ITALY IN THE TIME OF DANTE
No higher tribute could be paid to Dante than to give his name to an age rich in famous men, the age of Boniface VIII and Henry VII, of Can Grande della Scala and Robert of Anjou. Yet it is no misnomer, for every one of them recalls a line of the Commedia, and, if the discredited exile had no influence upon his age in life, he has done much to keep its memory fresh in history. Dante himself would not have been content with this. He was no mere man of letters; lie had plunged eagerly into politics. Yet all his efforts in public life seemed doomed to failure. His priorate of two months led to exile of over twenty years; his outspoken protest against Florentine aid for an unjust papal war was beaten; his embassy to Boniface VIII, if indeed he served on it, found no friendly hearing; he early broke from all his fellow-exiles to form a one-man party. In politics misfortune even dogged his pen. His De Monarchia failed of its practical purpose, and seemed to have died still-born; his letters to the Italian cardinals in conclave at Carpentras, calling for an Italian Pope with his seat at Rome, brought no response; he died in humble employment at a small Romagnol court, and that of the Guelfic party.
Dante’s career then, as a man of action, which he would fain have been, was failure unrelieved. And yet no man, not even Villani, has so impressed himself upon the history of his age, and that without his writing a line of history. Consciously or unconsciously the celebrities mentioned in the Commedia are still classified under the categories in which he placed them. Emperors, kings, and Popes, ambitious despots and factious republicans, are all labelled for posterity. If a very small percentage is allotted seats in Paradise, the result is appropriate to an age of even peculiar violence, lust, and fraud. The mummified De Monarchia has become, for political science the subject of constant study; the Convivio is ransacked lor scraps of historical information; the Letters are documents of real historical interest. No reasonable man would read the story of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries without his Dante within reach.
The period covered by this chapter begins approximately with the year 1289, in which the youthful Dante is said to have fought in the victory of Campaldino, and it ends within a year or so of Dante’s death. Its history is confused by the number of independent States, small or large, each working out its own salvation or its ruin. A certain unity is preserved by the close relation between the Angevin house at Naples, the Papacy, and the Guelf republic at Florence. Florence, indeed, gives a centre to most of the Tuscan cities comprised in the Guelfic league, to which even Siena, her traditional Ghibelline rival, during this period belongs, but to east and west she has persistent foes in Arezzo and Pisa. Within the Papal States, Perugia, Bologna, and the lords of Ferrara have their independent story. In Lombardy, Milan and Verona seem destined to be predominant powers under their respective dynasts, though Pavia from ancient jealousy and Padua from its republicanism and wealth have to be reckoned with. Between the expansive powers Milan and Verona, with its satellite Mantua, lay a group of cities usually Guelfic but always quarrelsome. Brescia, a city of refuge for the plain, had access to Alpine pastures and northern commercial routes. Cremona controlled the northern, and Piacenza the southern, bank of the Po, with custody of the historic Emilian road. Farther south from Parma led the route across the Apennines into Liguria and Tuscany, and was of high interest in the history of despotism even to the nineteenth century. Modena and Reggio were noteworthy as bones of contention between Bologna and Ferrara, with the Ghibelline powers hungrily on the watch. The Piedmontese cities vacillate between Milan and the house of Anjou, which might have dominated western Lombardy but for its chronic preoccupation with the reconquest of Sicily. Events in Venice and Genoa might in common parlance be described as side-shows, so far as continental Italy is concerned, though each for a time became the centre of acute general conflict. Petrarch described them later as the two eyes of Italy, whose duty it was to watch her eastern and her western seas, but their invariable aim was rather to blind each other.
The Guelf and Ghibelline struggle was continuous, but in inter-State policy the cleavage was more distinct in Tuscany than in Lombardy and the adjoining papal fiefs, such as Bologna and Ferrara. Dante was nearly accurate in stating that every city had war within its walls, but strong hereditary despotism was serving as a check on internal faction. The dynast may be Guelf or Ghibelline; either of the two may rest on the people or the nobles. Dante makes the demagogue despot play the tribune Marcellus in every city; even little Assisi could claim a thoroughgoing tyrant. When in large cities despots do not exist, the government is compelled, as in Florence and Genoa, to submit to a foreign protectorate. Padua and Bologna struggle for so-called liberty, but the shadow of despotism is already falling. Elsewhere immunity is only due, as in Genoa, to equality in fighting force between the contending family groups. The republican polity was in process of being played out, Venire alone belying the general rule.
The advent of the Emperor Henry VII is a landmark in the confused history of the age. Here at least principles were involved, Philip IV had tested the power of national monarchy against Rome, but now the two universal sovereignties, both claiming divine origin, came into collision in the garden of the Empire, the old familiar ground. As in ancient Athens temporary local ailments determined in the great plague, so in Italy local disorders were merged in one general conflict, which gave some unity to the history of three years.
After Henry’s death the two chief Lombard dynasties again follow their respective lines of expansion, while Venice still nurses her wounds. A revival of Ghibellinism once more sets all Tuscany ablaze. The house of Anjou still casts lingering glances upon Sicily, while its princes and mercenaries are reluctantly dribbled into the Tuscan conflict. The period ends with a customary civic fight at Genoa, which becomes a focus for all contending powers, Lombard, Neapolitan, and Tuscan, the Avignon Papacy, and even the Sicilian king. The fate of Genoa was, indeed, of supreme importance to every maritime power in the western Mediterranean, and to the dominant State beyond her northern frontiers.
The War of the Vespers
From the death of Charles I Naples ceased to be the focus of Italian history. On 29 May 1289, however, the kingdom of Sicily once more had a lawfully crowned head. The heir, released from captivity by Alfonso of Aragon, left three young sons as hostages, engaging to return, if within a year he had not obtained the renunciation of the Aragonese claim from Charles of Valois and peace with France and the Pope. Nicholas IV released him from his oath, and crowned him at Rieti as King of Sicily with all that his father had held. The renewal of war with James of Sicily was imperative; Loria was conquering the Calabrian coast towns, while James from his base at Ischia and Procida besieged Gaeta. Charles saved the fortress by aid of a heterogeneous crusading force, but this was his sole success; he was forced to a truce, which left James all his conquests. Alfonso had remained neutral; threatened by Castile, he made peace with France in February 1291, no mention being made of Sicily. On 18 June he suddenly died. Alfonso left Aragon and Majorca to James, who should, transfer Sicily to their younger brother Frederick, so that Aragon and Sicily would remain separate. Resignation was antipathetic to James’ character; he must keep both kingdoms. Leaving Frederick as governor, he sailed in July 1291 to be crowned at Saragossa. He claimed as the heir, not of Alfonso, but of his father Peter III.
Charles II on 2 April 1292 lost the papal suzerain who had crowned him. Nicholas IV was among the least distinguished Popes. Having been legate in the East, he was mainly interested in the Crusade. The Saracen capture of Acre made further operations hopeless, and Nicholas was the last genuine crusading Pope. There was often talk of renewal in papal and royal circles, but the motives were mainly financial or matrimonial. To Nicholas the Colonna owe much of their later importance, for which the Papacy paid dearly. Nicholas III had made Giacopo cardinal; his nephew Peter now became his colleague; Peter’s father John, created Senator of Rome and Rector of the March, ruled Rome almost as dictator, forcing Viterbo to recognise the city’s suzerainty. Napoleon Orsini, connected by marriage with the Colonna, also received the cardinal’s hat, perhaps with the aim of dividing the rival family. His name was to reappear for very many years to come.
A dreary conclave, which opened at Rome in April 1292, only closed at Perugia on 5 July 1294. Charles II had intervened, only to be snubbed. The ten surviving cardinals were divided between the Orsini and Colonna factions, with Benedict Gaetani occupying an intermediate position. At length Cardinal Latino Malabranca, inspired by a dream, proposed the election of an aged hermit, who, living in a cave on Monte Murrone in the Abruzzi, had founded an Order of the Holy Ghost. Both parties acclaimed the proposal, either from a wave of repentance or from pure exhaustion. Even Gaetani, though exempt from either feeling, somewhat sarcastically adhered. The hermit was dragged unwillingly from his cave; Charles II, whose subject he was, and Charles Martel, titular King of Hungary, led his palfrey into Aquila, and hence escorted him to Naples. The new Pope took the name of Celestine; he never saw Rome. His reign was an absurdity; under the thumb of Charles he created eight French and four Italian cardinals, all of the Angevin party; a few months reduced the Curia to chaos. Celestine, conscious of incompetence, braced himself to resignation. He had learnt to rely on the advice of Gaetani, who stated that he had at first dissuaded him. It was, however, generally believed that he had intrigued for Celestine’s withdrawal through the medium of a midnight voice, professedly angelic, speaking through a megaphone to Celestine in bed. The Neapolitans, furious at losing their Pope, clamoured riotously before the royal palace. But Celestine stood firm; Charles, having obtained his ends, and realising the impossibility of a pontificate based on piety alone, made no resistance. Celestine’s successor thought it imprudent to leave the self-deposed Pope in his cell on Monte Murrone. Fearing arrest, the hermit attempted to escape to Dalmatia, but was captured and confined at Fumone, near Anagni, until his death in 1296. Even then it was thought safer that ten feet of soil should hide potential relics from pious exhumation. Celestine’s resignation has been made famous by Dante’s line on the gran rifiuto (Inferno, III, 60). There are difficulties in referring this to Celestine, but it is hardly possible to reject the tradition handed down from Dante’s son. Esau is a less attractive, alternative.
On 23 December 1294 Gaetani was elected at Naples by a large majority out of twenty-two cardinals; he took the name of Boniface VIII. The election was honest enough, for both Orsini and Colonna voted for him, several of the French cardinals being violently opposed. He stood head and shoulders above his colleagues in legal knowledge, diplomatic experience, and business ability. He was born at Anagni, the home of Innocent III, Gregory IX, and Alexander IV, of whom his mother was a niece. The Gaetani were a knightly family of no great importance; they were Ghibellines, and Benedict’s father had served under Manfred. Boniface’s age is much disputed. Dino Compagni makes him eighty-six at death; a recent authority holds that he was not much over sixty on election. His character has been fiercely discussed between those who believed him to be the worst of all Popes and others who, regarding him as the boldest champion of papal claims, are bound to refute as libels the charges of vice and heresy laid against him by the French Court, the Colonna, and the Celestinians. The evidence seems conclusive that he was doctrinally a sceptic, but a believer in amulets and magic; in this he was but on a level with other high ecclesiastics. It is probable that for him, as later for Alexander VI, the moral code had little meaning. On the other hand, the unsavoury details of the twenty-nine articles of the French minister Plaisians, and the evidence concocted after his death by Nogaret, are suspicious commonplaces, applied to others whom the French lawyers were interested in attacking. A celebrated passage in a dispatch to James of Aragon describes him some years before his death as all eyes and tongue, with all else diseased. In 1300 in another Aragonese dispatch he is mentioned as being very well, better than three years ago, and again in 1302 as saying that he would live till all his enemies were “choked off”. On exhumation his body was found in excellent preservation; such a monster of corruption could hardly have preserved all his fine teeth but two. A modern apologist admits that he kept bad company, but was not himself so bad as he has been painted.
To the historian Boniface’s temperament is more important than his morals, for it explains his pretensions, his success, and his tragic fall. He was at once a law and an idol to himself. His legal learning culminated in the ipse dixit; he worshipped his fine person, appearing now in the full garb of Pope, now, it is said, of Emperor. He fostered this idolatry by distributing silver statuettes or larger effigies of himself. For supposed inferiors of whatever rank he had illimitable scorn; his rudeness extended from Charles II, “the miserable, whom, but for his own bounty, the earth would have swallowed up”, to the kneeling Archbishop of Genoa, into whose eyes he threw the ashes expected on his head, or to a German envoy, whom he kicked in the face. Though always hated, he had the art of at once bribing and intimidating his court into submission. His chief energies were directed to the advancement of his own family at the expense of their neighbours or the Church. His views ranged from the creation of petty principalities to the claims of an old Roman Emperor, with the custody of the Keys of Heaven added. It is small wonder that Boniface incurred hatred during life and after death. If the Commedia is the drama of love and hate, Boniface may well stand as the villain of the play.
The Pope, in spite of his Ghibelline origin, flung himself fiercely, as was natural, into the duel between Anjou and Aragon, for he was vitally interested in the recovery of Sicily, the whole kingdom being admittedly a papal fief. James had soon found that he was in danger of falling between two thrones. The Aragonese, as distinct from the Catalans, disliked the Sicilian connexion, in which, as an inland State, they had no interest, and which dragged them into a drawn-out struggle with France, the Papacy, and Castile. Patriotic Sicilians resented being an annexe of unsympathetic Aragon. Frederick must have felt himself cheated of his rights to the throne under Alfonso’s will. Nevertheless there was no decisive change until Boniface’s election. James, now in danger of revolt, gave in. Boniface in June 1295 arranged the terms of peace between Anjou, Aragon, and France. James should marry the daughter of Charles II; the French king withdrew all claims to Aragon; the surrender of Sicily was later rewarded by the promise of Sardinia and Corsica under papal suzerainty, if James could expel the Pisans and Genoese. Frederick was tempted with the hand of Catherine Courtenay, heiress of the titular Emperor of the East and niece of Charles II; he resisted so speculative an exchange, and threw in his lot with the Sicilians.
Frederick and Sicily were now left to their fate, and very terrible this seemed. But the people and their leader never faltered. Frederick was proclaimed king by the Parliament at Messina, and crowned at Palermo. National support was rewarded by a liberal constitution, giving to the three Estates the decision on peace and war, much power of legislation, and some approach to ministerial responsibility. The king took the bold offensive in Calabria, tempted the Neapolitans to revolt, and allied himself with Ghibelline elements in Tuscany and Lombardy. Boniface was now Frederick’s deadliest enemy. He brought Charles II and James to Rome early in 1297, and here John of Procida and Roger Loria, neither of them Sicilians, threw over the cause in which they had made their reputations. Loria became Admiral of the allied fleets, which were to restore Sicily to Anjou. Even Constance, widow of Peter, deserted her favourite son, and left Sicily for Rome. Here too was Charles II’s third son, Robert, released from Aragon in 1295 and now his father’s vicar for Naples. Wide scandal was caused by the presumption that he was to succeed his father. His eldest brother Charles Martel had died in 1295, but loft a son, Carobert, afterwards King of Hungary. The second son, Louis, who had taken Orders, only renounced his rights in December 1299, Boniface stifled opposition by recognising Robert, as heir in February 1297, and in March he married Yolande, sister of James and Frederick.
At this time Boniface became involved in another war, caused almost wholly by his nepotistic ambitions. The Colonna large estates and strong fortresses along the hills south of the Campagna were natural objects of papal greed, especially as they adjoined the humbler Gaetani holdings. Cardinal Giacopo, a man of saintly character, was associated with Jacopone da Todi and the Spiritual Franciscans; he may well have been persuaded of the illegality of Celestine’s resignation, and of Boniface’s manipulation thereof. The house moreover, being now definitely Ghibelline, was in favour of Frederick of Sicily and opposed to any papal claims to imperial authority in Italy. Sciarra, a violent young member of the family, provoked attack by raiding in March 1297 a convoy of papal treasure, on the pretext that it was extorted for the purchase of estates for Boniface’s nephew Peter. Though the property was restored, a Bull was issued, depriving the two Colonna cardinals of their benefices. The Colonna took to their fortresses, denied the legality of Celestine’s resignation, and appealed to a council. On interdict and sentence of confiscation followed the preaching of a crusade. The Orsini, Florence, and other Guelfic, Tuscan, and Umbrian cities sent contingents. In September 1298 the ancient walls of Palestrina were surrendered under false promises, for which Dante makes Guido of Montefeltro responsible. The site of the city was ploughed up and salted. Colonna fugitives found refuge in England, France, or Ghibelline Italian cities. A powerful State was formed for Peter Gaetani, intended to overawe the smaller nobles and restore order in the wide feudal lands surrounding Rome.
