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Naples. It is not at all unlikely that the inscription of the device upon that sword–which throughout is engraved with illustrations of the career of Julius Caesar–may have been the conceit of the sword-maker as a rather obvious play upon Cesare’s name.(1) Undoubtedly, were the device of Cesare’s own adoption we should find it elsewhere, and nowhere else is it to be found.

1 The scabbard of this sword is to be seen in the South Kensington Museum; the sword itself is in the possession of the Caetani family.

Shortly after Cesare’s return to Rome, Imola and Forli sent their ambassadors to the Vatican to beseech his Holiness to sign the articles which those cities had drawn up and by virtue of which they created Cesare their lord in the place of the deposed Riarii.

It is quite true that Alexander had announced that, in promoting the Romagna campaign, he had for object to restore to the Church the States which had rebelliously seceded from her. Yet there is not sufficient reason to suppose that he was flagrantly breaking his word in acceding to the request of which those ambassadors were the bearers and in creating his son Count of Imola and Forli. Admitted that this was to Cesare’s benefit and advancement, it is still to be remembered that those fiefs must be governed for the Church by a Vicar, as had ever been the case.

That being so, who could have been preferred to Cesare for the dignity, seeing that not only was the expulsion of the tyrants his work, but that the inhabitants themselves desired him for their lord? For the rest, granted his exceptional qualifications, it is to be remembered that the Pope was his father, and–setting aside the guilt and scandal of that paternity–it is hardly reasonable to expect a father to prefer some other to his son for a stewardship for which none is so well equipped as that same son. That Imola and Forli were not free gifts to Cesare, detached, for the purpose of so making them, from the Holy See, is clear from the title of Vicar with which Cesare assumed control of them, as set forth in the Bull of investiture.

In addition to his receiving the rank of Vicar and Count of Imola and Forli, it was in this same month of March at last–and after Cesare may be said to have earned it–that he received the Gonfalon of the Church. With the unanimous concurrence of the Sacred College, the Pope officially appointed him Captain-General of the Pontifical forces–the coveting of which position was urged, it will be remembered, as one of his motives for his alleged murder of the Duke of Gandia three years earlier.

On March 29 Cesare comes to St. Peter’s to receive his new dignity and the further honour of the Golden Rose which the Pope is to bestow upon him–the symbol of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant.

Having blessed the Rose, the Pope is borne solemnly into St. Peter’s, preceded by the College of Cardinals. Arrived before the High Altar, he puts off his tiara–the conical, richly jewelled cap, woven from the plumage of white peacocks–and bareheaded kneels to pray; whereafter he confesses himself to the Cardinal of Benevento, who was the celebrant on this occasion. That done, he ascends and takes his seat upon the Pontifical Throne, whither come the cardinals to adore him, while the organ peals forth and the choir gives voice. Last of all comes Cesare, dressed in cloth of gold with ermine border, to kneel upon the topmost step of the throne, whereupon the Pope, removing his tiara and delivering it to the attendant Cardinal of San Clemente, pronounces the beautiful prayer of the investiture. That ended, the Pope receives from the hands of the Cardinal of San Clemente the splendid mantle of gonfalonier, and sets it about the duke’s shoulders with the prescribed words: “May the Lord array thee in the garment of salvation and surround thee with the cloak of happiness.” Next he takes from the hands of the Master of the Ceremonies–that same Burchard whose diary supplies us with these details–the gonfalonier’s cap of scarlet and ermine richly decked with pearls and surmounted by a dove–the emblem of the Holy Spirit–likewise wrought in pearls. This he places upon Cesare’s auburn head; whereafter, once more putting off his tiara, he utters the prescribed prayer over the kneeling duke.

That done, and the Holy Father resuming his seat and his tiara, Cesare stoops to kiss the Pope’s feet, then rising, goes in his gonfalonier apparel, the cap upon his head, to take his place among the cardinals. The organ crashes forth again; the choir intones the “Introito ad altare Deum”; the celebrant ascends the altar, and, having offered incense, descends again and the Mass begins.

The Mass being over, and the celebrant having doffed his sacred vestments and rejoined his brother cardinals, the Cardinal of San Clemente repairs once more to the Papal Throne, preceded by two chamberlains who carry two folded banners, one bearing the Pope’s personal arms, the other the arms of Holy Church. Behind the cardinal follows an acolyte with the censer and incense-boat and another with the holy water and the aspersorio, and behind these again two prelates with a Missal and a candle. The Pope rises, blesses the folded banners and incenses them, having received the censer from the hands of a priest who has prepared it. Then, as he resumes his seat, Cesare steps forward once more, and, kneeling, places both hands upon the Missal and pronounces in a loud, clear voice the words of the oath of fealty to St. Peter and the Pope, swearing ever to protect the latter and his successors from harm to life, limb, or possessions. Thereafter the Pope takes the blessed banners and gives the charge of them to Cesare, delivering into his hands the white truncheon symbolic of his office, whilst the Master of Ceremonies hands the actual banners to the two deputies, who in full armour have followed to receive them, and who attach them to the lances provided for the purpose.

The investiture is followed by the bestowal of the Golden Rose, whereafter Cesare, having again kissed the Pope’s feet and the Ring of the Fisherman on his finger, has the cap of office replaced upon his head by Burchard himself, and so the ceremonial ends.

The Bishop of Isernia was going to Cesena to assume the governorship of that Pontifical fief, and, profiting by this, Cesare appointed him his lieutenant-general in Romagna, with authority over all his other officers there and full judicial powers. Further, he desired him to act as his deputy and receive the oath of fealty of the duke’s new subjects.

Meanwhile, Cesare abode in Rome, no doubt impatient of the interruption which his campaign had suffered, and which it seemed must continue yet awhile. Lodovico Sforza had succeeded in driving the French out of his dominions as easily as he, himself, had been driven out by them a few months earlier. But Louis XII sent down a fresh army under La Trémouille, and Lodovico, basely betrayed by his Swiss mercenaries at Novara in April, was taken prisoner.

That was the definite end of the Sforza rule in Milan. For ten years the crafty, scheming Lodovico was left to languish a prisoner in the Castle of Loches, at the end of which time he miserably died.

Immediately upon the return of the French to Milan, the Pope asked for troops that Cesare might resume his enterprise not only against Pesaro, Faenza, and Rimini, but also against Bologna, where Giovanni Bentivogli had failed to support–as in duty bound–the King of France against Lodovico Sforza. But Bentivogli repurchased the forfeited French protection at the price of 40,000 ducats, and so escaped the impending danger; whilst Venice, it happened, was growing concerned to see no profit accruing to herself out of this league with France and Rome; and that was a matter which her trader spirit could not brook. Therefore, Venice intervened in the matter of Rimini and Faenza, which she protected in somewhat the same spirit as the dog protected the straw in the manger. Next, when, having conquered the Milanese, Louis XII turned his thoughts to the conquest of Naples, and called upon Venice to march with him as became a good ally, the Republic made it quite clear that she was not disposed to move unless there was to be some profit to herself. She pointed out that Mantua and Ferrara were in the same case as Bologna, for having failed to lend assistance to the French in the hour of need, and proposed to Louis XII the conquest and division of those territories.

Thus matters stood, and Cesare had perforce to await the conclusion of the Pisan War in which the French were engaged, confident, however, that, once that was at an end, Louis, in his anxiety to maintain friendly relations with the Pope, would be able to induce Venice to withdraw her protection from Rimini and Faenza. So much accomplished for him, he was now in a position to do the rest without the aid of French troops if necessary. The Jubilee–protracted for a further year, so vast and continuous was the concourse of the faithful, 200,000 of whom knelt in the square before St. Peter’s on Easter Day to receive the Pope’s blessing–was pouring vast sums of money into the pontifical coffers, and for money men were to be had in plenty by a young condottiero whose fame had been spreading ever since his return from the Romagna. He was now the hope of the soldiers of fortune who abounded in Italy, attracted thither from all quarters by the continual opportunities for employment which that tumultuous land afforded.

It is in speaking of him at about this time, and again praising his personal beauty and fine appearance, that Capello says of him that, if he lives, he will be one of Italy’s greatest captains.

Such glimpses as in the pages of contemporary records we are allowed of Cesare during that crowded time of the Papal Jubilee are slight and fleeting. On April 13 we see him on horseback accompanying the Pope through Rome in the cavalcade that visited the four Basilicas to win the indulgence offered, and, as usual, he is attended by his hundred armed grooms in black.

On another occasion we behold him very differently engaged–giving an exhibition of his superb physical gifts, his strength, his courage, and his matchless address. On June 24, at a bull-fight held in Rome–Spanish tauromachia having been introduced from Naples, where it flourished under the Aragon dominion–he went down into the arena, and on horseback, armed only with a light lance, he killed five wild bulls. But the master- stroke he reserved for the end. Dismounting, and taking a double­handed sword to the sixth bull that was loosed against hin, he beheaded the great beast at one single stroke, “a feat which all Rome considered great.”

Thus sped the time of waiting, and meanwhile he gathered about him a Court not only of captains of fortune, but of men of art and letters, whom he patronized with a liberality–indeed, a prodigality–so great that it presently became proverbial, and, incidentally, by its proportions provoked his father’s disapproval. In the brilliant group of men of letters who enjoyed his patronage were such writers as Justolo, Sperulo, and that unfortunate poet Serafino Cimino da Aquila, known to fame and posterity as the great Aquilano. And it would be, no doubt, during these months that Pier di Lorenzo painted that portrait of Cesare which Vasari afterwards saw in Florence, but which, unfortunately, is not now known to exist. Bramante, too, was of his Court at this time, as was Michelangelo Buonarroti, whose superb group of “Mercy,” painted for Cardinal de Villiers, had just amazed all Rome. With Pinturicchio, and Leonardi da Vinci–whom we shall see later beside Cesare–Michelangelo was ever held in the highest esteem by the duke.

The story of that young sculptor’s leap into fame may not be so widely known but that its repetition may be tolerated here, particularly since, remotely at least, it touches Cesare Borgia.

When, in 1496, young Buonarroti, at the age of twenty-three, came from Florence to Rome to seek his fortune at the opulent Pontifical Court, he brought a letter of recommendation to Cardinal Sforza-Riario. This was the time of the great excavations about Rome; treasures of ancient art were daily being rescued from the soil, and Cardinal Sforza-Riario was a great dilletante and collector of the antique. With pride of possession, he conducted the young sculptor through his gallery, and, displaying his statuary to him, inquired could he do anything that might compare with it. If the cardinal meant to use the young Florentine cavalierly, his punishment was immediate and poetic, for amid the antiques Michelangelo beheld a sleeping Cupid which he instantly claimed as his own work. Riario was angry; no doubt suspicious, too, of fraud. This Cupid was–as its appearance showed–a genuine antique, which the cardinal had purchased from a Milanese dealer for two hundred ducats. Michelangelo, in a passion, named the dealer–one Baldassare–to whom he had sent the statue after treating it, with the questionable morality of the cinquecentist, so as to give it the appearance of having lain in the ground, to the end that Baldassare might dispose of it as an antique.

His present fury arose from his learning the price paid by the cardinal to Baldassare, from whom Michelangelo had received only thirty ducats. In his wrath he demanded–very arbitrarily it seems–the return of his statue. But to this the cardinal would not consent until Baldassare had been arrested and made to disgorge the money paid him. Then, at last, Sforza-Riario complied with Michelangelo’s demands and delivered him his Cupid–a piece of work whose possession had probably ceased to give any pleasure to that collector of the antique.

But the story was bruited abroad, and cultured Rome was agog to see the statue which had duped so astute a judge as Sforza-Riario. The fame of the young sculptor spread like a ripple over water, and it was Cesare Borgia–at that time still Cardinal of Valencia who bought the Cupid. Years later he sent it to Isabella d’Este, assuring her that it had not its equal among contemporary works of art.



