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The Eight Decades of Peter Martyr D'Anghera

Translated from the Latin with Notes and Introduction

By Francis Augustus MacNutt

In Two Volumes

Volume One









CARDINAL ASCANIO SFORZA From the Medallion by Luini, in the Museum at
Milan. Photo by Anderson, Rome.

LEO X. From an Old Copper Print. (No longer in the book.)




Distant a few miles from the southern extremity of Lago Maggiore, the
castle-crowned heights of Anghera and Arona face one another from
opposite sides of the lake, separated by a narrow stretch of blue
water. Though bearing the name of the former burgh, it was in
Arona[1], where his family also possessed a property, that Pietro
Martire d'Anghera first saw the light, in the year 1457[2]. He was not
averse to reminding his friends of the nobility of his family, whose
origin he confidently traced to the Counts of Anghera, a somewhat
fabulous dynasty, the glories of whose mythical domination in Northern
Italy are preserved in local legends and have not remained entirely
unnoticed by sober history. What name his family bore is unknown; the
statement that it was a branch of the Sereni, originally made by Celso
Rosini and repeated by later writers, being devoid of foundation. Ties
of relationship, which seem to have united his immediate forebears
with the illustrious family of Trivulzio and possibly also with that
of Borromeo, furnished him with sounder justification for some pride
of ancestry than did the remoter gestes of the apocryphal Counts of

[Note 1: Ranke, in his _Zur Kritik neuerer Geschichtsschreiber_,
and Rawdon Brown, in his _Calendar of State Papers relating to
England, preserved in the Archives of Venice_, mention Anghera, or
Anghiera, as the name is also written, as his birthplace. Earlier
Italian writers such as Piccinelli (_Ateneo de' Letterati Milanesi_)
and Giammatteo Toscano (_Peplus Ital_) are perhaps responsible
for this error, which passages in the _Opus Epistolarum_, that
inexplicably escaped their notice, expose. In a letter addressed to
Fajardo occurs the following explicit statement: "..._cum me utero
mater gestaret sic volente patre, Aronam, ubi plaeraque illis erant
praedia domusque ... ibi me mater dederat orbi_." Letters 388, 630, and
794 contain equally positive assertions.]

[Note 2: Mazzuchelli (_Gli Scrittori d'Italia_, p. 773) states
that Peter Martyr was born in 1455, and he has been followed by the
Florentine Tiraboschi (_Storia della Letteratura Italiana_, vol. vii.)
and later historians, including even Hermann Schumacher in his
masterly work, _Petrus Martyr der Geschichtsschreiber des Weltmeeres_.
Nicolai Antonio (_Bibliotheca Hispana nova_, app. to vol. ii) is alone
in giving the date as 1559. Ciampi, amongst modern Italian authorities
(_Le Fonti Storiche del Rinascimento_) and Heidenheimer (_Petrus
Martyr Anglerius und sein Opus Epistolarum_) after carefully
investigating the conflicting data, show from Peter Martyr's own
writings that he was born on February 2, 1457. Three different
passages are in agreement on this point. In Ep. 627 written in 1518
and referring to his embassy to the Sultan of Egypt upon which he
set out in the autumn of 1501, occurs the following: ..._quatuor et
quadraginta tunc annos agebam, octo decem superadditi vires illas
hebetarunt_. Again in Ep. 1497: _Ego extra annum ad habitis tuis
litteris quadragesimum_; and finally in the dedication of the Eighth
Decade to Clement VII.: _Septuagesimus quippe annus aetatis, cui nonae
quartae Februarii anni millesimi quingentesimi vigesimi sexti proxime
ruentis dabunt initium, sua mihi spongea memoriam ita confrigando
delevit, ut vix e calamo sit lapsa periodus, quando quid egerimsi quis
interrogaverit, nescire me profitebor. De Orbe Novo_., p. 567. Ed.
Paris, 1587. Despite the elucidation of this point, it is noteworthy
that Prof. Paul Gaffarel both in his admirable French translation of
the _Opus Epistolarum_ (1897) and in his _Lettres de Pierre Martyr
d'Anghiera_ (1885) should still cite the chronology of Mazzuchelli and

[Note 3: The Visconti, and after them the Sforza, bore the title
of Conte d'Anghera, or Anghiera, as the name is also spelled.
Lodovico il Moro restored to the place the rank of city, which it
had lost, and of which it was again deprived when Lodovico went into

The cult of the Dominican of Verona, murdered by the Waldensians in
1252 and later canonised under the title of St. Peter Martyr, was
fervent and widespread in Lombardy in the fifteenth century. Milan
possessed his bones, entombed in a chapel of Sant' Eustorgio decorated
by Michelozzi. Under the patronage and name of Peter Martyr, the child
of the Anghera was baptised and, since his family name fell into
oblivion, _Martyr_ has replaced it. Mention of his kinsmen is
infrequent in his voluminous writings, though there is evidence that
he furthered the careers of two younger brothers when the opportunity
offered. For Giorgio he solicited and obtained from Lodovico Sforza,
in 1487, the important post of governor of Monza. For Giambattista he
procured from the Spanish sovereigns a recommendation which enabled
him to enter the service of the Venetian Republic, under whose
standard he campaigned with Nicola Orsini, Count of Pitigliano.
Giambattista died in Brescia in 1516, leaving a wife and four
daughters. A nephew, Gian Antonio, whose name occurs in several of his
uncle's letters is described by the latter as _licet ex transverso
natus_; he served under Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, and finally, despite
his bar sinister, married a daughter of Francesco, of the illustrious
Milanese family of Pepoli.[4]

[Note 4: Peter Martyr's will gave to his only surviving brother,
Giorgio, his share of the family estate, but on condition that he
should receive Giambattista's daughter, Laura, in his family and
provide for her: _emponiendola en todas las buenas costumbres y
crianza que hija de tal padre merece_ (_Coll. de Documentos ineditos
para la Hist, de Espana_, tom. xxxix., pp. 397). Another of
Giambattista's daughters, Lucrezia, who was a nun, received one
hundred ducats by her uncle's will.]

Concerning his earlier years and his education Peter Martyr is silent,
nor does he anywhere mention under whose direction he began his
studies. In the education deemed necessary for young men of his
quality, the exercises of chivalry and the recreations of the
troubadour found equal place, and such was doubtless the training he
received. He spent some years at the ducal court of Milan, but there
is no indication that he frequented the schools of such famous
Hellenists as Francesco Filelfo who, in 1471, was there lecturing
on the Politics of Aristotle, and of Constantine Lascaris whom the
reigning duke, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, commissioned to compile a Greek
grammar for the use of his daughter. In later years, when he found
his chief delight and highest distinction in intercourse with men of
letters, Peter Martyr would hardly have neglected to mention such
precious early associations had they existed.

The fortunes of the family of Anghera were the reverse of opulent at
that period of its history, and the sons obtained careers under the
patronage of Count Giovanni Borromeo. The times were troublous in
Lombardy. The assassination, in 1476, of Gian Galeazzo was followed
by commotions and unrest little conducive to the cultivation of the
humanities, and which provoked an exodus of humanists and their
disciples. Many sought refuge from the turbulence prevailing in the
north, in the more pacific atmosphere of Rome, where a numerous colony
of Lombards was consequently formed. The following year Peter Martyr,
being then twenty years of age, joined his compatriots in their
congenial exile. His rank and personal qualities, as well as the
protection accorded him by Giovanni Arcimboldo, Archbishop of Milan,
and Ascanio Sforza, brother of the Duke, Lodovico il Moro, assured him
a cordial welcome. For a youth devoid of pretensions to humanistic
culture, he penetrated with singular ease and rapidity into the
innermost academic circle, over which reigned the most amiable of
modern pagans, Pomponius Laetus.

It was the age of the Academies. During the Ecumenical Council of
Florence, Giovanni de' Medici, fired with enthusiasm for the study
of Platonic philosophy, brilliantly expounded by the learned Greek,
Gemisto, conceived the plan of promoting the revival of classical
learning by the formation of an academy, in imitation of that founded
by the immortal Plato. Under such lofty patronage, this genial
conception, so entirely in consonance with the intellectual tendencies
of the age, attracted to its support every Florentine who aspired to
a reputation for culture, at a time when culture was fashionable. The
Greek Cardinal, Bessarion, whom Eugene IV. had raised to the purple at
the close of the Council, carried the Medicean novelty to Rome, where
he formed a notable circle, in which the flower of Hellenic and Latin
culture was represented. Besides this group, characterised by a
theological tincture alien to the neo-pagan spirit in flimsily
disguised revolt against Christian dogma and morality, Pomponius Laetus
and Platina founded the Roman Academy--an institution destined to
world-wide celebrity. Pomponius Laetus, an unrecognised bastard of the
noble house of Sanseverini, was professor of eloquence in Rome. Great
amongst the humanists, in him the very spirit of ancient Hellas seemed
revived. What to many was but the fad or fashionable craze of the
hour, was to him the all-important and absorbing purpose of living. He
dwelt aloof in poverty; shunning the ante-chambers and tables of the
great, he and kindred souls communed with their disciples in the
shades of his grove of classic laurels. He was indifferent alike to
princely and to popular favour, passionately consecrating his efforts
to the revival and preservation of such classics as had survived the
destructive era known as the Dark Ages. Denied a name of his own,
he adopted a Latin one to his liking, thus from necessity setting a
fashion his imitators followed from affectation. When approached in
the days of his fame by the Sanseverini with proposals to recognise
him as a kinsman, he answered with a proud and laconic refusal.[5] The
Academy, formed of super-men infected with pagan ideals, contemptuous
of scholastic learning and impatient of the restraints of Christian
morality, did not long escape the suspicions of the orthodox;
suspicions only too well warranted and inevitably productive of
antagonism ending in condemnation.[6]

[Note 5: His refusal was in the following curt form: _Pomponius
Laetus cognatis et propinquis suis, salutem. Quod petitis fieri non
potest.--Valete_. Consult Tiraboschi, _Storia della Letteratura
Italiana_, vol. vii., cap. v.; Gregorovius, _Geschichte der Stadt Rom
in Mittelalter_; Burkhardt, _Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien_,
and Voigt in his _Wiederlebung des Klassischen Alterthums_.]

[Note 6: Sabellicus, in a letter to Antonio Morosini (_Liber
Epistolarum_, xi., p. 459) wrote thus of Pomponius Laetus: ..._fuit
ab initio contemptor religionis, sed ingravesciente aetate coepit res
ipsa, ut mibi dicitur curae esse. In Crispo et Livio reposint quaedam;
et si nemo religiosius timidiusques tractavit veterum scripta ...
Graeca ... vix attingit_. While to a restricted number, humanism stood
for intellectual emancipation, to the many it meant the rejection of
the moral restraints on conduct imposed by the law of the Church,
and a revival of the vices that flourished in the decadent epochs of
Greece and Rome.]

From trifles, as they may seem to us at this distance of time, hostile
ingenuity wove the web destined to enmesh the incautious Academicians.
The adoption of fanciful Latin appellations--in itself a sufficiently
innocent conceit--was construed into a demonstration of revolt against
established Christian usage, almost savouring of contempt for the
canonised saints of the Church.

Pomponius Laetus was nameless, and hence free to adopt whatever name he
chose; his associates and admiring disciples paid him the homage of
imitation, proud to associate themselves, by means of this pedantic
fancy, with him they called master. The Florentine, Buonacorsi, took
the name of Callimachus Experiens; the Roman, Marco, masqueraded as
Asclepiades; two Venetian brothers gladly exchanged honest, vulgar
Piscina for the signature of Marsus, while another, Marino, adopted
that of Glaucus.

If the neo-pagans were harmless and playful merely, their opponents
were dangerously in earnest. In 1468 a grave charge of conspiracy
against the Pope's life and of organising a schism led to the arrest
of Pomponius and Platina, some of the more wary members of the
compromised fraternity saving themselves by timely flight.