On this success the Jubilee of 1300 closely followed. Among all Roman Jubilees this has been the most distinguished, celebrated by Villani’s youthful resolve to write his History, and by Dante’s simile, describing the dense lines of pilgrims as they crossed the Bridge of Sant’ Angelo to and from St Peter’s. The touch is so intimate as to have suggested that Dante was among their number. Amid the ceremonies, which lasted until Christmas Eve, Boniface was at his best. His love for splendour, his talent for organisation, his very autocracy ensured the success of this huge European festival. His croupiers at St Peter’s and St Paul’s raked in the countless pious offerings, from which he hoped to finance the conquest of Sicily and the establishment of yet another Gaetani State, this time in Tuscany.
Until the last month of the Jubilee papal prospects were encouraging. The Sicilians soon felt the loss of their great admiral. Frederick, faced by a huge fleet, which Loria had collected from the Mediterranean powers, retired from before Naples. In July 1299 the Neapolitan and Aragonese fleets won a decisive victory over a much inferior force off Cape Orlando, Frederick escaping with only seventeen galleys. It was some compensation that James sailed home, in dudgeon with his allies, and, perhaps, disgust with himself. Sicily was attacked from west and east. Robert and his brother, Philip of Taranto, took Catania and besieged Messina. Then fortune turned with Frederick’s memorable victory of foot over horse in the plain of Falconaria, near Trapani, in December 1300. Philip was captured, and Messina then relieved. The Sicilians held fast in Calabria, though they had lost the islands off Naples. Charles would gladly have made peace, but Boniface railed against the cowardly king, called Templars and Hospitallers to join in his crusade, and dragged Genoa reluctantly into the conflict. On 14 June 1301 Corrado Doria destroyed yet another Sicilian fleet, but on land Robert made little progress. Naples was being starved to feed his army; news reached Rome that he was ill-fitted to conquer Sicily, being too much under the influence of his wife and the Catalans. The great fleet, which was to reduce western Sicily, was shattered by a tempest off Cape Passero. The aid of France seemed essential to Pope and king, and Charles of Valois was the saviour selected. Towards this incompetent personality Angevin, papal, and Florentine interests were now converging.
Side by side with his Sicilian venture Boniface had embarked upon an expensive war in southern Tuscany. Marriage was with Boniface, as with Renaissance Popes, a valuable asset for the construction of the Temporal State. His great-nephew Loffred was one of the many husbands of Margaret Aldobrandeschi, Countess Palatine of the Patrimony in Tuscany. Boniface coveted her wealthy fief and wide allodial domains, unfortunately lost to Loffred by matrimonial rupture. Boniface, elected Podestà of Orvieto, turned the city against its neighbour and ally. Margaret’s relations, the six Counts of Santafiora, hitherto unfriendly, took up her cause, one of them even having courage to marry her. A severe defeat of the Sienese, old enemies of the Aldobrandeschi, forced Boniface to call in the Tuscan league against this stubbornly Ghibelline house. The war began in the first month of the Jubilee; nearly three years passed in wearing resistance down. Margaret’s estates were conferred on another of Boniface’s nephews, together with the Rectorate of the Patrimony. Before this happened, intervention in Florence had begun. From 1289 to 1300 she had been peculiarly free from external complications. Her close relations with Naples had been mutually profitable. She was monopolising Neapolitan commerce and finance at the expense of Italian rivals, while the Angevin kings lived upon her loans. Her bankers also dominated the papal money-market. The internal troubles which brought her into collision with Boniface must now be traced to their source.
Florence: battle of Campaldino
For Tuscany the year 1289 was one of high importance. At Pisa Ugolino and his family were starved to death in the Tower of Hunger. The Ghibellines once more ruled, with Guido of Montefeltro as their captain. Arezzo had become the headquarters of east, Tuscan Ghibellinism, which included the Florentine feudal families of the upper Arno and the Apennines, the Pazzi, Ubaldini, and Ubertini, one of whom was the fighting Bishop of Arezzo. Count Guido Novello of Poppi and Buonconte, Montefeltro’s son, hold high command. The Aretines had heavily defeated the Sienese, while from Florence were seen the flames of her own outpost San Donato. Within her walls Ghibelline were so numerous among nobles and people that it became necessary to expel them till the sky was clearer. All depended upon immediate success. The army mobilised was unusually large, estimated at 2400 horse and 10,000 foot. Charles II had left Aimeri de Narbonne as nominal leader, with the veteran Guillaume de Durfort as guardian. Bologna and the cities of the Tuscan league sent contingents, while, under the Angevin banner fought a troop of Romagnol horse under Maghinardo di Susinana, Ghibelline in Romagna and Lombardy, but Guelf in Tuscany in gratitude for the faithful guardianship of Florence.
The Aretines expected the advance by the direct road, south of the Arno, but the Florentines crossed the river, and took the Consuma pass from Pontassieve, a dangerous manoeuvre had there been opposition on the rough descent. The aim was to raid the Guidi territories round Poppi, and the bishop’s estates at Bibbiena. Thus the Aretines entered the Casentino from the southward, and the battle was fought in the plain of Campaldino, between Poppi and Bibbiena. The Florentines, contrary to practice, stood on the defensive. In front was a picked body of light horse consisting of Florentine gentry, among whom Vieri de’ Cerchi and his sons were prominent. Their flanks were covered by cross-bowmen and lancer infantry. Behind them was ranged the main body of heavy cavalry and foot; to cover a possible retreat, a reserve of Pistoians was commanded by their Podesta, the impetuous Corso Donati, who was ordered under pain of death not to attack without express orders. The Aretines, inferior by a third in numbers, furiously attacking, pushed the light horse and main body back, but were then exposed to a flanking fire from the cross-bowmen, who stood firm. Corso, a born soldier, saw his opportunity. Crying out—“If we lose, I will die with my citizens; if we win, let who will come to Pistoia to execute my death sentence”, he dashed into the Aretine flank, and turned the fortunes of the day. Guido Novello with his men rode off for safety; Buonconte and the bishop, who had respectively dissuaded and urged attack, were killed. Dante, who was now twenty-four, was probably engaged; the evidence rests on a fragmentary letter read by his later biographer, Leonardo Bruni, but now lost, which tells how Dante had much fear but the greatest delight owing to the changing fortunes of the fight.
Waste of a week or more in ravaging the Casentino spoilt any chance of capturing Arezzo, though the siege train flung donkeys crowned with episcopal mitres into the city. An attack upon Pisa by Genoese galleys and Florentine armies was thwarted by Guido of Montefeltro, wisest and wariest of generals, magnificent in defence and in surprise. Thus no very obvious military results followed on Campaldino. Yet it decided the supremacy of Florence among friends and enemies in Tuscany, until another Tuscan general, Uguccione della Faggiuola, turned the tables. All danger from Ghibellines had ceased, the split between Blacks and Whites had not begun. Trade grew apace, everyone seemed rich, the gates stood open with no excise-men to rummage the sacks and baskets of country folk. Villani writes that it was the most joyous time that Florence had ever had, and, indeed, she was never to see another such, save at the height of the Medicean age. Dante enjoyed all the fun of the continuous fair; his first sonnet was addressed to Guido Cavalcanti, leader in literature, fashion, and politics, who perhaps made Dante’s social fortune. It is known that the young poet dressed with care, appreciated delicate cooking and luxurious furniture. He would not then have preferred the ladies of Cacciaguida’s day, who left their mirror without paint upon their cheeks, and donned the products of their spindle and distaff rather than the garish belts and low-cut silks and muslins of the fair objects of his youthful admiration; nor would he have worn the undressed leather-suit with belt to match and clasp of bone, as approved by his great-great-grandfather.
In spite of gaiety and prosperity all was not well with Florence. The great gentry presumed on their new prestige to ruffle the middle and lower classes, to add small holdings of defenceless country neighbours to their large estates. Critics complained that the vaunted victory had no results, that the Pisan general had even taken the offensive with success. It was whispered that Corso Donati himself had been bought off from pressing home an attack on Pisa. Wealthy traders, shop-keepers, and the unrepresented classes found a spokesman in Giano della Bella, himself noble and rich, but a reformer by instinct and principle. Hence came about the celebrated Ordinances of Justice, initiated in 1293. Giano himself fell before a combination of the uppermost classes with the Gild of Butchers led by the vapouring demagogue Pecora. The populace offered to support him; but, from a horror of civil war or fear for its issue, he refused the offer, and left Florence for ever. His work was only half done, but the Ordinances in their main tenor were retained, though in 1295 modifications were introduced to meet just grievances of the nobles, while the popolani were reinforced by minor noble families, from whom disqualification for office was now removed; henceforth actual practice was not essential to membership of the gilds which monopolised the government. The Alighieri were possibly included under the former measure, and it is practically certain that Dante benefited by the hitter. Being now thirty, he became a member of the Gild of Doctors and Druggists, but never practised either profession.
No constitutional changes could cure the ineradicable spirit of faction among Florentine families. This became concentrated in the feud between groups headed respectively by the Cerchi and the Donati. The Cerchi had migrated from the country, while the Donati were an old Florentine family. Vieri de Cerchi had bought and enlarged the Guidi palace, closely adjoining that of Corso. There was no hard and fast line between noble and bourgeois families; both Cerchi and Donati were engaged in banking, both intermarried with the opposite class, but family pride remained. Vieri was rich and generous, but rough in manners and clumsy in speech. Yet he and his family were popular with middle, and lower classes, with many of the nobles and the oppressed Ghibellines. Corso headed the extreme Guelfic families, and was the darling of the mob, who called him “Il barone”, and delighted in his martial bearing and ready wit. He ridiculed Vieri, but his personal enemy was Guido Cavalcanti, a noble of the first rank, poet and philosopher, high-spirited but aloof. Assaults and charges of murder culminated in Corso’s banishment in 1299 for gross corruption of a needy Podestà in a matrimonial suit. Hitherto he had been predominant since Giano della Bella’s fall; henceforth the Cerchi, in favour with the moderates, controlled the government until the coming of Charles of Valois.
By this time the two parties had become known as Blacks and Whites, nicknames borrowed from Pistoia. This city had been in uproar owing to a murderous feud between two branches of the chief family, the Cancellieri. The disorder threatened the stability of the Guelfic league with a Ghibelline revival at a dangerous strategic point. Florence intervened, took over the administration as a mediatory power, and removed the heads of both parties. The Blacks received hospitality from the Frescobaldi across the Arno, the Whites from the Cerchi. Hence the infection spread through Florence and Tuscany, even into Umbria and Lombardy. It was no longer a feud between two families and their groups, but between parties as definite as Guelfs and Ghibellines.
Present hatred and future disaster were barely concealed by the continued gaiety and prosperity. The hatred might any moment blaze up into a ruinous flame. A trifling incident, indeed, caused the outbreak. On the Calends of May 1300, two groups of young bloods, Black and White, were watching the dancing of girls on the Piazza Santa Trinità. Spurring their horses against each other, they came to blows. The only casualty was a nose sliced from a Cerchi face. But Villani justly compares this wound to the murder of Buondelmonte; as that was the beginning of Guelf and Ghibelline factions, so was this the beginning of great ruin to the Guelf party and its city of Florence.
This quarrel gave Boniface the opportunity for which he was waiting. The vacancy in the Empire had opened to him rosy prospects. After Adolf of Nassau’s defeat and death in July 1298, he had refused to recognise Albert, but, alarmed by rumours of alliance with Philip IV, he changed his tactics, seeking from Albert the cession of imperial rights over Tuscany in return for recognition. This was a revival of Nicholas III’s scheme for creating nepotist kingdoms in Lombardy and Tuscany. Albert was not to be tempted, whereupon Boniface strove to influence the Electors. The value of such a cession was small, unless he gained practical control over the Tuscan cities, and especially Florence. With this aim he had liberally bestowed benefices and matrimonial dispensations upon leading Florentine families. His probable attitude towards parties was displayed when, on a proposal for the recall of Giano della Bella in 1294, he threatened with excommunication any who should advocate it. Recently he had given office in the Papal States to Corso Donati when banished. Corso conspired against the White government, which in April 1300 condemned for treason three Florentines in Rome, the chief of whom was Simone Gherardi degli Spini, the papal banker. Boniface ordered the government to revoke the sentence, but it resented ecclesiastical interference with civil justice. The skirmish of 1 May stirred him to action. Early in June he sent his chief adviser, Cardinal Acquasparta, to mediate between Blacks and Whites. Perhaps he genuinely wished to reconcile them, and so control both parties. If this failed, he would naturally side with the extremist magnates against the more moderate party, which upheld the Ordinances of Justice and favoured reconciliation with Ghibellines. The Whites, as constitutionalists, would resist any attempt on municipal independence; the Blacks would make any concession, if the Pope would restore them to power.
Acquasparta on arrival repeated Boniface’s order for acquittal of the papal agents. The Priorate of 15 June, of which Dante was a member, confirmed the sentence. Public feeling had recently been aroused by a gross assault by turbulent magnates on the Consuls of the Gilds while carrying gifts to the Baptistery on St John’s Day. The Priors who preceded Dante and his colleagues banished the heads of both parties. The White chiefs were soon recalled from Sarzana on hygienic grounds, while, in spite of promises, the Blacks were long excluded. Guido Cavalcanti, indeed, justified the act of mercy by dying of malaria. Acquasparta published his award for the restoration of peace, the chief obstacle to which was the corrupt canvassing and violence which set the city in an uproar on each election to the Priorate. He proposed that suitable names from both parties should be placed in a ballot-box, from which those of the Priors should be drawn by lot. The Whites, unwilling to lose their advantage, refused the award, on which he departed in high dudgeon, pronouncing an interdict against the city.
The Pope now determined on more active measures. Corso and the Blacks had pressed him to summon a French prince to his aid. Negotiations had long been on foot with Charles of Valois with a view to French assistance in Sicily. During the last two months of 1300 the conditions were settled. Charles should bring a large force for the conquest of Sicily and the submission of Florence to the Pope’s will. The White government now strove to avoid a breach which would bring upon the city the suspended interdict, to the ruin of its foreign trade. Florence had sent large contingents for the Colonna and Aldobrandeschi wars. In dune 1301, however, on the demand for a further reinforcement, opposition showed itself, and Dante, who led this, was only beaten in the Council of 100 by 49 votes to 32. The government had in May taken a step which must inevitably provoke papal displeasure. In defiance of its mission as official mediator at Pistoia, it expelled the Black population with much cruelty. Lucca replied by similar treatment of its Whiles, and this with Boniface’s warm approval. The great Tuscan Guellic league was splitting into fragments.
