Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/179

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


these cruel trials; the obstinate resistance of Pisa, the steadfastness and endurance of Venice, show local patriotism at its best, but Italian patriotism is far to seek.

Though almost every province of Italy has been devastated in its turn, though many flourishing cities have been sacked, and the wealth of all has been drained by hostile or protecting armies, literature, learning, and art do not appear at first to feel the blight. The age of the war of Cambray is also the age of Bramante, Michel Angelo, and Raffaelle. Julius II is not only the scourge of Italy, but the patron of art. The greatest or at least the most magnificent age of Venetian art is the age of her political and commercial declension. The vigorous vitality that had been fostered in half a century of comparative peace served to sustain the Renaissance movement through many years of war and waste. Peace multiplies wealth, and art is the fosterchild of wealth; but wealth is not its true parent. No statistician's curve can render visible the many causes of the rise and fall of art. The definite decline, which is perceptible after the sack of Rome, may be due in part to economic changes, and those to the influence of war, but its fundamental causes are spiritual and moral, and elude all material estimation.

As a chapter in military history the period is full of interest. The individual heroism of panoplied knights still plays its part amid the shock of disciplined armies at Novara or at Marignano. Yet in all the battles and campaigns we see the tactics and strategy of infantry working towards a higher evolution, in which Swiss and German and Spaniard each bears his part. Hand fire-arms, though constantly employed, seldom appear to influence results. On the other hand at Ravenna the skilful use of artillery determined for the first time the issue of an important battle. And the art of military engineers, especially that of mining, shows considerable advance.

War plays its part in promoting the intercourse of nations and in spreading the arts of peace. Captive Italy made her domination felt, not only in France, but also in Germany and Spain. But apart from this meagre and indirect result we look in vain for any of the higher motives or tendencies that sometimes direct the course of armies and the movement of nations. Greed, ambition, the lust of battle, the interests of dynasties, such are the forces that seem to rule the fate of Italy and Europe. Yet amidst this chaos of blind and soulless strife the scheme and equilibrium of the western world is gradually taking shape.