Valentino, p.13

Valentino, page 13



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Urbino and other places seized by them, to serve him in all his

  expeditions, and not to make war against or ally themselves with any

  one without his permission.

  This reconciliation being completed, Guido Ubaldo, the Duke of Urbino,

  again fled to Venice, having first destroyed all the fortresses in his

  state; because, trusting in the people, he did not wish that the

  fortresses, which he did not think he could defend, should be held by

  the enemy, since by these means a check would be kept upon his

  friends. But the Duke Valentino, having completed this convention, and

  dispersed his men throughout the Romagna, set out for Imola at the end

  of November together with his French men-at-arms: thence he went to

  Cesena, where he stayed some time to negotiate with the envoys of the

  Vitelli and Orsini, who had assembled with their men in the duchy of

  Urbino, as to the enterprise in which they should now take part; but

  nothing being concluded, Oliverotto da Fermo was sent to propose that

  if the duke wished to undertake an expedition against Tuscany they

  were ready; if he did not wish it, then they would besiege Sinigalia.

  To this the duke replied that he did not wish to enter into war with

  Tuscany, and thus become hostile to the Florentines, but that he was

  very willing to proceed against Sinigalia.

  It happened that not long afterwards the town surrendered, but the

  fortress would not yield to them because the castellan would not give

  it up to any one but the duke in person; therefore they exhorted him

  to come there. This appeared a good opportunity to the duke, as, being

  invited by them, and not going of his own will, he would awaken no

  suspicions. And the more to reassure them, he allowed all the French

  men-at-arms who were with him in Lombardy to depart, except the

  hundred lancers under Mons. di Candales, his brother-in-law. He left

  Cesena about the middle of December, and went to Fano, and with the

  utmost cunning and cleverness he persuaded the Vitelli and Orsini to

  wait for him at Sinigalia, pointing out to them that any lack of

  compliance would cast a doubt upon the sincerity and permanency of the

  reconciliation, and that he was a man who wished to make use of the

  arms and councils of his friends. But Vitellozzo remained very

  stubborn, for the death of his brother warned him that he should not

  offend a prince and afterwards trust him; nevertheless, persuaded by

  Pagolo Orsini, whom the duke had corrupted with gifts and promises, he

  agreed to wait.

  Upon this the duke, before his departure from Fano, which was to be on

  30th December 1502, communicated his designs to eight of his most

  trusted followers, among whom were Don Michele and the Monsignor

  d'Euna, who was afterwards cardinal; and he ordered that, as soon as

  Vitellozzo, Pagolo Orsini, the Duke di Gravina, and Oliverotto should

  arrive, his followers in pairs should take them one by one, entrusting

  certain men to certain pairs, who should entertain them until they

  reached Sinigalia; nor should they be permitted to leave until they

  came to the duke's quarters, where they should be seized.

  The duke afterwards ordered all his horsemen and infantry, of which

  there were more than two thousand cavalry and ten thousand footmen, to

  assemble by daybreak at the Metauro, a river five miles distant from

  Fano, and await him there. He found himself, therefore, on the last

  day of December at the Metauro with his men, and having sent a

  cavalcade of about two hundred horsemen before him, he then moved

  forward the infantry, whom he accompanied with the rest of the men-at-


  Fano and Sinigalia are two cities of La Marca situate on the shore of

  the Adriatic Sea, fifteen miles distant from each other, so that he

  who goes towards Sinigalia has the mountains on his right hand, the

  bases of which are touched by the sea in some places. The city of

  Sinigalia is distant from the foot of the mountains a little more than

  a bow-shot and from the shore about a mile. On the side opposite to

  the city runs a little river which bathes that part of the walls

  looking towards Fano, facing the high road. Thus he who draws near to

  Sinigalia comes for a good space by road along the mountains, and

  reaches the river which passes by Sinigalia. If he turns to his left

  hand along the bank of it, and goes for the distance of a bow-shot, he

  arrives at a bridge which crosses the river; he is then almost abreast

  of the gate that leads into Sinigalia, not by a straight line, but

  transversely. Before this gate there stands a collection of houses

  with a square to which the bank of the river forms one side.

