The Borgias: The Hidden History [NOOK Book]


The startling truth behind one of the most notorious dynasties in history is revealed in a remarkable new account by the acclaimed author of The Tudors and A World Undone. Sweeping aside the gossip, slander, and distortion that have shrouded the Borgias for centuries, G. J. Meyer offers an unprecedented portrait of the infamous Renaissance family and their storied milieu.
See more details below
The Borgias: The Hidden History

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$13.99 price


The startling truth behind one of the most notorious dynasties in history is revealed in a remarkable new account by the acclaimed author of The Tudors and A World Undone. Sweeping aside the gossip, slander, and distortion that have shrouded the Borgias for centuries, G. J. Meyer offers an unprecedented portrait of the infamous Renaissance family and their storied milieu.
They burst out of obscurity in Spain not only to capture the great prize of the papacy, but to do so twice. Throughout a tumultuous half-century—as popes, statesmen, warriors, lovers, and breathtakingly ambitious political adventurers—they held center stage in the glorious and blood-drenched pageant known to us as the Italian Renaissance, standing at the epicenter of the power games in which Europe’s kings and Italy’s warlords gambled for life-and-death stakes.
Five centuries after their fall—a fall even more sudden than their rise to the heights of power—they remain immutable symbols of the depths to which humanity can descend: Rodrigo Borgia, who bought the papal crown and prostituted the Roman Church; Cesare Borgia, who became first a teenage cardinal and then the most treacherous cutthroat of a violent time; Lucrezia Borgia, who was as shockingly immoral as she was beautiful. These have long been stock figures in the dark chronicle of European villainy, their name synonymous with unspeakable evil.
But did these Borgias of legend actually exist? Grounding his narrative in exhaustive research and drawing from rarely examined key sources, Meyer brings fascinating new insight to the real people within the age-encrusted myth. Equally illuminating is the light he shines on the brilliant circles in which the Borgias moved and the thrilling era they helped to shape, a time of wars and political convulsions that reverberate to the present day, when Western civilization simultaneously wallowed in appalling brutality and soared to extraordinary heights.
Stunning in scope, rich in telling detail, G. J. Meyer’s The Borgias is an indelible work sure to become the new standard on a family and a world that continue to enthrall.

Praise for The Borgias
“A vivid and at times startling reappraisal of one of the most notorious dynasties in history . . . If you thought you knew the Borgias, this book will surprise you.”—Tracy Borman, author of Queen of the Conqueror and Elizabeth’s Women
“The mention of the Borgia family often conjures up images of a ruthless drive for power via assassination, serpentine plots, and sexual debauchery. . . . [G. J. Meyer] convincingly looks past the mythology to present a more nuanced portrait.”Booklist
“Meyer brings his considerable skills to another infamous Renaissance family, the Borgias [and] a fresh look into the machinations of power in Renaissance Italy. . . . [He] makes a convincing case that the Borgias have been given a raw deal.”Historical Novels Review
“Fascinating . . . a gripping history of a tempestuous time and an infamous family.”—Shelf Awareness

From the Hardcover edition.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Many accounts of the Borgias focus on the most scandalous stories about this powerful Italian Renaissance family whose members were statesmen, military leaders, adventurers, and popes. Meyer (The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty) argues that many of these salacious tales are untrue and the result of slander. Through a logical and thoughtful examination of sources, both the standard ones and some that are less reliable, he shows that claims of corruption, poisoning, incest, and murder are untrue or greatly exaggerated. He also concludes that Rodrigo Borgia, who became Pope Alexander VI, could not be the father of Cesare and Lucrezia, but the support for this claim is weak. Meyer's chapter structure prevents the book from forming one flowing narrative. He alternates background chapters (e.g., on Italian warfare, the papacy) with biographical chapters. Readers new to the subject may find this configuration helpful, but it will likely frustrate others. Nevertheless, the results are a good introduction to the subject. VERDICT Best for general readers new to the Borgias and Italian Renaissance history, while those already knowledgeable about the Borgias may take a pass. [See Prepub Alert, 11/1/12.]—Rebekah Kati, Walden Univ. Lib., Morrisville, NC
Publishers Weekly
To his credit, Meyer (The Tudors) is forthright about how this supposed “hidden history” of the Italian Renaissance’s most controversial family came to be: it is the product of “ year of research on both sides of the Atlantic.” Unfortunately, the shortcomings of such a limited inquiry are plainly obvious—the bibliography reveals mostly 20th-century American and British texts, a few translations, and a handful of primary sources—and his history is riddled with assumptions about the inner motivations of historical characters (“Perhaps it is in the nature of such men to be drawn by their own success into increasingly extreme positions. Certainly it was in Savonarola’s nature”). Meyer portrays Rodrigo (later Pope Alexander VI) as affable and with a “childish love for pomp”; Cesare as wild but competent, and the victim of his enemies’ slander; and, like many scholars before him, he removes Lucrezia from the role of seductress, painting her instead as a docile pawn (never mind her business acumen, building projects, and patronage). Though Meyer’s is a much better primer on the complex dynasty than the ongoing TV show The Borgias, very little of this tedious account was heretofore hidden. Family tree, timeline, maps. Agent: Judith Riven, Judith Riven Literary Agency. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“A vivid and at times startling reappraisal of one of the most notorious dynasties in history . . . If you thought you knew the Borgias, this book will surprise you.”—Tracy Borman, author of Queen of the Conqueror and Elizabeth’s Women
The Borgias is a fascinating look into the lives of the notorious Italian Renaissance family and its reputation for womanizing, murder and corruption. Meyer turns centuries of accepted wisdom about the Borgias on its head, probing deep into contemporary documents and neglected histories to reveal some surprising truths. . . . The Borgias: The Hidden History is a gripping history of a tempestuous time and an infamous family.”Shelf Awareness
“Meyer brings his considerable skills to another infamous Renaissance family, the Borgias [and] a fresh look into the machinations of power in Renaissance Italy. . . . [He] makes a convincing case that the Borgias have been given a raw deal.”Historical Novels Review

