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Renaissance in Italy, Volume 1 (of 7)
by John Addington Symonds
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The kingdom Berengar attempted to maintain against his vassals and the Church was virtually abrogated by Otho I., whom the Lombard nobles summoned into Italy in 951. When he reappeared in 961, he was crowned Emperor at Rome, and assumed the title of the King of Italy. Thus the Regno was merged in the Empire, and Pavia ceased to be a capital. Henceforth the two great potentates in the peninsula were an unarmed Pontiff and an absent Emperor. The subsequent history of the Italians shows how they succeeded in reducing both these powers to the condition of principles, maintaining the pontifical and imperial ideas, but repelling the practical authority of either potentate. Otho created new marches and gave them to men of German origin. The houses of Savoy and Montferrat rose into importance in his reign. To Verona were intrusted the passes between Germany and Italy. The Princes of Este at Ferrara held the keys of the Po, while the family of Canossa accumulated fiefs that stretched from Mantua across the plain of Lombardy, over the Apennines to Lucca, and southward to Spoleto. Thus the ancient Italy of Lombards and Franks was superseded by a new Italy of German feudalism, owing allegiance to a suzerain whose interests detained him in the provinces beyond the Alps. At the same time the organization of the Church was fortified. The Bishops were placed on an equality with the Counts in the chief cities, and Viscounts were created to represent their civil jurisdiction. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of Otho's concessions to the Bishops. During the preceding period of Frankish rule about one third of the soil of Italy had been yielded to the Church, which had the right of freeing its vassals from military service; and since the ecclesiastical sees were founded upon ancient sites of Roman civilization, without regard to the military centers of the barbarian kingdoms, the new privileges of the Bishops accrued to the benefit of the indigenous population. Milan, for example, down-trodden by Pavia, still remained the major See of Lombardy. Aquileia, though a desert, had her patriarch, while Cividale, established as a fortress to coerce the neighboring Roman towns, was ecclesiastically but a village. At this epoch a third power emerged in Italy. Berengar had given the cities permission to inclose themselves with walls in order to repel the invasions of the Huns.[1] Otho respected their right of self-defense, and from the date of his coronation the history of the free burghs begins in Italy. It is at first closely connected with the changes wrought by the extinction of the kingdom of Pavia, by the exaltation of the clergy, and by the dislocation of the previous system of feud-holding, which followed upon Otho's determination to remodel the country in the interest of the German Empire. The Regno was abolished. The ancient landmarks of nobility were altered and confused. The cities under their Bishops assumed a novel character of independence. Those of Roman origin, being ecclesiastical centers, had a distant advantage over the more recent foundations of the Lombard and the Frankish monarchs. The Italic population everywhere emerged and displayed a vitality that had been crushed and overlaid by centuries of invasion and military oppression.

[1] It is worthy of notice that to this date belongs the war-chant of the Modenese sentinels, with its allusions to Troy and Hector, which is recognized as the earliest specimen of the Italian hendecasyllabic meter.

The burghs at this epoch may be regarded as luminous points in the dense darkness of feudal aristocracy.[1] Gathering round their Cathedral as a center, the towns inclose their dwellings with bastions, from which they gaze upon a country bristling with castles, occupied by serfs, and lorded over by the hierarchical nobility. Within the city the Bishop and the Count hold equal sway; but the Bishop has upon his side the sympathies and passions of the burghers. The first effort of the towns is to expel the Count from their midst. Some accident of misrule infuriates the citizens. They fly to arms and are supported by the Bishop. The Count has to retire to the open country, where he strengthens himself in his castle.[2] Then the Bishop remains victor in the town, and forms a government of rich and noble burghers, who control with him the fortunes of the new-born state. At this crisis we begin to hear for the first time a word that has been much misunderstood. The Popolo appears upon the scene. Interpreting the past by the present, and importing the connotation gained by the word people in the revolutions of the last two centuries, students are apt to assume that the Popolo of the Italian burghs included the whole population. In reality it was at first a close aristocracy of influential families, to whom the authority of the superseded Counts was transferred in commission, and who held it by hereditary right.[3] Unless we firmly grasp this fact, the subsequent vicissitudes of the Italian commonwealths are unintelligible, and the elaborate definitions of the Florentine doctrinaires lose half their meaning. The internal revolutions of the free cities were almost invariably caused by the necessity of enlarging the Popolo, and extending its franchise to the non-privileged inhabitants. Each effort after expansion provoked an obstinate resistance from those families who held the rights of burghership; and thus the technical terms primo popolo, secondo popolo, popolo grasso, popolo minuto, frequently occurring in the records of the Republics, indicate several stages in the progress from oligarchy to democracy. The constitution of the city at this early period was simple. At the head of its administration stood the Bishop, with the Popolo of enfranchised burghers. The Commune included the Popolo, together with the non-qualified inhabitants, and was represented by Consuls, varying in number according to the division of the town into quarters.[4] Thus the Commune and the Popolo were originally separate bodies; and this distinction has been perpetuated in the architecture of those towns which still can show a Palazzo del Popolo apart from the Palazzo del Commune. Since the affairs of the city had to be conducted by discussion, we find Councils corresponding to the constituent elements of the burgh. There is the Parlamento, in which the inhabitants meet together to hear the decisions of the Bishop and the Popolo, or to take measures in extreme cases that affect the city as a whole; the Gran Consiglio, which is only open to duly qualified members of the Popolo; and the Credenza, or privy council of specially delegated burghers, who debate on matters demanding secrecy and diplomacy. Such, generally speaking, and without regard to local differences, was the internal constitution of an Italian city during the supremacy of the Bishops.

[1] It is not necessary to raise antiquarian questions here relating to the origin of the Italian Commune. Whether regarded as a survival of the ancient Roman municipium or as an offshoot from the Lombard guild, it was a new birth of modern times, a new organism evolved to express the functions of Italian as different from ancient Roman or mediaeval Lombard life. The affection of the people for their past induced them to use the nomenclature of Latin civility for the officers and councils of the Commune. Thus a specious air of classical antiquity, rather literary and sentimental than real, was given to the Commune at the outset. Moreover, it must be remembered that Rome herself had suffered no substantial interruption of republican existence during the Dark Ages. Therefore the free burghs, though their vitality was the outcome of wholly new conditions, though they were built up of guilds and associations representing interests of modern origin, flattered themselves with an uninterrupted municipal succession from the Roman era, and pointed for proof to the Eternal City.

[2] The Italian word contado is a survival from this state of things. It represents a moment in the national development when the sphere of the Count outside the city was defined against the sphere of the municipality. The Contadini are the people of the Contado, the Count's men.

[3] Even Petrarch, in his letter to four Cardinals (Lett. Fam. xi. 16, ed. Fracassetti) on the reformation of the Roman Commonwealth, recommends the exclusion of the neighboring burghs and all strangers, inclusive of the Colonna and Orsini families, from the franchise. None but pure Romans, how to be discovered from the colluviet omnium gentium deposited upon the Seven Hills by centuries of immigration he does not clearly say, should be chosen to revive the fallen majesty of the Republic. See in particular the peroration of his argument (op. cit. vol. iii. p. 95). In other words, he aims at a narrow Popolo, a pura cittadinanza, in the sense of Cacciaguida Par. xvi.

[4] In some places we find as many as twelve Consuls. It appears that both the constituent families of the Popolo and the numbers of the Consuls were determined by the Sections of the city, so many being told off for each quarter.

In the North of Italy not a few of the greater vassals, among whom may be mentioned the houses of Canossa, Montferrat, Savoy, and Este, creations of the Salic Emperors, looked with favor upon the development of the towns, while some nobles went so far as to constitute themselves feudatories of Bishops.[1] The angry warfare carried on against Canossa by the Lombard barons has probably to be interpreted by the jealousy this popular policy excited. At the same time, while Lombardy and Tuscany were establishing their municipal liberties, a sympathetic movement began in Southern Italy, which resulted in the conquest of Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily by the Normans. Omitting all the details of this episode, than which nothing more dramatic is presented by the history of modern nations, it must be enough to point out here that the Normans finally severed Italy from the Greek Empire, gave a monarchical stamp to the south of the peninsula, and brought the Regno they consolidated into the sphere of national politics under the protection of the Pope. Up to the date of their conquest Southern Italy had a separate and confused history. It now entered the Italian community, and by the peculiar circumstances of its cession to the Holy See was destined in the future to become the chief instrument whereby the Popes disturbed the equilibrium of the peninsula in furtherance of their ambitious schemes.

[1] The Pelavicini of S. Donnino, for example, gave themselves to Parma.

The greatness of the Roman cities under the popular rule of their Bishops is illustrated by Milan, second only to Rome in the last days of the Empire. Milan had been reduced to the condition of abject misery by the Kings, who spared no pains to exalt Pavia at the expense of her elder sister. After the dissolution of the kingdom, she started into a new life, and in 1037 her archbishop, Heribert, was singled out by Conrad II. as the protagonist of the episcopal revolution against feudalism.[1] Heribert was in truth the hero of the burghs in their first strife for independence. It was he who devised the Carroccio, an immense car drawn by oxen, bearing the banner of the Commune, with an altar and priests ministrant, around which the pikemen of the city mustered when they went to war. This invention of Heribert's was soon adopted by the cities throughout Italy. It gave cohesion and confidence to the citizens, reminded them that the Church was on their side in the struggle for freedom, and served as symbol of their military strength in union. The first authentic records of a Parliament, embracing the nobles of the Popolo, the clergy, and the multitude, are transmitted to us by the Milanese Chronicles, in which Heribert figures as the president of a republic. From this date Milan takes the lead in the contests for municipal independence. Her institutions like that of the Carroccio, together with her tameless spirit, are communicated to the neighboring cities of Lombardy, cross the Apennines, and animate the ancient burghs of Tuscany.