Imprisonment in Castel Sant' Angelo and even the use of torture--mild,
doubtless--failing to extract incriminating admissions from the
accused, both prisoners were unconditionally released. If the Pope
felt serious alarm, his fears seem to have been easily allayed, for
Pomponius was permitted to resume his public lectures undisturbed, but
the Roman Academy had received a check, from which it did not recover
during the remainder of the pontificate of Paul II. With the accession
of Sixtus IV., the cloud of disfavour that still hung obscuringly
over its glories was lifted. Encouraged by the Pope and frequented by
distinguished members of the Curia, its era of greatness dawned in

The assault upon the Church by the humanists, which resulted in the
partial capture of Latin Christianity, was ably directed. Although
the renascence of learning did not take its rise in Rome, where the
intellectual movement and enthusiasm imported from Florence flourished
but fitfully, according to the various humours of the successive
pontiffs, the papal capital drew within its walls eminent scholars
from all the states of the Italian peninsula. Rome was the world-city,
a centre from which radiated honours, distinctions, and fortune. Gifts
of oratory, facility in debate, ability in the conduct of diplomatic
negotiations, a masterly style in Latin composition, and even
perfection in penmanship, were all marketable accomplishments, for
which Rome was the highest bidder. If classical learning and the
graces of literature received but intermittent encouragement from the
sovereign pontiffs, both the secular interests of their government and
the vindication of the Church's dogmatic teaching afforded the most
profitable exercise for talents which sceptical humanists sold, as
readily as did the condottieri their swords--to the best paymaster,
regardless of their personal convictions. There consequently came into
existence in Rome a new _ceto_ or class, equally removed from the
nobles of feudal traditions and the ecclesiastics of the Curia, yet
mingling with both. Literary style and the art of Latin composition,
sedulously cultivated by these brilliant intellectual nomads, shed an
undoubted lustre on the Roman chancery, giving it a stamp it has
never entirely lost. They fought battles and scored victories for an
orthodoxy they derided. They defended the Church's temporalities from
the encroachments of covetous princes. Their influence on morals was
frankly pagan. Expatriated and emancipated from all laws save those
dictated by their own tastes and inclinations, these men were genially
rebellious against the restraints and discipline imposed by the
evangelical law. From the Franciscan virtues of chastity, poverty, and
obedience, preached by the _Poverello_ of Assisi, they turned with
aversion to laud the antipodal trinity of lust, license, and luxury.
The mysticism of medieval Christianity was repugnant to their
materialism, and the symbolism of its art, expressed under rigid,
graceless forms, offended eyes that craved beauty of line and beauty
of colour. They ignored or condemned any ulterior purpose of art as a
teaching medium for spiritual truths. To such men, a satire of Juvenal
was more precious than an epistle of St. Paul; dogma, they demolished
with epigrams, the philosophy of the schoolmen was a standing joke,
and a passage from Plato or Horace outweighed the definitions of an
Ecumenical Council.

The toleration extended to these heterodox scholars seems to have
been unlimited,--perhaps it was not in some instances unmixed with
contempt, for, though they lampooned the clergy of all grades, not
sparing even the Pope himself, their writings, even when not free from
positive scurrility, were allowed the freest circulation. In all
that pertained to personal conduct and morality, they directed their
exclusive efforts to assimilating classical standards of the
decadent periods, ignoring the austere virtues of civic probity,
self-restraint, and frugality, that characterised the best society of
Greek and Rome in their florescence. These same men lived on terms
of close intimacy with princes of the Church, on whose bounty they
throve, and by degrees numbers of them even entered the ranks of the
clergy, some with minor and others with holy orders. To their labours,
the world owes the recovery of the classic literature of Greece and
Rome from oblivion, while the invention and rapid adoption of the
printing-press rendered these precious texts forever indestructible
and accessible.

Into this brilliant, dissolute world of intellectual activity, Peter
Martyr entered, and through it he passed unscathed, emerging with his
Christian faith intact and his orthodoxy untainted. He gathered the
gold of classical learning, rejecting its dross; his morals were
above reproach and calumny never touched his reputation. Respected,
appreciated, and, most of all, beloved by his contemporaries, his
writings enriched the intellectual heritage of posterity with
inexhaustible treasures of original information concerning the great
events of the memorable epoch it was his privilege to illustrate.

General culture being widely diffused, the pedantic imitations of
antiquity applauded by the preceding generation ceased to confer
distinction. Latin still held its supremacy but the Italian language,
no longer reputed vulgar, was coming more and more into favour as a
vehicle for the expression of original thought. Had he remained in
Italy Martyr might well have used it, but his removal to Spain imposed
Latin as the language of his voluminous compositions.

Four years after his arrival in Rome, a Milanese noble, Bartolomeo
Scandiano, who later went as nuncio to Spain, invited Peter Martyr
to pass the summer months in his villa at Rieti, in company with the
Bishop of Viterbo. In the fifteenth letter of the _Opus Epistolarum_
he recalls the impressions and recollections of that memorable visit,
in the following terms: "Do you remember, Scandiano, with what
enthusiasm we dedicated our days to poetical composition? Then did I
first appreciate the importance of association with the learned and to
what degree the mind of youth is elevated in the amiable society of
serious men: then, for the first time, I ventured to think myself a
man and to hope that I might become somebody." The summer of 1481 may,
therefore, be held to mark his intellectual awakening and the birth of
his definite ambitions. Endowed by nature with the qualities necessary
to success, intimate association with men of eminent culture inspired
him with the determination to emulate them, and from this ideal he
never deflected. The remaining six years of his life in Rome were
devoted to the pursuit of knowledge, and in the art of deciphering
inscriptions and the geography of the ancients he acquired singular

During the pontificate of Innocent VIII., Francesco Negro, a Milanese
by birth, was governor of Rome and him Peter Martyr served as
secretary; a service which, for some reason, necessitated several
months' residence in Perugia. His relations with Ascanio Sforza,
created cardinal in 1484, continued to be close, and at one period he
may have held some position in the cardinal's household or in that
of Cardinal Giovanni Arcimboldo, Archbishop of Milan, though it is
nowhere made clear precisely what, while some authorities incline to
number him merely among the assiduous courtiers of these dignitaries
from his native Lombardy.

The fame of his scholarship had meanwhile raised him from the position
of disciple to a place amongst the masters of learning, and in his
turn he saw gathering about him a group of admirers and adulators.
Besides Pomponius Laetus, his intimates of this period were Theodore of
Pavia and Peter Marsus, the less celebrated of the Venetian brothers.
He stood in the relation of preceptor or mentor to Alonso Carillo,
Bishop of Pamplona, and to Jorge da Costa, Archbishop of Braga, two
personages of rank, who did but follow the prevailing fashion that
decreed the presence of a humanist scholar to be an indispensable
appendage in the households of the great. He read and commented the
classics to his exalted patrons, was the arbiter of taste, their
friend, the companion of their cultured leisure, and their confidant.
Replying to the praises of his disciples, couched in extravagant
language, he administered a mild rebuke, recalling them to moderation
in the expression of their sentiments: "These are not the lessons you
received from me when I explained to you the satire of the divine
Juvenal; on the contrary, you have learned that nothing more shames a
free man than adulation."[7]

[Note 7: Epist. x. _Non haec a me profecto, quam ambobus Juvenalis
aliguando divinam illam, quae proxima est a secunda, satiram aperirem,
sed adulatione nihil esse ingenuo foedius dedicistis_.]

The year 1486 was signalised in Rome by the arrival of an embassy from
Ferdinand and Isabella to make the usual oath of obedience on behalf
of the Catholic sovereigns of Castille and Leon to their spiritual
over-lord, the Pope. Inigo Lopez de Mendoza, Count of Tendilla, a son
of the noble house of Mendoza, whose cardinal was termed throughout
Europe _tertius rex_, was the ambassador charged with this mission.[8]
Tendilla shone in a family in which intellectual brilliancy was a
heritage, the accomplishments of its members adding distinction to a
house of origin and descent exceptionally illustrious. Whether in the
house of his compatriot, the Bishop of Pamplona, or elsewhere, the
ambassador made the acquaintance of Peter Martyr and evidently fell
under the charm of his noble character and uncommon talents. The
duties of his embassy, and possibly his own good pleasure, detained
Tendilla in Rome from September 13, 1486, until August 29th of the
following year, and, as his stay drew to its close, he pressingly
invited the Italian scholar to return with him to Spain, an invitation
which neither the remonstrances nor supplications of his friends
in Rome availed to persuade him to refuse. No one could more
advantageously introduce a foreigner at the Court of Spain than
Tendilla. What prospects he held out or what arguments he used to
induce Martyr to quit Rome and Italy, we do not know; apparently
little persuasion was required. A true child of his times, Peter
Martyr was prepared to accept his intellectual heritage wherever he
found it. From the obscure parental village of Arona, his steps first
led him to the ducal court of Milan, which served as a stepping-stone
from which he advanced into the wider world of Rome. The papal capital
knew him first as a disciple, then as a master, but the doubt whether
he was satisfied to wait upon laggard pontifical favours is certainly
permissible. He had made warm friendships, had enjoyed the intimacy of
the great, and the congenial companionship of kindred spirits, but his
talents had secured no permanent or lucrative recognition from the
Sovereign Pontiff. The announcement of his resolution to accompany
the ambassador to Spain caused consternation amongst his friends
who opposed, by every argument they could muster, a decision they
considered displayed both ingratitude and indifferent judgment.
Nothing availed to change the decision he had taken and, since to each
one he answered as he deemed expedient, and as each answer differed
from the other, it is not easy to fix upon the particular reason which
prompted him to seek his fortune in Spain.

[Note 8: From Burchard's _Diarium_, 1483-1506, and from the
_Chronicle_ of Pulgar we learn that Antonio Geraldini and Juan de
Medina, the latter afterwards Bishop of Astorga, accompanied the

To Ascanio Sforza, who spared neither entreaties nor reproaches to
detain him, assuring him that during his lifetime his merits should
not lack recognition, Martyr replied that the disturbed state of
Italy, which he apprehended would grow worse, discouraged him; adding
that he was urged on by an ardent desire to see the world and to make
acquaintance with other lands. To Peter Marsus, he declared he felt
impelled to join in the crusade against the Moors. Spain was the seat
of this holy war, and the Catholic sovereigns, who had accomplished
the unity of the Christian states of the Iberian peninsula, were
liberal in their offers of honours and recompense to foreigners of
distinction whom they sought to draw to their court and camp. Spain
may well have seemed a virgin and promising field, in which his
talents might find a more generous recognition than Rome had awarded
them. Upon his arrival there, he showed himself no mean courtier when
he declared to the Queen that his sole reason for coming was to behold
the most celebrated woman in the world--herself. Perhaps the sincerest
expression of his feelings is that contained in a letter to Carillo.
(Ep. 86. 1490): _Formosum est cuique, quod maxime placet: id si cum
patria minime quis se sperat habiturum, tanta est hujusce rei vis, ut
extra patriam quaeritet patria ipsius oblitus. Ego quam vos deservistis
adivi quia quod mihi pulchrum suaveque videbatur in ea invenire
speravi_. The divine restlessness, the _Wanderlust_ had seized him,
and to its fascination he yielded. The opportunity offered by Tendilla
was too tempting to be resisted. Summing up the remonstrances and
reproaches of his various friends, he declared that he held himself to
deserve rather their envy than their commiseration, since amidst
the many learned men in Italy he felt himself obscure and useless,
counting himself indeed as _passerunculus inter accipitres, pygmeolus
inter gigantes_.

Failing to turn his friend from his purpose, Cardinal Ascanio
Sforza exacted from him a promise to send him regular and frequent
information of all that happened at the Spanish Court. It is to this
pact between the two friends that posterity is indebted for the
Decades and the _Opus Epistolarum_, in which the events of those
singularly stirring years are chronicled in a style that portrays
with absolute fidelity the temper of an age prolific in men of
extraordinary genius and unsurpassed daring, incomparably rich in
achievements that changed the face of the world and gave a new
direction to the trend of human development.

On the twenty-ninth of August the Spanish ambassador, after taking
leave of Innocent VIII.,[9] set out from Rome on his return journey to
Spain, and with him went Peter Martyr d'Anghera.

[Note 9: _Dixi ante sacros pedes prostratus lacrymosum vale quarto
calendi Septembris 1487_. (Ep. i.)]


Spain in the year 1487 presented a striking contrast to Italy where,
from the days of Dante to those of Machiavelli, the land had echoed to
the vain cry: _Pax, pax et non erat pax_. Peter Martyr was impressed
by the unaccustomed spectacle of a united country within whose
boundaries peace reigned. This happy condition had followed upon the
relentless suppression of feudal chiefs whose acts of brigandage,
pillage, and general lawlessness had terrorised the people and
enfeebled the State during the preceding reign.

