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with the later Middle Ages, compared with the Renaissance, this period is distinguished by extraordinary ferocity of temper and by an almost unparalleled facility of bloodshed. The broad political and religious contests which had torn the country in the first years of the sixteenth century, were pacified. Foreign armies had ceased to dispute the provinces of Italy. The victorious powers

of Spain, the Church, and the protected principalities, seemed secure in the possession of their gains. But those international quarrels which kept the nation in unrest through a long period of municipal wars, ending in the horrors of successive invasions, were now succeeded by an almost universal discord between families and persons. Each province, each city, each village became the theater of private feuds and assassinations. Each household was the scene of homicide and empoisonment. Italy presented the spectacle of a nation armed against itself, not to decide the issue of antagonistic political principles by civil strise, but to gratify lawless passions-cupidity, revenge, resentment—by deeds of high-handedness. Among the common people of the country and the towns, crimes of brutality and bloodshed were of daily occurrence; every man bore weapons for self-defence, and for attack upon


In drawing up these paragraphs I am greatly indebted to a vigorous passage by Signor Salvatore Bonghi in his Storia di Lucresia Buonvisi, pp. 7-9. of which I have made srce use, translating his words when they served my purpose, and interpolating such further details as might render the picture more complete.

his neighbor.

The aristocracy and the upper classes of the bourgeoisie lived in a perpetual state of mutual mistrust, ready upon the slightest occasion of fancied affront to blaze forth into murder. Much of this savagery was due to the false ideas of honor and punctilio which the Spaniards introduced. Quarrels arose concerning a salute, a title, a question of precedence, a seat in church, a place in the prince's ante-chamber, a meeting in the public streets. Noblemen were ushered on their way by servants, who measured distances, and took the height of daïs or of bench, before their master committed his dignity by advancing a step beyond the minimum that was due. Love-affairs and the code of honor with regard to women opened endless sources of implacable jealousies, irreconcilable hatreds, and offenses that could only be wiped out with blood. On each and all of these occasions, the sword was ready to the right hand; and where this generous weapon would not reach, the harquebuss and knife of paid assassins were employed without compunction. We must not, however, ascribe this condition of society wholly or chiefly to Spanish influences. It was in fact a survival of mediaeval habits under altered circumstances. During the municipal wars of the thirteenth

The lax indulgence accorded by the Jesuit casuists to every kind of homicide appears in the extracts from those writers collected in Arles Jesuiticae (Salisburgi, 1703. pp. 75-83). Tamburinus went so far as to hold that if a man mixed poison for his enemy, and a friend came in and drank it up before his eyes, he was not bound to warn his friend, nor was he guilty of his friend's death (16. p. 135. Art. 651).



century, and afterwards during the struggle of the despots for ascendency, the nation had become accustomed to internecine contests which set party against party, household against household, man against man. These humors in the cities, as Italian historians were wont to call them, had been partially suppressed by the confederation of the five great Powers at the close of the fifteenth century, and also by a prevalent urbanity of manners. At that epoch, moreover, they were systematized and controlled by the methods of condottiere warfare, which offered a legitimate outlet to the passions of turbulent young men. But when Italy sank into the sloth of pacification after the settlement of Charles V. at Bologna in 1530, when there were no longer condottieri to levy troops in rival armies, when political parties ceased in the cities, the old humors broke out again under the aspect of private and personal feuds. Though the names of Guelf and Ghibelline had lost their meaning, these factions reappeared, and divided Milan, the towns of Romagna, the villages of the Campagna. In the place of condottieri arose brigand chiefs, who, like Piccolomini and Sciarra, placed themselves at the head of reginents, and swept the country on marauding expeditions. Instead of exiles, driven by victorious parties in the state to seek precarious living on a foreign soil, bandits, proscribed for acts of violence, abounded. Thus the habits which had been created through centuries of political ferment, subsisted when


the nation was at rest in servitude, assuming baser and more selfish forms of ferocity. The end of the sixteenth century witnessed the final degeneration and corruption of a mediæval state of warfare, which the Renaissance had checked, but which the miseries of foreign invasions had resuscitated by brutalizing the population, and which now threatened to disintegrate society in aimless anarchy and private lawlessness.

It must not be imagined that governments and magistracies were slack in their pursuit of criminals. Repressive statutes, proclamations of outlawry, and elaborate prosecutions succeeded one another with unwearied conscientiousness. The

of states were taxed to furnish blood-money and to support spies. Large sums were invariably offered for the capture or assassination of escaped delinquents; and woe to the wretches who became involved in criminal proceedings! Witnesses were tortured with infernal cruelty. Convicted culprits suffered horrible agonies before their death, or were condemned to languish out a miserable life in pestilential dungeons. But the very inhumanity of this judicial method, without mercy for the innocent, from whom evidence could be extorted, and frequently inequitable in the punishments assigned to criminals of varying degrees of guilt, taught the people to defy justice, and encouraged them in brutality. They found it more tolerable to join the bands of brigands who preyed upon their fields



and villages, than to assist rulers who governed so unequally and cruelly. We know, for instance, that a robber chief, Marianazzo, refused the Pope's pardon, alleging that the profession of brigandage was more lucrative and offered greater security of life than any trade within the walls of Rome. Thus the bandits of that generation occupied the specious attitude of opposition to oppressive governments. There were, moreover, many favorable chances for a homicide. The Church was jealous of her rights of sanctuary. Whatever may have been her zeal for orthodoxy, she showed herself an indulgent mother to culprits who demanded an asylum. Feudal nobles prided themselves on protecting refugees within their fiefs and castles. There were innumerable petty domains left, which carried privileges of sig. norial courts and local justice. Cardinals, ambassadors, and powerful princes claimed immunity from common jurisdiction in their palaces, the courts and basements of which soon became the resort of escaped criminals. No extradition treaties subsisted between the several and numerous states into which Italy was then divided, so that it was only necessary to cross a frontier in order to gain safety from the law. The position of an outlaw in that case was tolerably secure, except against private vengeance or the cupidity of professional cut-throats, who gained an honest livelihood by murdering bandits with a good price on their heads. Condemned for the most part in their absence, these homicides

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