[1] He was summoned before the Diet of Pavia for having dispossessed a noble of his feud.

Having founded their liberties upon the episcopal presidency, the cities now proceeded to claim the right of choosing their own Bishops. They refused the prelates sent them by the Emperor, and demanded an election by the Chapters of each town. This privilege was virtually won when the war of Investitures broke out in 1073. After the death of Gregory VI. in 1046, the Emperors resolved to enforce their right of nominating the Popes. The two first prelates imposed on Rome, Clement II. and Damatus II., died under suspicion of poison. Thus the Roman people refused a foreign Pope, as the Lombards had rejected the bishops sent to rule them. The next Popes, Leo IX. and Victor II., were persuaded by Hildebrand, who now appears upon the stage, to undergo a second election at Rome by the clergy and the people. They escaped assassination. But the fifth German, Stephen X., again died suddenly; and now the formidable monk of Soana felt himself powerful enough to cause the election of his own candidate, Nicholas II. A Lateran council, inspired by Hildebrand, transferred the election of Popes to the Cardinals, approved by the clergy and people of Rome, and confirmed the privilege of the cities to choose their bishops, subject to Papal ratification. In 1073 Hildebrand assumed the tiara as Gregory VII., and declared a war that lasted more than forty years against the Empire. At its close in 1122 the Church and the Empire were counterposed as mutually exclusive autocracies, the one claiming illimitable spiritual sway, the other recognized as no less illimitably paramount in civil society. From the principles raised by Hildebrand and contested in the struggles of this duel, we may date those new conceptions of the two chief powers of Christendom which found final expression in the theocratic philosophy of the Summa and the imperial absolutism of the De Monarchia. Meanwhile the Empire and the Papacy, while trying their force against each other, had proved to Italy their essential weakness. What they gained as ideas, controlling the speculations of the next two centuries, they lost as potentates in the peninsula. It was impossible for either Pope or Emperor to carry on the war without bidding for the support of the cities; and therefore, at the end of the struggle, the free burghs found themselves strengthened at the expense of both powers. Still it must not be forgotten that the wars of Investitures, while they developed the independent spirit and the military energies of the Republics, penetrated Italy with the vice of party conflict. The ineradicable divisions of Guelf and Ghibelline were a heavy price to pay for a step forward on the path of emancipation; nor was the ecclesiastical revolution, which tended to Italianize the Papacy, while it magnified its cosmopolitan ascendency, other than a source of evil to the nation.

The forces liberated in the cities by these wars brought the Consuls to the front. The Bishops had undermined the feudal fabric of the kingdom, depressed the Counts, and restored the Roman towns to prosperity. During the war both Popolo and Commune grew in vigor, and their Consuls began to use the authority that had been conquered by the prelates. At first the Consuls occupied a subordinate position as men of affairs and notaries, needed to transact the business of the mercantile inhabitants. They now took the lead as political agents of the first magnitude, representing the city in its public acts, and superseding the ecclesiastics. The Popolo was enlarged by the admission of new burgher families, and the ruling caste, though still oligarchical, became more fairly representative of the inhabitants. This progress was inevitable, when we remember that the cities had been organized for warfare, and that, except their Consuls, they had no officials who combined civil and military functions. Under the jurisdiction of the Consuls Roman law was everywhere substituted for Lombard statutes, and another strong blow was thus dealt against decaying feudalism. The school of Bologna eclipsed the university of Pavia. Justinian's Code was studied with passionate energy, and the Italic people enthusiastically reverted to the institutions of their past. In the fable of the Codex of the Pandects brought by Pisa from Amalfi we can trace the fervor of this movement, whereby the Romans of the cities struggled after resurrection.

One of the earliest manifestations of municipal vitality was the war of city against city, which began to blaze with fury in the first half of the twelfth century, and endured so long as free towns lasted to perpetuate the conflict. No sooner had the burghs established themselves beneath the presidency of their Consuls than they turned the arms they had acquired in the war of independence, against their neighbors. The phenomenon was not confined to any single district. It revealed a new necessity in the very constitution of the commonwealths. Penned up within the narrow limits of their petty dependencies, throbbing with fresh life, overflowing with a populace inured to warfare, demanding channels for their energies in commerce, competing with each other on the paths of industry, they clashed in deadliest duels for breathing space and means of wealth. The occasions that provoked one Commune to declare war upon its rival were trivial. The animosity was internecine and persistent. Life or death hung in the balance. It was a conflict for ascendency that brought the sternest passions into play, and decided the survival of the fittest among hundreds of competing cities. The deeply rooted jealousies of Roman and feudal centers, the recent partisanship of Papal and Imperial principles, imbittered this strife. But what lay beneath all superficial causes of dissension was the economic struggle of communities, for whom the soil of Italy already had begun to seem too narrow. So superabundant were the forces of her population, so vast were the energies emancipated by her attainment of municipal freedom, that this mighty mother of peoples could not afford equal sustenance to all her children. New-born, they had to strangle one another as they hung upon the breast that gave them nourishment. It was impossible for the Emperor to overlook the apparent anarchy of his fairest province. Therefore, when Frederick Barbarossa was elected in 1152, his first thought was to reduce the Garden of the Empire to order. Soon after his election he descended into Lombardy and formed two leagues among the cities of the North, the one headed by Pavia, the center of the abrogated kingdom, the other by Milan, who inherited the majesty of Rome and contained within her loins the future of Italian freedom. It is not necessary to follow in detail the conflict of the Lombard burghs with Frederick, so enthusiastically described by their historian, Sismondi, It is enough for our present purpose to remember that in the course of that contention both leagues made common cause against the Emperor, drew the Pope Alexander III. into their quarrel, and at last in 1183, after the victory of Legnano had convinced Frederick of his weakness, extorted by the Peace of Constance privileges whereby their autonomy was amply guaranteed and recognized. The advantages won by Milan who sustained the brunt of the imperial onslaughts, and by the splendor of her martyrdom surmounted the petty jealousies of her municipal rivals, were extended to the cities of Tuscany. After the date of that compact signed by the Emperor and his insurgent subjects, the burghs obtained an assured position as a third power between the Empire and the Church. The most remarkable point in the history of this contention is the unanimous submission of the Communes to what they regarded as the just suzerainty of Caesar's representative. Though they were omnipotent in Lombardy, they took no measures for closing the gates of the Alps against the Germans. The Emperor was free to come and go as he listed; and when peace was signed, he reckoned the burghers who had beaten him by arms and policy, among his loyal vassals. Still the spirit of independence in Italy had been amply asserted. This is notably displayed in the address presented to Frederick, before his coronation, by the senate of Rome. Regenerated by Arnold of Brescia's revolutionary mission, the Roman people assumed its antique majesty in these remarkable words: 'Thou wast a stranger; I have made thee citizen; thou camest from regions from beyond the Alps; I have conferred on thee the principality.'[1] Presumptuous boast as this sounded in the ears of Frederick, it proved that the Italic nation had now sharply defined itself against the Church and the barbarians. It still accepted the Empire because the Empire was the glory of Italy, the crown that gave to her people the presidency of civilization. It still recognized the authority of the Church because the Church was the eldest daughter of Italy emergent from the wrecks of Roman society. But the nation had become conscious of its right to stand apart from either.

[1]: 'Hospes eras, civem feci. Advena fuisti ex transalpinis partibus, principem constitui. Quod meum jure fuit, tibi dedi.' See Ottonis Episcopi Frisingensis Chronicon, De Rebus Gestis Frid. i. Imp. Lib. ii. cap. 21. Basileae, 1569. The Legates appointed by the Senate met the Emperor at Sutri, and delivered the oration of which the sentence just quoted was part. It began: 'Urbis legati nos, rex optime, ad tuam a Senatu, populoque Romano destinati sumus excellentiam,' and contained this remarkable passage: 'Orbis imperium affectas, coronam praebitura gratanter assurgo, jocanter occurro ... indebitum clericorum excussurus jugum.' If the words are faithfully reported, the Republic separates itself abruptly from the Papacy, and claims a kind of precedence in honor before the Empire. Frederick is said to have interrupted the Legates in a rage before they could finish their address, and to have replied with angry contempt. The speech put into his mouth is probably a rhetorical composition, but it may have expressed his sentiments. 'Multa de Romanorum sapientia seu fortitudine hactenus audivimus, magis tamen de sapientia. Quare satis mirari non possumus, quod verba vestra plus arrogantiae tumore insipida quam sale sapientiae condita sentimus.... Fuit, fuit quondam in hac Republica virtus. Quondam dico, atque o utinam tam veracitur quam libenter nunc dicere possemus,' etc.