The same nobles who had fought under Isabella's standard against Henry
IV. did not scruple to turn their arms upon their young sovereign,
once she was seated upon the throne. Lucio Marineo Siculo has drawn a
sombre picture of life in Spain prior to the establishment of order
under Ferdinand and Isabella. To accomplish the needed reform, it was
necessary to break the power and humble the pretensions of the feudal
nobles. The Duke of Villahermosa, in command of an army maintained
by contributions from the towns, waged a merciless campaign, burning
castles and administering red-handed but salutary justice to rebels
against the royal authority, and to all disturbers of public order
throughout the realm.

This drastic work of internal pacification was completed before the
arrival of our Lombard scholar at the Spanish Court. Castile and
Aragon united, internal strife overcome, the remaining undertaking
worthiest to engage the attention of the monarchs was the conquest of
the unredeemed southern provinces. Ten years of intermittent warfare
had brought the Christian troops to the very walls of Granada, but
Granada still held out. Almeria and Guadiz were in possession of the
enemy and over the towers of Baza the infidel flag proudly floated.

The reception accorded Tendilla's protege by the King and Queen in
Saragossa was benign and encouraging. Isabella already caressed the
idea of encouraging the cultivation of the arts and literature amongst
the Spaniards, and her first thought was to confide to the newcomer
the education of the young nobles and pages about the Court--youths
destined to places of influence in Church and State. She was not a
little surprised when the reputed savant modestly deprecated his
qualifications for such a responsible undertaking, and declared his
wish was to join in the crusade against the infidels in Andalusia.
Some mirth was even provoked by the idea of the foreign scholar
masquerading as a soldier.

In 1489, King Ferdinand, who had assembled a powerful force at Jaen,
marched to the assault of Baza, a strong place, ably defended at
that time by Abdullah, known under the proud title of El Zagal--the
Victorious--because of his many victories over the Christian armies he
had encountered. During the memorable siege that ended in the fall of
Baza, Peter Martyr played his dual role of soldier and historian. The
Moors defended the city with characteristic bravery, for they were
fighting for their property, their liberty, and their lives. From
Jaen, where Isabella had established herself to be near the seat
of war, messages of encouragement daily reached the King and his
commanders, inciting them to victory, for which the Queen and her
ladies daily offered prayers. Impregnable Baza fell on the fourth of
December, and, with its fall, the Moorish power in Spain was forever
broken. Smaller cities and numerous strongholds in the surrounding
country hastened to offer their submission and, after the humiliating
surrender of El Zagal in the Spanish camp at Tabernas, Almeria opened
its gates to the triumphant Christians who sang _Te Deum_ within its
walls on Christmas day. Peter Martyr's description of this victorious
campaign has proved a rich source from which later writers have
generously drawn, not always with adequate acknowledgment. From Jaen
the Court withdrew to Seville, where the marriage of the princess
royal to the crown prince of Portugal was celebrated.

Boabdilla still held Granada, oblivious of his engagement to surrender
that city when his rival, El Zagal, should be conquered.[1] We need
not here digress to rehearse the oft-told story of the siege of
Granada, during which Moslem rivalled Christian in deeds of chivalry.
Peter Martyr's letters in the _Opus Epistolarum_ recount these events.
He shared to the full the exultation of the victors, but was not
oblivious of the grief and humiliation of the vanquished whom
he describes as weeping and lamenting upon the graves of their
forefathers, with a choice between captivity and exile before their
despairing eyes. He portrays his impressions upon entering with the
victorious Christian host into the stately city. _Alhambrum, proh dii
immortales! Qualem regiam, romane purpurate, unicam in orbe terrarum,
crede_, he exclaims in his letter to Cardinal Arcimboldo of Milan.

[Note 1: The Moorish power was at this time weakened by an
internal dissension. El Zagal had succeeded his brother, Muley Abdul
Hassan, who, at the time of his death ruled over Baza, Guadiz,
Almeria, and other strongholds in the south-east, while his son
Boabdil was proclaimed in Granada, thus dividing the kingdom against
itself, at a moment when union was most essential to its preservation.
Boabdil had accepted the protection of King Ferdinand and had even
stipulated the surrender of Granada as the reward for his uncle's
defeat. Consult Prescott's _Ferdinand and Isabella_.]

Divers are the appreciations of the precise part played by Peter
Martyr in the course of this war. He spent quite as much time with
the Queen's court as he did at the front, and he himself advances but
modest claims to war's laurels, writing rather as one who had missed
his vocation amongst men whose profession was fighting. The career he
sought did not lie in that direction. In later years writing to his
friend Marliano, he observed: _De bello autem si consilium amici
vis, bella gerant bellatores. Philosophis inhaereat lectionis et
contemplationis studium_.

Glorious as the date of Granada's capture might have been in Spanish
history, it acquired world-wide significance from the decision given
in favour of the project of Christopher Columbus which followed as a
consequence of the Christian victory. Though he nowhere states the
fact, Martyr must at this time[2] have known the Genoese suppliant for
royal patronage. Talavera, confessor to the Queen, was the friend and
protector of both Italians.

[Note 2: Navarrete states that the two Italians had known one
another intimately prior to the siege of Granada. _Coleccion de
documentos ineditos_, tom. i., p. 68.]

Fascinated by the novelties and charms of Granada, Martyr remained in
the conquered city when the Court withdrew. His friend Tendilla was
appointed first governor of the province and Talavera became its first
archbishop. Comparing the city with others, famous and beautiful in
Italy, he declared Granada to be the loveliest of them all; for Venice
was devoid of landscape and surrounded only by sea; Milan lay in a
flat stretch of monotonous plain; Florence might boast her hills,
but they made her winter climate frigid, while Rome was afflicted by
unwholesome winds from Africa and such poisonous exhalations from the
surrounding marshes that few of her citizens lived to old age. Such,
to eyes sensitive to Nature's charms and to a mind conscious of
historical significance, was the prize that had fallen to the Catholic

[Note 3: In the month of June, 1492.]

What influences worked to prepare the change which took place in Peter
Martyr's life within the next few months are not known. After the
briefest preparation, he took minor orders and occupied a canon's
stall in the cathedral of Granada. Of a religious vocation, understood
in the theological sense, there appears to have been no pretence,
but ten years later we find him a priest, with the rank of apostolic
protonotary. Writing on March 28, 1492, to Muro, the dean of
Compostello he observed: _Ad Saturnum, cessante Marte, sub hujus
sancti viri archiepiscopi umbra tento transfugere; a thorace jam ad
togam me transtuli_. In the coherent organisation of society as it
was then ordered, men were classified in distinct and recognisable
categories, each of which opened avenues to the ambitious for
attaining its special prizes. Spain was still scarcely touched by
the culture of the Renaissance. Outside the Church there was little
learning or desire for knowledge, nor did any other means for
recompensing scholars exist than by the bestowal of ecclesiastical
benefices. A prebend, a canonry, a professorship in the schools or
university were the sole sources of income for a man of letters. Peter
Martyr was such, nor did any other road to the distinction he frankly
desired, open before him. Perhaps Archbishop Talavera made this point
clear to him. Disillusionised, if indeed he had ever entertained
serious hope of success as a soldier, it cost him no effort to change
from the military to the more congenial sacerdotal caste.

Granada, for all its charms, quickly palled, and his first enthusiasm
subsiding, gave place to a sense of confinement, isolation, and
unrest. Not the companionship of his two attached friends could make
life in a provincial town, remote from the Court, tolerable to one who
had spent ten years of his life in the cultured world of Rome. The
monotonous routine of a canon's duties meant stagnation to his keen,
curious temperament, athirst for movement and novelty. His place was
amongst men, in the midst of events where he might observe, study,
and philosophically comment. Writing to Cardinal Mendoza, he frankly
confessed his unrest, declaring that the delights and beauties of
Nature, praised by the classical writers, ended by disgusting him and
that he could never know contentment save in the society of great men.
His nature craved life on the mountain tops of distinction rather than
existence in the valley of content. He did not yearn for Tusculum.

To manage a graceful re-entry to the Court was not easy. To Archbishop
Talavera, genial and humane, had succeeded the austere Ximenes
as confessor to Isabella. The post was an important one, for the
ascendancy of its occupant over the Queen was incontestable, but,
while Peter Martyr's perspicacity was quick to grasp the desirability
of conciliating the new confessor, it equally divined the barriers
forbidding access to the remote, detached Franciscan. In one of
his letters he compared the penetration of Ximenes to that of St.
Augustine, his austerity to that of St. Jerome, and his zeal for
the faith to that of St. Ambrose. Cardinal Ximenes had admirers and
detractors, but he had no friends.

In this dilemma Martyr felt himself alone, abandoned, and he was not
a little troubled as to his future prospects, for he was without an
advocate near the Queen. He wrote to several personages, even to the
young Prince, Don Juan, and evidently without result, for he observed
with a tinge of bitterness: "I see that King's favours, the chief
object of men's efforts, are more shifting and empty than the wind."
Fortune was kinder to him than she often shows herself to others
who no less assiduously cultivate her favour, nor was his patience
over-taxed by long waiting. With the return of peace, Queen Isabella's
interest in her plan for encouraging a revival of learning amongst
her courtiers re-awakened. It was her desire that the Spanish nobles
should cultivate the arts and literature, after the fashion prevailing
in Italy. Lucio Marineo Siculo, also a disciple of Pomponius Laetus,
had preceded Martyr in Spain by nearly two years, and was professor of
poetry and grammar at Salamanca. He was the first of the Italians who
came as torch-bearers of the Renaissance into Spain, to be followed
by Peter Martyr, Columbus, the Cabots, Gattinara, the Geraldini and
Marliano. Cardinal Mendoza availed himself of the propitious moment,
to propose Martyr's name for the office of preceptor to direct the
studies of the young noblemen. In response to a welcome summons, the
impatient canon left Granada and repaired to Valladolid where the
Court then resided.[4] The ungrateful character and dubious results
of the task before him were obvious, the chief difficulties to be
apprehended threatening to come from his noble pupils, whose minds
and manners he was expected to form. Restive under any save military
discipline, averse by temperament and custom to studies of any sort,
it was hardly to be hoped that they would easily exchange their gay,
idle habits for schoolroom tasks under a foreign pedagogue. Yet this
miracle did Peter Martyr work. The charm of his personality counted
for much, the enthusiasm of the Queen and the presence in the school
of the Infante Don Juan, whose example the youthful courtiers dared
not disdain, for still more, and the house of the Italian preceptor
became the fashionable rendezvous of young gallants who, a few months
earlier, would have scoffed at the idea of conning lessons in grammar
and poetry, and listening to lectures on morals and conduct from a
foreigner. Of his quarters in Saragossa in the first year of his
classes he wrote: _Domum habeo tota die ebullientibus Procerum
juvenibus repletam_.

[Note 4: In the month of June, 1492.]

During the next nine years of his life, Peter Martyr devoted himself
to his task and with results that gratified the Queen and reflected
credit upon her choice. In October of 1492 he had been appointed by
the Queen, _Contino de su casa_,[5] with a revenue of thirty thousand
maravedis. Shortly after, he was given a chaplaincy in the royal
household, an appointment which increased both his dignity and his
income. His position was now assured, his popularity and influence
daily expanded.

[Note 5: An office in the Queen's household, the duties and
privileges of which are not quite clear. Mariejol suggests that the
_contini_ corresponded to the _gentilshommes de la chambre_ at
the French Court. Lucio Marineo Siculo mentioned these palatine
dignitaries immediately after the two captains and the two hundred
gentlemen composing the royal body-guard. Consult Mariejol, _Pierre
Martyr d'Anghera, sa vie et ses oeuvres_, Paris, 1887.]

It would be interesting to know something of his system of teaching in
what proved to be a peripatetic academy, since he and his aristocratic
pupils always followed the Court in its progress from city to city;
but nowhere in his correspondence, teeming with facts and commentaries
on the most varied subjects, is anything definite to be gleaned. Latin
poetry and prose, the discourses of Cicero, rhetoric, and church
history were important subjects in his curriculum. Though he
frequently mentions Aristotle in terms of high admiration, it may be
doubted whether he ever taught Greek. There is no evidence that he
even knew that tongue. Besides the Infante Don Juan, the Duke of
Braganza, Don Juan of Portugal, Villahermosa, cousin to the King, Don
Inigo de Mendoza, and the Marquis of Priego were numbered among his
pupils. Nor did his personal influence cease when they left his
classes. The renascence of learning did not move with the spontaneous,
almost revolutionary, vigour that characterised the revival in Italy,
nor was Peter Martyr of the paganised scholars in whom the cult
for antiquity had undermined Christian faith--else had he not been
acceptable to Queen Isabella.