“The mention of the Borgia family often conjures up images of a ruthless drive for power via assassination, serpentine plots, and sexual debauchery. This is partially owing to propaganda spread by contemporary rivals of the Borgias, nineteenth-century Renaissance historians, and even films and television shows. . . . [Meyer] convincingly looks past the mythology to present a more nuanced portrait of some members and their achievements. . . . [The] Borgias are treated with . . . evenhandedness in this well-researched and surprising study.”Booklist
“Many accounts of the Borgias focus on the most scandalous stories about this powerful Italian Renaissance family. . . . Meyer argues that many of these salacious tales are untrue and the result of slander. Through a logical and thoughtful examination of sources . . . he shows that claims of corruption, poisoning, incest, and murder are untrue or greatly exaggerated.”Library Journal

“The lively narrative makes a familiar but still incredibly complicated historical period easier to get a handle on.”—Waterloo Region Record

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345526939
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/2/2013
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 72,445
  • File size: 8 MB

Meet the Author

G. J. Meyer is the author of two popular works of history, The Tudors and A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, as well as Executive Blues and The Memphis Murders. He received an M.A. from the University of Minnesota, where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and later was awarded Harvard University’s Nieman Fellowship in Journalism. He has taught at colleges in Des Moines, St. Louis, and New York, and now lives in Wiltshire, England.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt




A Most Improbable Pope

It is the third of April, and springtime is in full force.

We are in Rome, which in this year of 1455 is neither the glorious world capital it had been under the emperors of old nor the great city it will become once again in a few generations. Instead it is a dilapidated backwater of thirty or perhaps forty thousand souls.

At the Vatican, dominated by the thousand-year-old and slowly disintegrating St. Peter’s Basilica, the cardinals are assembling. They are doing so because ten days have passed since the death of Pope Nicholas V. Of “apoplexy,” the attending physicians have declared, thereby revealing that they haven’t the faintest idea of what it was that caused him to grow feebler week after week until finally, aged only fifty-seven, he himself announced that his end was at hand.

The death of this particular pontiff at this particular time is a deeply worrisome thing. As for the fact that the time has come to elect his successor—it is so snarled up in difficulties and dangers as to scarcely bear thinking about.

Officially and as usual, the first nine days after the pope’s death were reserved for the obsequies with which deceased pontiffs are launched into the afterlife: one requiem mass per day, each presided over by a different cardinal. But in fact, and inevitably, the days and the nights as well have been filled with backstairs politicking, mainly to see who can put together the most potent blocs of votes. In the midst of all this, Nicholas’s wizened little body has been sealed up in the traditional three coffins, one of cypress inside another of lead inside still another of fine-grained and polished elm. It was then laid to rest in the crypt under the basilica, a structure so alarmingly decrepit that in the last few years of the pope’s reign 2,500 cartloads of stone had been stripped from the Colosseum and hauled across the Tiber for use in shoring it up.

By the time the last Ite, missa est brought the last mass to an end, the windows of one wing of the pontifical palace were boarded up in the customary way. Austere little cells, each containing a cot, a stool, and a small table, have been hammered together inside. The fifteen available cardinals (six others are too far from Rome to attend) are now reporting for duty. As they file inside, the doors are bolted behind them. Guards are posted, and the conclave of 1455 is formally in session.

Deprived of natural light, the cardinals are dependent on candles and oil lamps for illumination. With no ventilation and wood fires the only source of morning warmth, the air they breathe will soon be foul. But conclaves are not supposed to be pleasant. Physical discomfort long ago proved its value. It encourages the princes of the Church to get on with their business, announce the results, and go home.

Every part of the process is governed by customs that have evolved over a millennium and a half. At various times the choosing of popes has been under the control of Roman emperors, Byzantine emperors, and Holy Roman emperors from beyond the Alps. Sometimes popes have been able to nominate their successors, and there have been periods when no one would dare take the throne without the approval of the clergy—even the people—of Rome. But in 1059 a papal decree conferred the right of election on the College of Cardinals. Eighty years later another decree gave that right to the cardinals exclusively, meaning that no further approvals were needed once the Sacred College had made its choice. Forty years after that, a two-thirds majority of votes cast became necessary for election.

With that, the pattern was set. Though there have been other changes—an attempt, for example, to force fast action by reducing the cardinals’ rations if they fail to reach a decision within three days and reducing them again if a pope has not been elected after five—the essential rules could hardly be simpler. Whoever can get the votes of ten of the men now locked together inside the palace will assume the full powers of the papacy from the moment of his election. He will do so even if the whole outside world disapproves.

Simple rules are no assurance of an easy outcome, however. Choosing a pope is always a complicated affair, because much is always at stake and so many competing forces invariably come into play. Things rarely go smoothly. As the cardinals settle into their cubicles and begin to talk among themselves, they know that this election is unlikely to be an exception.

Not that Nicholas has left them with a mess. To the contrary, he was in no way a bad or even a careless pope. By the standards of the time he was a good one. Anyone comparing him with his immediate predecessors might find reason to call him an almost great one. Raised in humble circumstances in northwestern Italy, he had risen in the Church purely on the basis of merit—first as one of the leading humanist scholars of his time, then through success as a diplomat. His election was a fluke; he became a cardinal only a few months before the conclave that made him pope, and it never could have happened if the most powerful factions in the College of Cardinals had not deadlocked. But the eight years of his reign proved to be rich in achievement and free of scandal. He contributed greatly to bringing peace and a measure of stability not only to Italy but to Germany as well, ended a last outbreak of schism, found honest ways to replenish the Vatican’s treasury, and resumed the oft-interrupted process of trying to restore the decayed city of Rome to its lost splendor.

