« ElőzőTovább »
suit should be protracted beyond the term of fifteen days. The danger of frequent perjury might justify the pronouncing against a false accuser the same penalty which his evidence would have inflicted; the disorder of the times might compel the legislator to punish every homicide with death, and every injury with equal retaliation. But the execution of justice was hopeless till he had previously abolished the tyranny of the nobles. It was formally provided, that none, except the supreme magistrate, should possess or command the gates, bridges, or towers of the state ; that no private garrisons should be introduced into the towns or castles of the Roman territory; that none should bear arms, or presume to fortify their houses in the city or country ; that the barons should be responsible for the safety of the highways, and the free passage of provisions ; and that the protection of malefactors and robbers should be expiated by a fine of a thousand marks of silver. But these regulations would have been impotent and nugatory, had not the licentious nobles been awed by the sword of the civil power. A sudden alarm from the bell of the Capitol could still summon to the standard above twenty thousand volunteers ; the support of the tribune and the laws required a more regular and permanent force. In each harbour of the coast, a vessel was stationed for the assurance of commerce ; a standing militia of three hundred and sixty horse and thirteen hundred foot was levied, clothed, and paid in the thirteen quarters of the city; and the spirit of a commonwealth may be traced in the grateful allowance of one hundred florins, or pounds, to the heirs of every soldier who lost his life in the service of his country. For the maintenance of the public defence, for the establishment of granaries, for the relief of widows, orphans, and indigent convents, Rienzi applied, without fear of sacrilege, the revenues of the apostolic chamber ; the three branches of hearth-money, the salt duty, and the customs, were each of the annual produce of one hundred thousand florins; and scandalous were the abuses if in four or five months the amount of the salt duty could be trebled by his judicious economy. After thus restoring the forces and finances of the republic, the tribune recalled the nobles from their solitary independence ; required their personal appearance in the Capitol ; and imposed an oath of allegiance to the new government, and of submission to the laws of the good estate. Apprehensive for their safety, but still more apprehensive of the danger of a refusal, the princes and barons returned to their houses at Rome in the garb of simple and peaceful citizens. ** * It was the boast of Rienzi, that he had delivered the throne and patrimony of St. Peter from a rebellious aristocracy; and Clement the Sixth, who rejoiced in its fall, affected to believe the professions, to applaud the merits, and to confirm the title, of his trusty servant. The speech, perhaps the mind, of the tribune, was inspired with a lively regard for the purity of the faith ; he insinuated his claim to a supernatural inission from the Holy Ghost ; enforced by a heavy forfeiture the annual duty of confession and communion ; and strictly guarded the spiritual as well as temporal welfare of his faithful people.
Never perhaps has the energy and effect of a single mind been more remarkably felt than in the sudden, though transient, reformation of Rome by the tribune Rienzi. A den of robbers was converted to the discipline of a camp or convent : patient to hear, swift to redress, inexorable to punish, his tribunal was always accessible to the poor and stravger ; nor could birit, or dignity, or the immunities of the church, protect the offender or his accomplices. The privileged houses, the private sanctuaries in Rome, on which no officer of justice would presume to tres-pass, were abolished ; and he applied the timber and iron of their barricades in the fortifications of the Capitol. The venerable father of the Colonna was exposed in his own palace to the double shame of being desirous, and of being unable, to protect a criminal. A mule, with a jar of oil, had been stolen near Capranica ; and
the lord of the Ursini family was condemned to restore the damage, and to discharge a fine of four hundred florins for his negligence in guarding the highways. Nor were the persons of the barons more inviolate than their lands or houses ; and, either from accident or design, the same impartial rigour was exercised against the heads of the adverse factions. Peter Agapet Colonna, who had himself been senator of Rome, was arrested in the street for injury or debt ; and justice was appea by the tardy execution of Martin Ursini, who, among his various acts of violence and rapine, had pillaged a shipwrecked vessel at the mouth of the Tiber. His name, the purple of two cardinals, his uncles, a recent marriage, and a mortal disease, were disregarded by the inflexible tribune, who had chosen his victim. The public officers dragged him from his palace and nuptial bed : his trial was short and satisfactory: the bell of the Capitol convened the people : stript of his mantle, on his knees, with his hands bound behind his back, he heard the sentence of death ; and after a brief confession, Ursini was led away to the gallows. After such an example, none who were conscious of guilt could hope for impunity, and the flight of the wicked, the licentious, and the idle, soon purified the city and territory of Rome. In this time (says the historian) the woods began to rejoice that they were no longer infested with robbers ; the oxen began to plough ; the pilgrims visited the sanctuaries; the roads and inns were replenished with travellers ; trade, plenty, and good faith, were restored in the markets; and a purse of gold might be exposed without danger in the midst of the highway. As soon as the life and property of the subject are secure, the labours and rewards of industry spontaneously revive : Rome was still the metropolis of the Christian world ; and the fame and fortunes of the tribune were diffused in every country by the strangers who had enjoyed the blessings of his government.
