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with the following impassioned burst of scurrility. " Thou
" stinking he-goat ! thou horned monster ! thou malevo-
" lent detractor ! thou father of lies and author of discord !
" May the divine vengeance destroy thee as an enemy
" of the virtuous, a parricide who endeavourest to ruin
" the wise and good by lies and slanders, and the most
" false and foul imputations. If thou must be contume-
" lious, write thy satires against the suitors of thy wife
" discharge the putridity of thy stomach upon those who
" adorn thy forehead with horns."

Such, was the style in which Poggio and Filelfo, two
of the most learned men of their age, conducted their
disputes. In their mutual accusations, so evidently do
they aim at exhausting every topic of obloquy, without the
slightest regard to veracity, that it is impossible for the
acutest judgment, by the most careful examination of the
odious mass of their allegations, to distinguish truth from
falsehood. Thus does their acrimony defeat its own pur-
pose : for who will give credit to those, who, in the heat
of altercation, set decency at defiance ; and forgetting
what is due to their own dignity, concentrate all their
powers in an endeavour to overwhelm their adversary by
virulent and foul abuse ? It may, however, be observed,

CHAP. vi. 253

that in this unmanly warfare Filelfo had the advantage,
in consequence of his superior sagacity in the choice of his
weapons. In these encounters, a prose invective is like a
ponderous mace, the unmanageable weight of which is the
best security of him at whom the blow is aimed. But he
who annoys his antagonist by poetic effusions, assails him
with an instrument, which affords full scope for the exer-
cise of the most consummate dexterity. The effect of
abusive attacks against character or talents upon him who is
the subject of obloquy, is generally proportionate to the
reception which those attacks experience from the public.
And it is obvious to remark, that a dilated oration is
almost uniformly wearisome to the reader, and few of its
passages are remembered after its perusal ; but the happy
turn of an epigram, or the pointed numbers of a length-
ened satire, captivate the fancy, strongly arrest the public
attention, and make a durable impression on the memory.
Thus do the lashes of poetic wit produce a poignant and
a lasting smart ; and truly unfortunate is he who, in con-
sequence of the provocation of literary wrath, becomes

" The sad burthen of some inerry song."


THE Romans submit to the arms of the pontiff Seve-
rities exercised upon the revolters by Vitelleschi
Eugenius concludes a peace with his enemies He
seizes a part of the Neapolitan territories Proceed-
ings of the council of Basil Poggio purchases a villa
in Valdarno He is exempted from the payment of
taxes His love of ancient sculptures and monuments
of art His dispute with Guarino Veronese His
marriage His dialogue " An seni sit uxor ducenda "
His letter on hfe marriage to a learned ecclesiastic
Poggio accompanies the pontiff" to Bologna His
letter to the cardinal of St- Angelo on the subject of
his matrimonial felicity His letter to the Marquis of
Mantua His reconciliation with Guarino Veronese
He publishes a collection of his letters Death of
Niccolo Niccoli Poggio's funeral oration on that
occasion Character of Niccolo Niccoli.


after the commencement of the late insurrection,
which, as it has been already related, compelled Eugenius
to provide for his safety by a precipitate flight, the Roman
populace proceeded to the election of seven officers, to
whom they delegated the most ample authority to enforce
the preservation of the public peace, and to promote the
general welfare. On the departure of the pontiff, these
new magistrates found themselves masters of the whole of
the city except the castle of St. Angelo. They immedi-
ately commenced the siege of this fortress ; but their efforts
to reduce it were vain. In the mean time the troops of
Sforza made frequent incursions to the very gates of the
city, spreading terror and devastation through the surround-
ing territory. The garrison of the castle also harrassed the
citizens by daily sallies. Wearied and disheartened by the
inconveniences resulting from this concurrence of external
and internal warfare, the degenerate Romans, at the end of
the fifth month of the enjoyment of their delusive liberty,
surrendered their principal places of strength to Giovanni
de^ Vitelleschi, bishop of Recanati, who took possession
of them in the name of the pontiff*

