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It was at one time aristocratic, and at another pop-
ular, and dreaded nothing so much as tyranny.

Cosmo de Medici might be compared to Pisistra-
tus, who, notwithstanding his great power, was
ranked in the number of sages. The sons of this
Cosmo resembled those of Pisistratus, who were as-
sassinated by Harmodius and Aristogiton. Lorenzo
escaped from his murderers, and so did one of the
sons of Pisistratus, and both of them lived to avenge
the death of his brother : but that happened in Flor-
ence which did not at Athens ; the chiefs of religion
were concerned in this bloody conspiracy. Pope
Sixtus V. planned it, and the archbishop of Pisa set
it on foot.

The people of Florence avenged this cruel act on
those who were found guilty; and the archbishop
himself was hanged at one of the windows of the
public palace. Lorenzo, thus avenged by his fellow

1 88 Ancient and Modern History.

citizens, made himself beloved by them during the
rest of his life. He was surnamed the father of the
muses, a title not equal indeed to that of father of his
country, but which showed that he was so in fact.
It was a thing no less admirable than foreign to our
manners to see this citizen, who always addicted
himself to commerce, selling with one hand the prod-
uce of the Levant, and with the other supporting
the weight of the republic ; entertaining factors and
ambassadors ; opposing an artful and powerful pope,
making peace and war, standing forth the oracle of
princes, and the cultivator of the belles-lettres, fur-
nishing amusements for the people, and giving a
reception to the learned Greeks of Constantinople.
His son Peter held the supreme authority in Flor-
ence, at the time that the French made their expedi-
tion to Naples ; but with much less credit than either
his predecessors or descendants.


The papal state was not then what it now is ; nor
yet what it would have been had the popes been
in a condition to profit by the donations which it
was thought Charlemagne had left them, and those
which they were really entitled to by the gift of
Countess Mathilda. The house of Gonzaga was in
possession of Mantua, for which it did homage to the
empire. Several lords, under the titles of vicars of
the empire, or of the Church, were in peaceable frui-
tion of those fine territories which now belong to the

Papal State. 189

popes. Perugia belonged to the family of the Bail-
loni; the Bentivoglios had Bologna; the Polentas
Ravenna ; the Manfredi Faenza ; the Sforzas Pesaro ;
the Rimerios were in possession of Imola and Forli ;
the house of Este had for a long time governed in
Ferrara; the Picos in Mirandola, and the Roman
barons had great power in Rome; whence they
were called the pope's hand-cuffs. The families of
Colonna and Orsini, the Conti, and the Savilli, who
were the principal barons, and ancient possessors of
the most considerable demesnes, divided the Roman
state by their continual disputes, like the great lords
of France and Germany, who waged war with each
other at the time that those kingdoms were in their
feeble state. The people of Rome, who were very
fond of processions, and forever crying out for ple-
nary indulgences from their popes, frequently muti-
nied upon their deaths, rifled their palaces, and were
ready to throw their bodies into the Tiber, as was
particularly the case on the death of Pope Innocent

After his decease, Rodrigo Borgia, a Spaniard,
was chosen pope, and took the name of Alexander
VI., a man whose memory has been made execrable
by the cries of all Europe, and the pen of every his-
torian. The Protestants, who in the next age sep-
arated themselves from the Church of Rome, added
still more to the measure of this pontiff's iniquities.
We shall see presently whether more crimes were
laid to his charge than he deserved. The exaltation

190 Ancient and Modern History.

of this man to the papal chair sufficiently shows the
manners and spirit of his age, so different from
those of the present. The cardinals who elected
him must have known that he at that time openly
brought up five children which he had by Vanozza.
They must necessarily have foreseen that all posses-
sions, honors, and authority would be in the hands of
his family, and yet they chose him for their master.
The chiefs of the faction in the conclave sold for a
trifling sum, not only their own interest, but those
of all Italy.


Venice extended its dominions on the mainland
from the Lake of Como to the middle of Dalmatia.
The Turks had despoiled it of all which it had for-
merly taken in Greece from the Christian emperors ;
but it still retained the large island of Candia, and
afterward acquired that of Cyprus in 1437, by the
donation of its last queen, daughter of Marco Cor-
naro, the Venetian. But the industry of its inhab-
itants was of greater value than those two islands,
or the whole of its demesnes on the continent. The
wealth of other nations rolled in on it, through all
the various channels of commerce ; all the princes of
Italy stood in awe of this republic, and she herself
was in dread of an invasion from France.