The deliverance of his country inspired Rienzi with a vast, and perhaps visionary, idea of uniting Italy in a great federative republic, of which Rome should be the ancient and lawful head, and the free cities and princes the members and associates. His pen was not less eloquent than his tongue; and his numerous epistles were delivered to swift and trusty messengers. On foot, with a white wand in their hand, they traversed the forest and mountains ; enjoyed, in the most hostile states, the sacred security of ambassadors; and reported, in the style of flattery or truth, that the highways along their passage were lined with kneeling multitudes, who implored heaven for the success of their undertaking.
Beyond the Alps, more especially at Avignon, the revolution was the theme of curiosity, wonder, and applause. Petrarch had been the private friend, perhaps the secret counsellor, of Rienzi : his writings breathe the most ardent spirit of patriotism and joy ; and all respect for the pope, all gratitude for the Colonna, was lost in the superior duties of a Roman citizen. The poet laureat of the Capitol maintains the act, applauds the hero, and mingles with some apprehension and advice the most lofty hopes of the permanent and rising greatness of the republic.
While Petrarch indulged these prophetic visions, the Roman hero was fast declining from the meridian of fame and power ; and the people, who had gazed with astonishment on the ascending meteor, began to mark the irregularity of its course, anul the vicissitudes of light and obscurity. More eloquent than judicious, more enterprising than resolute, the faculties of Rienzi were not balanced by cool and commanding reason : he magnified in a tenfold proportion the objects of hope and fear ; and prudence, which could not have erected, did not presume to fortify, his throne. In the blaze of prosperity his virtues were insensibly tinctured with the adjacent vices; justice with cruelty, liberality with profusion, and the desire of fame with puerile and ostentatious vanity. He might have learned, that the ancient tribunes, so strong and sacred in the public opinion, were not distinguished in style, habit, or appearance,
from an ordinary plebeian ; and that, as often as they visited the city ou foot, a single viator, or beadle, attended the exercise of their office. The Gracchi would have frowned or smiled, could they have read the sonorous titles and epithets of their successor, “ Nicholas, severe and merciful ; deliverer of Rome ; defender of Italy; friend of mankind, and of liberty, peace, and justice ; tribune august : " his theatrical pageants had prepared the revolution ; but Rienzi abused, in luxury and pride, the political maxim of speaking to the eyes, as well as the understanding, of the multitude. From nature he had received the gift of an handsome person, till it was swelled and disfigured by intemperance; and his propensity to laughter was corrected in the magistrate by the affectation of gravity and sternness. He was clothed, at least on public occasions, in a party-coloured robe of velvet or satin, lined with fur, and embroidered with gold : the rod of justice, which he carried in his hand, was a sceptre of polished steel, crowned with a globe and cross of gold, and inclosing a small fragment of the true and holy wood. In his civil and religious processious through the city, he rode on a white steed, the symbol of royalty : the great banner of the republic, a sun with a circle of stars, a dove with an live branch, was displayed over his head ; a shower of gold and silver was scattered among the populace ; fifty guards with halberds encompassed his person ; a troop of horse preceded his march; and their cymbals and trumpets were of massy silver.