Charles joined the papal Court at Anagni on 2 September, and was appointed Peacemaker (paciaro) by Boniface. The White government, now thoroughly alarmed, sent envoys, among them Dante, as is generally believed, to propitiate the Pope. He would only urge complete submission. Bologna alone stood by Florence at this crisis. Charles, reaching Siena with 800 horse, reinforced by Lucchese, Perugians, Romagnols, and Sienese, sent his Chancellor to Florence to announce his mission. The Priorate, of which Dino Compagni was a member, dared not deny him entrance, for it had made no preparations for resistance. The Priors feebly tried to win the Blacks by forming an advisory committee of both parties; the Parte Guelfa rejected their advances. The Peacemaker’s admission was made the subject of a referendum, a rare example, to the 72 Gilds, which included the 51 Lower Trades, usually unrepresented. The gallant Bakers alone opposed it, saying that Charles should neither be received nor honoured, for he was coming to destroy the city. All the leading citizens swore perfect peace and kissed the Gospel at the Baptistery font; tears coursed down the cheeks of those who were to be foremost in destruction. The precautions for public order were ludicrous. Abusive language was to be punished by excision of the tongue. In front of the Palazzo Pubblico, now rising from its foundations, stood the executioner with axe and block awaiting customers. Charles was warned of the imprudence of entering on All Saints’ Day, when the lower classes would be full of new wine. Charles, risking the new wine, rode in by the Porta San Pier Gattolini on 1 November, unarmed “save with the lance of treachery wherewith Judas tilted, with which he was to burst asunder the bowels of Florence”. Of course there were omens of disaster. The comet, now known as Halley’s, was in the sky. Dante in the Convivio describes a cross in the heavens, formed by the vapours which follow the course of Mars and portend the deaths of kings and the revolutions of States, such being the effects of his domination. At first Charles was courtesy itself, inviting the Priors to dine, with the knowledge perhaps that the law forbade them to dine out. He attended the sermon of the celebrated friar Remigio Girolami, who, like Savonarola afterwards, discoursed on the evils of tyranny. A Parliament of Peace was summoned for 5 November, and here Charles received full power to act as mediator. He swore faithfully to perform his task, but already his agents had concerted revolution with the Blacks. Only on the previous night the Medici had wounded a recent Gonfalonier of Justice; the citizens gathered round the Priorate ready to take vengeance, but the Priors refrained.
The villain of the piece now took the stage. Corso Donati, who had lurked hard by, broke into Florence by a postern, seized the nunnery of San Pier Maggiore, and fortified the campanile. Popular feeling veered with the breeze of audacity, and then arose the cry of “Viva Messer Corso, il barone”. He plundered the houses of the Priors who had exiled him, and threw the prisons open. An orgy of blood, lust, and fire began; the rabble and the gaol-birds were surpassed in crimes by the noblest or wealthiest citizens, Donati, Tosinghi, Rossi, and Medici; they were committed against near neighbours, intimates until the recent split in the Guelfic ranks. Warehouses of merchants and tradesmen were ransacked; heiresses were married by force, and shivering fathers compelled to sign the settlements. In vain the great bell of the Priorate clanged to arms; the few faithful families found no leaders and few followers. Charles of Valois threatened to hang Corso, but never moved a finger. A gallant Pistoian, Schiatta de’ Cancellieri, who commanded 300 State horse, wished to attack Corso, but Vieri de’ Cerchi forbade him. No wonder that the populace was passive when the Cerchi were hiding in their palaces.
Corso put the final touch to the revolution by turning out the Podestà and Priors. The sole magistrate left was the Captain of the People. Yet even in the flush of triumph the nobles dared not touch the constitution, nor the hated Ordinances of Justice. They were content, with nominating new Priors, who received absolute powers, but submitted every measure to the Black nobles before proposing it. On 1 November the new Podestà was appointed, that Cante de Gabrielli of Gubbio to whom Dante was to owe his exile. Cardinal Acquasparta, reappearing, nominally reconciled hostile families, even the Donati and Cerchi. The futility of such friendships was proved by a fresh tragedy. Simone Donati, most brilliant of Florentine young bloods, and his father Corso’s darling, saw old Niccolò de’ Cerchi, his own uncle, pass through the Piazza Santa Croce towards his country house. He followed him, fell on him unawares, and murdered him. A servant, before flying, plunged his sword into Simone’s side; the bloodthirsty youngster died next day.
In January, the sack now over, the trials or rather sentences began. Fifteen Gonfaloniers or Priors who had held office between December 1299 and November 1301 were condemned. Among these was Dante, whose outspoken opposition to Boniface VIII had made a verdict inevitable. Penalties varied from fine, exile, and civic disqualification to confiscation of property. If the accused failed to stand his trial, he would be burnt, beheaded, or hanged according to the Podestà’s choice. There were in all 559 sentences of death. Few probably were actually executed. Citizens who fled from justice were rarely caught. A good horse or even a sturdy pair of logs would soon carry the culprit beyond Florentine jurisdiction. Fra Remigio tells a pitiful tale of houses destroyed or deserted, farms and fields lying waste, commerce ruined. The revolution had its sequel in bankruptcies among the great commercial families. Charles of Valois, on leaving Florence early in April 1302, received 24,000 gold florins for his work of peace. The Peacemaker had caused a disgraceful civil war; he went his way to Sicily to sign a degrading peace.
Sicily: Treaty of Caltabellotta
On arrival at Rome, Charles was appointed, in May 1302, Captain-General of the papal and Neapolitan forces. All the Tuscan Black Guelfs contributed contingents, while the Bardi and Peruzzi financed the operations. Never was fiasco more complete. The army, burning and plundering, struggled across Sicily to Sciacca, which faces Africa. Here it melted away from malaria. To avoid the chance of a resolute attack by Frederick, the Treaty of Caltabellotta was signed on 24 September 1302. With this the War of Sicilian Vespers technically ended, though in practice it proved to be little more than a truce. Frederick married in May 1303 Charles II’s daughter Eleanor. Philip of Taranto was released, to prove his military incompetence on Tuscan fields thereafter. Frederick, until death, should rule a free Island of Sicily as King; after his decease it should revert to the Angevins, his heir receiving Cyprus or Sardinia in compensation. Sicilian and Neapolitan conquests were mutually restored. John of Procida was already dead; Loria retired to Spain, his brilliant reputation sadly tarnished. Boniface was, as always, furious, but Charles II for once held firm, and the Pope’s quarrel with Philip IV was developing. Yet he succeeded in modifying the treaty to his own advantage. Frederick agreed to recognise papal suzerainty, to restore ecclesiastical lands, to pay substantial tribute, and provide 100 lances for papal service. He had to content himself with the title of King of Trinacria, as Boniface would not tolerate any suggestion of the divisibility of the kingdom of Sicily. The hordes of Catalans, which for years had poured into the island, formed themselves into the Grand Company, and started on their marvellous career on both sides of the Aegean, finally creating that strange soldier-State, the Duchy of Athens, which was to give a claim across the seas to the Aragonese Kings of Sicily.
Before Boniface could avail himself of his Tuscan successes, the quarrel began which culminated at Anagni; this hardly affects Italian history, except in so far as it led to the outrage. The tragedy was due to the violent, masterful characters of the two protagonists, and to Philip IV’s substitution of civil lawyers for ecclesiastical councillors. The subjects under dispute were the right of the State to tax its clergy, and the subjection of criminal clerks to royal jurisdiction. Bickerings began in 1296, and an issue might have been reached much earlier, but for the necessities of both parties. To Boniface French aid was essential for the reconquest of Sicily and the coveted control over Florence, and for both Charles of Valois was the instrument. Yet the final quarrel had begun in October 1301 before Charles had entered Florence or set sail for Sicily. The celebrated Bulls, Salvator mundi and Ausculta fili, issued in December, and Boniface’s wild talk which followed, might have at once caused war but for Philip’s defeat at Courtrai on 11 July 1302, in which Pierre Flote, the royal minister, “the diabolical Achitophel, blind of one eye and totally blind of brain” was killed. Boniface took advantage of the disaster to issue in November the Bull Unam sanctam, perhaps the high-water mark of papal pretensions. Philip, still in difficulties, and under the influence of moderates, suggested arbitration. Boniface, unaware that the moderates had been replaced by Nogaret, Pierre Flote’s right-hand man, who had a personal grievance against the Pope, sent on 13 April 1303 an uncompromising answer. Already on 7 March Nogaret had received instructions to proceed to Italy and bring Boniface back for trial by a General Council. As he was leaving France, Boniface’s envoy arrived, and was arrested. On 13 and 14 June Plaisians read to an Assembly of Notables the twenty-nine articles, on which the post-mortem charges against Boniface were based. Ten days later Philip sent a summons for a General Council to the European powers. The shock caused Boniface to hesitate, but his final Bull, Super Petri solio, which was conditionally to release Philip’s subjects from allegiance, was reserved for publication on 8 September 1303.
Meanwhile Nogaret, who had enrolled adventurers in Tuscany and kindled rebellion in the late Colonna territories, moved upon Anagni, accompanied by two French subordinates, Sciarra Colonna, and Rinaldo da Supino, Captain of Ferentino. The commandant of the papal troops, the Podestà and Captain of Anagni, had been suborned; Cardinals Napoleon Orsini and Riccardo Petroni of Siena were almost certainly in the secret. The force which broke into Anagni at dawn on 7 September may have numbered 1600 horse and foot. The three French assailants hoisted the papal banner, to signify that Boniface was no Pope, but the Italians, for their security, insisted that the French flag should fly beside it. This adds significance to Dante’s line on the sacrilegious outrage—“I see the fleur-de-lys enter Alagna and Christ captured in the person of his Vicar”. The invaders, after hours of stubborn fighting, forced their way into the Gaetani quarter and rushed through the cathedral to the papal palace, where Sciarra found the Pope lying on his bed. To his demand that he should resign Boniface replied: “Here is my neck and here my head”, but resign he would not. Nogaret then entered and stopped any attempt at violence; a dead Pope would not have served his purpose. He had planned every detail of the capture, but was baffled by the impossibility of carrying his captive through half Italy. On the third day came reaction. The people, stirred up by Cardinal Fieschi, rose against the invaders, crying no longer “Death to the Pope”, but “Death to the foreigners”. Sciarra and Supino fled to Ferentino, where Nogaret joined them, not without a wound; the French flag was dragged through the town and trampled underfoot. Boniface, released, from the head of the staircase pronounced pardon and blessing to the citizens. On 13 September an escort, sent by the Senators, brought Boniface to Rome, where he fell from the hands of the hostile Colonna into those of his nominal friends the Orsini. The city was in such a ferment that the Senators resigned. Boniface wished to leave the Vatican for the Lateran, but the Orsini hold him tight. Numerous tales, coloured by Guelf or Ghibelline taste, are told of his last days. There seems no doubt that he died in some sort of frenzy, even if he did not try to scratch the eyes of all who approached him. His natural violence had reacted against himself; he thought to be the greatest of Popes, he suffered the deepest humiliation of any. Pride was his very being, and, pride mortally wounded, he must die.
Boniface can scarcely be reckoned among the greater Popes. His was, indeed, an imposing personality, which men either hated or admired, but he had no high impersonal ideals. His reputation is due to the tragic contrast between his pretensions and his fall. The patriotic feeling of Italy was roused by the outrage inflicted on its greatest figure by an unscrupulous French king and his rascally lawyer. Benedict’s reign was so short that Boniface was thought of as the last Italian Pope; the ruinous results to Rome and Italy were rightly attributed to his virtual murder. Yet he was not really a successor to Innocent III or Gregory X, but was rather the precursor of the fifteenth-century Popes, with the territorial aims of Sixtus IV and Alexander VI, and the futile ecclesiastical pretensions of Pius II’s Bull Execrabilis. Pierre Flote had said that his master’s sword was made of steel, that of the Pope of verbiage. He had no real force wherewith to face a strong national king. Florence, his best supporter, would not have raised a ducat or a man against her best customers, the French. The petty successes against Colonna and Aldobrandeschi were outbalanced by total failure in Sicily. He never had real control over the papal territories; Bologna, his chief provincial city, allied herself against him with the Florentine Whites. The absence of an Emperor seemed to give him an opportunity, but the comparative indifference of Rudolf and Albert to Italy was perhaps a disadvantage, for there was no great national cause to champion. The weakness of the Ghibellines at this time encouraged the Guelfs in each State to split into sections; Boniface had neither a nation, nor even a united party, at his back. As a battle-cry, the Church was nearly as husky as the Empire. The posthumous importance of Boniface lies not in his life but in his death, not in his triumphs but in his tragedy.
Under the shock caused by Boniface’s tragic death the jarring factions in the Conclave unanimously elected an unexceptionable candidate at the first scrutiny on 22 October 1303. Niccolò Boccasini, now Benedict XI, was son of a notary at Treviso; he had pure morals, high culture, and no nipoti. His career had been that of peacemaker. He had negotiated between Philip IV and the Papacy, between France and England. Having promoted, when Legate to Hungary, the election of Carobert as king, he was in favour with Charles II. He restored friendly relations with Sicily, though resisting any revision of the Treaty of Caltabellotta. As General of the Dominicans, he had prevented them from joining the Spiritual Franciscans’ revolt against Boniface. The Colonna cardinals were absolved, though not yet restored to their dignities. Some partial arrangement was made between the Colonna and Gaetani. The Romans elected Benedict Senator for life, yet, in spite of his popularity, the fights between leading families forced him to make Perugia his headquarters. It was impossible to fly in the face of Philip, and yet inexcusable to condone the crime of Anagni. Benedict, neglecting threats, determined to try the actual perpetrators, but acquitted the French king and nation of complicity. The compromise was rather politic than just.
Benedict’s hardest problem was that of Florence. Here the expulsion of the Whites had increased external enemies, without leaving peace at home. There was hard fighting with Whites and Ghibellines, and with Arezzo, aided sometimes by Pisans and Bolognese. Corso Donati, whose policy was individualistic rather than oligarchical, expected the spoils of the Black victory. The brain, however, of the conspiracy had been Rosso della Tosa, whom not even the second place would content. Corso, playing as usual to the gallery, took up the cry that Rosso’s party pocketed the profits of corn bought by the Treasury during a famine, and adulterated the supplies sold to the poor. He found an ally in the new bishop, Lottieri della Tosa, who accused them of filching episcopal estates. The rival Black sections, named Pars populi and Pars episcope took up arms. Corso burnt the Palace of the Podestà, but was beaten off from that of the Priors. The government invited the city of Lucca to send troops to establish order, but Corso was still unbeaten. Benedict now intervened, sending his most trusted cardinal, Nicholas of Prato, to reconcile the parties. The suspicions of the extreme Blacks were not unnatural, for the Pope had transferred his banking account from the ultra-Black Spini to the White Cerchi, and Nicholas was of Ghibelline origin. Both, however, were generally regarded as impartial. All classes below the highest longed for peace; the memory of Boniface, who had deprived them of their best customers or employers, was detested. On 17 March 1304 Nicholas was given full powers for reform, and on 26 April there followed the spectacular act of general reconciliation on the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. Florence was now en fête; on the Calends of May, once more fateful, crowds flocked to a well-advertised aquatic representation of Hell; the Ponte Carraia broke under the spectators’ weight; hundreds were drowned, some of whom, observed the chronicler, prematurely experienced the torments which they had come to enjoy.
Nicholas passed on his path of peace to Prato and Pistoia. A web of intrigue was now spun round him. Corso having persuaded the men of Prato that the cardinal meant to restore the Ghibellines, they rose in fury. Nicholas fled, for his life, pronounced an interdict, and commanded Florence to attack Prato; but the so-called crusade was a laughable fiasco, a march out and home again. Nicholas, not losing hope, brought to Florence representatives from its best White and Ghibelline families. They received an enthusiastic welcome, bystanders kissing the coat-of-arms of the Uberti as they passed. The magnates, now in great fear, were deeply divided. The Cavalcanti and other moderates supported Nicholas; the two rival extremists, Corso and Rosso, opposed him. Hostilities broke out with cries of “Death to the Magnates, Death to the People”. The Ghibelline envoys escaped from Florence; and Nicholas on 9 June, when his neighbours prepared to shoot into his windows, also thought it time to leave, and joined Benedict at Perugia.
High time it was, for next day was perpetrated the worst crime that Florence had yet witnessed. The Donati, Tosinghi, and Medici, by the aid of a disreputable priest, Neri degli Abati, threw an artificial, inextinguishable fire into their enemies’ palaces, with the result that the very heart of Florence was burnt out, with some 1400 houses and warehouses. The Cavalcanti, losing heart, retired to their country estates. Thus Florence lost another of her wealthiest and most reasonable families; the Guelfic circle shrank once more. Though Corso and Rosso from illness or caution had not taken part, their nearest relatives were the criminals. The Lucchese troops had also aided the assailants. Benedict cited the communes of Florence and Lucca, with their chief magnates, to his court at Perugia. The chiefs arrived with a strong armed escort on 6 July. Next morning Benedict died of dysentery. A dish of figs, doctored as his friends believed, deprived the Papacy and Italy of a Pope who, by character and intense desire for peace, might have saved them from an infinity of woe.
