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CI1CTO Tithe populace themselves will fall upon them.' But the populace is as light as a leaf, remarks the Priorist; those who enjoy power often abuse it, and oftener still are accused of doing so; or rather as, I have said, the courtly, popular manners of the Blacks had really made them favourites with the lower classes; so no sooner did Messer Corso Donaty ride in at the head of his friends, than instead of being opposed, he was received with vehement plaudits and cries of ' long life to the Baron (0." The first step of Messer Corso was, in the usual style of those times, to break open the jail, liberate its inmates without distinction, overturn the existing Government, and let slip his troops, who joined by the unchained felons, set about slaying and plundering at discretion . This sacking of the City lasted five days; and then a similar dole was dealt out to the country round, with ' huge ruin, rapine, and combustion (»):' while Charles remained inactive, pretending to know nothing that was doing ; and seemed to take the fires for feux-dejoie, or, at most, for an accident befallen some
(i) The oath which Charles had taken ere entering Florence, he repeated still more solemnly before the Council in the Church of S. Maria Novella even while his troops were getting under array to break it. A similar oath had been received from him , on confiding to him the keys of one of the town gates, that he would not open it to any one Ih disobedience to the laws; nevertheless during that very night he let in a strong party of the exiled Blacks, and connived at the arrival of Corso Donati and the rest of them the morning after.
(») Cum magna ruina , magnisque incendiiset populationibna. Benvenuti Imol. ap. Mur. Antiq. Ital. Vol. i. p. io4>.
peasant's hut. The Whiles however were not actually banished on this occasion; so that it is not to it that Ciacco alludes as the period when 4 their rivals shall again prevail' (che 1'altra surmonti, v. Lxviu): but they maintained themselves in their towers and houses for almost two years in daily murderous encounters with their antagonists. On the twenty-fifth of December i3oi , after Charles had been in Florence above six weeks, a particularly bloody contest took place on one of the bridges: so little advance had he made in his emprize of reforming and pacifying the city. On the twenty-seventh of January following Dante (who had been for some time at Rome negociating to prevent the entrance of the French into Florence, and still continued in his post of Ambassador to the Holy See) was sentenced to exile; not indeed for being a White, as Machiavelli imagined, but on an accusation of peculation and other vague misdemeanors(0. This accusation was only a pretext: the real cause was his opposition to the injustice and corruption of the French Prince; who, far from
(i) Pelli ( Mem. p. 89) quoting the sentence writes: ' Messer Palmieridegli Altoviti and Dante Alighieri being accused by public report were proceeded against for being opponen.it of Cfmrlei — perche contradissero Carlo — 'and for having committed peculation*—quod fece. runt baratterias et acceperunt quod uoit litebat. This latter was the more ostensible, the former the real charge. If they delayed to pay the fine to which they were sentenced — bona devasttutur et mittantur in commune: and even paying it — nihilominus stent iu cxilio extra fines Tusciai duobus anuis. Bib. Magliabtchiana, Cod. 44.
acting as a pacificator, employed himself in amassing treasure by the most iniquitous sale of places and immunities (0. On the tenth of March, issued the second and most barbarous sentence rendering Dante's exile perpetual, and condemning him and i4 others to be burnt alive if caught within Tuscany (»). During the next month, it is true, some of the Cerchi, and'other JVhites also, were put to ban by Charles, under colour of having engaged in a plot against him; but the existence of that
(i) Charles was a Iast spendthrift and therefore by necessity, as well as taste, a prodigious robber. His various modes of extortion would fill a volume. One luckless gentleman had been so civil as to invite him on a hunting party to his country-house; on which his royal Guest had him seized by some of bia satellites, and threatened to send him prisoner iuto Puglia , if he did not ransom himself with 4000 florins; and at last by the intercession of friends the matter was adjusted by a payment of 80o. One seems to be reading the feats of the modern Roman banditi. Similar violence was perpetrated every moment, not only against rich men , but against minors of both sexes, but particularly the weaker. In all this Cante di Agobbio, the new Podesta , was an inimitable auxiliary; for he twisted the lawj to the same purposes, pronouncing a sentence of exile against more than 600 persons, all of whom were also condemned to pay from eight to ten thousand florins each , or to have their entire property confiscated. Even the Priors themselves were not Secure; and knowing their assassination was intended, only escaped by the utmost personal circumspection and the surrendering of large sums of money. So, of monev Charles amassed a profusion; well justifying the Pope's assurance that in sending him to Florence he bad put his hand into ' the fountain of gold. ' Dino Compagni, Lib. a. p. 37—-47.
