On this day in 1507, the Italian nobleman Cesare Borgia died aged 31. His parents were Rodrigo Borgia (who went on to become Pope Alexander VI 1492) and his mistress Vannozza dei Cattanei. Cesare’s siblings were Lucrezia, Giovanni and Gioffre. Due to his high birth and rank Cesare Borgia held multiple prominent positions throughout his life, including positions as Duke of Valentinois, Vatican cardinal, and general of the church’s armies. Often portrayed as a vicious man notorious for womanising and cruelty, Borgia was hungry for power and had numerous people assassinated to secure his position.
After his father’s death he lost the protection of the Vatican and was arrested for refusing to cooperate with the new Pope. Spending some years evading papal forces, Borgia was eventually killed trying to storm a castle in Viana, Spain. Cesare Borgia features heavily in Niccolò Machiavelli’s famous 1532 work ‘The Prince’ which discusses the nature of political power. Machiavelli admired Borgia, and in ‘The Prince’ advised politicians to follow his example. Perhaps due to this infamy, Cesare Borgia has been a popular figure in fiction. He is one of the characters of the TV series ‘The Borgias’ and is one of the main antagonists of the videogame ‘Assassin’s Creed II’. I have to admit that I first came across the Borgias through playing the latter. As a history nerd, that game remains one of my favourites. Aside from the amazing gameplay, you genuinely do learn things about the period of the Italian Renaissance. Of course you have to take these things with a pinch of salt – I highly doubt the real Rodrigo Borgia/Pope Alexander VI, was a Templar who found the magical Apple of Eden and wielded it on a staff on a rampage in the Sistine Chapel. However I would still recommend these games to history fans – Cesare Borgia is featured heavily in all his evil glory.
“Here lies in little earth one who was feared by all, who held peace and war in his hand”
– inscription on Borgia’s tomb in Viana (which has since been demolished and his remains moved by bishops who were horrified by his sins)