Having driven Charles VIII out of Italy, it still remained for the allies to remove all traces of his passage from Naples and to restore the rule of the House of Aragon. In this they had the aid of Ferdinand and Isabella, who sent an army under the command of that distinguished soldier Gonzalo de Cordoba, known in his day as the Great Captain.
He landed in Calabria in the spring of 1496, and war broke out afresh through that already sorely devastated land. The Spaniards were joined by the allied forces of Venice and the Church under the condotta of the Marquis Gonzaga of Mantua, the leader of the Italians at Fornovo.
Lodovico had detached himself from the league, and again made terms with France for his own safety's sake. But his cousin, Giovanni Sforza, Tyrant of Pesaro the husband of Lucrezia Borgia continued in the pontifical army at the head of a condotta of 600 lances. Another command in the same ranks was one of 700 lances under the youthful Giuffredo Borgia, now Prince of Squillace and the husband of Dona Sancia of Aragon, a lady of exceedingly loose morals, who had brought to Rome the habits acquired in the most licentious Court of that licentious age.
The French lost Naples even more easily than they had conquered it, and by July 7 Ferdinand II was able to re enter his capital and reascend his throne. D'Aubigny, the French general, withdrew to France, whilst Montpensier, the Viceroy, retired to Pozzuoli, where he died in the following year.
Nothing could better have suited the purposes of Alexander than the state of things which now prevailed, affording him, as it did, the means to break the power of the insolent Roman barons, who already had so vexed and troubled him. So in the Consistory of June 1 he published a Bull whereby Gentile Virginio Orsini, Giangiordano Orsini, and his bastard Paolo Orsini and Bartolomeo d'Alviano, were declared outlawed for having borne arms with France against the Church, and their possessions were confiscated to the State. This decree was to be enforced by the sword, and, for the purposes of the impending war, the Duke of Gandia was recalled to Rome. He arrived early in August, having left at Gandia his wife Maria Enriquez, a niece of the Royal House of Spain.
It was Cesare Borgia who took the initiative in the pomp with which his brother was received in Rome, riding out at the head of the entire Pontifical Court to meet and welcome the young duke.
In addition to being Duke of Gandia, Giovanni Borgia was already Duke of Sessa and Prince of Teano, which further dignities had been conferred upon him on the occasion of his brother Giuffredo's marriage to Donna Sancia. To these the Pope now added the governorship of Viterbo and of the Patrimony of St. Peter, dispossessing Cardinal Farnese of the latter office to bestow it upon this well beloved son.
In Venice it was being related, a few months later, in October that Gandia had brought a woman from Spain for his father, and that the latter had taken her to live with him. The story is given in Sanuto, and of course has been unearthed and served up by most historians and essayists. It cannot positively be said that it is untrue; but it can be said that it is unconfirmed. There is, for instance, no word of it in Burchard's Diarium, and when you consider how ready a chronicler of scandalous matter was this Master of Ceremonies, you will no doubt conclude that, if any foundation there had been for that Venetian story, Burchard would never have been silent on the subject.
The Pope had taken into his pay that distinguished condottiero, Duke Guidobaldo of Urbino, who later was to feel the relentless might of Cesare. To Guido baldo's command was now entrusted the punitive expedition against the Orsini, and with him was to go the Duke of Gandia, ostensibly to share the leadership, in reality that, under so able a master, he might serve his apprenticeship to the trade of arms. So on October 25 Giovanni Borgia was very solemnly created Gonfalonier of the Church and Captain-General of the pontifical troops. On the same day the three standards were blessed in St. Peter's one being the Papal Gonfalon bearing the arms of the Church and the other two the personal banners of Guidobaldo and Gandia. The two condottieri attended the ceremony, arrayed in full armour, and received the white truncheons that were the emblems of their command.
On the following day the army set out, accompanied by the Cardinal de Luna as papal legate a latere, and within a month ten Orsini strongholds had surrendered.
So far all had been easy for the papal forces; but now the Orsini rallied in the last three fortresses that remained them Bracciano, Trevignano, and Anguil lara, and their resistance suddenly acquired a stubborn character, particularly that of Bracciano, which was captained by Bartolomeo d'Alviano, a clever, resourceful young soldier who was destined to go far. Thus the campaign, so easily conducted at the outset, received a check which caused it to drag on into the winter. And now the barons received further reinforcements. Vitellozzo Vitelli, the Tyrant of Citta di Castello, came to the aid of the Orsini, as did also the turbulent Baglioni of Perugia, the della Rovere in Rome, and all those who were inimical to Alexander VI. On the other hand, however, the barons Colonna and Savelli ranged themselves on the side of the Pope.
Already Trevignano had fallen, and the attack of the pontifical army was concentrated upon Bracciano. Hard pressed, and with all supplies cut off, Bartolomeo d'Alviano was driven to the very verge of surrender, when over the hills came Carlo Orsini, with the men of Vitellozzo Vitelli, to take the papal forces by surprise and put them to utter rout. Guidobaldo was made prisoner, whilst the Duke of Gandia, Fabrizio Colonna, and the papal legate narrowly escaped, and took shelter in Ronciglione, the Pope's son being slightly wounded in the face.