But then, after the ruin of the Eastern Empire (which took place in 
these times under Emperor Heraclius 3 because the Slavic peoples, of 
whom we made mention above , 4 attacked Illyria again; and when they 
had occupied it, they called it Slavonia after their name; and the other 
parts of that empire were attacked first by the Persians, then by the Sara¬ 
cens, who came out of Arabia under Mohammed, and finally by the 
Turks, who took Syria, Africa, and Egypt from it), there no longer re¬ 
mained to the pope, because of the impotence of the Empire, any oppor¬ 
tunity to find refuge in it in his own oppressions . 5 And on the other side, 
as the forces of the Longobards were growing, he decided he needed to 
seek new support, and he had recourse to those kings in France. So hence¬ 
forward, all the wars waged by the barbarians in Italy were for the most 
part caused by the pontiffs, and all the barbarians who invaded it were 
most often called in by them. This mode of proceeding continues still in 
our times; it is this that has kept and keeps Italy disunited and infirm . 6 
Therefore, in describing what has happened from those times until our 
own, no more will be shown about the ruin of the Empire, which is all 
in dust, but rather the expansion of the pontiffs and of the other princi¬ 
palities that governed Italy afterwards until the arrival of Charles VIII will 
be shown. And you will see how the popes—first through censures, then 
by censures and arms together, mixed with indulgences—were terrible 
and awesome; and how, for having used them both badly, they have lost 
the one altogether and as regards the other remain at the discretion of 
others. 


10 

but returning now to our order, I am going to tell how the papacy had 
come to Gregory III and the kingdom of the Longobards to Aistulf, who, 
contrary to agreements that had been made, seized Ravenna and began 
war on the pope. Consequently, Gregory, for the causes described 
above , 1 having no longer any confidence in the emperor of Constantino¬ 
ple because he was weak, nor wishing to trust in the faith of the Lombards 
because they had so many times broken it, had recourse in France to 
Pepin II. From having been a lord in Austrasia and Brabant, he had become 

3 610-641. 

« FH 1 6. 

5 Probably refuge from those oppressing him, but the ambiguity is in NM’s text. 

6 See D 1 12. 

1 FH 1 9. 


20 


I • I I 


king of France, not so much through his own virtue as through that of 
Charles Martel, his father, and Pepin, his grandfather. For it was Charles 
Martel, when he was governor of that kingdom, who gave that memo¬ 
rable defeat to the Saracens near Tours on the river Loire, where more 
than two hundred thousand of them were slain , 2 after which his son Pepin 
became king of that kingdom through the reputation and virtue of his 
father. It was to him, as was said, that Pope Gregory sent for help againsjt 
the Longobards. Pepin promised to send it to him, but first desired to see 
him and to honor him in person. 

Therefore Gregory went to France, passing through the towns of the 
Lombards, his enemies, without being hindered by them: such was the 
reverence they had for religion. When he had gone thus into France, 
Gregory was honored by that king and sent back-into Italy with his ar¬ 
mies, which then besieged the Longobards in Pavia. Thus was Aistulf 
constrained by necessity to come to an accord with the French, who made 
the accord at the urging 3 of the pope, who did not want the death of his 
enemy but rather that he be converted and live. Under this accord Aistulf 
promised to give back to the Church all the towns he had occupied. But 
when Pepin’s troops had returned to France, Aistulf did not observe the 
accord, and the pope again had recourse to Pepin. Again he sent his ar¬ 
mies into Italy, conquered the Longobards, and took Ravenna; and con¬ 
trary to the will of the Greek emperor, he gave Ravenna to the pope with 
all the other towns that were under his exarchate, and added to them the 
territory of Urbino and the Marches . 4 But while consigning these towns, 
Aistulf died, and Desiderius, a Lombard who was duke of Tuscany, took 
up arms so as to seize the kingdom . 5 He asked the pope for help while 
promising his friendship, and the pope granted it to him so that other 
princes also granted it. Desiderius kept his faith in the beginning and con¬ 
tinued to consign towns to the pontiff in accordance with the treaties 
made by Pepin. Nor did any other exarch come from Constantinople to 
Ravenna, which was now governed instead according to the will of the 
pontiff. 


11 


after Pepin died, his son Charles succeeded to the kingdom—he who, 
because of the greatness of the things he did, was named “the Great.” 

2 At Poitiers in 732. 

3 Or prayer. 

4 In 756. 

5 The kingdom of the Longobards. 


21 


I • I I 


Meanwhile the successor to the papacy was Theodore I . 1 He came into 
conflict with Desiderius and was besieged by him in Rome; so the pope 
sought help from Charles, who crossed the Alps, besieged Desiderius in 
Pavia, captured him and his sons, and sent them to prison in France. Then 
he went to visit the pope in Rome, where he judged that the pope as Vicar 
of God could not be judged by men; and the pope and the Roman people 
made him emperor . 2 And thus Rome began again to have an emperor in 
the West; and whereas the pope used to be confirmed by the emperors, 
the emperor began in his election to have need of the pope. As the Empire 
was coming to lose its privileges, the Church acquired them, and by these 
means it kept increasing its authority over the temporal princes. The Lon- 
gobards had been in Italy for two hundred and thirty-two years , 3 and by 
now they retained nothing of the foreigner other than the name, and since 
Charles wanted to reorder Italy—it was now in the time of Pope Leo III— 
he was content that they live in the places where they had been raised and 
that the province be called Lombardy after their name. And that they 
might have reverence for the Roman name, he desired that all that part of 
Italy next to them which had been under the exarchate of Ravenna be 
called Romagna. Besides this, he created his son Pepin king of Italy. His 
jurisdiction extended as far as Benevento, and all the rest was possessed 
by the Greek emperor with whom Charles had made an accord. 

In these times Paschal I came to the pontificate; and, because the priests 
of the churches of Rome were nearer to the pope and were present at his 
election, so as to crown their power 4 with a splendid title they began to 
call themselves cardinals. They claimed so much reputation for them¬ 
selves, especially after they excluded the Roman people from electing the 
pontiff, that only rarely was the election of one from outside their num¬ 
ber; thus when Paschal died, Eugene II, a titular of St. Sabina, was cre¬ 
ated . 5 And Italy, after falling into the hands of the French, changed partly 
in form and order, because the pope had obtained more authority in tem¬ 
poral things and the French had introduced the names of counts and mar¬ 
quesses, just as previously the names of the dukes had been put there by 
Longinus, exarch of Ravenna. After some other popes the papacy came 
to Osporco, a Roman, who because of the ugliness of his name had him- 

1 Not Theodore but Paul I (757-767). Adrian I (772—795) was the pope who called in 
Charlemagne in 772. 

2 NM appears to confound the earlier visit of Charlemagne to Rome in 772, after his 
defeat of Desiderius, with his coronation by Leo III in Rome in 800. 

3 Since 568. 

4 Potesta. 

5 The parish of St. Sabina in Rome. 


22 


I • I 2 


self called Sergius, which began the changing of names that the pontiffs 
practice upon their election . 6 


12 

meanwhile, Emperor Charles had died and was succeeded by his son 
Louis. After Louis’s death so many differences arose among his sons that 
in the time of his grandsons the Empire was taken away from the house 
of France and brought to Germany; the first German emperor was called 
Arnulf. Not only did the family of the Charleses lose the Empire because 
of its discords, but it lost the kingdom of Italy as well, for the Lombards 
regathered their forces and attacked 1 the pope and the Romans; and it was 
thus that the pontiff, not seeing with whom he might seek refuge, out of 
necessity created Berengar, duke of Friuli, king of Italy. These unforeseen 
events inspired the Huns, who were in Pannonia, to attack Italy; and 
when they came to grips with Berengar, they were forced to return to 
Pannonia, or Hungary, which is what their province was named by them. 

In these times the emperor in Greece was Romanus, who as prefect of 
his armed force had taken the empire from Constantine. And because 
Puglia and Calabria had rebelled at such a change—for they had submit¬ 
ted to Constantine’s empire, as we said above 2 —Romanus was outraged 
by such rebellion and allowed the Saracens to pass through these places; 
they came, and having taken those provinces, tried to storm Rome. But 
the Romans, since Berengar was busy defending himself from the Huns, 
made Alberic, duke of Tuscany, their captain and through his virtue saved 
Rome from the Saracens. Having left that siege, the Saracens built a for¬ 
tress on Mount Gargano and from there made themselves lords of Puglia 
and Calabria while fighting the rest of Italy. And so in these times Italy 
came to be marvelously afflicted, embattled from the direction of the 
Alps by the Huns and from that of Naples by the Saracens. 

Italy suffered in these travails for many years under three Berengars 
who succeeded one another . 3 During this time the pope and the Church 
were disturbed every hour and had nowhere to turn because of the dis¬ 
unity among the Western princes and the impotence of the Eastern ones. 
The city of Genoa and all its coasts were destroyed in these times by the 
Saracens, whence arose the greatness of the city of Pisa, in which many 
peoples, driven from their fatherlands, took refuge. These things hap- 

6 In fact, the usage began with Octavian (955—963), who called himselfjohn XII. 

1 Lit.: offended. 

2 FH 1 8. 

3 Two, not three: Berengar I (888-924) and Berengar II (950-963). 


23 


I • 13 

pened in the year of the Christian religion 931. But when Otto, duke of 
Saxony, son of Henry and Matilda, a prudent man of great reputation, 
became emperor, Pope Agapetus set to urging him to come to Italy to 
pull it out from under the tyranny of the Berengars. 



the states of Italy in these times were ordered in this way: Lombardy 
was under Berengar III and his son Albert; Tuscany and Romagna were 
governed by a minister of the Western emperor; Puglia and Calabria 
obeyed partly the Greek emperor and partly the Saracens; in Rome every 
year two consuls were created from among the nobility, who according 
to the ancient custom governed it, and in addition there was a prefect who 
dispensed justice 1 to the people; and they had a council of twelve men 
who every year assigned rectors to the towns put under them. The pope 
had more or less authority in Rome and in all Italy according to whether 
he had the favor of the emperors or of those who were more powerful 
there. Emperor Otto came, then, to Italy and took the kingdom from the 
Berengars, who had reigned there for fifty-five years, 2 and restored to the 
pontificate its dignities. This emperor had a son and a grandson also 
called Otto who succeeded, one after the other, to the Empire. At the 
time of Otto III, Pope Gregory V was driven out by the Romans; and so 
Otto came into Italy and restored him to Rome; and the pope, so as to 
have revenge on the Romans, deprived them of their authority to create 
the emperor and gave it to six princes of Germany: three bishops— 
Mainz, Treves, and Cologne—and three princes—Brandenburg, Pala¬ 
tine, and Saxony. This took place in 1002. After the death of Otto III, the 
electors created Henry, duke of Bavaria, as emperor, and after twelve 
years he was crowned by Stephen VIII. 3 Henry and his wife Simeonda 4 
lived a very holy life, as is seen by the many churches furnished and built 
by them, among which was the Church of San Miniato, near the city of 
Florence. Henry died in 1024 and was succeeded by Conrad of Swabia 
and then he by Henry II. This last came to Rome, and because there was 
a schism in the Church of three popes, he deposed them all and brought 
about the election of Clement II, by whom he was crowned emperor. 

1 Lit.: reason. 

2 Otto came into Italy three times, in 951, 961, and 966; Berengar I became king of Italy 
in 888 and emperor in 915. 

3 In fact, by Benedict VIII in 1014. 

4 In fact, Kunigunda (Gunnhild). 


24 


I • i 5 
14 


Italy was then governed partly by peoples, partly by princes, and partly 
by those sent by the emperor, of whom the greatest, to whom the others 
deferred, was called Cancellarius. Among the princes the most powerful 
were Godfrey and his wife, the Countess Matilda, daughter of Beatrice, 
the sister of Henry II. She and her husband held Lucca, Parma, Reggio, 
and Mantua, with all of what today is called the Patrimony. 1 

At that time the ambition of the Roman people was much at war with 
the pontiffs. That people had at first used their authority to free them¬ 
selves from the emperors; but then, when the pontiffs had taken domin¬ 
ion over the city and reformed it according to their views, that people 
immediately became an enemy of the pontiffs, and the latter received 
many more injuries from that people than from any other Christian 
prince. And in times when the popes with their censures made the whole 
West tremble, they had the Roman people in rebellion, and neither one 
of them had any other intention than to take away reputation and author¬ 
ity from the other. Then Nicholas II came to the pontificate, and just as 
Gregory V had deprived the Romans of the power to create the emperor, 
so did Nicholas deprive them of participation in the creation of the pope, 
and he willed that that election belong only to the cardinals. 2 Nor was he 
content with this: since, having made a convention with the princes who 
governed Calabria and Puglia, for causes that will soon be told, he forced 
all the officials sent by the Romans throughout their jurisdiction to render 
obedience to the pope, and some of them he deprived of their offices. 


15 

after the death of Nicholas, there was a schism in the Church because 
the clergy of Lombardy were not willing to render obedience to Alex¬ 
ander II, elected in Rome, and they created Cadalus of Parma antipope. 
Henry, who regarded the power of the pontiffs with hatred, gave Pope 
Alexander to understand that he should renounce the pontificate, and the 
cardinals to understand that they should go to Germany to create a new 
pontiff. 1 And thus was he the first prince who began to feel of what im¬ 
portance spiritual wounds might be, because the pope held a council at 

1 The patrimony of St. Peter around Rome, south of Tuscany, from Radicofani to Ce- 
perano. 

2 In the Lateran Council of 1059. 

1 Henry IV called the Diet of Worms in 1076 to depose Gregory VII, not Alexander II. 


25 


I • I 6 


Rome and deprived Henry of the Empire and the kingdom. Some Italian 
peoples followed the pope and some followed Henry; this was the seed of 
the Guelf and Ghibelline humors, for the sake of which Italy, when it 
lacked barbarian invasions, was torn apart by internal wars. Thus, when 
Henry was excommunicated, he was compelled by his people to come to 
Rome and to kneel barefooted before the pope to ask forgiveness. This 
happened in the year 1080. 2 Nonetheless, a new discord arose shortly 
thereafter between the pope and Henry; so the pope excommunicated 
him again; and the emperor sent his own son, also called Henry, with an 
army into Rome and, with the help of the Romans who held the pope in 
hatred, besieged him in his fortress. Then Robert Guiscard came from 
Puglia to rescue him, and Henry did not wait for him but returned to 
Germany. Only the Romans stood firm in their obstinacy, so that Rome 
was again sacked by Robert and returned to the ancient ruins from which 
it had been restored before by many pontiffs. And because the ordering 
of the kingdom of Naples came from this Robert, it does not seem su¬ 
perfluous to me to speak in detail about his actions and his origin. 


l6 

when disunion arose among the heirs of Charlemagne, as we showed 
above, 1 opportunity was given to new northern peoples called Normans 
to come and attack France; and they occupied that country which today 
is termed Normandy after them. Some part of these peoples came from 
there into Italy in the times when that province was infested by the Ber- 
engars, by the Saracens, and by the Huns, and they occupied some towns 
in Romagna, where during those wars they virtuously maintained them¬ 
selves. To Tancred, one of those Norman princes, were born many sons, 
among whom were William, named Ferebac, 2 and Robert, dubbed Guis¬ 
card. The principality had come to William, and the tumults in Italy had 
ceased to some degree; nonetheless, the Saracens held Sicily, and every 
day they would raid the shores of Italy. Because of this, William agreed 
with the princes of Capua and Salerno and with Maniaces, the Greek who 
governed Puglia and Calabria on behalf of the Greek emperor, to attack 
Sicily; and should victory follow, they agreed that each of them would 
receive a quarter share of the spoils and the state. The enterprise was suc¬ 
cessful: the Saracens were driven out, and they occupied Sicily. After this 


2 Actually, in 1077. 

1 FH 1 12. 

2 Bras de Fer. 


26 


i*i7 

victory Maniaces secretly had men come from Greece, took possession 
of the island for the emperor, and divided only the booty. William was 
malcontent with this but waited for a more convenient time to show it, 
and he left Sicily together with the princes of Salerno and Capua. As soon 
as these princes left him to return to their homes, William did not return 
to Romagna but turned about with his men toward Puglia and quickly 
occupied Melfi, and thus in a short time against the forces of the Greek 
emperor made himself lord of almost the whole of Puglia and Calabria, 
the provinces of which Robert Guiscard, his brother, was lord at the time 
of Nicholas II. And because he had had many differences with his neph¬ 
ews over the inheritance of those states, he used the authority of the pope 
to settle them. This was a favor executed willingly by the pope, as he was 
desirous of gaining over Robert so that Robert might defend him against 
the German emperors and against the insolence of the Roman people with 
the effect, as we showed above, 3 that at the instance of Gregory VII, Rob¬ 
ert drove Henry from Rome and subdued the people there. Robert was 
succeeded by his sons Roger and William, to whose state was added Na¬ 
ples and all the towns between Naples and Rome, and afterwards Sicily, 
over which Roger made himself lord. But then William, while on his way 
to Constantinople so as to take the daughter of the emperor for his wife, 
was attacked by Roger, who took his state from him. And Roger, made 
proud by this acquisition, at first had himself called king of Italy; but 
later, content with the title of king of Puglia and Sicily, he was the first to 
give a name and order to that kingdom which still today is maintained 
within its ancient limits in spite of the many changes that have taken place 
there not only in bloodline but in nation. For when the Norman stock 
diminished, the kingdom was changed into a German one, from that into 
French, from that into Aragonese, and today it is held by the Flemings. 


17 

urban II, who was hated in Rome, had come to the pontificate. And as 
it appeared to him that because of the disunities in Italy he could not be 
secure, he turned to a generous enterprise, went away to France with all 
the clergy, and in Auvergne gathered up many peoples to whom he made 
a speech against the infidels. 1 This speech so inflamed their spirits that 
they decided to make a campaign 2 in Asia against the Saracens. This cam- 

3 FH 115. 

1 Urban IPs speech was at Clermont in 1095. 

2 Or enterprise; NM uses the same word, impresa, for each crusade and for all of them 
together. 


27 


I • i 8 


paign along with all the others like it were later called the Crusades be¬ 
cause all those who went on them had their arms and clothing marked 
with a red cross. The princes of this enterprise were Godfrey, Eustace, 
and Baldwin of Bouillon, counts of Boulogne, and one Peter the Hermit, 
celebrated for his holiness and prudence. Many kings and many peoples 
participated in it with money, and many private individuals fought with¬ 
out any pay—so great a power did religion have then on the spirits of 
men, moved by the example of those who were the heads of it. This en¬ 
terprise was glorious in the beginning because all Asia Minor, Syria, and 
a part of Egypt came under the power 3 of the Christians; and through it 
the Order of the Knights of Jerusalem was born, which still rules today 4 
and holds the island of Rhodes, the single remaining obstacle to the 
power of the Mohammedans. Also born of it was the Order of the Tem¬ 
plars, which shortly after disappeared on account of their bad customs. 
There followed at various times various unforeseen events in which many 
nations and particular men were celebrated. The king of France and the 
king of England came to the aid of the enterprise, and the Pisan, the Vene¬ 
tian, and the Genoese peoples acquired very great reputation there; they 
fought with varying fortune until the times of the Saracen Saladin. 5 His 
virtue and the discords of the Christians in the end took from them all the 
glory they had acquired in the beginning, and after ninety years the 
Christians were driven out of the place they had successfully recovered 
with such honor. 6 



after the death of Urban, Paschal II was created pontiff and Henry IV 
succeeded to the Empire. Henry came to Rome pretending friendship 
with the pope; later he sent the pope and all the clergy to prison, not ever 
to be freed unless he was first given permission to be able to dispose of 
the churches in Germany as he saw fit. In these times the Countess Ma¬ 
tilda died and left the Church heir to her whole state. 1 

After the deaths of Paschal and Henry IV, there followed more popes 
and emperors until finally the papacy came to Alexander III and the Em- 

3 Potesta. The “power” of the Mohammedans in the next clause is potenzia. 

4 Rhodes fell to the Turks in 1522, while NM was writing the Florentine Histories. For 
what might be made of this fact for the dating of NM’s work, see Dionisotti, “Machiavelli 
Storico,” and Gilbert, Machiavelli and Guicciardini. 

5 Saladin ruled from 1173 to 1193. 

6 Jerusalem, taken by the Crusaders in 1099 and lost to Saladin in 1187. 

' Matilda of Tuscany (1046— 1115). 


28 


i • i 8 


pire to Frederick the Swabian, dubbed Barbarossa. The pontiffs in those 
times had had many difficulties with both the Roman people and the em¬ 
perors; these increased greatly in the time of Barbarossa. Frederick was 
an excellent man in war but full of such pride that he could not bear to 
have to yield to the pontiff; nonetheless, upon his election he came to 
Rome to be crowned and peacefully returned to Germany. But he re¬ 
mained in this state of mind briefly, for he returned to Italy so as to sub¬ 
due some towns in Lombardy that were not obeying him, and it hap¬ 
pened at this time that the cardinal of San Clemente, 2 of Roman birth, 
separated himself from Pope Alexander and was made pope by some car¬ 
dinals. As Emperor Frederick was in the field at Crema at the time, Alex¬ 
ander came to him to complain about the antipope; and Frederick an¬ 
swered that they should both come to visit him and that he would then 
judge which of them was to be pope. This answer did not please Alex¬ 
ander; and because he saw that Frederick was inclined to favor the anti¬ 
pope, he excommunicated him and fled to Philip, king of France. Mean¬ 
while, Frederick, carrying on the war in Lombardy, took and destroyed 
Milan, which caused Verona, Padua, and Vicenza to unite against him for 
common defense. In the meantime, the antipope had died; so Frederick 
created Guido da Cremona 3 in his place. The Romans during these times, 
because of the absence of the pope and because of the hindrances the em¬ 
peror was meeting in Lombardy, had retaken a certain amount of author¬ 
ity in Rome, and they went about reclaiming obedience from those towns 
which used to be subject to them. As the Tusculans were unwilling to 
yield to their authority, they went after them with their people, who were 
given help by Frederick; and they cut down the Roman army with such 
massacre that Rome was never afterward either populous or rich. Mean¬ 
while, Pope Alexander had returned to Rome, as it appeared to him that 
he could be safe there because of the hostility the Romans had for Fred¬ 
erick and the enemies he had in Lombardy. But Frederick, setting aside 
every hesitation, went into the field in Rome, where Alexander did not 
wait for him but fled to William, king of Puglia, who had been left heir 
to that kingdom after the death of Roger. 4 But as Frederick was driven 
away by the plague, he let go the siege and returned to Germany; and the 
towns of Lombardy, which had taken a common oath against him, so as 
to be able to fight Pavia and Tortona, which the imperial parties held, 
built a city that would be the seat of that war and named it Alessandria in 
honor of Pope Alexander and in scorn of Frederick. Then Guido the anti- 

2 The antipope Victor IV (i 159-1164), opposed to Pope Alexander III (1159-1181). 

3 In fact, Guido da Crema, who became the antipope Paschal III (1164—1168). 

4 William II (1166-1189) succeeded William I, not Roger II. 


29 


i • 1 9 

pope died, and in his place was put Giovanni da Fermo, 5 who stayed in 
Montefiasconi through the favors of the parties of the emperor. 


19 

pope Alexander, in the midst of this, had gone to Tusculum, called there 
by that people so that he with his authority might defend it from the 
Romans. There spokesmen sent by Henry, king of England, came to him 
to inform him that in regard to the death of the blessed Thomas, arch¬ 
bishop of Canterbury, their king was not at all at fault, although indeed 
he had been publicly defamed for it. At this, Pope Alexander sent two 
cardinals to England to find out the truth of the matter; and although they 
did not find the king manifestly guilty, nonetheless, because of the in¬ 
famy of the sin and because he had not honored the pope as he deserved, 
they required of him as penance that all the barons of the kingdom must 
be called together and that by an oath he must beg forgiveness in their 
presence. Furthermore, he must send immediately two hundred soldiers 
to Jerusalem, paid for one year; he himself would be obliged to go there 
personally, with as large an army as he could muster, before three years 
had passed; he must annul all the things done in his reign that were un¬ 
favorable to ecclesiastical freedom; and he must agree that anyone of his 
subjects could, if he wished, appeal to Rome. All these things were ac¬ 
cepted by Henry: thus did such a king submit to a judgment to which 
today a private man would be ashamed to submit. Nonetheless, while the 
pope had so much authority among princes far away, he could not make 
himself obeyed by the Romans, whom he could not entreat to let him 
stay in Rome even though he promised he would not busy himself with 
anything but ecclesiastical things: thus are appearances 1 feared more 
when they are far away than when nearby. 

Frederick had returned to Italy at this time, and, while he was prepar¬ 
ing to start a new war against the pope, all his prelates and barons gave 
him to understand that they would abandon him unless he became rec¬ 
onciled with the Church; so he was constrained to go and do honor to the 
pope in Venice, where together they made their peace. In the accord the 
pope deprived the emperor of all authority he might have over Rome and 
named William, king of Sicily and Puglia, to be his ally. And Frederick, 
who could not bear not making war, joined the enterprise in Asia in order 
to vent against Mohammed the ambition that he had not been able to vent 

5 Giovanni da Struma, who took the name Callistus III (1168-1178). 

1 Lit.: things that appear. 


30 


I • 20 


against the vicars of Christ; but having arrived at the river [Cidnus], 2 he 
was lured by the clarity of its waters into washing himself in them, from 
which disorder he died. And thus were the waters more favorable to the 
Mohammedans than were excommunications to the Christians, for 
whereas the excommunications only checked his pride, the waters 
quenched it. 


20 

when Frederick died, the pope had only to subdue the insubordination 
of the Romans; and after many disputes over the creation of the consuls, 
they agreed that the Romans would, according to their custom, elect 
them but that the consuls could not take office without first swearing to 
maintain faith with the Church. This accord made John, the antipope, 
flee to Mount Albano, where after a short time he died. In these times 
William, king of Naples, died, and the pope schemed to seize that king¬ 
dom because the king had left no sons other than Tancred, his natural 
son. The barons did not yield to the pope in this but rather wanted Tan¬ 
cred to be king. The pope at that time was Celestine III, 1 and as he desired 
to take the kingdom out of the hands of Tancred, he arranged that Henry, 
son of Frederick, be made emperor and promised him the kingdom of 
Naples with the proviso that he restore to the Church the towns that 
belonged to it. And to make the thing easier, he took Constance, the 
daughter of William and already old, out of a monastery and gave her to 
him as wife. And thus did the kingdom of Naples pass from the Nor¬ 
mans, who had been its founders, to the Germans. As soon as the affairs 
of Germany were settled, Emperor Henry came to Italy with his wife 
Constance and his four-year-old son called Frederick and seized the 
Kingdom 2 without much difficulty because Tancred had already died, 
leaving a young son dubbed Roger. 3 Henry died in Sicily after some time, 
and he was succeeded in the Kingdom by Frederick and in the Empire by 
Otto, duke of Saxony, made emperor through the favors that Pope In¬ 
nocent III did for him. But as soon as the crown was gained, Otto be¬ 
came, contrary to every expectation, an enemy of the pope, occupied 
Romagna, and was ordering an assault on the Kingdom; for this the pope 

2 Now called Saleph. The name is lacking in all the manuscripts and in the Giunta edition; 
it is supplied only in the Blado edition. 

1 At the time of William II’s death, the pope was Clement III (1187—1191), not Celestine 
III (1191—1198). 

2 NM, as was customary, refers to the kingdom of Naples simply as “the Kingdom.” 

3 Not Roger but William. 


31 


I • 2 I 


excommunicated him so that he was abandoned by everyone, and the 
electors elected Frederick king of Naples. Frederick came to Rome for the 
crown, but the pope was unwilling to crown him because he feared his 
power and so sought to draw him out of Italy as he had Otto. Frederick 
was so outraged that he went off to Germany, where he made war again 
on Otto and defeated him. In the meantime, Innocent died. Besides his 
remarkable works, he built the hospital of Santo Spirito in Rome. Fie was 
succeeded by Fdonorius III, during whose time the orders of Saint Dom¬ 
inic and Saint Francis emerged in 1218. This pontiff crowned Frederick; 
and John, a descendant of Baldwin, king of Jerusalem, 4 who was with 
remnants of the Christians in Asia and still bore the title, gave him one of 
his daughters as wife and included in the dowry the title of that kingdom: 
from here it began that any king of Naples is titled the king of Jerusalem. 


21 

in Italy at that time they lived in this mode: the Romans no longer made 
consuls, but in their place they made with the same authority sometimes 
one and sometimes more senators. The league that the cities of Lombardy 
had made against Frederick Barbarossa still lasted—the cities being 
Milan, Brescia, Mantua, and the greater part of the cities of Romagna, as 
well as Verona, Vicenza, Padua, and Treviso; in the party of the emperor 
were Cremona, Bergamo, Parma, Reggio, Modena, and Trento; the 
other cities and fortified towns of Lombardy, Romagna, and the Trevisan 
March favored sometimes one party and sometimes the other, according 
to necessity. There had come to Italy at the time of Otto III one Ezzelino, 
to whom, while he remained in Italy, a son was born who fathered an¬ 
other Ezzelino. This last, being rich and powerful, attached himself to 
Frederick II, who, as has been said, 1 had become an enemy of the pope; 
and as he came into Italy, through the deeds and favor of Ezzelino, Fred¬ 
erick took Verona and Mantua, destroyed Vicenza, seized Padua, and de¬ 
feated the army of the allied towns; and after this he came toward Tus¬ 
cany. Ezzelino, meanwhile, had subjugated the whole Trevisan March; 
he was not able to take Ferrara because it was defended by Azzo d’Este 
and by men the pope had in Lombardy. Thus, when the siege was lifted, 
the pope gave the city in fief to Azzo d’Este, from whom were descended 
those who are its lords still today. Frederick stopped at Pisa, desirous of 
making himself lord of Tuscany; and by acknowledging the friends and 


4 John was not descended from Baldwin. 
' FH 1 20. 


32 


I • 22 


enemies of that province, he sowed such discord as caused the ruin of all 
Italy. For the Guelf and Ghibelline parties multiplied, those who followed 
the Church being called Guelfs and those who followed the emperors, 
Ghibellines; and in Pistoia this name was heard for the first time. By the 
time Frederick left Pisa, he had attacked and laid waste the towns of the 
Church in so many ways 2 that the pope, having no other remedy, pro¬ 
claimed a crusade against him, as his predecessors had done against the 
Saracens. And Frederick, lest he be abandoned by his own men at a 
stroke, as Frederick Barbarossa and his other ancestors had been, hired 
many Saracens; and to oblige them to him and to make a firm bulwark 
against the Church in Italy that would not fear papal maledictions, he 
gave them Nocera 3 in the Kingdom so that, having a refuge of their own, 
they could serve him with greater security. 


22 

innocent IV had come to the pontificate. Fearing Frederick, he went 
to Genoa and from there to France, where he ordered a council at Lyons, 
which Frederick decided to attend. But he was prevented by the rebellion 
of Parma; and having been repulsed in that enterprise, he went to Tuscany 
and from there to Sicily, where he died. He left his son, Conrad, in Swa¬ 
bia, and in Puglia he left Manfred, born of a concubine, whom he had 
made duke of Benevento. Conrad came to take possession of the King¬ 
dom, but when he arrived in Naples he died, leaving of himself Con- 
radin, a small boy, who was in Germany. Therefore Manfred seized that 
state, first as the tutor of Conradin; then, spreading the rumor 1 that Con- 
radin was dead, he made himself king against the wishes of the pope and 
the Neapolitans, whom he made to consent by force. While these things 
were troubling the Kingdom, in Lombardy many movements were stir¬ 
ring within the Guelf and Ghibelline parties. On the Guelf side was a 
legate of the pope; on the Ghibelline side, Ezzelino, who had possession 
of nearly the whole of Lombardy on the other side of the Po. And because 
during the course of the war Padua rebelled against him, he had twelve 
thousand Paduans killed; and he himself died before the war was ended, 
when he was at the age of eighty years. After his death all the towns he 
had held became free. 

Manfred, king of Naples, was pursuing his enmities against the Church 


2 Lit.: modes. 

3 Actually, Lucera. 
1 Lit.: name. 


33 


I • 23 

as his forefathers had done, and he kept the pope, who was called Urban 
IV, in constant anxieties; so the pontiff, in order to subdue him, pro¬ 
claimed a crusade against him, and he went to wait for his men in Perugia. 
And as it appeared to him that when his men came they might be few, 
weak, and late, he decided that to defeat Manfred would require surer 
help; and he turned to France for favor and created Charles of Anjou, 
brother of King Louis of France, the king of Sicily and Naples, and 
pressed him to come to Italy to take over that kingdom. But before 
Charles could come to Rome, the pope died, and Clement IV was put in 
his place. In his time 2 Charles came to Ostia with thirty galleys and ar¬ 
ranged that his other men come by land. During his stay in Rome the 
Romans made him senator in order to ingratiate themselves with him, 
and the pope invested him with the Kingdom with the obligation that he 
pay fifty thousand florins a year to the Church, and he also made a decree 
that in the future neither Charles nor anyone else who might hold that 
kingdom could be emperor. And when Charles went up against Manfred, 
he crushed and killed him near Benevento and made himself lord of Sicily 
and the Kingdom. But Conradin, to whom this state belonged by the 
testament of his father, gathered many men in Germany and came into 
Italy against Charles, with whom he fought at Tagliacozzo; and Conradin 
was first defeated and then, as he fled unrecognized, was taken and killed. 


23 

Italy remained quiet until Adrian V succeeded to the pontificate. And 
since Charles was in Rome, governing it through the office he held as 
senator, the pope could not endure his power, and he went to live in Vi¬ 
terbo and entreated Emperor Rudolf to come into Italy against Charles. 
Thus the pontiffs, now for the sake of religion, now for their own ambi¬ 
tion, never ceased calling new men into Italy and inciting new wars; and 
after they had made one prince powerful, they repented it and sought his 
ruin. Nor would they allow any province that they out of weakness were 
unable to possess to be possessed by others. And the princes feared them 
because, whether fighting or fleeing, they always won, unless they had 
been oppressed with some deceit, as were Boniface VIII and some others, 
who under color of friendship were captured by the emperors. Rudolf 
did not come into Italy, as he was restrained by the war he was waging 
with the king of Bohemia. In the meantime, Adrian died and Nicholas 
III, of the house of Orsini, was made pontiff—a bold and ambitious man 

2 1264-1268. 


34 


I • 24 

who pondered every mode of diminishing Charles’s power. He arranged 1 
that Emperor Rudolf complain that Charles kept a governor in Tuscany 
favorable to the Guelf party, which he had restored in that province after 
the death of Manfred. Charles yielded to the emperor and withdrew his 
governors, and the pope sent one of his nephews there, a cardinal, as 
governor of the Empire; as a result, the emperor, for the honor done him, 
restored Romagna to the Church, which had been taken from it by his 
predecessors, and the pope made Bertoldo Orsini duke of Romagna. And 
as it seemed to him that he had become powerful and that he could show 
his face openly to Charles, Nicholas deprived him of the office of senator 
and decreed that no one of royal blood could ever be a senator in Rome. 
He had it in mind also to snatch Sicily from Charles, and to this end he 
secretly set in motion a plan with Peter, king of Aragon, which was ef¬ 
fected later in the time of his successor. He was scheming further to make 
two kings from his own house, one in Lombardy and the other in Tus¬ 
cany, whose power would defend the Church from Germans who might 
want to come into Italy and from the French who were in the Kingdom. 
But he died with these thoughts. He was the first of the popes to show 
his own ambition openly and to scheme, under the guise of making the 
Church great, to honor and benefit his own. And as until this time no 
mention was ever made of nephews and relatives of any pontiff, so hence¬ 
forward the history will be full of them, so that we shall come to mention 
even sons: nor is there anything left for the pontiffs to try unless it be that 
while up to our times they have schemed to leave their sons as princes, so 
for the future they may plan to leave them a hereditary papacy. It is cer¬ 
tainly true that until now the principalities ordered by them have had 
short lives because most times the pontiffs, by living a short time, either 
do not provide for planting their plants or, if they do plant them, leave 
them with roots so few and weak that they wither at the first wind, when 
the virtue that sustains them is gone . 2 


24 


to Nicholas III succeeded Martin IV, who being of French birth favored 
Charles’s party; in his favor, Charles sent his men to Romagna to help 
him when Romagna rebelled against him. Guido Bonato, an astrologer , 1 
was in the field at Forli, and he ordered that at a time given by him the 

1 Lit.: ordered. 

2 See NM’s discussion of Cesare Borgia and Pope Alexander VI in P 7, 11. 

1 Mentioned by Dante in Inferno, xx 118. 


35 


I • 25 

people should attack them; so all the French were taken and killed. At this 
time the plan made by Pope Nicholas with Peter, king of Aragon, was 
put into effect, by which the Sicilians killed all the French they found on 
the island ; 2 and Peter made himself lord of the island, saying that it be¬ 
longed to him through his wife Constance, the daughter of Manfred. But 
Charles died while reordering a war to recover the island, and he was 
survived by Charles II, who had been a prisoner in Sicily in the former 
war. And in order to win his freedom he promised that he would return 
as a prisoner if within three years he had not got the pope to invest the 
royal family of Aragon with the kingdom of Sicily. 


25 

emperor Rudolf, instead of coming to Italy to restore the reputation of 
the Empire there, sent one of his spokesmen with authority to be able to 
set free all those cities that would pay ransom. Hence many cities did pay 
it, and with liberty they changed their mode of living. Adolf of Saxony 
succeeded to the Empire, and Peter Murrone to the pontificate. He was 
named Pope Celestine, and since he was a hermit and full of holiness, he 
renounced the pontificate after six months; and Boniface VIII was elected. 
The heavens (who knew that there must come a time when the French 
and the Germans would move out of Italy and that that province would 
then remain altogether in the hands of the Italians), so that the pope, 
when free of ultramontane hindrances, would be able neither to consoli¬ 
date nor to enjoy his power, made two very powerful families rise in 
Rome, the Colonna and the Orsini, so that with their power and prox¬ 
imity they would keep the pontificate weak. Whence Pope Boniface, who 
understood this, decided he would eliminate the Colonna; and besides 
having them excommunicated, he proclaimed a crusade against them. If 
this offended them much, it offended the Church even more; for arms 
which had been used virtuously for the love of the faith, when used for 
his own ambition against Christians, began not to cut. Thus did too great 
a desire to vent their appetites cause the pontiffs little by little to disarm 
themselves. Furthermore, Boniface deprived two members of that family 
who were cardinals of their cardinalates. And Sciarra, head of that house, 
while fleeing from him, was taken unrecognized by Catalan pirates and 
put to the oar; but afterwards he was recognized in Marseilles and sent to 
King Philip of France, who had been excommunicated by Boniface and 
deprived of the kingdom. As Philip considered that in a war waged 

2 See FH 1 23. These were the Sicilian Vespers of 1282. 


36 


I • 26 


against pontiffs one either ended a loser or ran into many dangers, he 
turned to trickery; and pretending that he wished to come to an accord 
with the pope, he sent Sciarra to Italy secretly. Sciarra arrived in Anagni, 
where the pope was, and having gathered his friends together at night, 
captured him; and although the pope was set free by the people of Anagni 
soon after, nonetheless, because of his grief at that injury, he died insane. 


26 

it was Boniface who ordered the jubilee in 1300 and who provided that 
it be celebrated every hundred years. In these times there were many tra¬ 
vails between the Guelf and Ghibelline parties; and because Italy had been 
abandoned by the emperors, many towns became free and many were 
seized by tyrants. Pope Benedict restored their hats to the Colonna 
cardinals 1 and restored Philip, king of France, to communion with the 
Church. He was succeeded by Clement V, who, as he was French, moved 
the court to France in the year 1305. 2 Meanwhile, Charles II, king of Na¬ 
ples, died and was succeeded by his son Robert. Henry of Luxembourg 
had attained to the Empire, and he came to Rome to be crowned, not¬ 
withstanding that the pope was not there. His coming was followed by 
many movements in Lombardy because he sent all the exiles, whether 
Guelf or Ghibelline, back to their towns, from which it followed that by 
their driving one another out, that province was filled with war; nor, for 
all his exertion, could the emperor prevent it. He left Lombardy and came 
to Pisa by way of Genoa. There he strove to take Tuscany away from 
King Robert; and, as he was getting no profit by it, he left for Rome, 
where he stayed a few days because he was driven out by the Orsini with 
the approval of King Robert. He returned to Pisa, and so as to make war 
against Tuscany more securely and to take it from the government of 
King Robert, he had it attacked by King Frederick of Sicily. But while he 
was hoping at once to seize Tuscany and take King Robert’s state from 
him, he died. Ludwig of Bavaria succeeded him to the Empire. Mean¬ 
while, John XXII attained to the papacy, and in his time the emperor 
never ceased persecuting the Guelfs and the Church, which were for the 
most part defended by King Robert and the Florentines. From this arose 
many wars waged in Lombardy by the Visconti against the Guelfs, and 
in Tuscany by Castruccio of Lucca against the Florentines. But because 
the Visconti family was the one that gave a beginning to the duchy of 

1 In fact, Jacopo and Pietro Colonna did not get their hats back. 

2 Actually, in 1309. 


37 


I • 27 

Milan, one of the five principalities that later governed Italy, it seems 
proper for me to recount their condition from an earlier time. 3 


27 

after the league in Lombardy of those cities that we made mention 
above 1 came about for the purpose of defense against Frederick Barba- 
rossa, Milan, having recovered from its ruin and to get revenge for the 
injuries it had received, joined it. The league did restrain Barbarossa and 
kept alive the parties of the Church in Lombardy for a time, and, in the 
travails of the wars that then followed, the della Torre family became very 
powerful in that city. From then on, its reputation kept growing, while 
the emperors had little authority in that province. But when Frederick II 
came into Italy and the Ghibelline party became powerful through the 
work of Ezzelino, Ghibelline humors rose in every city; and in Milan, 
among those who took the Ghibelline side was the Visconti family, which 
had driven the della Torre out of Milan. But they stayed out only a short 
while because, through accords made between the emperor and the pope, 
they were restored to their fatherland. But when the pope went to France 
with his court and Henry of Luxembourg came into Italy so as to go to 
Rome for his crown, he was received in Milan by Matteo Visconti and 
Guido della Torre, who were then the heads of their families. But Matteo 
was scheming to make use of the emperor to expel Guido; and, judging 
that the enterprise would be easy because Guido belonged to the faction 
opposed to the Empire, he took advantage of the grievances of the people 
over the sinister behavior of the Germans. Cautiously he went about en¬ 
couraging everyone and persuading them to take up arms and slough off 
their slavery to these barbarians. And when it appeared to him that he had 
arranged the matter to his purpose, he had someone in his confidence 
start a tumult over which all the people took up arms against the German 
name. The scandal had hardly begun when Matteo with his sons and all 
his partisans were in arms; and they were running to Henry to tell him 
how the tumult was started by the della Torre, who were not content to 
live privately in Milan and had taken the opportunity of attempting to 
despoil it in order to ingratiate themselves with the Guelfs in Italy and to 
become princes of that city. But they said that he should be of good spirit 
because they, on their side, if he should want to defend himself, were 
ready to save him by any mode. Henry believed everything Matteo said 

3 Lit.: from a loftier place. NM’s discussion of Castruccio begins in FH 11 26. 

' See FH 1 18. 


38 


1-28 


to be true, and he joined his forces with those of the Visconti and they 
attacked the della Torre, who had run into many parts of the city in order 
to stop the tumults; and those whom they could have, they killed, and 
the others, stripped of their possessions, they sent into exile. Thus Matteo 
Visconti was left as a prince in Milan, and after him Galeazzo and Azzo, 
and after them Luchino and Giovanni. Giovanni became an archbishop in 
that city; and Luchino, who died before him, left Bernabo and Galeazzo; 2 
but since Galeazzo also died shortly after, he left Giovan Galeazzo, 
dubbed Count of Virtue. After the death of the archbishop, Giovan Ga¬ 
leazzo killed Bernabo, his uncle, by deceit and was left alone as prince of 
Milan: 3 he was the first to have the title of duke. He left Filippo and 
Giovan Mariagnolo; and when the latter was killed by the people of 
Milan, the state was left to Filippo, who left no male children. Thus that 
state was transferred from the house of Visconti to that of the Sforza in 
the mode and for the causes that will be told in their place. 4 


28 

but, returning to where I digressed, Emperor Ludwig came into Italy to 
give reputation to his party and to take the crown. When he reached 
Milan, so as to have cause for getting money from the Milanese, he made 
a show of leaving them free and he put the Visconti in prison; then, 
through the mediation of Castruccio of Lucca, he set them free. And after 
he had gone to Rome so that he could stir up Italy more easily, he made 
Piero della Corvara antipope, with whose reputation, together with the 
strength of the Visconti, he schemed to keep the opposing parties of Tus¬ 
cany and Lombardy enfeebled. But Castruccio died, and his death was 
the cause of the beginning of the emperor’s ruin, for Pisa and Lucca re¬ 
belled against him, and the Pisans sent the antipope as a prisoner to the 
pope in France; thus the emperor, despairing of things in Italy, returned 
to Germany. He had barely left when John, king of Bohemia, came into 
Italy, called in by the Ghibellines of Brescia, and made himself lord of 
Brescia and Bergamo. And because his coming was with the consent of 
the pope, although he pretended the contrary, the legate of Bologna 1 fa¬ 
vored him, judging that this might be a good remedy for ensuring that 
the emperor not return to Italy. By this course, Italy changed its condi- 

2 Bernabo and Galeazzo II were sons of Stefano Visconti, brother of Luchino and Gio¬ 
vanni. 

3 See P 21 and D11 13. 

4 See FH vi 24. 

1 The papal legate. 


39 


I • 29 

tion, because, when the Florentines and King Robert saw that the legate 
was favoring the undertakings of the Ghibellines, they became enemies 
of all those who were friends of the legate and the king of Bohemia; and, 
without regard to Guelf and Ghibelline parties, many princes united with 
them, among whom were the Visconti, the della Scala, Filippo Gonzaga 
of Mantua, the Carrara, and the Este. As a result, the pope excommuni¬ 
cated them all; and the king, out of fear of this league, went back home 
to gather more forces; then, when he returned to Italy with more men, 
he realized that the undertaking was nonetheless difficult, so much so 
that, dismayed, he returned to Bohemia, to the displeasure of the legate. 
He left only Reggio and Modena defended, and he placed Parma under 
the protection of Marsilio and Piero de’ Rossi, who were very powerful 
in that city. After he left, Bologna joined the league, and the allies divided 
among themselves four cities that remained on the side of the Church; 
they agreed that Parma should go to the della Scala, Reggio to the Gon¬ 
zaga, Modena to the Este, and Lucca to the Florentines. But in the cam¬ 
paigns for these towns many wars ensued, which were in good part set¬ 
tled afterwards by the Venetians. And to someone it will perhaps appear 
not a proper thing that we have so long postponed reasoning about the 
Venetians, since they are a republic that for order and power ought to be 
celebrated above every other principality in Italy; but to remove the sur¬ 
prise, and to understand the cause of it, I will go further back in time so 
that everyone may understand what its beginnings were and why the 
Venetians delayed becoming involved in the affairs of Italy for so long a 
time. 


29 

as Attila, king of the Huns, was besieging Aquileia, its inhabitants, after 
they had defended themselves for a long time and had become desperate 
for their safety, fled as best they could with their movable things to the 
many uninhabited reefs that were at the tip of the Adriatic Sea. The Pad¬ 
uans too, seeing the fire close by and fearing that with Aquileia conquered 
Attila might come to find them, carried all their movable things of more 
value to the same sea in a place dubbed Rivo Alto, 1 where they sent their 
women, children, and old as well; and their youth they kept in Padua to 
defend it. Besides these, the people of Monselice with the inhabitants of 
the surrounding hills, urged on by the same terror, went to the reefs in 
the same sea. But after Attila had taken Aquileia and laid waste Padua, 

1 Now Rialto. 


40 


I • 29 

Monselice, Vicenza, and Verona, the Paduans and those who were 
strongest remained to inhabit the swamps around Rivo Alto. At the same 
time, all the peoples surrounding that province, which in ancient times 
was called Vinezia, driven out by the same accidents, withdrew to these 
swamps. Thus constrained by necessity, they left very pleasant and fertile 
places to live in places that were sterile, deformed, and devoid of every 
comfort. And because many peoples were brought together at a stroke, 
in a very short time they made those places not only habitable but delight¬ 
ful; they established laws and orders among themselves, and amidst so 
much ruin in Italy, they enjoyed security. 2 In a short time they grew in 
reputation and forces; for in addition to the above-mentioned inhabitants, 
many from the cities of Lombardy, driven out especially by the cruelty of 
Cleph, king of the Longobards, took refuge there. This was no small 
addition to the city; so at the time when Pepin, king of France, came at 
the urging 3 of the pope to drive the Longobards out of Italy, among the 
agreements made between him and the emperor of the Greeks was that 
the duke of Benevento and the Venetians would not obey either one or 
the other of them but would enjoy their liberty in the middle. Besides all 
this, as necessity had led them to live in the waters, so it forced them to 
think of how they could live decently when they had no use of the land; 
and going in their ships throughout the world, they filled their city with 
a variety of merchandise. Since other men had need of this, it was advan¬ 
tageous for them to gather frequently at that place. Nor for many years 
did they think of any other dominion than of what might make the traffic 
of their merchandise easier. So they acquired many ports in Greece and 
Syria; and because in their travels to Asia the French used their ships a 
good deal, the island of Candia was given to them as payment. And while 
they lived in this form their name became terrible on the seas and vener¬ 
ated within Italy, so that in all the controversies that arose, they were 
most often the arbiters. Thus it happened that when differences arose 
among the allies on account of the towns that they had to divide among 
themselves, the cause was brought before the Venetians, and Bergamo 
and Brescia were left to the Visconti. But in time, after the Venetians had 
seized Padua, Vicenza, and Treviso, and later Verona, Bergamo, and 
Brescia, and many cities in the Kingdom and in Romagna, driven on by 
their lust for domination, they came to so great an opinion of their power 
that not only the Italian princes but the kings beyond the Alps were in 


2 Cf. D 1 1, 6, on the beginnings of Venice. 

3 Lit.: prayer. NM confuses here the Pepin who was the father of Charlemagne with 
another Pepin, his son, who attacked Venice in 810. 


41 


I • 30 

terror of them. Consequently these kings and princes together conspired 4 
against them and in one day 5 took from them that state which they had 
won for themselves in so many years with infinite expense; and even 
though in our more recent times they have reacquired something, yet 
since they have reacquired neither their reputation nor their forces, they 
live, as do all the other Italian princes, at the discretion of others. 


30 

benedict XII had attained to the pontificate. Because it appeared to him 
that he had lost possession of Italy altogether and because he feared that 
Emperor Ludwig might make himself lord of it, he decided to make 
friends in it of all those who had usurped the towns that used to obey the 
emperor, so that they would have cause to fear the Empire and draw to¬ 
gether with him for the defense of Italy. And he issued a decree that all 
the tyrants of Lombardy should keep the towns they had usurped with 
just titles. But with this concession the pope died and was replaced by 
Clement VI. The emperor, seeing with how much liberality the pontiff 
had given away towns belonging to the Empire, so as not to be any less 
liberal with the things of others than the pope had been, gave to all the 
tyrants in the towns of the Church their own towns, so that they might 
possess them by imperial authority. Because of this, Galeotto Malatesti 
and his brothers became lords of Rimini, Pesaro, and Fano; Antonio da 
Montefeltro, of the Marches and Urbino; Gentile da Varano, of Came- 
rino; Guido da Polenta, of Ravenna; Sinibaldo Ordelaffi, of Forli and Ce- 
sena; Giovanni Manfredi, of Faenza; Ludovico Alidosi, of Imola; and be¬ 
sides these many others in many other towns, so that of all the towns of 
the Church, few were left without a prince. It was this that kept the 
Church weak until Alexander VI in our time, by ruining their descen¬ 
dants, returned its authority to it. The emperor was in Trent when he made 
this concession, and he let it be known 1 that he wanted to come into Italy, 
whence many wars followed in Lombardy, by which the Visconti made 
themselves lords of Parma. 

At this time, Robert, king of Naples, died, leaving only two grand¬ 
daughters born of his son Charles, who had died some time earlier; and 
he bequeathed that the elder, called Giovanna, should be heir to the King- 

4 Lit .: swore an oath. Cf. Dm 11 for another “conspiracy of all Italy” against the Vene¬ 
tians. 

s Allusion to the battle of Vaila, also known as the battle of Agnadello (1509). S6e P 12, 
20, 26; D 1 6, 53, 11 10, hi 31. Also NM’s Decennale, 11 175— 193; Asino d’Oro , v 49—56. 

1 Lit.: gave out the name. 


42 


I . 32 

dom and that Andrew, his nephew and son of the king of Hungary, 
should take her for his wife. Andrew did not remain with her for long, 
as she had him killed and married another cousin, called Ludovico, prince 
of Taranto. But Ludwig, king of Hungary and brother of Andrew, came 
into Italy with his men in order to avenge his brother’s death, and he 
drove Queen Giovanna and her husband from the Kingdom. 


31 

at this time a memorable thing happened in Rome: one Niccolo di Lo¬ 
renzo, 1 chancellor at the Capitol, drove out the Roman senators and made 
himself, with the title of tribune, head of the Roman Republic, which he 
restored in its ancient form with such a reputation for justice and virtue 
that not only the towns nearby but all Italy sent ambassadors to him. So 
the old provinces, seeing how Rome had been reborn, lifted their heads; 
and some being moved by fear and some by hope, they honored him. But 
Niccolo, notwithstanding so much reputation, abandoned himself in his 
first beginnings: for he turned coward under so great a burden and fled in 
disguise without being driven out by anyone; and he went to meet 
Charles, king of Bohemia, who had been elected emperor by order of the 
pope in contempt of Ludwig of Bavaria. To ingratiate himself with the 
pontiff, Charles sent Niccolo to him as a prisoner. Then it happened later, 
after some time, that in imitation of Niccolo, one Francesco Baroncegli 
seized the tribunate of Rome and drove out the senators. In consequence, 
the pope, as the quickest remedy to repress him, took Niccolo out of 
prison, sent him to Rome, and gave him the office of tribune. So Niccolo 
retook his state and had Francesco killed. But since the Colonna had be¬ 
come his enemies, he too was killed not long after and the office restored 
to the senators. 


32 

in the meantime, the king of Hungary, having driven out Queen Gio¬ 
vanna, returned to his own kingdom. But the pope, who desired to have 
the queen near Rome rather than that king, worked it out that he was 
content to restore the Kingdom to her provided that her husband, Lu¬ 
dovico, content with his title of Taranto, not be called king. The year 
13 50 had come, so it appeared to the pope that the jubilee ordered by Pope 

1 Better known as Cola di Rienzo. 


43 


I • 32 

Boniface VIII for every hundred years could be reduced to fifty years. 
When he accomplished this by decree, the Romans, because of this ben¬ 
efit, were content to have him send four cardinals to Rome to reform the 
state of the city and to appoint senators of his own choice. The pope again 
proclaimed Ludovico of Taranto king of Naples; and for this benefit 
Queen Giovanna gave the Church Avignon, which was part of her patri¬ 
mony. Luchino Visconti died in these times, and as a result, Giovanni, 
archbishop of Milan, was left alone as lord. He waged many wars on 
Tuscany and its neighbors, by which he became very powerful. When he 
died, he was survived by his nephews, Bernabo and Galeazzo; but shortly 
after, Galeazzo died and left Giovan Galeazzo, who shared that state with 
Bernabo. 1 In these times Charles, king of Bohemia, was emperor, and 
Innocent VI was pontiff. The latter sent into Italy Egidio, a cardinal of 
Spanish birth, who by his virtue restored the reputation of the Church 
not only in Romagna and in Rome but throughout Italy; he recovered 
Bologna, which had been seized by the archbishop of Milan; he forced 
the Romans to accept a foreign senator to be sent there each year by the 
pope; he made honorable accords with the Visconti; he crushed and cap¬ 
tured the Englishman John Hawkwood, who with four thousand Eng¬ 
lishmen fought in aid of the Ghibellines in Tuscany. 2 Thus, when Urban 
V succeeded to the pontificate and learned of these victories, he decided 
to visit Italy and Rome, where Emperor Charles also came; and after a 
few months Charles went back to his kingdom and the pope to Avignon. 
After the death of Urban, Gregory XI was created; and because Cardinal 
Egidio had also died, Italy returned to its former discords caused by the 
peoples leagued together against the Visconti. So the pope first sent a 
legate to Italy with six thousand Bretons; then he came in person and 
moved the court back to Rome in 1376, 3 after the seventy-first year that 
it had been in France. But after his death he was replaced by Urban VI, 
and shortly afterwards, at Fondi, Clement VII was created by ten cardi¬ 
nals who said Urban had not been elected properly. 

In these times, the Genoese, who had lived for many years under the 
government of the Visconti, rebelled. And between the Venetians and 
them, many very important wars arose over the island of Tenedos, on 
account of which all Italy became divided. During this war artillery was 
seen for the first time, a new instrument invented by the Germans. And 
although the Genoese were for a time on top and kept Venice besieged 
for many months, nonetheless at the end of the war the Venetians won 

1 Cf. FH 1 27 (end). 

2 Egidio Albornoz neither defeated Hawkwood nor took him prisoner. 

3 By our dating, 1377. 


44 


i • 34 


out. Through the mediation of the pontiff, peace was made in the year 
1381. 


33 

there had arisen, as we have said, 1 a schism in the Church, in which 
Queen Giovanna favored the schismatic pope. For this, Urban had a cam¬ 
paign made against her into the Kingdom by Charles of Durazzo, a de¬ 
scendant of the kings of Naples. When he came, he took her state from 
her and made himself lord of the Kingdom, and she fled to France. The 
king of France, angered by this, sent Louis of Anjou to Italy to recover 
the Kingdom for the queen, to drive Urban out of Rome, and to make 
the antipope lord of it. But in the middle of this undertaking Louis died, 
and his men, having been defeated, returned to France. Meanwhile, the 
pope went to Naples, where he put nine cardinals in prison for having 
followed the party of France and the antipope. Then he became angry 
with the king 2 for refusing to make one of his nephews prince of Capua; 
and, pretending not to care about it, he asked the king to grant him No- 
cera as a place to live. There he made himself strong and prepared to 
deprive the king of the Kingdom. For this, the king came to battle with 
him, and the pope fled to Genoa, where he had the cardinals whom he 
had imprisoned put to death. From there he went to Rome, and to make 
reputation for himself he created twenty-nine cardinals. At this time 
Charles, king of Naples, went to Flungary, where he was made king and 
shortly after was killed. In Naples he left his wife with his children, Lad- 
islas and Giovanna. 

At this time also, Giovan Galeazzo Visconti had killed his uncle Ber- 
nabo and taken over the whole state of Milan; and since it was not enough 
for him to have become duke of all Lombardy, he also wanted to seize 
Tuscany, but just when he believed he was getting dominion over it, after 
which he would be crowned king of Italy, he died. Urban VI was suc¬ 
ceeded by Boniface IX. At the same time, in Avignon, the antipope 
Clement VII died and was replaced by Benedict XIII. 


34 


in these times there were many soldiers in Italy—English, German, and 
Breton—some led by those princes who at various times had come to 


1 FH 1 32. 

2 Charles of Durazzo. 


45 


i • 35 

Italy, and some sent by the pontiffs when they were in Avignon. All the 
Italian princes made their wars with them for a long time, until there 
emerged Ludovico da Conio, 1 from the Romagna, who formed a com¬ 
pany of Italian soldiers named for Saint George. In a short time its virtue 
and discipline took away the reputation of foreign arms and returned it to 
Italian arms, which the princes of Italy used afterwards in the wars they 
fought together. The pope, because of his discord with the Romans, went 
to Assisi, where he stayed so long that the jubilee of 1400 came, at which 
time the Romans, that he might return to Rome for the advantage of that 
city, were content to accept again a foreign senator sent by him, and they 
let him fortify the Castel Sant’Angelo. With these conditions he returned; 
and to enrich the Church, he ordered that for vacant benefices anyone 
might pay a year’s income to the Camera. Although when Giovan Ga- 
leazzo, duke of Milan, died, he left two sons, Giovan Mariagnolo and 
Filippo, that state divided into many parts; and in the troubles that fol¬ 
lowed there, Giovanmaria was killed and Filippo was locked up for a time 
in the fortress of Pavia, where, because of the trust and virtue of the cas¬ 
tellan, he was saved. Among others who seized cities once possessed by 
their father was Guglielmo della Scala, who, when exiled, found himself 
in the hands of Francesco da Carrara, lord of Padua, through whom he 
regained the state of Verona, where his stay was short because, by Fran¬ 
cesco’s order, he was poisoned and the city taken from him. On account 
of this, the inhabitants of Vicenza, who had been living safely under the 
ensigns of the Visconti, became fearful of the greatness of the lord of 
Padua and gave themselves to the Venetians; and through them the Vene¬ 
tians began a war against him, and from him they took first Verona and 
then Padua. 


35 

in the meantime, Pope Boniface died, and Innocent VII was elected. To 
him the Roman people petitioned that he give up the fortresses and re¬ 
store their freedom to them. The pope did not want to agree to this, so 
the Roman people called Ladislas, king of Naples, to their aid. After¬ 
wards, when an accord had been reached between them, the pope re¬ 
turned to Rome; he had fled to Viterbo out of fear of the people and there 
made Ludovico, his nephew, count of the Marches. After he died, Greg¬ 
ory XII was created with the obligation to renounce the papacy at any 
time the antipope might also renounce it. And through the urging of the 

1 Alberigo da Conio; see P 12. 


46 


1-36 

cardinals that an attempt be made to see if the Church could be reunited, 
Benedict, the antipope, came to Porto Venere and Gregory to Lucca, 
where they discussed many things and concluded none. So the cardinals 
of both popes abandoned them, and, as for the popes, Benedict went to 
Spain and Gregory to Rimini. The cardinals, for their part, with the favor 
of Baldassarre Cossa, cardinal and legate of Bologna, ordered a council 
in Pisa, where they created Alexander V. He quickly excommunicated 
King Ladislas and invested Louis of xAmjou with the Kingdom. Then, to¬ 
gether with the Florentines, Genoese, and Venetians, and with the legate 
Baldassarre Cossa, they assaulted Ladislas and took Rome from him. But 
in the heat of this war Alexander died, and Baldassarre Cossa was created 
pope and had himself called John XXIII. He left Bologna, where he had 
been created, and went to Rome, where he found Louis of Anjou, who 
had come with the army of Provence, and in a skirmish with Ladislas, 
they defeated him. By the fault of the condottieri, however, they were 
unable to follow up the victory, so that the king in a little while regained 
his forces and retook Rome; and the pope fled to Bologna, and Louis to 
Provence. Then the pope, thinking how he might diminish the power of 
Ladislas, arranged to have Sigismund, king of Hungary, elected emperor 
and persuaded him to come to Italy and conferred with him in Mantua. 
They agreed to hold a general council in which the Church would be 
reunited, for united it could easily oppose the forces of its enemies. 


36 

there were three popes at that time—Gregory, Benedict, and John— 
who kept the Church weak and without reputation. Constance, a city in 
Germany, was chosen against the will of Pope John as the site of the coun¬ 
cil. And although the death of Ladislas had eliminated the cause that made 
the pope promote the business of the council, nonetheless, since he had 
obligated himself, he could not refuse to go there. Not many months 
after, when he was brought to Constance, he recognized his error late and 
tried to flee, for which he was put in prison and forced to resign the pa¬ 
pacy. Gregory, also one of the antipopes, renounced through a messenger 
of his, and Benedict, the other antipope, who was unwilling to renounce, 
was condemned as a heretic. In the end, abandoned by his cardinals, he 
too was forced to renounce, and the Council created Oddo, from the 
house of Colonna, as pontiff, thereafter called Martin V. Thus the 
Church was united after forty years in which it had been divided among 
many pontiffs. 


47 


i • 3 8 
37 


at this time, as we have said, 1 Filippo Visconti was in the fortress of 
Pavia. But when death came to Facino Cane, who during the travails in 
Lombardy had become lord of Vercelli, Alessandria, Novara, and Tor- 
tona and had accumulated much wealth, he left the inheritance of his 
states to Beatrice, his wife, as he had no children; and he ordered his 
friends to arrange that she be married to Filippo. Filippo, having become 
powerful by this marriage, reacquired Milan and the whole state of Lom¬ 
bardy. Afterwards, so as to be grateful for great benefits in the way that 
all princes almost always are, he accused his wife Beatrice of adultery and 
had her put to death. Having therefore become very powerful, he began 
to think about wars in Tuscany so as to pursue the designs of his father 
Giovan Galeazzo. 


38 

when Ladislas, king of Naples, died, he left to his sister Giovanna, aside 
from the Kingdom, a great army captained by the chief condottieri of 
Italy, among the first of whom was Sforza of Cotignuola, reputed valor¬ 
ous by these armed men. The queen, so as to escape the infamy of having 
kept a certain Pandolfello whom she had raised, took for a husband James 
of La Marche, a Frenchman of royal lineage, with these conditions: that 
he would be content to be called prince of Taranto and that he would leave 
to her the title and the government of the Kingdom. But as soon as he 
arrived in Naples, the soldiers called him king; so great discords arose 
between husband and wife, each getting the better of the other many 
times; but in the end, the queen retained her estate. Then she became an 
enemy of the pontiff, and thus Sforza, so as to bring her into necessity 
and so that she would have to throw herself into his lap, resigned from 
her service against her expectation. 1 Because of this, she found herself 
disarmed at a stroke; and having no other remedies, she turned for assist¬ 
ance to Alfonso, king of Aragon and Sicily, whom she adopted as a son; 
and she hired Braccio da Montone, who had as high a reputation in arms 
as did Sforza and was an enemy of the pope because he had seized Perugia 
from him as well as some other towns of the Church. Then there was 
peace between her and the pope; but King Alfonso, suspecting that she 
might deal with him as she had with her husband, sought cautiously to 

1 See FH 1 34. 

1 See P 12; AW 1. 


48 


i • 39 

secure mastery of the fortresses. But she, who was astute, foresaw this 
and made herself strong in the fortress in Naples. Thus, as they grew more 
suspicious of each other, they came to arms; and the queen, with the help 
of Sforza, who had returned to her services, overcame Alfonso, drove 
him from Naples, deprived him of his adoption, and adopted Louis of 
Anjou. As a result, war arose again between Braccio, who had taken the 
side of Alfonso, and Sforza, who favored the queen. In carrying on the 
war, Sforza was drowned while crossing the Pescara River, so that the 
queen was again left disarmed; and she would have been driven out of the 
Kingdom had she not been helped by Filippo Visconti, duke of Milan, 
who forced Alfonso to turn back to Aragon. But Braccio, undismayed 
by Alfonso’s having abandoned himself, continued his campaign against 
the queen; and when he besieged FAquila, the pope judged that Braccio’s 
greatness did not suit the Church, and he took to its 2 service Francesco, 
Sforza’s son. Francesco went to meet Braccio at FAquila, where he killed 
and crushed him. Among the survivors of Braccio’s party was his son 
Oddo; the pope deprived him of Perugia but left him the state of Mon¬ 
tone. But shortly after, he was killed fighting in Romagna for the Flor¬ 
entines, so that of those who fought together with Braccio, Niccolo Pic- 
cinino held the highest reputation. 


39 

but because we have come in our narrative nearly to those times that I 
planned 1 —for what remains to be dealt with is not important for the most 
part, other than the wars that the Florentines and Venetians had with Fi¬ 
lippo, duke of Milan, which will be told of when we deal particularly 
with Florence 2 —I do not want to proceed further. I will only call to mind 
briefly in what straits Italy found itself, in regard to both princes and 
arms, in the times at which we have arrived in our writing. Of the prin¬ 
cipal states, Queen Giovanna II held the kingdom of Naples; in the 
Marches, the Patrimony, and Romagna, some of the towns obeyed the 
Church, and some were held by their vicars or tyrants: as Ferrara, Mo¬ 
dena, and Reggio by the Este; Faenza by the Manfredi; Imola by the Ali- 
dosi; Forli by the Ordelaffi: Rimini and Pesaro by the Malatesti; and Ca- 
merino by the da Varano. As for Lombardy, part obeyed Duke Filippo 
and part the Venetians, since all those who used to hold their own partic- 


2 Or his. 

1 See FH, Preface. 

2 In FH, Book iv. 


49 


i • 39 

ular states there had been eliminated, except for the house of Gonzaga, 
which was lord of Mantua. The Florentines were lords of the greater part 
of Tuscany: only Lucca and Siena lived under their own laws—Lucca was 
under the Guinigi, Siena was free. The Genoese, who were sometimes 
free and sometimes slaves either of the kings of France or of the Visconti, 
lived in dishonor and were numbered among the lesser powers. All these 
principal powers were not armed with arms of their own. Duke Filippo, 
shut up in his rooms and not letting himself be seen, directed his wars 
through commissioners; the Venetians, as they turned to the land, threw 
aside the arms that had made them glorious on the seas and, following 
the custom of the other Italians, administered their armies under the gov¬ 
ernment of others. The pope, because arms did not befit him as a man of 
religion, and Queen Giovanna of Naples, because she was a woman, did 
from necessity what the others had done by bad choice; the Florentines 
also obeyed the same necessities because, having eliminated their nobility 
by frequent divisions, the republic was left in the hands of men nurtured 
in trade and thus continued in the orders and fortune of the others. The 
arms of Italy, therefore, were in the hands either of lesser princes or of 
men without a state; for the lesser princes, unmoved by any glory, wore 
them so as to live either more rich or more secure, and the others, nur¬ 
tured in them since childhood and not knowing any other art, sought to 
be honored for them by having them or by power. Among these, the 
most famous were: Carmignuola; Francesco Sforza; Niccolo Piccinmo, an 
apprentice to Braccio; Agnolo della Pergola; Lorenzo and Micheletto At- 
tenduli; Tartaglia; 3 Jacopaccio; 4 Ceccolino da Perugia; Niccolo da Tolen- 
tino; Guido Torello; Antonio dal Ponte ad Era; and many others similar 
to these. Along with these were those lords of whom I spoke above, 5 to 
whom were added the barons of Rome, the Orsini, and the Colonna, 
with other lords and gentlemen of the Kingdom and of Lombardy. Since 
they depended on war, they had made a sort of bond and understanding 
together and had reduced war to an art in which they would temporize, 
so that most times both one side and the other of those who were waging 
war would lose; and in the end, they reduced it to such vileness that any 
mediocre captain in whom only a shadow of ancient virtue had been re¬ 
born would have despised them, to the astonishment 6 of all Italy, which, 
because of its lack of prudence, honored them. Of these lazy princes, 
therefore, and these very vile arms, my history will be filled. But before 

3 Angelo Lavello, dubbed il Tartaglia (the stutterer). 

4 Jacopo Caldora. 

5 The lesser princes. 

6 Lit.: admiration. 


50 


i • 39 

I come to that, it is necessary for me, as I promised in the beginning, to 
turn back and to recount the origin of Florence, and to make everyone 
clearly understand what was the state of that city in those times, and by 
what means it came to that state among so many travails that had fallen 
upon Italy for a thousand years. 


5i 


BOOK II 


I 

among the other great and marvelous orders of the ancient republics and 
principalities that in our times have been eliminated was that by which 
they used to build many towns and cities anew and at all times. For no 
single thing is more worthy of an excellent prince and of a well-ordered 
republic, nor more useful to a province, than building new towns where 
men can settle for the convenience of defense or cultivation. The ancients 
were able to do this easily, as it was their practice to send new inhabitants 
into conquered or vacant countries, which they called colonies. 1 For be¬ 
sides being the cause of building new towns, this order made the con¬ 
quered country more secure for the victor, filled vacant places with in¬ 
habitants, and kept men well distributed in the provinces. From this it 
arose that, living more comfortably in a province, men multiplied more 
there and were more ready for offense and more secure in defense. As this 
custom has been eliminated today through the bad practice of republics 
and princes, ruin and weakness have arisen in the provinces; for this order 
alone is what makes empires more secure and, as has been said, maintains 
countries as abundantly inhabited. Security arises because the colony that 
is settled by a prince in a country newly seized by him stands as a fortress 
and guard to keep the rest faithful. Besides, one cannot maintain a prov¬ 
ince as inhabited or preserve the inhabitants well distributed within it 
without this order. For all places in it are not either productive or healthy; 
hence it arises that men abandon the latter and are wanting in the former; 
and if there is no mode of getting men back to what they abandoned or 
to go where they are wanting, the province will in a short time be spoiled: 
for one part becomes deserted from too few inhabitants, another part 
poor from too many. And because nature cannot compensate for this dis¬ 
order, it is necessary that industry compensate for it: for unhealthy coun¬ 
tries become healthy by means of a multitude of men that seizes them at 
a stroke; they cleanse the earth by cultivation and purge the air with fires, 
things that nature could never provide. 2 This is demonstrated by the city 
of Venice, put in a swampy and diseased place; nonetheless, the many 

1 On colonies, see P 3; D i i, n 6, 9, 10, 19, in 24, 32. 

2 See FH 1 29; and D 1 1, 11 5. 


52 


II • 2 


inhabitants who gathered there at a stroke rendered it healthy. Pisa too, 
because of the foulness of the air, was never filled with inhabitants until 
Genoa and its coasts were destroyed by the Saracens; this made those 
men, driven from their earthly fatherlands, gather there at a stroke in such 
numbers that they made it populous and powerful. When the order of 
sending out colonies has been lacking, conquered countries are held with 
greater difficulty and vacant countries never fill up, while those that are 
too full do not relieve themselves. As a result, many parts of the world, 
and especially of Italy, have become deserted by comparison to ancient 
times; and it all happened and happens because in the princes there is no 
appetite for true glory and in the republics no order that deserves to be 
praised. In ancient times, therefore, by virtue of these colonies, either 
new cities arose frequently or those already begun grew; and among these 
was the city of Florence, which had its beginning from Fiesole and its 
growth from colonies. 


2 

it is a thing very true, as Dante and Giovanni Villani have shown, 1 that, 
since the city of Fiesole had been placed on the summit of a mountain, to 
make its markets more frequented and more convenient for those who 
might want to come to them with their merchandise it had ordered the 
place for them not on the hillside but in the plain between the foot of the 
mountain and the Arno River. These markets, I judge, were the cause of 
the first buildings that were put up in those places, as the merchants were 
moved by the wish to have convenient shelters to hold their merchandise, 
which in time became solid buildings. Afterwards, when the Romans had 
conquered the Carthaginians, rendering Italy safe from foreign wars, the 
buildings multiplied to a great number. For men never maintain them¬ 
selves in difficulties unless maintained there by some necessity; so 
whereas the fear of war may force them to live willingly in formidable 
and harsh places, when the war ends, beckoned 2 by convenience, they live 
more willingly in domestic and easy places. Thus, the security that was 
born in Italy through the reputation of the Roman Republic enabled the 
dwellings, already begun in the mode stated, to increase to such number 
that they took on the form of a town, which from the beginning was 
named Villa Arnina. Afterwards, civil wars began in Rome, first between 

1 Dante, Inferno xv 61-63, and Paradiso xv 124-126; Giovanni Villani, Cronica 1 35; and 
see D 1. For recent historical scholarship, see Rubinstein, “II Poliziano e la questione delle 
origini di Firenze,” and idem, “Machiavelli e le origini di Firenze.” 

2 Lit.: called. 


53 


II • 2 


Marius and Sulla, then between Caesar and Pompey, and later between 
the killers of Caesar and those who wanted to avenge his death. Thus first 
by Sulla, 3 and later by those three Roman citizens who divided up the 
empire after the revenge they had for Caesar, 4 colonies were sent to Fie- 
sole; either all or some of these located their dwellings in the plain near 
the town already begun; and by this increase the place became so full of 
buildings, men, and every other civil order that it could be counted 
among the cities of Italy. But as to how the name of Florence might have 
been derived, there are various opinions. Some would have it called for 
Florino, one of the heads of the colony; 5 others would have it not Florenzia 
but Fluenzia in the beginning because it was located next to the flowing 
Arno, and as a witness they cite Pliny, who says, “the Fluentini are by the 
Flowing Arno.” 6 This could be false because Pliny in his text shows where 
the Florentines were located, not what they were called; and the word 
Fluentini may well be corrupt because Frontinus and Cornelius Tacitus, 
who wrote almost in Pliny’s time, called them Florenzia and Florentini . 7 
For already in the time of Tiberius they governed themselves by the cus¬ 
tom of the other Italian cities, and Cornelius refers to Florentine spokes¬ 
men as having come to the emperor to beg that water from the Chiana 
not be emptied onto their country. 8 Nor is it reasonable that the city 
should have had two names at the same time. I believe, therefore, that it 
was always called Florenzia for whatever cause it was so named; and so 
from whatever cause the origin might have been, it was born under the 
Roman Empire and in the time of the first emperors began to be recorded 
by writers. And when that Empire was afflicted by the barbarians, Flor¬ 
ence was destroyed by Totila, king of the Ostrogoths, and rebuilt two 
hundred and fifty years later by Charlemagne. From that time until the 
year of Christ 1215, it lived in the fortune under which those who com¬ 
manded Italy lived. 9 In these times, first the descendants of Charlemagne 
were lords, after that the Berengars, and last, the German emperors, as 
we showed in our universal treatise. 10 Nor could the Florentines in those 
times grow or do anything worthy of memory, because of the power of 

3 This was the opinion of Leonardo Bruni, Historiae florentini populi 1 1, and of Poggio 
Bracciolini, Historiae florentini populi 1 1. See also Bruni’s Laudatio Floretitinae Urbis, printed 
in Baron, From Petrarch to Leonardo Bruni. 

4 The second triumvirate: Octavius, Antony, and Lapidus. 

5 G. Villani, Cronica 1 38. 

6 Pliny, Natural History ill 52. 

7 Tacitus, Annals 1 79. The first book of the Libri regionum 0 colonarium, actually the work 
of Balbo, was mistaken for the work of Frontinus by Machiavelli’s source, Poliziano. 

8 Tacitus, Annals 1 79. 

9 Cf. D 1 49. 

10 NM’s name for Book 1 of FH. 


54 


ii • 3 

those in the Empire to whom they were subject. Nonetheless, in 1010, 
on the day of Saint Romulus, a day sacred to the inhabitants of Fiesole, 
they seized and destroyed Fiesole; they did this either with the consent of 
the emperors or during that time between the death of one and the crea¬ 
tion of another when everyone was more free. But afterwards, when the 
pontiffs obtained more authority in Italy and the German emperors were 
weakened, all the towns of that province governed themselves with less 
reverence for the prince, so that in 1080, at the time of Henry III," Italy 
became openly divided between him and the Church. Notwithstanding 
this, the Florentines maintained themselves united until 1215, obedient to 
the conquerors, seeking no other empire than to save themselves. But just 
as in our bodies, where the later the infirmities come, the more dangerous 
and mortal they are, so with Florence: the later it was in joining the sects 
of Italy, by so much more was it afflicted by them. The cause of the first 
division is very well known because it was celebrated by Dante 12 and 
many other writers. Even so, it seems to me worth recounting briefly. 


3 

among other very powerful families in Florence were the Buondelmonti 
and Uberti; near to them were the Amidei and the Donati. In the Donati 
family there was a rich widow who had a daughter very beautiful to see. 
This widow had planned by herself to marry her daughter to Messer 
Buondelmonte, a young knight and head of the Buondelmonti family. 
Either out of negligence or because she believed she could always be in 
time, she had not revealed her plan to anyone, when chance brought 
about the betrothal of Messer Buondelmonte to a young girl of the Ami¬ 
dei family—at which that woman was very malcontent. And as she was 
hoping that by means of her daughter’s beauty she could upset the wed¬ 
ding before it should be celebrated, she saw Messer Buondelmonte com¬ 
ing alone toward her house and went downstairs leading her daughter 
behind her. As he was passing by she managed to meet him and she said, 
“I am truly very happy that you have chosen a wife, although I had saved 
for you this daughter of mine”; and pushing open the door, she let him 
see her. The knight, having seen the beauty of the girl, which was rare, 
and considering her bloodline and her dowry not inferior to those of the 
one he had taken, was inflamed with such ardor to have her that, not 
thinking of the faith he had pledged or the injury he did in breaking it, or 


" Henry IV; see FH 1 15. 
12 Paradiso xvi 136-150. 


55 


ii • 4 

of the evils he might encounter from breaking faith, he said, “Since you 
have saved her for me and there is still time, I would be ungrateful to 
refuse her,” and without letting any time pass, he celebrated the marriage. 
As soon as this thing became known, the Amidei and Uberti families, 
which were related by marriage, were filled with indignation. Gathering 
together with many other relatives, they concluded that this injury could 
not be tolerated without shame and that they could avenge it with no 
other revenge than the death of Messer Buondelmonte. Although there 
were some who dwelt on the evils that might follow such a course, Mosca 
Lamberti said that he who thought over many things never concluded any 
one of them, and he repeated that trite and famous phrase, “A thing done 
is ended.” 1 Thereupon they entrusted this homicide to xMosca, Stiatta 
Uberti, Lambertuccio Amidei, and Oderigo Fifanti. On Easter morning 
these men hid in the houses of the Amidei situated between the Ponte 
Vecchio and Santo Stefano, and as Messer Buondelmonte passed over the 
river on his white horse, thinking it was as easy to forget an injury as it 
was to renounce a family relation, he was attacked and killed by them at 
the foot of the bridge beneath a statue of Mars. 2 This homicide divided 
the whole city, and one part stood with the Buondelmonti, the other with 
the Uberti. Since these families were strong in houses, towers, and men, 
they fought for many years without one dislodging the other. And as 
long as their enmities did not end in peace, truces were arranged; and in 
this way, depending on new accidents, their enmities were sometimes 
calmed and sometimes inflamed. 


4 

and Florence remained in these travails until the time of Frederick II, 
who was convinced that because he was king of Naples, 1 he could in¬ 
crease his forces against the Church. To solidify his power in Tuscany he 
favored the Uberti and their followers, who, with his favor, drove out the 
Buondelmonti; and thus was our city also divided, just as Italy had been 
for a long time, between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines. Nor does it seem 
superfluous to me to recall the families who followed the one sect and the 
other. Those then following the Guelf party were the Buondelmonti, 
Nerli, Rossi, Frescobaldi, Mozzi, Bardi, Pulci, Gherardini, Foraboschi, 
Bagnesi, Guidalotti, Sacchetti, Manieri, Lucardesi, Chiaramontesi, 

1 Dante, Inferno xxvm 103-m. 

2 Ibid., xiii 143-144; Paradiso xvi 140-148. 

1 See FH 1 21. 


56 


ii • 5 

Compiobbesi, Cavalcanti, Giandonati, Gianfigliazzi, Scali, Gualterotti, 
Importuni, Bostichi, Tornaquinci, Vecchietti, Tosinghi, Arrigucci, Agli, 
Sizi, Adimari, Visdomini, Donati, Pazzi, Della Bella, Ardinghi, Tedaldi, 
and Cerchi. For the Ghibelline party were the Uberti, Mannegli, Ubri- 
achi, Fifanti, Amidei, Infangati, Malespini, Scolari, Guidi, Galli, Cap- 
piardi, Lamberti, Soldanieri, Cipriani, Toschi, Amieri, Palermini, Mig- 
liorelli, Pigli, Barucci, Cattani, Agolanti, Brunelleschi, Caponsacchi, 
Elesei, Abati, Tedaldini, Giuochi, and Galigai. In addition, many men of 
the people joined with the noble families on one side or the other so that 
almost the whole city was corrupted by the division. Thus the Guelfs, 
having been expelled, withdrew to towns in the upper Valdarno where 
they had a large number of their fortresses; and in this mode they de¬ 
fended themselves as best they could against the forces of their enemies. 
But when Frederick died, those in Florence who were men of the middle 
and had more credit with the people thought that it might be better to 
reunite the city than to ruin it by keeping it divided. So they worked it 
out that the Guelfs, setting aside their injuries, returned, and the Ghibel- 
lines, setting aside their suspicion, received them; and when they were 
united, it seemed to them that the time had come to take the form of a 
free way of life and an order that would enable them to defend them¬ 
selves, before the new emperor should acquire forces. 


5 

therefore they divided the city into six parts and elected twelve citi¬ 
zens, two for each sixth, to govern it; they would be called “the Ancients” 
and would be replaced every year. And to remove the causes of enmities 
that originated from the judges, they provided for two foreign judges, 
one called “Captain of the People” and the other “Podesta,” who were to 
judge cases, civil as well as criminal, arising among citizens. 1 And because 
no order is stable without providing itself with a defender, they estab¬ 
lished twenty banners within the city and seventy-six in the countryside 
and enrolled all the young men under them. They ordered that each 
should stand ready and armed under his banner at any time that he might 
be called by the Captain or the Ancients, and they varied the badges on 
them according to the weapons so that the crossbowmen carried one en¬ 
sign and the shield-bearers another. And every year on the day of the 
Pentecost, with great pomp they gave the ensigns to new men and new 

1 See D I 49, where NM criticizes this innovation. In fact, only the Captain of the People 
was created in 1250; the Podesta already existed. 


57 


ii • 6 


heads were assigned to the whole order. And to give majesty to their 
armies and a point 2 where each one who had been sent into the fray could 
take refuge and, having taken refuge, might again be able to face the en¬ 
emy, they ordered a great wagon drawn by two oxen covered in red and 
on it a red-and-white ensign. Whenever they wanted the army to come 
forth, they brought this wagon into the Mercato Nuovo and with solemn 
pomp turned it over to the heads of the people. They also had a bell 
termed the Martinella to lend magnificence to their undertakings, which 
rang continuously for a month before the armies were to go forth from 
the city so that the enemy might have time for its defense; so much virtue 
was in these men then, and with such generosity of spirit did they govern 
themselves, that, while today an unexpected assault on the enemy is 
looked upon as a generous and prudent action, in those times it was re¬ 
puted contemptible and false. They also took this bell with their armies 
and with it commanded the guards and other actions of war. 


6 

on these military and civil orders the Florentines founded their freedom. 
Nor could one conceive how much authority and force Florence had ac¬ 
quired in a short time: it became not only head of Tuscany but was 
counted among the first cities of Italy, and it would have risen to any 
greatness if frequent and new divisions had not afflicted it. The Floren¬ 
tines lived under this government for ten years, during which time they 
forced the people of Pisa, Arezzo, and Siena to league with them. Return¬ 
ing from the field at Siena, they took Volterra, destroyed some other for¬ 
tified places as well, and brought the inhabitants to Florence. These cam¬ 
paigns were all undertaken on the advice of the Guelfs, who were much 
more powerful than the Ghibellines both because the latter were hated by 
the people for their haughty behavior during the time of Frederick when 
they governed and because, being the party of the Church, the Guelfs 
were more loved than the party of the emperor. For with the help of the 
Church they hoped to preserve their freedom and were afraid of losing it 
under the emperor. Meanwhile, the Ghibellines, seeing that they were 
losing their authority, were unable to remain quiet and only waited for an 
opportunity to regain the state. It appeared to them to have come when 
they saw that Manfred, son of Frederick, had made himself lord of the 
kingdom of Naples and had very much shaken the power of the Church. 1 


2 Lit.: head. 

1 See FH i 22. 


58 


II • 7 

So they secretly laid plans with him in order to regain their authority, but 
they were unable to manage that their plans not be discovered by the An¬ 
cients. The Ancients then summoned the Uberti, who not only did not 
obey but took up arms and fortified themselves in their houses. In indig¬ 
nation at this the people armed themselves and with the help of the Guelfs 
forced the Uberti to abandon Florence and to go with the whole Ghibel- 
line party to Siena. From there they asked for help from Manfred, king 
of Naples, and, through the industry of Messer Farinata degli Uberti, the 
king’s men defeated the Guelfs near the Arbia River with such slaughter 
that those who were saved from that defeat, judging that their city was 
lost, took refuge not in Florence but in Lucca. 


7 

manfred had sent Count Giordano to the Ghibellines at the head of his 
troops, a man highly reputed in arms in those times. After the victory 
he went to Florence with the Ghibellines and brought that city to obedi¬ 
ence entirely to Manfred by abolishing the magistrates and every other 
order through which any form of its freedom might appear. This injury, 
done with little prudence, was received universally with great hatred; and 
from being merely hostile to the Ghibellines, everyone became very hos¬ 
tile, and from all of this arose what in time was their ruin. And as Gior¬ 
dano had to return to Naples because of the necessities of the Kingdom, 
he left behind as royal vicar in Florence Count Guido Novello, a lord of 
Casentino. He called a council of the Ghibellines at Empoli, where it was 
decided by each that if they wanted to maintain the Ghibelline party pow¬ 
erful in Tuscany it was necessary to destroy Florence, which was alone 
capable, because of its Guelf people, of restoring the forces of the parties 
of the Church. There was neither citizen nor friend to oppose this so cruel 
sentence given against so noble a city, except for Messer Farinata degli 
Uberti. 1 He defended it openly and without any hesitation, saying that he 
had not undergone so many perils with so much trouble not to be able to 
live in his fatherland and that he would not now stop wishing for that 
which he had sought so long or renounce what had already been given 
him by fortune; rather, he would be no less an enemy to those who de¬ 
signed otherwise than he had been to the Guelfs. And if someone among 
them feared his fatherland and would ruin it, he hoped to defend it with 
the same virtue by which he had expelled the Guelfs. Messer Farinata was 
a man of great spirit, excellent in war, head of the Ghibellines, and much 

1 Dante, Inferno x 91-92. 


59 


ii • 8 


esteemed by Manfred. His authority put an end to that reasoning, and 
they thought over other modes by which they might save the state. 


8 

the Guelfs who had taken refuge in Lucca were dismissed by the Lucch- 
ese because of threats by the count; so they went to Bologna. From there 
they were called by the Guelfs of Parma to go against the Ghibellines; and 
having overcome their adversaries there by their virtue, they were given 
all their adversaries’ possessions. Their wealth and honors had increased 
so much that, upon learning that Pope Clement had called upon Charles 
of Anjou to seize the Kingdom from Manfred, they sent spokesmen to 
the pontiff to offer him their forces. So the pope not only received them 
as friends but also gave them his ensign, which was ever after carried in 
war by the Guelfs and is the one still used in Florence. Afterwards, 
Manfred was stripped of the Kingdom by Charles and killed ; 1 and since 
the Guelfs of Florence had intervened there, their party became bolder 
and that of the Ghibellines weaker. Thus the Ghibellines governing Flor¬ 
ence together with Count Guido Novello judged that it would be well to 
win the people to their side, whom they had previously aggravated by 
every possible injury, by giving them some benefits; and if they had ap¬ 
plied those remedies before necessity came, it would have been useful, 
but as they applied them now unwillingly, the remedies were not only 
not useful but hastened their ruin . 2 They judged, therefore, that they 
could make the people their friends and partisans if they returned to them 
some of the honors and authority that they had taken from them; and 
they elected thirty-six citizens from among the people, together with two 
knights brought in from Bologna to reform the state of the city. 3 As soon 
as these men met, they divided all the city into guilds , 4 and over each 
guild they ordered a magistrate to pass judgment 5 on those under them. 
Further, they assigned to each a banner under which every man would 
present himself armed whenever the city might have need of it. In the 
beginning there were twelve guilds, seven greater and five lesser, but the 
lesser grew to fourteen, so that altogether there were twenty-one as at 
present. The thirty-six reformers were to manage other things for the 
common benefit. 