The ambition of the honours of chivalry betrayed the meanness of his birth, and degraded the importance of his office ; and the equestrian tribune was not less odious to the nobles, whom he adopted, than to the plebeians, whom he deserted. All that yet remained of treasure, or luxury, or art, was exhausted on that solemn day. Rienzi led the procession from the Capitol to the Lateran ; the tediousness of the way was relieved with decorations and games ; the ecclesiastical, civil, and military orders marched under their various banners ; the Roman ladies attended his wife ; and the ambassadors of Italy might loudly applaud, or secretly deride, the novelty of the pomp. In the evening, when they had reached the church and palace of Constantine, he thanked and dismissed the numerous assembly, with an invitation to the festival of the ensuing day. From the hands of a venerable kright he received the order of the Holy Ghost; the purification of the bath was a previous ceremony ; but in no step of his life did Rienzi excite such scandal and censure as by the profane use of the porphyry vase, in which Constantine (a foolish legend) had been healed of his leprosy by Pope Sylvester. With equal presumption the tribune watched or reposed within the consecrated precincts of the baptistery; and the failure of his state ked was interpreted as an omen of his approaching downfal
. At the hour of worship he showed himself to the returning crowds in a majestic attitude, with a robe of purple, his sword, and gilt spurs ; but the holy rites were soon interrupted by his levity and insolence. Rising from his throne, and advancing towards the congregation, he proclaimed in a loud voice : “ We summon to our tribunal Pope Clement; and command him to reside in his diocese of Rome : we also summon the sacred college of cardinals. We again summon the two pretenders, Charles of Bohemia, and Lewis of Bavaria, who style themselves emperors : we likewise summon all the electors of Germany, to inforın us on what pretence they have usurped the unalienable right of the Roman people, the ancient and lawful sovereigns of the empire.” Unsheathing his maiden sword, he thrice brandished it to the three parts of the world, and thrice repeated the extravagant declaration, " And this too is mine!” The pope's vicar, the Bishop of Orvieto, attempted to check this career of folly ; but his feeble protest was silenced by martial music; and instead of withdrawing from the assembly, he consented to dine with his brother tribune, at a table which had hitherto been reserved for the supreme pontiff. A banquet, such as the Cæsars had given, was prepared for the Romans. The apartments, porticoes, and courts of the Lateran were spread with innumerable tables for vithor sox, and every
condition ; a stream of wine flowed from the nostrils of Constantine's brazen horso ; no complaint, except of the scarcity of water, could be heard ; and the licentiousness of the multitude was curbed by discipline and fear. A subsequent day was appointed for the coronation of Rienzi ; seven crowns of different leaves or metals were successively placed on his head by the most eminent of the Roman clergy ; they represented the seven gifts of the Holy
Ghost ; and he still professed to imitate the example of the ancient tribunes. These extraordinary spectacles might deceive or flatter the people ; and their own vanity was gratified in the vanity of their lcader. But in his private life he soon deviated from the strict rulo of frugality and abstinence ; and the plebeians, who were awed by the splendour of the nobles, were provoked by the luxury of their equal. His wife, his son, his uncle (a barber in name and profession), exposed the contrast of vulgar maumers and princely expense : and without acquiring the majesty, Rienzi degenerated into the vices, of a king
A simple citizen describes with pity, or perhaps with pleasure, the humiliation of the barons of Rome. “Bareheaded, their hands crossed on their breast, they stood with downcast looks in the presence of the tribune ; and they trembled, good God, how they trembled ! ” As long as the yoke of Rienzi was that of justice and their country, their conscience forced them to esteem the man, whom pride and interest provoked them to hate : his extravagant conduct soon fortified their hatred by contempt; and they conceived the hope of subverting a power which was no longer so deeply rooted in the public confidence. The old animosity of the Colonna and Ursini was suspended for a moment by their common disgrace : they associated their wishes, and perhaps their designs ; an assassin was scized and tortured ; he accused the nobles ; and as soon as Rienzi deserved the fate, he adopted the suspicions and maxims of a tyrant. On the same day, under various pretences, he invited to the Capitol his principal enemies, among whom were five members of the Ursini and three of the Colonna name. But instead of a council or a banquet, they found themselves prisoners under the sword of despotism or justice; and the consciousness of innocence or guilt might inspire them with equal apprehensions of danger. At the sound of the great bell the people assembled ; they were arraigned for a conspiracy against the tribune's life ; and though some might sympathise in their distress, not a hand, nor a voice, was raised to rescue the first of the nobility from their impending doom. Their apparent boldness was prompted by despair ; they passed in separate