Some authors, including Ranke, have described him as occupying the
post of Secretary of Latin Letters. Officially he never did. His
knowledge of Latin, in a land where few were masters of the language
of diplomatic and literary intercourse, was brought into frequent
service, and it was no uncommon thing for him to turn the Spanish
draft of a state paper or despatch into Latin.[6] He refused a chair
in the University of Salamanca, but consented on one occasion to
deliver a lecture before its galaxy of distinguished professors and
four thousand students. He chose for his subject the second satire of
Juvenal, and for more than an hour held his listeners spellbound under
the charm of his eloquence. He thus described his triumph: _Domum
tanquam ex Olympo victorem primarii me comitantur_.[7]

[Note 6: _Talvolta era incaricato di voltare in latino le
correspondenze diplomatiche pin importanti. I ministri o i lor
segretari ne faceano la minuta in ispagnuolo, ed egli le recava nella
lingua che era allora adoperata come lingua internazionale_. Ciampi,
_Nuova Antologia_, tom, iii., p. 69.]

[Note 7: _Opus Epistolarum_. Ep. lvii.]

During these prosperous years in Spain, the promise made to Cardinal
Ascanio Sforza was faithfully kept, though the latter's early fall
from his high estate in Rome diverted Martyr's letters to other
personages. With fervent and unflagging interest he followed the swift
march of disastrous events in his native Italy. The cowardly murder
of Gian Galeazzo by his perfidious and ambitious nephew, Lodovico il
Moro; the death of the magnificent Lorenzo in Florence; the accession
to power of the unscrupulous Borgia family, with Alexander VI. upon
the papal throne; the French invasion of Naples--all these and other
similar calamities bringing in their train the destruction of Italy,
occupied his attention and filled his correspondence with lamentations
and sombre presages for the future.

He was the first to herald the discovery of the new world, and to
publish the glory of his unknown compatriot to their countrymen. To
Count Giovanni Borromeo he wrote concerning the return of Columbus
from his first voyage: ..._rediit ab Antipodibus occiduis
Christophorus quidam Colonus, vir ligur, qui a meis regibus ad hanc
provinciam tria vix impetraverat navigia, quia fabulosa, que dicebat,
arbitrabantur; rediit preciosum multarum rerum sed auri precipue,
qua suapte natura regiones generant tulit_. Significant is the
introduction of the great navigator: _Christophorus quidam Colonus,
vir ligur_. There was nothing more to know or say about the sailor
of lowly origin and obscure beginnings, whose great achievement shed
glory on his unconscious fatherland and changed the face of the world.


In the year 1497 Peter Martyr was designated for a diplomatic mission
that gratified his ambition and promised him an opportunity to revisit
Rome and Milan.

Ladislas II., King of Bohemia, sought to repudiate his wife Beatrice,
daughter of King Ferdinand of Naples, and widow of Matthias Corvinus,
King of Hungary. Being a princess of Aragon, the outraged lady's
appeal in her distress to her powerful kinsman in Spain found
Ferdinand of Aragon disposed to intervene in her behalf. It was to
champion her cause that Peter Martyr was chosen to go as ambassador
from the Catholic sovereigns to Bohemia, stopping on his way at Rome
to lay the case before the Pope. In the midst of his preparations for
the journey the unwelcome and disconcerting intelligence that Pope
Alexander VI. leaned rather to the side of King Ladislas reached
Spain. This gave the case a new and unexpected complexion. The Spanish
sovereigns first wavered and then reversed their decision. The
embassy was cancelled and the disappointed ambassador cheated of the
distinction and pleasure he already tasted in anticipation.

Four years later circumstances rendered an embassy to the Sultan of
Egypt imperative. Ever since the fall of Granada, which was followed
by the expulsion of Moors and Jews from Spain or their forcible
conversion to Christianity if they remained in the country, the
Mussulman world throughout Northern Africa had been kept in a ferment
by the lamentations and complaints of the arriving exiles. Islam
throbbed with sympathy for the vanquished, and thirsted for vengeance
on the oppressors. The Mameluke Sultan of Egypt, aroused to action by
the reports of the persecution of his brethren in blood and faith,
threatened reprisals, which he was in a position to carry out on
the persons and property of the numerous Christian merchants in the
Levant, as well as on the pilgrims who annually visited the Holy Land.
The Franciscan friars, guardians of the holy places in Palestine, were
especially at his mercy. Representations had been made in Rome and
referred by the Pope to Spain. King Ferdinand temporised, denying the
truth of the reports of persecution and alleging that no oppressive
measures had been adopted against the Moors, describing whatever
hardships they may have suffered as unavoidably incidental to the
reorganisation of the recently acquired provinces. His tranquillising
assurances were not accepted with unreserved credence by the Sultan.
By the year 1501, the situation had become so strained, owing to the
knowledge spread through the Mussulman world that an edict of general
expulsion was in preparation, that it was decided to despatch an
embassy to soothe the Sultan's angry alarm and to protect, if
possible, the Christians within his dominions from the threatened
vengeance. For this delicate and novel negotiation, Peter Martyr was
chosen. The avowed object of his mission has been suspected of masking
some undeclared purpose, though what this may have been is purely a
matter of conjecture. He was also entrusted with a secret message to
the Doge and Senate of Venice, where French influences were felt to be
at work against the interests of Spain. Travelling by way of Narbonne
and Avignon, the ambassador reached Venice a few days after the death
of the Doge, Barbarigo, and before a successor had been elected.
Brief as was his stay in the city of lagoons, every hour of it was
profitably employed. He visited churches, palaces, and convents,
inspecting their libraries and art treasures; he was enraptured by the
beauty and splendour of all he beheld. Nothing escaped his searching
inquiries concerning the form of government, the system of elections,
the ship-building actively carried on in the great arsenal, and the
extent and variety of commercial intercourse with foreign nations.
Mention of his visit is made in the famous diary of the younger Marino

[Note 1: _A di 30 Septembris giunse qui uno orator dei reali di
Spagna; va al Soldano al Cairo; qual monto su le Gallie nostre di
Alessandria; si dice per prepare il Soliano relaxi i frati di Monte
Syon e li tratti bene, e che 30 mila. Mori di Granata si sono
baptizati di sua volonta, e non coacti_.]

Delightful and absorbing as he undoubtedly found it to linger amidst
the glories of Venice, the ambassador was not forgetful that the
important purpose of his mission lay elsewhere. Delivering his message
to the Senate, he crossed to Pola (Pula), where eight Venetian ships lay,
ready to sail to various ports in the Levant. The voyage to Egypt
proved a tempestuous one, and it was the twenty-third of December when
the storm-beaten vessel safely entered the port of Alexandria, after
a narrow escape from being wrecked on the rocky foundations of the
famous Pharos of antiquity. Christian merchants trading in the Levant
were at that period divided into two groups, one of which was under
the protection of Venice, the other, in which were comprised all
Spanish subjects, being under that of France. The French consul,
Felipe de Paredes, a Catalonian by birth, offered the hospitality of
his house pending the arrival of the indispensable safe-conduct and
escort from the Sultan. In the _Legatio Babylonica_, Peter Martyr
describes, with lamentations, the squalor of the once splendid city of
Alexandria, famous for its beautiful gardens, superb palaces, and rich
libraries. The ancient capital of the Ptolemies was reduced to a mere
remnant of its former size, and of its former glories not a vestige
was perceptible.[2] Cansu Alguri[3] reigned in Cairo. A man personally
inclined to toleration, his liberty of action was fettered by the
fanaticism of his courtiers and the Mussulman clergy. The moment was
not a propitious one for an embassy soliciting favours for Christians.
The Portuguese had but recently sunk an Egyptian vessel off Calicut,
commercial rivalries were bitter, and the harsh treatment of the
conquered Moors in Spain had aroused religious antagonism to fever
pitch and bred feelings of universal exasperation against the foes of

[Note 2: Writing to Pedro Fajardo he thus expressed himself:
_Alexandriam sepe perambulavi: lacrymosum est ejus ruinas intueri;
centum millium atque eo amplius domorum uti per ejus vestigere licet
colligere meo judicio quondam fuit Alexandria; nunc quatuor vix
millibus contenta est focis; turturibus nunc et columbis pro
habitationibus nidos prestat, etc_.]

[Note 3: Also spelled Quansou Ghoury and Cansa Gouri; Peter Martyr
writes _Campsoo Gauro_.]

From Rosetta Peter Martyr started on January 26th on his journey to
the Egyptian Babylon,[4] as he was pleased to style Cairo, travelling
by boat on the Nile and landing at Boulaq in the night. The next
morning a Christian renegade, Tangriberdy by name, who held the
important office of Grand Dragoman to the Sultan, presented himself to
arrange the ceremonial to be observed at the audience with his master.
This singular man, a Spanish sailor from Valencia, had been years
before wrecked on the Egyptian coast and taken captive. By forsaking
his faith he saved his life, and had gradually risen from a state
of servitude to his post of confidence near the Sultan's person.
Tangriberdy availed himself of the opportunity afforded by his duties,
to relate to the ambassador the story of his life and his forcible
conversion, declaring that, in his heart, he clung to the Christian
faith and longed to return to his native Spain. Whether his sentiments
were sincere or feigned, his presence in an influential capacity
at the Sultan's court was a fortuitous circumstance of which the
ambassador gladly took advantage. The audience was fixed for the
following morning at daybreak, and that night Tangriberdy lodged the
embassy in his own palace.

[Note 4: Cairo was thus called in the Middle Ages, the name
belonging especially to one of the city's suburbs. See _Quatremere
Memoires geographiques te historiques sur l'Egypt_. Paris, 1811.]

Traversing the streets of Cairo, thronged with a hostile crowd curious
to view the _giaour_, Peter Martyr, accompanied by the Grand Dragoman
and his Mameluke escort, mounted to the citadel, where stood the
stately palace built by Salah-Eddin. After crossing two courts he
found himself in a third, where sat the Sultan upon a marble dais
richly draped and cushioned. The prostrations exacted by Eastern
etiquette were dispensed with, the envoy being even invited to sit in
the august presence. Thrice the Sultan assured him of his friendly
disposition; no business was transacted, and after these formalities
the ambassador withdrew as he had come, a second audience being fixed
for the following Sunday.

Meanwhile, the envoys from the Barbary States, who were present for
the purpose of defeating the negotiations, excited the populace by
appeals to their fanaticism, reminding them of the cruelties endured
by their brethern of the true faith at the hands of Spaniards. They
even declared that if Cansu Alguri consented to treat with the
infidels, he was no true son of Islam. A council of military chiefs
was summoned which quickly decided to demand the immediate dismissal
of the Christian ambassador. Tangriberdy, who sought to alter this
determination, was even threatened with death if he persisted in his
opposition. Remembering that he owed his throne to the Mamelukes, who
had exalted and destroyed no less than four Sultans within as many
years, Cansu Alguri quailed before the outburst of popular fury. He
ordered Tangriberdy to conduct the obnoxious visitor from the capital
without further delay. Peter Martyr, however, received this intimation
with unruffled calm and, to the stupefaction of Tangriberdy, refused
to leave until he had accomplished his mission. Such audacity in a
mild-mannered ecclesiastic was as impressive as it was unexpected. The
Grand Dragoman had no choice but to report the refusal to the Sultan.
By what arguments he prevailed upon Cansu Alguri to rescind his
command, we know not, but a secret audience was arranged in which
Martyr describes himself as speaking with daring and persuasive
frankness to the Sultan. He availed himself in the most ample manner
of diplomatic license in dealing with facts, and succeeded in
convincing his listener that no Moors had been forced to change their
religion, that the conquest of Granada was but the re-establishment of
Spanish sovereignty over what had been taken by conquest, and
finally that nobody had been expelled from the country, save lawless
marauders, who refused to abide by the terms of the fair treaty of
peace concluded between Boabdil and the Catholic sovereigns. He closed
his plea by adroitly introducing a scapegoat in the person of the
universally execrated Jew, against whom it was the easiest part of his
mission to awaken the dormant hatred and contempt of the Sultan. Into
willing Mussulman ears he poured a tirade of abuse, typical of the
epoch and the nation he represented: ..._proh si scires quam morbosum,
quam pestiferum; quamque contagiosum pecus istud de quo loqueris sit,
tactu omnia fedant, visu corrumpunt sermone destruunt, divina et
humana preturbant, inficiunt, prostrant miseros vicinos circumveniunt,
radicitus expellant, funestant; ubicumque pecunias esse presentiunt,
tamquam odori canes insequunt; detegunt, effundiunt, per mendacia,
perjuria, dolos insidias per litas, si catera non seppelunt,
extorquere illas laborant: aliena miseria, dolore, gemitu, mestitia
gaudent_. With every word of this diatribe, the representative of the
Prophet was in perfect agreement. United in the bonds of a common
hatred, than which no union is closer, a treaty between the two powers
was easily concluded. The military chiefs were converted to the
advantages of friendly relations with Spain, and means were devised to
calm the popular excitement.