1 See FH i 22. 

2 See D 1 38. 

3 See Dante, Inferno xxm 103-108. 

4 Arti or “arts,” to be translated “guilds.” 

5 Lit.: reason. 


60 


ii • 9 

9 


count Guido ordered a tax to be levied on the citizens, so as to maintain 
his soldiers, but he met such difficulty that he did not dare to use force to 
collect it. And as it appeared to him that he had lost the state, he withdrew 
to confer with the heads of the Ghibellines; and they decided to take away 
from the people by force what they had given them with little prudence. 
And when it appeared to them that their arms were in order, while the 
thirty-six were assembled together, they raised a disturbance. At this, the 
thirty-six became frightened and retired to their homes, and immediately 
the banners of the guilds were brought out with many armed men be¬ 
hind; and when they learned that Count Guido with his party was at San 
Giovanni, they took their stand at Santa Trinita and gave their obedience 
to Messer Giovanni Soldanieri. The count, on the other side, hearing 
where the people were, started to go find them; the people did not flee 
from the conflict but advanced against the enemy, and they met where 
the loggia of the Tornaquinci stands today. Here the count was repulsed 
with the loss and death of many of his men, after which he was so dis¬ 
mayed that he feared the enemy would attack at night and, finding his 
men beaten and discouraged, might kill him. So powerful was this imag¬ 
ination in him that, without thinking of any other remedy, he decided to 
save himself by fleeing rather than fighting, and against the advice of the 
Rectors and of the Party 1 he left for Prato with all his men. But as soon 
as he found himself in a safe place, his fear left him and he realized his 
error. Wishing to correct it, at the break of day he returned with his men 
to Florence to reenter by force the city that he had abandoned out of vile¬ 
ness. But his plan did not succeed: for the people who had been able to 
drive him out only with difficulty were able to keep him out with ease. 
So, grieving and humiliated, he went away to the Casentino, and the Ghib¬ 
ellines returned to their villas. Since the people had thus been victors, to 
encourage those who loved the good of the republic they decided to reu¬ 
nite the city by calling back all the citizens, Ghibelline as well as Guelf, 
who might be outside. Thus the Guelfs returned, six years after they had 
been driven out, and for the Ghibellines, too, their recent injury was par¬ 
doned and they were restored to their fatherland. Nonetheless, the Ghib¬ 
ellines were strongly hated by the people and by the Guelfs because the 
latter were unable to erase the memory of their exile and the former re¬ 
membered too well the tyranny they lived through when under their gov¬ 
ernment. Because of this, neither the one party nor the other could rest 
its spirit. While the people lived in this form in Florence, the rumor was 


61 


The Ghibelline party. 


II • I o 


spread that Conradin, Manfred’s nephew, was coming with his men from 
Germany to acquire Naples. As a result, the Ghibellines were filled with 
the hope of being able to regain their authority, and the Guelfs thought 
over what they might have to do to secure themselves against their ene¬ 
mies; and they asked King Charles for help to enable them to defend 
themselves if Conradin came through. Then, when Charles’s men were 
coming, the Guelfs were made insolent; and they so frightened the Ghib¬ 
ellines that, two days before their arrival, the Ghibellines fled without 
being driven out. 


10 

when the Ghibellines had left, the Florentines reordered the state of the 
city. They elected twelve heads who were to sit in the magistracy for two 
months, and they called these, not “Ancients,” but “Good Men”; beside 
these, they elected a council of eighty citizens, which they called the 
“Credenza”; and after this there were one hundred and eighty of the peo¬ 
ple, thirty for each of the six sections of the city, who together with the 
Credenza and the twelve Good Men were called the General Council. 
They ordered still another council of one hundred and twenty citizens 
from among the people and nobles, who were to make final 1 all things 
deliberated in the other councils, and with that they distributed the offices 
of the republic. When this government had been confirmed, they further 
strengthened the Guelf party with magistrates and other orders so that 
they might be able to defend themselves from the Ghibellines with 
greater forces. The goods of the latter were divided into three shares, of 
which they made one public, another went to the magistracy of the Party 2 
called the “Captains,” and the third was given to the Guelfs to compensate 
them for the damages they had received. Also the pope, so as to keep 
Tuscany Guelf, made King Charles his imperial vicar there. Thus the 
Florentines were upholding their reputation by virtue of the new govern¬ 
ment, by laws within, and by arms without when the pontiff died; after a 
long dispute, lasting over two years, Pope Gregory X was elected. As he 
had been away in Syria for a long time and was still there at the time of 
his election, he was far removed from the humors of the parties and so 
did not regard them in the mode they had been regarded by his predeces¬ 
sors. Therefore, having come to Florence on his way to France, he con¬ 
sidered it the office of an excellent shepherd to reunite the city; and he 


1 Lit.: give perfection to. 

2 The Guelf party. 


62 


II -II 


worked it out so well that the Florentines were content to receive the 
Ghibelline syndics in Florence to negotiate the mode of their return. Al¬ 
though an accord was reached, the Ghibellines were so frightened that 
they did not want to return. The pope gave the blame to the city for this, 
and in anger he excommunicated it; it remained under this ban as long as 
the pontiff lived, but after his death it was reconsecrated by Pope Innocent 
V. The pontificate had come to Nicholas III, born of the Orsini house ; 3 
and because the pontiffs always feared one whose power had become 
great in Italy, even though it had grown through the favors of the 
Church, and because they sought to bring down that power, there arose 
those frequent tumults and frequent changes that occurred in Italy. For 
the fear of one power brought the growth of someone weak, and when 
that one had grown, he was to be feared, and being feared they sought to 
bring him down . 4 This made the Kingdom to be taken from the hands of 
Manfred and given to Charles; this then made others fear him and seek 
his ruin. Thus, Nicholas III, moved by these causes, worked it out that 
by means of the emperor the government of Tuscany was taken from 
Charles, and he sent his legate, Messer Latino, into that province in the 
name of the Empire. 


11 

Florence was then in very bad condition because the Guelf nobility had 
become insolent and did not fear the magistrates. So every day many 
homicides and other acts of violence were done without any punishment 
for those who committed them because they were the favorites of one or 
another of the nobles. The heads of the people, therefore, so as to put a 
stop to this insolence, thought it would be well to bring back the exiles; 
this gave the legate an opportunity of reuniting the city, and the Ghibel¬ 
lines returned. In place of twelve governors they made fourteen, seven for 
each side, who were to govern for a year and who were to be elected by 
the pope. Florence remained under this government for two years, until 
Pope Martin, of French birth, succeeded to the pontificate and restored 
to King Charles all the authority that had been taken from him by Nich¬ 
olas. So the parties in Tuscany immediately revived because the Floren¬ 
tines took up arms against the governor of the emperor; and to deprive 
the Ghibellines of the government as well as to keep the powerful in 
check, they ordered a new form of regime. 


3 See FH i 23. 

4 See D 1 12. 


63 


II • I 2 


It was the year 1282, and since the magistrates and ensigns had been 
given to the guild corporations, they were highly reputed; whence they, 
by their authority, ordered that in the place of the fourteen, three citizens 
be created who would be called the “Priors.” They were to be in the gov¬ 
ernment of the republic for two months, and they could be of the people 
and of the great, provided that they were merchants or practiced an art. 
After the first magistracy, they were raised to six so that there would be 
one from each sixth, and that number was kept until 1342, when the city 
was redivided into quarters and the Priors increased to eight. Yet during 
this span of time, through some accident, sometimes there were twelve. 
This magistracy was the cause, as will be seen in time, of the ruin of the 
nobles, because through various accidents they were excluded from it by 
the people and afterwards crushed without any respect. In the beginning 
the nobles consented to it because they were not united; for, as one de¬ 
sired too much to take away the state of another, they all lost it. They 
assigned a palace to this magistracy where it would reside continually, as 
before it had been the custom for the magistrates and councils to meet in 
churches; and they further honored the magistracy with sergeants and 
other ministers. Although at the beginning they were called only Priors, 
yet later, for greater magnificence, they added the name Signori. The 
Florentines remained quiet within for some time while they made war on 
the inhabitants of Arezzo for having driven out the Guelfs; and at Cam- 
paldino they succeeded in defeating them. And as the city grew in men 
and riches, it appeared appropriate also to extend the walls; and they wid¬ 
ened the circle as one sees it at present, whereas before, the diameter 
would have been only the distance from Ponte Vecchio to San Lorenzo. 


12 

the wars outside and the peace within had almost eliminated the Ghib- 
elline and Guelf parties in Florence. Only those humors were still ex¬ 
cited that are naturally wont to exist in all cities between the powerful and 
the people; for since the people want to live according to the laws and the 
powerful want to command by them, it is not possible for them to un¬ 
derstand together. 1 While the Ghibellines made them fear, this humor 
was not discovered; but as soon as they were subdued, its power was re¬ 
vealed. Every day someone of the people was injured, and neither the 
laws nor the magistrates were sufficient to avenge him because every no¬ 
ble, with his relatives and friends, would defend himself against the forces 
of the Priors and the Captain. Therefore, the princes of the guilds, desir- 

1 See P 9; D 1 5. 


64 


ii • 13 

ing to remedy this inconvenience, provided that each Signoria at the be¬ 
ginning of its term should create a Gonfalonier of Justice, a man of the 
people, to whom they gave a thousand men enrolled under twenty ban¬ 
ners. He was to be ready with his standard 2 and his armed men to favor 
justice at any time he might be called upon by them or by the Captain. 
The first to be elected was Ubaldo Ruffoli. He brought out his standard 
and destroyed the houses of Galletti 3 because in France one of that family 
had killed a man of the people. 

It was easy for the guilds to make this order because of the grave en¬ 
mities that remained awake among the nobles, who did not pay any atten¬ 
tion to the provision made against them until they saw the severity of that 
execution. It struck them with great terror at first; yet in a short while 
they reverted to their insolence, for as some of them had always been 
from the Signori, they had the means to prevent the Gonfalonier from 
being able to do his duty. Furthermore, since the accuser always needed 
to have a witness when he received some offense, no one would be found 
willing to testify against the nobles. So in a brief time Florence returned 
to the same disorders and the people suffered the same injuries from the 
great because the judges were slow and their sentences lacked executions. 


13 

and as the men of the people did not know what course to take, Giano 
della Bella, a man of very noble lineage but a lover of the freedom of the 
city, inspired the heads of the guilds to reform the city. On his advice it 
was ordered that the Gonfalonier should reside with the Priors and should 
have four thousand men obeying him. All the nobles were again deprived 
of the power to sit with the Signori; the accomplices of an offender were 
forced to pay the same penalty as he, and they made public report suffi¬ 
cient for passing judgment. By these laws, which were called the Ordi¬ 
nances of Justice, the people acquired much reputation, and Giano della 
Bella much hatred, because the powerful had a very bad opinion of him 
as the destroyer of their power, and the rich men of the people envied him 
because it appeared to them that his authority was too much. This was to 
be demonstrated as soon as opportunity allowed. Fate then brought it 
about that a man of the people was killed in a brawl in which many nobles 
had taken part, among whom was Messer Corso Donati. As he was 
bolder than the others, the blame was put on him and he was therefore 
arrested by the Captain of the People. And however the thing should have 

2 Gonfalone, from which Gonfalonier is derived. 

3 Actually, the Galli. 


65 


ii • 14 

gone, whether Messer Corso may not have erred or the Captain was 
afraid to condemn him, he was absolved. This absolution so displeased 
the people that they took up arms and ran to the house of Giano della 
Bella to beg him to be the one to see to it that the laws of which he had 
been the inventor be observed. Giano, who desired Messer Corso to be 
punished, did not make them put down their arms as many judged that 
he ought to have done, but encouraged them to go to the Signori to com¬ 
plain about the case and to beg them to provide for it. Thereupon the 
people were filled with indignation, and as it appeared to them that they 
had been offended by the Captain and abandoned by Giano, they went 
not to the Signori but to the Captain’s palace, took it, and sacked it. This 
act displeased all the citizens. Those who longed for the ruin of Giano 
accused him, putting all the blame on him; so, since there was some en¬ 
emy of his among the Signori who then followed, Giano was accused to 
the Captain as an agitator of the people. And while his cause was being 
argued, the people armed themselves and ran to all his houses offering 
him defense against the Signori and his enemies. Giano did not want 
either to put these popular favors to the test or to commit his life to the 
magistrates, for he feared the malice of the latter and the instability of the 
former. Thus, to deny his enemies the opportunity of injuring him and 
his friends the opportunity of offending their fatherland, he decided to 
depart, to give way to envy and to free the citizens from the fear they had 
of him, and to leave that city which with his care and at his peril he had 
freed from the servitude of the powerful. He chose a voluntary exile. 


14 

after his departure the nobility rose up in hope of regaining its dignity; 
and judging the ills to have arisen from its divisions, the nobles united 
together and sent two from among them to the Signoria, which they 
judged would be in their favor, to beg that it be content to moderate in 
some part the severity of the laws made against them. As soon as the 
request was revealed, it excited the spirits of the people because they 
feared that the Signori would grant it to them; and so, between the desire 
of the nobles and the suspicion of the people, they came to arms. The 
nobles made their stand in three places—at San Giovanni, in the Mercato 
Nuovo, and at the Piazza de’ Mozzi—under three chiefs: Messer Forese 
Adimari, Messer Vanni de’ Mozzi, and Messer Geri Spini. The men of 
the people assembled in very great numbers under their ensigns at the 
palace of the Signori, who lived then near San Brocolo. And because the 
people were suspicious of that Signoria, they deputed six citizens to gov¬ 
ern with it. While the one party and the other were preparing for battle, 


66 


ii*I5 

some men of the people as well as of the nobles, along with certain men 
of religion of good repute, placed themselves in the middle to pacify 
them. They reminded the nobles that their pride and their bad govern¬ 
ment were the cause of the honors taken from them and the laws made 
against them, that their taking up arms now to regain by force what they 
had allowed to be taken from them on account of their own disunion and 
their evil ways 1 was nothing other than to wish to ruin their fatherland 
and to worsen their own condition; and they should remember that the 
people were far superior to them in number, riches, and hatred, and that 
the nobility by which it appeared to them that they were superior to 
others would not fight and would turn out to be, when it came to steel, 
an empty name that would not be enough to defend them against so 
many. To the people, on their side, they recalled that it was not prudent 
always to want the ultimate victory, and that it was never a wise course 
to make men desperate, because he who does not hope for good does not 
fear evil. They ought to think that nobility was that which had honored 
the city in war, and therefore it was neither a good nor a just thing to 
persecute it with such hatred; that as the nobles bore easily their not en¬ 
joying the supreme magistracy, they could not at all tolerate that it was 
in each one’s power, through the orders 2 that had been made, to drive 
them out of their fatherland; and therefore it was good to mitigate them 
and by this benefit to have arms be put down; nor should they want to 
try the fortune of battle, trusting in their number, for many times it had 
been seen that the many were overcome by the few. In the people there 
were diverse views: many wanted to come to battle, as to a thing that 
must come of necessity one day; and so it was better to have it now than 
to wait until the enemy was more powerful; and if one believed that the 
nobles would rest content when the laws were mitigated, it would be well 
to mitigate them; but their pride was so great that they would never lay 
it aside unless forced to do so. To many others, wiser and of calmer spirit, 
it appeared that moderating the laws would not mean much but that com¬ 
ing to battle might mean very much; so their opinion prevailed, and they 
provided that in accusations against the nobles, witnesses would be nec¬ 
essary. 



when their arms had been put down, both parties remained full of sus¬ 
picion, and each fortified itself with towers and arms. The people, moved 

1 Lit.: not good modes. 
i The Ordinances ofjustice. 

67 


ii • i 6 


by the fact that those Signori had been favorable to the nobles, reordered 
the government by restricting it in number; as its princes there remained 
the Mancini, Magalotti, Altoviti, Peruzzi, and Cerretani. The state hav¬ 
ing been strengthened, for the greater magnificence and security of the 
Signori they laid the foundation of a palace for them in the year 1298 and 
made a piazza for it where the houses of the Uberti had once been. The 
public prisons were also begun at the same time; these buildings were 
completed at the end of a few years. Never was our city in a greater and 
more prosperous state than in these times, when it was replete with men, 
riches, and reputation; there were thirty thousand citizens skilled in arms, 
and those in the surrounding countryside came to seventy thousand. All 
Tuscany, part as subjects and part as friends, obeyed it; and although 
there was some anger and suspicion between the nobles and the people, 
nonetheless they produced no bad effect, and everyone lived united in 
peace. If this peace had not been disturbed by new enmities within, it 
would not have had to fear those from the outside, for the city was in 
such a position that it did not fear either the empire or its own exiles; and 
with its forces it could have responded to all the states of Italy. That evil, 
therefore, which outside forces could not have done to it, was done by 
those from within. 


l6 

there were two families in Florence, the Cerchi and the Donati, who 
were very powerful in wealth, nobility, and men. Between them—since 
they were neighbors both in Florence and in the countryside—there had 
been some dispute, not, however, so grave that they came to arms; and 
perhaps there would not have been any great effects if the malign humors 
had not been increased by new causes. Among the first families of Pistoia 
was that of the Cancellieri. 1 It happened that while Lore of Messer Gug- 
lielmo and Geri of Messer Bertacca, all of that family, were playing, they 
came to words and Geri was slightly wounded by Lore. The incident dis¬ 
pleased Messer Guglielmo, and, thinking that with humanity he could 
take away the scandal, he increased it; for he ordered his son to go to the 
house of the father of the wounded one to ask his pardon. Lore obeyed 
his father, yet this humane act did not sweeten any part of the bitter spirit 
of Messer Bertacca, who had his servants seize Lore and cut off his hand, 

1 On parties in Pistoia, see remarks in P 20, and D 11 21, 25, hi 27. See also NM’s brief 
writing on the parties in Pistoia in his own time (1502), Ragguaglio delle cose fatte dalla repub- 
blica fiorentina per quietare le parte di Pistoia. 


68 


ii • i 7 

and for greater insult, on a manger, while saying to him: “Go back to 
your father and tell him that wounds are treated with steel and not with 
words.” The cruelty of this deed so displeased Messer Guglielmo that he 
had his men take up arms to avenge it; Messer Bertacca also armed to 
defend himself, and thus not only that family but the whole city of Pistoia 
was divided. And because the Cancellieri were descended from Messer 
Cancelliere, who had had two wives, one of whom was named Bianca, 
one of the parties who were her descendants named itself “White” and the 
other party, so as to take a contrary name, was named “Black.” As time 
went on, there were many fights between them, with the deaths of many 
men and the ruin of many houses; and since they could not unite them¬ 
selves, exhausted from the evil and desiring either to bring an end to their 
discords or by the division of others to increase them, they came to Flor¬ 
ence. As the Blacks were related to the Donati, they were favored by Mes¬ 
ser Corso, the head of that family; hence the Whites, so as to have pow¬ 
erful support to sustain them against the Donati, 2 appealed to Messer Veri 
de Cerchi, a man for every quality in no way inferior to Messer Corso. 


17 

this humor, having come from Pistoia, increased the old hatred between 
the Cerchi and the Donati; and it was already so manifest that the Priors 
and the other good citizens did not doubt that it would come to arms 
between them at any hour, after which the whole city would become 
divided. Therefore, they had recourse to the pontiff, begging 1 him that 
he with his authority bring to bear some remedy upon these humors now 
in motion that they themselves were not able to do. The pope sent for 
Messer Veri and charged him to make peace with the Donati, at which 
Messer Veri showed his amazement, saying that he had no enmity toward 
them; and because peace presupposed war, he did not know, since there 
was no war between them, why peace should be necessary. Then, since 
Messer Veri returned from Rome without any other conclusion, the hu¬ 
mors grew so that every little accident could make them spill over, as 
indeed did happen. 

It was in the month of May, at a time and on holidays when throughout 
Florence there was public celebrating. 2 Thus some youths of the Donati 

2 According to Villani and Stefani, the family relationship was between the Whites and 
the Cerchi; NM follows Bruni. See Anna Maria Cabrini, Per una valutazione delle “Istorie 
Florentine” di Machiavelli, pp. 133-134. 

1 Or praying. 

2 Cf. FH 1 26. 


69 


ii • i 8 


family with their friends, on horseback, stopped to watch the women 
dancing near Santa Trinita when they were joined by some of the Cerchi, 
they too accompanied by many nobles. As they did not recognize the 
Donati who were in front and as they, too, wanted to see, they urged 
their horses through them and pushed them. Whereupon the Donati, 
considering themselves offended, drew their weapons, to which the Cer¬ 
chi replied valiantly, and, after many wounds given and received by each, 
they separated. This disorder was the beginning of much evil because the 
whole city was divided, the men of the people as well as the great, and 
the parties took the names of Whites and Blacks. 

The heads of the White party were the Cerchi, and siding with them 
were the Adimari, Abati, some of the Tosinghi, the Bardi, the Rossi, the 
Frescobaldi, the Nerli and the Mannegli, all the Mozzi, the Scali, the 
Gherardini, the Cavalcanti, Malespini, Bostichi, Giandonati, Vecchietti, 
and the Arrigucci. Joining these were many popular families, together 
with all the Ghibellines who were in Florence; so with the great number 
following them, they had nearly the whole government of the city. The 
Donati, on the other side, were the heads of the Black party, and with 
them were that part of the families named above who did not join the 
Whites, and also all the Pazzi, the Bisdomini, the Manieri, Bagnesi, Tor- 
naquinci, Spini, Buondelmonti, Gianfigliazzi, and Brunelleschi. Nor 
did this humor infect only the city, but also it divided the whole country¬ 
side; hence the captains of the Party 3 and whoever was of the Guelfs and 
a lover of the republic were very afraid lest this new division might by its 
ruin of the city cause a resurgence of the Ghibelline parties. Again they 
sent to Pope Boniface for him to think of a remedy if he did not want that 
city which had always been a shield for the Church either to be ruined or 
to become Ghibelline. Therefore the pope sent to Florence Matteo d’Ac- 
quasparta, a Portuguese cardinal, as legate, and because he met with dif¬ 
ficulty in the White party, which, because it appeared more powerful was 
less afraid, he left Florence angrily and interdicted it. Thus he left Flor¬ 
ence in greater confusion than it was before his coming. 


I 8 


thus, while the spirits of all men were agitated, it happened that at a 
funeral where many of the Cerchi and Donati were present, they came to 
words and then to arms; but for the moment nothing more came of it 
than tumults. After everyone had gone home, the Cerchi decided to at- 

} The Guelf party. 


70 


ii • 1 9 

tack the Donati, and with a great number of men went to find them; but 
by the virtue of Messer Corso they were thrown back with a large num¬ 
ber of them wounded. The whole city was now in arms: the Signori and 
the laws were overcome by the fury of the powerful, while the wisest and 
best citizens lived full of suspicion. The Donati and their party were more 
fearful because they were less powerful; so to provide for their things, 
Messer Corso met with the other Black chiefs and the captains of the 
Party, and they agreed to ask the pope to send someone of royal blood to 
come to reform Florence, thinking that by this means it might be possible 
to overcome the Whites. The assembly and the decision were made 
known to the Priors and by the opposite party were accused as a conspir¬ 
acy against free life. As both parties were in arms, the Signori, on the 
advice and prudence of Dante, who was one of them at the time, took up 
spirit and had the people armed, whom many from the countryside 
joined; then they forced the heads of the parties to put down their arms, 
and they banished Messer Corso Donati with many of the Black party; 
and to show they were neutral in this judgment, they also banished some 
of the White party, who returned a little later under color of decent 
causes. 


19 

messer Corso and his men, because they judged the pope favorable to 
their party, went to Rome; and they persuaded the pope in his presence 
of what they had already written to him. At the court of the pontiff was 
Charles of Valois, brother of the king of France, who had been called to 
Italy by the king of Naples to proceed to Sicily. So it appeared to the 
pope, especially since it had been urged 1 by the Florentine exiles, that he 
should send him to Florence until a convenient time for the sailing 2 
should come. Thus Charles came, and although the Whites, who were 
then ruling, were suspicious of him, nonetheless, as he was the head of 
the Guelfs and had been sent by the pope, they did not dare to obstruct 
his coming; but, to make him a friend, they gave him authority enabling 
him to dispose of the city according to his own will. With this authority, 
Charles had all his friends and partisans armed, which so aroused the sus¬ 
picions of the people, who did not want their freedom taken from them, 
that everyone took up arms and stayed at home in order to be ready if 
Charles should make any move. 


' Lit.: prayed for. 
2 To Sicily. 


71 


II • 20 


The Cerchi and the heads of the White party, since they had been heads 
of the republic for some time and had behaved proudly, had come to be 
universally hated. This fact inspired Messer Corso and the other Black 
exiles to come to Florence, especially as they knew that Charles and the 
captains of the Party favored them. And when the city was in arms be¬ 
cause of its fear of Charles, Messer Corso, with all the exiles and many 
others who were his followers, entered Florence without being impeded 
by anyone. Although Messer Veri de’ Cerchi was urged to go out against 
him, he was unwilling to do so, saying that he wished the people of Flor¬ 
ence, against whom Messer Corso was coming, to punish him. But the 
contrary happened, for he was received and not punished by them; and 
Messer Veri found it appropriate to flee, if he wanted to save himself. For 
when Messer Corso had forced the Pinti gate, he made a stand at San 
Piero Maggiore, a place near his own house, and he gathered many 
friends and people desiring new things, who assembled there. The first 
thing he did was to let out of prison anyone who for either public or 
private cause had been detained there. He forced the Signori to return to 
their homes as private men and elected new men who were men of the 
people and of the Black party; and for five days he set about plundering 
those who were the leaders 3 of the White party. The Cerchi and other 
princes of their sect had left the city and retired to their strongholds when 
they saw that Charles was against them and the greater part of the people 
hostile; and whereas before they had never wished to follow the advice of 
the pope, they were forced to resort to him for help, showing him that 
Charles had come to disunite, not to unite, Florence. Whereupon the 
pope again sent his legate, Messer Matteo d’Acquasparta, who made 
peace between the Cerchi and the Donati, and strengthened it with mar¬ 
riages and new weddings. And though he wanted the Whites also to par¬ 
ticipate in office, the Blacks who held the state would not permit this; so 
the legate departed neither more satisfied nor less irate than the other 
time, and he left the city, for its disobedience, interdicted. 


20 

both parties were still in Florence, therefore, and each one malcontent: 
the Blacks, seeing the enemy party nearby, feared it would retake its lost 
authority to their ruin; and the Whites saw themselves lacking their au¬ 
thority and honors. To these irritations and natural suspicions new inju¬ 
ries were added. Messer Niccola de’ Cerchi, accompanied by many of his 

J Lit.: the first. 


72 


II • 2 I 


friends, was on his way to his properties and had reached the bridge over 
the river Affrico when he was assaulted by Simone, [son] of Messer 
Corso Donati. The fight was heavy and had a lamentable end for each 
side because Messer Niccola was killed and Simone so wounded that he 
died the following night. This case agitated the whole city once again; 
and although the Black party was more to blame, it was, nonetheless, 
defended by those who governed. And before a judgment had been given, 
it was discovered that the Whites had carried on a conspiracy with Messer 
Piero Ferrante, one of Charles’s barons, with whom they negotiated to 
get themselves put back in government. This affair came to light through 
letters written by the Cerchi to him, notwithstanding the opinion that the 
letters were forged and found by the Donati to conceal the infamy they 
had acquired by the death of Messer Niccola. 

Thus all the Cerchi with their followers in the White party, among 
whom was the poet Dante, were banished, their goods confiscated, and 
their homes destroyed. Together with many Ghibellines who had sided 
with them, they scattered in many places, seeking new fortune with new 
trials. Charles, having done what he came to do in Florence, left and re¬ 
turned to the pope to carry out his campaign in Sicily, where he was nei¬ 
ther wiser nor better than he had been in Florence; so disgraced was he 
that after the loss of many of his men he returned to France. 


21 

after Charles’s departure life went very quietly in Florence; only Mes¬ 
ser Corso was restless, because it did not appear to him that he held the 
rank in the city which he believed was his due. Indeed, as it was a popular 
government, he saw the republic being administered by many inferior to 
himself. Moved by these passions, therefore, he thought he would make 
the indecency of his intent appear decent with a decent cause, and he slan¬ 
dered many citizens who had administered public money, saying that 
they had used it for private comforts and that it would be well to find 
them out and punish them. This opinion of his was taken up by many 
who had the same desire as he, to which was added the ignorance of many 
others who believed Messer Corso to be moved by love for his fatherland. 
For their part, the slandered citizens, having the favor of the people, de¬ 
fended themselves; and so great was this dispute that after civil modes 
were used it came to arms. In one party were Messer Corso and Messer 
Lottieri, bishop of Florence, with many of the great and some of the peo¬ 
ple; in the other were the Signori with the greater part of the people; and 
so there was fighting in many parts of the city. When the Signori saw the 


73 


II * 2 I 


great danger they were in, they sent to the Lucchese for help, and sud¬ 
denly all the people of Lucca were in Florence. Through their authority 
things were settled for the time being, and the tumults ceased; and the 
people kept their state and freedom without otherwise punishing the 
movers of the scandal. 

The pope had heard about the tumults in Florence, and to stop them 
he sent Messer Niccolao da Prato as his legate. Since he was a man of 
great reputation for his rank, learning, and breeding, he quickly acquired 
such trust that he had authority given to him enabling him to establish a 
state to suit himself. And because he was of Ghibelline origin, he had it 
in mind to repatriate the exiles; but he wanted first to gain the people over 
to himself, and to this end he reinstated the old companies of the people, 1 
an order that greatly increased the power of the people and decreased that 
of the great. Thus, when it appeared to the legate that he had the multi¬ 
tude obliged to him, he planned to have the exiles brought back; and in 
trying various ways, not only did none succeed, but they ended in his 
becoming so suspect to those who were ruling that he was compelled to 
depart. Filled with indignation, he returned to the pontiff, leaving Flor¬ 
ence in complete confusion and interdicted. And the city was agitated not 
only by one humor but by many, there being enmities in it between the 
people and the great, the Ghibellines and the Guelfs, the Whites and the 
Blacks. Thus all the city was in arms and full of fighting, for many were 
malcontent at the departure of the legate, they too desiring that the exiles 
return. First among those provoking the scandal were the Medici and the 
Giugni, who had shown themselves to the legate as favorable to the reb¬ 
els. There was fighting, therefore, in many parts of Florence. 

To these ills was added a fire that broke out first in Orto San Michele 
in the houses of the Abati, from which it leapt to those of the Caponsac- 
chi, burning them as well as the houses of the Macci, the Amieri, Toschi, 
Cipriani, Lamberti, Cavalcanti, and the whole Mercato Nuovo; it passed 
from there to Porta Santa Maria and burned it entirely; and circling from 
the Ponte Vecchio, it burned the houses of the Gherardini, Pulci, Amidei, 
and Lucardesi, and so many others as well that their number reached sev¬ 
enteen hundred or more. It was the opinion of many that the fire had been 
started by chance in the heat of battle. Some others asserted that the fire 
was set by Neri Abati, prior of San Piero Scheraggio, a dissolute man 
eager for evil, who, seeing the people engaged in fighting, thought he 
could do some wicked thing that men could not remedy while they were 
engaged; and that it might turn out better for him, he set the fire in the 
house of his companions, where he could do it more conveniently. It was 

1 See FH n 5. 


74 


II • 22 


in the year 1304 and in the month of July 2 that Florence was agitated by 
fire and steel. Only Messer Corso Donati did not arm himself amidst all 
the tumults, for he judged that thus he could more easily become arbiter 
of both parties when, exhausted from fighting, they would turn to ac¬ 
cords. 3 Nonetheless, they put down their arms more from satiety with 
evil than for the unity that might be born among them: the only thing 
that came of it was that the rebels did not return, and the party that fa¬ 
vored them remained inferior. 


22 

when the legate had returned to Rome and heard about the new scandals 
going on in Florence, he persuaded the pope that if he wanted to unite 
Florence it was necessary to have twelve of the first citizens of the city 
come to him. Afterwards, with the nourishment of the evil removed, it 
would be easy to think about how to eliminate it. This advice was ac¬ 
cepted by the pontiff, and the citizens who were called in obeyed. Among 
them was Messer Corso Donati. After the departure of these men [from 
Florence] the legate let the exiles know that, as Florence was without its 
heads, now was the time for them to return. So the exiles, having put 
together their force, came to Florence, and, entering the city through 
walls not yet complete, they got as far as the Piazza San Giovanni. 

It was a notable thing that those who had fought earlier for the exiles’ 
return, when they were unarmed and praying to be restored to their 
fatherland, should later take up arms against them, when they saw them 
armed and ready to seize the city by force (so much more did they value 
the common utility than private friendship). They joined with all the peo¬ 
ple to force the exiles to return where they had come from. 1 The exiles 
failed in their undertaking because they left part of their men at Lastra and 
because they did not wait for Messer Tolosetto Uberti, who was to come 
from Pistoia with three hundred cavalry. For they supposed that speed 
rather than strength would bring them victory. And indeed, it does often 
happen in such undertakings that tardiness takes away opportunity from 
you and speed takes away strength. When the rebels had departed, Flor¬ 
ence returned again to its old divisions. To take authority from the family 
of the Cavalcanti, the people forcibly seized from them le Stinche, a for¬ 
tified place in the Val di Grieve, which had belonged to that family of old. 

2 Onjune 10. 

3 Villani says merely that Messer Corso stayed in the middle because he was ill with gout; 
Giovanni Villani, Cronica vm 71. 

' See Dante, Paradiso xvii 49-63. 


75 


II • 23 

And because those who were taken within it were the first ones to be put 
into the newly built prison, 2 the prison was called after the fortified place 
from which they had come and is still called le Stinche. 

The first men of the republic again revived the companies of the people 
and gave them the ensigns under which the men of the guilds used to 
assemble previously. They called the heads Gonfaloniers of the companies 
and Collegi of the Signori, 3 and they wanted these men to help the Sig- 
noria with arms during riots 4 and with advice in time of peace. They 
added an executor to the two rectors, 5 who was to act together with the 
Gonfaloniers against the insolence of the great. 

Meanwhile, the pope had died, and Messer Corso and the other citizens 
had returned from Rome. Life would have gone on quietly if the city had 
not been agitated again by the restless spirit of Messer Corso. To get rep¬ 
utation for himself, he always held opinions contrary to the most pow¬ 
erful men; and whichever way he saw the people inclined, he too turned 
so that his authority would be more welcome to them. So he was at the 
head of all the disputes and novelties, and all those who desired to obtain 
some extraordinary thing resorted to him. As a result, many citizens of 
repute hated him, and as this hatred was seen to be growing, the party of 
the Blacks was coming to open division. For Messer Corso made use of 
his private forces and authority, and his adversaries, those of the state; but 
so great was the authority he carried in his person that everyone feared 
him. Nonetheless, to take from him the popular favor that can easily be 
eliminated in this way, they spread it about that he wished to establish a 
tyranny. It was easy to persuade the people of this because his mode of 
living overstepped all civil bounds. This opinion grew greatly after he 
had taken as a wife the daughter of Uguccione della Faggiuola, head of 
the Ghibelline party and a White and a man very powerful in Tuscany. 


23 

as soon as this marriage came to notice, it inspired his adversaries/and 
they took up arms against him. The people, for the same causes, did not 
defend him, and indeed the greater part of them agreed with his enemies. 
At the head of his adversaries were Messer Rosso della Tosa, Messer Paz- 
zino de’ Pazzi, Messer Geri Spini, and Messer Berto Brunelleschi. These 
men, with their followers and the greater part of the people, gathered in 

2 See FH 11 15. 

•’ Lit.: colleagues of the Signori, members of a college associated with the Signori. 

4 Lit.: scandals. 

5 The Podesta and the Captain of the People. 

76 


II • 23 

arms at the foot of the palace of the Signori. By their order a charge was 
made to Messer Piero Branco, Captain of the people, 1 against Messer 
Corso, as a man who with the help of Uguccione wanted to make himself 
tyrant. After this he was cited and then judged a rebel for his defiance; nor 
was there more than the space of two hours from the accusation to the 
sentence. When their judgment had been given, the Signori together with 
the companies of the people gathered under their ensigns and went to find 
him. Messer Corso for his part was frightened neither by seeing himself 
abandoned by many of his own people nor by the sentence given, nor by 
the authority of the Signori, nor by the multitude of his enemies. He 
fortified himself in his houses in the hope that he could defend himself 
until Uguccione, whom he had sent for, would come to his aid. His 
houses and the streets around them were blockaded by him and then 
manned by his partisans, who defended them in such a way that the peo¬ 
ple, despite their great number, were unable to overcome them. Thus, 
the fighting was heavy, with deaths and wounds on every side; and when 
the people saw that they could not overcome Messer Corso through the 
open routes, they seized the houses near his, and after these were broken 
through, they entered his house by unexpected routes. As Messer Corso 
saw himself thus encircled by enemies, and trusting no longer in the aid 
of Uguccione, he decided, since he despaired of victory, to see if he could 
find a remedy to bring safety. He and Gherardo Bordoni, at the head of 
many others of his strongest and most trusted friends, made a dash 
against the enemy, who opened up in a manner that enabled them to fight 
their way through. They got out of the city through the Porta alia Croce. 
Nonetheless, they were pursued by many men, and Gherardo was killed 
at the Affrico 2 by Boccaccio Cavicciuli. Messer Corso too was overtaken 
and seized at Rovezzano by some Catalan knights, soldiers of the Signo- 
ria. But in coming toward Florence, so as not to look at his victorious 
enemies in the face and be tortured by them, he let himself fall off his 
horse; and when he was on the ground, his throat was cut by one of the 
men leading him. His body was picked up by the monks of San Salvi and 
buried without any honor. Such was the end of Messer Corso, from 
whom his fatherland and the party of the Blacks realized many goods and 
many evils; and had he been of a quieter spirit, his memory would be 
more prosperous. Nonetheless, he deserves to be numbered among the 
rare citizens our city has had. It is true that his restlessness made his 
fatherland and his party not remember the obligations they owed to him, 
and in the end it brought about his death and many evils to both. Uguc- 

1 Actually Podesta at the time, October 1308. 

2 The river Affrico. 


77 


II • 25 

done, while coming to the aid of his son-in-law, heard when he reached 
Remoli that Messer Corso had been attacked by the people. As he 
thought he could do him no favor and did not want to harm himself with¬ 
out helping him, he turned back. 


24 

with the death of Messer Corso, which happened in the year 1308, the 
tumults ceased and life went on quietly until it was learned that Emperor 
Henry was coming into Italy with all the Florentine rebels whom he had 
promised he would restore to their fatherland. To the heads of the gov¬ 
ernment, consequently, it appeared that it would be well to reduce the 
number of rebels so as to have fewer enemies. So they decided that all the 
rebels should be restored except those mentioned by name in the law, to 
whom return was forbidden. As a result, the greater part of the Ghibel- 
lines and some of those in the party of Whites, among whom were Dante 
Alighieri, the sons of Messer Ven de Cerchi and of Giano della Bella, 
remained outside. Besides this, they sent to Robert, king of Naples, for 
aid; and since they were unable to obtain it as friends, they gave him the 
city for five years so that he would have to defend them as his men. On 
his way the emperor took the road from Pisa and went through the 
marshes to Rome, where he was crowned in the year 1312. Then, having 
decided to subdue the Florentines, he came from there by way of Perugia 
and Arezzo to Florence. He took up a position with his army in the mon¬ 
astery of San Salvi, a mile away from the city, where he stayed for fifty 
days without any profit. So much did he despair of being able to disturb 
the state of the city that he went away to Pisa, where he agreed with 
Frederick, king of Sicily, to attempt a campaign against the Kingdom. He 
advanced with his men, and while he was hoping for victory and King 
Robert was fearing ruin, he arrived in Buonconvento and died. 1 


25 


it happened a short time later that Uguccione della Faggiuola became 
lord of Pisa and soon after of Fucca, having been put there by the Ghib- 
elline party. With the support 1 of these cities he did very serious damage 

' Cf. FH 1 26, where these events are narrated without reference to Florence and where 
the emperor’s attack on Tuscany is said, incorrectly, to have been mounted by Frederick 
alone. 

1 Lit.: favor. 


78 


11*25 

to those nearby. To free themselves from this, the Florentines asked King 
Robert for Piero, his brother, to direct their armies. Uguccione for his 
part never ceased increasing his power. He had seized many fortified 
places in the Valdarno and the Val di Nievole by force and deceit; but 
when he went on to besiege Montecatini, the Florentines judged that it 
was necessary for them to go to its aid if they did not want that fire to 
burn their whole country. After they gathered a large army they went 
into the Val di Nievole, where they came to battle with Uguccione, and 
after much fighting they were defeated. There died Piero, the king’s 
brother, whose body was never found; and with him more than two 
thousand men were slain. Nor was the victory a happy one for Uguc- 
cione’s side, because a son of his died there with many other heads of the 
army. 

After this defeat, the Florentines fortified their towns around them, and 
King Robert sent as their captain Count d’Andria, dubbed Count No- 
vello. Because of his behavior or else because it is natural to the Florentines 
that every state annoys them and every accident divides them, the city 
became divided between friends and enemies of the king, notwithstand¬ 
ing the war it was waging against Uguccione. The heads of the enemies 
were Messer Simone della Tosa, the Magalotti, with certain other men of 
the people who were superior to the others in the government. These 
men arranged to send to France and afterwards to Germany to get heads 
and men so that when they arrived, these men could drive out the count, 
governor for the king. But fortune prevented them from getting any one 
of them. Nonetheless, they did not abandon their undertaking, and as 
they were seeking for one to adore and could not get him from France or 
from Germany, they got him from Gubbio; and after they had first driven 
out the count, they had Lando da Gubbio 2 come as executive, or indeed 
as sheriff, to whom they gave full power 3 over the citizens. He was a 
rapacious and cruel man who went about the town accompanied by many 
armed men and took the life of this one or that according to the will of 
those who had elected him. His insolence became so great that he struck 
false money with the Florentine stamp without anyone’s daring to op¬ 
pose him: to such greatness had the discords of Florence brought him! 
Truly a great and wretched city, which neither the memory of past divi¬ 
sions, nor fear of Uguccione, nor the authority of a king had been able to 
keep firm, so that it found itself in a very bad state for being plundered 
outside by Uguccione and inside by Lando da Gubbio. Those who were 
friends of the king and against Lando and his followers were the noble 

2 Lando de’ Becchi, da Gubbio. 

3 Potesta. 


79 


II • 26 


families and the great men of the people, and all the Guelfs. Nonetheless, 
since the state was in the hands of their adversaries, they could not reveal 
themselves without great peril. Yet having decided to free themselves 
from such an indecent tyranny, they wrote secretly to King Robert to ask 
him to make Count Guido da Battifolle his vicar in Florence. This was 
immediately ordered by the king; and the enemy party, even though the 
Signori were against the king, did not dare to oppose the count, because 
of his good qualities. Nonetheless, he did not have much authority be¬ 
cause the Signori and Gonfaloniers of the companies favored Lando and 
his party. And while Florence was living through these travails, the 
daughter of King Albert of Germany came through on her way to meet 
Charles, son of Robert, her intended husband. She was greatly honored 
by the friends of the king, and they lamented to her the condition of the 
city and the tyranny of Lando and his partisans. So, before she left, 
through her support 4 and that brought in from the king, the citizens 
united and Lando’s authority was taken from him; and he was sent back 
to Gubbio full of booty and blood. Lordship for the king was prolonged 
for three years to reform the government, and because seven Signori from 
the party of Lando had already been elected, six from those of the king 
were elected. There followed some magistracies with thirteen Signori, 
but afterwards they were reduced to seven in accordance with former cus¬ 
tom. 


26 

in these times lordship over Pisa and Lucca was taken from Uguccione, 
and Castruccio Castracani, from citizen of Lucca, became lord of it. 1 
Since he was young, daring, and fierce, and fortunate in his undertakings, 
in a very short time he became prince of the Tuscan Ghibellines. Because 
of this, the Florentines, after their civil discords had been put down, for 
many years thought, first, that Castruccio’s forces would not grow, but 
then, when they did grow despite their wishes, they thought of what they 
might have to do to defend themselves against them. And so that the 
Signori might deliberate with better advice and execute with greater au¬ 
thority, they created twelve citizens whom they named “Good Men,” 
without whose advice and consent the Signori could not act on any im¬ 
portant thing. Meanwhile, the end of King Robert’s lordship had come; 
the city, having become prince of itself, reordered itself with the custom- 

4 Lit.: favors. 

1 On Castruccio, see NM’s The Life of Castruccio Castracani of Lucca and D 11 9, 12. 

80 


II • 27 

ary rectors and magistrates; and the great fear it had of Castruccio kept it 
united. Castruccio, after having done many things against the signori of 
Lunigiana, attacked Prato, whereupon the Florentines decided to go to 
its aid, closed up their shops, and went there as a people. 2 Twenty thou¬ 
sand on foot and fifteen hundred on horse gathered there. And to take 
forces from Castruccio and add them to themselves, the Signori made it 
known through a decree that any Guelf rebel coming to the aid of Prato 
would be restored to his fatherland after the campaign; so more than four 
thousand rebels came over to them. This great army, brought with such 
speed to Prato, so frightened Castruccio that, without wishing to try the 
fortune of battle, he withdrew to Lucca. This gave rise to dispute in the 
Florentine camp between the nobles and the people: the people wanted to 
follow him and fight him so as to eliminate him, while the nobles wanted 
to return, saying that it was enough to have put Florence in peril in order 
to free Prato. It had been well when they were compelled by necessity, 
but now that necessity was absent, when they could acquire little and lose 
much, it was no time to tempt fortune. As they were unable to agree, the 
judgment was put to the Signori, who found the same dispute between 
the people and the great in the councils. When this was heard through the 
city, it brought many people together in the piazza uttering words full of 
menace against the great: so the great yielded out of fear. Such a course, 
taken late and by many unwillingly, gave the enemy time to retire safely 
to Lucca. 


27 

this disorder made the people so indignant against the great that the Sig¬ 
nori were unwilling to honor the faith pledged by their own order and 
encouragement to the exiles. Having a presentiment of this, the exiles 
decided to forestall it. They went ahead of the army so as to be the first 
to enter Florence and presented themselves at the gates of the city. Be¬ 
cause this action had been foreseen, it did not succeed for them, and they 
were repulsed by those who had remained in Florence. But to see if they 
could have by agreement what they had not been able to obtain by force, 
they sent eight men as ambassadors to remind the Signori of the faith 
pledged to them and the dangers they had run under it, hoping for the 
reward that had been promised to them. And although the nobles felt 
themselves to be indebted by this obligation since they in particular had 
promised what the Signori had obligated themselves to, and although 

2 Lit.: popularly. 


8l 


II • 28 


they very much exerted themselves for the benefit of the exiles, nonethe¬ 
less, because of the indignation the generality of people, 1 which was not 
as it could have been if the campaign against Castruccio had been won, 2 
they did not obtain it. The result was blame and dishonor for the city. 
When many of the nobles became indignant because of this, they tried to 
obtain by force what they had asked for and had been denied. They made 
an agreement with the exiles, who were to come armed to the city while 
inside they would take up arms to help them. The thing was discovered 
before the designated day; so the exiles found the city in arms and 
organized 3 to stop those outside and to frighten those inside so that no 
one dared to take up arms. Thus, without gaining any profit, they pulled 
out of the enterprise. After their departure it was desired to punish those 
who were to blame for having had them come; but though everyone 
knew who the culprits were, no one dared to name them, to say nothing 
of accusing them. Therefore, to learn the truth regardless, it was provided 
that in the councils anyone might denounce the culprits in writing, and 
that those written up should be presented to the Captain secretly. In con¬ 
sequence, Messer Amerigo Donati, Messer Tegghiaio Frescobaldi, and 
Messer Lotteringo Gherardini were accused. Since they had a judge more 
favorable perhaps than their offenses deserved, they were sentenced only 
to pay a fine. 


28 

the tumults that arose in Florence because of the arrival of the rebels at 
the gates showed that for the companies of the people, a single head was 
not enough. They therefore wanted each company to have three or four 
heads in the future, and they added to each Gonfalonier two or three 
whom they called Pennonieri, 1 so that when there was no necessity for 
the whole company to convene, a part of it might be engaged under one 
head. As happens in all republics, always after an unforeseen event some 
old laws are annulled and others are renewed. So, whereas earlier the Si- 
gnoria had been made over from time to time, the then Signori and Col- 
legi, because they had much power, had themselves given authority to 
make Signori that were to sit for the next forty months. They put these 

1 Lit.: the universality. NM, in accord with the usage of his time, says “universal” in cases 
where we would expect him to use “general,” since he apparently does not mean “every- 
one. 

2 That is, the follow-up campaign proposed by the people; see the end of FH 11 26. 

1 Lit.: ordered. 

' Flag bearers. 


82 


II • 29 

names into a bag and every two months drew them out. But before the 
end of the forty months had come, new baggings were held because 
many citizens doubted that their names had been put into the bag. From 
this beginning the order arose of putting into the bag for a longer time 
the names of all the magistrates, both those of the inside and those of the 
outside, 2 whereas earlier the successors to the councils were elected at the 
end of magistracies. These baggings were later called “squittini.” Because 
the squittini were held every three or, at the most, five years, it appeared 
that they would relieve the city of the annoyance and remove the cause of 
tumults that arose at the creation of every magistrate because there were 
so many competitors. Since they did not know how else to correct it, they 
took this way and did not understand the defects that were hidden under 
this small advantage. 


29 

it was the year 1325, and Castruccio, having seized Pistoia, had become 
so powerful that the Florentines, fearing his greatness, decided to attack 
him before he should get complete dominion over that city and to remove 
it from obedience to him. And from among their citizens and friends they 
gathered twenty thousand foot soldiers and three thousand cavalry, and 
with this army they encamped at Altopascio so as to seize it and in that 
way hinder him from being able to come to the aid of Pistoia. The Flor¬ 
entines succeeded in taking that place and afterwards went toward Lucca, 
laying waste the countryside; but because of the little prudence and less 
faith of the captain, not much progress was made. 

Their captain was Messer Ramondo di Cardona. This man had seen 
before how liberal the Florentines had been with their liberty, how they 
gave it now to the king, now to the legates, now to other men of lesser 
quality. He thought that if he led them into some necessity, it could easily 
happen that they would make him prince. Nor did he fail to mention it 
frequently, and he asked to have the same authority in the city that they 
had given him in the army, without which, he pointed out, he could not 
get the obedience necessary to a captain. As the Florentines would not 
consent to this, he went about wasting time while Castruccio was 
gaining 1 it. For the assistance that had been promised by the Visconti and 
the other tyrants of Lombardy was on its way to him. Though Messer 
Ramondo was strong in men, still, just as before, through little faith, he 

2 Inside and outside the city. 

' Lit.: acquiring. 

83 


ii • 30 

did not know how to win, so afterwards, through little prudence, he did 
not know how to save himself, but, proceeding slowly with his army, he 
was attacked by Castruccio near Altopascio and defeated after a great bat¬ 
tle in which many citizens were taken or slain and together with them, 
Messer Ramondo. For his slight faith and evil advice he received from 
fortune the punishment he deserved to have from the Florentines. The 
harm that Castruccio inflicted on the Florentines after his victory in 
booty, prisoners, ruin, and arson could not possibly be told. For he rode 
and ranged for months wherever he wished without any man to oppose 
him; and for the Florentines after such a defeat, it was much merely to 
save the city. 


30 

yet the Florentines did not become so vile that they failed to provide 
large sums of money, hire men, and send to their friends for help. None¬ 
theless, to check such an enemy, no provision was enough; so they were 
forced to elect as their lord, Charles, duke of Calabria and son of King 
Robert, if they wanted him to come to their defense. 1 For as these were 
accustomed to lording it over Florence, they would rather have its obe¬ 
dience than its friendship. But because Charles was engaged in the wars 
in Sicily and was therefore unable to come and take the lordship, 2 he sent 
Walter, a man of French birth and duke of Athens. He took possession of 
the city as vicar of the lord and ordered the magistrates according to his 
will. His bearing was nonetheless so modest, and so contrary to his na¬ 
ture, that everyone loved him. 

When the wars in Sicily had been settled, Charles came to Florence 
with a thousand cavalry, making his entrance in July of the year 1326. His 
arrival prevented Castruccio from freely plundering the Florentine coun¬ 
tryside. Nonetheless, the reputation he had acquired outside was lost in¬ 
side, and what damage had not been inflicted by enemies had to be en¬ 
dured at the hands of its friends, for the Signori did nothing without the 
consent of the duke. At the end of one year he had extracted four hundred 
thousand florins from the city, notwithstanding that by the agreements 
made with him he was not to have more than two hundred thousand. 
Such were the charges with which every day either he or his father bur¬ 
dened the city. To this damage were added other new suspicions and new 

1 See D 11 9, 12. 

2 “Lordship” is signoria , the name for the very council by which Florence governed itself; 
see FH 11 26. 


84 


ii • 3 i 

enemies. The Ghibellines in Lombardy became suspicious on account of 
Charles’s coming to Tuscany, so that Galeazzo Visconti and the other 
tyrants of Lombardy, with money and promises, had Ludwig of Bavaria 
come into Italy . 3 Ludwig had been elected emperor against the wish of 
the pope. He came to Lombardy and from there into Tuscany, where 
with the help of Castruccio he became lord of Pisa. From Pisa, with 
his money replenished, he went off toward Rome. This made Charles 
leave Florence out of fear for the Kingdom, and he left behind Messer 
Filippo da Saggineto as his vicar. After the departure of the emperor, 
Castruccio made himself lord of Pisa, and the Florentines by negotiation 
took Pistoia away from him. Castruccio went to encamp at Pistoia, 
and remained there with such virtue and obstinacy that, although the 
Florentines attempted many times to rescue it and attacked first his 
army and then his countryside, they were never able to deter him from 
his campaign either by force or by industry. So great was his thirst 
to punish the Pistolese and to get the better of the Florentines! Thus 
the Pistolese were compelled to accept him as lord. Although this 
affair brought much glory to him, it also brought so much hardship that 
on his return to Lucca, he died. And because it rarely happens that fortune 
does not accompany a good or an evil with another good or evil, Charles, 
duke of Calabria and lord of Florence, also died, in Naples, so that 
in a little while the Florentines were, beyond their every expectation, 
freed from the lordship of one and from the fear of the other. When they 
were left free, they reformed the city and annulled the entire order of the 
old councils; and they created two of them, one of three hundred pop¬ 
ular citizens, the other of two hundred and fifty great and popular. The 
first they called Council of the People and the other Council of the 
Commune. 


31 

when the emperor arrived in Rome, he created an antipope, ordered 
many things against the Church, and attempted many others without ef¬ 
fect. 1 So in the end he departed in shame and came to Pisa, where either 
out of indignation or because they had not been paid, about eight 
hundred German cavalry rebelled against him and marshaled their forces 
in Montecarlo above the Ceruglio. As soon as the emperor left Pisa to go 
to Lombardy, these men occupied Lucca and drove out Francesco Castra- 


3 See FH 1 26, 28. 
1 See FH 1 28. 


85 


II • 32 

canni, who had been left there by the emperor. Thinking that they might 
extract some profit from their prey, they offered the city to the Floren¬ 
tines for eighty thousand florins—which was refused on the advice of 
Messer Simone della Tosa. This course would have been very advanta¬ 
geous to our city if the Florentines had maintained that wish, but as they 
changed their minds soon after, it was very damaging. For if before they 
could have had it peaceably for so low a price and did not want it, later 
when they did want it they did not get it even though they would have 
bought it for a much higher price. This was the cause that Florence 
changed its government so many times to its very great harm. Lucca, thus 
refused by the Florentines, was bought by Messer Gherardino Spinoli, a 
Genoese, for thirty thousand florins. And because men are slower to take 
what they can have than to desire what they cannot get, as soon as this 
purchase made by Messer Gherardino was revealed and for how low a 
price he had had it, the people of Florence were inflamed by an extreme 
desire to have the city, reproaching themselves and the one who had dis¬ 
suaded them from it. And to get it by force, since they had not wanted to 
buy it, Florence sent its men to plunder and overrun the people of Lucca. 

In the meantime, the emperor had left Italy, and the antipope, by order 
of the Pisans, had gone to prison in France. The Florentines, from the 
death of Castruccio, which happened in 1328, until 1340 remained quiet 
inside and attended only to the affairs of their state outside. They carried 
on many wars in Lombardy because of the coming of King John of Bo¬ 
hemia and in Tuscany on account of Lucca. They also adorned the city 
with new buildings; for they built the tower of Santa Reparata 2 with the 
advice of Giotto, a very famous painter in those times. Because of a flood 
in 1333, the waters of the Arno rose in some places in Florence more than 
twelve fathoms, thus ruining some bridges and many buildings; and they 
restored the ruined objects with great care and expense. 


32 

but when the year 1340 came, new causes of change arose. The powerful 
citizens had two ways of increasing or maintaining their power: one was 
to restrict the baggings of the magistrates so that they would always come 
either to themselves or to their friends; 1 and the other was for them to be 
the heads of the election of the rectors so as then to have judges favorable 

2 The campanile of the cathedral, now called Santa Maria del Fiore. 

1 The lot would be taken from among the “powerful citizens” and their friends—a way 
of manipulation, in contrast to the second and third ways, which were open domination. 
See FH11 28. 


86 


11-32 

to them. And so highly did they value this second policy that when the 
ordinary rectors were not enough for them, they sometimes added a 
third. Thus at this time they added Messer Jacopo Gabrielli da Gubbio 
extraordinarily under the title of Captain of the Guard and gave him all 
authority over the citizens. Every day this man inflicted many injuries as 
contemplated by whoever was governing, and among the injured were 
Messer Piero de’ Bardi and Messer Bardo Frescobaldi. As they were no¬ 
bles and naturally arrogant, they could not bear being offended by a for¬ 
eigner wrongfully and as contemplated by a few powerful men. They 
conspired to get revenge against him and whoever was governing, a con¬ 
spiracy in which were many noble families and some popular that were 
displeased with the tyranny of whoever was governing. 

The plan 2 made among them was that each would gather many armed 
men at home, and the morning after the solemn day of All Saints, when 
everyone was in the churches praying for their dead, they would take up 
arms to kill the Captain and the first among those who were ruling, and 
afterwards reform the state with new Signori and a new order. But be¬ 
cause the more that dangerous courses are considered, the less willingly 
they are undertaken, it always happens that conspiracies that allow an 
interval of time before their execution are discovered. 3 Among the con¬ 
spirators was Messer Andrea Bardi; in thinking the thing over, fear of 
punishment became more powerful in him than hope of revenge. He re¬ 
vealed everything to Jacopo Alberti, his brother-in-law, who informed 
the Priors, and the Priors, those in the regime. As the thing was almost 
at hazard, All Saints’ Day being near, many citizens met at the palace, and 
judging that there was danger in delay, they wanted the Signori to ring 
the alarm and call the people to arms. The Gonfaloniers were Taldo Valori 
and Francesco Salviati, one of the Signori. Because they were relatives of 
the Bardi, it did not please them to sound the alarm. They argued that it 
was not good to have the people arm for every slight occasion, for au¬ 
thority given to a multitude not tempered by any check never did any 
good; that it was easy to start riots 4 but difficult to stop them, and so the 
better course would be to learn the truth of the thing first and to punish 
it by civil means than to try to correct it by a tumult on the basis of mere 
report, with the ruin of Florence. These words were not listened to on 
any side, and, amidst insulting gestures 5 and coarse words, the Signori 
were compelled of necessity to sound the alarm, at which the whole peo¬ 
ple ran with arms to the piazza. When the Bardi and Frescobaldi for their 

2 Lit.: order. 

3 See D hi 6 . 

4 Lit.: scandals. 

5 Lit.: modes. 


87 


II • 32 

part saw themselves discovered, they took up arms so as to win with 
glory or die without shame, hoping to defend the part of the city south 
of the river where they had their houses. They fortified the bridges, while 
hoping for the aid they expected from the nobles in the countryside and 
others of their friends. This design was spoiled for them by the men of 
the people who were living with them in that part of the city and who 
took up arms in favor of the Signori. Consequently, finding themselves 
isolated, they abandoned the bridges and withdrew to the street where 
the Bardi lived, as being stronger than any other, and that they defended 
virtuously. Messer Jacopo da Gubbio, knowing that the whole conspir¬ 
acy was against him, fearful of death, altogether foolish and frightened, 
placed himself near the palace of the Signori in the midst of his armed 
men. But in the other rectors, in whom there was less to blame, there 
was more spirit, especially in the Podesta, who was called Messer Maffeo 
da Carradi. He appeared where the fighting was and, without fearing 
anything, crossed the Rubaconte Bridge, put himself among the swords 
of the Bardi, and signaled that he wanted to speak to them. Hence rever¬ 
ence for the man, for his manners, and for all his other great qualities 
made them lay down their arms at a stroke and listen to him quietly. With 
modest and grave words he censured their conspiracy and pointed out the 
danger in which they would find themselves if they did not yield to the 
popular impulse. He gave them hope that they would afterwards be 
heard and judged with mercy, and promised he would work it out that 
there would be compassion for their reasonable indignation. Then, turn¬ 
ing to the Signori, he persuaded them that they would not want to 
prevail with the blood of their citizens and that they would not wish to 
judge those whom they had not heard. He worked it out well that, with 
the consent of the Signori, the Bardi and the Frescobaldi with their 
friends abandoned the city and without being impeded returned to their 
castles. 

When they had departed and the people had disarmed, the Signori pro¬ 
ceeded only against those of the Bardi and Frescobaldi families who had 
taken up arms. To strip them of power they bought the castles of Man- 
gono and of Vernia from the Bardi, and they provided by law that no 
citizen could own a castle nearer than twenty miles to Florence. A few 
months later Stiatta Frescobaldi was beheaded and many others of that 
family declared rebels. It was not enough for those who were governing 
to have overcome and tamed the Bardi and Frescobaldi; but as men do 
almost always, the more authority they have, the worse they use it and 
the more insolent they become. Whereas at first it was one Captain of the 
Guard that afflicted Florence, they elected another in the countryside, and 
with very great authority so that men suspect to them could live neither 


88 


ii • 33 

in Florence nor outside. They were so stirred up against all the nobles that 
they were prepared to sell the city and them so as to avenge themselves. 
And as they waited for the opportunity, it came up well and they used it 
better. 


33 

because of the many travails there had been in Tuscany and Lombardy, 
the city of Lucca had come under the lordship of Mastino della Scala, lord 
of Verona. Although he had received Lucca with the obligation to con¬ 
sign it to the Florentines, he had not done so because, being lord of 
Parma, he judged that he could keep it and so did not care about the faith 
he had pledged. For this the Florentines joined with the Venetians for 
revenge, and they waged such a war against him that he was about to lose 
his whole state. Nonetheless, they got no more advantage from having 
beaten Mastino than a little satisfaction of mind, because the Venetians, 
as do all those who ally with the less powerful, made peace without any 
regard for the Florentines as soon as they had won Treviso and Vicenza. 
But shortly after, the Visconti, lords of Milan, took Parma from Mastino; 
and as he judged that because of this he could no longer hold Lucca, he 
decided to sell it. The competitors were the Florentines and the Pisans, 
and in the press of bargaining the Pisans saw that the Florentines, being 
richer, were about to get it. Therefore they resorted to force, and with 
the help of the Visconti they went into the field. The Florentines did not 
on that account hold back on their purchase but closed their contract with 
Mastino, paying in part with money and in part by giving hostages. They 
sent Naddo Ruccellai’ Giovanni di Bernardino de’ Medici, and Rosso di 
Ricciardo de’ Ricci there to take possession. These men entered Lucca by 
force, and the city was turned over to them by Mastino’s men. The Pisans 
nonetheless continued their campaign and with all industry sought to 
have it by force, and the Florentines wanted to free Lucca from siege. After 
a long war the Florentines were driven off with loss of money and acqui¬ 
sition of shame, and the Pisans became its lords. The loss of this city, as 
always happens in similar cases, made the people of Florence indignant 
against those who were governing, and in all places and through all the 
piazzas they defamed them publicly, accusing them of avarice and wicked 
counsel. 

At the beginning of this war, authority had been given to twenty citi¬ 
zens to carry it on; they had elected Messer Malatesta da Rimini to be 
captain of the campaign. Fie had governed it with little spirit and less 
prudence, and as they had then sent to Robert, king of Naples, for help, 


89 


ii • 34 

the king had sent Walter, duke of Athens, to them. Since the heavens 
willed that things prepare for future evil, he arrived in Florence precisely 
at the time when the campaign at Lucca had been lost completely. So 
these Twenty, seeing the people indignant, thought to renew their hope 
by electing a new captain and with that election either to check or to re¬ 
move the causes for the slanders against themselves. And so that the peo¬ 
ple might still have cause to fear and that the duke of Athens might defend 
them with greater authority, they elected him first as protector, then as 
captain of their men-at-arms. The great, for the causes given earlier, lived 
malcontented, and many of them, having known Walter when at another 
time he had governed Florence in the name of Charles, duke of Calabria, 1 
thought that the time had come when by the ruin of the city they could 
put out the fire burning within them. They judged that they had no other 
mode of subduing the people that had afflicted them than to put them¬ 
selves under a prince who, since his virtue was known to one party and 
his insolence to the other, might check the one and reward the other. To 
this they added the hope of the good their merits would deliver when by 
their deeds he should acquire the principality. Therefore, they were often 
with him secretly, and they persuaded him to take lordship over every¬ 
thing, offering him the greatest help they could. To the authority and 
encouragements of these men was added that of certain popular families, 
which were the Pcruzzi, Acciaiuoli, Antellesi, and Buonaccorsi. They 
were burdened by debts, and being without means of their own, they 
were desirous of having those debts satisfied by others, and thus by the 
enslavement of their fatherland to free themselves from slavery to their 
creditors. These persuasions inflamed the ambitious spirit of the duke to 
a greater desire to rule; and to give himself the reputation of a severe and 
just man, and in this way to increase his favor 2 with the plebs, he prose¬ 
cuted those who had directed the war against Lucca, took the lives of 
Messer Giovanni de’ Medici, Naddo Rucellai, and Guglielmo Altoviti 
and condemned many to exile and many to fines. 



these executions frightened the middle citizens very much; they satis¬ 
fied only the great and the plebs—the latter because their nature is to re¬ 
joice in evil and the former so as to see themselves avenged for the many 
injuries received from the people. And when the duke passed through the 


1 In 1326; see 11 30. 

2 Lit.: grace. 


90 


ii • 34 

streets, the frankness of his spirit was praised with loud voices, and every¬ 
one encouraged him publicly to find out frauds among the citizens and 
punish them. The office of the Twenty had come to less, and the reputa¬ 
tion of the duke had become great and fear of him very great, so that 
everyone was having his coat of arms 1 painted on their houses to show 
him they were his friends; nor did he lack anything as prince but the title. 2 
And as it appeared to him that he could attempt anything safely, he gave 
the Signori to understand that he judged it necessary for the good of the 
city that free lordship 3 be given to him. Since the whole city was con¬ 
senting to it, he desired, then, that they too should consent to it. The 
Signori, as it happened, having long ago foreseen the ruin of their father- 
land, were all agitated by this request, and for all that they recognized 
their own danger; still, lest they fail their fatherland, they spiritedly re¬ 
fused. 

The duke, so as to give himself a greater mark of religion and human¬ 
ity, had chosen the convent of Fra Minori di Santa Croce for his dwelling. 
Desiring to give effect to his evil thought, he had it publicly proclaimed 
that on the following morning all the people should appear in the piazza 
of Santa Croce before him. This proclamation frightened the Signori 
much more than the words that had been spoken before, and they con¬ 
ferred with those citizens whom they judged to be lovers of the fatherland 
and of freedom. Nor, since they recognized the duke’s forces, were they 
able to think of any other remedy than to pray to him and to see, since 
their forces were insufficient, if their prayers were enough either to deter 
him from his enterprise or to make his lordship less harsh. A part of the 
Signori went to find him, therefore, and one of them spoke in this sense: 

“We have come, lord, to you, moved first by your requests and then by 
the commands you have made to gather the people, for it appears certain 
to us that you want to obtain extraordinarily that which we have not 
granted to you in the ordinary way. Nor is it our intention to oppose your 
designs with any force, but only to point out to you how heavy a weight 
you are taking on your back, and how dangerous the course you are se¬ 
lecting, so that you can always remember our advice and that of those 
who counsel you otherwise, not for your advantage but to vent their 
rage. You are seeking to enslave a city which has always lived free; for the 
lordship which we did indeed yield to the kings of Naples was in alliance 
and not in slavery. Have you considered how important this is in a city 
like this, and how vigorous is the name of freedom, which no force can 

1 Lit.: ensign. 

2 For this phrase in Latin, applied to Hiero of Syracuse, see P 6 . 

3 Or the Signoria. 


91 


ii * 34 

subdue, no time consume, and no merit counterbalance? Think, lord, 
how much force will be necessary to keep such a city enslaved. Foreign 
forces, which you can always keep, are not enough; those from inside you 
cannot trust because those who are your friends now and who encourage 
you to select this course, just as they will have fought their enemies with 
your authority, will seek as they can to eliminate you and make them¬ 
selves princes. The plebs in whom you trust will for any accident, though 
the slightest, reverse itself So in a short time you may fear to have the 
whole city hostile, which will be the cause of its ruin and yours. Nor will 
you be able to find a remedy for the evil, because those lords can make 
their lordship safe who have few enemies, whom either by death or by 
exile it is easy to eliminate; but amidst universal hatred one never finds 
any security, because you 4 never know from whence evil may spring, and 
he who fears every man cannot secure himself against anyone. If indeed 
you try to do it, you aggravate the dangers, because those who remain 
burn more with hatred and are readier for revenge. That there is not 
enough time to consume the desires for freedom is most certain, for free¬ 
dom, one knows, is often restored in a city by those who have never 
tasted it but who loved it only through the memories of it left to them by 
their fathers; and thus, once recovered, they preserve it with all obstinacy 
and at any peril. And even if their fathers had not recalled it to them, the 
public palaces, the places of the magistrates, the ensigns of the free orders 
recall it. These things must be recognized with the greatest desire by cit¬ 
izens. Which deeds of yours do you 5 want to be a counterweight to the 
sweetness of free life or to make men lose their desire for present condi¬ 
tions? Not if you were to add all Tuscany to this empire, and if every day 
you were to return to the city in triumph over our enemies; for all the 
glory would not be its but yours, and the citizens would not acquire sub¬ 
jects but fellow slaves in whom they would see their own slavery aggra¬ 
vated. And even if your habits were saintly, your modes benign, your 
judgments upright, they would not be enough to make you loved; and if 
you believe that they would be, you would be deceiving yourself, for to 
a man used to living unshackled every chain weighs and every link binds 
him. Besides, to find a violent state with a good prince is impossible, for 
of necessity either they must become alike or the one quickly ruins the 
other. Thus, you have to believe either that you have to hold this city with 
the greatest violence (for such a thing the citadels, the guards, and friends 
from outside many times are not enough), or that you have to be content 
with the authority that we have given you. And we urge you to this, 

4 The speaker shifts from the formal to the familiar “you.” 

5 The speaker shifts back to the formal “you.” 


92 


11*35 

reminding you that that dominion is alone lasting which is voluntary. 
Nor should you, blinded by a little ambition, be led to place yourself 
where, unable either to rest or to rise higher, you must necessarily fall 
with the greatest harm to yourself and to us.” 


35 

these words did not move the obdurate spirit of the duke in any part, 
and he said it was not his intention to take freedom away from the city 
but to restore it; for only disunited cities were enslaved and united ones 
free. And if Florence, by his ordering, should rid itself of sects, a mbition, 
and enmities, he would be giving it liberty, not taking that away. It was 
not his ambition but the prayers of many citizens that led him to take on 
this charge; so they would do well to content themselves with what con¬ 
tented the others. As for those dangers he might incur on account of this, 
he did not regard them, because it was the office of a man not good to set 
aside the good for fear of evil, and of a pusillanimous man not to pursue 
a glorious undertaking because the end was doubtful; and he believed he 
could conduct himself so that in a short time they would realize they had 
trusted him little and feared him too much. Thus the Signori agreed, 
seeing that they could do no further good, that the following morning 
the people would gather at their own piazza, 1 and that by their authority 
lordship 2 would be given to the duke under the same conditions that it 
had been given already to Charles, duke of Calabria. 

It was the eighth day of September and in the year 1342 when the duke, 
accompanied by Messer Giovanni della Tosa and all his companions, and 
by many other citizens, came to the piazza. Together with the Signoria 
he climbed to the rostrum, which is what the Florentines call those steps 
that are at the foot of the palace of the Signori; there they read out to the 
people the agreements made between the Signoria and him. And when in 
the reading it came to that part where lordship was to be given to him for 
one year, there was a shout from among the people, “For life!” As Messer 
Francesco Rustichelli, one of the Signori, rose to speak and calm the tu¬ 
mult, his words were interrupted by shouts, so that with the consent of 
the people, the duke was elected lord not for one year but in perpetuity, 
and his name was picked up and carried around the piazza by the shouting 
multitude. It is the custom that the one put in charge of the palace guard 
in the absence of the Signori be locked inside; this office was entrusted 

1 The Piazza della Signoria, not the Piazza di Santa Croce, where the duke lived. 

2 Or the Signoria. 


93 


ii • 36 

then to Rinieri de Giotto. Corrupted by friends of the duke, and without 
waiting for any force to be used, he put the duke inside; the frightened 
and dishonored Signori returned to their houses, and the palace was 
sacked by the family of the duke, the standard of the people torn apart, 
and his ensign raised above the palace. This was received with the inesti¬ 
mable sorrow and affliction of good men, and with great pleasure by 
those who either in ignorance or out of wickedness had consented to it. 


36 

now that the duke had acquired lordship, so as to take away the author¬ 
ity of those who were accustomed to being defenders of freedom, he pro¬ 
hibited the Signori from gathering at the palace and consigned them to a 
private house. He took away the ensigns from the Gonfaloniers of the 
companies of the people; he removed the orders of justice 1 against the 
great, freed the prisoners from the jails, had the Bardi and the Frescobaldi 
returned from exile, forbade anyone to carry arms; and to defend himself 
better from those inside, he made himself a friend to those outside. He 
greatly benefited the Aretines, therefore, and all others subject to the 
Florentines; he made peace with the Pisans, even though he had been 
made prince so as to make war on them; he canceled the bills of those 
merchants who had lent money to the republic in the war against Lucca, 
increased the old taxes and created new ones, took all authority away 
from the Signori and sought advice from Messer Baglione da Perugia and 
Messer Guglielmo d’Assisi, his rectors, and Messer Cerrettieri Bisdo- 
mini. The assessments he levied on citizens were heavy and his sentences 
unjust, and the severity and humanity that he had feigned were converted 
into arrogance and cruelty, whence many great citizens and popular no¬ 
bles were either fined or killed, or tortured in new modes. And, lest he 
behave better outside than inside, he ordered six rectors for the country¬ 
side, who beat and despoiled the peasants. He kept the great under sus¬ 
picion even though he had been benefited by them and had returned to 
many of them their fatherland, for he could not believe that the generous 
spirits usually found in the nobility could be content in obedience to him; 
and so he turned to benefiting the plebs, thinking that with their favors 
and with foreign arms he could preserve the tyranny. Therefore, when 
the month of May came, a time in which peoples are wont to celebrate, 
he made more companies of the plebs and the lesser people, to which, 
honored with splendid titles, he gave ensigns and money: so one part of 

1 The Ordinances of Justice; see FH 11 13. 


94 


ii • 36 

them went about the city celebrating and the other accepted the celebra¬ 
tions with very great pomp. As the fame of his new lordship spread, 
many of French blood came to seek him out, and he gave them all posi¬ 
tions as his most trusted men, so that Florence in a short time became 
subject not only to the French but to their customs and their dress; for the 
men and women imitated them without any regard to civil life or to any 
shame. But above all else, what displeased was the violence that he and 
his men did, without any respect, to the women. 

Thus did citizens live full of indignation as they saw the majesty of their 
state ruined, the orders laid waste, the laws annulled, every decent being 
corrupted, all civil modesty eliminated; for those accustomed to not 
seeing any regal pomp were unable to meet him without sorrow, sur¬ 
rounded by his armed satellites on foot and on horse. For when they saw 
their shame nearer, they were compelled of necessity to honor the one 
they especially hated. To this was added fear as they saw the frequent 
deaths and continuing assessments with which he impoverished and con¬ 
sumed the city. Such indignation and fears were known to the duke and 
feared by him; nonetheless, he wished to show everyone he believed him¬ 
self loved. Thus it happened that when Matteo di Morozzo, either to in¬ 
gratiate himself with him or to free himself from danger, revealed to him 
that the Medici family with some others had conspired against him, the 
duke not only did not investigate the thing but had the discloser put to 
death miserably. With this course he took away spirit from those who 
might seek to warn him for his safety and gave it to those who might 
wish his ruin. 2 He also had the tongue of Bettone Cini cut out with such 
cruelty that he died of it, for having censured the assessments that were 
levied on the citizens. This increased the indignation of the citizens and 
their hatred of the duke, for the city was accustomed to do and to speak 
about everything and with every license and could not bear to have its 
hands tied and its mouth sealed. Thus the indignation and hatred grew to 
such a degree that they would have inflamed not only the Florentines, 
who do not know how to maintain freedom and are unable to bear slav¬ 
ery, but any servile people to recover their freedom. Wherefore many 
citizens of every quality resolved to lose their lives or get back their free¬ 
dom; and in three parties of three sorts of citizens three conspiracies were 
made: the great, the people, and the artisans. They were moved, apart 
from universal causes, because it appeared to the great that they were not 
getting back the state; to the people, that they had lost it; and to the arti¬ 
sans, that they were losing their earnings. 

The archbishop of Florence, Messer Agnolo Acciaiuoli, had already 

2 See D hi 6 (end). 


95 


ii • 36 

exalted the deeds of the duke in his sermons and had got great favors from 
the people for him. But after he saw him a lord and recognized his tyran¬ 
nical ways, it appeared to him that he had deceived his fatherland; and to 
amend the error he had committed, he thought he had no other remedy 
than to have the hand that had inflicted the wound heal it. He made him¬ 
self head of the first and strongest conspiracy, in which were the Bardi, 
Rossi, Frescobaldi, Scali, Altoviti, Magalotti, Strozzi, and Mancini. Mes¬ 
sers Manno and Corso Donati were princes of one of the other two, and 
with them were the Pazzi, Cavicciuli, Cerchi, and Albizzi. In the third, 
Antonio Adimari was first, and with him were the Medici, Bordoni, Ru- 
cellai, and Aldobrandini. These men thought about killing the duke in 
the house of the Albizzi, where they believed he might go on the day of 
San Giovanni to see the horse races, but since he did not go, they did not 
succeed. They thought of attacking him as he went for a walk in the city, 
but they saw that this mode was difficult because he went about well ac¬ 
companied and armed and always varied his route so that there could be 
no certain place to wait for him. They reasoned about killing him at the 
councils, but it appeared to them that even if they killed him they would 
be left at the discretion of his forces. While these things were being dis¬ 
cussed among the conspirators, Antonio Adimari revealed himself to 
some of his Sienese friends so as to get men from them by showing them 
a part of the conspirators and affirming that the whole city was prepared 
to free itself. Whereupon one of them passed the thing along to Messer 
Francesco Brunelleschi, not to expose it but in the belief that he too was 
one of the conspirators. Messer Francesco, either out of fear for himself 
or out of the hatred he bore for the others, revealed everything to the 
duke; hence Pagolo del Mazzeca and Simone da Monterappoli were 
taken. They frightened the duke by revealing the quality and quantity of 
the conspirators, and he was advised to summon them rather than arrest 
them, because if they should flee, it would be possible to secure himself 
against them without scandal by their exile. So the duke had Antonio 
Adimari summoned, who, trusting in his companions, immediately ap¬ 
peared. He was detained. The duke was advised by Messer Francesco 
Brunelleschi and Messer Uguccione Buondelmonte to ride through the 
town armed and to have those who had been arrested put to death, but 
this was not agreeable to him as it appeared to him that for so many ene¬ 
mies his forces were small. Yet he took another course by which, if it had 
succeeded, he would have secured himself against his enemies and pro¬ 
vided himself with forces. The duke was accustomed to summon citizens 
to advise him on current cases; so having sent outside to provide men, he 
made a list of three hundred citizens and had his sergeants summon them 
under color of wanting to consult with them. Then, when they would 


96 


ii • 37 

have been brought together, he planned to eliminate them either by death 
or by prison. The capture of Antonio Adimari and the sending for men, 
which could not be done secretly, had frightened the citizens, especially 
the guilty ones, hence the boldest refused to obey. And because each had 
read the list, they sought each other out and inspired each other to take 
up arms, preferring to die like men, arms in hand, than to be led like cattle 
to the slaughterhouse. Thus, in a few hours, all three conspiracies were 
revealed to each other and they resolved to start a tumult in the Mercato 
Vecchio on the following day, which was the 26th of July, 1343, and after 
that to arm themselves and to call the people to freedom. 


37 

when the next day came, at the sound of noon, according to the order 
given, they took up arms; and the whole people armed with a cry for 
liberty. Each person prepared himself in his own district under ensigns 
with the arms of the people, which had been made secretly by the con¬ 
spirators. All the heads of families, noble as well as popular, met and 
swore an oath both for their defense and for death to the duke, except for 
some of the Buondelmonti and Cavalcanti and the four popular families 
who had contributed to making him lord. 1 They, together with the 
butchers and others of the basest plebs, ran armed to the piazza in favor 
of the duke. At this noise the duke armed the palace, and his men, who 
had been lodged in different places, mounted their horses to go to the 
piazza. On the way they were fought in many places and killed, but about 
three hundred cavalry got there. The duke was in doubt whether he 
should go out to fight the enemy or defend the palace from within. On 
the other side, the Medici, Cavicciuli, Rucellai, and other families who 
had been more offended by him were doubtful whether, if he should 
come out, many who had taken up arms against him might not reveal 
themselves to be his friends; and desiring to deny him the opportunity of 
coming out and of increasing his forces, they took the lead and attacked 
the piazza. On their arrival those popular families who had come out for 
the duke, seeing themselves openly attacked, changed their minds now 
that the duke’s fortune had changed, and all took the side of the citizens, 
except for Messer Uguccione Buondelmonte, who went into the palace, 
and Messer Giannozzo Cavalcanti, who, having withdrawn with some of 
his companions to the Mercato Nuovo, climbed up on a bench and 
begged the people who were going armed into the piazza to go there in 

1 The Peruzzi, Antellesi, Acciaiuoli, and Buonaccorsi; see FH 11 33. 


97 


ii • 37 

favor of the duke. To frighten them he exaggerated the size of the duke’s 
forces, and he threatened that they would all be killed if they should ob¬ 
stinately pursue an undertaking against their lord. Finding no man either 
to follow him or to castigate him for his insolence, and seeing that he 
labored in vain, he withdrew to his house so as not to try fortune further. 
Meanwhile, the battle in the piazza between the people and the duke’s 
troops was great; and although the palace helped the latter, they were 
overcome. Part of them submitted themselves to the Podesta of the en¬ 
emy; part, leaving their horses behind, fled into the palace. While the 
fighting was going on in the piazza, Corso and Messer Amerigo Donati 2 
with part of the people broke into the Stinche, burned the papers of the 
Podesta and the public chamber, sacked the houses of the rectors, and 
killed all the duke’s ministers whom they could get. The duke, for his 
part, seeing that he had lost the piazza and that the whole city was hostile, 
and without hope of any aid, tried to see if he could win the people over 
with some humane act. He had the prisoners come to him, and with lov¬ 
ing and gracious words he freed them; and although Antonio Adiman 
was displeased with it, he made him a knight. He had his own ensigns 
taken down from the palace and raised those of the people. These things, 
done late and out of season, because they were forced and done without 
dignity, served him little. Thus he remained, malcontent, besieged in his 
palace; and he saw that for having wanted too much, he was losing every¬ 
thing. He feared that in a few days he would have to die either of hunger 
or by the sword. The citizens withdrew to Santa Reparata to give form 
to the state. They created fourteen citizens, half from the great and half 
popular, who with the bishop would have whatever authority would en¬ 
able them to reform the state of Florence. They elected six more, who 
were to have the authority of the Podesta until the one who had been 
elected should come. Many men had come to Florence in aid of the peo¬ 
ple, among whom were the Sienese with six ambassadors, men much 
honored in their fatherland. These men carried on negotiations between 
the people and the duke, but the people refused any discussion 3 on accord 
unless first Messer Guiglielmo d’Assisi and his son, together with Messer 
Cerrettieri Bisdomini, were put in their power. 4 The duke did not want 
to grant this; yet, as he was being threatened by the men shut in with 
him, he let himself be* coerced. Without doubt, indignation appears 
greater and wounds are graver when liberty is being recovered than when 
it is being defended. Messer Guglielmo and his son were placed among 
thousands of their enemies, and the son was not yet eighteen years old; 

2 In fact, one man, Messer Corso di Amerigo Donati. 

3 Lit.: reasoning. 

4 Potesta. 


98 


ii • 38 

nonetheless, his age, his form, and his innocence could not save him from 
the fury of the multitude. Those whom they could not wound living, 
they wounded when dead, and not satisfied with cutting them to pieces 
with their swords, they tore them apart with their hands and their teeth. 
And so that all their senses might be satisfied in revenge, having first 
heard their wails, seen their wounds, and handled their torn flesh, they 
still wanted their taste to relish them; so as all the parts outside were sated 
with them, they also sated the parts within. As much as this rabid fury 
harmed 5 Messer Guglielmo and his son, it was useful to Messer Cerrit- 
tieri; for the multitude, wearying of cruelty to these two, did not remem¬ 
ber him. As he was not asked for, he remained in the palace, from which, 
later in the night, he was taken away safely by certain of his relatives and 
friends. The multitude having purged itself with the blood of these two, 
an accord was concluded. The duke was to depart with his men and his 
things in safety and to renounce all his rights 6 over Florence; and then, 
outside the domain, he was to ratify his renunciation in the Casentino. 
After this accord, on the sixth day of August, he left Florence accom¬ 
panied by many citizens; and having arrived in the Casentino, he ratified 
the renunciation, though still unwillingly. Nor would he have kept his 
faith if Count Simone had not threatened to take him back to Florence. 
As his governing demonstrated, this duke was avaricious and cruel, dif¬ 
ficult in audiences, arrogant in replies; he wanted the slavery and not the 
good will of men; and for this he desired to be feared rather than loved. 7 
Nor was his person less hateful than his habits, for he was small, black, 
and had a long and sparse beard, so that in every way he deserved to be 
hated. Thus at the end of ten months his wicked habits took from him 
the lordship that the wicked advice of others had given him. 


38 

these unforeseen events occurring in the city inspired all the towns sub¬ 
ject to the Florentines to get back their own freedom. Arezzo, Casti- 
glione, Pistoia, Volterra, Colle, and San Gimignano rebelled, so that with 
one stroke Florence was left deprived of its tyranny and its dominion. In 
recovering its freedom, it taught its subjects how to recover theirs. Thus, 
just after the expulsion of the duke and the loss of their dominion, the 
fourteen citizens and the bishop thought it preferable to placate their sub¬ 
jects with peace than to make enemies of them by war, and to show them 


5 Lit.: offended. 

6 Lit.: reasons. 

7 See P 18. 


99 


ii • 39 

that they were as glad of their subjects’ freedom as of their own. 1 There¬ 
fore, they sent spokesmen to Arezzo to renounce the empire they had 
over that city and to sign an accord with them, so that, since they could 
no longer have them as subjects, they might profit from them as friends 
of their city. With the other towns also they made agreements as best they 
could, provided that they keep the Florentines as friends, so that, being 
free, the other towns could help maintain the Florentines’ own freedom. 
This course, prudently adopted, had a very prosperous result; for Arezzo, 
after not many years, returned to the empire of the Florentines, and the 
other towns were reduced to their former obedience within a few 
months. And thus many times things are obtained more quickly and with 
fewer dangers and less expense by avoiding them than by pursuing them 
with all force and obstinacy. 


39 

since things outside were settled, they turned to those inside; and after 
some debate between the great and the popular, it was concluded that the 
great should have one-third of the Signoria and half of the other offices. 
The city, as we showed above, 1 was divided into sixths, from which six 
Signori, one from each sixth, had been elected, except when by some 
accidents for a time twelve or thirteen were created; but shortly after, they 
returned to six. That it should be reformed in this part, therefore, became 
apparent as much because the sixths were unequally divided as because, 
if they wanted to give a part to the great, it was needful to increase the 
number of Signori. So they divided the city into quarters and from each 
created three Signori; they left out the Gonfaloniers of Justice and those 
of the companies of the people; and in place of the twelve Good Men they 
made eight councilors, four of each sort. The government having been 
established with this order, the city would have settled down if the great 
had been content to live with that modesty which is required by civil life; 
but they acted in a contrary way, for as private individuals they did not 
want companions, and in the magistracies they wanted to be lords. Every 
day produced some example of their insolence and arrogance. This dis¬ 
pleased the people, and they lamented that from one tyrant who had been 
eliminated a thousand had been born. Thus instances of insolence grew 
on one side and indignation on the other, so that the heads of the popular 
side pointed out to the bishop that the great were indecent and not good 
companions to the people; and they persuaded him to see to it that the 


1 See D ii 2i. 

1 See FH n 11. 


IOO 


ii • 40 

great contented themselves with taking part in the other offices and left 
to the people alone the magistracy of the Signori. 

