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lighted at discovering so much knowledge rushing upon them simultaneously, opened in their unwilling visitor, and to show their their way towards the imperial tent, killing high esteem for his talents they proposed or disabling every one who opposed them. at once to his choice, either to serve the The Emperor, with great difficulty, escaped ancient city of Brescia according to his being taken prisoner on this occasion, to craft, or to be set up as a target for their the no small regret of the Brescians. cross-bows. The good Castilian did not He soon became disgusted with the stand to deliberate, but applied himself siege. Every effort against the town lustily to work for his new employers, and proved unsuccessful, and seemed only to with such efficacy, that they were soon increase the daring of the citizens. It beprovided with wooden towers, battering- came unsafe even to walk at any distance rams, manganos, trabuccos, and other de
from the camp. While the Emperor had structive implements for demolishing para collected all his forces in the design of pets, and hurling stones, as well as their overwhelming Brescia, the Milanese, seeadversaries.
ing the country clear, spread their armed The siege had been going on for some men over the neighborhood, giving a sedays, when the detestable Frederic, irri- vere lesson to several of the towns where tated at the accuracy with which they Frederic had been well received. They aimed pieces of iron and heavy fragments even bearded the Emperor in his own of rock at his breast-works and machinery, quarters. For, having learned from the which they broke and scattered, frequently scouts, whom they always kept on the killing the soldiers who managed them, alert, that a certain part of the imperial had recourse to the expedient of bringing lines was rather negligently guarded, on acseveral Brescian prisoners from Cremona, count of the security afforded by its position, and tying them to his engines, so that they equipped a band of the hardiest adventheir friends and relatives might be obliged turers in their service, who, coming unexto desist from further attempts, or kill pectedly upon the vulnerable point, attheir unfortunate kinsmen in the act. It tacked it so desperately as to force it under is not certain whether the besieged were the nose of the Emperor, and throw themdriven by despair to continue their de selves into the town to reinforce its hercio fence as before, or whether they desisted garrison. from battering the imperial works at so At length, seeing that all his endeavors fearful a sight. But goaded on, and bela- to carry the place were fruitless, he set bored so piteously by the unfeeling adver- fire to his machines, and sullenly drew off sary, they retaliated on his cruel device, his
army, retreating towards Cremona. stringing up by the heels the numerous This event seriously injured the reputation Germans they had in their possession, and of Frederic II., and increased the glory of exposing them all along the outside of the the free city of Brescia, who celebrated his ramparts to the strokes of their brutal departure with becoming exultation. Emperor.
Our hero, Ezzelino, never cared to work What irritated Frederic still more were under a superior, however he might value the sorties which these shrewd and daring his assistance or protection. Leaving, Italians effected at intervals on his troops, therefore, the Emperor at an early period retiring into the gates of their stronghold to wear out the lives of his men and his almost before the heavy Germans knew own patience under the walls of Brescia, where the blows came from. These sor he had engaged in a scheme of his own, ties were of great damage to the imperial which had for its object the conquest army,
of the rich and powerful city of Padua. It is recorded, especially, that on the Ezzelino effected its capture by an adroit night of October 9th, while the soldiers use of the fear excited by the presence in were sleeping away the fatigues of the Italy of Frederic and his powerful army, day in the camp, the Brescians, led out by and by means of a treacherous correspondtheir chieftains, contrived to get near the ence which he kept up with the Ghibelplace where Frederic lay, without being line faction in the city. The city had no observed by the German guards. They sooner fallen into the power of the imperoused the guards with terrific shouts, and, rial party, than Ezzelino made himself its
Governor. He inflicted a cruel revenge | infidel, and the other was known to hold upon the inhabitants, for their constant familiar intercourse with the devil.” It adherence to the Guelphs, and the trouble would be interesting, perhaps, though not they had formerly given him.
edifying, to have an outline of the converThe indignities which he committed sations held by two worthies of this deagainst the best and most noble citizens, scription, amidst some of the most charmprocured a number of enemies for him and ing tracts of the most beautiful country in his party, so that a secret invitation was the world. We are informed that their sent to the Marquis of Este, to come and time was chiefly employed in devising deliver Padua from the tyrant and his plans for the destruction of Azzo, Marquis German satellites. The brave Marquis of Este, whom Ezzelino styled “the head accepted, perhaps too hastily, the invita- of the serpent, against which the first tion thus tendered to him, and moved strokes should be directed, in order to rapidly towards Padua, in hopes that his have an easy victory over the body.” friends would open one of its gates to him, Feriendus est serpens in capite, ut corpus as they had promised. But in place of facilius devincatur. He alluded to the this he came upon Ezzelino, who was in serpent in the coat of arms of the House readiness for him, and who
him of Este, and the Guelph party, of which ception as warm as it was unexpected. the Marquis was the chief. This terrified his followers so much that, They soon began to work upon this struck with a sudden panic, they deserted principle, and their first step was to send their ensigns almost to a man, and the a friendly invitation to the Marquis, to wait Marquis owed the preservation of his life upon the Emperor in Padua. Although to his horse, that bore him nobly beyond willing to take part in any proceedings the reach of danger. The Marquis re- which might tend to allay their animosities, solved to be more cautious for the future, the Marquis refused to move, unless a sein his proceedings with the Ghibellines, a curity were given to him in the Emperor's purpose wbich afterwards saved him more name, and signed by the imperial hand. than once from their toils.