Of all the governments in Europe, that of Venice
was alone regular, stable, and uniform. It had but
one essential fault, which indeed was not thought
such by the senate ; which was, that it wanted a coun-

Naples. 191

terpoise to the power of the patricians, and proper
encouragement for the common people. No private
citizen of Venice could hope to rise by his merit, as
in ancient Rome. The chief excellence of the Eng-
lish government, since the House of Commons has
had a share in the legislature, consists in this coun-
terpoise, and in leaving the way to honors and dig-
nities open to all such who are deserving of them.


As to the Neapolitans, they were always a weak
and fickle people, alike incapable of governing them-
selves, of choosing a king, or being contented with
him they had ; and always at the mercy of the first
power who chose to invade them with an army.

Old King Fernando reigned at that time in Naples.
He was a bastard of the house of Aragon. Illegiti-
macy at that time was no bar to the throne. A bas-
tard race wore the crown of Castile ; and a bastard,
descendant of Don Pedro the Severe, governed Por-
tugal. Fernando therefore reigned by this title in
Naples ; he had received the investiture of that king-
dom from the pope, in prejudice to the heirs of the
house of Anjou, who still asserted their rights. But
he was neither beloved by the pope, his lord para-
mount, nor by his own subjects, and died in 1434,
leaving behind him an unfortunate family, whom
Charles VIII. deprived of a throne which he could
not keep ; and whom he afterward, to his own mis-
fortune, continued to persecute.

Ancient and Modern History.




CHARLES VIIL, his council, and his young courtiers
were so intoxicated with the project of conquering
the kingdom of Naples that they restored to Maxi-
milian, Artois and Franche-Comte, which had been
taken from his wife; and returned Cerdagne and
Roussillon to Ferdinand the Catholic, with the
remission of three hundred thousand crowns, which
he owed, on condition that he should not interrupt
the progress of the war. In this they never reflected
that twelve villages added to a state are of greater
value than a kingdom situated four hundred leagues
from it. They committed another error in trusting
to the Catholic king.

1494 At length Charles VIIL entered Italy : he
undertook this expedition with only sixteen hundred
men at arms, who with their archers, made a squad-
ron of five thousand horsemen, heavily armed ; two
hundred gentlemen of his guard, five hundred light
horse, six thousand French foot, and the same num-
ber of Swiss; and so badly provided with money
that he was obliged to borrow on his march, and
even to pledge the jewels which had been lent him
by the duchess of Savoy. Nevertheless, this army
produced consternation and submission wherever it
came. The Italians were amazed to see such heavy

The Conquest of Naples. 193

artillery drawn by horses, they having only been
accustomed to small brass culverins drawn by oxen.
The Italian gendarmerie was composed of spadassins
or bravos, who hired themselves at an extravagant
price to the condottieri, who sold their services~at a
still more exorbitant rate to those princes who stood
in need of their dangerous assistance. These chiefs
took such names as were most likely to strike terror
into the ignorant people, such as " taille-cuisse,"
" fier-a-bras," " fracasse," or "sacripend"; i. e.
" Slash-thigh," "Arm-strong," " Havoc," etc. They
were all afraid of losing their men, therefore only
pursued the enemy, and never came to blows : those
who kept the field were the conquerors. Indeed, in
these time there was much more blood shed in pri-
vate revenge, among citizens, and in conspiracies,
than in battle. Machiavelli tells us, that in one of the
battles fought at this time there was only one horse-
man killed, and he was trampled to death by the

The prospect of a serious war, therefore, filled
them with dread, and not one dared to appear. Pope
Alexander VI., the Venetians, and Louis the Moor,
duke of Milan, who had invited Charles into Italy,
endeavored to throw obstacles in his way as soon as
he entered it. Peter de Medici, who was obliged
to ask his protection, was for so doing expelled
from the republic, and retired to Venice, whence he
never dared to venture forth, though assured of the

king's protection ; which he did not think sufficient
Vol. 26 13

194 Ancient and Modern History.

to secure him against the private vengeance of his

The king entered the city of Florence as its lord,
and delivered Sienna from the Tuscan yoke, to
which it was soon afterward again obliged to sub-
mit. He then marched to Rome, where Alexander
VI. in vain intrigued against him, and he entered
that city as a conqueror. The pope had taken refuge
in the castle of St. Angelo; but as soon as he saw
the French cannon pointed against those feeble ram-
parts he capitulated.