The bishop was naturally good, but it was easy to turn him first to one 
side, then to another. The result of this was that, at the instance of his 
consorts, he had at first favored the duke of Athens and then, by the ad¬ 
vice of other citizens, had conspired against him. He had favored the great 
in reform of the state, and so now he appeared to favor the people, having 
been moved by the reasons submitted to him by these popular citizens. 
And believing that he would find in others as little stability as was in 
himself, he persuaded himself to conduct the affair by accord. He con¬ 
vened the Fourteen, who had not yet lost authority, and with the best 
words he knew he urged them to yield the rank of the Signoria to the 
people, promising quiet for the city from it, otherwise their ruin and un¬ 
doing. These words strongly excited the spirits of the great. Messer Ri- 
dolfo di Bardi rebuked him with bitter words, calling him a man of little 
faith and reproaching him as frivolous for his friendship with the duke 
and as a betrayer for expelling him; and he concluded by telling him that 
the honors they had acquired at their peril they were willing to defend at 
their peril. And having departed with the others, angered by the bishop, 
he let his consorts and all the noble families hear about it. The popular 
side also told others what they had in mind, and while the great ordered 
themselves with help for the defense of their Signori, it did not appear to 
the people that they should wait until the great were in order, and they 
ran to the palace, armed and shouting that the great should give up the 
magistracy. The noise and tumult were great. The Signori saw them¬ 
selves abandoned because the great, seeing the whole people armed, did 
not dare to take up arms, and each stayed inside his house. Thus the pop¬ 
ular Signori, who had made a first attempt to calm the people by assuring 
them that their companions were modest and good men and had been 
unable to succeed in this, as the less evil course sent them back to their 
houses, to which they were with trouble led safely. After the great had 
left the palace, the office of the four great councilors was also taken away, 
and in their stead twelve popular ones were made. The eight Signori who 
were left chose one Gonfalonier of Justice and sixteen Gonfaloniers of the 
companies of the people, and they reformed the councils so as to put the 
whole government in the will of the people. 


40 


while these things were going on, there was a great scarcity in the city, 
so that the great and the lesser people were malcontent—the latter because 


101 


ii • 4 i 

of hunger, the former for having lost their dignities. This gave Messer 
Andrea Strozzi the inspiration that he could take over the freedom of the 
city. He sold his wheat at a lower price than others, for which many peo¬ 
ple gathered at his houses, so many that one morning he dared to mount 
his horse and with several of those people behind him to call the people 
to arms. In a short time he had gathered together more than 4,000 men, 
with whom he went into the piazza of the Signori and asked that the 
palace be opened to them. But the Signori, with threats and arms, moved 
them off the piazza, and then with proclamations so frightened them that 
little by little everyone returned to his house. Thus Messer Andrea, find¬ 
ing himself alone, was able to save himself only with trouble from the 
hands of the magistrates. This unforeseen event, though it was rash and 
had the ending that like motions usually have, gave hope to the great that 
they could compel the people, since they saw that the lesser plebs was in 
disaccord with it. So as not to lose this opportunity, they decided to arm 
themselves with every sort of help so as to regain by force, reasonably, 
that which had been unjustly taken from them by force. And they grew 
so confident of victory that they openly provided themselves with arms, 
fortified their houses, sent to friends as far away as Lombardy for help. 
The people too, together with the Signori, made their own provisions by 
arming themselves and by asking for help from the Perugians and the 
Sienese. Indeed, help had already arrived for both parties, and the whole 
city was in arms. The great had taken up positions on this side of the Arno 
in three places: at the houses of the Cavicciulli near San Giovanni, at the 
houses of the Pazzi and the Donati at San Piero Maggiore, and at those of 
the Cavalcanti in the Mercato Nuovo. Those on the other side of the Arno 
had fortified themselves at the bridges and in the streets of their houses: 
the Nerli were defending the bridge at Carraia, the Frescobaldi and Man- 
negli at Santa Trinita, the Rossi and Bardi at the Ponte Vecchio and Ru- 
baconte. The popular side, for their part, were gathering under the Stand¬ 
ard of Justice 1 and under the ensigns of the companies of the people. 


41 

while standing in this manner, it did not appear to the people that they 
should hold off the engagement any longer, and the first to move were 
the Medici and Rondinegli, who attacked the Cavicciulli on that side of 
the piazza of San Giovanni which gives entrance to their houses. Here the 
engagement was great because they were struck by stones from the tow- 

1 See FHu 12. 


102 


ii • 4 i 

ers and wounded by crossbows from below. The battle lasted for three 
hours, and the people kept gaining, so that the Cavicciulli, seeing them¬ 
selves overwhelmed by the multitude and lacking help, became fright¬ 
ened and submitted themselves to the Podesta of the people, who saved 
their houses and property for them. He took from them only their weap¬ 
ons and commanded them to disperse and go unarmed to the houses of 
those on the popular side who were their relatives and friends. 

The first attack having won, 1 the Donati and the Pazzi too were easily 
conquered because they were less powerful than the others. There re¬ 
mained on this side of the Arno only the Cavalcanti, who were strong 
both in men and in position. Nonetheless, when they saw all the 
Gonfaloni 2 against them and that the others had been overcome by only 
three Gonfaloni, they surrendered without putting up much defense. Al¬ 
ready three parts of the city were in the hands of the people; only one 3 
remained in the power of the great, but it was the most difficult both 
because of the power of those defending it and because of the site, which 
was protected by the Arno River. Thus one needed to win the bridges 
that were being defended in the modes shown above. The Ponte Vecchio 
was the first to be attacked; it was hardily defended because the towers 
were armed, the streets barricaded, and the barricades guarded by very 
fierce men. So the people were repulsed with serious loss. Recognizing 
therefore that here they were struggling in vain, they tried to cross the 
Rubaconte bridge, and finding the same difficulties there, they left four 
Gonfaloni on guard at those two bridges and with the others attacked the 
bridge at the Carraia. And although the Nerli defended themselves man¬ 
fully, they were unable to withstand the fury of the people, both because 
the bridge (having no towers to defend it) was weaker and because the 
Capponi and the other popular families, their neighbors, attacked them. 
Struck thus on every side, they abandoned the barricades and gave way 
to the people, who then conquered the Rossi and the Frescobaldi because 
all the popular side on the other side of the Arno joined with the victors. 
There remained only the Bardi, whom neither the ruin of the others nor 
the union of the people against them nor the slight hope of help could 
frighten. They would rather fight and either die or see their houses 
burned and sacked than voluntarily submit themselves to the will of their 
enemies. They so defended themselves, therefore, that the people tried 
many times in vain to conquer them either from the Ponte Vecchio or 
from the Rubaconte bridge, and always they were repulsed with death 

1 Vincere is translated “win” or “conquer.” 

2 The standards of the companies of the people; that is, those companies. 

3 The Oltrarno, across the river. 


103 


II • \2 

and wounds for many. Some time ago, a road had been built by which, 
from the via Romana, passing through the houses of the Pitti, one could 
reach the walls on the hill of San Giorgio. The people sent six Gonfaloni 
by this route with orders to attack the houses of the Bardi from the rear. 
This attack made the Bardi lose their spirit and allowed the people to win 
the campaign; for as soon as those who guarded the barricades in the 
streets heard their own houses being attacked, they abandoned the en¬ 
gagement and ran to their defense. This allowed the barricades of the 
Ponte Vecchio to be conquered, and the Bardi were put to flight from 
every side; they were received by the Quaratesi, Panzanesi, and Mozzi. 
Meanwhile, the people, and of these the most ignoble part, thirsting for 
booty, looted and sacked all their houses, pulled down and burned their 
palaces and towers with such rage that the crudest enemy to the Floren¬ 
tine name would have been ashamed of such ruin. 


42 

the great having been conquered, the people reordered the state; and 
because the people were of three sorts—powerful, middle, and low—it 
was ordered that the powerful should have two Signori, the middle peo¬ 
ple three, and the low three, and that the Gonfalonier should be first from 
one and then from another. Besides this, all the Orders ofjustice 1 against 
the great were resumed; and to make them even weaker, many of them 
were mixed among the popular multitude. The ruin of the nobles was so 
great and afflicted their party so much that they never again dared to take 
up arms against the people; indeed, they became continually more hu¬ 
mane and abject. This was the cause by which Florence was stripped not 
only of its arms but of all generosity. After this downfall, the city main¬ 
tained its quiet until the year 1353, during which time occurred that 
memorable pestilence celebrated with such eloquence by Messer Gio¬ 
vanni Boccaccio, 2 by which more than ninety-six thousand souls in Flor¬ 
ence were lost. The Florentines also waged their first war against the Vis¬ 
conti, caused by the ambition of the archbishop, 3 then prince in Milan. 
As soon as this war was finished, parties started up inside the city, and 
although the nobility had been destroyed, nonetheless fortune did not 
lack for ways to revive new trials through new divisions. 

1 The Ordinances ofjustice; see FH 11 13, 36. 

2 The plague of 1348 is described in the introduction to the First Day of Boccaccio’s De¬ 
cameron. 

3 Archbishop Giovanni Visconti. 


IO4 


BOOK III 


I 

the grave and natural enmities that exist between the men of the people 
and the nobles, caused by the wish of the latter to command and the for¬ 
mer not to obey, are the cause of all evils that arise in cities. 1 For from 
this diversity of humors all other things that agitate republics take their 
nourishment. This kept Rome disunited, and this, if it is permissible to 
compare little things with great, has kept Florence divided, although di¬ 
verse effects were produced in one city and the other. For the enmities 
between the people and the nobles at the beginning of Rome that were 
resolved by disputing were resolved in Florence by fighting. Those in 
Rome ended with a law, those in Florence with the exile and death of 
many citizens; those in Rome always increased military virtue, those in 
Florence eliminated it altogether; those in Rome brought the city from 
equality in the citizens to a very great inequality, those in Florence re¬ 
duced it from inequality to a wonderful equality. This diversity of effects 
may have been caused by the diverse ends these two peoples had, for the 
people of Rome desired to enjoy the highest honors together with the 
nobles, while the people of Florence fought to be alone in the government 
without the participation of the nobles. And because the desire of the 
Roman people was more reasonable, offenses to the nobles came to be 
more bearable, so that the nobility would yield easily and without resort¬ 
ing to arms. Thus, after some differences, they would come together to 
create a law whereby the people would be satisfied and the nobles retain 
their dignities. On the other side, the desire of the Florentine people was 
injurious and unjust, so that the nobility readied greater forces for its own 
defense; and that is why it came to the blood and exile of citizens, and the 
laws that were made afterwards were not for the common utility but were 
all ordered in favor of the conqueror. From this it also followed that in 
the victories of the people the city of Rome became more virtuous, for as 
men of the people could be placed in the administration of the magistra¬ 
cies, the armies, and the posts of empire together with the nobles, they 
were filled with the same virtue as the nobles, and that city, by growing 
in virtue, grew in power. But in Florence, when the people conquered, 

1 See P 9; D 1 5; FH 11 12. 


105 


Ill • 2 


the nobles were left deprived of the magistracies, and if they wanted to 
regain them, it was necessary for them not only to be but to appear sim¬ 
ilar to men of the people in their conduct, spirit, and mode of living. 
From this arose the variations in coats of arms 2 and the changes of family 
titles that the nobles made so as to appear as the people. So the virtue in 
arms and the generosity of spirit that were in the nobility were elimi¬ 
nated, and in the people, where they never had been, they could not be 
rekindled; thus did Florence become ever more humble and abject. And 
whereas Rome, when its virtue was converted into arrogance, was re¬ 
duced to such straits that it could not maintain itself without a prince, 
Florence arrived at the point that it could easily have been reordered in 
any form of government by a wise lawgiver. These things can be clearly 
recognized in part through the reading of the preceding book, which 
showed the birth of Florence and the beginning of its freedom, with the 
causes of its divisions, and how the parties of the nobles and the people 
ended with the tyranny of the duke of Athens and the ruin of the nobility. 
It remains now to tell about the enmities between the people and the 
plebs, and the various accidents they produced. 


2 

the power of the nobles having been tamed and the war with the arch¬ 
bishop of Milan ended, it appeared that no cause of scandal remained 
in Florence. But the evil fortune of our city and its own orders, which 
Were not good, gave rise to enmity between the family of the Albizzi and 
that of the Ricci, which divided Florence just as at first that between the 
Buondelmonti and the Uberti and afterwards that between the Donati 
and the Cerchi had done. The pontiffs, who were then in France, and the 
emperors, who were in Germany, so as to maintain their reputations in 
Italy, had sent to it at various times a number of soldiers of various na¬ 
tions; so in these times Englishmen, Germans, and Bretons were there. 
As these men were left without pay when the wars ended, under an en¬ 
sign of adventure they laid an assessment on one or another prince. Thus, 
in the year 1353 one of these companies came to Tuscany captained by 
Monreale, a Provencal. 1 His arrival frightened all the cities of that prov¬ 
ince, and not only did the Florentines provide themselves with men by 
public means but many citizens, among them the Albizzi and the Ricci, 
armed themselves for their own safety. 

2 Lit.: ensigns. 

1 Monreale of Albano, a Provenqa) and Knight of Jerusalem, who in 1354, not 1353, laid 
assessments on Perugia, Siena, Florence, Arezzo, and Pisa. 

I06 


iii • 3 

These families were full of hatred for each other, and each was thinking 
how it could crush the other so as to obtain the principality in the repub¬ 
lic. They had not yet, however, come to arms but had only encountered 
each other in the magistracies and in the councils. Thus, when the whole 
city found itself armed, a quarrel 2 arose by chance in the Mercato Vecchio; 
and many people gathered, as they are wont to do in such unforeseen 
events. As the rumor of it spread, it was reported to the Ricci that the 
Albizzi were attacking them and to the Albizzi that the Ricci were coming 
to seek them out. At this the whole city rose up, and the magistrates were 
able with trouble to check both families, so that in fact the conflict, which 
had been spread about by chance and not by the fault of either of them, 
did not take place. Though this accident was slight, it rekindled their spir¬ 
its further, and each sought with greater diligence to acquire partisans. 
But as the citizens had already attained such equality through the rum of 
the great that the magistrates were more revered than they used to be in 
the past, they planned to prevail by the ordinary way and without private 
violence. 


3 

we have told before 1 how after the victory of Charles I the magistracy of 
the Guelf party was created and how it was given great authority over the 
Ghibellines. Time, various accidents, and new divisions had pushed this 
authority into oblivion, so that many descendants of the Ghibellines now 
exercised the first magistracies. 2 Uguccione de’ Ricci, head of that family, 
therefore arranged to have renewed the law against the Ghibellines, 
among whom, in the opinion of many, were the Albizzi, who had been 
born many years ago in Arezzo and had come to live in Florence. Hence 
Uguccione thought that by renewing this law he could deprive the Al¬ 
bizzi of the magistracies, providing by it that any descendant of the Ghib¬ 
ellines would be condemned if he exercised any magistracy. This design 
of Uguccione’s was disclosed to Piero di Filippo degli Albizzi, and he 
thought he would favor it, judging that if he opposed it he would declare 
himself a Ghibelline. This law, therefore, renewed through the ambition 
of these men, did not subtract but gave reputation to Piero degli Albizzi 
and was the beginning of many evils: nor can a law be made more dam¬ 
aging to a republic than one that looks back a long time. 3 Since Piero had 

2 Lit.: question. 

' FH ii io, ii. 

2 This was not in fact the case. 

3 See D i 37. 


IO7 


in • 4 

thus favored the law, that which had been found by his enemies to impede 
him was the way to his greatness; for when he had made himself prince 
of this new order, he obtained ever more authority because he was fa¬ 
vored by this new sect of Guelfs above any other. And because no mag¬ 
istrate was found to seek out who might be Ghibellines—which is why 
the law was not of much value—he provided that authority be given to 
the captains 4 to declare who were Ghibellines and, when declared, to no¬ 
tify them and admonish them not to take any magistracy; and if they did 
not obey the admonition, they would be condemned. From this it arose 
afterwards that all those in Florence who are deprived of the power to 
exercise magistracies are called “the admonished.” Thus the captains, 
their boldness increasing with time, admonished without any respect not 
only those who merited it but anyone they pleased, moved by whatever 
avaricious or ambitious cause; and from 1357, when the order began, un¬ 
til ’66, already more than two hundred citizens were admonished. Con¬ 
sequently, the captains and the sect of the Guelfs became powerful, since 
everyone, for fear of being admonished, honored them, and especially 
their heads, who were Piero degli Albizzi, Messer Lapo da Castiglion- 
chio, and Carlo Strozzi. Although this insolent mode of proceeding dis¬ 
pleased many, the Ricci were the least content of any others, as it ap¬ 
peared to them that they had been the cause of the disorder through 
which they saw the republic being ruined and their enemies the Albizzi, 
counter to their schemes, become very powerful. 


4 

therefore, when Uguccione de’ Ricci found himself one of the Si¬ 
gnori, he wanted to bring an end to the evil of which he and his associates 
had been the beginning; and with a new law he provided that to the six 
captains of the party three should be added, two of them from the lesser 
guildsmen. He also wanted to have those declared Ghibellines to be con¬ 
firmed as such by twenty-four Guelf citizens deputed for that purpose. 
This provision tempered for the time being a good part of the power of 
the captains, so that admonishing was in great part abandoned, and if they 
still admonished some, these were few. Nonetheless, the sects of Albizzi 
and Ricci were watchful, and each out of hatred for the other would op¬ 
pose the other’s alliances, undertakings, and decisions. So they lived with 
such troubles from 1366 to ’71, during which time the sect of Guelfs re¬ 
gained its forces. 

4 Of the Guelf party. 


I08 


in • 5 

In the Buondelmonti family there was a knight called Messer Benchi, 
who because of his merits in a war against the Pisans had been made a 
man of the people and by this had become eligible to be one of the Si¬ 
gnori. While he was waiting to take his seat in the magistracy, a law was 
made that no great man who had been made a man of the people be al¬ 
lowed to exercise the office. This act offended Messer Benchi very much, 
and, foregathering with Piero degli Albizzi, they decided to strike at the 
lesser people through admonishing and to be alone in the government. 
And through the favor Messer Benchi had among the ancient nobility and 
that which Piero had with the greater part of the powerful among the 
people, they enabled the Guelf sect to regain its forces, and with the new 
reforms made in the party they ordered things so that they could dispose 
the captains and the twenty-four citizens to suit themselves. Hence, there 
was a return to admonishing with more boldness than before, and the 
house of the Albizzi, as head of this sect, grew steadily. On the other side, 
the Ricci and their friends did not fail to impede their designs as much as 
they could; so they lived in very great suspicion, each fearing every sort 
of ruin for himself. 


5 

after this, many citizens, moved by love of their fatherland, met in San 
Piero Scherragio and, having reasoned much about these disorders 
among themselves, went to the Signori, to whom one of them with more 
authority spoke in this sense: “Many of us feared, magnificent Signori, 
to meet together by private order even for a public cause, as we judged 
we could either be considered presumptuous or be condemned as ambi¬ 
tious. But when we considered that every day and without heed many 
citizens meet in the loggias or in their houses, not for any public utility 
but for their own ambition, we judged that since those who gather for 
the ruin of the republic have no fear, those who meet for the public good 
and utility ought also not to have fear. Nor do we care about what others 
judge of us, since others do not value what we can judge of them. The 
love that we bear, magnificent Signori, for our fatherland first made us 
gather and now makes us come to you to reason about the evil that one 
sees already great and yet keeps growing in this republic of ours, and to 
offer ourselves ready to help you eliminate it. You could succeed in this, 
though the undertaking may seem difficult, if you will put aside private 
considerations and with public forces use your great authority. The com¬ 
mon corruption of all the Italian cities, magnificent Signori, has cor¬ 
rupted and still corrupts your city, for ever since this province extricated 


109 


iii • 5 

itself from under the forces of the empire, its cities have had no powerful 
check to restrain them and have ordered their states and governments so 
as not to be free but divided into sects. From this have arisen all the other 
evils and all the other disorders that appear in it. First, there is neither 
union nor friendship among the citizens, except among those who have 
knowingly committed some wickedness either against their fatherland or 
against private persons. And because religion and fear of God have been 
eliminated in all, an oath and faith given last only as long as they are 
useful; so men make use of them not to observe them but to serve as a 
means of being able to deceive more easily. And the more easily and 
surely the deception succeeds, the more glory and praise is acquired from 
it; by this, harmful men are praised as industrious and good men are 
blamed as fools. And truly, in the cities of Italy all that can be corrupted 
and that can corrupt others is thrown together: the young are lazy, the 
old lascivious; both sexes at every age are full of foul customs, for which 
good laws, because they are spoiled by wicked use, are no remedy. From 
this grows the avarice that is seen in our citizens and the appetite, not for 
true glory, but for the contemptible honors on which hatreds, enmities, 
differences, and sects depend; and from these arise deaths, exiles, perse¬ 
cution of the good, exaltation of the wicked. For good men, trusting in 
their innocence, do not seek out, as do the wicked, those who will defend 
them and honor them extraordinarily, and so they fall undefended and 
unhonored. From this example arises the love of party and the power of 
parties, because bad men out of avarice and ambition, and good men out 
of necessity, participate in them. And what is most pernicious is to see 
how the promoters and princes of parties give decent appearance to their 
intention and their end with a pious word; for always, although they are 
all enemies of freedom, they oppress it under color of defending the state 
either of the best 1 or of the people. For the prize they desire to gain by 
victory is not the glory of having liberated the city but the satisfaction of 
having overcome others and of having usurped the principality of the city. 
Flaving been led to this point, there is nothing so unjust, so cruel, or 
mean that they do not dare to do it. Hence orders and laws are made not 
for the public but for personal utility; hence wars, pacts, and friendships 
are decided not for the common glory but for the satisfaction of few. And 
if other cities are filled with these disorders, ours is stained with them 
more than any other; for the laws, the statutes, and the civil orders have 
always been and still are ordered not in accordance with free life but by 
the ambition of that party which has come out on top. Whence it arises 
that always when one party is driven out and one division eliminated, 

1 The Ottimati. 


110 


iii • 5 

another emerges. For in the city that prefers to maintain itself with sects 
rather than with laws, as soon as one sect is left there without opposition, 
it must of necessity divide from within itself, because the city cannot de¬ 
fend itself by those private modes that it had ordered in the first place for 
its own safety. And that this is true, both the ancient and the modern 
divisions of our city demonstrate. Everyone believed that when the Ghib- 
ellines were destroyed, the Guelfs would then live for a long time hap¬ 
pily and respected; nonetheless, in a little while they divided into the 
Whites and the Blacks. After the Whites were conquered, the city was 
never again without parties: now to favor the exiles, now because of the 
enmities of the people and the great, always we fought; and by giving to 
others what we either would not or could not keep among ourselves by 
accord, we subjected our freedom now to King Robert, now to his 
brother, now to his son, and at the last to the duke of Athens. Nonethe¬ 
less, we were never at rest in any state, as we were never in accord to live 
free and were not content to be slaves. Nor did we hesitate, so much were 
our orders disposed to divisions even while living in obedience to the 
king, to substitute for his majesty a very vile man born in Gubbio . 2 For 
the honor of this city one ought not even to remember the duke of Ath¬ 
ens, whose bitter and tyrannical spirit should have made us wise and 
taught us how to live. Nonetheless, he had hardly been driven out when 
we had our arms in hand, and we fought with more hatred and greater 
rage than we had ever fought together, any other time, so that our ancient 
nobility was left conquered and again put under the will of the people . 3 
Nor did many believe that any cause of scandal or party would ever arise 
again in Florence, since a check had been put on those who by their pride 
and unbearable ambition appeared to have been the cause. But now it is 
seen through experience how mistaken the opinion of men is and how 
false their judgment, for the pride and ambition of the great was not elim¬ 
inated but taken from them by our men of the people, who now, by the 
wont of ambitious men, seek to obtain the first rank in the republic. Hav¬ 
ing no other modes of seizing it than by discords, they have divided the 
city again; and they have revived the names of Guelf and Ghibelline, 
which had been eliminated and had better never existed in this republic. 
And it has been given from above, so that there be nothing perpetual or 
quiet in human things, that in all republics there be fatal families that are 
born for their ruin. With these, our republic has been more abundant than 
any other, for not one but many have agitated and afflicted it as did first 
the Buondelmonti and the Uberti, then the Donati and the Cerchi, and 

2 See FH n 25. 

3 See FH 11 42. 


111 


in • 6 


now—how shameful and ridiculous!—the Ricci and Albizzi agitate and 
divide it. We have not reminded you of our corrupt habits and our old 
and continuing divisions to frighten you, but to remind you of their 
causes and to show you that as you yourselves can remember them, so 
can we, and to tell you that the example of those old divisions ought not 
to make you diffident about stopping these. For so great was the power 
in those ancient families and so great were the favors they had from 
princes that civil orders and modes were not enough to check them; but 
now the empire has no force here, the pope is not feared, and all Italy and 
this city have been brought to such equality that for it to be able to rule 
itself is not very difficult for us. And this republic of ours especially can 
not only maintain itself united, notwithstanding former examples to the 
contrary, but reform itself with good customs and civil modes, providing 
that you, Signori, prepare yourselves to will to do it. To this we urge 
you, moved by charity for our fatherland, not by any private passion. 
And although its corruption be great, eliminate now the evil that affects 
us, the rage that consumes us, the poison that kills us; and credit the an¬ 
cient disorders not to the nature of men but to the times, which having 
changed, you can hope for better fortune for our city through better or¬ 
ders. The malignity of fortune can be overcome with prudence by putting 
a check on the ambition of those ones , 4 by annulling the orders that nour¬ 
ish sects, and by adopting those that do in truth conform to a free and 
civil life. May you be pleased rather to do now, with the benignity of 
laws, that which, after deferring, men may be required by necessity to do 
with the support of arms.” 


6 

the Signori, moved first by what they knew themselves and then by the 
authority and urgings of these men, gave authority to fifty-six citizens to 
see to the safety of the republic. It is very true that most men are more 
apt to preserve a good order than to know how to find one for them¬ 
selves. These citizens gave more thought to eliminating the present sects 
than to taking away the causes of future ones; so they achieved neither the 
one nor the other. For they did not remove the causes of the new ones, 
and of those they were watchful of, they made one more powerful than 
the other, with greater danger to the republic. They therefore excluded 
from all magistracies, except those of the Guelf party, for three years, 
three of the Albizzi family and three of the Ricci family, among whom 

4 The Ricci and the Albizzi. 


112 


ill • 7 

were Piero degli Albizzi and Uguccione de’ Ricci. They forbade all citi¬ 
zens to enter the palace except at times when the magistrates were sitting. 
They provided that anyone who might be assaulted or kept from posses¬ 
sion of his goods could with one petition accuse the offender to the coun¬ 
cilors and have him declared as among the great and, so declared, brought 
under their charges. This provision took away the boldness of the Ricci 
sect and increased that of the Albizzi; for though they were equally 
marked, nonetheless the Ricci suffered much more by it because, if the 
palace of the Signori was closed to Piero, the palace of the Guelfs, where 
he had very great authority, remained open to him. And if at first he and 
those who followed him were hot for admonishing, after this injury they 
became very hot. To this ill will more new causes were added. 


7 

sitting in the pontificate was Pope Gregory XI, who, while located in 
Avignon, governed Italy through legates as his predecessors had done. 
Full of avarice and pride, they had afflicted many cities. One of the leg¬ 
ates, who was in Bologna at the time, took the occasion of a famine that 
year in Florence and thought to make himself lord of Tuscany. Not only 
did he not help the Florentines with provisions but, to take from them 
the hope of future harvests, he attacked them with a great army at the 
first appearance of spring, hoping to overcome them easily by finding 
them unarmed and starving. And he might perhaps have succeeded if the 
men with whom he made the attack had not been unfaithful and venal; 
for the Florentines, having no better remedy, gave his soldiers one 
hundred and thirty thousand florins and made them abandon the cam¬ 
paign. Wars begin at the will of anyone, but they do not end at anyone’s 
will. This war, begun because of the ambition of the legate, was contin¬ 
ued by the indignation of the Florentines; they made an alliance with 
Messer Bernabo 1 and with all the cities hostile to the Church, and they 
created eight citizens to administer it with authority to be able to act 
without appeal and to spend without rendering account . 2 

This war begun against the pontiff enabled those who had followed the 
sect of the Ricci to rise again, notwithstanding Uguccione’s death . 3 Con¬ 
trary to the Albizzi, they had always favored Messer Bernabo and disfa¬ 
vored the Church, and all the more because the Eight were all enemies of 


1 Bernabo Visconti. 

2 These eight were called the Otto Santi, and the war, that of the Otto Santi (1375— 1378). 

3 Uguccione de’ Ricci died in U83. 


113 


iii • 8 


the Guelf sect. This made Piero degli Albizzi, Messer Lapo da Castiglion- 
chio, Carlo Strozzi, and the others draw closer together for the harming 4 
of their adversaries, and while the Eight were making war, they were 
admonishing. The war lasted three years and did not end before the death 
of the pontiff It was administered with such virtue and with such uni¬ 
versal satisfaction that the magistracy was extended to the Eight every 
year; and they were called Saints even though they had little regard for 
censures, had despoiled the churches of their goods, and had compelled 
the clergy to celebrate the offices—so much more did those citizens then 
esteem their fatherland than their souls . 5 And they showed the Church 
that just as before they had defended it as friends, so now as enemies they 
could afflict it; for they made all Romagna, the Marches, and Perugia 
rebel. 


8 

nonetheless, while they carried on so great a war against the pope, 
they could not defend themselves either from the captains of the Party 1 
or from their sect, because the envy the Guelfs bore toward the Eight 
increased their boldness, and they did not refrain from injuring not only 
the other noble citizens but even some of the Eight. To such arrogance 
did he not help the Florentines with provisions, but, to take from them 
Signori, and one went with less reverence to the latter than to the former. 
The palace of the Party was respected more than their own, so much that 
no ambassador came to Florence who did not have a commission to the 
captains. And so with Pope Gregory dead, the city was left without war 
outside, and people lived in great confusion inside; for on the one hand, 
the boldness of the Guelfs was unbearable, and on the other hand, no one 
saw any mode by which it could be defeated. Even so, it was judged that 
they would necessarily have to come to arms to see which of the two seats 
should prevail. On the side of the Guelfs were all the ancient nobles with 
the greater part of the most powerful men of the people, among whom, 
as we said , 2 Messer Lapo, Piero, and Carlo were princes. On the other 
side were all the popular men of the lesser sort, whose heads were the 
Eight of War, Messer Giorgio Scali, Tommaso Strozzi, with whom the 
Ricci, Alberti, and Medici were joined. The rest of the multitude, as al¬ 
most always happens, adhered to the side of the malcontents. To the 

4 Lit.: offending. 

5 See NM’s letter to Vcttori of April 16, 1527. 

1 The Guelf party. 

2 See FH 111 3 (end). 


114 


in • 9 

heads of the Guelf sect the forces of their adversaries appeared vigorous 
and a great danger to them any time a Signoria hostile to them should 
want to bring them down; and thinking it would be well to provide 
against this, they gathered together to examine the condition of the city 
as well as their own state. It appeared to them that the admonished, by 
having grown to so great a number, might have brought them so much 
blame that the whole city had become their enemy. And they saw no 
other remedy for this than that, having taken their honors from them, 
they should also take away their city, seizing the palace of the Signori by 
force and returning the whole state to their sect 3 in imitation of the an¬ 
cient Guelfs, who lived securely in the city only by having driven all their 
adversaries from it. Everyone agreed to this but disagreed about the time. 


9 

it was then the year 1378 and the month was April, and to Messer Lapo 
it did not appear right to delay, as he asserted that nothing was so harmful 
to time as time itself, 1 and especially to them, since Salvestro de’ Medici, 
who they knew was opposed to their sect, could easily be the Gonfalonier 
in the next Signoria. To Piero degli Albizzi, on the other hand, delay 
appeared right, because he judged that they would need forces, that it 
would not be possible to gather them without exposing themselves, and 
that when they were discovered they would be in clear danger. He judged 
it necessary, therefore, to wait for the next day of San Giovanni, 2 at which 
time, since that was the most solemn day in the city, a great multitude 
would gather there, among which they could then hide as many men as 
they wished; and to remedy what they feared from Salvestro, he would 
be admonished. And if this did not seem the thing to do, they would 
admonish one of the college from his quarter; 3 and, since the bags were 
empty, when a substitute was drawn they could easily produce the chance 
that he or some relative of his would be drawn, which would take from 
Salvestro the possibility of being able to sit as Gonfalonier. 4 So they re¬ 
solved on this decision, although Messer Lapo consented unwillingly. He 
judged that delay was harmful and that the time for doing a thing is never 

3 The new sect of Guelfs; see FH in 3. 

1 See FH vn 3; P 3. 

2 June 24. 

3 One of the Twelve. 

4 A new lot could be manipulated so that Salvestro or one of his family would be selected 
one of the Twelve. Then, since the law prohibited a single family from holding more than 
one office at a time, Salvestro could not be elected Gonfalonier. 

115 


in • 9 

altogether convenient, so that anyone who waits for all conveniences 
either never tries anything or, if he tries, does it more often to his disad¬ 
vantage. They admonished one of the college, but they did not succeed 
in hindering Salvestro, because when the causes were discovered by the 
Eight, they arranged it so that the substitute was not drawn. Thus Sal¬ 
vestro, son of Messer Alamanno de’ Medici, was drawn as Gonfalonier. 

This man, born of a very noble popular family, could not bear that the 
people should be oppressed by a few powerful men. He had thought 
about how to bring an end to this insolence, and, seeing himself favored 
by the people and by many noble popular companions, he shared his de¬ 
signs with Benedetto Alberti, Tommaso Strozzi, and Messer Giorgio 
Scali, who promised every aid to further them. Thus they secretly re¬ 
solved on a law to renew the Orders 5 of Justice against the great, to di¬ 
minish the authority of the captains of the Party, and to give to the ad¬ 
monished a mode of being recalled to their dignities. And so that the law 
might be proposed and enacted 6 at almost the same time, and as it had to 
be deliberated upon first among the Collegi and then in the councils, Sal¬ 
vestro, who found himself provost (which rank for the time it lasts makes 
one almost a prince of the city), had the college and the council assemble 
on the same morning. First he proposed to the Collegi, who were sepa¬ 
rated from the council, the planned 7 law, which, as something new, 
found such disfavor in the few 8 that it was not approved. Consequently, 
Salvestro, seeing that the first ways of getting it enacted were cut off to 
him, pretended to leave the place to attend to his necessities; and, without 
anyone’s being aware of it, he went to the council. There, having climbed 
up high where everyone could see and hear him, he said he believed he 
had been made a Gonfalonier not to be a judge of private causes, which 
had their own ordinary judges, but to watch over the state—to correct the 
insolence of the powerful and to temper those laws by the use of which 
one would see the republic ruined. And he said that he had thought dili¬ 
gently about both these things and had provided for them as far as it had 
been possible for him, but the malignity of men so opposed his just en¬ 
terprises that the way to doing good had been taken from him, and the 
way not only to deliberating on it but to hearing about it had been taken 
from them. 9 Hence, seeing that he was no longer able to be of any use in 
anything to the republic or to the universal good, he did not know for 
what cause he should any longer keep his magistracy, which either he did 
not deserve or someone else believed he did not deserve. On this account 

5 Ordinances. 

6 Lit.: obtained. 

7 Lit.: ordered; the proposed law. 

8 Lit.: in the number of the few. 

9 Since the Collegi had rejected his proposal, it could not be heard by the council. 

116 


Ill • 10 


he wanted to go home so that the people could put another in his place 
who would have either greater virtue or better fortune than he. And hav¬ 
ing said these words, he left the council to go home. 


10 

those in the council who were aware of this and others who desired 
innovation raised an uproar, to which the Signori and the Collegi ran; and 
when they saw their Gonfalonier taking his leave, they restrained him 
with entreaties 1 and by authority, and brought him to the council, which 
was in full tumult. There many noble citizens were threatened with very 
abusive words, among them Carlo Strozzi, who was taken around the 
chest by an artisan who wished to kill him but was defended by the effort 
of bystanders. Still, the one who excited greater tumult and put the city 
under arms was Benedetto degli Alberti, who at the top of his voice, from 
the windows of the palace, called the people to arms; and the piazza was 
quickly filled with armed men—so that which the Collegi had been un¬ 
willing to do when they were begged at first, they did when threatened 
and frightened. At the same time the captains of the Party had assembled 
many citizens in their palace to be advised on how to defend themselves 
against the order of the Signori; but as soon as the uproar was heard and 
what the councilors had decided was understood, everyone took refuge 
in his own home. No one should make a change in a city believing that 
he can stop it at his convenience or regulate it in his mode. It was the 
intention of Salvestro to create that law and put the city to rest, and the 
thing went otherwise because the humors set in motion had changed 
everyone so that the stores did not open, the citizens fortified themselves 
in their homes, many hid their movable goods in the monasteries and 
churches, and it appeared that each one feared some evil nearby. The guild 
corporations met, and each made a syndic; then the Priors called together 
the Collegi and these syndics, and they debated for a whole day how the 
city might be quieted to everyone’s satisfaction. But being of diverse 
opinions, they did not agree. 

The day after, the guilds brought out their banners. The Signori, hear¬ 
ing of this and fearing what would happen, called upon the council to 
provide a remedy. Hardly had it assembled when an uproar was heard, 
and quickly the ensigns of the guilds with a large number of armed men 
behind them were in the piazza. Then, so as to give the guilds and the 
people hope of being content and to take from them the opportunity for 

' Lit.: prayers. 


117 


Ill • I I 


evil, the council gave a general power, I 2 which in Florence is called balia, 
to the Signori, Collegi, the Eight, the captains of the Party, and the guild 
syndics, enabling them to reform the state of the city for its common 
benefit. And while this was being ordered, some ensign bearers from the 
guilds and from those of lesser quality, moved by those who wanted to 
get revenge for the recent injuries they had received from the Guelfs, de¬ 
tached themselves from the others, and they sacked and burned the house 
of Messer Lapo da Castiglionchio. As soon as he learned that the Signoria 
had taken a stand 3 against the orders of the Guelfs and saw the people in 
arms, and having no remedy other than to hide or flee, he first hid in 
Santa Croce, then, dressed as a friar, fled to the Casentino, where he was 
heard many times lamenting for himself for having consented to Piero 
degli Albizzi and for Piero for having wanted to wait until San Giovanni’s 
Day to secure the state for themselves. But Piero and Carlo Strozzi hid at 
the first alarms, believing that when these had ceased they could be secure 
in Florence because they had many relatives and friends. When Messer 
Lapo’s house had been burned—because evils begin with difficulty and 
grow with ease—many other houses were sacked and burned out of either 
universal hatred or private enmities. And so that they might have com¬ 
pany with more thirst than theirs for stealing the goods of others, they 
broke open the public prisons and then sacked the monastery of the 
Agnoli and the convent of Santo Spirito, where many citizens had hidden 
their movables. Nor would the public treasury have been safe from the 
hands of these predators if it had not been defended by their reverence for 
one of the Signori who, on horse, with many armed men behind him, 
opposed the rage of the multitude in whatever mode he could. The pop¬ 
ular fury was mitigated both by the authority of the Signori and by night¬ 
fall, and the next day the balia offered grace to the admonished with the 
proviso that for three years they could not hold any magistracy. They 
annulled laws prejudicial to citizens made by the Guelfs, declared Messer 
Lapo de Castiglionchio and his associates rebels, and, with him, many 
others who were universally hated. After these decisions, new Signori 
were announced, of whom Luigi Guicciardini was Gonfalonier; through 
them, hope of stopping the tumults was raised because it seemed to 
everyone that these were peaceful men and lovers of common quiet. 


I I 

nonetheless, the stores did not open, the citizens did not put away 
their arms, and there were heavy guards throughout the city. Because of 

2 Potesta. 

3 Lit.: made an undertaking. 

118 


Ill • I I 


this, the Signori did not assume the magistracy outside the palace with 
the usual pomp, but did so inside without observing any ceremony. 
These Signori judged that nothing was more useful to do at the beginning 
of their magistracy than to pacify the city; and so they had arms put away, 
stores opened; they had many of those from the countryside who had 
been called in by citizens in their favor leave Florence; they ordered a 
watch by day in many places of the city. So if the admonished could have 
been kept quiet, the city would have been quieted. But they were not 
content to wait three years to regain their honors; so for their satisfaction 
the guilds assembled again and requested the Signori, for the good and 
quiet of the city, to order that any citizen who at whatever time had been 
one of the Signori, Collegi, captains of the Party, or consul of any guild 
could not be admonished as a Ghibelline; further, that new baggings be 
held in the Guelf party and that the old bags be burned. These demands 
were accepted not only by the Signori but immediately by all the coun¬ 
cilors, to whom it appeared that the tumults, which had already begun 
again, would be stopped. But because it is not enough for men to get 
back their own but they want also to seize what belongs to others and get 
revenge, those who put their hopes in disorders pointed out to the arti¬ 
sans that they would never be safe if their many enemies were not driven 
out and destroyed. Apprehensive of these things, the Signori had the 
magistrates of the guilds, together with their syndics, come before them; 
and Luigi Guicciardini, the Gonfalonier, spoke to them in this form: “If 
these Signori, and I together with them, had not known, and for a good 
time, the fortune of this city, which is such that when wars outside are 
ended, those inside begin, we would have marveled more at the tumults 
that have continued and they would have brought us more displeasure. 
But because things we are accustomed to bring less anxiety with them, 
we have suffered the recent riots with patience, especially as they were 
begun without blame on our part, and as we hoped that in accordance 
with past examples they would come to an end sooner or later, since so 
many and such grave demands have been granted you. But as we appre¬ 
hend that you have not become quiet, that indeed you want new injuries 
to be done to your citizens and new exiles to be condemned, our displeas¬ 
ure grows with your indecency. And truly, if we had believed that during 
our magistracy our city had to be ruined, either by opposing you or by 
gratifying you, we would have avoided these honors with flight or exile; 
but as we hoped to have to do with men who might have in them some 
humanity and some love for their fatherland, we accepted the magistracy 
willingly, believing that with our humanity we could conquer your am¬ 
bition by any mode. But we see now by experience that the more humbly 
we behave, the more we concede, the more you grow proud and the more 
indecent things you demand. And if we speak thus, we do it not to offend 

119 


Ill • I I 


you but to make you repent. For we want someone else to tell you what 
pleases you; we want to tell you what is useful to you. Tell us, by your 
faith, what more can you decently desire from us? You wanted to take 
authority away from the captains of the Party: it was taken from them. 
You wanted that their bags be burned and that new reforms be made: we 
have consented to it. You wanted the admonished restored to their hon¬ 
ors: this was permitted. By your urging 1 we have pardoned those who 
burned houses and despoiled churches, and many honored and powerful 
citizens have been exiled to satisfy you; the great, in contemplation of 
you, have been restrained by new orders. What end will these demands 
of yours have, or how long will you abuse our liberality? Do you not see 
that we tolerate being conquered with more patience than you tolerate 
victory? To what will your disunions lead this city of yours? Do you not 
remember that when it was disunited Castruccio, a vile citizen of Lucca, 
defeated it? That a duke of Athens, one of your private condottieri, sub¬ 
jugated it? But when it was united, neither an archbishop of Milan nor a 
pope could defeat it, and after many years of war they were left in shame. 
Why, then, do you want your discords to make a slave of a city in peace 
that so many powerful enemies left free in war? What do you get out of 
your disunion other than servitude? Or of the goods that you have stolen 
or would steal from us other than poverty? For those are the things that, 
with our industry, nourish the whole city; and if it is despoiled of them, 
they cannot nourish it; and those who will seize them, as things ill ac¬ 
quired, will not know how to preserve them: from this, hunger and pov¬ 
erty will come to the city. These Signori and I command you, and if 
decency permits it, we pray you to still your spirits for once and be con¬ 
tent to rest quietly with the things that have been ordered through us, and 
if ever you wish something new, be pleased to ask for it with civility and 
not with tumult and arms. For if they are decent things, you will always 
be granted them, and you will not give occasion to wicked men, at your 
charge and to your cost, to ruin your fatherland on your shoulders.” 
These words, because they were true, moved the spirits of those citizens 
very much, and they thanked the Gonfalonier courteously 2 for having 
done his duty to them as a good Signore and to the city as a good citizen. 
They offered themselves ready to obey as much as had been commis¬ 
sioned to them. And the Signori, so as to give them cause for it, deputed 
two citizens for each of the greater magistrates, who together with the 
syndics of the guilds were to act together should there be anything to 
reform for the common quiet and to report it to the Signori. 

1 Lit.: prayers. 

2 Lit.: humanely. 


120 


Ill • 12 


12 

while these things were proceeding, another tumult arose that hurt 1 the 
republic a good deal more than the first. The greater part of the arson and 
robbery that took place in the preceding days had been done by the lowest 
plebs of the city, and those among them who had shown themselves the 
boldest feared that with the greater differences quieted and composed, 
they would be punished for the mistakes committed by them and that, as 
always happens to them, they would be abandoned by those who had 
incited them to do evil. Added to this was the hatred that the lesser people 
had for the rich citizens and princes of the guilds, since it did not appear 
to them that they had been satisfied for their labor as they believed they 
justly deserved. For when the city had been divided into guilds in the time 
of Charles I, 2 eath one was given a head and a government, and it was 
provided that the subjects of each guild were to be judged by their own 
heads in civil matters. The guilds, as we have already said, were twelve at 
the beginning but then, in time, grew until they reached twenty-one; and 
their power was such that in a few years they had taken over the whole 
government of the city. And because among them some were more and 
some less honored, they divided themselves into greater and lesser; seven 
of them were called “greater” and fourteen “lesser.” From this division 
and from the causes we have narrated above arose the arrogance of the 
captains of the Party> because those citizens who had been Guelfs of old, 
in whose governance that magistracy always revolved, favored the people 
of the greater guilds and persecuted those in the lesser guilds together 
with their defenders: hence arose the many tumults against them that we 
have narrated. But in the ordering of the guild corporations, many of 
those occupations in which the lesser people and the lowest plebs were 
engaged were left without guild corporations of their own, but were sub¬ 
ordinated under various guilds appropriate to the character of their oc¬ 
cupation. In consequence, when they were either not satisfied for their 
labor or in some mode oppressed by their masters, they had no other 
place of refuge than the magistracy of the guild that governed them, from 
which it did not appear to them that they got the justice they judged was 
suitable. And of all the guilds, the one that had and has the most depend¬ 
ents under it was and is the Wool Guild. 3 This guild, because it was the 
most powerful and the first, by authority of all sustained and still sustains 
with its industry the greater part of the plebs and the lesser people. 


1 Lit.: offended. 

2 See FH n 8. 

3 Known as i Ciompi. 


121 


Ill • 13 

13 


thus the men of the plebs, those placed under the Wool Guild as well as 
those under the other guilds, were, for the causes mentioned, full of in¬ 
dignation. To these was added fear because of the arson and robbery they 
had done; and they often met by night to discuss events that had occurred 
and to point out to each other the dangers in which they found them¬ 
selves. There, one of the most daring and more experienced spoke in this 
sense so as to inspire the others: “If we had to deliberate now whether to 
take up arms, to burn and rob the homes of the citizens, to despoil 
churches, I would be one of those who would judge it was a course to 
think over, and perhaps I would agree to put quiet poverty ahead of per¬ 
ilous gain. But because arms have been taken up and many evils have been 
done, it appears to me that one must reason that arms must not be put 
aside and that we must consider how we can secure ourselves from the 
evils that have been committed. Certainly I believe that if others do not 
teach us, necessity does. You see this whole city full of grievance and 
hatred against us: the citizens meet together; the Signoria is always on the 
side of the magistrates. You should believe that traps are being set for us 
and that new forces are being prepared against our strongholds. 1 We must 
therefore seek two things, and we must have two ends in our delibera¬ 
tions: one is to make it impossible for us to be punished for the things we 
have done in recent days, and the other is to be able to live with more 
freedom and more satisfaction than we have in the past. It is to our ad¬ 
vantage, therefore, as it appears to me, if we wish that our old errors be 
forgiven us, to make new ones, redoubling the evils, multiplying the ar¬ 
son and robbery—and to contrive to have many companions in this, be¬ 
cause when many err, no one is punished, and though small faults are 
punished, great and grave ones are rewarded; and when many suffer, few 
seek for revenge, because universal injuries are borne with greater pa¬ 
tience than particular ones. Thus in multiplying evils, we will gain par¬ 
don more easily and will open the way for us to have the things we desire 
to have for our freedom. And it appears to me that we are on the way to 
a sure acquisition, because those who could hinder us are disunited and 
rich: their disunion will therefore give us victory, and their riches, when 
they have become ours, will maintain it for us. Do not let their antiquity 
of blood, with which they will reproach us, dismay you; for all men, 
having had the same beginning, are equally ancient and have been made 
by nature in one mode. Strip all of us naked, you will see that we are 
alike; dress us in their clothes and them in ours, and without a doubt we 
shall appear noble and they ignoble, for only poverty and riches make us 

1 Or heads. 


122 


Ill • 13 

unequal. It pains me much when I hear that out of conscience many of 
you repent the deeds that have been done and that you wish to abstain 
from new deeds; and certainly, if this is true, you are not the men I be¬ 
lieved you to be, for neither conscience nor infamy should dismay you, 
because those who win, in whatever mode they win, never receive shame 
from it. And we ought not to take conscience into account, for where 
there is, as with us, fear of hunger and prison, there cannot and should 
not be fear of hell. But if you will take note of the mode of proceeding of 
men, you will see that all those who come to great riches and great power 
have obtained them either by fraud or by force; and afterwards, to hide 
the ugliness of acquisition, they make it decent by applying the false title 
of earnings to things they have usurped by deceit or by violence. And 
those who, out of either little prudence or too much foolishness, shun 
these modes always suffocate in servitude or poverty. For faithful servants 
are always servants and good men are always poor; nor do they ever rise 
out of servitude unless they are unfaithful and bold, nor out of poverty 
unless they are rapacious and fraudulent. For God and nature have put all 
the fortunes of men in their midst, where they are exposed more to rapine 
than to industry and more to wicked than to good arts, from which it 
arises that men devour one another and that those who can do less are 
always the worst off. Therefore, one should use force whenever the oc¬ 
casion for it is given to us; nor can a greater occasion be offered us by 
fortune than this one, when citizens are still disunited, the Signoria irres¬ 
olute, and the magistrates dismayed so that they can easily be crushed 
before they unite and steady their spirits. As a result, either we shall be 
left princes of all the city, or we shall have so large a part of it that not 
only will our past errors be pardoned but we shall even have authority 
enabling us to threaten them with new injuries. I confess this course is 
bold and dangerous, but when necessity presses, boldness is judged pru¬ 
dence; and spirited men never take account of the danger in great things, 
for those enterprises that are begun with danger always end with reward, 
and one never escapes a danger without danger. Moreover, I believe that 
when one sees the prisons, tortures, and deaths being prepared, standing 
still is more to be feared than seeking to secure ourselves against them, 
for in the first case the evils are certain and in the other, doubtful. How 
many times have I heard you lament the avarice of your superiors and the 
injustice of your magistrates! Now is the time not only to free ourselves 
from them but to become so much their superiors that they will have 
more to lament and fear from you than you from them. The opportunity 
brought us by the occasion is fleeting, and when it has gone, it will be 
vain to try to recover it. You see the preparations of your adversaries. Let 
us be ahead of their thoughts; and whichever of us is first to take up arms 
again will without doubt be the conqueror, with ruin for the enemy and 


123 


Ill • 14 

exaltation for himself. From this will come honor for many of us and 
security for all.” These persuasions strongly inflamed spirits that were 
already hot for evil on their own, so that they decided to take up arms 
after they had secured more companions to do their will; and they swore 
an oath to help one another if it should happen that one of them were 
overwhelmed by the magistrates. 


H 

while these men were preparing to seize the republic, their design came 
to the attention of the Signori; for they had in their hands one Simone 
dalla Piazza, 1 from whom they learned the whole conspiracy and how the 
conspirators meant to raise an uproar on the following day. Then, when 
the danger had been seen, they gathered the Collegi and those citizens 
who together with the syndics of the guilds negotiated over the union of 
the city (and before everyone was together, night had already come). By 
these men the Signori were advised that they should have the consuls of 
the guilds come, who then all advised that all the men at arms in Florence 
should come and that the Gonfaloniers of the people should be in the 
piazza in the morning with their armed companies. While Simone was 
being tortured and the citizens were gathering, the palace clock was being 
regulated by one Niccolo da San Friano. As Niccolo became aware of 
what was happening, he returned to his home and filled all his neighbor¬ 
hood with tumult so that in an instant more than a thousand armed men 
gathered in the Piazza Santo Spirito. This uproar reached the other con¬ 
spirators, and San Piero Maggiore and San Lorenzo, the places designated 
by them, were filled with armed men. 

Day had already come—it was the twenty-first of July—and in the pi¬ 
azza not more than eighty armed men in favor of the Signori had ap¬ 
peared; not one of the Gonfaloniers had come because, having heard that 
the whole city was filled with armed men, they feared to leave their 
homes. The first of the plebs to be in the piazza were those who had 
gathered at San Piero Maggiore, and at their arrival the armed men did 
not move. After these appeared another multitude, and, finding no op¬ 
position, with terrible cries they demanded their prisoners from the Si- 
gnoria; and so as to have the prisoners by force since they had not been 
given up by threats, they burned the houses of Luigi Guicciardini: so the 
Signori gave them over for fear of worse. Having recovered the prisoners, 

1 “Simone dalla Piazza” is known as “Simoncino dalla Porta a S. Pietro Gattolini” by 
NM’ s source, and it is disputed whether “dalla Piazza” is intended as Simone’s name (Carli) 
or to describe his usual haunt or plebeian origin (Fiorini). 


124 


in • i 5 

they took the standard ofjustice from its executor, and under that banner 
they burned the houses of many citizens, hunting down those who were 
hated either for public or for private cause. And many citizens, to avenge 
their private injuries, led them to the houses of their enemies; for it was 
enough that a single voice shout out in the midst of the multitude, “to so- 
and-so’s house,” or that he who held the standard in his hands turn to¬ 
ward it. They also burned all the records of the Wool Guild. And that 
they might accompany the many evils they did with some praiseworthy 
work, they made Salvestro de’ Medici and many other citizens knights. 
The number of all these reached sixty-four, among whom were Bene¬ 
detto and Antonio degli Alberti, Tommaso Strozzi, and the like who 
were their confidants, notwithstanding that many of them were knighted 
forcibly. In this incident, it was more to be noted than anything else that 
many who saw their houses burned were soon after, on the same day, 
knighted by the same ones who burned their houses, so close was benefit 
to injury: this happened to Luigi Guicciardini, Gonfalonier ofjustice. The 
Signori, seeing themselves abandoned in such tumults by the men-at- 
arms, by the heads of the guilds, and by their own Gonfaloniers, were 
bewildered, for no one came to their support in accordance with the order 
that had been given, and of the sixteen standards, only that of the Golden 
Lion and that of the Squirrel, under Giovenco della Stufa and Giovanni 
Cambi, appeared. And they lingered in the piazza only a short time, for 
when they saw they were not being followed by the others, they too de¬ 
parted. On the other hand, some citizens, seeing the fury of this un¬ 
leashed multitude and the palace abandoned, stayed inside their homes, 
and some others followed the rabble of armed men so that by being 
among them they could better defend their houses and those of their 
friends. And so their power came to be rising and that of the Signori 
declining. This tumult lasted the whole day; and when night came, they 
stopped at the palace of Messer Stefano behind the Church of San Bar- 
naba. They numbered more than six thousand; and before day came, 
with their threats they compelled the guilds to send them their ensigns. 
Then when morning came, with the Standard of Justice and with the 
ensigns of the guilds before them, they went to the palace of the Podesta; 
and as the Podesta refused to give them possession of it, they fought for 
it and won. 



the Signori, attempting to conciliate them since they saw no mode of 
stopping them by force, called upon four of their Collegi and sent them 


125 


hi • i 5 

to the palace of the Podesta to learn what they had in mind. They found 
that the heads of the plebs, with the syndics of the guilds and certain 
citizens, had decided what they wanted to demand from the Signoria. So 
they returned to the Signoria with four men deputed from the plebs and 
with these demands: that the Wool Guild could no longer have a foreign 
judge; that three new guild corporations be formed, one for the carders 
and dyers, another for the barbers, doublet makers, tailors, and such me¬ 
chanical arts, the third for the lesser people; and that from these three new 
guilds there would always be two Signori and from the fourteen lesser 
guilds three; that the Signoria should provide houses where these new 
guilds could meet; that no one placed under these guilds could be com¬ 
pelled, for two years, to pay a debt for a sum less than fifty ducats; that 
the Monte 1 suspend payment of interest and only repay capital; that those 
imprisoned and condemned be absolved; and that honors be restored to 
all the admonished. They demanded many other things besides these for 
the benefit of their particular supporters, and on the opposite side they 
wanted many of their enemies to be imprisoned and admonished. These 
demands, though dishonorable and grievous 2 for the republic, were, for 
fear of worse, immediately decided upon by the Signori, the Collegi, and 
the council of the people. But to have them brought to completion, it was 
necessary that they be passed also by the council of the commune, which, 
since the two councils could not meet on the same day, it was necessary 
to postpone until the next day. Nonetheless, it appeared that for the time 
being the guilds were left content and the plebs satisfied; and they prom¬ 
ised that when the law was completed, all tumult would stop. 

Then when morning came, while the council of the commune was de¬ 
liberating, the impatient and fickle multitude came into the piazza under 
the usual ensigns with such loud and terrifying cries that they frightened 
the whole council and the Signori. On account of this, Guerrantc Ma- 
rignoli, one of the Signori, who was moved more by fear than by any other 
private passion, went downstairs under color of guarding the door below 
and fled to his home. As he came outside, he was unable to conceal him¬ 
self so as not to be recognized by the mob; nor was any other injury done 
to him than that the multitude cried out as soon as they saw him that all 
the Signori should abandon the palace or else they would kill their chil¬ 
dren and burn down their houses. It was in the midst of this that the law 
was decided upon and the Signori were enclosed in their chambers; and 
the council went downstairs and, without going outside, remained in the 
loggia and the courtyard in despair for the safety of the city, seeing such 

1 Lit.: mountain, the public debt. 

2 Lit.: grave. 

126 


ill • i6 


indecency in a multitude and such malignity or fear in those who could 
have checked or crushed it. The Signori too were confused and doubtful 
of the safety of their fatherland, as they saw themselves abandoned by one 
of them and supported by not one citizen with help or even with counsel. 
Being thus uncertain of what they could or should do, Messer Tommaso 
Strozzi and Messer Benedetto Alberti, either prompted by their own am¬ 
bition to remain as Signori of the palace or because they really believed it 
to be good, persuaded them to yield to this popular impetus and to return 
to their homes as private individuals. Though others might yield to this 
advice, given by those who had been at the head of the tumult, Alamanno 
Acciaiuoli and Niccolo del Bene, two of the Signori, became indignant; 
and, a little vigor returning to them, they said that if the others wanted 
to leave, they could not remedy it, but they did not wish, before time 
required it, to relinquish their authority, lest they lose their lives with 
their authority. These differences redoubled the fears of the Signori and 
the indignation of the people, so that the Gonfalonier, preferring to end 
his magistracy with shame rather than danger, put himself in the care of 
Messer Tommaso Strozzi, who took him from the palace and conducted 
him to his houses. The other Signori left in a similar mode, one after the 
other, so that Alammano and Niccolo, so as not to be held more spirited 
than wise, seeing themselves the only ones remaining, also went; and the 
palace was left in the hands of the plebs and the Eight of War, who had 
not yet laid aside their magistracy. 


16 

when the plebs entered the palace, one Michele di Lando, a wool carder, 
had in his hand the ensign of the Gonfalonier of Justice. This man, bare¬ 
foot and scantily clothed, climbed up the stairs with the whole mob be¬ 
hind him, and as soon as he was in the audience chamber of the Signori, 
he stopped; and, turning around to the multitude, he said, “You see: this 
palace is yours and this city is in your hands. What do you think should 
be done now?” To which all replied that they wanted him to be Gonfa¬ 
lonier and lord, and to govern them and the city however seemed best to 
him. Michele accepted the lordship, 1 and because he was a sagacious and 
prudent man who owed more to nature than to fortune, he resolved to 
quiet the city and stop the tumults. And to keep the people busy and to 
give himself time to get in order, he commanded them to seek out one 

1 Lit.: the Signoria. 


127 


in • i 7 

Ser Nuto who had been designated Bargello 2 by Messer Lapo da Casti- 
glionchio; the greater number of those around him went off on this errand. 
And so as to begin with justice the empire he had acquired by grace, he 
had it publicly commanded that no one burn or steal anything; and to 
frighten everyone, he had a gallows erected in the piazza. And to give a 
beginning to the reform of the city, he dismissed the syndics of the guilds 
and appointed new ones; he deprived the Signori and the Collegi of their 
magistracies; and he burned the bags of the offices. Meanwhile, Ser Nuto 
was carried by the multitude'to the piazza and hung on the gallows by 
one foot; and as whoever was around tore off a piece from him, at a stroke 
there was nothing left of him but his foot. The Eight of War, on the other 
hand, believing themselves by the departure of the Signori to have been 
left princes of the city, had already designated new Signori. Anticipating 
this, Michele sent word to them to leave the palace at once, for he wanted 
to show everyone that he knew how to govern Florence without their 
advice. He then had the syndics of the guilds assemble, and he created the 
Signoria: four from the lesser plebs, two for the greater and two for the 
lesser guilds. Besides this, he made a new bagging and divided the state 
into three parts; he wanted one of these to go to the new guilds, another 
to the lesser, the third to the greater. He gave the income of the shops on 
the Ponte Vecchio to Messer Salvestro de’ Medici and gave himself the 
podesteria of Empoli; and he gave many other benefits to many other 
citizens friendly to the plebs, not so much to compensate them for their 
deeds as that they might at all times defend him against envy. 


17 

it appeared to the plebs that Michele in reforming the state had been too 
partisan toward the greater people, nor did it appear to them that they 
had as great a part in the government as was necessary to enable them to 
maintain and defend themselves in it; so, driven by their usual boldness, 
they took up arms again and under their ensigns came in tumult into the 
piazza, demanding that the Signori on the stairway come down to decide 
upon new measures relating to their security and good. Michele saw their 
arrogance and, in order not to make them more indignant and without 
learning otherwise what they wanted, censured the mode in which they 
made their demands and urged them to put down their arms; and then 
they would be conceded that which by force the Signoria could not con¬ 
cede with dignity. On account of this the multitude became indignant 

2 Sheriff or police chief. 


128 


Ill • 17 

with the palace and withdrew to Santa Maria Novella, where they or¬ 
dered eight chiefs from among themselves, with ministers and other or¬ 
ders that gave them reputation and reverence. Thus the city had two seats 
and was governed by two different princes. 

These chiefs decided among themselves that eight men, elected from 
the guild corporations, should always live in the palace with the Signori, 
and everything that was decided upon by the Signoria should be con¬ 
firmed by them. They took from Messer Salvestro de’ Medici and from 
Michele di Lando all that they had been conceded in their other decisions; 
they assigned offices and subsidies to many among themselves so that 
they could maintain their rank with dignity. When these decisions were 
taken, to validate them they sent two of their men to the Signoria to de¬ 
mand that they be confirmed by the councilors, with the purpose of get¬ 
ting what they wanted by force if they could not get it by accord. These 
two set forth their commission to the Signori with great boldness and 
greater presumption, and they reproached the Gonfalonier for behaving 
to them with so much ingratitude and so little respect after the dignity 
they had given him and the honor they had done him. And, when at the 
end of their speech they came to threats, Michele was unable to bear such 
arrogance; and, as he was mindful more of the rank he held than of his 
low condition, it appeared to him that he must check this extraordinary 
insolence with an extraordinary mode; and drawing the weapon he had 
at his waist, he first wounded them gravely and then had them bound and 
imprisoned. As soon as this thing became known, it inflamed the whole 
multitude with rage; and, believing that when armed they could attain 
what they had not obtained when disarmed, they took up their arms with 
fury and tumult and advanced to compel the Signori by their rage. Mi¬ 
chele, on the other hand, was fearful of what might happen and decided to 
forestall it, thinking that it would be more to his glory to attack others 
than to wait for the enemy within the walls and to have to flee, as did his 
predecessors, with dishonor to the palace and with shame for himself. 
Thus he gathered a large number of citizens who already had begun to 
reflect on their error, mounted his horse, and, followed by many armed 
men, went to Santa Maria Novella to fight them. The plebs, as we said 
above, had made the same decision, and, almost at the same time that 
Michele advanced, it also left to go to the piazza; and chance had it that 
each took a different road so that they did not meet on the way. There¬ 
upon Michele, having turned back, found that the piazza was taken and 
the palace was being attacked; and joining the fray against them, he con¬ 
quered them; and part he drove out of the city, and part he compelled to 
leave their arms and hide. The campaign having succeeded, the tumults 
were settled solely by the virtue of the Gonfalonier. In spirit, prudence, 


129 


ill • i8 


and goodness he surpassed any citizen of his time, and he deserves to be 
numbered among the few who have benefited their fatherland, for had 
his spirit been either malign or ambitious, the republic would have lost 
its freedom altogether and fallen under a greater tyranny than that of the 
duke of Athens. But his goodness never allowed a thought to enter his 
mind that might be contrary to the universal good; his prudence led him 
to conduct things in such a mode that many yielded to his party and 
others he was able to subdue with arms. These things caused the plebs to 
lose heart and the better guildsmen to reflect and to consider what igno¬ 
miny it was for those who had overcome the pride of the great to have to 
bear the stench of the plebs. 


18 

when Michele gained his victory over the plebs, the new Signoria had 
already been drawn. In it were two men of such vile and infamous con¬ 
dition that a desire grew among men to free themselves from such in¬ 
famy. Thus, on the first day of September, when the new Signori as¬ 
sumed the magistracy, the piazza was found to be full of armed men. As 
soon as the old Signori were out of the palace, a tumultuous shout came 
from the armed men that they did not want any of the lesser people to be 
Signori. So the Signoria, in order to satisfy them, deprived those two of 
their magistracy, of whom one was called il Tria and the other Baroccio, 1 
and in their places elected Messer Giorgio Scali and Francesco di Michele. 
They also annulled the guild of the lesser people and deprived of their 
offices those subject to it, except for Michele di Lando, Lorenzo di Puc- 
cio, and some others of better quality; they divided the honors into two 
parts, assigning one to the greater and the other to the lesser guilds; they 
wanted that among the Signori there always be only five of the lesser 
guildsmen and four of the greater, and that the Gonfalonier should go to 
one member and the other in turn. The state having been so ordered, the 
city was put at rest for the time being; and although the republic had been 
taken out of the hands of the lesser plebs, the guildsmen of lesser quality 
remained more powerful than the popular nobles, for the latter, to satisfy 
the former, were compelled of necessity to yield so as to take away the 
favors of the guilds from the lesser people. This was favored also by those 
who desired the continued suppression of those who had offended so 
many citizens with so much violence under the name of the Guelf party. 
And because among those who favored this sort of government were 
Messer Giorgio Scali, Messer Benedetto Alberti, Messer Salvestro de’ 

1 II Tria was Giovanni di Domenico; Baroccio was Bartolo di Ja'copo Costa. 


130 


in • i 9 

Medici, and Messer Tommaso Strozzi, they were left almost as princes of 
the city. These things, carried on and managed as they were, confirmed 
the division already begun by the ambition of the Ricci and the Albizzi 
between the popular nobles and the lesser guildsmen, because of which 
very grave effects followed at various times; and since this will have to be 
mentioned many times, we shall call one of these the popular party and 
the other the plebeian. This state lasted for three years and was filled with 
exiles and deaths because those who governed lived with the greatest sus¬ 
picion for the many malcontents inside and outside. The malcontents in¬ 
side either tried or (it was believed) they might try new things every day, 
and those outside, having no respect to check them, sowed various scan¬ 
dals through this prince or that republic on this side and that. 


19 

in these times Giannozzo da Salerno was in Bologna. He was the captain 
of Charles of Durazzo, who was descended from the kings of Naples and 
was planning to make a campaign on behalf of the Kingdom against 
Queen Giovanna. He kept this captain of his in Bologna because of the 
favors that had been done for him by Pope Urban, an enemy of the 
queen. 1 Also in Bologna were many Florentine exiles who had had very 
close dealings with Giannozzo and with Charles, which gave cause to 
those ruling in Florence to live in the greatest suspicion and to lend faith 
easily to calumnies against citizens who were suspected. It was revealed, 
then, to the magistracy, when their minds were in such suspense, that 
Giannozzo da Salerno was to appear in Florence with the exiles and that 
many inside the city were to take up arms and give the city over to him. 
On account of this report, many were accused; first named among them 
were Piero degli Albizzi and Carlo Strozzi, and after these Cipriano Man- 
gioni, Messer Jacopo Sacchetti, Messer Donato Barbadori, Filippo 
Strozzi, and Giovanni Anselmi, all of whom, except Carlo Strozzi, who 
fled, were arrested. Lest any one dare to take up arms in their favor, the 
Signori deputed Messer Tommaso Strozzi and Messer Benedetto Alberti 
with many armed men to guard the city. The arrested citizens were ex¬ 
amined, and, with regard to the accusation and the evidence, no fault was 
found in them; so, as the Captain was unwilling to condemn them, their 
enemies so excited the people and moved it to such rage against them that 
they were forcibly sentenced to death. The greatness of his house was no 
aid to Piero degli Albizzi, nor was his former reputation, since for a long 
time he had been honored and feared above any other citizen. Hence 


131 


1 See FH 133. 


Ill • 20 


someone, whether a friend, so as to make him more humane in his great¬ 
ness, or an enemy, so as to threaten him with the fickleness of fortune, 
sent him at a banquet he gave for many citizens a silver goblet filled with 
sweets, among which a nail was hidden. When it was uncovered and seen 
by all the guests, it was interpreted as a reminder to him that he should 
drive a nail into the wheel; since fortune had led him to the top, if it were 
to continue in its circle it could only drag him down to the bottom. This 
interpretation, which came before his ruin, was later verified by his death. 

After this execution the city was left full of confusion because both the 
conquered and the conquerors were fearful, but the more malign effects 
arose from the fears of those who were governing because every slightest 
accident made them inflict new injuries on the Party 2 by condemning or 
admonishing or sending its citizens into exile. And they added to this new 
laws and new orders that were made often for the strengthening of the 
state. All of these things were carried out with injury to those who were 
suspect to their faction; and that is why they created forty-six men who 
together with the Signori were to purge the republic of those suspect to 
the state. These men admonished thirty-nine citizens and made many 
men of the people great and many of the great, men of the people. And 
so as to be able to oppose outside forces, they hired Sir John Hawkwood, 
English by birth and of very high reputation in arms, who for a long time 
had fought for the pope and for others in Italy. Suspicion of those outside 
arose from learning that many companies of armed men were being or¬ 
dered by Charles of Durazzo to mount a campaign for the Kingdom, in 
which it was said there were many Florentine exiles with him. Against 
these dangers they provided sums of money as well as the forces they had 
ordered; for when Charles arrived at Arezzo, he received 40,000 ducats 
from the Florentines and promised not to molest them. Then he carried 
out his campaign and successfully occupied the kingdom of Naples, and 
Queen Giovanna was taken and sent to Hungary. 3 This victory again in¬ 
creased the suspicions of those who held the state in Florence, because 
they could not believe that their money could count for more in the mind 
of the king than that ancient friendship which his house had had with the 
Guelfs who were being oppressed by them with so much injury. 


20 

thus, as suspicion grew, it made injuries grow, and these did not elimi¬ 
nate suspicion but increased it, so that the greater part of men lived very 


2 The Guelf party. 

3 In fact, Charles had her killed in 1382. 


132 


Ill • 20 


malcontent. Added to this was the insolence of Messer Giorgio Scali and 
of Messer Tommaso Strozzi, whose authority surpassed that of the mag¬ 
istrates, everyone fearing to be oppressed by them with the favor of the 
plebs. And not only to good men but even to the seditious the govern¬ 
ment appeared tyrannical and violent. But since the insolence of Messer 
Giorgio must at some time come to an end, it happened that someone 
familiar with him accused Giovanni di Cambio of having made plots 
against the state. He was found innocent by the Captain, 1 so that the 
judge wanted to punish the accuser with the penalty that the accused 
would have suffered had he been found guilty. Since Messer Giorgio 
could save him neither by his entreaties nor by any authority of his, he 
and Messer Tommaso Strozzi went with a multitude of armed men and 
freed him by force; and they sacked the palace of the Captain, who was 
compelled to hide if he wanted to save himself. This act filled the city 
with such hatred for Messer Giorgio that his enemies thought they could 
get rid of him and take the city not only out of his hands but out of the 
hands of the plebs, who by their arrogance had kept the city in subjection 
for three years. 

In this the Captain also supplied a great opportunity. After the tumult 
was over, he went to the Signori and said that he had come voluntarily to 
the office to which the Signori had elected him because he thought he was 
to serve just men who would take up arms to favor and not to impede 
justice. But since he had seen and experienced the governors of the city 
and their mode of living, the dignity he had voluntarily taken up to ac¬ 
quire utility and honor he would voluntarily surrender to them to escape 
danger and harm. The Captain was consoled by the Signori, and they 
raised his spirits by promising him recompense for past harm and security 
for the future; and a part of them having consulted with some citizens 
whom they judged to be lovers of the common good and less suspect to 
the state, they concluded that a great opportunity had come to pluck the 
city from the power 2 of Messer Giorgio and the plebs, since the generality 
of people 3 had been alienated from him by this last insolence. Because of 
this, it appeared to them that they should use the opportunity before in¬ 
dignant spirits were reconciled, because they knew that the grace of the 
generality of people is gained and lost by every small accident; and they 
judged that if they wished to carry this thing through, it would be nec¬ 
essary to draw Benedetto Alberti to their wishes, without whose consent 
they judged the undertaking to be dangerous. 

1 The Captain ofjustice. 

2 Potesta. 

3 Lit.: the universal. The same phrase is used in the following sentence. 


133 


Ill • 2 I 


Messer Benedetto was a very rich man, humane, severe, a lover of the 
liberty of his fatherland, a man to whom tyrannical modes were very 
displeasing, so that it was easy to pacify him and make him agree to the 
ruin of Messer Giorgio. For the cause that had made him an enemy to the 
popular nobles and to the sect of the Guelfs, as well as a friend to the 
plebs, had been the insolence of the former and their tyrannical modes. 
Then, when he saw afterwards that the heads of the plebs had become 
similar to the others, he had some time ago dissociated himself from them 
too, and the injuries that had been done to many citizens had been carried 
out altogether without his consent: thus, the causes that had made him 
take the side of the plebs were the same ones that made him leave them. 
Consequently, when Messer Benedetto and the heads of the guilds had 
been drawn to the will of the Signori and had provided themselves with 
arms, Messer Giorgio was arrested and Messer Tommaso fled. And on 
the next day Messer Giorgio was decapitated with so much terror on his 
part that no one moved; indeed, everyone competed for his ruin. So, as 
he saw himself coming to his death before that people which a short time 
before had adored him, he lamented his evil fate and the malignity of the 
citizens who, by injuring him wrongly, had constrained him to favor and 
honor a multitude in which there was neither any faith nor any gratitude. 
And recognizing Messer Benedetto Alberti among the armed men, he 
said to him: “And do you, Messer Benedetto, allow this injury to be done 
to me which, were I in your place, I would never have permitted to be 
done to you? But I announce to you that this day is the end of my evil 
and the beginning of yours.” Then he lamented for himself that he had 
trusted too much in a people whom every voice, every act, every suspi¬ 
cion moves and corrupts. 4 And with these lamentations he died in the 
midst of his enemies, armed as they were and merry over his death. After 
him, many of his closest friends were killed and dragged about by the 
people. 


21 

the death of this citizen made a commotion throughout the city because 
in its execution many had taken up arms in favor of the Signoria and the 
Captain of the People; many others also took up arms either out of their 
ambition or because they had been suspected themselves. And since the 
city was full of diverse humors, everyone had a different end, and all de¬ 
sired to accomplish them before arms were put down. The ancient no- 

4 See P 9 for NM’s comment on this lamentation. 


134 


Ill • 22 


bles, called “great,” could not bear to be deprived of their public honors, 
and so they strove to recover them with all diligence; and for this they 
would have loved that authority be given back to the captains of the Party. 
The popular nobles and the greater guilds were not pleased with having 
to share the state with the lesser guilds and the lesser people; for their part, 
the lesser guilds wanted rather to increase than diminish their dignity; and 
the lesser people were afraid lest they lose their Collegi from their guilds. 
All these disputes made for many tumults in Florence in the space of a 
year: first the great took up arms, then the greater and then the lesser 
guilds and with them the lesser people; and many times in different parts 
of the city all were armed at a stroke. From this followed many engage¬ 
ments both among themselves and with the men of the palace, for the 
Signoria, now by yielding, now by fighting, tried to remedy such incon¬ 
veniences as best it could. So, in the end, after two parliaments and sev¬ 
eral balie were created to reform the city, after much damage, travail, and 
very grave dangers, a government was established by which all those who 
had been banished after Messer Salvestro de’ Medici had been Gonfalon¬ 
ier were returned to their fatherland. The high positions and privileges 
were taken away from all those for whom they had been provided by the 
balia of ’78; honors were given back to the Guelf party; the two new 
guilds were deprived of their corporations and governors, and everyone 
who had been put under them was now reassigned to his former guild. 
The lesser guilds were deprived of their Gonfalonier of Justice and were 
reduced from a half to a third share of honors, and of these, the honors 
of greater quality were taken away. So it was that the party of the popular 
nobles and of the Guelfs regained the state, and the plebs lost it after hav¬ 
ing been prince of it from 1378 to ’81, at which time these innovations 
occurred. 


22 

this state was neither less injurious toward its citizens nor less oppressive 
in its beginnings than that of the plebs had been; for many popular nobles 
who had been known defenders of the plebs were banished, together with 
a large number of the plebeian chiefs, among whom was Michele di 
Lando. Nor was he saved from the fury of the parties by the many goods 
of which his authority had been the cause when the unchecked multitude 
was licentiously ruining the city. So his fatherland was scarcely grateful 
to him for his good works, an error into which princes and republics fall 
many times—from which it results that men, dismayed by such exam¬ 
ples, offend their princes before they can feel their ingratitude. These ex- 


135 


Ill . 23 

iles and deaths displeased Messer Benedetto Alberti now as they had dis¬ 
pleased him always, and he censured them publicly and privately. Thus 
the princes of the state feared him because they deemed him one of the 
first friends of the plebs, and they believed that he had agreed to the death 
of Messer Giorgio Scali not because Messer Giorgio’s modes displeased 
him but so as to be alone in the government. His words and his modes, 
then, increased suspicion of him, which made the whole party that was 
prince turn its eyes on him so as to seize an opportunity to be able to 
crush him. 

While men were living in these straits, things outside were not very 
grave; for anything that came from outside was more terrifying than 
harmful. For at this time Louis of Anjou came into Italy to restore the 
kingdom of Naples to Queen Giovanna and to drive out Charles of Du- 
razzo. His passage frightened the Florentines very much because Charles, 
in accordance with the custom of old friends, sought help from them, 
and Louis, as does one who looks for new friends, asked that they remain 
in the middle. Thus the Florentines, so as to show that they were satis¬ 
fying Louis and helping Charles, removed Sir John Hawkwood from 
their pay and had him captain for Pope Urban, who was a friend of 
Charles’s. This ruse was easily discovered by Louis, and he felt himself 
very much hurt by the Florentines. And while the war between Louis and 
Charles was being waged in Apulia, new men came from France in sup¬ 
port of Louis. When they reached Tuscany, they were led by exiles from 
Arezzo into Arezzo, and they expelled the party that was governing for 
Charles there. And while they were planning to change the state of Flor¬ 
ence as they had changed that of Arezzo, the death of Louis occurred, and 
the order of things in Apulia and in Tuscany changed with fortune: for 
Charles was assured of the kingdom that he had almost lost, and the Flor¬ 
entines, who had doubted they could defend Florence, acquired Arezzo 
because they bought it from the men who were holding it for Louis. 
Charles, therefore, assured of Apulia, departed for the kingdom of Hun¬ 
gary, which had come to him by inheritance, and he left his wife in Apulia 
with Ladislas and Giovanna, his children, who were still small, as we ex¬ 
plained in its place. 1 Charles acquired Hungary, but soon after, he was 
killed there. 


23 

for that acquisition, Florence made as joyous a celebration as any other 
city might have done for a proper victory. Both public and private mag- 

1 See FH 133. 


136 


Ill • 23 

nificence were to be seen there because many families celebrated in com¬ 
petition with the public. But the one family that surpassed every other in 
pomp and magnificence was the Alberti; the displays and the tournaments 
held by them were not those of a private family but worthy of any prince. 
These things greatly increased envy for that family, which, added to the 
suspicion that the state had of Messer Benedetto, was the cause of his 
ruin. For those who were governing could not be content with him, since 
it appeared to them that at any hour it might arise that he, with the favor 
of the party, might regain his reputation and drive them from the city. 
And while they remained in doubt, it happened that while Benedetto was 
Gonfalonier of the companies, his son-in-law Filippo Magalotti was 
drawn as Gonfalonier of Justice. Such a thing redoubled the fear of the 
princes of the state, as they thought that too much force was being added 
to Messer Benedetto and too much danger to the state. And since they 
desired to remedy this without tumult, they inspired Bese Magalotti, his 
relative and enemy, to inform the Signori that Messer Filippo, lacking the 
age required for exercising that rank, neither could nor ought to have it. 
The case was examined among the Signori, and some out of hatred and 
some to avoid scandal judged Messer Filippo ineligible for that dignity. 
In his place Bardo Mancini was drawn, a man altogether opposed to the 
plebeian faction and very hostile to Messer Benedetto. So when he took 
up the magistracy, he created a balia that, in taking over and reforming 
the state, banished Messer Benedetto Alberti and admonished the rest of 
his family except Messer Antonio. 

Messer Benedetto, before his departure, called together all his relatives 
and, seeing them dejected and full of tears, said to them: “You see, my 
fathers and elders, how fortune has ruined me and threatened you. I do 
not marvel at this, nor ought you to marvel, because it always happens 
thus to those who wish to be good among the many wicked and who 
want to sustain that which most seek to ruin. Love of my fatherland made 
me join with Messer Salvestro de’ Medici and then break with Messer 
Giorgio Scali. The same love made me hate the habits of those now gov¬ 
erning, who, having no one to chastise them, also do not want anyone to 
rebuke them. And I am glad to free them by my exile from the fear that 
they have had, not only of me but of anyone they know who recognizes 
their tyrannical and criminal modes; and that is why by striking me they 
have threatened others. For myself, I do not sorrow, for the honors that 
my fatherland gave to me when it was free, it cannot take away when 
enslaved, and the memory of my past life will always give me greater 
pleasure than the unhappiness that will accompany me in my exile will 
give me displeasure. It does pain me much that my fatherland must re¬ 
main the prey of a few and be subjected to their pride and avarice. I am 
pained for you because I fear that the evils that are ending for me today 


137 


are beginning for you and will pursue you with greater harm than they 
have pursued me. I urge you therefore to steady your spirits against all 
misfortunes and to conduct yourselves in such a way that should any ad¬ 
versity come to you—for many will come—everyone will know that they 
came to you who were innocent and without blame.” Afterwards, in or¬ 
der not to leave a lesser opinion of his goodness outside than he might 
have left in Florence, he went to the Sepulchre of Christ, and while re¬ 
turning from there, died in Rhodes. His bones were brought to Florence 
and were buried with the greatest honor by those who, when he was 
alive, had persecuted him with every calumny and injury. 


24 

not only the Alberti family was harmed in the travails of the city, but 
with it many citizens were admonished and banished, among whom were 
Piero Benini, Matteo Alderotti, Giovanni and Francesco del Bene, Gio¬ 
vanni Bend, Andrea Adimari, and with them a large number of lesser 
artisans. Among those admonished were the Covom, the Benini, the Ri- 
nucci, the Formiconi, the Corbizzi, the Mannegli, and the Alderotti. It was 
the custom to create a balia for a certain time; but those citizens, when 
they had done what they had been deputed for, used to resign for the sake 
of propriety, even though the time had not ended. When, therefore, it 
appeared to these men that they had satisfied the state, they wanted to 
resign according to the custom. Upon learning this, many ran armed to 
the palace, asking that before resigning they should banish and admonish 
many others. This was very displeasing to the Signori, and they enter¬ 
tained them with good promises until the Signori had made themselves 
strong, and then worked it so that fear would make them put down the 
arms that rage had made them take up. Nonetheless, so as to satisfy in 
part such an enraged humor and to take away more authority from the 
plebeian guildsmen, the Signori provided that, whereas they had had a 
third of the honors, they would now have a quarter; and so that there 
might always be two of them more faithful to the state among the Si¬ 
gnori, they gave authority to the Gonfalonier of Justice and to four other 
citizens to make up a bag of selected names from which two would be 
drawn in every Signoria. 


25 

the state that had been ordered in 1381 thus having been confirmed after 
six years, the city lived very quietly inside until ’93. During this time, 


Ill -25 

Giovan Galeazzo Visconti, called Count of Virtue, captured Messer Ber- 
nabo, his uncle, and thereby became prince of all Lombardy. 1 He believed 
he could become king of Italy by force just as he had become duke of 
Milan by trickery; and in ’90 he began a very great war against the Flor¬ 
entines. 2 And the managing of the war varied so that many times the duke 
was in greater danger of losing than the Florentines, who would have lost 
if he had not died. Nonetheless, the defense was spirited and admirable 
for a republic; and the end was much less evil than the war had been 
frightening, for when the duke had taken Bologna, Pisa, Perugia, and 
Siena and had had the crown prepared for his coronation in Florence as 
king of Italy, he died. His death did not allow him to taste his past victo¬ 
ries, nor did it allow the Florentines to feel their actual losses. 

While this war with the duke toiled on, Messer Maso degli Albizzi, 
whom the death of Piero had made an enemy to the Alberti, was made 
Gonfalonier of Justice. And because the humors of the parties were ever 
alert, Messer Maso thought that even though Messer Benedetto had died 
in exile, he would get his revenge from the rest of that family before his 
magistracy ended. He seized his opportunity from one who had been ex¬ 
amined for certain dealings with the rebels, who named Alberto and An¬ 
drea degli Alberti. These men were quickly arrested, whereupon the 
whole city became excited; so the Signori provided themselves with 
arms, called the people to an assembly, and appointed men for a balia by 
virtue of which they banished many citizens and made new baggings for 
offices. Among the banished were almost all the Alberti; also, many more 
guildsmen were admonished and killed. After so many injuries, the 
guilds and the lesser people rose up in arms, as it appeared to them that 
their honor and their lives might be taken from them. One part of them 
came into the piazza, and another ran to the house of Messer Veri de’ 
Medici, who after the death of Messer Salvestro had been left head of the 
family. So as to beguile those who came to the piazza, the Signori gave 
them as heads, with the ensigns of the Guelf party and of the people in 
hand, Messer Rinaldo Gianfigliazzi and Messer Donato Acciaiuoli, who 
were men of the people accepted more by the plebs than any others. 
Those who ran to the house of Messer Veri begged 3 him to take over the 
state and free them from the tyranny of those citizens who were destroy¬ 
ers of the good and of the common welfare. All who have left any record 
of these times agree that if Messer Veri had been more ambitious than 
good, he could without any hindrance have made himself prince of the 
city; for the grave injuries that rightly or wrongly had been done to the 


1 See FH 133. 

2 See D hi 43. 

3 Or prayed. 


139 


Ill • 26 


guilds and to their friends had in a manner so inflamed their spirits toward 
revenge that to satisfy their appetites they lacked no more than a head to 
lead them. Nor did Messer Veri lack someone to remind him of what he 
could do, because Antonio de’ Medici, who had had a particular enmity 
toward him for a long time, was trying to persuade him to seize dominion 
over the republic. Messer Veri said to him: “Your threats when you were 
my enemy did not frighten me, nor now that you are my friend will your 
advice bring me evil.” And turning to the multitude, he urged them to be 
of good spirit, since he wanted to be their defender only if they would 
take advice from him. Going among them in the piazza and from there 
into the palace, he said before the Signori that he could not in any mode 
regret having lived in such a manner that the people of Florence loved 
him, but he regretted very much the judgment that had been made of 
him, which his past life did not deserve. Since he had never himself been 
an example of someone scandalous or ambitious, he did not know 
whence it arose that it should be believed he had been a supporter of scan¬ 
dals as a restless man or a seizer of the state as an ambitious one. He 
therefore begged the Signori that the ignorance of the multitude not be 
imputed to his sin because, as far as he was concerned, as soon as he could 
he had put himself in their power. 4 He reminded them that they should 
be content to use fortune modestly and to let it be enough for them to 
enjoy half a victory with the city in safety than, by wanting it all, to ruin 
it. Messer Veri was praised by the Signori and encouraged to have arms 
laid down; and then they would not fail to do what might be advised by 
him and the other citizens. After these words, Messer Veri returned to 
the piazza and joined his followers with those who had been led by Messer 
Rinaldo and Messer Donato. Then he told everyone that he had found in 
the Signori the best will toward them, and that many things had been 
spoken of; but because time was short and the magistrates were absent, 
they had not been settled. Therefore, he begged them to put down their 
arms and obey the Signori; and he pledged his faith that humanity rather 
than pride, prayers rather than threats, were about to move the Signori, 
and that they would not lack for rank and security if they let themselves 
be governed by him. And under his faith he made everyone return to his 
home. 


