The Cambridge Modern History/Volume I/Chapter VII
We are to describe the consolidation, at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century, of the Temporal Power of the Popes which had existed amid the greatest vicissitudes since the alliance of the Papacy with the Prankish Kings in the eighth, but had hitherto been rather a source of humiliation than of strength to the Holy See. It must be shown how this transformation of a feeble and distracted State into one firmly organised and fairly tranquil arose from the general tendency to union and coalescence under a single ruler which prevailed among most European nations at this period, but to which, except in this instance, Italy, unfortunately for herself, remained a stranger: how, in the second place, it was forced upon the Popes by the weakness and insecurity of their temporal position: but how, in the third, it was fostered in an unprecedented degree by the inordinate nepotism of one Pope, and the martial ambition of another. Were the story prolonged, it would appear how these impure agencies were overruled for good, and how, when everything else in Italy lay prostrate before the foreign conqueror, the Temporal Power preserved at least a simulacrum of independence until the revival of the aspiration for national unity not only superseded the symbol by the reality, but swept it away as an obstacle in its own path.
Much of the history of Europe in the fifteenth century may be expressed in a single word,—coalescence. A movement, as spontaneous and irresistible as those which had in former times lined the Mediterranean coasts of Asia Minor with Greek colonies, and impelled the Northern nations against the decaying Roman Empire, was now agglomerating petty States and feudal lordships into nations; a process involving vast social as well as political changes. Ancient liberties too often disappeared, but ancient lawlessness also; the tall poppies fell before the sword of the Tarquins of the age; and the mercantile class, which had hitherto only asserted itself under the aegis of the free institutions of independent urban communities, became a powerful element in every land. Everywhere the tendency was towards centralisation, clans and districts massing into nations, semi-independent jurisdictions merging themselves into a single dominant Power. The necessity and the salutary effect of this evolution are proved by the happier fortune of the nations which conformed to it. England, France, Spain, the Scandinavian North, and after a while Russia, became great Powers. Where the movement towards coherence was but partial, as in Germany, the nation remained feeble and distracted; where it proved mainly abortive, as in Italy, the country fell under the sway of the foreigner.
In one important portion of Italy, the impulse towards unity was practically effective, and produced results extending far beyond the narrow stage to which it was in appearance confined. The growth of the Temporal Power of the Papacy is as much a phase of the general tendency towards coalescence which we have described as is the beating down of the feudal aristocracy in England, or the consolidation of France under Louis XL The conduct of the Popes in incorporating petty independent or semi-independent principalities with the patrimony of St Peter did not materially differ from the line of action adopted by Louis or Henry towards their over-powerful vassals. In all these cases the sovereign was urged on by the spirit and necessities of his age, and contended with the influences that made for disintegration, as in former times he might have contended with the Saracens. There was indeed nothing of the spirit of the crusader in him; and yet, unconsciously, he was leading a crusade against a state of things salutary in its day, but which, at the stage to which the world had progressed, would have fettered the development of Europe. In the case of the Popes, however, one obvious consideration compels us to consider their policy and its consequences from a point of view elsewhere inapplicable. They were spiritual as well as secular sovereigns. Their actions were never confined to a merely political sphere, and could not fail to produce the most important effects upon the greatest spiritual institution the world has ever seen,—an institution which at one time had seemed to pervade the entire social as well as religious fabric of the Middle Ages, and to concentrate every civilising influence within itself.
One distinction between the consolidating activity of a merely temporal sovereign and that of a Pope, though obvious, must not be left without notice, since it accounts in a measure for the special obloquy which the Popes have incurred for obeying the general instinct of their time. The monarch was exempt from all suspicion of nepotism, the interests of his heir were inseparable from the interests of the State. Granted that the former were in fact the more influential with him, the circumstance was really immaterial: he could neither work for himself without working for his successor, nor work for his successor without working for himself. The Pope, on the other hand, as an elected monarch, could not have a legitimate heir, while he was by no means precluded from having nephews or still nearer relatives whose interests might come into collision with the interests of the Church. After his death these relatives would no longer be anything, except in so far as he had been able to create a permanent position for them, and this, rather than the public good, was too likely to be the goal of his exertions. Hence the papal aggrandisement has brought an odium upon the Popes of this age unshared by the contemporary secular sovereigns, and which, in so far as they were actuated by private motives, cannot be said to be undeserved. Sixtus IV, though the era of papal conquests dates from him, and though no Pope wrought more persistently or unscrupulously to secure for the Papacy a commanding position in Italy, must rank rather as an accidental promoter than as a deliberate creator of the Temporal Power, since the mainspring of his policy was manifestly the advantage of his nephews. This cannot be said of one of the two great architects of the Temporal Power-Julius II; whether it applies to his precursor is one of the problems of history. Before, however, the question could arise concerning Alexander VI, there was to be an interval of quiet under a feeble Pope who did little for his family and nothing for the Church, but who admirably suited the circumstances of his time.
Sixtus IV had succeeded well in promoting the interests of his house. Imola and Forli made an excellent establishment for one nephew, Girolamo Riario; another, Giuliano della Rovere, was one of the most commanding figures in the College of Cardinals. In every other point of view the policy of Sixtus had been a failure; he had lowered the moral authority of the Papacy without any compensating gain in the secular sphere, and had only bequeathed an example destined to remain for a while inoperative. The election of his successor Innocent VIII (August, 1484) was blamed by contemporaries, and pronounced by the Notary Infessura worse even than that of Sixtus, in which bribery had a notorious share. The Notary's charges, notwithstanding, are wanting in definite-ness; and it seems needless to look beyond the natural inclination of powerful competitors, neither of whom could achieve the Papacy for himself, to agree upon some generally acceptable person. It is also generally observed that, as the human frailties which in some shape must beset every Pope are especially manifest at the time of his decease, the choice naturally tends towards someone apparently exempt from these particular failings, and hence towards a person different in some sort from his predecessor. As Calixtus had been unlike Nicholas, and Pius unlike Calixtus, and Paul unlike Pius, and Sixtus unlike Paul, it was but in accordance with precedent that the passionate imperious unscrupulous Franciscan should give place to a successor who might have sat for the portrait of an abbe in Gil Bias. On August 29, 1484, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Cibo became Pope under the name of Innocent VIII. There was probably no more colourless figure in the Sacred College. He had owed the Cardinalate, which he had enjoyed for eleven years, to his Genoese origin and his episcopate over the city of Savona, Sixtus's birthplace. The same circumstances recommended him to the nephew of Sixtus, the able and powerful Cardinal della Rovere, who naturally wished to see one of his uncle's creatures seated on the papal throne; and when two such potent Cardinals as he and the Vice-Chancellor Borgia had agreed, there was but little need for illegitimate modes of action beyond the bestowal of legations and palaces,—almost indispensable concomitants of a papal election in that age. The arrangements thus made, which are enumerated in the despatches of the Florentine envoy Vespucci, were mostly regulated directly or indirectly by Cardinal della Rovere, who found his account in becoming Papa et plusquam Papa. The new Pope, indeed, as described by Vespucci, hardly appeared the man to stand by himself. "He has little experience in affairs of State, and little learning, but is not wholly ignorant." As Cardinal he had been distinguished by his affability, and was thought to have let down the dignity of the office. His morals had not been irreproachable, but the attacks of the epigrammatists are gross exaggerations, and, save for a too public manifestation of his affection for his daughter, more criticised by posterity than by contemporaries, his conduct as Pope appears to have been perfectly decorous.
Innocent's part in the evolution which made the Bishop of Rome a powerful temporal sovereign was not conspicuous or glorious, but it was important. It consisted in the demonstration of the absolute necessity of a great extension and fortification of the papal authority, if the Pope was to enjoy the respect of Christendom, or was even to continue at Rome. Never was anarchy more prevalent, or contempt for justice more universal; and the cause was the number of independent jurisdictions, from principalities like Forli or Faenza down to petty barons established at the gates of Rome,—none of them too petty not to be able to set the Pope at defiance. The general confusion reacted upon the finances, and chronic insolvency accredited the accusations, in all probability calumnious, brought against the Pope "of conniving at the flight of malefactors who paid him money, and granting licenses for sins before their commission." The Pope himself was conscious of his discreditable position, and in a remarkable speech to the Florentine ambassador pronounced by anticipation the apology of his vigorous and unscrupulous successors. "If," he said, "none would aid him against the violence of the King of Naples, he would betake himself abroad, where he would be received with open arms, and where he would be assisted to recover his own, to the shame and scathe of the disloyal princes and peoples of Italy. He could not remain in Italy, if deprived of the dignity befitting a Pope; but neither was he able, if abandoned by the otfier Italian States, to resist the King, by reason both of the slender military resources of the Church and on account of the unruly Roman barons, who would rejoice to see him in distress. He should therefore deem himself entirely justified in seeking refuge abroad, should nothing less avail to preserve the dignity of the Holy See. Other Popes had done the like, and had returned with fame and honour."
If such was the situation,—and Innocent certainly did not exaggerate it,—the Popes of his day are clearly not to be censured for endeavouring to put it upon a different footing. It might indeed be said that they ought to have renounced the Temporal Power altogether, and gone forth scripless into the world in the fashion of the Apostles; but in their age such a proceeding would have been impracticable, nor could the thought of it have hardly so much as entered their minds. The incurable vice of their position was, that the mutation in things temporal absolutely necessary for the safety and well-being of the Church could not be brought about by means befitting a Christian pastor. The best of men could, upon the papal throne, have effected nothing without violence and treachery. Innocent's successors were not good men, and recourse to means which would have shocked a good man cost them nothing. But they were indisputably the men for the time.
