The allies brought up their cannon, and opened the bombardment. This lasted incessantly from July 17 which was a Monday until the following Friday, when two bastions were so shattered that the French were able to gain possession of them, putting to the sword some two hundred Neapolitan soldiers who had been left to defend those outworks. Thence admittance to the town itself was gained four days later on the 25 th through a breach, according to some, through the treacherous opening of a gate, according to others. Through gate or breach the besiegers stormed to meet a fierce resistance, and the most horrible carnage followed. Back and back they drove the defenders, fighting their way through the streets and sparing none in the awful fury that beset them. The defence was shattered; resistance was at an end; yet still the bloody work went on. The combat had imperceptibly merged into a slaughter ; demoralized and panic stricken in the reaction from their late gallantry, the soldiers of Naples flung down their weapons and fled, shrieking for quarter. But none was given. The invader butchered every human thing he came upon, indiscriminant of age or sex, and the blood of some four thousand victims flowed through the streets of Capua like water after a thunder shower. That sack of Capua is one of the most horrid pages in the horrid history of sacks. You will find full details in d'Auton's chronicle, if you have a mind for such horrors. There is a brief summary of the event in Burchard's diary under date of July 26, 1501, which runs as follows :
" At about the fourth hour last night the Pope had news of the capture of Capua by the Duke of Valentinois. The capture was due to the treason of one Fabrizio a citizen of Capua who secretly introduced the besiegers and was the first to be killed by them. After him the same fate was met by some three thousand foot and some two hundred horse soldiers, by citizens, priests, conventuals of both sexes, even in the very churches and monasteries, and all the women taken were given in prey to the greatest cruelty. The total number of the slain is estimated at four thousand."
D'Auton, too, bears witness to this wholesale violation of the women, " which," he adds, " is the very worst of all war's excesses." He informs us further that " the foot soldiers of the Duke of Valentinois acquitted themselves so well in this, that thirty of the most beautiful women went captive to Rome," a figure which is confirmed by Burchard.
What an opportunity was not this for Guicciardini ! " The foot soldiers of the Duke of Valentinois acquitted themselves so well in this, that thirty of the most beautiful women went captive to Rome"
Under his nimble, malicious, unscrupulous pen that statement is re edited until not thirty but forty is the number of the captured victims taken to Rome, and not Valentinois's foot, but Valentinois himself the ravisher of the entire forty ! But hear the elegant Florentine's own words :
" It was spread about [divulgossi]" he writes, M that, besides other wickednesses worthy of eternal infamy, many women who had taken refuge in a tower, and thus escaped the first fury of the assault, were found by the Duke of Valentinois, who, with the title of King's Lieutenant, followed the army with no more people than his gentlemen and his guards.1 He desired to see them all, and, after carefully examining them [consideratele diligentemente] he retained forty of the most beautiful."
Guicciardini's aim is, of course, to shock you ; he considers it necessary to maintain in Cesare the character of ravenous wolf which he had bestowed upon him. The marvel is not that Guicciardini should have penned that utterly ludicrous accusation, but that more or less serious subsequent writers and writers of our own time even instead of being moved to contemptuous laughter at the wild foolishness of the story, instead of seeking in the available records the germ of true fact from which it was sprung, should sedulously and unblushingly have carried forward its dissemination.
1 This, incidentally, is another misstatement. Valentinois had with him, besides the thousand foot levied by the Pope and the hundred lances under Morgante Baglioni, an army some thousands strong led for him by Yves d'Allegre.
Yriarte not only repeats the tale with all the sober calm of one utterly destitute of a sense of the ridiculous, but he improves upon it by a delicious touch, worthy of Guicciardini himself, when he assures us that Cesare took these forty women for his harem !
It is a nice instance of how Borgia history has grown, and is still growing.
If verisimilitude itself does not repudiate Guicciardini's story, there are the Capuan chronicles to do it particularly that of Pellegrini, who witnessed the pillage. In those chronicles from which Guicciardini drew the matter for this portion of his history of Italy, you will seek in vain for any confirmation of that fiction with which the Florentine historian he who had a pen of gold for his friends and one of iron for his foes thought well to adorn his facts.
If the grotesque in history building is of interest to you, you may turn the pages of the Storia Civile di Capua, by F. Granata, published in 1752. This writer has carefully followed the Capuan chroniclers in their relation of the siege ; but when it comes to these details of the forty ladies in the tower (in which those chroniclers fail him) he actually gives Guicciardini as his authority, setting a fashion which has not lacked for unconscious, and no less egregious, imitators.
To return from the criticism of fiction to the consideration of fact, Fabrizio Colonna and Rinuccio da Marciano were among the many captains of the Neapolitan army that were taken prisoners. Rinuccio was the head of the Florentine faction which had caused the execution of Paolo Vitelli, and Giovio has it that Vitellozzo Vitelli, who had already taken an instalment of vengeance by putting Pietro da Marciano to death in Tuscany, caused Rinuccio's wounds to be poisoned, so that he died two days later.
The fall of Capua was very shortly followed by that of Gaeta, and, within a week, by that of Naples, which was entered on August 3 by Cesare Borgia in command of the vanguard of the army. " He who had come as a cardinal to crown King Federigo, came now as a condottiero to depose him."
Federigo offered to surrender to the French all the fortresses that still held for him, on condition that he should have safe conduct to Ischia and liberty to remain there for six months. This was agreed, and Federigo was further permitted to take with him his moveable possessions and his artillery, which latter, however, he afterwards sold to the Pope.
Thus the last member of the House of Aragon to sit upon the throne of Naples took his departure, accompanied by the few faithful ones who loved him well enough to follow him into exile ; amongst these was that poet Sanazzaro, who, to avenge the wrong suffered by the master whom he loved, was to launch his terrible epigrams against Alexander, Cesare, and Lucrezia, and by means of those surviving verses enable the enemies of the House of Borgia to vilify their memories through centuries to follow.
Federigo's captains Prospero and Fabrizio Colonna, upon being ransomed, took their swords to Gonzalo de Cordoba, hoping for the day when they might avenge upon the Borgia the ruin which, even in this Neapolitan conquest they attributed to the Pope and his son.
And here, so far as Naples is concerned, closes the history of the House of Aragon. In Italy it was extinct; and it was to become so, too, in Spain within the century.