26 


when arms had been laid down, the Signori first fortified the piazza, 
then conscripted two thousand citizens faithful to the state, divided 

4 Lit.: forces. 


I40 


Ill • 26 


equally into companies with standards. They ordered them to be ready 
to come to their rescue whenever they called them, and they prohibited 
those not conscripted from arming themselves. When these preparations 
were made, the Signori banished and killed many guildsmen who had 
shown themselves to be fiercer than others in the tumults; and to give 
more majesty and reputation to the Gonfalonier of Justice, they provided 
that for the exercise of this office it was necessary to be forty-five years 
old. In strengthening the state, they also made many provisions that were 
unbearable to those against whom they were made and hateful to the 
good citizens of their own party: for these did not judge a state good and 
secure that would need to defend itself with such violence. And so much 
violence was displeasing not only to those of the Alberti who remained 
in the city and to the Medici, to whom it appeared the people had been 
deceived, but also to many others. And the first who sought to oppose it 
was Messer Donato di Jacopo Acciaiuoli. Although this man was 
important 1 in the city and more a superior than a companion of Messer 
Maso degli Albizzi, who because of the things done during his term as 
Gonfalonier was almost a head of the republic, 2 he could not live well 
content among so many malcontents; nor could he, as do most, secure 
private advantage for himself from the common loss. Therefore, he 
thought he would try if he could to restore their fatherland to the exiles 
or at least their offices to the admonished. And he went about spreading 
his opinion in the ear of this or that citizen, pointing out that the people 
could not be quieted otherwise or the humors of the parties contained; 
and he expected nothing else than to be of the Signori so as to carry his 
desire into effect. And because delay in our actions brings tedium and 
haste brings danger, to escape tedium he turned to danger. Among the 
Signori were his relative Michele Acciaiuoli and his friend Niccolo Rico- 
veri, whence it appeared to Messer Donato that an opportunity had been 
given him that was not to be lost, and he asked that they propose a law to 
the councilors that would include restitution for citizens. 3 These men, 
persuaded by him, spoke of it to their companions, who answered that it 
was no good to try new things when the acquisition was doubtful and the 
danger certain. Thus, Messer Donato, having first tried all ways in vain 
and overcome with anger, gave them to understand that as they did not 
want the city to be ordered with the means at hand, it would be ordered 
with arms. These words were so displeasing that when the thing had been 
communicated to the princes of the government, Messer Donati was 
cited; and when he appeared, he was convicted by the one to whom he 

1 Lit.: great. 

2 See FH hi 25. 

3 The restitution of political rights. 


HI 


Ill • 27 

had committed the embassy; so he was banished to Barletta. Also ban¬ 
ished were Alamanno and Antonio de’ Medici, with all those of the fam¬ 
ily who were descendants of Messer Alamanno, together with many 
lowly guildsmen who had credit with the plebs. These events took place 
two years after the state had been retaken by Messer Maso. 


27 

thus stood the city with many malcontents inside and many exiles out¬ 
side. Among the exiles in Bologna were Picchio Cavicciuli, Tommaso de’ 
Ricci, Antonio de’ Medici, Benedetto degli Spini, Antonio Girolami, 
Christofano di Carlone, with two others of vile condition, but all young, 
fierce, and disposed to try all fortune so as to return to their fatherland. 
They were shown in secret ways by Piggiello and Baroccio Cavicciuli, 
who were living admonished in Florence, that if they came secretly into 
the city, they would receive them at home. They could then go out to kill 
Messer Maso degli Albizzi and call the people to arms, for since the peo¬ 
ple were malcontent, they could easily be aroused, especially because they 
would be followed by the Ricci, Adimari, Medici, Mannegli, and many 
other families. Moved therefore by these hopes, on the fourth day in Au¬ 
gust in 1397 they came to Florence; and, having entered secretly where it 
had been ordered for them, they set up a watch on Messer Maso, for they 
intended to start a tumult by his death. Messer Maso left his house and 
stopped in at a nearby apothecary in San Piero Maggiore. The man who 
was to watch him ran to inform the conspirators, who took up arms and 
came to the place shown them but found that he had already left. Then, 
undismayed by the failure of their first design, they turned toward the 
Mercato Vecchio, where they killed one of the opposite party. And when 
they had raised an uproar by shouting “people, arms, liberty” and “death 
to the tyrants,” they turned to the Mercato Nuovo, where at the end of 
Calimala they killed another; and as they continued on their way with the 
same cries, and yet no one took up arms, they withdrew to the loggia of 
the Nighittosa. Here they put themselves on a high place, with a great 
multitude around, which had run there more to see them than to favor 
them. With loud voices they urged the men to take up arms and escape 
the servitude they hated so much. They asserted that the grievances of the 
malcontents of the city, more than their own injuries, had moved them 
to want to free them, and that they had heard that many prayed God to 
give them an opportunity to get revenge—which they might do any time 
they had a head to move them. And now that the opportunity had come 
and they had heads to move them, they were looking at one another, 


142 


Ill • 28 


stupidly waiting for the movers of their liberation to be killed and their 
own servitude to be aggravated. And they marveled that those who were 
used to taking up arms for the least injury were not moved for so many, 
and that they should want to tolerate the banishment of so many of their 
citizens and so many admonished; but now the choice was theirs to re¬ 
store to the exiles their fatherland and the state to the admonished. These 
words, even though true, did not move the multitude in any way, either 
because of fear or because the killing of those two might have made the 
murderers hateful. So the movers of the tumult, seeing that neither their 
words nor their deeds had force to move anyone, perceiving too late how 
dangerous it is to want to free a people who want in every mode to be 
enslaved, despaired of their undertaking and retreated to the church of 
Santa Reparata, where they shut themselves in, not to save their lives but 
to postpone death. The Signori, alarmed by the first outcry, armed and 
locked the palace; but then when the case was known and it was learned 
who the movers of the scandals were and where they were shut in, they 
were reassured, and they commanded the Captain 1 to go with many 
armed men and take them. Thus, without much trouble the doors of the 
church were forced, and part of the exiles were killed defending them¬ 
selves, part arrested. These were examined, and when none were found 
guilty besides them, except for Baroccio and Piggiello Cavicciuli, they 
were killed together with the others. 


28 

after this accident, another one of greater importance arose from it. In 
these times the city, as we said before, 1 was at war with the duke of Milan. 
As he saw that open forces were not enough to crush it, he turned to 
hidden ones; and by means of Florentine exiles, with which Lombardy 
was filled, he ordered an accord, of which many inside were cognizant, 
by which it was concluded that on a certain day, from places very near 
Florence, a great party of exiles, fit for arms, would leave and enter the 
city by way of the river Arno. Together with their friends inside, they 
would rush to the houses of those first in the state, and when they had 
killed them, they would reform the republic according to their own will. 

Among the conspirators inside was one of the Ricci named Saminiato; 
and as it often happens in conspiracies that few are not enough and many 
expose them, 2 while Saminiato was seeking to gain companions, he 

1 The Captain of Justice. 

' FH hi 25. 

2 See D in 6. 


143 


Ill • 29 

found an accuser. He disclosed the affair to Salvestro Cavicciuli, whom 
the injuries to his relatives and himself ought to have made faithful; none¬ 
theless, he valued the immediate fear more than the future hope, and he 
immediately exposed the whole treaty to the Signori, who had Saminiato 
taken and forced him to reveal the entire order of the conspiracy. But of 
those cognizant of it, none was taken except Tommaso Davizi, who was 
coming from Bologna and did not know what had happened in Florence, 
and was arrested before he arrived. All the others, after the capture of 
Saminiato, became frightened and fled. Saminiato and Tommaso there¬ 
fore were punished for their failings, and a balia was given to many citi¬ 
zens, who by their authority were to seek out the guilty and secure the 
state. These men declared as rebels six of the Ricci family, six of the Al¬ 
berti, two of the Medici, three of the Scali, two of the Strozzi, 3 Bindo 
Altoviti, Bernardo Adimari, and many of the base; they also admonished 
all the Alberti family, the Ricci, and the Medici for ten years, 4 except for 
a few. Among the Alberti not admonished was Messer Antonio, consid¬ 
ered a quiet and peaceful man. It happened that since suspicion of the 
conspiracy had not yet been eliminated, a monk was arrested who had 
been seen going from Bologna to Florence many times when the con¬ 
spirators were plotting. He confessed to having carried letters many times 
to Messer Antonio, after which Antonio was immediately arrested; and 
although he denied everything from the beginning, he was proven guilty 
by the monk and thereupon fined and banished to three hundred miles 
from the city. And to keep the Alberti from putting the state in danger 
every day, they banished all in that family who were over fifteen years 
old. 


29 


this accident took place in 1400. Two years later Giovan Galeazzo, duke 
of Milan, died; and his death, as we said above, 1 put an end to the war 
that had lasted for twelve years. Since the government in that time had 
gained more authority, being without enemies outside or inside, an ex¬ 
pedition was made to Pisa, and that city was won gloriously; and inside 
it was quiet from 1400 to ’33. 

Only in 1412, because the Alberti had breached their banishment, a 
new balia was created against them that reinforced the state with new 

3 In fact, five Ricci, one Medici, three Strozzi. 

4 For twenty years. 

' FH hi 25. 


144 


Ill • 29 

provisions and harassed the Alberti with taxes. In this time the Floren¬ 
tines also made war with Ladislas, king of Naples, which ended with the 
death of the king in 1414. And in the travail of that war the king, finding 
himself inferior, yielded the city of Cortona, of which he was lord, to the 
Florentines. But soon after, when he had regained his forces, he renewed 
a war with them that was much more dangerous than the first; and if it 
had not ended with his death, as the war with the duke of Milan had 
already ended, he too would have brought Florence, as had the duke, into 
peril of losing its liberty. Nor did this war end with less good luck than 
the other, for when King Ladislas had taken Rome, Siena, the Marches, 
and all of Romagna, and needed only Florence in order to enter Lom¬ 
bardy with all his power, he died. And thus death was always more 
friendly to the Florentines than any other friend, and more powerful to 
save them than their own virtue. After the death of this king, the city was 
quiet outside and inside for eight years. At the end of that time, together 
with the wars of Filippo, duke of Milan, the parties revived and did not 
subside until the ruin of the state that had ruled from 1381 to 1434, which 
had made so many wars with such glory and had acquired Arezzo, Pisa, 
Cortona, Livorno, and Monte Pulciano for its empire. And greater things 
would have been accomplished if the city had maintained itself united and 
if the old humors had not been rekindled in it, as will be shown in partic¬ 
ular in the following book. 


145 


BOOK IV 


I 

cities, and especially those not well ordered that are administered under 
the name of republic, frequently change their governments and their 
states not between liberty and servitude, as many believe, but between 
servitude and license. For only the name of freedom is extolled by the 
ministers of license, who are the men of the people, and by the ministers 
of servitude, who are the nobles, neither of them desiring to be subject 
either to the laws or to men. True, when it happens (and it happens rarely) 
that by the good fortune of a city there rises in it a wise, good, and pow¬ 
erful citizen by whom laws are ordered by which these humors of the 
nobles and the men of the people are quieted or restrained so that they 
cannot do evil, then that city can be called free and that state be judged 
stable and firm: for a city based on good laws and good orders has no 
necessity, as have others, for the virtue of a single man to maintain it. 
Many ancient republics endowed with such laws and orders had states 
with long lives; all those republics that have lacked and are lacking such 
orders and laws have frequently changed and are changing their govern¬ 
ments from a tyrannical to a licentious state, and back again. In these, 
through the powerful enemies each of them has, there neither is nor can 
be any stability, because the one state displeases good men, the other dis¬ 
pleases the wise; the one can do evil easily, the other can do good only 
with difficulty; in the one, insolent men have too much authority, in the 
other, fools. And both the one and the other must be maintained by the 
virtue and fortune of a single man who can either fail by death or become 
useless because of his travails. 


2 

i say, therefore, that the state that had its beginning in Florence with 
the death of Messer Giorgio Scali in 1381 was sustained first by the virtue 
of Messer Maso degli Albizzi, later by that of Niccolo da Uzzano. The 
city lived quietly from 1414 until ’22, 1 since King Ladislas was dead and 

1 Cf. FH hi 29. 


146 


IV • 3 

the state of Lombardy was divided into many parts, so that neither from 
outside nor from within was there anything to make it fearful. Next to 
Niccolo da Uzzano, the citizens in authority were Bartolomeo Valori, 
Nerone di Nigi, Messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi, Neri di Gino, and Lapo 
Niccolini. The parties born out of the discord between the Albizzi and 
the Ricci, which were later revived by Messer Salvestro de’ Medici with 
such scandal, 2 were never eliminated; and although the party more fa¬ 
vored by the generality of people 3 ruled only three years and was con¬ 
quered in 1381, nonetheless, because the humor of that party was shared 
by the greater part of the city, it could never be altogether eliminated. It 
is true that the frequent parliaments and continual persecutions commit¬ 
ted against the heads of the party from ’8i to 400 reduced it almost to 
nothing. 

The first families persecuted as heads of the party were the Alberti, 
Ricci, and Medici, who were many times despoiled of men and riches, 
and if any of them remained in the city, their honors were taken from 
them. These blows brought their party low and almost wore it out. There 
remained nonetheless in many men a memory of injuries received and a 
desire to avenge them, which, finding support nowhere, remained hidden 
in their breasts. Those popular nobles, who governed the city peacefully, 
made two errors that were the ruin of their state: one was that they be¬ 
came insolent through unbroken dominion; the other was that through 
the envy they had of each other, and through long possession of the state, 
they did not take the care they should have for whoever could offend 
them. 


3 

thus every day these men with their sinister modes were renewing the 
hatred of the generality of people; 1 and by not watching out for harmful 
things because they did not fear them or by nourishing them through 
their envy of one another, they made the Medici family regain authority. 
The first of that family to begin to rise again was Giovanni di Bicci. Hav¬ 
ing become very rich and being of a kindly and humane nature, he was 
brought to the highest magistracy by the concession of those who were 
governing. This made for such joy throughout the generality of people 
in the city, since to the multitude it appeared that it had gained a defender, 

2 FH hi 29. 

3 Lit.: the universal. 

1 Lit.: the universal. The same phrase is used soon again in this chapter. 


147 


iv • 4 

as was deservedly suspect to the wiser because all the ancient humors 
were seen beginning to reawaken. And Niccolo da Uzzano did not fail to 
alert the other citizens by pointing out how dangerous it was to foster one 
who had such reputation in the generality of people, and how easy it was 
to oppose disorders in their beginnings, but how difficult it was to rem¬ 
edy them when they were left alone to increase; and he recognized in 
Giovanni many parts superior to those of Messer Salvestro. Niccolo was 
not heeded by his peers because they were envious of his reputation and 
desired to have partners in defeating him. While they lived in Florence 
among these humors, which were secretly beginning to boil again, Fi¬ 
lippo Visconti, second son of Giovanni Galeazzo, had by the death of his 
brother become lord of all Lombardy; and as it appeared to him that he 
could plan any enterprise whatsoever, he desired exceedingly to become 
lord of Genoa again, which at that time lived free under the doge Messer 
Tommaso da Campofregoso. But he was not confident of being able to 
succeed in this or any other enterprise if he did not first issue publicly a 
new accord with the Florentines, whose reputation, he judged, would be 
enough to enable him to satisfy his desires. He therefore sent his spokes¬ 
men to Florence to request it. Many citizens advised that it not be done, 
but that, instead of doing it, they should persevere in the peace that had 
been maintained with Genoa for many years; for they recognized the fa¬ 
vor that making an accord would bring Filippo and the slight advantage 
the city would get from it. To many others it appeared right to make an 
accord and by virtue of it to impose terms on him that, if overstepped, 
would make everyone recognize his wicked intent and enable one to 
make war on him more justifiably if he should break the peace. And so, 
after the question had been much disputed, a peace was established in 
which Filippo promised not to meddle in affairs from the rivers Magra 
and Panaro to here. 2 


4 

when this accord had been made, Filippo seized Brescia and, soon after, 
Genoa, contrary to the opinion of those in Florence who had urged the 
peace because they believed that Brescia would be defended by the Vene¬ 
tians and that Genoa would defend itself. And because in the accord that 
Filippo had made with the doge of Genoa, Sarzana and the towns situated 

2 This treaty of 1420 established two spheres of influence: Lombardy and Genoa for the 
Visconti, Tuscany for the Florentines. 


148 


IV • 5 

between here and the Magra had been left to him under the terms that, if 
he wished to give them away, he was obliged to give them to the Genoese, 
Filippo ended by violating the peace. 1 Furthermore, he had made an ac¬ 
cord with the legate of Bologna. These things changed the minds of our 
citizens and brought them, fearing new evils, to think of new remedies. 
When these agitations came to the notice of Filippo, he, whether to justify 
himself or to test the spirits of the Florentines or to beguile them, sent 
ambassadors to Florence to point out that he marveled at their suspicions 
and to offer to renounce whatever he had done to generate any suspicion. 
These ambassadors produced no other effect than to divide the city, since 
one party and those who were more esteemed in the government judged 
that it would be well to arm and prepare to spoil the plans of the enemy; 
and if preparations were made and Filippo stayed quiet, there would be 
no war but cause for peace. Many others, either out of envy of those 
governing or out of fear of war, judged that one ought not suspect a 
friend lightly, that the things he had done were not worthy of such sus¬ 
picion, but that they 2 knew well that to create the Ten 3 and to hire soldiers 
meant war, which, if taken up against such a prince, would result in sure 
ruin for the city and without being able to hope for anything useful from 
it, since we could not become the lords of anything we acquired because 
Romagna was in the middle, and we could not think of doing anything 
in the affairs of Romagna because of its affinity to the Church. Nonethe¬ 
less, the authority of those who wished to prepare for war prevailed over 
that of those who wished to be ordered for peace, and they created the 
Ten, hired soldiers, and imposed new taxes. Since the taxes weighed 
more on the lesser citizens than the greater, they filled the city with com¬ 
plaints, and everyone condemned the ambition and greed of the power¬ 
ful, accusing them of wishing to start an unnecessary war so as to indulge 
their appetites and to oppress the people so as to dominate them. 


5 


it had not yet come to an open break with the duke, but everything was 
full of suspicion because Filippo, at the request of the legate of Bologna, 
who was afraid of Messer Antonio Bentivoglio, an exile staying at the 
Castel Bolognese, had sent men into that city; and as they were close to 

1 The treaty of 1420. 

2 The other party. 

3 The Died di Balia, a committee appointed for management of war. 


149 


iv • 6 


the domain of Florence, they kept its state suspicious of them. But what 
made everyone more fearful and gave ample cause for starting war was 
the campaign that the duke made to Forli. The lord of Forli was Giorgio 
Ordelaffi, who, as he was dying, left his son Tibaldo under the guardi¬ 
anship of Filippo; and since the guardian appeared suspect to Tibaldo’s 
mother, she sent her son to her father, Ludovico Alidosi, who was lord 
of Imola. Nonetheless, she was forced by the people of Forli to observe 
the will of his father and to put him back in the hands of the duke. Where¬ 
upon Filippo, to make himself less suspect and the better to conceal his 
intent, ordered the marquis of Ferrara to send Guido Torello as his dep¬ 
uty, with troops, to take the government of Forli. Thus did that town 
come into the power 1 of Filippo. As soon as this thing was known in 
Florence, together with the news of the troops come to Bologna, it made 
the decision for war easier, despite the fact that much was said against it 
and that Giovanni de’ Medici publicly discouraged it by showing that, 
however sure they might be of the evil mind of the duke, it was better to 
wait for him to attack you than to go against him with forces. For in this 
case, the war was as justified in the view of the princes of Italy on the side 
of the duke as on our side; nor could one ask for help as boldly as they 
could when the ambition of the duke was revealed; and they would de¬ 
fend their own things with a different spirit and with different forces than 
they would those of others. Others said that it was not good to wait for 
the enemy at home but to go find him; that fortune is more friendly to 
the one who attacks than to the one who defends; and that war is carried 
on in others’ homes with less loss, even though at greater cost, than in 
one’s own. So much did this opinion prevail that it was decided that the 
Ten should apply every remedy so that the city of Forli might be taken 
out of the hands of the duke. 


6 

filippo, seeing that the Florentines wanted to seize the things he had 
taken to defend, put scruples aside and sent Agnolo della Pergola with a 
large army to Imola so that its lord 1 would have to think about defending 
his own and would not think about the guardianship of his grandson. 
When Agnolo had, therefore, arrived near Imola—the troops of the Flor¬ 
entines being still at Modigliana, the cold being great and because of this 
the moats around the city being frozen—one night he furtively took the 

1 Po testa. 

1 Ludovico Alidosi; see FH iv 5. 


150 


iv • 7 

town and sent Ludovico a prisoner to Milan. When the Florentines saw 
that Imola was lost and that war had been opened, they sent their troops 
to Forli, where they laid siege to the city and tightened it from every side. 
And so that the duke’s troops could not unite to rescue it, they had hired 
Count Alberigo, 2 who made raids from his own town of Zagonara every 
day up to the gates of Imola. Agnolo della Pergola saw that he could not 
relieve Forli safely because of the strong position that our troops had 
taken up; so he thought he would attempt the capture of Zagonara, judg¬ 
ing that the Florentines were not about to let that place be lost; and by 
wishing to save it, they would have to abandon their campaign at Forli 
and come to battle at a disadvantage. Thus the duke’s troops compelled 
Alberigo to ask for terms: they were conceded to him with his promise 
that, if the Florentines had not relieved him in two weeks, he would sur¬ 
render the town. When this disorder was perceived in the camp of the 
Florentines and in the city, and as everyone desired that the enemy not 
keep that victory, they made him gain even a greater one. For the army 3 
having left Forli to rescue Zagonara, it was defeated as soon as it met with 
the enemy, not so much by the virtue of its adversaries as by the malignity 
of the weather. Our men, having walked several hours in very deep mud 
and with the rain falling on their backs, found the enemy fresh and easily 
able to conquer them. Nonetheless, in such a defeat, celebrated in all 
Italy, no one died except Ludovico degli Obizzi, together with two of his 
men who fell from their horses and drowned in the mud. 4 


7 

at the news of this defeat, the whole city of Florence grieved, but espe¬ 
cially the great citizens who had advised the war, because they saw the 
enemy vigorous and themselves disarmed, without friends, and the peo¬ 
ple against them. Through all the piazzas the people stung them with 
abusive words, complaining of the taxes they had borne, of a war begun 
without cause, and saying: “Now, did they create the Ten to bring terror 
to the enemy? Now, have they rescued Forli and taken it from the hands 
of the duke? Look at how their advice has been exposed and to what end 
they were moving: not to defend freedom, which is their enemy, but to 
increase their own power, which God has justly diminished. They have 
burdened the city not only with this campaign but with many, because 

2 Alberigo da Conio; see FH i 34 and P 12. 

} Lit.: the camp. 

4 According to Ammirato, Florentine losses were 3,200 horse. 

151 


iv • 8 


the one against King Ladislas was like this one. 1 To whom will they now 
turn for help? To Pope Martin, who was torn apart by them out of regard 
for 2 Braccio? 3 To Queen Giovanna, whom by abandoning they had made 
to throw herself into the lap 4 of the king of Aragon?” And besides this, 
they said all the things an angered people are wont to say. Therefore, to 
the Signori it appeared that they should assemble many citizens who 
would quiet the excited humors in the multitude with good words. So 
Messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi, who had been left as the eldest son of Mes¬ 
ser Maso and who aspired to reach the highest rank of the city with his 
own virtues and with the memory of his father, spoke at length, pointing 
out that it was not prudent to judge things by their effects, because many 
times things well advised do not have a good outcome and things ill ad¬ 
vised have a good one; and if wicked advice is praised for a good out¬ 
come, one does nothing but inspire men to err, which results in great 
harm to republics because bad advice is not always successful. So likewise 
it was an error to censure a wise course that might have an unhappy out¬ 
come, because it would take away from citizens the spirit to advise the 
city and to say what they mean. Then he showed why it had been neces¬ 
sary to take up that war and how if it had not been started in Romagna, 
it would have been fought in Tuscany. But, since God had willed the 
troops to be defeated, the loss would be that much more grave if others 
were abandoned; but if they faced fortune and applied what remedies they 
could, neither they would feel their loss nor the duke his victory. And 
they ought not to be dismayed by the expenses and the taxes to come, 
because it was reasonable to change the taxes, and the expenses would be 
much less than the last ones because less equipment is necessary for those 
who wish to defend than for those who seek to offend. He urged them 
finally to imitate their fathers, who by not having lost their spirit in any 
adverse situation had always defended themselves against any prince. 


8 


urged thus on his authority, the citizens hired Count Oddo, son of 
Braccio, and gave him as governor Niccolo Piccinino, a student of Brac- 
cio’s and more reputed than anyone else who had fought under his en¬ 
signs. They gave him in addition other condottieri, and they put back on 

1 See FH hi 29. 

2 Lit.: in contemplation of. 

3 See FH 138. 

4 See FH 1 38 and P 12 for almost the same phrase applied to the unfortunate queeh. But 
in A W 1 she is said to have jumped into the arms of the king of Aragon. 


152 


iv • 9 

horse some who had been despoiled of them. 1 They created twenty citi¬ 
zens to levy a new tax, who, inspired by seeing the powerful citizens 
depressed by the last defeat, loaded them down without giving them any 
consideration. This tax hurt the great citizens very much, and at first, so 
as to appear more honorable, they did not complain of their own tax but 
criticized it as generally unjust and advised that it should be lightened. 
When this became known by many, it was blocked in the councils; hence, 
to make people feel by deeds the harshness of the tax and to make it hated 
by many, they arranged that the collectors should exact it with the utmost 
severity by giving them authority to be able to kill anyone who might 
defend himself against the public agents. From this arose many grievous 
accidents, with the death and wounding of citizens, from which it ap¬ 
peared that the parties would come to blood, and anyone who was pru¬ 
dent feared some future evil because the great men, accustomed to being 
respected, could not tolerate having hands laid on them, and the others 
wanted everyone to be burdened equally. Therefore, many of the first 
citizens gathered together and concluded that it was a necessity for them 
to take back the state, because their own lack of care had inspired men to 
take over public activities and had made bold those who were used to 
being the heads of the multitude. And having discussed these things 
many times among themselves, they decided they should all meet again 
together at a stroke, and more than seventy citizens assembled in the 
church of Santo Stefano with the permission of Messer Lorenzo Ridolfi 
and of Francesco Gianfigliazzi, who were then sitting as Signori. Gio¬ 
vanni de’ Medici did not meet with them either because he was not called 
in, as being suspect, or because, being opposed to their opinion, he did 
not want to take part. 


9 

messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi spoke to all. He pointed out the condition 
of the city and how through their own negligence it had come again under 
the power 1 of the plebs, from which it had been extracted by their fathers 
in 1381. He reminded them of the iniquity of the state that had ruled from 
’78 to ’81 and how, of all those present, this one’s father and this one’s 
grandfather had been killed by it; that they were returning to the same 
dangers and the city was falling again into the same disorders; for already 
the multitude had levied a tax to suit itself, and very soon, if it were not 

1 At the defeat of Zagonara. 

1 Potesta. 


153 


iv • 9 

restrained by greater force or better order, it would create magistrates 
according to its own arbitrary will. If this should happen, it would seize 
their places and would wreck the state that had ruled with such glory for 
the city for forty-two years; Florence would then be governed either by 
chance under the arbitrary will of the multitude, in which one party 
would live in license and the other in danger, or under the empire of one 
who would make himself prince. Therefore, he declared, it was necessary 
for everyone who loved his fatherland and his own honor to come to his 
senses and remind himself of the virtue of Bardo Mancini, 2 who, with 
the ruin of the Alberti, had got the city out of the dangers it was in then; 
and that the cause of this audacity on the part of the multitude arose from 
the broad baggings 3 that had been made through their own negligence, 
and the palace had thus been filled with men who were new and vile. He 
concluded, therefore, that he saw only this mode by which to remedy it: 
restore the state to the great and take away authority from the lesser 
guilds by reducing them from fourteen to seven. This would make the 
plebs have less authority in the councils both because their number would 
be fewer and also because the great, having more authority there, would 
be unfavorable to them on account of old hostilities. He affirmed that it 
was prudence to know how to use men according to the times: for if their 
fathers had used the plebs to eliminate the insolence of the great, now that 
the great had become humble and the plebs insolent, it was well to check 
its insolence with their help. And as for carrying out these things, there 
was deceit or force to which they could easily have recourse, since some 
of them, as members of the Ten, could bring men secretly into the city. 
Messer Rinaldo was praised, and everyone approved his advice. And Nic- 
colo da Uzzano, among others, said that all the things that had been said 
by Messer Rinaldo were true and the remedies good and sure if they could 
be accomplished without coming to an open division in the city. This 
would follow in any mode if they could not get Giovanni dc' Medici to 
agree to their will, because if he concurred, the multitude, deprived of a 
head and of force, could not offend them, but if he did not concur, noth¬ 
ing could be done without arms; and with arms, he judged, there was 
danger either of not winning or of not being able to enjoy the victory. 
Then he modestly recalled to their memory his past advice and how they 
had not been willing to remedy these difficulties in times when they could 
easily have done so; but now there was no time to do it without fear of 
greater loss; and there was no other remedy than winning Giovanni de’ 

2 Elected Gonfalonier in 1387; see FH in 23. 

3 That is, squittini with a too broad, or too democratic, set of names from which officials 
would be drawn; see FH 11 28. 


154 


I V • I o 


Medici over to them. 4 So the commission was given to Messer Rinaldo 
to go to Giovanni and see if he might attract him to their judgment. 


10 

the knight executed his commission and in all the best terms he knew 
urged Giovanni to take up this enterprise with them and not to desire, by 
favoring a multitude, to make it bold with consequent ruin to the state 
and the city. To this Giovanni answered that he believed it the office of a 
wise and good citizen not to alter the accustomed orders of his city, there 
being nothing that offends men so much as changing these. For one must 
offend many, and where many are left malcontent, one can fear some 
nasty accident every day. And it appeared to him that their decision might 
do two very pernicious things: one, to give honors to those who, never 
having had them, esteem them less and, not having them, have less cause 
to complain; the other, to take them away from those who were accus¬ 
tomed to having them and who would never be quiet unless they were 
restored to them. And thus one would see that the injury done to one 
party would be much greater than the benefit to the other, so that 
whoever was author of this would acquire few friends and very many 
enemies; and the latter would be more fierce in injuring him than the 
former to defend him, since men are naturally more ready to avenge an 
injury than to be grateful for a benefit, as it appears to them that gratitude 
brings them loss while vengeance brings advantage and pleasure. Then 
he turned his talk to Messer Rinaldo and said, “And you, if you remem¬ 
ber the things that have happened and by what deceits one proceeds in 
this city, you would be less warm for this decision, for whoever advises 
it, when he has taken authority from the people by means of your forces, 
will take it from you with the aid of the people who will have become 
your enemy for this injury. And it will happen to you as it did to Messer 
Benedetto Alberti, who consented, by the persuasion of those who did 
not love him, to the ruin of Messer Giorgio Scali and of Messer Tommaso 
Strozzi and soon after was sent into exile by the same men who had per¬ 
suaded him.” He urged him, therefore, to think more maturely about 
things and to wish to imitate his father, who, so as to get universal good 
will, lowered the price of salt, provided that anyone whose tax was less 
than half a florin might pay it or not as he saw fit, and that on the day the 
councils assembled, everyone might be safe from his creditors. In the end 


155 


4 See FH iv 3. 


IV • I I 


he concluded that, as far as he was concerned, he was for leaving the city 
in its orders. 


II 

these things, so dealt with, were learned of outside and brought more 
reputation to Giovanni and hatred to the other citizens. He sought to de¬ 
tach himself from this so as to give less spirit to those who might plan 
new things under the cover of his favor; and in all his speech he gave 
everyone to understand that he was not for nourishing sects but for elim¬ 
inating them and that, whatever anyone was expecting from him, he 
sought nothing but union in the city. Many of those who followed his 
part were malcontent at this because they would have liked him to show 
himself more active in things. Among these was Alamanno de’ Medici, 
who was fierce by nature and did not cease inciting him to persecute his 
enemies and favor his friends, condemning him for his coldness and for 
his mode of proceeding slowly, which, he said, was the cause of his ene¬ 
mies’ dealing against him without respect. These dealings would one day 
have their effect in the ruin of his house and his friends. Inspiring him also 
in the same way was his son Cosimo. Nonetheless, Giovanni, through 
something that might have been revealed or predicted to him, did not 
budge from his position; yet with all this, the party was already exposed, 
and the city was openly divided. In the palace there were two chancery 
clerks in the service of the Signori, Ser Martino and Ser Pagolo: the latter 
favored the party of da Uzzano, and the former that of the Medici. Messer 
Rinaldo, having seen that Giovanni did not wish to join them, thought it 
would be well to deprive Ser Martino of his office, judging that then he 
would always have the palace more favorable. As this was foreseen by his 
adversaries, not only was Ser Martino defended, but Ser Pagolo was de¬ 
prived of his office with displeasure and injury to his party. This would 
have had nasty effects at once had it not been for the war threatening the 
city, which was frightened because of the defeat suffered at Zagonara; for 
while these things were toiling on in Florence, Agnolo della Pergola, with 
the troops of the duke, had taken all the towns in Romagna possessed by 
the Florentines, except for Castrocaro and Modigliana, partly because of 
the weakness of those places and partly by the fault of those who had 
watch over them. In the seizure of these towns two things happened to 
make one aware of how much the virtue of men is admitted even by the 
enemy and how much vileness and malignity are disliked. 


156 


IV • 13 
12 


the castellan of the fortress of Monte Petroso was Biagio del Melano. 
As fire was set around him by the enemy and he saw no way of saving the 
fortress, he tossed out rags and straw on a side that was not yet burning 
and from above threw onto these his two small children while saying to 
the enemy, “Take for yourselves the goods that fortune has given me and 
that you can take from me; but those things I have of my spirit, wherein 
lie my glory and my honor, I will neither give you nor will you take from 
me.” The enemy ran to save the children and brought ropes and ladders 
to him that he might save himself; but these he did not accept, for indeed 
he preferred to die in the flames than to be saved by the hands of the 
adversaries of his fatherland. An example truly worthy of much-praised 
antiquity!—and as much more wonderful than those as it is rarer. The 
enemy restored what things they could save to his children and sent them 
with utmost care to their relatives; the republic was not less kind to them, 
for as long as they lived they Were supported at public expense. The con¬ 
trary to this happened in Galatea, where Zanobi del Pino was the podesta. 
Without making any defense, he gave the fortress over to the enemy; and 
besides, he urged Agnolo to leave the mountains of Romagna to come to 
the hills of Tuscany, where he could make war with less danger and 
greater gain. Agnolo, unable to tolerate the vileness and wicked spirit of 
this man, gave him as prey to his servants, who, after much mockery, 
gave him paper painted as serpents to eat, 1 telling him that in this mode 
they wished to make him from Guelf into Ghibelline; and so starving, in 
a few days he died. 


13 

count Oddo, meanwhile, together with Niccolo Piccinino, had entered 
Val di Lamona to see if they could bring the lord of Faenza 1 back to 
friendship with the Florentines or, at the least, to hinder Agnolo della 
Pergola from raiding Romagna so freely. But because the valley was very 
strong and its inhabitants bellicose, Count Oddo was killed there, and 
Niccolo Piccinino was sent from there to prison in Faenza. But fortune 
willed that the Florentines, by having lost, should get what perhaps they 
might not have gotten had they won; for Niccolo worked so well on the 


A serpent was the emblem of the Visconti. 
Guidantonio Manfredi. 


157 


i v • i 4 

lord of Faenza and his mother that he made them friends of the Floren¬ 
tines. In this accord Niccolo Piccinino was set free; but he himself did not 
take the advice that he gave to others, for while dealing with the city 
about his command, whether it was that the terms seemed poor to him 
or that he might find better ones elsewhere, he almost abruptly left 
Arezzo, where he had his quarters, and went to Lombardy, where he en¬ 
listed in the duke’s pay. The Florentines, frightened by this unforeseen 
event and bewildered by their frequent losses, judged they could no 
longer support this war alone, and they sent spokesmen to the Venetians 
begging them to oppose, while it was easy for them, the greatness of one 
who, if they allowed him to rise, was ready to be as pernicious to them 
as he was to the Florentines. Urging them to the same undertaking was 
Francesco Carmignuola, a man held in those times to be very excellent in 
war. He had once been in the pay of the duke but had later rebelled against 
him. The Venetians hesitated in doubt, not knowing how much they 
could trust Carmignuola, fearing that the hostility between him and the 
duke might be feigned. And while they were in suspense, it happened 
that the duke, by means of a servant of Carmignuola’s, had him poisoned; 
the poison was not potent enough to kill him, but it brought him to the 
limit. When the cause of his illness was discovered, the Venetians gave up 
their suspicion, and, as the Florentines were continuing to solicit them, 
they made a league with them. Each of the parties pledged itself to carry 
on the war at the common expense; acquisitions in Lombardy were to go 
to the Venetians, those in Romagna and Tuscany to the Florentines; Car¬ 
mignuola was the captain general of the league. Thus, by this accord the 
war was confined to Lombardy, where it was conducted virtuously by 
Carmignuola. In a few months many towns were taken from the duke, 
together with the city of Brescia, a capture that in those times and for 
those wars was considered wonderful. 


14 

this war had lasted from ’22 to ’27, and the citizens of Florence were 
weary of the taxes imposed up to then; so they agreed to revise them. 
And that the taxes might- be equal according to wealth, it was provided 
that they be imposed on goods and that he who had a hundred florins in 
value would have a tax of half a florin. Therefore, as it was for the law 
and not men to apportion the tax, it came to weigh very heavily on the 
powerful citizens; and before the law was decided upon, it was not fa¬ 
vored by them. Only Giovanni de’ Medici openly praised it, so much so 


158 


i v • i 4 

that it passed. And because to apportion the tax each man’s goods had to 
be listed, for which the Florentines say accatastare, the tax was called ca- 
tasto. This mode placed a partial restraint on the tyranny of the powerful, 
because they could not strike at lesser persons and by threats make them 
keep silent in the councils as they were able to do before. Consequently, 
this tax was approved by the generality of people 1 but received with very 
great displeasure by the powerful. But as it happens that men are never 
satisfied and, having got one thing, do not content themselves with that 
but desire something else, the people, not content with the equality in 
taxation that arose from the law, demanded that they return to time past 
to see how much less the powerful had paid according to the catasto and 
to make them pay enough to be equal with those who, so as to pay what 
they did not owe, had sold their possessions. This demand, much more 
than the catasto, alarmed the great men, and in defending themselves from 
it, they condemned it ceaselessly, declaring that it was most unjust be¬ 
cause it was imposed also on movable goods, which might be possessed 
today and lost tomorrow; and that beyond this, many persons had hidden 
money that the catasto could not find. To which they added that those 
who had left their businesses in order to govern the republic ought to be 
less burdened by it, as it ought to be enough that they had labored in 
person; and it was not just that the city should enjoy their belongings and 
their industry and only the money of others. Others who were pleased 
with the catasto answered that if movable goods vary, the taxes could also 
vary, and frequent variation of them could remedy that inconvenience. 
And as for those who had hidden money, it was not necessary to take 
account of it, as it is not reasonable to pay for money that bears no fruit; 
when it does bear fruit, it must be discovered; and if to take trouble for 
the republic did not please them, let them put it aside and not try them¬ 
selves over it, because the republic would find more loving citizens to 
whom it would not appear difficult to help it with money and advice; and 
so many are the advantages and honors that go with governing that these 
ought to be enough for them without wishing not to share the burdens. 
But the ill was in what they did not say: for it pained them not to be able 
to carry on a war without loss to themselves, having to share in the ex¬ 
penses like others; and if this mode had been found earlier, the war with 
King Ladislas would not have been made, nor would this one with Duke 
Filippo; for these wars were made to fill up citizens and not out of neces¬ 
sity. These excited humors were quieted by Giovanni de’ Medici, who 
pointed out that it was not good to go back over things past, but rather 


1 Lit.: the universal. 


159 


i v • i 5 

to provide for the future; and if the taxes had been unjust in the past, they 
should thank God that a mode had been found to make them just and 
should wish that this mode might serve to reunite, not divide, the city, as 
it would if past taxes were looked into and made to be equal with the 
present ones. 2 And he who is content with half a victory will always do 
better from it, since those who wish to do more than win often lose. 3 
And with like words he quieted the humors and made them stop reason¬ 
ing about equalization. 


15 

AS the war against the duke was continuing meanwhile, a peace was 
made in Ferrara through the mediation of a papal legate. As the duke did 
not at first observe its conditions, the league took up arms again and, 
having joined battle with his men, defeated him at Maclodio. After this 
defeat the duke started new discussions 1 for an accord, to which the Vene¬ 
tians and Florentines agreed: the Florentines because they had come to 
suspect the Venetians, as it appeared to them that they were spending a 
great deal to make others powerful, the Venetians because they saw Car- 
mignuola, after the defeat dealt to the duke, going so slowly that it ap¬ 
peared to them they could no longer trust him. Thus a peace was con¬ 
cluded in 1428 by which the Florentines regained the towns they lost in 
Romagna, Brescia was left to the Venetians, and in addition the duke gave 
them Bergamo and its surrounding country. The Florentines spent three 
million five hundred thousand ducats in this war, from which the Vene¬ 
tians increased their state and greatness, and they, their poverty and dis¬ 
union. 

Peace having been achieved outside, war began again inside. Since the 
great citizens could not bear the catasto and saw no way of eliminating it, 
they thought up modes of making more enemies of it so as to have more 
companions in assailing it. Thus, they pointed out to the officials charged 
with applying it that the law compelled them to register the goods of 
those in [outlying] districts to see if among them there might be goods 
belonging to Florentines. Therefore, all subjects were summoned to pre¬ 
sent written lists of their goods within a certain time. Hence the Volterrans 
sent to the Signoria to complain about this thing, so that the officials 
became indignant and put eighteen of them in prison. This deed made the 

2 See FH in 3 and D 1 37. 

3 See D 11 27. 

1 Lit.: reasonings. 

160 


i v • i 6 

Volterrans very indignant; yet, out of regard for their prisoners, they did 
not move. 


16 

at this time Giovanni de’ Medici fell ill, and as he knew his illness was 
mortal, he called in his sons Cosimo and Lorenzo and said to them, “I 
believe I have lived out the time allotted to me by God and by nature at 
my birth. I die content because I leave you rich, healthy, and of quality 
such that if you will follow my footsteps, you will be able to live in Flor¬ 
ence honored and in everyone’s good graces. For no single thing makes 
me die so content as the recollection that I have never offended anyone; 
rather, I have benefited everyone insofar as I could. And so I urge you to 
do. In regard to the state, if you wish to live secure, accept from it as 
much as is given to you by laws and by men. This will bring you neither 
envy nor danger, since it is what a man takes himself, not what is given 
to a man, that makes us hate him; and always you will have more than 
they who, wanting others’ share, lose their own, and before losing it live 
in continual unease. With these arts I have among so many enemies, 
among so many differences, not only maintained but increased my rep¬ 
utation in this city. Thus, if you will follow my footsteps, you will main¬ 
tain and improve yourselves. But if you should do otherwise, do not 
think that your end will be any more prosperous than the ends of those 
who in our memory have ruined themselves and destroyed their houses.” 
Shortly after, he died, and in the generality of people 1 in the city he left a 
very great longing for himself, as his excellent qualities deserved. Gio¬ 
vanni had been charitable, and not only did he give alms to whoever 
asked for them, but many times he supplied the needs of the poor without 
being asked. He loved everyone, praised the good, and had compassion 
for the wicked. He never asked for honors yet had them all. He never 
went into the palace unless he was called. He loved peace, he avoided war. 
He supported men in their adversity and aided their prosperity. He was 
averse to public plunder and an improver of the common good. Gracious 
in his magistracies, he had not much eloquence but very great prudence. 
In appearance he was melancholy, but then in his conversation he was 
pleasing and witty. He died very rich in treasure but even richer in good 
reputation and good will. This inheritance of fortune’s goods as well as 
those of the spirit was not only maintained but increased by Cosimo. 

1 Lit.: the universal. 


161 


i v • i 7 
17 


the Volterrans were weary of being in prison 1 and to get free they prom¬ 
ised to consent to what had been commanded to them. So, when they 
had been set free and had returned to Volterra, it was the time when their 
new priors were assuming their magistracies. Among these a certain 
Giusto was drawn, a plebeian man but with standing among the plebs, 
who was one of those who had been imprisoned in Florence. This man, 
himself inflamed with hatred for the public injury as well as his private 
one, was further incited against the Florentines by Giovanni di [Con- 
tugi], 2 a nobleman who sat in magistracy with him, to stir up the people, 
with the authority of the priors and with his grace, to take the town from 
the hands of the Florentines and make himself its prince. On his advice, 
Giusto took up arms, ran through town, seized the captain who was there 
for the Florentines, and, with the consent of the people, made himself its 
lord. This innovation in Volterra displeased the Florentines very much. 
Yet, as they had made a peace with the duke and the accords were still 
fresh, they judged they had time to reacquire it; and so as not to lose time, 
they immediately sent Messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi and Messer Palla 
Strozzi as commissioners for the undertaking. In the meantime, Giusto, 
thinking that the Florentines would attack him, asked the Sienese and the 
Lucchese for help. The Sienese refused it, saying that they were allied 
with the Florentines; and Pagolo Guinigi, who was lord of Lucca, in or¬ 
der to reacquire favor 3 with the people of Florence, which it appeared to 
him he had lost in the war with the duke when he showed himself to be 
Filippo’s friend, not only refused help to Giusto but sent to prison in 
Florence the one who had come to ask it. The commissioners, mean¬ 
while, so as to catch the Volterrans while still unprepared, gathered to¬ 
gether all their men-at-arms, raised a very large infantry from below Val- 
darno and from the countryside of Pisa, and went off toward Volterra. 
But Giusto did not abandon himself even though he was abandoned by 
his neighbors and one could see that the Florentines were about to attack 
him; but trusting in the strength of the site and in the abundance of the 
city, he made ready for defense. 

In Volterra there was a Messer Arcolano, brother of that Giovanni who 
had persuaded Giusto to take up the lordship and a man of account 
among the nobility. This man gathered certain of his confidants and 
pointed out to them that God had by this accident come to the aid of their 
city in its necessity: for if they were content to take up arms both to de- 

1 See FH 1 v 15. 

2 Apparently left blank by NM. 

3 Lit.: grace. 

162 


i v • i 8 


prive Giusto of lordship and yield the city back to the Florentines, it 
would follow that they would remain first in that town and would have 
preserved its ancient privileges for it. Having agreed on this, they went 
to the palace where the lord was; and as some of them stopped below, 
Messer Arcolano with three of them went upstairs to the hall; and when 
they found Giusto with some citizens, he drew him aside as if he wanted 
to reason with him about something important, and with one reason or 
another led him into the room where he and those who were with him 
attacked him with their swords. They were not so quick, however, as not 
to allow Giusto the advantage of putting his hand on his own weapon, 
and before they could kill him, he gravely wounded two of them; but in 
the end, unable to resist so many, he was killed and hurled to the ground 
from the palace. Those of Messer Arcolano’s party took up arms and gave 
the city over to the Florentine commissioners who were standing nearby 
with their troops, and, without making any further terms, they entered 
it. This made conditions worse for Volterra because, among other things, 
they dismembered the greater part of its countryside and reduced it to a 
vicarate. 


18 

volterra having been thus lost and reacquired almost in a stroke, no 
cause for a new war would have been seen if the ambition of men had not 
set one in motion again. Niccolo Fortebraccio, born to a sister of Braccio 
da Perugia, had fought a long time for the city of Florence in the wars 
against the duke. Since peace had come, this man was dismissed by the 
Florentines; and when the case of Volterra came, he still quartered at Fu- 
cecchio, where the commissioners availed themselves of him and his 
troops in that campaign. There was an opinion that during the time Mes¬ 
ser Rinaldo toiled in that war with Niccolo, he might have persuaded him 
to attack the Lucchese under cover of some fictitious quarrel, by showing 
him that if he did it, Rinaldo would work it out in Florence that a cam¬ 
paign against Lucca would be attempted and Niccolo would be made 
the head of it. Therefore, when Volterra had been acquired and Niccolo 
had returned to his quarters in Fucecchio, either by the persuasions of 
Messer Rinaldo or by his own will he seized Ruoti and Compito, fortified 
places of the Lucchese, in November of 1429, with three hundred horse 
and three hundred infantry. Then he descended into the plain and took a 
very great deal of booty. When the news of this attack was made public 
in Florence, all sorts of men gathered in groups throughout the city, and 
the greater number of them wanted the campaign against Lucca to be 
undertaken. Among the great citizens who favored it were those of the 


163 


i v • i 9 

Medici party, with whom Messer Rinaldo sided, moved to do so either 
because he judged the campaign useful to the republic or because of his 
own ambition, believing that he would have to be found at the head of 
that victory. Those who were not in favor of it were Niccolo da Uzzano 
and his party. And it appears a thing not to be believed that there should 
be such diverse judgments in the very same city over starting a war: for 
those citizens and that people who after ten years of peace had censured 
the war undertaken against Duke Filippo to defend their own city’s free¬ 
dom now, after so much expense incurred and with such distress in the 
city, were demanding that a war be started with every effective means to 
seize the freedom of others; and on the other hand, those who had wanted 
the earlier war now censured this one. So much do views vary with time 
and so much more ready is the multitude to seize what belongs to others 
than to watch out for its own; and men are moved so much more by the 
hope of acquiring than by the fear of losing, for loss is not believed in 
unless it is close, while acquisition, even though distant, is hoped for. 
And the people of Florence were filled with hope by the acquisitions that 
Niccolo Fortebraccio had made and was making and by letters from rec¬ 
tors near Lucca; for the vicars of Vico and Pescia wrote that permission 
should be given them to receive the fortified towns that were coming to 
surrender to them, so that soon the whole countryside around Lucca 
would be acquired. In addition to this, the lord of Lucca 1 sent an ambas¬ 
sador to Florence to complain about the attacks made by Niccolo and to 
beg the Signoria not to start a war against a neighbor and on a city that 
had always been friendly to it. The ambassador was called Messer Jacopo 
Viviani. A short time before, he had been held prisoner by Pagolo for 
having conspired against him, and although he had been found guilty, 
Pagolo had spared his life; and because he believed that Messer Jacopo 
had forgiven him the injury, Pagolo trusted him. But Messer Jacopo, 
more mindful of the danger than of the benefit, when in Florence secretly 
urged the citizens to take up the campaign. These urgings, added to the 
other hopes, made the Signoria assemble the council, where four hundred 
and ninety-eight citizens met; before them, the thing was debated by the 
principal men of the city. 


19 

among the first who were for the campaign, as we said above, was 
Messer Rinaldo. He pointed out the profit to be gained from the acqui- 

1 Pagolo Giunigi. 


164 


i v • i 9 

sition; he pointed out the opportunity for the campaign, since Lucca had 
been left to them as booty by the Venetians and by the duke; and the pope, 
who was involved in the affairs of the Kingdom, could not hinder them. 
To this he added the ease of taking Lucca, since it was slave to one of its 
citizens and had lost that natural vigor and ancient zeal to defend its own 
freedom, so that it would be given up either by the people to chase out 
the tyrant or by the tyrant out of fear of the people. He recounted the 
injuries done by its lord against our republic and his ill will toward it, and 
how dangerous it was if either the pope or the duke should again start a 
war against the city; 1 and he concluded that no other campaign ever under¬ 
taken by the Florentine people was easier, more useful, or more just. 
Against this opinion Niccolo da Uzzano said that the city of Florence had 
never undertaken an enterprise more unjust, more dangerous, or one 
from which greater losses must arise. And first, they were going to hurt 
a Guelf city that had always been friendly to the Florentine people and 
that had many times taken to its bosom, and at peril to itself, Guelfs who 
could not stay in their fatherland. And in the record of our things it will 
never be found that a free Lucca had offended Florence, but if anyone 
who had made it a slave, like Castruccio before and now this one, had 
offended Florence, one could put the blame not on it but on the tyrant. 
And if one could make war on the tyrant without making it on the citi¬ 
zens, that would displease him less; but as this could not be, then he could 
not agree that a friendly citizenry should be despoiled of its goods. But 
since one lives today in such a way that just and unjust do not have to be 
of much account, he wished to leave out this point and think only of 
utility to the city. As to this, he believed that only those things could be 
called useful that could not easily bring loss: so he did not know how 
anyone could call that enterprise useful in which the losses were certain 
and the profits doubtful. The certain losses were the expenses that it 
would incur, which would be seen to be so great that they ought to make 
fearful a city at rest, let alone one wearied by a long and grave war as theirs 
had been. The profit they could gain was the acquisition of Lucca, which 
he confessed to be great; but he had also to consider the uncertainties that 
were in it, which to him appeared so many that he judged the acquisition 
impossible. And they should not believe that the Venetians and Filippo 
would be happy about this acquisition: for the Venetians would only ap¬ 
pear to agree to it so as not to appear ungrateful, having shortly before 
got so much empire with Florentine money, and Filippo would dearly 
love them to be involved in a new war and in new expenses, so that, worn 
down and weary on every side, he could then attack them again. And he 

1 Against Florence. 


165 


IV • 20 


would not lack a mode, in the midst of the campaign and with greater 
hope of victory, of helping the Lucchese either covertly with money or 
by dismissing his own troops and sending them to help the Lucchese as 
soldiers of fortune. He urged them therefore to refrain from the campaign 
and to live with the tyrant so that he would make as many enemies as 
possible within, because there was no more convenient way of subjugat¬ 
ing it than to let it live under the tyrant and to let him afflict and weaken 
it. For if the thing was governed prudently, that city would reach the 
point where the tyrant could not hold it, and neither knowing how nor 
being able to govern itself, it would necessarily fall into their lap. But he 
saw that their humors were excited and that his words were not being 
heard. Even so, he wished to predict this to them: that they would make 
a war for which they would spend very much, would run into very many 
dangers, and, instead of seizing Lucca, they would free it from a tyrant; 
and out of a friendly city, subdued and weak, they would make a free 
city, hostile to them and in time an obstruction to the greatness of their 
republic. 


20 

when they had spoken for and against the campaign, it was time, as was 
the custom, to find out secretly the will of the men; and of the whole 
number, only ninety-eight were against it. The decision having thus been 
made and the Ten created to handle the war, they hired soldiers for both 
foot and horse, deputed Astorre Gianni and Messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi 
as commissioners, and agreed with Niccolo Fortebraccio to receive from 
him all the towns he had taken and to have him continue with the cam¬ 
paign as our soldier. The commissioners arrived in the country around 
Lucca and divided the army; Astorre set out on the plain toward Cama- 
iore and Pietrasanta, and Messer Rinaldo went toward the mountains, 
judging that if the city were despoiled of its countryside, it would be an 
easy thing to take it later. The campaigns of these men were unfortunate, 
not because they did not acquire many towns but because of the charges 
made against both of them in the management of the war. It is true that 
Astorre Gianni gave evident cause for his charges. There is a valley near 
Pietrasante called Seravezza, rich and filled with inhabitants. When they 
heard of the commissioner’s arrival, they came before him and begged 
him to receive them as faithful servants of the Florentine people. Astorre 
pretended to accept these offers; then he had his troops seize all the passes 
and strongholds of the valley and had the men assemble in their principal 
church; and after he had taken them all prisoners, he had his troops sack 

166 


I V • 2 I 


and destroy the whole country, in a cruel and avaricious example, and 
sparing neither holy places nor women, whether virgin or married. As 
soon as these things happened, they were known in Florence and dis¬ 
pleased not only the magistrates but the whole city. 


21 

some of the Seravezze who had escaped from the hands of the commis¬ 
sioner fled to Florence and recounted their miseries on every road and to 
every man, so that, urged by many who wanted the commissioner to be 
punished either as a wicked man or as contrary to their faction, they went 
to the Ten and asked to be heard. When they were introduced, one of 
them spoke in this sense: “We are sure, magnificent Signori, that our 
words will find faith and compassion in your Lordships when you learn 
the way in which your commissioner seized our country and in what 
manner we were treated afterwards by him. As the records of your an¬ 
cient things can fully show, our valley was ever Guelf and has been many 
times a faithful shelter for those of your citizens who, persecuted by the 
Ghibellines, took refuge in it. And our ancestors and we have always re¬ 
vered the name of this illustrious republic because it was the head and 
prince of that party; and for as long as the Lucchese were Guelfs, we will¬ 
ingly submitted to their empire, but when they came under the tyrant 
who left his old friends to follow the party of the Ghibellines, we obeyed 
him because we were forced rather than voluntarily. And God knows 
how many times we prayed Hhm to give us an opportunity to show our 
spirit toward the old party. Flow blind are men in their desires! That 
which we desired for our safety 1 has been our ruin. For as soon as we 
heard that your ensigns were coming toward us, we went to meet your 
commissioner, not as enemies but as to our former lords, and we put the 
valley, our fortunes, and ourselves in his hands, and we commended our¬ 
selves to his faith, believing that he must have the spirit, if not of a Flor¬ 
entine, at least of a man. Your Lordships will forgive us, for not being 
able to endure worse than what we have endured inspires us to speak. 
This commissioner of yours has no more of a man than the appearance, 
nor of a Florentine more than the name: a death-dealing plague, a cruel 
beast, a hideous monster such as has never been imagined by any writer. 
For, having assembled us in our church under color of wanting to speak 
to us, he made us prisoners; ruined and burned the whole valley; seized, 
despoiled, sacked, beat, and killed its inhabitants and their property; 

1 Or salvation. 


167 


IV • 22 


raped the women, deflowered the virgins, and, tearing them from the 
arms of their mothers, made them prey for his soldiers. If we had de¬ 
served so much evil by some injury done to the Florentine people or to 
him, or if we were armed and he had taken us in defending ourselves, we 
would complain less; indeed, we would accuse ourselves who either by 
our injuries or our arrogance would have deserved it. But as it was, we 
were unarmed, and we freely surrendered to him who then stole from us 
and despoiled us with such injury and ignominy that we are forced to 
complain. And as much as we could have filled Lombardy with com¬ 
plaints and spread throughout Italy the report of our injuries, with the 
blame on this city, we have not wanted to do it lest we befoul so decent 
and compassionate a republic with the indecency and cruelty of one 
wicked citizen. If we had recognized his avarice before our ruin, we 
would have forced ourselves to satisfy his greedy spirit, even though it 
has neither measure nor depth, and in that way we would have saved one 
part of our substance with the other. But since we are no longer in time, 
we have decided to come to you and pray you to relieve the distress of 
your subjects so that other men may not be frightened by our example of 
coming under your empire. And if our countless ills do not move you, 
may fear of the wrath of God move you, for He has seen His churches 
sacked and burned and our people betrayed in His bosom.” And having 
said this, they threw themselves to the ground crying and praying that 
their property and their fatherland be returned to them and that they re¬ 
store (since honor could not be) at least wives to their husbands and 
daughters to their fathers. The atrociousness of the thing, first learned 
and then understood from the living voices of those who had suffered it, 
touched the magistracy; and without delay Astorre was made to return 
and was then condemned and admonished. 2 They made a search for the 
goods belonging to the Seravezze, and those that could be found were 
restored; the others were in time satisfied by the city in various modes. 


22 

messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi, for his part, was defamed for carrying on 
the war not for the profit of the Florentine people but for his own. And 
it was said that after he became commissioner, any eagerness to take 
Lucca had flown from his mind because it was enough for him to sack the 
countryside and fill his estates with cattle and his houses with booty; and 
that since the booty his attendants gathered for his own use was not 

2 In fact, he was acquitted. 


l68 


IV • 23 

enough, he bought that of the soldiers—so that from being a commis¬ 
sioner he had become a merchant. When these slanders reached his ears, 
they moved his sincere and haughty spirit more than was fitting for a 
grave man; and so much did they perturb him that, indignant with the 
magistracy and the citizens, and without waiting or asking for permis¬ 
sion, he returned to Florence. Presenting himself before the Ten, he said 
he knew very well how much difficulty and danger there was in serving 
an unrestrained people and a divided city, because the one is filled up with 
every rumor and the other persecutes wicked deeds, does not reward 
good ones, and accuses doubtful ones. So if you are victorious, no one 
praises you; if you err, everyone condemns you; and if you lose, everyone 
slanders you: for the friendly party persecutes you out of envy, the hostile 
party out of hatred. Nonetheless, he had never allowed himself, through 
fear of an empty charge, to refrain from doing a deed that might bring a 
sure profit to the city. It was true that the indecency of the present slan¬ 
ders had overcome his patience and made him change his nature. There¬ 
fore, he prayed that the magistracy wish to be more prompt in the future 
to defend its citizens so that they might be still more prompt to act well 
for their fatherland. And since it was not the custom in Florence to allow 
citizens a triumph, it might at least be the custom to defend them from 
false abuse; and they should remember that they too were citizens of that 
city and that at any hour some charge could be brought against them, 
from which they would learn how much offense false slanders may bring 
to men of integrity. The Ten, as time permitted, strove to appease him, 
and they asked Neri di Ginno and Alamanno Salviati to take charge of 
the campaign. These men gave up raiding the countryside around Lucca 
and brought their camp near the town; and because the season was still 
cold, they placed themselves in Capannole, where it appeared to the com¬ 
missioners they were wasting time. Although they wished to press closer 
to the town, the soldiers did not comply because of the bad weather, de¬ 
spite the fact that the Ten urged the encampment and would accept no 
excuse. 


23 

in those times there was a most excellent architect in Florence, called 
Filippo di ser Brunelleschi, of whose works our city is full. So great was 
his merit that after his death his likeness in marble was placed in the prin¬ 
cipal church of Florence with an inscription on the pedestal that still gives 
testimony of his virtues to whoever reads it. Fie showed how Lucca could 
be flooded, considering the site of the city and the bed of the river Ser- 

169 


IV • 24 

chio; and so much did he urge it that the Ten commissioned the experi¬ 
ment to be made. But nothing came of it other than disorder in our camp 
and security for the enemy, for the Lucchese raised the earth with a dike 
on the side where the Serchio was being made to come and then one night 
they broke the dike of the ditch through which the water was flowing. 
Thus, the water found the way toward Lucca blocked and the dike of the 
channel open, and it flooded the plain so that not only could the army not 
get near the town but it had to draw off. 


24 

thus, as this enterprise did not succeed, the Ten who had newly assumed 
the magistracy sent Messer Giovanni Guicciardini as commissioner. As 
soon as he could, he encamped at the town. So the lord [of Lucca], seeing 
himself hard pressed, and at the urging of one Messer Antonio del Rosso, 
a Sienese who was with him in the name of the commune of Siena, sent 
Salvestro Trenta and Leonardo Buonvisi to the duke of Milan. They re¬ 
quested aid of the duke on behalf of the lord, and, finding him cold, they 
begged him secretly to give them troops, because they promised on be¬ 
half of the people to give their lord to him as a prisoner and afterwards to 
give him possession of the town. They warned him that if he did not take 
this course quickly the lord would give the town to the Florentines, who 
were importuning him with many promises. Thus, the duke’s fear of this 
made him lay scruples aside, and he ordered his soldier Count Francesco 
Sforza to ask the lord publicly for permission to go to the Kingdom. 
Having obtained this, Sforza came to Lucca with his company, notwith¬ 
standing that the Florentines, knowing of this dealing and fearing what 
might come of it, sent to the count Boccacino Alamanni, his friend, to 
frustrate it. Therefore, when the count came to Lucca, the Florentines 
withdrew with their army to Ripafratta, and the count quickly encamped 
at Pescia, where the vicar was Pagolo da Diacceto. He, counseled by fear 
rather than by any better remedy, fled to Pistoia; and if the town had not 
been defended by Giovanni Malavolti, who was on guard there, it would 
have been lost. The count therefore, unable to take the city in the first 
assault, went to Borgo a. Buggiano and took it; and he burned Stigliano, 
a fortified town next to it. When the Florentines saw this disaster, they 
had recourse to the remedies that had saved them many times, since they 
knew how, with mercenary soldiers, corruption would help where force 
was not enough; so they offered the count money not only to leave but 
to give them the town. Since it appeared to the count that he could extract 
no more money from Lucca, he turned readily to extract it from those 

170 


IV • 25 

who had it, and he agreed with the Florentines, not to give them Lucca, 
to which his decency would not allow him to consent, but to abandon it 
if he were given fifty thousand ducats. And having made this agreement, 
so that the people of Lucca might excuse him with the duke, he gave them 
a hand so that the Lucchese might drive out their lord. 


25 

messer Antonio del Rosso, the Sienese ambassador, was in Lucca, as we 
said above. By authority of the count, he plotted with the citizens for the 
ruin of Pagolo. The heads of the conspiracy were Piero Cennami and 
Giovanni da Chivizzano. The count was lodged outside the town on the 
Serchio, and with him was Lanzilao, son of the lord. From there the con¬ 
spirators, forty in number, went armed at night to find Pagolo; at the 
noise they made, he went in utter astonishment to meet them and de¬ 
manded the cause for their coming. To which Piero Cennami said that 
they had been governed by him for a long time and had been led to die by 
sword and hunger with enemies all about; and so they had decided they 
wanted to govern themselves in the future, and they demanded from him 
the keys of the city and its treasure. Pagolo answered them that the treas¬ 
ure was spent, that the keys and he were in their power; 1 he prayed them 
for this alone, that they be content, that as his lordship had begun and 
continued without blood, so it should end without blood. Pagolo and his 
son were taken to the duke by Count Francesco; later they died in prison. 

The departure of the count had left Lucca free of its tyrant and the 
Florentines free of the fear of the count’s troops; hence the Lucchese pre¬ 
pared themselves for defense while the Florentines returned to the of¬ 
fense. They elected as captain the Count of Urbino, 2 who, by pressing 
hard on the town, compelled the Lucchese to have recourse again to the 
duke. The duke sent Niccolo Piccinino to help them under the same color 
by which he had sent the count. As Niccolo was about to enter Lucca, 
our men met him at the Serchio, and in the crossing the battle was joined 
and they were defeated; the commissioner, with a few of our troops, 
saved himself in Pisa. 

This defeat saddened all our city, and because the enterprise had been 
undertaken by the generality of people, 3 the people did not know whom 
to turn against. They slandered those who had administered it, since they 

1 Podesta. 

2 Guidantonio da Montefeltro. 

i Lit.: the universal. 


171 


IV • 26 


could not slander those who had decided it, and they revived the charges 
made against Messer Rinaldo. But more than anyone else, Giovanni 
Guicciardini was torn apart, 4 as they charged that he could have ended the 
war after the departure of Count Francesco but that he had been cor¬ 
rupted with money and that he had sent a sum of it home; and they ac¬ 
cused the ones who had brought it and who had received it. And these 
rumors and accusations reached such a pitch that the Captain of the Peo¬ 
ple, moved by these public voices and urged on by the opposing party, 
cited him. Messer Giovanni appeared, brimming with indignation; 
whereupon his relatives, for the sake of their honor, worked it out so that 
the Captain abandoned the undertaking. 

After the victory, the Lucchese not only regained their own towns but 
seized all those in the district of Pisa except Bientina, Calcinaia, Livorno, 
and Ripafratta; and if a conspiracy made in Pisa had not been discovered, 
that city, too, would have been lost. The Florentines reordered their 
troops and made Micheletto, a pupil of Sforza’s, their captain. For his 
part, the duke followed up the victory, and so as to be able to harass the 
Florentines with more forces, he made the Genoese, the Sienese, and the 
lord of Piombino league together for the defense of Lucca and hire Nic- 
colo Piccinino for their captain—by which thing all was disclosed. There¬ 
upon the Venetians and the Florentines renewed their league; and the war 
began to be waged openly in Lombardy and in Tuscany. And in both 
provinces different battles had varying fortune. So when everyone was 
weary, an accord was made among the parties in May of 1433, 5 by which 
the Florentines, Lucchese, and Sienese, who in the war had seized several 
fortified towns from one another, gave them all up, and each returned in 
possession of his own. 


26 

while they were toiling in this war, all the malignant humors of the 
parties inside 1 were boiling up again. Cosimo de’ Medici, after the death 
of his father Giovanni, conducted himself with greater spirit in public 
things and with greater zeal and more liberality toward his friends 
than his father had done; and as a result, those who were cheered by 
the death of Giovanni were saddened when they saw what sort Cosimo 
was. Cosimo was a very prudent man, of grave and pleasing appearance, 


4 See D 1 8. 

5 In fact, April 26, 1433. 
1 Inside Florence. 


172 


IV • 27 

quite liberal, quite humane; he never attempted anything against either 
the Party or the state but took care to benefit everyone and with his 
liberality to make many citizens into his partisans. So his example in¬ 
creased the charge against those who were governing, and he himself 
judged that by this way he would either live in Florence as powerful and 
as safely as anyone else or, if because of the ambition of his adversaries it 
came to something extraordinary, he would be superior both in arms and 
in favor. 

The great instruments for ordering his power were Averardo de’ Me¬ 
dici and Puccio Pucci. Averardo with boldness, Puccio with prudence and 
sagacity, ministered to the favor and greatness he had. And so highly es¬ 
teemed was the advice and the judgment of Puccio and so well known 
was he to everyone that Cosimo’s party was named not for him but for 
Puccio. It was by this city, thus divided, that the campaign against Lucca 
was undertaken, in which the humors of the parties were excited rather 
than eliminated. And it happened that while Cosimo’s party was the one 
that had favored the campaign, nonetheless many from the opposing 
party, as men of much reputation in the state, were sent to direct it. Since 
Averardo de’ Medici and the others were unable to remedy this, they took 
care with every art and industry to slander them; and if any loss arose, 
and many did, it was not fortune or the force of the enemy that was ac¬ 
cused, but want of prudence in the commissioner. This made them ag¬ 
gravate the sins of Gianni Astorre; 2 this was what made Messer Rinaldo 
degli Albizzi indignant and leave his commission without permission; 
this same thing made the Captain of the People recall Messer Giovanni 
Guicciardini; and from this arose all the other charges made against the 
magistrates and the commissioners, because the true ones were enlarged, 
the untrue were made up, and both the true and the untrue were believed 
by the people, who ordinarily hated them. 


27 

how these things were done and the extraordinary modes of proceeding 
were perfectly understood by Niccolo da Uzzano and the other heads of 
the Party. Together they had reasoned about remedies for it many times, 
but they found none because it appeared to them that to let the thing 
grow was dangerous and that to strike at it was difficult. And Niccolo da 
Uzzano was first among those to whom extraordinary ways were dis¬ 
tasteful. So, while they were living with the war outside and these travails 

2 See FH iv 20-21. 


173 


IV • 27 

within, Niccolo Barbadori, wishing to induce Niccolo da Uzzano to 
agree to the ruin of Cosimo, went to visit him at his home, where he was 
in his study absorbed in thought; and he encouraged him with all the best 
reasons he knew to induce him to want to unite with Messer Rinaldo to 
drive out Cosimo. To which Niccolo da Uzzano answered in this sense: 
“It would be better for you, for your house, and for our republic if you 
and the others who follow you in this opinion had beards of silver rather 
than gold, as they say you have; 1 for their counsels, coming from a grey 
head full of experience, would be wiser and more useful to everyone. It 
appears to me that those who think of driving Cosimo out of Florence 
must, before everything else, measure their forces and those of Cosimo. 
You 2 have baptized our side the party of the nobles and the opposing side 
that of the plebs. If truth were to correspond with the name, victory 
would be doubtful in any event, and we should rather fear than hope, 
moved by the example of the old nobility of this city who have been elim¬ 
inated by the plebs. But we have much more to fear since our party is 
fragmented and that of our adversaries is whole. First of all, Neri di Gino 
and Nerone di Nigi, two of our first citizens, have never declared them¬ 
selves in a mode that could allow it to be said that they are more our 
friends than theirs. There are many families here, indeed many houses, 
who are divided; for many out of envy of their brothers or relatives do 
not favor us and favor them. I want to remind you 3 of some of the more 
important of them; others you will think of for yourself. Of the sons of 
Messer Maso degli Albizzi, Luca, out of envy of Messer Rinaldo, has cast 
himself in their party; in the house of the Guicciardini, of the sons of 
Messer Luigi, Piero is an enemy of Messer Giovanni and favors our ad¬ 
versaries; Tommaso and Niccolo Soderini openly oppose their uncle 
Francesco out of the hate they bear for him. Consequently, if one consid¬ 
ers well of what sort they are and of what sort we are, I do not know why 
our party deserves to be called the party of the nobles more than theirs. 
And if it is because they are followed by all the plebs, then we are in a 
worse position and they in a better one for this; all the more so, since, if 
it should come to arms or to divisions, we are not capable of resisting. 
And if we still have our dignity, it arises out of the ancient reputation of 
this state, which has been preserved for fifty years; but if it should come 
to a test in which our weakness was uncovered, we would lose it. And if 
you were to say that the just cause impelling us would add credit to us 
and take it from them, I answer you that this justice must be understood 

1 Barbadoro means “beard of gold.” 

2 The speaker shifts from the familiar to the plural “you” (or plural of respect). 

3 Familiar “you.” 


174 


IV • 27 

and believed by others as by us. But it is quite the contrary, for the cause 
impelling us is altogether founded on the suspicion that a prince may be 
established in this city. If we have this suspicion, others do not; indeed, 
what is worse, they accuse us of what we accuse him. The deeds of Cos- 
imo that make us suspect him are these: because he helps everyone with 
his money, and not only private individuals but the public, and not only 
Florentines but the condottieri; because he favors this or that citizen who 
has need of the magistrates; because by the good will that he has in the 
generality of people 4 he pulls this or that friend to higher ranks of honor. 
Thus one would have to allege as the causes for driving him out that he is 
merciful, helpful, liberal, and loved by everyone. So tell me: what law is 
it that forbids or that blames and condemns in men mercy, liberality, and 
love? And although these are all modes that send men flying to a prince¬ 
dom, nonetheless they are not believed to be so, nor are we adequate to 
the task of making them be so understood, because our modes have de¬ 
stroyed their faith in us, and the city, which is naturally partisan and, 
since it has always lived with parties, is corrupt, cannot give a hearing to 
such accusations. But let us suppose that you do succeed in driving him 
out, which could easily happen since the Signoria is favorable; how could 
you, 5 among so many of his friends who would remain here and would 
burn with desire for his return, ever prevent him from returning to us? 
This would be impossible because they are so many and he has universal 
good will, and you could never secure yourself against them; and as many 
of his first, open friends should you drive out, so many more enemies 
would you make for yourselves. Then after a while he would return here, 
and you would have gained this—you would have driven out a good man 
who would return to us a wicked one because his nature would be cor¬ 
rupted by those who recalled him, and, being obliged to them, he could 
not oppose them. And if you scheme to have him killed, you will never 
succeed by way of the magistrates because his money and your own cor¬ 
ruptible minds will always save him. But let us suppose that he dies or 
does not return after he is expelled. I do not see what acquisition may be 
made for us inside our republic, for if it is freed from Cosimo, it becomes 
the slave of Messer Rinaldo; and as for myself, I am one of those who 
desire that no citizen surpass any other in power and authority, but if one 
of these two must prevail, I do not know what cause would make me love 
Messer Rinaldo more than Cosimo. Nor do I wish to say more to you 6 
than this: may God keep this city that no one of its citizens becomes 

4 Lit.: the universal. 

5 Shift again to the plural “you.” 

6 Shift back to the familiar “you.” 


175 


I V • 2 8 


prince of it, but even if our sins should deserve it, may He keep it from 
having to obey him. So do not wish to advise taking a course that is 
harmful in every way or believe that you, accompanied by a few, can 
oppose the will of many; for all these citizens, partly out of ignorance and 
partly out of malice, are prepared to sell this republic, and so much is 
fortune their friend that they have found a buyer. Be governed by my 
advice, therefore: take care to live modestly, and, as for liberty, you will 
have as much to suspect in our party as in the opposite one. And when 
any trial arises, by having lived neutrally you will be welcome to every¬ 
one, and thus you will help yourself and not hurt your fatherland.” 


28 

these words checked the spirit of Barbadori somewhat, so that things 
remained quiet for as long as the war over Lucca lasted; but when peace 
came, and with it the death of Niccolo da Uzzano, the city was left with¬ 
out war and without a check. As a result, wicked humors grew without 
any hesitation, and as it appeared to Messer Rinaldo that he alone was left 
as prince of the Party, he did not cease begging and importuning all the 
citizens who he believed might become Gonfaloniers, that they arm 
themselves to liberate their fatherland from that man who of necessity, 
by the malignity of few and the ignorance of many, was leading it into 
slavery. The modes used by Messer Rinaldo and by those who favored the 
opposite party kept the city full of suspicion; and whenever a new mag¬ 
istracy was created, it was discussed publicly how many of one and how 
many of the other party were sitting in it; and in the drawing of the Si¬ 
gnori, the whole city was stirred up. Every case that came before the mag¬ 
istrates, even the least, was reduced to a contest between them; secrets 
were published; the good as well as the bad was favored and not favored; 
good men as well as wicked were equally torn apart; and no magistrate 
did his duty. 

Thus, while Florence remained in this confusion and Messer Rinaldo 
was intent on bringing low the power of Cosimo, he learned that Ber¬ 
nardo Guadagni could become a Gonfalonier, and he paid his taxes for 
him so that his public debt would not keep him from that rank. When it 
came to the drawing for the Signori, fortune, the friend of our discords, 
had Bernardo drawn as Gonfalonier to sit in September and October. 
Messer Rinaldo went at once to visit him and told him how much the 
party of the nobles and whoever desired to live well rejoiced in his having 
achieved this dignity, and that it was now up to him to act in such a mode 
that they should not have rejoiced in vain. Then he pointed out to him 

176 


IV • 29 

the dangers incurred in disunion and that there was no other way to bring 
about union than to eliminate Cosimo; for only Cosimo, through the 
favors that arose from his immoderate wealth, kept men unstable. Cos¬ 
imo had been brought so high that, unless Bernardo saw to it, Cosimo 
would become prince; and it was the part of one good citizen to apply a 
remedy, to call the people into the piazza, and to take back the state so as 
to bring back freedom to the fatherland. He reminded him that Messer 
Salvestro de’ Medici had been able to check unjustly the greatness of the 
Guelfs, to whom the government belonged because of the blood spent by 
their ancestors, and that what Salvestro had been able to do against so 
many unjustly, Bernardo could well do justly against one alone. He urged 
him not to be afraid, because friends with arms would be ready to help 
him; and he should not take account of the plebs who adored Cosimo, 
because Cosimo would get no more favors from it than Messer Giorgio 
Scali once had; nor should he be afraid of Cosimo’s riches, because when 
he was in the power 1 of the Signori, his riches would be theirs; and he 
concluded to him that this deed would make the republic secure and 
united and himself glorious. To these words Bernardo answered briefly 
that he judged it was necessary to do all that Rinaldo had said and that, 
because it was time to act to eliminate Cosimo, he would take care to 
prepare forces so as to be ready, persuaded that he would have compan¬ 
ions. When Bernardo assumed the magistracy, readied his companions, 
and made an agreement with Messer Rinaldo, he summoned Cosimo. 
Although Cosimo was discouraged from it by many friends, he presented 
himself, trusting more in his innocence than in the mercy of the Signori. 
As soon as Cosimo was in the palace and arrested, Messer Rinaldo came 
out of his house with many armed men, followed by the whole party, and 
they went to the piazza where the Signori had called the people and cre¬ 
ated two hundred men for a balia to reform the state of the city. This 
balia, as soon as it could, dealt with reform and with the life and death of 
Cosimo. Many wanted him to be sent into exile, many wanted him dead; 
many others were silent either out of compassion for him or out of fear 
of them. These differences did not permit anything to be concluded. 


29 


in the tower of the palace, there is a place as large as the space of the 
tower allows, called the Alberghettino; 1 Cosimo was locked in there and 

1 Podesta. 

1 “The little inn.” 


177 


IV • 29 

placed under the watch of Federigo Malavolti. From this place Cosimo, 
hearing the assembly brought, the noise of arms that was made in the 
piazza, and the frequent sounding of the bell to the balia, was in doubt of 
his life; but even more, he feared that his particular enemies might have 
him killed extraordinarily. Because of this he refused food, so that for 
four days he had eaten nothing but a little bread. When Federigo became 
aware of this, he said, “You are afraid, Cosimo, of being poisoned, and 
so you are making yourself die of hunger and doing me little honor by 
believing that I might want to have a hand in such wickedness. I do not 
believe that you are about to lose your life, so many friends do you have 
in the palace and outside. But even if you were to lose it, you may be sure 
that they will adopt other modes than using me as the minister for taking 
it from you because I do not wish to defile my hands with the blood of 
anyone, especially not yours, since you have never offended me. There¬ 
fore, be of good cheer, take your food and keep yourself alive for the sake 
of your friends and of your fatherland. And that you may do it with 
greater confidence, I will eat the same things with you.” These words 
completely comforted Cosimo, and with tears in his eyes he embraced 
and kissed Federigo; and he thanked him with lively and effective words 
for such a merciful and kindly deed, promising to be most grateful to him 
if ever he were given the opportunity by fortune. So while Cosimo was 
somewhat comforted, and his case was being argued among the citizens, 
it happened that Federigo, so as to give him pleasure, brought to dine 
with him a friend of the Gonfalonier called Farganaccio, an amusing and 
witty man. And when they were almost finished dining, Cosimo, who 
thought he would take advantage of this man’s coming because he knew 
him very well, nodded to Federigo that he should leave. As Federigo 
understood the cause, he pretended to go for something needed for the 
serving of dinner; and they being left alone, Cosimo, after some kindly 
words to Farganaccio, gave him a signed note and asked him to go to the 
overseer of Santa Maria Nuova for one thousand one hundred ducats: one 
hundred of these he should take for himself and one thousand take to the 
Gonfalonier and beg him to find a suitable occasion to come talk to him. 
Farganaccio accepted the commission; the money was paid; and Bernardo 
then became more humane. As a result, Cosimo was banished to Padua 
contrary to the will of .Messer Rinaldo, who wanted him to be killed. 
Averardo and many others of the house of the Medici were also banished, 
and with them Puccio and Giovanni Pucci. And to frighten those who 
were malcontent at Cosimo’s exile, they gave the balia to the Eight of the 
Guard and to the Captain of the People. 2 After these decisions, Cosimo, 

2 See D i 49. 


178 


IV • 30 

on the third day of October in 1433, came before the Signori and was 
sentenced to exile by them and warned to obey if he did not wish them 
to proceed more harshly against his goods as well as himself. Cosimo 
accepted banishment with a cheerful face, asserting that wherever that 
Signoria might wish to send him he was ready to stay voluntarily. He 
prayed, indeed, that, having spared his life, they would defend it for him, 
because he heard that in the piazza there were many who desired his 
blood. Then he offered himself and his property, in whatever place he 
might be, to the city, to the people, and to the Signori. He was comforted 
by the Gonfaloniers and kept in the palace until night came. Then the 
Gonfalonier took him to his home, had him dine with him, and then had 
him accompanied by many armed men to the borders. Wherever he 
passed, Cosimo was received with honor; and he was visited publicly by 
the Venetians, and not as an exile but honored as one placed in the highest 
rank. 


30 

Florence having been left the widow of so great a citizen, so universally 
loved, everyone was frightened; those who had won and those who had 
been conquered were equally afraid. Hence, Messer Rinaldo, fearing fu¬ 
ture evil for himself, so as not to fail himself or the Party, gathered to¬ 
gether many friendly citizens and told them that he saw their ruin pre¬ 
pared for them by having allowed themselves to be conquered by the 
prayers, tears, and money of their enemies. They were not aware that, 
soon after, they themselves would have to pray and weep and that their 
prayers would not be heard and that their tears would find no one with 
compassion for them. As for the money they had taken, they would have 
to restore the capital and pay usury with tortures, deaths, and exiles; and 
it would have been better for them to have let things be than to have left 
Cosimo alive and his friends in Florence, because great men must either 
not be touched or, if touched, be eliminated. 1 Nor did he see any other 
remedy for it now than to make themselves strong in the city so that 
when their enemies should be heard from again, and they would be heard 
from soon, they could be driven out by arms since it had not been possi¬ 
ble to send them away by civil modes. And the remedy was the one that 
he, a long time before, had mentioned: 2 to gain back the great by giving 
back and conceding to them all the honors of the city and to make them- 


1 See P 3 and D in 6 for similar expressions. 

2 See FH iv 9. 


179 


IV • 30 

selves strong with this party, since their adversaries had made themselves 
strong with the plebs. With this, their party would be more vigorous as 
it would have more life, more virtue, more spirit, and more credit; and 
he asserted that if this last and true remedy were not taken, he did not see 
by what other mode they could preserve a state among so many enemies, 
and he knew that the ruin of their party and of the city was imminent. 
Mariotto Bandovinetti, one of those assembled, opposed this by pointing 
out the pride of the great and their intolerable nature; he was not about to 
run back under certain tyranny by them so as to escape the doubtful dan¬ 
gers from the plebs. Hence Messer Rinaldo, seeing that his counsel was 
not listened to, lamented his misfortune and that of his party, imputing 
everything more to the heavens who wished it so than to the ignorance 
and blindness of men. And while the thing was left in this manner with¬ 
out making any necessary provision, a letter was found written by Messer 
Agnolo Acciaiuoli to Cosimo that described the disposition of the city 
toward him and urged him to have some kind of war set in motion and 
to make Neri di Gino his friend. For he judged that as the city would need 
money, no one would be found to provide it, and Cosimo’s memory 
would come to be revived in the citizens as well as the desire to have him 
return. And if Neri should dissociate himself from Messer Rinaldo, that 
party would be so weakened that it would not be adequate to defend it¬ 
self. When this letter came into the hands of the magistrates, it caused 
Messer Agnolo to be arrested, tortured, and sent into exile. Not even by 
such an example was the humor favoring Cosimo checked in any part. 

Already nearly a year had gone by from the day that Cosimo had been 
driven out, and as the end of August 1434 came, Niccolo di Cocco was 
drawn to be one of the Gonfaloniers for the next two months, and with 
him eight Signori, all partisans of Cosimo. Such a Signoria terrified Mes¬ 
ser Rinaldo and all his party. And since before the Signori assume the 
magistracy they remain private individuals for three days, Messer Ri¬ 
naldo conferred again with the heads of his party; and he pointed out to 
them the certain and imminent danger and that the remedy was to take 
up arms and to get Donato Velluti, then sitting with the Gonfaloniers, to 
assemble the people in the piazza, make a new balia, deprive the new 
Signori of the magistracy, and create new ones suitable to the state; and 
the bags should be burned and filled with new lists 3 of friends. This 
course was judged safe and necessary by many, by many others too vio¬ 
lent and likely to carry too much blame with it. Among those who were 
displeased with it was Messer Palla Strozzi, who was a quiet man, gentle 
and humane, more suited to the study of letters than to restraining a party 


3 Lit.: squittini ; see FH 11 28. 


l80 


IV • 3 I 

and opposing civil discords. And so he said that courses of action, 
whether astute or bold, appear good in the beginning but then turn out 
to be difficult to deal with and harmful to finish. He believed that the fear 
of new wars from outside—the duke’s troops being then in Romagna on 
our borders—would make the Signori think more about them than the 
discords inside. Also, if it was seen that they wanted to change (which 
they could not do without its being understood), there would always be 
time enough to take up arms and execute whatever appeared necessary 
for the common safety; and what they would be doing out of necessity 
would be attended with less wonder in the people and with less blame to 
themselves. It was concluded therefore that the new Signori should be 
allowed to enter their offices and that their movements should be 
watched; should anything be heard of against the party, everyone should 
take up arms and meet at the Piazza di Sant’ Appollinare, a place near the 
palace, and from there they could go wherever it seemed necessary to 
them. 


31 

when they had parted with this conclusion, the new Signori entered into 
the magistracy and the Gonfalonier, to give himself reputation and to 
frighten those who might scheme to oppose him, condemned his prede¬ 
cessor, Donato Velluti, to prison as a man who had profited from public 
money. After this, he sounded out his companions about having Cosimo 
return, and, having found them disposed to it, he spoke with those he 
judged to be the heads of the Medici party. Warmed by them, he sum¬ 
moned Messer Rinaldo, Ridolfo Peruzzi, and Niccolo Barbadori as the 
principals of the opposing party. After this summons Messer Rinaldo 
thought he should delay no longer, and he came out of his house with a 
great number of armed men and was quickly joined by Ridolfo Peruzzi 
and Niccolo Barbadoro. Among these were many other citizens and a 
great many soldiers who were then in Florence unhired; and all stopped, 
in accordance with the agreement they had made, at the Piazza di Sant’ 
Apollinare. Messer Palla Strozzi, even though he had assembled many 
men, did not come out; the same with Messer Giovanni Giucciardini. 
Whereupon Messer Rinaldo sent to prompt them and to reproach them 
for their tardiness. Messer Giovanni answered that he was making 
enough war against the enemy party if by staying home he was keeping 
his brother Piero from going out to help the palace. Messer Palla, after 
many embassies had been sent to him, came to Sant’ Apollinare on a 
horse with two men on foot, unarmed. At this, Messer Rinaldo con- 


181 


IV . 3 I 

fronted him and loudly reproached him for his negligence. Rinaldo said 
that his not coming with the others sprang from either lack of faith or 
lack of spirit; that a man ought to avoid both of these charges if he wished 
to be held as the sort he was held; and if he believed that by not doing his 
duty against the Party his enemies, if they won, would spare him either 
life or exile, he was deceived. As for what pertained to himself, should 
anything sinister happen, he would have the satisfaction of not having 
been wanting with advice before the danger and with force in the danger. 
But for Messer Palla and the others, regrets would be redoubled when 
they thought how they had betrayed their fatherland three times: once 
when they saved Cosimo, again when they did not take his advice, and 
now a third time when they did not rescue it with arms. To these words 
Messer Palla did not answer a thing that might be understood by the by¬ 
standers, but muttering he turned his horse around and went back to his 
home. 

The Signori, hearing that Messer Rinaldo and his party had taken up 
arms and seeing themselves abandoned, had the palace locked up; de¬ 
prived of counsel, they did not know what to do. But since Messer Ri¬ 
naldo delayed coming to the piazza in order to wait for forces that did not 
come, he deprived himself of the chance to win, gave the Signori spirit to 
provide for themselves and to many citizens to go to them and urge them 
to make terms so that arms might be put down. Thus, some who were 
less suspect went, on behalf of the Signori, to Messer Rinaldo and said 
that the Signoria did not know the cause for making these movements; 
that it had never thought of offending him; if it had reasoned about Cos¬ 
imo, it had not thought of bringing him back; if this was the cause of 
suspicion, they would reassure him; and if they would be content to come 
to the palace, they would be well received and satisfied in their every de¬ 
mand. These words did not make Messer Rinaldo change his mind, but 
he said he wanted to secure himself by making them private individuals 
and then, for everyone’s benefit, reorder the city. But it always happens 
that, where authorities are equal and opinions different, rarely is anything 
resolved for good. Ridolfo Peruzzi, moved by the words of these citizens, 
said that for himself he sought only that Cosimo not return; and since 
there was accord on this, it appeared victory enough to him. He did not 
want to fill his city with blood so as to have a greater one; therefore he 
was willing to obey the Signoria. And with his men he went into the 
palace, where he was gladly received. Thus Messer Rinaldo’s stopping at 
Sant’ Apollinare, the lack of spirit in Messer Palla, and the departure of 
Ridolfo had taken victory in the enterprise from Messer Rinaldo; and the 
spirits of the citizens who had followed him had begun to lose their first 
warmth. To this was added the authority of the pope. 


