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berlain of his predecessor, but to treat him with civility.
These orders were ill obeyed. The guards sent on this
duty sacked the house of Oddo, and ignominiously dragged
him through the streets as a common criminal. The pon-
tiff having threatened to call Stefano to account for this
harsh conduct, the latter fled from Rome, and joined the

i MAP. V. 175

rest of his family in a rebellion against Eugenius. Pro-
voked by this contumacy, the pontiff proceeded with such
unsparing severity against those who had been elevated to
places of honour and profit, by the favour of his prede-
cessor, that more than two hundred persons employed by
Martin V. in various offices, were, upon being convicted of
various offences, put to death by the hand of the execu-
tioner. The sagacity of Poggio, who was a witness of these
cruel transactions, clearly foresaw the evil consequences
which were likely to result from them.* The distractions
of civil tumult soon demonstrated the justice of his appre-
hensions. The Colonnas, flying from Rome, solicited the
assistance of their powerful relatives and friends, who
resided in various parts of Italy. Having collected a suffi-
cient body of troops, they marched to Rome ; and being
admitted into the city through the Appian gate by some of
their partizans, they directed their course to the Piazza Colon-
na, where they were met by the soldiers of the pope. After
a fierce encounter, the assailants were compelled to retire.
Being thus frustrated in their attempt to make themselves
masters of the city by open force, they endeavoured to
accomplish their purpose by treachery. The vigilance of
Eugenius however rendered their designs abortive. Having
received intelligence that the archbishop of Benevento, the
son of Antonio Colonna, and Masio his brother, . were
meditating some desperate enterprise, he caused them to be
apprehended. Masio being put to the torture, confessed
that they had laid a plan to seize the castle of St. Angelo,

* Poggii Epittola Ivii. ep. xxiii.

170 CHAP. V.

and to banish the pope and the Orsini from Rome. This
treasonable project the unfortunate youth expiated by his
death. He was beheaded in the Campo di Fiore, and his
quarters were suspended to public view in four of the most
frequented streets of the city. Soon after this event, the
heart of Eugenius being mollified by a dangerous sickness,
he became weary of the violence and hazard of civil strife ;
and by the medium of Angelotto Fosco, a citizen of
Rome, he intimated to the Colonnas, that he was disposed
to agree to a pacification. The terms of this pacification
being settled, and solemnly proclaimed on the twenty-
second of September, [A. D. 1471.] Rome once more
enjoyed the blessing of domestic tranquillity.*

Thus did the merciless harshness of Eugenius, on his
accession to the chair of St. Peter, expose his capital to
the miseries of civil discord. At the same time he rashly
ran the hazard of involving himself in a war with Filippo
Maria, the duke of Milan. After the conclusion of the
peace of Ferrara, that crafty prince, with a view of inducing
his most formidable antagonists to exhaust their strength,
had encouraged the Florentines to attack the territories of
the republic of Lucca, which had incurred the hatred of the
Tuscans by the strenuous assistance which it had afforded
to the duke in the late war. But while he professed
to desert his former allies, Filippo secretly ordered the
Genoese, over whom he exercised an almost absolute

* Platina, p. 402, 403. Muratori Annali, torn. ix. p. \43.-Poffffii
Historia de varietate Fortnnts, p. 100.

THAP. V. 177

authority, to march to the relief of the city of Lucca,
which the Florentines had reduced to extremity. In
obedience to his injunctions, the Genoese sent into the
Lucchese territories a considerable body of troops under
the command of Piccinino, who compelled the Tuscan
general to raise the siege of the capital, and entirely
routed his army. When the Florentines were apprized
of the secret machinations of the duke of Milan, they
renewed their alliance with the Venetians : and on the
other hand, the duke openly declaring himself in favour
of the republic of Lucca, strengthened himself by the
assistance of the Sienese. Such was the state of affairs
in the western districts of Italy, when Eugenius was called
to ascend the pontifical throne. This event was a subject
of great joy to the Florentines, who hoped that the
partiality of the new pontiff to his countrymen, their
allies, would induce him to take decisive measures in their
favour. Nor were they disappointed. Soon after his
accession, Eugenius sent a legate to Siena, with instruc-
tions to endeavour to prevail upon the administrators of
that republic to desert from the cause of the duke of Milan.
At the same time he sent to the Tuscan army a reinforce-
ment of one thousand horse, which seasonable accession
of strength enabled the Florentines once more to com-
mence the siege of Lucca.*

The duke of Milan did not deem it expedient instantly
to resent the proceedings of the pontiff: but the edge

Poggii His tar. Flor. lib. vi.