The mission which we have attributed to Innocent of practically demonstrating the need for a strong man in the chair of St Peter, was worked out through a troubled and inglorious pontificate, whose incidents are too remotely connected with the history of the Temporal Power to justify any fulness of treatment in this place. They turn principally upon his relations with Naples and Florence. Having in 1485 entered upon an unnecessary war with Naples, Innocent soon became intimidated, and made peace in 1486. This led to the temporary disgrace of Cardinal della Rovere; and the marriage of the Pope's illegitimate son to the daughter of Lorenzo de' Medici brought him under the influence of the Florentine ruler. It was the best thing that could have happened for the tranquillity of Italy. Lorenzo was a miniature Augustus, intent, indeed, on personal ends in the first instance, but with a genuine fibre of patriotism, and not insatiable or even rapacious. Alone among the rulers of Italy he had the wisdom to discern when acquisition had reached its safe limits, and thenceforth to dedicate his energies to preservation. Hence he was the friend of peace, and the influence he had obtained with the Pope and the King of Naples was devoted to keeping them on amicable terms. In pursuance of this policy he prevented the Pope from allying himself with Venice, and successfully laboured to induce the King to pay to Rome the tribute which he had endeavoured to withhold. No wonder that a course so conducive to the material prosperity of Italy earned Lorenzo her thanks and blessings: yet the unity of Italy, in the last resort her only safety, could only have sprung from national strife. During the generally uneventful decade of 1480-90 the power of France and Spain was growing fast, and a land partitioned between petty principalities and 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 the unseemly contests of Cardinals Borgia and della Rovere, quarrelling in his presence over the steps to be taken after his decease. Strange stories, probably groundless, were told of boys perishing under the surgeon's hands in the endeavour to save the dying Pope's life by transfusion of blood, while he lay in a lethargy. The scene closed on July 25, and on the following day the Pope was interred, in the sarcastic words of a contemporary diarist, lasso singultu, modicij lacrimis et ejulatu nullo. Little, indeed, had his life left posterity to applaud or to condemn. His pontificate is only redeemed from absolute insignificance by his docility to the wise counsels of Lorenzo de' Medici,—almost the last occasion in history when it has been possible for a Pope to lean upon a native Italian prince. Lorenzo had preceded him to the tomb by a month; and from Milan to Naples no ruler remained in Italy who was capable of following any other policy than one of selfish aggrandisement.
The election of a Pope (as was remarked above) has frequently resulted in the choice of a successor strongly contrasted in every respect with the previous occupant of the chair of St Peter. It might have been expected that the vacant seat of Innocent would not be filled by another feeble Pope: yet little attention seems to have been paid at first to the prospects of the two ablest and strongest men in the College of Cardinals. Cardinal della Rovere, indeed, might seem excluded by the unwritten law which almost forbade a Cardinal intimately connected with the late Pope to aspire to the Papacy on the first vacancy. The Cardinal was not indeed a relative of Innocent's, but he had been his minister, and was his countryman. Had he been chosen, three Genoese Popes would have worn the tiara in succession,—a scandal to the rest of the peninsula. Moreover, Innocent's promotions of Cardinals had been few and unimportant; he had left no posthumous party in the College. Rodrigo Borgia, Vice-Chancellor and Senior Cardinal, seemed, on the other hand, the man especially pointed out for the emergency. His long occupation of the lucrative Vice-Chancellorship had given him enormous wealth; great capacity for affairs was associated in his person with long and intimate experience; the scandals of his private life counted for little in that age; and, although a Spaniard by birth, he might almost be regarded as a naturalised Italian. If, however, a foreign ambassador may be believed, haughtiness and the imputation of bad faith had ruined his chances at the last election; and it may have been thought that these causes would continue to operate. At all events, his name finds no place in the first speculations of the observers of the conclave. Two of its most respectable members, the Cardinals of Naples and of Lisbon, are apparently the favourites,—when, all on a sudden, on August 11 Rodrigo Borgia is elected by the nearly unanimous vote of the Sacred College, and takes the name of Alexander VI. Contemporary diarists and letter-writers leave us in no doubt as to the cause of this event. Cardinal Borgia had simply bought up the Sacred College. The principal agent in his elevation was Ascanio Sforza, a Cardinal of the greatest weight for his personal qualities and because of his connexion with the reigning house of Milan, but too young both as a man and a Cardinal to aspire as yet to the Papacy. Borgia's election would vacate the lucrative Vice-Chancellorship, and Sforza was tempted with the reversion. Other Cardinals divided among themselves the archbishoprics, abbacies, and other preferments demitted by the new Pope; but Sforza's influence was the determining force. His motives were unquestionably rather ambitious than sordid; he looked to the Vice-Chancellorship to pave his path to the Papacy; and the tale deserves little credence, that a man who in every subsequent passage of his life evinced magnanimity and high spirit was further tempted by mule-loads of silver. There is, in truth, absolutely no trustworthy evidence as to any money having passed in the shape of coin or bullion, and, although Alexander's election was without question the most notorious of any for the unscrupulous employment of illegitimate influences, it is difficult to affirm that it was in principle more simoniacal than most of those which had lately preceded it or were soon to follow. If the bias of personal interest suffices to invalidate elections decided by it, the age of Alexander cannot be thought to have often seen a lawful Pope. If a less austere view is to be taken, no broad line of demarcation can well be drawn between the election of Alexander and that of Julius.
Whatever the flaw in Alexander's title, he seemed in many respects eminently fit for the office. At the mature age of sixty-two, dignified in personal appearance and in manner, vigorous in constitution, competently learned, a lawyer and a financier who had filled the office of Vice-Chancellor for thirty-six years, versed in diplomacy and well qualified to deal vigorously with turbulent nobles and ferocious bandits, he appeared the aptest possible representative of the Temporal Power, while his shortcomings on the spiritual side passed almost unnoticed in an age of lax morality, when religion had with most men become a mere form. Some of the far-seeing; indeed, shook their heads over the Pope's illegitimate offspring, and predicted that the strength of his parental affection, and the imperious vehemence of his character, would lead him further and more disastrously than any predecessor on the paths of nepotism. To most, however, the experienced statesman and diligent man of business, genial and easy-tempered when not crossed, who knew how to combine magnificence with frugality, and whose deep dissimulation was the more dangerous from the perfect genuineness of the sanguine, jovial temperament beneath which it lay concealed, seemed precisely the Pope needed for restoring the Church's tarnished* dignity. Nor was it long before Alexander justified a portion of the hopes reposed in him by his energy in reestablishing public order and in reinvigorating the administration of justice.
It must always be a question how far Alexander can be said to have ascended the papal throne with a definite intention, either of aggrandising his children or of consolidating his authority as a temporal ruler by the subjugation of his petty vassals. That he meant to promote his children's interests in every practicable manner may well be believed; but that he did not contemplate their elevation to sovereign rank seems manifest from his making the most able and promising of them, his second son Cesare, a Prince of the Church, by exalting him to the cardinalate at the age of eighteen. The Pope's views for his family, however, had necessarily to be expanded in proportion as his secular policy became one of conquest; and, supposing him to have succeeded to the papal throne without any definite intention of subduing his turbulent barons, the need for such a course was soon impressed upon him. A seemingly quite harmless provision made by Innocent VIII for his natural son Franceschetto Cibo gave the first occasion for disturbance. Cibo, a peaceable and insignificant person, recognising his inability to defend the lands with which he had been invested, prudently sold them, and escaped into private life. But the purchaser was Virginio Orsini, a member of a great baronial house already far too powerful for the Pope's security, and whose alternate quarrels and reconciliations with the rival family of the Colonna had for centuries been a chief source of disturbance in the patrimony of St Peter. What was still more serious, the purchase-money was believed to be supplied by Ferdinand King of Naples, whom Orsini had aided in his war with Innocent VIII, and who thus obtained a footing in the Papal States; and the Cardinal della Rovere espoused the cause of Orsini so warmly as to find it prudent to retire (January, 1493) to his bishopric of Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber, where he threatened to intercept the food supplies of Rome. Alexander naturally allied himself with Milan, Venice, and other States inimical to the King of Naples, and a general war seemed about to break out, when it was composed (July) by the intervention of Spain, which had penetrated the designs of the young French King, new to the throne and athirst for glory, for the conquest of Naples, and dreaded the opportunity and advantage that would be afforded him if Naples became embroiled with the Pope. A singular change of relations followed. The King of Naples became to all appearance the Pope's most intimate ally. Alexander's third son married a Neapolitan princess. He became estranged from his recent allies in Venice and Milan, and the Milanese Cardinal Sforza, till now apparently omnipotent at the papal court, lost all credit, notwithstanding the marriage of the Pope's daughter Lucrezia to the despot of Pesaro, a prince of Sforza's house. Yet within two months things took another aspect, when Alexander ignored Ferdinand's wishes in a nomination of Cardinals which gratified the Sforza and drove the freshly reconciled Cardinal della Rovere into new enmity. The entire series of transactions reveals the levity and faithlessness of the rulers of Italy. Alexander had more excuse than any other potentate, for he alone was menaced with serious danger; and he might have learned, had he needed the lesson, the absolute necessity of fortifying the Pope's temporal authority, if even his spiritual authority was to be respected.