Assisted by some monks of the Mount Sion community, the successful
ambassador drafted the concessions he solicited, all of which were
graciously accorded by the mollified Egyptians. Christians were
henceforth to be permitted to rebuild and repair the ruined
sanctuaries throughout the Holy Land; the tribute levied on pilgrims
was lightened and guaranties for their personal safety were given. It
is noteworthy that only religious interests received attention, no
mention being made of commercial privileges. More noteworthy still, is
the absence of anything tangible given by the adroit envoy in exchange
for what he got. The Sultan was reassured as to the status of such
Moors as might remain under Spanish rule, and was encouraged to
count upon unspecified future advantages from the friendship of King
Ferdinand. A truly singular result of negotiations begun under such
unfavourable auspices, though the value of concessions, to
the observance of which nothing constrained the Sultan, seems
problematical, and was certainly less than the ambassador, in his
naive vanity, hastened to assume and proclaim.

While the text of the treaty was being prepared, Peter Martyr occupied
himself in collecting information concerning the mysterious land where
he found himself. Egypt was all but unknown to his contemporaries,
whose most recent information concerning the country was derived from
the writings of the ancients. The _Legatio Babylonica_, consisting of
three reports to the Spanish sovereigns, to which addenda were later
made, contains a mass of historical and geographical facts, of which
Europeans were ignorant; nothing escaped the ambassador's omnivorous
curiosity and discerning scrutiny, during what proved to be a
veritable voyage of discovery. He treats of the flora and fauna of
the country; he studied and noted the characteristics of the great
life-giver of Egypt--the Nile. The Mamelukes engaged his particular
attention, though much of the information furnished him about them was
erroneous. He plunged into antiquity, visited, measured, and described
the Sphinx and the Pyramids--also with many errors. Christian
tradition and pious legends have their place in his narrative,
especially that of Matarieh--_ubi Christus latuerat_ when carried
by his parents into Egypt to escape the Herodian massacre of the

On the twenty-first of February, Peter Martyr, escorted by a guard of
honour composed of high court officials and respectfully saluted by
a vast concourse of people, repaired to the palace for his farewell
audience. In taking an affectionate leave of him, the Sultan presented
him with a gorgeous robe, heavy with cunningly-wrought embroideries.
Christian and Mussulman were friends. Six days later he left the
capital for Alexandria, where he embarked on April 22d for Venice.


Leonardo Loredano had meantime been elected Doge in succession to
the deceased Agostino Barbarigo. Spanish interests in the kingdom of
Naples were seriously compromised, and the diligence of the French
envoys threatened to win Venice from the neutral policy the Republic
had adopted and convert it into an ally of Louis XII.

On June 30th, Peter Martyr landed in Venice and immediately sought
audience of the new Doge, to whom he repeated the message he had
delivered a few months before to the Senate. Perceiving the headway
made by French influence, he wrote to Spain, explaining the situation
and urging the sovereigns immediately to despatch an embassy to
counteract the mischievous activity of the French. He offered, as
an alternative, to himself assume the negotiations if the requisite
instructions were sent to him. King Ferdinand ignored the proffer of
service, but, acting upon the information sent him, entrusted the
business to Lorenzo Suarez de Figueroa, who had been his ambassador
in Venice in 1495. Zealous for his adopted country and, possibly,
overconfident in consequence of his easy success in Egypt, Peter
Martyr did not wait for the credentials he had solicited but made the
mistake of treating affairs for which he had received no mandate. The
French envoys were quick to detect his opposition, and as prompt to
take advantage of the false position in which the diplomatic
novice had unwarily placed himself. His unaccredited presence and
officiousness in the capital of the Doges were made to appear both
offensive and ridiculous. The adherents of the French party denounced
him as an intriguer, and spread the report that he was a spy in the
pay of Spain. His position speedily became intolerable, unsafe even,
and he was forced to escape secretly from the city; nor did he stop
until he reached his native Lombardy, where he might rely upon the
protection of his kinsmen, the Marshal Trivulzio and the Borromeos, to
shield him from the consequences of his indiscretion.

He writes with emotion of the visit he paid to his native town of
Arona and the scenes of his childhood, where he renewed acquaintance
with the charms of one of the loveliest landscapes in Italy. He
yielded to early memories, and the gentle dream of one day returning
to the shores of Maggiore, there to pass his declining years, took
shape in his fancy. When peace between France and Spain was later
restored, after King Ferdinand's marriage to the Princess Germaine
de Foix, he obtained the King's intercession to procure for him the
abbacy of St. Gratian at Arona. He himself solicited the protection
of the Cardinal d'Amboise to obtain him this favour, declaring the
revenues from the abbacy were indifferent to him, as he would only use
them to restore to its pristine splendour the falling church in which
reposed the holy relics of SS. Gratian, Fidelius, and Carpophorus.
The peace between the two countries was too ephemeral to permit the
realisation of his pious hope.

The Marshal Trivulzio accompanied his kinsman to Asti and from
thence to Carmagnola where they obtained an audience of the Cardinal
d'Amboise, Legate for France. Despite his undisguised hostility to
Spaniards, the Legate furnished the ambassador with a safe-conduct
over the frontier into Spain.

If the Catholic monarchs felt any vexation at the excess of zeal their
envoy had displayed in Venice, they betrayed none. Peter Martyr's
reception was not wanting in cordiality, the Queen, especially,
expressing her gratitude for the important service he had rendered
the Christian religion, and he received another appointment[1] which
augmented his income by thirty thousand maravedis yearly. Having taken
holy orders about this time and the dignity of prior of the cathedral
chapter of Granada falling vacant, this benefice was also given to
him, _regis et reginae beneficentia_.

[Note 1: _Maestro de los cabelleros de su corte en las artes
liberates_. He had long exercised the functions of this office, as
has been described: the formal appointment was doubtless but a means
invented for granting him an increase of revenue.]

On November 26th in the year 1504, the death of Isabella of Castile
plunged the Court and people into mourning and produced a crisis in
the government that threatened the arduously accomplished union of
the peninsula with disruption. None mourned the Queen's death more
sincerely than did her Italian chaplain. He accompanied the funeral
cortege on its long journey to Granada, where the body was laid in the
cathedral of the city her victorious arms had restored to the bosom
of Christendom. During several months, Martyr lingered in Granada,
hesitating before returning uninvited to King Ferdinand's Court. To a
letter from the Secretary of State, Perez Almazen, summoning him to
rejoin the King without delay, he somewhat coyly answered, deprecating
his ability to be of further service to His Majesty, adding, however,
that he asked nothing better than to obey the summons. Elsewhere,
in one of his Epistles, he states that he returned to the court at
Segovia, as representative of his chapter, to secure the continuation
of certain revenues paid from the royal treasury to the clergy of

The political situation created by the Queen's death was both
perplexing and menacing.[2] Dona Juana, wife of the Archduke Philip,
inherited the crown of Castile from her mother in default of male
heirs, but her mental state excluded the possibility of her assuming
the functions of government. Already during her mother's lifetime, the
health of this unhappy princess, who has passed into history under the
title of Juana the Mad, gave rise to serious anxiety. Deserted by the
handsome and frivolous Philip at a time when she most required his
presence, she sank into a state of profound melancholy. She waited, in
vain, for the return of the husband whom her unreasoning jealousy and
amorous importunities had driven from her.

[Note 2: The Infante Don Juan died in October, 1497, shortly after
his early marriage with the Archduchess Margaret of Austria, and
without issue. Isabella, Queen of Portugal, died after giving birth to
a son, in whom the three crowns of Portugal, Castile, and Aragon would
have been united had the prince not expired in 1500, while still a
child. Dona Juana, second daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella and next
heir, had married, in 1496, the Archduke Philip of Austria, Duke of
Burgundy, and became the mother of Charles I. of Spain, commonly known
by his imperial title of Charles V.]

In conformity with the late Queen's wishes, Ferdinand hastened to
proclaim his daughter and Philip sovereigns of Castile, reserving to
himself the powers of regent. He was willing to gratify the archduke's
vanity by conceding him the royal title, while keeping the government
in his own hands, and had there been no one but his absent son-in-law
with whom to reckon, his policy would have stood a fair chance of
success. It was thwarted by the intrigues of a powerful faction
amongst the aristocracy, who deemed the opportunity a promising one
for recovering some of the privileges of which they had been shorn.

Ferdinand of Aragon had gained little hold on the affections of the
people of his wife's dominions, hence his position became one of
extreme difficulty. His opponents urged the archduke to hasten his
arrival in Spain and to assume the regency in the name of his invalid
wife. Rumours that Louis XII. had accorded his son-in-law permission
to traverse France at the head of a small army rendered the regency
insecure, and to forestall the complication of a possible alliance
between Philip and King Louis, Ferdinand, despite his advanced age and
the recent death of his wife, asked the hand of a French princess,
Germaine de Foix, in marriage, offering to settle the crown of Naples
upon her descendants. To conciliate Philip, he proposed to share with
him the regency. Upon the arrival of the latter at Coruna in the month
of May, Martyr was chosen by the King to repair thither and obtain
the archduke's adhesion to this proposal. That the latter had
distinguished the Italian savant by admitting him to his intimacy
during his former stay in Spain, did not save the mission from
failure, and where Peter Martyr failed, Cardinal Ximenes was later
equally unsuccessful. Ferdinand ended by yielding and, after a final
interview with his son-in-law in Remesal, at which Peter Martyr was
present, he left Spain on his way to Naples, the latter remaining with
the mad queen to observe and report the course of events.

The sudden death of King Philip augmented the unrest throughout the
country, for the disappearance of this ineffective sovereign left the
state without even a nominal head. Ferdinand, who had reached Porto
Fino when the news was brought to him, made no move to return,
confident that the Castilians would soon be forced to invite him to
resume the government; on the contrary, he tranquilly continued his
journey to Naples. Rivals, he had none, for his grandson, Charles,
was still a child, while the unfortunate Juana passed her time in
celebrating funeral rites for her dead husband, whose coffin she
carried about with her, opening it to contemplate the body, of which
she continued to be so jealous that all women were kept rigorously at
a distance. A provisional government, formed to act for her, consisted
of Cardinal Ximenes, the Constable of Castile and the Duke of Najera,
but inspired little confidence. Peter Martyr perceived that, besides
Ferdinand, there was no one capable of restoring order and governing
the state. He wrote repeatedly to the secretary, Perez Almazen, and to
the King himself, urging the latter's speedy return as the country's
only salvation from anarchy. Events proved the soundness of his
judgment, for the mere news of the King's landing at Valencia sufficed
to restore confidence; he resumed the regency unopposed and continued
to govern Castile, in his daughter's name, until his own death.

Dona Juana ceased her lugubrious peregrinations and took up her
residence in the monastery of Santa Clara at Tordesillas, where she
consented to the burial of her husband's body in a spot visible from
her windows. Peter Martyr was one of the few persons who saw the
unhappy lady and even gained some influence over her feeble mind.
Mazzuchelli states that, at one period, there were but two bishops and
Peter Martyr to whom the Queen consented even to listen. Now and
again the figure of the insane queen appears like a pallid spectre in
Martyr's pages. Her caprices and vagaries are noted from time to time
in the _Opus Epistolarum_; indeed the story of her sufferings is all
there. The insanity of Dona Juana was not seriously doubted by her
contemporaries--certainly not by Martyr, whose portrait of her
character is perhaps the most accurate contemporary one we possess.
He traces her malady from its incipiency, through the successive
disquieting manifestations of hysteria, melancholia, and fury,
broken by periods of partial and even complete mental lucidity. Such
intervals became rarer and briefer as time went on.[3]

[Note 3: The efforts of the historian Bergenroth to establish
Dona Juana's sanity and to depict her as the victim of religious
persecution because of her suspected orthodoxy have been conclusively
refuted by Maurenbrecher, Gachard, and other writers, who have
demolished his arguments and censured his methods of research
and interpretation. The last mention of Dona Juana in the _Opus
Epistolarum_ occurs in Epistle DCCCII. Peter Martyr describes the
visit paid her by her daughter Isabella, who was about to be married
to the Infante of Portugal. The insanity of the Queen was used as a
political pawn by both her husband and her father, each affirming or
denying as it suited his purpose for the moment. The husband, however,
was stronger than the father, for the unhappy Juana would have signed
away her crown at his bidding in exchange for a caress. Consult
Hoefler, _Dona Juana_; Gachard, _Jeanne la Folle_; Maurenbrecher,
_Studien und Skizzen zur Geschichte der Reformationszeit_; Pedro de
Alcocer, _Relacion de algunas Cosas_; and Bergenroth's _Calendar of
Letters, Despatches, and State Papers_, etc. (1869).]

