Those entries in the diary of the Master of Ceremonies constitute an incontrovertible document, an irrefutable testimony against the charges of poisoning when taken in conjunction with the evidence of fact afforded by the length of the illness.
It is true that, under date of November 20, 1504 (under the pontificate of Julius II), there is the following entry :
" Sentence was pronounced in the ' Ruota ' against Sebastiano Pinzone, apostolic scribe, contumaciously absent, and he was deprived of all benefices and offices in that he had caused the death of the Cardinal of Modena,his patron,who had raised him from the dust."
But not even that can shake the conviction that must leap to every honest mind from following the entries in the diary contemporary with the cardinal's decease. They are too circumstantial and conclusive to be overthrown by this recorded sentence of the Ruota two years later against a man who was not even present to defend himself. Besides, it is necessary to discriminate. Burchard is not stating opinions of his own when he writes " in that he caused the death of the Cardinal of Modena," etc.; he is simply and obviously recording the finding of the Tribunal of the Ruota, without comment of his own. Lastly, it is as well to observe that in that verdict against Pinzone of doubtful justice as it is there is no mention made of the Borgias.
The proceedings instituted against Sebastiano Pinzone were of a piece with those instituted against Asquino de Colloredo and others yet to be considered ; they were set on foot by Giuliano della Rovere that implacable enemy of the House of Borgia when he became Pope, for the purpose of heaping ignominy upon the family of his predecessor. But that shall be further dealt with presently.
Another instance of the unceasing growth of Borgia history is afforded in connection with this Sebastiano Pinzone by Dr. Jacob Burckhardt (in Der Cultur der Renaissance in Italien) who, in the course of the usual sweeping diatribe against Cesare, mentions " Michele da Corella, his strangler, and Sebastiano Pinzone, his poisoner." It is an amazing statement; for, whilst obviously leaning upon Giustiniani's dispatch for the presumption that Pinzone was a poisoner at all, he ignores the statement contained in it that Pinzone was the secretary and favourite of Cardinal Ferrari, nor troubles to ascertain that the man was never in Cesare Borgia's service at all, nor is ever once mentioned anywhere as connected in any capacity whatever with the duke. Dr. Burckhardt felt, no doubt, the necessity of linking Pinzone to the Borgias, that the alleged guilt of the former may recoil upon the latter, and so he accomplished it in this facile and irresponsible manner.
Now, notwithstanding the full and circumstantial evidence afforded by Burchard's Diarium of the Cardinal of Modena's death of a tertian fever, the German scholar Gregorovius does not hesitate to write of this cardinal's death : " It is certain that it was due to their [the Borgias'] infallible white powders."
Oh the art of writing history in sweeping statements to support a preconceived point of view ! Oh that white powder of the Borgias !
Giovio tells us all about it. Cantarella, he calls it Cantharides. Why Cantarella ? Possibly because it is a pleasing, mellifluous word that will help a sentence hang together smoothly; possibly because the notorious aphrodisiac properties of that drug suggested it to Giovio as just the poison to be kept handy by folk addicted to the pursuits which he and others attribute to the Borgias. Can you surmise any better reason ? For observe that Giovio describes the Cantarella for you a blunder of his which gives the lie to his statement. " A white powder of a faint and not unpleasing savour," says he ; and that, as you know, is nothing like cantharides, which is green, intensely acrid, and burning. Yet who cares for such discrepancies ? Who will ever question anything that is uttered against a Borgia ? " Cantarella a white powder of a faint and not unpleasing savour," answers excellently the steady purpose of supporting a defamation and pandering to the tastes of those who like sensations in their reading and so, from pen to pen, from book to book it leaps, as unchallenged as it is impossible.
Whilst Cesare's troops were engaged in laying siege to Ceri, and, by engines contrived by Leonardo da Vinci, pressing the defenders so sorely that at the end of a month's resistance they surrendered with safe conduct, the inimical and ever jealous Venetians in the north were stirring up what trouble they could. Chafing under the restraint of France, they but sought a pretext that should justify them in the eyes of Louis for making war upon Cesare, and when presently envoys came to lay before the Pope the grievance of the Republic at the pillage by Borgian soldiery of the Venetian traders in Sinigaglia, Cesare had no delusions concerning their disposition towards himself.
Growing uneasy lest they should make this a reason for assailing his frontiers, he sent orders north recommending vigilance and instructing his officers to deal severely with all enemies of his State, whilst he proceeded to complete the provisions for the government of the Romagna. To replace the Governor-General he appointed four seneschals: Cristoforo della Torre for Forli, Faenza and Imola ; Hieronimo Bonadies for Cesena, Rimini, and Pesaro; Andrea Cossa for Fano, Sinigaglia, Fossombrone, and Pergola ; and Pedro Ramires for the duchy of Urbino. This last was to find a deal of work for his hands ; for Urbino was not yet submissive, Majolo and S. Leo still holding for Guidobaldo.
Ramires began by reducing Majolo, and then proceeded to lay siege to S. Leo. But the Castellan one Lattanzio encouraged by the assurances given him that the Venetians would render Guidobaldo assistance to reconquer his dominions, resisted stubbornly, and was not brought to surrender until the end of June, after having held the castle for six months.