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From Villani, Giovanni, Selfe, Rose E., translator. Villani’s Chronicle being selections from the First Nine Books of the Croniche Fiorentine of Giovanni Villani. London: Archibald Constable & Co. LTD, 1906; pp. 43-57.



HERE begins the Second Book: how the city of Florence was destroyed by Totila, the scourge of God, king of the Goths and Vandals.

§ 1. — In the year of Christ 440, in the time of S. Leo,
440 A. D.
the Pope, and of Theodosius and Valentinian emperors, in the northern parts there was a king of the Vandals and of the Goths, which was called Bela, and surnamed Totila. This man was a barbarian and had no religion, and was cruel in customs and in all things, born of the province of Gothland and Sweden, and in his cruelty he slew his brother and subdued many divers nations of peoples by his might and lordship; and afterwards he was minded to destroy and take away the Empire of the Romans, and lay Rome waste; and thus by his sovereignty he gathered together innumerable people from his own country, and from Sweden and from Gothland, and afterwards from Pannonia, which is Hungary, and from Denmark, to enter into Italy. And when he desired to pass into Italy, he was opposed by the Romans and Burgundians and French, and a great battle was fought against him in the district of Lunina, that is to say of Friuli and Aquilea, with the greatest number of slain that had ever been in any battle, both on one side and on the other; and the king of Burgundy was slain. And Totila, being discomfited, returned to his 44 own country with the followers which were left to him. But afterwards, desiring to carry out his purpose of destroying the Empire of Rome, he gathered a larger army than before, and came into Italy. And first he laid siege to the city of Aquilea; so it continued three years, and then he took it, and burnt and destroyed it with all the inhabitants; and when he had entered into Italy, after the same manner he destroyed Vicenza, and Brescia, and Bergamo, and Milan, and Ticino, and well-nigh all the cities of Lombardy, save Modena, for the merits of S. Gemignano, which was bishop thereof; for when he was passing through this city with his people, by a divine miracle he did not see it save when he was without the city, and by reason of the miracle he passed it by, and did not destroy it: and he destroyed Bologna and put to martyrdom S. Proculus, bishop of Bologna, and thus he destroyed well-nigh all the cities of Romagna. And afterwards passing through Tuscany he found the city of Florence strong and powerful. Hearing the fame thereof, and how it had been build by the noblest Romans, and was the treasure-house of the Empire and of Rome, and how in this country had been slain Radagasius, king of the Goths, his predecessor, with so great a multitude of Goths, as before has been narrated, he commanded that it should be besieged, and long time he sat before it in vain. And seeing that he could not obtain it by siege, inasmuch as it was very strong in towers and in walls and in many good soldiers, he set about to gain it by deceit and by flattery and by treachery. Now the Florentines had continual war with the city of Pistoia; and Totila ceased laying waste the country around the city, and sent to the Florentines that he desired to be their friend, and in their service would 45 destroy the city of Pistoia, promising and making show of great love, and to give them privileges with very generous covenants. The imprudent Florentines (and for this cause they were after afterwards called blind
Inf. xv. 67.
in the proverb) believed his false flatteries and vain promises; they opened the gates to him, and admitted him and his followers into the city, and lodged him in the Capitol. And when the cruel tyrant was within the city with all his forces, under false seeming he showed love to the citizens, and one day he invited to his council the greatest and most powerful chiefs of the city in great numbers; and when they came to the Capitol, as they passed one by one through an entry, he caused them to be slain and massacred, none perceiving ought of the fate of the other; and afterwards he had them thrown into the ducts of the Capitol, to wit, the conduit of the Arno which flows underground by the Capitol, to the end that no man might know thereof. And thus he put them to death in great numbers, and nought was perceived thereof in the city of Florence save that at the exit from the city where the said aqueduct or conduit issued forth and flowed back into the Arno, the water was seen to be all red and bloody. Then the people perceived the deceit and treachery; but it was in vain and too late, seeing that Totila had armed all his followers; and when he perceived that his cruelty was discovered, he commanded them to overrun the city and slay both great and small, men and women, and from this there was no escape, forasmuch as the city was unarmed and unprepared, and we find that at that time there were in the city of Florence 22,000 men-at-arms, beside the aged and children. When the people of the city perceived that they were come to such 46 sorrow and destruction, they escaped who could, fleeing into the country and hiding themselves in strongholds, and in woods and in caves; but the most part of the citizens were slain, or wounded, or taken, and the city was all despoiled of substance and riches by the said Goths, Vandals, and Hungarians. And after that Totila had thus wasted it of inhabitants and of goods, he commanded that it should be destroyed and burnt, and laid waste, and that there should not remain one stone upon another, and this was done; save that in the west there remained one of the towers which Gneus Pompey had built, and on the north and on the south one of the gates, and within the city near to the gate the “casa” or “domo,” which we take to be the duomo of S. Giovanni,
450 A. D.
called of yore the “casa” [house] of Mars. And verily it never was entirely destroyed, nor shall be destroyed to eternity, save at the day of judgment, even as is written on the cement of the said duomo. And there were also left standing certain lofty towers or temples, indicated in the ancient chronicles by letters of the alphabet, the which we cannot interpret, to wit S, and casa P, and casa F. The city had four gates and six posterns, and there were towers marvellous strong over the gates. And the idol of the god Mars which the Florentines took from the temple and set upon a pillar, then fell into the Arno, and abode there as long as the city remained in ruins. And thus was destroyed the noble city of Florence by the infamous Totila on the 28th day of June, in the year of Christ 450, to wit 520 years after its foundation; and in the said city the blessed Maurice, bishop of Florence, was put to death with great torments by the followers of Totila, and his body lies in Santa Reparata.