Upon the death of King Ferdinand in 1516, the regency devolved upon
Cardinal Ximenes, pending the arrival of the young King, Charles, from
the Netherlands. The character of Cardinal Ximenes and his methods of
government have been extolled by his admirers and condemned by his
adversaries. The judgment of Peter Martyr is perhaps the least biassed
of any expressed by that statesman's contemporaries. His personal
dislike of the Cardinal did not blind him to his qualities, nor
dull his appreciation of the obstacles with which the latter had to
contend. In the _Opus Epistolarum_ he seeks, not always with entire
success, to do justice to the great regent. Through his laborious
efforts to be fair to the statesman, there pierces his personal
dislike of the man. Trivial jibes and small criticisms at the
Cardinal's expense are not wanting. The writer shared the feeling of
the Spanish Grandees, that it was "odious to be governed by a friar."
He also derided the Cardinal's military spirit. One of the regent's
earliest measures suppressed all pensions, but though he excepted
Martyr by name, pending the King's decision, no answer came from the
Netherlands; the Italian fared as did other pensioners, and he
never forgave the Cardinal. Many of his letters of this period were
addressed to his compatriot, Marliano, who was the young King's
doctor, and were evidently intended for the monarch's eye. In
these epistles, adverse judgments and censures of Cardinal Ximenes
frequently recur, and the writer used the greatest frankness in
describing men and events in Spain, and even in offering suggestions
as to the King's policy upon his arrival.

Yielding to the repeated instances of the regent, Charles finally set
out to take possession of his unknown kingdom. He landed, after a
tempestuous voyage, near Gijon, bringing with him a numerous train
of Flemish courtiers and officials, whose primary interest lay in
preventing a meeting between himself and the regent, and whose
presence was destined to cause a serious estrangement between the
monarch and his Castilian subjects. Their first purpose was easily
accomplished. While the Cardinal awaited him near Roa, the King
avoided him by proceeding directly to Tordesillas to visit his mother.
This ungracious and unmerited snub was applauded by Martyr, who
dismissed the incident with almost flippant mention; nor did he
afterwards touch upon the aged Cardinal's death which occurred
simultaneously with the reception of the unfeeling message sent by
Charles to the greatest, the most faithful and the most disinterested
of his servants.[4]

[Note 4: Consult Hefele, _Vie de Ximenez; Cartas de los
Secretarios del Cardinal_; Ferrer del Rio, _Comunidades de Castilla_;
Ranke, _Spanien unter Karl V_.]

During the opening years of his reign, the boy-king proved a docile
pupil under the control of his ministers.[5] Peter Martyr wrote of
him: "He directs nothing but is himself directed. He has a happy
disposition, is magnanimous, liberal, generous--but what of it, since
these qualities contribute to his country's ruin?" So reserved was the
royal youth in his manner, so slow of speech, that his mental capacity
began to be suspected. People remembered his mother. The story of the
troubled beginnings of what proved to be one of the most remarkable
reigns in modern history, is related in the _Opus Epistolarum_. The
writer watched from vantage-ground the conflict of interests, the
strife of parties; zealous for the welfare of his adopted country,
he was still a foreigner, identified with no party. Gifted with
rare perspicacity, moderation, and keen judgment, he maintained his
attitude of impartial observation. By temperament and habit he was an
aristrocrat--_placet Hispana nobilitas_--he confessed, admitting also
that _de populo nil mihi curae_, yet he sided with the _comuneros_
against the Crown. While deploring their excesses, he sympathised with
the cause they defended, and he lashed the insolence and the rapacity
of the Flemish favourites with all the resources of invective and
sarcasm of which he was master. In one of his letters (Ep. 709), he
describes the disorders everywhere prevalent throughout the country.
"The safest roads are no longer secure from brigands and you enrich
bandits and criminals, and oppress honest folks. The ruling power is
now in the hands of assassins." Despite his undisguised hostility to
the Flemings and his outspoken criticisms on the abuses they fomented,
Charles V. bestowed new honours and emoluments upon the favoured
counsellor of his grandparents. In September, 1518, the Royal Council
proposed his name to the King as ambassador to Constantinople, there
to treat with the victorious Sultan, whose sanguinary triumphs in
Persia and Egypt were feared to foreshadow an Ottoman invasion of
Europe. Alleging his advanced age and infirmities, the cautious
nominee declined the honour, preferring doubtless to abide by his
facile diplomatic laurels won in Cairo. There was reason to anticipate
that the formidable Selim would be found less pliant than Cansu
Alguri. The event proved his wisdom, as Garcia Loaysa who went in his
stead, learned to his cost.

[Note 5: Guillaume de Croy, Sieur de Chievres, who had been the
young prince's governor during his minority, became all powerful in
Spain, where he and his Flemish associates pillaged the treasury,
trafficked in benefices and offices, and provoked the universal hatred
of the Spaniards. Peter Martyr shared the indignation of his adopted
countrymen against the King's Flemish parasites. His sympathies for
the _Comuneros_ were frankly avowed in numerous of his letters.
Consult Hoefler, _Der Aufstand der Castillianischen Staedte_;
Robertson, _Charles V_.]

In 1520, Peter Martyr was appointed historiographer, an office
yielding a revenue of eighty thousand maravedis. The conscientious
discharge of the duties of this congenial post, for which he was
conspicuously fitted, won the approval of Mercurino Gattinara, the
Italian chancellor of Charles V. Lucio Marineo Siculo speaks of Martyr
as far back as December, 1510, as _Consiliarius regius_, though
this title could, at that time, be given him only in his quality of
chronicler of the India Council, his effective membership really
dating from the year 1518. He was later appointed secretary to that
important body, which had control over all questions relating to
colonial expansion in the new world. In 1521 he renewed his efforts to
obtain the abbacy of St. Gratian in Arona, which had been refused him
ten years earlier. To his friend, Giovanni di Forli, Archbishop of
Cosenza, he wrote, protesting his disinterestedness, adding: "Don't be
astonished that I covet this abbey: you know I am drawn to it by love
of my native soil." It was not to be, and his failure to obtain this
benefice was one of the severest disappointments of his life. The
ambitions of Peter Martyr were never excessive, for he was in all
things a man of moderation; the honours he obtained, though many, were
sufficiently modest to protect him from the competition and jealousy
of aspiring rivals, yet he would certainly not have refused a
bishopric. After seeing four royal confessors raised to episcopal
rank, he slyly remarked that, "amongst so many confessors, it would
have been well to have one Martyr."[6]

[Note 6: "Tra tanti confessori, sarebbe stato ancora bene un
Martire," _Chevroeana_, p. 39. Ed. 1697.]

Arriving in Spain a foreign scholar of modest repute, and dependent on
the protection of his patron, the Count of Tendilla, Peter Martyr had
risen in royal favour, until he came to occupy honourable positions in
the State and numerous benefices in the Church. His services to his
protectors were valued and valuable. His house, whereever he happened
for the time to be, was the hospitable meeting-place where statesmen,
noblemen, foreign envoys, great ecclesiastics, and papal legates came
together with navigators and conquerors, cosmographers, colonial
officials, and returning explorers from antipodal regions--Spain's
empire builders. It was in such society he collected the mass of
first-hand information he sifted and chronicled in the Decades and the
_Opus Epistolarum_, which have proven such an inexhaustible mine for
students of Spanish and Spanish-American history. Truly of him may it
be said that nothing human was alien to his spirit. Intercourse with
him was prized as a privilege by the great men of his time, while he
converted his association with them to his own and posterity's profit.

Amongst the Flemish counsellors of Charles V., Adrian of Utrecht,
preceptor of the young prince prior to his accession, had arrived in
Spain in the year 1515 as representative of his interests at King
Ferdinand's court. Upon that monarch's death, Adrian, who had meantime
been made Bishop of Tortosa and created Cardinal, shared the regency
with Cardinal Ximenes. A man of gentle manners and scholastic
training, his participation in the regency was hardly more than
nominal. Ignorant alike of the Spanish tongue and the intricacies of
political life, he willingly effaced himself in the shadow of his
imperious and masterful colleague. Peter Martyr placed his services
entirely at the disposition of Adrian, piloting him amongst the
shoals and reefs that rendered perilous the mysterious sea of Spanish
politics. When Adrian was elected Pope in 1522, his former mentor
wrote felicitating him upon his elevation and reminding him of the
services he had formerly rendered him: _Fuistis a me de rebus quae
gerebantur moniti; nec parum commodi ad emergentia tunc negotia
significationes meas Caesaris rebus attulisse vestra Beatitudo
fatetur_. Although the newly elected Pontiff expressed an amiable wish
to see his old friend in Rome, he offered him no definite position in
Curia. The correspondence that ensued between them was inconclusive;
Martyr, always declaring that he sought no favour, still persisted in
soliciting a meeting which the Pope discouraged. Adrian accepted his
protests of disinterestedness literally, and their last meeting at
Logrono was unproductive of aught from the Pope, save expressions
of personal esteem and regard. Peter Martyr excused himself from
following His Holiness to Rome, on the plea of his advanced years and
failing health. If disappointed at receiving no definite appointment,
he concealed his chagrin, and, though evidently not desiring his
services in Curia, one of Adrian's first acts upon arriving in Rome
was to invest him with the archpriest's benefice of Ocana in Spain.
The ever generous King was less niggardly, and, in 1523, conferred
upon Martyr the German title of Pfalzgraf, with the privilege of
naming imperial notaries and legitimising natural children.

On August 15, 1524, the King presented his name to Clement VII. for
confirmation as mitred abbot of Santiago in the island of Jamaica, a
benefice rendered vacant by the translation of Don Luis Figueroa to
the bishopric of San Domingo and La Concepcion.[7] A greater title
would have doubtless pleased him less, since this one linked his name
with the Church in the New World, of which he was the first historian.
He surrendered his priory of Granada to accept the Jamaican dignity,
the revenues from which he devoted to the construction of the first
stone church built at Sevilla del 'Oro in that island. Above its
portal an inscription bore witness to his generosity: _Petrus Martyr
ab Angleria, italus civis mediolanensis, protonotarius apostolicus
hujus insulae, abbas, senatus indici consiliarius, ligneam priusaedem
hanc bis igne consumptam, latericio et quadrato lapide primus a
fundamentis extruxit_.[8]

[Note 7: The King instructed his ambassador in Rome to propose
Luis Figueroa to succeed Alessandro Geraldino as bishop of Santo
Domingo and Concepcion, and for the vacant abbacy of Jamaica
_presentareis de nuestra parte al protonotario Pedro Martir de nuestro
Consejo. Dejando tambien Martir el priorado de Granada que posee_,
etc. Coleccion de Indias. vii., 449.]

[Note 8: Cantu, _Storia Universale_, tom, i., p. 900.]

In the month of June, 1526, the Court took up its residence in Granada
with Peter Martyr, as usual, in attendance. Before the walls of
Moorish Granada he had begun his career in Spain; within the walls of
Christian Granada he was destined to close it and be laid to his final
rest. A sufferer during many years from a disease of the liver, he was
aware of his approaching end, and made his will on September 23,[9]
bequeathing the greater part of the property he had amassed to his
nephews and nieces in Lombardy, though none of his friends and
servants in Spain was forgotten. He devoted careful attention to the
preparations for his funeral; eminently a friend of order and decorum,
he left nothing to chance, but provided for the precise number of
masses to be said, the exact amount of wax to be consumed, and the
kind of mourning liveries to be worn by his servants. He asked that
his body should be borne to its grave by the dean and the canons of
the cathedral, an honour to which his dignity of prior of that chapter
entitled him; but in order to ensure the chapter's participation, as
he quaintly expressed it, "with more goodwill," he set aside a legacy
of three thousand maravedis as compensation. Not only were his wishes
in this and all respects carried out, but the cathedral chapter
erected a tablet to his memory, upon which an epitaph he would not
have disdained was inscribed: _Rerum AEtate Nostra Gestarum--Et
Novi Orbis Ignoti Hactenus--Illustratori Petro Martyri
Mediolanensi--Caesareo Senatori--Qui, Patria Relicta--Bella Granatensi
Miles Interfuit--Mox Urbe Capta, Primum Canonico--Deinde Priori
Hujus Ecclesiae--Decanus Et Capitulum--Carissimo Collegae Posuere
Sepulchrum--Anno MDXXVI_.[10]

[Note 9: His last will was published in the _Documentos Ineditos_,
tom, xxxix., pp. 400-414.]