We come now to the consideration of an event which, despite the light that so many, and with such assurance, have shed upon it, remains wrapped in uncertainty, and presents a mystery second only to that of the murder of the Duke of Gandia.

It was, you will remember, in July of 1498 that Lucrezia took a second husband in Alfonso of Aragon, the natural son of Alfonso II of Naples and nephew of Federigo, the reigning king. He was a handsome boy of seventeen at the time of his marriage–one year younger than Lucrezia– and, in honour of the event and in compliance with the Pope’s insistence, he was created by his uncle Duke of Biselli and Prince of Salerno. On every hand the marriage was said to be a love-match, and of it had been born, in November of 1499, the boy Roderigo.

On July 15, 1500, at about the third hour of the night, Alfonso was assaulted and grievously wounded–mortally, it was said at first–on the steps of St. Peter’s.

Burchard’s account of the affair is that the young prince was assailed by several assassins, who wounded him in the head, right arm, and knee. Leaving him, no doubt, for dead, they fled down the steps, at the foot of which some forty horsemen awaited them, who escorted them out of the city by the Pertusa Gate. The prince was residing in the palace of the Cardinal of Santa Maria in Portico, but so desperate was his condition that those who found him upon the steps of the Basilica bore him into the Vatican, where he was taken to a chamber of the Borgia Tower, whilst the Cardinal of Capua at once gave him absolution in articulo mortis.

The deed made a great stir in Rome, and was, of course, the subject of immediate gossip, and three days later Cesare issued an edict forbidding, under pain of death, any man from going armed between Sant’ Angelo and the Vatican.

News of the event was carried immediately to Naples, and King Federigo sent his own physician, Galieno, to treat and tend his nephew. In the care of that doctor and a hunchback assistant, Alfonso lay ill of his wounds until August 17, when suddenly be died, to the great astonishment of Rome, which for some time had believed him out of danger. In recording his actual death, Burchard is at once explicit and reticent to an extraordinary degree. “Not dying,” he writes, “from the wound he had taken, he was yesterday strangled in his bed at the nineteenth hour.”

Between the chronicling of his having been wounded on the steps of St. Peter’s and that of his death, thirty-three days later, there is no entry in Burchard’s diary relating to the prince, nor anything that can in any way help the inquirer to a conclusion; whilst, on the subject of the strangling, not another word does the Master of Ceremonies add to what has above been quoted. That he should so coldly–almost cynically–state that Alfonso was strangled, without so much as suggesting by whom, is singular in one who, however grimly laconic, is seldom reticent– notwithstanding that he may have been so accounted by those who despaired of finding in his diary the confirmation of such points of view as they happen to have chosen and of such matters as it pleased them to believe and propagate.

That same evening Alfonso’s body was borne, without pomp, to St. Peter’s, and placed in the Chapel of Santa Maria delle Febbre. It was accompanied by Francesco Borgia, Archbishop of Cosenza.

The doctor who had been in attendance upon the deceased and the hunchback were seized, taken to Sant’ Angelo and examined, but shortly thereafter set at liberty.

So far we are upon what we may consider safe ground. Beyond that we cannot go, save by treading the uncertain ways of speculation, and by following the accounts of the various rumours circulated at the time. Formal and absolutely positive evidence of the author of Alfonso’s murder there is none.

The Venetian ambassador, the ineffable, gossip­mongering Paolo Capello, whom we have seen possessed of the fullest details concerning the Duke of Gandia’s death–although he did not come to Rome until two and a half years after the crime–is again as circumstantial in this instance. You see in this Capello the forerunner of the modern journalist of the baser sort, the creature who prowls in quest of scraps of gossip and items of scandal, and who, having found them, does not concern himself greatly in the matter of their absolute truth so that they provide him with sensational “copy.” It is this same Capello, bear in mind, who gives us the story of Cesare’s murdering in the Pope’s very arms that Pedro Caldes who is elsewhere shown to have fallen into Tiber and been drowned, down to the lurid details of the blood’s spurting into the Pope’s face.

His famous Relazione to the Senate in September of 1500 is little better than an epitome of all the scandal current in Rome during his sojourn there as ambassador, and his resurrection of the old affair of the murder of Gandia goes some way towards showing the spirit by which he was actuated and his love of sensational matter. It has pleased most writers who have dealt with the matter of the murder of Alfonso of Aragon to follow Capello’s statements; consequently these must be examined.

He writes from Rome–as recorded by Sanuto–that on July 16 Alfonso of Biselli was assaulted on the steps of St. Peter’s, and received four wounds, “one in the head, one in the arm, one in the shoulder, and one in the back.” That was all that was known to Capello at the time he wrote that letter, and you will observe already the discrepancy between his statement, penned upon hearsay, and Burchard’s account–which, considering the latter’s position at the Vatican, must always be preferred. According to Burchard the wounds were three, and they were in the head, right arm, and knee.

On the 19th Capello writes again, and, having stated that Lucrezia–who was really prostrate with grief at her husband’s death–was stricken with fever, adds that “it is not known who has wounded the Duke of Biselli, but it is said that it was the same who killed and threw into Tiber the Duke of Gandia. My Lord of Valentinois has issued an edict that no one shall henceforth bear arms between Sant’ Angelo and the Vatican.”

On the face of it, that edict of Valentinois’ seems to argue vexation at what had happened, and the desire to provide against its repetition–a provision hardly likely to be made by the man who had organized the assault, unless he sought, by this edict, to throw dust into the eyes of the world; and one cannot associate after the event and the fear of criticism with such a nature as Cesare’s or with such a character as is given him by those who are satisfied that it was he who murdered Biselli.

The rumour that Alfonso had been assailed by the murderer of Gandia is a reasonable enough rumour, so long as the latter remains unnamed, for it would simply point to some enemy of the House of Borgia who, having slain one of its members, now attempts to slay another. Whether Capello actually meant Cesare when he penned those words on July 19, is not as obvious as may be assumed, for it is to be borne in mind that, at this date, Capello had not yet compiled the “relation” in which he deals with Gandia’s murder.

On July 23 he wrote that the duke was very ill, indeed, from the wound in his head, and on the 28th that he was in danger owing to the same wound although the fever had abated.

On August 18 he announces Alfonso’s death in the following terms: “The Duke of Biselli, Madonna Lucrezia’s husband, died to-day because he was planning the death of the Duke [of Valentinois] by means of an arbalest- bolt when he walked in the garden; and the duke has had him cut to pieces in his room by his archers.”

This “cutting-to-pieces” form of death is one very dear to the imagination of Capello, and bears some witness to his sensation-mongering proclivities.

Coming to matters more public, and upon which his evidence is more acceptable, he writes on the 20th that some servants of the prince’s have been arrested, and that, upon being put to the question, they confessed to the prince’s intent to kill the Duke of Valentinois, adding that a servant of the duke’s was implicated. On the 23rd Capello circumstantially confirms this matter of Alfonso’s attempt upon Cesare’s life, and states that this has been confessed by the master of Alfonso’s household, “the brother of his mother, Madonna Drusa.”

That is the sum of Capello’s reports to the Senate, as recorded by Sanuto. The rest, the full, lurid, richly-coloured, sensational story, is contained in his “relation” of September 20. He prefaces the narrative by informing the Senate that the Pope is on very bad terms with Naples, and proceeds to relate the case of Alfonso of Aragon as follows:

“He was wounded at the third hour of night near the palace of the Duke of Valentinois, his brother­in-law, and the prince ran to the Pope, saying that he had been wounded and that he knew by whom; and his wife Lucrezia, the Pope’s daughter, who was in the room, fell into anguish. He was ill for thirty-three days, and his wife and sister, who is the wife of the Prince of Squillace, another son of the Pope’s, were with him and cooked for him in a saucepan for fear of his being poisoned, as the Duke of Valentinois so hated him. And the Pope had him guarded by sixteen men for fear that the duke should kill him. And when the Pope went to visit him Valentinois did not accompany him, save on one occasion, when he said that what had not been done at breakfast might be done at supper…. On August 17 he [Valentinois] entered the room where the prince was already risen from his bed, and, driving out the wife and sister, called in his man, named Michieli, and had the prince strangled; and that night he was buried.”

Now the following points must arise to shake the student’s confidence in this narrative, and in Capello as an authority upon any of the other matters that he relates:

(i) “He was wounded near the palace of the Duke of Valentinois.” This looks exceedingly like an attempt to pile up evidence against Cesare, and shows a disposition to resort to the invention of it. Whatever may not have been known about Alfonso’s death, it was known by everybody that he was wounded on the steps of St. Peter’s, and Capello himself, in his dispatches, had said so at the time. A suspicion that Capello’s whole relation is to serve the purpose of heaping odium upon Cesare at once arises and receives confirmation when we consider that, as we have already said, it is in this same relation that the fiction about Pedro Caldes finds place and that the guilt of the murder of the Duke of Gandia is definitely fixed upon Cesare.

(ii) “He ran to the Pope [‘Corse dal Papa’] saying that he had been wounded, and that he knew by whom.” A man with a wound in his head which endangered his life for over a week would hardly be conscious on receiving it, nor is it to be supposed that, had he been conscious, his assailants would have departed. It cannot be doubted that they left him for dead. He was carried into the palace, and we know, from Burchard, that the Cardinal of Capua gave him absolution in articulo mortis, which abundantly shows his condition. It is unthinkable that he should have been able to “run to the Pope,” doubtful that he should have been able to speak; and, if he did, who was it reported his words to the Venetian ambassador? Capello wisely refrains from saying.

(iii) Lucrezia and Sancia attempt to protect him from poison by cooking his food in his room. This is quite incredible. Even admitting the readiness to do so on the part of these princesses, where was the need, considering the presence of the doctor–admitted by Capello–sent from Naples and his hunchback assistant?

(iv) “The Pope had him guarded by sixteen men for fear the duke should kill him.” Yet when, according to Capello, the duke comes on his murderous errand, attended only by Michieli (who has been generally assumed by writers to have been Don Michele da Corella, one of Cesare’s captains), where were these sixteen guards? Capello mentions the dismissal only of Lucrezia and Sancia.

(v) “Valentinois…said that what had not been done at breakfast might be done at supper.” It will be observed that Capello never once considers it necessary to give his authorities for anything that he states. It becomes, perhaps, more particularly noteworthy than usual in the case of this reported speech of Cesare’s. He omits to say to whom Cesare addressed those sinister words, and who reported them to him. The statement is hardly one to be accepted without that very necessary mention of authorities, nor can we conceive Capello omitting them had he possessed them.

It will be seen that it is scarcely necessary to go outside of Capello’s own relation for the purpose of traversing the statements contained in it, so far as the death of Alfonso of Aragon is concerned.

It is, however, still to be considered that, if Alfonso knew who had attempted his life–as Capello states that he told the Pope–and knew that he was in hourly danger of death from Valentinois, it may surely be taken for granted that he would have imparted the information to the Neapolitan doctor sent him by his uncle, who must have had his confidence.

We know that, after the prince’s death, the physician and his hunchback assistant were arrested, but subsequently released. They returned to Naples, and in Naples, if not elsewhere, the truth must have been known– definite and authentic facts from the lips of eye-witnesses, not mere matters of rumour, as was the case in Rome. It is to Neapolitan writings, then, that we must turn for the truth of this affair; and yet from Naples all that we find is a rumour–the echo of the Roman rumour– “They say,” writes the Venetian ambassador at the Court of King Federigo, “that he was killed by the Pope’s son.”

A more mischievous document than Capello’s Relazione can seldom have found its way into the pages of history; it is the prime source of several of the unsubstantiated accusations against Cesare Borgia upon which subsequent writers have drawn–accepting without criticism–and from which they have formed their conclusions as to the duke’s character. Even in our own times we find the learned Gregorovius following Capello’s relation step by step, and dealing out this matter of the murder of the Duke of Biselli in his own paraphrases, as so much substantiated, unquestionable fact. We find in his Lucrezia Borgia the following statement: “The affair was no longer a mystery. Cesare himself publicly declared that he had killed the duke because his life had been attempted by the latter.”