chambers a sleepless and painful night ; and the venerable hero, Stephen Colonna, striking against the door of his prison, repeatedly urged his guards to deliver him by a speedy death from such ignominious servitude. In the morning they understood their sentence from the visit of a confessor and the tolling of the bell. The great hall of the Capitol had been decorated for the bloody scene with red and white hangings, the countenance of the tribuno was dark and severe ; the swords of the executioners were unsheathed ; and the barons were interrupted in their dying specches by the sound of trumpets. But in this decisive mornent, Rienzi was not less anxious or apprehensive than his captives : he dreaded the splendour of their names, their surviving kinsmen, the inconstancy of the people, the reproaches of the world, and, after rashly offering a mortal injury, he vainly fresumed that, if lie could forgive, he might himself be forgiven. His elaborate oration was that of a Christian and a suppliant ; and, as the humble minister of the commons, he entreated his masters to pardon these noble criminals, for whose repentance and future service he pledged his faith and anthority. “If you are spared,” said the tribune, “ by the mercy of the Romans, will you not promise to support the good estate with your lives and fortunes ? " Astonished by this marvellous clemency, the barons bowed their heads; and, while they devoutly repeated the oath of allegiance, might whisper secret, and more sincere, assurance of revenge. A priest, in the name of the people, pronounced their absolution : they received the communion with the tribune, assisted at the banquet, followed the procession; and, after every spiritual and teinporal sign of reconciliation, were dismissed in safety to their respective homes, with the new honours and titles of generals, consuls, and patricians.
During some weeks they were checked by the memory of their danger, rather than of their deliverance, till the most powerful of the Vrsini, escaping with the Colonna from the city, erected at Marino the standard of rebellion. The fortifications of the castle were instantly restored ; the vassals attended their lord ; the outlaws armed against the magistrate ; the flocks and herds, the harvests and vineyards from Marino to the gates of Rome, were swept away or destroyed ; and the people arraigped Rienzi as the author of the calamities which his government had taught them to forget. In the camp, Rienzi appeared to less advantage than in the rostrum ; and he neglected the progress of the rebel barons till their numbers were strong, and their castles impregnable. From the pages of Livy he had not imbibed the art, or even the courage, of a general : an army of twenty thousand Rumans returned without honour or effect from the attack of Marino ; and his vengeance was amused by painting his enemies, their heads downwards, and drowning two dogs (at least they should have been bears) as the representatives of the Ursini. The belief of his incapacity encouraged their operations : they were invited by their secret adherents; and the barons attempted, with four thousand foot and sixteen hundred horse, to enter Rome by force or surprise. The city was prepared for their reception : the alarm-bell rung all night; the gates were strictly guarded, or insulently open ; and after some hesitation they sounded a retreat. The two first divisions had passed along the walls, but the prospect of a free entrance tempted the headstrong valour of the nobles in the rear ; and after a successful skirmish, they were overthrown and massacred without quarter by the crowds of the Roman people. Stephen Colonna the younger, the noble spirit to whom Petrarch ascribed the restoration of Italy, was preceded or accompanied in death by his son John, a gallant youth, by his brother Peter, who might regret the case and honours of the church, by a nephew of legitimate birth, and by two bastards of the Colonna race ; and the number of seven, the seven crowns, as Rienzi etyled them, of the Holy Ghost, was completed by the agony of the deplorable parent, of the veteran chief, who had survived the hope and fortune of his house. The vision and prophecies of St. Martin and Pope Boniface had been used by the tribune to animate his troops: he displayed, at least in the pursuit, the spirit of an hero ; but he forgot the maxims of the ancient Romans, who abhorred the triumphs of civil war.
The conqueror ascended the Capitol ; deposited his crown and sceptre on the altar ; and boasted, with some truth, that he had cut off an ear which neither pope nor emperor had been able to amputate. His base and implacable revenge denied the honours of burial ; and the bodies of the Colonna, which he threatened to expose with those of the vilest malefactors, were secretly interred by the holy virgins of their name and family. The people sympathised in their grief, repented of their own fury, and detested the indecent joy of Rienzi, who visited the spot where these illustrious victims had fallen. was on th fatal spot that he conferred on his son the honour of knighthood ; and the ceremony was accomplished by a slight blow from each of the horsemen of the guard, and by a ridiculous and inhuman ablution from a pool of water, which was yet polluted with patrician blood.
A short delay would have saved the Colonna, the delay of a single month, which elapsed between the triumph and exile of Rienzi. In the pride of victory, he for