Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/260

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petty republics was lost so soon as two great ambitious Powers agreed to make her their battlefield.

For a time, however, the alliance of Lorenzo and Innocent seemed to have brought about a period of halcyon repose. The Pope's financial straits frequently rendered his position embarrassing and undignified, and his attempts to mitigate these by the multiplication of venal offices aggravated the corruption of his Court. Important events, nevertheless, were as a rule favourable to him. Chance gave the Papacy a certain prestige from its relations with the chief ruler of the Mohammadan world. Upon the death of the conqueror of Constantinople, the incurable vice of all Oriental monarchies revealed itself in a fratricidal contest for the succession between his sons. Bayazid, the elder, gained the throne; his defeated competitor Jem sought refuge with the Knights of St John of Jerusalem at Rhodes, who naturally detained him as a hostage. The value of the acquisition was proved by the apprehensions of Bayazid, who offered to pay an annual pension so long as his brother should be detained in safe custody. The envy of other Christian States was excited, and every ruler found some reason why the guardianship of Jem should be committed to himself. At length the prize was by common consent entrusted to the Pope, whose claim was really the best, and who actually rendered a service to Christendom by keeping Bayazid in restraint, at least so far as regarded the Mediterranean countries; nor does he appear to have been wanting in any duty towards his captive. So long as Jem remained in the Pope's keeping, Bayazid observed peace at sea, and paid a pension hardly distinguishable from a tribute; and it is hard to understand why Innocent's action in the matter should have been condemned by historians. It was further justified in the eyes of his contemporaries by what was then considered a great religious victory, comparable to Augustus's recovery of the standards of Crassus,—the cession by the Sultan of the lance said to have pierced the Saviour's side as He hung upon the cross. Some Cardinals betrayed a sceptical spirit, remarking that this was not the only relic of the kind; and though received with jubilation at the time, it does not seem to have afterwards figured very conspicuously among the treasures of the Roman See.

A more important success which reflected lustre upon Innocent's pontificate, although he had in no way promoted it, was the fall of Granada on January 2, 1492. The news reached Rome on February 1, and was welcomed with festivals and rejoicings which would have been moderated, if the influence of the event on European politics could then have been comprehended, and the transactions of the next half century foreseen.

When the tidings of the victory arrived, Innocest was already beginning to suffer from the progress of a mortal disease. During the early summer his health grew desperate; he with difficulty repressed