The Renaissance Wars in Italy
The Renaissance Wars in Italy
THE CONQUESTS OF CESARE BORGIA.
WHEN LOUIS ENTERED MILAN, CESARE hied thither to pay court, bearing the French flag. Louis gave him money and some French lances, and with the title of Gonfaloniere of the Church he set out to eject the petty tyrants of Romagna and the marches of Ancona, the last nurseries of arms in Italy; for every one of the feudatories was a condottiere. The Pope had already plied the Orsini against the Colonna and the Colonna against the Orsini in the Campagna, where these two great families were paramount, and he had succeeded in weakening both. He was thus fairly secure at home, and under the pretext that they had not paid their dues, Cesare set out to dethrone the Vicars of the Church. Ancona, Assisi, Spoleto, Terni, and Narni still remained republics, delivered over to faction and constantly at war with their neighbours. Vicars of the Church ruled the rest of the States, the Varani and Fogliani dividing the marches almost entirely between them. Sinigaglia was a fief held by the Rovere; the ancient House of Montefeltro held sway in the mountains of Urbino; in Umbria the fierce family of the Baglioni governed Perugia Citta di Castello was under the excellent military rule of the Vitelli; in Romagna a Sforza ruled at Pesaro; the Malatesta held Rimini, which they had governed since the thirteenth century, and the present ruler, of evil renown for cruelty and debauchery, like the other condottieri Princes of the province, was subsidized by Venice and practically independent of the Pope. Cesena, indeed, was under the immediate government of the Church, which had snatched it from the Malatesta, but Forli and Imola were subject to the House of Riario, which Sixtus IV. had raised from utter meanness and obscurity; while the Manfredi held Faenza, situate between Forli and Imola, under the supervision of Venice, for whom it laid open an easy passage into Florentine territory. Venice had also possession of Ravenna and Cervia, snatched respectively from the Houses of Polenta and a branch of the Malatesta; Giovanni Bentivoglio had for forty years been despot of Bologna; and Ferrara, the remotest and most independent of Church feudatories, had for ages been in the possession of the noble House of Este, which united with this the Imperial fiefs of Modena and Reggio. The numerous Courts of so many little despots that had displaced republican Governments gave Romagna an appearance of wealth and elegance; they were the resort of scholars and poets; architects built and painters adorned shapely palaces, and delicacy and refinement characterized the society within them. But the expenses of these luxurious Courts crushed an overtaxed and miserable people, and the struggle for power among the petty Princes engendered an insecurity which led to treason, assassination, and atrocity of every kind within the family circle itself. Each petty government was founded on force, maintained by force, and only force could overturn it. Cesare Borgia knew full well that if he could become master of the petty States of Romagna, the people would pardon every crime, every cruelty, every treason, if only he secured them peace and granted them justice.
He took Imola and Forli (1499); the successes of the French caused Bologna, Ferrara, and Florence to withhold their aid from the Romagnol princelets. In 1501 Faenza had to capitulate; Cesare violated the terms of surrender, and after overwhelming Manfredi with protestations of friendship, had him strangled. Cesare was now (1501) invested with the duchy of Romagna by his father; he exercised cruel severity to repress crime by means of his subordinate, Ramiro d'Orco, and in order that no resentment caused by his lieutenant's inflexible administration might fall on himself, he knew when and how to dispose of him. One morning a scaffold was found standing in the market-place of Cesena, and from it hung the corpse of the man befor