The signal for the woes of Italy was given by an event which at another time might not have displeased an Italian patriot,—the death of Ferdinand (or Ferrante), King of Naples, in January, 1494. Ferrante was a monarch after the approved pattern of his age, crafty, cruel, perfidious, but intelligent and well understanding how to make the most of himself and his kingdom. While he lived, the prestige of his authority and experience, combined with the youth of the King of France, may have assisted to delay the execution of French designs upon Naples. Upon his death they were carried forward with such warmth that, as early as February 3, Alexander, whose alliance with Naples remained unimpaired, thought it necessary to censure them in a letter to the French King. A bull assigned by most historians to this date, encouraging Charles to come to Naples in the capacity of a crusader, really belongs to the following year. Whether in obedience to the interests of the hour, or from enlightened policy, Alexander's conduct at this time contrasted favourably with that of other leading men of Italy. Ludovico Sforza, playing with the fire that was to consume him, invited the French King to pass the Alps. The Florentine people favoured Charles VIII, although their unpopular ruler Piero de' Medici seemed on the side of Naples. Venice pretended to espouse Sforza's cause, but could in no way be relied upon. Cardinal della Rovere, whose old feud with the Pope had broken out anew, fled to France where, striving to incense Charles against the Pope, he unchained the tempest against which he was afterwards to contend when too late. Alexander alone, from whatever motive, acted for a time as became a patriotic Italian sovereign. Had he possessed any moral authority, he might have played a greater part. But papal dignity had been decaying since the days of Dante, and Alexander himself had impaired it still further. When his tone seemed the most confident, he secretly trembled at the weapons which he had himself put into his enemies' hands by the scandals of his life, and the simony of his election.
Nothing in Charles VIII, either in the outer or in the inner man, appeared to betoken the Providential instrument as which he stands forth in history. His ugly and diminutive person bore so little resemblance to his parents that many deemed him a supposititious child; his mind was narrow and uninformed; he was equally destitute of political and of military capacity. He knew, however, how to make himself beloved, si bon, deposes the shrewd and observant Commines, qu'il n'est point possible de voir meiUeure creature. His intentions were good; while unconsciously misled by the noble if perilous passion for glory, he was yet fully convinced that Naples was his of right, for he had inherited the ancient pretensions of the House of Anjou. He went to war rather in the spirit of a knight-errant than in that of a conqueror, much less of a statesman. Neither he nor his counsellors dreamed that he was about to bring the political organisation of Italy down like a house of cards, and to launch France on the false path in which she was to persist for centuries without earning in the end anything but humiliation and defeat. He had already yielded Artois and Franche Comte to Maximilian of Austria for his son, under the terms of the treaty of Arras, and ceded Roussillon and Cerdagne to Ferdinand of Aragon, in order to remove every obstacle to his expedition, which he designed to be the first stage of a Crusade, headed by himself, against the Turks. He had bought the imperial rights of the Paleologi, and aimed at reviving the Byzantine Empire in his own person. With this anticipation he was determined to demand from Alexander VI the custody of the Sultan's brother Jem; whether he distinctly contemplated the deposition of the Pope is very doubtful.
Alexander VI might have secured himself by siding with France; it is to his credit that he remained faithful to his Neapolitan alliance and to the interests of Italy. A joint plan of operations was agreed upon among the Italian States; but the French, though so ill provided with money that Charles was obliged to pawn his jewels, carried everything before them by land and sea. Their land expedition was memorable as the first in which an army bound on a long march had taken with it a train of artillery. Their maritime superiority gave into their hands Ostia, so lately recovered from Cardinal della Rovere; the Colonna revolted at the gates of Rome; and Neapolitan troops, which ought to have moved northward, had to remain in order to protect the Pope. The terrified Head of Christendom sought the aid of the Turk, and employed Charles's design of setting up the captive Jem against Bayazid as an instrument for recovering the arrears of the pension paid by the Sultan in consideration of his brother's safe custody. The discovery of the negotiation involved him in obloquy; yet other Popes have preferred heretical allies to orthodox adversaries. The genuineness of his instructions to his envoy seems certain; that of Bayazid's letters urging Jem's removal by poison is very questionable: at all events the proposal, if ever made, was not entertained by Alexander.
The French meanwhile advanced rapidly. They had entered Turin on September 5; by November 8 they had reached Lucca almost without fighting. Italy was supposed to possess the most scientific generals of the age, but her soldiers were mercenaries who fought for booty as well as pay, and who thought it folly to slay an enemy who might be good for a rich ransom. An Italian battle had consequently become almost as bloodless as a review. The barbarity of the French, who actually strove to smite their antagonists hip and thigh, inspired the Italian warriors with nearly as much disgust as dismay: for the first time, perhaps, in history, armies fled although and because they despised the enemy. "The French," said Alexander, "have conquered Italy con gesso,"—in allusion to the proceedings of the quartermaster, who simply chalks off the chambers and stables he thinks fit to appropriate. The political disorganisation was worse than the military, and evinced even more clearly the condition to which centuries of selfish intrigue had reduced Italy. Except the King of Naples, who could not abandon Alexander's cause without deserting his own, no Italian prince gave any material aid to the Pope. Piero de' Medici, the feeble and unpopular successor of the great Lorenzo, professed to be the ally of Rome and Naples. But ere the French had appeared before Florence, he made his submission in the hope of preserving his rule, which was nevertheless overthrown by a popular movement a fortnight afterwards (November 9). The Florentines acted partly under the inspiration of the Dominican Savonarola, who could hardly but perceive the fulfilment of his own prophecies in Charles's expedition, and might plead the precedent of Dante for the ruinous error of inviting a deliverer from beyond the Alps.
Alexander showed as much resolution as could be expected, mustering troops, fortifying Rome, arresting Cardinals of doubtful fidelity, and appealing to the rest to accompany him in case of his being compelled to withdraw. But here lay the essential weakness of his position: he could not withdraw. Some authority must exist at Rome to negotiate with Charles VIII upon his entry, now plainly inevitable. If the King did not find the lawful Pope in possession, he might set up another. The need of a reformation of the Church in capite et membris had never appeared more urgent, and although the irregularities of Alexander's life might be exaggerated by his enemies, they still afforded ground for doubting whether the caput at least was not beyond cure; while his election might be plausibly represented as invalid. If, on the other hand, Charles found Alexander in Rome, he might not only depose him but seize his person. The more violent the alarm into which Alexander was thrown-and so intense it was that a convention with the King of Naples providing for his removal to Gaeta was drawn up and approved, though never signed-the more credit he deserves for his perception that to await Charles would be the lesser peril of the two, and for his resolution in acting upon it. The lesson, that for his own security the Pope must be a powerful temporal sovereign, was no doubt fully impressed upon him: the still more important lesson, that spiritual authority cannot exist without allegiance to the moral code, was less easy of inculcation.