To say that Cesare “publicly declared that he had killed the duke” is to say a very daring thing, and is dangerously to improve upon Capello. If it is true that Cesare made this public declaration how does it happen that no one but Capello heard him? for in all other documents there is no more than offered us a rumour of how Alfonso died. Surely it is to be supposed that, had Cesare made any such declaration, the letters from the ambassadors would have rung with it. Yet they will offer you nothing but statements of what is being rumoured!

Nor does Gregorovius confine himself to that in his sedulous following of Capello’s Relation. He serves up out of Capello the lying story of the murder of Pedro Caldes. “What,” he says of Cesare, to support his view that Cesare murdered Alfonso of Aragon, “could be beyond this terrible man who had poignarded the Spaniard Pedro Caldes…under the Pope’s very cloak, so that his blood spurted up into the Pope’s face?” This in his History of Rome. In his Lucrezia Borgia he almost improves upon it when he says that “The Venetian ambassador, Paolo Capello, reports how Cesare Borgia stabbed the chamberlain Perotto, etc., but Burchard makes no mention of the fact.” Of the fact of the stabbing, Burchard certainly makes no mention; but he does mention that the man was accidentally drowned, as has been considered. It is again–and more flagrantly than ever–a case of proving Cesare guilty of a crime of which there is no conclusive evidence by charging him with another, which–in this instance–there is actually evidence that he did not commit.

But this is by the way.

Burchard’s entries in his diary relating to the assault upon Alfonso of Aragon can no more escape the criticism of the thoughtful than can Capello’s relation. His forty horsemen, for instance, need explaining. Apart from the fact that this employment of forty horsemen would be an altogether amazing and incredible way to set about the murder of a single man, it is to be considered that such a troop, drawn up in the square before St. Peter’s, must of necessity have attracted some attention. It was the first hour of the night, remember–according to Burchard–that is to say, at dusk. Presumably, too, those horsemen were waiting when the prince arrived. How then, did he–and why was he allowed–to pass them, only to be assailed in ascending the steps? Burchard, presumably, did not himself see these horsemen; certainly he cannot have seen them escorting the murderers to the Pertusa Gate. Therefore he must have had the matter reported to him. Naturally enough, had the horsemen existed, they must have been seen. How, then, does it happen that Capello did not hear of them? nor the Florentine ambassador, who says that the murderers were four, nor any one else apparently?

To turn for a moment to the Florentine ambassador’s letters upon the subject, we find in this other Capello–Francesco Capello was his name– accounts which differ alike from Paolo Capello’s and from Burchard’ stories. But he is careful to say that he is simply repeating the rumours that are abroad, and cites several different versions that are current, adding that the truth of the affair is not known to anybody. His conclusions, however, particularly those given in cipher, point to Cesare Borgia as the perpetrator of the deed, and hint at some such motive of retaliation for an attempt upon his own life as that which is given by the ambassador of Venice.

There is much mystery in the matter, despite Gregorovius’s assertion to the contrary–mystery which mere assertion will not dissipate. This conclusion, however, it is fair to draw: if, on Capello’s evidence, we are to accept it that Cesare Borgia is responsible for the death of Alfonso of Aragon, then, on the same evidence, we must accept the motive as well as the deed. We must accept as equally exact his thrice-repeated statement in letters to the Senate that the prince had planned Cesare’s death by posting crossbow-men to shoot him.(1)

1 It is extremely significant that Capello’s Relazione contains no mention of Alfonso’s plot against Cesare’s life, a matter which, as we have seen, had figured so repeatedly in that ambassador’s dispatches from Rome at the time of the event. This omission is yet another proof of the malicious spirit by which the “relation” was inspired. The suppression of anything that might justify a deed attributed to Cesare reveals how much defamation and detraction were the aims of this Venetian.

Either we must accept all, or we must reject all, that Capello tells us. If we reject all, then we are left utterly without information as to how Alfonso of Aragon died. If we accept all, then we find that it was as a measure of retaliation that Cesare compassed the death of his brother-in- law, which made it not a murder, but a private execution–justifiable under the circumstances of the provocation received and as the adjustment of these affairs was understood in the Cinquecento.



In the autumn of 1500, fretting to take the field again, Cesare was occupied in raising and equipping an army–an occupation which received an added stimulus when, towards the end of August, Louis de Villeneuve, the French ambassador, arrived in Rome with the articles of agreement setting forth the terms upon which Louis XII was prepared further to assist Cesare in the resumption of his campaign. In these it was stipulated that, in return for such assistance, Cesare should engage himself, on his side, to aid the King of France in the conquest of Naples when the time for that expedition should be ripe. Further, Loius XII was induced to make representations to Venice to the end that the Republic should remove her protection from the Manfredi of Faenza and the Malatesta of Rimini.

Venice being at the time in trouble with the Turk, and more anxious than ever to conciliate France and the Pope, was compelled to swallow her reluctance and submit with the best grace she could assume. Accordingly she dispatched her ambassadors to Rome to convey her obedience to the Pope’s Holiness, and formally to communicate the news that she withdrew her protection from the proscribed fiefs.

Later in the year–in the month of October–the Senate was to confer upon Cesare Borgia the highest honour in her gift, the honour of which the Venetians were jealous above all else–the honour of Venetian citizenship, inscribing his name in the Golden Book, bestowing upon him a palace in Venice and conferring the other marks of distinction usual to the occasion. One is tempted to ask, Was it in consequence of Paolo Capello’s lurid Relation that the proud Republic considered him qualified for such an honour?

To return, however, to the matter of the Republic’s removal of her shield from Rimini and Faenza, Alexander received the news of this with open joy and celebrated it with festivities in the Vatican, whilst from being angry with Venice and from declaring that the Republic need never again look to him for favour, he now veered round completely and assured the Venetian envoys, in a burst of gratitude, that he esteemed no Power in the world so highly. Cesare joined in his father’s expressions of gratitude and appreciation, and promised that Alexander should be succeeded in St. Peter’s Chair by such a Pope as should be pleasing to Venice, and that, if the cardinals but remained united, the Pontificate should go to none but a Venetian.

Thus did Cesare, sincerely or otherwise, attempt to lessen the Republic’s chagrin to see him ride lance-on-thigh as conqueror into the dominions which she so long had coveted.

France once more placed Yves d’Allègre at Cesare’s disposal, and with him went six hundred lances and six hundred Swiss foot. These swelled the forces which already Cesare had assembled into an army some ten thousand strong. The artillery was under the command of Vitellozzo Vitelli, whilst Bartolomeo da Capranica was appointed camp-master. Cesare’s banner was joined by a condotta under Paolo Orsini–besides whom there were several Roman gentlemen in the duke’s following, including most of those who had formed his guard of honour on the occasion of his visit to France, and who had since then continued to follow his fortunes. Achille Tiberti came to Rome with a condotta which he had levied in the Romagna of young men who had been moved by Cesare’s spreading fame to place their swords at his disposal. A member of the exiled Malvezzi family of Bologna headed a little troop of fellow-exiles which came to take service with the duke, whilst at Perugia a strong body of foot awaited him under Gianpaolo Baglioni.

In addition to these condotte, numerous were the adventurers who came to offer Cesare their swords; indeed he must have possessed much of that personal magnetism which is the prime equipment of every born leader, for he stirred men to the point of wild enthusiasm in those days, and inspired other than warriors to bear arms for him. We see men of letters, such as Justolo, Calmeta, Sperulo, and others throwing down their quills to snatch up swords and follow him. Painters, and sculptors, too, are to be seen abandoning the ideals of art to pursue the ugly realities of war in this young condottiero’s train. Among these artists, bulks the great Pietro Torrigiani. The astounding pen of his brother-sculptor, Benvenuto Cellini, has left us a sharp portrait of this man, in which he speaks of his personal beauty and tells us that he had more the air of a great soldier than a sculptor (which must have been, we fancy, Cellini’s own case). Torrigiani lives in history chiefly for two pieces of work widely dissimilar in character–the erection of the tomb of Henry VII of England, and the breaking of the nose of Michelangelo Buonarroti in the course of a quarrel which he had with him in Florence when they were fellow-students under Masaccio. Of nothing that he ever did in life was he so proud–as we may gather from Cellini–as of having disfigured Michelangelo, and in that sentiment the naïve spirit of his age again peeps forth.

We shall also see Leonardo da Vinci joining the duke’s army as engineer– but that not until some months later.

Meanwhile his forces grew daily in Rome, and his time was consumed in organizing, equipping, and drilling these, to bring about that perfect unity for which his army was to be conspicuous in spite of the variety of French, Italian, Spanish, and Swiss elements of which it was composed. So effectively were his troops armed and so excellent was the discipline prevailing among them, that their like had probably never before been seen in the peninsula, and they were to excite–as much else of Cesare’s work–the wonder and admiration of that great critic Macchiavelli.

So much, however, was not to be achieved without money, and still more would be needed for the campaign ahead. For this the Church provided. Never had the coffers of the Holy See been fuller than at this moment. Additional funds accrued from what is almost universally spoken of as “the sale of twelve cardinals’ hats.”

In that year–in September–twelve new cardinals were appointed, and upon each of those was levied, as a tax, a tithe of the first year’s revenues of the benefices upon which they entered. The only justifiable exception that can be taken to this lies in the number of cardinals elected at one time, which lends colour to the assumption that the sole aim of that election was to raise additional funds for Cesare’s campaign. Probably it was also Alexander’s aim further to strengthen his power with the Sacred College, so that he could depend upon a majority to ensure his will in all matters. But we are at the moment concerned with the matter of the levied tax.

It has been dubbed “an atrocious act of simony;” but the reasoning that so construes it is none so clear. The cardinals’ hats carried with them vast benefices. These benefices were the property of the Church; they were in the gift and bestowal of the Pope, and in the bestowing of them the Pope levied a proportionate tax. Setting aside the argument that this tax was not an invention of Alexander’s, does such a proceeding really amount to a “sale” of benefices? A sale presupposes bargaining, a making of terms between two parties, an adjusting of a price to be paid. There is evidence of no such marketing of these benefices; indeed one cardinal, vowed to poverty, received his hat without the imposition of a tax, another was Cesare’s brother-in-law, Amanieu d’Albret, who had been promised the hat a year ago. It is further to be borne in mind that, four months earlier, the Pope had levied a similar decima, or tax, upon the entire College of Cardinals and every official in the service of the Holy See, for the purposes of the expedition against the Muslim, who was in arms against Christianity. Naturally that tax was not popular with luxurious, self-seeking, cinquecento prelates, who in the main cared entirely for their own prosperity and not at all for that of Christianity, and you may realize how, by levying it, Alexander laid himself open to harsh criticism.

The only impugnable matter in the deed lies, as has been said, in the number of cardinals so created at a batch. But the ends to be served may be held to justify, if not altogether, at least in some measure, the means adopted. The Romagna war for which the funds were needed was primarily for the advancement of the Church, to expunge those faithless vicars who, appointed by the Holy See and holding their fiefs in trust for her, refused payment of just tribute and otherwise so acted as to alienate from the Church the States which she claimed for her own. Their restoration to the Church–however much it might be a means of founding a Borgia dynasty in the Romagna–made for the greater power and glory of the Holy See. Let us remember this, and that such was the end which that tax, levied upon those newly elected cardinals, went to serve. The aggrandizement of the House of Borgia was certainly one of the results to be expected from the Romagna campaign, but we are not justified in accounting it the sole aim and end of that campaign.

Alexander had this advantage over either Sixtus IV or Innocent VIII–not to go beyond those Popes whom he had served as Vice-Chancellor, for instances of flagrant nepotism–that he at least served two purposes at once, and that, in aggrandizing his own family, he strengthened the temporal power of the Church, whereas those others had done nothing but undermine it that they might enrich their progeny.