Even more remarkably, he appointed only a single relative, a half-brother to the College of Cardinals and did nothing to enrich his kin. All in all, his reign has been an impressive step forward in the rebuilding of the papacy—in restoring its ancient importance and prestige. Whether this will continue or now come to a stop is likely to depend, everyone knows, on who is chosen to succeed him.

The problems facing the cardinals go much deeper than anything Nicholas did or failed to do. They are the residue of the century and a half of discord that preceded his reign: generation after generation of exile, of schism, of a deeply damaging struggle to decide whether the pope is the supreme head of the Church or subordinate to general councils. Some of the great questions are by now settled, or at least appear to be, but ugly memories are still fresh, deep wounds unhealed. Nicholas’s election came only four years after the return of the last exiled pope to Rome, and it was not until two years after his election that the last antipope abandoned his claim to the throne. A mere two years separate Nicholas’s death from the latest plot to overthrow papal rule and restore republican government in Rome. That he escaped unharmed does not mean that all danger has passed. That too is likely to depend, at least in part, on who takes his place.

If all Italy is at peace in 1455, this again is a departure from recent history and a fragile one. The peninsula last erupted in general war as recently as 1452, when Venice attacked Milan; Florence, Genoa, Bologna, and Mantua all came to Milan’s assistance; and Naples threw in with Venice. The pope, to his credit, kept Rome neutral, thereby leaving himself free to help broker a settlement and bring the belligerents together in what he called the Italian or Most Holy League. This league is without precedent in Italian history, a defensive alliance encompassing the whole peninsula, obliging longtime enemies to embrace each other as friends and aimed at establishing a balance of power stable enough to preserve the peace. It became effective only weeks before Nicholas’s death, when the troublesome king of Naples finally signed on, and was the crowning achievement of the pope’s career. It is supposed to remain in effect for twenty-five years, but the realities of Italian political life make its chances of doing so vanishingly small. The part that Nicholas played in making it all happen, coupled with his departure from the stage, adds to the sense that the conclave now in session matters more than most.

The existence of the league requires the most powerful princes in Italy to pledge to do things that they are unaccustomed to doing: respect existing frontiers, join forces to punish any state that breaks the peace, and work together to keep foreign powers out. It obliges the most ruthless and ambitious of these princes to abandon—to defer, anyway—long-cherished dreams of subduing their neighbors and seizing their domains. Few of them would have agreed to any such thing if not for one of the supreme political catastrophes of the late Middle Ages: the capture by the Ottoman Turks, just twenty-three months before Nicholas’s death, of the fabled city of Constantinople.

For eleven hundred years Constantinople had been the capital of the Eastern or Byzantine Empire, and incomparably richer and more important than Rome. It had also, for half a millennium, been the seat of the Orthodox Church. But after centuries of decline and generations of being dismantled piecemeal by the relentlessly expanding empire of the Turks, nothing remained but a pale shadow of what it had been at its zenith. Its end was tragic: after a siege of less than two months, a defense force of seven thousand troops was overwhelmed by eighty thousand Islamic invaders. This was followed by three days of horror, as Sultan Mehmed II (“Mehmed the Conqueror,” only twenty-one years old) rewarded his men by allowing them to pillage, rape, and kill at their pleasure. As many as fifty thousand of the proud old city’s inhabi­tants were put to the sword, and the survivors disappeared into the slave markets of the East. It was a world-changing event, and it chilled the blood of every Christian who understood its significance.

The West had no right to be shocked, actually; its leaders could not claim to have been caught off guard. They had stood by passively through all the years when the Turks drew ever closer to Constantinople. The city’s emperors had sent ever more desperate appeals for help, and Europe not only failed to respond but contributed to making collapse inevitable. If at midcentury the Turks controlled much of the Balkan peninsula and Hungary south of the Danube, this was not a new state of affairs: all of Bulgaria, along with much of Serbia, had been seized more than fifty years before. That Constantinople itself had become the Turks’ prime objective could not have been more obvious. When they cut off the Bosporus, the great waterway connecting Constantinople to the Black Sea and the world beyond, the city was caught in a stranglehold, its doom clearly imminent. Its last emperor—whose name, rather sadly, was Constantine, and who would die fighting when the Turks came swarming over his walls—got little from the West except bombastic words of encouragement and promises that meant nothing. Nicholas V made some effort to organize a rescue expedition, but nothing came of it. His failure to do more would be seen by many as the one disgrace of his reign.

In taking Constantinople the Turks gained not only a glorious new capital for their empire—the Hagia Sophia, one of the architectural wonders of classical times, was converted from a church to a mosque—not only one of the world’s most magnificent harbors, but a platform from which to threaten central and southern Europe. Venice, its fabulous wealth dependent on access to eastern markets, is the most threatened of the Italian states, but this too has long been the case, and Venice has been slow to take alarm. Its merchant princes grew up thinking of Constantinople as their principal commercial rival, not as a bulwark against Muslim aggression, and they took foolish satisfaction in its decline. They nursed hopes of taming the Turks and turning them into business partners. The folly of such thinking was not exposed until the Turks sank a Venetian ship trying to pass through the Bosporus, beheaded all the crewmen who had not drowned, and put the body of its captain on display after killing him by impalement. But by then, at least where Constantinople was concerned, it was already too late.

That Venice is not alone in its peril became clear when Sultan Mehmed, after taking Constantinople, added “Roman Caesar” to his list of titles. No one has mistaken this for a joke; if Constantinople could fall, so could Rome. And if Rome fell, who could say that Christian civilization was not doomed? It is questions like this, and the grimness of the only credible answers, that have caused the leading Italian powers to put aside their quarrels and come together in the Holy League.

