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Caesar Borgia_ A Study of the Renaissance

Caesar Borgia_ A Study of the Renaissance
Title: Caesar Borgia_ A Study of the Renaissance
Release Date: 2018-05-10
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, Caesar Borgia, by John Leslie Garner

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Title: Caesar Borgia

A Study of the Renaissance

Author: John Leslie Garner

Release Date: May 10, 2018 [eBook #57132]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8



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Although much has been written regarding theBorgias, no monograph devoted to Caesar—themost interesting member of the family as apsychological study—has hitherto appeared inEnglish.

With the passing of the “great man theory,”biography and history have become completelyseparated, and a personality such as Caesar Borgiais interesting now chiefly as a product of the egoismof the age. Vast, unrestrained selfishness was thepredominant characteristic of the men of the ItalianRenaissance. The Peninsula was in the grasp ofa number of petty tyrants who, to advance theirown interests and those of their families, hesitatedat no crime.

Never before was love of power so general andcarried to such extremes. Men and women weremere pawns in a stupendous political game. Inthe governing families the women especially wereregarded as assets to be used in establishingalliances to increase the power of the clan.

Men of iron played fast and loose with states6and principalities; to them the lives of a city’spopulation were nothing except so far as theirown projects and power were concerned.

Of this world the Borgias were part, althoughthey were interlopers in the affairs of the Peninsula;they saw other upstarts securing vast wealthand dominion, and why should not they? The thingwere easy with Rodrigo Borgia on the throne ofSt. Peter. Money in unlimited amounts was attheir command and the spiritual weapons of theChurch had not yet been cast on the rubbish-heap—therewere still kings and princes that quakedat the threat of excommunication.

Other men, other families, have played a muchmore important part than the Borgias in the dramaof history; others have committed as great crimes;others have surpassed them in every field of humanactivity—in fact, no member of the Borgia familyever produced anything of enduring value to Italyor the human race. We are therefore led to askwhy Alexander VI., Caesar, and Lucretia Borgiahave always aroused such profound interest.Gregorovius ascribes this to the violent contrast oftheir mode of living—their morals—with the sacrednessof the Holy Office. An explanation whollyadequate; for, although there were temporal princeswho equalled or surpassed Alexander VI. andCaesar Borgia in wickedness, the Papacy furnishesno other example, in the person of Pope orcardinal, of as great moral obliquity. Caesar hadbeen a cardinal, and in all his projects, after as7well as before he relinquished the purple, he wassupported by the Pope, his father.

Drum and trumpet histories are now fortunatelyfast becoming obsolete, and it is a truism to say thatany man whose claim to fame is based on actsprompted by unbridled egoism can have little, ifany, lasting effect upon the progress of the humanrace. A great scientist, scholar, or inventor mayby his discoveries change the mode of living, theinstitutions of mankind, and, therefore, the subsequenthistory of humanity. The overthrow ofthe Feudal System has been ascribed to the inventionof gunpowder; and the mariner’s compass, thesteam-engine, and the printing-press have alteredthe very nature of man; the discovery of ananæsthetic or an antitoxin may have greater effectupon the history of mankind than the victories ofan Alexander.

Mere men of violence, the so-called conquerors,the military geniuses, whom little children wereonce taught to admire, and whom moral pervertsare still wont to exalt—the ferocious egoists, whosigh for more worlds to conquer—are the mostuseless creatures produced by humanity in thepainful course of its evolution.

Even had these men never existed the greathistoric movements with which they were connectedwould undoubtedly have run their course andreached the same goal. The Roman Empire wouldhave come without Caesar, and without NapoleonFrance would still have become the Republic.

8However interesting Alexander the Great, JuliusCaesar, and Napoleon may be as examples of unbridledegoism, they failed to attain the ends theysought; their conquests did not last; the victoriesof fraud and violence never can endure.

Renascent Italy furnished numerous examples ofpower built up by these means, and even the beneficiariesknew how unstable was their dominion.Professor Achille Loria has pointed out thatMachiavelli’s admiration for Caesar Borgia was dueto his perfect comprehension of the true natureof feudal property and to his understanding ofthe inherent necessity for the spoliations, extortions,and crimes which characterised it; and alsoof the historical justification of the acts thatfavoured the preservation of this dominant socialform.1

The bombastic chronicles of great men are nowrecognised as of slight value, for the economicinterpretation of history teaches us that theindividual plays but a small part in the march ofevents, even when his character is the noblest,his aims the highest; without Washington thecolonies would have become the United States, andthe slaves would have been freed without Lincoln.

A great man, especially in the domain ofpolitics, is the product of his age. A genius appearingbefore society is ready for him is a visionary,but if the times are ripe for him he is a genius;the great man is he who best discerns the spirit of9the age and enters the lists as the champion ofpopular ideals. He is essentially the product of hisenvironment, and is so much a part of it that it isimpossible to think of him as belonging to anyother.