And whilst on this subject of the “sale” of cardinals’ hats, it may not be amiss to say a word concerning the “sale” of indulgences with which Alexander has been so freely charged. Here again there has been too loud an outcry against Alexander–an outcry whose indignant stridency leads one to suppose that the sale of indulgences was a simony invented by him, or else practised by him to an extent shamefully unprecedented. Such is very far from being the case. The arch-type of indulgence-seller–as of all other simoniacal practices–is Innocent VIII. In his reign we have seen the murderer commonly given to choose between the hangman and the purchase of a pardon, and we have seen the moneys so obtained providing his bastard, the Cardinal Francesco Cibo, with the means for the luxuriously licentious life whose gross disorders prematurely killed him.

To no such flagitious lengths as these can it be shown that Alexander carried the “sale” of the indulgences he dispensed. He had no lack of precedent for the practice, and, so far as the actual practice itself is concerned, it would be difficult to show that it was unjustifiable or simoniacal so long as confined within certain well-defined bounds, and so long as the sums levied by it were properly employed to the benefit of Christianity. It is a practice comparable to the mulcting of a civil offender against magisterial laws. Because our magistrates levy fines, it does not occur to modern critics to say that they sell pardons and immunity from gaol. It is universally recognized as a wise and commendable measure, serving the two­fold purpose of punishing the offender and benefiting the temporal State against which he has offended. Need it be less commendable in the case of spiritual offences against a spiritual State? It is more useful than the imposition of the pattering of a dozen prayers at bedtime, and since, no doubt, it falls more heavily upon the offender, it possibly makes to an even greater extent for his spiritual improvement.

Thus considered, this “sale” of indulgences loses a deal of the heinousness with which it has been invested. The funds so realized go into the coffers of the Church, which is fit and proper. What afterwards becomes of them at the hands of Alexander opens up another matter altogether, one in which we cannot close our eyes to the fact that he was as undutiful as many another who wore the Ring of the Fisherman before him. Yet this is to be said for him: that, if he plunged his hands freely into the treasury of the Holy See, at least he had the ability to contrive that this treasury should be well supplied; and the circumstance that, when he died, he left the church far wealthier and more powerful than she had been for centuries, with her dominions which his precursors had wantonly alienated reconsolidated into that powerful State that was to endure for three hundred years, is an argument to the credit of his pontificate not lightly to be set aside.

Imola and Forli had, themselves, applied to the Pontiff to appoint Cesare Borgia their ruler in the place of the deposed Riarii. To these was now added Cesena. In July disturbances occurred there between Guelphs and Ghibellines. Swords were drawn and blood flowed in the streets, until the governor was constrained to summon Ercole Bentivogli and his horse from Forli to quell the rioting. The direct outcome of this was that– the Ghibellines predominating in council–Cesena sent an embassy to Rome to beg his Holiness to give the lordship of the fief to the Duke of Valentinois. To this the Pope acceded, and on August 2 Cesare was duly appointed Lord Vicar of Cesena. He celebrated his investiture by remitting a portion of the taxes, abolishing altogether the duty on flour, and by bringing about a peace between the two prevailing factions.

By the end of September Cesare’s preparations for the resumption of the campaign were completed, and early in October (his army fortified in spirit by the Pope’s blessing) he set out, and made his first halt at Nepi. Lucrezia was there, with her Court and her child Roderigo, having withdrawn to this her castle to mourn her dead husband Alfonso; and there she abode until recalled to Rome by her father some two months later.

Thence Cesare pushed on, as swiftly as the foul weather would allow him, by way of Viterbo, Assisi, and Nocera to cross the Apennines at Gualdo. Here he paused to demand the release of certain prisoners in the hill fortress of Fossate, and to be answered by a refusal. Angered by this resistance of his wishes and determined to discourage others from following the example of Fossate, he was swift and terrible in his rejoinder. He seized the Citadel, and did by force what had been refused to his request. Setting at liberty the prisoners in durance there, he gave the territory over to devastation by fire and pillage.

That done he resumed his march, but the weather retarded him more and more. The heavy and continuous rains had reduced the roads to such a condition that his artillery fell behind, and he was compelled to call a halt once more, at Deruta, and wait there four days for his guns to overtake him.

In Rimini the great House of Malatesta was represented by Pandolfo– Roberto Malatesta’s bastard and successor–a degenerate so detested by his subjects that he was known by the name of Pandolfaccio (a contumelious augmentative, expressing the evil repute in which he was held).

Among his many malpractices and the many abuses to which he resorted for the purposes of extorting money from his long-suffering subjects was that of compelling the richer men of Rimini to purchase from him the estates which he confiscated from the fuorusciti–those who had sought in exile safety from the anger provoked by their just resentment of his oppressive misrule. He was in the same case as other Romagna tyrants, and now that Venice had lifted from him her protecting aegis, he had no illusions as to the fate in store for him. So when once more the tramp of Cesare Borgia’s advancing legions rang through the Romagna, Pandolfaccio disposed himself, not for battle, but for surrender on the best terms that he might succeed in making.

He was married to Violante, the daughter of Giovanni Bentivogli of Bologna, and in the first week of October he sent her, with their children, to seek shelter at her father’s Court. Himself, he withdrew into his citadel–the famous fortress of his terrible grandfather Sigismondo. The move suggested almost that he was preparing to resist the Duke of Valentinois, and it may have prompted the message sent him by the Council to inquire what might be his intention.

Honour was a thing unknown to this Pandolfaccio–even so much honour as may be required for a dignified retreat. Since all was lost it but remained–by his lights–to make the best bargain that he could and get the highest possible price in gold for what he was abandoning. So he replied that the Council must do whatever it considered to its best advantage, whilst to anticipate its members in any offer of surrender, and thus seek the favour and deserve good terms at the hands of this man who came to hurl him from the throne of his family, he dispatched a confidential servant to Cesare to offer him town and citadel.

In the meantime–as Pandolfo fully expected–the Council also sent proposals of surrender to Cesare, as well as to his lieutenant-general of Romagna, Bishop Olivieri, at Cesena. The communications had the effect of bringing Olivieri immediately to Rimini, and there, on October 10, the articles of capitulation were signed by the bishop, as the duke’s representative, and by Pandolfo Malatesta. It was agreed in these that Malatesta should have safe-conduct for himself and his familiars, 3,000 ducats and the value–to be estimated–of the artillery which he left in the citadel. Further, for the price of 5,500 ducats he abandoned also the strongholds of Sarsina and Medola and the castles of the Montagna.

His tyranny thus disposed of, Pandolfaccio took ship to Ravenna, where the price of his dishonour was to be paid him, and in security for which he took with him Gianbattista Baldassare, the son of the ducal commissioner.

On the day of his departure, to celebrate the bloodless conquest of Rimini, solemn High Mass was sung in the Cathedral, and Bishop Olivieri received the city’s oath of allegiance to the Holy See, whither very shortly afterwards Rimini sent her ambassadors to express to the Pope her gratitude for her release from the thraldom of Pandolfaccio.

Like Rimini, Pesaro too fell without the striking of a blow, for all that it was by no means as readily relinquished on the part of its ruler. Giovanni Sforza had been exerting himself desperately for the past two months to obtain help that should enable him to hold his tyranny against the Borgia might. But all in vain. His entreaties to the emperor had met with no response, whilst his appeal to Francesco Gonzaga of Mantua– whose sister, it will be remembered, had been his first wife–had resulted in the Marquis’s sending him a hundred men under an Albanian, named Giacopo.

What Giovanni was to do with a hundred men it is difficult to conceive, nor are the motives of Gonzaga’s action clear. We know that at this time he was eagerly seeking Cesare’s friendship, sorely uneasy as to the fate that might lie in store for his own dominions, once the Duke of Valentinois should have disposed of the feudatories of the Church. Early in that year 1500 he had asked Cesare to stand godfather for his child, and Cesare had readily consented, whereby a certain bond of relationship and good feeling had been established between them, which everything shows Gonzaga most anxious to preserve unsevered. The only reasonable conclusion in the matter of that condotta of a hundred men is that Gonzaga desired to show friendliness to the Lord of Pesaro, yet was careful not to do so to any extent that might be hurtful to Valentinois.

As for Giovanni Sforza of whom so many able pens have written so feelingly as the constant, unfortunate victim of Borgia ambition, there is no need to enter into analyses for the purpose of judging him here. His own subjects did so in his own day. When a prince is beloved by all classes of his people, it must follow that he is a good prince and a wise ruler; when his subjects are divided into two factions, one to oppose and the other to support him, he may be good or bad, or good and bad; but when a prince can find none to stand by him in the hour of peril, it is to be concluded that he has deserved little at the hands of those whom he has ruled. The latter is the case of Giovanni Sforza–this prince whom, Yriarte tells us, “rendered sweet the lives of his subjects.” The nobility and the proletariate of Pesaro abhorred him; the trader classes stood neutral, anxious to avoid the consequences of partisanship, since it was the class most exposed to those consequences.

On Sunday, October 11–the day after Pandolfo Malatesta had relinquished Rimini–news reached Pesaro that Ercole Bentivogli’s horse was marching upon the town, in advance of the main body of Cesare’s army. Instantly there was an insurrection against Giovanni, and the people, taking to arms, raised the cry of “Duca!” in acclamation of the Duke of Valentinois, under the very windows of their ruler’s palace.

Getting together the three hundred men that constituted his army, Giovanni beat a hasty retreat to Pesaro’s magnificent fortress, and that same night he secretly took ship to Ravenna accompanied by the Albanian Giacopo, and leaving his half-brother, Galeazzo Sforza di Cotignola, in command of the citadel. Thence Giovanni repaired to Bologna, and, already repenting his precipitate flight, he appealed for help to Bentivogli, who was himself uneasy, despite the French protection he enjoyed. Similarly, Giovanni addressed fresh appeals to Francesco Gonzaga; but neither of these tyrants could or dared avail him, and, whilst he was still imploring their intervention his fief had fallen into Cesare’s power.

Ercole Bentivogli, with a small body of horse, had presented himself at the gates of Pesaro on October 21, and Galeazzo Sforza, having obtained safe-conduct for the garrison, surrendered.

Cesare, meanwhile, was at Fano, where he paused to allow his army to come up with him, for he had outridden it from Fossate, through foul wintry weather, attended only by his light horse. It was said that he hoped that Fano might offer itself to him as other fiefs had done, and–if Pandolfo Collenuccio is correct–he had been counselled by the Pope not to attempt to impose himself upon Fano, but to allow the town a free voice in the matter. If his hopes were as stated, he was disappointed in them, for Fano made no offer to him, and matters remained for the present as they were.

On the 27th, with the banners of the bull unfurled, he rode into Pesaro at the head of two thousand men, making his entrance with his wonted pomp, of whose dramatic values he was so fully aware. He was met at the gates by the Council, which came to offer him the keys of the town, and, despite the pouring rain under which he entered the city, the people of Pesaro thronged the streets to acclaim him as he rode.

He took up his lodgings at the Sforza Palace, so lately vacated by Giovanni–the palace where Lucrezia Borgia had held her Court when, as Giovanni’s wife, she had been Countess of Pesaro and Cotignola. Early on the morrow he visited the citadel, which was one of the finest in Italy, rivalling that of Rimini for strength. On his arrival there, a flourish of trumpets imposed silence, while the heralds greeted him formally as Lord of Pesaro. He ordered one of the painters in his train to draw up plans of the fortress to be sent to the Pope, and issued instructions for certain repairs and improvements which he considered desirable.

Here in Pesaro came to him the famous Pandolfo Collenuccio, as envoy from the Duke of Ferrara, to congratulate Cesare upon the victory. In sending Collenuccio at such a time Ercole d’Este paid the Duke of Valentinois a subtle, graceful compliment. This distinguished poet, dramatist, and historian was a native of Pesaro who had been exiled ten years earlier by Giovanni–which was the tyrant’s way of showing his gratitude to the man who, more than any other, had contributed to the bastard Sforza’s succession to his father as Lord of Pesaro and Cotignola.

