Our quarrel is with that; with that, and with those writers who have taken Alexander's simony for granted eagerly almost for the purpose of heaping odium upon him by making him appear a scandalous exception to the prevailing rule.
If, nevertheless, we hold, as we have said, that simony probably did take place, we do so, not so much upon the inconclusive evidence of the fact, as upon the circumstance that it had become almost an established custom to purchase the tiara, and that Roderigo Borgia since his ambition clearly urged him to the Pontificate would have been an exception had he refrained.
It may seem that to have disputed so long to conclude by admitting so much is no better than a waste of labour. Not so, we hope. Our aim has been to correct the adjustment of the focus and properly to trim the light in whichRoderigoBorgia is to be viewed, to the end that you may see him as he was neither better nor worse the creature of his times, of his environment, and of the system in which he was reared and trained. Thus shall you also get a clearer view of his son Cesare, when presently he takes the stage more prominently.
1 Cardinals Piccolomini, de' Medici, and Giuliano della Rovere.
During the seventeen days of the interregnum between the death of Innocent and the election of Alexander the wild scenes usual to such seasons had been taking place in Rome; and, notwithstanding the Cardinal-Chamberlain's prompt action in seizing the gates and bridges, and the patrols' endeavours to maintain order, crime was unfettered to such an extent that some 220 murders are computed to have taken place giving the terrible average of thirteen a day.
It was a very natural epilogue to the lax rule of the lethargic Innocent. One of the first acts of Alexander's reign was to deal summarily with this lawlessness. He put down violence with a hard hand that knew no mercy. He razed to the ground the house of a murderer caught red handed, and hanged him above the ruins, and so dealt generally that such order came to prevail as had never before been known in Rome.
Infessura tells us how, in the very month of his election, he appointed inspectors of prisons and four commissioners to administer justice, and that he himself gave audience on Tuesdays and settled disputes, concluding, " et justitiam mirabili modo facere coepit."
He paid all salaries promptly a striking departure, it would seem, from what had been usual under his predecessor and the effect of his improved and strenuous legislation was shortly seen in the diminished prices of commodities.
He was crowned Pope on August 6, on the steps of the Basilica of St. Peter, by the Cardinal-Archdeacon Piccolomini. The ceremony was celebrated with a splendour worthy of the splendid figure that was its centre. Through the eyes of Michele Ferno despite his admission that he is unable to convey a worthy notion of the spectacle you may see the gorgeous procession to the Lateran in which Alexander VI showed himself to the applauding Romans ; the multitude of richly adorned men, gay and festive; the seven hundred priests and prelates, with their familiars ; the splendid cavalcade of knights and nobles of Rome ; the archers and Turkish horsemen, and the Palatine Guard, with its great halberds and flashing shields ; the twelve white horses, with their golden bridles, led by footmen ; and then Alexander himself on a snow white horse, " serene of brow and of majestic dignity," his hand uplifted the Fisherman's Ring upon its forefinger to bless the kneeling populace. The chronicler flings into superlatives when he comes to praise the personal beauty of the man, his physical vigour and health, " which go to increase the veneration shown him."
Thus in the brilliant sunshine of that Italian August, amid the plaudits of assembled Rome, amid banners and flowers, music and incense, the flash of steel and the blaze of decorations with the Borgian arms everywhere displayed or, a grazing steer gules Alexander VI passes to the Vatican, the aim and summit of his vast ambition.
Friends and enemies alike have sung the splendours of that coronation, and the Bull device as you can imagine plays a considerable part in those verses, be they paeans or lampoons. The former allude to Borgia as " the Bull," from the majesty and might of the animal that was displayed upon their shield; the latter render it the subject of much scurrilous invective, to which it lends itself as readily. And thereafter, in almost all verse of their epoch, writers ever say " the Bull " when they mean the Borgia.