Introduction —  The Diet of La Magione

Cesare Borgia was nominated Duke of Romagna by Pope Alexander VI in May 1501. He had taken many cities of Romagna, but eager to expand in west central Italy, he undertook the enterprise against Piombino. However in the month of June he had to start for Rome in order to join the French army now advancing towards Naples. In the meantime his captains Baglioni and Vitelli occupied Piombino, Elba and Pianosa for him. Cesare returned the following year, 1502, to take formal possession of Piombino. He then returned to Rome, leaving military operations in the hands of his captain Vitellozzo Vitelli. Vitellozzo, acting in conjunction with Piero de' Medici was able to effect the revolt of Arezzo against the Florentines, making himself master of all places of importance, north as far as Forl and south as far as the shores of Lake Trasimeno, near Perugia. Vitellozzo was officially working for Cesare Borgia and the Florentines accused Cesare of having a hand in the rebellion of Arezzo. So at the end of July 1502 Duke Valentino went to Milan to see King Louis XII to clear himself of the accusations.

In the meantime Cesare's idea was to bring under his control a large slice of central Italy, from the Tyrrhenian to the Adriatic seas—from Pimbino to Pisa, from Pisa to Forlì, from Forlì to Perugia, from Perugia to Piombino (see map). In addition he wanted to conquer Bologna immediately. So in August 1502 he ordered Vitellozzo to attack the Bentivoglio of Bologna, even though a treaty of amity had been signed with the Bentivoglio at Villafontana on Caesar's behalf. Meanwhile in Rome Pope Alexander VI was plotting the destruction of the House of Orsini.

It was at this critical moment that Cesare Borgia's captains decided to act. These men were Vitellozzo Vitelli who possessed Città di Castello, Bentivoglio who controlled Bologna, Gian Paolo Baglioni who was in command of Perugia, Oliverotto who had just taken Fermo, and Pandolfo Petrucci, the lord of Siena.

So in September 1502 Giampaolo Baglioni convoked a meeting to be held in the castle of the Kings of Malta, at La Magione—a place belonging to the powerful Cardinal Giambattista Orsini, situated near Baglioni's stronghold of Perugia. The meeting was held on October 9, 1502. Present at the so-called Diet of La Magione were Gentile and Giampaolo Baglioni, Cardinal Giambattista Orsini, Francesco Orsini Duke of Gravina, Paolo Orsini, Hermes Bentivoglio, Oliverotto da Fermo, Vitellozzo Vitelli, Antonio Giordano da Venafro for Pandolfo Petrucci, Prince of Siena, and Ottaviano Fregoso for Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino.

The Diet of La Magione was not merely a defensive alliance, but an offensive one with the intent of defeating once and for all Cesare Borgia. The alliance could have certainly accomplished that as it had the power. At that time Cesare Borgia had at his disposal only some 2,500 foot, 300 men-at-arms, and the 100 lances of his guard; while the confederates had some 9,000 infantry and 1,000 horses.

News of the conspiracy arrived to Cesare, who sent word to the plotters, assuring them of his continuing friendship and promising them substantial rewards if they remained true to him. At the same time he arranged from more French troops, some Albanian auxiliaries and a body of Swiss mercenaries. Machiavelli at this time was an envoy of the republic of Florence to Cesare Borgia. In a letter to the Ten from Cesena (December 26, 1502), he tells his Florentine Lords that now Cesare, in addition to the 2,500 infantry from beyond the Alps, has about the same number of Italians. Obviously Cesare was preparing accordingly, as he also could see the effects that the confederates were already having, when the Duke of Urbino arrived with a handful of soldiers to the Fortress of San Leo and was received triumphantly. In less that a week other town and fortresses followed San Leo's example, and all the Duchy was once more in the hand of the Duke of Urbino.

In the meantime the conspirators had entered Sinigallia on December 26. Five days later, Cesare Borgia, in the words of Machiavelli, "left Fano yesterday morning, and with his whole army came up to Singaglia, which had been occupied, except for the fortress, by the Orsini and Messer Liverotto da Fermo The day before, Vitellozzo had arrived in the district from Castello; they went one after the other to meet with the duke [Cesare Borgia], and then accompanied him into the town and into a house; and then when they were all together in one room, my lord [Cesare Borgia] had them made prisoners. [...] Afterwards he called me into his presence about two in the morning, and with the most cheerful expression in the world joked with me about these events, saying that he had spoken to me before about them, but hadn't explained his whole plan, which was true.[...] As for recent development, last night about ten o'clock this lord [Cesare Borgia] had Vitellozzo and Oliverotto da Fermo put to death; the other two are still alive; it's thought they are waiting to see if the pope has his hands on the cardinal [Orsini] and the others in Rome. If he has, as they think, then they'll dispose of the whole parcel at once" (Machiavelli's letter to the Ten -- from Corinaldo, the first day of January 1503).

This letter is a recap of the letter sent to the Ten the day before (December 31, 1502) from Sinigallia. Machiavelli wrote A description of the methods adopted by the Duke Valentino when murdering Vitellozzo Vitelli, Oliverotto da Fermo, the Signor Pagolo, and the Duke di Gravina Orsini, probably at the beginning of January 1503.

A note worthy of Cesare Borgia:
The cadavers of Vitellozzo Vitelli and Oliverotto da Fermo were put on the main square of Senigallia and left there for three days for the people to see. Then they were interred in the Church of Santa Maria della Misericordia.