It soon appeared that the Pope's policy was the right one for his present emergency. Charles VIII entered Rome on December 31, and Alexander shut himself up in the Castle of St Angelo. He seemed at the King's mercy, but Charles preferred an accommodation. Men said that Alexander had bribed the French ministers; probably he had, but, corrupt or incorrupt, they could scarcely have advised Charles otherwise. The Pope could not be formally deposed except through the instrumentality of a General Council, which could not easily be convoked, and which, if convoked, would in all probability refuse to take action. Spain might be expected to take the side of the Spanish Pope, and there seemed no good reason for anticipating that other nations would take part with France. The imputations on Alexander's morality were not regarded very seriously in so lax an age: and if, as a matter of fact, he had bought the papacy, the transaction could only be proved by the evidence of the sellers. If, on the other hand, Charles simply imprisoned the Pope without displacing him, he threw Christendom into anarchy, and incurred universal reprobation. To attempt the regeneration of the Church would imperil other projects nearer to Charles's heart, and would be as wide a departure from the original purposes of his expedition as in the thirteenth century the capture of Constantinople had been from the aim of the Fourth Crusade. These considerations might well weigh with Charles's counsellors in advising an agreement with the Pope, although they must have known that conditions extorted by compulsion would bind no longer than compulsion endured. They might indeed have obtained substantial security from the Pope, if they could have constrained him to yield the Castle of St Angelo; but this he steadfastly refused. Cannons were twice pointed at the ramparts; but history cannot say whether they were loaded, and only knows that they were never fired. It was at length agreed that the Pope should yield Civita Vecchia, make his Turkish captive over to the King, and give up his son Cesare as a hostage. Nothing was said of the investiture of Naples, and although Charles afterwards urged this personally upon the Pope at an interview, Alexander, with surprising constancy, continued to refuse, expressing however a willingness to arbitrate upon the claims of the competitors. On January 28, 1495, Charles left Rome to march upon Naples, and two days afterwards was taught the value of diplomatic pledges by the escape of Cesare Borgia, and by Alexander's refusal to surrender Civita Vecchia. A month afterwards the much-coveted Jem died,—of poison, it was said, administered before his departure from Rome; but this is to attribute to poison more than it is capable of performing. Others professed to know that the Prince had been shaved with a poisoned razor; but his death seems sufficiently accounted for by bronchitis and irregularity of living. Jem's death took place at Naples, which Charles had already entered as a conqueror. King Ferdinand's successor, Alfonso, timorous as cruel, and oppressed by a consciousness of the popular hatred, had abdicated and fled to Sicily, leaving his innocent son Ferrante (or Ferrantino) to bear the brunt of invasion. The fickle people of Naples, who had had ample reason to detest the severity of the late King Ferrante's government, and were without sufficient intelligence to appreciate the wisdom and care for the public welfare which largely compensated it, hastened to acclaim Charles, and Ferrantino retired with touching dignity. Within two months the Neapolitans became as weary of, Charles as they had ever been of Ferrante, and a dangerous League was formed in Italy behind his back. Ludovico Sforza had come to perceive how great a fault he had committed in inviting the French King; for the claims of the Duke of Orleans to Milan were at least as substantial as Charles's pretensions to Naples. Maximilian and Ferdinand were no less perturbed at the rapidity of the French conquests; the Pope's sentiments were no secret; and even the cautious Venetians saw the necessity of interference. Between these five Powers a League was concluded (March 31, 1495), whose object was veiled in generalities, but which clearly contemplated the expulsion of the French from Naples. The menace sufficed; on May 20, eight days after his solemn coronation as King of Naples, Charles quitted it, never to return. He did indeed leave a garrison, which was soon dislodged by Spanish troops sent from Sicily, aided by a popular rising, and the young King, so lately deserted by all, was welcomed back with delight. Charles, meanwhile, had proceeded towards Rome, professing an unreciprocated desire to confer with the Pope. Alexander withdrew first to Orvieto, then to Perugia. Charles, after a short stay in Rome, renewed his march northwards. On July 5 an indecisive engagement with the forces of the League at Fornovo, near Parma, insured him a safe retreat, and he was glad to obtain even so much. Notwithstanding the inglorious termination of an expedition which had begun so brilliantly, it forms an epoch in the history of Italy and Europe. In revealing the weakness of Italy, the decay of her military spirit, the faithlessness and disunion of her princes and republics, it not only invited invasion, but provided Europe with a new battlefield. It set up an antagonism between France and Spain, and, while alluring both Powers with visions of easy conquest, ruined the latter State by imposing sacrifices upon her to which she would in any case have been unequal, just at the time when her new acquisitions in America taxed her to the uttermost. It preserved Europe from France by diverting the energies which, wisely exerted, would easily have subdued the Low Countries and the Rhine provinces. Most important of all, the condition of general unsettlement which it ushered in greatly promoted all movements tending to the emancipation of the human intellect. Great was the gain to the world in general, but it was bought by the devastation and enslavement of the most beautiful region of Europe.
The close of Charles's expedition is also an eventful date in the history of Alexander VI. Up to this date he appears the sport of circumstances, which he was henceforth in some manner to shape and control. It was to his credit not to have been seduced into conduct incompatible with 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 open expression of public discontent with Alexander's policy. Personally, indeed, he was never popular; but his efficiency as an administrator formed the brightest side of his character, and his care for the material interests of his subjects was exemplary. Years afterwards those who had most detested the man wished back the ruler "for his good government, and the plenty of all things in his time."
Unhappily for Alexander's repute, the glory which he might acquire as a just and able rulerwas nothing in his eyes compared with the opportunities which his station afforded him for aggrandising his family. Up to this time he had been content with the comparatively inoffensive measures of dignified matrimonial alliances and promotions in Church and State, and had not sought to make his children territorial princes; but, profiting by the death of King Ferrante of Naples, who was succeeded by his uncle Federigo, he now revived papal claims on the territory of Benevento, and erected it into a duchy for the Duke of Gandia. This was to despoil the Church, supposing her claims to have been well founded; so complete, however, was Alexander's ascendancy over the Sacred College that only one Cardinal dared to object. Simultaneously, Alexander pushed forward his schemes for the advancement of his daughter Lucrezia by divorcing her from her husband Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pesaro, whose dignity now seemed unequal to the growing grandeur of the Borgia, and who moreover belonged to a family politically estranged from the Pope. A colour of right was not wanting, the divorce, which was decreed by the College of Cardinals after a professedly searching investigation, being grounded upon the alleged impotence of the husband. It is indeed noticeable that Lucrezia, who bore children to both her subsequent husbands, bore none to Giovanni Sforza. The transaction also serves to discredit in some measure the charges brought against the Borgia of secret poisoning, which would have been more easily and conveniently employed than the disagreeable and scandalous method of a legal process.
While Alexander seemed at the summit of success, the wrath or warning of Heaven descended upon him. On the morning of June 15, 1497, the Duke of Gandia was missed from his palace; soon afterwards his body, gashed with frightful wounds, was taken from the Tiber. Returning the night before from a banquet at the house of his mother, Vanozza, in the company of his brother the Cardinal and other guests, he had separated himself from the party to ride with a masked person who had several times been observed in his company; and he was never again seen alive. After many had been named as the probable assassins, the popular voice at length proclaimed Cesare Borgia, who certainly profited by the deed; and most people thought this enough. History cannot convict on such a ground alone, and must rank this picturesque crime among her unsolved problems. After the first paroxysms of grief had subsided, Alexander made a public confession of penitence, which was probably at the time quite sincere. With all his dissimulation, he was a man of vehement emotions. A commission of Cardinals was appointed to deliberate upon ecclesiastical reforms; but by the time when they reported, Alexander's contrition had vanished. Their proposals, indeed, admirable in the abstract, were such as the Church was with difficulty induced to adopt at the Council of Trent, after having been scourged by the Reformation for half a century. Nothing could be more commendable than the prohibition of the sale of spiritual offices; but it urgently raised the question how, in that case, was the Pope's government to be carried on?
The Duke of Gandia's death is chiefly important on account of the character of his successor. There is nothing to prove the murdered prince anything but an ordinary patrician of his age; Cesare Borgia, however, was the complement of his father. Alexander, an indefatigable man of business, could never have wasted his time in inactivity: yet it is conceivable that, had he been without near relations, he might have applied himself to developing the papal estate as he found it, and attempted no ambitious conquests, beyond what was necessary for his own security. But Cesare seemed driven on by an indwelling demon,—insatiable, implacable, uncontrollable. Experience itself could never have given him his father's wisdom and prudence, but his devouring energy was even more intense. From the time of his assumption of a leading part in affairs the papal policy becomes distinctly one of conquest. The profession of care for the general weal of Italy which had marked the first years of Alexander's pontificate disappeared, and any foreign alliance was welcome which seemed to insure another principality for Cesare Borgia. How far this implied a permanent modification in the Pope's views, and how far it was a temporary plan to be discarded in its turn, is an interesting and a difficult question. But certain it is that from this time dates that deliberate creation of a strong Temporal Power as an auxiliary of the Spiritual which the present chapter has to record. Alexander and Cesare might, or might not, intend that the petty principalities of the Romagna successively subverted by Cesare should eventually become an independent kingdom under his government: the only right he could claim to them was by assignment from the Pope; and the only condition on which the Pope could grant this was Cesare's obligation to continue his vassal, and act as his lieutenant. It was a great gain to the Holy See to replace a number of unruly liegemen by a single capable deputy; but even this was but a transition stage in the process which must eventually bring these dependencies under the direct sway of Rome, and constitute by their aggregation the considerable political entity which has until recently existed as the Temporal Power.
Thirst for family aggrandisement was not the sole motive which impelled Alexander to ally himself with the foreigner. The task of maintaining order at his own doors had been too hard for him. During the earlier half of 1498 the Roman territory was distracted by the feuds of the Colonna and Orsini, who pursued their strife in total disregard of the authority of the Pope. It was necessary to enlist support from some quarter; nor did Alexander turn to France until he had tried an Italian sovereign. Lucrezia Borgia, emancipated from her real or nominal husband, espoused Alfonso di Biseglia, an illegitimate scion of the House of Naples: but Alexander's ambition went much further, and he demanded the hand of the King's daughter for Cesare, then a Cardinal, but soon to be released from his Orders, which were, in fact, only sub-diaconal. This would have placed him in the direct line of the Neapolitan succession, and have effectually estranged the Pope from France and Spain. Every consideration of sentiment disinclined the King from a step recommended by every consideration of policy; sentiment triumphed, and Naples was lost. Determined to secure an illustrious alliance for his son, Alexander now turned to France, where an event had occurred fraught with mischief to Italy. In April, 1498, Charles VIII died suddenly from the effects of an accident. His only son had died before him, and he was succeeded by Louis XII, Duke of Orleans, a distant cousin, who thought more of his own family claims on Milan than of the title which he had inherited to Naples. It happened also that he was in particular need of the good offices of the Pope, who alone could free him from a marriage forced upon him in his youth, which as he declared had never been consummated by him. This assertion was probably true, and Alexander could afford to act with fairness by referring the question to a commission, which decided in Louis XII's favour. Cesare Borgia, released from his Orders, travelled to France at the head of a brilliant retinue, bringing with him to the King a decree of divorce from his former marriage and a dispensation to contract a new one with his predecessor's widow. He received in return the duchy of Valentinois in Dauphiny. Alexander, who still clung to the Naples marriage-project, expected the French King to use his influence to promote it, and the disappointment of his hopes seemed at one time likely to carry him back to the side of Spain. At last, however (May, 1499), tidings came that Louis had found Cesare another royal bride in the person of Charlotte d'Albret, a princess of the House of Navarre, and Alexander was now fully committed to the French policy, which aimed at nothing less than the subjugation of the duchy of Milan. Venice was to be bribed by a share of the spoil, and Alexander was to be aided in subduing the petty despots who, nominally his vassals, tyrannised over the B-omagna and all but besieged the Pope himself in Rome. The undertaking would have been laudable, had not its chief motive been the exaltation of Cesare Borgia.
