Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/269

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his character of a good Italian. Some passages in his conduct might appear ambiguous; in the main, however, whether impelled by honourable or by selfish motives, he had acted as became a patriotic Italian prince, and he was the only Italian prince who had done so. He had been tortuous, perfidious, temporising under stress of circumstances: yet in the main he had obeyed the first and great commandment, to keep the foreigner out of Italy. Had he not afterwards, with what extenuations it will remain to enquire, adopted a different course, the judgment of history upon him as Italian statesman and sovereign must have been highly favourable. A new chapter of his reign was now about to open, pregnant with larger issues of good and ill. He meanwhile manifested his content with the past by causing the most striking episodes of the French invasion of Rome to be depicted in the Castle of St Angelo by the pencil of Pinturicchio. Full of authentic portraits, and costumes and lively representations of actual incidents, these pictures would have been one of the most interesting relics of the age. Their subjects have been preserved by the Pope's German interpreter, who saw them ere they were destroyed by the vandalism of a successor.

Alexander's first step after his return to Rome was the obvious one of strengthening the Castle of St Angelo, which even before the French invasion he had connected with the Vatican by a covered way. His general policy presented no mark for censure. He appeared to aim sincerely at union among the Italian States, and not to be as yet estranged from the public interest by the passion for aggrandising his family. His efforts to bring Florence into the national alliance were laudable; and, if Savonarola obstructed them, it must be owned that in him the preacher predominated over the patriot, and that his tragic fate was in some measure a retribution. This painful history, the right and wrong of which will be perpetually debated, does not however concern the history of the Temporal Power. Alexander's first important step towards the confirmation of the papal authority was the legitimate one of endeavouring to reduce the Orsini, who, though bound to himself by vassalage and to the King of Naples by relationship, had abandoned both during the French invasion. It was nevertheless of evil omen that the papal forces should be commanded by the eldest of Alexander's illegitimate children, the Duke of Gandia, dignified by the title of Gonfaloniere of the Church. The war began in October, 1496; and notwithstanding a severe defeat in January, 1497, Alexander was able to conclude a peace in February, by which he recovered Cervetri and Anguillara, the fiefs whose alienation to the Orsini by Franceschetto Cibo had four years before been the beginning of trouble. He was now at liberty to attack Ostia, still in the occupation of the French, who menaced the food-supplies of Rome. The fortress was reduced by Spanish troops, brought from Sicily by Gonzalo de Cordova. Their presence in Rome excited tumults, almost a solitary instance of any