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early an age as eighteen, knows twenty-two, must
be suspected of understanding them very imper-
fectly, or of knowing only the elements at most,
which is in fact knowing nothing at all.

It is still more extraordinary that this prince hav-
ing studied so many languages should, at the age of
twenty-four, be able to maintain theses at Rome on
all the sciences without excepting one. In the front
of his works we meet with one thousand four hun-
dred general conclusions, on every one of which
he offered to dispute. Now in all this immense study
and learning, a few elements of geometry and the
doctrine of the sphere are the only things which
appear worthy of his great pains and application.
All the rest only serve to show the genius of the
times. We meet with the summum of St. Thomas,
an abridgment of the works of Albert, surnamed the
Great, and a mixture of divinity and peripateticism.
Here we read that the angels are infinite secundum
quid; and that animals and plants are formed by a
corruption animated by a productive virtue. The
whole is in this taste, and indeed it is all that was
taught in the universities of those times. Thou-

Pico de la Mirandola. 205

sands of pupils had their heads filled with these
chimeras, and continued to frequent, for forty or
fifty years, the schools where they were taught. The
knowledge of all other nations was as trifling. Those
who held the reins of government in the world were
therefore very excusable in being ignorant of them,
and Pico of Mirandola very unhappy in having spent
his life, and shortened his days in the pursuit of these
grave fopperies.

The number of those who, born with a real genius,
cultivated by reading the best Roman authors, had
escaped this general night of learning, were very
inconsiderable after Dante and Petrarch, whose
works were better adapted for princes, statesmen,
women, and men of fortune, who only seek for an
agreeable amusement in reading; and these would
have been more proper for the prince of Mirandola
than the compilations of Albert the Great.

But he was carried away by a passion for universal
knowledge ; and this universal knowledge consisted
in knowing by heart a few words upon every sub-
ject, which conveyed no kind of idea. It is diffi-
cult to comprehend how the same man who reasoned
so justly and with so much nicety upon the affairs
of the world and their several interests could be
satisfied with such unintelligible jargon in almost
everything else. The reason perhaps is, that man-
kind is fonder of appearing to know something, than
of seeking after knowledge; and when error has
gained the mastery of our minds during our tender

206 Ancient and Modern History.

age we are at no pains to shake off its yoke, but
rather strive to subject ourselves more to it. Hence
it comes that so many men of real discernment and
genius are so frequently under the dominion of pop-
ular errors.

Pico de la Mirandola wrote, indeed, against judi-
cial astrology; but then, let us not mistake, it was
only against the astrology practised in his time. He
allowed of another kind, which, according to him,
was the most ancient and true, and which he said
had been neglected.

In his first proposition he expresses himself thus :
" Magic, such as is now practised, and which is
condemned by the Church, cannot be founded on
truth, because it depends on those powers which
are enemies to truth." Now by these very words,
contradictory as they are, it is evident that he admit-
ted magic to be the work of devils, which was the
generally received opinion concerning it. Accord-
ingly he affirms that there is no virtue in Heaven or
on earth but what a magician can make subservient
to his purposes: and he proves that words are of
efficacy in magic, because God made use of speech
in arranging the several parts of the universe.

These theses made more noise, and were in greater
reputation at those times than the discoveries of
Newton or the investigations of the great Locke in
our days. Pope Innocent VIII. caused thirteen
propositions of this great body of doctrine to be cen-
sured; a censure which resembled the decisions of

Pope Alexander VI. 207

those Indians who condemned the opinion of the
earth's being supported by a dragon, because, accord-
ing to them, none but an elephant was able to support
it. Pico de la Mirandola drew up an apology for his
propositions, in which he complains of those who
had censured him, and says, that being in company
with one of them who were inveighing bitterly
against the cabala, he asked him if he knew what
was really meant by the word " cabala." A pretty
question truly! answered the schoolman; does not
everybody know that he was a heretic, who wrote
against Jesus Christ?

At length it became necessary for Pope Alexander
VI., who at least had the merit of despising these
frivolous disputes, to send him his absolution. It is
remarkable that he acted in the same manner by Pico
de la Mirandola and Savonarola.