Strengthened by their contest with Frederick Barbarossa, recognized in their rights as belligerent powers, and left to their own guidance by the Empire, the cities were now free to prosecute their wars upon the remnants of feudalism. The town, as we have learned to know it, was surrounded by a serried rank of castles, where the nobles held still undisputed authority over serfs of the soil. Against this cordon of fortresses every city with singular unanimity directed the forces it had formed in the preceding conflicts. At the same time the municipal struggles of Commune against Commune lost none of their virulence. The Counts, pressed on all sides by the towns that had grown up around them, adopted the policy of pitting one burgh against another. When a noble was attacked by the township near his castle, he espoused the animosities of a more distant city, compromised his independence by accepting the captaincy or lieutenancy of communes hostile to his natural enemies, and thus became the servant or ally of a Republic. In his desperation he emancipated his serfs, and so the folk of the Contado profited by the dissensions of the cities and their feudal masters. This new phase of republican evolution lasted over a long and ill-defined period, assuming different characters in different centers; but the end of it was that the nobles were forced to submit to the cities. They were admitted to the burghership, and agreed to spend a certain portion of every year in the palaces they raised within the circuit of the walls. Thus the Counts placed themselves beneath the jurisdiction of the Consuls, and the Italic population absorbed into itself the relics of Lombard, Frank, and German aristocracy. Still the gain upon the side of the republics was not clear. Though the feudal lordship of the nobles had been destroyed, their wealth, their lands, and their prestige remained untouched. In the city they felt themselves but aliens. Their real home was still the castle on the neighboring mountain. Nor, when they stooped to become burghers, had they relinquished the use of arms. Instead of building peaceable dwelling-houses in the city, they filled its quarters with fortresses and towers, whence they carried on feuds among themselves and imperiled the safety of the streets. It was speedily discovered that the war against the Castles had become a war against the Palaces, and that the arena had been transferred from the open Contado to the Piazza and the barricade. The authority of the consuls proved insufficient to maintain an equilibrium between the people and the nobles. Accordingly a new magistrate started into being, combining the offices of supreme justiciary and military dictator. When Frederick Barbarossa attempted to govern the rebellious Lombard cities in the common interest of the Empire, he established in their midst a foreign judge, called Podesta quasi habens potestatem Imperatoris in hac parte. This institution only served at the moment to inflame and imbitter the resistance of the Communes: but the title of Podesta was subsequently conferred upon the official summoned to maintain an equal balance between the burghers and the nobles. He was invariably a foreigner, elected for one year, intrusted with summary jurisdiction in all matters of dispute, exercising the power of life and death, and disposing of the municipal militia. The old constitution of the Commune remained to control this dictator and to guard the independence of the city. All the Councils continued to act, and the Consuls were fortified by the formation of a College of Ancients or Priors. The Podesta was created with the express purpose of effecting a synthesis between two rival sections of the burgh. He was never regarded as other than an alien to the city, adopted as a temporary mediator and controller of incompatible elements. The lordship of the burgh still resided with the Consuls, who from this time forward began to lose their individuality in the College of the Signoria—called Priori, Anziani, or Rettori, as the case might be in various districts.

The Italian republics had reached this stage when Frederick II. united the Empire and the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It was a crisis of the utmost moment for Italian independence. Master of the South, Frederick sought to reconquer the lost prerogatives of the Empire in Lombardy and Tuscany; nor is it improbable that he might have succeeded in uniting Italy beneath his sway but for the violent animosity of the Church. The warfare of extermination carried on by the Popes against the house of Hohenstauffen was no proof of their partiality for the cause of freedom. They dreaded the reality of a kingdom that should base itself on Italy and be the rival of their own authority. Therefore they espoused the cause of the free burghs against Frederick, and when the North was devastated by his Vicars, they preached a crusade against Ezzelino da Romano. In the convulsions that shook Italy from North to South the parties of Guelf and Ghibelline took shape, and acquired an ineradicable force. All the previous humors and discords of the nation were absorbed by them. The Guelf party meant the burghers of the consular Communes, the men of industry and commerce, the upholders of civil liberty, the friends of democratic expansion. The Ghibelline party included the naturalized nobles, the men of arms and idleness, the advocates of feudalism, the politicians who regarded constitutional progress with disfavor. That the banner of the Church floated over the one camp, while the standard of the Empire rallied to itself the hostile party, was a matter of comparatively superficial moment. The true strength of the war lay in the population, divided by irreconcilable ideals, each eager to possess the city for itself, each prepared to die for its adopted principles. The struggle is a social struggle, played out within the precincts of the Commune, for the supremacy of one or the other moiety of the whole people. A city does not pronounce itself either Guelf or Ghibelline till half the burghers have been exiled. The victorious party organizes the government in its own interest, establishes itself in a Palazzo apart from the Commune, where it develops its machinery at home and abroad, and strengthens its finance by forced contributions and confiscations.[1] The exiles make common cause with members of their own faction in an adverse burgh; and thus, by the diplomacy of Guelfs and Ghibellines, the most distant centers are drawn into the network of a common dualism. In this way we are justified in saying that Italy achieved her national consciousness through strife and conflict; for the Communes ceased to be isolated, cemented by temporary leagues, or engaged in merely local conflicts. They were brought together and connected by the sympathies and antipathies of an antagonism which embraced and dominated the municipalities, set Republics and Regno on equal footing, and merged the titular leaders of the struggle, Pope and Emperor, in the uncontrollable tumult. The issue was no vulgar one; no merely egotistic interests were at stake. Guelfs and Ghibellines alike interrogated the oracle, with perfect will to obey its inspiration for the common good; but they read the utterances of the Pythia in adverse senses. The Ghibelline heard Italy calling upon him to build a citadel that should be guarded by the lance and shield of chivalry, where the hierarchies of feudalism, ranged beneath the dais of the Empire, might dispense culture and civil order in due measure to the people. The Guelf believed that she was bidding him to multiply arts and guilds within the burgh, beneath the mantle of the Pope, who stood for Christ, the preacher of equality and peace for all mankind, in order that the beehive of industry should in course of time evolve a civil order and a culture representative of its own freely acting forces.

[1] It is enough to refer to the importance of the Parte Guelfa in the history of Florence.

During the stress and storm of the fierce warfare carried on by Guelfs and Ghibellines, the Podesta fell into the second rank. He had been created to meet an emergency; but now the discord was too vehement for arbitration. A new functionary appears, with the title of Captain of the People. Chosen when one or other of the factions gains supreme power in the burgh, he represents the victorious party, takes the lead in proscribing their opponents, and ratifies on his responsibility the changes introduced into the constitution. The old magistracies and councils, meanwhile, are not abrogated. The Consiglio del Popolo, with the Capitano at its head, takes the lead; and a new member, called the Consiglio della Parte, is found beside them, watchful to maintain the policy of the victorious faction. But the Consiglio del Comune, with the Podesta, who has not ceased to exercise judicial functions, still subsists. The Priors form the signory as of old. The Credenza goes on working, and the Gran Consiglio represents the body of privileged burghers. The party does but tyrannize over the city it has conquered, and manipulates the ancient constitution for its own advantage. In this clash of Guelf with Ghibelline the beneficiaries were the lower classes of the people. Excluded from the Popolo of episcopal and consular revolutions, the trades and industries of the great cities now assert their claims to be enfranchised. The advent of the Arti is the chief social phenomenon of the crisis.[1] Thus the final issue of the conflict was a new Italy, deeply divided by factions that were little understood, because they were so vital, because they represented two adverse currents of national energy, incompatible, irreconcilable, eternal in antagonism as the poles. But this discordant nation was more commercial and more democratic. Families of merchants rose upon the ruins of the old nobility. Roman cities of industry reduced their military rivals of earlier or later origin to insignificance. The plain, the river, and the port asserted themselves against the mountain fastness and the barrackburgh. The several classes of society, triturated, shaken together, leveled by warfare and equalized by industry, presented but few obstacles to the emergence of commanding personalities, however humble, from their ranks. Not only had the hierarchy of feudalism disappeared; but the constitution of the city itself was confused, and the Popolo, whether 'primo' or 'secondo or even 'terzo,' was diluted with recently franchised Contadini and all kinds of 'novi homines.'[2] The Divine Comedy, written after the culmination of the Guelf and Ghibelline dissensions, yields the measure of their animosity. Dante finds no place in Hell Heaven, or Purgatory for the souls who stood aloof from strife, the angels who were neither Guelf nor Ghibelline in Paradise. His Vigliacchi, 'wretches who never lived,' because they never felt the pangs or ecstasies of partisanship, wander homeless on the skirts of Limbo, among the abortions and offscourings of creation. Even so there was no standing-ground in Italy outside one or the other hostile camp. Society was riven down to its foundation. Rancors dating from the thirteenth century endured long after the great parties ceased to have a meaning. They were perpetuated in customs, and expressed themselves in the most trivial details. Banners, ensigns, and heraldic colors followed the divisions of the factions. Ghibellines wore the feathers in their caps upon one side, Guelfs upon the other. Ghibellines cut fruit at table crosswise, Guelfs straight down. In Bergamo some Calabrians were murdered by their host, who discovered from their way of slicing garlic that they sided with the hostile party. Ghibellines drank out of smooth, and Guelfs out of chased, goblets. Ghibellines wore white, and Guelfs red, roses. Yawning, passing in the street, throwing dice, gestures in speaking or swearing, were used as pretexts for distinguishing the one half of Italy from the other. So late as the middle of the fifteenth century, the Ghibellines of Milan tore Christ from the high-altar of the Cathedral at Crema and burned him because he turned his face to the Guelf shoulder. Every great city has a tale of love and death that carries the contention of its adverse families into the region of romance and legend. Florence dated her calamities from the insult offered by Buondelmonte dei Buondelmonti to the Amidei in a broken marriage. Bologna never forgot the pathos of Imelda Lambertazzi stretched in death upon her lover Bonifazio Gieremei's corpse. The story of Romeo and Juliet at Verona is a myth which brings both factions into play, the well-meaning intervention of peace-making monks, and the ineffectual efforts of the Podesta to curb the violence of party warfare.

[1] The history of Florence illustrates more clearly than that of any other town the vast importance acquired by trades and guilds in politics at this epoch of the civil wars.

[2] This is the sting of Cacciaguida's scornful lamentation over Florence Par. xvi.

Ma la cittadinanza, ch' e or mista Di Campi e di Certaldo e di Figghine, Pura vedeasi nell' ultimo artista.

Tal fatto e fiorentino, e cambia e merca, Che si sarebbe volto a Semifonti, La dove andava l' avolo alia cerca.

Sempre la confusione delle persone Principio fu del mal della cittade, Come del corpo il cibo che s' appone.