§ 2. — How Totila caused the city of Fiesole to be rebuilt.

After that the city of Florence was destroyed, Totila went into the hill where had been the ancient city of Fiesole, and encamped there with his banners and tents and booths, and commanded that the said city should be rebuilt, and issued a proclamation that whosoever desired to return and dwell there, swearing to him to oppose the Romans, should abide in safety and freedom, and this in order that the city of Florence should never be rebuilt. For the which thing many which were descended from of old from Fiesole, returned to dwell thither, and of the Florentines themselves which had escaped, which did not know where to dwell or whither to go; and thus in a short time the city of Fiesole was restored and rebuilt, and made strong by walls and by inhabitants, and afterwards, as before so now, it continually rebelled against Rome.

§ 3. — How Totila departed from Fiesole to go towards Rome, and destroyed many cities, and died an evil death.

§ 4. — How the Goths remained lords of Italy after the death of Totila.

* * * * And the King Theodoric held the Empire
470 A. D.
of Rome for the said Zeno, the Emperor, doing him homage therefor and paying him tribute. In these times, about the year of Christ 470, while Leo, Emperor of Rome, was reigning in Constantinople, was born in Great Britain, which is now called England, Merlin the prophet (of a virgin, they say, by conception or machination of a devil), which wrought in that country many marvels by necromancy, and ordained the Round Table of Knights Errant in the time when Uther Pendragon reigned in 48 Britain, which was descended from Brutus, grandson of Æneas, the first inhabitant of that land, as afore we made mention; and afterwards the Round Table was
Cf. Inf.
xxxii. 62.
De Vulg.
El. i. 10:
18, 19.
restored by the good King Arthur, his son, which was a lord of great power and valour, and more gracious and knightly than all other lords, and he reigned long time in happy state, as the Romances of the Britons make mention, and whereof the Martinian Chronicle is not silent when treating of those times.

§ 5. — How the Goths were driven the first time out of Italy, and how they recovered their sovereignty by means of the young Theodoric, their king. § 6. — How the Goths were entirely driven out of Italy by Belisarius, patrician of the Romans. § 7. — Of the coming of the Lombards into Italy. § 8. — Of the beginning of the religion and sect of the Saracens, instituted by Mahomet. § 9. — Of the successors of Rotharis, king of the Lombards.

§ 10. — How Charles Martel came from France to Italy at the summons of the Church against the Lombards; and of the origin of the city of Siena.