Collenuccio was one of the few literary men of his day who was not above using the Italian tongue, treating it seriously as a language and not merely as a debased form of Latin. He was eminent as a juris­consult, and, being a man of action as well as a man of letters, he had filled the office of Podestá in various cities; he had found employment under Lorenzo dei Medici, and latterly under Ercole d’Este, whom we now see him representing.

Cesare received him with all honour, sending the master of his household, Ramiro de Lorqua, to greet him on his arrival and to bear him the usual gifts of welcome, of barley, wine, capons, candles, sweet-meats, etc., whilst on the morrow the duke gave him audience, treating him in the friendliest manner, as we see from Collenuccio’s own report to the Duke of Ferrara. In this he says of Cesare: “He is accounted valiant, joyous, and open-handed, and it is believed that he holds honest men in great esteem. Harsh in his vengeance, according to many, he is great of spirit and of ambition, athirst for eminence and fame.”

Collenuccio was reinstated by Cesare in the possessions of which Giovanni had stripped him, a matter which so excited the resentment of the latter that, when ultimately he returned to his dominions, one of his first acts was to avenge it. Collenuccio, fearing that he might not stand well with the tyrant, had withdrawn from Pesaro. But Giovanni, with all semblance of friendliness, treacherously lured him back to cast him into prison and have him strangled–a little matter which those who, to the detriment of the Borgia, seek to make a hero of this Giovanni Sforza, would do well not to suppress.

A proof of the splendid discipline prevailing in Cesare’s army is afforded during his brief sojourn in Pesaro. In the town itself, some two thousand of his troops were accommodated, whilst some thousands more swarmed in the surrounding country. Occupation by such an army was, naturally enough, cause for deep anxiety on the part of a people who were but too well acquainted with the ways of the fifteenth­century men-at- arms. But here was a general who knew how to curb and control his soldiers. Under the pain of death his men were forbidden from indulging any of the predations or violences usual to their kind; and, as a consequence, the inhabitants of Pesaro had little to complain of.

Justolo gives us a picture of the Duke of Valentinois on the banks of the River Montone, which again throws into relief the discipline which his very presence–such was the force of his personality–was able to enforce. A disturbance arose among his soldiers at the crossing of this river, which was swollen with rains and the bridge of which had been destroyed. It became necessary to effect the crossing in one small boat–the only craft available–and the men, crowding to the bank, stormed and fought for precedence until the affair grew threatening. Cesare rode down to the river, and no more than his presence was necessary to restore peace. Under that calm, cold eye of his the men instantly became orderly, and, whilst he sat his horse and watched them, the crossing was soberly effected, and as swiftly as the single craft would permit.

The duke remained but two days in Pesaro. On the 29th, having appointed a lieutenant to represent him, and a captain to the garrison, he marched out again, to lie that night at Cattolica and enter Rimini on the morrow.

There again he was received with open arms, and he justified the people’s welcome of him by an immediate organization of affairs which gave universal satisfaction. He made ample provision for the proper administration of justice and the preservation of the peace; he recalled the fuorusciti exiled by the unscrupulous Pandolfaccio, and he saw them reinstated in the property of which that tyrant had dispossessed them. As his lieutenant in Rimini, with strict injunctions to preserve law and order, he left Ramiro de Lorqua, when, on November 2, he departed to march upon Faenza, which had prepared for resistance.

What Cesare did in Rimini was no more than he was doing throughout the Romagna, as its various archives bear witness. They bear witness no less to his vast ability as an administrator, showing how he resolved the prevailing chaos into form and order by his admirable organization and suppression of injustice. The same archives show us also that he found time for deeds of beneficence which endeared him to the people, who everywhere hailed him as their deliverer from thraldom. It would not be wise to join in the chorus of those who appear to have taken Cesare’s altruism for granted. The rejection of the wild stories that picture him as a corrupt and murderous monster, utterly inhuman, and lay a dozen ghastly crimes to his account need not entail our viewing Cesare as an angel of deliverance, a divine agent almost, rescuing a suffering people from oppression out of sheer humanitarianism.

He is the one as little as the other. He is just–as Collenuccio wrote to Ercole d’Este–“great of spirit and of ambition, athirst for eminence and fame.” He was consumed by the desire for power and worldly greatness, a colossus of egotism to whom men and women were pieces to be handled by him on the chess-board of his ambition, to be sacrificed ruthlessly where necessary to his ends, but to be husbanded and guarded carefully where they could serve him.

With his eyes upon the career of Cesare Borgia, Macchiavelli was anon to write of principalities newly-acquired, that “however great may be the military resources of a prince, he will discover that, to obtain firm footing in a province, he must engage the favour and interest of the inhabitants.”

That was a principle self-evident to Cesare–the principle upon which he acted throughout in his conquest of the Romagna. By causing his new subjects to realize at once that they had exchanged an oppressive for a generous rule, he attached them to himself.



The second campaign of the Romagna had opened for Cesare as easily as had the first. So far his conquest had been achieved by little more than a processional display of his armed legions. Like another Joshua, he reduced cities by the mere blare of his trumpets. At last, however, he was to receive a check. Where grown men had fled cravenly at his approach, it remained for a child to resist him at Faenza, as a woman had resisted him at Forli.

His progress north from Pesaro was of necessity slow. He paused, as we have seen, at Rimini, and he paused again, and for a rather longer spell, at Forli, so that it was not until the second week of November that Astorre Manfredi–the boy of sixteen who was to hold Faenza–caught in the distance the flash of arms and the banners with the bull device borne by the host which the Duke of Valentinois led against him.

At first it had been Astorre’s intent to follow the examples set him by Malatesta and Sforza, and he had already gone so far as to remove his valuables to Ravenna, whither he, too, meant to seek refuge. But he was in better case than any of the tyrants so far deposed inasmuch as his family, which had ruled Faenza for two hundred years, had not provoked the hatred of its subjects, and these were now ready and willing to stand loyally by their young lord. But loyalty alone can do little, unless backed by the might of arms, against such a force as Cesare was prepared to hurl upon Faenza. This Astorre realized, and for his own and his subjects’ sake was preparing to depart, when, to his undoing, support reached him from an unexpected quarter.

Bologna–whose ruler, Giovanni Bentivogli, was Astorre’s grandfather–in common with Florence and Urbino, grew daily more and more alarmed at the continual tramp of armed multitudes about her frontiers, and at the steady growth in numbers and in capacity of this splendid army which followed Casare–an army captained by such enemies of the Bentivogli as the Baglioni, the Orsini, and the exiled Malvezzi.

Bentivogli had good grounds for his anxiety, not knowing how long he might depend upon the protection of France, and well aware that, once that protection was removed, there would be no barrier between Bologna and Cesare’s manifest intentions concerning her.

Next to Cesare’s utter annihilation, to check his progress was the desire dearest just then to the heart of Bentivogli, and with this end in view he dispatched Count Guido Torella to Faenza, in mid-October, with an offer to assist Astorre with men and money.

Astorre, who had succeeded Galeotto Manfredi in the tyranny of Faenza at the age of three, had been and still continued under the tutelage of the Council which really governed his territories. To this Council came Count Torella with Bentivogli’s offer, adding the proposal that young Astorre should be sent to Venice for his personal safety. But to this the Council replied that it would be useless, if that course were adopted, to attempt resistance, as the people could only be urged to it by their affection for their young lord, and that, if he were removed from their midst, they would insist upon surrender.

News of these negotiations reached Rome, and on October 24 Alexander sent Bentivogli his commands to refrain, under pain of excommunication, from interfering in the affairs of Faenza. Bentivogli made a feeble attempt to mask his disobedience. The troops with which he intended to assist his grandson were sent ostensibly to Castel Bolognese, but with instructions to desert thence and make for Faenza. This they did, and thus was Astorre strengthened by a thousand men, whilst the work of preparing his city for resistance went briskly forward.

Meanwhile, ahead of Cesare Borgia, swept Vitellozzo Vitelli with his horse into Astorre’s dominions. He descended upon the valley of the Lamone, and commenced hostilities by the capture and occupation of Brisghella on November 7. The other lesser strongholds and townships offered no resistance to Cesare’s arms. Indeed they were induced into ready rebellion against their lord by Dionigio di Naldo–the sometime defender of Imola, who had now taken service with Cesare.

On November 10 Cesare himself halted his host beneath the walls of Faenza and called upon the town to surrender. Being denied, he encamped his army for the siege. He chose the eastern side of the town, between the rivers Lamone and Marzano, and, that his artillery might have free play, he caused several houses to be demolished.

In Faenza itself, meanwhile, the easy conquest of the valley had not produced a good effect. Moreover, the defenders had cause to fear treachery within their gates, for a paper had been picked up out of the moat containing an offer of terms of surrender. It had been shot into the castle attached to an arbalest­bolt, and was intended for the castellan Castagnini. This Castagnini was arrested, thrown into prison, and his possessions confiscated, whilst the Council placed the citadel in the hands of four of its own members together with Gianevangelista Manfredi–Astorre’s half-brother, and a bastard of Galeotto’s. These set about defending it against Cesare, who had now opened fire. The duke caused the guns to be trained upon a certain bastion through which he judged that a good assault might be delivered and an entrance gained. Night and day was the bombardment of that bastion kept up, yet without producing visible effect until the morning of the 20th, when suddenly one of its towers collapsed thunderously into the moat.

Instantly, and without orders, the soldiers, all eager to be among the first to enter, flung themselves forward in utter and fierce disorder to storm the breach. Cesare, at breakfast–as he himself wrote to the Duke of Urbino–sprang up at the great noise, and, surmising what was taking place, dashed out to restrain his men. But the task was no easy one, for, gathering excitement and the frenzy of combat as they ran, they had already gained the edge of the ditch, and thither Cesare was forced to follow them, using voice and hands to beat back again.

At last he succeeded in regaining control of them, and in compelling them to make an orderly retreat, and curb their impatience until the time for storming should have come, which was not yet. In the affair Cesare had a narrow escape from a stone-shot fired from the castle, whilst one of his officers–Onorio Savelli–was killed by a cannon-ball from the duke’s own guns, whose men, unaware of what was taking place, were continuing the bombardment.

Hitherto the army had been forced to endure foul weather–rain, fogs, and wind; but there was worse come. Snow began to fall on the morning of the 22nd. It grew to a storm, and the blizzard continued all that day, which was a Sunday, all night, and all the following day, and lashed the men pitilessly and blindingly. The army, already reduced by shortness of victuals, was now in a miserable plight in its unsheltered camp, and the defenders of Faenza, as if realizing this, made a sortie on the 23rd, from which a fierce fight ensued, with severe loss to both sides. On the 25th the snow began again, whereupon the hitherto unconquerable Cesare, defeated at last by the elements and seeing that his men could not possibly continue to endure the situation, was compelled to strike camp on the 26th and go into winter quarters, no doubt with immense chagrin at leaving so much work unaccomplished.

So he converted the siege into a blockade, closing all roads that lead to Faenza, with a view to shutting out supplies from the town; and he distributed troops throughout the villages of the territory with orders constantly to harass the garrison and allow it no rest.

He also sent an envoy with an offer of terms of surrender, but the Council rejected it with the proud answer that its members “had agreed, in general assembly, to defend the dominions of Manfredi to the death.”

Thereupon Cesare withdrew to Forli with 150 lances and 2,500 foot, and here he affords a proof of his considerateness. The town had already endured several occupations and the severities of being the seat of war during the siege of the citadel. Cesare was determined that it should feel the present occupation as little as possible; so he issued an order to the inhabitants upon whom his soldiers were billeted to supply the men only with bed, light, and fire. What more they required must be paid for, and, to avoid disputes as to prices of victuals and other necessaries, he ordered the Council to draw up a tariff, and issued an edict forbidding his soldiers, under pain of death, from touching any property of the townsfolk. Lest they should doubt his earnestness, he hanged two of his soldiers on December 7–a Piedmontese and a Gascon–and on the 13th a third, all from the windows of his own palace, and all with a label hanging from their feet proclaiming that they had been hanged for taking goods of others in spite of the ban of the Lord Duke, etc.