POPE Alexander VI. was at that time engaged in two
great designs, one was to restore to the pontifical
demesnes the many territories which it was pre-
tended they had been deprived of, and the other to
procure a crown for his son, Caesar Borgia. Infa-
mous as his conduct was, it did not in the least
impair his authority, and the people of Rome raised
no seditions against him. He was publicly accused
cf a criminal correspondence with his own sister,

2o8 Ancient and Modern History.

Lucretia, whom he took away from three husbands,
successively, the last of whom, Alphonso of Aragon,
he caused to be assassinated, that he might bestow
her in marriage on the heir of the house of Este.
These nuptials were celebrated in the Vatican by the
most infamous diversions that debauch had ever
invented for the confusion of modesty. Fifty cour-
tesans danced naked before this incestuous family,
and prizes were given to those who exhibited the
most lascivious motions. The duke of Gandia and
Caesar Borgia, at that time archbishop of Valencia
in Spain, and cardinal, were said to have publicly
disputed the favors of their sister, Lucretia. The
duke of Gandia was assassinated in Rome, and Caesar
Borgia was suspected as the author of his death.
The personal estates of the cardinals belong at their
decease to the pope, and Alexander was strongly
suspected of having hastened the death of more than
one member of the sacred college, that he might
become their heir; notwithstanding all which the
people of Rome obeyed without murmuring, and this
pontiff's friendship was sought by all the potentates
of Europe.

Louis XII., king of France, who succeeded
Charles VIIL, was more earnest than any other in
seeking an alliance with Alexander: he had more
reasons than one for this ; he wanted to be divorced
from his wife, the daughter of Louis XL, with whom
he had consummated his marriage, and lived in wed-
lock for over twenty-two years, but without having

Pope Alexander VI. 209

had any children. No law, excepting the law of
nature, could authorize such a separation; and
yet disgust and policy made it necessary.

Anne of Brittany, the widow of Charles VIII.,
ptill retained that inclination for Louis XII. which
she had felt for him when duke of Orleans; and
unless he married her, Brittany would be forever
lost to the crown of France. It was an ancient but
dangerous custom to apply to the court of Rome
for permission to marry a relation, or to put away a
wife ; for these marriages or divorces having become
necessary to the state, the tranquillity of a kingdom
consequently depended upon the pope's manner of
thinking ; and the popes were frequently enemies to

The other reason which united Louis XII. to Alex-
ander VI. was the desire he had to defend his fatal
claim to the dominions of Italy. Louis claimed the
duchy of Milan in right of one of his grandmothers,
who was a sister of a Visconti, who had been in
possession of that principality; but this claim was
opposed by the exclusive right granted to Louis the
Moor, by the emperor Maximilian, who had likewise
married Louis's niece.

The public feudal law was so changeable that it
could only be interpreted by the law of force. This
duchy of Milan, the ancient kingdom of the Lom-
bards, was a fief of the empire, and it had not been
determined whether it was a male or female fief, or

whether the daughters had a right of inheritance.
VoL 2614

2io Ancient and Modern History.

The grandmother of Louis XII., who was daughter
of Visconti, duke of Milan, had by her marriage-
contract only the county of Asti. This marriage-
contract proved the cause of all the miseries of Italy,
the disgraces of Louis XII. , and the misfortunes of
Francis I. Almost all the Italian states were thus
fluctuating in uncertainty, unable either to recover
their liberty, or to determine what master they were
to belong to.

The claim of Louis XII. on Naples was the same
as that of Charles VIII.

Caesar Borgia, the pope's bastard, was charged
with the commission of carrying the bull of divorce
to France, and negotiating with the king on the
measures relating to this conquest. Borgia did not
leave Rome till he was assured of the duchy of Val-
entinois, a company of one hundred armed men, and
a pension of twenty thousand livres, all of which
Louis granted him, together with his promise to
procure for him the king of Navarre's sister. Caesar
Borgia then, notwithstanding his being a deacon and
archbishop, changed his ecclesiastical character for
a secular one ; and the pope, his father, granted a
dispensation at one and the same time to his son to
quit the Church, and to the king of France to quit his
wife. Matters were quickly arranged, and Louis
prepared for a fresh invasion of Italy.