2 A

178 CHAP. v.

of his anger was not blunted by time, and when a conve-
nient opportunity presented itself, he convinced Eugenius
to his cost, that it is the height of folly gratuitously to
interfere in the disputes of belligerent states.

The pontificate of Eugenius did not commence with
happier omens in the distant provinces of Christendom.
He had confirmed the commission of his predecessor,
which authorised Julian, cardinal of St. Angelo, to exercise
in Germany the office of legate of the holy see ; and in
pursuance of this commission, the cardinal had laboured
with unremitting activity for the extinction of "heresy.
The Bohemian reformers, however, ridiculed his pastoral
admonitions, and despised his menaces. During his resi-
dence in Constance, Poggio had witnessed in the case of
two individuals, the intrepidity with which the human
mind is inspired by the operation of religious zeal ; and he
seems to have wisely calculated the efforts which this
powerful stimulus was likely to produce, by diffusing its
increasing energy through the breasts of an enthusiastic
multitude. On this account, when he was informed of the
important enterprise which had been undertaken by his
friend the cardinal, though he applauded the alacrity which
he manifested in the discharge of his duty to his spiritual
sovereign, he advised him maturely to consider, not the
degree of courage with which he was endowed, but the
number of troops which he could bring into the field ; and
bade him beware, lest in attempting to subdue the heretics,
he should take a wolf by the ears.* The event justified

* Te faina cst peragrare Gcrmaiiiam ad apparatum belli contra Bocinos.

CITAP. V. 179

the fears of Poggio. A vigorous invasion of Bohemia
was meditated by Frederic, marquis of Brandenburg, who
had been appointed to the chief command of the ecclesi-
astical forces ;* but as the success of his plan in a great
measure depended on the co-operation of several independ-
ent powers, it experienced the usual fate of enterprizes
conducted on that most hazardous principle. It had been
concerted, that whilst the marquis of Brandenburg made
an irruption into the Bohemian territory by the route of
Thopa, Albert duke of Austria should make a diversion
on the side of Moravia. But as some of the confederates
had not prepared their forces in due time, the commander
in chief was obliged to defer the opening of the campaign
beyond the appointed period. In the mean time Albert
advanced into Bohemia ; but finding himself unsupported
by his allies, he thought it prudent to retire. The duke
of Austria had no sooner withdrawn his forces, than the
cardinal, who had at length raised an army, consisting of
forty thousand cavalry, and nearly an equal number of
infantry,^ appeared on the frontiers of Bohemia, where

Id quidem laudo ; sed considera diligenter, non quantum animi sit tibi ad pug-
nam, sed quantum virium armorum, ne magis animatus quam armatus in aciem
accedas ; et barbatum nostrum cave, ne auribus lupum teneas.

Poffffii Epistolts Ivii. ep. xxiii.
This letter is dated May llth, 1431.

* L* Enfant Histoire de la guerre des Hussites, torn. i. p. 315.

f Some writers assert, that the number of the pontifical troops amounted to
ninety, others to one hundred and thirty thousand men. But the numbers of
forces are almost always exaggerated.

L" Enfant Hintoire de la guerre des Hussites, lorn. i. p. 317.

180 CHAP. V V.

he took and destroyed several towns which had been
garrisoned by the reformers. The Bohemians were not,
however, discouraged by the number of their foes, but
boldly advanced with a determination to give them battle.
The papal forces did not await the encounter of these
formidable antagonists. When they were apprized of the
approach of the enemy, they were seized with a sudden
panic, and in spite of the remonstrances of their general,
they fled in the utmost disorder.* Mortified by this
defeat, and despairing of being able to subdue the heretics
by means of the forces at present under his command, the
legate determined to apply for assistance in the task of
the extirpation of the impugners of the true faith to the
general council, which, in pursuance of the summons of
the late pontiff Martin V., was soon to be held in the city
of Basil.f

When Poggio received the intelligence of the dis-

* Voltaire Annales de r Empire. We may judge of the precipitancy of
the flight of the pontifical army, from the circumstance of the cardinal's losing,
with the rest of his haggage, the papal bull which authorised the crusade, his
red hat, and the rest of his dress of ceremony, his cross and crochet.