In the time of the said Eliprando [Liutprand], albeit he was a Christian, yet by reason of avarice, and of desire to usurp the rights of Holy Church, and by the counsel of the emperor of Constantinople, he began war against the Romans and against Pope Gregory III., and came with all his forces to besiege the said Pope in Rome, he by way of Lombardy, and Grimoald, king of the Samnites and of the Apulians, with his troops from Apulia, in the
735 A. D.
year of Christ 735. For the which thing, after a council had been held in Rome, the Church with the Romans sent to France for aid from Charles Martel, which Charles 49 was son to Pepin, a great baron of France, and was of the Twelve Peers, and governed all the realm and the king himself; and the said Charles Martel did likewise, forasmuch as the king which then was, called Chilperic, had the name only, but Charles had the strength and lordship; and he was the son of the sister of Dodon, king of Aquitania, and afterwards was father of the good King Pepin, which was father of Charles the Great, and he had the surname of Martel, because he bore a hammer as his arms. And in truth he was a hammer, forasmuch as by his prowess he struck at all Germany, Saxony. Suabia, Bavaria, and Denmark as far as Norway, at England, Aquitania, and Navarre and Spain, and Burgundy and Provence, and became ruler over them all, and they became his tributaries. Then, at the summons of the said Pope, he passed into Italy as far as Apulia, and freed Rome and the Church from the encroachments of the Lombards, And it is said that at that time, about the year of Christ 740, was the place
740 A. D.
first inhabited where is now the city of Siena, by the aged and sick [non sana] people which came in with Charles Martel, and remained in that place as has been told afore concerning the building of Siena.

§ 11. — How Eraco [Rachis], the Lombard king of Apulia, returned to obedience to Holy Church.

§ 12. — How Telofre [Astolf], king of the Lombards, persecuted Holy Church, and how King Pepin at the summons of Pope Stephen came from France and defeated him, and took him prisoner.

After King Rachis there succeeded to the realm of Lombardy, and to that of Apulia, Astolf, called in 50 Latin Telofre, brother of the said Rachis. He was a lord of great power, and cruel, and an enemy of Holy Church and of the Romans; and by the counsel of evil and rebellious Romans, he took Tuscany and the valley of Spoleto, and devastated them, and claimed tribute on every man’s head; and made a conspiracy with Leo, and Constantine, his son, emperors of Constantinople, and at his request they came to Rome, and together with Telofre they took it, and sacked it, and burnt the churches and holy places, and carried to Constantinople the riches of Rome, and all the images from the churches in Rome, and in contempt of the Pope and of the Church and to the shame of the Christians he burnt them all with fire, and many faithful Christians they destroyed and consumed in Rome and in all Italy. For which thing Pope Stephen II. excommunicated them, and as a punishment for the misdeed took away from the emperor the kingdom of Apulia and of Sicily, and established by a decree that it should pertain to Holy Church for ever. And afterwards, not being able to resist the force of the said tyrants and so much affliction, he went in person into France to Pepin, prince and governor of the French, to require and pray him to come into Italy to defend Holy Church against Telofre, king of the Lombards, and he gave to the said Pepin many privileges and graces, and made and confirmed him king of France, and deposed Childeric, the king which was of the first race, forasmuch as he was a man of no
Cf. Purg.
xx. 53 and
the Com-
account, and he became a monk. Which Pepin, a faithful and loving son of Holy Church, received him with great honour, and afterwards with all his forces with the said Pope Stephen came into Italy, in the year of Christ
755 A. D.
755, and fought great battles with the said Telofre, 51 king of the Lombards. In the end, by force of arms and of his folk, the said Telofre was overcome and defeated by the good King Pepin, and he obeyed the command of the Pope and of Holy Church, and made all amends, just as he and his cardinals chose to devise; and he left to the Church by compact and privilege the realm of Apulia and of Sicily, and the patrimony of S. Peter. And when the said Pepin was come to Rome with the said Pope, they were received with great honour by the Romans; and the said Pepin was made patrician, that is, vicar of Rome, and father of the Roman Republic. And when Rome and Holy Church were restored to their liberty and good estate, he returned into France, and ended his life with great honour, and Charles the Great, his son, succeeded him as king of France.

§ 13. — How Desiderius, son of Telofre, began war again with Holy Church, for the which thing Charles the Great passed into Italy, and defeated him, and took away and destroyed the lordship of the Lombards.