So deep and dreadful was the discord, so utter the exhaustion, that the distracted Communes were fain at last to find some peace in tyranny. At the close of their long quarrel with the house of Hohenstauffen, the Popes called Charles of Anjou into Italy. The final issue of that policy for the nation at large will be discussed in another portion of this work. It is enough to point out here that, as Ezzelino da Romano introduced despotism in its worst form as a party leader of the Ghibellines, so Charles of Anjou became a typical tyrant in the Guelf interest. He was recognized as chief of the Guelf party by the Florentines, and the kingdom of the Two Sicilies was conferred upon him as the price of his dictatorship. The republics almost simultaneously entered upon a new phase. Democratized by the extension of the franchise, corrupted, to use Machiavelli's phrase, in their old organization of the Popolo and Commune, they fell into the hands of tyrants, who employed the prestige of their party, the indifference of the Vigliacchi, and the peace-loving instincts of the middle class for the consolidation of their selfish autocracy.[1] Placing himself above the law, manipulating the machinery of the State for his own ends, substituting the will of a single ruler for the clash of hostile passions in the factions, the tyrant imposed a forcible tranquillity upon the city he had grasped. The Captaincy of the people was conferred upon him.[2] The Councils were suffocated and reduced to silence. The aristocracy was persecuted for the profit of the plebs. Under his rule commerce flourished; the towns were adorned with splendid edifices; foreign wars were carried on for the aggrandizement of the State without regard to factious rancors. Thus the tyrant marked the first emergence of personality supreme within the State, resuming its old forces in an autocratic will, superseding and at the same time consciously controlling the mute, collective, blindly working impulses of previous revolutions. His advent was welcomed as a blessing by the recently developed people of the cities he reduced to peace. But the great families and leaders of the parties regarded him with loathing, as a reptile spawned by the corruption and disease of the decaying body politic. In their fury they addressed themselves to the two chiefs of Christendom. Boniface VIII., answering to this appeal, called in a second Frenchman, Charles of Valois, with the titles of Marquis of Ancona, Count of Romagna, Captain of Tuscany, who was bidden to reduce Italy to order on Guelf principles. Dante in his mountain solitudes invoked the Emperor, and Italy beheld the powerless march of Henry VII. Neither Pope nor Emperor was strong enough to control the currents of the factions which were surely whirling Italy into the abyss of despotism. Boniface died of grief after Sciarra Colonna, the terrible Ghibelline's outrage at Anagni, and the Papal Court was transferred to Avignon in 1316. Henry VII. expired, of poison probably, at Buonconvento, in 1313. The parties tore each other to fragments. Tyrants were murdered. Whole families were extirpated. Yet these convulsions bore no fruit of liberty. The only exit from the situation was in despotism—the despotism of a jealous oligarchy as at Florence, or the despotism of new tyrants in Lombardy and the Romagna.[3]

[1] Not to mention the republics of Lombardy and Romagna, which took the final stamp of despotism at the beginning of the fourteenth century, it is noticeable that Pisa submitted to Uguccione da Faggiuola, Lucca to Castruccio Castracane, and Florence to the Duke of Athens. The revolution of Pisa in 1316 delivered it from Uguccione; the premature death of Castruccio in 1328 destroyed the Tuscan duchy he was building up upon the basement of Ghibellinism; while the rebellion of 1343 averted tyranny from Florence for another century.

[2] Machiavelli's Vita di Castruccio Castracane, though it is rather a historical romance than a trustworthy biography, illustrates the gradual advances made by a bold and ambitious leader from the Captaincy of the people, conferred upon him for one year, to the tyranny of his city.

[3] The Divine comedy is, under one of its aspects, the Epic of Italian tyranny, so many of its episodes are chosen from the history of the civil wars:

Che le terre d' Italia tutte piene Son di tiranni; ed un Marcel diventa Ogni villan che parteggiando viene.

Those lines occur in the apostrophe to Italy (Purg. vi.) where Dante refers to the Empire, idealized by him as the supreme authority in Europe.

Meanwhile the perils to which the tyrants were exposed taught them to employ cruelty and craft in combination. From the confused and spasmodic efforts of the thirteenth century, when Captains of the people and leaders of the party seized a momentary gust of power, there arose a second sort of despotism, more cautious in its policy, more methodic in its use of means to ends, which ended by metamorphosing the Italian cities and preparing the great age of the Renaissance. It would be sentimental to utter lamentations over this change, and unphilosophical to deplore the diminution of republican liberty as an unmixed evil. The divisions of Italy and the weakness of both Papacy and Empire left no other solution of the political problem. All branches of the municipal administration, strained to the cracking-point by the tension of party conflict, were now isolated from the organism, abnormally developed, requiring the combining effort of a single thinker to reunite their scattered forces in one system or absorb them in himself. The indirect restraints which a calmer period of municipal vitality had placed upon tyrannic ambition, were removed by the leveling of classes and the presentation of an equal surface to the builder of the palace-dome of monarchy. Moreover, it must be remembered that what the Italians then understood by freedom was municipal autonomy controlled by ruling houses in the interest of the few. These considerations need not check our sympathy with Florence in the warfare she carried on against the Milanese tyrants. But they should lead us to be cautious in adopting the conclusions of Sismondi, who saw Italian greatness only in her free cities. The obliteration of the parties beneath despotism was needed, under actual conditions, for that development of arts and industry which raised Italy to a first place among civilized nations. Of the manners of the Despots, and of the demoralization they encouraged in the cities of their rule, enough will be said in the succeeding chapters, which set forth the social conditions of the Renaissance in Italy. But attention should here be called to the general character of despotic authority, and to the influence the Despots exercised for the pacification of the country. We are not justified by facts in assuming that had the free burghs continued independent, arts and literature would have risen to a greater height. Venice, in spite of an uninterrupted republican career, produced no commanding men of letters, and owed much of her splendor in the art of painting to aliens from Cadore, Castelfranco, and Verona. Genoa remained silent and irresponsive to the artistic movement of Italy until the last days of the republic, when her independence was but a shadow. Pisa, though a burgh of Tuscany, displayed no literary talent, while her architecture dates from the first period of the Commune. Siena, whose republican existence lasted longer even than that of Florence, contributed nothing of importance to Italian literature. The art of Perugia was developed during the ascendency of despotic families. The painting of the Milanese School owed its origin to Lodovico Sforza, and survived the tragic catastrophes of his capital, which suffered more than any other from the brutalities of Spaniards and Frenchmen. Next to Florence, the most brilliant centers of literary activity during the bright days of the Renaissance were princely Ferrara and royal Naples. Lastly, we might insist upon the fact that the Italian language took its first flight in the court of imperial Palermo, while republican Rome remained dumb throughout the earlier stage of Italian literary evolution. Thus the facts of the case seem to show that culture and republican independence were not so closely united in Italy as some historians would seek to make us believe. On the other hand it is impossible to prove that the despotisms of the fifteenth century were necessary to the perfecting of art and literature. All that can be safely advanced upon this subject, is that the pacification of Italy was demanded as a preliminary condition, and that this pacification came to pass through the action of the princes, checked and equilibrated by the oligarchies of Venice and Florence. It might further be urged that the Despots were in close sympathy with the masses of the people, shared their enthusiasms, and promoted their industry. When the classical revival took place at the close of the fourteenth century, they divined this movement of the Italic races to resume their past, and gave it all encouragement. To be a prince, and not to be the patron of scholarship, the pupil of humanists, and the founder of libraries, was an impossibility. In like manner they employed their wealth upon the development of arts and industries. The great age of Florentine painting is indissolubly connected with the memories of Casa Medici. Rome owes her magnificence to the despotic Popes. Even the pottery of Gubbio was a creation of the ducal house of Urbino.

After the death of Henry VII. and the beginning of the Papal exile at Avignon, the Guelf party became the rallying-point of municipal independence, with its headquarters in Florence. Ghibellinism united the princes in an opposite camp. 'The Guelf party,' writes Giovanni Villani, 'forms the solid and unalterable basis of Italian liberty, and is so antagonistic to all tyranny that, if a Guelf become a tyrant, he must of necessity become at the same moment Ghibelline.' Milan, first to assert the rights of the free burghs, was now the chief center of despotism; and the events of the next century resume themselves in the long struggle between Florence and the Visconti. The chronicle of the Villani and the Florentine history of Poggio contain the record of this strife, which seemed to them the all-important crisis of Italian affairs. In the Milanese annals of Galvano Fiamma and Mussi, on the other hand, the advantages of a despotic sovereignty in giving national coherence, the crimes of the Papacy, which promoted anarchy in its ill-governed States, and the prospect of a comprehensive Italian tyranny under the great house of the Visconti, are eloquently pleaded. The terms of the main issue being thus clearly defined, we may regard the warfare carried on by Bertrand du Poiet and Louis of Bavaria in the interests of Church and Empire, the splendid campaigns of Egidio d'Albornoz, and the delirious cruelty of Robert of Geneva, no less than the predatory excursions of Charles IV., as episodical. The main profits of those convulsions, which drowned Italy in blood during nearly all the fourteenth century, accrued to the Despots, who held their ground in spite of all attempts to dispossess them. The greater houses, notably the Visconti, acquired strength by revolutions in which the Church and Empire neutralized each other's action. The lesser families struck firm roots into cities, infuriated rather than intimidated by such acts of violence as the massacres of Faenza and Cesena in 1377. The relations of the imperial and pontifical parties were confused; while even in the center of republican independence, at Florence, social changes, determined in great measure by the exhaustion of the city in its conflict, prepared the way for the Medicean tyranny. Neither the Church nor the Empire gained steady footing in Italy, while the prestige of both was ruined.[1] Municipal freedom, instead of being enlarged, was extinguished by the ambition of the Florentine oligarchs, who, while they spent the last florin of the Commune in opposing the Visconti, never missed an opportunity of enslaving the sister burghs of Tuscany. In a word, the destiny of the nation was irresistibly impelling it toward despotism.

[1] Machiavelli, in his Istorie Fiorentine (Firenze, 1818, vol. i. pp. 47, 48), points out how the competition of the Church and Empire, during the Papacies of Benedict XII. and Clement VI. and the reign of Louis strengthened the tyrants of Lombardy, Romagna, and the March. Each of the two contending powers gave away what did not belong to them, bidding against each other for any support they might obtain from the masters of the towns.

