Page images

brought into the field arrived in the neighbourhood of Tortona, ten miles from the imperial camp, on Palm Sunday, the sixth of April 1176.

The Emperor now found himself in a most difficult and dangerous situation; and on Thursday of the Holy Week he had recourse to a dishonest stratagem, which justly turned to his confusion and dishonour. In order to escape from the great peril which menaced him, by forcing Alexandria to surrender ere it could be relieved, Frederic feigned to grant the inhabitants a truce of three days, that they might keep with due devotion the most solemn fast of the christian church ; and as soon as the garrison, implicitly confiding in his good faith, had retired to rest after the ceremonies of Good Friday, he endeavoured to effect an entrance by means of the mine, having prepared two hundred of his bravest soldiers to rush into the city as soon as an opening was made. From the account which we have received of this transaction, it would appear that the mine now employed differed very much from those generally used against besieged places in that day. The usual mode of mining was to excavate a subterranean passage, which was pushed forward till it reached the foundation of the wall. The superincumbent weight of earth and stones was supported by large piles of wood, and when the mine had been carried to the spot desired, a fire was lighted at the bottom of the stakes beneath the wall, which by consuming the wood-work, left the .

VOL. II. .

S was


mass of masonry above without support. The pressure generally broke the pillars before they were altogether destroyed by the fire, and a large part of the wall was thus thrown down with tremendous violence.

In the present instance, however, the mine must have been carried on for some distance within the line of walls, and was contrived with a view to afford the besieging force an entrance into the town, without throwing down the ramparts, or causing any noise. The two hundred chosen men were introduced into the cavity towards midnight, and the thin layer of earth which remained between it and the interior of the city was speedily removed. But in effecting this, it would appear, a part of the ground forming the vault of the mine was shaken, and gave way, burying a number of the soldiers alive. Several, however, made their way into the town; but they were instantly perceived by some of the sentinels, and before they could rush to the gates and give admission to the forces of the Emperor, which were drawn up in arms without, the inhabitants of the city were roused. The intruders were now attacked with fury and indignation; and, driven through the streets to the ramparts, they were forced to cast themselves down or to meet death where they stood.

Successful in arms, and animated by the most vehement hatred towards the besiegers, the people of Alexandria followed up the defeat of the intruders

by a sally, in which they slaughtered a number of the Germans, and penetrated into the camp so far as to set fire to the wooden pavilion or castle which had been erected for the residence of the Emperor himself. They then retired with little loss, leaving all Frederic's hopes of capturing the city blasted for ever.

Thus failed the attempt of Frederic upon Alexandria on the night of Good Friday, 1175; and although Muratori himself evidently felt a doubt in regard to the statement, so generally made, that the Emperor was guilty of a gross breach of faith towards the defenders of the place, yet I am strongly inclined to believe that such was really the case, for we can scarcely believe that the laborious operation of opening the mine into the town could have been effected so quietly, unless some deceit had been employed to lull the suspicions of the besieged.

With forces diminished and dispirited, and threatened every day by an army much greater in number than his own, the Emperor gave up the attempt to reduce Alexandria, and turned towards Pavia, determined to force his way through the confederated Lombards. In regard to the proceedings which now took place, the German and Italian writers are directly opposed to each other. By some it is affirmed that Frederic marched to attack the enemy; by others, that the Lombards hastened to intercept him in his retreat to Pavia. By the Germans it is said, that the Lombards, terrified at the approach of the Teutonic bands, sent messengers to cast themselves at the feet of Frederic, and to beseech him to grant them peace. By the Italians, it is stated, though in a less distinct and decided manner, that the suspension of hostilities was sought by Frederic himself. It is certain, however, that he marched with a bold face as far as the town of Guignella, and there prepared to encounter his enemies.

By some means, however, at the very moment when it was supposed a battle was inevitable, a truce was agreed upon, and a convention was signed at Monbello on the sixteenth of April, by which the Emperor gave a vague promise to preserve the rights of the confederate cities, and the Lombards, on their part, agreed to respect the rights of the Emperor.

I should be strongly inclined to believe that this pacific termination of the campaign was sought by Frederic, as his army was far inferior in point of number to the forces of his enemy, but on account of one or two circumstances which the Italian writers themselves suffer to appear. In the first place, it can scarcely be supposed that the Lombards with their superior force would have granted to Frederic the truce which was so necessary to his safety, if they had any strong inclination to encounter him in the field; and at the same time, we find that the two persons, who by the statement of the Italians themselves

took the greatest share in negociating the truce on the very day that the battle was about to take place, were Eccelino da Romano I., and Anselmo da Doara, the two great leaders of the Lombard forces, who, be it remarked, style themselves, in the same year, Rectors of Lombardy. Neither can there be the least doubt that on presenting themselves in the presence of Frederic, they testified every kind of humility and reverence for his person. It appears, at the same time, that instead of taking the direct road towards Pavia, Frederic went much nearer to Tortona than was necessary, as if for the purpose of giving battle to his enemies.

When I consider all these facts, and yet weigh the great justice of Muratori's observation, that Frederic “ was not a man, if he had not found himself at the ebb of fortune, and in great peril, to put his sword into the scabbard for a trifle,"* I am inclined to believe that the Lombards, satisfied with having delivered Alexandria, and hoping that by that act they had secured their own liberties, were very well contented to spare the effusion of blood, both on their own part and on that of the enemy, and that, therefore, being in a commanding position, they took advantage of it to propose terms of peace to the Emperor. On the other hand, I imagine that Frederic, well weighing the doubtful chances of battle when his

* Non era egli uomo, se non si fosse veduto in bassa fortuna e in pericolo, da rimettere sì per poco lo spada nel fodero.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »