Life of Cesare Borgia

Life of Cesare Borgia

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by Rafael Sabatini
     
 

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Rafael Sabatini (1875 - 1950) was an author best known for romance and adventure novels. Some of Sabatini's most famous works include The Sea-Hawk, Scaramouche, and Captain Blood.

In one of the most famous political treatises in history, Niccolo Machiavelli famously advises those who hold power that it is better to be feared than loved. Though he uses Cesare as a

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Overview

Rafael Sabatini (1875 - 1950) was an author best known for romance and adventure novels. Some of Sabatini's most famous works include The Sea-Hawk, Scaramouche, and Captain Blood.

In one of the most famous political treatises in history, Niccolo Machiavelli famously advises those who hold power that it is better to be feared than loved. Though he uses Cesare as a cautionary tale about acquiring power through the good-will and powers of another person (his father, Pope Alexander VI), it is clear in The Prince that Machiavelli holds out Cesare as a skillful, effective ruler and administrator. In many ways, Cesare has been characterized as the "prince" Machiavelli tells his readers to be. As one translator of The Prince put it, Cesare is "cited as a type of the man who rises on the fortune of others, and falls with them; who takes every course that might be expected from a prudent man but the course which will save him; who is prepared for all eventualities but the one which happens; and who, when all his abilities fail to carry him through, exclaims that it was not his fault, but an extraordinary and unforeseen fatality."

500 years after Cesare's death, he and his family have come to be associated more with crime, specifically murder and state-sponsored violence. While 21st century TV series have cast the Borgias as the first organized crime family, the rumors spread by the family's political opponents in the late 15th century have taken hold among a fascinated public. Did Cesare really have an incestuous relationship with sister Lucrezia? Did he really kill his own brother Giovanni (Juan)? While Cesare may not have been as colorful or criminal as the enduring legends, there is no question he was manipulative, ruthless and, for a short time at least, effective. He helped make his father's papacy a success, but his rise was as dramatic as his fall. To the extent that the Borgias are still associated with murder and mayhem, Cesare's actions can be credited with the lion's share of the perception.

Not surprisingly, almost everything about Cesare's life is still up for debate, even one long-held assertion by the likes of Alexandre Dumas that Cesare's likeness was used by Renaissance artists to paint images of Jesus Christ during and after his life.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781587156618
Publisher:
Borgo Press
Publication date:
05/28/2002
Pages:
284
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.93(d)

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PREFACE (Excerpt)

This is no Chronicle of Saints. Nor yet is it a History of Devils. It is a record of certain very human, strenuous men in a very human, strenuous age; a lustful, flamboyant age; an age red with blood and pale with passion at white-heat; an age of steel and velvet, of vivid colour, dazzling light and impenetrable shadow; an age of swift movement, pitiless violence and high endeavour, of sharp antitheses and amazing contrasts.

To judge it from the standpoint of this calm, deliberate, and correct century--as we conceive our own to be--is for sedate middle-age to judge from its own standpoint the reckless, hot, passionate, lustful humours of youth, of youth that errs grievously and achieves greatly.

So to judge that epoch collectively is manifestly wrong, a hopeless procedure if it be our aim to understand it and to be in sympathy with it, as it becomes broad-minded age to be tolerantly in sympathy with the youth whose follies it perceives. Life is an ephemeral business, and we waste too much of it in judging where it would beseem us better to accept, that we ourselves may come to be accepted by such future ages as may pursue the study of us.

But if it be wrong to judge a past epoch collectively by the standards of our own time, how much more is it not wrong to single out individuals for judgement by those same standards, after detaching them for the purpose from the environment in which they had their being? How false must be the conception of them thus obtained! We view the individuals so selected through a microscope of modern focus. They appear monstrous and abnormal, and we straight-way assume them to be monsters and abnormalities, never considering thatthe fault is in the adjustment of the instrument through which we inspect them, and that until that is corrected others of that same past age, if similarly viewed, must appear similarly distorted.

Hence it follows that some study of an age must ever prelude and accompany the study of its individuals, if comprehension is to wait upon our labours. To proceed otherwise is to judge an individual Hottentot or South Sea Islander by the code of manners that obtains in Belgravia or Mayfair.

Mind being the seat of the soul, and literature being the expression of the mind, literature, it follows, is the soul of an age, the surviving and immortal part of it; and in the literature of the Cinquecento you shall behold for the looking the ardent, unmoral, naïve soul of this Renaissance that was sprawling in its lusty, naked infancy and bellowing hungrily for the pap of knowledge, and for other things. You shall infer something of the passionate mettle of this infant: his tempestuous mirth, his fierce rages, his simplicity, his naïveté, his inquisitiveness, his cunning, his deceit, his cruelty, his love of sunshine and bright gewgaws.

To realize him as he was, you need but to bethink you that this was the age in which the Decamerone of Giovanni Boccaccio, the Facetiæ of Poggio, the Satires of Filelfo, and the Hermaphroditus of Panormitano afforded reading-matter to both sexes. This was the age in which the learned and erudite Lorenzo Valla--of whom more anon--wrote his famous indictment of virginity, condemning it as against nature with arguments of a most insidious logic. This was the age in which Casa, Archbishop of Benevento, wrote a most singular work of erotic philosophy, which, coming from a churchman's pen, will leave you cold with horror should you chance to turn its pages. This was the age of the Discovery of Man; the pagan age which stripped Christ of His divinity to bestow it upon Plato, so that Marsilio Ficino actually burnt an altar-lamp before an image of the Greek by whose teachings--in common with so many scholars of his day--he sought to inform himself.

It was, in short, an age so universally immoral as scarcely to be termed immoral, since immorality may be defined as a departure from the morals that obtain a given time and in a given place. So that whilst from our own standpoint the Cinquecento, taken collectively, is an age of grossest licence and immorality, from the standpoint of the Cinquecento itself few of its individuals might with justice be branded immoral.

For the rest, it was an epoch of reaction from the Age of Chivalry: an epoch of unbounded luxury, of the cult and worship of the beautiful externally; an epoch that set no store by any inward virtue, by truth or honour; an epoch that laid it down as a maxim that no inconvenient engagement should be kept if opportunity offered to evade it. The history of the Cinquecento is a history developed in broken pledges, trusts dishonoured and basest treacheries, as you shall come to conclude before you have read far in the story that is here to be set down.

a profligate age what can you look for but profligates? Is it just, is it reasonable, or is it even honest to take a man or a family from such an environment, for judgement by the canons of a later epoch? Yet is it not the method that has been most frequently adopted in dealing with the vast subject of the Borgias?

To avoid the dangers that must wait upon that error, the history of that House shall here be taken up with the elevation of Calixtus III to the Papal Throne; and the reign of the four Popes immediately preceding Roderigo Borgia--who reigned as Alexander VI--shall briefly be surveyed that a standard may be set by which to judge the man and the family that form the real subject of this work.

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