182 


IV • 33 
32 


pope Eugene found himself in Florence, having been driven out of Rome 
by the people. Hearing of these tumults and feeling it his duty to quiet 
them, he sent the patriarch, Messer Giovanni Vitelleschi, very friendly to 
Messer Rinaldo, to him to pray him to come to the pope, for the pope 
would lack neither authority nor faith with the Signoria to make Rinaldo 
content and secure without blood and harm to the citizens. Persuaded, 
therefore, by his friend, Messer Rinaldo with all his armed followers went 
to Santa Maria Novella, where the pope was staying. Eugene informed 
him of the faith that the Signori had pledged to him, by which they had 
submitted all their differences to him. If Messer Rinaldo would lay down 
his arms, things would be ordered as appeared best to the pope. Since 
Messer Rinaldo had seen the coolness of Messer Palla and the flightiness 
of Ridolfo Peruzzi and had no better plan, he put himself in the arms of 
the pope, thinking surely that the authority of the pope would have to 
preserve him. Whereupon the pope had Niccolo Barbadori and the 
others who were waiting for Rinaldo outside instructed to go and put 
down their arms, because Messer Rinaldo was staying with the pontiff to 
negotiate an accord with the Signori. Upon this announcement, each 
made up his mind and disarmed. 


33 

the Signori, seeing their adversaries disarmed, waited to negotiate the 
accord through the mediation of the pope; and on the other hand, they 
sent secretly to the mountains of Pistoia for infantry. They had this infan¬ 
try, with all their men-at-arms, come by night into Florence; and when 
the strongholds in the city had been taken, the Signori called the people 
into the piazza and created a new balia. As soon as the balia assembled, it 
restored Cosimo to his fatherland as well as the others who had been 
banished with him; and from the enemy party it banished Messer Rinaldo 
degli Albizzi, Ridolfo Peruzzi, Niccolo Barbadori, and Messer Palla 
Strozzi, along with many citizens in such quantity that few towns in Italy 
were left to which they had not been sent in exile and many outside of 
Italy were filled with them. Thus Florence was deprived by the same ac¬ 
cident not only of good men but of men of riches and industry. When the 
pope saw such ruin fall on those who had put down their arms at his 
prayers, he was very malcontent; and he lamented with Messer Rinaldo 
the injury done to him under his faith in him. He urged him to patience 


183 


IV • 33 

and to hope much from a change of fortune. To which Messer Rinaldo 
answered, “The little faith granted me by those who should have believed 
me and the too great faith that I placed in you have ruined me and my 
party; but I am sorry more for myself than anyone else, since I believed 
that you who had been driven from your own fatherland would be able 
to keep me in mine. As for the tricks of fortune, I have quite good expe¬ 
rience; and as I had little confidence in prosperity, so adversity offends me 
less. I know that if it pleases fortune, she will be able to show me more 
joy; but if it should never please her, I shall always esteem it little to live 
in a city where the laws can do less than men. For that fatherland is desir¬ 
able in which property and friends can be safely enjoyed, and not that in 
which property can easily be taken from you and friends, out of fear for 
their own, abandon you in your greatest necessities. And to wise and 
good men, it was always less grievous to hear about the evils of their 
fatherland than to see them, and they reputed it a more glorious thing to 
be an honorable rebel than a slave citizen.” Then, full of indignation, he 
left the pope, and, often reproaching himself for both his own counsels 
and the coolness of his friends, he went off into exile. Cosimo, on the 
other hand, having been informed of his restitution, returned to Florence. 
And rarely does it happen that a citizen returning triumphant from a vic¬ 
tory has been received by his fatherland by such a crowd of people and 
such a demonstration of good will as he received when he returned from 
exile. And he was greeted willingly by each as benefactor of the people 
and father of his fatherland. 1 

1 Cf. NM’s judgment on the government of the Ottimatti begun by Maso degli Albizzi 
and on its successor, managed by Cosimo de’ Medici, in his Discursus jiorentinarum rerum 
post mortem iunioris Laurentii Medices (beg.). 


184 


BOOK V 


I 

usually provinces go most of the time, in the changes they make, from 
order to disorder and then pass again from disorder to order, for worldly 
things are not allowed by nature to stand still. As soon as they reach their 
ultimate perfection, having no further to rise, they must descend; and 
similarly, once they have descended and through their disorders arrived 
at the ultimate depth, since they cannot descend further, of necessity they 
must rise. Thus they are always descending from good to bad and rising 
from bad to good . 1 For virtue gives birth to quiet, quiet to leisure, leisure 
to disorder, disorder to ruin; and similarly, from ruin, order is born; from 
order, virtue; and from virtue, glory and good fortune. Whence it has 
been observed by the prudent that letters come after arms and that, in 
provinces and cities, captains arise before philosophers. For, as good and 
ordered armies give birth to victories and victories to quiet, the strength 
of well-armed spirits cannot be corrupted by a more honorable leisure 
than that of letters, nor can leisure enter into well-instituted cities with a 
greater and more dangerous deceit than this one. This was best under¬ 
stood by Cato when the philosophers Diogenes and Carneades, sent by 
Athens as spokesmen to the Senate, came to Rome. When he saw how 
the Roman youth was beginning to follow them about with admiration, 
and since he recognized the evil that could result to his fatherland from 
this honorable leisure, he saw to it that no philosopher could be accepted 
in Rome. Thus, provinces come by these means to ruin; when they have 
arrived there and men have become wise from their afflictions, they re¬ 
turn, as was said, to order unless they remain suffocated by an extraor¬ 
dinary force. These causes, first through the ancient Tuscans 2 and then 
the Romans, have made Italy sometimes happy, sometimes wretched. 
And it happened that afterwards, nothing was built upon the Roman 
rums in a way that might have redeemed Italy from them, so that it might 
have been able to act gloriously under a virtuous principality . 3 Nonethe- 

1 See also D i 2, 39, 11 pr., 5, ill 43, for NM’s thoughts on the motion of worldly things. 

2 The Etruscans, whom NM likes to call Tuscans; see D 11 4. 

3 Or principate. Principato can mean the ruling or dominating office as well as the realm 
of domination. 


185 


V • 2 


less, so much virtue emerged in some of the new cities and empires that 
arose among the Roman ruins that, even if one did not dominate the 
others, they were nonetheless harmonious and ordered together so that 
they freed Italy and defended it from the barbarians. Within these empires 
the Florentines, if they had less dominion, were not less in authority or 
power; indeed, because of their position in the middle of Italy, rich and 
ready for attack, either they successfully resisted a war begun against 
them or they gave victory to the one with whom they sided. 

If from the virtue of these new principalities times did not arise that 
were quiet through a long peace, neither were they dangerous because of 
the harshness of war. For one cannot affirm it to be peace where princi¬ 
palities frequently attack one another with arms; yet they cannot be called 
wars in which men are not killed, cities are not sacked, principalities are 
not destroyed, for these wars came to such weakness that they were be¬ 
gun without fear, carried on without danger, and ended without loss. So 
that virtue which in other provinces used to be eliminated in a long peace 
was eliminated by vileness in the provinces of Italy, as can clearly be rec¬ 
ognized in what will be described by us from 1434 to 1494. There it will 
be seen how in the end the way was opened anew for the barbarians and 
how Italy put itself again in slavery to them. And if the things done by 
our princes outside and at home may not be read, as are those of the 
ancients, with admiration for their virtue and greatness, they may per¬ 
haps be considered for other qualities with no less admiration when it is 
seen how so many very noble peoples were held in check by such weak 
and badly directed armies. And if in describing the things that happened 
in this devastated world one does not tell about either the strength of 
soldiers, or the virtue of the captain, or the love of the citizen for his 
fatherland, it will be seen with what deceits, with what guile and arts the 
princes, soldiers, and heads of republics conducted themselves so as to 
maintain the reputation they have not deserved. It may, perhaps, be no 
less useful to know these things than to know the ancient ones, because, 
if the latter excite liberal spirits to follow them, the former will excite 
such spirits to avoid and eliminate them. 


2 

italy had been brought by those who ruled it to such a term that when 
a peace arose by the concord of princes, it was upset soon after by those 
who kept arms 1 on hand: and so they did not acquire glory from war or 
quiet from peace. When peace was made, therefore, between the duke of 

1 Armi : arms or armies. 


186 


V • 3 

Milan and the league in the year 1433, the soldiers, wishing to live off 
war, turned against the Church. At that time there were two sects of arms 
in Italy: followers of Braccio and of Sforza. The head of the latter was 
Count Francesco, Sforza’s son; of the other the prince was Niccolo Pic- 
cinino and Niccolo Fortebraccio; 2 to these sects nearly all the other Italian 
armies were connected. Of the two, Sforza’s was in greater esteem both 
because of the virtue of the count and through the promise the duke of 
Milan had made of Madonna Bianca, his natural daughter, the expecta¬ 
tion of which relationship brought him very great reputation. 

Thus, after the peace of Lombardy, both sects of armed men, for dif¬ 
ferent causes, attacked Pope Eugene. Niccolo Fortebraccio was moved by 
the ancient hostility Braccio had always had for the Church, and the 
count was moved by ambition; so Niccolo attacked Rome, and the count 
made himself lord of the Marches. Hence the Romans, not wanting to 
have war, drove Eugene out of Rome. Escaping with danger and diffi¬ 
culty, he came to Florence, where, having considered the danger he was 
in and seeing himself abandoned by the princes, who were unwilling for 
the sake of his cause to take up again the arms they had most eagerly put 
down, he came to accord with the count and conceded to him lordship 
over the Marches, even though the count added insult to the injury of 
having seized them. For in noting the place from which he was writing 
letters to his agents, he said, according to the Italian custom in Latin: “Ex 
Girfalco nostro Firmano, invito Petro et Paulo .” 3 Nor was he satisfied with 
the concession of towns; he wished also to be created gonfalonier of the 
Church. All was yielded to him, so much more did Eugene fear a dan¬ 
gerous war than a shameful peace. Having become a friend to the pope, 
therefore, the count pursued Niccolo Fortebraccio; and between them 
there occurred various unforeseen events in the towns of the Church for 
many months, all of which resulted in more loss to the pope and his sub¬ 
jects than to whoever was managing the war. Then, through the media¬ 
tion of the duke of Milan, an accord was concluded between them by 
means of a truce, in which both remained as princes in the towns of the 
Church. 


3 


this war, though extinguished in Rome, was rekindled by Batista da 
Canneto in Romagna. He killed some of the Grifoni family in Bologna 


2 Two men named Niccolo, one prince. 

3 “From our Gerfalcon at Fermo, in spite of [or at the invitation of] Peter and Paul.” 
Gerfalcon was the name of the count’s castle. 


187 


V • 3 

and drove out of the city the governor for the pope with others of his 
enemies, and so as to hold the state by violence, he sent to Filippo for 
help; and the pope, so as to avenge the injury, asked for help from the 
Venetians and the Florentines. Both of them were supported, so that im¬ 
mediately there were two large armies in Romagna. Filippo’s captain was 
Niccolo Piccinino; the Venetian and Florentine troops were commanded 
by Gattamelata and Niccolo da Tolentino; and the battle was joined near 
Imola. In it the Venetians and Florentines were defeated, and Niccolo da 
Tolentino was sent a prisoner to the duke; and in a few days, whether 
through fraud by the duke or from grief over the loss he had received, he 
died. After this victory, the duke, either because he was weak from the 
wars he had been through or because he believed that the league, having 
suffered this defeat, might pause, did not follow up his fortune further 
and thus gave the pope and his allies time to reunite. They chose Count 
Francesco 1 for their captain and undertook a campaign to drive Niccolo 
Fortebraccio out of the towns of the Church so as to see if they could end 
this war that they had begun in favor of the pope. 

As soon as the Romans saw the pope so vigorous in the field, they 
sought an accord with him, and, having obtained it, accepted one of his 
commissioners. Niccolo Fortebraccio was holding, among other towns, 
Tivoli, Montefiasconi, Citta di Castello, and Assisi. In this last Niccolo 
took refuge, since he was unable to stay in the open country, and there 
the count besieged him. As the siege went on for a long time because 
Niccolo was defending himself manfully, it appeared necessary to the 
duke either to prevent the league from a victory or, should it happen, to 
order himself to defend his own things. Wishing therefore to distract the 
count from the siege, the duke commanded Niccolo Piccinino to pass by 
way of Romagna into Tuscany so that the league, judging it more neces¬ 
sary to defend Tuscany than take Assisi, ordered the count to stop Nic¬ 
colo, who was already with his army at Forli, from passing through. The 
count, for his part, advanced with his troops and came to Cesena, having 
left to his brother Leone the war in the Marches and the care of his states. 

And while Piccinino sought to pass through and the count to prevent 
him, Niccolo Fortebraccio attacked Leone, captured him, and plundered 
his troops with great glory to himself. Then, following up the victory, 
with the same thrust he -seized many other towns of the Marches. This 
act afflicted the count very much because he thought all his states were 
lost; and leaving a part of his army to oppose Piccinino, he went with the 
rest toward Fortebraccio, fought him, and won. In this defeat Fortebrac¬ 
cio was taken prisoner and wounded, of which wound he died. This vic- 

1 Sforza. 


188 


v • 4 

tory restored to the pontiff all the towns that had been taken from him 
by Niccolo Fortebraccio and forced the duke of Milan to ask for peace, 
which was concluded through the mediation of Niccolo d’Este, marquis 
of Ferrara. In it the towns seized in Romagna by the duke were restored 
to the Church, and the duke’s troops were returned to Lombardy; and, 
as happens to all those who maintain themselves in a state through the 
forces and virtue of others, when the duke’s troops departed from Ro¬ 
magna, Batista da Canneto fled because his own forces and virtue were un¬ 
able to keep him in Bologna. Messor Antonio Bentivoglio, head of the 
opposing party, returned there. 


4 

all these things happened in the time of Cosimo’s exile. 1 After his re¬ 
turn, those who had had him brought back and a great many injured 
citizens took thought, without any hesitation, about how to secure the 
state for themselves. And the Signoria that had acceded to the magistracy 
for November and December, not content with what had been done by 
its predecessors in favor of their party, extended and changed the exiles 
of many, and many others were exiled anew; and the citizens were hurt 
not so much by the humor of parties as by riches, relatives, and private 
enmities. If this proscription had been accompanied by blood, it would 
have been like that of Octavian and Sulla; and yet, it was tinged with 
blood in some part, for Antonio di Bernardo Guadagni was beheaded. 
And four other citizens, among whom were Zanobi de Belfrategli and 
Cosimo Barbadori, having passed beyond their confines, were found in 
Venice; and the Venetians, valuing the friendship of Cosimo more than 
their own honor, sent them to him as prisoners, where they were basely 
put to death. This affair gave great reputation to the party and very great 
fear to its enemies, when they considered that so powerful a republic 
would sell its liberty to the Florentines. It was believed that this was done 
not so much to benefit Cosimo as further to inflame the parties in Flor¬ 
ence, and through bloodshed to make the division of our city more dan¬ 
gerous; for the Venetians saw no other opposition to their own greatness 
than its unity. 

Thus, having stripped the city of enemies or suspects of the state, they 
turned to benefiting new men so as to invigorate their party. They re¬ 
stored to the fatherland the Alberti family and whoever else had been 
considered a rebel; they reduced all the great except for a very few to the 

1 See FH iv 28-29. 


189 


v • 5 

popular order; they divided the possessions of the rebels among them¬ 
selves at a low price. Besides this, they strengthened themselves with laws 
and new orders, and they made new lists for the lot, 2 removing from the 
bags [the names of] their enemies and filling them with [the names of] 
their friends. And having been warned by the ruin of their adversaries, 
they judged that chosen lists might not be enough to hold the state firmly 
for themselves, and they decided that magistrates who have authority to 
shed blood should always be from the princes of their sect. They wished 
therefore that the couplers 3 in charge of filling the bags with new names 
should have authority together with the old Signoria to create the new 
one. They gave authority to shed blood to the Eight of the Guard; they 
provided that exiles who had finished their terms could not return unless 
thirty-four Signori and Collegi, who are thirty-seven in number, agreed 
to their return. They prohibited writing to exiles or receiving letters from 
them, and every word, every hint, every usage that might in any part be 
displeasing to those governing was very heavily punished. And if there 
remained in Florence any suspect who had not been reached by these in¬ 
flictions, 4 he was hit with taxes that they ordered anew. In a short time, 
having driven out or impoverished all the enemy party, they secured the 
state for themselves. And so as not to be lacking help from outside and to 
rid themselves of those who might be planning to attack 5 them, they al¬ 
lied themselves with the pope, the Venetians, and the duke of Milan for 
the defense of their states. 


5 

while things in Florence stood in this form, Giovanna, queen of Naples, 
died, and in her will left Rene of Anjou heir of the Kingdom. At the time, 
Alfonso, king of Aragon, was in Sicily, and he, through his friendship 
with many barons, was preparing to seize that kingdom. The Neapoli¬ 
tans and many barons favored Rene; the pope, for his part, wished neither 
Rene nor Alfonso to seize it but desired it to be administered by one of 
his own governors. Alfonso, however, came into the Kingdom and was 
received by the duke of Sessa; there he took into his pay some princes 
with the intent (since he had Capua, which the prince of Taranto was 
holding in the name of Alfonso) of compelling the Neapolitans to do his 
will; and he sent his fleet to attack Gaeta, which was being held for the 

2 Squittini. 

3 Accoppiatori, or matchmakers, who supervised or manipulated the lotteries for offices. 
See Nicolai Rubinstein, The Government of Florence under the Medici 1434 to 1494, chs. 1-2. 

4 Lit.: offenses. 

5 Lit.: offend. 


190 


v • 6 


Neapolitans. Because of this, the Neapolitans asked for aid from Filippo. 1 
Filippo persuaded the Genoese to undertake this expedition, and they, not 
only to satisfy the duke, their prince, but to save the merchandise they 
had in Naples and Gaeta, armed a powerful fleet. Alfonso, for his part, 
when he heard of this, enlarged his own fleet and went in person to the 
encounter with the Genoese. The battle was joined near the island of 
Ponza; the Aragonese fleet was defeated, and Alfonso, together with 
many princes, was taken and given by the Genoese into the hands of Fi¬ 
lippo. This victory frightened all the princes in Italy, who feared the 
power of Filippo because they judged he had a very great opportunity to 
make himself lord of it all. But he (so diverse are the opinions of men) 
took a course altogether contrary to this opinion. Alfonso was a prudent 
man, and as soon as he was able to talk to Filippo, he showed him how 
greatly he was deceived in favoring Rene and not favoring himself. For 
Rene, if he became king of Naples, would have to make every effort to 
have Milan belong to the king of France so that he would have assistance 
nearby and in time of need would not have to try to open a way for his 
rescuers; nor could he otherwise make himself secure in this except 
through Filippo’s ruin, by making this state become French. But the con¬ 
trary would come about if Alfonso should become prince, because, fear¬ 
ing no other enemy than the French, he would necessarily be compelled 
to love and embrace and—nothing less—obey whoever could open the 
way to his enemies. Therefore, the title of the Kingdom would come to 
Alfonso, but the authority and the power would be Filippo’s. Thus it was 
much more Filippo’s concern than Alfonso’s to consider the dangers of 
the one course and the usefulness of the other, unless indeed he would 
rather satisfy an appetite of his than secure the state for himself. For in the 
one case he would be a prince and free, and in the other, being between 
two very powerful princes, either he would lose the state or he would live 
forever in suspicion and have to obey them both as a slave. These words 
had such power in the mind of the duke that he changed his plan, freed 
Alfonso, and sent him back honorably to Genoa and from thence into the 
Kingdom. Alfonso moved to Gaeta, which was seized by some lords who 
were his partisans as soon as they heard of his liberation. 


6 

when the Genoese saw how the duke had liberated the king without any 
regard for them, and that he had been honored through their dangers and 
at their expense, that to him had gone gratitude for the liberation but to 

' Filippo Maria Visconti, the duke of Milan. 

191 


v • 7 

them the injury of the capture and the defeat, they were all very indignant 
with him. In the city of Genoa, when it lives in liberty, a head is created 
by free suffrage whom they call doge, not to be an absolute prince or to 
decide alone, but as head in proposing what must be decided by the mag¬ 
istrates and their councils. That city has many noble families who are so 
powerful that they obey the rule 1 of the magistrates only with difficulty. 
Of all of them, the Fregosa and Adorni families are the most powerful. 
From these families arise the divisions of that city, and from them the 
civil orders are destroyed. For, as they fight among themselves over this 
principality, not civilly, but most of the time with arms, it always follows 
that one party is wounded and the other rules; and sometimes it happens 
that those who are deprived of their dignities resort to foreign arms, and 
they submit the fatherland they themselves are unable to govern to the 
empire of a foreigner. From this it arose and still arises that those who 
rule in Lombardy most of the time command Genoa; and so it was when 
Alfonso of Aragon was taken. 

Among the first of the Genoese who had been the cause of submitting 
Genoa to Filippo had been Francesco Spinula, who, not long after he had 
made his fatherland a slave, as always happens in such cases, became sus¬ 
pect to the duke. He was so indignant at this that he had chosen to go 
almost as a voluntary exile to Gaeta, where he had been when the naval 
battle with Alfonso took place, and, having borne himself virtuously in 
the service of that campaign, it appeared to him that he had again enough 
merit with the duke that at the least, in reward for his merits, he might 
be able to stay safely in Genoa. But when he saw that the duke continued 
to be suspicious of him—for the duke could not believe that one who had 
not loved the liberty of his fatherland should love him—he decided to try 
his fortune again and with one stroke get back liberty for his fatherland 
and fame and security for himself, judging that there was no other rem¬ 
edy with his fellow citizens but to do a deed in which the medicine and 
cure would arise from what had been the wound. And when he saw the 
universal indignation engendered against the duke because of his libera¬ 
tion of the king, he judged that the time was right for putting his designs 
into effect, and he shared his counsel with as many as he knew were of 
the same opinion, and urged and disposed them to follow him. 


7 


the festival day of Saint John the Baptist had come when Erasmo, the 
new governor sent by the duke, entered Genoa. 1 When he was already 

1 Lit.: empire. 

1 December 27, 1435; in fact, the festival of Saint John the Evangelist. 


192 


v • 8 


inside, accompanied by Opicino, the old governor, and by many Gen¬ 
oese, it appeared to Francesco Spinula that he must delay no longer. He 
came out of his house armed, together with those who were aware of his 
decisions, and as soon as he was on the piazza in front of his house, he 
cried out the name of liberty. It was a wonderful thing to see with what 
haste that people and those citizens ran to this name: so that anyone who 
for his own advantage or for any other cause might love the duke had not 
only no time to take up arms but hardly time to think of taking flight. 
Erasmo took refuge with some of the Genoese who were with him in the 
fortress that kept guard for the duke. Opicino, assuming that if he fled to 
the palace where he had two thousand armed men at his command he 
could either save himself or inspire his friends to defend him, turned in 
that direction; but before he could reach the piazza, he was killed, and his 
body, cut to pieces, was dragged all over Genoa. The Genoese, having 
returned their city to free magistrates, in a few days seized the castle and 
the other strongholds possessed by the duke and freed themselves alto¬ 
gether from the yoke of Duke Filippo. 


8 

these things being governed thus, whereas in the beginning they had 
frightened the princes of Italy, who feared that the duke might become 
too powerful, they gave those princes, when they saw the outcome, hope 
of being able to keep him in check. And despite the league newly made, 1 
the Florentines and the Venetians came to an accord with the Genoese. 
Whereupon Messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi and the other heads of the ex¬ 
iled Florentines, seeing that things were upset and that the face of the 
world had changed, took hope of being able to induce the duke to under¬ 
take an open war against Florence. Having gone to Milan, Messer Ri¬ 
naldo spoke to the duke in this sense: “If we, once your enemies, come 
confidently now to implore your help so that we may return to our 
fatherland, neither you 2 nor any other who considers how human things 
proceed and how changeable fortune is ought to marvel at it. Despite our 
past and present actions, we have manifest and reasonable excuses both 
with you, for what we have already done, and with our fatherland, for 
what we are now doing. No good man will ever reprove anyone who 
seeks to defend his fatherland in whatever mode he defends it. Nor was 
it ever our aim to injure you, but rather to guard our fatherland from 
injuries, of which it can be evidence to you that in the course of the great- 

1 The peace of August 1435. 

2 The familiar “you” throughout this speech. 


193 


v • 8 


est victories of our league, when we recognized that you had turned to a 
true peace, we were more desirous of it than you yourself So we are not 
afraid of having ever done a thing to make us doubt that we could obtain 
any favor from you. Nor yet can our fatherland complain that we urge 
you now to take up those arms against it from which we defended it with 
such obstinacy, because that fatherland deserves to be loved by all its cit¬ 
izens that loves all its citizens equally, not one that, having overlooked all 
others, adores a very few. Nor may anyone condemn the use of arms 
against the fatherland in any mode whatever: for although cities are 
mixed bodies, they have a resemblance to simple bodies; and as in the 
latter many times infirmities arise that cannot be healed without fire and 
iron, so in the former often so many inconveniences arise that a pious and 
good citizen, even if iron should be necessary, would sin much more by 
letting them go uncured than by curing them. What therefore can be a 
greater disease in the body of a republic than slavery? What medicine is it 
more necessary to use than that which will relieve it from this infirmity? 
Only those wars are just that are necessary, and those arms pious where 
there is no hope outside them. 3 I do not know what necessity is greater 
than ours or what piety can exceed that which takes our fatherland out of 
slavery. It is very certain, therefore, that our cause is pious and just: this 
should be considered by us and you. Nor is justice lacking on your side, 
for the Florentines were not ashamed, after a peace celebrated with so 
much solemnity, to be allied with the Genoese, your rebels; so if our 
cause does not move you, let indignation move you. And so much more 
when you see the ease of the enterprise, for past examples ought not to 
dismay you wherein you have seen the power of that people and their 
obstinacy in defense, two things that should reasonably still make you 
fear if they were now of the same virtue as then. But now you will find 
quite the contrary: for what power do you expect in a city that has itself 
newly driven out the greater part of its riches and of its industry? 4 What 
obstinacy do you expect there to be in a people disunited by such varied 
and new hostilities? This disunion is the cause that even those riches 
which are left there cannot now be spent in the mode in which they could 
have been before, because men willingly consume their own patrimony 
when they see they consume it for the sake of glory, for honor, and their 
own state, hoping to reacquire easily in peace what war takes away from 
them; but not when they see themselves oppressed equally in war and 
peace, by having to bear the injury of their enemies in the one and the 

3 A quotation from Livy (ix. 1.10), which is given as a quotation but without attribution 
by NM in P 26 and D 111 12. 

4 See FH iv 3 3. 


194 


v • 9 

insolence of those who command them in the other. And the avarice of 
citizens is much more harmful to peoples than the rapacity of enemies, 
because one may hope that the latter will end sometime, but the former, 
never. Thus, in the past wars you bore arms against a whole city; now 
you bear them only against the smallest part of it. You came to take the 
state from many citizens and good ones; now you come to take it away 
from a few and mean ones. You came to take liberty from a city; now 
you come to give it back. And it is not reasonable that in such a disparity 
of causes equal effects will follow: indeed, a certain victory is to be hoped 
from it. How much the force of this may be for your state you can easily 
judge, since you will have Tuscany a friend and obliged for such and so 
great an obligation, from which you will get more value in your under¬ 
takings than from Milan. And whereas at another time that acquisition 
would have been judged ambitious and violent, at present it will be 
deemed just and pious. Therefore, do not let this occasion pass, and think 
that if your other expeditions against the city brought you, with diffi¬ 
culty, expense and infamy, this one must bring you, with ease, very great 
advantage and very honorable fame.” 


9 

not many words were necessary to persuade the duke that he should 
start a war against the Florentines, for he was moved by a hereditary 
hatred and a blind ambition that demanded it of him; and he was spurred 
on all the more by the new injuries resulting from the accord made with 
the Genoese. Nonetheless, his past expenses, the dangers incurred, as 
well as the memory of his recent losses and the vain hopes of the exiles 
dismayed him. This duke, as soon as he had learned of the rebellion of 
Genoa, sent Niccolo Piccinino with all his men-at-arms and what infan¬ 
trymen he could assemble from the countryside toward that city to make 
an effort to get it back before the citizens made up their minds and or¬ 
dered the new government; for he had a great deal of confidence in the 
castle that was being held for him within Genoa. And although Niccolo 
had driven the Genoese out of the mountains and had taken the valley of 
Polcevera from them, where they had fortified themselves, and had 
pushed them back within the city walls, nonetheless he found such diffi¬ 
culty in advancing further, because of the obstinate spirits of the citizens 
in defending themselves, that he was compelled to withdraw. Hence the 
duke, at the persuasion of the Florentine exiles, commanded him to attack 
the coast on the east and, near the boundaries of Pisa, to make as much 
war as he could in the Genoese countryside, thinking that this campaign 


195 


V • 10 


would have to show him, as time went on, what course he ought to take. 
So Niccolo attacked Sarzana and took it. Then, after much damage had 
been done, he came to Lucca, so as to make the Florentines grow suspi¬ 
cious, announcing that he wished to pass through so as to go to the King¬ 
dom to help the king of Aragon. Pope Eugene, after these new accidents, 
left Florence and went to Bologna, where he discussed new accords be¬ 
tween the duke and the league, pointing out to the duke that if he did not 
consent to the accord it would be necessary for the pope to yield to the 
league Count Francesco, who then, as his confederate, fought in his pay. 
And although the pontiff troubled himself much in this, nonetheless, all 
his troubles turned out to be vain, for the duke did not want to make an 
accord without Genoa, and the league wanted Genoa to remain free. And 
so each, not trusting in peace, prepared for war. 


10 

niccolo Piccinino having come to Lucca, therefore, the Florentines 
were afraid of new moves. So they had Neri di Gino ride with their own 
troops into the country around Pisa, obtained permission from the pon¬ 
tiff for Count Francesco to join with them, and with their army they 
came to a halt at Santa Gonda. Piccinino, who was in Lucca, asked for 
passage to go to the Kingdom, and when it was denied him, he threatened 
to take it by force. The armies were equal both in forces and in captains, 
and so, neither of them wanting to tempt fortune, since they were also 
held back by the cold season, as it was December, they lingered many 
days without attacking 1 one another. The first of them to move was Nic¬ 
colo Piccinino, to whom it was shown that if he attacked Vico Pisano by 
night he would easily seize it. Niccolo undertook the enterprise, and 
though he did not succeed in seizing Vico, he sacked the countryside 
around it; he also plundered and burned the village of San Giovanni alia 
Vena. 

Although this enterprise turned out in large part to be vain, it nonethe¬ 
less inspired Niccolo to advance further, especially as he saw that the 
count and Neri had not moved; and so he attacked Santa Maria in Castello 
and Filetto, and won them. Not even for this did the Florentine troops 
move, not because the count was afraid, but because in Florence the war 
had not yet been decided upon by the magistrates out of reverence for the 
pope, who was negotiating peace. And what the Florentines did for the 

1 Lit.: offending. 


196 


V • I I 


sake of prudence their enemies believed they were doing out of fear; and 
it gave them more spirit for new undertakings. So they decided to storm 
Barga and appeared there with all their forces. This new assault made the 
Florentines, hesitations now set aside, decide not only to rescue Barga but 
to attack the country around Lucca. Therefore, the count went to meet 
Niccolo and, after the battle was joined below Barga, conquered him and, 
having nearly routed him, raised the siege. Meanwhile, as it appeared to 
the Venetians that the duke had broken the peace, they sent Giovan Fran¬ 
cesco Gonzaga, their captain, to Ghiaradadda; and he, by greatly dam¬ 
aging the countryside of the duke’s, compelled him to call back Niccolo 
Piccinino from Tuscany. This recall, together with the victory they had 
over Niccolo, inspired the Florentines to make a campaign against Lucca 
and to hope they could acquire it. In this they had neither fear nor hesi¬ 
tation, since they saw the duke, whom alone they feared, beaten by the 
Venetians, and that the Lucchese, who had received the enemies of Flor¬ 
ence in their home and allowed them to attack it, could not in any way 
complain. 


II 

in April of 1437, then, the count moved his army; and as the Florentines, 
before attacking others, wanted to recover what was their own, they re¬ 
took Santa Maria in Castello and every other place seized by Piccinino. 
Then, turning upon the country around Lucca, they attacked Camaiore, 
whose men, though faithful to their lords, surrendered—fear of the en¬ 
emy nearby being more powerful with them than faith in a friend far 
away. With that same consideration, Massa and Sarzana were taken. 
When these things were done, around the end of May, the army turned 
toward Lucca and destroyed all the crops and grain, burned the houses, 
cut down the vines and trees, stole the cattle; nor did they neglect doing 
anything that one usually does and can do against enemies. The Lucchese, 
for their part, seeing themselves abandoned by the duke, despaired of 
defending their countryside and abandoned it. Then, with ramparts and 
every other opportune remedy, they strengthened the city, for which they 
did not fear, since they had it full of defenders and could defend it for a 
time. In this they placed their hope, moved by the example of other cam¬ 
paigns the Florentines had made against them. They feared only the 
inconstant spirits of the plebs, who, when tired of the siege, might value 
their own dangers more than the liberty of others and force them to some 
shameful and harmful accord. So to incite them to defense, they assem¬ 
bled them in the piazza, where one of the older and wiser men spoke in 


197 


V • I I 


this sense: “You must always have understood that things done out of 
necessity neither should nor can merit praise or blame. Therefore, if you 
accuse us, believing that the war which the Florentines are waging here 
now is one we brought on ourselves because we received the duke’s men 
in our home and allowed them to attack the Florentines, you would be 
deceiving yourselves very greatly. The ancient hostility of the Florentine 
people against you is well known to you. Neither your injuries nor their 
fear has caused it, but rather your weakness and their ambition; for the 
one gives them hope of being able to oppress you, and the other drives 
them to do it. Nor should you believe that any merit of yours can remove 
such a desire from them, nor that any offense of yours can inflame them 
any more to injure you. Therefore, they have to think of taking liberty 
away from you, you of defending it; and everyone can lament the things 
that they and we do to this end, but not marvel at them. Let us lament, 
therefore, that they attack us, that they take our towns, that they burn 
our houses and despoil our countryside; but who among us is so foolish 
as to marvel at it? For if we could, we would do the same or worse to 
them. And if they have started this war because of the coming of Niccolo, 
even if he had not come at all they would have started a war for another 
cause; and if this evil had been postponed, it would perhaps have been 
greater. So, his coming ought not to be blamed, but rather our bad luck 
and their ambitious nature. Besides, we could not refuse to receive the 
duke’s troops; and once they had come, we could not keep them from 
making war. You know that without the help of someone powerful we 
cannot save ourselves, nor is there a power that can defend us with either 
more faith or more strength than the duke’s. He has given back our lib¬ 
erty to us; it is reasonable that he will maintain it for us; he has always 
been very hostile to our perpetual enemies. Thus, if we had made the 
duke indignant so as not to injure the Florentines, we would have lost a 
friend and made the enemy more powerful and more ready to offend us. 
Consequently, it is much better to have this war with the love of the duke 
than peace with his hatred. And we must hope that he will get us out of 
those dangers in which he has put us, if only we do not abandon our¬ 
selves. You know with how much fury the Florentines have attacked us 
so many times and with how much glory we have defended ourselves 
from them; many times we have had no other hope than in God and in 
time, and these two have saved us. And if we defended ourselves then, 1 
what cause is there that we ought not to defend ourselves now? Then all 

1 A reference to the victory of the Lucchese over the Florentines in 1429; see FH iv 24- 
25. 


198 


V • I 2 


Italy had left us as prey, 2 now we have the duke for us, and we should 
believe that the Venetians, as ones who are displeased that the power of 
the Florentines is growing, will be slow to offend us. The other time, the 
Florentines were more unconstrained, had more hope of help, and by 
themselves were more powerful. We were weaker in every way because 
then we were defending a tyrant, now we defend ourselves; then the glory 
of defense was the others’, now it is ours; then those who attacked us were 
united, now disunited they attack us, for all Italy is full of rebels against 
them. But had we not these hopes, there is an ultimate necessity that 
ought to make us obstinate in defense. Every enemy must reasonably be 
feared by you because all will wish for their glory and for your ruin; but 
above all others, the Florentines must frighten us because our obedience 
and our tribute, with empire over this city of ours, would not be enough 
for them, but they would want our persons and our substance so as to be 
able to satiate their cruelty with our blood and their avarice with our 
property. So each one of whatever rank must fear them. And therefore, 
let it not move you to see your fields destroyed, your homes burned, your 
towns seized, because if we save this city, those will of necessity be saved; 
if we lose it, they would be saved without any use to us, because by our 
maintaining ourselves free, our enemy can possess them only with diffi¬ 
culty; if we lose our liberty, we will possess them in vain. Take up your 
arms, therefore, and when you fight, remember that the reward of your 
victory will be the salvation not only of your fatherland but of your 
homes and your children.” The last words of this man were received with 
the greatest warmth of spirit by the people, and in unity each promised 
to die before giving up or thinking of an accord that would in any way 
stain their liberty. And they ordered among themselves all those things 
necessary to the defense of a city. 


12 

the army of the Florentines, in the meantime, was not losing time, and 
after having done very much damage through the countryside, it took 
Monte Carlo on terms. After this acquisition the army went to besiege 
Nozzano so that the Lucchese, pressed on every side, could not hope for 
help and, compelled by hunger, would surrender. The castle was very 
strong and replete with a garrison, so that capturing it was not easy as 
with the others. The Lucchese, as was reasonable, seeing themselves 
pressed on all sides, went to the duke and with every expression both 

2 FH iv 19. 


199 


V • i 3 

sweet and sour implored his favor; and in speaking, they pointed now to 
their own merits, now to the offenses of the Florentines; and they showed 
how much spirit it would give his other friends if he defended them, and 
how much terror if he left them undefended; and if they lost life with 
liberty, he lost honor with his friends and faith with all those who out of 
love for him would ever have to undergo any danger. To the words they 
added their tears, so that if obligation did not move him, compassion 
might. Thus the duke, having added to his ancient hatred of the Floren¬ 
tines a fresh obligation to the Lucchese, and above all desirous that the 
Florentines not grow by so great an acquisition, determined to send a 
huge army into Tuscany or to attack the Venetians with such fury that it 
would be necessary for the Florentines to leave their campaigns to relieve 
them. 


13 

when this decision was made, it was quickly learned in Florence that the 
duke was getting ready to send troops into Tuscany. This made the Flor¬ 
entines begin to lose hope in their campaign, and, to keep the duke busy 
in Lombardy, they urged the Venetians to press him with all their forces. 
But the Venetians too were afraid, because the marquis of Mantua 1 had 
abandoned them and gone over into the pay of the duke; and so, finding 
themselves disarmed as it were, they answered that not only could they 
not enlarge that war, but they could not maintain it unless Count Fran¬ 
cesco were sent to them to be the head of their army, and with the con¬ 
dition that he be obliged to cross the Po in person. They were unwilling 
to hold to the old accords by which he was not obliged to cross, for they 
did not want to make war without a captain, nor could they put hope in 
anyone else but the count; and they could not make use of the count un¬ 
less he was obliged to carry on the war everywhere. To the Florentines it 
appeared necessary that the war in Lombardy be waged vigorously; on 
the other hand, if left without the count, they saw their campaign in 
Lucca ruined; they also understood very well that this request had been 
made by the Venetians not so much out of the necessity that they had of 
the count as to interfere with their acquisition. 2 For his part, the count 
was ready to go into Lombardy whenever it pleased the league, but he 

1 Gian Francesco Gonzaga (1407-1444); see FH v 10. 

2 Of Lucca. 


200 


V • i 3 

did not want to alter his obligation 3 as he did not desire to deprive himself 
of the hope of the marriage promised him by the duke. 

Thus the Florentines were distracted by two diverse passions: by the 
wish to have Lucca and by the fear of war with the duke. Nonetheless, as 
always happens, fear won out; and they were content that the count, hav¬ 
ing won Nozzano, should go to Lombardy. There remained still another 
difficulty that, as it was not in the discretion of the Florentines to resolve, 
gave them more anxiety 4 and made them more fearful than the first: for 
the count did not want to cross the Po and the Venetians would not accept 
him otherwise. Since no mode was found to reconcile them so that one 
might freely yield to the other, the Florentines persuaded the count to 
oblige himself to cross the river by a letter he should write to the Signoria 
of Florence, pointing out to it that with this private promise he was not 
breaking his public pacts and that he could then carry on without crossing 
the river. The advantage following from this would be that the Venetians, 
who had incited the war, would be necessitated to continue it; from this 
would arise the diversion of the humor that they feared. 5 To the Vene¬ 
tians, on the other hand, they pointed out that his private letter was 
enough to obligate the count and so they should be content with it, for 
wherever they could save the count in his regard for his father-in-law, it 
was well to do it; nor was it useful to him or to them to reveal the obli¬ 
gation without manifest necessity. So in this way the passage of the count 
into Lombardy was decided; then, having taken Nozzano and built some 
bastions around Lucca to restrain the Lucchese, he left that war in the care 
of commissioners, crossed the mountains, and went to Reggio. There the 
Venetians, suspicious of his progress, so as to discover his intent before 
anything else, asked him to cross the Po and join their other troops. The 
count altogether refused to do this, and there were offensive words be¬ 
tween him and Andrea Morosini, sent by the Venetians, each accusing the 
other of much pride and little faith; and after many protestations between 
them, the one that he was not obliged to serve, the other that he was not 
obliged to pay, the count returned to Tuscany and the other to Venice. 
The count was quartered in the territory of Pisa, and they hoped they 
could induce him to renew the war against the Lucchese. They did not 
find him disposed to do this: for when the duke learned that out of rev¬ 
erence for himself the count had not wanted to cross the Po, he thought 
that through the count he could yet save the Lucchese, and he begged him 

3 So as to be obliged to cross the river Po, the southern boundary of Lombardy. 

4 Lit.: passion. 

' The duke of Milan’s decision to attack the Florentines, or perhaps the Venetian propen¬ 
sity to make a separate peace. 


201 


v • i 4 

to be content to make an accord between the Lucchese and thb Florentines 
and to include the duke in it if he could, meanwhile giving him hope of 
marriage to his daughter when he wished. This marriage strongly moved 
the count, for through it he hoped, since the duke had no male children, 
to make himself lord of Milan. So he always kept breaking off the pros¬ 
ecution of the war for the Florentines and asserting that he was not about 
to move if the Venetians did not keep up their payment and their contract 
with him. Nor was payment alone sufficient, because if he wanted to live 
safely in his states, it was necessary for him to have other support than 
from the Florentines. Therefore, if he were abandoned by the Venetians, 
he was forced to look after his own affairs, and he cleverly threatened to 
come to an accord with the duke. 


14 

these dodges and deceits greatly displeased the Florentines, because 
they saw the campaign at Lucca lost, and besides, they feared for their 
own state any time the count and the duke were together. So, to compel 
the Venetians to maintain the contract with the count, Cosimo de’ Medici 
went to Venice, believing that with his reputation he could move them. 
There, in their senate, he argued the matter at length, showing what 
straits the state of Italy was in, how great were the forces of the duke, 
where the reputation and the power of arms were; and he concluded that 
if the count joined with the duke, the Venetians would return to the se. 
and the Florentines to fighting for their liberty. To this the Venetians an¬ 
swered that they knew their own forces and those of the Italians, and they 
believed they could defend themselves in any mode, asserting that they 
were not used to paying soldiers to serve others. The Florentines should 
therefore expect to pay the count, since they were served by him; and it 
was more necessary for the Venetians, if they wished to enjoy their states 
securely, to put down the pride of the count than to pay him: for men 
have no limits to their ambition, and if now he were paid without serving, 
he would ask soon after for something more indecent and more danger¬ 
ous. Therefore, it appeared to them necessary to put a check on his inso¬ 
lence in good time and not let it grow so much as to become incorrigible; 
and if the Florentines, either from fear or from some other desire, still 
wanted to keep him as a friend, they should pay him. 

Cosimo returned thus with no other result. Nonetheless, the Floren¬ 
tines put pressure on the count to keep him from separating from the 
league, which he too would leave unwillingly; but his wish to conclude 
his marriage held him in doubt, so that even the least accident, as it hap- 


202 


v • i 5 

pened, could have made him decide. The count had left Friulano, one of 
his best condottieri, to watch over his towns in the Marches. This man 
was instigated by the duke to renounce the pay of the count and come 
over to him—which made the count, all hesitation put aside, come to an 
accord with the duke out of fear for himself; and among the terms was 
that things in Romagna and Tuscany should not be meddled with. After 
this accord, the count insistently persuaded the Florentines that they 
should come to an accord with the Lucchese, and so pressed them that, 
seeing they had no other remedy, they made an accord in the month of 
April of the year 1438. By this accord the Lucchese were left with their 
liberty, the Florentines with Monte Carlo and some others of their forti¬ 
fied places. Thereafter, they filled all Italy with letters full of complaints, 
showing that since God and men had not wanted the Lucchese to come 
under their rule they had made peace with them. And rarely does it hap¬ 
pen that anyone is so displeased at having lost his own things as were the 
Florentines for not having acquired those of others. 


15 

although the Florentines in these times were busy with so great an 
campaign, they did not fail to think of their neighbors and to adorn their 
city. Niccolo Fortebraccio had died, as we have said; 1 he had been married 
to a daughter of the count of Poppi. At the death of Niccolo, the count 
held the Borgo San Sepolcro and the fortress of that town in his hands, 
and he had ruled them in the name of his son-in-law while he was living. 
Then, after Niccolo’s death, he said that he owned it through his daugh¬ 
ter’s dowry and refused to yield it to the pope, who was demanding it as 
Church property. So the pope sent the patriarch 2 with his troops to gain 
possession of it. When the count saw he could not resist the attack, he 
offered that town to the Florentines; and they did not want it. But when 
the pope returned to Florence, they intervened between him and the 
count to bring them to accord; and as there were difficulties in the accord, 
the patriarch attacked the Casentino and took Prato Vecchio and Ro- 
mena, which he likewise offered to the Florentines. They still did not 
want to accept them unless the pope would agree that they could hand 
them over to the count. After many arguments the pope agreed to this, 
but he wanted the Florentines to promise him to work it out that the 
count of Poppi restore the Borgo to him. Thus, when the pope’s mind 

1 See FH v 3. 

2 Giovanni Vitelleschi, patriarch of Alexandria; see FH v 27. 


203 


v • i 6 


had been set at rest in this way, it appeared to the Florentines that since 
the cathedral church of their city, called Santa Reparata (the construction 
of which had begun long before 3 ), had come to a point where divine of¬ 
fices could be celebrated there, they would ask him if he would consecrate 
it personally. To this the pope agreed willingly, and for the greater mag¬ 
nificence of the city and of the church, and to honor the pope more, a 
ramp was made from Santa Maria Novella, where the pope was staying, 
to the church that was to be consecrated, four cubits wide and two high, 
and covered above and around with the richest draperies, over which only 
the pope and his court came, together with those magistrates of the city 
and citizens who had been deputed to accompany him. All the other cit¬ 
izenry and people waited along the way, by their houses and in the 
church, to see such a spectacle. And so all the ceremonies were done that 
are usually done in such consecrations, and the pope, to give a sign of 
greater love, honored Giuliano Davanzati with knighthood; he was then 
a Gonfalonier ofjustice and at all times a citizen of the highest reputation. 
At this, the Signoria, so as not to appear less loving than the pope, 
granted him the captaincy of Pisa for one year. 


16 

in these same times there were some differences between the Roman 
Church and the Greek such that they did not agree on divine worship in 
every regard. Since at the last council held in Basel there had been much 
discussion by the prelates of the Western Church on this matter, it was 
decided to use all diligence to get the emperor and the Greek prelates to 
meet in a council at Basel to see if they could come to an accord with the 
Roman Church. And although this decision was contrary to the majesty 
of the Greek Empire, and it might be displeasing to the pride of its prel¬ 
ates to yield to the Roman pontiff, nonetheless, as they were being op¬ 
pressed by the Turks and judged they could not defend themselves alone, 
they decided to yield, so as to be able to ask for help from the others with 
more assurance. And so the emperor, together with the patriarch and 
other Greek prelates and barons, came to Venice so as to attend at Basel 
in accordance with the decision of the council; but, frightened by the 
plague, they decided to end their differences in the city of Florence. Thus 
the Roman and Greek prelates assembled together for many days in the 
cathedral church, and after many long disputations the Greeks yielded 
and came to accord with the Roman Church and pontiff. 

1 See FH 11 31. 


204 


v • i 7 

I? 


when peace had been concluded between the Lucchese and the Floren¬ 
tines, and between the duke and the count, 1 it was believed that the arms 
of Italy, and especially those infesting Lombardy and Tuscany, could eas¬ 
ily be laid down; for those that had been used in the kingdom of Naples 
between Rene of Anjou and Alfonso of Aragon must by the ruin of one 
of the two be laid down. And although the pope might remain malcon¬ 
tent for having lost so many of his towns, and although it was known 
how much ambition was in the duke and the Venetians, nonetheless it 
was assumed that the pope must come to a stop out of necessity and the 
others out of weariness. But the thing went otherwise because neither the 
duke nor the Venetians remained quiet; hence, the result was that arms 
were taken up again, and Lombardy and Tuscany were again filled with 
war. The lofty spirit of the duke could not bear that the Venetians should 
possess Bergamo and Brescia, much less when he saw them up in arms 
and every day plundering and harrying his country in many places; and 
he thought not only that he could hold them in check but that he could 
regain his towns whenever the Venetians might be abandoned by the 
pope, by the Florentines, and by the count. Therefore, he schemed to 
seize Romagna from the pontiff, judging that if he had it, the pope could 
not offend him; and the Florentines, seeing the fire close by, either would 
not move out of fear for themselves or, if they did move, could not attack 
him conveniently. The indignation of the Florentines against the Vene¬ 
tians over things at Lucca was also known to the duke, and because of it 
he judged them to be less ready to take up arms for the Venetians. As for 
Count Francesco, the duke believed that their new friendship, the hope 
of his marriage, would be enough to hold him fast; and so the duke, so as 
to avoid blame and to give less cause to anyone to move, especially since 
he could not attack Romagna because of the terms made with the count, 
ordered Niccolo Piccinino to enter upon that campaign as if he were 
doing it out of his own ambition. 

When the accord between the duke and the count was made, Niccolo 
was in Romagna; and in accord with the duke, he pretended to be indig¬ 
nant because of the friendship established between him and the count, his 
everlasting enemy. He withdrew with his troops to Camurata, a place 
between Forli and Ravenna, where he fortified himself as if he wished to 
stay there a long time until he took a new course. And the report of his 
indignation having been spread about everywhere, Niccolo let the pontiff 
understand how much he deserved from the duke and what his ingrati- 

1 See FH v 14. 


205 


v • i 8 


tude had been; that the duke was letting it be understood that since he had 
almost all the arms of Italy under the two first captains, he was about to 
seize it. But if His Holiness wished, of the two captains that the duke was 
persuaded he had, Niccolo could make one hostile and the other useless: 
for if the pope provided him with money and maintained him in arms, 
he would attack the states of the count seized by him from the Church, 
so that the count, having to think about his own affairs, could not support 
the ambition of Filippo. The pope believed these words, as they appeared 
reasonable to him, and he sent five thousand ducats to Niccolo and filled 
him with promises, offering states to him and his children. And although 
the pope was warned by many of the deceit, he did not believe them, nor 
would he listen to anyone who said the contrary. 

The city of Ravenna was governed by Ostasio da Polenta for the 
Church. As it appeared to Niccolo that there was no more time to delay 
his expedition, because his son Francesco had sacked Spoleto, to the ig¬ 
nominy of the pope, he decided to attack Ravenna, either because he 
judged the undertaking easier or because he had a secret understanding 
with Ostasio. And in a few days after he attacked, he took it by an accord. 
After this acquisition, Bologna, Imola, and Forli were seized by him. And 
what was most marvelous is that of the twenty fortresses that were being 
guarded in those states on behalf of the pontiff, not one remained that did 
not come under the power 2 of Niccolo. Nor did it suffice him to have 
offended the pontiff with this injury; he also wished to ridicule him with 
words as he had with deeds; and he wrote that he had seized the cities 
deservedly since the pope had not been ashamed to want to break up a 
friendship such as that between the duke and himself and to fill Italy with 
letters that implied he had left the duke and taken the side of the Vene¬ 
tians. 


18 

having seized Romagna, Niccolo left it under the guard of his son Fran¬ 
cesco and went himself with the larger part of his troops into Lombardy. 
There he joined with the rest of the duke’s troops, attacked the country¬ 
side of Brescia, and in a short time seized it; then he laid a siege on the 
city. The duke, who desired the Venetians to be left as his prey, excused 
himself to the pope, the Florentines, and the count by pointing out that 
the things done by Niccolo in Romagna, if contrary to the terms, 1 were 

2 Potesta. 

1 The terms of the pact with the count; see FH v 14. 


206 


v • i 9 

also against his will, and by secret messengers he gave them to understand 
that he would make a clear example of this disobedience when time and 
opportunity allowed. The Florentines and the count did not put faith in 
him but did believe, as was the truth, that these arms had been set in 
motion to detain them, so that he could tame the Venetians. The Vene¬ 
tians, full of pride and believing they could resist the forces of the duke 
by themselves, did not deign to ask aid of anyone, but carried on the war 
with Gattamelata as their captain. Count Francesco wanted to go to the 
rescue of King Rene with the support of the Florentines, if unforeseen 
events in Romagna and Lombardy had not restrained him; and the Flor¬ 
entines too would have favored this willingly because of the ancient 
friendship their city had always maintained with the house of France. But 
the duke would have directed his favors toward Alfonso for the friendship 
he had contracted with him during his capture. But both of these, occu¬ 
pied in wars nearby, abstained from enterprises far away. 

Thus, when the Florentines saw Romagna seized by the forces of the 
duke and the Venetians beaten, like those who from the ruin of others 
fear their own, they begged the count to come to Tuscany, where they 
could look into what might be done to oppose the forces of the duke, 
which were greater than they had ever been before. They asserted that if 
his insolence were not checked in some mode, everyone who held a state 
in Italy would, in a short time, suffer from it. The count recognized that 
the fear of the Florentines was reasonable; nonetheless, his wish that the 
marriage arranged with the duke should take place kept him in suspense, 
and the duke, who knew this desire of his, kept holding forth to him the 
greatest hopes if he would not move arms against him. And because the 
young girl was now of an age to celebrate the marriage, the duke brought 
the thing many times to the point where all the preparations necessary 
for it were made; then, with various dodges, everything would be can¬ 
celed. And to make the count believe him better, he added deeds to the 
promises and sent him thirty thousand florins, which were due him ac¬ 
cording to the terms of the marriage. 


19 

nonetheless, the war in Lombardy was growing. Every day the Vene¬ 
tians were losing new towns; all the armed vessels they had put out on 
the rivers had been overcome by the ducal troops; the countryside around 
Verona and Brescia was completely occupied, and those two towns were 
so hard pressed that, in the common opinion, they could maintain them¬ 
selves for only a short time. The marquis of Mantua, who for many years 


207 


v • i 9 

had been the condottiere of their republic, had, beyond all their belief, 
abandoned them and taken the side of the duke; so what pride did not 
permit them at the beginning of the war, fear made them do in the course 
of it. For, having recognized that they had no other remedy than the 
friendship of the Florentines and the count, they began to ask them for 
help, although ashamedly and full of suspicion, because they feared that 
the Florentines might give them the answer they had received from the 
Venetians in regard to the campaign of Lucca and in the affairs of the 
count. 

But they found it easier than they had hoped and than their behavior 
deserved, so much more powerful in the Florentines was hatred for the 
ancient enemy than indignation over an old and customary friendship. 
And as they had recognized long before the necessity into which the 
Venetians must come, they had pointed out to the count that the ruin of 
the Venetians would be his own ruin, and he was deceiving himself if he 
believed that Duke Filippo would value him more in good fortune than 
in bad, and that fear of him was the cause of the duke’s having promised 
him his daughter. And because those things that necessity makes one 
promise also make one observe, it was necessary that the duke be main¬ 
tained in that necessity, which could not be done without the greatness 
of the Venetians. Therefore, he must remember that if the Venetians were 
compelled to abandon their state on land, he would lose not only the 
advantages he could get from them but also all those he could get from 
others out of fear of them. And if he considered the states of Italy well, 
he would see which were poor, which were his enemies; nor were the 
Florentines alone, as he had said many times, sufficient to maintain him; 
thus he would see it was to his advantage from every side to keep the 
Venetians powerful on land. These arguments, added to the hatred the 
count had conceived for the duke because it appeared to him that he had 
been made a fool of in the marriage alliance, made him consent to the 
accord; yet he was still not willing to oblige himself to cross the Po River. 
These accords were fixed in February 1438, by which the Venetians as¬ 
sumed two-thirds and the Florentines one-third of the expense; and each 
obligated itself, at its expense, to defend the states the count had in the 
Marches. Nor was the league content with these forces, for they added to 
them the lord of Faenza, the sons of Messer Pandolfo Malatesta da Ri¬ 
mini, and Pietro Gianpaolo Orsini; and although they tempted the mar¬ 
quis of Mantua with great promises, nonetheless they were unable to de¬ 
tach him from the friendship and pay of the duke; and the lord of Faenza, 
after the league had signed his contract, returned to the duke, having 
found better terms. This took away from the league any hope of being 
able to settle things quickly in Romagna. 


208 


V • 2 I 


20 

lombardy in these times was beset with travails: Brescia was besieged 
by the duke’s troops such that it was feared that any day it might surren¬ 
der out of hunger, and Verona was still so hard pressed that the same end 
was feared for it; and if one of these two cities was lost, all the other 
preparations for the war would be judged vain and the expense sustained 
until then lost. Nor was any other sure remedy seen than to make Count 
Francesco cross into Lombardy. There were three difficulties in this: first, 
to dispose the count to cross the Po and make war everywhere; second, 
that it appeared to the Florentines that without the count they would be 
left to the discretion of the duke (because the duke could easily retreat to 
his strongholds and keep the count at bay with part of his troops, and 
with the other part come into Tuscany with their rebels, of whom the 
state then ruling 1 was in very great terror); the third was what way the 
count and his troops should take that would lead him safely to the terri¬ 
tory of Padua, where the other Venetian troops were. Of the three diffi¬ 
culties, the second pertaining to the Florentines was most to be feared; 
nonetheless, recognizing the need and the weariness of the Venetians, 
who demanded the count with every importunity, pointing out that 
without him they would give up, the Florentines put the necessity of 
others ahead of their own fears. There remained still the difficulty of the 
route; this, it was decided, should be secured by the Venetians. And be¬ 
cause they had sent Neri di Gino Capponi to negotiate these agreements 
with the count and to dispose him to cross, it seemed to the Signoria that 
he should also go on to Venice in order to make this benefit more accept¬ 
able to that signoria 2 and to order the route and safe passage for the count. 


21 

so Neri left Cesena and went by boat to Venice. And never was a prince 
received with as much honor by that signoria as he was, for they judged 
that on his coming and on what had to be decided and ordered through 
him depended the salvation of their empire. Then Neri, introduced to the 
senate, spoke in this sense: “My Signori, Most Serene Prince, 1 have al¬ 
ways been of the opinion that the greatness of the duke would be the ruin 


1 The Medici and their party. 

2 The Venetian government. Signoria refers to a particular institution in Florence but not 
in Venice. 

1 The Venetian doge. 


209 


V • 2 I 


of this state and of their republic, and thus the salvation of both these 
states would be your greatness and ours. If the same thing had been be¬ 
lieved by your lordships, we would find ourselves in a better condition, 
and your state would be safe from the dangers that now threaten it. But 
because in times when you should have, you lent us neither help nor faith, 
we have been unable to run quickly with remedies for your ill; nor could 
you have been ready to ask for them, since in your prosperity and in 
adversity you have little understood us and do not know that we are so 
made that whom we have once loved we always love, and whom we have 
once hated we always hate. The love that we have borne for your most 
serene signoria you yourselves know, who many times have seen Lom¬ 
bardy filled with our money and our soldiers so as to help you; the hatred 
we bear for Filippo and have always borne for his house the whole world 
knows; nor is it possible that an ancient love or an ancient hatred is easily 
canceled by new merits or new offenses. We have been and are certain 
that in this war we could have stayed in the middle with great gratitude 
from the duke and with not much fear for us: for although by your ruin 
he would have become lord of Lombardy, so much life would be left in 
Italy that we would not have to despair of our safety, 2 because with a 
growing power and state, enmities and envy also grow, from which war 
and injury then customarily arise. We knew also how much expense we 
would avoid by avoiding these present wars; how many impending dan¬ 
gers would have been avoided; and how, if we should move, this war, 
now in Lombardy, could be brought down into Tuscany. Nonetheless, 
all these doubts have been canceled by our ancient affection for this state, 
and we have decided to come to the aid of your state with the same 
promptness with which we would aid our own if it were attacked. That 
is why my Signori, judging that it was necessary before everything else 
to relieve Verona and Brescia, and judging that this could not be done 
without the count, sent me first to persuade him to cross into Lombardy 
and to make war everywhere (as you know he was not obliged to cross 
the Po). And I disposed him to do this by moving him with the same 
reasons that move us. And as it appears to him that he is invincible in 
arms, he also does not wish to be defeated in courtesy, and he wished to 
surpass the liberality that he sees us use toward you; for he knows well 
how much danger remains for Tuscany after his departure, and, seeing 
that we have deferred our dangers for your safety, he wished to defer his 
concerns for the same. I come therefore to offer you the count with seven 
thousand cavalry and two thousand infantry equipped to go and meet the 
enemy everywhere. I pray well, as do my Signori and the count pray you, 

2 Or salvation. 


210 


V • 22 


since the number of his men exceeds that with which he is obligated to 
serve, that you, too, will compensate him with your liberality so that he 
will not repent his having entered your service nor we repent our having 
encouraged him.” 

Neri’s speech was heard by that senate with no less attention than 
would be paid to an oracle, and so inflamed were the listeners by his 
words that they would not suffer the prince to respond, as is the custom, 
but rising to their feet, with hands raised, the greater part of them weep¬ 
ing, they gave thanks to the Florentines for such a loving office and to 
him for having executed it with such care and speed; and they promised 
that never at any time, not only in their hearts but in those of their de¬ 
scendants, would it be forgotten and that their fatherland must always 
belong in common to the Florentines and themselves. 3 


22 

when this warmth had subsided, they reasoned over the way the count 
should take so that they could provide for the bridges, the level ground, 
and everything else. There were four ways. One was by Ravenna along 
the coast; since the greater part of it was constricted by the coast and by 
swamps, this one was not approved. Another was by the direct way: this 
way was blocked by a tower called the Uccellino, which was garrisoned 
for the duke; and to pass by, one needed to conquer it, which was difficult 
to do in so short a time as not to take away the opportunity for relief 1 that 
required speed and quickness. The third was through the forest of Lugo, 
but because the Po River had overflowed its banks, the passage thrbugh 
was made not only difficult but impossible. There remained the fourth 
way: through the open country of Bologna over the Puledrano bridge, by 
Cento and by Pieve, and between Finale and Bondeno, leading to Ferrara, 
and then by water and by land, they could get to the territory of Padua 
and join with the Venetian troops. Although this way had many difficul¬ 
ties and could be contended by the enemy at any place, it was chosen as 
the least bad. As soon as it was made known to the count, he departed 
with very great speed and on the 20 th of June arrived in the territory of 
Padua. 

The coming of this captain into Lombardy filled Venice and all its em¬ 
pire with good hope; and whereas at first the Venetians appeared desper- 

3 NM has greatly exaggerated the disposition of the Venetian senate to accept Neri’s pro¬ 
posal. 

1 Relief of Brescia and Verona. 


21 I 


V • 23 

ate of their safety, they began to hope for new acquisitions. Before every¬ 
thing else, the count went to relieve Verona; to prevent this, Niccolo went 
with his army to Soave, a fortified place situated between the territory of 
Vicenza and that of Verona; and he encircled himself with a ditch that 
went from Soave to the swamps of the Adige. When the count saw that 
the way through the plain was blocked, he judged that he could go 
through the mountains and by that way approach Verona, thinking that 
Niccolo either would not believe he would take this route because it was 
rugged and mountainous or, if he did believe it, he would not have time 
to prevent him. He provided supplies for eight days, crossed the moun¬ 
tain with his troops, and arrived in the plain near Soave. And although 
some bastions had been built by Niccolo to block that way too to the 
count, nonetheless they were not sufficient to hold him. Thus Niccolo, 
seeing beyond all his own belief that the enemy had crossed, withdrew to 
the other side of the Adige so as not to come to battle at a disadvantage, 
and the count entered Verona without hindrance. 


23 

the first task of freeing Verona from the siege thus having been success¬ 
fully accomplished by the count, there remained the second, of relieving 
Brescia. This city is so close to Lake Garda that even if it were besieged 
by land, supplies could always be brought by way of the lake. This had 
been the cause for the duke’s having made himself strong on the lake and 
for having seized at the beginning of his victories all the towns that could 
carry help to Brescia from the lake. The Venetians also had galleys there, 
but not enough of them to fight the duke’s troops. Therefore, the count 
judged it necessary to support the Venetian fleet with troops on land, by 
which he hoped he could easily acquire the towns that were keeping Bre¬ 
scia famished. He placed his camp, therefore, at Bardolino, a fortified 
town situated on the lake, hoping that since he had this one, the others 
would surrender. Fortune was hostile to the count in this campaign, for a 
good part of his troops fell ill; so he dropped the campaign and went to 
Zevio, a Veronese fortified town, a place well supplied and healthful. 
Niccolo, having seen that the count had withdrawn, so as not to miss the 
opportunity, as it appeared to him, to gain mastery 1 of the lake, left his 
camp at Vegasio and went to the lake with some elite troops; and with a 
great thrust and greater fury, he attacked the Venetian fleet and took 
nearly all of it. Through this victory, few fortified towns on the lake were 

1 Or become lord of. 


212 


V • 24 

left that did not surrender to Niccolo. The Venetians, dismayed by this 
loss and fearing that because of it the Brescians might give up, urged the 
count with messengers and letters to relieve it. When the count saw that 
the hope of relieving it by way of the lake was lost, that it was impossible 
through the open country because of the ditches, bastions, and other ob¬ 
stacles ordered by Niccolo, and that to enter among them with a hostile 
army against him would lead to clear defeat, he decided that as the moun¬ 
tain way had let him save Verona, so might it also let him relieve Brescia. 
Thus, having made this scheme, the count left Zevio, went through the 
Val d’Affi to the Lake of Santo Andrea, and came to Torboli and Peneda 
on Lake Garda. From there he went to Tenno, where he set up his camp, 
because, if he wanted to pass through Brescia, it was necessary to seize 
this fortified place. Niccolo, when he understood the plans of the count, 
led his army to Peschiera, then, with the marquis of Mantua and some of 
his elite troops, went to meet the count; and when they came to battle, 
Niccolo was beaten and his troops scattered; some of them were taken, 
some fled to the army and some to the fleet. Niccolo withdrew to Tenno, 
and when night came, he thought that if he waited in this place for day to 
come, he could not escape falling into the hands of the enemy, and to 
escape a certain danger he tried a doubtful one. Of his many servants, 
Niccolo had with him only one, of German nationality, very strong in 
body, who had always been very faithful to him. Niccolo persuaded this 
man to put him in a sack, throw him over his shoulders, and take him to 
a safe place as if he were carrying baggage for his master. The army was 
all around Tenno, but because of the victory that day, it was without 
guards and without any order. So it was easy for the German to save his 
lord because, when he lifted him to his shoulders, dressed as a porter, he 
passed through the whole camp without any hindrance, and so brought 
him safe to his troops. 


24 

if this victory, then, had been used with the success with which it had 
been gained, it would have brought greater relief to Brescia and greater 
success to the Venetians; but its being used badly made the cheer vanish 
quickly, and Brescia was left in the same difficulties. For when Niccolo 
returned to his troops, he thought it needful to cancel his loss with some 
new victory and to take from the Venetians their means of relieving Bre¬ 
scia. He knew the site of the citadel of Verona, and from the prisoners 
taken in that war he had learned that it was badly defended and the ease 
and the mode by which it might be acquired. It appeared to him, there- 


213 


V • 24 

fore, that fortune had put before him the matter for retrieving his honor 
and for causing the joy the enemy had had for its recent victory to change 
into pain for a more recent defeat. The city of Verona is located in Lom¬ 
bardy at the foot of the mountains that separate Italy from Germany so 
that it includes both mountains and plain. The river Adige issues from 
the valley of Trento and in entering Italy does not spread quickly through 
the open country but turns left along the mountains, finds the city, and 
passes through the middle of it, not, however, so that the parts are equal, 
because much more of it lies on the side of the plain than on the side of 
the mountains. On them are two fortresses, one named San Pietro, the 
other San Felice, which appear stronger for their site than for their walls 
and from a high place dominate the whole city. On the plain from here 
to the Adige, and astride the walls of the city, are two other fortresses, 
separated from each other by a thousand paces. One of these is named the 
old citadel, the other the new; from within one of them there is a wall 
that goes to join the other citadel and makes almost a string to the bow 
made by the ordinary walls of the city that go from one citadel to the 
other. All this space between one wall and the other is full of inhabitants 
and is called the Borgo of San Zeno. Niccolo Piccinino schemed to seize 
these citadels and the Borgo, thinking that he would easily succeed, both 
because of the negligent guard usually kept there and because he believed 
that with the recent victory the negligence would be greater, and because 
he knew that in war no enterprise is as likely to succeed as the one the 
enemy does not believe you can make. So, with a selection of his troops, 
he went together with the marquis of Mantua at night to Verona and, 
without being heard, scaled the walls and took the new citadel. From 
there his troops descended into the town and broke open the gate of San 
Antonio, through which all the cavalry passed. Those on guard for the 
Venetians at the old citadel, having first heard the sound when the guards 
of the new citadel were killed, and later, when the gate was broken, re¬ 
alizing that the enemy was there, began to shout and call the people to 
arms. Then when the citizens were awakened, all confused, those who 
had more spirit took up arms and ran to the piazza of the rectors. Mean¬ 
while, Niccolo’s troops had sacked the Borgo of San Zeno, and as they 
were advancing, the citizens, recognizing that the duke’s troops were 
within and seeing no mode of defending themselves, urged the Venetian 
rectors to flee to the fortresses to save their persons and the town; they 
pointed out to them that it was better for them to keep themselves alive 
and the city rich for a better fortune than to want to die themselves and 
impoverish the city so as to avoid the present fortune. And so the rectors 
and anyone of a Venetian name fled to the fortress of San Felice. After 
this, some of the first citizens came out to meet Niccolo and the marquis 


214 


V • 25 

of Mantua, begging them to take the city when rich, with honor to them, 
rather than to possess it poor, to their shame, especially since the Ver¬ 
onese had deserved neither gratitude from their first masters nor hatred 
from them for having defended themselves. These men were comforted 
by Niccolo and the marquis, and as much as they could in such military 
license, they defended it from the sack. And because they were almost 
sure that the count would come to recover the city, they strove with all 
their industry to have the strongholds in their hands; and those they could 
not get, they separated from the town with ditches and barricades so that 
it would be difficult for the enemy to get inside. 


25 

count Francesco was at Tenno with his troops, and when he heard the 
news, he at first judged it baseless; but then, when he learned the truth 
from more certain information, he wanted to make up for his earlier neg¬ 
ligence with haste. And though all the heads of his army advised him 
that, having dropped the campaign in Verona and Brescia, he should go 
to Vicenza so as not, by lingering there, to be besieged by the enemy, he 
would not agree to this but wanted to try his fortune in recapturing the 
city. And turning in the midst of these uncertainties of mind to his Vene¬ 
tian suppliers and to Bernardetto de’ Medici, who was with him as com¬ 
missioner for the Florentines, he promised them certain recapture of the 
city if one of the fortresses should await him. Thus putting his troops in 
order, he went toward Verona with maximum speed. At the sight of him, 
Niccolo believed that the count, as he had been advised by his own men, 
was going to Vicenza; but when he saw him turning his troops toward 
the town and leading them toward the fortress of San Felice, he wanted 
to put himself in order for defense. But he was not in time, because the 
barricades to the fortresses had not been made; the soldiers were scattered 
out of avarice for the booty and the ransoms; and he could not unite them 
quickly enough to prevent the count’s troops from approaching the for¬ 
tress and from descending by it into the city. They recaptured the city 
successfully, with shame to Niccolo and loss to his men. Together with 
the marquis of Mantua, he fled first to the citadel and then through the 
open country to Mantua. There, having assembled the remnants of their 
troops who had been saved, they joined with the others who were at the 
siege of Brescia. Thus, within four days Verona had been acquired and 
lost by the ducal army. After this victory, the count, since it was already 
winter and the cold was great, and after he had sent supplies to Brescia 
with much difficulty, went into quarters in Verona, and he ordered some 


215 


V • 26 


galleys to be built over the winter in Torboli so that in the spring he could 
be strong enough by land and by water to be able to free Brescia com¬ 
pletely. 


26 

when the duke saw the war stopped for a time and the hope he had had 
of seizing Verona and Brescia cut short, that the cause of it all was the 
money and the advice of the Florentines, and that neither had they been 
alienated from their friendship for the Venetians by the injury they had 
received from them nor had he by the promises he had made to them been 
able to win them over, he decided, so that they might feel the fruits of 
their seeds nearer to them, to attack Tuscany. He was encouraged in this 
by the Florentine exiles and by Niccolo. What moved Niccolo was the 
desire to acquire the states of Braccio and to drive the count out of the 
Marches; the others were impelled by their desire to return to their father- 
land: and each had moved the duke with reasons appropriate and con¬ 
formable to his desire. Niccolo showed him how he could send him into 
Tuscany and keep Brescia besieged, since he was lord of the lake, had 
strongholds on land well fortified, and there remained captains and 
troops to oppose the count if he should wish to make another campaign 
(but it was not reasonable that the count should do this without freeing 
Brescia, and to free it was impossible); so he might come to make war in 
Tuscany and yet not leave off the campaign in Lombardy. He also showed 
him that it would be necessary for the Florentines, as soon as they saw 
him in Tuscany, to recall the count or lose; and whichever of these things 
happened, victory would result. The exiles asserted that it was impossi¬ 
ble, if Niccolo approached Florence with an army, that the people, wear¬ 
ied by taxes and by the insolence of the powerful, would not take up arms 
against them. They showed him that it was easy to approach Florence, 
promising him that the way would be open through the Casentino be¬ 
cause of the friendship that Messer Rinaldo had with that count, 1 so that 
the duke, already turning that way on his own, was confirmed in making 
this campaign all the more by their arguments. The Venetians, on the 
other side, for all that the winter was harsh, did not fail to beg the count 
to rescue Brescia with the whole army. This the count denied could be 
done in this weather, but it must wait for the new season. In the mean¬ 
time, they must put the fleet in order, and then he would relieve it by 
water and by land. Hence the Venetians were in a bad mood and were 

1 The count of Poppi; see FH v 15. 


216 


V • 27 

slow in every provision, so that their army was very much in want of 
troops. 


2 ? 

when assured of all these things, the Florentines were terrified as they 
saw that the war was coming upon them and that in Lombardy there had 
not been much profit. Nor did the suspicions they had of the troops of 
the Church give them less worry, not because the pope was their enemy 
but because they saw his armies more obedient to the patriarch, who was 
very hostile to them, than to the pope. Giovanni Vitelleschi, of Corneto, 
was first an apostolic notary, then bishop of Recanati, and next patriarch 
of Alexandria; but having finally become a cardinal, he was named car¬ 
dinal of Florence. He was spirited and astute and therefore knew how to 
work it out so that he was greatly loved by the pope and put in charge of 
the Church’s armies by him; and of all the campaigns that the pope un¬ 
dertook in Tuscany, in Romagna, in the Kingdom, and in Rome, he was 
captain. Hence, he had achieved so much authority with the troops and 
with the pope that the pope was afraid to command him and the troops 
obeyed him only and no others. Since this cardinal, therefore, was in 
Rome with his troops when the news came that Niccolo wanted to pass 
through into Tuscany, the fear of the Florentines was redoubled. For after 
Messer Rinaldo had been driven out, the cardinal had always been hostile 
to that state, in view of the fact that the accords made between the parties 
through his mediation had not been observed but had, indeed, been man¬ 
aged with prejudice to Messer Rinaldo, since they had been the cause that 
he put down his arms and gave to his enemies the means to drive him 
out. 1 So, to the princes of the government it appeared that the time might 
have come for Messer Rinaldo to restore his losses if he took the side of 
Niccolo when he came into Tuscany. And they were all the more fearful 
as it appeared to them that the departure of Niccolo from Lombardy was 
inopportune, since he was leaving a campaign almost won so as to enter 
into one altogether doubtful, which they did not believe he would do 
without new intelligence or hidden deceit. They had warned the pope of 
this suspicion of theirs, but he had already recognized his error in giving 
others too much authority. But while the Florentines remained in sus¬ 
pense, fortune showed them the way to secure themselves against the pa¬ 
triarch. 

That republic had careful inspectors everywhere among those who car- 

1 See FH iv 32. 


217 


V • 2 8 


ried letters so as to discover if anyone might be ordering anything against 
their state. It happened that at Montepulciano letters were seized that the 
patriarch was writing without the consent of the pontiff to Niccolo Pic- 
cinino, which the magistrate in charge of the war immediately presented 
to the pope. Although they were written in unusual characters and the 
sense was so complicated that one could not draw any particular meaning 
from them, nonetheless this obscurity, and the dealing with an enemy, so 
much aroused the suspicions of the pontiff that he determined to secure 
himself against him. He put in charge of this enterprise Antonio Rida da 
Padova, who had been posted as guard of the castle in Rome. As soon as 
this man received the commission, he was prepared to obey when the 
occasion he was awaiting should come. The patriarch had decided to 
come to Tuscany, and as he wished to leave Rome the following day, he 
notified the castellan to be on the castle bridge in the morning because, 
while passing over, he wished to reason with him about something. It 
appeared to Antonio that the occasion had come, and he ordered his men 
as to what they must do. At the appointed time he waited for the patri¬ 
arch on the bridge next to the fortress, which for security could be raised 
or lowered as necessary. As soon as the patriarch was on it, and he had 
stopped him first for the reasoning, he signaled his men to raise the 
bridge, so that the patriarch found himself, from being the commander 
of armies, at a stroke the prisoner of a castellan. The troops with him at 
first made an uproar; afterwards, when they learned of the pope’s will, 
they quieted down. But while the castellan comforted the patriarch with 
humane words, giving him hope that he would fare well, he answered 
that great men are not taken so as to be let go and that those who deserved 
to be taken did not deserve to be let go. And so, shortly after, he died in 
prison, and the pope placed at the head of his men Ludovico, patriarch of 
Aquileia. And while Ludovico in the past had never wanted to be in¬ 
volved in the wars of the league and the duke, he was content to take part 
now, and he promised to be ready for the defense of Tuscany with four 
thousand cavalry and two thousand infantry. 


28 


the Florentines, freed from this fear, were left with their fear of Niccolo 
and of the confusion of things in Lombardy because of the differences 
between the Venetians and the count. 1 To understand these better, they 
sent Neri di Gino Capponi and Messer Giuliano Davanzati to Venice and 

1 See FH v 2 6 (end). 


218 


V • 29 

charged them to find out how the war would have to be managed the 
next year. They instructed Nen that after he learned the opinion of the 
Venetians he should go to the count in order to learn his opinion and to 
persuade him to do those things necessary for the safety of the league. 
These ambassadors were not yet in Ferrara when they learned that Nic¬ 
colo Piccinino had crossed the Po with six thousand cavalry, which made 
them hurry their journey. When they reached Venice, they found its si- 
gnoria all wanting that Brescia should be relieved without waiting for 
better weather, because that city could not wait for relief until the next 
season or for a fleet to be built, but if it saw no other aid, it would surren¬ 
der to the enemy; this would make the duke entirely victorious and make 
them lose all their state on land. On this account Neri went to Verona to 
hear out the count and what he had to argue to the contrary. The count 
pointed out with many reasons why rushing toward Brescia in that 
weather was useless now and damaging to a future campaign, for, consid¬ 
ering the weather and the site of Brescia, it would bear no fruit but would 
only disorder and exhaust his troops, so that when the season suitable for 
activity came, it would be necessary for him to return with the army to 
Verona to provide for things consumed during the winter and necessary 
for the next season: so all the time suitable for war would be spent in 
going and returning. With the count in Verona, having been sent to ne¬ 
gotiate these things, were Messer Orsatto Giustiniani and Messer Gio¬ 
vanni Pisani. After many disputes, it was concluded with them that the 
Venetians should give the count eighty thousand ducats for the new year 
and to the others of his troops forty ducats for each lancer, and that he 
should be urged to go forth with the whole army to attack the duke so 
that fear for his own affairs would make Niccolo return to Lombardy. 
After this conclusion, they returned to Venice. Because the sum of money 
was large, the Venetians provided sluggishly in everything. 


29 

niccolo Piccinino, meanwhile, continued his journey and, once he had 
reached Romagna, worked with the sons of Messer Pandolfo Malatesta 1 
so that they left the Venetians and sided with the duke. This thing dis¬ 
pleased Venice, but Florence much more, because they believed that this 
was the way they could hold out against Niccolo; but when they saw that 
the Malatesti had revolted, they were frightened, especially because they 
feared that Pietro Gianpaolo Orsini, their captain, then in the towns of 

1 See FH v 19. 


219 


V • 29 

the Malatesti, might have everything taken from him, leaving them dis¬ 
armed. This news frightened the count as well, because he was afraid of 
losing the Marches if Niccolo crossed into Tuscany; and being disposed 
to go to the relief of his own house, he came to Venice. When he was 
brought before the prince, 2 he pointed out that his going to Tuscany was 
useful to the league, for war had to be made where the army and the 
captain of the enemy were, not where their towns and garrisons were, 
because an army conquered is a war won, but if towns are conquered 
while the army is left whole, the war often becomes more active. He 
asserted that the Marches and Tuscany would be lost unless there was 
vigorous opposition to Niccolo; if these were lost, there would be no 
remedy for Lombardy; but even if there were a remedy, he did not intend 
to abandon his subjects and his friends. He had come to Lombardy a lord 
and he did not mean to depart a condottiere. To this the prince replied 
that it was manifest to him that if the count not only left Lombardy but 
recrossed the Po with his whole army, all their state on land would be 
lost. And they were not about to spend anything more to defend it, for 
he is not wise who tries to defend a thing he will have to lose in any mode; 
and it is less infamy, and less loss, to lose states alone than states and 
money. And if the loss of their things should occur, one would then see 
how much the reputation of the Venetians mattered in the holding of 
Tuscany and Romagna. So they were altogether contrary to his opinion, 
because they believed that whoever won in Lombardy would win every¬ 
where else; and winning was easy, since by the departure of Niccolo the 
state of the duke was so weak that he could be ruined before he could 
either recall Niccolo or provide himself with other remedies. Also, 
whoever examined each thing wisely would see that the duke had not sent 
Niccolo to Tuscany for anything else than to remove the count from these 
campaigns and to carry on elsewhere the war that he had at home. So if 
the count were to go after him, before an extreme necessity was visible, 
one would see the duke’s schemes fulfilled and see him succeed in his 
intention; but if the troops were maintained in Lombardy, and in Tuscany 
one provided as one could, the duke would become aware of his wicked 
course too late, in time to have lost in Lombardy without remedy and not 
to have won in Tuscany. 

Thus, each having stated and repeated his opinion, it was concluded 
that they should wait a few days to see what might come out of the accord 
of the Malatesti with Niccolo, if the Florentines could make use of Pietro 
Gianpaolo, and if the pope was keeping in step with the league as he had 
promised. This conclusion reached, a few days later they were assured 

2 The doge. 


220 


V • 30 

that the Malatesti had made their accord with him more out of fear than 
for any cause of ill will, that Pietro Gianpaolo had gone with his troops 
toward Tuscany, and that the pope was more willing to help the league 
than before. This information put the count’s mind at rest, and he was 
content to remain in Lombardy and that Neri Capponi return to Florence 
with a thousand of his cavalry and with five hundred others; and if things 
in Tuscany should proceed so that the count’s activity was necessary 
there, they would write, and then the count would leave without any 
hesitation. Neri arrived in Florence, therefore, in April with these men, 
and on the same day Gianpaolo joined him. 


30 

nicCOLO Piccinino, meanwhile, since things were at a stop in Romagna, 
was scheming to descend on Tuscany. Though he wanted to cross over 
the mountain at San Benedetto and through the valley of Montone, he 
found those places so well guarded by the virtue of Niccolo da Pisa that 
he judged all his effort in that direction would be vain. And because the 
Florentines were ill provided with both soldiers and heads for this sudden 
attack, they had sent many of their citizens to guard these passes in the 
mountains with a hastily assembled infantry, among whom was Messer 
Bartolomeo Orlandini, a knight to whom the defense of the castle of 
Marradi and the pass over that mountain had been assigned. Thus, when 
Niccolo Piccinino judged he could not get through the pass at San Bene¬ 
detto by the virtue of the one defending it, he judged he could overcome 
the pass at Marradi through the vileness of the one who had it to defend. 
Marradi is a fortified place situated at the foot of the mountains that di¬ 
vide Tuscany from Romagna, but on the side that looks toward Roma¬ 
gna, where the Val di Lamona begins; and although it is without walls, 
nonetheless the river, the mountains, and the inhabitants make it strong, 
because the men are warlike and faithful, and the river has eroded the 
earth and raised the banks so that to come from across the valley is im¬ 
possible whenever the small bridge over the river is defended; and from 
the mountain side the banks are so rugged that they make the site very 
secure. Nonetheless, the vileness of Messer Bartolomeo made these men 
vile and the site very weak; for no sooner had he heard the sound of the 
enemy troops than he abandoned everything and fled with all his men; 
nor did he stop until he reached Borgo San Lorenzo. When Niccolo en¬ 
tered the places that had been abandoned, he was full of amazement that 
they had not been defended and full of joy at having acquired them; and 
he descended to the Mugello, where he seized some fortified places. Fie 


221 


v • 3 I 

halted his army at Montepulciano and from there raided the whole coun¬ 
tryside as far as the mountains of Fiesole. And he was so daring as to cross 
the Arno, and he plundered and destroyed everything up to three miles 
from Florence. 


31 

the Florentines, for their part, were not dismayed, and before anything 
else they gave attention to keeping their government steady. Of this they 
could have little doubt because of the good will that Cosimo enjoyed 
among the people and because they had restricted their chief magistracies 
to a few powerful men, who held firm with their severity, if indeed there 
should be anyone malcontent or desirous of new things. Also they knew, 
from the accords reached in Lombardy, what forces Neri was returning 
with, and they were expecting troops from the pope, the hope of which 
kept them going until the return of Neri. When Neri found the city in 
these disorders and fears, he decided to go into the field to check Niccolo 
in part from sacking the countryside freely; and having put together more 
infantry, all from the people, with what cavalry was to be found there, he 
went forth and retook Remole, which the enemy was holding. Camping 
there, he prevented Niccolo from raiding and raised hope in the citizens 
of lifting the enemy encirclement. When Niccolo saw that the Floren¬ 
tines, when bereft of troops, had not made any move and understood 
with what assurance they lived in that city, it appeared to him that he was 
using up time in vain, and he decided to make other campaigns so that 
the Florentines would have cause to send troops after him and give him 
an opportunity to join battle, after which, if he won, he thought every¬ 
thing else would turn out well for him. In Niccolo’s army there was 
Count Francesco di Poppi, who, since the enemy was in the Mugello, 
had rebelled against the Florentines with whom he was in league. Al¬ 
though at first the Florentines had been doubtful of him, in order to make 
him their friend with benefits, they increased his subsidy and made him 
commissioner over all their towns bordering his. Nonetheless (so great is 
the love of party in men), neither any benefit nor any fear could make 
him forget the affection he bore for Messer Rinaldo and the others gov¬ 
erning in the former state. So as soon as he learned that Niccolo was near, 
he sided with him and urged him with every persuasion to get away from 
the city and go to the Casentino, pointing out to him the strength of the 
country and with how much security he could keep the enemy hemmed 
in from there. Niccolo therefore took this advice and, having reached the 
Casentino, seized Romena and Bibbiena; then he put his camp at Castel 


222 


v • 3 I 

San Niccolo. This fortified place is situated at the foot of the mountains 
that divide the Casentino from Valdarno, and as it is in a very elevated 
place and amply garrisoned from within, taking it was difficult, even 
though Niccolo attacked it continuously with catapults and similar artil¬ 
lery. This siege had lasted more than twenty days, in which time the Flor¬ 
entines had gathered their troops; already three thousand cavalry had as¬ 
sembled under many condottieri at Figline, commanded by Pietro 
Gianpaolo as captain and by Neri Capponi and Bernardo de’ Medici as 
commissioners. To them came four men sent from Castel San Niccolo to 
beg them to give aid. The commissioners, having examined the site, saw 
that they could not help except by going through the mountains above 
Valdarno, the summit of which could be seized sooner by the enemy than 
by themselves because the enemy had a shorter route and the Florentines 
could not hide their approach. Thus it would be going to try a thing that 
could not succeed and that could result in the ruin of their troops. Hence 
the commissioners praised the faith of these men and authorized them to 
surrender when they could no longer defend themselves. 

Thus Niccolo took this fortified place thirty-two days after setting up 
camp there, and the loss of so much time for so little acquired was in good 
part the cause of the ruin of his enterprise; for if he had stayed with his 
troops around Florence, he would have made whoever governed that city 
unable except with hesitation to press the citizens for more money, and 
they would gather troops and make every other provision only with 
much difficulty while the enemy was on their backs instead of far away; 
and many would have been of a mind to move toward some accord to 
secure themselves from Niccolo with peace when they saw that the war 
might be lasting. But Count Poppi’s wish to avenge himself against the 
people of Castel San Niccolo, who had long been his enemies, made him 
give Niccolo that advice; and Niccolo, to satisfy him, took it, which was 
the ruin of both: it rarely happens that the passions of individuals are not 
harmful to the general 1 advantage. Niccolo, following this victory, took 
Rassina and Chiusi. The count of Poppi tried to persuade him to stay in 
these regions, pointing out to him that he could spread his men among 
Chiusi, Caprese, and Pieve, that he would have mastery 2 of the moun¬ 
tains and would be able to descend from his position upon the Casentino, 
Valdarno, Valdichiana, and Val di Tevere and would be ready for any 
move his enemies might make. 