L 1 Enfant ut supra.

f- Et cum ex fug& exercitus omnes populi Alemaniae supra modum essent
exterriti et consternati, videns nullum aliud superesse remedium, animabam et
confortabam omnes, ut manerent constantes in fide et nihil trepidarent ; quo-
nia.ni ego propter hoc accedebam ad Concilium, ubi convenire debebat universalis
ecclesia in quo omnino aliqubd sufficiens remedium ad resistendum haereticis,
et ipsos extirpandos reperiretur. Vide Epistolam Juliani Cardinalis ad Pon-
tiftcem Eugenium IV. apud Faseiculum Rernm Expetendarum et Fugien-
darum, p. 55.

CHAP. V. 181

comfiture of the papal army, he thus addressed the Car-
dinal legate, in a consolatory epistle. " I am truly sorry,
" my good father, for the ridiculous and disgraceful issue
" of this German expedition, which you have planned and
" prepared with so much pains and labour. It is astonishing
" that your troops should have been so completely destitute
" of courage, as to fly like hares, terrified by an empty
" breeze of wind, even before the enemy was in sight. My
" grief is however alleviated by the following consideration,
" that I not only foresaw this event, but foretold it when
" I last had the pleasure of conversing with you. On that
" occasion I remember you treated my opinion lightly, and
" said, that as prophets of evil were generally justified by
" the common course of human things, I prophesied on
" the safe side when I foreboded disasters. I did not how-
" ever hazard a random guess at the issue of the proposed
" expedition ; but formed a rational conjecture on the
" subject, by comparing past with present circumstances,
" and by reflecting upon the necessary relation of cause and
" effect. Impressed by these ideas, I thought I clearly fore-
<( saw an approaching tempest : and the occurrences of
" every succeeding day tend to confirm me in my opinion.
" There formerly existed Christian kings and princes, by
" whose assistance the church defended herself against her
" enemies ; and tempest-tossed as she has frequently been,
" she has hitherto always found some haven in which she
" could shelter herself from the fury of the storm. But
" whither can she now flee without incurring the danger of
" suffering shipwreck ? A common insanity has persuaded
" almost all men to rejoice in our calamities, and to pray for

182 CHAP. V.

<f our destruction. Let us however hope for the best, and
" patiently bear the worst. For my own part 1 make it
" my study, in all circumstances to be resigned to the will of
" Providence, and to become so independent of externals, as
" not to be distressed by the capriciousness of fortune. In
" my present situation, indeed, I am not very obnoxious to
" the malice of that goddess, whose wrath, like the tlmn-
" derbolt, is directed against the high and the lofty. But
" whatever may be her pleasure, it is certainly the truest
" wisdom not to suffer our minds to be shaken by her
" impulse, and not to be too deeply affected in our private
" capacity by the distresses of the public. Let us however
" entreat the Deity not to put our wisdom to these serious
" proofs ; for we know not whether we should be able to
" practise the piety and philosophy which we recommend.
" I hear that you have convoked a council, which is already
" well attended. I commend your prudence you did
" well, on the ill success of your arms, to have recourse to
" an assembly of priests, on whom we cannot but have great
" reliance, on account of the uprightness of their lives, and
" their zeal to extinguish the pest of heresy.

" The Germans were formerly a warlike people.
" They are now strenuous only in their eating and drinking,
" and they are mighty in proportion to the wine which
" they can swallow. When their casks are empty, their
" courage must needs be exhausted. On this account I
" am inclined to think, that they so shamefully deserted
" their posts, not through fear of the enemy, whom it
" seems they never saw, but because provisions were scarce

CHAP. V. 183

" in those quarters. You were of opinion, that sobriety
" constituted a part of the soldier's duty. But if this
" expedition is to be again attempted, I trust you will
" change your system, and allow that wine constitutes the
*' sinews of war. The ancients inform us, that Ennius
" never undertook to celebrate warlike achievements till
" he was mellow ; and it must be acknowledged that,
" inasmuch as it is a more serious task to fight a battle than
" to describe it, flowing cups are absolutely requisite to
" enable a man to handle arms, and encounter the dangers
" of the field. I am afraid you have fallen into the error
" of judging of others by your own dispositions. Beware
" of repeating this error in the matter of the council, and
" remember what I said to you before your departure from
" Italy take care to feed them well But enough of this
" levity. We enjoy the blessing of peace ; but the pon-
" tifical court is poor, and shorn of its splendour. This is
" occasioned by the war in Germany, and by the sickness
" of his holiness, which has lasted much longer, and has
" been much more severe, than could have been wished.
" I have written to Angelotto, cardinal of St. Mark, a
" letter which I wish you also to read. I therefore send
" you a copy of it, not because I flatter myself that there
" is any excellence in its style, but because I trust its
" perusal may divert your thoughts from the anxious affair
" of the council."*

A mind irritated by disappointment and disgrace is

Poffgii Opera, p. 30'J, 310.