When King Pepin was departed from Italy and was returned to France, the Church of Rome and the country was in repose and tranquillity for a time, by reason of the covenant which Pepin had made with Telofre, king of Lombardy, and the victory which he had gained over him; but when Telofre was dead, Desiderius, his son, succeeded to him, which was a worse enemy and persecutor of Holy Church than his father, and broke the peace, and leagued himself with Constantine, which was the son of Leo, the emperor of Constantinople, and with his forces began to make war in Apulia, and Desiderius on his side in Tuscany 52 more than ever his father had done at the first. For
De Mon.
iii. (11)
the which thing Pope Adrian, which was then governing Holy Church, sent into France for Charles the Great, son of Pepin, to come into Italy to defend the Church from the said Desiderius and from his following, the which Charles, king of France, passed into
775 A. D.
Lombardy in the year of Christ 775, and after many battles and victories gained against Desiderius, he besieged him in the city of Pavia, and when he had won the city by siege, he took the said Desiderius captive, and his wife and his sons; save that the eldest son, which was called Algise [Adelchis], fled into Constantinople to the Emperor Constantine, and continued the war. After he had taken Desiderius and his wife and his sons, Charles the Great caused him to swear fealty to Holy Church, and did the like to all the barons and cities of Italy; and when this was done, he sent the said Desiderius and his wife and his sons prisoners into
775 A. D.
France, and there they all died in prison. And thus was destroyed, by the power of the Franks and of the
Par. vi.
good Charles the Great, the sovereignty of the kings of the Lombards, formerly called Longobards, which had endured two hundred and five years in Italy; for never afterwards was there a king in Lombardy. Of a truth there remained the families of the lords and barons and
Ep. v. (4).
great citizens descended from the Lombards, both in Lombardy and in Apulia; and still to-day there are certain gentlemen of ancient lineage whom in common speech we call Lombard Cattani, descended from the said Lombards which had been lords of Italy. Charles the Great, after the said victory, came to Rome, and by the said Adrian and by the Romans was received with great triumph and honour; and as Charles the Great 53 drew nigh to Rome, and beheld the holy city from Montemalo, he alighted from his horse, and reverently
Cf. Par. xv.
110, 111.
entered Rome on foot; and when he came thither, he kissed the gates of the city and of all the churches, and gave rich offerings to every Church. And when he came to Rome he was made patrician of Rome, and he restored the affairs of Holy Church, and of the Romans, and of all Italy, and he restored them to privileges and liberty, having subdued in all parts the forces of the emperor of Constantinople, and of the king of the Lombards, and of their followers, and confirmed the Church in the donation which Pepin, his father, had given to her, and beyond that he endowed the Church with the duchy of Spoleto and of Benevento. And in the kingdom of Apulia he fought many battles against the Lombards and the rebels against Holy Church, and besieged and destroyed the city of Lacedonia, which is in Abruzzi between Aquila and Sermona, and besieged and conquered Tuliverno, the strong fortress at the entrance of Terra di Lavoro. And many other cities of the Kingdom [Apulia] which were held by the rebels against Holy Church, he entirely subdued to his governance. And when he had done this, leaving Rome and all Italy in peaceful condition under his lordship, in happy hour he was minded to attack the Saracens which had taken possession of Provence, and of Navarre, and of Spain, and with the troops of his twelve barons and peers of France, called Paladins, he entirely conquered and destroyed them; and he passed beyond seas at the request of the Emperor Michael of Constantinople and of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and conquered the Holy
De Mon.
iii. 11: 6.
Par. xviii.
Land and Jerusalem, which were occupied by the Saracens, and gained for the emperor of Constantinople 54 all the empire of the East which had been occupied by the Saracens and the Turks. And when he returned to Constantinople, albeit the Emperor Michael desired to give him many very great treasures, yet would he take nothing, save the wood of the holy cross and the nail of Christ, which he brought back into France, and which is in Paris to this day. And when he had returned to France, he ruled by his prowess and virtue not only over the realm of France, but all Germany, Provence, Navarre, and Spain, and all Italy.

§ 14. — Of the progeny of Charles the Great, and of his successors.

§ 15. — How Charles the Great, king of France, was made Emperor of Rome.

