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The Borgias

Chapter 7
Matters went forward as Alexander had wished, and before the end of the year
the pontifical army had seized a great number of castles and fortresses that
belonged to the Orsini, who thought themselves already lost when Charles VIII
came to the rescue. They had addressed themselves to him without much hope
that he could be of real use to there, with his want of armed troops and his
preoccupation with his own affairs. He, however, sent Carlo Orsini, son of
Virginio, the prisoner, and Vitellozzo Vitelli, brother of Camillo Vitelli, one of the
three valiant Italian condottieri who had joined him and fought for him at the
crossing of the Taro: These two captains, whose courage and skill were well
known, brought with them a considerable sum of money from the liberal coffers
of Charles VIII. Now, scarcely had they arrived at Citta di Castello, the centre of
their little sovereignty, and expressed their intention of raising a band of soldiers,
when men presented themselves from all sides to fight under their banner; so
they very soon assembled a small army, and as they had been able during their
stay among the French to study those matters of military organisation in which
France excelled, they now applied the result of their learning to their own troops:
the improvements were mainly certain changes in the artillery which made their
manoeuvres easier, and the substitution for their ordinary weapons of pikes
similar in form to the Swiss pikes, but two feet longer. These changes effected,
Vitellozzo Vitelli spent three or four months in exercising his men in the
management of their new weapons; then, when he thought them fit to make good
use of these, and when he had collected more or less help from the towns of
Perugia, Todi, and Narni, where the inhabitants trembled lest their turn should
come after the Orsini's, as the Orsini's had followed on the Colonnas', he
marched towards Braccianno, which was being besieged by the Duke of Urbino,
who had been lent to the pope by the Venetians, in virtue of the treaty quoted
above.
The Venetian general, when he heard of Vitelli's approach, thought he might as
well spare him half his journey, and marched out to confront him: the two armies
met in the Soriano road, and the battle straightway began. The pontifical army
had a body of eight hundred Germans, on which the Dukes of Urbino and Gandia
chiefly relied, as well they might, for they were the best troops in the world; but
Vitelli attacked these picked men with his infantry, who, armed with their
formidable pikes, ran them through, while they with arms four feet shorter had no
chance even of returning the blows they received; at the same time Vitelli's light
troops wheeled upon the flank, following their most rapid movements, and
silencing the enemy's artillery by the swiftness and accuracy of their attack. The
pontifical troops were put to flight, though after a longer resistance than might
have been expected when they had to sustain the attack of an army so much
better equipped than their own; with them they bore to Ronciglione the Duke of
Gandia, wounded in the face by a pike-thrust, Fabrizia Calonna, and the envoy;
the Duke of Urbino, who was fighting in the rear to aid the retreat, was taken
prisoner with all his artillery and the baggage of the conquered army. But this
 
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