While the Black leaders were still away, and the city still smouldered, the exiles attempted to surprise it. Time was precious, for Robert of Anjou’s election as Captain of the Tuscan league was tightening its organisation. In Florence there was only a handful of troops; encouragement came from Whites and Ghibellines still in Florence, and from Blacks injured by the fire. Success depended upon punctually concerted action between the converging forces. A large body of exiles, Aretines, and Bolognese reached Lastra, about two miles from Florence, before the appointed day. Young Baschiera della Tosa, who commanded, was urged from within to attack quickly. Instead of waiting for night and bivouacking by the so-called Red City, the poor East-end quarter, where he would have popular sympathy and water for his horses, he made for the Porta Spada on the north-east with only a portion of his troops. 20 July was a blazing day. The exiles, crying “Peace”, with olive garlands and white banners, entered by the postern with little resistance, for the prominent Guelfs were hiding in despair, and reached the Cathedral. They found, however, no aid forthcoming; men and horses were exhausted by the heat; a fire breaking out near the gate caused a panic, and everyone ran. A promising enterprise was ruined. The force at Lastra broke up; the exiles from south and east, the Aretine and Bolognese reinforcements, and, above all, Tolosato degli Uberti with his fighting Pistoians, turned back without reaching the rendezvous. The last hope of the militant exiles was shattered.
War, accompanied by revolt in southern Tuscany, still continued. There could be no security for Florence while the Whites held Pistoia. In April 1305 arrived Robert as War Captain with picked Aragonese and Catalan horse, and serviceable mountaineer infantry under the Catalan condottiere Diego de Rat, who long played a leading part in Florentine battles and boudoirs. On 20 May Pistoia was surrounded by Lucchese and Florentines. After three days of grace no man or woman was allowed to pass the besiegers’ lines without death, outrage, or mutilation. The siege once more brought Florence into collision with the Papacy. The Conclave of Perugia lasted till 5 June 1305. The ten Italian cardinals were still stirred by the outrage on Boniface; their six opponents were bent upon the full restoration of their Colonna colleagues, and, above all, on the favour of Philip IV, who did not spare his threats. Ultimately Napoleon Orsini by somewhat unsavoury means won the necessary majority for Bertrand de Got, Archbishop of Bordeaux, who had taken no active part against Boniface, and was technically a neutral English subject, though regarded by Philip with favour. The Gascon nobleman was crowned by Philip’s request at Lyons, and took the name of Clement V. The procession was marred by the collapse of a wall, which killed John of Brittany, wounded Charles of Valois, and threw the Pope off his horse, causing a shock which perhaps permanently affected his health. The story of the Avignon Papacy is told elsewhere; this chapter treats solely of its Italian interests. Clement had no wish to remove the Papacy from Italy, but his will was rarely compatible with his wish. He was not strong enough to break the toils of Philip, who was resolved to keep him within reach of royal pressure. Absent though he was, Clement clung closely to Italian interests. Napoleon Orsini naturally influenced his policy, and with him was soon associated Nicholas of Praia. Under their lead he continued Benedict’s mediatory efforts in favour of Whites and Ghibellines, as being in Tuscany the weaker party. His envoys, on reaching Pistoia, ordered Robert to stop the intended assault; he obeyed and withdrew, but his troops remained. As no agreement was reached, the legates in November held an assembly at Siena, were they ordered the immediate raising of the siege. Siena and smaller towns withdrew their contingents, but Florence, Lucca, and Prato remained obdurate. Throughout the winter the blockade was tightened. Napoleon Orsini’s appointment in February raised a flicker of hope, but only stimulated the besiegers’ determination to have done with it. Florence had fostered discontent against the White government of Bolognas sympathetic with Pistoia. This culminated in a wild revolution on 1 March. Bologna joined in a treaty for the extermination of Whites and Ghihellines. Pistoia had no more hope; one day’s food remained when the gallant town capitulated on 10 April. Pistoian territory was divided between Florence and Lucca with the exception of a strip a mile wide outside the walls, which were destroyed. The city was ruled by Florence and Lucca, who appointed Podestà and Captain.
The two chief Guelf republics were now at open war with the Pope, and lay under an interdict. Napoleon Orsini in May 1306 reached Bologna as Rector of Romagna. The populace turned savagely on him; he escaped with the loss of one chaplain and all his baggage to Forli, where he organised the Romagnol Ghibellines, and then from Arezzo directed operations against the Tuscan league. A clever flank march through the Casentino round the Florentine army in Aretine territory caused an undignified scamper home, after which Siena and smaller towns returned to papal obedience. Florence, fearing isolation, negotiated directly with Clement, who, early in 1309, relented and withdrew Orsini. A new era in papal and Florentine history was opening. The only Ghibellines who had benefited by four years of papal favour were the two Colonna cardinals, restored to their dignities, though under other titles.
During the preceding period, Florence, in spite of her conquest of Pistoia, had little stability at home. Benedict’s death was a triumph for the extremist oligarchy. The nine Lesser Arts were subordinated to the twelve Greater; the twenty Companies lost their organisation; the Priors were the tools of the Parte Guelfa, dominated by magnates. The oligarchs, absorbed in foreign politics, class interests, and personal quarrels, had no care for ordinary justice. Financial depression became so deep that in 1307 a moratorium was granted for debts contracted since the entry of Charles of Valois. At length popular feeling asserted itself. The Companies were reconstituted as representatives, not merely of the Trades, but of all popolani between 15 and 70 years old; their Captains consulted with the Priors and the Council of 100 on all weighty matters. A new official, the Executor of Justice, had collateral powers with Podesta and Captain for protection against magnates, and general superintendence over all officials, especially the Podestà.
Consequent partly on this reform was the tragedy of Corso Donati. In personal prestige he stood high above his colleagues in the Parte Guelfa, but Rosso della Tosa, Betto Brunelleschi, Geri Spini, and Pazzino Pazzi combined to keep his adherents out of office. He had, perhaps, always aimed at monopoly of power; he made no secret of his hatred for the Ordinances of Justice. If ever he was to succeed, he must act quickly, for he was over fifty and disabled by gout. He engaged in a widespread conspiracy against the Constitution; he had promises from the old families, Buondelmonti, Bardi, and Frescobaldi, and from secondary houses such as Medici and Bordoni. Aid was expected from Arezzo and the country districts of Pistoia, Prato, and Lucca. On being sued for a debt due to Pazzino Pazzi, he fortified his quarter. The government was too quick for him; on 6 October the Companies surrounded the Donati houses; no aid came from the aristocrats across the river; he was no longer the darling of the mob. As a last hope Corso escaped from the back of his quarter; the Catalan horse soon came up with him; the Captain wished to spare his life, but he slipped from his horse, and was dragged, until he was speared. Dante has made his end famous through the ghost-lips of his brother Forese in Purgatorio, XXIV, 83, 84.
Corso’s death was a blow to the reader of Florentine history, for he was the one picturesque figure in a somewhat drab decade. For Florence it was a blessing; there could be no peace while his restless ambition nursed discontent among the highest and lowest classes, both unrepresented in the government. He had the will and the courage to found a dynasty, but neither the character nor the clientele. Dino Compagni, whose honourable career was wrecked by him in 1301, pays generous tribute to his capital enemy, to his knightly bearing, his personal beauty even in old age, his persuasive oratory, ceaseless political industry, and great Italian reputation. But, he concludes, Corso was unprincipled and full of wicked schemes; his life was dangerous, though the manner of his death was reprehensible.
Corso owed his death, as did Dante his exile, to the cowardice of his associates, who failed him at the crisis. Both, in their several ways, were fighting men with the courage of their convictions; but Florentine parties were riddled by personal jealousies, paralysed by physical timidity, relying on intrigue rather than on straightforward policy or arms. The best commentary on Florentine political life is given in Compagni’s concluding chapters, showing how Corso’s rivals came to what are euphemistically termed middling ends. Rosso della Tosa, when out walking, made his first false step, fell over a dog, and died in convulsions under his doctor’s tortures in July 1309, when over seventy-five. Betto Brunelleschi, hated for cornering corn in times of famine, was stabbed in his own house, while playing cards, by two of the Donati, and died in frenzy and unshriven, amid general rejoicing, in March 1311. Pazzino was in January 1312 murdered by a Cavalcanti, while fowling in the dry bed of the Arno. Geri Spini, more cautious and time-serving, was the sole survivor of the quartet which brought Corso to his doom. Astonishing is the contrast between these repeated scenes of bloodshed and the lofty standard of poetry and art in the Florence of Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, and Giotto, or between the horrors of Pistoia, meet den for robbers, as Dante wrote of Vanni Fucci, and the exquisite tenderness of Cino’s verse.
It was nevertheless in these troublous years that the more modern Florence was coming into life, and the tragic end of the former leaders doubtless contributed to this. Davidsohn has well pointed out that, during the years of Henry VI’s expedition, men of less family and personal prestige were pushing forwards, that in the Priorate names so familiar throughout the next two centuries constantly reappear, such as Acciaiuoli, Peruzzi, Rieci, Medici, Strozzi, and Soderini. The lead already lay with the bankers, who wore international financiers, dealing with jewelry and commodities as much as with specie, opening commercial avenues, scrambling for concessions. Thus they had a working knowledge of foreign policy, which al Florence was mainly economic, and had the governmental experience of which the magnates had been deprived. Conscious of military weakness, they relied on skilful opportunism as to pushing or delaying, knew exactly how far bluff would carry them. These qualities in the critical years were to stand a severe test, not without success.
From the Treaty of Caltabellotta to Charles II’s death on 8 May 1309, Neapolitan history is without striking incidents save for Robert’s participation in the siege of Pistoia. The absence of the Gascon Pope from Rome relieved the dynasty from a potentially troublesome neighbour, though Clement’s insistence on Robert’s withdrawal from Pistoia proved that he was no mere cypher. The situation was difficult, because Clement was on ill terms with the Florentine government, whereas the Angevin king as traditional head of the Guelfs must support it. He must moreover propitiate both Pope and Florentines owing to huge indebtedness to both. Robert since 1306 had acted practically as his father’s partner, and was thus no novice in administration when he was crowned by Clement V at Lyons. The succession came, however, at a peculiarly delicate moment, in consequence of the new election to the Empire. It seemed probable that Frederick would take advantage of this for a revision of the recent treaty. In Robert’s kingdom, apart from chronic deficits and endemic disorder, there were fears of a rising against his faulty dynastic claim; Philip of Taranto was forced to suspend his eastern projects, and act as Robert’s Captain-General in his absence. The Pope, moreover, dragged Robert into his Venetian quarrel, which not only seriously hampered Apulian commerce, but entailed feverish fortification of his eastern coast against possible attack from Venice. Most reluctantly also he was forced to take action against the Templars, whom his house had favoured as a valuable military asset. On the other hand, Robert was now peculiarly powerful in his county of Piedmont, and influential in Tuscany and Romagna; while in 1312 Clement made over to him the Vicariate of Ferrara. He would certainly be an all-important factor in the Emperor’s Italian visit, in which for the first four years the history of his reign is merged.
Robert of Naples: William of Montferrat
The capture of William of Montferrat by the people of Alessandria had a profound effect on future Lombard history. He has been called one of the three forerunners of Lombard municipal despots, and of the three he was the most distinctive. Ezzelin and Pelavicini were rural feudal nobles, but each based his power upon a city, Verona and Cremona respectively. Montferrat was a considerable feudal State, much on a level with Savoy and Provence. William had close relations with royalty both in West and East, with England, Castile, and the Eastern Empire. His father-in-law Alfonso, when claimant for the Empire, had created him his Vicar in Italy. Dante has well portrayed him in the Purgatorio as seated at the feet of the great kings and looking up towards them, not quite a king himself, but worthy of their company. His power stretched from the Simplon to the Ligurian Apennines. Not only a great soldier but a subtle statesman, he confessed to buying more often than he conquered. Cities which fringed his territory, such as Vercelli and Alessandria, called him in to restore peace between factions and then converted temporary dictatorship into life or hereditary lordship. He had been chief of a Ghibelline league stretching from Turin to Verona, from Como to Genoa. The Visconti had appointed him Military Captain of Milan, but, at the time of his capture, he was an ardent supporter of the Torriani, aiming at Pavia, and drawing a ring of steel round Milan through Vercelli, Como, Lodi, and Crema. His end proved the difficulty of holding together an aggregate of Piedmontese and Lombard cities, each divided into factions. Alessandria had made him spontaneously hereditary lord, especially to protect the people from the magnates. At the instance, of the wealthy city of Asti, which had long feared his predominance, the Alessandrians revolted, and on his arrival trapped and caged him in a loathsome dungeon, exhibiting him as a peep-show until his death in 1292. Doubtful whether they could have killed so great a man, they poured molten lead and lard down his throat, and drew samples of his blood to make sure that it was cold. His son John grew up into a fine fighting man, but never wielded his father’s wide authority. On his death in 1305 the marquessate passed to Theodore Palaeologus, his sister’s son. It is clear that William was totally distinct from the normal municipal despot. He never had an urban centre; he could not have established a highly centralised State. Municipalities welcomed the rule of a lord, far higher in rank than their own nobles, who had no prevailing interest in any single city. Yet this meant that in no single city had his power deep root; any party or popular squall could overthrow it. A feudal superiority was not in accord with the temper of the Italy of that day.
The death of the great marquess was a boon to the Visconti, and the archbishop’s great-nephew Matteo was now in a position to enjoy it. For five years he had been annually elected Captain with power to alter the statutes; in 1292 he was reappointed for a term of five years. Shortly afterwards Otto made over the administration of the State, and in 1295 he died. The Visconti attributed high importance to imperial recognition. Adolf had appointed Matteo Vicar for Lombardy. After Otto’s death he styled himself Vicar-General of the King of the Romans in Lombardy, Captain-General of the People of Milan. Albert of Austria confirmed his title as Vicar in 1299, while the Milanese Council extended his captaincy for another five years, empowering him to make peace and war. Matteo had taken full advantage of William’s death to extend his influence westwards. He took Casale, a strong strategic point; Novara and Vercelli gave him the lordship for five years, and Alessandria the captaincy; he acted as guardian for William’s heir. This was too fast to last; the young marquess, breaking from his guardian, took Casale and drove the Ghibellines from Vercelli and Novara. Pavia, now under the Count of Langosco, formed a league with Crema, Cremona, and Bergamo, backed by Azzo VIII of Ferrara. Matteo received aid from Brescia, Parma, Piacenza, and Bologna, and turned the scale by detaching Azzo. The year 1300 was the climax. He was now among the greatest of North Italian chiefs; he married a daughter to Alboino della Scala, and gave a Court day, celebrated throughout Italy, in honour of his son Galeazzo’s marriage with Beatrice d’Este, Azzo’s sister, and widow of Nino Visconti, Judge of Gallura in Sardinia. Yet Matteo’s position was none too secure either within or without. Among his own relatives there was discontent at his monopoly of power; some of the nobles, the chief source of his authority, were malcontent; the people groaned under the expense of wars, which they attributed to Galeazzo’s pugnacity. Two late allies, Filippone Langosco of Pavia and Alberto Scotto of Piacenza, disappointed suitors for Visconti marriages, formed a fresh combination against Matteo, who found himself confronted by overwhelming odds. Scotto, professedly an arbitrator, insisted on his resignation, and the return of the Torriani as private citizens. Matteo retired to Nogarola on the Mantuan frontier; Galeazzo was reduced to living on his brother-in-law’s bounty. The splendour of his marriage, followed by the suddenness of his fall, formed a literary commonplace on the instability of fortune: Dante, in the interval before the Visconti revival, might naturally write that the Viper of Milan would not make so fine a sepulchre for Beatrice d’Este as the Cock of Gallura. Ultimately Beatrice had both cock and viper sculptured on her tomb.