  The Vitelli and Orsini having received orders to wait for the duke,

  and to honour him in person, sent away their men to several castles

  distant from Sinigalia about six miles, so that room could be made for

  the men of the duke; and they left in Sinigalia only Oliverotto and

  his band, which consisted of one thousand infantry and one hundred and

  fifty horsemen, who were quartered in the suburb mentioned above.

  Matters having been thus arranged, the Duke Valentino left for

  Sinigalia, and when the leaders of the cavalry reached the bridge they

  did not pass over, but having opened it, one portion wheeled towards

  the river and the other towards the country, and a way was left in the

  middle through which the infantry passed, without stopping, into the


  Vitellozzo, Pagolo, and the Duke di Gravina on mules, accompanied by a

  few horsemen, went towards the duke; Vitellozo, unarmed and wearing a

  cape lined with green, appeared very dejected, as if conscious of his

  approaching death--a circumstance which, in view of the ability of the

  man and his former fortune, caused some amazement. And it is said that

  when he parted from his men before setting out for Sinigalia to meet

  the duke he acted as if it were his last parting from them. He

  recommended his house and its fortunes to his captains, and advised

  his nephews that it was not the fortune of their house, but the

  virtues of their fathers that should be kept in mind. These three,

  therefore, came before the duke and saluted him respectfully, and were

  received by him with goodwill; they were at once placed between those

  who were commissioned to look after them.

  But the duke noticing that Oliverotto, who had remained with his band

  in Sinigalia, was missing--for Oliverotto was waiting in the square

  before his quarters near the river, keeping his men in order and

  drilling them--signalled with his eye to Don Michelle, to whom the

  care of Oliverotto had been committed, that he should take measures

  that Oliverotto should not escape. Therefore Don Michele rode off and

  joined Oliverotto, telling him that it was not right to keep his men

  out of their quarters, because these might be taken up by the men of

  the duke; and he advised him to send them at once to their quarters

  and to come himself to meet the duke. And Oliverotto, having taken

  this advice, came before the duke, who, when he saw him, called to

  him; and Oliverotto, ha
ving made his obeisance, joined the others.

  So the whole party entered Sinigalia, dismounted at the duke's

  quarters, and went with him into a secret chamber, where the duke made

  them prisoners; he then mounted on horseback, and issued orders that

  the men of Oliverotto and the Orsini should be stripped of their arms.

  Those of Oliverotto, being at hand, were quickly settled, but those of

  the Orsini and Vitelli, being at a distance, and having a presentiment

  of the destruction of their masters, had time to prepare themselves,

  and bearing in mind the valour and discipline of the Orsinian and

  Vitellian houses, they stood together against the hostile forces of

  the country and saved themselves.

  But the duke's soldiers, not being content with having pillaged the

  men of Oliverotto, began to sack Sinigalia, and if the duke had not

  repressed this outrage by killing some of them they would have

  completely sacked it. Night having come and the tumult being silenced,

  the duke prepared to kill Vitellozzo and Oliverotto; he led them into

  a room and caused them to be strangled. Neither of them used words in

  keeping with their past lives: Vitellozzo prayed that he might ask of

  the pope full pardon for his sins; Oliverotto cringed and laid the

  blame for all injuries against the duke on Vitellozzo. Pagolo and the

  Duke di Gravina Orsini were kept alive until the duke heard from Rome

  that the pope had taken the Cardinal Orsino, the Archbishop of

  Florence, and Messer Jacopo da Santa Croce. After which news, on 18th

  January 1502, in the castle of Pieve, they also were strangled in the

  same way.




