Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

6

[ocr errors]

co nest.

supremacy that Ghiberti cast the famous gates of the Baptistery, declared by Michel Angelo to be worthy to be the gates of Paradise.

· He was,' says Machiavelli, of middle stature, olive complexion, and venerable aspect, not learned, but exceedingly eloquent, endowed with great natural capacity, generous to his friends, kind to the poor, comprehensive in discourse, * cautious in advising, and in his speeches and replies grave and ' witty. When Rinaldo degli Albizzi at the beginning of • his exile sent to him to say “ that the hen was hatching," he replied, “ that she would find it difficult to hatch out of her

Some others of the exiles gave him to understand * that they were not asleep, and he replied, “ he believed it, «« for he had robbed them of their sleep.”'

Piero de' Medici, surnamed il Gottoso,' from the severity with which he had suffered at an early age from gout, during the short period of five years by which alone he survived his father, maintained the influence of his family. Coming as he did between an illustrious father and an equally illustrious son, his fame has been somewhat obscured by the more splendid achievements of his predecessor and of his successor. Nevertheless he possessed by no means despicable talents. He was eight and forty years of age at his father's death, having been quite a youth when the rapid change of fortune took place which raised the house of the Medici to the greatest prosperity. Consequently during the years of his manhood he had become habituated to that supremacy of consideration in the Florentine State to which his family had arrived. The weakness of his health had not prevented him from taking a somewhat leading part in public affairs even during his father's lifetime, while it probably contributed to develope in him that moderation of character by which he was distinguished. More open-hearted and trusting than his father, he lacked somewhat of that political caution and knowledge of human nature by which the latter had steered his course clear of the dangers which surrounded him. He had by his side a valiant helper in his wife, Lucrezia Tornabuoni, of the ancient family of that name, who were a branch of the primæval Florentine nobility which has given its name to one of the chief streets in the city. Lucrezia, without neglecting those duties of the Florentine housewife which, in spite of the withering denunciations of Dante, still retained something of their primitive simplicity, devoted herself successfully to the composition of lyrical and religious poetry, and cultivated the society of men of art and learning, such as Pulci, Politian, and her intellectual gifts were inherited largely by her son Lorenzo, in whose education she exercised a decisive influence. Happier than so many of the noble Florentine ladies her contemporaries, who either dragged out a wandering existence with their husbands-feeding upon that hope deferred of restoration to their country which ended by breaking their hearts, or else lived in solitude and poverty at home deprived of the head of the household, himself banished to a foreign land-she saw three generations of the Medici family recognised as the leading citizens of her country, yet not without having her own share of the suspense, anxieties, and terror inseparable from a life of public distinction in such agitated times.

Lucrezia bore her husband seven children, of whom two sons and two daughters alone survived. Lorenzo, the eldest, was born on January 1, 1449, and consequently was only sixteen years of

age when his grandfather Cosimo died. In appearance the impression suggested by Lorenzo was that of power not of beauty; he was above the middle stature, his breast and shoulders were broad, and he was strongly built, yet supple and active of frame. His features were not beautiful, , his sight was weak, his nose was not of classic form, his chin was sharp, and his complexion was colourless. He had no sense of smell, and his voice was harsh. Thus, while he was endowed with some great personal advantages he had defects which he overcame by perseverance, and by the force of his remarkable intellectual and moral qualities. His earliest education was entrusted by his grandfather to Gentile dei Becchi, afterwards Bishop of Arezzo, a faithful friend of the house of Medici, a man of high literary attainments and tastes, which he had cultivated in the society of the chief literati of the time, Francisco Filelfo, Marsilio Ficino, Politian, and others. Later, in 1457, Piero de' Medici entrusted his instruction to Cristoforo Landino, professor of poetry and rhetoric in the city of Florence, while Johannes Argyropulos, a learned Greek refugee, took charge of his instruction in the Aristotelean philosophy, and Marsilio Ficino instructed him in the doctrines of Platonism, which powerfully influenced his mind and character, for to the cultivated minds of Italy in that age, Platonism, even more than Christianity, was a faith, a religion.

Under these instructors Lorenzo developed the various talents and tastes of his versatile genius to astonishing perfection. To whatever study he devoted himself in that he speedily achieved a proficiency to which few arrive after years of patience and application. His mother took charge of his religious instruction, and brought him up in the strict practice of the religious duties of the time, and cultivated in him those charitable and liberal qualities by the exercise of which the house of the Medici had become so popular. In all athletic sports and exercises, especially in hunting, he became also speedily well skilled. He was especially fond of horses, and on the occasion of the present of a fine steed, he rewarded the donor so liberally that he was reproached with his extravagance, to which he answered, “A horse is a kingly gist, and it is a • kingly duty too not to allow oneself to be surpassed in ' generosity.'

Endowed with such qualities and attainments, Lorenzo began soon after the death of Cosimo to be employed by his father in the business of the State. As early as at seventeen years of age he was sent to Pisa to welcome the passage there of Don Federigo d’Aragona, the younger son of Ferdinand, King of Naples, then on his road to Milan to bring away the bride of his brother Alfonso, Ippolita, the daughter of Francesco Sforza. He was subsequently employed by his father in other missions, for the purpose as well of increasing his experience of human affairs as of making him acquainted with the chiefs of the various states with whom he was to hold political relations. One of such journeys to Naples proved to him in after life especially useful.