In this enterprise he had the Venetians on his
side, who were to have a share in the spoils of the
Milanese. They had already taken Bressan and the

Pope Alexander VI. 211

country of Bergamo, and aimed at nothing less than
the possession of Cremona, to which they had as
much right as to Constantinople.

The emperor Maximilian, whose business it was to
have defended the duke of Milan, his father-in-law
and vassal, against France, his natural enemy, was
not at that time in a condition to assist him in per-
son. He could with difficulty make head against
the Swiss, who had effectually driven the Austrians
out of all the places they had been possessed of in
their country. Maximilian therefore acted upon this
occasion the feigned part of indifference.

Louis XII. terminated amicably some disputes he
had with this emperor's son, Philip the Handsome,
father of Charles V., afterward sovereign of the
Low Countries ; and this Philip did homage in per-
son to France for the counties of Flanders and
Artois. This homage was received by Guy de Roche-
fort, chancellor of France, in the following manner :
The chancellor, seated and covered, held between his
hands those of the prince joined together, who,
standing uncovered, and without his sword and gir-
dle, pronounced these words : " I do homage to
Monsieur, the king, for my peerages of Flanders,
Artois," etc.

Louis having renewed the treaties made with Eng-
land by Charles VIII., and being now secure on all
sides, at least for a time, made his army pass the
Alps. It is to be remarked that when he entered
upon this war, instead of increasing the taxes he

212 Ancient and Modern History.

diminished them, and this indulgence first procured
him from his subjects the title of " Father of his
Country." But at the same time he sold a number of
the posts called royal offices, especially those in the
finances. Would it not then have been better to have
imposed a regular and equal tax upon the people
than to have introduced a shameful venality in the
posts of that country, of which he pretended to be
the father? This custom of putting offices up at
sale came from Italy : in Rome they had for a long
time sold the places in the apostolic chamber, and it
is only of late years that the popes have abolished
this pernicious custom.

The army which Louis XII. sent over the Alps
was not more considerable than that with which
Charles VIII. had conquered Naples ; but what must
appear strange is that Louis the Moor, though only
duke of Milan, Parma, and Placentia, and lord of
Genoa, had an army altogether as strong as that of
the king of France.

1499 It was now seen f r the second time what
the furia francese could do against Italian cunning.
The king's army, in twenty days' time, made itself
master of the state of Milan and of Genoa, while the
Venetians occupied the territory of Cremona.

Louis XII., after having conquered these beautiful
provinces by his generals, made his entry into Milan,
where he received the deputies from the Italian
states, as a person who was their sovereign arbiter ;
but no sooner had he returned to Lyons than that

Pope Alexander VI. 213

negligence which almost always succeeds impetu-
osity lost the French Milan, in the same manner as it
had lost them Naples. Louis the Moor, during this
transient restoration paid a gold ducat for the head
of every Frenchman brought to him. Then Louis
XII. made another effort, and sent his general, Louis
de la Trimouille, to repair the former oversights,
who again entered the duchy of Milan. The Swiss,
who, since the death of Charles VIII., had made use
of the liberty they had recovered, to dispose of their
services to whosoever would pay for them, were in
great numbers among the soldiery of the French
army as well as in that of the Milanese. It is remark-
able that the dukes of Milan were the first princes
who took the Swiss into pay. Maria Sforza set this
example to the rest of the princes of Europe.

But on this occasion some captains of this nation,
which had hitherto resembled ancient Sparta, in its
liberty, equality, poverty, and courage, stained the
honor of their country by their greediness for money.
The duke of Milan had trusted the care of his per-
son to these people, preferably to his Italian sub-
jects; but they soon proved how unworthy they
were of such confidence, by entering into an arrange-
ment with the French, and confining the duke in the
city of Novara ; and all the favor he could procure
at their hands was to march out of the city with them
in a Swiss dress, and a halbert in his hand. In this
disguise he marched through the ranks of the French
army ; but those who had so basely sold him quickly

214 Ancient and Modern History.

discovered him to the enemy, and he was taken pris-
oner and conducted to Pierre-en-Cise, and from
thence to the same tower of Bourges where Louis
XII. had been himself confined when duke of
Orleans; thence he was removed to Loches, where
he lived for ten years, not shut up in an iron cage,
as vulgar report has it, but treated with distinction,
and allowed during the last years of his confinement
to go anywhere within five leagues of the castle.