But Niccolo, having considered the roughness of the terrain, told him 
that his horses did not eat stones, and he went to Borgo San Sepolcro, 

1 Lit.: universal. 

2 Or be lord. 


223 


V • 32 

where he was amiably received. From that place he tested the intent of 
those in Citta di Castello, who as friends of the Florentines did not listen 
to him. And desiring to have the Perugians devoted to him, he went to 
Perugia with forty cavalry and, being a citizen there, was lovingly re¬ 
ceived. But in a few days he became suspect there, and he tried many 
things with the legate and the Perugians but succeeded in none of them; 
so, having received 8,000 ducats from them, he returned to his army. 
From there he undertook negotiations in Cortona so as to take it from 
the Florentines, and since this thing was discovered ahead of time, his 
schemes were in vain. Among the first citizens of that city was Bartolom¬ 
meo di Senso. As he was on his way one evening, by order of the captain, 
to stand watch at a gate, he was met by a friend of his from the country 
who gave him to understand that he should not go there if he did not 
want to be killed. Bartolommeo wanted to get to the bottom of this 
thing, and he found out the order in the dealing they had with Niccolo. 
This Bartolommeo revealed in turn 3 to the captain, who assured himself 
of the heads of the conspiracy, doubled the watch at the gates, and waited 
for Niccolo to come according to the order given. Fie came at night at 
the time ordered and, finding himself discovered, returned to his quar¬ 
ters. 


32 

while things toiled on in Tuscany in this manner with little acquired for 
the duke’s troops, in Lombardy things were not quiet but brought loss 
and damage to him. For as soon as the weather permitted, Count Fran¬ 
cesco went into the field with his army, and because the Venetians had 
installed their fleet on the lake , 1 the count wanted before everything else 
to become lord of the water and to drive the duke from the lake, judging 
that when he had done this, other things would be easy for him. There¬ 
fore, with the Venetians’ fleet he attacked the duke’s and destroyed it, and 
with his troops on land he took the fortified places that obeyed the duke. 
So when others of the duke’s troops who were then pressing Brescia by 
land learned of that disaster, they rushed away; and thus Brescia, after 
being besieged for three years, was freed from the siege. After this victory 
the count went to meet the enemy, who had assembled at Soncino, a 
fortified place situated on the river Oglio, and he dislodged them and 
made them retreat to Cremona, where the duke made a stand and de- 


3 Lit.: in order. 

' See FH v 25 (end). 


224 


V • 33 

fended his states from that side. But as the count pressed him harder day 
by day, the duke, since he feared that he would lose either all or a large 
part of his states, realized the wickedness of the course he had adopted of 
sending Niccolo to Tuscany; and to correct the error, he wrote to Niccolo 
of the straits he was in and where his enterprises had led. Therefore, as 
soon as he could, Niccolo should leave Tuscany and return to Lombardy. 
Meanwhile, the Florentines, under their commissioners, had assembled 
their troops with those of the pope and had halted at Anghiari, a fortified 
place located at the foot of the mountains that divide Val di Tevere from 
Valdichiana, four miles away from Borgo San Sepolcro, with a level road 
and fields suitable for horses and for waging war. And because the Flor¬ 
entines had news of the count’s victories and of Niccold’s recall, they 
judged they had won that war with swords sheathed and without raising 
dust; and because of this, they wrote to the commissioners to abstain 
from battle, since Niccolo could not remain for many days in Tuscany. 
This commission came to the notice of Niccolo; and though seeing the 
necessity of leaving, he decided to come to battle so as not to leave any¬ 
thing untried, thinking he would find his enemy unprovided and with 
thoughts far from battle. He was encouraged in this by Messer Rinaldo, 
by the count of Poppi, and by the other Florentine exiles, who realized 
their ruin was clear if Niccolo should leave; but if they came to battle, 
they believed they would either win the campaign or lose it honorably. 
Having made this decision, he moved the army from where it was be¬ 
tween Citta di Castello and the Borgo, 2 and, coming to Borgo without 
the enemy’s being aware of it, he drew two thousand men from that 
town, who followed him, trusting in the virtue of the captain and in his 
promises and desirous of plunder. 


33 

so Niccolo headed toward Anghiari with his ranks drawn for battle and 
was already closer than two miles to them when a great cloud of dust was 
seen by Micheletto Attenduli; and as he realized it was the enemy, he gave 
the cry to arms. The tumult in the Florentine camp was great because, 
though such armies ordinarily camp without any discipline, here negli¬ 
gence was added, since it appeared to them that the enemy was far away 
and more disposed to flight than to battle; so everyone was disarmed, far 
from his quarters and wherever he had been attracted by his wish either 
to escape the heat, which was great, or to follow some pleasure of his. 

2 Borgo San Sepolcro. 


225 


V • 3 3 

Yet such was the diligence of the commissioners and the captain that be¬ 
fore the enemy had arrived, they were mounted and in order so that they 
could resist his thrust. As Micheletto was the first to discover the enemy, 
so was he first to arm and meet him, and he ran with his troops over the 
bridge that crosses the road not very far from Anghiari. And since Pietro 
Gianpaolo, before the coming of the enemy, had had the ditches that 
edged the road between the bridge and Anghiari leveled, Micheletto was 
posted facing the bridge; Simoncino, condottiere for the Church, with 
his legate, were put on the right-hand side; and on the left were the Flor¬ 
entine commissioners with Pietro Gianpaolo, their captain; and the infan¬ 
try were placed on each side on the bank of the river. There was no other 
way left open, therefore, for the enemy to go and meet his adversary than 
straight over the bridge. Nor did the Florentines have anywhere to fight 
but the bridge, except that they had so ordered their infantry that if the 
enemy infantry left the road to reach the flanks of their men-at-arms, they 
would attack them with crossbows so that the enemy could not strike at 
the flanks of the Florentine cavalry crossing the bridge. Thus the first 
troops that appeared were not only vigorously resisted by Micheletto but 
repulsed by him; but when Astorre and Francesco Piccinino came with 
their elite troops, they struck Micheletto with such a thrust that they took 
the bridge from him and pushed him back to the beginning of the slope 
that rises to the village of Anghiari; then they were repulsed and pushed 
back off the bridge by Florentines attacking them on their flanks. This 
battle lasted two hours, during which first Niccolo and then the Floren¬ 
tine troops were masters 1 of the bridge. And although the battle for the 
bridge was even, nonetheless on either side of the bridge the fighting was 
to Niccolo’s great disadvantage. For when Niccolo s troops crossed the 
bridge, they found the enemy strong, as they could maneuver on the 
ground that had been leveled and those who were tired could be relieved 
by fresh men; but when the Florentine troops crossed the bridge, Niccolo 
could not conveniently relieve his men because he was constrained by the 
ditches and banks that bounded the road. So it happened: for Niccolo’s 
troops won the bridge many times, and always they were repelled by the 
fresh troops of his adversaries. But when the bridge was won by the Flor¬ 
entines, so that their troops gained the road, Niccolo did not have time, 
because of the fury of those who came and the inconvenience of the site, 
to relieve his men; those in front were mixed with those behind so that 
one disordered the other, and the whole army was compelled to turn 
around and everyone fled toward Borgo 2 without any hesitation. The 

1 Or lords. 

2 Borgo San Sepolcro. 

226 


V • 34 

Florentine soldiers attended to the spoil, which was very great in pris¬ 
oners, harnesses, and horses, for only a thousand cavalry escaped with 
Niccolo. The inhabitants of Borgo who had followed Niccolo in order to 
plunder, from plunderers became plunder, and they were all taken and 
held for ransom; the ensigns and baggage wagons were captured. The 
victory was much more useful for Tuscany than harmful to the duke: for 
if the Florentines had lost the day, Tuscany was his; but having lost it 
himself, he lost nothing more than the arms and horses of his army, 
which he could replace with not much money. Nor were there ever times 
when war waged in the countries of others was less dangerous for 
whoever waged it than these. In such a defeat and in so long a battle that 
lasted from twenty to twenty-four hours, only one man died, and he not 
from wounds or any other virtuous blow, but, falling off his horse, he 
was trampled on and expired. 3 With such security did men fight then: for 
they were all on horse and covered with armor, and being secure from 
death whenever they surrendered, there was no cause that they should 
die. They were defended by arms while fighting, and when they could no 
longer fight, they surrendered. 


34 

this battle, for the things that happened during the fighting and after, is 
a great example of the lack of success of these wars. For when the enemy 
had been conquered and Niccolo had withdrawn to Borgo, the commis¬ 
sioners wanted to follow him and besiege him there so as to have a com¬ 
plete victory. But not one condottiere or soldier was willing to obey 
them, as they said that they wanted to store their booty and treat their 
wounds. And what is more noteworthy was that the next day, at noon, 
without permission or regard for commissioner or captain, they went to 
Arezzo and, having left their booty there, returned to Anghiari—a thing 
so contrary to every praiseworthy order and military discipline that any 
remnant of an army, however ordered, could easily and deservedly have 
taken from them the victory that they had so undeservedly gained. 1 Be¬ 
sides this, when the commissioners wanted the men of arms who had 
been taken to be held, so as to deprive the enemy of the opportunity of 
reforming itself, they freed them despite the will of the commissioners. 
All things to be marveled at: that in an army so made there was so much 

3 NM here departs from his source, Biondo, from whom it appears at least 70 died in the 
battle of Anghiari. 

1 Lit.: acquired. 


227 


V • 3 5 

virtue that it could win, and that in the enemy there was so much vileness 
that it could be conquered by such disorderly troops. Thus, in the going 
and coming of the Florentine troops to Arezzo, Niccolo had time to leave 
Borgo with his troops, and he went off toward Romagna; with him the 
Florentine rebels also fled. Flaving seen every hope of returning to Flor¬ 
ence lost, they dispersed in many parts in and out of Italy, as suited each. 

Of these, Messer Rinaldo chose to dwell in Ancona; and so as to earn a 
celestial fatherland for himself, since he had lost his earthly one, he went 
to the Sepulchre of Christ, whence he returned for the marriage of one of 
his daughters and while at the table suddenly died. Fortune favored him 
in this, that on the least unprosperous day of his exile, it had him die. Fie 
was a man truly honored in all fortune, but he would have been still more 
so if nature had had him born in a united city, because many of his qual¬ 
ities hurt 2 him in a divided city that would have rewarded him in a united 
city. So the commissioners, when their troops had returned from Arezzo 
and Niccolo had left, presented themselves at Borgo. The inhabitants of 
Borgo wanted to give themselves up to the Florentines, and the Floren¬ 
tines refused to accept them; and in the dealing for these accords, the 
legate of the pontiff became suspicious that the commissioners did not 
want that town to be seized for the Church, so that they came to exchange 
injurious words. There would have been disorder between the Florentine 
and ecclesiastical troops if the negotiations had gone on much longer, but 
because they ended with what the legate wanted, everything was pacified. 


35 

while things in Borgo toiled on, it was learned that Niccolo Piccinino 
was on his way toward Rome, and other information said toward the 
Marches. So to the legate and to Sforza’s troops it appeared that they 
should go toward Perugia to relieve either the Marches or Rome, wher¬ 
ever Niccolo might have gone; with them should go Bernardo de’ Me¬ 
dici, and Neri with the Florentine troops should go to acquire the Casen- 
tino. This decision made, Neri went to camp at Rassina and took it and 
with the same thrust took Bibbiena, Prato Vecchio, and Romena; and 
from there he placed his camp at Poppi and enclosed it from two sides, 
one on the, plain of Certomondo, the other on the hill on the road to 
Fronzoli. The count of Poppi, seeing himself abandoned by God and by 
men, had shut himself up in Poppi, not because he had hope of being able 
to get any help, but to make a less damaging accord if he could. There- 

2 Lit.: offended. 


228 


V • 35 

fore, as Neri pressed him, he asked for terms and found them as much as 
he could hope for at that time: to save himself, his children, and the things 
he could carry, but to yield his town and his state to the Florentines. And 
when they had stipulated the terms, he came down over the bridge at the 
Arno, which flows below the town, and all sorrowful and grieving, he 
said to Neri, “If I had measured well my fortune and your power, I would 
be coming now as a friend to rejoice with you in your victory, not as an 
enemy to beg you that my ruin be less grievous. The result now, as it is 
magnificent and happy for you, is painful and wretched for me. I had 
horses, arms, subjects, state, and wealth: Is it a marvel that I leave them 
unwillingly? But if you wish to command all Tuscany, and can do so, we 
others must obey you of necessity. And if I had not made this error, my 
fortune would not have been known and your liberality could not be 
known; for, if you preserve me, you will give to the world an eternal 
example of your clemency. Therefore, let your pity conquer my misdeed 
and leave at least this one house to the descendant of those from whom 
your fathers have received innumerable benefits.” To which Neri replied 
that his having hoped too much in those who could do little had made 
him so err against the republic of Florence that, adding up present con¬ 
ditions, it was necessary for him to yield all his things and to abandon all 
those places as an enemy to the Florentines which he had not been willing 
to hold as their friend. For he had made such an example of himself that 
he could not be nourished where at every change of fortune he could 
harm that republic. For not he but his states were feared; but if he could 
be a prince in Germany, their city would desire it and would support him 
out of love of those ancestors of his whom he was mentioning. To this 
the count, quite indignant, answered that he would wish to see the Flor¬ 
entines much farther away. And so, dropping all loving reasoning, the 
count, seeing no other remedy, yielded the city and all his rights 1 to the 
Florentines, and with all his property, together with his wife and chil¬ 
dren, he departed, weeping, lamenting the loss of a state that his fathers 
had possessed for nine hundred years. As soon as all these victories were 
learned of in Florence, they were received by the princes of the govern¬ 
ment and by the people with marvelous joy. And because Bernardetto de’ 
Medici found it to be false that Niccolo had gone toward the Marches or 
to Rome, he returned with his troops to where Neri was; and together 
they returned to Florence, where all the greatest honors that according to 
the order of the city could be decreed for them as victorious citizens were 
decreed. They were received by the Signori, by the captains of the Party, 
and then by the whole city in the custom of men triumphant. 

1 Lit.: reasons. 


229 


BOOK VI 


I 

it has always been the end of those who start a war—and it is reasonable 
that it should be so—to enrich themselves and impoverish the enemy. For 
no other cause is victory sought, nor for anyone else are acquisitions de¬ 
sired than to make oneself powerful and the adversary weak. Hence, it 
follows that whenever your victory impoverishes you 1 or acquisition 
weakens you, you must forgo it or you will not arrive at the result for 
which wars are made. A prince or a republic that eliminates enemies and 
takes possession of booty and ransom is enriched by victories in wars. He 
who in conquest cannot eliminate enemies is impoverished by victories, 
and the booty and ransom belong not to him but to his soldiers. Such a 
one is unprosperous in his losses and very unprosperous in his victories, 
for in losing he suffers the injuries done him by enemies and in winning, 
suffers injuries done him by friends. Injuries done by friends, being less 
reasonable, are less endurable, especially when he sees that it is necessary 
for him to burden his subjects further with taxes and new offenses. And 
if he has any humanity himself, he cannot entirely rejoice at a victory by 
which all his subjects are afflicted. Ancient and well-ordered republics 
were accustomed to fill their treasuries with gold and silver from their 
victories, to distribute gifts among the people, to forgive the payment of 
tribute by their subjects, and to entertain them with games and solemn 
festivals. But victories in the times we are describing first emptied the 
treasury, then impoverished the people, and still did not secure you from 
your enemies. All of this arose out of the disorder with which these wars 
were conducted; for when conquered enemies were despoiled but then 
neither detained nor killed, they deferred attacking the conqueror only 
until whoever led them refurbished them with arms and horses. Since the 
ransom and booty also belonged to the soldiers, the conquering princes 
could not make use of them to pay for the new expenses of new enlist¬ 
ments, but tore such expenses from the vitals of their own peoples. Nor 
did victory bring any other benefit to peoples than to make the prince 
more eager and less hesitant to tax them. And these soldiers had brought 
war to such a point that new money was needed equally by the conqueror 

1 The familiar “you.” 


230 



VI • 2 


and the conquered if they wanted to be able to command their own 
troops. The latter needed money to equip men anew, the former to re¬ 
ward them; and just as those not put back on horse could not fight, the 
others were unwilling to fight without new rewards. From this it arose 
that the one enjoyed victory little and the other felt loss little, because the 
conquered had time to restore himself and the victorious had no time to 
follow up his victory. 


2 

this disorder and perverse mode in the military made it possible for Nic¬ 
colo Piccinino to be back on horse before his ruin 1 was known through¬ 
out Italy, and he made more war on the enemy after his loss than before. 
This enabled him to seize Verona after his defeat at Tenna; it enabled him 
to come into Tuscany with a large army after he had been stripped of his 
troops at Verona. It enabled him, after being defeated at Anghiari, before 
coming to Romagna, to be more powerful in the field than before; and 
he could fill the duke of Milan with hope of being able to defend Lom¬ 
bardy, which, because of Niccolo’s absence, appeared to him to have been 
nearly lost. For while Niccolo filled Tuscany with tumults, the duke was 
reduced to a strait in which he was afraid for his own state. He judged 
that his own ruin might come before Niccolo Piccinino, whom he had 
recalled, could arrive to rescue him. To check the thrust of the count and 
to temporize with industry the fortune he was unable to sustain with 
force, he had recourse to remedies that in similar straits had often helped 
him: he sent Niccolo d’Este, prince of Ferrara, to Peschiera, where the 
count was. The prince, for his part, urged the count to peace and pointed 
out to him that this war was not to his advantage, for if the duke so weak¬ 
ened himself that he could not maintain his reputation, the count would 
be the first to suffer from it because he would no longer be valued by the 
Venetians and the Florentines. And as proof that the duke desired peace, 
he offered the count fulfillment of the marriage. The duke would send his 
daughter to Ferrara, and he promised that when peace was secured, he 
would give her into his hands. The count answered that if the duke truly 
sought peace he could find it easily, as it was something desired by the 
Florentines and the Venetians. The truth was that the duke could hardly 
be believed because it was known he had never made peace except out of 
necessity; and when necessity disappeared, the will for war would return 
to him. Nor could the count put faith in his marriage, since he had been 

1 The defeat at Anghiari, FH v 33-34- 


231 


VI • 3 

fooled so many times. Nonetheless, if a peace was concluded, he would 
then do whatever his friends counseled him about the marriage. 


3 

the Venetians, who were suspicious of their soldiers 1 even in things that 
were unreasonable, were with reason greatly suspicious of these dealings. 
The count, wishing to dispel that suspicion, continued the war vigor¬ 
ously. Nonetheless, the spirit he had from ambition and the Venetians had 
from suspicion cooled down, so that for the rest of the summer they 
made few campaigns. Thus, when Niccolo Piccinino returned to Lom¬ 
bardy and winter had already begun, all the armies had gone to their 
quarters: the count to Verona, the duke to Cremona, the Florentine 
troops to Tuscany, and those of the pope to Romagna. After the pope’s 
troops had won at Anghiari, they attacked Forli and Bologna so as to take 
them from the hands of Francesco Piccinino, who governed them in the 
name of his father; but they did not succeed because the cities were vig¬ 
orously defended by Francesco. Nonetheless, their coming gave the in¬ 
habitants of Ravenna such a fright of returning under the empire of the 
Church that by agreement with Ostasio da Polenta, their lord, they put 
themselves in the power 2 of the Venetians. The Venetians, as a reward for 
the town they had received—so that at no time could Ostasio take back 
from them by force that which with little prudence he had given them— 
sent him together with one of his sons to die in Candia. Notwithstanding 
the victory of Anghiari, the pope lacked money for these campaigns, and 
he sold the castle at Borgo San Sepolcro to the Florentines for twenty- 
five thousand ducats. 3 While things remained on these terms and it ap¬ 
peared to each that he was safe from war since it was winter, no one 
thought any more of peace, and especially not the duke, since he had been 
reassured by Niccolo Piccinino and by the season. He had therefore bro¬ 
ken off all reasoning about an accord with the count, and with great dil¬ 
igence he put Niccolo back on horse and made whatever other provision 
that a future war might require. When the count was informed of this, he 
went to Venice to consult with its senate about how they should conduct 
themselves for the coming year. Niccolo, for his part, finding himself in 
order and seeing his enemy in disorder, did not wait for spring to come; 
and in the coldest part of winter he crossed the Adda River, entered Bre- 


1 The soldiers they hired. 

2 Potesta. 

3 See FH v 34. 


232 


vi • 4 

scia, and seized the whole territory except for Asolo and Orzi. There he 
plundered and captured more than two thousand of Sforza’s cavalry who 
were not expecting the attack. But what displeased the count more and 
frightened the Venetians more was that Ciarpellone, one of the leading 
captains of the count, rebelled against him. With this news, the count left 
Venice immediately and, when he arrived at Brescia, found that Niccolo, 
having done his damage, had returned to his quarters. Thus, since the 
count found the war eliminated, he did not think it worthwhile to rekin¬ 
dle it; but since the weather and the enemy had given him opportunity 
for reordering himself, he wanted to use it so that he could get revenge 
for the old offenses in the new season. So he had the Venetians recall their 
troops who were in Tuscany serving the Florentines, and in place of Gat- 
tamelata, who was dead, he asked Micheletto Attenduli to lead them. 


4 

thus, when spring came, Niccolo Piccinino was the first to take the 
field, and he besieged Cignano, a fortified place twelve miles away from 
Brescia. To its aid came the count; and the war was managed between 
these two captains according to their custom. And since the count feared 
for Bergamo, he took up camp at Martinengo, a fortified town located in 
a place from which, once it was taken, he could easily relieve Bergamo. 
This city had been gravely harmed 1 by Niccolo; and because he had fore¬ 
seen he could be impeded by his enemy only by way of Martinengo, he 
had had that town furnished with every defense, so that it was necessary 
for the count to go with all his forces to take it. Then Niccolo with his 
whole army placed himself where he cut off supplies to the count; and he 
had fortified himself with breastworks and bastions so that the count 
could not attack him except with manifest danger to himself. The thing 
came to such a strait that the besieger was in greater danger than those in 
Martinengo who were besieged. Hence, the count could no longer con¬ 
tinue the siege because of hunger or get away because of the danger, and 
a clear victory for the duke was seen and a definite ruin for the Venetians 
and the count. But fortune, who never lacks a mode to help its friends 
and disfavor its enemies, made such ambition and insolence grow in Nic¬ 
colo Piccinino through hope of this victory that, having no respect for 
the duke or himself, he sent to the duke to say that since he had fought 
under the duke’s ensigns a long time and had not yet acquired enough 
land to be able to bury himself, he wished to know from him what prizes 

1 Lit.: offended. 


233 


VI • 5 

he might have to reward him for his troubles. For it was in his power 2 to 
make the duke lord of Lombardy and to put all his enemies into his hands; 
and since it appeared to him that from a sure victory must arise a sure 
reward, he desired the duke to give him the city of Piacenza, so that, 
when wearied of so long in the military, he could find repose there at 
some time. Nor was he ashamed, in the end, to threaten the duke with 
dropping the campaign if he did not consent to this demand of his. This 
injurious and insolent mode of demanding offended the duke so much, 
and he took such umbrage at it, that he decided he would rather lose the 
campaign than yield to him. And the duke, whom so many perils and so 
many threats from his enemies had not subdued, was subdued by the 
insolent modes of his friends, and he decided to come to an accord with 
the count. He sent Antonio Guidobono da Tortona to the count and 
through him offered his daughter and conditions of peace, which were 
eagerly accepted by the count and all his allies. And with the pacts secretly 
concluded between them, the duke sent a command to Niccolo to make 
a truce for one year with the count, pointing out that he was so troubled 
by expenses that he could not give up a sure peace for a dubious victory. 
Niccolo was left in wonder at this decision, as he could not understand 
what cause would move the duke to abandon so glorious a victory, nor 
could Niccolo believe that, because the duke did not want to reward his 
friends, he would want to save his enemies. Therefore he opposed this 
decision in whatever mode appeared best to him, so that the duke was 
compelled to quiet him by threatening that if he did not consent, he 
would give him in prey to his soldiers and to his enemies. So Niccolo 
obeyed with no other spirit than does one who is forced to abandon his 
friends and fatherland, lamenting his wicked fate, since now fortune, now 
the duke, were taking victory over his enemies from him. When the truce 
was made, the marriage of Madonna Bianca and the count was cele¬ 
brated, and for her dowry the duke consigned the city of Cremona to 
him. This done, peace was concluded in November of 1441 , which Fran¬ 
cesco Barbadico and Paolo Trono signed for the Venetians, and Messer 
Agnolo Acciaiuoli for the Florentines. In it the Venetians gained Pes- 
chiera, Asolo, and Lonato, fortified towns of the marquis of Mantua. 


5 

although the war in Lombardy had ceased, there remained the armies 
of the Kingdom; and since they were unable to remain quiet, they were 

2 Potesta. 


234 


vi • 5 

the cause that arms were again taken up in Lombardy. King Rene had 
been despoiled of all his realm except Naples by Alfonso of Aragon while 
the war in Lombardy was toiling on. Thus, as it appeared to Alfonso that 
he had victory in his hands, he decided while besieging Naples to take 
from the count Benevento and others of his states that he possessed in the 
environs; for he judged he could succeed in doing this without danger to 
himself, as the count was occupied in the wars of Lombardy. This enter¬ 
prise, therefore, succeeded easily for Alfonso, and with little trouble he 
seized all those towns. But when the news of peace in Lombardy came, 
Alfonso feared that the count might come back for the sake of his towns 
in support of Rene, and Rene hoped for him for the same causes. So Rene 
sent to plead to the count, begging him to come to rescue a friend and get 
revenge on an enemy. On the other side, Alfonso begged Filippo that, for 
the friendship he had for Alfonso, he should give the count so many wor¬ 
ries that the count would be occupied in greater enterprises and would 
necessarily have to let this one go. Filippo accepted this request without 
thinking that he was disturbing the peace he had made shortly before with 
so much disadvantage to himself. He therefore let Pope Eugene know 
that now was the time to get back those towns of the Church that the 
count was holding; and to do this he offered him Niccolo Piccinino with 
pay while the war lasted. Niccolo was staying with his troops in Roma¬ 
gna after the peace had been made. Eugene accepted this advice avidly 
because of his hatred for the count and his desire to get back his own; and 
if another time he had been deceived by Niccolo with the same hope, he 
believed that now, since the duke was involved, he could have no fear of 
deceit; and putting his men beside those of Niccolo, he attacked the 
Marches. The count, struck by so unexpected an attack, gathered his 
troops and went against the enemy. Meanwhile, King Alfonso seized Na¬ 
ples; thus all that kingdom except Castelnuovo came into his power . 1 So 
Rene, having left Castelnuovo well guarded, departed, and when he came 
to Florence was received most honorably; he stayed there a few days and, 
when he saw he could make no more war, left for Marseilles. In the mean¬ 
time, Alfonso had taken Castelnuovo; and in the Marches, the count 
found himself inferior to the pope and to Niccolo. So he turned again to 
the Venetians and Florentines for assistance of men and money, pointing 
out that if they did not think about checking the pope and the king now, 
while he was still full of life, they would soon afterward have to think 
about their own safety, because the pope and the king would side with 
Filippo and divide Italy among themselves. 

The Florentines and the Venetians stayed undecided for some time, 

1 Potesta. 


235 


vi • 6 


either because they were judging whether it was good to make enemies 
of the pope and the king or because they were occupied with things of 
the Bolognese. Annibale Bentivoglio had driven Francesco Piccinino out 
of that city, and, to be able to defend himself from the duke, who favored 
Francesco, Annibale had asked the Venetians and the Florentines for help, 
and they had not denied it to him. Thus, occupied in these undertakings, 
they could not resolve whether to help the count. But as it happened that 
Annibale defeated Francesco Piccinino, and since those things appeared 
to be settled, the Florentines decided to help the count; but first, to secure 
themselves with the duke, they renewed their league with him. The duke 
did not draw back from this, as it was he who had agreed war should be 
made against the count while King Rene was in arms; but when he saw 
Rene exhausted and deprived of the whole Kingdom, he was not pleased 
that the count should be despoiled of his states; so he not only agreed to 
aid the count, but he wrote to Alfonso that he should be content to return 
to the Kingdom and not make any more war. And although Alfonso did 
this unwillingly, nonetheless, because of the obligations he had to the 
duke, he decided to satisfy him and retreated with his troops to the other 
side of the Tronto. 


6 

while in Romagna things were toiling on in this way, the Florentines 
did not remain quiet among themselves. Among the citizens of repute in 
the government in Florence was Neri di Gino Capponi. Cosimo de’ Me¬ 
dici feared his reputation more than any other’s because to the great credit 
he had in the city was added that which he had with the soldiers; for 
having been at the head of the Florentine armies many times, he had 
earned it with his virtue and his merits. Besides this, the memory of the 
victories credited to him and to his father Gino (Gino having taken Pisa 1 
and Neri having defeated Niccolo Piccinino at Anghiari 2 ) made him loved 
by many and feared by those who desired not to have him as partner in 
the government. Among many other heads of the Florentine army was 
Baldaccio of Anghiari, a very excellent man at war, for in those times 
there was no one in Italy who surpassed him in virtue of body and spirit. 
He had so much reputation among the infantry, since he had always been 
the head of it, that every man considered they should agree with him in 
every undertaking and every wish of his. Baldaccio was very friendly to 

1 FH iii 29. 

2 FH v 33-34- 

236 


vi • 7 

Neri, just as Neri loved him for the virtues of which he had always been 
witness—which was the source of very great suspicion among other citi¬ 
zens. And judging it dangerous to let Baldaccio go and very dangerous 
to keep him, they decided to eliminate him. Fortune was favorable to this 
thought of theirs. The Gonfalonier ofjustice was Messer Bartolomeo Or- 
landini. It was he who had been sent to guard Marradi when, as we said 
above, Niccolo Piccinino came into Tuscany, and it was he who vilely ran 
away from there and abandoned a pass that was almost defended by its 
nature . 3 Such vileness displeased Baldaccio, and with injurious words and 
in letters he made known the mean spirit of this man. Messer Bartolomeo 
was ashamed of this and greatly displeased, and he was highly desirous 
of avenging himself, because he thought that by the death of his accuser 
he could cancel the infamy of his own faults. 


7 

this desire of Messer Bartolomeo’s was known to other citizens; so 
without much trouble they persuaded him he ought to eliminate Baldac¬ 
cio and with one stroke avenge himself for the injury and free the state 
from a man whom one needed either to nourish with danger or to dismiss 
with harm. Therefore, Bartolomeo, having made the decision to kill him, 
closeted many armed youths in his room, and when Baldaccio came into 
the piazza where he came every day to deal with the magistrates about his 
contract, the Gonfalonier sent for him, and Baldaccio obeyed without 
any suspicion. The Gonfalonier met him and walked with him two or 
three times up and down the passageway along the chambers of the Si¬ 
gnori, while discussing the contract. Then, when the time appeared to him 
to be right, as they had come close to the room where he had hidden the 
armed men, he gave them a signal. They jumped out and, finding Bal¬ 
daccio alone and unarmed, killed him; and once he was dead, they threw 
him out of the window facing the palace of the Dogana ; 1 and from there 
they carried him into the piazza and cut off his head, and for a whole day 
made a spectacle of it for all the people. Baldaccio left only one son whom 
his wife Annalena had borne a few years earlier and who did not live long. 
Annalena, left deprived of her son and husband, did not wish to be with 
another man; and, having made a convent of her houses, she shut herself 
inside with many noblewomen who joined her, where she died and lived 
in holiness. Her memory, through the convent created and named by her, 


3 FH v 30. 

1 The customhouse. 


237 


vi • 8 


as it lives now, so will it live always. This deed decreased in part the power 
of Neri and took reputation and friends from him. Nor was this enough 
for the citizens in the state: because ten years had already passed since the 
beginning of their state and the authority of the balia was over, and be¬ 
cause many were more spirited in speeches and deeds than was required, 
the heads of the state, who did not want to lose it, judged it necessary to 
take it up again by giving new authority to their friends and beating down 
their enemies. And because of this, in 1444 they created a new balia 
through the council that reformed the offices; gave authority to a few, 
empowering them to create the Signoria; renewed the Chancellery with 
reforms, depriving Ser Filippo Peruzzi of it, and proposed for it one who 
would conduct himself according to the views of the powerful; length¬ 
ened the term of banishment for the banished; put Giovanni di Simone 
Vespucci in prison; deprived of their offices couplers 2 of the enemy state, 
and with them the sons of Piero Baroncelli, all the Serragli, Bartolomeo 
Fortini, Messer Francesco Castellani, and many others. And by these 
modes they gave themselves authority and reputation, and took away the 
confidence of enemies and suspects. 


8 

when they had thus settled and retaken the state, they turned to things 
outside. Niccolo Piccinino, as we said above, 1 had been abandoned by 
King Alfonso, and the count had become powerful with the help he had 
had from the Florentines. Hence, the count attacked Niccolo near Fermo 
and defeated him, so that Niccolo, deprived of nearly all his troops, took 
refuge with a few of them in Montecchio. There he fortified and defended 
himself so well that in a brief time all his troops returned to him, and in 
such number that he was easily able to defend himself from the count, 
especially as winter had already come and both captains were compelled 
to send their troops to quarters. Niccolo spent the whole winter enlarging 
his army and was helped by the pope and by King Alfonso; so when 
spring came, both captains took to the field, where Niccolo, now supe¬ 
rior, brought the count to extreme necessity, and he would have been 
conquered if Niccolo’s designs had not been defeated by the duke. Filippo 
had sent to Niccolo to beg him to come quickly to him because he had to 
speak to him directly about some very important things. Thus Niccolo, 
eager to hear him, abandoned a certain victory for an uncertain good; he 

2 For “couplers,” see FH v 4. 

1 FH vi 5. 

238 


vi • 9 

left his son Francesco at the head of the army and went himself to Milan. 
When the count heard this, he did not lose the opportunity to fight while 
Niccolo was absent, and when battle was joined near the fortified town 
of Monte Loro, he defeated Niccolo’s troops and captured Francesco. 
Having arrived in Milan, Niccolo saw he had been taken in by Filippo, 
and when he learned of the defeat and capture of his son, he died from 
grief in the year 1445 at the age of sixty-four. He had been a more vir¬ 
tuous than prosperous captain. Surviving him were Francesco and Ja¬ 
copo, who had less virtue and worse fortune than their father, so that the 
arms of the Bracci were almost eliminated, and the arms of the Sforza, 
aided always by fortune, became more glorious. The pope, seeing Nic¬ 
colo’s army defeated and Niccolo dead, and not hoping for much assist¬ 
ance from Aragon, sought peace with the count; and it was concluded 
through the intervention of the Florentines. Osimo, Fabrino, and Rica- 
nati, among the towns of the Marches, were restored to the pope; all the 
rest were left under the empire of the count. 


9 

when peace came in the Marches, all Italy would have been pacified if it 
had not been disturbed by the Bolognese. In Bologna were two very 
powerful families, the Canneschi and the Bentivogli; Annibale was head 
of the latter and Battista of the former. 1 So as to trust each other better, 
they had contracted marriages between themselves; but among men who 
aspire to the same greatness, it is easy to make a marriage but not a friend¬ 
ship. Bologna was in a league with the Florentines and Venetians, which 
had been brought about by Annibale Bentivoglio after the Bolognese had 
driven out Francesco Piccinino; 2 and as Battista knew how much the duke 
desired to have that city favorable to him, Battista conferred with him 
about killing Annibale and bringing the city under the duke’s ensigns. 
Having agreed on the means, on the 24th day of June, in 1445, Battista 
with his men attacked Annibale and killed him. Then he ran through the 
town shouting the name of the duke. The Venetian and Florentine com¬ 
missioners were in Bologna, and at the first clamor they retired to their 
houses; but when they saw that the people did not favor the killers, that 
instead, assembled in great number with arms in the piazza, they la¬ 
mented the death of Annibale, the commissioners raised their spirits, and, 
finding themselves with these men, they joined them. When they were 


■ Cf. P 19. 
2 FH vi 5. 


239 


VI • I o 


set, they attacked the Canneschi men and conquered them in a short time; 
some they killed, some they drove out of the city. Battista, not having 
had time to flee, nor his enemies time to kill him, hid inside his own house 
in a cellar made for storing grain. And while his enemies looked for him 
all day, since they knew he had not left the city, they so frightened his 
servants that one of his boys out of fear pointed him out to them. Then 
pulled from that place still clad in arms, he was first killed and then 
dragged through the town and burned. Thus the duke’s authority was 
sufficient to get Battista to make the attempt, and his power was not in 
time to rescue him. 


10 

though the tumults were put to rest by the death of Battista and the 
flight of the Canneschi, the Bolognese remained in very great confusion 
as there was no one in the house of the Bentivogli fit to govern, since 
Annibale had left only one son called Giovanni, six years old. So it was 
feared that division would arise among the friends of the Bentivogli, 
which might let the Canneschi return, to the ruin of their fatherland and 
their party. And while they were in this uncertainty of mind, Francesco, 
who had been the count of Poppi, 1 stopping in Bologna, gave the first 
men of the city to understand that if they wanted to be governed by one 
descended from the blood of Annibale, he could instruct them. And he 
told how, about twenty years ago, Ercole, a cousin of Annibale’s, was in 
Poppi, and Francesco knew that he had known a girl of that fortified town 
of whom a son called Santi was born from this, whom Ercole had af¬ 
firmed many times to be his own. Nor did it appear he could deny it, 
because anyone who knew Ercole and now knew the youth saw a very 
great likeness between them. These citizens put faith in the words of this 
man, and they did not delay a moment to send citizens to Florence to 
identify the youth and to arrange with Cosimo and with Neri that he be 
given to them. The man reputed to be father of Santi was dead; so the 
youth was living in the custody of an uncle called Antonio da Cascese. 
Antonio was rich and childless and a friend of Neri’s. Therefore, when 
Neri understood what this was about, he judged it better neither to de¬ 
spise it nor to accept it rashly; and he asked Santi to talk, in the presence 
of Cosimo, with those who had been sent from Bologna. They all met 
together, and Santi was not only honored by the Bolognese but almost 
worshipped, so powerful in their spirits was love of parties. Nothing was 

1 See FH v 35. 


240 


VI • I I 


yet concluded when Cosimo called Santi aside and said to him: “No one 
can counsel you better in this case than you yourself, because you have to 
take that part toward which your spirit inclines you. For if you are going 
to be the son of Ercole Bentivoglio, you will turn to undertakings worthy 
of that house and your father; but if you are to be the son of Agnolo da 
Cascese, you will stay in Florence to waste your life vilely in the wool 
trade.” These words moved the youth, and where at first he had almost 
declined to take such a course, he said he would be guided in everything 
by what Cosimo and Neri should decide. So, as they were in accord with 
the Bolognese who had been sent, Santi was adorned with clothes, 
horses, and servants, and shortly afterward, accompanied by many, he 
was taken to Bologna, where he was made governor of Annibale’s son 2 
and of the city. He conducted himself with so much prudence that in the 
place where his ancestors had all been killed by their enemies, he lived 
peacefully and died most honorably. 


II 

after the death of Niccolo Piccinino and the ensuing peace in the 
Marches, Filippo desired to have a captain to command his armies and 
held secret talks with Ciarpellone, one of Count Francesco’s head men. 
When an accord between them had been settled, Ciarpellone asked the 
count for permission to go to Milan to take possession of some fortified 
places that had been given to him by Filippo in the recent wars. The count 
feared what was; so, to prevent the duke from making use of Ciarpellone 
against his own designs, he had Ciarpellone first arrested and shortly af¬ 
terward killed, alleging to have found him in a fraud against himself. Fi¬ 
lippo was very greatly displeased and indignant at this—which pleased 
the Florentines and Venetians, for they feared very much lest the arms of 
the count and the power of Filippo become friendly. This indignation, 
therefore, was the cause of inciting a new war in the Marches. The lord 
of Rimini, Sigismondo Malatesta, being the count’s son-in-law, was hop¬ 
ing for the lordship of Pesaro; but when the count seized it, he gave it to 
his brother Alessandro—at which Sigismondo became strongly indig¬ 
nant. To this indignation was added the fact that Federico da Montefeltro, 
his enemy, had seized the lordship of Urbino through the support of the 
count. This made Sigismondo come over to the duke and urge the pope 
and the king to make war on the count. The count, to make Sigismondo 
feel the first fruits of the war he desired, decided to anticipate him and, in 

2 Giovanni. 


24I 


VI • I 2 


one stroke, attacked him. Thereafter Romagna and the Marches were 
quickly filled again with tumults, because Filippo, the king, and the pope 
sent much aid to Sigismondo, and the Florentines and Venetians provided 
the count with money if not troops. Nor was the war in Romagna 
enough for Filippo, but he schemed also to take Cremona and Pontremoli 
from the count; but Pontremoli was defended by the Florentines and Cre¬ 
mona by the Venetians. As a result, the war was renewed in Lombardy, 
where after some travails in the territory of Cremona, Francesco Picci- 
nino, the duke’s captain, was defeated at Casale by Micheletto and by 
troops of the Venetians. Through this victory the Venetians hoped to be 
able to take the duke’s state from him, and they sent a commissioner of 
theirs to Cremona; they attacked Ghiaradadda and seized all of it except 
for Crema; after that, crossing the Adda, they raided as far as Milan. So 
the duke appealed to Alfonso and begged Alfonso to rescue him, pointing 
out the dangers to the Kingdom if Lombardy were in the hands of the 
Venetians. Alfonso promised to send him help—which, without the 
count’s consent, could get through only with difficulty. 


12 

therefore, Filippo appealed to the count with prayers that he must not 
abandon his father-in-law, already old and blind. The count felt himself 
offended by the duke for having begun war against him; on the other 
hand, the greatness of the Venetians did not please him; already he lacked 
money, and the league was providing it sparingly because the Florentines 
had lost the fear of the duke that had made them value the count; and the 
Venetians desired his ruin because they judged that the state of Lombardy 
could not be taken from them except by the count. Nonetheless, while 
Filippo was seeking to draw the count into his pay and was offering him 
the principate of all his troops on condition that he leave the Venetians 
and restore the Marches to the pope, the Venetians were also sending 
ambassadors to him promising him Milan, should they take it, and.the 
permanent captaincy of their troops on condition that he pursue the war 
in the Marches and prevent aid from Alfonso from coming into Lom¬ 
bardy. Thus, the promises of the Venetians were great and their deserts 
very great, for they had made war to save Cremona for the count; on the 
other hand, the duke’s injuries were fresh, and his promises untrust¬ 
worthy and weak. Even so, the count was in doubt as to which side he 
should choose: for on one side his obligation to the league, the faith he 
had pledged, their recent deserts, and the promise of future things moved 
him. On the other side were the prayers of his father-in-law, and above 

242 


VI • 13 

all the poison that he feared might be hidden under the grand promises of 
the Venetians, for he judged that as to both promises and state he would 
have to remain at their discretion from whatever time they conquered— 
to which no prudent prince would, except out of necessity, ever deliver 
himself. The count’s difficulties in deciding were removed by the ambi¬ 
tion of the Venetians. Having hope of seizing Cremona through certain 
understandings they had within the city, they had their soldiers move 
close to the city under another color. But the thing was discovered by 
those on guard for the count so that the scheme proved vain. Because of 
this, they did not acquire Cremona and they lost the count, who, setting 
aside all hesitations, took the side of the duke. 


13 

pope Eugene had died, and Nicholas V had been created as his successor. 
The count already had his whole army at Cotignola ready to move into 
Lombardy when news reached him that Filippo had died, which hap¬ 
pened at the end of August, in the year 1447. This news filled the count 
with anxieties because it appeared to him his men would not be in order 
since they had not had their full pay; he feared the Venetians, who were 
in arms and were his enemies, as he had so recently left them to join the 
duke; he feared his perpetual enemy Alfonso; he had hope in neither the 
pope nor the Florentines: not in the Florentines, for being allied with the 
Venetians, and not in the pope, as he possessed some towns of the 
Church. Yet he decided to show his face to fortune and to take counsel 
according to its accidents, because many times when one acts, plans re¬ 
veal themselves that, to one standing still, would always be hidden. He 
put great hope in the belief that if the Milanese wanted to defend them¬ 
selves from the ambitions of the Venetians, they could not turn to any 
other arms but his. And so in good spirit, he advanced into the territory 
of Bologna, and when he had passed Modena and Reggio, he halted with 
his men by the Enza; and he sent an offer of himself to Milan. 

When the duke died, some of the Milanese wanted to live free, some 
under a prince. Of those who loved the prince, one part wanted the 
count, the other King Alfonso. Therefore, since those who loved liberty 
were more united, they prevailed over the others and ordered a republic 
to suit themselves. It was not obeyed by many cities in the dukedom, 
since they judged they too could enjoy their liberty as did Milan; and 
those cities that did not aspire to liberty did not want the lordship of the 
Milanese. So Lodi and Piacenza gave themselves to the Venetians; Pavia 
and Parma made themselves free. When the count heard of these confu- 


243 


VI • I 5 

sions, he went to Cremona, where his spokesmen met together with 
those of the Milanese, with the conclusion that the count would be cap¬ 
tain of the Milanese under terms that had last been made with Duke Fi¬ 
lippo. To these terms they added that Brescia should belong to the count, 
and if he acquired Verona, it should be his and Brescia given back. 


14 

before the duke died, Pope Nicholas, after his assumption of the pon¬ 
tificate, sought to create peace among the Italian princes. For this he ar¬ 
ranged, with the spokesmen that the Florentines had sent him at his cre¬ 
ation, for a diet to be held in Ferrara to negotiate either a long truce or a 
firm peace. Thus the pope’s legate, the Venetian, ducal, and Florentine 
spokesmen met in that city; those of King Alfonso did not attend. Al¬ 
fonso was in Tivoli with many troops on foot and on horse, and from 
there he supported the duke; and it was believed that since the king and 
the duke had drawn the count to their side, they meant to attack the Flor¬ 
entines and the Venetians openly, and that they would maintain the peace 
negotiations at Ferrara only for as long as the count’s troops delayed com¬ 
ing to Lombardy. The king sent no one there, asserting that he would 
ratify whatever was agreed to by the duke. The peace was negotiated for 
many days, and after many arguments a peace forever or a truce for five 
years was concluded, whichever of the two should please the duke; but 
when the ducal spokesmen went to Milan to learn the duke’s will, they 
found him dead. The Milanese wanted to carry out the accord notwith¬ 
standing his death, but the Venetians did not, for they had taken up very 
great hopes of seizing that state, especially when they saw that Lodi and 
Piacenza, immediately after the death of the duke, had surrendered to 
them. So they hoped to be able by either force or accord to strip Milan in 
a short time of all its state and then to overpower it so that it would sur¬ 
render before anyone could help; and they were all the more persuaded 
of this when they saw the Florentines involved in war with King Alfonso. 


15 

that king was in Tivoli, and he wanted to pursue the campaign in Tus¬ 
cany according to what he had decided upon with Filippo. As it appeared 
to him that the war that had already begun in Lombardy would give him 
time and opportunity, he desired to put a foot in the Florentine state be¬ 
fore he moved openly. So he made a deal in the fortress of Cennina in 


244 


vi • i 5 

upper Valdarno, and seized it. The Florentines, shaken by this unexpected 
accident and seeing the king had moved to come and harm them, hired 
soldiers, created the Ten, and according to their custom prepared for war. 
Already the king had arrived with his army near the territory of Siena and 
was making every effort to win that city to his wishes. Those citizens, 
however, remained firm in their friendship with the Florentines and did 
not receive the king in Siena or in any of their towns; they did provide 
him with supplies, for which their impotence and the strength of the en¬ 
emy excused them. To the king it did not appear good to enter by way of 
Valdarno, as he had schemed at first, both because he had lost Cennina 
and because the Florentines were already provided with troops in some 
places; and he set out toward Volterra and seized many fortified towns 
around Volterra. From there he went to the territory of Pisa and, through 
favors done him by Arrigo and Fazio, counts of the Gherardesca family, 
he took some fortified towns and from these attacked Campiglia, which 
he was unable to capture because it was defended by the Florentines and 
by winter. Then the king left a guard to defend the towns he had taken 
and to be able to raid the countryside, and with the rest of his army with¬ 
drew to quarters in the country around Siena. 

The Florentines, meanwhile, aided by the season, with all zeal provided 
themselves with troops, at whose head were Federico, the lord of Ur- 
bino, and Sigismondo Malatesta of Rimini. Although there was discord 
between them, yet by the prudence of the commissioners, Neri di Gino 
and Bernardetto de’ Medici, they were kept united so that they went into 
the field though it was still deep in winter, and they retook the towns lost 
around Pisa and Pomarance in the territory of Volterra; and the king’s 
soldiers who before had plundered the Maremma were checked so that 
they could hardly keep the towns given them to be guarded. But when 
spring came, the commissioners brought all their troops to halt at Spe- 
daletto, in number five thousand cavalry and two thousand infantry; and 
the king came with his men, numbering fifteen thousand, to within three 
miles of Campiglia. And when it was assumed that he would turn to 
besiege that town, he threw himself upon Piombino, hoping to take it 
easily because that town was ill provided and because he judged that that 
acquisition would be very useful to him and very destructive to the Flor¬ 
entines—since from that place he could wear out the Florentines with a 
long war by getting provisions by sea and agitating all the country around 
Pisa. This attack displeased the Florentines, therefore, and, consulting 
with each other about what to do, they judged that if they could stay with 
the army in the thickets of Campiglia, the king would be forced to depart 
either defeated or disgraced. And for this they armed four galleys they 
had at Livorno and with them posted three hundred infantry in Piom- 


245 


vi • 16 


bino, and because they judged it dangerous to camp in the thickets of the 
plain, they stationed them at Caldana, a place where it would be difficult 
to attack them. 


16 

the Florentine army was getting its provisions from the surrounding 
towns, which, as they were few and thinly populated, provided them 
with difficulty. The army was suffering, especially from the lack of wine, 
for since they were not getting it there and could not get it elsewhere, it 
was not possible for everyone to have some. But the king, even though 
closely confined by the Florentine troops, had plenty of everything except 
fodder because all was brought in by sea. Therefore, the Florentines 
wanted to try whether their troops could also be supplied by sea, and they 
loaded four of their galleys with supplies and had them come. They were 
met by seven of the king’s galleys, and two of them were taken and two 
chased away. This loss made the Florentine troops lose hope of fresh sup¬ 
plies, whereupon two hundred or more foragers fled to the camp of the 
king, especially for lack of wine; and the other troops grumbled, asserting 
that they were not about to stay in very hot places where there was no 
wine and the water was bad. So the commissioners decided to abandon 
that place and turned to the recapture of certain fortified towns that still 
remained in the hands of the king. The king, for his part, even though he 
did not suffer for want of supplies and was superior in troops, also saw 
himself in need because his army was full of diseases that marshy places 
by the sea produce in that season. The diseases were of such power that 
many died from them and almost all were ill. Flence negotiations toward 
an accord were begun, in which the king demanded fifty thousand florins 
and that Piombino be left to his discretion. When this thing was debated 
in Florence, many desirous of peace accepted it, asserting that they did 
not know how they could hope to win a war when so many expenses 
were necessary to sustain it. But Neri Capponi, who had gone to Flor¬ 
ence, 1 so discouraged this proposal with his reasons that all the citizens 
with one accord agreed not to accept it; and they received the lord of 
Piombino 2 under their protection and promised to help him in time of 
peace and war on condition that he not surrender and that he want to 
defend himself as he had until now. When the king learned of this decision 
and saw that because of the illness in his army he could not acquire the 

' In fact, he remained with the Florentine army near Piombino. 

2 Rinaldo Orsini. 


246 


v i • i 7 

town, he got out almost as if he had been routed from his camp. He left 
more than two thousand dead there; and with the remainder of his sick 
army he retired to the country around Siena and from there into the 
Kingdom, full of indignation against the Florentines and menacing them 
with another war in another season. 


17 

while things were toiling on in a like mode in Tuscany, in Lombardy 
Count Francesco, who had become captain of the Milanese, 1 before 
everything else made himself the friend of Francesco Piccinino, who was 
fighting for the Milanese, so that he would support the count in his en¬ 
terprises or be more hesitant to injure him. Thus the count gathered his 
army in the field, so that people in Pavia judged they could not defend 
themselves against his forces; and since they did not want on the other 
hand to submit to the Milanese, they offered the town to him with this 
condition, that he not put them under the empire of Milan. The count 
desired to take possession of that city, for it appeared to him a bold be¬ 
ginning, enabling him to color over his designs; nor was he restrained by 
fear or shame in breaking his faith, for great men call it shame to lose, 
not to acquire by deceit. But he was afraid that by taking it he might so 
anger the Milanese that they would give themselves to the Venetians; and 
if he did not take it, he feared the duke of Savoy, to whom many citizens 
wanted to give themselves; 2 and in either case it appeared he would be 
deprived of empire over Lombardy. Nonetheless, thinking the danger of 
taking that city might be less than that of letting it be taken by someone 
else, he decided to accept it, persuading himself that he could calm the 
Milanese. He made them understand the dangers that would be incurred 
if he had not accepted Pavia, for those citizens would have given them¬ 
selves to either the Venetians or the duke, and in either case their state was 
lost. And they ought to be content to have him nearby as a friend rather 
than a power 3 such as either of those and hostile. The Milanese were very 
much disturbed by this case, since it appeared to them that they had dis¬ 
covered the count’s ambition and the end toward which he was heading; 
but they judged they could not reveal themselves because they did not 
see, if they broke off with the count, where to turn other than to the 
Venetians, whose pride and harsh conditions they feared. Because of this, 

1 See FH vi 12, 13. 

2 Ludovico of Savoy, son of Amedeo VIII; he was also a brother-in-law of the deceased 
Filippo Maria Visconti. 

1 Lit.: a powerful one. 


247 


v i • i 8 


they decided not to break with the count and for the time being to remedy 
through him the evils that hung over them, while hoping that, once freed 
from those, they would also be able to free themselves from him, because 
they were being attacked not only by the Venetians but also by the Gen¬ 
oese and the duke of Savoy, in the name of Charles of Orleans, born of a 
sister of Filippo. 4 This attack the count suppressed with little trouble. 
Thus there remained as enemies only the Venetians, who with a powerful 
army wanted to seize that state and were holding Lodi and Piacenza. The 
count laid a siege on Piacenza and after much trouble took it and sacked 
it. Then, because winter had come, he returned his men to their quarters 
and then went himself to Cremona, where all winter he rested with his 
wife. 


18 

but when spring came, the Venetian and Milanese armies went into the 
field. The Milanese desired to acquire Lodi and then to make an accord 
with the Venetians, because the expenses of the war were becoming bur¬ 
densome to them and the faith of their captain 1 was suspect to them; so 
they were exceedingly desirous of peace so as to gain rest and secure 
themselves against the count. They decided, therefore, that their army 
should go to acquire Caravaggio, as they hoped that Lodi would surren¬ 
der when that fortified town was taken from the hands of the enemy. The 
count obeyed the Milanese, even though his desire 2 would have been to 
cross the Adda and attack the territory of Brescia. Thus, having left a 
siege at Caravaggio, he fortified himself with ditches and other defenses, 
so that if the Venetians wanted to make him lift the siege, they would 
have to attack him at their disadvantage. The Venetians on the other side 
came with their army, under their captain Micheletto, within two bow¬ 
shots of the count’s camp; there they lingered for several days and had 
many skirmishes. Nonetheless, the count kept squeezing the fortified town 
and brought it to the point where it had to surrender. This was distressing 
to the Venetians, since it appeared to them that with the loss of that town 
they had lost the campaign. Among their captains, therefore, a very great 
dispute arose about the mode of relieving it, and they saw no other way 
except to penetrate the defenses to find the enemy, where the disadvan¬ 
tage was very great; but they so valued the loss of that fortified town that 

4 Charles of Orleans was the son of Louis of Orleans and Valentina Visconti, sister of 
Filippo Maria. 

1 Francesco Sforza, captain of the Milanese, is probably meant; Micheletto Attendolo was 
captain for the Venetians (see below). 

2 Animo: his intent if possible. 


248 


vi • 19 

the Venetian senate, naturally timid and far removed from any dubious 
and dangerous policy, preferred to put everything in danger so as not to 
lose that town rather than with the loss of it to lose the campaign. So they 
made a decision to attack the count in any mode whatever, and, rising 
early one morning armed, they attacked him on the side that was less 
guarded, and in the first thrust, as happens in attacks that are not ex¬ 
pected, they upset the whole of Sforza’s army. But so quickly was all the 
disorder repaired by the count that his enemies, after having made many 
efforts to get over the embankments, were not only thrown back but so 
routed and broken that of the whole army, in which there had been more 
than twelve thousand cavalry, not one thousand were saved, and all their 
articles and wagons were plundered: never before that day had greater and 
more frightening ruin been dealt to the Venetians. And among the booty 
and men taken was found a Venetian quartermaster, 3 completely de¬ 
jected, who before the battle and in managing the war had spoken abu¬ 
sively of the count, calling him bastard and vile; so, finding himself a 
prisoner after the defeat and remembering his faults and fearing to be 
rewarded in accordance with his deserts, he arrived before the count, all 
timid and frightened according to the nature of proud and vile men, 
which is to be insolent in prosperity and abject and humble in adversities, 
threw himself down on his knees, weeping, and asked to be forgiven for 
the injuries he had done against him. The count raised him up and, taking 
him by the arm, gave him good spirit and urged him to hope for the 
good. Then he told him that he marveled that one who wanted to be 
considered a man of prudence and gravity should have fallen into so great 
an error as to speak basely about those who did not deserve it. And as to 
those things for which he had been reproached, he did not know what 
Sforza, his father, might have done with Madonna Lucia, his mother, 
because he was not there and could not have provided them the modes of 
their union, so that, as for what they had done, he did not believe he could 
get either blame or praise from it; but he knew well that, of what he 
himself had had to do, he had conducted himself so that no one could 
reproach him: of this he and his senate could provide fresh and true tes¬ 
timony. He urged him in the future to be more modest in speaking of 
others and more cautious in his undertakings. 


19 

after this victory the count came with his victorious army into the ter¬ 
ritory of Brescia and seized the whole countryside; and then he placed his 

3 NM left the name blank in manuscript. 


249 


VI • 20 


camp two miles from Brescia. After receiving the defeat, the Venetians, 
for their part, feared, as did happen, that Brescia would be the first blow, 
and they had provided it with as good a guard as quickly as could be 
found. Then with all diligence they gathered forces and brought them 
together with the remnants they could get from their army; and they 
asked the Florentines for help by virtue of their league. Because the Flor¬ 
entines were free of the war with King Alfonso, they sent a thousand 
infantry and two thousand cavalry in aid of the Venetians. With these 
forces, the Venetians had time to think about accords. It was at one time 
something almost fated to the Venetian republic to lose in war and to win 
in accords; and those things that they lost in the war, peace later gave back 
to them many times doubled. 

The Venetians knew that the Milanese feared the count, that the count 
desired to be not captain but lord of the Milanese, and that the choice was 
theirs to make peace with one of the two—the one desiring peace out of 
ambition and the other out of fear; and they elected to make peace with 
the count and to offer him help in the acquisition of Milan. And they were 
persuaded that as soon as the Milanese saw they had been deceived by the 
count, in their indignation they would be willing to subject themselves 
to anyone rather than to him, and when they had brought themselves to 
such a strait that they could neither defend themselves nor trust the count 
any longer, they would be forced, having nowhere to throw themselves, 
to fall into the lap of the Venetians. Flaving adopted this plan, they tried 
the intent of the count and found him very much disposed to peace, since 
what he desired was that the victory at Caravaggio should be his and not 
for the Milanese. Thereupon they made an accord in which the Venetians 
obligated themselves to pay the count, for as long as it took him to ac¬ 
quire Milan, thirteen thousand florins per month, and also to help him 
with four thousand cavalry and two thousand infantry during the war. 
The count, for his part, obligated himself to restore to the Venetians their 
towns, prisoners, and anything else that had been seized by him in that 
war, and to be content himself with only those towns that Duke Filippo 
possessed at his death. 


20 

AS soon as this accord became known in Milan, the city was saddened 
much more than it had been gladdened by the victory of Caravaggio. The 
princes lamented, the popular men grieved, women and children wept, 
and all together called the count traitor and disloyal. And even though 
they did not believe that they could recall him from his ungrateful resolve 
with either prayers or promises, they sent ambassadors to him to see with 


250 


VI • 20 


what face and what words he would accompany his wickedness. When 
they came before the count, therefore, one of them spoke in this sense: 
“Usually those who desire to obtain something from someone assail him 
with prayers, rewards, or threats, so that he will condescend to do what¬ 
ever they desire of him, moved by mercy, or profit, or fear. But with men 
who are cruel, very avaricious, and, in their own opinion, powerful, these 
three modes have no place, for those who believe that they will humble 
such men with prayer, or win them with rewards, or frighten them with 
threats trouble themselves in vain. As we therefore recognize your cru¬ 
elty, ambition, and pride now—though late—we come to you 1 not be¬ 
cause we wish to entreat you for anything, nor in the belief that we would 
obtain it if indeed we asked for it, but to remind you of the benefits you 
have received from the people of Milan and to show you with how much 
ingratitude you have repaid them, so that, at least among so many ills we 
feel, we may taste some pleasure by rebuking you. You ought to remem¬ 
ber very well what your situation was after the death of Duke Filippo: 
you were an enemy of the pope and the king; you had deserted the Flor¬ 
entines and the Venetians, to whom you had become almost an enemy 
because of their just and fresh indignation and because they had no more 
need of you; you were weary of the war you were carrying on with the 
Church, with few troops, without friends, without money, and deprived 
of all hope of being able to hold your states and your former reputation. 
Because of these things, you would easily have fallen if it had not been 
for our simplicity; for we alone received you at home, moved by the rev¬ 
erence we had for the prosperous memory of our duke, with whom you 
had a marriage of alliance and a new friendship. We believed your love 
would pass to his heirs, 2 and if to his benefits ours should be joined, the 
friendship ought to be not only firm but inseparable. That is why we 
added Verona or Brescia to the old agreements. 3 What more could we 
have given you and promised you? And you, what more could you—I do 
not say get, but even desire—I do not say from us, but in those times, 
from anyone? You received from us, therefore, an unhoped-for good, 
and we in return received from you an unhoped-for evil. Nor have you 
delayed until now to show us your wicked intent, because no sooner were 
you prince of our armies than you accepted Pavia against all justice; 4 this 
ought to have warned us what must have been the aim of this friendship 
of yours. We bore this injury thinking that the greatness of this acquisi¬ 
tion must fulfill your ambition. Alas! To those who desire the whole, a 
part cannot be satisfying. You promised that from then on we would 

1 The familiar “you” throughout this speech. 

2 Apparently to the Milanese. 

3 See FH vi 13 (end). 

4 FH vi 17. 


251 


VI • 20 


enjoy the acquisitions made by you, because you well knew that what 
you gave us at many times you could take back from us at a stroke: thus 
it was after the victory of Caravaggio. That victory, prepared first with 
our blood and with our money, was then followed by our ruin. Oh, how 
unprosperous are those cities that have to defend their liberty against the 
ambition of one who wants to oppress them! But much more unprosper¬ 
ous are those who must of necessity defend themselves with mercenary 
and faithless arms like yours! At least may this example profit posterity, 
since that of Thebes and Philip of Macedon was of no value to us. Philip, 
after the victory over their enemies, from their captain became first their 
enemy and then their prince. 5 We cannot therefore be accused of any 
other fault than of having trusted very much in one in whom we should 
have trusted little; for your past life, your vast spirit, never content with 
any rank or state, should have warned us. Nor should we have put hope 
in one who had betrayed the lord of Lucca, levied ransom on the Floren¬ 
tines and the Venetians, lightly esteemed the duke, insulted a king, and 
above all persecuted God and His Church with so many injuries; nor 
should we ever have believed that so many princes would have less au¬ 
thority in the breast of Francesco Sforza than the Milanese, and that he 
would have to observe that faith with us which he had violated many 
times with others. Nonetheless, this imprudence that accuses us does not 
excuse your perfidy or purge the infamy that our just quarrels will bring 
upon you throughout the whole world. Nor will it keep the just pricking 
of your conscience from tormenting you when the arms that were pre¬ 
pared by us to injure and frighten others will come to wound and injure 
us, because you yourself will judge yourself worthy of the punishment 
parricides have deserved. And even if ambition blinds you, the whole 
world as witness to your wickedness will open your eyes; God will open 
them for you, if perjuries, if violated faith and betrayals displease Him, 
and if He does not always wish to be the friend of wicked men, as up to 
now He has done for some hidden good. So do not promise yourself sure 
victory, for that will be kept from you by the just wrath of God; and we 
are ready to lose our liberty with death; if ever we cannot defend it, we 
will submit to any other prince rather than you. And even if our sins have 
yet been such that we have fallen into your hands against every wish of 
ours, have firm faith that the kingdom you have begun with deceit and 
infamy will come to an end for you or your sons with disgrace and 
harm.” 6 

5 Cf. P 12; D ii 13. 

6 On the acquiring and maintaining of Milan by Sforza, see P 1,7, 12, 14, 20; D 11 24; 
AW 1. 


252 


VI • 2 I 


21 

although the count felt stung on every side by the Milanese, he an¬ 
swered, without showing any extraordinary change with either words or 
gestures, that he was content to attribute the grave injury of their unwise 
words to their irate spirits. He would answer in detail if he were before 
someone who ought to be judge of their differences, because one would 
see he had not injured the Milanese but had provided for himself that they 
could not injure him. For they well knew how they had conducted them¬ 
selves after the victory at Caravaggio: instead of rewarding him with Ve¬ 
rona or Brescia, they had sought to make peace with the Venetians so that 
the burdens of the Venetians’ hostility were left to him alone and the fruits 
of the victory, with the credit of peace and all the profit that had been 
gained from the war, were left to them. So they could not complain if he 
had made the accord that they had tried to make first; if he had delayed 
the least bit in taking that course, he would now have to reproach them 
for the same ingratitude with which they now reproached him. Whether 
this was true or not, that God upon whom they called to avenge their in¬ 
juries would demonstrate at the end of the war; through Him they will see 
which of them is more His friend and which has fought with greater jus¬ 
tice. When the ambassadors had departed, the count ordered himself so 
as to be able to assault the Milanese, and they prepared for defense. They 
thought that with Francesco and Jacopo Piccinino, who had been faithful 
to the Milanese because of the ancient hatred of the Bracci for the Sforza, 
they would defend their liberty at least until they could detach the Vene¬ 
tians from the count, for the Milanese did not believe that the Venetians 
meant to be either faithful or friendly for long. For his part, the count, 
who recognized this same thing, thought it would be a wise course to 
keep the Venetians firm with a reward, since he judged that obligation 
would not be enough. Therefore, in assigning the campaigns of the war 
he was content to have the Venetians attack Crema, and he, with the other 
troops, would attack the rest of the state. This meal set before the Vene¬ 
tians was the cause that their friendship with the count lasted until the 
count had seized the whole dominion of the Milanese and had so re¬ 
stricted them to their town that they could not provide themselves with 
any necessary thing. So despairing were they of all other help that they 
sent spokesmen to the Venetians to beg them to have compassion in their 
regard and to be content, in accordance with what ought to be the custom 
of republics, to favor their liberty and not a tyrant whom, if he should 
succeed in becoming lord of their city, the Venetians would not be able 
to restrain at will. Nor should the Venetians believe that the count would 


253 


VI • 22 


be content with the boundaries set down on paper, for he would want to 
restore the former boundaries of the Milanese state. The Venetians had 
not yet become lord of Crema, and as they wanted to become its lord 
before they showed a change of face, they answered publicly that they 
could not help the Milanese because of their accord with the count; but 
in private they dealt with the Milanese so that the Milanese, hoping for 
an accord, could give their signori a firm hope in it. 


22 

the count with his men was already so close to Milan that he was fight¬ 
ing in the outskirts when to the Venetians, who had taken Crema, it ap¬ 
peared that they should no longer postpone making an alliance with the 
Milanese. They came to an accord with the Milanese, and, among the 
chief articles, the Venetians promised to do their utmost for the defense of 
their liberty. When the accord was made, the Venetians directed the troops 
they had with the count to leave his camps and withdraw into Venetian 
territory. They also informed the count of the peace they had made with 
the Milanese and gave him twenty days’ time to accept it. The count did 
not marvel at the course taken by the Venetians because he had foreseen 
it a long time before and feared it might happen any day. Nonetheless, 
now that it had happened, he could not help lamenting it and feeling the 
same distress the Milanese had felt when he abandoned them. He took 
two days to respond to the ambassadors who had been sent by Venice to 
tell him of the accord—during which time he decided to divert the Vene¬ 
tians and not abandon his enterprise. And therefore he said publicly that 
he wanted to accept the peace, and he sent his ambassadors to Venice with 
full mandate to ratify it, but aside he charged them that in no mode 
should they ratify it but that they should postpone concluding it with 
various contrivances and dodges. And to make the Venetians more ready 
to believe that he told the truth, he made a truce with the Milanese for 
one month, withdrew from Milan, and distributed his troops to quarters 
in places they had seized in the vicinity. This course was the cause of his 
victory and of the ruin of the Milanese; for the Venetians, trusting in the 
peace, were slower in providing for a war, and the Milanese, seeing the 
truce made, the enemy moving away, and the Venetians friendly, wholly 
believed that the count was about to abandon his enterprise. This opinion 
harmed them in two modes: one was that they neglected orders for their 
own defense; the other was that in country free of the enemy, since it was 
the time for sowing, they had sown much grain—hence, the result was 
that the count could starve them more quickly. To the count on the other 


254 


VI • 23 

hand, all those things were advantageous that injured his enemies; and 
furthermore, that time gave him opportunity to be able to catch his 
breath and provide himself with assistance. 


23 

in this war in Lombardy, the Florentines had not declared themselves for 
either side. They had not given any favor to the count, neither when he 
was defending the Milanese nor afterward, because the count had no need 
then and had not sought aid with any urgency. They had sent aid only to 
the Venetians, after the defeat at Caravaggio, by virtue of their obliga¬ 
tions to the league. 1 But when Count Francesco was left alone and had no 
recourse anywhere, it became necessary for him to request aid urgently 
from the Florentines, both publicly from the state and privately from 
friends—especially from Cosimo de’ Medici, with whom he had always 
maintained a constant friendship and by whom he had always been faith¬ 
fully counseled and handsomely assisted in every enterprise. Nor in this 
great necessity did Cosimo abandon him, but as a private citizen he 
helped him abundantly and encouraged him to pursue his enterprise. Fie 
also desired the city to help him publicly; but here was difficulty. In Flor¬ 
ence, Neri di Gino Capponi was very powerful. To him it did not appear 
a benefit to the city that the count should seize Milan, and he believed it 
would be more for the safety of Italy that the count ratify the peace 2 rather 
than continue the war. First, he feared that the Milanese, out of indigna¬ 
tion against the count, might give themselves entirely to the Venetians— 
which would be the ruin of everyone. Then, if indeed the count should 
succeed in seizing Milan, it appeared to him that so many arms joined 
with such a state would be formidable, and if as count he was unbearable, 
he judged that as a duke he would be most unbearable. Therefore, he 
asserted that it would be better for the republic of Florence and for Italy 
that the count rest content with his reputation for arms and that Lom¬ 
bardy be divided into two republics, which would never unite to offend 
the others, while each would be unable to offend by itself. And to do this, 
he saw no better remedy than not to support the count and to maintain 
the old league with the Venetians. These reasons were not accepted by 
Cosimo’s friends because they believed Neri was moved to this conclu¬ 
sion not because he believed that this was for the good of the republic but 
because he did not want the count, a friend of Cosimo’s, to become duke, 


1 See FH vi 19. 

2 See FH vi 22. 


255 


VI • 24 

since it appeared to him that by this Cosimo would become too powerful. 
And Cosimo also used reasons to show that helping the count was very 
useful to the republic and to Italy, because to him it was hardly a wise 
opinion to believe that the Milanese could keep themselves free. For the 
qualities of their citizenry, their mode of living, and the ancient sects in 
that city were contrary to every form of civil government, so that it was 
necessary that either the count become their duke or the Venetians their 
lords; and in such a case no one was so foolish as to doubt which would 
be better, to have a powerful friend close by or a very powerful enemy. 
Nor did he believe it was to be feared that the Milanese, by having a war 
with the count, would submit themselves to the Venetians, for the count 
had a party in Milan and the Venetians did not; therefore, whenever they 
could not defend themselves as free men, they would always sooner sub¬ 
mit to the count than to the Venetians. These differences of opinion kept 
the city in great suspense; and in the end they decided that ambassadors 
should be sent to the count to deal with the mode of an accord; and if 
they should find the count strong enough to enable them to hope he 
would win, they should conclude one, but if not, they should make dif¬ 
ficulties and postpone it. 


24 

these ambassadors were in Reggio when they learned that the count had 
become lord of Milan. For when the period of the truce was over, the 
count returned with his troops to that city, hoping to seize it in a short 
time despite the Venetians, because they could not relieve it except from 
the direction of the Adda, a passage he could easily close off. Since it was 
winter, he did not fear that the Venetians would encamp near him, and 
he hoped to have victory before the winter should end, especially as Fran¬ 
cesco Piccinino had died and his brother Jacopo was left alone as head of 
the Milanese. The Venetians had sent one of their spokesmen to Milan to 
urge its citizens to be ready to defend themselves, promising them great 
and speedy assistance. Thus, during the winter, some light skirmishes 
continued between the Venetians and the count, but as the weather be¬ 
came milder, the Venetians under Pandolfo Malatesta 1 came to a halt with 
their army on the Adda: In resolving there whether, to rescue Milan, they 
ought to attack the count and try their fortune in battle, Pandolfo, their 
captain, decided he was not about to make this experiment, as he knew 
the virtue of the count and of his army. And he believed that he could 

1 Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta; see FH vi 11. 

256 


VI • 24 

win for sure without fighting, because the count would be driven away 
by want of fodder and grain. He advised, therefore, that they remain in 
that encampment to give the Milanese hope of rescue so that they would 
not surrender in despair to the count. This course was approved by the 
Venetians because they judged it sound and also because they had hope 
that by keeping the Milanese in that necessity they would be forced to put 
themselves again under the Venetian empire; they had persuaded them¬ 
selves that the Milanese would never give themselves to the count, con¬ 
sidering the injuries they had received from him. Meanwhile, the Mil¬ 
anese had been brought almost to extreme misery; and as that city 
naturally abounded with poor, they were dying of hunger in the streets; 
hence, uproar and complaints arose in different places in the city. The 
magistrates were greatly afraid of this and made every effort to keep peo¬ 
ple from gathering together. The whole multitude is slow enough to turn 
to evil, but when so inclined, every little accident moves it. Thus, while 
two men of not much consequence were discussing near the Porta Nuova 
the calamity of the city and their own misery and what modes there 
might be for safety, others began to join them, so that they became a 
goodly number—whence rumors spread throughout Milan that those at 
the Porta Nuova were in arms against the magistrates. Because of this, 
the whole multitude, which was only waiting to be moved, took up arms; 
they made Gaspare da Vimercate their head and went to the place where 
the magistrates were assembled. So violent were they against the magis¬ 
trates that they killed all those who could not flee; among them was Leo¬ 
nardo Venero, the Venetian ambassador, whom they killed as the cause of 
their hunger and for taking cheer from their misery. And thus, having 
become almost princes of the city, they consulted among themselves 
about what had to be done if they wished to escape from so many afflic¬ 
tions and at some time enjoy rest. And everyone judged that since liberty 
could not be preserved, it was necessary to take refuge under a prince who 
would defend them; and some wanted to call upon King Alfonso, some 
upon the duke of Savoy, and some upon the king of France to be their 
lord. No one reasoned for the count, so powerful still was the indignation 
they had for him. Nonetheless, when they did not agree on others, Gas¬ 
pare da Vimercate was the first to name the count. He showed amply 
that, if they wanted to lift the war from their backs, there was no other 
mode than to call him; for the people of Milan had need of a sure and 
immediate peace, not of a distant hope of future support. With his words 
he excused the enterprises of the count, accused the Venetians, and ac¬ 
cused all the other princes of Italy, who, one out of ambition, another out 
of avarice, had not wanted the Milanese to live free. And furthermore, if 
their liberty had to be given away, it should be to one who knew them 


257 


VI • 2 5 

and could defend them, so that at least peace might arise out of slavery 
and not greater harm and a more dangerous war. This man was listened 
to with wonderful attention, and when he had finished speaking, they all 
shouted for the count to be called; and they made Gaspare their ambas¬ 
sador to call upon him. By command of the people, Gaspare went to find 
the count and brought him the joyous and prosperous news. The count 
accepted it joyfully, and, entering Milan as prince the twenty-sixth of 
February in 1450, he was received with utmost and marvelous joy by 
those who not long before had defamed him with so much hatred. 


25 

when the news of this acquisition reached Florence, the Florentine 
spokesmen, who were already on the road, were ordered that, instead of 
going to negotiate an accord with the count, they should congratulate the 
duke 1 on his victory. These spokesmen were honorably received by the 
duke and honored profusely, for he well knew that against the power of 
the Venetians he could have neither more faithful nor more vigorous 
friends in Italy than the Florentines. The Florentines having put aside 
their fear of the house of Visconti, it was seen that they had to combat 
the forces of the Aragonese and the Venetians, because the Aragonese 
kings of Naples were their enemies through the friendship they knew that 
the Florentine people had always had for the house of France; and the 
Venetians recognized that the old fear of the Visconti had become a new 
fear of themselves and, since they knew with how much zeal the Floren¬ 
tines had persecuted the Visconti, that the Florentines, fearing the same 
persecutions, would seek the ruin of the Venetians. These things were the 
cause that the new duke readily drew close to the Florentines and that the 
Venetians and King Alfonso came to an accord against their common 
enemies. The Venetians and the king bound themselves to move their 
armies at the same time, the king to attack the Florentines and the Vene¬ 
tians the duke. Because the duke was new in his state, they believed he 
could not sustain it with either his own forces or the help of others. But 
because the league between the Florentines and the Venetians continued, 
and the king had made peace with the Florentines after the war of Piom- 
bino, 2 they did not think they could break the peace unless war were ius- 
tified under some color. Therefore, each one sent ambassadors to Flor¬ 
ence, who on behalf of their lords made it understood that the league had 

1 Francesco Sforza, no longer count, now duke of Milan. 

2 FH vi 16. 


258 


VI • 26 


been made not for offending anyone but for defending their states. Then 
the Venetian complained that the Florentines had given passage through 
Lunigiana to Alessandro, brother of the duke, 3 so that he had come into 
Lombardy with his troops; and furthermore, they had been the aiders and 
advisers of the accord made between the duke and the marquis of Man¬ 
tua. All these things they asserted to be opposed to their state and to the 
friendship they had together; and therefore they reminded them lovingly 
that he who wrongfully offends gives cause to others, with reason, to feel 
offended, and he who breaks the peace may expect war. Cosimo was 
commissioned by the Signoria to respond. In a long and wise speech, he 
went over all the benefits done by his city for the Venetian republic; he 
showed how much empire it had acquired with money, troops, and ad¬ 
vice from the Florentines; and he reminded them that, since the cause of 
friendship had come from the Florentines, the cause for enmity would 
never come from them. Having always been lovers of peace, they praised 
very much the accord between the Venetians and the king if it were made 
for peace and not for war. It was true that they marveled greatly at the 
quarrels raised when they saw that so great a republic took so much ac¬ 
count of a thing so slight and vain; but even if it were worthy of being 
considered, they let everyone understand that they wanted their country 
to be free and open to anyone and that the duke was a person of such 
quality that to make an alliance with Mantua he had need of neither their 
favors nor their advice. And therefore, he feared that these quarrels might 
be concealing some other poison that they were not revealing; should this 
be so, they would easily make everyone know that, just as much as the 
friendship of the Florentines was useful, so much was their enmity harm¬ 
ful. 


26 

for the time being the thing passed off lightly, and it appeared that the 
spokesmen went away satisfied. Nonetheless, the league was established, 
and the modes of the Venetians and the king made the Florentines and the 
duke fear a new war rather than hope for a firm peace. Therefore, the 
Florentines allied themselves with the duke; and meanwhile, the evil in¬ 
tent of the Venetians was revealed. For they made an alliance with the 
Sienese and drove out all Florentines and their subjects from their city and 
empire. And shortly afterwards, Alfonso did the same without paying 
any attention to the peace made the year before and without having, not 

3 Alessandro Sforza, lord of Pesaro; see FH vi 11. 


259 


VI • 26 


a just, but even a colorable cause. The Venetians sought to acquire the 
Bolognese for themselves, and, having strengthened the exiles, sent them 
with many troops at night through the sewers of Bologna; nor did any¬ 
one learn of their entrance before they themselves raised the alarm. Santi 
Bentivoglio, awakened by this, realized that the whole city was occupied 
by rebels, and although he was advised by many to save his life by flight 
since by staying he could not save his state, nonetheless he wished to show 
his face to fortune. He took up arms, gave his men spirit, and, having 
gathered some friends, attacked part of the rebels; and when these were 
defeated, he killed many of them and drove the rest out of the city. 
Whereupon he was judged by everyone to have given very true proof of 
belonging to the house of the Bentivogli. These deeds and revelations 
confirmed in Florence belief in a future war, and so the Florentines turned 
to their ancient and customary defense; they created the magistracy of the 
Ten, hired new condottieri, sent spokesmen to Rome, Naples, Venice, 
Milan, and Siena to seek help from their friends, to clear up suspicions, 
win over the doubters, and discover the plans of the enemies. From the 
pope they drew nothing but general words, a good disposition, and en¬ 
couragement to peace; from the king, empty excuses for having sent 
away the Florentines, putting himself forward as desiring to give safe con¬ 
duct to anyone who should ask it. And although he strained to the utmost 
to hide the plans for the new war, nonetheless the ambassadors recog¬ 
nized his evil intent and discovered his many preparations for coming to 
harm their republic. With the duke they again strengthened their league 
with various pledges, and through his mediation fashioned a friendship 
with the Genoese; and the ancient differences over reprisals and many 
other quarrels were settled, notwithstanding that the Venetians sought in 
every mode to disturb such a settlement. Nor did the Venetians fail to 
beseech the emperor of Constantinople to drive those of Florentine birth 1 
from his country. With such hatred did they take up this war and so pow¬ 
erful in them was the desire to rule that they wanted to destroy without 
any hesitation those who had been the cause of their greatness; but they 
were not listened to by the emperor. The Florentine spokesmen were for¬ 
bidden entrance into the state of that republic by the Venetian senate, 
which alleged that, since they were in alliance with the king, they could 
not listen to the Florentines without his participation. The Sienese re¬ 
ceived the ambassadors with kind words, fearing lest they be undone be¬ 
fore the league could defend them; and for this it appeared to them better 
to lull the arms that they could not resist. The Venetians and the king 
wanted, as was then conjectured, to send spokesmen to Florence so as to 

1 Lit.: the Florentine nation. 


260 


VI • 27 

justify the war; but the Venetian did not want to intrude into the Floren¬ 
tine dominion, and since the king’s did not wish to do that office alone, 
the mission remained unaccomplished. And through this the Venetians 
realized that they were esteemed less by the same Florentines they had 
esteemed little not many months before. 


27 


amidst the fear raised by these movements, Emperor Frederick III came 
to Italy to be crowned. On the thirtieth day of January 1451, he entered 
Florence with fifteen hundred cavalry and was most honorably received 
by the Signoria, and he remained in the city until the sixth day of Febru¬ 
ary, when he departed to go to Rome for his coronation. There he was 
solemnly crowned, and, having celebrated his marriage with the em¬ 
press, who had come to Rome by sea, he returned to Germany; and in 
May he again came through Florence, where the same honors were ac¬ 
corded him as at his coming. And since he had been benefited by the 
marquis of Ferrara, while returning he gave the marquis Modena and 
Reggio to compensate him. At this same time the Florentines did not fail 
to prepare for imminent war; and to give reputation to themselves and 
terror to the enemy, they and the duke made an alliance with the king of 
France for the defense of both 1 states, which they announced publicly 
with great magnificence and joy throughout Italy. The month of May of 
the year 1452 had come when it appeared to the Venetians that they 
should no longer defer making war on the duke; and with sixteen thou¬ 
sand cavalry and six thousand infantry, they attacked him on the side of 
Lodi; and at the same time, the marquis of Monferrat, either for his own 
ambition or urged by the Venetians, also attacked him on the side of Ales¬ 
sandria. The duke, for his part, had put together eighteen thousand cav¬ 
alry and three thousand infantry, and, having provided Alessandria and 
Lodi with troops and similarly fortified all the places where the enemy 
might be able to harm 2 him, with his troops he attacked the territory of 
Brescia, where he did very great damage to the Venetians; and on every 
side the country was looted and the weak villages sacked. Then, after the 
marquis of Monferrat was defeated at Alessandria by the duke’s troops, 
the duke was able to oppose the Venetians with greater forces and to at¬ 
tack their country. 

1 Lit.: common. 

2 Lit.: offend. 


261 


VI • 2 8 

28 


while the war in Lombardy was toiling on with various but feeble ac¬ 
cidents little worth remembering, in Tuscany at the same time war arose 
between King Alfonso and the Florentines, and it was managed with nei¬ 
ther great virtue nor greater danger than the one that was being managed 
in Lombardy. Ferdinand, an illegitimate son of Alfonso’s, came into Tus¬ 
cany with twelve thousand soldiers captained by Federico, lord of Ur- 
bino. Their first campaign was to attack Foiano in Valdichiana, because, 
having the Sienese as friends, they entered into the Florentine empire 
from that side. The fortified town had a feeble wall; it was small and 
therefore not filled with many men, but, in accordance with those times, 
they were reputed to be fierce and faithful. In the fortified town were two 
hundred soldiers sent by the Signoria to guard it. At this fortified town 
thus strengthened, Ferdinand encamped, and either the virtue of those 
within was so great or his was so little that not before thirty-six days was 
he able to become lord of it. This time gave the city 1 opportunity to pro¬ 
vision other places of greater importance, to assemble their troops, and 
to order themselves for defense better than they had been. When the en¬ 
emy had taken this fortified town, they passed into Chianti, where they 
were unable to capture two little villages owned by private citizens. So 
leaving these, they went to encamp at Castellina, a nearby fortified town 
situated at the border of Chianti, about ten miles from Siena, weak by art 
and very weak in its site; yet these two weaknesses could not surpass the 
weakness of the army that attacked it, for after the forty-four days that 
they stayed to fight for it, they departed in shame. So formidable were 
these armies and so dangerous those wars that towns that today are aban¬ 
doned as places impossible to defend were defended then as things im¬ 
possible to take. And while Ferdinand remained in camp at Chianti, he 
made many plundering incursions into Florentine territory and raided as 
close as six miles from the city, bringing fear and great losses for the 
subjects of the Florentines. The Florentines in these times brought their 
troops, in number eight thousand soldiers under Astorre da Faenza 2 and 
Sigismondo Malatesta, toward the fortified town of Colle and kept them 
at a distance from the enemy, fearing that they might be forced of neces¬ 
sity to join battle; for they judged that if they did not lose the battle, they 
could not lose the war, because small fortified towns, if lost, are recovered 
when peace is made, and they were sure of the large towns, since they 
knew the enemy was not about to attack those. The king still had a fleet 

1 Florence. 

2 Astorre Manfredi, lord of Faenza. 

262 


VI • 29 

of about twenty vessels, including galleys and foists, in the waters of Pisa; 
and while Castellina was being fought for on land, he directed this fleet 
against the fortress of Vada, which he seized because of the carelessness 
of the castellan. Because of this, the enemy then harassed all the sur¬ 
rounding countryside, but their harassment was easily stopped by some 
soldiers whom the Florentines sent to Campiglia, who kept the enemy 
close to the shore. 


29 

the pontiff did not become involved in these wars except insofar as he 
believed he could bring about an accord between the parties; and although 
he abstained from the war outside, he was to find one more dangerous at 
home. Living at that time was a Messer Stefano Porcari, a Roman citizen, 
noble by blood and by learning, but much more so by the excellence of 
his spirit. 1 This man desired, according to the custom of men who relish 
glory, to do or at least to try something worthy of memory; and he 
judged he could do nothing else than try to see if he could take his father- 
land from the hands of prelates and restore it to its ancient way of life, 
hoping by this, should he succeed, to be called the new founder and sec¬ 
ond father of that city. What made him hope for a prosperous end to his 
undertaking were the evil customs of the prelates and the discontent of 
the barons and the Roman people, but above all, what gave him hope 
were those lines of Petrarch in the canzone that begins “Gentle spirit 2 that 
rules those limbs,” where he says: 

Atop Mount Tarpeio, Oh! canzone, you will see 

a knight whom all Italy honors 

more thoughtful of others than of himself . 3 

Messer Stefano knew that many times poets are filled with divine and 
prophetic spirit; 4 so he judged that in any mode the thing Petrarch had 
prophesied in that canzone must come, and that it was he who ought to 
be the executor of so glorious an undertaking, since it appeared to him 
that he was superior to every other Roman in eloquence, learning, grace, 
and friends. Thus, having fallen upon this thought, he was unable to con- 

1 Animo. 

2 Spirito. Cf. the “higher and greater spirit” of describing in FH, Letter dedicatory; and 
“an Italian spirit” in P 26. 

3 Petrarch, Rime liii, 99-101. 

4 Spirito. 


263 


VI • 30 

duct himself in a mode cautious enough not to reveal himself by his 
words, his habits, and his mode of living. So he became suspect to the 
pontiff, who, to take away his opportunity to do evil, banished him to 
Bologna and commissioned the governor of that city to check on him 
every day. Messer Stefano was not dismayed by this first obstacle; indeed, 
he pursued his undertaking with greater zeal, and by more cautious 
means he was able to hold meetings with his friends. Many times he went 
to Rome and returned with such speed that he was in time to present 
himself to the governor within the required limits. 5 But then, when it 
appeared to him that he had attracted enough men to his will, he decided 
not to postpone attempting the thing. He commissioned his friends who 
were in Rome to order a splendid dinner at a fixed time, to which all the 
conspirators should be called with orders that each should have with him 
his most trusted friends; and he promised to be with them before the 
dinner was finished. All was ordered according to his plan, and Messer 
Stefano had already arrived at the house where they were dining, so that 
as soon as the dinner was over, he, dressed in cloth of gold, with necklaces 
and other ornaments that gave him majesty and reputation, appeared 
among the guests; and, having embraced them, he urged them with a 
long speech to steady their spirits 6 and be ready for so glorious an under¬ 
taking. Then he revealed the mode; and he ordered that on the following 
morning one part of them should seize the palace of the pontiff and the 
other should call the people to arms throughout Rome. The thing came 
to the notice of the pontiff that night: some say it was because of faith¬ 
lessness among the conspirators; others, that it became known Messer 
Stefano was in Rome. However it was, on the same night the dinner had 
taken place, the pope had Messer Stefano arrested, with the greater part 
of his partners, and then, according to what their faults deserved, had 
them killed. Such was the end of this design of his. And truly, the inten¬ 
tion of this man could be praised by anyone, but his judgment will always 
be blamed by everyone because such undertakings, if there is some 
shadow of glory in thinking of them, have almost always very certain loss 
in their execution. 