(a) Tiraboschi ( T. a. p. 494 ) gives this sentence verbatim from a copy taken from the Archives of Florence. It is regularly authenticated by the Magistrates, and dated i3o», March i0. It is in most barbarous Latin . i1 semble ( writes Sismondi ) qu'on ait cboisi a dessein le langage le plus barbare pour condamner le poete qui fondait la litterature Italieone .Hist. des Repub. Ital. Vol. iv. p. i84.
plot was as unproved as the peculation of Dante; and their real misdemeanor was that of possessing great riches hoth in gardens and palaces,all of which were plundered by the French (O; who at last evacuated Florence in May i3o2, that is, 6 months after they had entered it; and followed their Prince against Naples, where he was destined to reap as little glory as had been merited by his treachery and rapacity among the Tuscans (»). Both he and two Cardinals, who were deputed at different periods, instead of establishing tranquillity in Florence, as they professed to endeavour to do, left it in far worse confusion than they had found it. Every vial of wrath seemed to be poured out on that devoted spot, murder, famine, pestilence, excommunications (besides the fall of a bridge during a public festival, by which many thousands of both sexes were drowned in the Arno) and, to crown the whole, a terrible fire which was purposely lit by a most wicked priest, at the
(i) It was one of the Podesta's most usual schemes— molti furono accusati, e conveoia loro confessare, aveano fatta congiura, che non t aveano fatta ( Diuo Compagai Lib. a, p. 44,) sotto il detto ingannevole trattato, si partirono della citta.. . e furono condannati per Messere Carlo come rubelli, e disfaiti i loro Palazzi, ec. Gio. Villani, Lib. viii. Cap. 48. The charge was founded upon letters; which Machiavelli avows were probably fabrications. Istoric Fior. Lib. a. p. 9i.
(a) Id. Id. — II partit pour la Sicile emportant avec lui les maledictions des Toscans. In Sicily he was soon obliged to sue for peace; and thence returned ignoininously into France, as well meriting the reputation of lackland as when he left it — notwithstanding the Pope's promise of making him, among other magnificent things, Emperor of Constantinople. Sismondi, Hist, des Repub. Ital. Vol. Iv. p. ia7'.
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instigation of Donati and the Blacks , and which burned down more than i9o0 fine houses, palaces, and churches; that is, above half the town, before it could be extinguished (0. Still the Whites (as a body ) were not as yet sent into l>anishment, although a few of their chiefs had been; so that, it were incorrect on this account to apply the second banishment referred to by Ciacco to any of the above events. He identifies this banishment by saying it occurred three solar years (infra tre
sole ) after the prior one that is after the
ascendancy obtained by the Whites on return from Sarzana. So, as this ascendancy dates June, i3or, we must look for the other event about i3o4: and, in fact, I find that it was in July of that year that the Whites were entirely overthrown . To this it is, that v. Lxviii alludes; and if other commentators pretend otherwise, it is only , that they are not minute chronologists . The White chiefs, by degrees as they became exiled, congregated in Pistoja, and conducted their affairs by means of a council of twelve, one of whom was our poet, who had joined them on his leaving his Roman Embassy after the sentences promulgated against him. No favourable opportunity for action presented itself before i3o4; during the summer of which, the new elected Pope (Benedict xi) was
(i) Un malvagio Pretr scelleratameote mite lo fuooo.... e ci6 accadde il i0 di Giugno i3o4. PriorUta Flor. p. 5i. This authority calculates i5oo houses, etc; but Dino Compagnl i000. Lib. 3. p. 65.