184 CHAP. V.

but ill prepared to bear with patience the lashes of satiric
wit. The cardinal of St. Angelo was by no means pleased
with the jocular style of Poggio's letter ; and though he
affected to answer it in a similar strain of levity, he appears
to have written with the ill grace which generally betrays
the attempt to conceal resentment under the veil of good
humour; and in the course of his epistle, his vexation
burst forth in an angry reproof of the irregular life of his
correspondent. Unfortunately the morals of Poggio were
not entirely free from reproach. Whilst the uncertainty
of his future destination had prevented him from entering
into the married state, his passions had gained the mastery
over his principles, and he had become the father of a
spurious offspring. Reminding him of this circumstance,
" you have children," said the cardinal, " which is incon-
" sistent with the obligations of an ecclesiastic ; and by a
" mistress, which is discreditable to the character of a lay-
" man." To these reproaches Poggio replied in a letter
replete with the keenest sarcasm. He pleaded guilty to
the charge which had been exhibited against him, and can-
didly confessed, that he had deviated from the paths of
virtue. " I might answer to your accusation," said he,
45 that I have children, which is expedient for the laity ;
" and by a mistress, in conformity to the custom of the
" clergy from the foundation of the world. But I will not
" defend my errors you know that I have violated the
" laws of morality, and I acknowledge that I have done
" amiss/ 1 Endeavouring however to palliate his offence
" do we not," says he, li every day, and in all countries,
" meet with priests, monks, abbots, bishops,, and digni-

CHAP. V. 185

" taries of a still higher order, who have families of chil-
" dren by married women, widows, and even by virgins
" consecrated to the service of God ? These despisers of
" worldly things, as they style themselves, who travel from
" place to place, clothed in coarse and vile raiment, with
" downcast looks, calling on the name of Jesus, follow
" the precept of the apostle, and seek after that which is
" not their own, to use it as their own, and scorn to hide
" their talent in a napkin. I have often laughed at the
' bold, or rather impudent profession of a certain Italian
" abbot, who waited on Martin V., accompanied by his
" son, who was grown up to man's estate. This audacious
" ecclesiastic, being interrogated on the subject, freely and
" openly declared, to the great amusement of the pope,
" and the whole pontifical court, that he had four other
" sons able to bear arms, who were all at his holiness's
" service. 1 ' After noticing other scandalous enormities,
which brought disgrace upon the character of some ecclesi-
astics of those times, Poggio thus concluded " As to
" your advice on the subject of my future plans of life,
" I am determined not to assume the sacerdotal office ;
"for I have seen many men whom I have regarded as
" persons of good character and liberal dispositions,
" degenerate into avarice, sloth, and dissipation, in con-
" sequence of their introduction into the priesthood.
" Fearing lest this should be the case with myself, I have
" resolved to spend the remaining term of my pilgrimage
" as a layman ; for I have too frequently observed, that
" your brethren, at the time of their tonsure, not only

2 B

180 CHAP. V.

" part with their Lair, but also with their conscience and
" their virtue."*

Angelotto, cardinal of St. Mark, whom Poggio men-
tions at the conclusion of his consolatory epistle to the
cardinal of St. Angelo, was by birth a Roman, and was
promoted by Eugenius, from the bishopric of Cavi, to a
seat in the sacred college, on the nineteenth of September,
1431. -f On this addition to his honours, Poggio addressed
to him a letter, in which he exercised the privilege of
friendship, in administering to him much wholesome and
seasonable advice. He introduced his admonitions by
observing, that it was customary for the friends of those
who had been exalted to any new dignity, to express
their congratulations by the transmission of magnificent
presents ; but that being prevented by his poverty from
giving such indications of the satisfaction with which he
had received the intelligence of Angelotto's promotion,
he was determined to bestow upon him a gift, which he
was assured he would value at its just rate the gift of
friendly council. By a variety of instances, recorded in
the pages of history, he shewed, that he who in compli-
ance with the dictates of duty gives good advice to the
great and powerful, runs considerable risk of drawing
down upon himself the indignation of those whose wel-
fare he wishes to promote by the free communication of
his opinions. In candidly imparting his sentiments to
Angelotto, however, a man of considerable learning, who

* Poffffii EpistolcR Ivii. ep. xxvii.

f Muratori Jler. Italic. Script, torn. vi. p. 869.

