Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/141

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while the successor of Innocent, Rodrigo Borgia, was neither fitted nor inclined to play a pacific part. This then is the moment to survey the scene of our drama, to name our chief dramatis personae, and to unfold our plot.

Three of our protagonists, Venice, Florence, the Holy See, have their own place for separate treatment in this volume. Nor is this the occasion to dwell on the petty politics of the many tyrants of the Romagna and central Italy. Naples, however, and Milan require some introduction.

The kingdom of Naples, though still styling itself kingdom of Sicily, had been separated from its island namesake since the Sicilian Vespers, when the Angevin successors of the Suabian kings were driven from the Trinacrian island. In 1435 this Angevin dynasty died out, and its inheritance fell to Alfonso of Aragon, the King of insular Sicily. On his death in 1458 the island kingdom had remained attached to Aragon, while Naples had been devised to his bastard Ferdinand or Ferrante. The political characteristics of the Neapolitan kingdom mark it off sharply from the rest of Italy. Here had survived, though in a debased form, the feudal economy which had long since disappeared further north. Here no elusive ideal of municipal liberty mocked, amid the realities of party strife, the citizens of independent cities. Great feudatories ground down their vassals with all the ingenuity that a new commercial and industrial wisdom inspired. The King, himself a feudatory and tributary of the Holy See, was master of Naples and its castles, and of certain royal dues and domains, but for the rest hung on the goodwill of a score of almost independent princes. Ferrante, greedy, capable, and ruthless, had done much to change all that. He had devised a system of commercial monopolies exercised for the royal benefit, which had considerably increased his revenues. The barons' war had restored to him by confiscation a part of the toll that his commercial partners had levied on his profits, and had crushed the greatest family of the kingdom, the princely house of San Severino. His relations to the papacy had been unfriendly, even warlike, but on the whole he had succeeded in withholding his tribute without losing his fief. But dangers now threatened him at home and abroad. At home, though feared, he was hated. His son Alfonso, the partner of his many cruel and treacherous acts, was equally detested. Zealous enemies were working against him, especially at the Court of France. The de facto ruler of Milan had wronged him in the person of his grand-daughter. The illegitimate son of an usurper, he held his crown by no hereditary right, and rumours came from beyond the Alps that a stronger claimant was astir.

The State of Milan, created by the vigour of the house of Visconti, and recognised as a duchy in 1395 by the Emperor Wenceslas, had fallen in 1450 to the house of Sforza, whose founder, the great con-dottiere, had risen from the plough. Francesco, the first Sforza duke,