Cesare Borgias and Cosimo de' Medici

Cesare pursued a career in the Catholic Church. His father Pope Alexander VI appointed Cesare the archbishop of Valencia.

In 1494 King Charles VIII of France invaded Italy with the intention of capturing Naples. Naples was located in the south of Italy. The French had to march south all the way down the Italian peninsula to reach their intended target. The Orsini family supported the French; however, the Borgias opposed the French invasion. Immediately after France's retreat from Italy, Cesare's brother Giovanni led an army from Rome against the Orsini. Cesare apparently envied Giovanni's military career.

Cesare's Rise to Power
In June 1497 the body of Giovanni Borgia was discovered in the Tiber River. Although Giovanni had many enemies, it is likely his brother Cesare was responsible for the murder. With Giovanni out of the way, Cesare left the Church. In a strange twist of fate, Cesare found himself allied to the French. The French began planning another invasion of southern Italy.

The Italian city of Milan lay on the supply route between France and Naples. Milan was of strategic importance. In September 1499 Cesare commanded the French force capturing Milan by defeating its ruler, Lodovico Sforza. The Sforza's were a rival family to the Borgias.

In return for Cesare's services, Louis XII placed the French army at his disposal. Cesare used the French army to capture a region called Romagna for his father Alexander. Cesare's campaign went well. Before it was completed, however, Louis ordered the French force back to defend Milan from a counterattack from the Sforza's.

In June 1502 Cesare began his third and final campaign against Romagna. By December 1502 he captured the entire area for his father the Pope. Most Romagna welcomed Borgia rule because Cesare introduced the first efficient, enlightened, and centralized administration to the area. But Cesare's fortunes were soon to change.

Cesare's Downfall
In 1503 the death of Pope Alexander VI (Cesare's dad) proved disastrous for Cesare. Because of Cesare's influence, Cardinal Piccolomini, a strong supporter of the Borgias, was elected Pope Pius III. Pope Pius III died, however, shortly thereafter.

When the cardinals met again to choose a successor, Cesare was tricked in to supporting Cardinal Della Rovere. Della Rovere thus became Pope Julius II. Julius then disregarded any promises to support Cesare that he had made. Soon Julius II ordered Cesare's arrest. Cesare gained his freedom by relinquishing control of any cities under Borgia rule in Romagna.

Cesare was arrested again (but this time by the Spanish). However, he managed to escape. Cesare made his way to Navarre, the kingdom of his brother-in-law Jean d'Albret. On March 12, 1507, Cesare Borgia died in battle in Navarre.


Cosimo was an important banker from the city of Florence. He was certainly the wealthiest man of his time. Virtually every king or noble of Europe owed Cosimo money. He operated in all of the most important financial markets of Europe.

Cosimo had many enemies in Florence. The Albizzi family attempted to overthrow the ruling Medici family in a coup in 1431. The Albizzi had Cosimo arrested under the charge of "trying to elevate himself higher than others."

The Albizzi soon discovered so wealthy a man as Cosimo could not be removed so easily. They attempted to poison Cosmio's food; however, the jailer was bribed to taste Cosimo's food beforehand. Also, a judge was bribed to change Cosimo's death sentence to banishment.

Cosimo retired to Venice, where he was received like a king. Exactly one year later, a sudden and unexpected move by the Medici, in which they doctored elections, gave them back control of Florence. Cosimo triumphantly reentered the city; and his enemies went into exile, never to return. The Medici principate had begun (1434 AD).

Cosimo: A Patron of the Arts florence
Cosimo used his wealth to buy elections and pay for protection. He also made an alliance with the Sforzas of Milan, who, for gold, provided him with troops. This alliance permitted Cosimo to crush opponents and consolidate his control over Florence.

Although Cosmio is arguably best known as the wealthiest man of his time, he is also well known as a patron and supporter of the arts.

Under the patronage of Cosimo, the architect Michelozzo built the convent of S. Marco, the Medici Chapel at Sta. Croce, and a chapel at S. Miniato. In addition to architects, Cosimo gathered around him all the masters of an age abounding in geniuses: the sculptors Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello and the painters Andrea del Castagno, Fra Angelico, and Benozzo Gozzoli. He not only assured these artists of commissions but also treated them as friends at a time when people still looked upon artists as manual workers.

Cosimo also organized a methodical search for ancient books both within and outside of Europe. He opened his library up to the public and employed copyists to copy books.

Cosimo was an ardent admirer of the Greek philosopher Plato. He re-created Plato’s ancient academy in his villa of Careggi, where the famed scholar Marsilio Ficino taught willing students. At the same time the University of Florence, with conspicuous success, resumed the teaching of Greek, which had been unknown in the West for 700 years. Thus Cosimo was one of the reasons why the humanist spirit of the Renaissance spread throughout the West.