[Note 10: Harrisse, in his _Christoph Colomb_, fixes upon the 23d
or 24th of September as the date of Martyr's death, believing that his
last will was executed on his deathbed. There is, however, nothing
that absolutely proves that such was the fact. The epitaph gives but
the year. In the _Documentos Ineditos_ the month of September is given
in one place, that of October in another.]


Peter Martyr was perhaps the first man in Spain to realise the
importance of the discovery made by Columbus. Where others beheld but
a novel and exciting incident in the history of navigation, he,
with all but prophetic forecast, divined an event of unique and
far-reaching importance. He promptly assumed the functions of
historian of the new epoch whose dawn he presaged, and in the month
of October, 1494, he began the series of letters to be known as the
_Ocean Decades_, continuing his labours, with interruptions, until
1526, the year of his death. The value of his manuscripts obtained
immediate recognition; they were the only source of authentic
information concerning the New World, accessible to men of letters and
politicians outside Spain.

His material was new and original; every arriving caravel brought
him fresh news; ship-captains, cosmographers, conquerors of fabulous
realms in the mysterious west, all reported to him; even the common
sailors and camp-followers poured their tales into his discriminating
ears. Las Casas averred that Peter Martyr was more worthy of credence
than any other Latin writer.[1]

[Note 1: Las Casas, _Histo. de las Indias_., tom, ii, p. 272: _A
Pedro Martyr se le debe was credito que a otro ninguno de los que
escribieran en latin, porque se hallo entonces en Castilla par
aquellos tiempos y hablaba con todos, y todos holgaban de le dar
cuenta de lo que vian y hallaban, como a hombre de autioridad y el que
tenia cuidado de preguntarlo_.]

No sooner had Columbus returned from his first voyage than Martyr
hastened to announce his success to his friends, Count Tendilla and
Archbishop Talavera. _Meministis Colonum Ligurem institisse in Castris
apud reges de percurrendo per occiduos antipodes novo terrarum
haemisphaerio; meminisse opportet_. He was present in Barcelona and
witnessed the reception accorded the successful discoverer by the
Catholic sovereigns. He, who had gone forth an obscure adventurer upon
whose purposes, and even sanity, doubts had been cast, returned, a
Grandee of Spain, Admiral of the Ocean, and Viceroy of the Indies. In
the presence of the court, standing, he, alone, by invitation of the
sovereigns, sat. The ambassadors from his native Republic of Genoa,
Marchisio and Grimaldi, witnessed the exaltation of their fellow
countryman with eyes that hardly trusted their own vision.

An alien amidst the most exclusive and jealous of occidental peoples,
Martyr's abilities and fidelity won a recognition from the successive
monarchs he served, that was only equalled by the voluntary tributes
of respect and affection paid him by the generation of Spanish nobles
whose characters he was so influential in forming. Of all the Italians
who invaded Spain in search of fortune and glory, he was the most
beloved because he was the most trusted. Government functionaries
sought his protection, Franciscan and Dominican missionaries gave him
their confidence and, after he was appointed to a seat in the India
Council, he had official cognisance of all correspondence relating to
American affairs. Prior to the appearance in Spain of the celebrated
Letters of Cortes, Peter Martyr's narrative stood alone. Heidenheimer
rightly describes him: _Als echter Kind seiner Zeit, war Peter
Martyr Lehrer und Gelehrter, Soldat und Priester, Schriftsteller und
Diplomat_. It was characteristic of the epoch of the Renaissance
that a man of culture should embrace all branches of learning, thus
Martyr's observation extended over the broadest field of human
knowledge. Diligent, discriminating, and conscientious, he was keen,
clever, and tactful, not without touches of dry humour, but rarely
brilliant. Scientific questions, the variations of the magnetic pole,
calculations of latitude and longitude, the newly discovered Gulf
Stream and the _mare sargassum_, and the whereabouts of a possible
strait uniting the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean, occupied his
speculations. Likewise are the flora and the fauna of the New World
described to his readers, as they were described to him by the
home-coming explorers. Pages of his writings are devoted to the
inhabitants of the islands and of the mainland, their customs and
superstitions, their religions and forms of government. He has tales
of giants, harpies, mermaids, and sea-serpents. Wild men living in
trees, Amazons dwelling on lonely islands, cannibals scouring seas and
forests in search of human prey, figure in his narrative. Erroneous
facts, mistaken judgments due to a credulity that may seem to us
ingenuous, are frequent, but it must be borne in mind that he worked
without a pre-established plan, his chronicle developing as fresh
material reached him; also that he wrote at a time when the world
seemed each day to expand before the astonished eyes of men, revealing
magic isles floating on unknown seas, vaster horizons in whose heavens
novel constellations gleamed; mysterious ocean currents, flowing
whence no man knew, to break upon the shores of immense continents
inhabited by strange races, living amidst conditions of fabulous
wealth and incredible barbarism. The limits of the possible receded,
discrimination between truth and fiction became purely speculative,
since new data, uninterruptedly supplied, contradicted former
experience and invalidated accepted theories. The Decades were
compiled from verbal and written reports from sources the writer was
warranted in trusting.

Since geographical surprises are now exhausted, and the division of
land and water on the earth's surface has passed from the sphere of
navigation into that of politics, no writer will ever again have such
material at his disposition. The arrival of his letters in Italy
was eagerly awaited and constituted a literary event of the first
magnitude. Popes sent him messages urging him to continue, the King of
Naples borrowed copies from Cardinal Sforza, and the contents of these
romantic chronicles furnished the most welcome staple of conversation
in palaces and universities. Leo X. had them read aloud during supper,
in the presence of his sister and a chosen group of cardinals. It must
be noted that the form of the Decades did not escape criticism at the
pontifical court, nor did the censures, passed on the liberties he
took with the tongue of Cicero, fail to reach and sting his ears. In
several passages, he defends his use of words taken from the Italian
and Spanish languages. He handled Latin as a living, not as a dead
language, and his style is vigorous, terse, vitalised. He cultivated
brevity and was chary of lengthy excursions into the classics in
search of comparisons and sanctions. His letters frequently show signs
of the haste in which they were composed: sometimes the messenger who
was to carry them to Rome, was waiting, booted and spurred, in the
ante-chamber. Juan Vergara, secretary to Cardinal Ximenes, declared
his opinion that no more exact and lucid record of contemporary events
existed than the letters of Peter Martyr, adding that he had himself
often been present and witnessed with what haste they were written, no
care being taken to correct and polish their style.

The cultivated ears of Ciceronian Latinists--such as Cardinal Bembo
who refused to read the Vulgate for fear of spoiling his style--were
naturally offended by the phraseology of the Decades. Measured by
standards so precious, the Latin of Peter Martyr is faulty and crude,
resembling rather a modern dialect than the classical tongue of
ancient Rome.[2]

[Note 2: Ciampi's comment is accurate and just: _Non si, puo dire
che sia un latino bellisimo. E quale lo parlavano e scriveano gli
uomini d'affari. A noi e, pero, men discaro che non sia ai forestieri,
in quanta che noi troviamo dentro il movimento, il frassegiare proprio
della nostra lingua, e sotto la frase incolta latina, indoviniamo
il pensiero nato in italiano che, spogliato da noi della veste
imbarazzanta ci ritorna ignudo si, ma schietto ed efficace_.]

It is their substance, not their form, that gives Martyr's writings
their value, though his facile style is not devoid of elegance, if
measured by other than severely classical standards. Not as a man of
letters, but as an historian does he enjoy the perennial honour to
which in life he aspired. Observation is the foundation of history,
and Martyr was pre-eminently a keen and discriminating observer, a
diligent and conscientious chronicler of the events he observed, hence
are the laurels of the historian equitably his. Similar to the hasty
entries in a journal, daily written, his letters possess an unstudied
freshness, a convincing actuality, that would undoubtedly have been
marred by the retouching required to perfect their literary style. The
reproach of carelessness in neglecting to systematise his manuscripts
applies more to the collection in the _Opus Epistolarum_ than to the
letters composing the Decades which we are especially considering, and
likewise in the former work are found those qualities of lightness
and frivolity, justifying Sir Arthur Helps's description of him as
a gossipy man of letters, reminding English readers occasionally of
Horace Walpole and Mr. Pepys. Hakluyt praised his descriptions of
natural phenomena as excelling those penned by Aristotle, Pliny,
Theophrastus, and Columella.[3]

[Note 3: Lebrija praised Martyr's verses, declaring him to be
the best poet amongst the Italians in Spain. One of his poems, Pluto
Furens, was dedicated to Alexander VI., whom he cordially detested and
whose election to the papal chair he deplored. Unfortunately none of
his poems has been preserved.]

After a period of partial oblivion, Alexander von Humboldt, in the
early years of the nineteenth century, rediscovered the neglected
merits of our author and, by his enlightened criticism and
commentaries, restored to his writings the consideration they had
originally enjoyed. Ratified by Prescott, Humboldt's judgment has been
confirmed by all subsequent historians.

No further claim is made for this present translation of the Decades
than fidelity and lucidity. Its purpose is to render more easily
accessible to English readers, unfamiliar with the original Latin, the
earliest historical work on the New World.



_P. Martyris Angli_ [sic] _mediolanensis opera. Legatio Babylonica,
Oceani Decas, Poemata, Epigrammata_. Cum privilegio. Impressum Hispali
cum summa diligentia per Jacobum Corumberger Alemanum, anno millesimo
quingentessimo XI, mense vero Aprili, in fol.

This Gothic edition contains only the First Decade.

Two Italian books compiled from the writings of Peter Martyr antedate
the above edition of 1511. Angelo Trevisan, secretary to the Venetian
ambassador in Spain, forwarded to Domenico Malipiero certain material
which he admitted having obtained from a personal friend of Columbus,
who went as envoy to the Sultan of Egypt. The reference to Peter
Martyr is sufficiently clear. The work of Trevisan appeared in 1504
under the title, _Libretto di tutta la navigazione del re di Spagna
de le isole et terreni novamente trovati_. Published by Albertino
Vercellese da Lisbona. Three years later, in 1507, a compilation
containing parts of this same work was printed at Vicenza by
Fracanzio, at Milan by Arcangelo Madrignano in 1508, and at Basle
and Paris by Simon Gryneo. The volume was entitled _Paesi novamente
ritrovati et Novo Mondo_, etc. Peter Martyr attributed the piracy to
Aloisio da Cadamosto, whom he consequently scathingly denounces in the
seventh book of the Second Decade.

In the year 1516 the first edition of the Decades, _De rebus oceanis
et Orbe Novo Decades tres_, etc., was printed at Alcala de Henares
under the supervision of Peter Martyr's friend, the eminent Latinist,
Antonio de Nebrija, who even took care to polish the author's Latin
where the composition fell short of his own exacting standard. _Cura
et diligentia Antonii Nebrissensis fuerent hae tres protonotari Petri
Martyris decades impressas in contubernio Arnaldi Guillelmi in
illustri oppido Carpetanae provinciae, compluto quod vulgariter dicitur
Alcala_. Factum est nonis Novembris, anno 1516 in fol. The appearance
of this edition had the character of a veritable literary event and
the success of the work was immediate and widespread. The narrative
covered a period of somewhat more than twenty years, beginning with
the first expedition of Columbus.

Four years later a Fourth Decade was published by its author, this
being the last work he gave to the press during his lifetime. The
earliest known copy was printed in Basle in 1521, the title being _De
insulis nuper repertis simultaque incolarum moribus_. An Italian and
a German edition of the same in 1520 are noted by Harrisse. (Consult
_Bibliotheca Americana Vetustissima_, p. 77, Additions, p. 80.)