* Muratori Annali, torn. ix. p. 158. Platina, lorn. i. p. 406.
2 L

258 CHAP. VII.

Though the standard of revolt no longer waved
defiance against established government from the walls of
Rome, and though the populace seemed to be desirous of
atoning by the humblest submission for the outrages which
they had lately committed, not only against the authority,
but also against the person of their sovereign, Eugenius
did not yet venture to revisit his capital. He wisely
dreaded the effects of that agitation which usually accompa-
nies the subsiding of the stormy sea of political contention.
It was also the opinion of his counsellors, that it was
necessary to punish the ringleaders of the late revolt with
the utmost severity; and he perhaps thought that those
princes act consistently with the dictates of prudence, who,
whilst they personally interpose in the performance of
beneficent and merciful actions, delegate to inferior agents
the odious task of inflicting the sanguinary penalties of
political vengeance. He accordingly instructed Vitelleschi
to take such measures as he should deem necessary for the
extinction of the latent sparks of rebellion. For the pur-
poses of severity he could not have selected a fitter instru-
ment than Vitelleschi, a man of haughty demeanour, a
bigotted assertor of the rights of established power, whose
promptitude in action was guided by the dictates of a cool
head, and an obdurate heart. When the inhabitants of
the pontifical states were informed that their destiny was
committed to the disposal of this merciless ecclesiastic,
they were struck dumb with fear ;* and suspicion and

; " Sopravenendo poi Giovanni Vitellesco che chiamavano il Patriarca,
" entranono in tanto spavento i Boinani, che non avevano pure animo d'aprir
" la bocca."

Platina, torn. i. p. 405.

CHAP. VII. 259

terror spread a gloom over the whole of the papal domi-
nions. No long space of time intervened before the
threatening cloud burst upon the heads of the Colonnas
and their partizans.* Vitelleschi, personally assuming the
command of a body of troops, laid siege to the fortresses
which sheltered the despairing remnant of rebellion. In
the course of a few weeks he took and sacked Castel Gan-
dolfo, Sabello, Borghetto, Alba, Citta Lanuvie, and Za-
garola. All the inhabitants of these places who survived
the carnage which occurred at their capture he carried in
chains to Rome. On his return to the capital he proceeded
to level with the ground the houses of the principal insur-
gents. Determined by still severer measures to strike
terror into the enemies of the pontiff, he seized one of the
ringleaders of the late revolt, and after publicly exposing
him to the horrible torture of having his flesh torn with red
hot pincers, he terminated his sufferings, by causing him to
be hanged in the Campo di Fiore. At the same time,
with a view of ingratiating himself with the populace, who
dreaded the horrors of approaching famine, he imported
into the city an abundant supply of provisions. By this
alternate exercise of severity and conciliation, he at length
completely re-established the authority of the pontiff in

Fortune now began to dispense her favours to Eugenius
with a liberal hand. In the spring of the year 1435,
Fortebraccio, having received intelligence that Francesco

" Platina, torn. i. p. 40, 407.

260 CHAP. vii.

Sforza had marched into Romagna to oppose Piccinino,
who was preparing to invade that district at the head of
a large body of troops, made a forced march, and surprising
Leone Sforza, who had been left at Todi with an army of
one thousand horse and five hundred foot, compelled him
and the greater part of his forces to surrender at discretion.
His triumph was, however, but of short duration. Whilst
he was employed in the siege of Capo del Monte, he was
attacked by Alessandro Sforza, and after an obstinate engage-
ment, in which he received a mortal wound, his troops were
entirely defeated. This event, which rid Eugenius of a
formidable and implacable foe, prepared the way for a treaty
of peace between him and his various enemies. The pontiff
derived considerable advantages from the terms of this treaty,
in consequence of which he regained possession of Imola and
Bologna, and saw Romagna freed from the miseries of war.*

On the second of February in this year Joanna, queen
of Naples, died, by her last will leaving the inheritance of
her kingdom to Regnier of Anjou. The claim of Reg-
nier was, however, disputed by Alfonso of Arragon, who,
by virtue of the act of adoption which Joanna had annulled,
asserted his title to the Neapolitan crown. Whilst the
kingdom of Naples was divided and harrassed by these
contending claimants, Eugenius ordered Vitelleschi to take
possession of certain towns situated on its frontiers, the
sovereignty of which had long been asserted, and occasion-
ally enjoyed, by the Roman pontiffs. Vitelleschi executed

* Muratori Annali, torn. ix. p. 162, 163.