The fate of Ludovico Sforza was soon decided. Unable to resist the combination of France and Venice, he fled into the Tyrol. Personally he could inspire little sympathy; he had gained his sovereignty by usurpation, coupled, as was very widely believed on evidence which has however failed to convince history, with secret murder; and he had been the first to invite the French into Italy. It was nevertheless shocking and of most inauspicious augury to see an Italian prince dispossessed by the foreigner, with the active aid of one of his own allies and the connivance of another, and deserted by all the rest, who had not like Alexander the excuse of deriving substantial advantage from their perfidy. The French occupied Milan in October, 1499; in December Cesare Borgia, at the head of troops raised by his father and Gascon soldiers and Swiss mercenaries lent by France, commenced the operations which were to result in the constitution of the States of the Church as a European Power.
Theoretically, the Pope was already supreme over the territories of which, three centuries later, the French Revolution was to find him in possession: practically, his authority was a mere shadow. With law and reason on their side, the Popes had rarely been able to reduce their rebellious vassals. Thrice had this apparently been accomplished,—by Cardinal Albornoz as the legate of Innocent VI in the middle of the fourteenth century; by Boniface IX in the very midst of the Great Schism; and by Martin V after its termination. All Martin's gains had been lost under Eugenius IV; and Sixtus IV, with all his unscrupulous energy, had achieved nothing beyond carving out a principality for his own family. Alexander's projects went much further; he wished to crush all the vassal States, and build out of them a kingdom for his son,—with what ulterior aim is one of the problems of history. He must have known that no alienation of the papal title in Cesare's favour could be valid, or would be respected by his successors. He may-so rapidly was he filling the Sacred College with Spanish Cardinals - have looked forward to a successor who would consent to a partnership with Cesare, receiving military support on the one hand, and according spiritual countenance on the other. He may have looked still higher, and regarded the conquest of the Romagna as but a stepping-stone to the acquisition of the Kingdom of Naples for his son; perhaps even to the expulsion of the foreigner, and the sway of the House of Borgia over a grateful and united Italy. Machiavelli evidently thought that Cesare Borgia was the one man from whom the deliverance of Italy might conceivably have come; and the bare possibility that his dark soul may have harboured so generous a project has always in a measure pleaded with Italians for the memory of the most ruthless and treacherous personality of his age.
There was little generosity in Cesare's first movements, which were directed against a woman. Every petty sovereign in the Romagna had given the Pope ample pretext for intervention by withholding tribute, or oppressing his subjects. It was natural, however, to begin with the princes of the House of Sforza, now brought low by the ruin of the chief among them. Cesare attacked Imola and Forli, which Sixtus had made the appanage of his nephew Girolamo Riario, and which since the assassination of that detestable tyrant had been governed by his widow, Caterina Sforza. The courageous spirit of this princess has gained her the good word of history, which she is far from deserving on any other ground. She was a feudal ruler of the worst type, and in her dominions and elsewhere in the Romagna Cesare was regarded as an avenger commissioned by Heaven to redress ages of oppression and wrong. The citadel of Forli surrendered on January 12, 1500. Caterina was sent to Rome, where she was honourably treated; and though suspected of complicity in an attempt to poison the Pope, was eventually allowed to retire to Florence. Cesare made a triumphal entry into Rome, but his projects received a temporary check from a revolution in Milan, where Ludovico Sforza recovered his dominions in February, only to lose them again with his liberty in April. The captive Duke and his brother the Cardinal were sent into France, and Cesare could resume his expedition against the other Romagnol vassals placed upon the Pope's black list as "vicars" in default, the Lords of Pesaro, Rimini, Faenza, and Camerino.
The summer of 1500, nevertheless, passed without further prosecution of Cesare's enterprise, partly because of the difficulty of obtaining the consent of the Venetians to an attack upon Faenza and Rimini; partly, perhaps, from the necessity of replenishing the treasury. It fitted well with the projects of the Borgia that 1500 was the Year of Jubilee. Rome was full of pilgrims, every one of whom made an offering, and the sale pf indulgences was stimulated to double briskness. Money poured into the papal coffers, and thence into Cesare's; religion got nothing except a gilded ceiling. Twelve new Cardinals were created, who paid on the average ten thousand ducats each for their promotion, and the traffic in benefices attained heights of scandal previously unknown. On the other hand Alexander is not, like most of his immediate predecessors and successors, reproached with any excessive taxation of his people. The progress which the Turks were then making in the Morea favoured his projects; he exerted himself to give the Venetians both naval and financial aid, and they in return not only withdrew their opposition to his undertakings, but enrolled him among their patricians. In October, 1500, Cesare marched into the Romagna at the head of ten thousand men. The tyrants of Rimini and Pesaro fled before him. Faenza resisted for some time, but ultimately surrendered; and after a while its Lord, the young Astorre Manfredi, was found in the Tiber with a stone about his neck. Florence and Bologna trembled and sought to buy Cesare off with concessions; the sagacious Venetians, says a contemporary, "looked on unmoved, for they knew that the Duke's conquests were a fire of straw which would go out of itself." Cesare returned in triumph to Rome (January 17, 1501), and was received "as though he had conquered the lands of the infidels."
He arrived on the eve of one of the most important transactions in Italian history. The refusal of the King of Naples to give his daughter to Cesare had alienated the Pope, and the murder of Lucrezia Borgia's Neapolitan husband in August, 1500, undoubtedly effected through Cesare's agency, has been looked upon as a deliberate prologue to a rupture with Naples. It was more probably the result of a private quarrel; the Pope seems to have honestly tried to protect his son-in-law, and the secret treaty between France and Spain for the partition of Naples was not signed until November, or published until June, 1501. An idle pretext was found in King Federigo's friendly relations with the Sultan; but the archives of European diplomacy register nothing more shameful than this compact, and of all the public acts of Alexander's pontificate his sanction of it is the most disgraceful and indefensible. This sanction was probably reluctant; for he cannot have wished to see two formidable Powers like France and Spain established upon his frontier, and he may have excused himself by the reflexion that there was no help for it, and that he was securing all the compensation he could. Nothing could really compensate for the degradation of the Spiritual Power by its complicity in so infamous a transaction; but this was a consideration which did not strongly appeal to Alexander. It is only just to observe, however, that at bottom this humiliating action sprang from the great cause of humiliation which he was endeavouring to abolish,—the Pope's weakness as a temporal sovereign. This could not be remedied without foreign alliances, and they could not be had unless he was prepared to meet his allies half-way.
The conquest and partition of Naples were effected in a month, Spain taking Apulia and Calabria. The consideration for Alexander's support had been French countenance in the suppression of the turbulent Colonna and Savelli barons who had disquieted the Popes for centuries, but who were now compelled to yield their castles, a welcome token of the disappearance of the feudal age. The Pope's good humour was augmented by the success of his negotiations for the disposal of his daughter Lucrezia, who was betrothed to Alfonso, son of the Duke of Ferrara, in September, and married with great pomp in the following January. The Ferrarese princes only consented through fear; they probably knew that Alexander had only been prevented from attacking them by the veto of Venice. They now obtained a receipt in full and something more, for the Ferrarese tribute was remitted for three generations. The marriage proved happy. Lucrezia, a kindly, accomplished and somewhat apathetic woman, took no more notice of her husband's gallantries than he took of the homage she received from Bembo and other men of letters. Nothing could be less like the real Lucrezia than the Lucrezia of the dramatists and romancers.
The year 1502 beheld a further extension of Cesare's conquests. He 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 ere too late. It was too late already; had it been otherwise, the cautious, selfish Venetians would have been the last to have risked anything for the general good. Alexander must have allied himself either with Spain or with France; he might have decided the contest, but would himself have run great risk of being subjugated by the victor. A quite unforeseen stroke delivered the Papacy from this peril, and, annihilating all Alexander's projects for the grandeur of his house, placed the great work of consolidating the Temporal Power in more disinterested though hardly more scrupulous hands. On August 5 he caught a chill while supping with Cardinal Corneto; on the 12th he felt ill; and on the 18th a fever carried him off. The suddenness of the event, the rapid decomposition of the corpse, and the circumstance that Cesare Borgia was simultaneously taken ill, accredited the inevitable rumours of poison, and his decease became the nucleus of a labyrinthine growth of legend and romance. Modern investigation has dispelled it all, and has left no reasonable doubt that the death was entirely natural.