_De Insulis nuper inventis Ferdinandi Cortesii ad Carolum V. Rom.
Imperatorem Narrationes, cum alio quodam Petri Martyris ad Clementem
VII. Pontificem Maximum consimilis argumenti libello_. Coloniae
ex officina Melchioris Novesiani, anno MDXXXII. Decimo Kalendar

The Fourth Decade under the title, _De Insulis nuper inventis_, etc.,
was republished in Basle in 1533 and again in Antwerp in 1536.

_De Legatione Babylonica_, Parisiis, 1532, contains also the first
three Decades. Mazzuchelli mentions an edition of the eight Decades
published in Paris in 1536.

_De Orbe Novo Petri Martyris ab Angleria, mediolanensis protonotarii
Caesaris senatoris Decades_. Cum privilegio imperiali. Compluti apud
Michaelem d'Eguia, anno MDXXX, in fol.

_De rebus Oceanicis et Novo Orbe Decades tres Petri Martyres ab
Angheria Mediolanensis, item ejusdem de Babylonica Legationis libri
ires. Et item, De Rebus AEthiopicis_, etc. Coloniae, apud Gervinum
Caleniumet haeredes Quentelios. MDLXXIIII.

_De Orbe Novo Petri Martyris Anglerii mediolanensis, protonotarii et
Caroli quinti Senatoris, decades octo, diligente temporum observatione
et utilissimis annotationibus illustratae, suoque nitore restitae labore
et industria Richardi Hakluyti Oxoniensis, Arngli_. Parisiis apud
Guillelmum Auvray, 1587.

This edition is dedicated to Sir Walter Raleigh: "_illustri et
magannimo viro Gualtero Ralegho_."

An exceedingly rare and precious book published in Venice in 1534
contains extracts from the writings of Peter Martyr. It bears the
title: _Libro primo della historia dell' Indie Occidentali. Summario
de la generate historia dell' Indie Occidentali cavato da libri
scritti dal Signer Don Pietro Martyre_, etc., Venezia, 1534. Under the
same title this summario is published in the third volume of Ramusio,
_Delle Navigationi et Viaggi_.

An Italian translation of _De Legatione Babylonica_ entitled _Pietro
Martyre Milanese, delle cose notabile dell' Egitto, tradotto dalla
Lingue Latina in Lingua Italiana da Carlo Passi_. In Venezia 1564.

_Novus Orbis, idest navigationes primae in Americam. Roterodami per
Jo. Leonardum Berevout_, 1616. A French translation of this work was
printed in Paris by Simon de Colimar, _Extrait ou Recueil des Iles
nouvellement trouvees en la grande Mer Oceane au temps du Roy
d'Espagne Ferdinand et Elizabeth_, etc.

_The history of Travayle in the West and East Indies, and other
countries lying eyther way towardes the fruitfull and rich Moluccaes.
With a discourse on the Northwest passage_. Done into English by
Richarde Eden. Newly set in order, augmented and finished by Richarde
Willes. London, 1577. Richarde Jugge.

Republished in Edward Arber's work, _The First Three English Books on
America_, Birmingham, 1885.

_De Orbe Novo or the Historie of the West Indies, etc., comprised
in eight decades. Whereof three have beene formerly translated into
English by R. Eden, whereunto the other five are newly added by the
industries and painfull Travails of M. Lok_. London. Printed for
Thomas Adams, 1612.

_The Historie of the West Indies, containing the Actes and Adventures
of the Spaniards which have conquered and settled those countries_,
etc. Published in Latin by Mr. Hakluyt and translated into English by
Mr. Lok, London. Printed for Andrew Hebb. The book bears no date, but
was printed in 1625.

_Opus Epistolarum Petri Martyris Anglerii Mediolanensia_. Amstelodami
Typis Elzivirianis, Veneunt Parisiis apud Fredericum Leonard. 1670.

_De Orbe Novo Petri Martyris Anglerii, regio rerum indicarum senatu,
Decades octo, quas scripsit ab anno 1493 ad 1526_. Edition published
at Madrid by Don Joaquin Torres Asensio, domestic prelate and canon of
the cathedral, in 1892. Two vols. octavo.

_De Orbe Novo de Pierre Martyr Anghiera. Les huit Decades traduites
du latin avec notes et commentaires_, par Paul Gaffarel, Paris.


PHILIPPI ARGELATI: Bononiensis, _Bibliotheca Scriptorum
Mediolanensium_. Mediolani, MDCCXLV.

PICCINELLI: _Ateneo di Letterati Milanesi_. Milano, 1670.


GIROLAMO TIRABOSCHI: _Storia della Letteratura Italiana_. Modena,

R.P. NICERON: _Memoires pour servir a l'histoire des hommes illustres
dans la Republique des Lettres_, Paris, 1745.

GIOVANNI MAZZUCHELLI: _Gli Scrittori d'Italia_. Brescia, 1753-1763.

NICOLAI ANTONII: _Bibliotheca Hispana nova sive Hispanorum
Scriptorum_. Madrid, 1783.

FABRICII: _Bibliotheca Latina mediae et infimae latinitatis_. Padua,
1754. _Coleccion de Documentos ineditos para la historia de Espana_,
tom, xxxix.

JUAN B. MUNOZ: _Historia, de nuevo mundo_. 1793.

L. VON RANKE: _Zur Kritik neuerer Geschichtsschreiber_. 1824.

A. DE HUMBOLDT: _Examen critique de l'histoire de la geographie du
nouveau continent_. 1837.

WASHINGTON IRVING: _Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus_.

H. HALLAM: _Introduction to the Literature of Europe_. 1839.

WM. PRESCOTT: _Conquest of Mexico; History of Ferdinand and Isabella_.

SIR A. HELPS: _The Spanish Conquest in America_. 1867.

M. PASCAL D'AVEZAC: _Les Decades de Pierre Martyr_, etc. (Bulletin de
la Societe de Geographie, tom. xiv. Paris 1857-)

OSCAR PESCHEL: _Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckung_. 1858.

MARTIN FERNANDEZ DE NAVARRETE: _Coleccion de los viajes y
descubrimientos que hicieron par mar los espanoles_, etc. Madrid,
1858-59. _Coleccion de Documentos ineditos ... sacados en su mayor
parte del R. Archivo de Indias_. Madrid, 1864.

IGNAZIO CIAMPI: _Pietro Martire d'Anghiera_, in volume xxx of the
_Nuova Antologia_, 1875.

HERMANN SCHUMACHER: _Petrus Martyrus der Geschichtsschreiber des
Weltmeeres_. 1879.

H. HEIDENHEIMER: _Petrus Martyrus Anglerius und sein Opus

J. GERIGK: _Das Opus Epistolarum des Petrus Martyrus_. 1881.

P. GAFFAREL ET L'ABBE SOUROT: _Lettres de Pierre Martyr Anghiera_.

J.H. MARIEJOL: _Un lettre italien a la cour d'Espagne_. (1488-1526.)
_Pierre Martyr d'Anghera, sa vie et ses oeuvres_, 1887.

H. HARRISSE: _Bibliotheca Americana Vetustissima_. New York, 1866.
_Additions_. Paris, 1872.

J. BERNAYS: _Petrus Martyrus und sein Opus Epistolarum_. 1891.

GIUSEPPE PENNESI: _Pietro Martire d'Anghiera e le sue Relazione sulle
scoperte oceaniche_. 1894.

The First Decade

[Illustration: Cardinal Ascanio Sforza. From the Medallion by Luini,
in the Museum at Milan. Photo by Anderson, Rome.]



It was a gentle custom of the ancients to number amongst the gods
those heroes by whose genius and greatness of soul unknown lands were
discovered. Since we, however, only render homage to one God in Three
Persons, and consequently may not adore the discoverers of new lands,
it remains for us to offer them our admiration. Likewise should
we admire the sovereigns under whose inspiration and auspices the
intentions of the discoverers were realised; let us praise the one and
the other, and exalt them according to their merits.

Attend now to what is told concerning the recently discovered islands
in the Western ocean. Since you have expressed in your letters a
desire for information I will, to avoid doing injustice to any one,
recount the events from their beginnings.

A certain Christopher Columbus, a Genoese, proposed to the Catholic
King and Queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, to discover the islands which
touch the Indies, by sailing from the western extremity of this
country. He asked for ships and whatever was necessary to navigation,
promising not only to propagate the Christian religion, but also
certainly to bring back pearls, spices and gold beyond anything ever
imagined. He succeeded in persuading them and, in response to his
demands, they provided him at the expense of the royal treasury with
three ships[1]; the first having a covered deck, the other two being
merchantmen without decks, of the kind called by the Spaniards
_caravels_. When everything was ready Columbus sailed from the coast
of Spain, about the calends of September in the year 1492, taking with
him about 220 Spaniards.[2]

[Note 1: This statement is not absolutely exact, as the funds came
from various sources. Columbus, assisted by the Pinzon brothers of
Palos, furnished one eighth of the amount, or the cost of one vessel.
Two vessels were supplied by the town of Palos, in response to a royal
order; the town owing such service to the crown. The ready money
required was advanced by Santangel, receiver of the ecclesiastical
revenues of Aragon.]

[Note 2: From Palos on August 3d, 1492. The inscription on the
floor of Seville Cathedral reads: _con tres galeras y 90 personas_. It
follows that Peter Martyr's figures are exaggerated, for only Oviedo
amongst early authorities exceeds the number ninety, and he numbers
the united crews at 120 men.]

The Fortunate Isles, or, as the Spaniards call them, the Canaries,
were long since discovered in the middle of the ocean. They are
distant from Cadiz about three hundred leagues; for, according to the
masters of the art of navigation, each marine league is equal to
four thousand paces.[3] In ancient times these islands were called
Fortunate, because of the mild temperature they enjoyed. The islanders
suffered neither from the heat of summer nor the rigours of winter:
some authors consider that the real Fortunate Isles correspond to the
archipelago which the Portuguese have named Cape Verde. If they are at
present called the Canaries, it is because they are inhabited by men
who are naked and have no religion. They lie to the south and are
outside European climates. Columbus stopped there to replenish his
supply of provisions and water, and to rest his crew before starting
on the difficult part of his enterprise.

[Note 3: According to the computations of Columbus, four miles
were equal to one marine league; the Italian mile, assumed to have
been used by him, was equal to 1842 English feet. Fifty-six and
two-thirds miles were equal to a degree.]

Since we are speaking of the Canaries, it may not be thought
uninteresting to recall how they were discovered and civilised. During
many centuries they were unknown or rather forgotten. It was about
the year 1405 that a Frenchman called Bethencourt[4] rediscovered
the seven Canaries. They were conceded to him in gift by the Queen
Katherine, who was Regent during the minority of her son John.
Bethencourt lived several years in the archipelago, where he took
possession of the two islands of Lancerote and Fuerteventura, and
civilised their inhabitants. Upon his death, his heir sold these two
islands to the Spaniards. Afterwards Ferdinando Pedraria and his wife
landed upon two other of the Canaries, Ferro and Gomera. Within our
own times the Grand Canary was conquered by Pedro de Vera, a Spanish
nobleman from Xeres; Palma and Teneriffe were conquered by Alonzo de
Lugo, but at the cost of the royal treasury. The islands of Gomera and
Ferro were conquered by the same Lugo, but not without difficulty; for
the natives, although they lived naked in the woods and had no other
arms than sticks and stones, surprised his soldiers one day and killed
about four hundred of them. He finally succeeded in subduing them, and
to-day the whole archipelago recognises the Spanish authority.

[Note 4: Maciot de Bethencourt. Consult Bergeron, _Histoire de la
premiere decouverte et conquete des iles Canaries_; Pascal d'Avezac,
_Notice des decouvertes ... dans l'ocean Atlantique_, etc., Paris,
1845; Viera y Clavigo, _Historia general de las islas de Canaria_,
1773; also the works of Major, Barker-Webb, Sabin Berthelot, and Bory
de St. Vincent.]

Upon leaving these islands and heading straight to the west, with
a slight deviation to the south-west, Columbus sailed thirty-three
successive days without seeing anything but sea and sky. His
companions began to murmur in secret, for at first they concealed
their discontent, but soon, openly, desiring to get rid of their
leader, whom they even planned to throw into the sea. They considered
that they had been deceived by this Genoese, who was leading them to
some place from whence they could never return. After the thirtieth
day they angrily demanded that he should turn back and go no farther;
Columbus, by using gentle words, holding out promises and flattering
their hopes, sought to gain time, and he succeeded in calming their

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