In order to explain the continual prosperity of the princes amid the clash of forces brought to bear against them from so many sides, we must remember that they were the partisans of social order in distracted burghs, the heroes of the middle classes and the multitude, the quellers of faction, the administrators of impartial laws, and the aggrandizers of the city at the expense of its neighbors. Ser Gorello, singing the praises of the Bishop Guido dei Tarlati di Pietra Mala, who ruled Arezzo in the first half of the fourteenth century, makes the Commune say:[1] 'He was the lord so valiant and magnificent, so full of grace and daring, so agreeable to both Guelfs and Ghibellines. He, for his virtue, was chosen by common consent to be the master of my people. Peace and justice were the beginning, middle, and end of his lordship, which removed all discord from the State. By the greatness of his valor I grew in territory round about. Every neighbor reverenced me, some through love and some through dread; for it was dear to them to rest beneath his mantle.' These verses set forth the qualities which united the mass of the populations to their new lords. The Despot delivered the industrial classes from the tyranny and anarchy of faction, substituting a reign of personal terrorism that weighed more heavily upon the nobles than upon the artisans or peasants. Ruling more by perfidy, corruption, and fraud than by the sword, he turned the leaders of parties into courtiers, brought proscribed exiles back into the city as officials, flattered local vanity by continuing the municipal machinery in its functions of parade, and stopped the mouths of unruly demagogues by making it their pecuniary interest to preach his benefits abroad. So long as the burghers remained peaceable beneath his sway and refrained from attacking him in person, he was mild. But at the same moment the gallows, the torture-chamber, the iron cage suspended from the giddy height of palace-roof or church tower, and the dreadful dungeons, where a prisoner could neither stand nor lie at ease, were ever ready for the man who dared dispute his authority. That authority depended solely on his personal qualities of will, courage, physical endurance. He held it by intelligence, being as it were an artificial product of political necessities, an equilibrium of forces, substituted without legal title for the Church and Empire, and accumulating in his despotic individuality the privileges previously acquired by centuries of consuls, Podestas, and Captains of the people. The chief danger he had to fear was conspiracy; and in providing himself against this peril he expended all the resources suggested by refined ingenuity and heightened terror. Yet, when the Despot was attacked and murdered, it followed of necessity that the successful conspirator became in turn a tyrant. 'Cities,' wrote Machiavelli,[2] 'that are once corrupt and accustomed to the rule of princes, can never acquire freedom, even though the prince with all his kin be extirpated. One prince is needed to extinguish another; and the city has no rest except by the creation of a new lord, unless it chance that one burgher by his goodness and great qualities may during his lifetime preserve its temporary independence.' Palace intrigues, therefore, took the place of Piazza revolutions, and dynasties were swept away to make room for new tyrants without material change in the condition of the populace.

[1] Mur. Scr. R. It. xv. 826. Compare what G. Merula wrote about Azzo Visconti: 'He conciliated the people to him by equal justice without distinction of Guelf or Ghibelline.'

[2] Discorsi. i. 17.

It was the universal policy of the Despots to disarm their subjects. Prompted by considerations of personal safety, and demanded by the necessity of extirpating the factions, this measure was highly popular. It relieved the burghers of that most burdensome of all public duties, military service. A tax on silver and salt was substituted in the Milanese province for the conscription, while the Florentine oligarchs, actuated probably by the same motives, laid a tax upon the country. The effect of this change was to make financial and economical questions all-important, and to introduce a new element into the balance of Italian powers. The principalities were transformed into great banks, where the lords of cities sat in their bureau, counted their money, and calculated the cost of wars or the value of towns they sought to acquire by bargain. At first they used their mercenary troops like pawns, buying up a certain number for some special project, and dismissing them when it had been accomplished. But in course of time the mercenaries awoke to the sense of their own power, and placed themselves beneath captains who secured them a certainty of pay with continuity of profitable service. Thus the Condottieri came into existence, and Italy beheld the spectacle of moving despotisms, armed and mounted, seeking to effect establishment upon the weakest, worst-defended points of the peninsula. They proved a grave cause of disquietude alike to the tyrants and the republics; and until the settlement of Francesco Sforza in the Duchy of Milan, when the employers of auxiliaries had come to understand the arts of dealing with them by perfidy, secret assassination, and a system of elaborate counter-checks, the equilibrium of power in Italy was seriously threatened. The country suffered at first from marauding excursions conducted by piratical leaders of adventurous troops, by Werner of Urslingen, the Conte Lando, and Fra Moriale; afterwards from the discords of Braccio da Montone and Sforza Attendolo, incessantly plotting to carve duchies for themselves from provinces they had been summoned by a master to subdue. At this period gold ruled the destinies of Italy. The Despots, relying solely on their exchequer for their power, were driven to extortion. Cities became bankrupt, pledged their revenues, or sold themselves to the highest bidder.[1] Indescribable misery oppressed the poorer classes and the peasants. A series of obscure revolutions in the smaller despotic centers pointed to a vehement plebeian reaction against a state of things that had become unbearable. The lower classes of the burghers rose against the 'popolani grassi,' and a new class of princes emerged at the close of the crisis. Thus the plebs forced the Bentivogli on Bologna and the Medici on Florence, and Baglioni on Perugia and the Petrucci on Siena.

[1] Perugia, for example, farmed out the tax upon her country population for 12,000 florins, upon her baking-houses for 7,266, upon her wine for 4,000, upon her lake for 5,200, upon contracts for 1,500. Two bankers accepted the Perugian loan at this price in 1388.

The emergence of the Condottieri at the beginning of the fourteenth century, the anarchy they encouraged for their own aggrandizement, and the financial distress which ensued upon the substitution of mercenary for civic warfare, completed the democratization of the Italian cities, and marked a new period in the history of despotism. From the date of Francesco Sforza's entry into Milan as conqueror in 1450, the princes became milder in their exercise of power and less ambitious. Having begun by disarming their subjects, they now proceeded to lay down arms themselves, employing small forces for the protection of their person and the State, engaging more cautiously in foreign strife, and substituting diplomacy, wherever it was possible, for warfare. Gold still ruled in politics, but it was spent in bribery. To the ambitious military schemes of Gian Galeazzo Visconti succeeded the commercial cynicism of Cosimo de' Medici, who enslaved Florence by astute demoralization.[1] The spirit of the age was materialistic and positive. The Despots held their state by treachery, craft, and corruption. The element of force being virtually eliminated, intelligence at last gained undivided sway; and the ideal statecraft of Machiavelli was realized with more or less completeness in all parts of the peninsula. At this moment and by these means Italy obtained a brief but golden period of peace beneath the confederation of her great powers. Nicholas V. had restored the Papal court to Rome in 1447; where he assumed the manners of despotism and counted as one among the Italian Signori. Lombardy remained tranquil under the rule of Francesco Sforza, and Tuscany under that of the Casa Medici. The kingdom of Naples, conquered by Alfonso of Aragon in 1442, was equally ruled in the spirit of enlightened despotism, while Venice, who had so long formed a state apart, by her recent acquisition of a domain on terra firma, entered the community of Italian politics. Thus the country had finally resolved itself into five grand constituent elements—the Duchy of Milan, the Republic of S. Mark, Florence, Rome, and the kingdom of Naples—all of them, though widely differing in previous history and constitutional peculiarities, now animated by a common spirit.[2] Politically they tended to despotism; for though Venice continued to be a republic, the government of the Venetian oligarchy was but despotism put into commission. Intellectually, the same enthusiasm for classical studies, the same artistic energy, and the same impulse to revive Italian literature brought the several centers of the nation into keener sympathy than they had felt before. A network of diplomacy embraced the cities; and round the leaders of the confederation were grouped inferior burghs, republican or tyrannical as the case might be, like satellites around the luminaries of a solar system. When Constantinople was taken by the Turks in 1453, Italy felt the need of suppressing her old jealousies, and Nicholas V. induced the four great powers to sign with him a treaty of peace and amity. The political tact and sagacity of Lorenzo de' Medici enabled him to develop and substantiate the principle of balance then introduced into Italian politics; nor was there any apparent reason why the equilibrium so hardly won, so skillfully maintained, should not have subsisted but for Lodovico Sforza's invitation to the French in 1494. Up to that date the more recent wars of Italy had been principally caused by the encroachments of Venice and the nepotism of successive Popes. They raised no new enthusiasm hostile to the interests of peace. The Empire was eliminated and forgotten as an obsolete antiquity. Italy seemed at last determined to manage her own affairs by mutual agreement between the five great powers.

[1] I have attempted to analyze Cosimo's method in the article on 'Florence and the Medici,' Studies and Sketches in Italy.

[2] This centralization of Italy in five great powers was not obtained without the depression or total extinction of smaller cities. Ferrari counts seventeen towns, who died, to use his forcible expression, at the close of the civil wars. Storia delle Rivoluzioni d' Italia, iii. 239.

Still the ground beneath this specious fabric of diplomacy rung hollow. The tyrannies represented a transient political necessity. They were not the product of progressive social growth, satisfying and regulating organic functions of the nation. Far from being the final outcome of a slow, deliberate accretion in the states they had absorbed, we see in them the climax of conflicting humors, the splendid cancers and imposthumes of a desperate disease. That solid basis of national morality which grounds the monarch firm upon the sympathies and interests of the people whom he seems to lead, but whom he in reality expresses, failed them. Therefore each individual despot trembled for his throne, while Italy, as in the ominous picture drawn by her historian, felt that all the elements were combining to devour her with a coming storm. The land of earthquakes divined a cataclysm, to cope with which she was unable. An apparently insignificant event determined the catastrophe. The Sforza appealed to France, and after the disastrous descent of Charles VIII. the whole tide of events turned. Instead of internal self-government by any system of balance, Italy submitted to a succession of invasions terminating in foreign tyranny.