  And sent to his friends






  It appears, dearest Zanobi and Luigi, a wonderful thing to those who

  have considered the matter, that all men, or the larger number of

  them, who have performed great deeds in the world, and excelled all

  others in their day, have had their birth and beginning in baseness

  and obscurity; or have been aggrieved by Fortune in some outrageous

  way. They have either been exposed to the mercy of wild beasts, or

  they have had so mean a parentage that in shame they have given

  themselves out to be sons of Jove or of some other deity. It would be

  wearisome to relate who these persons may have been because they are

  well known to everybody, and, as such tales would not be particularly

  edifying to those who read them, they are omitted. I believe that

  these lowly beginnings of great men occur because Fortune is desirous

  of showing to the world that such men owe much to her and little to

  wisdom, because she begins to show her hand when wisdom can really

  take no part in their career: thus all success must be attributed to

  her. Castruccio Castracani of Lucca was one of those men who did great

  deeds, if he is measured by the times in which he lived and the city

  in which he was born; but, like many others, he was neither fortunate

  nor distinguished in his birth, as the course of this history will

  show. It appeared to be desirable to recall his memory, because I have

  discerned in him such indications of valour and fortune as should make

  him a great exemplar to men. I think also that I ought to call your

  attention to his actions, because you of all men I know delight most

  in noble deeds.

  The family of Castracani was formerly numbered among the noble

  families of Lucca, but in the days of which I speak it had somewhat

  fallen in estate, as so often happens in this world. To this family

  was born a son Antonio, who became a priest of the order of San

  Michele of Lucca, and for this reason was honoured with the title of

  Messer Antonio. He had an only sister, who had been married to

  Buonaccorso Cenami, but Buonaccorso dying she became a widow, and not

  wishing to marry again went to live with her brother. Messer Antonio

  had a vineyard behind the house where he resided, and as it was

  bounded on all sides by gardens, any person could have access to it

  without difficulty. One morning, shortly after sunrise, Madonna

  Dianora, as the sister of Messer Antonio was called, had occasion to

  go into the vineyard as usual to gather herbs for seasoning the

  dinner, and hearing a slight rustling among the leaves of a vine she

  turned her eyes in that direction, and heard something resembling the

  cry of an infant. Whereupon she went towards it, and saw the hands and

  face of a baby who was lying enveloped in the leaves and who seemed to

  be crying for its mother. Partly wondering and partly fearing, yet

  full of compassion, she lifted it up and carried it to the house,

  where she washed it and clothed it with clean linen as is customary,

  and showed it to Messer Antonio when he returned home. When he heard

  what had happened and saw the child he was not less surprised or

  compassionate than his sister. They discussed between themselves what

  should be done, and seeing that he was priest and that she had no

  children, they finally determined to bring it up. They had a nurse for

  it, and it was reared and loved as if it were their own child. They

  baptized it, and gave it the name of Castruccio after their father. As

  the years passed Castruccio grew very handsome, and gave evidence of

  wit and discretion, and learnt with a quickness beyond his years those

  lessons which Messer Antonio imparted to him. Messer Antonio intended

  to make a priest of him, and in time would have inducted him into his

  canonry and other benefices, and all his instruction was given with

  this object; but Antonio discovered that the character of Castruccio

  was quite unfitted for the priesthood. As soon as Castruccio reached

  the age of fourteen he began to take less notice of the chiding of

  Messer Antonio and Madonna Dianora and no longer to fear them; he left

  off reading ecclesiastical books, and turned to playing with arms,

  delighting in nothing so much as in learning their uses, and in

  running, leaping, and wrestling with other boys. In all exercises he

  far excelled his companions in courage and bodily strength, and if at

  any time he did turn to books, only those pleased him which told of

  wars and the mighty deeds of men. Messer Antonio beheld all this with

  vexation and sorrow.

