Rienzo, Cola Di
Rienzo, Cola Di (Nicolo di Lorenzo), Rome's "last tribune," was born of humble parentage, in the year 1313, at Rome. He was endowed with an ambitious and daring spirit, and, as the event proved, with an overweening vanity, and he possessed the gift of a fiery eloquence. His first public appearance was in 1343, in the character of notary to an embassy of Roman citizens sent to greet pope Clement VI and persuade him to return to Rome, where the families of Colonna and Ursini were then contending against each other — the power of the nobles generally having grown to excessive proportions — and the oppression of the people and their sinking into immorality were keeping equal pace. Rienzo became acquainted with Petrarch — subsequently his enthusiastic supporter — while at Avignon, and he there received the appointment of papal notary. After his return to Rome he devoted himself to the work of inflaming the passions of the people through the means of popular and patriotic addresses, and with such success that he was proclaimed tribune of Rome and clothed with dictatorial powers in May, 1347. The pope at first confirmed Rienzi's elevation in the hope of securing the people and humbling the nobility, and the tribune's good fortune, power, and just administration recommended him even to princes, e.g. the emperor Lewis and the king of Hungary, who sought his friendship; but the height he had attained made him dizzy. He knighted himself; declared Rome the sovereign of the world; commanded the pope and cardinals to return to Rome; cited the emperor and the king of Bohemia before him in order to restore peace between them; ordered the electors to furnish evidence of their right to elect the emperors, etc. Warnings and outbreaks of discontented factions failed to restrain him, and pope Clement interfered with what was rapidly becoming a reign of terror by issuing (Dec. 3, 1347) a bull against the tribune. The people immediately forsook Rienzi, and he was compelled to flee in disguise from Rome in January 1348. He subsequently returned secretly to Rome, but soon went to Prague, where he was apprehended by the emperor Charles IV, who delivered him to the pope at Avignon in 1351. Innocent IV soon afterwards became pope, and Rienzi succeeded in disproving the charges raised against him of heresy and tyranny, and even in securing the pope's favor and confidence. In the meantime the conflict of factions had broken out again with fresh fury at Rome, and a papal notary named Baroncelli (or Baracelli) had assumed the role of tribune. It was seen at Avignon that Rienzi might defeat the projects of that agitator, and he was accordingly attached to the suite of the cardinal Aegidius Albornoz, to whom was intrusted the pacification of Italy. The vacillating populace received him with enthusiasm; but no sooner was he in the possession of power than he began once more to abuse it. He disregarded the hatred of the house of Colonna, imposed unwise taxes, and left his bodyguard unpaid; and when it became apparent that his firmness had departed and that his administration was undecided and fluctuating, a popular outbreak was brought about by some means, Rienzi's house was burned, and Rienzi himself was slain by the people who just before had almost worshipped him. The date of his death is Oct. 4, 1354 (others, Oct. 7 or 8). The estimates of Rienzi's life and services differ greatly, some (as Schlosser, Weltgesch.) representing him as a fantastical charlatan, and others finding in him noble traits, especially an enthusiasm for republican institutions and for justice. Still others deny to him all greatness of character, but find an explanation of his career in the extraordinary conditions of his time and the circumstances of his life. Nationalism, based on the renewed familiarity with the conditions of antiquity, was certainly the leading element in the rapid drama of his life. See Baluzii Vitoe Pap. Avenion.; Bzovius, Annal. Eccl. ad Ann. 1353, No. 2; Villani, Col. di Rienzo; Schlosser, Weltgesch. vol. 4, pt. 1; Hist. polit. Blätter, vol. 20; Papencordt, Col. di Rienzo u. seine Zeit (Hamb. and Gotha, 1841); and others; also Bulwer's novel, Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes.