And so, the matter being considered and determined, Cesare quitted Rome on the 12th and left it for the Pope to give answer to the Pisan envoys in the Consistory of June 14 that neither his Holiness nor the Duke of Valentinois could assent to the proposals which Pisa made.
From Rome Cesare travelled swiftly to Spoleto, where his army, some ten thousand strong, was encamped. He was bent at last upon the conquest of Camerino, and, ever an opportunist, he had seized the moment when Florence, which might have been disposed to befriend Varano, Tyrant of Camerino, was over busy with her own affairs.
In addition to the powerful army awaiting him at Spoleto, the duke had a further 2,000 men in the Romagna ; another 1,000 men held themselves at his orders between Sinigaglia and Urbino, and Dionigio di Naldo was arming yet another 1,000 men at Veruc chio for his service. Yet further to increase this force, Cesare issued an edict during his brief sojourn at Spoleto ordering every house in the Romagna to supply him with one man at arms.
It was whilst here as he afterwards wrote to the Pope that news reached him that Guidobaldo da Montefeltre, Duke of Urbino, was arming men and raising funds for the assistance of Camerino. He wrote that he could not at first believe it, but that shortly afterwards at Foligni he took a chancellor of Camerino who admitted that the hopes of this State were all founded upon Urbino's assistance; and later, a messenger from Urbino falling into his hands, he discovered that there was a plot afoot to seize the Borgia artillery as it passed through Ugubio, it being known that, as Cesare had no suspicions, the guns would be guarded only by a small force. Of this treachery the duke strongly expressed his indignation in his letter to the Pope.
Whether the matter was true or whether Cesare believed it to be true it is impossible to ascertain with absolute conviction. But it is in the highest degree unlikely that Cesare would have written such a letter to his father solely by way of setting up a pretext. Had that been his only aim, letters expressing his simulated indignation would have been in better case to serve his ends had they been addressed to others.
If Guidobaldo did engage in such an act, amounting to a betrayal, he was certainly paid by Cesare in kind and with interest. If the duke had been short of a pretext for carrying a drawn sword into the dominions of Guidobaldo, he had that pretext now in this act of enmity against himself and the Holy See.
First, however, he disposed for the attack upon Camerino. This State, lying on the Eastern spurs of the Apennines, midway between Spoleto and Urbino, was ruled by Giulio Cesare Varano, an old war dog of seventy years of age, ruthless and bloodthirsty, who owed his throne to his murder of his own brother.
He was aided in the government of his tyranny by his four sons, Venanzio, Annibale, Pietro, and Gian maria.
Several times already had he been menaced by Cesare Borgia, for he was one of the Vicars proscribed for the non payment of tribute due to the Holy See, and at last his hour was come. Against him Cesare now dispatched an army under the command of Francesco Orsini, Duke of Gravina, and Oliverotto Eufreducci, another murderous, bloody gentleman who had hitherto served the duke in Vitelli's condotta, and who, by an atrocious act of infamy and brigandage, had made himself Lord of Fermo, which he pretended being as sly as he was bloody to hold as Vicar for the Holy See.
This Oliverotto Eufreducci hereafter known as Oliverotto da Fermo was a nephew of Giovanni Fogliano, Lord of Fermo. He had returned home to his uncle's Court in the early part of that year, and was there received with great honour and affection by Fogliano and his other relatives. To celebrate his home coming, Oliverotto invited his uncle and the principal citizens of Fermo to a banquet, and at table contrived to turn the conversation upon the Pope and the Duke of Valentinois ; whereupon, saying that these were matters to be discussed more in private, he rose from table and begged them to withdraw with him into another room.
All unsuspecting what should old Fogliano, suspect from one so loved and so deeply in his debt ? they followed him to the chamber where he had secretly posted a body of his men at arms. There, no sooner had the door closed upon this uncle, and those others who had shown him so much affection, than he gave the signal for the slaughter that had been concerted. His soldiers fell upon those poor, surprised victims of his greed, and made a speedy and bloody end of all.
That first and chief step being taken, Oliverotto flung himself on his horse, and, gathering his men at arms about him, rode through Fermo on the business of butchering what other relatives and friends of Fogliano might remain. Among these were Raffaele della Rovere and two of his children, one of whom was inhumanly slaughtered in its mother's lap.
Thereafter he confiscated to his own uses the property of those whom he had murdered, and of those who, more fortunate, had fled his butcher's hands. He dismissed the existing Council and replaced it by a government of his own. Which done to shelter himself from the consequences he sent word to the Pope that he held Fermo as Vicar of the Church.
Whilst a portion of his army marched on Camerino, Cesare, armed with his pretext for the overthrow of Guidobaldo, set himself deliberately and by an elaborate stratagem to the capture of Urbino. Of this there can be little doubt. The cunning of the scheme is of an unsavoury sort, when considered by the notions that obtain to day, for the stratagem was no better than an act of base treachery. Yet, lest even in this you should be in danger of judging Cesare Borgia by standards which cannot apply to his age, you will do well to consider that there is no lack of evidence that the fifteenth century applauded the business as a clever coup.