These are the issues that hang over Italy, the Church, and Europe in April 1455, creating an urgent need for leadership. Human nature being what it is, however, they are not necessarily the issues that matter most to the cardinals sequestered in the Vatican. Domestic rivalries loom larger, and some at least of the cardinals can be depended upon to care more about getting an advantage over their rivals, or stopping their rivals from getting an advantage over them, than about anything as abstract as the fate of Western civilization. Coiled like a serpent at the heart of the conclave, capable of poisoning everything, is the blood feud that almost from time immemorial has kept Rome’s two greatest families at each other’s throats. Without the hatred of the Orsini for the Colonna and the Colonna for the Orsini, the seven Italians who make up the conclave’s largest national contingent could expect to have little difficulty recruiting the three additional votes needed to deliver the papacy to one of their own. Because of that hatred, the election of an Italian is going to be difficult at best.

This is no trivial matter. Since the return of the papal court from what is called the Babylonian Captivity, when for sixty-seven years it remained at Avignon in Provence and so completely under the thumb of the kings of France that seven consecutive popes were Frenchmen, there has been a return also to the assumption that popes should be Roman, and if not Roman then at least Italian. The people of the Eternal City take this idea seriously indeed. The cardinals know that the election of an outsider is likely to bring angry crowds into the streets, and that the election of someone from what the Romans regard as the barbarian world beyond the Alps would be certain to do so. Though the city has been fairly tranquil since the failure of the republican conspiracy of 1453, thanks largely to the pains taken by Nicholas V to deal even-handedly with the ever-jealous Orsini and Colonna and other baronial clans, not a great deal is ever needed to spark an explosion in Rome. The separation of the Italian cardinals into irreconcilable camps, and the consequent possibility of a non-Italian pope, are further causes of anxiety.

The Italians cannot be unified because of the presence of two of the Sacred College’s most formidable members, both of them Roman nobles, both in their mid-forties, and both able to draw on enormous reserves of political, financial, and even military power. Latino Orsini occupies the seat in the college that his family has held for so many centuries that its leaders regard it as theirs by right, as practically their personal property. Among the ornaments on his family tree are three Orsini popes, the first elected in 1191, and the second so notorious for corruption that Dante gave him a small speaking role as one of the damned souls in The Inferno. Latino need look no further than to his clan’s history for lessons in what a boon it can be to put a relative, or someone dependent on one’s relatives, on the papal throne. And for equally compelling examples of how badly things can go when that throne is occupied by an enemy—worst of all, from the Orsini perspective, by a Colonna or a friend of the Colonna.

Proud and potent though Latino is, he is outmatched by his most dangerous rival, Cardinal Prospero Colonna. A nephew of the Oddone Colonna who became Pope Martin V in 1417 and used his office to heap wealth, high office, and noble titles on his kinsmen, Prospero has had a colorful career. He was made a cardinal while still in his teens, was excommunicated after his uncle’s death changed the Colonna from Vatican insiders to undesirables, won his way back into favor, and then was very nearly elected himself. Through three tense days at the conclave of 1447, Prospero remained just two votes short of victory. His inability to get those two votes and the subsequent melting away of his support were due to the loyalty to the Orsini of several cardinals and the uneasiness felt by others because of Prospero’s notorious readiness to use violence in pursuing his objectives. It was this Orsini-versus-Colonna deadlock that led to the surprise election of the conclave’s newest member, the scholarly Tommaso Parentucelli, who had thus become the now-deceased Nicholas V.

The conditions that led to deadlock in 1447 are all in place in 1455. As the cardinals prepare to cast the first round of ballots, it becomes clear that the Italian Domenico Capranica is favored by a number of his colleagues. Objectively, this is an understandable, even a commendable, development. There is nothing objectionable about Capranica and much to recommend him. At fifty-five he is a seasoned senior churchman, having been a bishop for thirty years and a cardinal for more than twenty. He is also one of the Vatican’s leading diplomats and administrators, a humanist scholar of note, a champion of ecclesiastical reform, and so blameless in his personal life that historians of the early Renaissance will one day describe him as saintly.

By the measures that should matter most he is an exceptional candidate. No one could find good grounds for complaining of his election, and his colleagues like the fact that he has been one of them for nearly a generation; many of them feel that, because the late Nicholas had entered the Sacred College mere months before his election, he never developed a proper respect for its importance.

Capranica has a problem all the same, and it proves to be disabling. He began his career as secretary to the Colonna pope Martin V—had been chosen for the post because of his exceptional abilities and outstanding promise—and because of this the Orsini early classified him as an enemy and always treated him accordingly. Over the years he and the Orsini clashed so often and so seriously that there can be no hope of his election in any conclave over which Latino Orsini holds veto power.

Capranica’s cause being thus lost, Latino now puts forth his choice: Pietro Barbo, nephew of the Pope Eugenius IV who had died in 1447 (and who himself had been the nephew of a still earlier pope). Barbo is a fifteen-year veteran of the college in spite of being only thirty-eight years old, and though not as distinguished as Capranica, he is in no way unworthy of consideration. He has the support not only of the Orsini but of Venice and the king of Naples as well. But he too has no chance, and for reasons unrelated to anything he himself has ever said or done. The problem is his late uncle. When Eugenius made Barbo a cardinal at age twenty-three, he did so in Florence, and he was living in Florence because six years earlier he had fled Rome for his life, and his flight from Rome had become necessary when he tried to break the power of the Colonna and instead was overpowered.

