Castracani, Castruccio

, a celebrated Italian general, was born at Lucca, in Tuscany, in 1284; where, it is said, he was taken up one morning accidentally in a vineyard, where he had been laid and covered with leaves; but others deduce him from an ancient and great family. The former account, however, goes on to inform us that he was found by Dianora, a wi.iow lady, and sister of Antonio, a canon ot rft Michael in Lucca, who was descended from the illustrious family of the Castracani. Antonio be ing priest, and Dianora having no children, they determined to bring him up, christened him Castruccio, by the name of their father, and educated him as carefully as if he had been their own. Antonio designed him for a priest, and accordingly trained him to letters; but Castruccio was scarcely fourteen years old when he began to neglect his books, and to devote himself to military exercises, to wrestling, running, and other athletic sports, which very well suited his great strength of body. At that time the two great factions, the Guelfs and Ghibilins, shared all Italy between them, divided the popes and the emperors, and engaged in their different interests, not only the members of the same town, but even the members of the same family. Francisco, a considerable man on the side of the Ghibilins, observing one day in the market-place, the uncommon spirit and qualities of Castruccio, prevailed with Antonio to let him turn soldier. As nothing could be more agreeable to the inclination of Castruccio, he presently became accomplished in every thing which could adorn his profession. He was eighteen years old when the faction of the Guelfs drove the Ghibilins out of Pavia, and was then made a lieutenant of a company of foot, by Francisco Guinigi, of whom the prince of Milan had solicited succours. The first campaign this new lieutenant made, he gave such proofs of his courage and conduct, as spread his fame all over Lombardy; and Guinigi conceived such an opinion of him, and had so much confidence in him, that, dying soon after, he committed the care of his son and the management of his estate to him. So great a trust and administration made Castruccio more considerable than | before but at the same time created him many enemies, and lost him some friends for, knowing him to be of an high and enterprising spirit, many began to fancy his views were to empire, and to oppress the liberty of his country. He went on still, however, to distinguish himself by military exploits, and at last raised so much jealousy in his chief commander, that he was imprisoned by stratagem, with a view of being put to death; but the people of Lucca soon released him, and in a short time after, solemnly chose him their sovereign prince, and there were not then, either in Lombardy or Tuscany, any of the Ghibilins who did not look upon Castruccio as the true head of their faction. Those who were banished their country upon that account fled to him for protection, and promised unanimously, that if he could restore them to their estates, they would serve him so effectually, that the sovereignty of their country should be his reward. Flattered by these promises, and encouraged by the strength of his forces, he entertained a design of making himself master of Tuscany; and to give more reputation to his affairs, he entered into a league with the prince of Milan. He kept his army constantly on foot, and employed it as suited best with his own designs. For the services he did the pope he was made senator of Rome with more than ordinary ceremony. The day of his promotion, he came forth in a habit suitable to his dignity, but enriched with a delicate embroidery, and with two devices artificially wrought in, one before, the other behind. The former was in these words, “He is as it pleases God” the latter, “And shall be what God will have him.” While Castruccio was at Rome, news was brought him which obliged him to return in all haste to Lucca. The Florentines were making war upon him, and had already done him some damage; and conspiracies were forming against him as an usurper, at Pisa and in several places; but Castruccio surmounted all these difficulties, and the supreme authority of Tuscany was just falling into his hands, when a period was put to his progress and his life. An army of 30,000 foot and 10,000 horse appeared against him in May 1328. Of these he destroyed 22,000, with the loss of not quite 1600 of his own men, and was returning from the field of battle; but, happening to halt a little for the sake of thanking and caressing his soldiers as they passed fi,red with an action as fatiguing as glorious, and covered | with sweat, a north wind blew upon him, and affected him so, that he fell immediately into a fit of ague. At first he neglected it, believing himself sufficiently hardened against such attacks; but the fit increasing, and with it the fever, his physicians gave him over, and he died in a few days. He was in his forty-fourth year; and from the time he came to appear first in the world, he always, as well in his good as bad fortune, expressed the same steadiness and equality of spirit. As he left several monuments of his good fortune behind him, so he was not ashamed to leave some memorials of his adversity. Thus, when he was delivered from the imprisonment above-mentioned, he caused the irons with which he was loaded, to be hung in the most public room of his palace, where they were to be seen many years after.

Machiavel, who has written the Life of Castruccio, and from whom we have extracted this account of him, says, that he was not only an extraordinary man in his own age, but would have been so in any other. He was tall and well-made, of a noble aspect, and so winning an address, that all men went away from him satisfied. His hair was inclining to red; and he wore it above his ears. Whereever he went, snow, hail, or rain, his head was always uncovered. He had all the qualities that make a man great; was grateful to his friends, terrible to his enemies, just with his subjects, subtle with strangers; and, where stratagem would do the business, he never had recourse to force. No man was more forward to encounter dangers, no man more careful to escape them. He had an uncommon presence of mind, and often made repartees with great smartness. Machiavel’s Life, however, abounds in fiction. The younger Aldus published a better at Lucca, 1590, 4to. Castracani’s Life was also written in Latin by Nicolas Tegrimo, and printed at Modena, 1496, 4to, and Paris, 1546; and Muratori has inserted it in vol. XL of his “Script. Italic.1


Modern Univ. Hist, —Moreri in Castruccio.