30 


the war in Tuscany had already lasted almost a year, and the time had 
come in 1453 for the armies to return to the field, when Signor Alessan- 

5 The journey is of course much too long for a day. 

6 Animo. 


264 


VI • 30 

dro Sforza, brother of the duke, came with two thousand cavalry to the 
support of the Florentines. And because of this, since the army of the 
Florentines had increased and the king’s diminished, it appeared to the 
Florentines that they should go to recover things lost; and with little trou¬ 
ble they recovered some towns. Then they encamped at Foiano, which 
because of the carelessness of the commissioners had been sacked, so that 
the inhabitants, who were dispersed, went back to live there with great 
difficulty; but with exemptions and other rewards they were brought 
back. The fortress of Vada was also reacquired because, when the enemy 
saw they could not keep it, they abandoned and burned it. And while 
these things were being done by the Florentine army, the Aragonese 
army, not having the boldness to approach the army of the enemy, assem¬ 
bled near Siena and many times raided Florentine territory, where they 
carried out robberies, started tumults, and raised very great fear. Nor did 
the king fail to see if he could attack his enemies by some other way and 
divide their forces, and weaken them by new travails and assaults. The 
lord of Val di Bagno was Gherardo Gambocorti; either for friendship or 
out of obligation, he, together with his predecessors, had always been 
paid or protected by the Florentines. King Alfonso dealt with this man so 
that he would give the king that state and in exchange the king would 
give him another state of the Kingdom in recompense. This dealing was 
revealed in Florence, and, to discover Gherardo’s intent, the Florentines 
sent him an ambassador to remind him of the obligations of his predeces¬ 
sors and his own and to urge him to continue in his faith to the republic. 
Gherardo pretended to be astonished and with solemn oaths affirmed that 
never had such a villainous thought entered his mind and that he would 
come in person to Florence as a pledge of his faith, but that, as he was 
indisposed, that which he could not do he would have his son do, whom 
he turned over to the ambassador as a hostage to take with him to Flor¬ 
ence. These words and this demonstration made the Florentines believe 
that Gherardo was telling the truth and that his accuser was a liar and 
worthless; and so they rested on this thought. But Gherardo pursued his 
dealing with the king with greater urgency; as soon as it was concluded, 
the king sent Frate Puccio, a knight of Jerusalem, to Val di Bagno with 
many troops to take possession of Gherardo’s fortresses and lands. But 
the peoples of Bagno, who had become fond of the Florentine republic, 
promised obedience to the king’s commissioners with dislike. Frate Puc¬ 
cio had already taken possession of almost the whole state; he failed only 
to become lord of the fortress of Corvano. With Gherardo, among the 
men around him while he was making this delivery, was Antonio Gua- 
landi of Pisa, young and bold, to whom Gherardo’s betrayal was displeas¬ 
ing; he considered the site of the fortress and the men there to guard it, 


265 


VI • 3 I 

and in their faces and gestures he discerned their discontent. And when 
Gherardo stood at the gate to let in the Aragonese, Antonio circled 
around toward the inside of the fortress and with both hands pushed 
Gherardo outside and commanded the guards to lock the gates of that 
fortress in the face of so villainous a man and save it for the Florentine 
republic. As soon as this uproar was heard in Bagno and in other nearby 
places, each of those peoples took up arms against the Aragonese and, 
having raised the banners of Florence, chased them out. As soon as this 
thing was learned of in Florence, the Florentines imprisoned the son of 
Gherardo given them as hostage and sent troops to Bagno to defend that 
country for their republic, and they made that state, which had been gov¬ 
erning itself by a prince, into a vicarate. But Gherardo, traitor to his lord 
and to his son, was barely able to flee, and he left his wife and family with 
all his property in the power 1 of his enemies. This accident was much 
appreciated in Florence, because if the king had succeeded in making him¬ 
self lord of the country, he could have raided the Val di Tevere and the 
Casentino with little expense and at his pleasure. There he would have 
given the republic so much annoyance that the Florentines would not 
have been able to oppose all their forces to the Aragonese army that was 
in Siena. 


31 

besides making preparations in Italy to check the forces of the hostile 
league, the Florentines had sent Messer Agnolo Acciaiuoli as their 
spokesman to the king of France to negotiate with him so that he would 
give King Rene of Anjou the means to come to Italy in favor of the duke 
and themselves. Thus would he come to defend his friends, and then, 
once in Italy, he could think about acquiring the kingdom of Naples: and 
to this effect they promised him aid in men and money. And so, while 
the war in Lombardy and Tuscany, as we have narrated, was toiling on, 
the ambassador concluded an accord with King Rene: he should come to 
Italy for all June with two thousand four hundred cavalry; and upon his 
arrival in Alessandria, the league should give him thirty thousand florins 
and then, during the war, ten thousand for each month. But when, by 
virtue of the accord, the king wanted to come into Italy, he was held back 
by the duke of Savoy and the marquis of Monferrat, who, as friends of 
the Venetians, would not allow him passage. Flence, the king was urged 
by the Florentine ambassador that to give reputation to his friends he 
should return to Provence and come down into Italy by sea with some of 

1 Po testa. 


2 66 


VI • 32 

his men; and on the other side he should bring pressure on the king of 
France to work on the duke so that his troops could pass through Savoy. 
And just as he was advised, it happened; for Rene came into Italy by sea, 
and his troops were received in Savoy out of regard for the king. King 
Rene was welcomed by Duke Francesco very honorably; and when the 
Italian and French troops were placed together, they attacked the Vene¬ 
tians, bringing so much terror that in a short time they recovered all the 
lands the Venetians had taken in the territory of Cremona; and not con¬ 
tent with this, they seized nearly all the territory of Brescia; and the Vene¬ 
tian army, no longer feeling safe in the field, withdrew close to the walls 
of Brescia. But since winter had come, it appeared to the duke time to 
retire his troops into quarters, and he assigned lodgings in Piacenza to 
King Rene. And so, the winter of 1453 having passed without any cam¬ 
paign, when summer came and it seemed time for the duke to go into the 
field and strip the Venetians of their state on land. King Rene informed 
the duke that it had become necessary for him to return to France. This 
decision was new and unexpected by the duke, and he was therefore very 
greatly displeased; and although he immediately went to the king to dis¬ 
suade him from departing, he could move him neither with prayers nor 
with promises. Rene promised only to leave some of his troops and to 
send his son Jean to serve the league in his own place. The Florentines 
were not displeased with his departure, for since they had recovered their 
own fortified towns, they no longer feared the king; 1 but on the other 
hand they did not want the duke 2 to get back any more than his towns in 
Lombardy. So Rene left and sent his son, as he had promised, into Italy. 
His son did not stop in Lombardy but came to Florence, where he was 
received most honorably. 


32 

the departure of the king made the duke turn willingly to peace; the 
Venetians, Alfonso, and the Florentines also desired it, for they were all 
weary. The pope too had given every appearance of desiring it and still 
desired it; for this same year Mahomet the Grand Turk had taken Con¬ 
stantinople and made himself lord of all Greece. This conquest frightened 
all Christians, and more than anyone else the Venetians and the pope, as 
it appeared to each of these that already they felt his armies in Italy. 

The pope therefore begged the Italian powers to send spokesmen to 
him with authority to establish a universal peace. They all obeyed; but 

1 The king of Naples, Alfonso of Aragon. 

2 The duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza. 


267 


VI • 33 

when they were together and came to the merits of the thing, great dif¬ 
ficulty was found in negotiating it: the king wanted the Florentines to 
repay him for his expenses in that war, and the Florentines wanted satis¬ 
faction from it themselves; the Venetians demanded Cremona from the 
duke, the duke demanded Bergamo, Brescia, and Crema from them; so 
it appeared that these difficulties were impossible to resolve. Nonetheless, 
that which in Rome appeared difficult to do among many was done in 
Milan and Venice very easily between two; for while the negotiations for 
peace were being held in Rome, the duke and the Venetians concluded it 
on the ninth day of April in 1454. By virtue of the peace, each returned 
to the towns held before the war, and the duke was allowed to recover the 
towns that the princes of Monferrat and Savoy had seized from him; and 
the other Italian princes were allowed one month to ratify it. The pope, 
the Florentines, and, with them, the Sienese and other lesser powers rat¬ 
ified it in time; and not content with this, the Florentines, the duke, and 
the Venetians established a peace for twenty-five years. Only King Al¬ 
fonso, of the princes of Italy, showed he was malcontent with this peace, 
as it appeared to him to have been made with little regard for him, since 
he was to be accepted in it not as a principal but as an accessory, and 
therefore he remained uncertain for a long time without letting anyone 
know his intention. Yet, after many solemn embassies had been sent to 
him by the pope and other princes, he let himself be persuaded by them, 
and especially by the pontiff, and he entered this league with his son for 
thirty years. The king and the duke together made a double kinship and 
a double marriage, each giving and taking a daughter from the other for 
their sons. Nonetheless, so that the seeds of war might remain in Italy, 
the king did not consent to make peace unless he was first given permis¬ 
sion by the allies enabling him, without injury to them, to make war on 
the Genoese, on Sigismondo Malatesta, and on Astorre, prince of Faenza. 
And when this accord had been made, Ferdinand, his son, who was in 
Siena, returned to the Kingdom, having acquired nothing in empire and 
lost a great many of his troops by his coming into Tuscany. 


33 

this universal peace thus accomplished, the only fear was that King Al¬ 
fonso might disturb it through his enmity toward the Genoese; but the 
fact went otherwise, because peace was disturbed not openly by the king 
but, as had always happened before, by the ambition of mercenary sol¬ 
diers. The Venetians, as is customary when peace is made, had dismissed 
from their hire Jacopo Piccinino, their condottiere. Joined by some other 
condottieri without employment, he came into Romagna and from there 


268 


VI • 34 

into the territory of Siena, where Jacopo stopped to make war, and he 
seized some towns from the Sienese. At the beginning of these move¬ 
ments at the start of the year 1455, Pope Nicholas died, and his successor, 
Calixtus III, was elected. So as to suppress the new war nearby, this pon¬ 
tiff immediately gathered as many troops as he could under his captain 
Giovanni Ventimiglia and, with the troops of the Florentines and of the 
duke, who also contributed to suppress these movements, sent them 
against Jacopo. And when they came to battle near Bolsena, although 
Ventimiglia ended a prisoner, Jacopo remained the loser, and he with¬ 
drew defeated to Castiglione della Pescaia. If he had not been subsidized 
with money by Alfonso, he would have been completely undone. This 
thing made everyone believe that the action of Jacopo was undertaken by 
order of the king; so when it appeared to Alfonso that he was found out, 
so as to redeem himself with his allies of the peace, whom he had almost 
alienated by this feeble war, he arranged thatjacopo restore to the Sienese 
the towns he had seized, and they were to give him twenty thousand flor¬ 
ins. When the accord was made, the king received Jacopo and his troops 
in the Kingdom. 

Even while the pope was thinking in these times of checking Jacopo 
Piccinino, nonetheless he did not fail to prepare himself to support Chris¬ 
tendom, which, it was seen, was about to be oppressed by the Turks; and 
so he sent spokesmen and preachers throughout the Christian provinces 
to persuade princes and peoples to arm themselves on behalf of their re¬ 
ligion and to support an undertaking against the common enemy with 
their money and their persons. Consequently, in Florence many offerings 
were made, and also many marked themselves with a red cross as being 
ready to carry on that war in person; also, solemn processions were made; 
nor did they fail in public or in private to show that they wished to be 
among the first Christians with advice, money, and men for such an un¬ 
dertaking. But this warmth for the crusade was cooled somewhat when 
the news came that the Turk, with his army around Belgrade to assault 
it—a fortified town located in Hungary on the Danube River—had been 
defeated by the Hungarians and wounded. So, as the fear that the pontiff 
and the Christians had conceived at the loss of Constantinople ceased, 
they proceeded with their preparations for the war more tepidly; and like¬ 
wise in Hungary, after the death of John Waywode, captain in that vic¬ 
tory, they cooled down. 


34 


but turning to things in Italy, I say how the year 1456 went, when the 
tumults stirred by Jacopo Piccinino ended. Thereupon, when arms had 


269 


vi • 34 

been put away by men, it appeared that God wished to take them up 
Himself: so great was a wind storm that then occurred, which in Tuscany 
had effects unheard of in the past and for whoever learns of it in the future 
will have marvelous and memorable effects. Starting on the 24th of Au¬ 
gust, an hour before daybreak, from the regions of the Upper Sea 1 toward 
Ancona and crossing through Italy, it entered the Lower Sea 2 below Pisa, 
a whirlwind of a cloud, huge and dense, which reached almost two miles 
wide throughout its course. This whirlwind, driven by superior forces, 
whether they were natural or supernatural, broke on itself and fought 
within itself; and the shattered clouds, now rising toward the sky, now 
descending toward the earth, crashed together; and then they moved in 
circles with very great velocity and stirred up ahead of them a wind vio¬ 
lent beyond all measure; 3 and in the battling between them appeared fre¬ 
quent blazes and the most brilliant flares. From these clouds, so broken 
and confused, from such furious winds and frequent flashes, arose a noise 
never before heard from any earthquake or thunder of any kind or great¬ 
ness; from it arose such fear that anyone who heard it judged that the end 
of the world had come and that earth, water, and the rest of the sky and 
the world would return mixed together to its ancient chaos. This terri¬ 
fying whirlwind, wherever it passed, had unheard-of and marvelous ef¬ 
fects; but more remarkable than those anywhere else were the ones that 
occurred around the fortified town of San Casciano. This fortified town 
is located eight miles from Florence, on a hill that separates the valleys of 
the Pesa and the Greve. Thus, between this town and the village of Sant’ 
Andrea, situated on the same hill, passed this furious storm, not reaching 
Sant’ Andrea and grazing San Casciano so that only some battlements and 
the chimneys of some houses were broken off; but outside, in the space 
between the places mentioned, many houses were destroyed to the level 
of the ground. The roofs of the churches of San Martino Bagnolo and 
Santa Maria della Pace were carried entire, just as they had been on the 
churches, more than a mile away. A wagoner, together with his mules, 
was found dead far from the road in the nearby valley. All the largest 
oaks, all the strongest trees that would not yield to such fury, were not 
only torn away but carried very far from where they had had their roots. 
When the storm passed and day came, men were left altogether stupefied. 
They saw the country desolate and broken, they saw the ruin of the 
houses and churches, they heard the laments of those who saw their pos¬ 
sessions destroyed and had left under the ruins their animals and relatives, 

1 The Adriatic. 

2 The Tyrrhenian. 

3 Lit.: mode. 


270 


VI • 3 5 

dead. It was a thing that brought the greatest compassion and fright to 
anyone who saw and heard it. Without doubt, God wanted to warn rather 
than punish Tuscany; for, if such a storm had entered into a city among 
many and crowded houses and inhabitants, as it did enter among few and 
scattered oaks and trees and houses, without doubt it would have made 
ruin and torment greater than that which the mind can conjecture. But 
God meant for then that this small example should be enough to refresh 
among men the memory of His power. 


35 

to return, then, to where I left off, King Alfonso, as we said above, was 
ill content with the peace. Since the war that he had had Jacopo Piccinino 
start 1 against the Sienese without any reasonable cause gave rise to no 
important effect, he wanted to see what effect would come from the one 
he could start in accordance with the agreements of the league. And so in 
the year 1456 he made war on the Genoese, by sea and by land, as he was 
desirous of giving over that state to the Adorni and of depriving the Fre- 
gosi of it, who were governing then; and from the other side he had Ja¬ 
copo Piccinino cross the Tronto against Sigismondo Malatesta. This 
man, because he had equipped his own towns well, had little regard for 
Jacopo’s attack, so that on this side the king’s undertaking had no effect; 
but the war in Genoa brought forth for him and his Kingdom more war 
than he would have wished. 

Pietro Fregoso was then duke of Genoa. Fearing he could not sustain 
the thrust of the king, he decided that what he could not hold he would 
at least give to someone who would defend it from his enemies and who 
at some time could give him just reward for such a benefit. Therefore, he 
sent spokesmen to Charles VII, king of France, and offered him empire 
over Genoa. Charles accepted the offer, and to take possession of that city 
he sent Jean of Anjou, son of King Rene, who a short time before had left 
Florence and returned to France. And Charles persuaded himself that 
Jean, who had taken on so many Italian customs, could govern that city 
better than anyone else, and partly he judged that from there he could 
think about an expedition against Naples, the kingdom of which Alfonso 
had despoiled his father Rene. Therefore, Jean went to Genoa, where he 
was received as prince, and the fortresses of the city and of the state were 
given into his power. 2 

• Cf. FHv 133 (beg.). 

2 Potestate. 


271 


VI • 3<5 

36 


this unforeseen event displeased Alfonso, as it appeared to him that he 
had pulled down too important an enemy on his back. Nonetheless, un¬ 
frightened by this, he pursued his enterprise with a frank spirit; and he 
had already led his fleet to Villa Marina at Portofino when, taken by a 
sudden illness, he died. By this death Jean and the Genoese were freed 
from the war, and Ferdinand, who succeeded to the kingdom of Alfonso, 
his father, was full of suspicion, having an enemy of such reputation in 
Italy and doubting the faith of many of his barons, who, desiring new 
things, might join the French. Fie also feared the pope, whose ambition 
he recognized and who, because Ferdinand was new in the Kingdom, 
might scheme to despoil him of it. Ferdinand had hope only in the duke 
of Milan, who was not less anxious about affairs of the Kingdom than 
was Ferdinand, because he feared that if the French became lords of the 
Kingdom they might scheme to seize his state as well, which he knew 
they believed they could demand as something belonging to them. 1 
Therefore, the duke, immediately after the death of Alfonso, sent letters 
and troops to Ferdinand—the troops to give him aid and reputation and 
the letters to urge him to be of good spirit, indicating that he was not 
about to abandon him in his necessity. 

The pontiff, after the death of Alfonso, schemed to give the kingdom 
of Naples to his nephew Pietro Ludovico Borgia; and to make this enter¬ 
prise seem decent and to get more agreement with the other princes of 
Italy, he announced that he wanted to bring that kingdom under the em¬ 
pire of the Roman Church. Therefore, he persuaded the duke that he 
ought not to give any favor to Ferdinand, while offering the duke towns 
the duke already possessed in that kingdom. But in the midst of these 
thoughts and new trials, Calixtus died, and to the pontificate succeeded 
Pius II, of Sienese birth, of the family Piccolomini, named Aeneas. This 
pontiff, thinking only of benefiting Christians and honoring the Church, 
and putting aside all his private passion, crowned Ferdinand in the King¬ 
dom at the urging 2 of the duke of Milan, as he judged that he could more 
quickly put Italian arms to rest by supporting whoever possessed the 
crown than if he either favored the French in seizing that kingdom or 
schemed, as did Calixtus, to take it for himself. Nonetheless, for this 
benefit Ferdinand made Antonio, a nephew of the pope, prince of Amalfi 


1 The French might claim Milan through the marriage of Valentina Visconti, sister of 
Duke Filippo Maria, to Louis of Orleans. Their son was Charles of Orleans; see FH vi 17. 

2 Or prayers. 


272 


VI • 37 

and gave him in marriage an illegitimate daughter of his. He also restored 
Benevento and Terracina to the Church. 


37 

it appeared, therefore, that arms had been laid down in Italy. The pontiff 
was ordering himself to move Christendom against the Turks in accord¬ 
ance with what had already been begun by Calixtus when dissension 
arose between the Fregosi and Jean, lord of Genoa, which rekindled wars 
greater and more important than those past. Petrino Fregoso was in a 
fortified town of his on the Riviera. To him it appeared he had not been 
rewarded by Jean of Anjou according to his merits and those of his house, 
since they had been the cause of making Jean prince in that city; 1 so they 
came to open hostility. This thing pleased Ferdinand as the single remedy 
and the only way to his own safety; he supported Petrino with men and 
money and judged that by means of him he could drive Jean from that 
state. As Jean recognized this, he sent to France for aid, with which he 
confronted Petrino, who, through much support 2 that had been sent him, 
was very strong; so Jean withdrew to guard the city. Petrino, having en¬ 
tered the city one night, took some places in it, but when day came, he 
was attacked and killed by Jean’s troops, and all his troops were either 
killed or taken. 

This victory inspired Jean to undertake a campaign into the Kingdom, 
and in October of 1459 he left Genoa in that direction with a powerful 
fleet, stopped at Baia, and from there went to Sessa, where he was re¬ 
ceived by its duke. The prince of Taranto, the Aquilanians, and many 
other cities and princes sided with Jean, so that the Kingdom was nearly 
all in ruin. When Ferdinand saw this, he turned to the pope and the duke 
for help, and, so as to have fewer enemies, he made an agreement with 
Sigismondo Malatesta. This so disturbed Jacopo Piccinino, since Sigis- 
mondo was his natural enemy, that he left the hire of Ferdinand and sided 
with Jean. Ferdinand also sent money to Federico, lord of Urbino, and as 
soon as he could, he gathered together a good army, for those times, and 
confronted his enemies on the Sarni River. When the battle was joined, 
King Ferdinand was defeated and many of his most important captains 
taken. After this disaster, the city of Naples, along with some few princes 
and towns, remained faithful to Ferdinand; the greater part surrendered 
to Jean. Jacopo Piccinino wanted Jean, upon this victory, to go to Naples 

1 Genoa. 

2 Lit.: many favors. 


273 


VI • 38 

and to make himself lord of the capital 3 of the Kingdom; but Jean was 
unwilling, saying that he wanted first to despoil Ferdinand of his whole 
dominion and then to attack him, thinking that when Ferdinand was de¬ 
prived of his towns the conquest of Naples would be easier. To the con¬ 
trary, the course he took snatched victory in that enterprise away from 
him, for he did not realize how much more easily the limbs follow the 
head than the head the limbs. 


38 

after his defeat, Ferdinand had taken refuge in Naples, and there he 
received those who had been driven out of his states; and in the most 
humane modes he could, he collected money and gathered a small army. 
Again he sent for help to the pope and the duke and was supported by 
each of them with greater speed and more abundantly than before, for 
they lived now in great fear that he might lose the Kingdom. King Fer¬ 
dinand, having thus become strong, went out of Naples, and, beginning 
to reacquire his reputation, he reacquired some of the towns lost. And 
while the war in the Kingdom was toiling on, an accident arose that en¬ 
tirely deprived Jean of Anjou of his reputation and the opportunity of 
winning that campaign. 

The, Genoese had become impatient with the greed and pride of the 
French, so much so that they took up arms against the royal governor 
and forced him to take refuge in the Castelletto. In this enterprise the 
Fregosi and the Adorni were agreed, and they were aided by the duke of 
Milan with money and troops as much in acquiring the state as in keeping 
it. So King Rene, who then came with a fleet in support of his son, hop¬ 
ing to reacquire Genoa by virtue of the Castelletto, was defeated while 
bringing his troops on land, with the result that he was forced to return 
in shame to Provence. As soon as this news was received in the kingdom 
of Naples, it greatly frightened Jean of Anjou; nonetheless, he did not 
abandon the campaign but kept the war going longer, helped by barons 
who, because of their rebellion, did not believe they could find any place 
with Ferdinand. Yet jn the end, after many unforeseen events had oc¬ 
curred, the two royal armies were joined in battle at which Jean was de¬ 
feated in Troia in the year 1463. The defeat did not hurt 1 him as much as 
the desertion of Jacopo Piccinino, who went over to Ferdinand; and so, 
stripped of forces, Jean retired to Ischia, from whence he later returned 

3 Lit.: head; see the ond of the chapter. 

1 Lit.: offend. 


274 


VI • 38 

to France. This war lasted four years, and he lost it through his own neg¬ 
ligence although he had won it many times through the virtue of his sol¬ 
diers. In this war the Florentines were not involved in any mode that was 
apparent: it is true that they had been requested by King John of Aragon, 
newly become king in that kingdom by the death of Alfonso, through his 
embassy, to provide support in his nephew Ferdinand’s things as they had 
been obliged to do by the league recently made with his father, Alfonso. 
To this, it was replied on behalf of the Florentines that they had no obli¬ 
gation to him and that they were not about to help his son in a war that 
his father had started with his arms; and since the war had been begun 
without their advice or knowledge, so he must deal with it and end it 
without their aid. Then the spokesmen on behalf of their king protested 
the weight of the obligation and the Florentines’ share in the damage, 
and, indignant at that city, they departed. The Florentines, therefore, re¬ 
mained at peace during this war, as to things outside, but they were in¬ 
deed not in repose within, as will be shown in detail in the following 
book. 


275 


BOOK VII 


I 

perhaps it will appear to those who have read the preceding book that a 
writer on Florentine things may have strayed too far in telling about 
things that happened in Lombardy and the Kingdom. Nonetheless, I have 
not avoided, nor in the future shall I avoid, such narrations, for although 
I may never have promised to write about things of Italy, it does not ap¬ 
pear to me that therefore I should omit telling about things that are no¬ 
table in that province. For by not narrating them, our history would be 
less understood and less pleasing, especially since the wars in which the 
Florentines were compelled of necessity to intervene arose most times 
from the actions of other Italian peoples and princes: thus, from the war 
of Jean of Anjou and King Ferdinand arose the hatreds and grave enmities 
that later ensued between Ferdinand and the Florentines, and particularly 
with the Medici family. For the king complained that in that war not only 
was he not assisted but favor was granted to his enemy; his indignation 
was the cause of very great evils, as our narration will show. And because 
I have reached as far as 1463 in writing about things outside, it is necessary 
for me now, as I wish to tell about the travails inside, to go back many 
years. 

But first, I want to say something, reasoning in accordance with our 
custom, about how those who hope that a republic can be united are very 
much deceived in this hope. It is true that some divisions are harmful to 
republics and some are helpful. Those are harmful that are accompanied 
by sects and partisans; those are helpful that are maintained without sects 
and partisans. Thus, since a founder of a republic cannot provide that 
there be no enmities in it, he has to provide at least that there not be sects. 
And therefore it is to be known that citizens in cities acquire reputation 
in two modes: either by public ways or by private modes. One acquires it 
publicly by winning a battle, acquiring a town, carrying out a mission 
with care and prudence, advising the republic wisely and prosperously. 
One acquires it in private modes by benefiting this or that other citizen, 
defending him from the magistrates, helping him with money, getting 
him unmerited honors, and ingratiating oneself with the plebs with 
games and public gifts. From this latter mode of proceeding, sects and 
partisans arise, and the reputation thus earned offends as much as repu- 


276 


VII • 2 


tation helps when it is not mixed with sects, because that reputation is 
founded on a- common good, not on a private good. And although even 
among citizens so made 1 one cannot provide by any mode that there will 
not be very great hatreds, nonetheless, having no partisans who follow 
them for their own utility, they cannot harm the republic; on the con¬ 
trary, they must help it, because to pass their tests it is necessary for them 
to attempt to exalt the republic and to watch each other particularly so 
that civil bounds are not transgressed. The enmities in Florence were al¬ 
ways accompanied by sects and therefore always harmful; never did a 
winning sect remain united except when the hostile sect was active, but 
as soon as the one conquered was eliminated, the ruling one, no longer 
having fear to restrain it or order within itself to check it, would become 
divided again. The party of Cosimo de’ Medici was left on top in 1434, 
but because the beaten party was large and full of very powerful men, 
Cosimo’s party maintained itself united and humane for a time through 
fear, as long as they made no error among themselves and did not make 
the people hate them through any sinister mode of theirs. So at any time 
that the state had need of the people to regain its authority, it always 
found the people disposed to cede to its heads every balia and power that 
they desired. And thus, from 1434 to ’55, which are twenty-one years, 
they reassumed the authority of the balia six times ordinarily through the 
councils. 


2 

in Florence, as we have said many times, there were two very powerful 
citizens, Cosimo de’ Medici and Neri Capponi. Neri was one of those 
who had acquired his reputation by public ways, so that he had many 
friends and few partisans. Cosimo, on the other hand, who had had the 
private and public way open to his power, had many friends and parti¬ 
sans. Since these two were united while they both lived, they were always 
able to get what they wanted from the people without any difficulty, be¬ 
cause grace was mixed with their power. But when the year 1455 came, 
with Neri dead 1 and the enemy party eliminated, the state found diffi¬ 
culty in reassuming its authority, and Cosimo’s own friends, very pow¬ 
erful in the state, were the cause of it, because they no longer feared the 
adverse party that had been eliminated, and they were glad to diminish 
Cosimo’s power. This humor gave a beginning to the division that came 
later, 2 in 1466, so that those to whom the state belonged advised in the 


1 By reputation founded on a common good. 
' In fact, Neri Capponi died in 1457. 

2 See FHvn 10. 


277 


VII • 3 

councils where the administration of the public was reasoned about pub¬ 
licly that it was well not to use the power 3 of the balia again and that the 
bags should be locked up and the magistrates should be drawn by lot with 
a view to the advantages of past lists. 4 To check this humor, Cosimo had 
one of two remedies: either regain the state by force with the partisans 
who remained to him and oppose all the others, or let the thing go and in 
time have his friends learn that they were taking state and reputation not 
from him but from themselves. Of these two remedies, he chose the latter 
because he knew well that in this mode of governing, since the bags were 
filled with his friends, he ran no risk and could retake his state at his ease. 
Since the city had been brought back to creating magistrates by lot, 5 it 
appeared to the generality 6 of citizens that they had their liberty again and 
that the magistrates were judging in accordance not with the will of the 
powerful but with their own judgment, so that sometimes a friend of 
someone powerful and sometimes a friend of another was punished. And 
so, those who were used to seeing their houses full of well-wishers and 
gifts saw them empty of possessions and men. They also saw that they 
had become the equals of those whom they were long accustomed to 
consider inferior, and they saw those superior who used to be their 
equals. They were neither respected nor honored; indeed, many times 
they were made fun of and derided, and they and the republic were rea¬ 
soned about both in the streets and in the piazza without any considera¬ 
tion, such that they soon knew that not Cosimo but they themselves had 
lost the state. Cosimo pretended not to know about these things, and 
when some deliberation arose that might please the people, he was the 
first to favor it. But what frightened the great more and gave Cosimo 
greater opportunity to make them recognize their mistake was the revival 
of the mode of the catasto of 1427, 7 whereby the taxes were assessed not 
by men but by law. 


3 


when this law had been won and the magistracy that was to execute it 
had already been installed, it made all the great draw together and go to 
Cosimo to beg him that he be so kind as to be willing to rescue them and 
himself from the hands of the plebs and to restore to the state the same 

1 Potesta. 

4 That is, no new names should be added to the lists of those eligible to be chosen for 
office by lot. 

5 Since February 23, 1454. 

6 Lit.: the universality. 

7 See FH iv 14. 


278 


vii • 4 

reputation that had made him powerful and themselves honored. To 
them Cosimo answered that he was willing but that he wanted the law to 
be made in the ordinary way, with the will of the people and not by force, 
about which he would not reason with them in any mode. A law to make 
a new balia was attempted in the councils and was not enacted, where¬ 
upon the great citizens turned to Cosimo and with every mark of humil¬ 
ity prayed him to be willing to consent to a parliament; this Cosimo re¬ 
fused altogether, as he wanted to reduce them to a strait in which they 
would fully recognize their error. And because Donato Cocchi, who was 
Gonfalonier of Justice, wished to hold a parliament without his consent, 
Cosimo had him so ridiculed by the Signori who were sitting with him 
that he went mad and was sent back as a fool to his houses. 

Nonetheless, since it is not well to let things go so far that they cannot 
be brought back later at one’s ease, when Luca Pitti, a spirited and bold 
man, became the Gonfalonier of Justice, to Cosimo it appeared time to 
let him govern the thing, so that if that enterprise should incur any blame, 
it would be imputed to Luca and not to himself. Luca, therefore, in the 
beginning of his magistracy proposed to the people many times to renew 
the balia, and, not succeeding, he threatened those who sat in the councils 
with abusive words full of pride. To these words he soon after added 
deeds; for in August of 1458, on the eve of San Lorenzo, 1 having filled 
the palace with armed men, he called the people into the piazza and by 
force and with arms made them consent to that which they had not con¬ 
sented to voluntarily before. Thereupon the state was reassumed; a balia 
and then the first magistrates were created in accordance with the views 
of the few; and to give a beginning of terror to this government that they 
had begun with force, they banished Messer Girolamo Machiavelli with 
some others, and they also deprived many others of honors. This Messer 
Girolamo was declared a rebel for not having observed the confines of his 
banishment, and while he circulated around Italy stirring up princes 
against his fatherland, he was arrested in Lunigiana through the faithless¬ 
ness of one of those lords; and after he was brought to Florence, he was 
put to death in prison. 


4 


this was the quality of government, unbearable and violent for the eight 
years it lasted; for since Cosimo, now old and weary, made feeble by the 
ill condition of his body, was unable to be present at public affairs in the 
mode he used to be, a few citizens plundered the city. Luca Pitti was made 

1 In fact, two days later, on August 11. 


279 


VII • 5 

a knight as a reward for the work he had done for the benefit of the re¬ 
public, and so as not to be less grateful to the republic than it had been to 
him, he wanted those formerly called Priors of the Guilds to be called 
Priors of Liberty so that they could at least retain the title of the posses¬ 
sion lost. 1 Also, whereas before the Gonfalonier used to sit above the rec¬ 
tors on the right, he wanted him in future to sit in their midst. And so 
that God himself might appear to take part in their enterprise, they held 
public processions and solemn offices to thank Him for the honors they 
assumed. Messer Luca was richly bestowed with presents by the Signoria 
and by Cosimo, and the whole city vied with them; the opinion was that 
the presents added up to the sum of twenty thousand ducats. Thus he 
rose to such reputation that not Cosimo but Messer Luca governed the 
city. He gained such confidence from this that he began two buildings, 
one in Florence, the other in Rusciano, a place nearly one mile from the 
city—both splendid and royal, but the one in the city was altogether 
greater than any other that had been built by a private citizen until that 
day. To bring these buildings to completion, he did not spare any extraor¬ 
dinary mode, for not only did citizens and individual men make him pres¬ 
ents and help him with the things necessary for the building, but the 
communes and whole peoples provided assistance. Besides this, all the 
banished and anyone else who had committed murder or theft or any 
other thing for which he might fear public punishment, 2 provided he was 
a person useful to the building, took refuge safely within those buildings. 
The other citizens, if they did not build as he did, were not less violent or 
less rapacious than he: thus if Florence did not have war from outside to 
destroy it, the city was destroyed by its own citizens. 

During this time, as we have said, the wars of the Kingdom took place; 
and some the pontiff carried on in Romagna against the Malatesti because 
he desired to despoil them of Rimini and of Cesena, which they pos¬ 
sessed. So, between these enterprises and his thoughts of making a cam¬ 
paign against the Turk, Pope Pius spent his pontificate. 


5 

but Florence continued in its disunions and travails. Disunion began in 
Cosimo’s party in ’55 for the causes given, which through his prudence, 
as we have narrated, were arrested for the time being. But when the year 
’64 came, Cosimo’s illness became so serious again that he passed from 
this life. His friends and enemies lamented his death, because those who 


1 See FH 11 11. 
a Lit.: penance. 


280 


VII • 5 

for cause of state did not love him saw what had been the rapacity of 
citizens, while he was living, whose reverence for him made them less 
unbearable; they feared that without him, they would be altogether ru¬ 
ined and destroyed. And they did not have much confidence in his son 
Piero, for notwithstanding that he was a good man, nonetheless, they 
judged that because he too was infirm and new in the state, it would be 
necessary for him to respect those men, so that without a bit in their 
mouths they could be more excessive in their rapacity. Therefore, Cos- 
imo left a very great regret 1 for himself in everyone. 

Cosimo was the most reputed and renowned citizen, as an unarmed 
man, of whom not only Florence but any other city had ever had mem¬ 
ory. For he surpassed every other man of his times not only in authority 
and riches but also in liberality and prudence, because among all the other 
qualities that made him prince in his fatherland was that, above all other 
men, he was liberal and magnificent. His liberality appeared very much 
more after his death, when his son Piero set about to realize his posses¬ 
sions: for there was no other citizen who had any quality in that city to 
whom Cosimo had not lent a large sum of money; many times without 
being asked, when he learned of the necessity of a noble man, he helped 
him. His magnificence appeared in the abundance of buildings built by 
him; for in Florence, the cloisters and churches of San Marco and San 
Lorenzo and the monastery of Santa Verdiana, and on the hills of Fiesole, 
San Girolamo, and the Badia, and in the Mugello, a church of the Minor 
Friars—he not only initiated but built anew from the foundations. Be¬ 
sides all this, in Santa Croce, in the Servi, in tfre Angioli, and in San 
Miniato he had very splendid altars and chapels built. Besides building 
these churches and chapels, he filled them with raiments and everything 
necessary to the adornment of divine service. In addition to these sacred 
buildings were his private houses, which are: one in the city of a sort 
befitting so great a citizen; four outside, in Careggi, Fiesole, Cafaggiuolo, 
and Trebbio—all palaces not of private citizens but of kings. And because 
it was not enough for him to be known for the magnificence of his build¬ 
ings in Italy, he also built in Jerusalem a hospital for poor and sick pil¬ 
grims. In these buildings he spent a very great amount of money. And 
although these dwellings and all his other works and actions were kingly, 
and he alone in Florence was prince, nonetheless, so tempered was he by 
his prudence that he never overstepped civil modesty. For in his conver¬ 
sations, in his servants, in riding on horse, in his whole mode of living, 
and in his marriage alliances, he was always like any modest citizen. For 
he knew how extraordinary things that are seen and appear every hour 
make men much more envied than those that are done with the deed and 

1 Lit.: desire. 


28l 


vii -6 


are covered over with decency. Therefore, when he had to give wives to 
his sons, he did not look for alliances with princes but united Cornelia 
degli Alessandri with Giovanni and Lucrezia de’ Tornabuoni with Piero; 
and of his grandchildren born to Piero, he married Bianca to Guglielmo 
de’ Pazzi and Nannina to Bernardo Rucellai. No one in his time was equal 
to him in his understanding of the states of princes and civil governments; 
hence, it arose that in such variety of fortune and in so various a city and 
so changeable a citizenry, he held one state for thirty-one years. For, 
being very prudent, he recognized evils at a distance and therefore was in 
time either not to let them grow or to be prepared so that, if they did 
grow, they would not offend him. Hence not only did he conquer do¬ 
mestic and civil ambition, but he overcame that of many princes with 
such prosperity and prudence that whoever allied with him and with his 
fatherland would come out either equal or superior to the enemy, and 
whoever opposed him would lose his time and money or state. Of this, 
the Venetians can give good testimony, who were always superior against 
Duke Filippo when they were with him and when they were disunited 
from him were always conquered and beaten, first by Filippo and then by 
Francesco; and when they allied with Alfonso against the republic of Flor¬ 
ence, Cosimo with his own credit emptied Naples and Venice of money, 
so that they were constrained to accept the peace that he was willing to 
concede to them. So of the difficulties that Cosimo had inside the city and 
outside, the outcome was glorious for him and harmful for his enemies; 
and thus civil discords always increased his state in Florence, and wars 
outside increased his power and reputation, in consequence of which he 
added Borgo San Sepolcro, Montedoglio, the Casentino, and Val di 
Bagno to the empire of his republic. And thus his virtue and fortune elim¬ 
inated all his enemies and exalted his friends. 


6 

he was born in 1389, the day of St. Cosimo and St. Damiano. His early 
life was full of trials, as his exile, arrest, and dangers of death demon¬ 
strate; and from the Council of Constance, where he had gone with Pope 
John, 1 he had to flee in disguise after that pope’s ruin to save his life. But 
after forty years of his life had passed, he lived very prosperously, so that 
not only those who sided with him in his public undertakings but also 
those who managed his treasure throughout Europe shared in his pros¬ 
perity. From this arose much excessive wealth in many families of Flor¬ 
ence, such as came to the families of the Tornabuoni, Benci, Portinari, 

1 Pope John XXIII, the antipope deposed at the Council of Constance in 1415. 


282 


vii • 6 


and Sassetti. After these, all those who depended on his advice and for¬ 
tune became rich, such that, although in the building of churches and in 
charities he spent continually, he complained sometimes to his friends 
that he had never been able to spend as much in honor of God as he found 
in His books that he was a debtor. He was of common size, olive com¬ 
plexion, and venerable presence. He was without learning but very elo¬ 
quent and full of a natural prudence and was thus kindly to his friends, 
merciful to the poor, useful in conversations, cautious in advice, quick in 
executions, and in his sayings and replies he was keen and grave. Messer 
Rinaldo degli Albizzi sent to tell him early in his exile that the hen was 
brooding, to which Cosimo answered, she could brood but poorly out¬ 
side the nest. And to other rebels who let him know they were not sleep¬ 
ing, he said that he believed it, since it was he who had taken sleep from 
them. He said of Pope Pius when he was summoning princes to a cam¬ 
paign against the Turk that he was old and was carrying on a campaign 
for the young. To the Venetian spokesmen who came to Florence to¬ 
gether with those of King Alfonso to complain of the republic, he ap¬ 
peared with his head bared and asked them what color it was, to which 
they responded, “White”; and he then rejoined, “It won’t be long before 
your senators will have heads as white as I have.” When his wife asked him 
a few hours before his death why he kept his eyes closed, he answered, 
“To get them used to it.” When some citizens told him after his return 
from exile that the city was being spoiled and that it was acting against 
God to send away from it so many men of means, he answered that a city 
spoiled was better than one lost, that two lengths of rose cloth made a 
man of means, 2 and that states were not held with paternosters in hand— 
which sayings gave matter to his enemies to slander him as a man who 
loved himself more than his fatherland and this world more than the 
other. One could repeat many other sayings of his, which will be omitted 
as unnecessary. Cosimo was also a lover and exalter of literary men; he 
therefore brought Argyropoulos to Florence, a man of Greek birth and 
very learned for those times, so that Florentine youth might learn from 
him the Greek language and other teachings of his. He took into his home 
Marsilio Ficino, second father of Platonic philosophy, whom he loved 
extremely; and that Ficino might pursue his studies of letters more com¬ 
fortably and that he might be able to use him more conveniently, Cosimo 
gave him a property near his own in Careggi. Then his prudence, his 
riches, mode of living, and fortune made him feared and loved in Flor¬ 
ence by citizens and marvelously esteemed by princes not only in Italy 
but in all Europe. Hence, he left such a foundation to his descendants that 
with virtue they could equal him and with fortune surpass him by a long 

2 The amount needed to make the coat of a Florentine Prior. 


283 


vii • 7 

way, and the authority Cosimo had in Florence they could have not only 
in that city but in all Christendom. Nonetheless, in the last years of his 
life, he felt very grave sorrow because of the two sons he had, Piero and 
Giovanni. The latter, in whom he had more confidence, died; the other 
was ill and, because of the weakness of his body, hardly fit for public or 
private affairs. So, as he had himself carried through the house after his 
son’s death, he said, sighing, “This is too big a house for so small a fam¬ 
ily.” It distressed the greatness of his spirit that it did not appear to him 
that he had increased the Florentine empire by an honorable acquisition, 
and he grieved all the more as it appeared to him that he had been de¬ 
ceived by Francesco Sforza, who while he was count had promised him 
that as soon as he had become lord of Milan he would make a campaign 
against Lucca on behalf of the Florentines. This did not happen because 
the count changed his mind with his fortune and, when he became a 
duke, wanted to enjoy that state in the peace that he had acquired with 
war; therefore, he did not try to satisfy either Cosimo or anyone else by 
any campaign. Nor, after he became duke, did he wage any wars other 
than those necessary to defend himself. This was cause for very great an¬ 
noyance to Cosimo, for it appeared to him that he had endured trouble 
and expense to make an ungrateful and unfaithful man great. It appeared 
to him, besides this, that, because of the infirmity of his body, he could 
not bring his former diligence to public or private affairs, so that he saw 
both being ruined because the city was being destroyed by the citizens 
and his substance by his agents and his sons. All these things made him 
pass the last years of his life in disquiet. Nonetheless, he died full of glory 
and with a very great name in the city and outside. All the citizens and all 
the Christian princes mourned his death with his son Piero, and he was 
accompanied to his tomb with very great pomp by all citizens and was 
buried in the Church of San Lorenzo; and by public decree, on his tomb¬ 
stone he was named Father of his Fatherland. If I, in writing about the 
things done by Cosimo, have imitated those who write the lives of 
princes, not those who write universal histories, one should not wonder 
at it, because, he being a man rare in our city, I was compelled of necessity 
to praise him in an extraordinary mode. 


7 

in these times, while Florence and Italy were in the condition that has 
been described, Louis, king of France, 1 was assailed by a very grave war, 

1 Louis XI (1461-1483). 


284 


vii • 7 

which was begun against him by his barons with the help of Francis, duke 
of Brittany, and Charles, duke of Burgundy. The war was of such mo¬ 
ment that he could not think of assisting Jean of Anjou in the campaigns 
against Genoa and the Kingdom, and yet, as he judged that Jean needed 
help from someone, since the city of Savona had remained in the power 2 
of the French, he made Francesco, duke of Milan, lord of it and let him 
understand that, if he wanted, he could make the campaign against Genoa 
with his grace. This was accepted by Francesco, and with the reputation 
that his friendship with the king gave him and through the favors granted 
him by the Adorni, he made himself lord of Genoa; and so as not to show 
himself ungrateful toward the king for benefits received, he sent as sup¬ 
port to the king in France fifteen hundred cavalry captained by Galeazzo, 
his oldest son. 

Here, therefore, were Ferdinand of Aragon and Francesco Sforza, one 
duke of Lombardy and prince of Genoa, the other king of the whole 
kingdom of Naples. Having made a marriage alliance together, they were 
thinking of how they could establish their states so that they could enjoy 
them securely while they lived and leave them freely to their heirs when 
they died. And for this they judged it was necessary for the king to secure 
himself against those barons who had offended him in Jean of Anjou’s 
war 3 and for the duke to work to eliminate the arms of the Bracci, natural 
enemies of his bloodline. They had risen to very great reputation under 
Jacopo Piccinino, because he now remained the first captain in Italy. Since 
Jacopo had no state, whoever did have a state had to fear him, and espe¬ 
cially the duke, to whom, moved by his own example, it did not appear 
that he could either hold his state or leave it secure for his children so long 
as Jacopo was living. Therefore, the king with all his industry sought an 
agreement with his barons and used every art to secure them. This suc¬ 
ceeded prosperously for him, because those princes saw that if they con¬ 
tinued at war with the king, their own ruin was manifest; and if they 
made an agreement and trusted in him, they stood in doubt. And because 
men always flee more willingly from the evil that is certain, it follows 
that princes can easily deceive lesser powers: those princes believed in the 
peace of the king when they saw the manifest dangers of war, and when 
they had put themselves into his arms in various modes and for various 
causes, they were eliminated by him. This frightened Jacopo Piccinino, 
who was at Sulmona with his men; and so as to deprive the king of the 
opportunity to suppress him, he held negotiations with Duke Francesco, 
through the mediation of his friends, to reconcile himself with the duke. 

2 Potesta. 

3 See FH vi 36-37. 

285 


vii • 9 

And when the duke had made him the best offer he could, Jacopo decided 
to put himself into his arms, and he set off, accompanied by a hundred 
cavalry, to meet him in Milan. 


8 

jacopo had fought for a long time under his father and with his brother, 
first for Duke Filippo and then for the people of Milan. Thus, through 
his long association he had many friends and universal good will in 
Milan, which present conditions had increased because the prosperous 
fortune and present power of the Sforzas had given birth to envy, while 
for Jacopo things adverse and his long absence had generated pity in that 
people and a very great desire to see him. All these things became appar¬ 
ent on his coming, because few of the nobility remained who would not 
meet him, and the streets where he passed were overflowing with those 
who desired to see him. The name of his family was shouted out every¬ 
where. These honors hastened his ruin, because the desire of the duke to 
eliminate him grew with mistrust; and so as to do it more covertly, he 
wanted the marriage of Drusiana, his natural daughter, whom he had 
betrothed to Jacopo long ago, to be celebrated. Then he arranged with 
Ferdinand that Ferdinand hire him with the title of captain of his men and 
a hundred thousand florins for provisions. After this was concluded, Ja¬ 
copo, together with a ducal ambassador and his wife, Drusiana, went to 
Naples, where he was joyously and honorably received and entertained 
for many days with every kind of festivity. But when he asked for per¬ 
mission to go to Sulmona, where his troops were, he was invited by the 
king to a banquet in the castle, and after the banquet he, together with his 
son, Francesco, was imprisoned and after a short time put to death. So 
much did our Italian princes fear in others the virtue that was not in them¬ 
selves, and they eliminated it, so that, since no one remained who had it, 
they exposed this province to the ruin that not long after wasted and af¬ 
flicted it. 1 


9 

pope Pius, in these times, had settled things in Romagna, and so he 
thought it time, seeing the universal peace that followed, to move Chris¬ 
tians against the Turk; and he resumed all those orders that had been 

1 Cf. P 24. 


286 


VII • I o 


made by his predecessors. All the princes promised either money or men, 
and in particular, Matthias, king of Hungary, and Charles, duke of Bur¬ 
gundy, 1 promised to be with him in person, the pope having made them 
captains of the enterprise. And the pontiff went so far with his hope that 
he left Rome and went to Ancona, where the whole army had been or¬ 
dered to assemble; the Venetians had promised ships to take it into Sla¬ 
vonia. After the arrival of the pontiff, so many people assembled in that 
city that in a few days all the food that was in the city and that could be 
brought there from nearby places ran out, so that everyone was overcome 
by hunger. Furthermore, there was no money to provide those who had 
need of it, nor arms to furnish those who lacked them; and Matthias and 
Charles did not appear, and the Venetians sent one of their captains with 
several galleys more to show off their pomp and to show that they had 
observed their faith than to enable the armies to cross. Hence the pope, 
being old and ill, died in the midst of these trials and disorders; after his 
death, everyone returned to his home. The pope died in year 1465, and 
Paul II, of Venetian birth, was elected to the pontificate. And so that al¬ 
most all the principates of Italy would change government, in the follow¬ 
ing year Francesco Sforza, duke of Milan, also died, sixteen years after 
having seized the dukedom, and his son Galeazzo was declared duke. 


10 

the death of this prince caused divisions in Florence to become stronger 
and to produce their effects more quickly. After Cosimo died, his son 
Piero, left heir to the property 1 and state of his father, called to himself 
Messer Dietisalvi Neroni, a man of great authority, very highly reputed 
by other citizens, in whom Cosimo had had so much confidence that, as 
he was dying, he charged Piero to conduct himself in regard to his prop¬ 
erty and state according to that man’s advice. So Piero made known to 
Messer Dietisalvi the faith that Cosimo had had in him, and, because he 
wanted to obey his father after his death as he had obeyed him in life, he 
desired to consult with him regarding his patrimony and the government 
of the city. And to begin with his own property, he would have all the 
calculations of his accounts 2 brought together and put into Messer Dieti- 
salvi’s hands so that he could learn their order and disorder and, having 
learned that, advise him in accordance with his prudence. Messer Dieti- 

1 In fact, Philip the Good. 

1 Lit.: substances. 

2 Lit.: reasons. 


287 


VII • I I 


salvi promised to use diligence and faith in everything; but when the ac¬ 
counts came and he had examined them well, he discovered that in every 
part there was much disorder. Since his own ambition was more compel¬ 
ling to him than his love for Piero or the old benefits received from Cos- 
imo, he thought it would be easy to take Piero’s reputation from him and 
deprive him of the state that his father had left him as hereditary. There¬ 
fore, Messer Dietisalvi came to Piero with advice that appeared alto¬ 
gether decent and reasonable but under which his ruin was hidden. He 
pointed out to Piero the disorder of his things and how much money it 
was necessary for him to provide if he did not want to lose with his credit 
the reputation of his property and his state. And for this he told him that 
he could not remedy his disorders with greater decency than by seeking 
to collect the sums of money that were owed to his father by many, for¬ 
eigners as well as citizens. For Cosimo, in order to gain partisans in Flor¬ 
ence and friends outside, had been very liberal in sharing his property 
with everyone, so that for those causes he was creditor of a sum neither 
small nor of slight importance. To Piero, the advice appeared good and 
decent, as he wanted to remedy his disorders with what was his own; but 
as soon as he ordered that the money be demanded, the citizens, as if he 
wanted to take away from them their own rather than demand what was 
his, became resentful; and without respect they spoke ill of him and slan¬ 
dered him as ungrateful and avaricious. 


II 

then, when Messer Dietisalvi saw the common and popular disgrace 
that Piero had incurred through his advice, he drew close to Messer Luca 
Pitti, Messer Agnolo Acciaiuoli, and Niccolo Soderini, and they deter¬ 
mined to take reputation and state from Piero. These men were moved 
by diverse causes: Messer Luca desired to succeed to Cosimo’s place be¬ 
cause he had become so great that he was indignant at having to defer to 
Piero; Messer Dietisalvi, who knew that Messer Luca was not fit to be 
the head of government, thought that, with Piero out of the way, of ne¬ 
cessity all reputation would in a brief time fall to himself; Niccolo So¬ 
derini liked to have the city live more freely and be governed by the will of 
the magistrates. Messer Agnolo held a particular hatred for the Medici 
for these causes: his son Raffaello had some time earlier taken Alessandra 
de’ Bardi as his wife, with a very great dowry. Either because of her 
shortcomings or through the defects of others, she was ill treated by her 
father-in-law and her husband; whereupon Lorenzo di Larione, her rela¬ 
tive, was moved by pity for the girl, and, accompanied one night by many 


288 


VII • I 2 


armed men, he took her from the house of Messer Agnolo. The Acciai- 
uoli complained of the injury done them by the Bardi. The cause was 
taken to Cosimo, who judged that the Acciaiuoli must restore Alessan- 
dra’s dowry to her and that afterward the girl’s return to her husband 
should be left to her own will. It did not appear to Messer Agnolo that in 
this judgment Cosimo had treated him as a friend, and since he could not 
avenge himself against Cosimo, he determined to do so against his son. 
With such diversity of humors, these conspirators nonetheless announced 
publicly one identical cause, asserting that they wanted the city to be gov¬ 
erned by the magistrates and not by the advice of a few. Besides this, the 
hatreds toward Piero and the causes for abusing him grew, as many mer¬ 
chants failed at this time; for this, Piero was publicly blamed, since by 
desiring against all expectation to recover his money, to the disgrace and 
harm of the city, he had made them fail. Added to this was his negotiating 
to have Clarice degli Orsini given as wife to Lorenzo, his eldest son— 
which gave everyone even more matter for slandering him, as they said it 
was plain to see that, since he refused a Florentine marriage for his son, 
the city no longer included him as a citizen and that therefore he was 
preparing to seize a principate: for he who does not want citizens as rela¬ 
tives wants them as slaves, and therefore it is reasonable that he not have 
them for friends. To the heads of this sedition it appeared that they had 
victory in hand, because the greater part of the citizens, deceived by the 
name of liberty that these men had taken as their ensign to give their 
enterprise the appearance of decency, were following them. 


12 


thus, while these humors were boiling again in the city, it appeared to 
some 1 of those who disliked civil discords that one should see if they 
could be checked with some new merriment, because most of the time 
idle peoples are an instrument for whoever wants to make a change. 
Thus, to be rid of this idleness and to give men something to think about 
that would lift their thoughts from the state, as a year had already passed 
since Cosimo’s death, they took the opportunity for doing something 
that would cheer up the city, and they ordered two festivals, very sump¬ 
tuous by comparison to others held in that city. One represented the 
Three Kings coming from the Orient following the star that indicated the 
birth of Christ, which was of such pomp and so magnificent that the 

1 Or someone. 


289 


VII • 13 

ordering and making of it kept the whole city busy many months. The 
other was a tournament (so they called a spectacle that represents a battle 
of men on horseback), where the first youths of the city were to take part 
together with the most renowned knights of Italy. And among the young 
Florentines, the most highly reputed was Lorenzo, oldest son of Piero, 
who not by favor but by his own worth carried off the first prize. 

After these spectacles had been celebrated, the same thoughts returned 
to the citizens, and each one followed his own opinion with more zeal 
than ever. Great disputes and travails resulted from this that were greatly 
increased by two accidents: one was that the authority of the balia had 
ended; 2 the other was the death of Francesco, duke of Milan. Hence Ga- 
leazzo, the new duke, sent ambassadors to Florence to confirm the terms 
that his father, Francesco, had kept with the city, in which, among other 
things, it was provided that every year a certain sum of money was to be 
paid to the duke. Thereupon those princes contrary to the Medici took 
up the occasion of this demand, and in the councils they opposed this 
decision publicly, pointing out that the alliance had been made not with 
Galeazzo but with Francesco; so with Francesco dead, the obligation was 
dead. Nor was there cause to revive it, because the virtue that had been 
in Francesco was not in Galeazzo, and consequently, they ought not and 
could not hope for the same profit from it; and if they had had little from 
Francesco, they would have less from this one; and if some citizen wanted 
to hire him for his own power, that was something against civil life and 
the liberty of the city. Piero, on the contrary, pointed out that it was not 
good to lose so necessary an alliance out of avarice and that there was 
nothing so salutary to the republic and to all Italy as to be leagued with 
the duke, so that the Venetians, seeing them united, might not hope 
through either false friendship or open war to crush the duke. For as soon 
as the Venetians felt the Florentines to be alienated from the duke, they 
would have arms in hand against him, and, finding him young, new in 
his state, and without friends, they could easily win him over either by 
deceit or by force—and in either case one would see the ruin of the repub¬ 
lic. 


13 


these reasons were not accepted, and enmities began to be shown 
openly; each of the parties met at night in different companies, for the 

2 The balia (see FH vii 3) was supposed to last until the end of September 1465 but was 
dissolved early on September 16. 


290 


VII • 13 

friends of the Medici gathered at the Crocetta and their adversaries at the 
Pieta. The latter, intent on Piero’s ruin, had had many citizens enlisted as 
favorable to their enterprise. On one night among the times when they 
were together, they held a particular consultation about their mode of 
proceeding. To diminish the power of the Medici was pleasing to each, 
but there were differences over the mode. One party, which was the most 
temperate and modest, wanted to take care that after the authority of the 
balia was ended, its resumption should be blocked. If this were done, it 
would accord with everyone’s intention, because the councils and the 
magistrates would govern the city, and in a short time Piero’s authority 
would be eliminated. With the loss of the reputation of his state would 
come the loss of his credit in trade, because his property was in such a 
strait that if he were strongly held back from being able to make use of 
public money, he would of necessity be ruined. Were it carried out in this 
way, there would be no more danger from him, and they would succeed 
in having recovered their liberty without exiles and without bloodshed, 
which every good citizen ought to desire. But if one sought to use force, 
one could bring on very many dangers, because people will let fall one 
who falls of himself, but if he is pushed by others, they sustain him. Be¬ 
sides this, if nothing extraordinary were ordered against him, he would 
not have cause to arm himself and look for friends; and if he should do 
this, he would be so much blamed and would generate so much suspicion 
in every man that he would make his ruin more easily by himself and 
would give others greater opportunity to crush him. To many others of 
those assembled, this length of time was not pleasing, since they asserted 
that time was in his favor and not theirs; for if they showed themselves 
content with ordinary things, Piero bore no risk and they ran many risks, 
because the magistrates, his enemies, would let him enjoy the city, and 
his friends would make him prince, with ruin to them, as happened in 
’58. And if the advice that had been given 1 was from good men, this was 
by wise men; and therefore, he must be eliminated while men were in¬ 
flamed against him. The mode was to arm themselves inside the city and 
outside to hire the marquis of Ferrara so as not to be unarmed; and when 
the lot gave them a friendly Signoria, they would be prepared to secure 
themselves against him. So they came to this decision: that they should 
wait for the new Signoria and govern themselves accordingly. Among 
these conspirators was Ser Niccolo Fedini, who served them as secretary. 
Attracted by a more certain hope, he revealed all the negotiations held by 
Piero’s enemies to him and brought him the list of conspirators and their 
subscribers. Piero was dismayed when he saw the number and quality of 

1 The first advice. 


291 


vii • 15 

the citizens who were against him, and after consulting with his friends, 
he decided that he too would make a list of his friends. And having given 
the care of this enterprise to some of his most trusted men, he found such 
variety and instability in the minds of the citizens that many of those 
listed as against him were also listed in his favor. 


while things were toiling on in this manner, it came time to renew the 
supreme magistracy; and Niccolo Soderini was appointed as Gonfalonier 
of Justice. It was a marvelous thing to see how great a crowd not only of 
honored citizens but of all people accompanied him to the palace, and on 
the route a wreath of olive was placed on his head to show that on him 
both the safety and the liberty of his fatherland must depend. One sees by 
this and many other experiences that it is not desirable to take on either a 
magistracy or a principate with an extraordinary expectation, because if 
one cannot match it with one’s deeds—since men desire more than they 
can attain—in time it brings you dishonor and infamy. Messer Tommaso 
Soderini and Niccolo were brothers: Niccolo was the more fierce and 
spirited, Messer Tommaso more wise. The latter, because he was very 
friendly to Piero and understood his brother’s humor—that Niccolo de¬ 
sired only the freedom of the city and that the state be made firm without 
offense to anyone—urged him to make a new list by which the bags 
would be filled with the names of citizens who loved free life. If this were 
done, the state would come to be confirmed and secured without tumult 
and without injury to anyone, in accordance with his wish. Niccolo read¬ 
ily trusted the advice of his brother and set about to waste the time of his 
magistracy in these vain thoughts; and he was allowed to waste it by the 
heads of the conspirators, his friends, since they out of envy did not want 
the state to be renewed by the authority of Niccolo, and they always be¬ 
lieved that they had time to work this out with another Gonfalonier. 
Therefore, the end of Niccolo’s magistracy came, and as he had begun 
many things and not finished any, he left it with much more dishonor 
than the honor with which he had taken it. 



this example made Piero’s party bolder; his friends were more con¬ 
firmed in their hope, and those who had been neutral joined Piero; so 
things being balanced, they temporized for months without further tu- 


292 


VII • i 5 

mult. Nonetheless, Piero’s party was gathering ever more force, so that 
his enemies became aroused and met together again; and that which they 
had not known or wanted to do easily by means of the magistrates they 
thought to do by force. They decided to have Piero, who was ill at Ca- 
reggi, killed and, to effect this, to have the marquis of Ferrara come with 
his troops toward the city and, when Piero was dead, to come armed into 
the piazza and make the Signoria establish a state in accordance with their 
will, because even if all of it was not friendly, they hoped that they could 
make the part that was opposed yield through fear. Messer Dietisalvi, in 
order to better conceal his intent, visited Piero often, reasoned with him 
about the unity of the city, and advised him. All these dealings had been 
revealed to Piero; and furthermore, Messer Domenico Martelli let Piero 
know that Francesco Neroni, brother of Messer Dietisalvi, had asked him 
to be with them, pointing out to him certain victory and the winning 
side. Then Piero determined to be the first to take up arms, and he took 
the dealings of his adversaries with the marquis of Ferrara as his occasion. 
He pretended, therefore, to have received a letter from Messer Giovanni 
Bentivoglio, the prince in Bologna, which informed him that the marquis 
of Ferrara was on the river Albo with troops and that they were saying 
publicly that they were coming to Florence. And so, with this informa¬ 
tion, Piero took up arms and, in the midst of a great multitude of armed 
men, came to Florence. After this, all those who followed his party armed 
themselves, and the adverse party did the same; but Piero’s party was in 
better order, as his had been prepared, and the others were not yet in the 
order of their scheme. Messer Dietisalvi, because he had his houses near 
Piero’s, did not feel safe in them but kept going first to the palace to urge 
the Signoria to make Piero put down his arms, then to find Messer Luca 
to keep him solidly in their party. But of all, Niccolo Soderini showed 
himself more lively than anyone; he took up his arms and was followed 
by almost all the plebs of his quarter, and he went to the houses of Messer 
Luca and begged him to mount his horse and come to the piazza in sup¬ 
port of the Signoria, which was for them—where without a doubt there 
would be certain victory—and not stay in his house to be either overcome 
vilely by armed enemies or shamefully deceived by the unarmed. And he 
would soon repent not having done what he would be in time to do; and 
if he wanted the ruin of Piero by war, he could have it easily; if he wanted 
peace, it was much better to be in a position to give, not receive, the 
conditions of peace. These words did not move Messer Luca, for he had 
already put aside his intent and had been brought around by Piero with 
promises of new alliances and new conditions; for they had joined in mar¬ 
riage one of his nieces with Giovanni Tornabuoni. So he urged Niccolo 
to put down his arms and go home, because it ought to be enough for 


293 


vii • i 6 


him that the city be governed by the magistrates; and so it would happen, 
and every man would put down his arms; and the Signori, where they 1 
had a larger party, would know how to be judges of their differences. 
Thus, as Niccolo was unable to persuade him otherwise, he went home, 
but first said to him, “I cannot do good alone for my city, but I can well 
foretell evil for it; this course that you are taking will make our fatherland 
lose its liberty, you your state and property, and me and the others our 
fatherland.” 



the Signoria had closed the palace during this tumult and had shut itself 
in with its magistrates, not showing favor to any of the parties. When the 
citizens, especially those who had followed the party of Messer Luca, saw 
Piero armed and his adversaries unarmed, they began to think not about 
how they must offend Piero but about how they must become his friends. 
Hence, the first citizens, heads of the factions, met at the palace in the 
presence of the Signoria, where they reasoned over many things relating 
to the state of the city and many relating to a reconciliation in it. And as 
Piero could not be present, due to the weakness of his body, all in accord 
determined to go to his houses to find him, except Niccolo Soderini, 
who, having first entrusted his children and his things to Messer Tom- 
maso, went out to his villa to await there the outcome of the thing, which 
he expected to be unprosperous for himself and damaging to his father- 
land. When the other citizens then arrived at Piero’s, one of them who 
had been commissioned to speak complained of the tumults that had 
arisen in the city, pointing out that those were more to blame who had 
first taken up arms; and as they did not know what Piero wanted, who 
had been the first to take them up, they had come to learn his will, and if 
it conformed to the good of the city, they were ready to follow it. To 
these words, Piero answered that he who first takes up arms is not the 
cause of scandals but rather the one who is first to give cause for their 
being taken up. If they thought more about what their modes had been 
toward him, they would marvel less at what he had done to save himself; 
for they would see that nocturnal meetings, enlistments, and dealings to 
take the city and his life from him had made him arm himself. Since he 
had not moved these arms from his houses, they were a clear sign of his 
intent of having taken them up to defend himself, not to offend others. 

1 The conspirators opposed to the Medici. 


294 


vii • 17 

Nor did he want anything or desire anything but his own safety or quiet; 
nor had he ever given a sign that he desired anything else for himself, 
because, when the authority of the balia had ended, he never thought of 
any extraordinary mode of turning it over to himself, and he was very 
content that the magistrates govern the city, if they were content with 
that. And they should remember that Cosimo and his sons knew how to 
live honored in Florence with the balia as well as without the balia; and in 
’58 it was not his house but theirs that had reassumed it; and if now they 
did not want it, he too did not want it; but this was not enough for them, 
because he had seen that they did not believe they could remain in Flor¬ 
ence if he were there. Truly, this was a thing he would not only never 
have believed but not even thought: that his friends and his father’s friends 
should not believe they could live in Florence with him, since he had 
never given any sign himself but that of a quiet and peaceful man. Then 
he turned to speak to Messer Dietisalvi and his brothers, who were pres¬ 
ent, and he rebuked them with grave words full of indignation for the 
benefits they had received from Cosimo, the faith he had had in them, 
and their great ingratitude. And his words were so forceful that some of 
those present were so moved that, if Piero had not held them back, they 
would have handled them with arms. Finally, Piero declared that he was 
ready to approve all that they and the Signoria decided and that he would 
ask for nothing other than to live quietly and safely. Many things were 
said about this but nothing decided then, except that generally it was nec¬ 
essary to reform the city and give new order to the state. 


17 

sitting as the Gonfalonier ofjustice in those times was Bernardo Lotti, 
a man not trusted by Piero. So to Piero it appeared that, while that man 
was in his magistracy, he should not attempt anything; he judged that it 
was not very important, since his magistracy was near its end. But when 
the election came of the Signori who were to sit in September and Octo¬ 
ber of the year 1466, Roberto Lioni was elected to the highest magistracy. 
As soon as he had taken up his magistracy, all other things being pre¬ 
pared, he called the people to the piazza and made up a new balia entirely 
from Piero’s party, which soon after created magistrates according to the 
will of the new state. These things frightened the heads of the enemy 
faction, and Messer Agnolo Acciaiuoli fled to Naples, and Messer Dieti¬ 
salvi Neroni and Niccolo Soderini to Venice; Messer Luca Pitti remained 
in Florence, trusting in the promises made to him by Piero and in their 


295 


vii • i 8 


new marriage alliance. 1 Those who had fled were declared rebels, and all 
of the Neroni family were scattered; Messer Giovanni di Neroni, then 
archbishop of Florence, chose voluntary exile for himself in Rome so as 
to escape greater evil. Many other citizens who left immediately were 
banished to various places. Nor was this enough, for a procession was 
ordered to thank God for having preserved the state and reunited the city, 
during which solemnity some citizens were arrested and tortured; and 
then some were killed and some sent into exile. Nor in this change of 
things was there so noteworthy an example as that of Messer Luca Pitti, 
for he learned immediately what the difference is between victory and 
defeat, between dishonor and honor. In his house one saw very great sol¬ 
itude, where before it was frequented by very many citizens; in the streets 
his friends and relatives feared not only to accompany him but even to 
greet him, because from some of them honors had been taken away and 
from others property, and all were equally threatened. The splendid 
buildings that he had begun were abandoned by the builders, the benefits 
that had been done him before were converted into injuries, the honors 
into insults; hence, many of those who had given him something of great 
worth by their grace were asking to have it returned as something loaned, 
and others who used to praise him to the sky blamed him as an ungrateful 
and violent man. So he repented late for not having believed Niccolo 
Soderini and for not having sought to die honored with arms in hand 
rather than to live dishonored among his victorious enemies. 


18 

those who found themselves driven out began to think among them¬ 
selves of various modes of reacquiring the city that they had not been able 
to preserve. Nonetheless, Messer Agnolo Acciaiuoli, being in Naples, 
before thinking of any innovation, wanted to test Piero’s intent to see if 
he could hope to be reconciled with him, and he wrote a letter in this 
sense: “I am laughing at the games of fortune and at how it makes friends 
become enemies and enemies become friends as it suits it. You 1 can re¬ 
member when in your father’s exile I considered his injury more than my 
own dangers, I lost my fatherland and nearly lost my life; nor, while I 
lived under Cosimo, did I ever fail to honor and support your house; 2 nor 
after his death had I any intent of offending you. It is true that your bad 

1 See FH vii 15 . 

1 The familiar “you” is used in these letters except where noted. 

2 The plural “your.” 


296 


vii • 19 

constitution and the tender age of your children dismayed me, so that I 
judged it better to give such a form to the state that after your death our 
fatherland would not be ruined. From this arose things that were done, 
not against you but for the benefit of my fatherland—which, even if it 
was an error, deserves to be canceled because of my meaning well and my 
past deeds. Nor can I believe, since your house 3 found such faith in me 
for so long a time, that I cannot now find compassion in you and that my 
many merits will be destroyed by one single mistake.” Having received 
this letter, Piero answered it thus: “Your laughing over there is the cause 
that I do not weep, because if you were laughing in Florence, I would be 
weeping in Naples. I confess that you wished my father well, and you 
will confess that you received well from him; so much more was your 
obligation than ours, as deeds must be valued higher than words. Thus, 
since you have been well recompensed for your good, you ought not now 
to marvel if your evil brings you just rewards. Nor does love of the 
fatherland excuse you, because there will never be anyone who will be¬ 
lieve that this city has been loved and increased less by the Medici than by 
the Acciaiuoli. So live there in dishonor, since you did not know how to 
live here in honor.” 


19 

in despair, therefore, of being able to obtain pardon, Messer Agnolo 
came to Rome and joined with the archbishop and other exiles; and 
within the most active limits, they exerted themselves to destroy the 
credit of the account of the Medici that was carried on in Rome. Piero 
provided against this with difficulty; yet, as he was helped by his friends, 
their scheme failed. Messer Dietisalvi; for his part, and Niccolo Soderini 
sought with all diligence to move the Venetian senate against their father- 
land, for they judged that if the Florentines were attacked in a new war, 
they could not resist it, because their state was new and hated. In Ferrara 
at that time lived Giovan Francesco, son of Messer Palla Strozzi, who had 
been driven out of Florence with his father in the changeover of ’34. This 
man had great credit and, according to other merchants, was considered 
to be very rich. These new rebels pointed out to Giovan Francesco the 
ease with which they could be repatriated if the Venetians should make 
an undertaking of it. And they easily believed that the Venetians would 
do it if some contribution could be made toward the expense; otherwise, 
the exiles were doubtful of it. Giovan Francesco, who desired to avengr 

3 The familiar “your.” 


297 


VII • 20 


himself for the injuries he had received, believed easily in the advice of 
these men and promised that he would be glad to assist this undertaking 
with all his means. Hence, the exiles went to the doge and complained to 
him of their exile, which they said they suffered for no other error than 
having wished that their fatherland live by its laws and that the magis¬ 
trates, and not a few citizens, be honored—for which error Piero de’ 
Medici with his followers, who were accustomed to living tyrannically, 
had by deceit taken up arms, by deceit made them put theirs down, and 
then by deceit had them driven out of their fatherland. Nor were they 
content with this, but they used God as a means to oppress many others 
who remained in the city under the faith that had been given; and so that 
God be a participant in their treacheries, they had had many citizens im¬ 
prisoned and killed in the midst of public and sacred ceremonies and sol¬ 
emn prayers—an act of impious and wicked example. 1 To avenge this, 
they did not know where they could go for recourse with more hope than 
to this senate, which, as it had always been free, ought to have compas¬ 
sion for those who had lost their liberty. Thus, they were stirring up free 
men against tyrants, pious against impious; and the Venetians should re¬ 
member how the Medici family had taken from them empire over Lom¬ 
bardy when Cosimo, quite apart from the wish of other citizens, favored 
and helped Francesco against this senate: 2 so if the Florentines’ own just 
cause did not move them, a just hatred and a just desire to avenge them¬ 
selves ought to move them. 


20 

these last words stirred the whole senate, and they decided that their 
captain, Bartolomeo Colleoni, should attack the Florentine dominion. 
And as soon as it was possible, the army was assembled and was joined 
by Ercole d’Este, who had been sent by Borso, marquis of Ferrara. In 
their first attack, the Florentines being not yet in order, they burned the 
village of Dovadola and did other damage in the countryside around it. 
But the Florentines, when the party hostile to Piero had been driven out, 
made a new league with Galeazzo, duke of Milan, and with King Ferdi¬ 
nand, and for their captain hired Federico, count of Urbino; thus finding 
themselves in order with friends, they thought less of their enemies. For 
Ferdinand sent Alfonso, his oldest son, and Galeazzo came in person— 
each with suitable forces; they all gathered at Castracaro, a fortified place 

1 See FH vii 17 . 

2 FH vi 23. 

298 


VII • 20 


the Florentines located at the foot of the mountains where they descend 
from Tuscany into Romagna. The enemy, in the meantime, had with¬ 
drawn toward Imola, and so between one army and the other light skir¬ 
mishes took place, according to the customs of those times. Neither one 
nor the other attacked or besieged towns or gave the enemy opportunity 
to join battle; but each remaining in its tents, each conducted itself with 
marvelous vileness. This thing was displeasing to Florence, because it saw 
itself oppressed by a war in which it was spending much and from which 
it could hope for little; and the magistrates complained of it to those citi¬ 
zens whom they had deputed as commissioners of the undertaking. The 
commissioners answered that the cause of it all was Duke Galeazzo, who 
had much authority and little experience and did not know how to take 
useful courses, nor did he put faith in those who did know; and it was 
impossible for them to do anything virtuous or useful while he stayed 
with the army. Therefore, the Florentines let the duke know that it was 
convenient and very useful to them for him to come in person to their 
aid, because his reputation alone was apt to frighten the enemy; nonethe¬ 
less, they valued much more his safety and his state than their own con¬ 
venience, because with that safe, they hoped every other thing would be 
prosperous, but if it suffered, they feared every sort of adversity. There¬ 
fore, they did not judge it very secure that he should stay absent from 
Milan a long time, he being new in that state and having powerful and 
suspicious neighbors, so that anyone who wanted to plot against him 
could do it easily. Hence, they urged him to return to his state and to 
leave part of his men for their defense. Galeazzo was pleased with this 
advice and without another thought returned to Milan. Thus the captains 
of the Florentines, left without this impediment, pressed the enemy, 
more so as to demonstrate that the cause of proceeding slowly that they 
had cited was the true one: so they came to an ordered battle that lasted 
half a day without either side’s yielding. Nonetheless, no one was killed; 
only some horses were wounded and a few prisoners taken on each side. 
Winter had already come, the time when the armies were accustomed to 
withdraw to their quarters; therefore, Messer Bartolomeo retreated to¬ 
ward Ravenna, the Florentine troops into Tuscany, and those of the king 
and the duke each withdrew to the states of their lords. But since no 
movement was felt in Florence from this attack such as the Florentine 
rebels had promised, and as money was lacking for the soldiers, a truce 
was discussed, and after not much negotiation it was concluded. There¬ 
upon, the Florentine rebels, deprived of all hope, departed for various 
places. Messer Dietisalvi withdrew to Ferrara, where he was received and 
sheltered by Marquis Borso; Niccolo Soderini went to Ravenna, where 
on a small pension received from the Venetians he grew old and died. He 


299 


VII • 22 


had been considered a just and spirited man, but hesitant and slow in 
making up his mind—which made him as Gonfalonier of Justice lose the 
opportunity of winning what later, as a private individual, he wished to 
reacquire and could not. 


21 

peace having come, to those citizens who had been left on top in Flor¬ 
ence it did not appear that they had won unless they afflicted with every 
injury not only their enemies but those suspect to their party. They 
worked with Bardo Altoviti, who was sitting as Gonfalonier ofjustice, 
once again to take away honors from many citizens and the city from 
many others. This increased power for themselves and terror to the 
others; they exercised this power without any hesitation and so conducted 
themselves that it appeared that God and fortune had given them that city 
in prey. Of these things, Piero understood little, and he could do little to 
remedy them because he was oppressed by his infirmity; for he was so 
stiffened that he could make use only of his tongue. Nor could he apply 
other remedies than to warn those citizens and pray them to live civilly 
and enjoy their fatherland safe rather than destroyed. 

And to cheer up the city, he decided to celebrate with magnificence the 
marriage of his son, Lorenzo, to whom Clarice, born of the Orsini house, 
had been engaged. The wedding was held with the splendor of ornaments 
and every other magnificence that such a man required; many days were 
spent in new kinds 1 of balls, banquets, and ancient dramas. 2 Besides these 
things, there were two military spectacles to show further the greatness 
of the house of Medici and its state: one was done by men on horseback, 
in which a combat in the field was represented; the other showed the cap¬ 
ture of a town. These things were done with order and executed with 
virtue that could not have been greater. 


22 

while things proceeded in this manner in Florence, the rest of Italy lived 
quietly but with great suspicion of the power of the Turk. The Turk, with 
his campaigns, continued fighting the Christians and had captured Ne- 
gropont with great disgrace and harm to the Christian name. Borso, mar- 


1 Lit.: orders. 

2 Lit.: representations. 


300 


VII • 23 

quis of Ferrara, died in those times, and he was succeeded by his brother 
Ercole. Sigismondo of Rimini, a perpetual enemy to the Church, died 
and left as heir to his state Roberto, his natural son, who was later most 
excellent in war among the captains of Italy. Pope Paul died, and elected 
to succeed him was Sixtus IV, previously called Francesco da Savona, a 
man of very base and vile condition; 1 but by his virtues he had become 
general in the order of Saint Francis and then cardinal. This pontiff was 
the first who began to show how much a pontiff could do and how many 
things formerly called errors could be hidden under pontifical authority. 
He had in his household Piero and Girolamo, who, according to what 
everyone believed, were his sons; nonetheless, he cloaked them under 
other, more decent names. Piero, because he was a friar, he elevated to 
the dignity of the cardinalate with the title of San Sisto; to Girolamo he 
gave the city of Forli and took it away from Antonio Ordelaffi, whose 
ancestors had for a long time been the princes of that city. This ambitious 
mode of proceeding made him more esteemed by the princes of Italy, and 
each tried to make him his friend; and this was why the duke of Milan 
gave Caterina, his natural daughter, to Girolamo and, for her dowry, 
the city of Imola, which he had taken in spoil from Taddeo degli Alidosi. 
Also, between this duke and King Ferdinand a new marriage was con¬ 
tracted, for Elisabella, born to Alfonso, the king’s eldest son, was be¬ 
trothed to Gian Galeazzo, oldest son of the duke. 


23 

life in Italy, therefore, went very quietly, and the greatest care of these 
princes was to observe one another and to secure themselves against one 
another with marriages, new friendships, and leagues. Nonetheless, in 
such peace Florence was greatly afflicted by its citizens, and Piero, hin¬ 
dered by illness, was unable to oppose their ambition. Nonetheless, to 
unburden his conscience and to see if he could shame them, he called 
them all to his house and spoke to them in this sense: “I would never have 
believed that the time could come when the modes and customs of my 
friends would make me bitter and desire enemies, and victory make me 
desire defeat; for I thought I had in my company men who had some limit 
or measure to their cupidity and for whom it would be enough to live 
safe and honored in their fatherland and, besides that, to have had revenge 
on their enemies. But I know now how greatly I have deceived myself as 
one who knew little of the natural ambition of all men and less of yours. 

1 “A spirited pope,” according to P 11. 


301 


VII • 24 

For it is not enough for you to be princes in such a city and for you few 
to have these honors, dignities, and advantages with which previously 
many citizens were wont to be honored; it is not enough for you to have 
divided among yourselves the goods of your enemies; it is not enough 
for you to be able to afflict all others with public burdens and for your¬ 
selves, free from those, to have all the public profits; nor for you to afflict 
everyone with every sort of injury. You despoil your neighbor of his 
goods, you sell justice, you escape civil judgments, you oppress peaceful 
men and exalt the insolent. Nor do I believe that in all Italy are there so 
many examples of violence and avarice as in this city. Then did this 
fatherland of ours give us life so that we might take life from it? Make us 
victorious so that we might destroy it? Honor us so that we might insult 
it? I promise you, by the faith that ought to be given and received by good 
men, that if you continue to carry on in a mode that makes me repent 
having won, I too shall carry on in a manner that will make you repent 
having ill used the victory.” Those citizens answered accommodatingly 
in keeping with the time and place; nonetheless, they did not withdraw 
from their sinister deeds. So Piero had Messer Agnolo Acciaiuoli come 
secretly to Cafaggiuolo and talked with him at length about the condition 
of the city; nor can there be any doubt at all that if he had not been inter¬ 
rupted by death he would have had all the exiles restored to their father- 
land to check the rapacity of those within. But these very decent thoughts 
of his were thwarted by death; for, overburdened by the ills of his body 
and the anxieties of his spirit, he died in his fifty-third year. His fatherland 
could not entirely know his virtue and goodness, because he had been 
accompanied almost to the end of his life by his father Cosimo and be¬ 
cause those few years that he survived him were consumed in civil dissen¬ 
sions and by illness. Piero was buried in the church of San Lorenzo next 
to his father; and his funeral was conducted with the pomp that so great 
a citizen deserved. Two sons were left by him, Lorenzo and Giuliano; 
although they gave everyone hope of being men who ought to be very 
useful to the republic, nonetheless their youth frightened everyone. 


24 

among the first citizens of the government in Florence and by far supe¬ 
rior to the others was Messer Tommaso Soderini, whose prudence and 
authority were known not only in Florence but among all the princes of 
Italy. After the death of Piero, he was attended to by the whole city; many 
citizens visited him in his houses as the head of the city, many princes 
wrote to him. But as he was prudent and best understood his fortune and 


302 


VII • 25 

that of his house, he did not answer the letters of princes and gave the 
citizens to understand that they should visit not his houses but those of 
the Medici. And to show effectively what he had demonstrated in his 
arguments, he gathered all the first men of the noble families in the Con¬ 
vent of San Antonio, where he had Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici 
come also, and there, in a long and grave oration, he discussed the con¬ 
dition of the city, that of Italy, and the humors of its princes. He con¬ 
cluded that if they wanted those in Florence to live united in peace and 
safe from division within and from wars outside, it was necessary to 
follow 1 those young men and to maintain the reputation of their house. 
For men never complain of doing the things they are used to doing; as 
quickly as new things are taken up, they are dropped; and it has always 
been easier to maintain a power that by length of time has eliminated envy 
than to raise up a new one that for very many causes could easily be elim¬ 
inated. Following after Messer Tommaso, Lorenzo, although he was 
young, spoke with such gravity and modesty that he gave everyone hope 
of being that which he later did become. And before they left that place, 
these citizens swore they would accept the youths as sons and they, the 
citizens as fathers. As they had thus come to this conclusion, Lorenzo and 
Giuliano were honored as princes of the state; and the citizens did not 
deviate from the advice of Messer Tommaso. 


25 

and while life went on very quietly inside and outside, since there was 
no war to disturb the common quiet, an unexpected tumult arose that 
was like a presage of future harm. Among the families that were ruined 
with the party of Messer Luca Pitti was that of the Nardi, for Salvestro 
and his brothers, heads of that family, were first sent into exile, and then 
later, because of the war begun by Bartolomeo Colleoni, they were de¬ 
clared rebels. Among them was Bernardo, brother of Salvestro, a ready 
and spirited young man. Unable to bear exile because of his poverty and 
seeing no mode for his return because of the peace that had been made, 
he determined to try something that could give cause for a new war. For 
many times a weak beginning gives birth to mighty effects, since it may 
be that men will be more ready to pursue a thing in motion than to move 
it. Bernardo was well acquainted in Prato, very well acquainted in the 
country around Pistoia, and especially among the Palandra, a family that, 
although still rural, abounded in men who, like other Pistolese, were 

1 Lit.: observe. 


303 


VII • 26 


brought up in arms and blood. He knew how malcontent they were for 
having been maltreated by the Florentine magistrates because of their 
hostility. Besides this, he was acquainted with the humors of the Pratese 
and how it appeared to them that they had been proudly and greedily 
governed; and he knew of the ill intent of some against the state. So all 
these things gave him hope of kindling a fire in Tuscany by making Prato 
rebel, where so many would then come together to keep it going that 
those who wanted to put it out would not be enough. He imparted this 
thought of his to Messer Dietisalvi and asked him, if he should succeed 
in seizing Prato, how much help he could hope for through him from the 
princes. The enterprise appeared very dangerous to Messer Dietisalvi and 
almost impossible of success; nonetheless, seeing that he could try his 
own fortune again through dangers to others, he urged Bernardo to the 
deed and promised very certain assistance from Bologna and Ferrara if 
Bernardo managed to hold and defend Prato for at least fifteen days. Thus 
Bernardo, overflowing with prosperous hope from this promise, took 
himself secretly to Prato, and he communicated the thing to others he 
found very well disposed there. That same spirit and willingness he also 
found among the Palandra; and, having agreed together on the time and 
the mode, Bernardo had Messer Dietisalvi informed of everything. 


26 

the podesta of Prato for the people of Florence was Cesare Petrucci. 
Such governors of towns are accustomed to keep the keys of the gates 
with them, and sometimes, especially in time of no suspicion, someone 
in the town asks for them to go out or enter the city at night, and they 
give them to him. Bernardo knew of this practice, and close to the day 
agreed upon, together with the Palandra and around a hundred armed 
men, he appeared at the gate that looks toward Pistoia. Those inside who 
knew of the plot also armed themselves; one of them asked the podesta 
for the keys, pretending he was asking for them for someone who wished 
to enter. The podesta, who could have feared nothing from such an acci¬ 
dent, sent his servant with the keys; and as soon as he was some distance 
from the palace, they were taken from him by the conspirators, the gate 
opened, and Bernardo let in with his armed men. When they had gath¬ 
ered together, they divided into two parts: one of them, guided by Sal- 
vestro Pratese, seized the citadel, the other, together with Bernardo, took 
the palace, and they gave Cesare with all his family in charge to some of 
them. Then they raised an alarm and went through the city shouting the 
name of “Liberty!” Day had already come, and at the alarm many men of 


304 


VII • 26 


the people ran into the piazza; and when they learned that the fortress and 
the palace had been seized and the podesta arrested with his men, they 
stood wondering how this accident could have arisen. The Eight Citizens, 
who in that town held the highest rank in their palace, met to consult 
about what they should do. But Bernardo and his men had run through 
the town once and had seen that they had been pursued by no one. After 
he heard that the Eight were together, he went to them and told them that 
the cause of his enterprise was his wish to free them and his fatherland 
from slavery, and how much glory would be theirs if they would take up 
arms and accompany him in this glorious enterprise, from which they 
would acquire perpetual quiet and eternal fame. He reminded them of 
their ancient liberty and present condition, and showed them that aid was 
certain if they were willing to oppose for a very few days such forces as 
the Florentines could put together; he asserted that he had support 1 in 
Florence, which would show itself as soon as it was learned that their 
town had united to follow him. The Eight were not moved by these 
words, and they answered that they did not know whether in Florence 
people lived free or slave, as it was a thing they were not waiting to learn, 
but they knew well that for themselves they had no desire for any other 
liberty than to serve the magistrates that governed Florence, from whom 
they had never received such an injury as would require their taking up 
arms against them. Therefore, they urged Bernardo to leave the podesta 
at his liberty and the town free of his troops and to retrieve himself 
quickly from the danger he had entered into with little prudence. Ber¬ 
nardo was not dismayed at these words, but he decided to see if fear 
would move the Pratese, since prayers did not; so to frighten them, he 
thought he would have Cesare killed. After taking him out of prison, he 
commanded that he be hanged at the palace windows. Cesare was already 
near the windows with the noose around his neck when he saw Bernardo 
urging his death. Turning to him he said, “Bernardo, you are having me 
killed believing that the Pratese will then follow you, but it will turn out 
the contrary for you, because the reverence this people has for the rectors 
that the people of Florence send here is so great that as soon as this injury 
done to me is seen, so much hate will be stirred up against you as will 
bring your ruin. So not my death but my life can be the cause of your 
victory, for if I command them as pleases you, they will obey me more 
readily than you, and if I follow your orders, you will secure your pur¬ 
pose.” Since Bernardo was short of plans, this advice appeared good to 
him; and he commanded Cesare, who had come to a balcony overlooking 

1 Lit.: understanding. 


305 


VII • 28 


the piazza, to command the people to obey Bernardo. When this had been 
done, Cesare was put back in prison. 