The result was humiliation. Three years after his election Eugenius found himself disguised as a monk and floating downstream in a Tiber barge, cowering under a shield as wrathful Romans shouted their contempt and hurled stones, sticks, and rubbish down on him from the banks above. He found refuge in Florence, which welcomed him because its dominant family, the Medici, was closely affiliated with the Orsini, who were always happy to embrace an enemy of the Colonna.

Rome was ultimately retaken by force, not by Eugenius himself but by a commander of the papal army named Giovanni Vitelleschi, who was both a cardinal and one of the most savagely aggressive soldiers of the age. The leader of Rome’s short-lived, Colonna-sponsored republic was dismembered alive by men wielding red-hot tongs, and the city was put under a military occupation designed to make resistance impossible and life intolerable for any Colonna foolish enough to remain. The provinces belonging to the papacy and known as the Papal States were ravaged as well, even the churches of towns disloyal to the exiled pope were razed, and the city of Palestrina, seat of one of the Colonna family’s most powerful branches, was obliterated.

Pietro Barbo had nothing to do with any of this—it is unclear whether even his uncle the pope intended or approved the atrocities committed in his name—but in the eyes of the Colonna he is fatally tainted, absolutely and forever unworthy of trust. If in 1455 Prospero Colonna no longer has sufficient clout to stand as a credible candidate himself, he certainly remains capable of blocking the election of anyone suspected of being a danger to his clan. He is helped by Barbo’s relative youth. Not without reason, cardinals tend to think it unwise to bestow the crown on someone who might possibly wear it for twenty or thirty years. In Barbo’s case a forty-year reign would not be inconceivable.

With Capranica and Barbo eliminated, clearly a compromise is needed, one that Latino and Prospero will accept. Days are passing, and as the cardinals look about them for a solution, several find their attention fixing on an ecclesiastical anomaly. This is Basilios Bessarion, who with his compatriot Isidore of Kiev is one of two Greeks present at the conclave. Both began their careers in the Orthodox Church, rose high in the hierarchy at Constantinople, and in 1434 were appointed delegates to the Roman Church’s Council of Basel, where they showed themselves to be strongly in favor of ending the centuries-old split between the Eastern and Western rites. In 1439, when the council was meeting in Florence, Bessarion and Isidore delighted the papal court and became traitors in the eyes of their Orthodox brethren by defecting to Rome. In short order they were made cardinals. Over the next decade and a half Bessarion won a reputation as one of Europe’s leading humanists and promoters of the new learning, and as a man of solid competence and impeccable moral character. Also in his favor, in the opinion of many cardinals, are the appreciation of the Turkish threat that his Eastern origins have given him and his insistence that the West must respond forcefully.

But he too has no chance of election. The conclave’s French members, no longer keeping silent because what is under discussion is no longer a strictly Italian quarrel, take the lead in complaining that Bessarion is an alien. They make much of the fact that, contrary to the conventions of the Sacred College, he continues, in the Byzantine fashion, to wear a long beard. Even those cardinals who most admire Bessarion find it necessary to agree that expecting him to rule Rome and its Church could end in nothing but calamity.

So . . . some other compromise has to be found. The cardinals, frustrated and weary and wanting to be set free, find it quickly. Find him quickly. The desire to be done with this tiresome business awakens them at last to the fact that there is in their midst a man of whom no one has a bad word to say. A man who, if not a champion of the new humanism in the manner of Capranica or Bessarion or Pope Nicholas, is an esteemed scholar nevertheless, with two doctorates in law and an international reputation as an authority on the subject.

A good man, untouched by scandal and known to all Rome for his sponsorship of hospitals, his generosity to the elderly and the poor, and the simplicity of his life.

A statesman too, with an impressive career behind him and decades spent at the right hand of one of the greatest kings in Europe.

A peacemaker of the first order, a key player in bringing the Western Schism to an end and settling a long conflict between Naples and Rome.

Known to be loyal to popes rather than councils, and to understand the Turkish threat.

Not greedy—not even ambitious.

And, what matters more in this deadlocked conclave, free of politics: unaffiliated with any of the Sacred College’s factions after ten years as a member, so detached from the intrigues of the papal court that no one—no Orsini, no Colonna, no anyone—has reason to regard him with distrust.

And finally—what’s best of all, the clincher—seventy-six years old and in declining health. It is inconceivable that he will live much longer. This makes him perfect.

And so when Cardinal Bessarion rises to his feet and declares in solemn tones that he is giving his vote to Alonso Borgia, his compeers all but fall over themselves in their haste to do the same. They do so with joyful relief, confident that they are settling on a man who will reign benignly, passively, and above all briefly, soon departing for the here- after having distressed no one and changed nothing.

Little do they know.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 33 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 33 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    Excellent read

    I thought this might be a difficult read due to long history and all involved with this era and was wrong. Mr. Meyer did great research and story development. A very interesting read. I highly recommend.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2013

    A great book for history lovers!

    Unfortunately, while I enjoy reading historical fiction this book was not the fictional account that I was hoping for! I was hoping for a story that I could read and compare to the series available on TV. I had not the patience to sit down and read this book- I needed pen and paper to keep track of all the places and dates and people-way to much like a history class.

    2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2014

    Izzy's Bio

    Name: (hint, look up.)

    Gender: (take a second to think about this one.)

    Appearance: wavy brown hair with a blue streak that falls just below her shoulders. Green eyes with gold flecks that are usually filled with humor. She usually wears blues or greens that compliment the light tan on her skin. She always has a dolphin necklace on.

    Personality: from a distance, she seems like a crazy spaz. Which she sort of is. But if you get to know her, she can be quiet and serious. (Just ask Sara.) She loves sharing a good joke and loves to see people happy. She can also get very angry and protective if you offende her or one of her friends.

    Weapon: she always carries two throwing knives.