Alexander's character has undoubtedly gained by the scrutiny of modern historians. It was but natural that one accused of so many crimes, and unquestionably the cause of many scandals, should alternately appear as a tyrant and as a voluptuary. Neither description suits him. The groundwork of his character was extreme exuberance of nature. The Venetian ambassador calls him a carnal man, not implying anything morally derogatory, but meaning a man of sanguine temperament, unable to control his passions and emotions. This perplexed the cool unim-passioned Italians of the diplomatic type then prevalent among rulers and statesmen, and their misapprehensions have unduly prejudiced Alexander, who in truth was not less but more human than most princes of his time. This excessive "carnality" wrought in him for good and ill. Unrestrained by moral scruples, or by any spiritual conception of religion, he was betrayed by it into gross sensuality of one kind, though in other respects he was temperate and abstemious. In the more respectable guise of family affection it led him to outrage every principle of justice; though even here he only performed a necessary work which could not, as one of his agents said, have been accomplished "by holy water." On the other hand, his geniality and joyousness preserved him from tyranny in the ordinary sense of the term; considering the absolute character of his authority, and the standard of his times, it is surprising how little, outside the regions of la haute politique, is charged against him. His sanguine constitution also gave him tremendous driving power. "Pope Alexander," says a later writer, censuring the dilatoriness of Leo X, "did but will a thing, and it was done." As a ruler, careful of the material weal of his people, he ranks among the best of his age; as a practical statesman he was the equal of any contemporary. But his insight was impaired by his lack of political morality; he had nothing of the higher wisdom which comprehends the characteristics and foresees the drift of an epoch, and he did not know what a principle was. The general tendency of investigation, while utterly shattering all idle attempts to represent him as a model Pope, has been to relieve him of the most odious imputations against his character. There remains the charge of secret poisoning from motives of cupidity, which indeed appears established, or nearly so, only in a single instance; but this may imply others.
Cesare Borgia afterwards told Machiavelli that he deemed himself to have provided against everything that could possibly happen at the death of his father, but had never thought that he himself might at the same time be disabled by sickness. He succeeded in seizing the Pope's treasure in the Vatican, but failed in securing the Castle of St Angelo, and was obliged to adopt a deferential tone towards the Cardinals. Alexander had gone far towards filling the Sacred College with his own countrymen, and although the Conclave is said by a contemporary to have been more decried for venal practices than any before it, the influence of Ferdinand of Aragon, conjoined with that of Cardinal della Rovere, who found the pear not yet ripe for himself, decided the election in favour of one who assuredly had no share in these practices, the upright Cardinal of Siena. Something may be ascribed to the law already noticed, which frequently fills the place of a deceased Pope with his entire opposite. This may be deemed to have been exemplified anew when, after a sickly pontificate of twenty-seven days, the mild Pius III was replaced (November 1) by the most pugnacious and imperious personality in the Sacred College, Cardinal della Rovere, who evinced his ambition of rivalling if not excelling Alexander by assuming the name of Julius II. His election had not been untainted by simoniacal practices, but cannot like Alexander's be said to have been mainly procured by them. It was rather due to an arrangement with Cesare Borgia, who had the simplicity to expect others to keep faith with him who had kept faith with none, and permitted the Cardinals of his party to vote for della Rovere, on condition that he should be confirmed as Gonfaloniere of the Church. History has never made it a reproach to Julius that he soon incarcerated Borgia in St Angelo, and applied himself to stripping him of his possessions in the Romagna. In some cases the exiled lords had reinstated themselves; in others difficulties arose from the fidelity of Cesare's castellans, who refused to obey even the orders extorted from him to surrender their castles. When at last everything had been got from him that could be got, Julius, instead of secretly putting him to death as Alexander would have done, permitted him to depart to Naples, where he was arrested and sent prisoner into Spain. His career was yet to be illustrated by a romantic escape and a soldier's death in an obscure skirmish in Navarre. The Homagna could not forget that he had been to her one just ruler in the place of many tyrants, and he retained partisans there to the last. Had he survived until the new Pope's war with his brother-in-law the Duke of Ferrara, he would probably have commanded the latter's troops, and a new page of conquest might have opened for him.
Julius had hated Alexander above all men; but it was now incumbent upon him to resume Alexander's work, repair the damage it had sustained, and prosecute it to a successful conclusion. His record as Cardinal had not been a bright one. When in favour with Pope Innocent, he had failed to inspire him with energy except for an unjust war, or to reform any abuse in the papal administration. As the enemy of Alexander, he had put himself in the wrong by turbulence and unpatriotic intrigue. If he had not done Italy infinite harm by his invitations to France to invade her, the reason was merely that the French would have come without him. When ostensibly reconciled to Alexander, he had shown much servility. His private life had been licentious; though not illiterate, he was no proficient in literature; and one looks in vain for any service rendered by him as Cardinal to religion, letters, or art. Yet there was always something in him which conveyed the impression of a superior character; he overawed others, and was never treated with disrespect. There was indeed a natural magnanimity in him which adverse circumstances had checked, but which came out so soon as he obtained liberty of action. Unlike his predecessor, he had an ideal of what a Pope should be,—defective indeed, but embodying all the qualities particularly demanded by the age. He thought far more of the Church in her temporal than in her spiritual aspect; but Luther was not yet, and for the moment the temporal need seemed the more pressing. He possessed a great advantage over his predecessor in his freedom from nepotism: he had no son, and was content with a modest provision for his daughter, and not only seemed but was personally disinterested in the wars which he undertook for the aggrandisement of the Church. The vehemence which engaged him in such undertakings made him terrible and indefatigable in the prosecution of them; but, as he was deficient in the prudence and discernment of his predecessor, it frequently hurried him into inconsiderate actions and speeches, detrimental to his interests and dignity. Transplanted, however, to another sphere, it secured him a purer and more desirable glory than any that he could obtain by conquest. Having once determined it to be a Pope's duty to encourage the arts, he entered upon the task as he would have entered upon a campaign, and achieved results far beyond the ambition of his most refined and accomplished predecessors. His treatment of individual artists was often harsh and niggardly, but of his dealings with art as a whole Bishop Creighton rightly declares: "he did not merely employ great artists, he impressed them with a sense of his own greatness, and called out all that was strongest and noblest in their own nature. They knew that they served a master who was in sympathy with themselves.'"
While Julius was ridding himself of Cesare Borgia, a new enemy appeared, too formidable for him to contend with at the time. In the autumn of 1503 the Venetians suddenly seized upon Rimini and Faenza. The aggression was most audacious, and Venice was to find that it was also most unwise. It was no less disastrous to Italy, giving the policy of Julius an unhappy bent from which it could never afterwards free itself. Notwithstanding the errors of his younger days, there is no reason to doubt that he was really a sound patriot, to whom the expulsion of the foreigner always appeared a desirable if remote ideal, and who had no wish to ally himself more closely than he could help with Spain or France. He now had before him only the alternatives of calling in the foreigner or of submitting to an outrageous aggression, and it is not surprising that he preferred the former. He was aware of the mischief that he and Venice were perpetrating between them. "Venice," he said, "makes both herself and me the slaves of everyone- herself that she may keep, me that I may win back. But for this we might have been united to find some way to free Italy from foreigners." It would have been wiser and more patriotic to have waited until some conjunction of circumstances should arise to compel Venice to seek his alliance; but when the fire of his temper and the magnitude of the injury are considered, it can but appear natural that he should have striven to create such a conjuncture himself. This was no difficult matter: every European State envied Venice's wealth and prosperity, and her uniformly selfish policy had left her without a friend. By September, 1504, Julius had succeeded in bringing about an anti-Venetian League between Maximilian and Louis XII of France, which indeed came to nothing, but sufficiently alarmed the Venetians to induce them to restore Ravenna and Cervia, which had long been in their possession, retaining their recent acquisitions, Faenza and Rimini. The Duke of Urbino, the Pope's kinsman, undertook that he would not reclaim these places: Julius dexterously evaded making any such pledge, and the seed of war went on slowly ripening.
During this period Julius performed two other actions of importance. He restored their castles to the Colonna and the Orsini, a retrograde step whose ill consequences he was himself to experience; and he promulgated a bull against simony in papal elections. His own had not been pure, and the measure may have been intended to silence rumours, but it is quite as likely to have been the fruit of genuine compunction. In any case it distinguishes him favourably from his predecessor, who regarded such iniquities as matters of course, while Julius signalised them as abuses to be rooted out. Nor were his efforts vain; though bribery in the coarse form of actual money payment is known to have been attempted at more recent papal elections, it does not appear to have actually determined any.
While nursing his wrath against Venice, Julius sought to compensate the losses of the Church by acquisitions in other quarters. Upon the fall of Cesare Borgia, Urbino and Perugia had reverted to their former lords. Ferrara had now lost the protection insured to it by the Borgia marriage, and the tyranny of the Bentivogli in Bologna incited attack. The Duke of Urbino was Julius's kinsman, and Ferrara was too strong; but the Pope thought he might well assert the claims of the Church to Perugia and Bologna, especially as their conquest could be represented as a crusade for the deliverance of the oppressed, and no imputation of nepotism could be made against him as against his predecessors. Yet he could not avoid exposing himself to the reproach incurred by an alliance with foreigners against Italians. Bologna was under the protectorate of the French King, and Julius could do nothing until he had dissolved this alliance and received a promise of French cooperation. This having been obtained through the influence of King Louis's prime minister, Cardinal d'Amboise, procured by the promise of three cardinalships for his nephews, Julius quitted Rome in August, 1506, at the head of his own army, a sight which Christendom had not seen for ages. Perugia was yielded without a contest, on the stipulation that the Baglioni should not be entirely expelled from the city. Julius continued his march across the Apennines, and on October 7 issued a bull deposing Giovanni Bentivoglio and excommunicating him and his adherents as rebels. Eight thousand French troops simultaneously advanced against Bologna from Milan. Bentivoglio, unable to resist the double attack, took refuge in the French camp, and the city opened its gates to Julius, who might boast of having vindicated his rights and enlarged the papal dominions without spilling a drop of blood. His triumph was commemorated by Michael Angelo's colossal statue, destined to a brief existence, but famous in the history of art. But Julius was a better judge of artists than of ministers, and the misconduct of the legates successively appointed by him to govern Bologna alienated the citizens, and prepared the way for fresh revolutions.