CHAP. VII. 201


this commission with his usual good fortune ; and by the
conquests which lie made in the Neapolitan territories,
still farther extended the power of his master.*

Whilst the flames of war which had been kindled
against Eugenius by the machinations of the duke of Milan
were thus gradually extinguished, the members of the
council of Basil proceeded with considerable diligence in
the execution of the difficult task which they had under-
taken the reformation of the church in its head and
members. After settling some preliminary arrangements,
with a view of facilitating the union of the Greek and
Latin churches, and promoting the conversion of the Jews,f

IbidPlatina, torn. i. p. 407.

f- The decree relative to the conversion of the Jews ordained amongst
other things, that all diocesans should annually commission certain learned
theologians to explain to them the word of God, in so plain a manner, that
they might be convinced of their errors that the Jews should be compelled, by
the infliction of certain penalties, to attend the lectures of these theologians
that all infidels should be prohibited from keeping Christian servants or nurses
that no Christain should partake of any Jewish festivals that the Jewish trades-
men should be strictly forbidden to buy, or take in pawn, any ecclesiastical books,
chalices, crosses, or other church ornaments that the Jews should be compelled
to wear a distinguishing dress, and that they should live in a separate quarter of
each town, at as great a distance as possible from any church. With regard to
the converted Israelites, it was ordained, that whereas whatever goods or pro-
perty they had obtained by usury, or by defrauding persons who were not to be
found, became upon this conversion the property of the church ; the council, in
the name of the church, bestowed upon them all such property as a baptismal
present that the indigent converts should be relieved by the charitable assistance
of the faithful that they should be separated as much as possible from their
unbelieving brethren and that the ordinaries of each diocese should be directed
to do all in their power to cause them to marry persons who had been born in
the Christian faith.

262 CHAP. vii.


the assembled fathers proceeded to denounce against those
priests who disgraced their profession by keeping concubines,
the penalty of the forfeiture of their ecclesiastical revenues
for the space of three months ; and the further penalty of
deprivation in case they continued, after solemn admonition,
to persevere in their flagitious conduct.* In a very long
and particular decree they laid down wholesome regulations
for the decent solemnization of public worship ; and strictly
prohibited the continuance of those sacrilegious buffoon-
eries which it had been customary in some countries to
celebrate in the churches on Innocents' day, or the feast of
fools. -f* Eugenius perhaps felt no repugnance to give his
assent to these articles of reformation. But he could not
consider with complacency a decree of the ninth of June,
whereby the payment of annates, and of the first fruits of

* Condi, torn. xxx. p. 162.

f- " Turpem etiam ilium abusum in quibusdam frequentatum ecclesiis, quo
" certis anni celebritatibus nonnulli cum mitra, baculo, ac vestibus pontificali-
" bus more episcoporum benedicunt, alii ut reges ac duces induti, quod festum
" fatuorum vel innocentium, seu pueroruin, in quibusdam regionibus nun-
" cupatur, alii larvales et theatrales jocos, alii choreas et tripudia mariuin ac
" mulierum facientes, homines ad spectacula et cachinnationes movent, alii
" comessationes et convivia ibidem praeparant ; haec sancta Synodus detestans,
" statuit et jubet tarn ordinariis quam ecclesiarum decanis et rectoribus, sub
" pcena suspensionis omnium proventuum ecclesiasticorum trium mensium spa-
" tio, ne haec aut similia ludibria, neque etiam mercantias seu negotiationes
" nundinarum in ecclesiis quae domus orationis esse debent, ac etiam cameterio
" exercere amplius permittant, transgressoresque, per censuram ecclesiasticam,
" ahaque juris remedia punire non negligant, omnes autem consuetudines, sta-
" tuta ac privilcgia quae his non concordant circa haec decretis, nisi forte majorcs
" adjicerent poenas, irritas esse haec sancta synodus decernit."



benefices, into the pontifical treasury, was prohibited as an
unlawful compliance with a simoniacal demand.* This
ordinance he naturally detested, as tending materially to
impair his revenues, and consequently to diminish his
power. The spirit of hostility against the undue influence
of the head of the church, which actuated the deliberations
of the council, was further manifested by a decree of the
twenty-fifth of March, 1436, whereby the pontiff was
prohibited from bestowing the government of any province,
city, or territory appertaining to the church, on any of his
relatives, to the third generation inclusive.^ These pro-
ceedings evidently proved, that whatever benefits the synod
of Basil might extend to the general community of Chris-
tians, the successor of St. Peter was likely to sustain con-
siderable loss in consequence of its labours ; and Eugenius
determined to seize the earliest opportunity of throwing off
its yoke.J

* Condi, torn. xxx. p. 168.
f- Condi' torn. xxx. p. 180.

On the 15th of October, 1435, the council condemned as heretical various
propositions which had been lately maintained by Agostino di Roma, arch-
bishop of Nazareth, in three elaborate theological tracts. Those whose anxiety
to preserve the purity of the catholic faith leads them, to wish to know what
sentiments it is their duty to reject, and those who are interested in observing
the niceties of theological distinctions, will perhaps be gratified by the following
recital of the dangerous errors which incurred the severe reprehension and repro-
bation of the venerable synod of Basil.