    Godly Parent: ol' barnacle beard. (Poseidon.)

    Likes: hippocanpus, her cabin, being around other people and the water.

    Dislikes: arenas, (long story,) large, burly men, (another long story, and the color orange. (Not a long story, she just hates orange.)

    Other: she has this weird thing where she loves hearing other people's stories. She's not a spy, even though a ton of people seem to think so. Also, she hates being called immature.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2014

    Calli's Bio

    Name- Calli Bates
    Gender- &female
    Age- Almost 15.
    Godly Parent- Dionysus.
    Weapon- Bow and Arrow.
    Height- 5'4.
    Apperance- Long blonde hair, blue eyes that turn green. Im kinda pale. I usually wear skinny jeans, black vans, and just regular t-shirts.
    Status/Crush- Single, I dont know anyone.
    Anything else? Just ask, I dont bite. &hearts

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2014

    Alera`s bio

    Golden brown hair green curious eyes. Godly parents.....aphrodite. Skills_hunting camo an battle ranks. Single. Can be adventreous when she wants to. Love hagin in trees

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2014

    Sam's bio2

    Name: Sam Locket Pank . Gender: Guy . Description: Short brown hair, mischevous dark brown eyes, kind of muscular, 5.7 . Age: 16(turning 17, November 18) . Likes: Archery, Swimming, Pranking, Stealing, Sleeping . Dislikes: Nosy people, Sireous peolple, Fish(dont ask -_-), the word "baka"(dont ask -_-) . Personality: Funny, Caring, Mischevous . Crush: Still looking ;D . Powers: Flying shoes . History: Lived in Connecticut for some years, until a trip to NY led him to Camp Half Blood. . Fatal flaw: Disobeys orders . Godly parent: Hermes . Other: Ask ;3

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2014

    Saepio's Bio

    Name: Saepio (Seye-peh-oh.) Johneson. (John-es-ohn.) &#19998 <p> Gender: Male &#19888 <p> Age: 15 &#19998 <p> Crush/GF: None. Not interested in anyone here. &#19998 <p> godly Parent: He's still searching.... &#19998 <p> Human Parent: Unknown. He is adopted, with no link to his origin... &#19998 <p> Appearance: Very short, not muscular at all, natural choppy black hair with added white streaks, very pale-skinned, Bloodshot Gray eyes... &#19998 <p> Weapon(s): None. He's not much of a fighter... &#19998 <p> Powers: None that he's discovered.....Though he does have a strange ability...He can make people fall asleep, if he touches them...No choice... &#19998 <p> Attire: A black hooded sweatshirt, under that is a black T-shirt that says 'Blink and you're dead'. He wears jeans and sneakers....He NEVER wears bright colors... &#19998 <p> Likes: Quiet, daytime, being alone, horses, music, black.... &#19998 <p> Dislikes: Night, the moon, loud people, sleeping, yawning, people trying to pry into his past...&#19998 <p> History: He was adopted from Venice Italy as a small child... He has a lot of large gaps in his memory... &#19998 <p> Quote: 'I may not seem very interesting, but you've never been inside my mind. My mind is so incredible that only one person can stand it's chaotic beauty. And it's me.' &#19998 <p> Anthem: 'Fresh Air' or 'Second Chance' both from The Legend of Korra.... &#19998 <p> Signiture: Saepio &#19998 <p> (Ooc: I like to invision things as an Anime....thou hast been fore-warned...)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2014

    Ryan's Bio

    <p> Name: Ryan Cooper Dahl </p>
    <p> Gender: Male </p>
    <p> age: 14 </p>
    <p> Godly Parent: Hades </p>
    <p> Crush: Heartbroken at the moment.. </p>
    <p> Weapon: A pocket knife that can turn into a sythe, infinity bow, long sword, short sword, dagger, shield. Made of Onyx, the moust powerful and deadly material stairt from Hades Garden and the mines of tartaurus. Storng enough to kill minor minor gods and mortals. Uses the sythe most of the time. </p>
    <p> Power: Not really a power, but black electricity comes out of his eyes and into a weapon hes using, super charging it and causing it to have more knockback. </p>
    <p> Head: Black spiky and choppy hair. Green eyes. </p>
    <p> Clothes: He usually wears a CHB shirt with ripped jeans. </p>
    <p> Persona: Kind, ferice, tempermental, smart and genrous. </p>
    <p> History: NA </p>

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2014

    Cale Fox's Bio

    Name: Cale Sinclair Fox

    Gender: Gentleman

    Age: 16

    Godly Parent: Aphrodite

    Physical Description: I have short, slightly curly, light brown hair, cold and deep blue eyes. I'm well muscled and very toned due to my training and I stand at just about 6 feet tall. I have a large scar across my chest (A parting gift from my father) and I generally speak with a thick French accent.

    Personality: I act cold and distant, but all I really want is a group of trustworthy friends and a stable home environment. I'm secretly terrified of women due to the fact that I never really learned how to interact with them, and because the aspect of love scares me stiff. I also hate wealth and greed, seeing it as the ultimate form of corruption.

    Clothing: A light blue V-Neck, black slim straight jeans, blue flip flops, and black sunglasses. I usually slip on my black leather jacket when it gets cold in the afternoons and I almost always wear my black, knee-length Speedo under my clothes just in case. I also have full a tailored black suit and a sapphire blue tie from my assassin days. Whenever I go on missions or planned operations I wear my black, fingerless leather gloves with brass knuckles built into them. I usually carry my black backpack around with me, which contains a variety useful tools.

    Weapons: An ebony bladed katana with a sapphire inlaid hilt, a curved dagger, and potent smoke bombs.

    Skills: Assassination, Swimming, Running, Sabotage, Gymnastics, Swordplay, Singing, Sprinting, Seduction, Working Out, Hand-To-Hand, Cooking, Tracking, Battle Tactics, Meditation, Kickboxing, Driving, Guitar Playing, and Contemplation.

    History: I was trained as an assassin from the age of 5 by my father so I could be a valuable tool to his corporation. At the age of 13, after a little over a year of being used as a hitman/saboteur, I went rogue. During my escape, I killed my father and over four dozen of his associates and employees. I also transferred nearly a million dollars of his blood money to my personal bank account as I ran. I stowed away on a plane for the US to evade my new enemies, and after two years of living abroad, I received a message from my mother explaining my lineage and about Camp Half Blood. I arrived at Camp HB shortly after my 16th birthday.

    Status: Single

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2014

    Marissa's Bio

    Name-Hmmm...I wonder. What could it be? <p> Age-15 turning 16 August 2nd. <p> Gender- &female <p> Height/Weight-5' 8" She weighs 107 lbs. <p> Looks-Marissa has short, choppily cut dark brown hair. She has a pixie-like nose with a sprinkle of freckles. She has bright blue eyes. She is tall and thin, with pale skin. <p> Personality- Marissa was never very outgoing, but recent trauma has caused her to go into a shell. She won't talk much, and she doesn't show emotion very much anymore. She keeps her secrets except for a few, which she tells family and friends. But although she seems timid, don't cross any lines. She will hurt you emotionally and phyisically. <p> Crush- Sigh...He likes another girl.... <p> Status- Single <p> Powers/Weapons- Marissa can speak French, charmspeak, and is actually extremely good at hand to hand combat. She owns a dagger, and she knows all the pressure points. <p> History- You don't need to know. <p> Anything else- Ask.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2014


    Im nice fun but im not as good as a fighter as some peeps but im pretty good. Has cancer

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2014


    Name: My name before death was Ryse but I'm known as Damocles to everyone. You can call me either one. I also go by Damo. <p> Age: Unknown. I've lost track of my age over the thousand of years but I look 21. <p> Gender: Male. <p> Appearance: I have brown hair and bright blue eyes tht can change to green if I'm hunting down someone. I wear a white racer jacket , white pants, and white shoes. I also wear a red V-neck shirt. <p> Personality: Not easily scared, trustworthy, caring, easily bored or entertained, funny, and intelligent. He is also a great stratigist and an excellent assassin. <p> History: I was born in Rome and was a respected general in the Roman army. I was killed in battle by vikings but Nemesis, the Goddess of revenge, brought me back to life. Now I'm immortal and seek out those who have evil purposes in life. I am Damocles, the Vengful warrior.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2014

    Maximum's bio

    Name: Maximum Day. <p> Age: 15 <p> Godly Parent: Zeus. <p> Looks: black hair, blue eyes, 5'5, pale, belly button piercing, tongue piercing <p> Crush: nope. <p> History: ask.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2014


    Age: 13

    Name: Abigail Hope Brewster

    Crush: shhh... Don't tell, it's Marlin.

    Relationship:No (I wish)

    Appearance: Swimmer's body, dark brown hair, about 5'8". Usually wears a t-shirt and shorts.

    Likes: Green, blue, swimming, her crush, surfing.

    Dislikes: Her first name, being too far from Hawaii's oceans.

    History: Lived in Hawaii until a few days ago. Was orphaned with her two brothers, Turnet and Chase. Chase and Hope were 6 yrs old, Turnet was 10. Chase and Turnet went to the boys orphanage. Hope went to the girls. Turnet helped her get to CHB but died protecting her. She hasnt seen Chase in 5 yrs.

    Godly Parent: Posiden.

    [ Guess thats it... yawn. Its lke 3 AM here.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2014


    Name: Kyleah [Kuh-Lay-Uh] Locke, or you can call her Leah. She doesn't mind.

    Age: 15 turning 16 August 31st

    Godly Parent: Aphrodite

    Appearance: Body wise, she has long, toned legs and a willowly build. She is lean, but surprisingly powerful when it comes to battles. She's around 5 foot 7 and weighs in at 115 lbs. She has waist-length blonde hair that is thick and straight, and is typically in a braid to keep it out of her face or just down hanging loosely. Her eyes are green with hazel near the pupil, and they never fail to portray her emotions. Like most children of Aphrodite, she's generally pretty.

    Personality: In general, she's always happy and bubbly. She loves to talk and hang around with her friends, but can be serious when needed. And yes, she can be a bit of a flirt, but Aphrodite is her mother it comes with who she is. Anyways, she's fiercely loyal, and would do just about anything to protect something or someone she cares about. Being stubborn and a bit short tempered are also words to describe her.

    Clothing: Honestly, anything. Being an Aphrodite kid has its perks, especially that her cabin has unlimited outfit choices.

    Weapon(s)/Skills/Powers: She's good with her twin daggers and a bow and arrow. She's decent at hand to hand combat, and she recently discovered that she can throw a pretty good punch when angry. Not really sure if being able to swim, surf, play volleyball, do perfect makeup in under two minutes, or draw are skills, but hey why not? Lastly, she can charmspeak. The effect can range on how strongly she feels about the statement.

    Status: Taken by Agni. What can she say? She's a hopeless romantic.

    Fatal Flaw: Her loyalty. She trusts people easily, and she could definitely get taken advantage of by her alleged "friend."

    Brief History: She always knew she was somehow different from the other kids in California, and they recognized that too. She was popular with people, and was at the top of the social pyramid. When she was 15, she noticed there was this pull to go to New York. Long Island to be exact. So, she did. She took a series of trains and buses to get there, and when she arrived she was attacked by a drakon. She sprinted across the barrier, and instantly felt like she was home.