When Charles the Great had returned from over seas into France, as we have said, and had subdued Germany, Italy, and Spain, and Provence, the wicked Romans, with the powerful Lombards and Tuscans, rebelled against the Church, and seized Pope Leo III., which was then reigning, at Rome, as he was going to the procession of the Litanies (S. Mark’s Day, April 25th), and put out his eyes and slit his tongue, and drave him out of Rome. And as it pleased God, by divine miracle, and because he was innocent and holy, he recovered the sight of his eyes and the power of speech, and went into France to Charles the Great, praying him to come to Rome to restore the Church to her liberty; which Charles, at the request of the said Pope Leo, came together with him to Rome and restored the Pope and the Church to their state and liberty, and took great vengeance against all the rebels and enemies of Holy 55 Church throughout all Italy. For the which thing the said Pope Leo, with his cardinals and general council, with the consent of the Romans, by reason of the virtuous and holy deeds done by the said Charles the
Par. vi, 94.
De Mon-
archia iii.
Great on behalf of Holy Church and of all Christendom, took away the Roman Empire from the Greeks by a decree, and elected the said Charles the Great Emperor of the Romans, as being most worthy of the Empire; and by the said Pope Leo he was consecrated and crowned in Rome, in the year of Christ 801, with
801 A. D.
great solemnity and honour, on Easter Day.

The said Charles reigned with great good fortune fourteen years one month and four days, ruling over all the empire of the West, and the provinces afore named, and also the emperor of Constantinople was under his obedience; and he caused as many abbeys to be built as there are letters in the alphabet, and the name of each one began with a different letter. And he caused his son Louis to be crowned lord over the Empire and the kingdom of France, giving all his treasure to the poor in God’s name after this manner; for he left the third part of his treasure (which was infinite) to all the poor Christians seeking alms, and the other two parts he left to all his archbishops of his empire and realm, that they might distribute them amongst their bishops and all the churches and monasteries and hospitals.

*         *         *         *         *

And this done, he commended his spirit in holiness to Christ, in the city of Aquisgrana, in Germany, and
814 A. D.
was there buried with great honour, to wit, at Aix-la-Chapelle. This was in the year of Christ 814, and he lived seventy-two years, and many signs appeared 56 before his death, as we read in the chronicles of the doings of France. This Charles much extended Holy Church, and Christendom both far and near, and was a man of great virtue.

§ 16. — How, after Charles the Great, Louis, his son, became Emperor. 17. — How the Saracens of Barbary crossed to Italy, and were defeated, and all slain. § 18. — Further, how the Saracens crossed to Calabria and to Normandy in France. § 19. — How and in whose person the empire and realm of France fell from the progeny of Pepin. § 20. — Of the same matter, and of how the lineage of Hugh Capet reigned thereafter.

§ 21. — How the city of Florence lay waste and in ruins for 350 years.

After the destruction of the city of Florence, wrought by Totila, the scourge of God, as has afore been mentioned, it lay thus ruined and deserted about 350 years by reason of the evil state of Rome and of the Empire, which, at first by Goths and Vandals, and afterwards by Lombards and Greeks and Saracens and Hungarians, was persecuted and brought low, as has afore been related. Truly there were, where Florence had been, certain dwellings and inhabitants round about the duomo of S. Giovanni, forasmuch as the Fiesolans held market there one day in the week, and it was called the Campo Marti, as of old, for it had always been the market-place of the Fiesolans, and had borne this name before Florence was built. It came to pass ofttimes, during the years when the city lay waste and in ruins, that the said inhabitants of the borough and of the market-place, with the aid of certain nobles of the country which of old 57 were descended from the first citizens of Florence and of the inhabitants of the villages round about, sought ofttimes to enclose within moats and palisades some part of the city around the Duomo; but they of the city of Fiesole, and their allies, the counts of Mangone, and of Montecarelli, and of Capraia, and of Certaldo, which were all of one lineage with the counts of Santafiore, which were descended from the Lombards, hindered and opposed them, and would not allow them to rebuild; but whatsoever was being built they came in force, and under arms, and caused it to be violently beaten down and destroyed, so that, for this cause and by reason of the adversities which the Romans were enduring, as has afore been related, and because the Fiesolans always held with the Goths, and afterwards with the Lombards, and with all the rebels and enemies of the Empire of Rome and Holy Church, and were so great and powerful in strength that none of their neighbours durst oppose them, they would not suffer the city of Florence to be rebuilt; and in this wise it abode long time, until God put an end to the adversity of the city of Florence, and brought her to the blessing of her restoration, as by us shall be narrated in the following chapter and Third Book.





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