" Et postissime scandalosam illam assertionem, erroneam in fide, in ipso
" libello contentam, quam piao fidelium aures sine horrore audire non possum,
" videlicet : Christus quotidie pecrat ; ex quo fuit Christus quotidie peccavit ;
" quamvis de capite ecclesiae Christo Jesu Salvatore nostro dicat se non intelli-

264 CHAP. vii.

Whilst the power, and activity of the pontiff's enemies
seemed t& throw a considerable degree of uncertainty upon
the future destiny of the father of the faithful, Poggio
appears to have made preparations permanently to fix his
own residence in the Tuscan territory. With this view
he purchased a villa in the pleasant district of Valdarno.
It appears from a letter addressed by Beccatelli, of Palermo,
to Alphonso, king of Naples, that Poggio raised a part of
the fund necessary for the making of the purchase by the
sale of a manuscript of Livy, written with his own hand,
and for which he obtained the sum of one hundred and

" gere, sed ad membra sua, qua; cum Christo eapite unum esse Christum
" asseruit, intelligentiam ejus esse referendam dicat. Nee non et propositiones
" istas, et eis in sententia similes, quas in articulos damnatos in sacro Constan-
" tiensi Concilio incidere declarat, videlicet : Non omnes fideles justificati sunt
" membra Christi, sed soli electi, finaliter in perpetuum regnaturi cum Christo.
" Secundum ineffabilem praescientiam Dei sumuntur membra Christi, ex quibus
" constat ecclesia, quae tamen non constat nisi ex eis qui secundum propositum
" electionis vocati sunt. Non sufficit Christo uniri vinculo caritatis, ut aliqui
" efficiantur membra Christi, sed requiritur alia unio. Has etiam quae sc-
" quuntur : Humana natura in Christo, vere est Christus. Humana natura in
" Christo, est persona Christi. Ratio suppositalis determinans humanam natu-
" ram in Christo non realiter distinguitur ab ispa natura determinate. Natura
" humana in Christo procul dubio est persona verbi ; et verbum in Christo
" natura assumpta, est realiter persona assumens. Natura humana assumpta a
" verbo ex unione personal!, est veraciter Deus naturalis et proprius. Christus
" secundum voluntatem creatam tantum diligit naturam humanam unitam
" person* verbi, quantum diligit naturam divinam. Sicut duae personse in
" divinis sunt sequaliter diligibiles ita duae naturae in Christo, humana et
" divina, sunt aequaliter diligibiles propter personam communem. Anima
" Christi videt Deum tarn clare et intense, quantum clare et intense Deus vidct
" seipsum. Quas quideni propositiones, et alias ex eadem radice procedentcs,
" in praedicto libello contentas, tamquam erroneas in fide, damnat et reprobat
" haec sancta Synodus."

Concil. torn. xxx. p. 172.

CHAP. VII. -'>

twenty florins of gold.* In the choice of the situation of his
intended mansion, he was guided by that love of rural
retirement which is generally experienced by men of con-
templative minds, who are compelled by the nature of their
occupation to engage in the active scenes of society- To
him who has been distracted by the bustle and tumult of a
court, Ariose spirits have been jaded by the empty parade of
pomp, and whose ingenuous feelings have been wounded by
the intrigues of ambition, the tranquil pleasures and
innocent occupations of a country life appear to possess a
double charm.

Whilst Poggio was thus providing for himself a place
of peaceful retirement, he received from the administrators
of the Tuscan government a testimony of respect, equally
honourable to the givers and to the receiver. By a public
act, which was passed in his favour, it was declared, that
whereas he had announced his determination to spend his
old age in his native land, 'and to dedicate the remainder of
his days to study ; and whereas his literary pursuits would
not enable him to acquire the property which accrued to
those who were engaged in commerce, he and his children
should from thenceforth be exempted from the payment of
all public taxes. -f-

The fortune of Poggio was, indeed, still very small,

* Panormitani Epist. lib. \. ep. 118, as referred to by the French and
Italian translators of the life of Poggio.

