Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/235

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By the expulsion of the French the object for which the Holy League had been really formed was accomplished, and it was necessary for the allied powers to readjust their policy and to determine their future movements. For this purpose they held a congress at Mantua in August, at which among other subjects the reconstitution of the Italian States was discussed. It was decided to restore the Medici at Florence. This had been the Pope's avowed object since 1510, and he was not likely at this stage to see that it was, from his point of view, an impolitic blunder. The work was entrusted to Ramon de Cardona, who joined his army at Bologna and began to march southwards. He arrived without resistance at Barberino, about fifteen miles north of Florence. From there he sent to the city to demand the deposition of Soderini and the return of the Medici as private citizens. The Florentines refused to depose Soderini, though willing to receive the Medici on those terms. At the same time they sent a force of troops to garrison Prato. Ramon de Cardona therefore continued his advance; Prato was captured on August 30, and its inhabitants were with ruthless barbarity tortured, debauched and butchered. Further resistance was impossible. On September 1 Soderini was deposed, and on the same evening Giuliano de' Medici entered Florence, to be followed on the 14th by Giovanni and other members of the family. Nothing remained but to fix the form of the new government. The Consiglio Grande and the Died di balia were abolished, as well as the Nove della milizia and the national militia; Accoppiatori were appointed to select the Signoria and Colleges a mano, and it was resolved that the Gonfaloniere should henceforth hold office for two months only. During the close of the year Florence settled down quietly under Medicean rule. The revolution was accomplished with more moderation than might have been expected; and even those who, like Machiavelli, had been zealous servants of Soderini, suffered as a rule no more than loss of official employment or temporary banishment.

These years, in which the fate of Florence was decided, while the Republic was dragged helpless in the chain of events, helpless to determine her own fortunes, were the period in which Machiavelli's term of political activity was comprised.

Niccolò Machiavelli was born at Florence in 1469, and died, comparatively young, in 1527. For about fourteen years he was employed by the Florentine government in a subordinate official capacity, and even his intimate friends hardly recognised that he was a really great man. Although his position as Secretary to the Dieci kept him constantly in touch with political movements in Central Italy, and although he was employed almost without intermission from 1499 till 1512 upon diplomatic missions, he exerted hardly any influence upon the course of events; if he were known only by his official letters and despatches, there would be little in his career to arrest attention. It is