The problem why the Italians failed to achieve the unity of a coherent nation has been implicitly discussed in the foregoing pages upon the history of the Communes and the development of despotism. We have already seen that their conception of municipal independence made a narrow oligarchy of enfranchised burghers lords of the city, which in its turn oppressed the country and the subject burghs of its domain. Every conquest by a republic reduced some village or center of civil life to the condition of serfdom. The voices of the inhabitants were no longer heard debating questions that affected their interests. They submitted to dictation from their masters, the enfranchised few in the ascendant commonwealth. Thus, as Guicciardini pointed out in his 'Considerations on the Discourses of Machiavelli,' the subjection of Italy by a dominant republic would have meant the extinction of numberless political communities and the sway of a close oligarchy from the Alps to the Ionian Sea.[1] The 3,200 burghers who constituted Florence in 1494, or the nobles of the Golden Book at Venice, would by such unification of the country under a victorious republic have become sovereigns, administering the resources of the nation for their profit. The dread of this catastrophe rendered Venice odious to her sister commonwealths at the close of the fifteenth century, and justified, according to Guicciardini's views of history, the action taken by Cosimo de' Medici in 1450, when he rendered Milan strong by supporting her despot, Francesco Sforza.[2] In a word republican freedom, as the term is now understood, was unknown in Italy. Municipal autonomy, implying the right of the municipality to rule its conquests for its own particular profit, was the dominant idea. To have advanced from this stage of thought to the highly developed conception of a national republic, centralizing the forces of Italy and at the same time giving free play to its local energies, would have been impossible. This kind of republican unity implies a previous unification of the people in some other form of government. It furthermore demands a system of representation extended to all sections of the nation. Their very nature, therefore, prevented the republican institutions won by the Italians in the early Middle Ages from sufficing for their independence in a national republic.

[1] Op. Ined. vol. i. p. 28.

[2] Ib. vol. iii. p. 8.

It may with more reason be asked in the next place why Italy did not become a monarchy, and again why she never produced a confederation, uniting the Communes as the Swiss Cantons were combined for mutual support and self-defense. When we attack the first of these two questions, our immediate answer must be that the Italians had a rooted disinclination for monarchical union.[1] Their most strenuous efforts were directed against it when it seemed to threaten them. It may be remembered that they were not a new people, needing concentration to secure their bare existence. Even during the great days of ancient Rome they had not been what we are wont to call a nation, but a confederacy of municipalities governed and directed by the mistress of the globe. When Rome passed away, the fragments of the body politic in Italy, though rudely shaken, retained some portion of the old vitality that joined them to the past. It was to the past rather than the future that the new Italians looked; and even as they lacked initiative forces in their literature, so in their political systems they ventured on no fresh beginning. Though Rome herself was ruined, the shadow of the name of Rome, the mighty memory of Roman greatness, still abode with them. Instead of a modern capital and a modern king, they had an idea for their rallying-point, a spiritual city for their metropolis. Nor was there any immediate reason why they should have sacrificed their local independence in order to obtain the security afforded by a sovereign. It was not till a later epoch that Italy learned by bitter experience that unity at any cost would be acceptable, face to face with the organized armies of modern Europe. But when the chance of securing that safeguard was offered in the Middle Ages, it must have been bought by subjection to foreigners, by toleration of feudalism, by the extinction of Roman culture in the laws and customs of barbarians. Thus it is not too much to say that the Italians themselves rejected it. Moreover, the problem of unifying Italy in a monarchy was never so practically simple as that of forming nations out of the Teutonic tribes. Not only was the instinct of clanship absent, but before the year 800 all attempts to establish a monarchical state were thwarted by the still formidable proximity of the Greek Empire and by the growing power of ecclesiastical Rome. We have seen how the Goths erred by submitting-to the Empire and merging their authority in a declining organization. We have seen again how the Lombards erred by adopting Catholic Christianity and thus entangling themselves in the policy of Papal Rome. Both Goths and Lombards committed the mistake of sparing the Eternal City; or it may be more accurate to say that neither of them were strong enough to lay hands of violence upon the sacred and mysterious metropolis and hold it as their seat of monarchy against the world. So long as Rome remained independent, neither Ravenna nor Pavia could head a kingdom in the peninsula. Meanwhile Rome lent her prestige to the advancement of a spiritual power which, subject to no dynastic weakness, with the persistent force of an idea that cannot die, was bent on subjugating Europe. The Papacy needed Italy as the basis of its operations, and could not brook a rival that might reduce the See of S. Peter to the level of an ordinary bishopric. Rome therefore, generation after generation, upheld the so-called liberties of Italy against all comers; and when she summoned the Franks, it was to break the growing power of the Lombard monarchs. The pact between the Popes and Charles the Great, however we may interpret its meaning, still further removed the possibility of a kingdom by dividing Italy into two sections with separate allegiances; and since the sway of neither Pope nor Emperor, the one unarmed, the other absent, was stringent enough to check the growth of independent cities, a third and all-important factor was added to the previous checks upon national unity.

[1] Guicciardini (Op. Ined. i. 29) remarks: 'O sia per qualche fato d' Italia, o per la complessione degli uomini temperata in modo che hanno ingegno e forze, non e mai questa provincia stata facile a ridursi sotto uno imperio.' He speaks again of her disunion as 'quello modo di vivere che e piu secondo la antiquissima consuetudine e inclinazione sua.' But Guicciardini, with that defect of vision which rendered him incapable of appreciating the whole situation while he analyzed its details so profoundly, was reckoning without the great nations of Europe. See above, pp. 40, 41.

After 1200 the problem changes its aspect. We have now to ask ourselves why, when the struggle with the Empire was over, when Frederick Barbarossa had been defeated at Legnano, when the Lombard and the Tuscan Leagues were in full vigor before the Guelf and Ghibelline factions had confused the mainsprings of political activity, and while the national militia was still energetic, the Communes did not advance from the conception of local and municipal independence to that of national freedom in a confederacy similar to the Swiss Bund. The Italians, it may be suggested, saw no immediate necessity for a confederation that would have limited the absolute autonomy of their several parcels. Only the light cast by subsequent events upon their early history makes us perceive that they missed an unique opportunity at this moment. What they then desired was freedom for expansion each after his own political type, freedom for the development of industry and commerce, freedom for the social organization of the city beloved by its burghers above the nation as a whole. Special difficulties, moreover, lay in the way of confederation. The Communes were not districts, like the Swiss Cantons, but towns at war with the Contado round them and at war among themselves. Mutually jealous and mistrustful, with a country population that but partially obeyed their rule, these centers of Italian freedom were in a very different position from the peasant communities of Schwytz, Uri, Untenvalden. Italy, moreover, could not have been federally united without the consent of Naples and the Church. The kingdom of the Two Sicilies, rendered definitely monarchical by the Norman Conquest, offered a serious obstacle; and though the Regno might have been defied and absorbed by a vigorous concerted movement from the North and center, there still remained the opposition of the Papacy. It had been the recent policy of the Popes to support the free burghs in their war with Frederick. But they did this only because they could not tolerate a rival near their base of spiritual power; and the very reasons which had made them side with the cities in the wars of liberation would have roused their hostility against a federative union. To have encouraged an Italian Bund, in the midst of which they would have found the Church unarmed and on a level with the puissant towns of Lombardy and Tuscany, must have seemed to them a suicidal error. Such a coalition, if attempted, could not but have been opposed with all their might; for the whole history of Italy proves that Machiavelli was right when he asserted that the Church had persistently maintained the nation in disunion for the furtherance of her own selfish ends. We have furthermore to add the prestige which the Empire preserved for the Italians, who failed to conceive of any civilized, human society whereof the representative of Caesar should not be the God-appointed head. Though the material power of the Emperors was on the wane, it still existed as a dominant idea. Italy was still the Garden of the Empire no less than the Throne of Christ on earth. After the burghs had wrung what they regarded as their reasonable rights and privileges from Frederick, they laid down their arms, and were content to flourish beneath the imperial shadow. To raise up a political association as a bulwark against the Holy Roman Empire, and by the formation of this defense to become an independent and united nation, instead of remaining an aggregate of scattered townships, would have seemed to their minds little short of sacrilege. Up to this point the Church and the Empire had been, theoretically at least, concordant. They were the sun and moon of a sacred social system which ruled Europe with light and might. But the Wars of Investiture placed them in antagonism, and the result of that quarrel was still further to divide the Italians, still further to remove the hope of national unity into the region of things unattainable. The great parties accentuated communal jealousies and gave external form and substance to the struggles of town with town. So far distant was the possibility of confederation on a grand scale that every city strove within itself to establish one of two contradictory principles, and the energies of the people were expended in a struggle that set neighbor against neighbor on the field of war and in the market-place. The confusion, exhaustion, and demoralization engendered by these conflicts determined the advent of the Despots; and after 1400 Italy could only have been united under a tyrant's iron rule. At such an universal despotism Gian Galeazzo Visconti was aiming when the plague cut short his schemes. Cesare Borgia played his highest stakes for it. Leo X. dreamed of it for his family. Machiavelli, at the end of the Principe, when the tragedy of Italy was almost accomplished, invoked it. But even for this last chance of unification it was now too late. The great nations of Europe were in movement, and the destinies of Italy depended upon France and Spain. When Charles V. remained victor in the struggle of the sixteenth century, he stereotyped and petrified the divisions of Italy in the interest of his own dynastic policy. The only Italian power that remained unchangeable throughout all changes was the Papacy—the first to emerge into prominence after the decay of the old Western Empire, the last to suffer diminution in spite of vicissitudes, humiliations, schisms, and internal transformation. As the Papacy had created and maintained a divided Italy, as it had opposed itself to every successive prospect of unification, so it survived the extinction of Italian independence, and lent its aid to that imperial tyranny whereby the disunion of the nation was confirmed and prolongated till the present century.



