Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/323

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from Italy or Europe. When invited by the Pope to join an Italian league against the Turk, Venice, mindful of the results which had followed on her acceptance of the last papal invitation, replied that she had made peace with the Sultan, and confirmed the suspicion that she was in secret understanding with the Turk. Her next step emphasised the further suspicion that her object in coming to terms with the Turk had been to allow herself a free hand to extend in Italy.

We have seen that in 1441 Venice had occupied Ravenna-under protest from Rome-as heir of the Polentani, Lords of Ravenna. She now (1481) attacked the Marquis of Ferrara on the ground that he was infringing a Venetian monopoly by the erection of salt-pans at the mouth of the Po. As the territory of Ferrara lay between the Venetian frontier and Ravenna it looked as if Venice desired to unite her possessions in that direction by the acquisition of Ferrara. This policy induced the Duke of Milan, the Pope, and the King of Naples to combine in support of Ferrara against Venice. The War was popular with the Venetians at first, but the strain on both treasury and private purses soon became insupportable, and no success crowned the Venetian arms. The distressed condition of the Republic is described by Malipiero. Payment of the interest on the funds was partially suspended; the shops on the Rialto were mortgaged; private plate, and jewellery compulsorily called in; salaries cut down. The revenue from the mainland was falling off. The arsenal was nearly empty. Famine and plague were at the door. "We shall be forced to sue for peace and restore all we have gained."

Malipiero was partially right. Venice was forced to sue for peace, but not till she had taken the ruinous step (which other Italian princes took before and after her) of suggesting to the French that they should make good their claims on certain Italian provinces,—Charles VIII his claim on Naples, the Duke of Orleans his claims on Milan. Two members of the hostile League, Milan and Naples, were thus threatened in their own possessions, with the result that peace was concluded at Bagnolo in 1484. Venice retained Rovigo and the Polesine, but was forced to surrender the towns she had taken in Apulia during the course of the War.

This invitation to foreigners was fatal to all Italian princes, as events were soon to demonstrate. The five Great Powers of Italy, Venice, Milan, Florence, the Pope and Naples, were able to hold their own against each other, but the moment the more potent ultramontane sovereigns appeared upon the scene, nominally in support of one or other of the Italian States, really in pursuit of their own aggrandisement, the balance was irretrievably upset. The sequence of these events, culminating in the Wars of the League of Cambray, after which Venice never again recovered her commanding place among the political communities of Europe, has been narrated in a previous Chapter.