At Milan the populace expelled the chief Ghibelline partisans and burnt their houses; this gave the Torriani, though nominally private citizens, control over elections and foreign policy. The normal city government was ill-fitted to hold together other independent communes, whose only bond to Milan consisted in the rule of Guelfic families. Guido, now head of the house, was elected Captain for one year in 1307. At its close the Councils and the representatives of the Trades, numbering together some three thousand, unanimously elected him Captain of the People for life, with power to alter statutes. This was the tyrannis in form, and Guido took up his residence in the Broletto Vecchio, a symbol that he was the personification of the government. He was now extremely strong. Milan was protected by a ring of Guelfic cities. To the west, Novara, Vercelli, and Alessandria were under allied families, backed by the house of Anjou in Piedmont. Southwards, Pavia was ruled by Langosco, head of the noble party, always allied to the popular Guelfic party at Milan. Eastwards, Lodi, Brescia, and Cremona were friendly, though in the two latter the Guelfs were dangerously divided. The Visconti had been ruined and dispersed. In Italy, however, the individual ruler was confronted by his family, which resented a monopoly of power. Guido’s cousin was elected to the archbishopric, and he, like Otto Visconti, was ambitious to revive the temporal authority of the see, and to lead the house. Other relatives concurred and were arrested. When Henry VII reached Italy, the archbishop was kept out of his see, and his brothers were imprisoned. Yet Guido, with his bodyguard of 1000 and a force of 10,000 at his disposal, might well have formed a permanent dynasty. His overthrow resulted from the accidents of the imperial visit.
The power enjoyed by the Scaligeri at Verona was voluntarily conferred by the popular party, but was absolute in every department of government. Their sway had been ushered in by no display of military force; the hereditary principle was established almost as a matter of course. It was party government in the strictest sense. It was usually the aim of the tyrant to reconcile party factions, to restore exiles. The Scaligeri believed that their own power and internal peace could only be preserved by a continuous and rigorous system of party government. From the first there were stringent laws against cries for reconciliation. If a citizen cried “Peace, Peace”, it was the surest sign of the wish to raise a riot. Under Can Grande such a cry was punishable by death; a gentleman was beheaded, a commoner hanged, a lady had the privilege of being burnt, for it was ungentlemanly to touch a lady. The long wars with Padua were partly a cause, and partly a result of this. The enmity dated long before the age of the Scaligeri, but henceforth it was hostility, not only of neighbourhood but of principle, for Padua represented the cause of State republicanism, Verona that of State monarchy. Alberto della Scala was only once threatened within the city. The conspiracy of 1299 was fiercely suppressed, and thenceforward there was no more trouble. It was easier to exclude opposition from the city than from Verona’s crown of castles, and yet she could never be safe if exiles lodged themselves therein. From 1277 provision was made that seven of the strongest should be in the hands of Alberto himself. The municipal despot was thus reaping the succession of the feudal lords; he was developing the urban tyrannis into a territorial principality.
There remained the questions of external expansion and diplomatic position. For the latter the magnificent Court days, for which Verona became famous, were important, and were generally held in honour of foreign marriages. Alberto initiated such alliances in 1289 by the marriage of his daughter Costanza with Obizzo II of Ferrara, his former enemy. In 1291 his son Bartholomew married the daughter of Conrad of Antioch, grandson of the Emperor Frederick II, while her sister was later married to Can Grande. Alboino, his second son, cemented the Milanese alliance by his wedding with Catherine, daughter of Matteo Visconti. Alberto’s reign was peaceful, as was that of Bartholomew, who succeeded in 1301 and reigned till March 1304. Alboino was no soldier, but was engaged in almost chronic war against Azzo VIII until his death in January 1310. His constant allies wore Ghiberto da Correggio and the Bonaccolsi of Mantua, Bologna also taking part until the Guelfic revolution of 1306. Friendly treaties were made with Venice, and the Scaligeri took her side in the Ferrarese Succession War against Clement V. The closest entente was with the Bonaccolsi, amounting almost to a protectorate. Both Alberto and Can Grande effected changes in the dynasty on any symptom of dangerous independence. Cooperation with Mantua was essential for securing the whole course of the Mincio, and for the protection of the Po, in the contests with Padua and Ferrara. Can Grande was associated with Alboino in the government, probably in 1308. Both served Henry VII in the siege of Brescia, where Alboino caught the fever, of which he died on 29 November 1311.
Venice: war with Genoa
Pietro Gradenigo, who was to leave his mark upon Venetian history for all time, succeeded Dandolo under gloomy auspices. After the doge’s funeral on 2 November 1289, the populace, reviving a custom long abandoned, yelled for the election of Giacomo Tiepolo, nephew of one doge and grandson of another. This very hint at an hereditary principality perhaps decided the ruling aristocracy to resist popular pressure. Choice fell upon Gradenigo, who was only thirty-eight, but was already so unpopular that his election was published amid dead silence. He was soon involved in constitutional struggles and in foreign war. The storming of Acre in May 1291, followed by the fall of Tyre and Sidon, was a grievous blow to Venetian commerce in Syria and Palestine. In this year also the truce with Genoa expired. Galata, occupied by favour of the Greek Emperor, gave the Genoese a strong base for the conversion of the Black Sea into a commercial mare clausum. They controlled Trebizond, had a flourishing new colony at Kaffa, and from Azov commanded the trade of the Don. The war which now began extended from Kaffa to Genoa. The first great fight was at Laiazzo on the coast of Armenia (Cilicia) in the autumn of 1294. The Genoese galleys lashed and planked together formed a nautical laager in the harbour. The Venetians, scorning the use of fire-ships, bore down with wind abaft, lost their formation, and retired after their admiral was killed and 25 ships out of 68 were sunk.
Nearly four years of incessant warfare passed before another decisive battle. The Venetians stormed Kaffa, taking enormous booty; the Genoese ravaged Crete. In Constantinople itself the Genoese, abetted by Andronicus, slew the Venetians and burnt their banks. The Emperor imprisoned the survivors, even the Venetian commissioner, an outrage on diplomatic inviolability not to be overlooked. Buggero Morosini with a strong fleet anchored off the imperial palace and, with a large indemnity and a host of Genoese prisoners, returned to Venice. In 1298 fortunes changed. A Genoese fleet of 85 galleys reached Dalmatian waters. Andrea Dandolo with 95 galleys met it off the island of Curzola, and fought the great battle of the war on 8 September. The Venetian fleet, after some success, got out of hand, and was struck in flank by the Genoese reserve squadron, which had stood out to sea and came down the wind on the unsuspecting foe. Only a few galleys escaped from the rocks or fire to tell the tale at Venice. It is said that 9000 men were killed or wounded, while 5000 were carried off to Genoa to join the Pisan captives taken at Meloria thirteen years before. The admiral, to avoid this fate, dashed his head against a mast. Misfortune seems stimulating to men of letters; but for his exile Dante would never have written the Commedia, while to a Genoese prison we owe the Travels of Marco Polo.
The Genoese fleet had been too roughly handled to sail for the lagoons. With marvellous courage Venice raised another fleet of 100 galleys, filling the gaps among her cross-bowmen with Catalan mercenaries. On either side small squadrons showed much enterprise; a Genoese squadron caused a fright by appearing off Malamocco, and Domenico Schiavo returned the visit, and coined money, a symbol of sovereignty, in the very port of Genoa. In May 1299 Matteo Visconti negotiated a peace, and in October 1302 Andronicus was reduced to signing a truce by the sight of his subjects being flogged by the boatswains of 25 Venetian galleys under the walls of Constantinople.
In these very years, when the resources of Venice were strained to the uttermost, by the closing of her Great Council a fundamental change in her constitution, which was for centuries to be the world’s admiration, was bloodlessly carried out. The Venetian sense for governance stands in marked contrast to the Genoese passion for faction, which neutralised the advantage gained by naval victories. At Venice the sea called forth from all classes the patriotism which might well have been dissipated by political quarrels. No sacrifices were grudged to retain the Queenship of the Adriatic. It was otherwise when these were demanded for territorial expansion.
Peace at sea was followed by a short war with Padua over the ever-recurring question of the neighbouring salt-pans, on which Venice was peculiarly sensitive. This was arranged, and preparations were being made for an attack on the Greek Empire in concert with Charles of Valois, when the succession to Ferrara absorbed her whole attention, involving her in a war with the Papacy, a forecast of the dangerous combination formed against her by the League of Cambrai. The death of Azzo VIII on 31 January 1308 was certain to intensify the confusion long endemic in eastern Lombardy and Romagna. His fortunes had waned with the revolt of his imperial fiefs, Modena and Reggio, in 1306, but expulsion of the Whites, his bitterest enemies, from Bologna brought relief. Aided by the victorious Blacks, the Florentines, and Naples, he was conducting a vigorous offensive when he died. He left the succession to Foleo, legitimate son of his bastard Fresco, who was appointed guardian during the minority. His brothers Francesco and Aldobrandino had long claimed a share of Obizzo’s inheritance; the former with Aldobrandino’s sons now appealed against the will to Azzo’s late enemies, but Fresco with the stronger support of Venice and Bologna assumed the government. Then in April fell the bolt from the Avignon blue. Clement declared Ferrara to lie under the Pope’s direct government, and exhorted her to throw off the tyrant’s adulterine yoke and enjoy the blessings of papal rule. Of the Pope’s suzerainty there could be no doubt, but papal charters more than once recognised the right of illegitimate succession; to cancel the authority which the Estensi had exercised for nearly a century under papal sanction was an audacity which would have startled the strongest Italian Pope. But Clement’s weakness in Italy at this moment was probably the very motive for his decision; Ferrara should be the base from which to re-establish his authority. In May the papal standard was hoisted at Ravenna. Ferrarese exiles flocked to it with Francesco; the Della Torre of Milan gave ready aid, Bologna was won by the withdrawal of Napoleon Orsini’s interdict. Meanwhile Gradenigo threw himself eagerly into the fray; he stood for a forward mainland policy, for the revival of former preeminence in Ferrara, which had left precious privileges behind it.
Fresco, now faced by popular revolt, retired to the Castle of Tedaldo, which with its bridge and fortified bridge-head commanded the town and the Po di Ferrara, which then skirted the southern walls and joined the Po di Venezia at Stellata. In October, Fresco sold his claims for a Venetian pension, and a Venetian army took over the fortress and city. The Pope would hear of no diplomatic compromise, but hostilities were not active until the end of March 1309. The peace party in Venice, headed by the Tiepoli, Badoeri, and Querini, was gaining ground, styling itself the Pars guelfa sive ecclesiastica. Gradenigo was empowered to send reinforcements to Ferrara, while the opposition carried the dispatch of envoys to Clement. They arrived just too late. On Good Friday, 27 March, a Bull was issued depriving Venice of all privileges of a Christian State, empowering the seizure of Venetian property and persons, the latter to be sold as slaves, the lands to be vested in the Papacy, the movables to reward the captors. To show that he was in earnest, Clement appointed his nephew Arnaud de Pélagrue legate for North and Central Italy. Arnaud, preaching a crusade, levied troops from Guelfs and Ghibellines, bishops and cities. Appeals were made to all European powers; the Emperor supported the Pope, Philip IV preferred conciliation.
On 10 April a rising in Ferrara forced the Podestà, Giovanni Soranzo, to concentrate his forces in the castle, whence ineffectual attempts were made to seize or flood the town. Meanwhile Francesco from without was harassing the besiegers. He destroyed a relieving fleet at Francolino, where the Po di Venezia narrowed, built a bridge here and another below Ferrara. A large fleet from Venice attempted to prevent the operations at Francolino but was defeated after three days’ battle. Tedaldo now was completely isolated, but Ferrara itself was in a desperate condition. The papal army was too small to storm the castle, North Italy was war-weary, Pélagrue’s recruiting campaign was failing. If the Venetians could hold out till September, the autumn floods would enable their ships to operate. The legate made the desperate decision to storm Tedaldo; on 26 August the bridge and bridge-head were taken, and the fleet capitulated; on the 28th Tedaldo fell. Venice lost 200 ships and some 6.000 men. Not a man was spared, save a few who were sent blinded into Venice. Abroad her commerce was destroyed, her ships taken, their crews sold for slaves, her colonies were restive or in revolt. Venice sued for peace through the mediation of Philip IV. This was granted on not ungenerous terms on 15 June 1310.
Venice had signally failed in her first attempt to annex a large mainland State. She turned her eyes away from Ferrara until 1483, when she failed again. Ferrara never became part of the Venetian State. It is strange that an alien Pope, reputed to be powerless in Italy, should be the first to make his sovereignty direct and real. His success was short, but Ferrara remained the constant aim of the Papacy until, in the last years of the sixteenth century, another Clement annexed it at the expense of yet another legitimate son of another bastard of the house of Este.
The disastrous Ferrarese war had as its sequel a conspiracy, which might have ruined Venetian stability for all time. Family feuds were, as in all cities, not unusual, but very rarely were permitted to endanger the public peace, and in this Venice stood alone. Genuine disagreement both in home and foreign policy there may well have been, but personal and family feeling caused the armed revolt of one group among the chief houses against Gradenigo and another group comprising his supporters. Parties were fiercely divided throughout the war, fighting even on the Great Council benches. It was ominous that the opposition introduced the terms Guelf and Ghibelline, which ordinarily have no meaning in Venetian history. There was, indeed, an undercurrent of popular discontent. Exclusion from the Council was a grievance with those who had intermittently attended it. The populace had howled for war and insulted papal envoys, but war had entailed heavy taxation, and, latterly, terrible sacrifice of life. After a peace, good or bad, the government which conducted the war becomes unpopular.
The chief conspirators were Bajamonte Tiepolo and Mario Querini, his father-in-law, both actuated by personal grievances. The former was a showy young noble, acclaimed by the lower classes as il gran cavaliere, a poor Venetian counterpart of Corso Donati, il baroni. He had been fined for corrupt exaction in his Moreau government, and had since sulked in his Villa Marocco on the mainland. Querini had been insulted by reflections on his courage in the surrender of Castel Tedaldo. A third chief, Badoero Badoer, was also a mainland proprietor. They represented the movement as purely patriotic, directed, against the tyrant doge in favour of the disfranchised classes. The attack was fixed for the feast of San Vito, 15 June. Tiepolo and Querini collected their forces across the Rialto on the previous evening. Badoer with troops levied in Paduan territory was to cross from the mainland in support. During the night information of the plot reached the government. Gradenigo, aided by the Dandoli and Giustiniani, occupied the Piazza San Marco. Morning opened with a terrific gale and thunderstorm, which damped any hope of a popular rising. Badoer, unable to start, was captured with his force by the more weatherproof Podestà of Chioggia. Tiepolo, advancing by the Merceria, was held up at the church of San Giuliano. A woman threw down a mortar on the head of his standard-bearer, and the banner with its scroll of Liberty fell. The gran cavaliere fled back over the Rialto bridge, and barricaded his quarter. Querini fared even worse; in the Campo San Luca he was attacked and killed by men armed by the School of Charity and the Gild of Painters. Tiepolo was persuaded to capitulate on terms. The conspiracy had ignominiously failed. Badoer, taken in arms, was executed. Tiepolo and his chief associates were exiled for short terms. There was no general proscription as was usual elsewhere. Several palaces were pulled down, the first time that such a common penalty had been inflicted at Venice. Nevertheless the government had had a fright and meant to take no risks. The most stringent measures were taken to guard the canals, the doge’s palace, and the piazza against further trouble.