CHAPTER III.

THE AGE OF THE DESPOTS.

Salient Qualities of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries in Italy—Relation of Italy to the Empire and to the Church—The Illegitimate Title of Italian Potentates—The Free Emergence of Personality—Frederick II. and the Influence of his Example—Ezzelino da Romano—Six Sorts of Italian Despots—Feudal Seigneurs—Vicars of the Empire—Captains of the People—Condottieri—Nephews and Sons of Popes—Eminent Burghers—Italian Incapacity for Self-Government in Commonwealths—Forcible Tenure of Power encouraged Personal Ability—The Condition of the Despot's Life—Instances of Domestic Crime in the Ruling Houses—Macaulay's Description of the Italian Tyrant— Savonarola's and Matteo Villani's Description of a Tyrant—The Absorption of Smaller by Greater Tyrannies in the Fourteenth Century—History of the Visconti—Francesco Sforza—The Part played in Italian Politics by Military Leaders—Mercenary Warfare—Alberico da Barbiano, Braccio da Montone, Sforza Attendolo—History of the Sforza Dynasty—The Murder of Galeazzo Maria Sforza—The Ethics of Tyrannicide in Italy—Relation of the Despots to Arts and Letters—Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta—Duke Federigo of Urbino—The School of Vittorino and the Court of Urbino—The Cortegiano of Castiglione—The Ideals of the Italian Courtier and the Modern Gentleman—General Retrospect.

The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries may be called the Age of the Despots in Italian history, as the twelfth and thirteenth are the Age of the Free Burghs, and as the sixteenth and seventeenth are the Age of Foreign Enslavement. It was during the age of the Despots that the conditions of the Renaissance were evolved, and that the Renaissance itself assumed a definite character in Italy. Under tyrannies, in the midst of intrigues, wars, and revolutions, the peculiar individuality of the Italians obtained its ultimate development. This individuality, as remarkable for salient genius and diffused talent as for self-conscious and deliberate vice, determined the qualities of the Renaissance and affected by example the whole of Europe. Italy led the way in the education of the Western races, and was the first to realize the type of modern as distinguished from classical and mediaeval life.

During this age of the despots, Italy presents the spectacle of a nation devoid of central government and comparatively uninfluenced by feudalism. The right of the Emperor had become nominal, and served as a pretext for usurpers rather than as a source of order. The visits, for instance, of Charles IV. and Frederick III. were either begging expeditions or holiday excursions, in the course of which ambitious adventurers bought titles to the government of towns, and meaningless honors were showered upon vain courtiers. It was not till the reign of Maximilian that Germany adopted a more serious policy with regard to Italy, which by that time had become the central point of European intrigue. Charles V. afterwards used force to reassert imperial rights over the Italian cities, acting not so much in the interest of the Empire as for the aggrandizement of the Spanish monarchy. At the same time the Papacy, which had done so much to undermine the authority of the Empire, exercised a power at once anomalous and ill-recognized except in the immediate States of the Church. By the extinction of the House of Hohenstauffen and by the assumed right to grant the investiture of the kingdom of Naples to foreigners, the Popes not only struck a death-blow at imperial influence, but also prepared the way for their own exile to Avignon. This involved the loss of the second great authority to which Italy had been accustomed to look for the maintenance of some sort of national coherence. Moreover, the Church, though impotent to unite all Italy beneath her own sway, had power enough to prevent the formation either by Milan or Venice or Naples of a substantial kingdom. The result was a perpetually recurring process of composition, dismemberment, and recomposition, under different forms, of the scattered elements of Italian life. The Guelf and Ghibelline parties, inherited from the wars of the thirteenth century, survived the political interests which had given them birth, and proved an insurmountable obstacle, long after they had ceased to have any real significance, to the pacification of the country.[1] The only important state which maintained an unbroken dynastic succession of however disputed a nature at this period was the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The only great republics were Venice, Genoa, and Florence. Of these, Genoa, after being reduced in power and prosperity by Venice, was overshadowed by the successive lords of Milan; while Florence was destined at the end of a long struggle to fall beneath a family of despots. All the rest of Italy, especially to the north of the Apennines, was the battle-field of tyrants, whose title was illegitimate—based, that is to say, on no feudal principle, derived in no regular manner from the Empire, but generally held as a gift or extorted as a prize from the predominant parties in the great towns.

[1] So late as 1526 we find the burlesque poet Folengo exclaiming (Orlandino, ii. 59)—

Che se non fusser le gran parti in quella, Dominerebbe il mondo Italia bella.

If we examine the constitution of these tyrannies, we find abundant proofs of their despotic nature. The succession from father to son was always uncertain. Legitimacy of birth was hardly respected. The last La Scalas were bastards. The house of Aragon in Naples descended from a bastard. Gabriello Visconti shared with his half-brothers the heritage of Gian Galeazzo. The line of the Medici was continued by princes of more than doubtful origin. Suspicion rested on the birth of Frederick of Urbino. The houses of Este and Malatesta honored their bastards in the same degree as their lawful progeny. The great family of the Bentivogli at Bologna owed their importance at the end of the fifteenth century to an obscure and probably spurious pretender, dragged from the wool-factories of Florence by the policy of Cosimo de' Medici. The sons of popes ranked with the proudest of aristocratic families. Nobility was less regarded in the choice of a ruler than personal ability. Power once acquired was maintained by force, and the history of the ruling families is one long catalogue of crimes. Yet the cities thus governed were orderly and prosperous. Police regulations were carefully established and maintained by governors whose interest it was to rule a quiet state. Culture was widely diffused without regard to rank or wealth. Public edifices of colossal grandeur were multiplied. Meanwhile the people at large were being fashioned to that self-conscious and intelligent activity which is fostered by the modes of life peculiar to political and social centers in a condition of continued rivalry and change.

Under the Italian despotisms we observe nearly the opposite of all the influences brought to bear in the same period upon the nations of the North. There is no gradual absorption of the great vassals in monarchies, no fixed allegiance to a reigning dynasty, no feudal aid or military service attached to the tenure of the land, no tendency to centralize the whole intellectual activity of the race in any capital, no suppression of individual character by strongly biased public feeling, by immutable law, or by the superincumbent weight of a social hierarchy. Everything, on the contrary, tends to the free emergence of personal passions and personal aims. Though the vassals of the despot are neither his soldiers nor his loyal lieges, but his courtiers and taxpayers, the continual object of his cruelty and fear, yet each subject has the chance of becoming a prince like Sforza or a companion of princes like Petrarch. Equality of servitude goes far to democratize a nation, and common hatred of the tyrant leads to the combination of all classes against him. Thence follows the fermentation of arrogant and self-reliant passions in the breasts of the lowest as well as the highest.[1] The rapid mutations of government teach men to care for themselves and to depend upon themselves alone in the battle of the world; while the necessity of craft and policy in the conduct of complicated affairs sharpens intelligence. The sanction of all means that may secure an end under conditions of social violence encourages versatility unprejudiced by moral considerations. At the same time the freely indulged vices of the sovereign are an example of self-indulgence to the subject, and his need of lawless instruments is a practical sanction of force in all its forms. Thus to the play of personality, whether in combat with society and rivals, or in the gratification of individual caprice, every liberty is allowed. Might is substituted for right, and the sense of law is supplanted by a mere dread of coercion. What is the wonder if a Benvenuto Cellini should be the outcome of the same society as that which formed a Cesare Borgia? What is the miracle if Italy under these circumstances produced original characters and many-sided intellects in greater profusion than any other nation at any other period, with the single exception of Greece on her emergence from the age of her despots? It was the misfortune of Italy that the age of the despots was succeeded not by an age of free political existence, but by one of foreign servitude.

[1] See Guicciardini, 'Dialogo del Reggimento di Firenze,' Op. Ined. vol. ii. p. 53, for a critique of the motives of tyrannicide in Italy.

Frederick II. was at the same time the last emperor who maintained imperial sway in Italy in person, and also the beginner of a new system of government which the despots afterwards pursued. His establishment of the Saracen colony at Nocera, as the nucleus of an army ready to fulfill his orders with scrupulous disregard for Italian sympathies and customs, taught all future rulers to reduce their subjects to a state of unarmed passivity, and to carry on their wars by the aid of German, English, Swiss, Gascon, Breton, or Hungarian mercenaries, as the case might be. Frederick, again, derived from his Mussulman predecessors in Sicily the arts of taxation to the utmost limits of the national capacity, and founded a precedent for the levying of tolls by a Catasto or schedule of the properties attributed to each individual in the state. He also destroyed the self-government of burghs and districts, by retaining for himself the right to nominate officers, and by establishing a system of judicial jurisdiction which derived authority from the throne. Again, he introduced the example of a prince making profit out of the industries of his subjects by monopolies and protective duties. In this path he was followed by illustrious successors—especially by Sixtus IV. and Alfonso II. of Aragon, who enriched themselves by trafficking in the corn and olive-oil of their famished provinces. Lastly, Frederick established the precedent of a court formed upon the model of that of Oriental Sultans, in which chamberlains and secretaries took the rank of hereditary nobles, and functions of state were confided to the body-servants of the monarch. This court gave currency to those habits of polite culture, magnificent living, and personal luxury which played so prominent a part in all subsequent Italian despotism. It is tempting to overstrain a point in estimating the direct influence of Frederick's example. In many respects doubtless he was merely somewhat in advance of his age; and what we may be inclined to ascribe to him personally, would have followed in the natural evolution of events. Yet it remains a fact that he first realized the type of cultivated despotism which prevailed throughout Italy in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Italian literature began in his court, and many Saracenic customs of statecraft were transmitted through him from Palermo to Lombardy.