27 

the weakness of the conspirators was already uncovered, and many 
Florentines who lived in the town met together, among them Messer 
Giorgio Ginori, a knight of Rhodes. This man was the first to take up 
arms against the conspirators, and he attacked Bernardo, who was going 
through the piazza discoursing, now begging, now threatening if he was 
not followed and obeyed; and when the rush was made against him by 
many who followed Messer Giorgio, Bernardo was wounded and taken. 
This done, it was an easy thing to free the podesta and to overcome the 
others. Because they were few and divided in several parts, they were 
almost all taken or killed. Meanwhile, the report of this unforeseen event 
had come to Florence, but of something much greater than what had 
happened, since it was understood that Prato was taken, the podesta and 
his family killed, and the city filled with enemies, and that Pistoia was in 
arms and many of its citizens were in the conspiracy. So the palace was 
immediately filled with citizens who had come to consult with the Si- 
gnoria. Roberto da San Severino, a captain of very high repute in war, 1 
was then in Florence; so it was decided to send him to Prato with as many 
troops as could be brought together, and he was commissioned to ap¬ 
proach the town and report details of the thing and to apply such reme¬ 
dies as should occur to his prudence. Roberto had just passed the town of 
Campi when he was met by someone sent by Cesare, who informed him 
that Bernardo had been taken, his companions put to flight and killed, 
and all tumult put to rest. Thus Roberto returned to Florence, and soon 
after, Bernardo was brought there. When he was asked by the magistracy 
about the truth of his enterprise and they found it weak, he said that he 
had done it because he had decided to die in Florence rather than live in 
exile, and he wanted his death to be accompanied at least by some mem¬ 
orable deed. 


28 

after this tumult had arisen and been suppressed almost at a stroke, the 
citizens returned to their accustomed mode of living, thinking to enjoy 
without apy hesitation the state they had established and made firm. 

1 Cf. P 12. 


306 


VII • 29 

Hence arose those evils in the city that are customarily generated most 
often in peace, because the young men, more unrestrained than usual, 
were spending beyond bounds 1 on dress, banquets, and other similar 
abandonments; and being at leisure, they consumed time and substance 
in games and women; they studied to appear splendid in their dress and 
to be clever and smart in their speech, and he who was more deft at biting 
the others was wiser and more esteemed. These customs, having been so 
made, were intensified by the courtiers of the duke of Milan, who, to¬ 
gether with his wife and the whole ducal court, to satisfy, as was said, a 
vow, came to Florence, where he was received with the pomp befitting 
such a prince and such a friend of the city. At that time was seen a thing 
never before seen in our city: this being the season of Lent, in which the 
Church commands that one fast by not eating meat, his court, without 
respect to Church or God, all fed on meat. And because many spectacles 
were held to honor him, among which was represented the giving of the 
Holy Spirit to the Apostles in the church of Santo Spirito, and because 
that church burned down as a result of the many fires that are made in 
such solemnities, it was believed by many that God, angered against us, 
had wished to show that sign of his wrath. Thus, if the duke found the 
city of Florence full of courtly delicacies and customs, contrary to all 
well-ordered civility, he left it much more so. Therefore, the good citi¬ 
zens thought it necessary to apply a brake, and with a new law they set a 
limit on clothing, burials, and banquets. 


29 

in the midst of so much peace, a new and unexpected tumult arose in 
Tuscany. An alum mine was found in the countryside around Volterra by 
some of the citizens. As they realized its value, they approached some 
Florentine citizens so as to have someone with money to help them and 
with authority to defend them, and they made these Florentines sharers 
in the profit that would be derived from it. In the beginning, as happens 
most often in new enterprises, this was valued little by the people of Vol¬ 
terra, but with time they recognized its value and wanted then to remedy 
late and without profit what they could have remedied easily in good 
time. They began to agitate the thing in the councils, asserting that it was 
not proper that an industry found on public land be converted to private 
use. They sent spokesmen on this to Florence: the cause was put to some 
citizens, who, either because they had been corrupted by a party or be¬ 
cause they judged it well so, submitted that the people of Volterra was 

1 Lit.: mode. 


307 


vii *30 

not seeking justice in desiring to deprive its citizens of their labors and 
industry, and that therefore the alum mines belonged to the private indi¬ 
viduals and not to the people. But it would be very proper for them to 
pay a certain quantity of money each year as a sign that they recognized 
the people as superior. This answer did not diminish but increased the 
tumults and hatred in Volterra, and nothing else was agitated, not only in 
their councils but outside through the whole city: the generality of 
people 1 demanding what appeared to have been taken from them, and 
particular individuals wanting to preserve what they had first acquired 
and then had been confirmed as theirs by the judgment of the Florentines. 
So much were these disputes agitated that a citizen of high reputation in 
that city, called II Pecorino, was killed and after him many others who 
took sides with him; and their houses were sacked and burned. Those 
moved by this same impulse barely refrained from killing the rectors who 
were there on behalf of the Florentine people. 


30 

after this first insult, they decided before all else to send spokesmen to 
Florence, who gave the Signori to understand that if the Signori wanted 
to keep the old agreements, the Volterrans too would keep their city in 
its old subjection. The response was much discussed. Messer Tommaso 
Soderini advised that the Volterrans ought to be received in whatever 
mode they wanted to return, as it did not appear to him the right time to 
fan a flame so close that could burn down our house. For he feared the 
nature of the pope and the power of the king and had confidence neither 
in the friendship of the Venetians nor in that of the duke, as he did not 
know how much faith there was in one or virtue in the other. He recalled 
that trite judgment, “Better a lean truce than a fat victory.” On the other 
side, Lorenzo de’ Medici, who thought it an occasion to demonstrate 
how much his advice and prudence were worth, especially as he was 
being encouraged by those who were envious of the authority of Messer 
Tommaso, decided to undertake a campaign and punish with arms the 
arrogance of the Volterrans. He asserted that if they were not set right by 
a memorable example, others without any reverence or fear would not 
hesitate to do the same thing for any light cause. This campaign decided 
upon, the response given to the Volterrans was that they could not ask 
observance of those agreements that they themselves had broken; and 
therefore either they must submit to the will of the Signoria or they must 
expect war. When the Volterrans returned with this response, they pre- 

1 Lit.: the universal. 


308 


VII -31 

pared to defend themselves by fortifying the town and sending a sum¬ 
mons for help to all the Italian princes. They were heard by few, for only 
the Sienese and the lord of Piombino gave them any hope of support. The 
Florentines, on the other side, thinking that the importance of victory to 
them was in speed, put together ten thousand infantry and two thousand 
cavalry, who, under the command of Federico, lord of Urbino, appeared 
in the countryside around Volterra and seized it all easily. Then they set a 
camp before the city, which was situated in a high place and cut off from 
almost every side; it could not be attacked except from the side where the 
church of San Alessandro stood. The Volterrans had hired around a thou¬ 
sand soldiers for their defense; and these soldiers, seeing the mighty siege 
the Florentines were laying down and losing confidence that they could 
defend it, were slow in defense and very prompt in the injuries they in¬ 
flicted every day on the Volterrans. Thus were those poor citizens at¬ 
tacked from outside by enemies and oppressed inside by friends, so that, 
despairing of their safety, they began to think about an accord; and not 
finding anything better, they put themselves in the arms of the commis¬ 
sioners. 1 The commissioners had the gates opened, and when they had 
let in the greater part of the army, they went to the palace where their 
priors were and commanded them to return to their houses. On the way, 
one of the priors was plundered, in contempt, by a soldier. From this 
beginning, as men are more ready for evil than good, arose the destruc¬ 
tion and sacking of the city. For a whole day it was robbed and overrun; 
neither women nor holy places were spared, and the soldiers—both those 
who had defended it badly and those who had fought against it—stripped 
it of its property. The news of this victory was received with very great 
joy by the Florentines, and because it had been altogether Lorenzo’s cam¬ 
paign, he rose to very great reputation from it. Whence one of Messer 
Tommaso Soderini’s most intimate friends reproached him for his advice, 
saying to him: “What say you now that Volterra has been acquired?” To 
which Messer Tommaso replied, “To me it appears lost; for if you had 
received it by accord, you would have had advantage and security from 
it; but since you have to hold it by force, in adverse times it will bring 
you weakness and trouble and in peaceful times, loss and expense.” 



in these times the pope, avid to keep the towns of the Church in their 
obedience, had Spoleto sacked, since it had rebelled through its internal 
factions. Then, because Citta di Castello was in the same defiance, he had 

1 The Florentine commissioners inside Volterra. 


309 


VII *31 

it besieged. The prince in that town was Niccolo Vitelli . 1 He kept up a 
great friendship with Lorenzo de’ Medici, from whom he did not fail to 
get assistance that was not as much as would defend Niccolo, yet quite 
enough to sow the first seeds of enmity between Sixtus and the Medici 
that shortly after produced very evil fruits. Nor would these have delayed 
their appearance very long if the death of Frate Piero, cardinal of San 
Sisto , 2 had not occurred; for as this cardinal had made a circuit of Italy 
and gone to Venice and Milan under color of paying his respects to the 
marriage of Ercole, marquis of Ferrara, he went about sounding out the 
intents of those princes to see how they were disposed toward the Flor¬ 
entines. But when he returned to Rome, he died, not without suspicion 
of having been poisoned by the Venetians, since they feared the power of 
Sixtus so long as he could make use of the spirit and work of Frate Piero. 
For notwithstanding that he was by nature of mean birth and then meanly 
brought up within the bounds of a monastery, as soon as he reached the 
cardinalate there appeared in him such pride and such ambition that not 
only the cardinalate but even the papacy could not contain him; for he did 
not hesitate to give a banquet in Rome that would have been judged ex¬ 
traordinary for any king, for which he spent more than twenty thousand 
florins. Thus Sixtus, deprived of this minister, carried out his schemes 
more slowly. Nonetheless, since the Florentines, the duke, and the Vene¬ 
tians had renewed their league and left places for the pope and the king to 
enter into it, Sixtus and the king also leagued together, leaving places for 
other princes so they could enter. And so Italy saw itself divided into two 
factions, because every day things arose that generated hatred between 
these two leagues. This happened with the island of Cyprus, to which 
King Ferdinand aspired and which the Venetians seized: so the pope and 
the king came to be bound together more. In Italy then, Federico, prince 
of Urbino, was held most excellent in arms; he had fought for the Flor¬ 
entine people for a long time. The king and the pope decided, therefore, 
to win Federico over to themselves so as to deprive the enemy league of 
this head; the pope advised him, and the king begged him to come to visit 
him in Naples. Federico accepted, to the amazement and displeasure of 
the Florentines, who believed that what had happened to Jacopo Picci- 
nino would happen to him . 3 Nonetheless, the contrary resulted, for Fe¬ 
derico returned from Naples and from Rome highly honored and captain 
of their league. The kitig and the pope also did not neglect to sound out 
the intents of the lords of Romagna and of the Sienese, so as to make them 

1 See P 20 and D ii 24. 

2 See FH vii 22. 

3 See FH vii 8. 


310 


VII • 3 2 

friends and through them offend the Florentines. When the Florentines 
became aware of this, they armed themselves with every remedy at hand 
against such ambition, and since they had lost Federico of Urbino, they 
hired Roberto da Rimini . 4 They renewed their league with the Perugians 
and leagued themselves with the lord of Faenza. The pope and the king 
alleged that the cause of their hatred of the Florentines was that they de¬ 
sired the Florentines to dissociate themselves from the Venetians and be¬ 
come leagued with them, because the pope judged that the Church could 
not maintain its reputation, nor could Count Girolamo keep the states of 
Romagna, if the Florentines and Venetians were united. On the other 
side, the Florentines feared that the pope and the king wanted the Flor¬ 
entines to be enemies of the Venetians not to make the Florentines their 
friends but to be able to injure them more easily; so Italy lived in these 
suspicions and diverse humors for two years before any tumult arose. But 
the first one to arise, although small, was in Tuscany. 


32 

braccio of Perugia, a man, as we have shown many times, very much 
reputed in war, left two sons: Oddo and Carlo. Carlo was of tender age, 
and Oddo was killed by the men of Val di Lamona, as we have shown 
above ; 1 but when Carlo reached military age, he was received by the 
Venetians into the condottieri of that republic for the sake of the memory 
of his father and the hope they had in him. The end of his contract had 
come in these times, and he did not then want to be rehired by the senate; 
instead, he decided to see if with his name and the reputation of his father 
he could recover his states in Perugia. The Venetians easily consented to 
this, since they were accustomed always to increase their empire by in¬ 
novations in things. Carlo therefore came to Tuscany and found that 
things in Perugia were difficult because of its league with the Florentines. 
Yet, since he wanted this move of his to bring forth something worthy of 
memory, he attacked the Sienese, alleging that they were debtors to him 
for services they had received from his father in the affairs of that repub¬ 
lic, for which he wanted satisfaction from them. And he attacked with 
such fury that he turned almost their whole dominion upside down. 
Seeing such an attack, the citizens persuaded themselves—since it was 
easy for them to believe ill of the Florentines—that all had been executed 
with their consent, and they heaped complaints on the pope and the king. 

4 Roberto Malatesta; see FH vii 22. 

1 See FH iv 13. 


311 


VII -33 

They also sent spokesmen to Florence to complain of so great an injury, 
and they skillfully pointed out that, without having been helped, Carlo 
could not have injured them with such security. The Florentines excused 
themselves, asserting they were ready to do everything to make Carlo 
stop offending them, and, in just the mode that the spokesmen wished, 
they commanded Carlo to refrain from attacking the Sienese. Of this 
Carlo complained, pointing out that because the Florentines had not 
helped him they had deprived themselves of a great acquisition and had 
deprived him of great glory, since he promised them possession of that 
town in a short time, such vileness had he found in it and so few orders 
for defense. Thus Carlo left and returned to the usual stipends of the 
Venetians; and the Sienese, although they had been liberated from so 
much harm by the Florentines, remained nonetheless full of indignation 
against them, because it did not appear to them that they had any obli¬ 
gation to those who had liberated them from an evil of which they had 
first been the cause. 


33 

while these things between the king and the pope and in Tuscany were 
toiling on in the modes narrated above, an unforeseen event of greater 
moment, which was the presage of greater evils, took place in Lombardy. 
In Milan, Cola Montano , 1 a lettered and ambitious man, taught the Latin 
language to the leading youths of that city. This man, whether because 
he loathed the life and customs of the duke or because some other cause 
moved him, in all his reasonings execrated life under a prince who was 
not good, calling those glorious and happy whom nature and fortune had 
allowed to be born and live in a republic. He pointed out that all famous 
men had been nourished in republics and not under princes: for republics 
nourish virtuous men, princes eliminate them; the one profits from the 
virtue of others, the other fears it. The young men with whom he had 
had the greatest familiarity were Giovannandrea Lampognano, Carlo 
Visconti, and Girolamo Olgiato. Many times he reasoned with them 
about the most wicked nature of the prince, about the unhappiness of 
anyone governed by him; and he came to have such confidence in the 
spirit and will of those youths that he had them swear that, as soon as 
they were of an age when they could, they would free their fatherland 

1 Niccolo Capponi di Gaggio Montano. On the following conspiracy, see D in 6, where 
it is used as a cautionary example of not completing the execution of a conspiracy. 


312 


VII • 34 

from the tyranny of that prince. Thus, since the youths were overflowing 
with this desire, which kept growing with their years, the customs and 
modes of the duke, and still more the particular injuries done to them¬ 
selves, hastened them toward putting their desire into effect. Galeazzo 
was lecherous and cruel; frequent examples of these two things made him 
very much hated, because not only was it not enough for him to corrupt 
noble women, but he also took pleasure in making this public. Neither 
was he content to have men put to death unless he killed them in some 
cruel mode. Nor did he escape the infamy of having killed his mother, 
because it did not appear to him that he was prince so long as she was 
there. He behaved toward her in such a mode that she came to want to 
retire to her own dower residence in Cremona, on the journey to which 
she was suddenly taken ill and died—whereupon many judged that her 
son had had her killed. This duke had dishonored Carlo and Girolamo by 
way of women, and he had refused to give GiovannandVea possession of 
the abbey of Miramondo, since it had been assigned by the pontiff to a 
close relative of his. These private injuries increased the desire of the 
youths to liberate their fatherland from so many evils—with revenge for 
themselves—in the hope that whenever they should succeed in killing 
him, they would be followed not only by many of the nobles but by the 
whole people. Having thus determined on this undertaking, they were 
often together—which because of their old familiarity was no wonder. 
They always reasoned about this thing, and to strengthen their spirits for 
the deed, they struck one another on the sides and breasts with the sheaths 
of the knives they had destined for the work. They reasoned about the 
time and place: in the castle did not appear safe to them; on the hunt, 
uncertain and dangerous; at times when the duke strolled about the city, 
difficult and not likely to succeed; and at banquets, doubtful. Therefore, 
they decided to overpower him at some ceremony and public spectacle to 
which they were certain he would come, where they could assemble their 
friends under various colors. They also concluded that if any of them 
were for some cause held by the court, the others must, with sword and 
amidst armed enemies, kill the duke. 


34 


the year was 1476 and the festival of Christ’s birth was near. Because on 
the day of San Stefano the prince was accustomed to visit with great 
pomp the church of that martyr, the conspirators decided that this would 
be the convenient place and time to execute their thought. Thus, when 


313 


VII • 34 

the morning of that saint’s day came, 1 they had some of their most trusted 
friends and servants armed, saying that they wanted to go to the aid of 
Giovannandrea, who wanted to put an aqueduct through to his posses¬ 
sions against the wish of some of his rivals. They led those armed men to 
the church, alleging that before departing they wanted to get permission 
from the prince. They also had gathered at that place, under various 
colors, many others of their friends and relatives, hoping that when the 
thing was done, everyone would follow them in the rest of the enterprise. 
It was their intent, when the prince was dead, to join together with the 
armed men and go around that part of the town where they believed they 
could more easily rouse the plebs, and to have it arm against the duchess 
and the princes of the state. And they supposed that the people, whose 
hunger had been aggravated, ought easily to follow them, because they 
designed to give them the houses of Messers Cecco Simonetta, Giovanni 
Botti, and Francesco Lucani, all princes in the government, to plunder 
and in that way secure themselves and bring liberty to the people. This 
scheme made and their minds hardened to its execution, Giovannandrea, 
with the others, was at the church early; they heard Mass together, and, 
having heard it, Giovannandrea turned to a statue of Saint Ambrose and 
said: “O, patron of our city, you know our intention and the end for 
which we are willing to put ourselves in so many dangers. Be favorable 
to our enterprise and show by favoring justice that injustice displeases 
you.” To the duke, on the other hand, who was to come to church, came 
many signs of his future death: for when day came, he dressed, as he was 
often accustomed to do, in a cuirass, which he immediately took off as if 
it offended him either in comfort or in appearance. 2 He wanted to hear 
Mass in the castle but found that his chaplain had gone to San Stefano 
with all his chapel accoutrements; he wanted the bishop of Como to cel¬ 
ebrate the Mass in place of the chaplain, and the bishop brought up some 
reasonable objections. So almost by necessity, he decided to go to the 
church; but first he had his sons Gian Galeazzo and Ermes come to him, 
and he embraced and kissed them many times—it appeared he could not 
separate himself from them. Finally, however, having decided on going, 
he went out of the castle, and, placing himself between the spokesmen 
from Ferrara and Mantua, he went to the church. The conspirators, 
meanwhile, so as to make themselves less suspicious and to escape the 
cold, which was very great, had retired to the chamber of the archbishop 
of the church, who was their friend, intending to come into the church as 
soon as the duke came. Both Giovannandrea and Girolamo placed them- 

1 On December 26, 1476. 

2 Lit.: in presence or in person. 


3H 


VII • 34 

selves on the right side of the entrance of the church, and Carlo on the 
left. Those preceding the duke were already entering the church; then he 
entered, surrounded by a great multitude as was proper on that solemn 
occasion to a ducal procession. The first to move were Lampognano and 
Girolamo. Pretending to open a way for the prince, they got close to him 
and grasped their weapons, short and sharp, which they had hidden in 
their sleeves, and attacked him. Lampognano gave him two wounds, one 
in the belly, one in the throat; Girolamo also struck him in the throat and 
the breast. Because Carlo Visconti was positioned nearer to the door and 
the duke had already passed by him, he could not wound the duke in front 
when he was attacked by his companions, but with two blows pierced his 
back and his shoulder. These six wounds were so quick and so sudden 
that the duke was on the ground almost before anyone was aware of the 
deed; nor could he do or say anything except, as he fell, to call once only 
the name of Our Lady to his aid. The duke having fallen to the ground, a 
great alarm was raised. Many swords were drawn, and, as happens in 
cases not foreseen, some fled from the church and some ran toward the 
tumult without having any assurance or knowing the cause of the affair. 
Nonetheless, those who were nearest to the duke and had seen the duke 
slain, and recognized the killers, pursued them. And of the conspirators, 
Giovannandrea, seeking to get out of the church, came upon the women, 
who were many and sitting on the ground according to their custom. 
Caught and held by their clothes, he was overtaken by a Moor, a groom 
of the duke’s, and killed. Carlo too was killed by bystanders. But Giro¬ 
lamo Olgiato, having got out among the people and the churchmen, 
seeing his companions dead, and not knowing where else to escape, went 
to his home, where he was received by neither his father nor his brothers. 
Only his mother, having compassion for her son, entrusted him to a 
priest, an old friend of the family, who dressed him in his clothes and 
took him to his home, where he stayed two days, not without hope that 
in Milan some kind of tumult would arise to save him. This did not hap¬ 
pen, and, fearing that he might be found in that place, he turned to flee 
unrecognized. But he was recognized and brought to the Podesta ofjus- 
tice, 3 where he revealed the whole plan of the conspiracy. Girolamo was 
twenty-three years old; nor was he less spirited in dying than he had been 
in action; for finding himself naked and with the executioner before him, 
knife in hand to quarter him, he said these words in Latin, for he was 
lettered: “Death is bitter, fame perpetual; the memory of this deed will 
long endure.” 

3 The Casella text has potesta, not podesta, della giustizia, hence: “brought under the power 
of justice.” 


315 


VII ♦ 34 

The undertaking of these unhappy youths was planned secretly and 
executed spiritedly; and then they were ruined when those they had 
hoped would have to follow and defend them neither defended nor fol¬ 
lowed them. Therefore, may princes learn to live in a manner and act in 
a mode that will make them revered and loved, so that no one can hope, 
by killing him, to save himself; and may others know how vain is the 
thought that makes one trust too much that a multitude, even though 
malcontent, will either follow you or accompany you in your dangers. 
This accident frightened all Italy; but much more so did those accidents 
that followed a short while afterward in Florence, which broke the peace 
that had lasted for twelve years in Italy, as will be shown by us in the 
following book, which, if it has a sad and lamentable end, will have a 
bloody and terrifying beginning. 


BOOK VIII 


I 

since the beginning of this eighth book lies in the middle of two con¬ 
spiracies—one already narrated and taking place in Milan, the other yet 
to be narrated and occurring in Florence—it would appear the proper 
thing, if we want to follow our custom, to reason on the qualities of con¬ 
spiracies and their importance. This would be done willingly if I had not 
spoken of it in another place 1 or if it were matter that could be passed over 
with brevity. But, as something that requires much consideration and has 
already been told in another place, we shall leave it out; and passing to 
another matter, we shall tell about the state of the Medici after it had 
conquered all the enmities that had come against it openly. If that house 
wanted to take sole authority in the city and to stand out from the others 
by living civilly, it was necessary that it also overcome those that schemed 
secretly against it. For although the Medici fought with some other fam¬ 
ilies as equals in authority and reputation, citizens who were envious of 
their power could openly oppose them without fear of being suppressed 
in the beginnings of their enmities; for since the magistrates had become 
free, none of the parties had cause to fear except after defeat. But after the 
victory of’66, 2 the whole state had been so restricted to the Medici, who 
took so much authority, that it was required for those who were malcon¬ 
tent at it either to endure that mode of living with patience or, if indeed 
they wanted to eliminate it, attempt to do so by way of conspiracy and 
secretly. Such ways, because they succeed only with difficulty, most often 
bring ruin to whoever moves them and greatness to the one against 
whom they are moved. Hence, almost always a prince of a city, attacked 
by such conspiracies, if he is not killed as was the duke of Milan—which 
happens rarely—rises to greater power and many times from being a 
good man, becomes bad. For conspiracies by their example give him 
cause to fear; and in fearing, to secure himself; and securing himself, to 
injure; hence arise hatreds later, and often his ruin. And so these conspir¬ 
acies immediately crush whoever moves them and in time offend in every 
mode the one against whom they are moved. 

1 D hi 6; also P 19. 

2 See FH vii 16. 


317 


VIII • 2 


2 

Italy, as we have shown above, 1 was divided into two factions: pope 
and king on one side; Venetians, duke, and Florentines on the other. And 
although war had not yet been ignited between them, nonetheless every 
day gave them new causes for igniting one; and the pontiff, especially, in 
whatever his enterprise, strove to offend the state of Florence. Thus, 
when Messer Filippo de’ Medici, archbishop of Pisa, died, the pope, 
against the will of the Signoria of Florence, invested Francesco Salviati 
with that archbishopric, one he knew was hostile to the Medici family. 
Then, as the Signoria was unwilling to give possession of it to him, there 
followed new offenses between the pope and the Signoria in the manage¬ 
ment of this thing. Besides this, in Rome he did very great favors for the 
Pazzi family and in every action disfavored the Medici. 

At that time in Florence the Pazzi were the most splendid in wealth and 
nobility of all Florentine families. The head of them was Messer Jacopo, 
who had been made a knight by the people for his wealth and nobility. 
He had no children other than a natural daughter; he had a good many 
relatives, born of his brothers Piero and Antonio. The first among them 
were Guglielmo, Francesco, Rinato, and Giovanni, and next to them An¬ 
drea, Niccolo, and Galeatto. Cosimo de’ Medici, seeing their wealth and 
nobility, married his niece Bianca to Guglielmo, hoping that this alliance 
might make these families more united and take away the enmities and 
the hatreds that most times customarily arise from suspicion. Nonethe¬ 
less, so uncertain and mistaken are our designs that the thing went other¬ 
wise: for whoever advised Lorenzo showed him how very dangerous it 
was to him and contrary to his authority to join wealth and state in citi¬ 
zens. In consequence, Messer Jacopo and his relatives were not granted 
those ranks of honor that it appeared to the other citizens they merited. 
From this arose in the Pazzi their first indignation and in the Medici their 
first fear; and as one of these grew, it gave matter for the other to grow 
upon. Hence, in every action in which other citizens might contest them, 
the Pazzi were not well regarded by the magistrates. And the magistracy 
of the Eight, when Francesco de’ Pazzi was in Rome, without showing 
the respect that is usually accorded to great citizens, compelled him to 
come to Florence for a trivial cause. So the Pazzi complained everywhere 
with injurious words full of indignation, which increased suspicion in 
others and injuries to themselves. Giovanni de’ Pazzi had for wife the 
daughter of Giovanni Buonromei, a very rich man, whose property, 
when he died, would go to his daughter, since he had no other children. 

1 See FH vn 31. 


318 


VIII • 3 

Nonetheless, Carlo, his nephew, seized a part of these goods; and when 
the thing was litigated, a law was passed by virtue of which the wife of 
Giovanni de’ Pazzi was despoiled of the inheritance of her father and it 
was given to Carlo—an injury the Pazzi attributed entirely to the Medici. 
Giuliano de’ Medici complained of this thing many times to his brother 
Lorenzo, saying that he feared that by wanting too many things, all of 
them might be lost. 


3 

nonetheless, Lorenzo, hot with youth and power, wanted to take 
thought for everything and wanted everyone to recognize everything as 
from him. So the Pazzi, with such nobility and wealth, could not bear 
such injuries, and they began to think how they might avenge them¬ 
selves. The first to advance any reasoning against the Medici was Fran¬ 
cesco. He was more spirited and more sensitive than any of the others; so 
he decided either to acquire what he lacked or to lose what he had. And 
because the governors of Florence were hateful to him, he lived almost 
always in Rome, where, according to the custom of the Florentine mer¬ 
chants, he worked with a large treasure. And since he was very friendly 
with Count Girolamo, 1 they often complained to one another of the 
Medici; so after many complaints they came to the reasoning that it was 
necessary, if one of them was to live in his states and the other in his city 
securely, to change the state of Florence—which they thought could not 
be done without the deaths of Giuliano and Lorenzo. They judged that 
the pope and the king would easily approve if it could be shown to each 
of them how easy the thing was. Thus, having slipped into this thought, 
they communicated the whole of it to Francesco Salviati, archbishop of 
Pisa, who, as he was ambitious and shortly before had been offended by 
the Medici, agreed willingly. And considering among themselves what 
was to be done, they decided, so that the thing might proceed more eas¬ 
ily, to attract Messer Jacopo de’ Pazzi to their will, without whom they 
did not believe they could do anything. Thus, it appeared opportune that 
Francesco de’ Pazzi should go to Florence to this effect, and the arch¬ 
bishop and the count should remain in Rome to be with the pope when 
the time appeared right to tell him about it. Francesco found Messer Ja¬ 
copo more hesitant and more difficult than he would have liked; and 
when he made this known in Rome, it was thought that a greater author¬ 
ity was required to dispose him toward it; consequently, the archbishop 

1 Count Girolamo Riario (1443-1488), married to Caterina Sforza; see FH vii 22. 


319 


viii • 4 

and the count communicated everything to Giovan Battista da Monte- 
secco, the pope’s condottiere. Battista was highly esteemed in war and 
obligated to both the count and the pope. Nonetheless, he showed the 
thing to be difficult and dangerous. The archbishop strove to eliminate 
these dangers and difficulties, pointing out the aid that the pope and the 
king would supply to their enterprise and, in addition, the hatreds that 
the citizens of Florence bore toward the Medici, the relatives that the Sal- 
viati and the Pazzi had behind them, the ease of killing the Medici because 
they went about the city without company and without suspicion, and 
later, when they were dead, the ease of changing the state. These things 
Giovan Battista did not entirely believe, as he had heard many other Flor¬ 
entines speak otherwise. 


4 

while they were engaged in these reasonings and thoughts, it happened 
that Signor Carlo di Faenza 1 became so ill that it was feared he was dying. 
It appeared therefore to the archbishop and the count that they had an 
occasion to send Giovan Battista to Florence and from there to Romagna 
under color of regaining certain towns that the lord of Faenza had seized 
from him. Therefore, the count commissioned Giovan Battista to speak 
with Lorenzo and to ask him on the count’s behalf for advice on how 
things in Romagna ought to be governed; then he should speak with 
Francesco de’ Pazzi and see if together they could dispose Messer Jacopo 
de’ Pazzi to follow their will. And to enable them to move him with the 
authority of the pope, they wanted before his departure to speak to the 
pontiff, who made all the largest offers he could on behalf of the enter¬ 
prise. Therefore, when Giovan Battista arrived in Florence, he spoke with 
Lorenzo, by whom he was very humanely received, and, when he asked 
for advice, was advised wisely and affectionately, so that Giovan Battista 
was taken with admiration for Lorenzo, since it appeared to him he had 
found another man than the one that had been shown to him; he judged 
Lorenzo altogether humane, altogether wise, and very friendly to the 
count. Nonetheless, he wanted to speak with Francesco, and, not finding 
him there because he had gone to Lucca, he spoke with Messer Jacopo 
and found him in the beginning very adverse to the thing. Nonetheless, 
before he left, the authority of the pope moved Jacopo somewhat; and so 
he told Giovan Battista to go to Romagna and return, and that in the 
meantime Francesco would be in Florence, and then they would reason 

1 Carlo Manfredi, lord of Faenza, a city under the protection of Florence. 


320 


viii • 4 

about the thing in more detail. Giovan Battista went and returned, and 
carried on his pretended reasoning with Lorenzo de’ Medici about the 
count’s things; afterward he withdrew with Messer Jacopo and Francesco 
de’ Pazzi, and they worked on Messer Jacopo, so that he agreed to the 
enterprise. They reasoned about the mode. To Messer Jacopo, it did not 
appear it would succeed if both brothers 2 were in Florence; and therefore 
one should wait for Lorenzo to go to Rome, as it was reported he wanted 
to do, and then the thing would be executed. Francesco was pleased that 
Lorenzo would be in Rome; nonetheless, if indeed he did not go there, 
Francesco asserted that both brothers could be overcome 3 at a wedding 
or at a game or in church. As to aid from foreigners, it appeared to him 
that the pope could put together troops for a campaign against the forti¬ 
fied town of Montone, as he had just cause for seizing it from Count 
Carlo 4 because of the tumults already spoken of that he had raised around 
Siena and Perugia. Nonetheless, no other conclusion was reached except 
that Francesco de’ Pazzi and Giovan Battista should go to Rome, and 
there everything should be concluded with the count and the pope. In 
Rome, they negotiated this matter again, and finally it was concluded 
that, since the campaign against Montone was resolved upon, Giovan 
Francesco da Tolentino, a soldier of the pope, should go on to Romagna 
and Messer Lorenzo da Castello 5 to his own district; and each of them 
should, with troops of the district, keep their companies in order, ready 
to do whatever they were ordered to do by Archbishop de’ Salviati and 
Francesco de’ Pazzi; and with Giovan Battista da Montesecco, they 
should come to Florence, where they should provide whatever was nec¬ 
essary for the execution of the enterprise, to which King Ferdinand, 
through his spokesman, had promised some help. Thereupon the arch¬ 
bishop and Francesco de’ Pazzi came to Florence and drew Jacopo di Mes¬ 
ser Poggio 6 to their view; he was a literary youth, but ambitious and very 
desirous of new things. They attracted two Jacopo Salviatis, one a 
brother and the other a relative of the archbishop; they also brought in 
Bernardo Bandini and Napoleone Franzesi, ardent youths and very much 
obligated to the Pazzi family. Of the foreigners, besides those named be¬ 
fore, Messer Antonio da Volterra and one Stefano, a priest who lived in 
Messer Jacopo’s houses to teach his daughter the Latin language, were 
included. Rinato de’ Pazzi, a prudent and grave man who knew best the 
evils that arise from such enterprises, did not approve of the conspiracy; 

2 Both Medici brothers, Lorenzo and Giuliano. 

3 Lit.: oppressed. 

4 Son of Braccio da Montone; see FH vn 32. 

5 Lorenzo Giustini, vicar of the pope in Citta del Castello. 

6 Giacomo, son of Poggio Bracciolini. 


321 


VIII • 5 

indeed, he detested it, and in whatever mode he could decently adopt, he 
frustrated it. 


5 

the pope had been maintaining Raffaello de’ Riario, nephew of Count 
Girolamo, at the University of Pisa to learn canon law; 1 and while he was 
in that place, the pope promoted him to the dignity of the cardinalate. It 
appeared therefore to the conspirators that they should bring this cardinal 
to Florence so that his coming would cover up the conspiracy, as it would 
enable them to hide the conspirators they needed among his retinue, 2 and 
from this they could take the opportunity 3 of executing it. So the cardinal 
came and was received by Messer Jacopo de’ Pazzi at Montughi, his villa 
near Florence. The conspirators desired to bring Lorenzo and Giuliano 
together by means of the cardinal and, as soon as this happened, to kill 
them. Therefore, they arranged 4 for the Medici to hold a banquet for the 
cardinal at their villa in Fiesole, which either by chance or on purpose 
Giuliano did not attend. So, since this scheme turned out to be vain, they 
judged that if they invited him to a banquet in Florence the two would 
have to come of necessity. And so, the order having been given, they 
fixed this banquet for Sunday, the twenty-sixth of April, in the year 1478. 
Thus , as the conspirators were thinking how they could kill them in the 
middle of the banquet, they were together on Saturday night, when they 
planned all that they would have to execute the following morning. But 
when day came, Francesco was informed that Giuliano was not coming 
to the banquet. Therefore, the leaders of the conspiracy assembled again 
and concluded that carrying it into effect was not to be delayed, because 
it was impossible, since it was known to many, that it not be discovered. 
And thus they decided to kill the Medici in the cathedral church of Santa 
Reparata; since the cardinal would be there, the two brothers would at¬ 
tend in accordance with custom. They wanted Giovan Battista to assume 
the task of killing Lorenzo, and Francesco de’ Pazzi and Bernardo Bandini 
to kill Giuliano. Giovan Battista refused to consider doing it, either be¬ 
cause the familiarity he had had with Lorenzo had softened his spirit or 
because some other cause moved him; he said he would never have 
enough spirit to commit such an excess in church and accompany be- 

1 Lit.: pontifical letters; he was Raffaello Sansoni, son of a sister of Count Girolamo Ria¬ 
rio. 

2 Lit.: family. 

3 Lit.: cause. 

4 Lit.: ordered. 


322 


vim -6 


trayal with sacrilege. This was the beginning of the ruin of their enter¬ 
prise, because, since time was pressing, of necessity they had to give this 
task to Messer Antonio da Volterra and to the priest Stefano, two men 
who by practice and by nature were very inept for so great an undertak¬ 
ing. For if ever any deed requires a great and firm spirit made resolute in 
both life and death through much experience, it is necessary to have it in 
this, where it has been seen very many times that men skilled in arms and 
soaked in blood have lacked spirit. 5 The decision thus made, they deter¬ 
mined that the signal for action should be the taking of communion by 
the priest who celebrated High Mass in the church; and in the meantime, 
Archbishop de’ Salviati, together with his men and withjacopo di Messer 
Poggio, were to seize the public palace so that the Signoria, either will¬ 
ingly or forced, following the deaths of the two youths, would be favor¬ 
able to them. 


6 

this decision made, they went to the church, to which the cardinal had 
already come with Lorenzo de’ Medici. The church was filled with peo¬ 
ple, and the divine office had begun, but Giuliano de’ Medici was not yet 
in church. Hence, Francesco de’ Pazzi, together with Bernardo appointed 
for Giuliano’s death, went to his house to find him and with prayers and 
art led him to church. It is a thing truly worthy of memory that so much 
hatred, so much thought about such an excess, could be covered up with 
so much heart and so much obstinacy of spirit by Francesco and Ber¬ 
nardo; for, though they led him to church, both on the way and in the 
church they entertained him with jests and youthful banter. 1 Nor did 
Francesco, under color of caressing him, fail to press him with his hands 
and arms so as to see if he were provided with either a cuirass or other 
similar protection. Giuliano and Lorenzo knew of the bitter spirit of the 
Pazzi against themselves and how they desired to take the authority of the 
state from them; but they did not fear for their lives, since they believed 
that, even though the Pazzi might have to try something, they would 
have to do it civilly and not with such violence. And therefore, Lorenzo 
and Giuliano, taking no care for their own safety, also pretended to be 
their friends. Thus the murderers were prepared: some at the side of Lo¬ 
renzo, where they could stand easily without suspicion because of the 

s See D hi 6 , where NM blames the failure of the Pazzi conspiracy on the lack of time for 
the two substitutes to “harden their spirits.” 

1 Lit.: reasonings. 


323 


viii • 7 

multitude in the church, the others with Giuliano. The appointed hour 
came; Bernardo Bandini, with a short weapon prepared to this effect, 
pierced the breast of Giuliano, who after a few steps fell to the ground; 
Francesco de’ Pazzi threw himself on him, filled him with wounds, and 
struck him with such zeal that, blinded by the fury that transported him, 
he wounded himself gravely in the leg. Messer Antonio and Stefano, for 
their part, attacked Lorenzo and, after aiming many blows at him, struck 
him with one light wound in the throat. For either their negligence or the 
spirit of Lorenzo, who, seeing himself attacked, defended himself with 
his arms, or the aid of whoever was with him made every effort of theirs 
vain. So, terrified, they fled and hid themselves; but when they were 
found later, they were killed and dragged through the whole city in 
shame. Lorenzo, for his part, bringing with himself those friends he had 
about him, shut himself in the sacristy of the church. Bernardo Bandini, 
upon seeing Giuliano dead, also killed Francesco Nori, a very good friend 
of the Medici, either because he hated him of old or because Francesco 
had striven to help Giuliano. And not content with these two homicides, 
he ran to find Lorenzo and to make up with his spirit and quickness for 
what the others by their sluggishness and weakness had failed to do, but, 
finding that Lorenzo had taken refuge in the sacristy, he could not do it. 
In the midst of these grave and tumultuous accidents, which were so ter¬ 
rible that it appeared the church must fall, the cardinal clung to the altar, 
where with effort he was kept safe by the priest until the Signoria, when 
the noise was over, could take him to his palace; there he remained in the 
greatest fear until his liberation. 


7 

in Florence at this time were some Perugians driven from their homes 
because of parties, whom the Pazzi had drawn to their will by promising 
to restore their fatherland to them. Hence, Archbishop de’ Salviati, who 
had gone to seize the palace, together with Jacopo di Messer Poggio and 
the Salviati and their friends, 1 had taken the Perugians with him. When 
he arrived at the palace, he left some of his men below with orders that as 
soon as they heard sounds they should seize the gate. Then, with the 
greater part of the Perugians, he went upstairs; he found that the Signoria 
was dining, because the hour was late, and after a while he was brought 
in by Cesare Petrucci, 2 Gonfalonier ofjustice. So, having entered with a 

1 See FH viii 5 (end). 

2 See FH vn 26. 


324 


viii • 8 


few of his men, he left the others outside, the greater part of whom 
locked themselves in the chancery by their own hand because the door 
was fixed so that once shut it could not be opened either from inside or 
from outside without the use of a key. The archbishop, meanwhile, who 
had been allowed entrance by the Gonfalonier under color of wanting to 
report some things to him on behalf of the pope, began to speak to him 
with broken and hesitant words in such a mode that the alteration shown 
in both his appearance and his words aroused such suspicion in the Gon¬ 
falonier that in an instant, 3 shouting, he hurled himself from the room 
and, coming upon Jacopo di Messer Poggio, took him by the hair and 
put him into the hands of his sergeants. When the alarm was raised 
among the Signori, with whatever arms chance supplied them all those 
who had come upstairs with the archbishop, some being locked up, some 
cowed, were either killed immediately or thrown alive out of the palace 
windows; among them, the archbishop, the two Jacopo Salviatis, and 
Jacopo di Messer Poggio were hanged. Those who had been left below 
in the palace had overcome the guard and seized the gate and the lower 
parts, so that the citizens who had run to the palace at the alarm could 
neither give help if armed nor, if unarmed, offer advice to the Signoria. 


8 

Francesco de’ Pazzi and Bernardo Bandini, meanwhile, seeing Lo¬ 
renzo alive and one of their own, in whom all hope of the enterprise had 
been placed, gravely wounded, had become frightened. Hence Bernardo, 
thinking of his own safety with the frankness of spirit with which he had 
thought to injure the Medici, when he saw the thing lost, fled unharmed. 
Francesco, having returned home wounded, tried whether he could han¬ 
dle himself on horse, because the order had been to circle the town with 
armed men and to call the people to liberty and arms. But he could not, 
so deep was his wound and so much blood had he lost by it. Hence, un¬ 
dressing, he threw himself naked upon his bed and begged Messer Jacopo 
to do that which he could not do himself. Messer Jacopo, although old 
and not practiced in such tumults, mounted on horse to make this last 
trial of their fortune with perhaps a hundred armed men who had been 
prepared for such an enterprise and went to the piazza of the palace, call¬ 
ing to his aid the people and liberty. But because the one had been made 
deaf by the fortune and liberality of the Medici and the other was not 
known in Florence, he had no response from anyone. Only the Signori, 

3 Lit.: at a stroke. 


325 


viii • 9 

who were still masters of the upper part of the palace, greeted him with 
stones and threats to frighten him as much as they could. And while Mes¬ 
ser Jacopo stood in doubt, he was met by Giovanni Serristori, his brother- 
in-law, who first reproved him for the scandals they had started, then 
urged him to go home, assuring him that the people and liberty were as 
much in the hearts of other citizens as in his own. Thus deprived of all 
hope, Messer Jacopo, seeing the palace hostile, Lorenzo alive, Francesco 
wounded, and no one following him, not knowing what else to do, de¬ 
cided to save his life if he could by flight; and with the company he had 
with him in the piazza, he left Florence to go to Romagna. 


9 

meanwhile, the whole city was in arms, and Lorenzo de’ Medici, ac¬ 
companied by many armed men, had withdrawn to his houses. The pal¬ 
ace had been recovered by the people, and all those who had seized it were 
either captured or killed. Already throughout the city the name of the 
Medici was being shouted, and the limbs of the dead were seen fixed on 
the points of weapons or being dragged about the city, and everyone pur¬ 
sued the Pazzi with words full of anger and deeds full of cruelty. Already 
their houses were seized by the people, and Francesco, naked as he was, 
was dragged from his house, led to the palace, and hanged beside the 
archbishop and the others. Nor was it possible, by injury done him or 
spoken to him either on the way or later, to make him say anything; but 
staring fixedly at the others and otherwise without complaint, he sighed 
quietly. Guglielmo de’ Pazzi, brother-in-law of Lorenzo, saved himself in 
Lorenzo’s houses both by his innocence and by the help of his wife, 
Bianca. There was no citizen armed or unarmed who did not go to the 
houses of Lorenzo in that necessity, and each one offered himself and his 
property to him: so great was the fortune and the grace that had been 
acquired by this house through its prudence and liberality. Rinato de’ 
Pazzi had retired to his villa when the event took place; then, when he 
learned of it, he wanted to flee in disguise. Nonetheless, he was recog¬ 
nized on the way, taken, and led to Florence. Messer Jacopo was also 
taken while crossing the mountains, 1 because the mountain people, hav¬ 
ing heard of the event in Florence and seeing him in flight, attacked him 
and led him back to Florence; nor, although he begged them many times, 
could he get them to kill him on the way. Messer Jacopo and Rinato were 
condemned to death four days after the event had taken place; and among 

1 The Apennines. 


326 


viii *9 


the many deaths inflicted in those days—so many that the streets were 
filled with the parts of men—no other was looked on with pity except 
that of Rinato, since he had always been held a wise and good man; nor 
was he noted for that pride of which the rest of that family had been 
accused. And that this event might not be lacking in any extraordinary 
example, Messer Jacopo was entombed first in the sepulchre of his ances¬ 
tors, then dragged from there as excommunicated, and buried along the 
walls of the city; and from there dug up again, he was dragged naked 
through the whole city by the noose with which he had been hanged; 
then, since no place on land had been found for his tomb, he was thrown, 
by the same ones who had dragged him, into the Arno River, whose 
waters were then at their highest. Truly a very great example of fortune, 
to see a man of such wealth and from such a very prosperous state fall 
into such unprosperity with such ruin and such contempt! Some vices of 
his were talked of, among them games and blasphemies more than would 
be fitting for a lost man—vices that he compensated for by many chari¬ 
ties, because he used to help generously many who were needy as well as 
holy places. Also, one can say this good of him, that on the Saturday 
before the Sunday appointed for so much homicide, so as not to make 
anyone else share in his adverse fortune, he paid all his debts, and all the 
merchandise that was in the customs or in his house and that belonged to 
somebody, he consigned with marvelous solicitude to their owners. 
Giovan Battista da Montesecco, after a long examination made of him, 
was beheaded; Napoleone Franzesi escaped punishment by flight; Gu- 
glielmo de’ Pazzi was banished, and his cousins who remained alive were 
imprisoned in the fortress of Volterra. When all the tumults had ceased 
and the conspirators had been punished, funeral rites were celebrated for 
Giuliano. He was accompanied by all the citizens in tears, because there 
had been as much liberality and humanity in him as could be desired in 
anyone born in such fortune. He left one natural son, born a few months 
after his death and called Giulio, 2 who was filled with the virtue and for¬ 
tune that in these present times all the world recognizes; and when we 
come to present things, if God gives life for it, they will be shown amply 
by us. 3 The troops who were under Messer Lorenzo da Castello in Val di 
Tevere, together with those who were under Giovan Francesco da Tolen- 
tino in Romagna, had started out to come to Florence to give support to 
the Pazzi, but then when they learned of the failure of the enterprise, they 
turned back. 

2 The future Pope Clement VII, to whom NM’s Florentine Histories are dedicated. 

3 A promise, apparently not carried out, to bring this work to “present things.” 


327 


VIII • 10 


10 

but since the change of state did not occur in Florence as the pope and 
the king desired, they decided that what they had not been able to do by 
conspiracy they would do by war. With the greatest speed, both put their 
men together to attack the state of Florence, while proclaiming that they 
wanted nothing other from the city than that it should rid itself of Lo¬ 
renzo de’ Medici, whom alone, of all the Florentines, they held for an 
enemy. The king’s troops had already crossed the Tronto, and those of 
the pope were in Perugia; and so that the Florentines might feel spiritual 
wounds in addition to their temporal ones, the pope excommunicated 
and cursed them. Hence, the Florentines, seeing such great armies com¬ 
ing against them, prepared themselves with every care for defense. And 
before everything else, Lorenzo de’ Medici, since by report the war was 
being made against him, wanted to assemble all qualified citizens, more 
than three hundred in number, in the palace with the Signoria. To them 
he spoke in this sense: “I do not know, exalted Signori, and you, magnif¬ 
icent citizens, whether I lament with you over the things that have oc¬ 
curred or whether I rejoice over them. And truly, when I think with how 
much fraud, with how much hatred I have been attacked and my brother 
killed, I cannot but grieve over it and lament it with all my heart and all 
my soul. When I consider, next, with what promptness, with what zeal, 
with what love, and with what united consent in the whole city my 
brother has been avenged and myself defended, it is fitting that I should 
not only rejoice in it but exult and glory in all of myself. And truly, if this 
experience has made me learn that I had more enemies in this city than I 
thought, it has shown me also that I had more fervent and ardent friends 
in it than I believed. Thus I am forced to lament with you the injuries of 
others and to rejoice in your merits, but I am indeed constrained to la¬ 
ment the injuries much more, as they are more rare, more without ex¬ 
ample, and less deserved by us. Consider, magnificent citizens, where evil 
fortune had led our house, that among friends, among relatives, in 
church, it was not secure. Those who fear death are accustomed to resort 
to their friends for aid, are accustomed to resort to their relatives, 1 and we 
found them armed for our destruction. All those who for public or pri¬ 
vate cause are persecuted are accustomed to take refuge in churches. 
Thus, by whomever others are defended, we are killed; where parricides, 
assassins are secure, the Medici find their killers. But God, who has never 
in the past abandoned our house, has again saved us and taken up the 
defense of our just cause. For what injury have we done to anyone that 

' The Medici were related by marriage to the Pazzi; see FH viii 2. 


328 


VIII • 10 


deserved such a desire for revenge? And truly, those who have shown 
themselves to be such great enemies we never offended privately, because 
if we had offended them, they would not have had opportunity to offend 
us. If they have attributed public injuries to us, should any have been done 
them—which I know not—they offend you more than us, more this pal¬ 
ace and the majesty of this government than our house, by making it 
appear that for our cause you injured undeservedly your own citizens. 
This is altogether distant from any truth, because we, if we had ever been 
able to do it, and you, if we had wanted it, would not have done it; be¬ 
cause whoever indeed seeks the truth will find that our house was always 
exalted by you with such agreement for no other cause than that it has 
striven with humanity, liberality, with benefits, to surpass everyone. 
Thus, if we have honored strangers, how would we have injured our rel¬ 
atives? If they were moved to this by a desire to dominate, as the seizing 
of the palace demonstrates, to come with armed men into the piazza re¬ 
veals and condemns by itself how ugly, ambitious, and damnable this 
cause is. If they did it out of the hatred and envy they have of our author¬ 
ity, they offend you, not us, since it was you who gave it to us. And truly, 
those authorities deserve to be hated that men usurp, not those that men 
earn by liberality, humanity, and munificence. And you know that our 
house never rose to any rank of greatness to which it was not thrust by 
this palace and by your united consent. My grandfather Cosimo did not 
return from exile with arms and by violence but with your consent and 
union. My father, old and infirm, did not indeed himself defend the state 
against-so many enemies, but you with your authority and benevolence 
defended it; nor after the death of my father, since one could say I was 
still a boy, would I have maintained the rank of my house if it had not 
been for your advice and favors; my house could not have ruled and 
would not be able to rule this republic if you together with it had not 
ruled and did not rule now. Thus, I do not know what their cause of 
hatred against us could be, nor what just cause of envy. Let them bear 
hatred for their own ancestors, who with pride and avarice took from 
themselves the reputation that ours knew how to earn with efforts con¬ 
trary to theirs. But let us concede that the injuries done them by us were 
great and that they deservedly desired our ruin: why come to offend this 
palace? Why make a league with the pope and the king against the liberty 
of this republic? Why break the long peace of Italy? For this they have no 
excuse, for they ought to offend whoever offends them and not confound 
their private enmities with public injuries. The result is that, although 
they are eliminated, our ill is more acute, since the pope and the king 
come armed to meet us on behalf of their causes—a war they claim to 
make against me and my house. Would to God it were true, because the 


329 


VIII • II 


remedies would be quick and certain; nor would I be so wicked a citizen 
that I would value my safety more than your perils; indeed, I would will¬ 
ingly put out your fire with my ruin. But because the powerful always 
disguise the injuries they do with some less indecent color, they have 
taken this way of hiding their indecent injury. But nonetheless, should 
you believe otherwise, I am in your hands: it is for you to rule or leave 
me; you are my fathers, you my defenders; and however much I am com¬ 
missioned to do by you, I shall always do willingly; never shall 1 refuse, 
if it seems right to you, to end this war, begun with the blood of my 
brother, with mine.” The citizens could not keep back their tears while 
Lorenzo was speaking, and with the same mercy with which they lis¬ 
tened, he was answered by one of those whom the others had commis¬ 
sioned, who told him that the city recognized how great were his merits 
and those of his family, that he should be of good spirit, that with the 
same readiness with which they had avenged the death of his brother and 
saved his life they would save his reputation and state for him; nor would 
he lose that state before they lost their fatherland. And so that their deeds 
should match their words, they provided publicly a certain number of 
armed men for the protection of his body, to defend him from domestic 
plots. 


I I 

afterward, the Florentines took up the mode for war, putting together 
troops and money in the greatest sum they could. They sent for help, by 
virtue of their alliance, to the duke of Milan and to the Venetians. And 
since the pope had shown himself to be a wolf and not a shepherd, so as 
not to be devoured as guilty, they justified their cause by every mode they 
could and filled all Italy with the treachery done against their state, show- 
ing the impiety of the pontiff and his injustice and that the pontificate that 
he had seized wickedly he exercised wickedly. For he had sent those 
whom he had elevated to the highest prelacies, 1 in the company of traitors 
and parricides, to commit such treachery in church, in the middle of the 
divine office, at the celebration of the sacrament; and afterward, because 
he had not succeeded in killing the citizens, changing the state of their 
city, and plundering it as he pleased, he interdicted it and threatened and 
offended it with pontifical maledictions. But if God was just, if acts of 
violence were displeasing to Him, then those of his vicar must have dis¬ 
pleased Him, and He must be glad that offended men, finding no refuge 

1 Cardinal Sansoni and Archbishop Salviati. 


330 


VIII • 12 


in that place, would have recourse to Him. Therefore, not only did the 
Florentines not accept the interdict and obey it, but they forced the priests 
to celebrate the divine office, and they called a council in Florence of all 
the Tuscan prelates who were subject to their empire, in which they made 
an appeal against the injuries of the pontiff to the future council. Neither 
was the pope lacking in reasons to justify his cause; and so he declared 
that it belonged to the pontiff to eliminate tyranny, oppress the wicked, 
exalt the good—to which things he must apply remedies at every oppor¬ 
tunity—but that it was indeed not the office of secular princes to arrest 
cardinals, to hang bishops, to kill, dismember, and drag around priests, 
and to slay the innocent and the guilty without any distinction. 


12 

nonetheless, amidst such quarrels and accusations, the Florentines re¬ 
turned the cardinal, whom they had in their hands, to the pontiff. This 
made the pope, without hesitation, attack them with all his forces and 
those of the king. When the two armies—under Alfonso, eldest son of 
Ferdinand and duke of Calabria, and in the command of Federico, count 
of Urbino 1 —entered Chianti by way of the Sienese, who were of hostile 
parties, 2 they seized Radda and many other fortified towns and plundered 
the whole region; then they went to camp at Castellina. As the Floren¬ 
tines saw these attacks, they were in great fear, since they were without 
troops and saw that help from their friends would be slow; for although 
the duke sent help, the Venetians had denied they were obligated to help 
Florentines in private causes. Since it was a war made for private individ¬ 
uals, they were not obligated to help them in it, because individual en¬ 
mities do not have to be defended publicly. So the Florentines, so as to 
dispose the Venetians to a sounder opinion, sent Messer Tommaso So- 
derini as their spokesman to that senate; and in the meantime, they hired 
soldiers and made Ercole, marquis of Ferrara, captain of their armies. 
While these preparations were being made, the enemy army pressed Cas¬ 
tellina so that the inhabitants, despairing of help, surrendered after they 
had withstood the siege for forty days. From here the enemy turned to¬ 
ward Arezzo and besieged Monte San Savino. The Florentine army was 
now in order, and, having gone to face the enemy, it had been posted 
three miles distant from it and was giving it such trouble that Federico of 
Urbino asked for a truce of several days. This was conceded to him with 


1 The pope’s army. 

2 Hostile to the Florentines. 


331 


viii • 13 

such disadvantage to the Florentines that those who had asked for it mar¬ 
veled that they got it; for if they had not obtained it, they would of ne¬ 
cessity have had to depart in shame, but having had with those days op¬ 
portunity to reorder themselves, when the time of the truce was over, 
they seized that fortified town right in front of our men. But winter had 
come now, and the enemy withdrew into Sienese territory to winter in 
comfortable places. The Florentine troops also withdrew to more com¬ 
fortable quarters; and the marquis of Ferrara, having made little profit for 
himself and less for others, returned to his state. 


13 

in these times Genoa rebelled against the state of Milan for the following 
causes. Since Galeazzo had died and left his son Gian Galeazzo of an age 
unfit to govern, dissension arose among Sforza, Ludovico, his uncles Ot- 
taviano and Ascanio, and his mother Madonna Bona, 1 because each of 
these wanted to take charge of the little duke. In this contention Madonna 
Bona, the old duchess, through the advice of Messer Tommaso Soderini, 
then spokesman for the Florentines in that state, and of Messer Cecco 
Simonetta, who had been Galcazzo’s secretary, came out on top. Where¬ 
upon the Sforzas fled from Milan, and, in crossing the Adda, Ottaviano 
was drowned; and the others were banished to different places, together 
with Signor Roberto da San Severino, who in those travails had left the 
duchess and joined them. When the tumults in Tuscany then took place, 
those princes, hoping through new accidents to be able to find new for¬ 
tune, broke out of their banishments, 2 and each of them attempted some¬ 
thing new so as to return to his state. 

King Ferdinand saw that the Florentines (in their necessities) had been 
assisted only by the state ol Milan. So as to take even that aid away from 
them, he ordered that the duchess be given so much to think about in her 
own state that she would not be able to provide aid to the Florentines. By 
means of Prospero Adorno, Signor Roberto, and the Sforza rebels, he 
made Genoa rebel from the duke. Only the Castelletto remained in the 
duke s power, 3 and, putting her hope in that, the duchess sent a great 
many men to recover the city; and they were defeated. Thus, when she 
saw the danger that could hang over the state of her son and herself if the 
war lasted—since Tuscany was upside down and the Florentines, in 

These are, respectively, Sforza Maria Sforza, Ludovico Sforza, Ottaviano Sforza, As¬ 
canio Sforza, and Madonna Bona of Savoy, who assumed the regency on January 3, 1477. 

2 They left the places to which they had been banished. 

1 Potest a. 


332 


viii • 14 

whom alone she had hope, were in distress—she decided that since she 
could not have Genoa as a subject she would have it as a friend. She agreed 
with Battista Fregoso, the enemy of Prospero Adorno, to give him the 
Castelletto and make him prince in Genoa, provided that he drive out 
Prospero and not favor the Sforza rebels. After this conclusion Battista, 
with the help of the castle and of his party, became lord of Genoa and, in 
accordance with their custom, made himself doge. Consequently, the 
Sforzas and Signor Roberto, driven from Genoa, came to Lunigiana with 
those troops who followed them. When the pope and the king saw how 
the travails of Lombardy had been settled, they took the opportunity of¬ 
fered by those driven out of Genoa to stir up Tuscany near Pisa, so that 
the Florentines, by dividing their forces, would be weakened; and for this 
they managed, winter now being over, that Signor Roberto should depart 
with his troops from Lunigiana and attack the territory of Pisa. So Signor 
Roberto made a very great tumult; he sacked and took many fortified 
towns in Pisan territory and overran it, plundering as far as the city of 
Pisa. 


14 

in these times spokesmen from the emperor, from the king of France, 
and from the king of Hungary came to Florence, sent by their princes to 
the pontiff, who persuaded the Florentines to send spokesmen to the 
pope, promising to make every effort with the pope that this war might 
be ended with an excellent peace. So as to be excused afterwards by any¬ 
one, the Florentines did not refuse to try this experiment, as for their part 
they loved peace. So the spokesmen went and returned without any re¬ 
sult. Whence the Florentines, to get honor themselves from the reputa¬ 
tion of the king of France, 1 since they had been partly offended and partly 
abandoned by the Italians, sent as spokesman to the king Donato Acciai- 
uoli, a man very learned in Greek and Latin whose ancestors had always 
held great rank in the city. But on the way, when he reached Milan, he 
died; hence his fatherland, to remunerate those whom he left and to 
honor his memory, buried him with very great honor at public expense 
and gave exemptions to his sons and dowries to his daughters sufficient 
for them to marry. In his place as spokesman to the king, it sent Messer 
Guidantonio Vespucci, a man very expert in imperial and canon law. 2 The 
attack made by Signor Roberto on the countryside around Pisa very 

1 The Florentines got a “name rather than a defense”; D 11 11. 

2 Lit.; imperial and pontifical letters. 


333 


vni • 15 

much disturbed the Florentines, as do unexpected things, for since they 
were engaged in a very grave war on the side of Siena, they did not see 
how they could provide for places near Pisa; yet with conscripts and other 
such provisions, they relieved the city of Pisa. And to keep the Lucchese 
faithful, so that they would not aid the enemy with either money or food, 
they sent Piero di Gino di Neri Capponi to them as ambassador. He was 
received by them with so much suspicion on account of the hatred that 
city holds for the people of Florence, born from old injuries and constant 
fear, that he was many times in danger of being killed by the people; so 
his having gone there gave cause for new indignation rather than a new 
union. The Florentines recalled the marquis of Ferrara, 3 hired the marquis 
of Mantua, 4 and with great urgency requested from the Venetians Count 
Carlo, son of Braccio, 5 and Deifobo, son of Count Jacopo, who were 
finally, after much dodging, sent by the Venetians: for, having made a 
truce with the Turk and so having no excuse to cover them, they were 
ashamed not to keep faith with the league. Therefore, Count Carlo and 
Deifobo came with a good number of men at arms and together with 
them put all those men at arms who could be detached from the army 
that was fighting under the command of the marquis of Ferrara against 
troops of the duke of Calabria; then they went toward Pisa to meet Signor 
Roberto, who with his troops was near the river Serchio. And although 
Roberto had made it seem as if he wished to wait for our troops, none¬ 
theless he did not wait but withdrew into Lunigiana to the quarters he 
had left when he entered the country around Pisa. After his departure, 
Count Carlo recovered all those towns in the countryside of Pisa that had 
been taken by the enemy. 


15 

once the Florentines were freed of attacks from the direction of Pisa, 
they had all their troops assemble between Colle 1 and San Gimignano. 
But since, by the coming of Count Carlo, there were Sforza and Braccio 
followers in that army, the old enmities between them were immediately 
awakened; 2 and it was believed that if they had to be together for long 
they would come to arms. Consequently, to lessen this evil, it was de¬ 
cided to divide the troops and to send one part under Count Carlo into 

3 Ercole d’Este; cf. FH vm 12. 

4 Federico Gonzaga. 

5 Carlo da Montone, son of Braccio Fortebraccio da Montone: see FH vii 32. 

1 Colle Val d’Elsa. 

2 See FH v 2. 


334 


viii • 15 

the territory of Perugia and the other part to stop at Poggibonsi, where 
they would make an encampment strong enough to be able to keep the 
enemy from entering Florentine territory. They considered that by this 
course they would also force the enemy to divide their troops: for they 
believed that either Count Carlo would seize Perugia, where they 
thought he had many partisans, or the pope would be forced of necessity 
to send a large army there to defend it. Besides this, so as to lead the pope 
into greater necessity, they ordered Messer Niccolo Vitelli, an exile from 
Citta di Castello, where the head was his enemy Messer Lorenzo , 3 to 
approach the town with his troops so as to provide force to drive out his 
adversary and remove the town from its obedience to the pope. In these 
beginnings it appeared that fortune wanted to favor Florentine things, 
because Count Carlo was seen to make great progress around Perugia; 
Messer Niccolo Vitelli, although he had not succeeded in entering Cas¬ 
tello, was with his troops superior in the field, and he plundered around 
the city without any opposition. So also the troops who had remained in 
Poggibonsi made raids every day to the walls of Siena; nonetheless, in the 
end, all these hopes turned out to be vain. First, Count Carlo died amidst 
the hope of his victories. His death, however, bettered the condition of 
the Florentines, if they had known how to use the victory that arose from 
it: for as soon as the death of the count was known, immediately the 
troops of the Church who were already all together in Perugia took hope 
that they could crush the Florentine troops, and, going out into the field, 
they placed their camp on the lake 4 three miles from the enemy. On the 
other side, Jacopo Guicciardini, who was the commissioner of that army, 
on the advice of the magnificent Roberto da Rimini , 5 who when Count 
Carlo died was left as first and most reputed in that army, recognizing the 
cause of the enemy’s pride, decided to await them. Thus, when they came 
to blows by the lake, where indeed Hannibal the Carthaginian dealt the 
Romans that memorable defeat, the men of the Church were defeated. 
This victory was received in Florence with praise for their heads and with 
pleasure by everyone; and it would have been an honorable and profitable 
enterprise if the disorders that arose in the army that was at Poggibonsi 
had not upset everything. And so the good that one army did was entirely 
destroyed by the other: for those troops had taken booty from around 
Siena, and in dividing it a difference came up between the marquis of 
Ferrara and the marquis of Mantua, so that they fell to arms and attacked 
each other with every kind of offense; and it was such that the Florentines, 

3 Lorenzo Giustini; see FH viii 4. 

4 Lake Trasimene, scene of Hannibal’s victory in 217 b.c. 

5 Roberto Malatesta. 


335 


viii • i 6 

judging that they could no longer make use of both, agreed that the mar¬ 
quis of Ferrara with his troops should go back home. 


16 

thus, since that army was weakened, and left without a head, and was 
conducting itself in a disorderly way in every regard, the duke of Cala¬ 
bria, who was with his army near Siena, took spirit to come and meet it. 
And when it was done just as it had been thought, the Florentine troops, 
seeing themselves attacked, had confidence neither in their arms nor in 
their number , 1 which was superior to the enemy’s, nor in the site, where 
they were because it was very strong; but without waiting even to see the 
enemy, they fled at the sight of its dust and left to the enemy their muni¬ 
tions, wagons, and artillery. Armies then were filled with such poltroon¬ 
ery and disorder that whether a horse turned its head or tail decided the 
victory or loss of a campaign. This rout filled the king’s soldiers with 
booty and the Florentines with terror; for not only was their city at war, 
but also it was afflicted by a very grave pestilence, which had taken pos¬ 
session of it in a manner so that all the citizens, to escape death, had re¬ 
tired to their villas. This made the rout even more terrible, because those 
citizens having properties in the Val di Pesa and Val d’Elsa, who had with¬ 
drawn to them, after the rout hastened as quickly and as best they could 
to Florence not only with their children and belongings but with their 
laborers as well, so that it seemed they feared that at any hour the enemy 
could appear in the city. Those who had been put in charge of the war, 
seeing this disorder, commanded the troops who had been victorious 
around Perugia to drop the campaign against the Perugians and come to 
Val d’Elsa to oppose the enemy, which after its victory was raiding the 
countryside without any opposition. And although they had pressed the 
city of Perugia so that at any hour victory might be expected, nonetheless 
the Florentines wanted to defend their own before seeking to seize that of 
others. So that army, removed from its prosperous successes, was 
brought to San Casciano, a fortified town eight miles from Florence , 2 as 
it was judged that they could not make a stand elsewhere until the rem¬ 
nants of the routed army were together. The enemy, for its part—those 
who were freed at Perugia by the departure of the Florentine troops— 
became bold and took much booty in the territory of Arezzo and Cortone 
every day, and the others, who under Alfonso, duke of Calabria, had won 


1 Lit.: multitude. 

2 See FH vi 34. 


33b 


viii • 17 

at Poggibonsi, first made themselves lords of Poggibonsi and then of 
Vico and sacked Certaldo. And when these captures and plunders were 
done, they went to camp at the fortified town of Colle, which in those 
times was considered very strong; and having men faithful to the state of 
Florence, it could hold the enemy at bay until troops could be brought 
together. Thus, when the Florentines had gathered all their men at San 
Casciano, while the enemy was attacking Colle with all its might, the 
Florentines decided to draw near to them and give spirit to the people of 
Colle to defend themselves. And that the enemy might be more hesitant 
to offend them since adversaries were nearby, when this decision was 
made, the Florentines broke up their camp at San Casciano and put it at 
San Gimignano, five miles from Colle, from which with light horse and 
other light armed soldiers they harassed the duke’s camp every day. 
Nonetheless, this relief was not sufficient for the people of Colle; because 
they were lacking in necessities, they surrendered on the thirteenth day 
of November, to the dismay of the Florentines and to the greatest joy of 
the enemy, especially the Sienese, who besides the common hatred they 
bear for the city of Florence particularly hated the people of Colle. 


17 

it was already mid-winter and a bad time for war, so the pope and king, 
moved by the wish either to give hope of peace or to enjoy more peace¬ 
fully the victories already won, offered the Florentines a three-month 
truce and gave them ten days’ time to respond. The truce was accepted 
immediately. But, as it happens to everyone that wounds are felt more as 
the blood cools than when they are received, this brief respite made the 
Florentines realize more the anxieties they had sustained. The citizens ac¬ 
cused one another freely and without respect; they brought out the errors 
committed in the war; they showed the expenses made in vain, the taxes 
unjustly imposed. Such things were spoken of not only within the circles 
of private individuals but spiritedly in the public councils. And there was 
one so bold as to turn to Lorenzo de’ Medici and say to him: “This city is 
weary and wants no more war.’’ And thus it was necessary for him to 
think about peace. Hence, having recognized this necessity, Lorenzo con¬ 
sulted with those friends he thought most faithful and wisest, and they 
concluded first, seeing the Venetians cold and little faithful and the duke 
a ward and involved in civil disorders, that they must seek new fortune 
with new friends. Yet they were doubtful into whose arms they should 
put themselves—those of the pope or those of the king. And when all had 
been examined, they approved the friendship of the king as being more 


337 


viii • i 8 


stable and more safe: for the shortness of life of popes, 1 the change 
through succession, the slight fear that the Church has of princes, and the 
few scruples it has in adopting courses require that a secular prince cannot 
have entire confidence in a pontiff or safely share his fortune with him. 
For in wars and dangers, whoever is friend of the pope will be accom¬ 
panied in victories and be alone in defeats, since the pontiff is sustained 
and defended by spiritual power and reputation. Having thus decided that 
it would be of greater benefit to gain the king to themselves, they judged 
that it could not be better done or with more certainty than by the pres¬ 
ence of Lorenzo, because the more one used liberality with that king, the 
more, they believed, they could find remedies for past enmities. There¬ 
fore Lorenzo, having made up his mind to his journey, entrusted the city 
and the state to Messer Tommaso Soderini, who was at that time Gonfa¬ 
lonier of Justice, and at the beginning of December he departed from 
Florence. When he arrived in Pisa, he wrote to the Signoria the cause of 
his departure. To honor him and to enable him to negotiate for peace with 
the king with greater reputation, the Signori made him spokesman for 
the Florentine people and gave him authority to make an alliance with the 
king such as might appear to him best for their republic. 


18 

in these same times, Signor Roberto da San Severino, together with Lu¬ 
dovico and Ascanio, because their brother Sforza was dead, 1 again at¬ 
tacked the state of Milan so as to return to governing it. When they had 
seized Tortona and when Milan and all that state were in arms, Duchess 
Bona was advised to repatriate the Sforzas and to receive them into the 
state so as to dispose of these civil contentions. The principal author 2 of 
this advice was Antonio Tassino of Ferrara. Born in base condition, he 
came to Milan and fell into the hands of Duke Galeazzo, who gave him 
to his wife the duchess as her chamberlain. Either because this man was 
handsome in body or for some other secret virtue, after the death of the 
duke he rose to such high reputation with the duchess that he almost 
governed the state. This very much displeased Messer Cicco, 3 a man most 
excellent in prudence and in long practice, so that in those things he 
could, he strove to diminish the authority of Tassino with the duchess 
and with others of the government. When Tassino became aware of this, 

1 Cf. FH i 23; P 11. 

1 Sforza Maria Sforza, duke of Bari, had died on July 27, 1479. 

2 Lit.: the prince. 

3 Cicco Simonetta^the secretary of state; FH viii 13 . 


338 


viii • 19 

to get revenge for these injuries and to have close to him someone who 
could defend him against Messer Cicco, he encouraged the duchess to 
repatriate the Sforzas; she followed his advice and, without consulting in 
anything with Messer Cicco, repatriated them. Whereupon he said to 
her, “You have taken a decision that will take my life from me and your 
state from you.” These things did happen soon afterward; for Messer 
Cicco was done to death by Signor Ludovico; and after some time Tas- 
sino was driven out of the dukedom, at which the duchess was so indig¬ 
nant that she left Milan and surrendered the government of her son into 
the hands of Ludovico. Thus, as Ludovico remained sole governor of the 
dukedom of Milan, he was, as will be shown, the cause of the ruin of 
Italy . 4 Lorenzo de’ Medici had left for Naples and the truce between the 
parties was in force when, beyond all expectation, Ludovico Fregoso, 
who had a certain understanding with some Sarzanese, entered Sarzana 
by stealth with armed men, seized that town, and took prisoner the per¬ 
son who was there on behalf of the Florentine people. This incident 
greatly displeased the princes of the state of Florence, because they were 
convinced that everything had taken place by order of King Ferdinand. 
And they complained to the duke of Calabria, who was with the army in 
Siena, that during the truce they had been attacked in a new war. He made 
every showing, both with letters and with embassies, that such a thing 
had arisen without his father’s or his consent. Nonetheless, to the Flor¬ 
entines it appeared they were in the worst situation, as they saw them¬ 
selves void of money, the head of the republic in the hands of the king, 
an old war to be waged with the king and the pope and a new one with 
the Genoese, and themselves without friends. For they had no hope in the 
Venetians and rather feared the government of Milan because it was 
changeable and unstable. The only hope left to the Florentines was in 
what Lorenzo de’ Medici had to negotiate with the king. 


19 

lorenzo had arrived by sea in Naples, where he was received honorably 
and with great expectation not only by the king but by all the city; for 
since so great a war had arisen to crush him alone, the greatness of his 
enemies had made him very great. But when he arrived in the presence 
of the king, he discussed the conditions in Italy, the humors of its princes 
and peoples, and what could be hoped for in peace and feared in war, in 


4 How Ludovico was “the cause of the ruin of Italy” by calling Charles VIII into Italy in 
1494 is not in fact shown by NM. Cf. P 3. 


339 


viii • 19 

such a mode that the king marveled more, after he had heard him, at the 
greatness of his spirit, the dexterity of his genius and gravity of his judg¬ 
ment, than he had marveled before at his being able to sustain so great a 
war alone. So he redoubled the honors to him and began to think he had 
rather have him leave as friend than hold him as enemy. Nonetheless, by 
various causes he entertained him from December to March, so as to 
make a double trial not only of him but of the city, because Lorenzo did 
not lack enemies in Florence who would have desired the king to detain 
him and treat him as he had Jacopo Piccinino. 1 Under the pretense of 
lamenting it, they spoke of it throughout the city, and in public deliber¬ 
ations they opposed whatever was favorable for Lorenzo. And by such 
modes they had spread the rumor that if the king were to hold him in 
Naples for a long time the government in Florence would change. This 
made the king postpone sending him back for that time to see if any tu¬ 
mult would arise in Florence. But when he saw that things went quietly, 
on the sixth day of March 1479, he let him go; but first, with every kind 
of benefit and demonstration of love, he won Lorenzo over, and between 
them perpetual accords for the preservation of their common states arose. 
Therefore Lorenzo, if he had left as great, returned to Florence very great, 
and he was received by the city with the joy that his great qualities and 
recent merits deserved, as he had exposed his very life to gain peace for 
his fatherland. For, two days after his arrival, the accord between the re¬ 
public of Florence and the king was made public, by which each was 
obliged to the preservation of their common states. And as for the towns 
taken in the war from the Florentines, it was left to the will of the king to 
restore them; the Pazzi kept in the tower of Volterra were to be freed; 2 
and certain sums of money should be paid to the duke of Calabria for a 
certain time. As soon as this peace was announced, it filled the pope and 
Venetians with indignation, because to the pope it appeared that the king 
had taken little account of him, and to the Venetians that the Florentines 
had taken little account of them; for as both one and the other had been 
companions in the war, they complained that they had had no part in the 
peace. When this indignation was understood and credited in Florence, it 
immediately gave everyone the suspicion that from the peace that had 
been made a greater war might arise. So the princes of the state decided 
to restrict the government and that the making of important deliberations 
should be reduced to a smaller number; they made a council of seventy 
citizens with the greatest authority they could give it in principal actions. 
This new order put a check on the spirit of those who were seeking new 

1 See FH vn 8. 

2 Guglielmo de’ Pazzi and his cousins; see FH viii 9. 


340 


VIII • 20 


things. And to give themselves reputation, before everything the seventy 
accepted the peace made by Lorenzo with the king; they appointed as 
spokesmen to the pope and to the king Messer Antonio Ridolfi and Piero 
Nasi. Nonetheless, notwithstanding this peace, Alfonso, duke of Cala¬ 
bria, did not depart with his army from Siena, pretending that he was 
being held back by the discords of those citizens, which were so many 
that, although he was quartered outside the city, they brought him back 
into it and made him the arbiter of their differences. The duke, taking this 
opportunity, punished many of those citizens with fines and condemned 
many of them to prison, many to exile, and some to death. As a result of 
these modes, he became suspect not only to the Sienese but to the Flor¬ 
entines, who did not want to make him prince of that city. Nor was any 
remedy discovered, since the city of Florence had a new friendship with 
the king, and the pope and the Venetians were hostile. This suspicion 
appeared not only generally in the people 3 of Florence, subtle interpreters 
of all things, but in the princes of the state; and everyone affirmed that 
our city had never been in such danger of losing its liberty. But God, who 
in such extremities has always had a particular care for it, made an un¬ 
hoped-for accident arise that gave the king, the pope, and the Venetians 
something greater to think about than Tuscany. 


20 

mahomet the Grand Turk had gone to encamp at Rhodes with a very 
great army and had attacked it for many months; nonetheless, although 
his forces were great and his obstinacy for the capture of that town very 
great, he found even greater obstinacy in the besieged, who defended 
themselves with such virtue from such force that Mahomet was forced to 
depart from that siege in shame. When he had left Rhodes, therefore, a 
part of his fleet under Pashaw Ahmet came toward Valona, and, whether 
he saw the ease of the undertaking or his lord commanded him to it, in 
sailing along the coast of Italy at a stroke he put four thousand soldiers 
on land; and after attacking the city of Otranto, he took it quickly, sacked 
it, and killed all its inhabitants. Then, with the best modes he had at hand, 
he fortified himself in the city and in the port; and since he had brought 
good cavalry with him, he raided and plundered the surrounding coun¬ 
tryside. When the king saw this attack and realized how great was the 
prince whose undertaking it was, he sent messengers everywhere to make 
it known and to ask assistance against the common enemy; and with great 

3 Lit.: in the universal people. 


341 


VIII *21 


urgency he recalled the duke of Calabria and his troops, who were at 
Siena. 


21 

as much as this assault upset the duke and the rest of Italy, so much did 
it make Florence and Siena rejoice, for to Siena it appeared that it had 
regained its liberty and to Florence that it had escaped those perils that 
had made it fear it would lose liberty. The lamentations of the duke in 
leaving Siena enhanced this opinion, as he accused the fortune that with 
one unhoped-for and unreasonable accident had taken from him the em¬ 
pire of Tuscany. The same chance made the pope change his plan: 
whereas at first he had never wanted to listen to any Florentine spokes¬ 
man, he became so much milder that he listened to anyone who would 
reason about universal peace with him. So the Florentines were assured 
that if they would bend to ask pardon from the pope, they would find it. 
Thus, to the Florentines it appeared that this opportunity should not be 
allowed to pass, and they sent twelve ambassadors to the pontiff. After 
they had arrived in Rome, the pope kept them waiting with various deal¬ 
ings before giving them an audience. Yet, finally, it was established be¬ 
tween the parties how in the future they would have to live and how much 
each of them would have to contribute in peace and how much in war. 
The ambassadors then came to the feet of the pontiff, who awaited them 
in the midst of his cardinals, with exceeding pomp. They made excuses 
for the things that had happened, now accusing necessity, now the malig¬ 
nity of others, now the popular fury and their just anger; and they said 
that those are unprosperous who are forced either to fight or to die. And 
because anything must be endured so as to escape death, they had en¬ 
dured the war, the interdicts, and other inconveniences that had been 
drawn in the train of past events so that their republic might escape slav¬ 
ery, which is customarily the death of free cities. Nonetheless, if indeed 
they had been forced to make some mistake, they were ready to make 
amends for it, and they trusted in his clemency who, by the example of 
the Supreme Redeemer, would be ready to receive them in his most mer¬ 
ciful arms. To their excuses the pope answered with words full of pride 
and wrath, reproving them for all they had done against the Church in 
times past; nonetheless, to preserve the precepts of God, he was content 
to give them that pardon they asked for. But he must make them under¬ 
stand that they had to obey; and if they were to discontinue their obedi¬ 
ence, the liberty that they nearly lost now they would lose then, and 


342 


VIII • 22 


justly, because those are deserving of liberty who exert themselves in 
good and not wicked deeds; for liberty badly used offends oneself and 
others, and to esteem God little and the Church less is the office not of a 
free man but of a dissolute one more inclined to evil than good, whose 
correction belongs not only to princes but to any Christian whatever. 
Consequently, in regard to past events, they had to blame themselves; 
they had given cause for war with wicked deeds and nourished it with the 
worst; the war had been eliminated more by the kindness of others than 
by their own merits. Then a formal statement of their accord and the 
benediction was read, to which the pope added, apart from the things 
negotiated and established, that if the Florentines wanted to enjoy the 
fruits of this benediction they must keep armed, with their money, fifteen 
galleys for the whole time the Turk should fight against the Kingdom. 1 
The spokesmen complained very much about this burden imposed on top 
of the accord that had been made, but they were unable to lighten it in 
any part by any means or favor or by any complaint. But when they re¬ 
turned to Florence, the Signoria, to confirm this peace, sent as spokesman 
to the pope Messer Guidantonio Vespucci, who a short while ago had 
returned from France. He with his prudence reduced everything to tol¬ 
erable terms and obtained many favors from the pontiff, which was the 
sign of greater reconciliation. 


22 

therefore, after the Florentines had settled things with the pope, and 
after Siena and they had been freed from fear of the king by the departure 
of the duke of Calabria from Tuscany, and as the war with the Turks 
continued, they pressed the king in every way to restore to them the for¬ 
tified towns that the duke of Calabria on departing had left in the hands 
of the Sienese. Hence the king feared that the Florentines might detach 
themselves from him in his great necessity and, by starting a war against 
the Sienese, impede the assistance to him from the pope and from other 
Italians for which he was hoping. Therefore, he was content that the for¬ 
tified towns be restored to them and with new obligations again obligated 
the Florentines to him. And so force and necessity, not written docu¬ 
ments and obligations, make princes keep faith. Thus, when the fortified 
towns had been received and this new confederation settled, Lorenzo de’ 
Medici reacquired the reputation that first the war and then the peace, 
when there was fear of the king, had taken from him. There had been no 

1 The kingdom of Naples. 


343 


VIII • 22 


lack in those times of anyone to slander him openly, saying that to save 
himself he had sold his fatherland and that their towns had been lost in 
war and their liberty would be lost in peace. But once the towns were 
held again, an honorable accord settled with the king, and the city re¬ 
stored to its former reputation, in Florence, a city eager to speak, which 
judges things by results and not by advice, the reasoning turned around; 
and it celebrated Lorenzo to the sky, saying that his prudence had known 
how to gain in peace what bad fortune had taken from it in war and that 
he had been able to do more with his advice and his judgment than the 
arms and forces of the enemy. The attacks of the Turk had postponed the 
war that was about to arise on account of the indignation that the pope 
and the Venetians felt for the peace that had been made; but as the begin¬ 
ning of that attack was unexpected and the cause of much good, so the 
end was unexpected and the cause of much evil: for when Mahomet the 
Grand Turk died, beyond every expectation, and discord broke out 
among his sons, those who were in Puglia, abandoned by their lord, 
ceded Otranto by an accord to the king. Thus, since the fear that had held 
in check the spirits of the pope and the Venetians had been taken away, 
everyone feared new tumults. On one side, the pope and Venetians were 
leagued; with them were the Genoese, Sienese, and other minor powers; 
on the other side were the Florentines, the king, and duke, 1 to whom 
were allied the Bolognese and many other lords. The Venetians desired 
to become lords of Ferrara, and it appeared to them they had reasonable 
cause for the enterprise and certain hope of concluding it. The cause was 
that the marquis 2 declared that he was no longer bound to receive the 
vicedominus and salt 3 from them since, by past agreement, after seventy 
years that city was to be free from both burdens. The Venetians re¬ 
sponded on their side that as long as he held the Polesine he must accept 
the vicedominus and the salt. And since the marquis was unwilling to 
agree to this, it appeared to the Venetians they had just occasion for taking 
up arms and a convenient time for doing it, as they saw that the pope was 
full of indignation against the Florentines and the king. And further to 
gain the pope’s favor, when Count Girolamo 4 went to Venice, he was 
very honorably received by the Venetians, and they granted him their 
citizenship and gentleman’s rank, always a sign of very great honor to 
whomever they gave it. To be ready for that war, they had levied new 
taxes and made captain of their armies Signor Roberto da San Severino, 

1 The duke of Milan. 

2 Ercole d’Este, duke (not marquis) of Ferrara. 

The vicedominus was an official sent by the Venetians to protect their subjects. Salt 
mined from Ferrarese territory was a Venetian monopoly. 

4 Girolamo Riario. 


344 


VIII • 23 

who, angry with Signor Ludovico, governor of Milan, had fled to Tor- 
tona; and having made some tumults there, he had gone to Genoa. He 
was called from there by the Venetians and made prince of their army. 


23 

when these preparations for new movements became known to the op¬ 
posing league, they made it too prepare for war; the duke of Milan chose 
as his captain Federico, lord of Urbino; the Florentines, Signor Costanza 1 
of Pesaro. And to test the intent of the pope and to make it clear whether 
the Venetians were making war on Ferrara with his consent, King Ferdi¬ 
nand sent Alfonso, duke of Calabria, with his army to the Tronto and 
asked the pope for passage so as to go to Lombardy in aid of the mar¬ 
quis—which the pope altogether refused. So as it appeared to the king 
and the Florentines that they had confirmed the pope’s intent, they de¬ 
cided to press him with their forces so that he must become their friend 
by necessity, or at least to give him such hindrance that he could not fur¬ 
nish aid to the Venetians. For the Venetians were already in the field and 
had opened war on the marquis and first raided the countryside; then they 
laid a siege to Ficarolo, a fortified town very important to the state of that 
lord. As the king and the Florentines, therefore, had decided to attack the 
pontiff, Alfonso, duke of Calabria, hurried toward Rome and with the 
help of the Colonna, who had joined him because the Orsini had taken 
the side of the pope, did a great deal of damage in the countryside; and 
from the other side the Florentine troops, with Messer Niccolo Vitclli, 
attacked Citta di Castello, seized that city, and drove from it Messer Lo¬ 
renzo, 2 who was holding it for the pope, and set up Messer Niccolo as its 
prince. The pope, therefore, was in the greatest anxiety, because Rome 
was agitated within by the party 3 and outside the country was overrun by 
its enemies. Nonetheless, as a spirited man who wanted to conquer and 
not yield to the enemy, he engaged as captain the Magnificent Roberto of 
Rimini; 4 and having had him come to Rome, where all the pope’s men at 
arms had gathered, he showed him how much honor would be his if, 
against the forces of a king, he would liberate the Church from those 
troubles in which it found itself and how great an obligation not only he 
but all his successors would have to him and that not only men but God 
would be ready to be grateful to him. The Magnificent Roberto, having 

1 Costanza Sforza. 

2 Lorenzo Giustini; see FH vm 15. 

3 The Colonna. 

4 Roberto Malatesta. 


345 


VIII • 2 3 

first considered the pope’s men at arms and all his weaponry, urged him 
to get as much infantry as he could, which was put into effect with all 
zeal and speed. The duke of Calabria was near Rome, so that every day 
he raided and plundered up to the gates of the city. This so angered the 
Roman people that many offered voluntarily to join with the Magnificent 
Roberto in the liberation of Rome, all of whom were thanked and ac¬ 
cepted by that lord. When the duke heard of these preparations, he moved 
somewhat away from the city, thinking that if he were at some distance 
the Magnificent Roberto would not be of a mind to go out and meet him; 
and in part he was waiting for his brother Frederick, who had been sent 
by his father with new troops. The Magnificent Roberto, seeing he was 
almost equal to the duke in men at arms and superior in infantry, went 
out of Rome in array and placed his quarters two miles from the enemy. 
When the duke saw his adversaries close upon him, beyond his every 
expectation, he judged it proper for him either to fight or to flee as de¬ 
feated; hence, almost compelled, so as not to do a thing unworthy of the 
son of a king, he decided to fight. And facing the enemy, each ordered 
his troops in the mode that they then used to do, and they joined in a 
battle that lasted until noon. And this battle was fought with more virtue 
than any other that had been fought for fifty years in Italy, for in it, be¬ 
tween one side and the other, more than a thousand men died. The out¬ 
come was glorious for the Church, because the multitude of its infantry 
thrust against 5 the ducal cavalry so that it was forced to turn about, and 
the duke would have been taken prisoner if he had not been saved by 
many Turks from among those who had been at Otranto and had fought 
with him then. This victory won, the Magnificent Roberto returned in 
triumph to Rome.