Of all defensive measures the most important was the institution of the celebrated Ten. No one probably foresaw its unique history. It was a balia, an executive committee, formed at a crisis for a definite purpose, such as was often created by a score of cities. The object was to strengthen the heads of the high court, the Quarantia. Ten citizens were nominated by the electoral section of the Great Council and ten by the Doge, his Councillors, and the chiefs of the Quarantia. From these the Great Council elected ten. The office was renewed every two months until 1314, when it was established for five years, the members, however, retiring each Michaelmas and being ineligible for re-election. Gradenigo did not long survive the foundation of this memorable institution. He died on 13 August 1311. Venice, still nursing her wounds, was unable to take part in the war already raging.
Henry VII enters Italy
The election of Henry of Luxemburg on 27 November 1308 as successor to the murdered Albert of Austria might in itself have had little influence upon Italian history. Albert had deliberately decided that his duty lay in Germany; Henry’s own first acts had been to suppress disorder in western Germany, and by his son’s marriage to secure a territorial power in Bohemia comparable to the eastern possessions of the Habsburgs. The Italian question was introduced by the candidature of Charles of Valois, supported by the whole weight of the French Crown. Charles had had the closest connexion with Naples and with Florence, but above all his election would rivet the chain of Philip IV upon Clement V, and through him upon papal possessions and pretensions in Italy. Charles would be the cat’s-paw for further aggression upon Italy, already incurably wounded by the Pope’s detention in France. Clement was determined not to strengthen French influence in Italy, and desired the creation of a counterpoise. While making vague promises to Philip, he delayed any definite steps until after the election; he probably encouraged Henry’s brother, the Archbishop of Treves, to win the other Electors for Henry. He would gladly increase Robert’s power on the Franco-imperial borderland by the cession of the Arelate, which Henry might be willing to cede, as yet another counterpoise to Philip. Henry did, indeed, from the first, try to win Robert by proposals for his daughter’s marriage to Robert’s son.
Henry was not free for an advance on Italy until the late autumn of 1310, and meanwhile his court was swarming with Ghibelline exiles and Guelf spies. His position when he crossed the Mont Cenis was none too favourable. His mission to Italy had been badly received in Florence and Bologna, though welcomed by Arezzo and the Tuscan Ghibelline gentry. Philip had refused to be bound by any definite treaty. Clement had appointed Robert Count of Romagna, which, in the event of the Angevin’s hostility, would bar the southward march through the Emilia, where Henry might expect substantial support. Florence, with Robert’s personal aid, was feverishly completing her third line of walls, while Bologna helped to defend the Apennine passes, especially that down the Magra valley to Sarzana. Robert had visited Siena to repress awakened Ghibelline volitions. Nevertheless the adventure opened well. In Piedmont Amadeus V, Count of Savoy, and his nephews Louis and Philip gave him a warm welcome; he courteously refused homage from Alessandria and Asti, as they were fiefs of Robert, who promised to do fealty for them. At Turin he received the Guelf despots of Vercelli, Pavia, and Lodi, who stood next to Guido della Torre in importance. The dispossessed Ghibelline tyrant of Vercelli complained that he had suffered ruin for the Emperor’s party. Henry replied that he had no party in Lombardy, that he had come for no party but for the whole. This speech pleased the Guelf leaders, who pressed him to make no changes until he reached Milan. Henry refused, and, as he proceeded, recalled exiles of either party, and established his Vicars in the cities. He meant to be ruler and showed his meaning. At Asti arrived Matteo Visconti after an adventurous journey, mostly by night, from the Veronese frontier, and hither also came the Archbishop Cassone della Torre to beg for the release of his brothers from Guido’s prison. Milan was reached without opposition on 23 December 1310.
Guido della Torre, fierce and irresolute, hysterical and sulky by turns, had not dared resist Henry as an enemy, nor was willing Io welcome him as lord. Behind the crowd of citizens, ordered to meet Henry without arms, he rode with his banner flying. When this had been rolled in the mud by the German guards, he dismounted, kissed his lord’s feet, and was graciously received. The first task was to reconcile Torriani with Visconti, and Guido with his cousins. This successfully performed, Henry on the Epiphany 1311 received the Iron Crown, or rather an impromptu imitation, Guido having privily pawned the original to a Jew. In the Council a donative to the Emperor and Empress was debated; Guido, whether or no with sinister motives, outbid Matteo. The tax of 100,000 florins was burdensome to all classes, and Henry’s demand that a hundred nobles, picked equally from both parties, should accompany him to Rome dismayed the upper class. Trouble was brewing; there were suspicious meetings of Galeazzo Visconti and Franceschino della Torre, gatherings of armed men, cries of “Death to the Germans; there is peace between the lord Guido and the lord Matteo”. On a search for arms Matteo was found sitting blandly innocent in his porch, and delayed the inquisitors with wine; the Della Torre palace was full of armed confusion. A skirmish between Germans and Torriani developed into hard street-fighting, in which the Visconti joined the strangers. The Torriani chiefs escaped with some difficulty; Matteo and Galeazzo were also exiled, but soon recalled. When Henry left North Italy for Rome, he created Matteo imperial Vicar for life. This was the formal beginning of Italy’s greatest dynasty. Elsewhere also Henry replaced his temporary vicariates by selling the office to the ruling lords, the Scaligeri at Verona, Bonaccolsi at Mantua, Da Camino at Treviso, and Ghiberto da Correggio at Parma. By these means Henry hoped to receive reliable contingents, and, above all, to finance his campaign, for the chests of gold, upon which his officials had proudly sat during the journey, were a mere fleabite in Italy.
Meanwhile Guido della Torre and the Florentines had set revolt ablaze between the Adda and the Oglio. Lodi, indeed, gave in without a struggle. At Cremona the Guelfs, the Cappelletti of Dante’s famous line, had long become divided. The head of the extremists, Cavalcabò, fled, leaving his rival Amati to make terms. These were extremely harsh, and only a petition from the Empress caused Henry to spare the great campanile, the Torrazzo, still the glory of Cremona. Severity was ill-timed, for it determined the desperate defence of Brescia, where on Henry’s orders the Guelfs had been restored. One of these, Tebaldo Brusati, saved from ruin and knighted by Henry, headed the revolt to his own undoing, for, captured on a reconnaissance, he was sewn in the skin of an ox, dragged round the city walls, executed and quartered; his remains were exposed to intimidate the besieged. Henry’s army was now large, for he had been reinforced from the Empire, while Alboino and Can Grande della Scala rendered admirable service. Brescia, however, is traditionally difficult either to storm or blockade. The siege dragged on from May to November; pestilence ravaged both besieged and besiegers; among Henry’s losses was that of his gallant young brother Waleran. At length the papal envoys arranged a surrender on generous terms; Henry was free for a move on Rome.
From Brescia the imperial army marched to Genoa by Pavia. The Genoese gave Henry a warm reception, though, like Venice, they had failed to do homage; for these States, thought Nicholas of Botrinto, a papal envoy, regarded themselves as a fifth element, obeying neither God nor man, Pope nor Emperor. Here the two predominant Ghibelline families had quarrelled, and the Doria had expelled the Spinola, whom Henry now succeeded in reconciling. Nevertheless he outstayed his welcome. The expense of his court and his financial demands were onerous, while the independent, seafaring race resented his suppression of a recent popular constitution comprising both nobles and commons. Delay was largely due to the marriage negotiations with Robert, which were so far advanced that an offer from Frederick of Sicily of his son’s hand for Henry’s daughter was refused. Robert had begun his double game, for Henry heard that his brother, John of Gravina, reaching Rome with 400 horse, had won the Orsini and had tried to bribe the Colonna. He made the lame excuse that John was sent to represent him at his coronation, from which he himself would he unavoidably absent. Louis of Savoy, Vicar of Rome, was sent back thither at full speed, but failed to get general acceptance, and was barred from the Capitol. At Genoa the Empress died, an irremediable loss. Virtuous to sanctity, in Compagni’s words a servant to Christ’s poor, with a level head and an instinct for mercy and moderation, she was a valuable asset to the imperial cause at a time when tempers were sorely tried.
A Pisan fleet brought Henry to their city, enabling him to turn the defensive positions elaborated by Florence, Lucca, and Parma. Hence, after a stay of two months, he had a clear course to Rome. The Sienese government, endangered by a large Ghibelline populace, dared not oppose his march through the Maremma. He went to Rome with Clement’s full approval, and thus it was unlikely that he would find resistance in papal cities such as Grosseto and Viterbo. Before entering Rome, however, he had to force the Ponte Molle under fire from Gravina’s cross-bowmen. Henry had reached his goal, but found Rome partly occupied by a hostile Neapolitan force, while Central and Northern Italy were ablaze behind him. The focus of disturbance was still Florence, which stiffened the backbone of the faltering Tuscan league, reinforced the attacks of Bologna on the Ghibelline Romagnols, rekindled revolt at Cremona and Lodi, and worked upon the traditional republicanism of Padua, which had momentarily wavered before Henry’s eloquent professions of peace and justice. Langosco, imprisoning his Ghibelline rival Beccaria, was again sole lord of Pavia. Ghiberto da Correggio betrayed his oath of fealty for Parma, and closed the Emilian Way and the Taro-Magra route into Tuscany. Henry’s own Vicar, Philip of Savoy, had turned Asti and Vercelli against him. Imola, Faenza, and Forli, long headquarters of Romagnol Ghibellinism, had fallen to Robert’s Vicar, who had trapped its gallant leader, Scarpetta Ordelatli, and thrown down the walls of Forli, which no longer lay, as in Dante’s words, under the daw of the green lion. Henry thus lost control with the Visconti and Scaligeri; Can Grande had hurried from Genoa to secure the inheritance of Alboino, who never recovered the health lost at Brescia. Werner of Homburg, one of the best imperial generals, was dispatched to counteract reverses in North Italy. In Rome Henry was only reinforced by the Colonna, the fighting nobility of Tuscany, and the small papal towns of Todi and Narni. Against him were Gravina with regular troops, the Orsini who commanded the northern approaches to Rome and half the city, while Florence poured in her Catalan mercenaries, her volunteer cavalry, and large numbers of foot; the Tuscan league followed suit to a less degree, but Perugia threw her whole considerable weight into the fray. Fighting became brisk. The imperialists recovered the Capitol, drove the Guelfs back to the west of the Corso, but were decisively beaten in attempting to force a passage across the bridge of Sant Angelo. The coronation could not thus be held in St Peter’s under the Pope’s instructions to the Cardinals Nicholas of Prato, Luca Fieschi, and Arnaud Faugeres. Delay might have been indefinite, had not the populace forced the legates to crown the Emperor in the Lateran. On 29 June Nicholas set the crown on Henry’s head; the Emperor thrice waved his sword before placing it on his shield upon the altar, a symbol that with shield and sword he would defend the Church. But the stately open-air banquet which followed was disturbed by archers from the Aventine, and the guests were driven under cover.
Throughout the Roman struggle the determining political factors were the two least determinate of rulers, Robert of Anjou and Clement V. Since the summer of 1310 Robert had been tempted by an imperial marriage for his heir, with the Arelate as a dower, with the vicariate of Tuscany and Lombardy. On the other hand, Florence importuned him to wield the full power of the Tuscan league in opposing Henry’s advance. As usual, he evaded a decision by not answering his letters. The Florentines in dismay and alarm dubbed him Monna Berta, old Mrs So-and-So. Negotiations for the marriage seemed nearly complete, when in March 1312 Henry sent envoys from Pisa to settle definitive terms. The reply, received at Rome, was definite to stupefaction. Robert’s heir, Charles, should bear a royal title; his heirs should succeed to the kingdom of Sicily; he should be Vicar of Tuscany for life, the several cities paying a proportionate tribute to the Emperor and electing their own officials subject to confirmation by the Vicar; in Lombardy for ten years the Emperor’s Vicar should be one acceptable to Robert; the contracting powers should jointly appoint an Admiral; they should reconcile Orsini and Colonna, and Henry should leave Rome four days after coronation. It is doubtful whether Robert made these proposals merely to be refused. The breach was not complete until Henry’s envoy to Gravina brought the reply that he had indeed come to Rome in honour of the coronation, but had since received orders to oppose Henry’s entrance to Rome, and, above all, to St Peter’s. Such was the position as between Emperor and king at the time of the coronation.
Meanwhile Clement’s attitude had changed. He had been whole-hearted in support of Henry’s schemes for Italian peace, declaring that it would be a sin not to second them. His cardinals had promoted the treaty with Brescia, so essential to Henry’s progress; their head, Nicholas of Prato, was devoted to the imperial cause. The Council of Vienne was probably responsible for Clement’s change of policy. Charles of Valois, Philip’s three sons, with Plaisians and Marigny, accused him of preparing bulls commanding John of Gravina to offer no opposition to Henry’s coronation; they told him that no treaty would prevent Philip from defending the French blood that flowed in Robert’s veins, and demanded suppression of the bulls. Clement was suffering from internal pains and nervous exhaustion; he always disliked responsibility; he felt unequal to altercation with one who had him at his mercy. He was moreover sensitive as to papal rights in Italy; he might well fear that an attack on Naples would destroy his suzerainty, for he was probably aware of Henry’s negotiations with Frederick of Sicily. Nevertheless his first overt act was a Bull of 19 June proclaiming a year’s truce between Henry and Robert, and demanding an explanation of Henry’s hostility.
Henry received the bull at Tivoli with high indignation; Clement had perhaps not realised that it would be so offensive. The imperial lawyers were summoned to pronounce on the question whether the Pope could impose a truce between Emperor and vassal. Henry doubtless had imperial ideals, but in practice he had been accustomed to the drastic legalism of Philip IV. The lawyers’ reply was naturally in the negative. Before the delivery of the bull, the breach with Robert had become inevitable, for on 4 July the Emperor nominated Henry of Flanders as his proctor to treat of his daughter’s marriage with Frederick’s son, to prepare a perpetual alliance against all powers except the Pope, France, and Avignon. Robert was declared guilty of high treason, and Frederick appointed Admiral of the Holy Roman Empire. This was the long-deferred conclusion of tentative negotiations. Late in 1311 Henry had told Frederick that the Sicilian marriage was impossible, as the Pope has bent upon the Angevin match, the negotiations for which were far advanced. A general treaty was indeed signed in the spring of 1312. This had redoubled Robert’s temperamental irresolution; he was pressed by Florence to attack Henry in Rome, but he feared the certainty of an attack by Frederick on Naples, and the rumours of an invasion by John of Bohemia and Carobert of Hungary. So he marched his troops out of Naples, but halted them at Aversa, to the dismay of Florence. Robert would gladly have accepted the papal truce, but was forced to insist on the inclusion of his Guelfic allies, which Clement refused. Nor probably would the Guelfic league have accepted, though two most influential Blacks, Geri Spini and Pino della Tosa, sent an emissary to Tivoli to discuss terms of peace.
On 19 August 1312 Henry left Tivoli on his march for Florence, with his army much depleted. The Tuscan Ghibellines and the levies of Spoleto, Narni, and Todi marched home; northern feudatories such as Rudolf of Bavaria and Louis of Savoy feared a Roman autumn. From Viterbo he turned aside with characteristic unwisdom to pay a grateful visit to Todi and inflict a revengeful raid upon Perugia. At Arezzo, under its bishop Guido Tarlati, he had an enthusiastic welcome and large reinforcements of Tuscan and Romagnol Ghibellines. With little resistance Incisa was reached; here all the best Florentine troops defended the walls and the bridge which spanned the Arno, there unfordable. Henry with his cavalry only, by a turning movement over country reputed impossible for horsemen, placed himself on the main road, south of the Arno, in the Florentine rear. After a sharp fight, in which Henry and his brother Baldwin of Treves took valorous part, the Florentines fled by the secondary northern road. Henry raced them home by the southern bank, and crossing to the east of Florence established headquarters at San Salvi on 19 September. Surprise was his only chance; the siege was a hopeless effort. The garrison alone was double his own force; reinforcements and supplies could pour in from north, west, and south; his troops had burnt bare the Florentine territory behind them; autumn rains flooded the Arno and made supplies from Arezzo precarious. Henry, shattered by fever, burnt his camp, and crossed the swollen river on the night of 30-31 October. With any active courage the enemy might have destroyed him.