Having received this, he went to Padua, Ezzelino, as a reprisal, occupied the accompanied by several of his adherents. town of Este, whose garrison, a few days The bad faith of the Ghibellines soon began afterwards, was filled with Germans and to show itself. The Emperor had the castle Saracens. He also made an attempt to of the Marquis quietly surrounded by Gerstorm Montagnana, another feud, which he man outposts. Soon after, under some hoped to carry as easily as that of Este. specious pretext, he secured the person of But the people resisted him with great de- Rinaldo, son of the Marquis, and kept him termination; and even set fire, in broad as a hostage. The malicious Ezzelino day-light, to a tower under which he was placed numerous spies near his visitor at the time, and from which he made a during his stay in Padua, and was informed very narrow escape. He retired from be- by them of the names and quality of the fore the town, and returned to Padua. persons with whom he had intercourse, in
Ezzelino had the honor of giving a splen- order to punish them, as he afterwards did reception there to Frederic and his did, by exile, imprisonment, or death. suite, and of spending nearly two months The wary Marquis was continually on the with him and the Empress, in the monas- alert, and he soon had more than mere tery of Santa Justina. They passed their suspicion to mistrust the faith of his advertime in hunting, and in taking long walks saries ;for he learned that Frederic had reover the surrounding country, which solved, and even given directions to have abounds in beautiful and romantic scenery. him taken out of the way. He forefended A venerable Italian chronicler tells us, the stroke by leaving Padua secretly, and with pardonable indignation, that “these without notice. Once out of the lion's two subjects, to wit, Emperor Frederic and den, he rallied his followers, and collecting Messer Ezzelino, were perhaps the two all the forces he could, he marched boldly greatest Generals, and, without a doubt, upon Este, and other towns occupied by the two greatest scoundrels of their day the enemy, reducing them once more into and life-time. For one was a beast of an
This rapid and fortunate
movement caused the death of every one brought to Padua, and loudly protesting in Padua, who was friend of the Marquis, that they were not such, Ezzelino, who or whom Ezzelino chose to consider as was at dinner, came out at the noise, and such.
refused to listen to any explanation or deThe cruelty of this chief increased as fence. Monte, driven almost to insanity he became older. An unguarded word, a by his hopeless condition, rushed wildly at vague suspicion, a groundless accusation, the tyrant, threw him to the ground, and was enough for him to cast his unhappy being unarmed himself, searched Ezzelino's victims into the horrid dungeons, erected person for a dagger, but at the moment by his order in every town where he ob- he too was unarmed. Monte having graptained command. The architect who served pled him by the throat, was making a him was the first to die in one of these desperate effort to choke him. Both Monte prisons, when its erection was completed. and Araldo, however, were cut to pieces He burned the towers and palaces of the by the soldiers of Ezzelino, who narrowly nobles who failed to obtain his favor; tor- escaped with his life, and was confined to mented and maimed in the most frightful his bed for several days in consequence of manner their owners, frequently ordering the wounds inflicted upon him by Monte's their limbs to be cast into the fire before teeth and nails. Had he not been found
unarmed, that would have been the last day He made several attempts to establish of his life. his sway
in several cities hostile to Frede The complaints of the wretched Paduans, ric, among tne rest, but without success, the remonstrances of the Marquis of Este, in Parma and Belluno. The lamentations and the entreaties of the whole nation of the unfortunate Paduans, lay and cleri- against this horrible man, became so loud, cal, groaning under his iron yoke, became that Pope Alexander IV., as the common so loud that in 1248, Pope Innocent IV. father, could no longer refuse bis assistexcommunicated him, as he had done al ance towards delivering the country from ready with the profligate and ambitious so great an evil. Accordingly, he created Frederic. Ezzelino, in place of being Phillip, Archbishop elect of Ravenna, Lehumbled by the sentence, as the Pope ex- gate Apostolic in the Marca Trevigiana, pressly desired, became worse and worse. who published a crusade against Ezzelino, He continued his assassinations and im as an enemy of his religion and his country: prisonments, strengthened his forces, and He collected an army in Venice, composed seeing the power of Frederic decline with partly of Paduan refugees; and notwithhis health, he formed the project of add- standing the efforts of Ansedisio, nephew ing to the proud title of Signor of Padua, to Ezzelino, and Governor of Padua in his which he had assumed, the command over name, he took all the fortified places in other cities, and domineering in his own the vicinity, and finally stormed a gate of name. He took and sacked the little the city itself. While the crusaders were city of Monselice, and forced its citadel, battering the gate, the besieged poured deemed impregnable, to capitulate. It is down upon their machines such a large said that some of the machines which he quantity of hot rosin, sulphur, pitch, and employed on this occasion, heaved stones other combustibles, that the gate itself of twelve thousand pounds weight, a cir- caught fire and was reduced to ashes, afcumstance which may be deemed incred- fording an easy entrance to the aggressors. ible.