While Frederick foreshadowed the comparatively modern tyrants of the coming age, his Vicar in the North of Italy, Ezzelino da Romano, represented the atrocities towards which they always tended to degenerate. Regarding himself with a sort of awful veneration as the divinely appointed scourge of humanity, this monster in his lifetime was execrated as an aberration from 'the kindly race of men,' and after his death he became the hero of a fiendish mythus. But in the succeeding centuries of Italian history his kind was only too common; the immorality with which he worked out his selfish aims was systematically adopted by princes like the Visconti, and reduced to rule by theorists like Machiavelli. Ezzelino, a small, pale, wiry man, with terror in his face and enthusiasm for evil in his heart, lived a foe to luxury, cold to the pathos of children, dead to the enchantment of women. His one passion was the greed of power, heightened by the lust for blood. Originally a noble of the Veronese Marches, he founded his illegal authority upon the captaincy of the Imperial party delegated to him by Frederick. Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Feltre, and Belluno made him their captain in the Ghibelline interest, conferring on him judicial as well as military supremacy. How he fearfully abused his power, how a crusade was preached against him,[1] and how he died in silence, like a boar at bay, rending from his wounds the dressings that his foes had placed to keep him alive, are notorious matters of history. At Padua alone he erected eight prisons, two of which contained as many as three hundred captives each; and though the executioner never ceased to ply his trade there, they were always full. These dungeons were designed to torture by their noisomeness, their want of air and light and space. Ezzelino made himself terrible not merely by executions and imprisonments but also by mutilations and torments. When he captured Friola he caused the population, of all ages, sexes, occupations, to be deprived of their eyes, noses, and legs, and to be cast forth to the mercy of the elements. On another occasion he walled up a family of princes in a castle and left them to die of famine. Wealth, eminence, and beauty attracted his displeasure no less than insubordination or disobedience. Nor was he less crafty than cruel. Sons betrayed their fathers, friends their comrades, under the fallacious safeguard of his promises. A gigantic instance of his scheming was the coup-de-main by which he succeeded in entrapping 11,000 Paduan soldiers, only 200 of whom escaped the miseries of his prisons. Thus by his absolute contempt of law, his inordinate cruelty, his prolonged massacres, and his infliction of plagues upon whole peoples, Ezzelino established the ideal in Italy of a tyrant marching to his end by any means whatever. In vain was the humanity of the race revolted by the hideous spectacle. Vainly did the monks assemble pity-stricken multitudes upon the plain of Paquara to atone with tears and penitence for the insults offered to the saints in heaven by Ezzelino's fury. It laid a deep hold upon the Italian imagination, and, by the glamor of loathing that has strength to fascinate, proved in the end contagious. We are apt to ask ourselves whether such men are mad—whether in the case of a Nero or a Marechal de Retz or an Ezzelino the love of evil and the thirst for blood are not a monomaniacal perversion of barbarous passions which even in a cannibal are morbid.[2] Is there in fact such a thing as Haematomania, Bloodmadness? But if we answer this question in the affirmative, we shall have to place how many Visconti, Sforzeschi, Malatesti, Borgias, Farnesi, and princes of the houses of Anjou and Aragon in the list of these maniacs? Ezzelino was indeed only the first of a long and horrible procession, the most terror-striking because the earliest, prefiguring all the rest.

[1] Alexander IV. issued letters for this crusade in 1255. It was preached next year by the Archbishop of Ravenna.

[2] See Appendix, No. I.

Ezzelino's cruelty was no mere Berserkir fury or Lycanthropia coming over him in gusts and leaving him exhausted. It was steady and continuous. In his madness, if such we may call this inhumanity, there was method; he used it to the end of the consolidation of his tyranny. Yet, inasmuch as it passed all limits and prepared his downfall, it may be said to have obtained over his nature the mastery of an insane appetite. While applying the nomenclature of disease to these exceptional monsters, we need not allow that their atrocities were, at first at any rate, beyond their control. Moral insanity is often nothing more than the hypertrophy of some vulgar passion—lust, violence, cruelty, jealousy, and the like. The tyrant, placed above law and less influenced by public opinion than a private person, may easily allow a greed for pleasure or a love of bloodshed to acquire morbid proportions in his nature. He then is not unjustly termed a monomaniac. Within the circle of his vitiated appetite he proves himself irrational. He becomes the puppet of passions which the sane man cannot so much as picture to his fancy, the victim of desire, ever recurring and ever destined to remain unsatisfied; nor is any hallucination more akin to lunacy than the mirage of a joy that leaves the soul thirstier than it was before, the paroxysm of unnatural pleasure which wearies the nerves that crave for it.

In Frederick, the modern autocrat, and Ezzelino, the legendary tyrant, we obtain the earliest specimens of two types of despotism in Italy. Their fame long after their death powerfully affected the fancy of the people, worked itself into the literature of the Italians, and created a consciousness of tyranny in the minds of irresponsible rulers.

During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries we find, roughly speaking, six sorts of despots in Italian cities.[1] Of these the first class, which is a very small one, had a dynastic or hereditary right accruing from long seignioral possession of their several districts. The most eminent are the houses of Montferrat and Savoy, the Marquises of Ferrara, the Princes of Urbino. At the same time it is difficult to know where to draw the line between such hereditary lordship as that of the Este family, and tyranny based on popular favor. The Malatesti of Rimini, Polentani of Ravenna, Manfredi of Faenza, Ordelaffi of Forli, Chiavelli of Fabriano, Varani of Camerino, and others, might claim to rank among the former, since their cities submitted to them without a long period of republican independence like that which preceded despotism in the cases to be next mentioned. Yet these families styled themselves Captains of the burghs they ruled; and in many instances they obtained the additional title of Vicars of the Church.[2] Even the Estensi were made hereditary captains of Ferrara at the end of the thirteenth century, while they also acknowledged the supremacy of the Papacy. There was in fact no right outside the Empire in Italy; and despots of whatever origin or complexion gladly accepted the support which a title derived from the Empire, the Church, or the People might give. Brought to the front amid the tumults of the civil wars, and accepted as pacificators of the factions by the multitude, they gained the confirmation of their anomalous authority by representing themselves to be lieutenants or vicegerents of the three great powers. The second class comprise those nobles who obtained the title of Vicars of the Empire, and built an illegal power upon the basis of imperial right in Lombardy. Of these, the Della Scala and Visconti families are illustrious instances. Finding in their official capacity a ready-made foundation, they extended it beyond its just limits, and in defiance of the Empire constituted dynasties. The third class is important. Nobles charged with military or judicial power, as Capitani or Podestas, by the free burghs, used their authority to enslave the cities they were chosen to administer. It was thus that almost all the numerous tyrants of Lombardy, Carraresi at Padua, Gonzaghi at Mantua, Rossi and Correggi at Parma, Torrensi and Visconti at Milan, Scotti at Piacenza, and so forth, first erected their despotic dynasties. This fact in the history of Italian tyranny is noticeable. The font of honor, so to speak, was in the citizens of these great burghs. Therefore, when the limits of authority delegated to their captains by the people were overstepped, the sway of the princes became confessedly illegal. Illegality carried with it all the consequences of an evil conscience, all the insecurities of usurped dominion all the danger from without and from within to which an arbitrary governor is exposed. In the fourth class we find the principle of force still more openly at work. To it may be assigned those Condottieri who made a prey of cities at their pleasure. The illustrious Uguccione della Faggiuola, who neglected to follow up his victory over the Guelfs at Monte Catini, in order that he might cement his power in Lucca and Pisa, is an early instance of this kind of tyrant. His successor, Castruccio Castracane, the hero of Machiavelli's romance, is another. But it was not until the first half of the fifteenth century that professional Condottieri became powerful enough to found such kingdoms as that, for example, of Francesco Sforza at Milan.[3] The fifth class includes the nephews or sons of Popes. The Riario principality of Forli, the Della Rovere of Urbino, the Borgia of Romagna, the Farnese of Parma, form a distinct species of despotisms; but all these are of a comparatively late origin. Until the Papacies of Sixtus IV. and Innocent VIII. the Popes had not bethought them of providing in this way for their relatives. Also, it may be remarked, there was an essential weakness in these tyrannies. Since they had to be carved out of the States of the Church, the Pope who had established his son, say in Romagna, died before he could see him well confirmed in a province which the next Pope sought to wrest from his hands, in order to bestow it on his own favorite. The fabric of the Church could not long have stood this disgraceful wrangling between Papal families for the dynastic possession of Church property. Luckily for the continuance of the Papacy, the tide of counter-reformation which set in after the sack of Rome and the great Northern Schism, put a stop to nepotism in its most barefaced form.

[1] This classification must of necessity be imperfect, since many of the tyrannies belong in part to two or more of the kinds which I have mentioned.

[2] See Guicc. Ist. end of Book 4.

[3] John Hawkwood (died 1393), the English adventurer, held Cotignola and Bagnacavallo from Gregory XI. In the second half of the fifteenth century the efforts of the Condottieri to erect tyrannies were most frequent. Braccio da Montone established himself in Perugia in 1416, and aspired, not without good grounds for hope, to acquiring the kingdom of Italy. Francesco Sforza, before gaining Milan, had begun to form a despotism at Ancona. Sforza's rival, Giacomo Piccinino, would probably have succeeded in his own attempt, had not Ferdinand of Aragon treacherously murdered him at Naples in 1465. In the disorganization caused by Charles VIII., Vidovero of Brescia in 1495 established himself at Cesena and Castelnuovo, and had to be assassinated by Pandolfo Malatesta at the instigation of Venice. After the death of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, in 1402, the generals whom he had employed in the consolidation of his vast dominions attempted to divide the spoil among themselves. Naples, Venice, Milan, Rome, and Florence were in course of time made keenly alive to the risk of suffering a captain of adventure to run his course unchecked.

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