He remained in Forli until the 23rd, when he departed to Cesena, which was really his capital in Roomagna, and in the huge citadel of which there was ample accommodation for the troops that accompanied him. In Forli he left, as his lieutenants, the Bishop of Trani and Don Michele da Corella–the “Michieli” of Capello’s Relation and the “Michelotto” of so many Borgia fables. That this officer ruled the soldiers left with him in Forli in accordance with the stern example set him by his master we know from the chronicles of Bernardi.

In Cesena the duke occupied the splendid palace of Malatesta Novello, which had been magnificently equipped for him, and there, on Christmas Eve, he entertained the Council of the town and other important citizens to a banquet worthy of the repuation for lavishness which he enjoyed. He was very different in this from his father, whose table habits were of the most sparing–to which, no doubt, his Holiness owed the wonderful, almost youthful vigour which he still enjoyed in this his seventieth year. It was notorious that ambassadors cared little for invitations to the Pope’s table, where the meal never consisted of more than one dish.

On Christmas Day the duke attended Mass at the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista with great pomp, arrayed in the ducal chlamys and followed by his gentlemen. With these young patricians Cesare made merry during the days that followed. The time was spent in games and joustings, in all of which the duke showed himself freely, making display of his physical perfections, fully aware, no doubt, of what a short cut these afforded him to the hearts of the people, ever ready to worship physical beauty, prowess, and address.

Yet business was not altogether neglected, for on January 4 he went to Porto Cesenatico, and there published an edict against all who had practised with the fuorusciti from his States, forbidding the offence under pain of death and forfeiture of possessions.

He remained in winter quarters until the following April, from which, however, it is not to be concluded that Faenza was allowed to be at peace for that spell. The orders which he had left behind him, that the town was constantly to be harassed, were by no means neglected. On the night of January 21, by arrangement with some of the inhabitants of the beleaguered city, the foot surrounding Faenza attempted to surprise the garrison by a secret escalade. They were, however, discovered betimes in the attempt and repulsed, some who had the mischance–as it happened–to gain the battlements before the alarm was raised being taken and hanged. The duke’s troops, however, consoled themselves by capturing Russi and Solarolo, the last two strongholds in the valley that had held for Astorre.

Meanwhile, Cesare and his merry young patricians spent the time as agreeably as might be in Cesena during that carnival. The author of the Diario Cesenate is moved by the duke’s pastimes to criticize him severely as indulging in amusements unbecoming the dignity of his station. He is particularly shocked to know that the duke should have gone forth in disguise with a few companions to repair to carnival festivities in the surrounding villages and there to wrestle with the rustics. It is not difficult to imagine the discomfiture suffered by many a village Hercules at the hands of this lithe young man, who could behead a bull at a single stroke of a spadoon and break a horseshoe in his fingers. The diary in question, you will have gathered, is that of a pedant, prim and easily scandalized. So much being obvious, it is noteworthy that Cesare’s conduct should have afforded him no subject for graver strictures than these, Cesare being such a man as has been represented, and the time being that of carnival when licence was allowed full play.

The Pope accounted that the check endured by Cesare before Faenza was due not so much to the foul weather by which his army had been beset as to the assistance which Giovanni Bentivogli had rendered his grandson Astorre, and bitter were the complaints of it which he addressed to the King of France. Alarmed by this, and fearing that he might have compromised himself and jeopardized the French protection by his action in the matter, Bentivogli made haste to recall his troops, and did in fact withdraw them from Faenza early in December, shortly after Cesare had gone into winter quarters. Nevertheless, the Pope’s complaints continued, Alexander in his secret, crafty heart no doubt rejoicing that Bentivogli should have afforded him so sound a grievance. As Louis XII desired, for several reasons, to stand well with Rome, he sent an embassy to Bentivogli to express his regret and censure of the latter’s intervention in the affairs of Faenza. He informed Bentivogli that the Pope was demanding the return of Bologna to the States of the Church, and, without expressing himself clearly as to his own view of the matter, he advised Bentivogli to refrain from alliances with the enemies of the Holy See and to secure Bologna to himself by some sound arrangement. This showed Bentivogli in what danger he stood, and his uneasiness was increased by the arrival at Modena of Yves d’Allègre, sent by the King of France with a condotta of 500 horse for purposes which were not avowed but which Bentivogli sorely feared might prove to be hostile to himself.

At the beginning of February Cesare moved his quarters from Cesena to Imola, and thence he sent his envoys to demand winter quarters for his troops in Castel Bolognese. This flung Bentivogli into positive terror, as he interpreted the request as a threat of invasion. Castel Bolognese was too valuable a stronghold to be so lightly placed in the duke’s hands. Thence Bentivogli might, in case of need, hold the duke in check, the fortress commanding, as it did, the road from Imola to Faenza. He had the good sense, however, to compromise the matter by returning Cesare an offer of accommodation for his men with victuals, artillery, etc., but without the concession of Castel Bolognese. With this Cesare was forced to be content, there being no reasonable grounds upon which he could decline so generous an offer. It was a cunning concession on Bentivogli’s part, for, without strengthening the duke’s position, it yet gave the latter what he ostensibly required, and left no cause for grievance and no grounds upon which to molest Bologna. So much was this the case that on February 26 the Pope wrote to Bentivogli expressing his thanks at the assistance which he had thus given Cesare in the Faenza emprise.

It was during this sojourn of Cesare’s at Imola that the abduction took place of Dorotea Caracciolo, the young wife of Gianbattista Caracciolo, a captain of foot in the Venetian service. The lady, who was attached to the Duchess of Urbino, had been residing at the latter’s Court, and in the previous December Caracciolo had begged leave of the Council of Ten that he might himself go to Urbino for the purpose of escorting her to Venice. The Council, however, had replied that he should send for her, and this the captain had done. Near Cervia, on the confines of the Venetian territory, towards evening of February 14, the lady’s escort was set upon by ten well­armed men, and rudely handled by them, some being wounded and one at least killed, whilst the lady and a woman who was with her were carried off.

The Podestá of Cervia reported to the Venetian Senate that the abductors were Spaniards of the army of the Duke of Valentinois, and it was feared in Venice–according to Sanuto–that the deed might be the work of Cesare.

The matter contained in that Relation of Capello’s to the Senate must by now have been widespread, and of a man who could perpetrate the wickednesses therein divulged anything could be believed. Indeed, it seems to have followed that, where any act of wickedness was brought to light, at once men looked to see if Cesare might not be responsible, nor looked close enough to make quite sure. To no other cause can it be assigned that, in the stir which the Senate made, the name of Cesare was at once suggested as that of the abductor, and this so broadly that letters poured in upon him on all sides begging him to right this cruel wrong. So much do you see assumed, upon no more evidence than was contained in that letter from the Podestá of Cervia, which went no further than to say that the abductors were “Spaniards of the Duke of Valentinois’ army.” The envoy Manenti was dispatched at once to Cesare by the Senate, and he went persuaded, it is clear, that Cesare Borgia was the guilty person. He enlisted the support of Monsieur de Trans (the French ambassador then on his way to Rome) and that of Yves d’Allègre, and he took them with him to the Duke at Imola.

There, acting upon his strong suspicions, Manenti appears to have taken a high tone, representing to the duke that he had done an unworthy thing, and imploring him to restore the lady to her husband. Cesare’s patience under the insolent assumption in justification of which Manenti had not a single grain of evidence to advance, is–guilty or innocent–a rare instance of self-control. He condescended to take oath that he had not done this thing which they imputed to him. He admitted that he had heard of the outrage, and he expressed the belief that it was the work of one Diego Ramires–a captain of foot in his service. This Ramires, he explained, had been in the employ of the Duke of Urbino, and in Urbino had made the acquaintance and fallen enamoured of the lady; and he added that the fellow had lately disappeared, but that already he had set on foot a search for him, and that, once taken, he would make an example of him.

In conclusion he begged that the Republic should not believe this thing against him, assuring the envoy that he had not found the ladies of the Romagna so difficult that he should be driven to employ such rude and violent measures.

The French ambassador certainly appears to have attached implicit faith to Cesare’s statement, and he privately informed Manenti that Ramires was believed to be at Medola, and that the Republic might rest assured that, if he were taken, exemplary justice would be done.

All this you will find recorded in Sanuto. After that his diary entertains us with rumours which were reaching Venice, now that the deed was the duke’s, now that the lady was with Ramires. Later the two rumours are consolidated into one, in a report of the Podestá of Cervia to the effect that “the lady is in the Castle of Forli with Ramires, and that he took her there by order of the duke.” The Podestá says that a man whom he sent to gather news had this story from one Benfaremo. But he omits to say who and what is this Benfaremo, and what the source of his information.

Matters remaining thus, and the affair appearing in danger of being forgotten, Caracciolo goes before the Senate on March 16 and implores permission to deal with it himself. This permission is denied him, the Doge conceiving that the matter will best be dealt with by the Senate, and Caracciolo is ordered back to his post at Gradisca. Thence he writes to the Senate on March 30 that he is certain his wife is in the citadel of Forli.

After this Sanuto does not mention the matter again until December of 1503–nearly three years later–when we gather that, under pressure of constant letters from the husband, the Venetian ambassador at the Vatican makes so vigorous a stir that the lady is at last delivered up, and goes for the time being into a convent. But we are not told where or how she is found, nor where the convent in which she seeks shelter. That is Sanuto’s first important omission.

And now an odd light is thrown suddenly upon the whole affair, and it begins to look as if the lady had been no unwilling victim of an abduction, but, rather, a party to an elopement. She displays a positive reluctance to return to her husband; she is afraid to do so–“in fear for her very life”–and she implores the Senate to obtain from Caracciolo some security for her, or else to grant her permission to withdraw permanently to a convent.

The Senate summons the husband, and represents the case to him. He assures the Senate that he has forgiven his wife, believing her to be innocent. This, however, does not suffice to allay her uneasiness–or her reluctance–for on January 4, 1504, Sanuto tells us that the Senate has received a letter of thanks from her in which she relates her misfortunes, and in which again she begs that her husband be compelled to pledge security to treat her well (“darli buona vita”) or else that she should be allowed to return to her mother. Of the nature of the misfortunes which he tells us she related in her letter, Sanuto says nothing. That is his second important omission.

The last mention of the subject in Sanuto relates to her restoration to her husband. He tells us that Caracciolo received her with great joy; but he is silent on the score of the lady’s emotions on that occasion.

There you have all that is known of Dorotea Caracciolo’s abduction, which later writers–including Bembo in his Historiae–have positively assigned to Cesare Borgia, drawing upon their imagination to fill up the lacunae in the story so as to support their point of view.

Those lacunae, however, are invested with a certain eloquence which it is well not to disregard. Admitting that the construing of silence into evidence is a dangerous course, all fraught with pitfalls, yet it seems permissible to pose the following questions:

If the revelation of the circumstances under which she was found, the revelations contained in her letters to the Senate, and the revelations which one imagines must have followed her return to her husband, confirm past rumours and convict Cesare of the outrage, how does it happen that Sanuto–who has never failed to record anything that could tell against Cesare–should be silent on the matter? And how does it happen that so many pens that busied themselves greedily with scandal that touched the Borgias should be similarly silent? Is it unreasonable to infer that those revelations did not incriminate him–that they gave the lie to all the rumours that had been current? If that is not the inference, then what is?

