Imola and Forli had, themselves, applied to the Pontiff to appoint Cesare Borgia their ruler in the place of the deposed Riarii. To these was now added Cesena. In July disturbances occurred there between Guelphs and Ghibellines. Swords were drawn and blood flowed in the streets, until the governor was constrained to summon Ercole Bentivogli and his horse from Forli to quell the rioting. The direct outcome of this was that the Ghibellines predominating in council Cesena sent an embassy to Rome to beg his Holiness to give the lordship of the fief to the Duke of Valentinois. To this the Pope acceded, and on August 2 Cesare was duly appointed Lord Vicar of Cesena. He celebrated his investiture by remitting a portion of the taxes, abolishing altogether the duty on flour, and by bringing about a peace between the two prevailing factions.
By the end of September Cesare's preparations for the resumption of the campaign were completed, and early in October (his army fortified in spirit by the Pope's blessing) he set out, and made his first halt at Nepi. Lucrezia was there, with her Court and her child Roderigo, having withdrawn to this her castle to mourn her dead husband Alfonso; and there she abode until recalled to Rome by her father some two months later.
Thence Cesare pushed on, as swiftly as the foul weather would allow him, by way of Viterbo, Assisi, and Nocera to cross the Apennines at Gualdo. Here he paused to demand the release of certain prisoners in the hill fortress of Fossate, and to be answered by a refusal. Angered by this resistance of his wishes and determined to discourage others from following the example of Fossate, he was swift and terrible in his rejoinder. He seized the Citadel, and did by force what had been refused to his request. Setting at liberty the prisoners in durance there, he gave the territory over to devastation by fire and pillage.
That done he resumed his march, but the weather retarded him more and more. The heavy and continuous rains had reduced the roads to such a condition that his artillery fell behind, and he was compelled to call a halt once more, at Deruta, and wait there four days for his guns to overtake him.
In Rimini the great House of Malatesta was represented by Pandolfo Roberto Malatesta's bastard and successor a degenerate so detested by his subjects that he was known by the name of Pandolfaccio (a contumelious augmentative, expressing the evil repute in which he was held).
Among his many malpractices and the many abuses to which he resorted for the purposes of extorting money from his long suffering subjects was that of compelling the richer men of Rimini to purchase from him the estates which he confiscated from the fuorusciti those who had sought in exile safety from the anger provoked by their just resentment of his oppressive misrule. He was in the same case as other Romagna tyrants, and now that Venice had lifted from him her protecting aegis, he had no illusions as to the fate in store for him. So when once more the tramp of Cesare Borgia's advancing legions rang through the Romagna, Pandolfaccio disposed himself,not for battle, but for surrender on the best terms that he might succeed in making.
He was married to Violante, the daughter of Giovanni Bentivogli of Bologna, and in the first week of October he sent her, with their children, to seek shelter at her father's Court. Himself, he withdrew into his citadel the famous fortress of his terrible grandfather Sigismondo. The move suggested almost that he was preparing to resist the Duke of Valentinois, and it may have prompted the message sent him by the Council to inquire what might be his intention.
Honour was a thing unknown to this Pandolfaccio even so much honour as may be required for a dignified retreat. Since all was lost it but remained by his lights to make the best bargain that he could and get the highest possible price in gold for what he was abandoning. So he replied that the Council must do whatever it considered to its best advantage, whilst to anticipate its members in any offer of surrender, and thus seek the favour and deserve good terms at the hands of this man who came to hurl him from the throne of his family, he dispatched a confidential servant to Cesare to offer him town and citadel.
In the meantime as Pandolfo fully expected the Council also sent proposals of surrender to Cesare, as well as to his lieutenant general of Romagna, Bishop Olivieri, at Cesena. The communications had the effect of bringing Olivieri immediately to Rimini, and there, on October 10, the articles of capitulation were signed by the bishop, as the duke's representative, and by Pandolfo Malatesta. It was agreed in these that Malatesta should have safe conduct for himself and his familiars, 3,000 ducats and the value to be estimated of the artillery which he left in the citadel. Further, for the price of 5,500 ducats he abandoned also the strongholds of Sarsina and Medola and the castles of the Montagna.
His tyranny thus disposed of, Pandolfaccio took ship to Ravenna, where the price of his dishonour was to be paid him, and in security for which he took with him Gianbatvista Baldassare, the son lof the ducal commissioner.
On the day of his departure, to celebrate the bloodless conquest of Rimini, solemn High Mass was sung in the Cathedral, and Bishop Olivieri received the city's oath of allegiance to the Holy See, whither very shortly afterwards Rimini sent her ambassadors to express to the Pope her gratitude for her release from the thraldom of Pandolfaccio.
Like Rimini, Pesaro too fell without the striking of a blow, for all that it was by no means as readily relinquished on the part of its ruler. Giovanni Sforza had been exerting himself desperately for the past two months to obtain help that should enable him to hold his tyranny against the Borgia might. But all in vain. His entreaties to the emperor had met with no response, whilst his appeal to Francesco Gonzaga of Mantua whose sister, it will be remembered, had been his first wife had resulted in the Marquis's sending him a hundred men under an Albanian, named Giacopo. What Giovanni was to do with a hundred men it is difficult to conceive, nor are the motives of Gonzaga's action clear. We know that at this time he was eagerly seeking Cesare's friendship, sorely uneasy as to the fate that might lie in store for his own dominions, once the Duke of Valentinois should have disposed of the feudatories of the Church. Early in that year 1500 he had asked Cesare to stand godfather for his child, and Cesare had readily consented, whereby a certain bond of relationship and good feeling had been established between them, which everything shows Gonzaga most anxious to preserve un severed. The only reasonable conclusion in the matter of that condotta of a hundred men is that Gonzaga desired to show friendliness to the Lord of Pesaro, yet was careful not to do so to any extent that might be hurtful to Valentinois.