Henceforth, until Henry’s arrival at Pisa on 10 March 1313, the campaign straggled over the valleys of the Greve and Elsa. The latter had strategic importance, for it facilitated his communications with Pisa and hampered those of Florence with Siena, Volterra, and Poggibonsi. The latter town suffered for its stalwart Guelfism by destruction and the erection of a rival, named Monte Imperiale, across the deep valley. The quarrel between Henry and Robert, and the conflict of principle between Emperor and Pope, here reached their climax. On 26 April Robert was declared guilty of high treason. Henry’s edict is the highest assertion of the universality of Empire, of the divine command that every soul should be subject to the Roman Emperor; Naples was not excluded by virtue of papal suzerainty, for “Regnum Siciliae et specialiter insula Siciliae sicut et ceterae provinciae sunt de imperio, totus enim mundus imperatoris est”. Clement, under pressure from Philip IV, issued the Bull of 13 June, threatening with excommunication all who should attack the kingdom of Naples. Henry’s comment was: “If God is with us, neither Pope nor Church can destroy us, and God we have not injured”.
The march on Rome and Naples was now decided. Baldwin went to Treves to levy troops; pressing messages were sent to John of Bohemia, the German princes and bishops, the Lombard States, and Venice and Genoa. Homburg and Montferrat won a useful victory over Robert’s seneschal near Alessandria. To break the spirit of Lucca, Henry of Flanders made a brilliant capture of Pietrasanta, in the face of Diego de Rat and all his Florentine Catalans. The Ghibelline Malaspina captured the yet more important Sarzana. The object was to clear the coast road for forces coming southward by the Magra valley; a small Veronese and Mantuan force did indeed attempt the dangerous pass, but without success. The German reinforcements came in slowly; Baldwin, John of Bohemia, and Leopold of Austria arrived too late. Yet, when Henry started on 8 August, he had a useful mobile force of 2500 Luxemburg and German horse and 1500 Tuscan and Romagnol Ghibellines. He approached the gates of Siena in hope of a rising by gentry and populace against the bourgeois government, but the Nine were once more too strong. He was now desperately ill but would give himself no rest. Buonconvento was reached on 21 August, and there on 24 August he died. The rumours of his being poisoned in the Sacrament by his confessor Bernardino of Montepulciano caused persecution of Dominicans in Italy and Germany, but were conclusively disproved.
Such was the melancholy end of the great adventure. Failure was probably inevitable from the first. Italy had long outgrown an imperial system; its re-establishment would have endangered the interests of both parties. The aim of government, as Dante wrote, was Peace, and the path to it was Justice; but Henry was crying Peace where there was no peace, and Justice was unknown in Italy, outside Venice, for centuries to come. A permanent monarchy was a dream, yet Henry might have succeeded in his immediate objects, the recognition of his rights in Rome and the expulsion of the Angevin from Naples, where feudalism was still a living force; he had better chances than the Aragonese of the next century. The squadrons of Frederick, of Genoa and Pisa, perhaps even of Venice, would have swept Robert’s galleys off the seas. Robert had long feared for his southern ports; his nobles had refused to serve outside their country, many were now on the verge of revolt; his forces were scattered in Lombardy, Piedmont, Romagna, and Tuscany; he could only cover ordinary expenses by papal and Florentine loans; he had no personal magnetism, no military skill; by long tradition the regnicolae, always faithless to the existing government, would welcome the first comer. Such reasons doubtless induced Villani, Guelf as he was, to testify that Henry would have driven Robert from his throne
Guelfs and Ghihellines in Tuscany
With Henry VII’s death the Ghibelline cause, in Tuscany at least, seemed lost beyond retrieve. The only two powers of any note, Pisa to west and Arezzo to east, were separated by a wide range of hostile territory, for the old feudal families which had flocked to the imperial standard were but scattered islands in a Guelfic sea. Arezzo in its loyal grief changed the horse upon its shield from white to black. The more mercantile Pisans regretted that they had spent 2000 golden ducats on the imperial cause and had got nothing for it. In Guelfic cities exultation knew no bounds. In these the oppressed Ghibellines were forced to take a part in processions and illuminations. The imperial army broke up, the Aretines and Tuscan nobles hurrying to their homes, while Henry of Flanders with the German and Pisan contingents escorted the Emperor’s remains to Pisa, where his body rests. The weak point in the Guelfic league was that, though it had baffled Henry, it had not beaten him. Diplomatic acumen and skill in organisation had been superior to military spirit. In Tuscany the complete sense of security was probably the cause of disappointment and disaster.
Pisa hoped to defend herself with the aid of Frederick of Sicily who visited the city, but his terms, the cession of Sardinia, were too high. Henry of Flanders and the Count of Savoy were approached in vain. Aid came unexpectedly from within her walls. Uguccione, Podestà of Genoa for Henry VII, accepted the office of Podestà and Captain. He was a capable condottiere from the Aretine territory, with a somewhat shady political record. Feeling that safety lay in a brisk offensive, he induced 1000 Brabançon and Flemish horse to enter Pisan service. Taking advantage of the war-weariness and internal divisions of Lucca, he sent strong raiding parties into her territory. The Florentines dispatched aid, but their retirement was followed by fresh attacks. Meanwhile King Robert was striving for a general peace, which would give him the control of Tuscany, and especially the use of the Pisan fleet against Sicily. Peace was actually signed at the end of February between Pisa, the Guelfic league, and himself. Uguccione felt his position threatened; he worked up agitation among the lower classes, rode the town, beheaded his chief opponent, and had himself declared General War Captain for ten years. Negotiations in Lucca resulted in the mutual recall of exiles, among whom were the once powerful Lucchese house of Interminelli. To this belonged the keen young soldier Castruccio Castracani, of much experience in French and Italian wars, who at once gained favour with the lower classes. Their rivals, the Obizzi, were thought to be still negotiating with Florence, whereas the Interminelli were for peace with Pisa. Castruccio conspired with Uguccione, and together they expelled the Guelfs; Uguccione established his son as Podestà and War Captain in June 1314.
The loss of Lucca was a serious blow for Florence. Her access to the sea and the road across the Apennines from Sarzana was blocked, while her hold upon Pistoia, none too secure, was endangered. The general political position was critical, for Clement V had died in April, and a fiercely disputed election was in sight. Robert was straining his resources for another attack on Sicily, but he sent his young brother Peter to Florence with 300 horse. He entered on 18 August 1314, bearing for the king the title of Imperial Vicar of Tuscany, Lombardy, Romagna, and Ferrara, and Captain-General of the Guelf party in Italy. The Ghibelline party was now tightening its consolidation. In February 1315 Pisa and Lucca made an alliance with Verona and Mantua, the Pazzi of Vai d’Arno and the Ubertini; but Arezzo, feeling its isolation, had made peace with Florence. The situation in the Guelfic cities was aggravated by renewed faction and discontent with the heavy taxation, while in Siena the Tolomei and Salimbeni fought pitched battles in the streets.
In March 1315 the campaign began with an unsuccessful Pisan attack on Montecatini, strongly garrisoned by Florentines and Lucchese exiles. Uguccione roused the drooping spirits of the Pisans by promising a direct attack on Florence. On an appeal by Peter of Anjou, Bologna, always faithful to her engagements, sent troops at once, while on 6 August Robert’s brother, Philip of Taranto, arrived with Neapolitan forces and a large Sienese contingent. Uguccione also had called on his allies, and on 10 August again besieged Montecatini with 3000 horse and 20,000 foot, to which Matteo Visconti, the Bonaccolsi of Mantua, and the Bishop of Arezzo, in spite of his city’s treaty with Florence, contributed contingents; that of Can Grande, however, arrived too late. Philip of Taranto, reinforced by troops from Umbria and Romagna, moved to relieve Montecatini with 3200 horse and infantry estimated at from 30,000 to 60,000. He crossed the dangerous marshes of Fucecchio, while the Lucchese peasantry, disaffected towards their new government, cut the roads and captured convoys in Uguccione’s rear. This on 28 August decided him to retire, but to fight, if harassed on retreat. On 29 August Philip followed. While crossing the stream of the Vorra, his forces were attacked by Italian mercenaries and Florentine exiles. The vanguard from Siena and Colle fled. Uguccione’s son Francesco and Giacotto Malaspina, who bore the imperial standard of Lewis of Bavaria, pressed the attack, but were beaten off. Here Francesco fell, perhaps in personal combat with Philip’s son Charles, for their bodies were found together; the imperial banner went under. Uguccione then threw his 800 German horse into the fray. The infantry protecting the left flank of the Guelfic cavalry, being harassed by the Pisan cross-bowmen, threw their long lances into the charging Germans, and ran for their lives. General confusion ensued, and the Florentine rout was complete. Pursuit followed for 13 miles: many fugitives were drowned in the marshes, prisoners were numerous, the booty enormous. Peter of Eboli’s body was lost in the marshes, and never found. Philip of Taranto, suffering from malaria, had been carried in a litter to the field, and managed to escape. The Catalan mercenaries fought well, and suffered badly; Diego de Rat was a prisoner. The chief Guelfic families lost heavily in dead, wounded, and prisoners. No such defeat had been inflicted on Florence since Montaperti.
In view of the seething discontent within Florence and the defection of some of her smaller South Tuscan allies, the city herself might have fallen but for Uguccione’s delay in following up his victory. A capable soldier, he had no statesmanlike quality, no great aim beyond his immediate interest. This was now to monopolise the whole of the captured booty. Pisa and Lucca, which under Castruccio had no small share in the victory, were equally indignant. Jealousy of Castruccio was, indeed, the direct cause of Uguccione’s fall. The schism in the Empire was beginning to affect Italian politics. Uguccione from the first supported Lewis; Castruccio accepted from Frederick the confirmation of his election as Vicar by the city of Sarzana, a post of the utmost importance for imperial communications with Lucca, Pisa, and Florence herself. Uguccione ordered his son Neri, who represented him at Lucca, to arrest Castruccio, and if he refused to surrender his possessions, to behead him. Realising possible danger, he rode out to support his son. The Pisans rose against him; he turned back on the news, to find the gates bolted and barred. Hoping to save Lucca, he hurried thither, only to fall into the hands of Castruccio, who had already been released. The captor with characteristic generosity sent father and son under escort to Spinetta Malaspina in the Lunigiana, whence Uguccione made his way to Can Grande. After a later vain attempt on Pisa he died as Podestà of Verona in November 1319. His career illustrates the difficulty in establishing a durable tyranny by a mere condottiere without local or dynastic ties. If statesmanship, character, and military skill combined could accomplish such a feat, Uguccione’s successor at Lucca had a far better chance. He was the real Tuscan hero in the drama of the Trecento. Machiavelli had some justification in converting the hero of history into one of legend. Castruccio’s chief exploits, however, lie beyond the limits of this chapter. After Uguccione’s death Castruccio became Captain of Lucca, to be elected in 1320 General-Captain and Lord for life. A somewhat similar post was held by Guido della Gherardesca at Pisa. The two States continued a raiding war upon the Tuscan Guelfs, until in 1317 Robert succeeded in promoting a general peace. This was the easier, as, in consequence of the marriage of Frederick of Austria’s daughter Catherine to the Duke of Calabria, Naples, Florence, and Lucca recognised the same claimant to the Empire. Within Florence, however, the incompetence and greed of the Angevin princes led to a reaction against French influence in favour of the house of Luxemburg. Simone della Tosa headed a party based mainly on the Gonfaloniers of the Companies and the lower classes against the wealthy families. On 1 May 1316 dictatorial powers were conferred on a new official, the Bargello, Lando Bicci, who ruled without appeal by axe and gallows, in defiance of excommunication by the clergy. Robert’s brother-in-law, Bertrand de Baux, was powerless, but his successor, Count Guido of Battifolle, backed by orders from Naples and a reaction among the Companies, dismissed Bicci and broke Simone’s power. Government fell to the wealthy popolani for some years to come. Abroad, military enterprise was devoted to support of the Lombard Guelfic league against Visconti and Scaligeri, and to the relief of Genoa. In spite of Robert’s own success in this relief, the Florentines suffered with increasing disgust the officials commissioned to represent him. This reached its climax with the expiration of his lordship in 1322. Florence was free for a time from a foreign protectorate, and restored to the dubious enjoyment of her own constitution.
Death of Clement V : election of John XXII
Clement V did not long survive the Emperor whom he had deserted, for he died on 20 April 1314. His pontificate had rather tightened than loosened papal hold in Italy. The impetus had been due to the genius of Arnaud de Pélagrue, but it was mainly through Robert and his Neapolitan officials that he maintained his hold upon the capital and Romagna. The conquest of Ferrara brought small satisfaction. The citizens desired either republican liberty or the recall of the legitimate Estensi. In one of the movements Francesco was murdered; Clement found himself forced late in 1312 to hand over the government to Robert, who held Ferrara with a force of Catalans. These in August 1317 were massacred by the inhabitants, who restored the sons of Francesco and Aldobrandino. Direct papal sovereignty ceased in spite of the interdict long laid upon Ferrara by Clement’s successor.
Dante has mercilessly condemned Clement to a terrible cell and unsympathetic company in Hell. His desertion of Italy, his betrayal of Henry, his unlimited simony to enrich his relatives, are sufficient reasons for his punishment. Yet it is possible to regret it. In spite of Viliani’s scandal, Clement lived a clean life, and was a man of simple piety, easy and pleasant in his manners, a contrast to the insufferable arrogance of Boniface VIII and the rough brutality of John XXII. Though not ascetic, he lived frugally and unostentatiously; he was always taking medicine and consulting doctors, becoming a chronic valetudinarian. This, perhaps, accounted for the weakness of will which sometimes followed tenacity of resistance, forcing him to concessions which he afterwards regretted. A see-saw between high pretensions and weak practice was a main characteristic of his career.
The disgraceful conclave of Carpentras ended on 7 August 1316 in the election of John XXII. Dante’s patriotic letter to the Italian cardinals, addressed especially to Napoleon Orsini, was of no avail, and the failure to elect an Italian caused St Peter to denounce the Cahorsins and Gascons, who would drink like ravening wolves the blood of Christ’s flock. Napoleon himself had told Philip IV that the desertion of Rome had ruined Italy and brought danger upon France herself. During the conclave the political situation had materially changed. On 27 November 1314 Philip IV had died, while in October the elections of Frederick of Austria and Lewis of Bavaria had caused a schism in the Empire. Only five years of John’s reign fall within Dante’s life, but these were sufficient to cause his condemnation. He soon rivalled Boniface in the assertion of temporal claims, and outdid Clement in extortion. Having failed to close the imperial schism, he utilised it by continuing Robert’s vicariate, and forbade vicars appointed by Henry VII to perform their functions. From this sprang the conflict with Visconti, elsewhere described.
Robert of Naples
Of all the combatants King Robert stood to gain most by Henry VII’s death. He was relieved from the very real danger of a combined attack by the Emperor and Frederick of Sicily. Clement created him Imperial Vicar in Italy during the vacancy. In Rome itself he exercised senatorial power, through a Roman noble or through one of his own officials. If the nobles still fought without much government control, this was too normal to cause anxiety. Southwards, the reconciliation of Gaetani and Colonna made access from Naples easy. In Umbria, Perugia, the most powerful and united city, kept the Guelfic banner always flying. In Romagna and the March, Guelfs and Ghibellines under the Malatesta and Federigo of Urbino were so evenly balanced that Robert’s aid was scarcely needed. As ruler of Ferrara for the Pope since 1312 he could put pressure on eastern Lombardy, while western Lombardy could be threatened from his fiefs in Piedmont, and by the Count of Savoy, now his ally. In Tuscany, Florence, Siena, and Lucca had no shame in accepting his protectorate. His undoubted wish to be king, nominal or actual, of Italy seemed to Guelfic poets well within possibility of fulfilment.