CHAP. V. 187

had himself been accustomed to indulge in the most
unlimited freedom of speech, he declared that he did
not apprehend that he incurred the least danger of giving
offence. He then proceeded to exhort the newly created
cardinal to continue to cultivate, in his present high sta-
tion, those virtues which he had exhibited in the inferior
degrees of ecclesiastical preferment ; and to act up to the
professions which he had been accustomed to make before
the period of his exaltation. He reminded him of the dan-
gerous temptations which surround eminence of rank, and
assured him, that so far from withdrawing any restraints
to which he had formerly been obliged to submit, his pre-
sent promotion imposed upon him additional obligations
to be prudent and circumspect in his conduct ; since the
splendour of eminence makes the failings and vices of the
great the more conspicuous. Warning his correspondent
against the debasing influence of flattery, he thus apolo-
gized for the boldness with which he offered his advice.
" Those who are not acquainted with me, will perhaps
" condemn the freedom with which I inculcate these
" heads of admonition on one who is more fully in-
" structed than myself on such topics. But I am induced
" by my affection for you to recall to your memory these
" points of duty, in the discharge of which, even the
4 ' well informed have been sometimes known to fail."

If credit may be given to the opinion of Angelotto's
contemporaries, Peggie's attempt to inculcate upon him
the lessons of wisdom, was by no means a superfluous
task. In such small estimation was his understanding

188 CHAP. V.

held, that on the day of his election to the dignity of
cardinal, a Roman priest of the name of Lorenzo went
through the streets of the city, shewing indications of the
most extravagant joy ; and being asked by his neighbours
what was the cause of his exultation, he replied, " I am
" truly fortunate Angelotto is created cardinal ; and since
" I find fools and madmen are promoted to that dignity,
" I have great hopes of wearing the red hat myself."*
On the same occasion, as the officers of the pontifical
household were conversing about the transactions of the
day, one Niccolo of Anagni, a man of great literary
accomplishments, but of an irregular life, and of a very
satirical disposition, complained of his own ill fortune.
" No person living," said he, " is more unlucky than
" myself ; for though this is the reign of folly, and every
" madman, nay even Angelotto, gains considerable pro-
" motion, I alone am passed over without notice."-f- The
friendship wliich Poggio professed to entertain for the
newly created dignitary did not prevent him from indulging
at his expense, his propensity to sarcastic wit. A new
cardinal is not permitted to take any part in the debates of
the consistory till he has obtained the pontifFs permission
to speak, which is granted by the performance of a short
ceremony, entitled the opening of his mouth. Poggio
one day meeting the cardinal of St. Marcellus in the
pontifical palace, asked him what had been done that
morning in the sacred college. " We have opened An-

* Poggii Opera, p. 42.9.
f Ibid.

CHAP. V. 189

" gelotto's mouth," said the cardinal. " Indeed, " replied
Poggio, " you would have acted more wisely if you had
" fixed a padlock upon it."* These anecdotes, which are
selected from Poggio's Facetice, sufficiently prove, that
the unfortunate cardinal of St. Mark was a fruitful subject
of ridicule to the officers of the Roman court. From the
same source of information it appears, that his churlish
moroseness on the following occasion subjected him to the
shame of being put to confusion by the petulant wit of a
child. Some of his friends having introduced to him a
boy of ten years of age, who was remarkable for the bril-
liancy of his talents, he asked him a variety of questions,
in his answers to which the boy displayed astonishing
knowledge and sagacity. On which Angelotto, turning to
the by-standers, said, " They who manifest such quick-
" ness of parts at this early age, generally decrease in
" intellect as they increase in years, and become fools when
" they have attained to maturity." Hurt by the unfeeling
rudeness of this remark, the stripling immediately replied,

Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdThe life of Poggio Bracciolini → online text (page 13 of 31)