Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/276

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


appeared now at the head of a large army, divisions of which were commanded by the most celebrated Italian mercenary captains. In June he conducted an expedition against Camerino, but turned aside to make a sudden and successful attack on Urbino-a mistake as well as a piece of perfidy; for the people of Urbino loved their Duke, and Cesare's sway was not heartily accepted there as in the Romagna. It was otherwise with Camerino, which was acquired with little difficulty. Negotiations followed with Florence and the French King, who was then in Italy; but while Cesare was scheming to extend his influence over Florence, and to persuade France to help him to new conquests, he was placed in the most imminent danger by a conspiracy of his condottieri, who had entered into relations with the Orsini family at Rome. The plot was detected, and the incident seemed to have been closed by a reconciliation, which may have been sincere on the part of the mutinous condottieri; but Cesare's mind was manifested when on December 31, immediately after the capture of Sinigaglia, he seized the ringleaders and put them all to death. Embalmed in the prose of Machiavelli, who was present in Cesare's camp as an envoy from Florence, this exploit has gone down to posterity as Cesare Borgia's masterpiece, matchless in craft and perfidy; but it also had more justification than the perpetrators of such actions can often urge. In Rome Cardinal Orsini was arrested, and sent to St Angelo, where he soon expired. A vigorous campaign against the castles of the Orsini was set on foot, and they were almost as completely reduced as those of the Colonna had been. Alexander might, as he did, felicitate himself that he had succeeded where all his predecessors had failed. The Temporal Power had made prodigious strides in the last three years, but it was still a question whether its head was to be a Pope or a secular prince.

With all his triumphs, Alexander was ill at ease. The robber Kings who had partitioned Naples had gone to war over their booty. The Spaniards were prevailing in the kingdom; but the French threatened to come to the rescue with an army marching through Italy from north to south, and Alexander trembled lest they should interfere with his son's possessions, or with his own. He began to see what a mistake had been committed in allowing powerful monarchs to establish themselves on his borders. "If the Lord," he said to the Venetian ambassador, "had not put discord between France and Spain, where should we be?" This utterance escaped him in one of a series of interviews with Giustinian reported in the latter's despatches, which, if Alexander's sincerity could be trusted, would do him honour as a patriotic Italian prince. He appears or affects to have entirely returned to the ideas of the early years of his pontificate, when he formed leagues to keep the foreigner out of Italy. He paints the wretched condition of Italy in eloquent language, declares that her last hope consists in an alliance between himself and Venice, and calls upon the Republic to cooperate with him