1494 It cost him only a cardinal's hat to make
his peace with the king. The president, Brissonet,
who from a lawyer had become an archbishop, per-
suaded the king to this agreement, by which he
gained the purple. A king is often well served by his
subjects who are cardinals, but seldom by those who
are in pursuit of that dignity. The king's confessor
was also in the secret. Charles, whose interest it was
to have deposed the pope, forgave him, and repented
of it afterward; and certainly never pontiff more
deserved the indignation of a Christian prince. He
and the Venetians had applied to the Turkish sultan,
Bajazet II., son and successor to Mahomet II., to
assist them in driving Charles VIII. out of Italy.
It was even asserted that this pope had sent Bozzo
in quality of nuncio to the Ottoman Porte, and that
this alliance between the pope and the sultan was
purchased by one of those inhuman murders which

The Conquest of Naples. 195

are not committed without horror even in the se-
raglio of Constantinople.

The pontiff, by an extraordinary chain of events,
had at that time in his possession the person of
Zizim, or Jem, the brother of Bajazet. The manner
in which this son of Mahomet II. fell into the hands
of the pope is as follows :

Zizim, who was adored by the Turks, had dis-
puted the empire with Bajazet, who was as much
hated by them : but notwithstanding the young
prince had the prayers of the people for him, he was
defeated. In this disgrace he had recourse by an
ambassador to the Knights of Rhodes, now the
Knights of Malta. He was at first received by them
as a prince to whom they stood bound in the laws
of hospitality, and who might one day be of service
to them ; but soon afterward they treated him as
their prisoner. Bajazet paid these knights forty
thousand sequins a year not to suffer Zizim to return
again to Turkey. The knights conveyed him to one
of their commanderies at Poitou, in France, called le
Bourneuf. Charles VIII. had received at one time
an ambassador from Bajazet, and a nuncio from
Pope Innocent VIII., Alexander's predecessor, relat-
ing to this valuable captive. The sultan claimed him
as his subject, and the pope wanted to have posses-
sion of his person as a pledge of safety for Italy
against the attempts of the Turks. In the end,
Charles sent Zizim to the pope. The pontiff received
him with all the splendor and magnificence which

196 Ancient and Modern History.

the sovereign of Rome could show to the brother
of the sovereign of Constantinople. They would
have obliged Zizim to kiss the pope's feet; but
Bozzo, who was an eye-witness of the whole, assures
us that the Turk rejected this mark of submission
with indignation. Paul Giovio says that Alexander
VI. sold Zizim 's life in a treaty he made with Baja-
zet. The king of France, full of his vast projects,
and certain of the conquest of Naples, wanted to
become formidable to Bajazet, by having the person
of this unhappy brother in his power. The pope,
according to Paul Giovio, delivered him to Charles,
after poisoning him. It is not clearly shown whether
this poison was given him by one of the pope's
domestics, or by a secret emissary of the Grand
Seignior. It was however publicly declared that
Bajazet had promised the pope three hundred thou-
sand ducats for his brother's head.

Prince Demetrius Cantemir says that, according
to all the Turkish annals, Zizim was murdered by
his barber, who cut his throat, and that, in recom-
pense, Bajazet afterward made this barber his grand
vizier. It is hardly probable that they would have
made a barber general and prime minister. If Zizim
had been murdered after this manner, Charles VIII.,
who sent his body to his brother, must certainly
have discovered the nature of his death: and the
writers of those times would have made mention
of it : therefore Prince Cantemir and the accusers of
Alexander VI. may be equally deceived. The pub-

The Conquest of Naples. 197

lie, through hatred to this pontiff, imputed to him
all the crimes that it was possible for him to commit.

The pope having taken an oath not to disturb the
king in his conquests, was set at liberty and appeared
again as pontiff on the Vatican theatre. There, in a
public consistory, the king appeared to pay him what
is called the homage of obedience, assisted by John
de Gannai, first president of the Parliament of Paris,
who certainly ought to have been elsewhere than
at such a ceremony. The king then kissed the feet of
the person whom two days before he would have
condemned as a criminal ; and, to complete the
scene, he served the pope at high mass. Guicciardini,
a contemporary writer of great credit, assures us
that in the church the king sat below the cardinal
dean. We must not, therefore, be surprised that
Cardinal de Bouillon, dean of the sacred college, has
in our time, upon the authority of these ancient cus-
toms, expressed himself thus, in a letter to Louis
XIV. : "I am going to take possession of the first seat
in the Christian world, next to the supreme."

Charlemagne had caused himself to be declared
in Rome, emperor of the West. Charles VIII. was
in the same city declared emperor of the East, but
after a very different manner. One Palaeologus,
nephew to him who had lost the empire and his life,
made an empty cession in favor of Charles VIII., and
his successors, of an empire which could no longer
be recovered.

As he was on the march back, he fell in with the

198 Ancient and Modern History.

confederate army, of thirty thousand men, near the
village of Fornovo in Placentia, rendered famous by
that day's action. He had not more than eight
thousand men with him. If he was beaten, he lost
his liberty or his life; if he conquered, he only
gained the advantage of a retreat. He now gave
a proof of what he might have done in this expedi-
tion, had his prudence been equal to his courage.
The Italians soon fled before him. In this engage-
ment he did not lose above two hundred men, while
the loss of the allies amounted to above four thou-
sand. Such is usually the advantage which a dis-
ciplined army, though small in number, headed by
their king, has over a raw and mercenary multitude.
The Venetians reckoned as a victory the having
plundered a part of the king's baggage; and car-
ried his tent in triumph into their own country.
Charles VIII. conquered only to secure his return to
his kingdom; and left one-half of his little army
at Novara, in the duchy of Milan, where the duke
of Orleans was quickly besieged.

The confederates might have attacked him a sec-
ond time with great advantage; but they did not
dare. " There is no withstanding," said they, " la
furia francese" The French did in Italy exactly
that which the English had done in France. They
conquered with inferiority of numbers, and they lost
their conquests.

While the king was at Turin, everyone was sur-
prised to hear the chamberlain of Pope Alexander

The Conquest of Naples. 199

VI. order the king of France, in his master's name,
instantly to withdraw his troops from the terri-
tories of Milan and Naples, and repair to Rome
to give an account of his conduct to the holy father,
under pain of excommunication. This bravado
would have been a subject of laughter, had not this
pontiff's conduct in other respects furnished too seri-
ous matter for complaint.

The king at length returned to France, where he
showed as much remissness in preserving his con-
quests as he had displayed eagerness in making them.
Frederick, the uncle of Fernando, the dethroned
king of Naples, who became titular king after the
death of his nephew, recovered the whole of his
kingdom in less than a month's time, by the help of
Gonsalvo of Cordova, called the Great Captain,
whom Ferdinand the Catholic had sent at that time
to his assistance.

The duke of Orleans, who soon after succeeded
to the crown of France, was glad to be suffered to
depart quietly from Novara. At length there
remained not the least trace of this torrent which had
overspread Italy; and Charles VIII., whose glory
had been so transient, died in 1497, without issue,
at the age of twenty-eight; leaving his successor,
Louis XII., to follow his example, and to repair his

2OO Ancient and Modern History.



BEFORE we proceed to examine how Louis XII.
maintained his rights in Italy, what became of that
fine country rent by so many factions, and disputed
by so many powers, and in what manner the popes
formed that extensive state of which they are at pres-
ent in possession, we owe some attention to an
extraordinary fact which at that time exercised the
credulity of all Europe, and displayed the full power
of fanaticism.

There was at Florence a Dominican, named Girol-
amo Savonarola, who was one of those church ora-
tors who think that a talent for speaking" in the
pulpit qualifies them for governing the nation, and
one of those divines who, because they can explain
the Apocalypse, think they are prophets. He di-
rected, he preached, he heard confessions, he wrote ;
and living in a free city, which was consequently
filled with factions, he aimed at becoming the head
of the people.

