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whose name was Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini, was born in 1405, at Corsignano

, whose name was Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini, was born in 1405, at Corsignano in Sienna, where his father lived in exile. He was educated at the grammar-school of that place; but his parents being in low circumstances, he was obliged, in his early years, to submit to many servile employments. In 1423, by the assistance of his friends, he was enabled to go to the university of Sienna, where he applied himself to his studies with great success, and in a short time published several pieces in the Latin and Tuscan languages. In 1431 he attended cardinal Dominic Capranica to the council of Basil as his secretary. He was likewise in the same capacity with cardinal Albergoti, who sent him to Scotland to mediate a peace betwixt the English and Scots; and he was in that country when king James I. was murdered. Upon his return from Scotland, he was made secretary to the council of Basil, which he defended against the authority of the popes, both by his speeches and writings, particularly in a dialogue and epistles which he wrote to the rector and university of Cologn. He was likewise made by that council clerk of the ceremonies, abbreviator, and one of the duodecemviri, or twelve men, an office of great importance. He was employed in several embassies; once to Trent, another time to Frankfort, twice to Constance, and as often to Savoy, and thrice to Strasburg, where he had an intrigue with a lady, by whom he had a son: he has given an account of this affair in a letter to his father, in which he endeavours to vindicate himself with much indecent buffoonery. In 1439 he was employed in the service of pope Felix; and being soon after sent ambassador to the emperor Frederic, he was crowned by him with the poetic laurel, and ranked amongst his friends. In 1442 he was sent for from Basil by the emperor, who appointed him secretary to the empire, and raised him to the senatorial order. He could not at first be prevailed on to condemn the council of Basil, nor to go over absolutely to Eugenius’s party, but remained neuter. However, when the emperor Frederic began to favour Eugenius, Æneas likewise changed his opinion gradually. He afterwards represented the emperor in the diet of Nuremberg, when they were consulting about methods to put an end to the schism, and was sent ambassador to Eugenius: at the persuasion of Thomas Sarzanus, the apostolical legate in Germany, he submitted to Eugenius entirely, and made the following speech to his holiness, as related by John Gobelin, in his Commentaries of the life of Pius II. “Most holy father (said he), before I declare the emperor’s commission, give me leave to say one word concerning myself. I do not question but you have heard a great many things which are not to my advantage. They ought not to have been mentioned to you; but I must confess, that my accusers have reported nothing but what is true. I own I have said, and done, and written, at Basil, many things against your interests; it is impossible to deny it: yet all this has been done not with a design to injure you, but to serve the church. I have been in an error, without question; but I have been in just the same circumstances with many great men, as particularly with Julian cardinal of St. Angelo, with Nicholas archbishop of Palermo, with Lewis du Pont (Pontanus) the secretary of the holy see; men who are esteemed the greatest luminaries in the law, and doctors of the truth; to omit mentioning the universities and colleges which are generally against you. Who would not have erred with persons of their character and merit? It is true, that when I discovered the error of those at Basil, I did not at first go over to you, as the greatest part did; but being afraid of falling from one error to another, and by avoiding Charybdis, as the proverb expresses it, to run upon Scylla, I joined myself, after a long deliberation and conflict within myself, to those who thought proper to continue in a state of neutrality. I lived three years in the emperor’s court in this situation of mind, where having an opportunity of hearing constantly the disputes between those of Basil and your legates, I was convinced that the truth was on your side: it was upon this motive that, when the emperor thought fit to send me to your clemency, I accepted the opportunity with the utmost satisfaction, in hopes that I should be so happy as to gain your favour again: I throw myself therefore at your feet; and since I sinned out of ignorance, I entreat you to grant me your pardon. After which I shall open to you the emperor’s intentions.” This was the prelude to the famous retraction which Æneas Sylvius made afterwards. The pope pardoned every thing that was past; and in a short time made him his secretary, without obliging him to quit the post which he had with the emperor.