The easy conquest of Bologna could not but whet the Pope's appetite for revenge upon Venice, and ought to have shown the Venetians how formidable an enemy he could be. They continued, nevertheless, to cling with tenacity to their ill-gotten acquisitions in the Romagna, unaware of or indifferent to their peril from the jealousy of the chief States of Europe. No other Power, it was true, had any just cause of quarrel with them. Their most recent acquisitions in Lombardy had indeed been basely obtained as the price of cooperation in the overthrow of Ludovico Sforza: the Neapolitan cities, though acquired by the grant of Ferrantino, had been retained by connivance at the destruction of Federigo; they were, notwithstanding, the stipulated price of these iniquities, which the conquerors of Milan and Naples had no right to reclaim. Their late gains from Maximilian had been made in open war, and confirmed by solemn treaty. These considerations weighed nothing with him or with France; and at Julius's instigation these Powers concluded on December 10, 1508, the famous treaty known as the League of Cambray, by which the continental dominions of Venice were to be divided between them, reservation being made of the claims of the Pope, Mantua, and Ferrara. Spain, if she acceded, was to have the Neapolitan cities occupied by Venice; Dalmatia was to go to Hungary; even the Duke of Savoy was tempted by the bait of Cyprus. It seemed to occur to none that they were destroying "Europe's bulwark 'gainst the Ottomite."
Julius, though the mainspring of the League, avoided joining it openly until he saw that the allies were committed to the war. His assent was given on March 25, 1509; on April 7 the Venetians offered to restore Faenza and Rimini. But the Pope was too deeply engaged, and probably thought that the offer was only made to divide the allies, and would be withdrawn when it had served its purpose. On April 27 he published a violent bull of excommunication. His troops entered the Romagna; but the Emperor and Spain held back, and left the conquest of Lombardy to France. It proved unexpectedly easy. The Venetians were completely defeated at Agnadello on May 14, and the French immediately possessed themselves of Lombardy as far as the Mincio. They halted there, having obtained all they wanted. Maximilian had not yet appeared on the scene, and the extraordinary panic into which the Venetians seemed to fall is to be accounted for not so much by the severity of their defeat as by the mutiny or dispersion of the Venetian militia. They hastened to restore the disputed towns in the Romagna to the Pope,—an act right and wise in itself, but carried out with unthinking precipitation. If the towns had been bravely defended, Julius would probably have met the Venetians half way; as they had no longer any hold upon him, he remained inexorable, and vented his wrath with every token of contumely and harshness. They were equally submissive to Maximilian, who was by this time in partial occupation of the country to the east of the Mincio; nor was it until July 17, that, encouraged by the scantness of his troops and the slenderness of his pecuniary resources, they plucked up courage to recover Padua. Stung by this mortification, Maximilian succeeded in assembling a formidable army; but Venice had in the meantime reorganised her scattered forces, and obtained fresh recruits from Dalmatia and Albania. Padua was besieged during the latter half of September; but the siege was raised early in October. Most of Maximilian's conquests were recovered by the Venetians, and their spirit rose fast, until it was again humbled by the destruction of their fleet on the Po by the artillery of the Duke of Ferrara.
All this time Julius had been browbeating the Venetians. Not content with the recovery of his territory, he demanded submission on all ecclesiastical questions. Venice was to surrender its claims to nominate to bishoprics and benefices, to entertain appeals in ecclesiastical cases, and to tax or try the clergy. Freedom of trade was also demanded, with other minor concessions. It seems almost surprising that the Venetians, who had no great cause to fear the Pope's military or naval strength, and knew that he was beginning to quarrel with the King of France, should have yielded. In fact this resolution was only adopted by a bare majority in the Council, and they guarded themselves by a secret protest as respected their ecclesiastical concessions. The Pope's successors soon found that non ligant foedera jacta metu. Venice never permanently recovered her possessions in the Romagna; but most of her territorial losses in other quarters were regained by the Treaty of Noyon in 1516. A blow unconnected with Italian politics, and against which war and diplomacy were powerless, had nevertheless been struck by the diversion to Lisbon of her gainful Oriental traffic, consequent upon the doubling of the Cape of Good Hope. A brilliant period in letters and the arts lay yet before her; she was still to war with the Turk in Cyprus and the Morea; but she soon ceased to rank as a first-class Power.
Absolution was formally granted to Venice on February 24, 1510, and Julius thus became openly detached from the League of Cambray. The incident marks the definitive consolidation of the Papal States; for although districts were occasionally lost and others occasionally added during the agitations of the following confused years, such variations were but temporary, and it was long ere the papal territory was finally rounded off by the acquisition of Ferrara and Urbino. From his own point of view Julius had done great things. By dexterous diplomacy and martial daring he had preserved or recovered or augmented Alexander's conquests, and given no suspicion of any intention of alienating them for the benefit of his own family. He was now, what so many Popes had vainly sighed to be, master in his own house, and a considerable temporal sovereign. Yet, if he was at all accessible to the feelings with which he has been usually credited, he must have reflected with remorse that this end had only been accomplished by allying himself with foreigners for the humiliation, almost the ruin, of the only considerable Italian State. He might naturally wish to repair the mischief he had done by humbling the foreigners in their turn. Other causes concurred,—his dread of the preponderance of the French in Northern Italy, his grief at the subjugation of his own city of Genoa by them; above all, it must be feared, his desire to aggrandise the Church by annexing the dominions of the Duke of Ferrara, who was protected by France. Alfonso of Ferrara had been a useful ally in the Pope's attack upon Venice, but he had declined to follow his example in making peace with her; he was personally obnoxious as Alexander VI's son-in-law; and his salt-works at Comacchio competed with the Pope's own. It is remarkable that Julius should be indebted to the least justifiable of his actions for much of his reputation with posterity. It would be difficult to conceive anything more scandalous than his sudden turning round upon his allies so soon as they had helped him to gain his ends. But he proclaimed, and no doubt with a certain measure of sincerity, that his ultimate aim was the deliverance of Italy from the foreigner; and Italian patriots have been so rejoiced to find an Italian prince actually taking up arms against the foreigner instead of merely talking about it, that they have canonised him,—and canonised he will remain. It is also to be remarked that the transactions of the remaining years of his pontificate were on a grander scale than heretofore, and better adapted to exhibit the picturesque aspects of his fiery and indomitable nature.
The War was precipitated by an incident which seemed to give the Pope an opportunity of beginning it with advantage. Louis XII had refused to grant the Swiss the terms which they demanded for the renewal of their alliance with him, which insured him the services, on occasion, of a large number of mercenaries. Julius stepped into his place, and the Swiss agreed to aid him with fifteen thousand men (May, 1510). Elated at this, he resolved to begin the War without delay, though his overtures to other allies had been coldly received, and even the grant of the investiture of Naples, a studied affront to the French King, had failed to bring Ferdinand of Aragon to his side. The Venetians, however, still unreconciled to France, and thirsting for revenge on the Duke of Ferrara, espoused the Pope's cause. The first act of hostility was a bull excommunicating the Duke of Ferrara which, Peter Martyr says, made his hair stand on end, and in which the salt-trade was not forgotten. The Popes failed to perceive how by reckless misuse they were blunting the weapon which they would soon need for more spiritual ends. Louis paid Julius back in his own coin, convoking the French clergy to protest, and threatening a General Council. Modena was reduced by the papal troops; but when, in October, Julius reached Bologna, he received the mortifying intelligence that the Swiss had deserted him, pretending that they had not understood that they were to fight against France. This left the country open to the French commander Chaumont, who, profiting by the division of the Pope's forces between Modena and Bologna, advanced so near the latter city that with a little more energy he could have captured Julius, who was confined to his bed by a fever. While the French general negotiated, Venetian reinforcements appeared and rescued the Pope, wellnigh delirious between fever and fright. When he recovered, he undertook the reduction of the castles of Concordia and Mirandola, commanding the road to Ferrara. Mirandola held out until the winter, and the Pope, enraged at the slowness of his generals, proceeded thither in person and busied himself with military operations, tramping in the deep snow, lodging in a kitchen, swearing at his officers, joking with the soldiers, and endearing himself to the camp by his fund of anecdote and his rough wit. Mirandola fell at last; but the Pope could make no further progress. Negotiations were set on foot, but came to nothing. In May, 1511 the new French general Trivulzio made a descent on Bologna, which was greatly exasperated by the misgovernment of the Legate Alidosi, expelled the Pope's troops, and reinstated the Bentivogli. Michael Angelo's statue of Julius was hurled from its pedestal, and the Duke of Ferrara, though a reputed lover of art, could not refrain from the practical sarcasm of melting it into a cannon. Alidosi, gravely suspected of treachery, was cut down by the Duke of Urbino's own hand. Mirandola was retaken, and Julius returned to Rome apparently beaten at every point, but as resolute as ever. All Europe was being drawn into his broils. He looked to Spain, Venice, and England to aid him, and this actually came to pass.