  There lived in the city of Lucca a gentleman of the Guinigi family,

  named Messer Francesco, whose profession was arms and who in riches,

  bodily strength, and valour excelled all other men in Lucca. He had

  often fought under the command of the Visconti of Milan, and as a

  Ghibelline was the valued leader of that party in Lucca. This

  gentleman resided in Lucca and was accustomed to assemble with others

  most mornings and evenings under the balcony of the Podesta, which is

  at the top of the square of San Michele, the finest square in Lucca,

  and he had often seen Castruccio taking part with other children of

  the street in those games of which I have spoken. Noticing that
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  Castruccio far excelled the other boys, and that he appeared to

  exercise a royal authority over them, and that they loved and obeyed

  him, Messer Francesco became greatly desirous of learning who he was.

  Being informed of the circumstances of the bringing up of Castruccio

  he felt a greater desire to have him near to him. Therefore he called

  him one day and asked him whether he would more willingly live in the

  house of a gentleman, where he would learn to ride horses and use

  arms, or in the house of a priest, where he would learn nothing but

  masses and the services of the Church. Messer Francesco could see that

  it pleased Castruccio greatly to hear horses and arms spoken of, even

  though he stood silent, blushing modestly; but being encouraged by

  Messer Francesco to speak, he answered that, if his master were

  agreeable, nothing would please him more than to give up his priestly

  studies and take up those of a soldier. This reply delighted Messer

  Francesco, and in a very short time he obtained the consent of Messer

  Antonio, who was driven to yield by his knowledge of the nature of the

  lad, and the fear that he would not be able to hold him much longer.

  Thus Castruccio passed from the house of Messer Antonio the priest to

  the house of Messer Francesco Guinigi the soldier, and it was

  astonishing to find that in a very short time he manifested all that

  virtue and bearing which we are accustomed to associate with a true

  gentleman. In the first place he became an accomplished horseman, and

  could manage with ease the most fiery charger, and in all jousts and

  tournaments, although still a youth, he was observed beyond all

  others, and he excelled in all exercises of strength and dexterity.

  But what enhanced so much the charm of these accomplishments, was the

  delightful modesty which enabled him to avoid offence in either act or

  word to others, for he was deferential to the great men, modest with

  his equals, and courteous to his inferiors. These gifts made him

  beloved, not only by all the Guinigi family, but by all Lucca. When

  Castruccio had reached his eighteenth year, the Ghibellines were

  driven from Pavia by the Guelphs, and Messer Francesco was sent by the

  Visconti to assist the Ghibellines, and with him went Castruccio, in

  charge of his forces. Castruccio gave ample proof of his prudence and

  courage in this expedition, acquiring greater reputation than any

  other captain, and his name and fame were known, not only in Pavia,

  but throughout all Lombardy.

  Castruccio, having returned to Lucca in far higher estimation that he

  left it, did not omit to use all the means in his power to gain as

  many friends as he could, neglecting none of those arts which are

  necessary for that purpose. About this time Messer Francesco died,

  leaving a son thirteen years of age named Pagolo, and having appointed

  Castruccio to be his son's tutor and administrator of his estate.

  Before he died Francesco called Castruccio to him, and prayed him to

  show Pagolo that goodwill which he (Francesco) had always shown to

  HIM, and to render to the son the gratitude which he had not been able

  to repay to the father. Upon the death of Francesco, Castruccio became

  the governor and tutor of Pagolo, which increased enormously his power

  and position, and created a certain amount of envy against him in

  Lucca in place of the former universal goodwill, for many men

  suspected him of harbouring tyrannical intentions. Among these the

  leading man was Giorgio degli Opizi, the head of the Guelph party.

  This man hoped after the death of Messer Francesco to become the chief

  man in Lucca, but it seemed to him that Castruccio, with the great

  abilities which he already showed, and holding the position of

  governor, deprived him of his opportunity; therefore he began to sow

  those seeds which should rob Castruccio of his eminence. Castruccio at

  first treated this with scorn, but afterwards he grew alarmed,

  thinking that Messer Giorgio might be able to bring him into disgrace

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