To Soderini the duke expounded his just grievance, founded upon the Florentines' unobservance of the treaty of Forno dei Campi; he demanded that a fresh treaty should be drawn up to replace the broken one, and that, for the purpose, Florence should change her government, as in the ruling one, after what had passed, he could repose no faith. He disclaimed all associations with the affair of Vitelli, but frankly declared himself glad of it, as it had, no doubt, led Florence to perceive what came of not keeping faith with him. He concluded by assuring Soderini that, with himself for their friend, the Florentines need fear no molestation from any one ; but he begged that the Republic should declare herself in the matter, since, if she did not care to have him for her friend, she was, of course, at liberty to make of him her enemy.
So impressed was Soderini by Cesare Borgia that on that same night he wrote to the Signory :
" This lord is very magnificent and splendid, and so spirited in feats of arms that there is nothing so great but that it must seem small to him. In the pursuit of glory and in the acquisition of dominions he never rests, and he knows neither danger nor fatigue. He moves so swiftly that he arrives at a place before it is known that he has set out for it. He knows how to make himself beloved of his soldiers, and he has in his service the best men of Italy. These things render him victorious and formidable, and to these is yet to be added his perpetual good fortune. He argues," the Florentine envoy proceeds, " with such sound reason that to dispute with him would be a long affair, for his wit and eloquence never fail him " ("dello ingegno e della lingua si vale quanto vuole").
You are to remember that this homage is one of the few surviving impressions of one who came into personal contact with Cesare, and of one, moreover, representing a Government more or less inimical to / him, who would therefore have no reason to draw a favourable portrait of him for that Government's benefit. One single page of such testimony is worth a dozen volumes of speculation and inference drawn afterwards by men who never knew him in many cases by men who never began to know his epoch.
The envoy concludes by informing the Signory that he has the duke's assurances that the latter has no thought of attempting to deprive Florence of any of her possessions, as " the object of his campaign has not been to tyrannize, but to extirpate tyrants."
Whilst Cesare awaited the Florentines' reply to their ambassador's communication, he withdrew to the camp at Fermignano, where he was sought on July 6 by a herald from Louis XII. This messenger came to exhort Cesare to embark upon no enterprise against the Florentine Republic, because to offend Florence would be to offend the Majesty of France. Simultaneously, however, Florence received messages from the Cardinal d'Amboise, suggesting that they should come to terms with Valentinois by conceding him at least a part of what had been agreed in the Treaty of Forno dei Campi.
As a consequence, Soderini was able to inform Cesare that the Republic was ready to treat with him, but that first he must withdraw Vitelli from Arezzo, and compel him to yield up the captured fortresses. The duke, not trusting as he had frankly avowed a Government which once already had broken faith with him, and perceiving that, if he whistled his war dogs to heel as requested, he would have lost the advantages of his position, refused to take any such steps until the treaty should be concluded. He consented, however, to enforce meanwhile an armistice.
But now it happened that news reached Florence of the advance of Louis XII with an army of 20,000 men, bound for Naples to settle the dispute with Spain. So the Republic sly and treacherous as any other Italian Government of the Cinquecento instructed Soderini to temporize with the duke; to spend the days in amiable, inconclusive interviews and discussions of terms which the Signory did not mean to make. Thus they counted upon gaining time, until the arrival of the French should put an end to the trouble caused by Vitelli, and to the need for any compromise.
But Cesare, though forced to submit, was not fooled by Soderini's smooth, evasive methods. He too having private sources of information in France was advised of the French advance and of the imminence of danger to himself in consequence of the affairs of Florence. And it occasioned him no surprise to see Soderini come on July 19 to take his leave of him, advised by the Signory that the French vanguard was at hand, and that, consequently, the negotiations might now with safety be abandoned.
To console him, he had news on the morrow of the conquest of Camerino.
The septuagenarian Giulio Cesare Varano had opposed to the Borgia forces a stout resistance, what time he sent his two sons Pietro and Gianmaria to Venice for help. It was in the hope of this solicited assistance that he determined to defend his tyranny,and the war opened by a cavalry skirmish in which Venanzio Varano routed the Borgia horse under the command of the Duke of Gravina. Thereafter, however, the Varani had to endure a siege; and the old story of the Romagna sieges was repeated. Varano had given his subjects too much offence in the past, and it was for his subjects now to call the reckoning.
A strong faction, led by a patrician youth of Camerino, demanded the surrender of the State, and, upon being resisted, took arms and opened the gates to the troops of Valentinois. The three Varani were taken prisoners. Old Giulio Cesare was shut up in the Castle of Pergola, where he shortly afterwards died which was not wonderful or unnatural at his time of life, and does not warrant Guicciardini for stating, without authority, that he was strangled. Venanzio and Annibale were imprisoned in the fortress of Cattolica.
In connection with this surrender of Camerino, Cesare wrote the following affectionate letter to his sister Lucrezia who was dangerously ill at Ferrara in consequence of her delivery of a still born child :
" Most Illustrious and most Excellent Lady, our very dear Sister, Confident of the circumstance that there can be no more efficacious and salutary medicine for the indisposition from which you are at present suffering than the announcement of good and happy news, we advise you that at this very moment we have received sure tidings of the capture of Camerino. We beg that you will do honour to this message by an immediate improvement, and inform us of it, because, tormented as we are to know you so ill, nothing, not even this felicitous event, can suffice to afford us pleasure. We beg you also kindly to convey the present to the Illustrious Lord Don Alfonso, your husband and our beloved Brother in law, to whom we are not writing to day."