    Other: Like many demigods, she has ADHD. She can also speak fluent French. Lastly, she really loves music, EDM and Alternative to be exact. She can be heard and seen humming a song or tapping her foot to a beat.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2014

    Herb's Bio!

    Name- Herb River Clemins. <p>

    Age- Hmph. Fifteen. Why? <p>

    Gender- Male. <p>

    Godly Parent- The one and only Eros... Many know him as Cupid. Yeah. That guy. Minus the diaper and wings.... Oh, and he isn't a baby.<p>

    Description- Oh. Just on the plus side of gorgeous. Just kidding. Although, he is fairly attractive, being a son of the attraction god. He has tousled ash blonde hair and bright sky blue eyes with a violet ring around the edge. Dark, think eyebrows that curve inward towards the front, giving him a mischievous, yet playful look to him. A long, yet well built, structure. His posture is excellent, eyes contact also, unless if he feels guilty. Then AVOID EYE CONTACT AT ALL COSTS. xD <p>

    Personality- Hm... Herb is— different. He likes to stay behind a "wall" and tries to avoid attention, usually. Talking long walks, alone or with someone, help him think. He has practiced sword-fighting, but will let you underestimate him. He's fairly social, but there is a higher chance of the both of you talking if he go up to him. Open to suggestion. <p>

    Crush- Heh. About that... It's obvious, though. I mean, seriously. Well, she knows. He nearly tired to forget her, then the note came. <p>

    Girlfriend- Err. Kinda a big label? Right? I'm not sure. We'll find out sometime. Hm. <p>

    Weapons- Dagger and his shield that forms into glasses. <p>

    Theme Song- "C'mon" by Panic! At The Disco with Fun. <p>

    Other- Ask! :D

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2014

    Alexander Hellsing's bio

    Name: are you blind?

    Godly parent: hades

    Gender: male

    Looks: about sholder langth black hair and emerald green eyes. He has pail skin and stands about 5' 8"

    Stile: normaly wares dressy things (its wha he likes) you will normaly se him waring black dress shoos dress pants. A blood red dress shirt and black vest with victorian disin on it. An to top it a black fidora with red band around it. A pair of eirings and a skull ring on his finger The only thing out of place is his black sword at his belt and two dagers there as well.

    Persinality: gt to kn him hes a nice guy

    Crush: whats that?

    Relashinship: what?

    Other: just ask

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2014

    Cassandra ||| Bio

    Coming soon to a theater near you. But if you really want to stalk her, it's at rew, probably res three. I'll make another one when I'm bored. Which happens fairly often, so yeah...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2014


    Gender: female
    Godly parent: Athena
    Appearence: tall and lithe with choppy brown hair and grey eyes
    Personality: protective, smart, a fierce fighter, good heart..just meet me
    Weapons: best with sword or knife but also skilled with a bow
    History: let's just say Ive been on the run...
    Status: single

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2014

    Sayaka Rin Honda

    &#29848 Name &#29848 Sayaka Rin Honda <p>

    &#29948 Age &#29948 15 <p>

    &#29848 Gender &#29848 &female <p>

    &#29848 Godly Parent &#29848 Apollo <p>

    &#29848 Description &#29848 A strange child, Sayaka was born with the lighter skin tone of some Greeks, rather than the darker tones of her mother's side. When out in the sun, however, she tans extremely easily. At birth, she had black hair, though now it is a light blue color, and cut short in a pixie cut. She also wears two yellow barettes just above her right ear, more because she likes them than anything else. Her favorite color being blue, she wears a lot of blue clothes, mostly t-shirts, and jeans, sometimes shorts. Her eyes are blue, and she has a dainty build, but don't let that fool you. Years upon years of training and practice has left her very strong and skilled. <p>

    &#29848 Crush/BF &#29848 She's not really the lovey-dovey type. At this point, she's quite sure that any guys at camp find her too strange to consider from that point anyway. So she doesn't try. <p>

    &#29948 Likes &#29848 Anime, Sushi, ((her favorite food, though some people find it cliche, she doesn't give a flying ferret)) Martial arts, ((she knows most forms, so that encompasses pretty much everything)) the color blue, most types of music, running, rap music, climbing trees, and generally being free, which is quite different from what her instructors taught her as a child. <p>

    &#29848 Dislikes &#29848 ((OOC for a moment, NON DESCRIPTIVE PEOPLE!! They irritate me.)) Crickets, cicadas, boastful people, lazy people, and water ((she can't swim)).<p>

    &#29848 History &#29848 Sayaka's mother met Apollo during a visit to America, and ended up coming back to Japan, and her family, pr<_>egnant. Her father, disgusted, sent her away, and she ended up living with her brother and the soon born Sayaka's uncle. Unlike most demigod's parents, Yahama, Sayaka's mother, knew about Apollo and decided to help Sayaka prepare against it. From the age of four, Sayaka was put in many martial arts classes, anything from Tai-Chi, to Fung-Shue, to your typical Karate classes. For years she trained in this fashion, also being visited by her grandmother and a reforming teacher, whom both tried to make her the proper lady they wanted her to be. Rejecting that, at the age of 10, Sayaka went and got her hair dyed light blue, and cut short. Within that year, Sayaka and her mother went to visit America once more. It was then Sayaka was attacked by monsters, and forced into Camp Half-Blood. She has been here for nearly five summers since then. Soon after she turned 14 she was voted a camp leader, and learned some basic healing. She has yet to gain an interest in archery. Other things you know. <p>

    &#29848 Others &#29848 Due to a habit developed in Japan, Sayaka will refer to others with Japanese honorifics. Don't be afraid to ask her their meaning. Anything I missed? Ask. You've got fingers, you can type a question out pretty easily. Sorry for any spelling or grammar mistakes, I'm too lazy to go back and check.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 33 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)