At this time also he visited Rome, entrusted with various matters of business by his father, among which especially were arrangements respecting some mines of alum farmed by the Medici, and some matters connected with the bank of which his maternal uncle Giovanni Tornabuoni was the director. Hardly had he arrived at Rome when a political event took place which agitated all Italy, and especially the house of Medici. Francesco Sforza, the last and most fortunate of the condottieri of Italy, who by craft and violence had raised himself to the throne of the Duke of Milan, and with the Medici had contracted an intimate alliance, died, and Piero was active in pressing the recognition of his son Galeazzo Maria as his successor to the dukedom, and was urgent with Lorenzo to forward the interests of the Sforzeschi at Rome.

But it was in internal matters chiefly that Lorenzo was called upon to display his activity and political wisdom during his father's lifetime ; and the conspiracy set on foot by Diotisalvi Neroni and his confederates for the assassination of his father and the usurpation of his influence, was in great part defeated by the activity and foresight of Lorenzo. The last years of Cosimo had shown how difficult it was to maintain that influence over the followers of the house of Medici on which

their

power was based. The spirit of rivalry and usurpation was now on the point of breaking out in some of the leading members of the party. The ambition of Luca Pitti, especially in the last years of Cosimo, had become dangerous; and Cosimo on his death-bed had warmly recommended his son to take for chief minister and confidant Diotisalvi Neroni, a man whom he supposed to be truly attached to the interests of his house. Diotisalvi Neroni was not proof against the temptations of his position. He prepared the way for a conspiracy against the life of Piero de' Medici by reommending measures which should bring the family into unpopularity. On a revision of the state of the property of the family after Cosimo's death, it was found that a large number of sums of money were outstanding as debts in the hands of merchants and other citizens of Florence--the private affairs of the family, on account of the great and politic liberality with which they were conducted. Neroni advised Piero to call in these sums of money; the prosecution of his advice caused great discontent in the capital, a good many bankruptcies took place, together with much depression of trade, and these commercial misfortunes were ascribed to the rapacious activity of Piero.

Taking advantage of this transitory state of public feeling, Neroni seduced Luca Pitti, the powerful family of the Acciaiuoli, and other associates, into a conspiracy against the Medici family, one of whose chief objects was the assassination of Piero de' Medici. The assassination of Piero, which was to have been perpetrated on his way back to Florence from his country villa at Careggi, was prevented by the astuteness of Lorenzo, who was preceding his father, and met the assassins on the road. He passed by them as though he had remarked nothing extraordinary, and then despatched a messenger by a circuitous route to inform Piero of his danger. The agents and friends of the Medici had kept them well acquainted with the design of the conspirators, and by taking advantage of such information Lorenzo was enabled to secure the defection of Luca Pitti from the conspiracy. Both parties relied upon the support of foreign troops. Neroni and his party had engaged a body of cavalry from the Marquis of Ferrara. The Medici were as fortunate in being beforehand with their enemies in the field as they were within the walls of Florence. According to the usual course of Florentine tradition, the vanquished party, with the exception of Luca Pitti, were all forced into exile, but in due constitutional fashion. A new Signoria was chosen, at the head of which was placed Roberto Leoni, a partisan of the Medici. The Signoria, as was usual in such cases, in order to cover their responsibility, invited a parliament of the people in the Piazza della Signoria. The parliament appointed a balia, or temporary dictatorship. The balia declared that the heads of the late conspiracy should be sent into exile, and that, moreover, for the next few years the Signoria should not be balloted for, but named by election. Luca Pitti was excluded from the decree of banishment, but the discredit into which he fell was equal to a political ostracism at home. He was shunned universally by his fellow-citizens, and neglect and contempt were his fortune for the rest of his days. Even the masons of Florence refused to work any longer at the magnificent palace which perpetuates his name, and which, after remaining incomplete for two generations, was completed by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The mild character of Lorenzo, for which he was distinguished through life, allayed the apprehensions of the greater part of those implicated in the conspiracy, and two speeches of his at this time have been recorded by Valori, both of which made a great impression on the minds of his contemporaries. He only knows how to

conquer who knows how to forgive,' he said on one occasion. On another, when Filippo Valori, the brother of his biographer, hesitated to introduce one of his adversaries to him, he remarked, 'I should owe you no obligation, Filippo, for intro• ducing to me a friend; but by converting an enemy into a friend, you have done me a favour, which I hope you will as often as possible repeat.'

Soon after the suppression of this conspiracy, Lorenzo received a letter of congratulation from King Ferdinand or Ferrante of Naples, in which he thus expressed himself:—We

were already much attached to you, on account as well of ‘ your own excellent qualities, as on account of the merits of your father and grandfather. Since, however, we have heard with what prudence and with what manly courage you have borne yourself in these last disturbances, and how resolutely 'you placed yourself in the front, our attachment to you is ' wonderfully increased.'

The exiled Florentines, however, were not disposed to take their fate easily. They induced the Venetians, among whom hostile feelings prevailed towards the Florentines, by reason of the support which the latter had given to the Sforzas in their conflicts with the Queen of the Adriatic, to get up a league for the purpose of making war against their native city; and they contrived also to embark in their cause the ambition of Bartolommeo Colleone, the noted condottiere of the republic,

6

« EdellinenJatka »