Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

Take, for instance, the priest Niccolo de’ Pelegati, who was finally brought to justice in 1495.

“He had twice celebrated his first mass; the first time he had the same day committed murder, but afterwards received absolution at Rome; he then killed four people and married two wives, with whom he travelled about. He afterwards took part in many assassinations, violated women, carried others away by force, plundered far and wide, and infested the territory of Ferrara with a band of followers in uniform, extorting food and shelter by every sort of violence.” (29)

But it was not only lesser men whom this trend affected. Heads of leading families, men upon whom the conduct of the state depended, were often without conscience or mercy. Such a one was Sigismondo Malatesta, of whom Burckhardt said:

“It is not only the Court of Rome but the verdict of history which convicts him of murder, rape, adultery, incest, sacrilege, perjury and treason, committed not once but often.”

To this catalogue of crimes he was only prevented from adding that of indecent assault on his own son, Roberto, because the latter defended himself with his dagger.