Against these advantages Robert’s preoccupation with Sicily weighed heavily in the scales. During truce or peace he was always preparing for another war, and this strained his resources to the uttermost; he held that he would not really be king if he could not reunite the whole Angevin kingdom. Two actual wars took place between Henry’s death and the visit of Lewis IV to Italy. For the first, Frederick was responsible by his breach of the Treaty of Caltabellotta through his alliance with Henry. He had his son Peter’s claim to succession proclaimed by the assembled judges of the island, and himself reassumed the title of King of Sicily. The ensuing war was a fiasco; Frederick seized Reggio, and Robert sent a large force by sea to Trapani. Both fleets were shattered by storms before coming into action, and a truce was made until March 1316. The second war was far more serious. A large army, after pillaging the western side of Sicily, combined with the fleet in an attack upon Palermo, and, failing here, on the district of Marsala. Frederick’s forces were at a low ebb when envoys arrived from John XXII and James of Aragon. Frederick assented to the surrender of the posts still held in Calabria, stipulating for a peace to last from 13 June 1317 to Christmas 1320. The negotiations at Avignon failed owing to Robert’s usual delays, and the war became part of the pan-Italian struggle around Genoa. To mobilise his fleet destined for this, Frederick seized ecclesiastical property. John in January 1321 laid an interdict on Sicily, whereon Frederick completed the ruin of the treaty of Caltabellotta by having Peter crowned as his successor in April 1321. Robert’s personal intervention in the siege of Genoa was the one courageous and decisive act in the first decade of his reign. The siege was compared by Villani to that of Troy for the size and wealth of the city, its long duration and violent vicissitudes. It was originally a mere incident in the everlasting struggles between the great families of Doria, Spinola, Grimaldi, and Fieschi, the former pair classed as Ghibellines, the latter as Guelfs. After Henry VII’s death, renewed quarrels between Doria and Spinola led to the return and predominance of the Guelfs, stimulated by Robert’s intrigues, in 1317. The Ghibelline houses, reconciled in exile, based their attack on the malcontent cities of Savona and Albenga, and their own far-stretching coastal fiefs. The Guelfs, after appealing in vain to Visconti, who gave support to the exiles, begged help of Robert. To the ruler of Naples and Marseilles control over Genoa was all-important, for it secured the long sea passage between these ports, opened communications through the Ligurian Alps to his Piedmontese possessions, and provided a first-class fleet for a Sicilian war. The exiles, in March 1318, aided by Marco Visconti with German and Lombard troops, occupied the semicircle of hills overlooking Genoa, the Polcevera valley immediately to the west, and the Torre del Faro commanding the port. In July Robert with a large fleet broke the blockade, and was recognised as lord for ten years in conjunction with the Pope. The exiles found allies in the Lombard Ghibelline despots, Lucca, Pisa, and the Emperor Andronicus, who could gravely hamper Genoese commerce in the East. Robert was joined by Bolognese, Florentines, and Romagnols, shipped from the Sienese port of Talamone. In February Robert broke the besiegers’ western lines by landing at Sestri Levante. After this serious defeat the Lombards withdrew, and Robert in April, leaving his fleet and a garrison, retired to join the Pope. By August the exiles retook all their lost positions, and there was fighting by sea from Savona to the gulf of Spezia.
The war in 1320 became truly international. A Sicilian fleet, carrying cavalry, arrived before Genoa, while Castruccio captured Genoese towns in the Riviera di Levante. By August the city was more closely beset than ever. Robert then sent 82 galleys, before which the Sicilian fleet retired, and, to draw Cardona off, ravaged Ischia. Cardona’s pursuing fleet on sighting his Neapolitan seamen’s home was disabled by mutiny. In September the Sicilian squadron, having returned to Genoa, made with the Lombards concerted attacks, which were with great difficulty repulsed. If only Castruccio had arrived success was certain, but the Florentines, by attacking Lucca, called him hurriedly home. Similarly, though with less success, the Pope sent Philip of Valois with French troops to divert the Visconti. Winter approaching drove home the Sicilian fleet, much damaged; the exiles retired to Savona. Though the war dragged on till 1323, the crisis was really over. Robert had saved Genoa, and recovered the prestige lost in 1317 by his humiliating eviction from Ferrara.
Lombardy: Matteo Visconti
If in Tuscany the Emperor’s death gave apparent predominance lo the Guelfs, the position of the imperialists in Lombardy remained unshaken. This was directly due to Henry’s action in appointing as Vicars of Milan and Verona men of real statesmanship and consistent purpose. Pecuniary necessity may have been his immediate motive, but he could not have made better choice than that of Matteo Visconti and Can Grande. Matteo, indeed, like other great Visconti, had little military talent, but four warlike sons compensated for the lack. The title of Imperial Vicar gave both rulers an unquestionable status, as is proved by the insistence of Clement V and John XXII that they should abandon it. Can Grande had a State undivided by party faction, while Matteo’s justice and conciliatory spirit went far to reconcile the popular Guelf elements to his rule. The alliance between the two lords, which included Passerino Bonaccolsi of Mantua, was firmly set; there was as yet little cause for jealousy, since between the Adda and the Mincio lay a wide block containing Bergamo and Brescia, Crema and Cremona, mainly Guelf or suffering from chaotic feuds. King Robert’s occupation of Ferrara was precarious, and in 1317 was to have an ignominious end. The chief danger was the brilliant, unscrupulous Ghiberto da Correggio, lord of Parma, who coveted Cremona, which, with his possession of Guastalla, would give him command of both banks of the Po. If only he could wrest Piacenza, so closely connected in history with Parma, his State would be of real importance. Westwards, Pavia was ruled by Rizzardino Langosco, son of Filippone, who was a prisoner in Milan. The Torriani had returned to Lombardy; and had influence in the eastern half of the Milanese and much sympathy in Milan. Matteo had during the first two years after Henry’s death considerable trouble from such a combination supported by Bologna, Padua, and Robert. But in October 1315 Marco Visconti, after a brilliant victory on the Scrivia, took Pavia by an assault, in which Rizzardino was killed. The Ghibelline Beccaria were restored, but, to make safe, Matteo built a castle, occupied by a Milanese garrison under his son Luchino. The Visconti now ruled over Milan, Tortona, Alessandria, Pavia, Bergamo, and Piacenza, while Como was ruled by the closely allied Rusconi. Ghiberto da Correggio in 1316 induced his friend Cavalcabo, the local despot, to surrender Cremona to him. On his return to Parma, he found an organised rebellion, headed by his relatives, and probably engineered from Milan and Verona. He fled, never to return, but, by his military capacity and official command of the Guelf forces, was formidable until his death in 1323. Parma once again became stringently republican, starting a new radical club of 3000 members, who swore never to allow Parma to obey a lord or have intercourse with nobles. This strange little radical republic was in foreign politics Ghibelline, in alliance with Milan, Verona, and Mantua, receiving her Podesta from the Visconti. Cremona, after Correggio’s fall, suffered horrible vicissitudes of murder and sack until her acceptance of Visconti rule in 1322.
The accession of John XXII was signalised by the Bull of 1317 excommunicating all who did not drop the title of Imperial Vicar, unless confirmed in it by himself. Can Grande took no notice of this, but Matteo abandoned the title, adopting that of General Lord of the Milanese people. His foreign policy was not affected: he sent substantial aid to the Genoese Ghibelline nobles, and with preliminary success; but the arrival of Robert with a large force turned the scale. The Milanese and Veronese gave up the contest; Genoa was not as yet within the practical programme of Visconti expansion.
In Lombardy, Matteo’s success continued. Robert’s Vicar, Hugh de Baux, was killed in an action with Luchino; Philip of Valois, sent by Robert to support the papal legate Bertrand du Pouget, retired rapidly before a superior Visconti force, which then occupied Vercelli. A new danger now threatened the Visconti from the east. The Pope persuaded Frederick of Austria to send his brother Henry to execute the decree of excommunication. Henry found a strong base in the zealous Guelfism of Brescia, where he received the papal banner from Pagano della Torre, Patriarch of Aquileia, in April 1322. Yet he, as Philip of Valois, disliked the look of the Visconti forces, and was bribed to retire, ending his campaign with a jovial reception from Can Grande.
The Pope’s measures had failed to shake the military position of the Visconti, but they were not without effect on Milanese feeling nor on Matteo’s conscience. His own envoys were persuaded by the legate to depose him, and on their return stirred up the people, who became clamorous for peace. The Council wished Matteo to resign his pretensions to the Pope. Lombard Ghibellines fiercely resented this, but Matteo’s health and courage were waning; he resigned in favour of Galeazzo, and died, probably on 24 June 1322. Strangely enough, Galeazzo was unanimously acclaimed by the Grand Council as his father’s successor. Thus the Visconti seemed firmly seated as the ruling house, in spite of Matteo’s personal difficulties or tender conscience.
Can Grande della Scala
At the time of Henry VII’s death Can Grande was sole ruler of Verona. He had also received the vicariate of Vicenza, which had thrown off the Paduan yoke in February 1312. Vicentine territory increased the Scala possessions by half as much again, and acted as a buffer, protecting the Veronese from the impact of the forces of Padua and Treviso. On the other hand, it was the cause of the four succeeding wars with Padua, whose resources were fully as great as those of Can Grande, and whose republican feeling was long unalterable. In his own house Can was determined to be master. He suppressed the Vicentine rural nobles, who had long been the bugbear of the city, ordering all private castles to be destroyed, an act which drove many of the owners into alliance with Padua. The defences of the State were strengthened, especially by two new forts at Marostica, the stronghold on the northern frontier. The Scala ladder incised on a bolt of one of the gates still bears witness to Can Grande’s action.
Not daunted by the Emperor’s death, Can Grande at once prepared an offensive movement against Padua. In 1314 he raided Paduan territory far and wide, burning Abano, to the distress of wealthy and gouty citizens whose health depended on its baths, and caused a panic in Padua itself. A counter-stroke against Vicenza had almost succeeded, when Can, riding hard from his son’s marriage-feast at Verona, drove the enemy out after a hand-to-hand fight in the suburbs. A huge number of prisoners included the historian statesman, Albertino Mussato. The ensuing peace in October 1314 recognised Can Grande’s rights over Vicenza. This peace enabled him, in concert with his satellite Passerino Bonaccolsi of Mantua, to uphold the Ghibelline cause in Central Lombardy. To him in great measure was due the expulsion of Ghiberto da Correggio from Parma; he had, however, no ambition for permanent expansion in this direction, and left any fruits of victory to Passerino. The recognition of Frederick of Austria as King of the Romans on 16 March 1317 has been ascribed to the influence of Uguccione, who was now his most talented general. It was, however, inevitable that Can should have direct interest in the Austrian claimant, who, through the Brenner and side passes, was in close contact with Verona and Vicenza.
While campaigning against Brescia, Can heard of a treacherous Paduan plot for the surprise of Vicenza. The attack was led by Vinciguerra, Count of Sanbonifacio, the hereditary Guelfic foe of the Ghibelline Scaligeri. He was descending from Monte Berico, which immediately overhangs Vicenza, when Can and Uguccione burst upon him. Vinciguerra was taken, and after generous treatment died, thus ridding Can of his most powerful feudal enemy. He then conquered the southern Paduan towns of Este, Monselice, and Montagnana, while the Estensi, restored to Ferrara, captured Rovigo, chief city of the fertile Polesina, lying between the Adige and the Po. The peace, which was due to Venetian mediation in February 1318, had momentous results for Padua, for Giacomo da Carrara, who had pressed for peace, was in July accepted as lord.
In December 1318 Can Grande’s reputation caused him to be elected Captain-General of the Lombard League, with a handsome salary and a personal force of 1000 horse. Yet he did little service to the League’s cause. His objective now was Padua’s ally Treviso, now a republic, but deeply divided between the upper and lower classes. Aided by several feudal nobles and the late despot, Guecello da Camino, Uguccione besieged the city, but Henry Count of Gorizia was sent by Frederick of Austria to its relief, whereupon in July 1319 Can diverted his forces to a formal siege of Padua. Here on 1 November 1319 he lost Uguccione, who died of malaria. Padua, at the instance of Giacomo da Carrara, gave herself to Frederick, whose Vicar, Henry of Gorizia, took the besiegers completely by surprise. Utterly routed and severely wounded, Can escaped by a hair’s-breadth to Monselice, losing all his military stores and gorgeous personal equipment. Fortunately the Paduans, disheartened by an attempt to take Monselice, longed for peace, which was signed on 26 October 1320. Can surrendered to Padua the strong frontier fortress of Cittadella, and by a secret arrangement gave to Henry Asolo and Montebelluna, receiving in exchange the more important Bassano, which commands the entrance to the Val Sugana. Frederick was to arbitrate on the return of exiles and the possession of Este, Monselice, and Montagnana, but his defeat at Muhldorf left them in Can Grande’s hands. Shaken by the wound received at Padua and the shame of his flight, he left Padua and Treviso alone for the while; he had learned his lesson, that personal bravery does not make a general. By clever negotiations he won valuable acquisitions in Feltre and Belluno; with these added to Bassano, Roveredo, and Riva he had a fine strategic and commercial northern frontier.
At Venice the election which followed Gradenigo’s death was sensational. The electors being in doubt, some of them, as is usual, looked out of the window. A retired statesman, Marino Zorzi, was passing, followed by a servant carrying a sack of bread for the prisoners. A flood of sentiment swept the charitable old gentleman to the dogeship. He was friendly to Henry VII, for deputies were sent to his coronation, and leave given to levy cross-bowmen. Having reigned but ten months, he died on 3 July l312. Ten days later Giovanni Soranzo was elected at the age of seventy-two. No citizen had a stronger claim. With 25 galleys he had taken Kaffa from the Genoese, and then defended it against the Tartars, had fought against Padua, and was Podestà of Ferrara in the critical year 1308. Prosperity soon returned, especially in the year of double thirteens. The papal interdict was withdrawn in March 1313; the old Venetian privileges in Ferrara were restored; the fetters on foreign trade were automatically struck off. In September Zara returned to Venetian allegiance after her long revolt, and during the next decade the other Dalmatian cities surrendered their temporary independence. Soranzo’s dogeship was a period of unexampled growth in wealth and population. The Genoese carried on war of a piratical character, but the most sensational incident was the appearance of the ever fortunate admiral Giustiniani before their headquarters at Galata with an irresistible demand for complete restitution. Commercial treaties were made with Sicily, Milan, Brescia, and Bologna, with Hungary and the Emperor Andronicus. The city of Trebizond granted access to trade with Persia; the King of Tunis favoured Venetian commerce. Levantine sugar was shipped to England in exchange for wool, which was worked up in Flanders for the cloth trade along the Adriatic and in the Levant. The city herself gained an impulse to silk manufacture by sheltering Lucchese refugees; three Venetian citizens introduced the art of mirror-making, which became a characteristic industry. Venice, with her arsenal enlarged, her bridges and streets improved, became worthy of a population computed at 200,000 souls. Soranzo’s death did not take place until well beyond the limits of this chapter, in December 1328.
The Age of Dante closes on a future indistinct. In Lombardy, indeed, the expansive hereditary monarchies seemed likely to hold the field. Florence, uneasy within, was again endangered from without. The States of the Church, under an absentee Pope, would probably disintegrate rather than solidify. There remains King Robert. If his resources could balance his ambitions, if he could prove as effective as he was efficient, he might learn to play the spectacular part which Guelf admirers assigned to
Il buon Roberto
Re d ’un italico Regno.