f- Apnstolo Zeno Dissertazioni l r ossiane, torn. i. p. 37, 38.
2 M

266 CHAP. VII.

and consequently his villa could not vie in splendour with
the palaces of the Tuscan aristocracy ; but he wisely
attempted to compensate by taste what he wanted in
magnificence. In pursuance of this design he rendered his
humble mansion an object of attention to the lovers of the
liberal arts, by the treasures of his library, and by a small
collection of statues, which he disposed in such a|inanner
as to constitute a principal ornament of his garden, ahd the
appropriate furniture of an apartment which he intended to
dedicate to literary conversation.*

The study of ancient sculpture had long engaged the
attention of Poggio, who was not less diligent in rescuing
its relics from obscurity, than in searching for the lost
writers of antiquity. During his long residence in Rome,
he assiduously visited the monuments of imperial magni-
ficence, which fill the mind of the traveller with awe, as
he traverses the ample squares and superb streets of the
former mistress of the nations. The ruins of these stu-
pendous edifices he examined with such minute accuracy,
that he became familiarly acquainted with their construction,
their use, and their history.-f- Hence the learned men who
had occasion to repair to the pontifical court were solicitous

* Poggii Opera, p. 66, 67. Mehi vita Ambrosii Traversarii, p. Hi.

f- The catalogue of reliques of Roman architecture, which Poggio has in-
serted in the interesting proemium to his dialogue De varietate Fortune, evin-
ces the diligence and care with which he had surveyed the ruins of ancient Rome.
This catalogue did not escape the extensive researches of Gibhon, who has in-
troduced it into the 71st chapter of his Decline and Fall of the Roman

CHAP. VII. 267

to obtain his guidance in their visits to these wonderful
specimens of industry and taste.* Whenever the avarice
or the curiosity of his contemporaries prompted them to
search into the ruined magnificence of their ancestors,
Poggio attended the investigation, anxious to recover from
the superincumbent rubbish some of those breathing forms,
the offspring of Grecian art, which the refined rapacity of
Roman generals had selected from amongst the spoils of
Greece, as ornaments worthy to adorn the temples and
palaces of the capital of the world. Nor did he confine
these researches to the precincts of Rome. The neigh-
bouring district witnessed his zeal for the restoration of the
monuments of ancient sculpture. With this interesting
object in view, he visited Grotta Ferrata, Tusculo, Feren-
tino, Alba, Arpino, Alatri, Ostia, and Tivoli.-f* Whilst
he was fitting up his villa, he had the good fortune to pass
through Monte Cassino. at the time when an antique bust
of a female was discovered by some workmen, who were

* " Poggius noster saepe mecum est ; reliquias civitatis probe callens nos
" comitatur."

Ambrosii Traversarii Epistolte, p. 407.

In a letter to Bartolomeo Facio, Poggio thus invites him to visit the ruins
of Rome. "Video te cupere urbem visere, et certenisi incoeptum opus, ut
" ais, impedirct hortarcr te ad inspiciendas reliquias ejus urbis quac quondam
" urbis lumen praclarissimum fuit. Equidem quamvis in ea jam pluribus annis
" ab ipsa juvcntutc fuerim versa tus, tamen quotide tamquam novus incola
" tantarum rerum admirationc obstupesco, recreoque persaepe animum visu
" eorum aedificiorum, qua; stulti proptcr ingenii imbccillitatem a Daemonibus
" facta dicunt."

Facius de viris Ilhistribut, p. 97.

f- Mehi Vita Ambrosii Traversarii, p. lii.

268 CHAP. VII.

employed in digging up the foundation of a house. Tins
bust he purchased and added to his collection, which already
filled a chamber in his mansion.* His inquiries after
specimens of art were also extended into distant countries.
Being informed that one Francesco di Pistoia was on the
eve of embarking for Greece, he requested him with the
utmost earnestness to procure for him any relics of Grecian
statuary which he might be able to obtain in the course of
his travels. -f- At the same time he wrote to a Rhodian, of
the name of Suffretus, a celebrated collector of antique
marbles, to inform him that he could not bestow upon him
a greater pleasure, than by transmitting to him one or more
of the pieces of sculpture which he might be able to spare
out of his well furnished gallery.J Suffretus, actuated by
a noble spirit of liberality, immediately on Francesco's
arrival in Rhodes, consigned to his care three marble busts,
one of Juno, another of Minerva, and the third of Bac-
chus, said to be the works of Polycletus and Praxiteles,
and one statue of the height of two cubits, all which he
destined for Poggio. The annunciation of this intelli-
gence was received by Poggio with the highest exultation.
The names of such eminent artists as Polycletus and Prax-
iteles raised, indeed, in his mind a prudent degree of

Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdThe life of Poggio Bracciolini → online text (page 18 of 31)