It is further noteworthy that on January 16–after Dorotea’s letter to the Senate giving the details of her misfortunes, which details Sanuto has suppressed–Diego Ramires, the real and known abductor, is still the object of a hunt set afoot by some Venetians. Would that be the case had her revelations shown Ramires to be no more than the duke’s instrument? Possibly; but not probably. In such a case he would not have been worth the trouble of pursuing.

Reasonably may it be objected: How, if Cesare was not guilty, does it happen that he did not carry out his threat of doing exemplary justice upon Ramires when taken–since Ramires obviously lay in his power for years after the event? The answer to that you will find in the lady’s reluctance to return to Caracciolo, and the tale it tells. It is not in the least illogical to assume that, when Cesare threatened that vengeance upon Ramires for the outrage which it was alleged had been committed, he fully intended to execute it; but that, upon taking Ramires, and upon discovering that here was no such outrage as had been represented, but just the elopement of a couple of lovers, he found there was nothing for him to avenge. Was it for Cesare Borgia to set up as a protector and avenger of cuckolds? Rather would it be in keeping with the feelings of his age and race to befriend the fugitive pair who had planted the antlers upon the brow of the Venetian captain.

Lastly, Cesare’s attitude towards women may be worth considering, that we may judge whether such an act as was imputed to him is consistent with it. Women play no part whatever in his history. Not once shall you find a woman’s influence swaying him; not once shall you see him permitting dalliance to retard his advancement or jeopardize his chances. With him, as with egotists of his type, governed by cold will and cold intellect, the sentimental side of the relation of the sexes has no place. With him one woman was as another woman; as he craved women, so he took women, but with an almost contemptuous undiscrimination. For all his needs concerning them the lupanaria sufficed.

Is this mere speculation, think you? Is there no evidence to support it, do you say? Consider, pray, in all its bearings the treatise on pudendagra dedicated to a man of Cesare Borgia’s rank by the physician Torella, written to meet his needs, and see what inference you draw from that. Surely such an inference as will invest with the ring of truth– expressing as it does his intimate nature, and confirming further what has here been said–that answer of his to the Venetian envoy, “that he had not found the ladies of Romagna so difficult that he should be driven to such rude and violent measures.”



On March 29 Cesare Borgia departed from Cesena–whither, meanwhile, he had returned–to march upon Faenza, resume the attack, and make an end of the city’s stubborn resistance.

During the past months, however, and notwithstanding the presence of the Borgia troops in the territory, the people of Faenza had been able to increase their fortifications by the erection of out-works and a stout bastion in the neighbourhood of the Osservanza Hospital, well beyond the walls. This bastion claimed Cesare’s first attention, and it was carried by assault on April 12. Thither he now fetched his guns, mounted them, and proceeded to a steady bombardment of the citadel. But the resistance continued with unabated determination–a determination amounting to heroism, considering the hopelessness of their case and the straits to which the Faentini were reduced by now. Victuals and other necessaries of life had long since been running low. Still the men of Faenza tightened their belts, looked to their defences, and flung defiance at the Borgia. The wealthier inhabitants distributed wine and flour at prices purely nominal, and lent Astorre money for the payment of his troops. It is written that to the same end the very priests, their patriotism surmounting their duty to the Holy Father in whose name this war was waged, consented to the despoiling of the churches and the melting down of the sacred vessels.

Even the women of Faenza bore their share of the burden of defence, carrying to the ramparts the heavy stones that were to be hurled down upon the besiegers, or actually donning casque and body-armour and doing sentry duty on the walls while the men rested.

But the end was approaching. On April 18 the Borgia cannon opened at last a breach in the walls, and Cesare delivered a terrible assault upon the citadel. The fight upon the smoking ruins was fierce and determined on both sides, the duke’s men pressing forward gallantly under showers of scalding pitch and a storm of boulders, launched upon them by the defenders, who used the very ruins of the wall for ammunition. For four hours was that assault maintained; nor did it cease until the deepening dusk compelled Cesare to order the retreat, since to continue in the failing light was but to sacrifice men to no purpose.

Cesare’s appreciation of the valour of the garrison ran high. It inspired him with a respect which shows his dispassionate breadth of mind, and he is reported to have declared that with an army of such men as those who held Faenza against him he would have conquered all Italy. He did not attempt a second assault, but confined himself during the three days that followed to continuing the bombardment.

Within Faenza men were by now in desperate case. Weariness and hunger were so exhausting their endurance, so sapping their high valour that nightly there were desertions to the duke’s camp of men who could bear no more. The fugitives from the town were well received, all save one–a man named Grammante, a dyer by trade–who, in deserting to the duke, came in to inform him that at a certain point of the citadel the defences were so weak that an assault delivered there could not fail to carry it.

This man afforded Cesare an opportunity of marking his contempt for traitors and his respect for the gallant defenders of Faenza. The duke hanged him for his pains under the very walls of the town he had betrayed.

On the 21st the bombardment was kept up almost without interruption for eight hours, and so shattered was the citadel by that pitiless cannonade that the end was in sight at last. But the duke’s satisfaction was tempered by his chagrin at the loss of Achille Tiberti, one of the most valiant of his captains, and one who had followed his fortunes from the first with conspicuous devotion. He was killed by the bursting of a gun. A great funeral at Cesena bore witness to the extent to which Cesare esteemed and honoured him.

Astorre, now seeing the citadel in ruins and the possibility of further resistance utterly exhausted, assembled the Council of Faenza to determine upon their course of action, and, as a result of their deliberations, the young tyrant sent his ambassadors to the duke to propose terms of surrender. It was a belated proposal, for there was no longer on Cesare’s part the necessity to make terms. The city’s defences were destroyed, and to talk of surrender now was to talk of giving something that no longer existed. Yet Cesare met the ambassadors in a spirit of splendid generosity.

The terms proposed were that the people of Faenza should have immunity for themselves and their property; that Astorre should have freedom to depart and to take with him his moveable possessions, his immoveables remaining at the mercy of the Pope. By all the laws of war Cesare was entitled to a heavy indemnity for the losses he had sustained through the resistance opposed to him. Considering those same laws and the application they were wont to receive in his day, no one could have censured him had he rejected all terms and given the city over to pillage. Yet not only does he grant the terms submitted to him, but in addition he actually lends an ear to the Council’s prayer that out of consideration for the great suffering of the city in the siege he should refrain from exacting any indemnity. This was to be forbearing indeed; but he was to carry his forbearance even further. In answer to the Council’s expressed fears of further harm at the hands of his troopers once these should be in Faenza, he actually consented to effect no entrance into the town.

We are not for a moment to consider Cesare as actuated in all this by any lofty humanitarianism. He was simply pursuing that wise policy of his, in refraining from punishing conquered States which were to be subject henceforth to his rule, and which, therefore, must be conciliated that they might be loyal to him. But it is well that you should at least appreciate this policy and the fruit it bore when you read that Cesare Borgia was a blood-glutted monster of carnage who ravaged the Romagna, rending and devouring it like some beast of prey.

On the 26th the Council waited upon Cesare at the Hospital of the Osservanza–where he was lodged–to tender the oath of fealty. That same evening Astorre himself, attended by a few of his gentlemen, came to the duke.

To this rather sickly and melancholy lad, who had behind him a terrible family history of violence, and to his bastard brother, Gianevangelista, the duke accorded the most gracious welcome. Indeed, so amiable did Astorre find the duke that, although the terms of surrender afforded him perfect liberty to go whither he listed, he chose to accept the invitation Cesare extended to him to remain in the duke’s train.

It is eminently probable, however, that the duke’s object in keeping the young man about him was prompted by another phase of that policy of his which Macchiavelli was later to formulate into rules of conduct, expedient in a prince:

“In order to preserve a newly acquired State particular attention should be given to two points. In the first place care should be taken entirely to extinguish the family of the ancient sovereign; in the second, laws should not be changed, nor taxes increased.”

Thus Macchiavelli. The second point is all that is excellent; the first is all that is wise–cold, horrible, and revolting though it be to our twentieth-century notions.

Cesare Borgia, as a matter of fact, hardly went so far as Macchiavelli advises. He practised discrimination. He did not, for instance, seek the lives of Pandolfaccio Malatesta, or of Caterina Sforza-Riario. He saw no danger in their living, no future trouble to apprehend from them. The hatred borne them by their subjects was to Cesare a sufficient guarantee that they would not be likely to attempt a return to their dominions, and so he permitted them to keep their lives. But to have allowed Astorre Manfredi, or even his bastard brother, to live would have been bad policy from the appallingly egotistical point of view which was Cesare’s–a point of view, remember, which receives Macchiavelli’s horribly intellectual, utterly unsentimental, revoltingly practical approval.

So–to anticipate a little–we see Cesare taking Astorre and Gianevangelista Manfredi to Rome when he returned thither in the following June. A fortnight later–on June 26–the formidable amazon of Forli, the Countess Sforza-Riario, was liberated, as we know, from the Castle of Sant’ Angelo, and permitted to withdraw to Florence. But the gates of that grim fortress, in opening to allow her to pass out, opened also for the purpose of admitting Astorre and Gianevangelista, upon whom they closed.

All that is known positively of the fate of these unfortunate young men is that they never came forth again alive.

The record in Burchard (June 9, 1502) of Astorre’s body having been found in the Tiber with a stone round his neck, suffers in probability from the addition that, “together with it were found the bodies of two young men with their arms tied, a certain woman, and many others.”

The dispatch of Giustiniani to the effect that: “It is said that this night were thrown into Tiber and drowned the two lords of Faenza together with their seneschal,” was never followed up by any other dispatch confirming the rumour, nor is it confirmed by any dispatch so far discovered from any other ambassador, nor yet does the matter find place in the Chronicles of Faenza.

But that is of secondary importance. The ugliest feature of the case is not the actual assassination of the young men, but the fact that Cesare had pledged himself that Astorre should go free, and yet had kept him by him–at first, it would seem, in his train, and later as a prisoner– until he put an end to his life. It was an ugly, unscrupulous deed; but there is no need to exaggerate its heinousness, as is constantly done, upon no better authority than Guicciardini’s, who wrote that the murder had been committed “saziata prima la libidine di qualcuno.”

Of all the unspeakable calumnies of which the Borgias have been the subject, none is more utterly wanton than this foul exhalation of Guicciardini’s lewd invention. Let the shame that must eternally attach to him for it brand also those subsequent writers who repeated and retailed that abominable and utterly unsupported accusation, and more particularly those who have not hesitated to assume that Guicciardini’s “qualcuno” was an old man in his seventy-second year–Pope Alexander VI.

Others a little more merciful, a little more careful of physical possibilities (but no whit less salacious) have taken it that Cesare was intended by the Florentine historian.

But, under one form or another, the lie has spread as only such foulness can spread. It has become woven into the warp of history; it has grown to be one of those “facts” which are unquestioningly accepted, but it stands upon no better foundation than the frequent repetition which a charge so monstrous could not escape. Its source is not a contemporary one. It is first mentioned by Guicciardini; and there is no logical conclusion to be formed other than that Guicciardini invented it. Another story which owes its existence mainly, and its particulars almost entirely, to Guicciardini’s libellous pen–the story of the death of Alexander VI, which in its place shall be examined–provoked the righteous anger of Voltaire. Atheist and violent anti-clerical though he was, the story’s obvious falseness so revolted him that he penned his formidable indictment in which he branded Guicciardini as a liar who had deceived posterity that he might vent his hatred of the Borgias. Better cause still was there in this matter of Astorre Manfredi for Voltaire’s indignation, as there is for the indignation of all conscientious seekers after truth.



To return to the surrender of Faenza on April 26, 1501, we see Cesare on the morrow of that event, striking camp with such amazing suddenness that he does not even pause to provide for the government of the conquered tyranny, but appoints a vicar four days later to attend to it.

He makes his abrupt departure from Faenza, and is off like a whirlwind to sweep unexpectedly into the Bolognese territory, and, by striking swiftly, to terrify Bentivogli into submission in the matter of Castel Bolognese.

