The Italian Wars

English Verse Translation
Du grand Prophete les letres seront prinses
The mighty prophet’s letter's interception
Entre les mains du tyrant deviendront:
Shall put it in the tyrant’s hands instead.
Frauder son roy seront ses entreprinses,
His aim shall be his monarch’s rank deception,
Mais ses rapines bien tost le troubleront.
But soon his graft shall bring him mighty dread.

Source: The downfall of the powerful tyrant Ludovico Sforza, duke of Milan, who in 1493, having inveigled the 22-year-old Charles VIII of France into invading Italy, signed a secret agreement with him to that effect – only to betray him two years later by rallying the forces of Austria, Venice and the Pope to expel him again. The scheming Sforza was now in a strong enough position to force a reconciliation with the weak-minded French king, but his treachery caught up with him in 1498, shortly after he had intercepted a letter to Charles from the religious firebrand and prophet Savonarola, appealing for help against Pope Alexander VI, who had excommunicated him after his violent criticism of the religious status quo – and to whom Sforza duly betrayed the letter. For it was in this self-same year that Charles died and his successor Louis XII, finally conquered Milan and freed its oppressed people. After attempting to retake the city in 1500, Sforza was captured and spent the rest of his life imprisoned in France.

English Verse Translation
Un an devant le conflit Italique,
A year before France, Germany and Spain
Germain, Gaulois, Hespagnols pour le fort: pour la fortune [lat. fors] Shall hazard war in Italy for gain,
Cherra l’escolle maison de republique,
Shall fall that schoolhouse that’s the city-state,
Ou, hors mis peu, seront suffoqués morrs. morts Then near all stifled be and suffocate.

Source: The Medicis’ summary expulsion from Florence in 1494 with the aid of French forces – albeit resulting in the city’s loss of political autonomy – following the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent (Lorenzo de’ Medici) in 1492. This led to the repression in the name of religion of all that city’s resplendent Renaissance arts (which Lorenzo had been foremost in encouraging) by the rabid reformer and Dominican preacher Savonarola, who actually took over power and instigated the notorious ‘bonfire of the vanities’, destroying almost anything of value that he could get his hands on. The opportunist 1494 invasion of Italy by Charles VIII of France (see II.36), opposed by an alliance of German and Spanish forces, marked the beginning of the Italian Wars that would still be tearing southern Europe apart during Nostradamus’s lifetime.

Supplement English Verse Translation
Un peu apres non point longue intervalle.
Shortly thereafter – no great time, in fact –
Par mer & terre sera fait grand tumulte,
By land and sea great tumult there shall be:
Beaucoup plus grande sera pugne navale,
Much greater shall the conflict be at sea:
Feus, animaux, qui plus feront d’insulte. Feux violents Violent fires thrown in against th’ attacked.

Source:  The largely naval war of 1499 to 1503 between Venice and the Ottoman Turks (including some French involvement) that followed shortly after the events of II.39 above, and during the course of which the Turks conquered Montenegro and overran various strategic centres including Lepanto (on the gulf of Corinth) and Navarino (in the south-western Peloponnese). Nostradamus is evidently drawn particularly to the dramatic incident in which, in a battle off Navarino in 1499, the leading Ottoman captain Borrak, grappled by at least two Venetian vessels at once, set fire to all three ships in a suicidal act of sheer desperation, to the horror of the entire Venetian fleet.

Supplement English Verse Translation
Coq, chiens & chats de sang seront repeus,
Cocks, dogs & cats on blood and wounds shall feast
Et de la plaie du tyrant trouvé mort,
Of those who through the tyrant’s stroke are dead:
Au lict d’uun autre jambes & bras rompus,
Arms and legs broken, in another’s bed
Qui n’avoit peur mourir de cruel mort. mors He who ne’er feared death’s cruel bite in the least.

Source:  Francesco Matarazzo’s Chronicles of the City of Perugia 1492 - 1503, describing (with a piece of characteristic word-play on the idea of ‘biting’) the fierce power struggle in the city of Perugia in 1495 between the Oddi and the reigning tyrants, the Baglioni. In the wake of one particular attempt to break into what had become the Baglione stronghold, ‘the dogs lapped up the blood of many Christians, and a tame bear tucked into the flesh of the dead, too’ (a gruesome detail which Nostradamus, clearly impressed, has evidently seen fit freely to exaggerate!). One young Baglione hero called Semonetto (though bareheaded, in his shirtsleeves and only 18 or 19 years old) fought particularly fearlessly to repel the enemy, even overcoming a mighty man of war from Fabriano, whom ‘he maimed in the hand and leg’, while himself sustaining no less than 22 wounds and giving himself up for dead. However, he eventually managed to make it to his brother’s house ‘and there laid himself down to rest, for by the grace of God not one of his many wounds proved fatal’.

Supplement English Verse Translation
Qui au royaume Navarrois parviendra
He who the kingdom of Navarre reigns o’er
Quand de Secile & naples seront joints:
When Sicily and Naples are allied,
Bigorre & Landes par Foyx Loron tiendra, Foix; Oloron Through Foix, Oloron the Landes holds and Bigorre
D’un qui d’Hespaigne sera par trop conjoint
From one who’ll be too much on th’ Spanish side

Source:  Contemporary dynastic politics. In 1516 the future Holy Roman Emperor Charles V took over Navarre in his capacity as king of Spain and heir to the kingdom of Aragon. By the same token he was ruler of Sicily and Naples as well. In the same year, Henri d’Albret assumed titular sovereignty over northern (French) Navarre as Henri II of Navarre under the protection of King François I of France, having already inherited through his parents Catherine de Foix and Jean d’Albret both the duchy of Albret, (situated in the Landes) and that of Foix (which included Bigorre). This situation finally became formalised in 1531, when the Spanish monarchy gave up its right to Lower Navarre.

Supplement English Verse Translation
La republicque de la grande cité
The rulers of the mighty city shall
A grand rigeur ne voudra consentir:
Most stubbornly refuse to give consent.
Roy sortir hors par trompete cité
The King shall quit it with the trumpet’s call:
L’eschele au mur, la cité repentir.
Ladder ’gainst wall, the city shall repent.

Source: The firebrand monk Savonarola’s Compendium Revelationum, as reproduced in the Mirabilis Liber and extensively quoted by Nostradamus in his Preface, recounting the story of King Charles VIII of France’s attempted capture of Florence during his Italian campaign of 1494. This was vigorously resisted at the urging of Savonarola. As a result, the ruling Medici were expelled and Savonarola himself placed in a position of power. Piero Capponi, the new ruler, refused to accept any terms that Charles had negotiated with the Medici. ‘Then we shall sound our trumpets,’ said the king, to which Capponi replied, ‘And we shall toll our bells’ and tore up the king’s ultimatum in his face. Later, in March 1495, Savonarola had a vision of being transported to the gates of paradise, whose walls were surmounted by banners inscribed with the penitential prayers of Florence – a vision in which he mounted a ladder to the celestial throne. It was after this and Charles’s final departure from Italy that Savonarola finally gained personal control of the city at the head of a theocratic party that he dubbed ‘The Weepers’.