They were soon in possession of the city, Frederic II. died in 1250. After having and threw open the gloomy dungeons of afflicted the church like his grandfather Ezzelino, thus giving freedom to an incrediFrederic Barbarossa, he came to a similarly ble number of victims of his cruelty, who unfortunate end, although he is believed to could scarcely be recognized by their relahave previously repented of his misdeeds. tives, so haggard and spectre-like was their We have only alluded to him, where his appearance. history comes in contact with that of Ezzelino, who was then marauding on Ezzelino, his friend and fellow-bandit. the territory of Mantua, moved in the di
Monte and Araldo, two nobles of Mon- rection of Padua, at the news of its being selice, accused as traitors, having been besieged. At the ford of the Minc
man stood before him, covered with dust ing Brescia, but he was defeated and taken and sweat. “What news ?" said the ty- prisoner himself. Having been brought inrant.“ Bad ! Padua is lost.” Ezzelino to the presence of the tyrant, he was asked ordered the messenger to be hanged in- by Ezzelino how he expected to be treated. stantly, and proceeded onward. Meeting Phillip replied, in a calm and steady voice, another messenger, he asked the same “ With the honors usually given to a Legate question : “What news ?” He answered of our Holy Father, the Pope ;” an answer that, by his good leave, he would wish to which caused even the haughty Ezzelino speak to him in private. This second man to respect him during his confinement. was more prudent than his forerunner, Brescia was doomed to suffer the tyranand departed unbarmed. Ezzelino pressed ny of so cruel a master only for a short forward without giving his weary soldiers time. Buoso da Doara and the Marquis a moment's rest. On arriving at Verona, Oberto Pelavicino, who, from friends and a sudden suspicion crossed his mind re allies of the tyrant, had become his most garding the faith of the Paduans who ac- bitter foes on account of his treacherous companied him.
He instantly ordered attempts against them, were on the banks them to be arrested, deprived of all they of the river Oglio with the forces of Crehad, and inclosed in the famous amphithe mona, as well as Azzo d'Este with those of atre of that city, where, with unexampled Ferrara and Mantua. Ezzelino, having barbarity, the greater part of them were bribed and bought over several of the nomurdered on the spot. The others died of bles of Milan, had attempted to carry that suffering and starvation, so that out of city, but was rebutted by Martino della nearly twelve thousand, between nobles Torre. A similar attempt had been likeand plebeians, not more than two hundred wise made against Monza, which also failever found their way back to Padua. ing, Ezzelino found himself in the midst of
The pontifical army had been reinforced a hostile country, with deep and rapid by several commanders—among others, by rivers between him and Brescia ; and he the famous Friar John, at the head of a heard that his old enemy, the Marquis of band of merry Bolognese, and by Alberico Este, had fortified the bridge of Cassano, da Romano, who, though a most cruel and having scattered the detachment left there lawless bandit himself, was scarcely ever by Ezzelino. He resolved to make a deson peaceful terms with his brother Ezzeli- perate attempt to force this pass, no. The latter was driven from before the opposite bank. Padua, and retreated, burning with shame It is said that a devil had predicted to and rage, to Verona, where he consoled him that he would die at Assano. Now himself by torturing to death his nephew, Ezzelino kept always a number of astroloAnsedisio, for having lost Padua. The gers in his pay, and had great faith in Paduans passed a decree, which is still ex- devils and witches; but interpreting this tant, ordering the happy liberation of their for the city of Bassano, near which he was city from so cruel an oppressor to be born, he had wisely resolved to keep away solemnized every year by a general proces- from it for the future. He trembled at sion, accompanied with hymns of gratitude the mention of Cassano. His onslaught to the Almighty-a festival which, if re- upon the people of the Marquis was so port be true, is continued down to the violent, that his followers had all but carpresent day. It would be long to parrate ried the bridge, when an arrow, discharged the intrigues through which Ezzelino suc- at random by a Guelph crossbow-man, ceeded in obtaining command of the noble pierced deeply into his left foot. This accity of Brescia. The events which led to cident spread a panic through his army, it may be all reduced to one cause—the which he was compelled to draw back to accursed discord of the Guelphs and Ghi- Vimercato, where, having had his wound bellines, which rendered an easy prey to a opened and the arrow extracted, he bravely domestic tyrant, the same town which had mounted horse again, resolved to push fordefied the whole imperial army, with the ward towards the Adda, across a shallow proud Frederic at its head. Philip, Arch- part of which he conducted his men. He bishop of Ravenna, made every attempt in had already reached the opposite shore, his power to prevent Ezzelino from enter- | but his foes had regulated their move
