The Borgias HTML version

Chapter 2
The world had now arrived at one of those supreme moments of history when
every thing is transformed between the end of one period and the beginning of
another: in the East Turkey, in the South Spain, in the West France, and in the
North German, all were going to assume, together with the title of great Powers,
that influence which they were destined to exert in the future over the secondary
States. Accordingly we too, with Alexander VI, will cast a rapid glance over them,
and see what were their respective situations in regard to Italy, which they all
coveted as a prize.
Constantine, Palaeologos Dragozes, besieged by three hundred thousand Turks,
after having appealed in vain for aid to the whole of Christendom, had not been
willing to survive the loss of his empire, and had been found in the midst of the
dead, close to the Tophana Gate; and on the 30th of May, 1453, Mahomet II had
made his entry into Constantinople, where, after a reign which had earned for
him the surname of 'Fatile', or the Conqueror, he had died leaving two sons, the
elder of whom had ascended the throne under the name of Bajazet II.
The accession of the new sultan, however, had not taken place with the
tranquillity which his right as elder brother and his father's choice of him should
have promised. His younger brother, D'jem, better known under the name of
Zizimeh, had argued that whereas he was born in the purple--that is, born during
the reign of Mahomet-- Bajazet was born prior to his epoch, and was therefore
the son of a private individual. This was rather a poor trick; but where force is all
and right is naught, it was good enough to stir up a war. The two brothers, each
at the head of an army, met accordingly in Asia in 1482. D'jem was defeated after
a seven hours' fight, and pursued by his brother, who gave him no time to rally
his army: he was obliged to embark from Cilicia, and took refuge in Rhodes,
where he implored the protection of the Knights of St. John. They, not daring to
give him an asylum in their island so near to Asia, sent him to France, where they
had him carefully guarded in one of their commanderies, in spite of the urgency
of Cait Bey, Sultan of Egypt, who, having revolted against Bajazet, desired to
have the young prince in his army to give his rebellion the appearance of
legitimate warfare. The same demand, moreover, with the same political object,
had been made successively by Mathias Corvinus, King of Hungary, by
Ferdinand, King of Aragon and Sicily, and by Ferdinand, King of Naples.
On his side Bajazet, who knew all the importance of such a rival, if he once allied
himself with any one of the princes with whom he was at war, had sent
ambassadors to Charles VIII, offering, if he would consent to keep D'jem with
him, to give him a considerable pension, and to give to France the sovereignty of
the Holy Land, so soon as Jerusalem should be conquered by the Sultan of
Egypt. The King of France had accepted these terms.
But then Innocent VIII had intervened, and in his turn had claimed D'jem,
ostensibly to give support by the claims of the refugee to a crusade which he was
preaching against the Turks, but in reality to appropriate the pension of 40,000
ducats to be given by Bajazet to any one of the Christian princes who would