As soon as it was known to the principal citizens
of Florence that Charles VIII. meditated a descent
upon Italy, this man took upon himself to foretell it ;
and the people therefore believed him inspired. He
inveighed against Pope Alexander VI. ; he encour-
aged such of his countrymen as persecuted the family
of Medici, and bathed their hands in the blood of the

Savonarola. 201

friends to that house. No man had ever been in
greater degree of credit with the common people of
Florence. He had become a kind of tribune among
them, by having procured the artificers admission
into the magistracy. The pope and the Medici fam-
ily fought Savonarola with his own weapons, and
sent a Franciscan to preach against him. There
subsisted a more mortal hatred between the two
orders of St. Francis and St. Dominic, than between
the Guelphs and Ghibellines. The Cordelier suc-
ceeded so well that he rendered his antagonist, the
Dominican, odious. The two orders now let loose
all the fury of invective against each other. At last
a Dominican friar offered to undergo the trial of fire
in vindication of Savonarola's sanctity. This was
answered by a Franciscan friar, who offered to
undergo the same trial to prove Savonarola an im-
postor and a profligate wretch. The people, eager
for this spectacle, cried aloud for its being put into
execution, and the magistracy was obliged to give
orders for it. Everyone had at that time fresh in
mind the old fabulous story of the monk Aldobran-
dini, surnamed Petrus ignens, or Peter the Fiery,
who, in the eleventh century, passed through two
flaming piles of wood ; and the partisans of Savon-
arola had not the least doubt that God would do as
much for a Jacobin friar as he had heretofore done
for a Benedictine. The contrary faction entertained
like hopes in behalf of the Cordelier.

At length the fires were lighted, and the two

2O2 Ancient and Modern History.

champions appeared in the midst of an innumerable
crowd of spectators. But when they came to take
a cool view of the two piles in flames, they both
began to tremble, and their fears suggested to them
a common evasion. The Dominican would not enter
the pile without the host in his hand, and the Corde-
lier pretended that this was no article of the agree-
ment. Both' were obstinate, and mutually assisted
each other in getting over this false step. In short,
they did not exhibit the shocking farce they had pro-

The people upon this, stirred up by the Franciscan
party, would have seized upon Savonarola ; and the
magistracy ordered him to quit the city: but
although he had the pope, the Medici family, and the
people all against him he refused to obey, upon which
he was seized and put to the torture seven times.
By the extract of his confession we learn that he
acknowledged himself to be a false prophet and an
impostor, who abused the secrets of confession, and
those which were revealed to him by the society.
Could he do otherwise than own himself an impos-
tor? Is not everyone who enters into cabals under
pretence of being inspired an impostor? Perhaps
he was moreover a fanatic. The human imagination
is capable of uniting these two extremes, which
appear so contradictory. If he had been condemned
only through a motive of justice, a prison and severe
penance had been sufficient punishments; but the
spirit of party had a share in his sufferings. In

Pico de la Mirandola. 203

short, he was sentenced, with two other Dominicans,
to suffer in those flames which they had offered to
encounter. However, they were strangled before
they were thrown into the fire. Savonarola's party
did not fail to attribute a number of miracles to him
after his death, the last shift of those who have been
attached to an unfortunate chief. We must not for-
get that Alexander VI., after he was condemned,
sent him a plenary indulgence.



As THE adventure of Savonarola shows to what a
height superstition was still carried, the disputations
of the young prince of Mirandola may convince us of
the flourishing state of the sciences in those times.
These two different scenes passed at Florence and
Rome among people then accounted the most ingen-
ious in the world. Hence we may readily infer what
darkness hung over the other nations of the earth,
and how slow human reason is in its formation

It will always be a proof of the superiority of the
Italians in those times, that John Francis Pico de la
Mirandola, a sovereign prince, was from his earliest
years a prodigy of learning and memory. Had he
even lived in our days he would have been esteemed
a miracle of real erudition. He had so strong a
passion for the sciences that at length he renounced
his principality and retired to Florence, where he

2O4 Ancient and Modern History.

died in the year 1494, on the very day that Charles
VIII. made his entry into that city. It is said, that
at the age of eighteen he understood twenty-two
different languages. This is certainly out of the
ordinary course of nature. There is hardly any
language which does not require over a year to learn
it perfectly: therefore a young person, who, at so

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