This fortress, standing in the duke’s dominions, on the road between Faenza and Imola, must be a menace to him whilst in the hands of a power that might become actively hostile.

Ahead of him Cesare sent an envoy to Bentivogli, to demand its surrender.

The alarmed Lord of Bologna, having convened his Council (the Reggimento), replied that they must deliberate in the matter; and two days later they dispatched their ambassador to lay before Cesare the fruits of these deliberations. They were to seek the duke at Imola; but they got no farther than Castel S. Pietro, which to their dismay they found already in the hands of Vitellozzo Vitelli’s men-at­arms. For, what time Bentivogli had been deliberating, Cesare Borgia had been acting with that promptness which was one of his most salient characteristics, and, in addition to Castel S. Pietro he had already captured Casalfiuminense, Castel Guelfo, and Medecina, which were now invested by his troops.

When the alarming news of this swift action reached Bologna it caused Bentivogli to bethink him at last of Louis XII’s advice, that he should come to terms with Cesare Borgia, and he realized that the time to do so could no longer be put off. He made haste, therefore, to agree to the surrender of Castel Bolognese to the duke, to concede him stipend for one hundred lances of three men each, and to enter into an undertaking to lend him every assistance for one year against any power with which he might be at war, the King of France excepted. In return, Cesare was to relinquish the captured strongholds and undertake that the Pope should confirm Bentivogli in his ancient privileges. On April 29 Paolo Orsini went as Cesare’s plenipotentiary to Bologna to sign this treaty.

It was a crafty arrangement on Bentivogli’s part, for, over and above the pacification of Cesare and the advantage of an alliance with him, he gained as a result the alliance also of those famous condottieri Vitelli and Orsini, both bitter enemies of Florence–the latter intent upon the restoration of the Medici, the former impatient to avenge upon the Signory the execution of his brother Paolo. As an instalment, on account of that debt, Vitelli had already put to death Pietro da Marciano–the brother of Count Rinuccio da Marciano–when this gentleman fell into his hands at Medicina.

Two days before the treaty was signed, Bentivogli had seized four members of the powerful House of Marescotti. This family was related to the exiled Malvezzi, who were in arms with Cesare, and Bentivogli feared that communications might be passing between the two to his undoing. On that suspicion he kept them prisoners for the present, nor did be release them when the treaty was signed, nor yet when, amid public rejoicings expressing the relief of the Bolognese, it was published on May 2.

Hermes Bentivogli–Giovanni’s youngest son–was on guard at the palace with several other young Bolognese patricians, and he incited these to go with him to make an end of the traitors who had sought to destroy the peace by their alleged plottings with Bentivogli’s enemies in Cesare’s camp. He led his companions to the chamber where the Marescotti were confined, and there, more or less in cold blood, those four gentlemen were murdered for no better reason–ostensibly–than because it was suspected they had been in communication with their relatives in the Duke of Valentinois’s army. That was the way of the Cinquecento, which appears to have held few things of less account than human life.

In passing, it may be mentioned that Guicciardini, of course, does his ludicrous best to make this murder appear–at least indirectly, since directly it would be impossible–the work of Cesare Borgia.

As for Castel Bolognese itself, Cesare Borgia sent a thousand demolishers in the following July to raze it to the ground. It is said to have been the most beautiful castle in the Romagna; but Cesare had other qualities than beauty to consider in the matter of a stronghold. Its commanding position rendered it almost in the nature of a gateway controlling, as we know, the road from Faenza to Imola, and its occupation by the Bolognese or other enemies in time of disturbance might be of serious consequence to Cesare. Therefore he ruthlessly ordered Ramiro de Lorqua to set about its demolition.

The Council of Castel Bolognese made great protest, and implored Ramiro to stay his hand until they should have communicated with the duke petitioning for the castle’s preservation; but Ramiro–a hard, stern man, and Cesare’s most active officer in the Romagna–told them bluntly that to petition the duke in such a matter would be no better than a waste of time. He was no more than right; for Cesare, being resolved upon the expediency of the castle’s destruction, would hardly be likely to listen to sentimental reasonings for its preservation. Confident of this, Ramiro without more ado set about the execution of the orders he had received. He pulled down the walls and filled up the moat, until nothing remained so much as to show the place where the fortress had stood.

Another fortress which shared the fate of Castel Bolognese was the Castle of Sant’ Arcangelo, and similarly would Cesare have disposed of Solarolo, but that, being of lesser importance and the inhabitants offering, in their petition for its preservation, to undertake, themselves, the payment of the Castellan, he allowed it to remain.

Scarcely was the treaty with Bologna signed than Cesare received letters from the Pope recalling him to Rome, and recommending that he should not molest the Florentines in his passage–a recommendation which Alexander deemed very necessary considering the disposition towards Florence of Vitelli and Orsini. He foresaw that they would employ arguments to induce Valentinois into an enterprise of which all the cost would be his, and all the possible profit their own.

The duke would certainly have obeyed and avoided Tuscany, but that– precisely as the shrewd Pope had feared–Vitelli and Orsini implored him to march through Florentine territory. Vitelli, indeed, flung himself on his knees before Cesare in the vehemence of his supplications, urging that his only motive was to effect the deliverance from his unjust imprisonment of Cerbone, who had been his executed brother’s chancellor. Beyond that, he swore he would make no demands upon Florence, that he would not attempt to mix himself in the affairs of the Medici, and that he would do no violence to town or country.

Thus implored, Cesare gave way. Probably he remembered the very circumstances under which Vitelli had joined his banner, and considered that he could not now oppose a request backed by a promise of so much moderation; so on May 7 he sent his envoys to the Signory to crave leave of passage for his troops through Florentine territory.

Whilst still in the Bolognese he was sought out by Giuliano de’Medici, who begged to be allowed to accompany him, a request which Cesare instantly refused, as being contrary to that to which he had engaged himself, and he caused Giuliano to fall behind at Lojano. Nor would he so much as receive in audience Piero de’Medici, who likewise sought to join him in Siennese territory, as soon as he perceived what was toward. Yet, however much the duke protested that he had no intention to make any change in the State of Florence, there were few who believed him. Florence, weary and sorely reduced by the long struggle of the Pisan war, was an easy prey. Conscious of this, great was her anxiety and alarm at Cesare’s request for passage. The Signory replied granting him the permission sought, but imposing the condition that he should keep to the country, refraining from entering any town, nor bring with him into Florentine territory Vitelli, Orsini, or any other enemy of the existing government. It happened, however, that when the Florentine ambassador reached him with this reply the duke was already over the frontier of Tuscany with the excluded condottieri in his train.

It was incumbent upon him, as a consequence, to vindicate this high- handed anticipation of the unqualified Florentine permission which had not arrived. So he declared that he had been offended last year by Florence in the matter of Forli, and again this year in the matter of Faenza, both of which cities he charged the Signory with having assisted to resist him, and he announced that, to justify his intentions so far as Florence was concerned, he would explain himself at Barberino.

There, on May 12, he gave audience to the ambassador. He declared to him that he desired a good understanding with Florence, and that she should offer no hindrance to the conquest of Piombino, upon which he was now bound; adding that since he placed no trust in the present government, which already had broken faith with him, he would require some good security for the treaty to be made. Of reinstating the Medici he said nothing; but he demanded that some satisfaction be given Vitelli and Orsini, and, to quicken Florence in coming to a decision, he pushed forward with his army as far as Forno dei Campi–almost under her very walls.

The Republic was thrown into consternation. Instantly she got together what forces she disposed of, and proceeded to fling her artillery into the Arno, to the end that she should be constrained neither to refuse it to Cesare upon his demand, nor yet to deliver it.

Macchiavelli censures the Signory’s conduct of this affair as impolitic. He contends that the duke, being in great strength of arms, and Florence not armed at all, and therefore in no case to hinder his passage, it would have been wiser and the Signory would better have saved its face and dignity, had it accorded Cesare the permission to pass which he demanded, rather than have been subjected to behold him enforce that passage by weight of arms. But all that now concerned the Florentines was to be rid of an army whose presence in their territory was a constant menace. And to gain that end they were ready to give any undertakings, just as they were resolved to fulfil none.

Similarly, it chanced that Cesare was in no less a hurry to be gone; for he had received another letter from the Pope commanding his withdrawal, and in addition, he was being plagued by Vitelli and Orsini–grown restive–with entreaties for permission to go into either Florence or Pistoja, where they did not lack for friends. To resist them Cesare had need of all the severity and resolution he could command; and he even went so far as to back his refusal by a threat himself to take up arms against them if they insisted.

On the 15th, at last, the treaty–which amounted to an offensive and defensive alliance–was signed. By the terms of this, Florence undertook to give Cesare a condotta of 300 lances for three years, to be used in Florentine service, with a stipend of 36,000 ducats yearly. How much this really meant the duke was to discover two days later, when he sent to ask the Signory to lend him some cannon for the emprise against Piombino, and to pay him the first instalment of one quarter of the yearly stipend before he left Florentine territory. The Signory replied that, by the terms of the agreement, there was no obligation for the immediate payment of the instalment, whilst in the matter of the artillery they put him off from day to day, until Cesare understood that their only aim in signing the treaty had been the immediate one of being rid of his army.

The risk Florence incurred in so playing fast-and-loose with such a man, particularly in a moment of such utter unfitness to resist him, is, notwithstanding the French protection enjoyed by the Signory, amazing in its reckless audacity. It was fortunate for Florence that the Pope’s orders tied the duke’s hands–and it may be that of this the Signory had knowledge, and that it was upon such knowledge, in conjunction with France’s protection, that it was presuming. Cesare took the matter in the spirit of an excellent loser.

Not a hint of his chagrin and resentment did he betray; instead, he set about furnishing his needs elsewhere, sending Vitelli to Pisa with a request for artillery, a request to which Pisa very readily responded, as much on Vitelli’s account as on the duke’s. As for Florence, if Cesare Borgia could be terribly swift in punishing, he could also be formidably slow. If he could strike upon the instant where the opening for a blow appeared, he could also wait for months until the opening should be found. He waited now.

It would be at about this time that young Loenardo da Vinci sought employment in Cesare Borgia’s service. Leonardo had been in Milan until the summer of 1500, when he repaired to Florence in quest of better fortune; but, finding little or no work to engage him there, he took the chance of the duke of Valentinois’s passage to offer his service to one whose liberal patronage of the arts was become proverbial. Cesare took him into his employ as engineer and architect, leaving him in the Romagna for the present. Leonardo may have superintended the repairs of the Castle of Forli, whilst he certainly built the canal from Cesena to the Porto Cesenatico, before rejoining the duke in Rome.

On May 25 Cesare moved by the way of the valley of Cecina to try conclusions with Giacomo d’Appiano, Tyrant of Piombino, who with some Genoese and some Florentine aid, was disposed to offer resistance to the duke. The first strategic movement in this affair must be the capture of the Isle of Elba, whence aid might reach Piombino on its promontory thrusting out into the sea. For this purpose the Pope sent from Civita Vecchia six galleys, three brigantines, and two galleons under the command of Lodovico Mosca, captain of the papal navy, whilst Cesare was further reinforced by some vessels sent him from Pisa together with eight pieces of cannon. With these he made an easy capture of Elba and Pianosa. That done, he proceeded to lay siege to Piombino, which, after making a gallant resistance enduring for two months, was finally pressed to capitulate.

Long before that happened, however, Cesare had taken his departure. Being awaited in Rome, he was unable to conduct the siege operations in person. So he quitted Piombino in June to join the French under d’Aubigny, bound at last upon the conquest of Naples, and claiming–as their treaty with him provided–Cesare’s collaboration.



Cesare arrived in Rome on June 13. There was none of the usual pomp on this occasion. He made his entrance quietly, attended only by a small body of men-at-arms, and he was followed, on the morrow, by Yves d’Allègre with the army–considerably reduced by the detachments which had been left to garrison the Romagna, and to lay siege to Piombino.