Men being products of history, under similarconditions similar men will be produced; but asthey in the aggregate are the makers of historythere is a constant mutation in conditions and thereforeceaseless change in men.

In every epoch there are men who althoughin many respects unlike their prototypes resemblethem in others, and bear a close relationship tothem. Unchecked egoism asserts itself in everyage, but the mode of its expression varies accordingto the institutions of the day.

In Italy from the twelfth to the sixteenth centurythis egoism was embodied in the tyrant or despot;it has found expression in the absolute monarch,and in the present bourgeois epoch it is exemplifiedin the captain of industry, the domineering geniusof modern finance.

In the fifteenth century Italy was swarming withtyrants great and small—men of boundless ambitionand greed, striving for power, deterred by noprinciple, hesitating at no crime. Duplicity,treachery, murder, had become fine arts.

A host of adventurers, upstarts, brigands, soldiersof fortune, had managed to secure possession ofthe domain of St. Peter and were building uppetty principalities for themselves and their10kinsmen. Originally these tyrants were feudatoriesof the Holy See, which based its claim to theterritory on the donation of the Countess Matilda,who, dying in 1115, left her vast estates, whichextended from Mantua to Pisa and thence almostto the walls of Rome, to the Pope.

As soon as these vassals of the Holy See feltthemselves strong enough they refused all allegianceand declined to pay their annual tribute.Alexander VI. was thus afforded an excellent pretextfor attempting to recover St. Peter’s domain—andthis he set about doing, ostensibly for theChurch, but in reality to build up a kingdom incentral Italy for the benefit of his family.



The Renaissance—The Papacy in the fifteenth century—The Borgia 23
Genealogy of the House of Borgia—Vannozza de’ Catanei—Birth of Caesar Borgia—His youth 68
Charles VIII. invades Italy—Caesar a hostage—Caesar leaves the King’s camp—The League against France—Charles enters Rome—Caesar appointed Governor of Orvieto—The Pope conceives the idea of recovering Romagna—He declares the Romagnol barons rebels—The Pope summons his son, the Duke of Gandia, from Spain to command the papal troops—Charles VIII. aids the Romagnol barons—Giuffre Borgia and his wife, Doña Sancia, of Naples, come to Rome—Caesar appointed Legate to crown the King of Naples 87
The murder of the Duke of Gandia—Caesar departs to crown the King of Naples—He returns to Rome—The 12Pope’s projected matrimonial alliances for his children 107
Louis XII. succeeds to the throne of France—His bargain with the Pope—Caesar prepares to go to France—He renounces his cardinalate—He arrives in Avignon, where he meets Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere—Louis XII. and Caesar meet—Caesar’s entry into Chinon—Duke of Valentinois—Caesar’s shrewdness—Charlotte D’Albret—Her marriage to Caesar—The projected conquest of Milan—Ludovico il Moro—The French army invades Italy—Caesar leaves France—He enters Milan with Louis XII. 122
The first campaign in Romagna—Imola surrenders—Caterina Sforza, the type of the virago—Caesar enters Forli—Death of Cardinal Giovanni Borgia—Return of Ludovico il Moro to Milan—Caesar goes to Rome—His entrance into the city—He is invested with the Vicariate of Romagna—Delegates from Imola and Forli request the Pope to appoint Caesar Governor—Caesar is made Gonfalonier of the Church—His oath—Caesar’s physical strength—His personal appearance 139
Murder of Alfonso of Naples, Duke of Bisceglie—The second campaign in Romagna—Pesaro surrenders—Caesar’s private life—Pandolfaccio Malatesta gives up Rimini—Astorre Manfredi—Faenza’s brave resistance—The Pope threatens Bologna—Faenza surrenders—Caesar returns to Rome—Astorre Manfredi flung into prison—Giovanni Bentivoglio—Giuliano and Piero de’ Medici—Caesar’s agreement with Florence—Piombino invested—Caesar returns to Rome—Coalition of the Pope and the King of France for the destruction of the House of Naples—Yves d’Allegre comes to Rome—Berault Stuart, commander of the French army, enters the city 157
The expedition against Naples—The taking of Capua—Naples surrenders—Caesar returns to Rome—The orgy in 13his apartments in the Vatican—The Pope divides the conquered territory in Romagna among his family—Negotiations for the marriage of Lucretia Borgia and Alfonso d’Este—Caesar receives the Ferrarese envoys—Lucretia’s marriage—Her character—The Pope and Caesar go to Piombino—They visit Elba—Caesar and Leonardo da Vinci 181
The third campaign in Romagna—Caesar goes to Spoleto—The Duke of Urbino flees to Florence—Valentino takes possession of Urbino—Florence sends envoys to him—Machiavelli’s first impressions of Caesar—The King of France
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