ments so accurately that the forces of Cre- / without giving any sign of repentance, he mona, under Buoso and Oberto, and those died some days after, in the seventieth of Ferrara and Mantua, under the Marquis year of his age, rejecting even the consoof Este, bore upon him simultaneously, lations of religion. and fairly brought him to a stand. Though His brother Alberico was put to death hemmed in upon all sides, he did not lose the year after, together with all his sons, his wonted ardor; but in the very moment in force of a barbarous sentence suggested of danger, the Brescians gave rein to their by the fear, that if even a scion remained horses, and saved themselves by flight. In of so evil a race, it would one day grow up vain did he attempt to keep his men toge- to be the curse of the country. ther, and effect a retreat in good order to So, to the unspeakable relief of all Italy, wards Bergamo. The allies attacked his perished Ezzelino, il Crudele, or the Cruel, disbanded troops, making a great number who, endowed with great military genius, of prisoners.
might have been a hero, and chose to be Ezzelino, belabored on all sides, fought the scourge of his country, and the detestawith the fury of a tiger, covered with tion of posterity. His shrewdness was blood, and in the midst of a circle of dead equal to his cruelty ; for at a glance he bodies; and at length, finding himself read the deepest secrets of the heart, and nearly alone, he furiously put spurs to his was known to scrutinize and study every horse, and made a desperate effort to es face upon which he turned his
gaze. He cape. He was, however, pursued and was of athletic mould, and gifted with overtaken by a large number of horsemen, nerves like whip-thongs and sinews of iron. who made him prisoner. The same in- His hair and eye-brows were dark and stant, a soldier, whose brother had been bushy, his features pale but marked with mutilated by order of Ezzelino, struck him extraordinary expression, and his eyes like on the head and wounded him thrice in those of the viper. There is a portrait of revenge. Others say that he was thus him in the Pitti Gallery at Florence, wounded before his capture, in an encoun-worthy the study of the traveller. ter with Mazzoldo dei Lavelonghi, a Guelph He was so wantonly cruel, that somenobleman of Brescia.
times, on the capture of a town, he would The day on which this memorable vic-order all the inhabitants to be deprived of tory, which gladdened the heart of all their legs, or arms, or noses, or otherwise Italy, took place, was the feast of Sts. shamefully mutilated. Having heard that Cosmas and Damian, September 27th, in a quantity of blind and disabled persons,
1259. The people who went around begging through the crowded
upon the road by which he was Italian cities, asserted that they had been conveyed to Soncino, all being desirous of reduced to that state by Ezzelino, he issued seeing the man whom the stoutest soldier a proclamation inviting those unhappy had never approached hitherto without poor to present themselves to him, with the trembling. To one of the many who, assurance that they would be nourished covering him with reproaches and insults, and provided for. Ihree thousand miserathreatened moreover to finish him, he ble wretches came to him, whom he inturned with eyes of fire, and a frown of closed in a large building, ordering it to be his dark brow: “And wouldst thou have set on fire, so that the whole number courage (he said) to lay thy hands upon perished in the flames. Ezzelino ?” The growl of the caged lion He had great faith in magic and judiwas sufficient to strike terror into the heart cial astrology, an imposition very prevaof the man, and of all the bystanders. lent in those days, although its practices
He soon reached Soncino, where he was were forbidden under severe penalties. protected from further injury by the noble While he was moving against the city of Marquis of Este, who provided him with Feltre, it is said that a magpie hovering surgeons, and commanded that every at- around his banner, finally rested upon it. tention and respect should be paid to Whether that he considered the fact a him. His wounds, however, were so deep good omen, or felt a kindred sympathy for as to baffle the skill of his attendants. that bird of prey, Ezzelino was delighted He refused to partake of any food, and with the animal, which was so tame as to