Louis XIL, now master of Milan and Genoa,
resolved to get possession of Naples also; but he
feared that same Ferdinand the Catholic who had
once before driven the French from that country.

Therefore as he had before joined with the Ven-
etians for the conquest of Milan, and had given them
part of the spoils, he now entered into an engage-
ment of the same nature with Ferdinand for the con-
quest of Naples, that prince preferring a share in the
spoils of his family to the honor of succoring it ; and
by this treaty he divided with France the kingdom
of Frederick, the last king of the bastard branch of
Aragon. His Catholic majesty kept Apulia and
Calabria to himself, and the rest went to France.

Pope Alexander VL, the ally of Louis XII.,
engaged in this conspiracy against an innocent mon-
arch, his feudatory, and granted to these two kings
the investiture he had before bestowed upon the king
of Naples. The Catholic king sent the same general
Gonsalvo de Cordova to Naples, under pretence of
assisting his relative, but in reality to overwhelm

Pope Alexander VI. 215

him. The French now invaded the kingdom by sea
and land, and the Neapolitans were not accustomed
to risk their lives in defence of their kings.

1501 The unfortunate monarch, betrayed by
his own relation, pressed by the French arms, and
destitute of resources, chose rather to put himself
in the hands of Louis XII., whom he looked upon as
a generous enemy, than to trust to the Catholic king,
^vho had behaved with such perfidy toward him.
Accordingly he demanded a passport from the
French to leave his kingdom, and arrived in France
with five galleys; there he lived upon a pension
granted him by the king, of one hundred and twenty
thousand livres, of our present money. Strange des-
tiny for a sovereign prince !

Louis XII. then had at one time a duke of Milan
for his prisoner, and a king of Naples, a follower of
his court, and his pensioner. The republic of Genoa
was one of his provinces; his people were moder-
ately taxed, and his kingdom the most flourishing in
the world, and wanted nothing but the industry of
commerce and the reputation of the liberal arts,
which, as we shall hereafter see, were the peculiar
lot of Italy.

216 Ancient and Modern History.





ALEXANDER VI. effected, in a less degree, that
which Louis XII. executed in the greater. He sub-
dued the fiefs in Romagna by the arms of his son ;
everything seemed to conspire to the aggrandize-
ment of this son, who nevertheless had but little
enjoyment of his good fortune, and labored, with-
out knowing it, for the church patrimony.

There was not any one act of oppression, artifice,
heroic courage or villainy which Caesar Borgia left
unpractised. He made use of more art and dexterity
to get possession of eight or ten little towns, and to
rid himself of a few noblemen that stood in his way,
than Alexander, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, or
Mahomet had done to subdue the greater part of the
habitable globe. Indulgences were sold to raise
troops; and we are assured by Cardinal Bembo,
that, in the territories of Venice alone, there were
as many disposed of as amounted to one thousand
six hundred gold marks. The tenth penny was levied
on all the revenues of the clergy, under pretence of
a war against the Turks, when, instead of that, it
was only to carry on a slight skirmish near the gates
of Rome.

Pope Alexander VI. 217

First they seized the estates of the Colonnas and
Savatelli, in the neighborhood of Rome. Borgia
next made himself master, partly by artifice, and
partly by force, of Forli, Faenza, Rimini, Imola, and
Piombino, and in the course of these petty con-
quests, perfidy, assassination, and poison were the
chief arms he used. He demanded, in the name of
the pope, troops and artillery from the duke of
Urbino, which he employed against this very duke,
and drove him out of his dominions. He drew the
lord of Camerino to a conference, where he caused
him to be strangled, together with two of his sons.
He engaged, upon the surety of the most solemn
oaths, four noblemen the dukes of Gravina,
Oliverotto, Pagolo, and Vitelli to come and treat
with him near Senigallia, who fell into the ambush
he had prepared for them; and Oliverotto and
Vitelli were, by his orders, most inhumanly mur-
dered. Could one suppose that Vitelli, when in the
agonies of death, would beseech his murderer to
obtain for him of the pope, his father, an indulgence
in articulo mortis; and yet this is asserted by con-
temporary writers. Nothing can better show the
weakness of mankind, and the force of persuasion.
If Caesar Borgia had died before his father, of that
poison which it is pretended they had prepared for
the cardinals, and of which both of them drank by
mistake; if Borgia had been the first, I say, who
had died on this occasion, it would have been no

21 8 Ancient and Modern History.

matter of surprise to have heard him ask a plenary
indulgence of his father.