Before, however, the "Holy League" could take effect, Julius fell alarmingly ill. On August 21 his life was despaired of, and the Orsini and Colonna, whom he had inconsiderately reinstated, prepared to renew their ancient conflicts. One of the Colonna, Pompeio Bishop of Rieti, a soldier made into a priest against his will, exhorted the Roman people to take the government of the city upon themselves, and was ready to play the part of Rienzi, when Julius suddenly recovered in spite of, or because of, the wine which he insisted on drinking. His death would have altered the politics of Europe; so important a factor had the Temporal Power now become. It would also have saved the Church from a small abortive schism. On September 1, 1511 a handful of dissentient cardinals, reinforced by some French bishops and abbots, met at Pisa in the guise of a General Council. They soon found it advisable to gather more closely under the wing of the French King by retiring to Milan, whose contemporary chronicler says that he does not think their proceedings worth the ink it would take to record them. The principal result was the convocation by Julius of a genuine Council at the Lateran, which was actually opened on May 10, 1512. A step deserving to be called bold, since there was in general nothing that Popes abhorred so much as a General Council; significant, as an admission that the Church needed to be rehabilitated; politic, because Julius's breach of his election promise to summon a Council was the ostensible ground of the convocation of the Pisan.
Julius would have commenced the campaign of 1512 with the greatest chances of success, if his operations had been more skilfully combined; but the Swiss invasion of Lombardy on which he had relied was over, before his own movements had begun. Scarcely had the Swiss, discouraged by want of support, withdrawn across the Alps, when Julius's army, consisting chiefly of Spaniards under Ramon de Cardona, but with a papal contingent under a papal legate, Cardinal de' Medici, afterwards Leo X, presented itself before Bologna. In the ordinary course of things Bologna would have fallen; but the French were commanded by a great military genius, the youthful Gaston de Foix^ whose life and death alike demonstrated that human personality counts for much, and that history is not a matter of mere abstract law. By skilful manoeuvres Gaston compelled the allies to withdraw into the Romagna, and then (April 11) entirely overthrew them in the great fight of Ravenna,—most picturesque of battles, pictorial in every detail, from the stalwart figure of the revolted Cardinal Sanseverino turning out in complete armour to smite the Pope, to the capture of Cardinal de' Medici by Greeks in French service, and the death of the young hero himself, as he strove to crown his victory by the annihilation of the solid Spanish infantry. Had he lived, he would soon have been in Rome, and the Pope, unless he submitted, must have become a captive in France or a refugee in Spain. Julius resisted the Cardinals who beset him with clamours for peace, but his galleys were being equipped for flight when Giulio de' Medici, afterwards Clement VII, arrived as a messenger from his cousin the captive legate, with such a picture of the discord among the victors after Gaston's death that Pope and Cardinals breathed again. Within a few weeks the French were recalled to Lombardy by another Swiss invasion. The German mercenaries, of whom their forces largely consisted, deserted them at the command of the Emperor, and the army that might have stood at the gates of Rome actually abandoned Milan, and with it all the conquests of recent years. The anti-papal Council fled into France, and Cardinal Medici was rescued by the Lombard peasantry. The Duke of Urbino, who, estranged from the Pope by the summary justice he had exercised upon Cardinal Alidosi, had for a time kept aloof and afterwards been on the point of joining the French, now came forward to provide Julius with another army. The Bentivogli fled from Bologna, and the papal troops further occupied Parma and Piacenza. But Julius thought nothing done so long as the Duke of Ferrara retained his dominions. The Duke came in person to Rome to deprecate his wrath, protected by a safe conduct, and accompanied by his own liberated captive, Fabrizio Colonna. Julius received him kindly, freed him from all spiritual censures, but was inflexible in temporal matters; the surrender of the duchy he must and would have. Alfonso proving equally firm, the Pope so far forgot himself as to threaten him with imprisonment; but Fabrizio Colonna, declaring his own reputation at stake, procured his escape, and escorted him safely back. Such instances of a nice sense of personal honour are not infrequent in the annals of the age, and afford a refreshing contrast to the general political immorality.
An event was now about to happen which, although he was not the chief agent in it, contributed most of all to confer on Julius the proud title of Deliverer of Italy. It was necessary to decide the fate of the Duchy of Milan, which Ferdinand and Maximilian wished to give to their grandson the Archduke Charles, afterwards the Emperor Charles V. Julius had not driven the French out in order to put the Spaniards and Austrians in. He demanded the restoration of the expelled Italian dynasty in the person of Massimiliano Sforza. Fortunately the decision of the question lay with the Swiss, who from motives of money and policy took the side of Sforza; and he was installed accordingly. All must have seen that this arrangement was a mere makeshift; but the restoration, however precarious, of an Italian dynasty to an Italian State so long usurped by the foreigner was enough to cover Julius with glory. He had unquestionably in this instance done his duty as an Italian sovereign, and men did not over-nicely consider how impotent he would have been without foreign aid, and how substantial an advantage he was obtaining for himself by the annexation of Parma and Piacenza, long held by the ruler of Milan, but now discovered to have been bequeathed to the Church by the Countess Matilda four hundred years before.
A deplorable contemporary event, meanwhile, passed almost unnoticed in the general joy at the expulsion of the French, and the unprecedented development of the Pope's temporal power. This was the subversion of the Florentine republic and the restoration of the Medici, discreditable to the Spaniards who achieved it and to the Pope who permitted it, but chiefly to the Florentines themselves. Their weakness and levity, the memory of the early Medicean rulers, the feeling that since their expulsion Florence had been no strong defence or worthy example to Italy, and the fact that no foreigner was placed in possession, mitigated the indignation and alarm naturally aroused by such a catastrophe. It was not foreseen that in after years a Medicean Pope would accept the maintenance of his family in Florence by way of consideration for the entire sacrifice of the independence of Italy.
The time of Julius's removal from the scenes of earth was approaching, and it was well for him. The continuance of his life and of his reputation would hardly have been compatible. He was about to show, as he had shown before, that, however attached in the abstract to the liberty of Italy, he was always willing to postpone this to his own projects. He had two especially at heart, the subjugation of Ferrara and the success of the Lateran Council, which he had convoked to eclipse the schismatical Council of Pisa. For this the support of the Emperor Maximilian was necessary; for the Council, which had already begun to deliberate, might appear hardly more respectable than its rival, if it was ignored by both France and Germany. As a condition, Maximilian insisted on concessions from the Venetians, whom the Pope ordered to surrender Verona and Vicenza, and to hold Padua and Treviso as fiefs of the Empire. The Venetians refused, and Julius threatened them with excommunication. Fortunately for his fame, the stroke was delayed until it was too late. He had long been suffering from a complication of infirmities. At the end of January, 1513, he S took to his bed; on February 4 he professed himself without hope of recovery; on February 20 he received the last sacraments, and he died on the following day. Goethe says that every man abides in our memory in the character under which he has last been prominently displayed; the last days of Julius II exhibited him to the most advantage. He addressed the cardinals with dignity and tenderness; he deplored his faults and errors without descending to particulars; he spoke of the schismatics with forbearance, yet with unbending resolution; he ordered the reissue of his regulations against simony in pontifical elections; and gave many wholesome admonitions respecting the future conclave. On foreign affairs he seems not to have touched. His death evoked the most vehement demonstrations of popular sorrow. Never, says Paris de Grassis, who as papal master of the ceremonies was certain to be well-informed, had there been at the funeral of any Pope anything like the concourse of persons of every age, sex and rank thronging to kiss his feet, and imploring with cries and tears the salvation of him who had been a true Pope of Rome and Vicar of Christ, maintaining justice, augmenting the Church, and warring upon and putting down tyrants and enemies. "Many to whom his death might have been deemed welcome lamented him with abundant tears as they said, ' This Pope has delivered us all, all Italy and all Christendom from the hands of the Gauls and Barbarians.' "
This enthusiastic panegyric would have been moderated if the secret springs of Julius's policy had been better known; if it had been understood how Fortune, rather than Wisdom, had stood his friend through life; and if the inevitably transitory character of his best work had been perceived. A national dynasty might be restored to Milan, but it could not be kept there, nor could it prove aught but the puppet of the foreigner while it remained. The fate of Italy had been sealed long ago, when she refused to participate in the movement of coalescence which was consolidating disjointed communities into great nations. These nations had now become great military monarchies, for which a loose bundle of petty States was no match. A Cesare Borgia might possibly have saved her, if he had wrought at the beginning of the fifteenth century instead of the end. Venice did something; but she was essentially a maritime Power, and her possessions on the mainland were in many respects a source of weakness. The only considerable approach to consolidation was the establishment of the Papal Temporal Power, of which Alexander and Julius were the chief architects. While the means employed in its creation were often most condemnable, the creation itself was justified by the helpless condition of the Papacy without it, and by the useful end it was to serve when it became the only vestige of dignity and independence left to Italy.