Alexander VI. at the same time apprehended the
relations of these unfortunate noblemen, and had
them strangled in the castle of St. Angelo. What
is truly deplorable is, that Louis XII., the father
of his people, countenanced these barbarities of the
pope in Italy, and suffered him with impunity to
shed the blood of these victims for the sake of being
assisted by him in conquering Naples. Thus, what
is called policy and the interest of the estate made
him unjustly partial to Alexander. What a policy,
what an interest of estate must that be which led
him to abet the oppression of a man by whom he
was soon afterward betrayed himself!

It was the destiny of the French to conquer
Naples, and to be again expelled from it. Ferdi-
nand the Catholic, who had betrayed the last king of
Naples, who was his relative, did not prove more
faithful to Louis XII. who was his ally, but soon
entered into an agreement with Pope Alexander, to
deprive that prince of his share in that partition.

Gonsalvo de Cordova, who so well merited the
title of the Great Captain, though not of the good
man, and who used to say that the web of honor
should be slightly woven, first deceived the French,
and then conquered them. It appears to me, that the
French commanders have in general a greater share
of that courage which honor inspires than of the
artifice necessary for conducting great affairs. The

Pope Alexander VI. 219

duke of Nemours, a descendant of Clovis, who was
then at the head of the French army, challenged
Gonsalvo to single combat; Gonsalvo replied by
defeating his army several times, especially at Cerig-
nola in Apulia, in 1503, where Nemours himself
was slain with four thousand of his men. It is
said, that not more than nine Spaniards were killed
in this battle, an evident proof that Gonsalvo had
made choice of an advantageous post, that Nemours
wanted prudence, and that his soldiers were dis-
heartened. The famous Chevalier Bayard in vain
sustained alone, on a narrow bridge, the attack of
two hundred of the enemy. His resistance was
glorious, but it answered no purpose.

In this war they first found out a new method of
destroying mankind. Peter of Navarre, a soldier
of fortune, and a great general among the Span-
iards, discovered the use of mines, and made the
first trial of them upon the French.

Notwithstanding this ill success, the kingdom of
France was at that time so powerful that Louis XII.
found himself able to send three armies at once into
the field, and a large fleet to sea. Of these three
armies, one was destined against Naples, and the
two others for Roussillon and Fontarabia ; but not
one of them made any progress, and that sent
against Naples quickly met with an entire defeat.
At length Louis XII. irrecoverably lost his share
of the kingdom of Naples.

1503 Soon after, Italy was delivered from Pope

22O Ancient and Modern History.

Alexander VI. and his son. All historians have taken
pleasure in recording that this pope died of the
poison he had prepared for several cardinals, whom
he had invited to an entertainment. An end suitable
to his life !

But there seems very little probability in this
story. It is pretended, that being in urgent necessity
of money, he wanted to inherit the estates of these
cardinals; but it is proved that Caesar Borgia
carried away one hundred thousand gold ducats out
of his father's treasury after his death, consequently
this want of money was not real. Besides, how
came this mistake in the bottle of poisoned wine,
which is said to have occasioned this pope's death
and brought his son to the brink of the grave?
Men who have been long conversant with crimes of
this nature leave no room for making such mistakes.
No person is mentioned as having made this con-
fession; it would seem very difficult then, to have
come at the information. If, when the pope died,
this had been known to be the cause of his death,
those who were intended to be poisoned must have
likewise come to the knowledge of it, and they
would hardly have permitted Borgia to take quiet
possession of his father's treasures. The people,
who frequently hate their masters, and must have
held such masters in particular execration, though
they might have been kept under during Alexan-
der's lifetime, would undoubtedly have rebelled at
his death, would have disturbed the funeral obse-

Pope Alexander VI. 221

quies of such a monster, and have torn his abomin-

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